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Annan, Security Council to discuss Iraqi letter on UN weapons inspections - spokesman

Annan, Security Council to discuss Iraqi letter on UN weapons inspections - spokesman

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has transmitted to the Security Council a letter he just received from the Iraqi authorities on the issue of UN weapons inspectors, who have not been able to operate in the country since 1998.

The letter from Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri invites Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission for Iraq (UNMOVIC), and members of his team to Iraq "at the earliest agreed upon time" for a round of technical talks on remaining disarmament issues.

A spokesman for the Secretary-General said that the proposed format was at odds with Security Council mandates on Iraq. "While he welcomes the letter, which is in line with the agreement to maintain contact, including continuing discussions on technical matters, the procedure proposed is at variance with the one laid down by the Security Council in resolution 1284 of l999," spokesman Fred Eckhard told the press in New York.

Mr. Annan plans to discuss the letter with Security Council members during a luncheon meeting on Monday, according to the spokesman. "He is calling it to the attention of the Council because they are the ones that prescribed the formula for the resumption of inspections," the spokesman explained in response to a question.

Asked about how the letter varies from resolution 1284, the spokesman cited paragraph 7 of that text, which describes the procedure for establishing what remains to be done in the disarmament area. "It says that Iraq would first agree to re-admit the weapons inspectors, they would conduct on-site inspections [and] within 60 days, they would then report back to the Security Council with a proposed programme of work, which the Council would then have to approve."