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UN to respond to Iraqi letter on weapons inspections - Annan

UN to respond to Iraqi letter on weapons inspections - Annan

Kofi Annan
Following talks with Security Council members on a recent letter from Iraq concerning United Nations weapons inspections in the country, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said the UN would reply, but stressed that Baghdad must comply with the Council's resolutions.

"This is the first time we have had this sort of invitation from the Iraqis, and we will need to get them to understand the requirements of the Council," the Secretary-General told reporters following a working luncheon with Council members. "We are prepared to deal with them on that basis."

"All members of the Council agree that we should do everything to get the inspectors back and if Iraq is open to that sort of idea there are practical bases for moving forward, and this is something we are going to explore in the next letter," he added in response to questions.

Asked whether different Council members had voiced different views, the Secretary-General replied, "There were shades of emphasis - some indicating that the Council itself has been very keen to get the inspectors in, and we should go the last mile to get the others in, and there are those who believe that this is gamesmanship and that nothing may come out of it, and one should be aware of that."

To a question on future outcomes, Mr. Annan stressed the need "to see how Iraq reacts to the next letter."

In remarks to the press this morning, Mr. Annan reminded reporters that the letter from Iraq received late last week was at variance with the Security Council mandates.

At the same time, he added, "We have very clear requirements, and if Iraq were to honour them, I think the invitation could be considered."

Asked to clarify what those requirements were, the Secretary-General pointed out that according to the Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), the UN must be able to field a team to Iraq for about 60 days to determine what must be done. If Baghdad agreed, they would "have an opportunity to discuss [matters] with the Iraqis, to go over procedures and how they intend to do their work, and come back and report to the Security Council, and then move on from there."

He observed that the receipt of the Iraqi letter was an "interesting" development which required closer examination. "Whether this is a real break and a real change in attitude is something that we will have to test," he said.