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Annan says Iraq has yet to reply to UN letter on weapons inspections

Annan says Iraq has yet to reply to UN letter on weapons inspections

The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, told reporters in New York today that he has still not received a response from Iraq on a UN letter sent concerning weapons inspections in the country, which have not been conducted since 1998.

Mr. Annan's letter came in response to an earlier missive from Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri inviting Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), to Iraq for technical discussions.

Entering UN Headquarters this morning, the Secretary-General was asked for his reaction to a speech delivered by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad earlier today. "At this stage, it seems as if they are not giving in an inch," he replied, adding, "We are at the early stages yet."

Asked about the President's call for the UN to honour its obligations concerning UN sanctions against Iraq, the Secretary-General commented, "That is not new." He noted that Baghdad had raised that point earlier this year in 19 questions submitted to the UN.

During a subsequent press encounter outside the Security Council chamber, Mr. Annan, again asked for a reaction to the speech, replied, "I don't see any change in attitude." The President's statement, he observed, "doesn't show any flexibility from their previous position."

When pressed as to whether the UN was further along, he replied, "Not at this stage. Unless there are unseen developments."