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In Johannesburg, Annan meets with Powell on Iraq, Middle East

In Johannesburg, Annan meets with Powell on Iraq, Middle East

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today discussed Iraq and the situation in the Middle East with United States Secretary of State Colin Powell during a meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the UN leader also held talks with senior officials from several other countries.

Meeting on the sidelines of the World Summit for Sustainable Development, the Secretary-General briefed Mr. Powell on the meeting he had yesterday with Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, and relayed Baghdad's concerns about readmitting UN weapons inspectors, according to a UN spokesman.

In their talks on the Middle East, Mr. Annan and the US Secretary of State discussed the humanitarian plight of the Palestinian people as well as the meeting of the diplomatic Quartet - comprising the UN, US, European Union and Russian Federation - that is scheduled for later this month in New York, the spokesman reported. They also discussed Sudan, Angola, the international peacekeeping presence in Afghanistan and the situation between Nigeria and Cameroon, among other topics.

Earlier Wednesday, the Secretary-General started his series of bilateral contacts by meeting with President Tarja Halonen of Finland for discussions about the Summit. After a brief one-on-one meeting with the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Jacques Diouf, Mr. Annan met with Foreign Minister George Papandreou of Greece for talks on Iraq and Cyprus.

Later in the afternoon, the Secretary-General met with King Mohammed VI of Morocco and with the President of the European Union, Romano Prodi.

Before departing Johannesburg, the Secretary-General and his wife, Nane, were slated to participate in an episode of South Africa's production of "Sesame Street" in which an HIV-positive Muppet will be introduced. Afterwards, Mr. Annan will head for Paris where talks with the Greek Cypriot leader and the Turkish Cypriot leader will take place Friday.

In addition to participating in the taping of the "Sesame Street" segment, Mrs. Annan opened one of the events on the sidelines of Summit on women and water, organized by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.

In her remarks, she related her recent experiences and discussions on water with women she met in rural Ghana and on the outskirts of Maputo in Mozambique. "The provision of safe water and sanitation reduces waterborne diseases and frees girls to go to school and women for income-generating activities," she said.