Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), today said he was optimistic that UN weapons inspectors could begin their work shortly after the logistics of their return to Iraq were finalized with the authorities in Baghdad.
Mr. Blix's remarks came after he had briefed the Security Council on his talks Tuesday with senior Iraqi officials, during which they agreed to meet again in Vienna in the week beginning 30 September.
Also during Tuesday's meeting, UNMOVIC provided the Iraqis with a list of practical arrangements related to getting inspectors back into the country following a nearly four-year absence. The Iraqi side said it needed some time to study and consult in Baghdad about these practical arrangements.
"How do we go about the inspections? How do we get there? Where do we land?" he said today outside the Council's chambers. "There are quite a few such things that need to be settled and since we want to have successful inspections, and if possible, avoid any clashes, any differences with Iraq, we think this would be wise to talk to them about what our rights are, explain to them so they know what they can expect."
Yesterday evening, Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri to discuss the return of UN weapons inspectors.
According to a readout of the meeting provided by Mr. Annan's spokesman, the Secretary-General stressed the need for Iraq to provide "full and unconditional cooperation to UNMOVIC." He also reaffirmed his confidence in the Commission and Mr. Blix.
The Secretary-General also reiterated his earlier statement that Iraq's decision "is an important first step towards the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions and expressed the hope that the process of disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction could be completed as soon as possible."
For his part, Mr. Blix voiced his wish to get off to a "flying start" and looked forward to finalizing his talks with the Iraqi authorities on the practical arrangements for the swift resumption of inspections. The Foreign Minister, who had requested the meeting with Mr. Annan, pledged his Government's full cooperation with UNMOVIC to that end.