Annan awaiting Baghdad's reply to Security Council demands for weapons inspections

Annan awaiting Baghdad's reply to Security Council demands for weapons inspections

Kofi Annan
The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, today said he is awaiting Baghdad's formal reply to the Security Council's latest resolution aimed at returning weapons inspectors to Iraq.

Asked by reporters to react to moves by the Iraqi Parliament opposing the inspections, he said, "I'm waiting for a formal response from the Government. I don't think the Iraqi Parliament was talking to me. I think it was addressed to the people of Iraq."

Mr. Annan stressed that Iraq is expected to comply with the Security Council requirements, which he called "very clear." He also noted that the Council's decision was unanimous and had been endorsed by the Arab League. "I hope the message will get through," he said.

Asked about the timetable, the Secretary-General said Iraq should respond formally that it accepts the resolution by 15 November. "I am expecting that letter," he said.

Iraq would then have to declare, within 30 days, its holdings of weapons of mass destruction, he noted. An advance team of UN arms inspectors is scheduled to arrive in the country on 18 November.

"The Security Council resolution becomes effective from day one - the moment it is approved," the Secretary-General pointed out.

To a question on how the situation impacts on the UN, he recalled that although there had been some impatience "that we were not moving fast enough," democracy required that Security Council members discuss the issue seriously. "It was a grave decision and I'm happy they took their time to discuss it and in the end come up with the best possible decision," he said.

While acknowledging that the outcome and how this issue evolves could strengthen the UN and multilateralism, he added, "I do not accept the statement that this is do or die for the UN."

On the subject of the Middle East, and reports that Israel might deport Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, the Secretary-General voiced hope that this would not come to pass. He noted that many governments around the world "have indicated that it would be unwise to exile Chairman Arafat."