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As UN arms inspectors arrive in Iraq, Annan urges Baghdad's compliance

As UN arms inspectors arrive in Iraq, Annan urges Baghdad's compliance

Kofi Annan
As an advance team of United Nations arms inspectors arrived today in Iraq, Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged President Saddam Hussein to comply fully with Security Council demands, "for the sake of his people, regional stability and world order."

Speaking in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he was on an official visit, the Secretary-General said the arrival in Baghdad of Hans Blix, the Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), and Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), signalled a "crucial new phase of disarmament."

The Secretary-General noted that the Council's resolution 1441 states clearly what the Government of Iraq must do. "Acting in unison, Council members demanded that Iraq grant prompt and unfettered access to all and any sites," he said.

The 30-member advance team - which will concentrate on getting the inspection offices up and running again after a prolonged absence from Iraq - was met at the airport by General Hosan Amin, the head of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate, and Ramiro Lopes da Silva, the head of the UN humanitarian office in Iraq. Both Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei are scheduled to meet today with senior Iraqi officials.

Yesterday, the two men arrived in Larnaca, Cyprus, on their way to Baghdad. Speaking to the press at the airport, Mr. Blix said, "We are going there to initiate cooperation with the Iraqis and to talk with the representatives of the Iraqi Government." The first inspectors would arrive a week later and they planned to start arms inspections from 27 November onwards.

Mr. Blix said he would report to the Security Council two months after the resumption of inspections, adding that the Iraqi declaration to be submitted no later than 8 December would be analyzed by UNMOVIC and serve as an important basis for verification.

Mr. ElBaradei said that this was a new phase in IAEA inspections in Iraq and that they were fully backed by the Council to verify the country's disarmament through inspections. "This is an opportunity for peace," he said, adding that he hoped that Iraq would make full use of this chance and cooperate in the implementation of Security Council resolutions, which would "open the way for them to come back as a full member of the international community and suspend and eventually eliminate sanctions."

Mr. ElBaradei stressed that IAEA inspectors were going to do thorough and objective inspections, and indicated that the Agency would report to the Council two months after the resumption of their inspections.

The question of "war and peace" was first of all in the hands of the Iraqis and the Security Council, Mr. Blix said in response to reporters' questions. "We will inspect and report on cooperation or a lack of cooperation. I will do so objectively to the Security Council," he said, noting that it was for the Council to assess Iraqi cooperation.