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Iraq: UN officials conclude talks in Baghdad ahead of resuming arms probe

Iraq: UN officials conclude talks in Baghdad ahead of resuming arms probe

Mohammed ElBaradei and Hans Blix (file photo)
The senior United Nations weapons inspectors arrived back in Cyprus today after two days of talks in Baghdad with Iraqi officials, who pledged cooperation with the full team of UN arms experts arriving next week to begin their probe into the country’s weapons programme.

Yesterday, Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), and Mohammed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), held a press conference following their meeting with the Iraqi delegation headed by General Amir Al-Sa’adi, Adviser at the Iraqi Presidency, according to a UN spokesman travelling with the team. They had also met earlier in the day with Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Blix told reporters that he and Mr. ElBaradei had discussed with Iraqi officials how to implement Security Council resolution 1441, and stressed that what was needed by Iraq was to ensure that it had no weapons of mass destruction (WMD). If there were any WMD programmes, Iraq should declare them; if not, Iraq must show with documentation that nothing was remaining.

Meanwhile, the meetings with the Iraqi delegation looked at the remaining practical arrangements and the two sides agreed on the need for a mechanism for direct contact in case of trouble, Mr. Blix said, adding that the first team of inspectors would arrive on 25 November, with inspection work starting shortly afterwards.

Mr. ElBaradei said that his team was in Iraq to start a new phase with full authority of the Security Council and that they would work with competence, professionalism and impartiality. All Iraqi officials he met had committed themselves to full cooperation, he added.

In response to questions, Mr. Blix said that the Iraqi side was ready to implement the Council’s resolutions, and that the first test would be the Iraqi declaration, which would be submitted by 8 December. There were still many open questions on Iraq’s WMD capabilities, he said, adding that he impressed upon them to look into their stocks and check them further.

As for the inspection procedures, Mr. Blix said that no advance warning would be given to the Iraqis on inspections. The “no-notice” procedure gave high credibility and might in fact increase credibility, which would be in the interests of Iraq, too.

Asked about whether firing at allied aircraft in the no-fly zone constituted a “material breach,” Mr. Blix said that this was a matter not related to weapons inspections.