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As UN pulls staff from Iraq, Security Council prepares to hear inspectors' report

As UN pulls staff from Iraq, Security Council prepares to hear inspectors' report

Even as the United Nations withdrew its last weapons inspectors from Iraq today, several Foreign Ministers were planning to attend an open meeting of the Security Council tomorrow to hear from the two top inspectors on the key remaining disarmament issues for Baghdad to resolve.

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said the Foreign Ministers of Angola, Cameroon and Guinea, already here for a Security Council meeting on West Africa, and four others have indicated they will participate in the session, which comes just hours before the expiry of a ultimatum from the United States to President Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq or face force.

The Council will hear reports from Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), and Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on what issues remain for ridding Iraq of banned weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Mohammed A. Aldouri, told reporters today he will present a letter to the Council tomorrow “relating to the question of anthrax,” one of the agents UNMOVIC has been investigating.

France, Germany and the Russian Federation have also requested a ministerial meeting to consider their joint proposal for setting key disarmament tasks and an implementation timetable that is "both demanding and realistic." The Council is split between the United States, United Kingdom and Spain, who say that Iraq has already lost its last opportunity to disarm peacefully, and others like France, Germany and Russia, who argue for more time for inspections to achieve the task.

The spokesman said the last plane evacuating the more than 300 international staff in Iraq had already taken off from Baghdad for Larnaca, Cyprus. Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday ordered the withdrawal of all UN personnel, including UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors, the UN Office of the Iraq Programme and UN agencies, programmes and funds implementing the oil-for-food programme, after receiving information from the United Kingdom and United States regarding the continued safety and security of UN personnel.

In addition, Mr. Annan authorized the UN Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM), which patrols the demilitarized zone between Iraq and Kuwait, to withdraw, and suspended all UN activities in Iraq until further notice. But he has stated that the UN will find a way to resume its humanitarian activities to help the Iraqi people and do whatever it can to provide them assistance and support.