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Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 22:50 GMT 23:50 UK
Iraq and UN agree return of inspectors
Hans Blix (L) and Al Sadi
The US will "thwart" the inspectors' return
The United Nations and Iraq have agreed on practical arrangements for the return to Iraq of UN weapons inspectors.

Announcing the deal - after two days of talks in Vienna - the head of the inspection team Hans Blix said Iraq accepted all inspection rights under existing UN resolutions.

Dr Blix said the inspectors would have unconditional access to all sites - but not to eight presidential palaces which are covered under a separate agreement between Iraq and UN.

We are just not going to accept something that is weak

President Bush
The head of the Iraqi negotiation team Amir Al Sadi said he expected inspectors to arrive in Baghdad in about two weeks.

But US Secretary of State Colin Powell has rejected the return of any inspectors unless the Security Council passes a tough new resolution promising consequences if Iraq fails to comply fully.

Mr Powell said: "Everybody understands that the old inspection regime did not work - they [the Iraqis] tied it up in knots."

Another State Department official warned that the US will "thwart" the return of inspectors under the existing UN arrangements.

Washington - which wants to see Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein toppled - is pressing for a tougher Security Council resolution that would specifically mention the threat of military intervention should the inspectors be unable to complete their work.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President George W Bush had not made any decision to go to war in Iraq - he suggested the Iraqis assassinate their leader.

Iraqi assurances

Dr Blix said there had been "a willingness [from Iraq] to accept inspections that has not existed before".

The chief UN inspector said the Iraqis had provided assurances of giving the inspectors unrestricted access to all sites in Iraq and an advance team could reach Baghdad by mid-October.

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

The US and Britain have demanded "unfettered" access to all sites and the exclusion of the presidential sites from the discussions leaves one of the issues unresolved, says the BBC's Paul Reynolds.

The sites are covered under a 1998 memorandum of understanding (MoU) agreed by Iraq and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, which includes giving the Iraqis prior notification of planned visits by inspectors.

When asked by the BBC whether this would remain acceptable to the Americans and the British, Dr Blix replied that he was working on the basis of law as laid out by Security Council resolutions, nothing else.

Bush's resolution

President Bush repeated on Tuesday that simply allowing the weapons inspectors to go back to Iraq - under existing resolutions - was not an option.

"We are just not going to accept something that is weak. It's not worth it. The United Nations must show its backbone, and we'll work with members of the Security Council to put a little calcium there," Mr Bush said.

The five members of the UN Security Council have met to discuss a new draft resolution. No details have been given but diplomats say gaps still remain between the hardline position of America and Britain, on the one hand, and France on the other.

Mr Bush's spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters that the assassination or exile of Saddam Hussein by his own people would be welcomed, saying "regime change is welcome in whatever form it takes".

Referring to congressional estimates of $9bn-$13bn for a start-up to an Iraq war, Mr Fleischer said: "I can only say the cost of one bullet... is substantially less than that."

The BBC's Stephen Sackur reports from Vienna
"Iraq, faced by the threat of war, is vowing co-operation"
Mark Gwozdecky, IAEA spokesperson
"I think it is up to the Security Council to judge for themselves"
The BBC's Matt Prodger
"US reaction to the arrangements has been anything but warm"

Key stories





See also:

01 Oct 02 | Middle East
30 Sep 02 | Middle East
30 Sep 02 | Middle East
30 Sep 02 | Americas
30 Sep 02 | Middle East
30 Sep 02 | Europe
30 Sep 02 | Europe
19 Sep 02 | Europe
29 Sep 02 | Middle East
01 Oct 02 | Middle East
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