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Friday, February 20, 1998 Published at 22:07 GMT

Events: Crisis In The Gulf

Annan extends Iraq trip
image: [ Kofi Annan and Tariq Aziz: an extra day's talks ]
Kofi Annan and Tariq Aziz: an extra day's talks

The United Nations Secretary General has added a day to his stay in Iraq to discuss increasing the amount of oil the UN lets Baghdad sell to buy food.

Kofi Annan confirmed he had extended his visit to include Monday after meeting the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz.

[ image: A boy awaits Mr Annan's arrival]
A boy awaits Mr Annan's arrival
The 15-member UN Security Council voted to extend the oil-for-food deal on Friday.

As expected, the plan to increase from $2bn to $5.25bn the value of oil Iraq can sell to spend on food, medicine and other humanitarian goods received unanimous support.

Mr Annan is staying on in the Iraqi capital to measure the response of the government there to the change.

"The Secretary General will stay over on Monday," spokesman Fred Eckhard told a news conference.

The extension in the terms of the deal, which reduces the impact of UN sanctions imposed on Iraq at the end of the Gulf War in 1991 on civilians, could help Mr Annan's key mission.

While America has focused solely on the issue of open access for UN weapons inspectors working in Iraq, President Saddam Hussein and his government have often complained of the length of the inspection process and the damage caused by sanctions.

Annan: 'positive signs'

[ image: Mr Annan: difficult days ahead]
Mr Annan: difficult days ahead
Mr Annan's spokesman said the Secretary General was pleased at the positive way Iraq helped the UN technical team map out the eight "presidential palaces" at the centre of the inspection crisis.

"The Secretary General sees the level of cooperation that the government gave to the technical team as significant so in a sense we are off to a good start," Mr Eckhard said.

The leader of this team said the size of each of the eight sites was considerably smaller than had been estimated in recent days.

The US President, Bill Clinton, had said each site occupied an area of around the size of a major city such as Paris or Washington DC.

But the detailed investigation found they are considerably smaller.

Mission 'my sacred duty'

When he landed in Baghdad, Mr Annan described himself as "reasonably confident" of defusing the crisis.

"I am in Baghdad on a very important mission. I describe it as a sacred duty. I am here in search of a peaceful solution," he said.

"I hope I will leave Baghdad with a package that will be acceptable to all."

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