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The BBC's Ben Brown in Iraq
"Paying the price from cradle to grave"
 real 56k

Thursday, 30 November, 2000, 11:34 GMT
Iraq rejects new arms inspectors
Igor Ivanov and Tariq Aziz
Russia and Iraq do not see eye-to-eye on weapons inspections
Iraq has again dismissed any prospect of a new United Nations weapons' inspection regime, lowering expectations of an end to the two-year deadlock over the future of UN sanctions on the country.

Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz responded with a blunt "No" when asked whether Baghdad would accept a mission under recently-appointed chief inspector Hans Blix.

Russian plane at Baghdad airport
Russia was one of the first countries to fly aid to Iraq
His remarks came a day after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he plans to start talks with Iraqi officials early next year aimed at breaking the deadlock over weapons inspections.

Mr Aziz said Iraq was still studying the proposal and said the government would decide on a "convenient" time to take part in the talks.

UN inspectors have not been allowed into Iraq since the United States and the UK launched air raids on Baghdad nearly two years ago.

Difficult talks

Mr Aziz was speaking at the end of a two-day visit to Russia during which he held talks with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Mr Aziz and Mr Ivanov cancelled a scheduled news conference and correspondents quoted unnamed diplomats as saying the talks had been "difficult".

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan
Mr Annan: Standing firm on UN demands
Moscow is keen to see the lifting of sanctions - alleging they have cost Russia $30bn in lost trade and unpaid debts - but has urged Iraq to enter into dialogue with the UN about resuming inspections.

Iraq has been seeking guarantees from Moscow that sanctions will be lifted if it agrees to inspections, but a BBC correspondent there says Moscow is not in a position to make such a promise.

The UN position is that sanctions imposed on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990 will only by lifted after inspectors verify the destruction of its programme for the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction.

US and British warplanes patrolling air exclusion zones imposed after the 1991 Gulf War have launched dozens of air raids on Iraq since the last arms inspection regime was expelled by Iraq in December 1998.

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See also:

29 Nov 00 | Middle East
UN plans Iraqi talks
18 Aug 00 | Middle East
UN panel: 'Iraq sanctions must go'
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