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Monday, June 15, 1998 Published at 01:13 GMT 02:13 UK

World: Middle East

UN secures disarmament deal with Iraq

Richard Butler: success in Baghdad

The United Nations' chief weapons inspector has said the completion of a two-month programme on Iraqi disarmament may raise the prospect of an easing in eight-year sanctions on Baghdad.

The BBC's Philip Loat: "The deal is significant"
UN weapons experts have begun work to implement a new agreement with Iraq on verifying disarmament, reached after talks in Baghdad between Iraqi officials and the chief weapons inspector, Richard Butler.

He said the light at the end of the tunnel was now more visible that it had been for a long time.

[ image: Tariq Aziz: progress to be reviewed in August]
Tariq Aziz: progress to be reviewed in August
Mr Butler and Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, described their two days of talks leading to the agreement as searching and fruitful.

A BBC correspondent in Baghdad says the deal is significant, although technical differences remain between the UN weapons inspectors and the Iraqi Government.

Final verification of the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction would clear the way for the lifting of UN sanctions imposed on Baghdad in 1990 following the invasion of Kuwait.

BBC correspondent Nick Childs: "Talks have narrowed the gap"
The correspondent says this is a significant agreement and clearly indicates that the new cooperation between the two sides following the recent Gulf crisis is continuing.

According to Mr Butler, the two sides had "very searching" talks, and came away with an agreement for a schedule of work to try finally to account for Iraq's banned weapons' programmes.

[ image: Butler arriving in Iraq last week]
Butler arriving in Iraq last week
Mr Butler said the inspection work must be brought to an end legitimately and there are clearly some tough talks ahead before he and the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, meet again in August to review progress.

'Road map' of demands

International pressure has increased following the recent crisis, to bring both the inspections process and sanctions to an end.

Central to the discussions were Mr Butler's "road map" of demands.

It contains a definitive list of information the inspectors say they still need on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The map charts the future course of disarming Iraq's prohibited chemical, biological and ballistic weapons.

Accompanying Mr Butler are 18 UN arms experts who claimed to have satellite images and other evidence that Iraq continues to hide information on its illegal weapons programmes.

Before the talks, Baghdad maintained it has no further information to give the UN about its illegal weapons programme.

But Mr Butler said earlier that if the information he is seeking was forthcoming, he would be able to make a report to the UN Security Council in October which could open the way for the lifting of sanctions.

Key to the end of sanctions

[ image: In the desert inspection teams continue working]
In the desert inspection teams continue working
The UN Special Commission (Unscom) report will be the key to the easing of sanctions imposed after the 1991 Gulf War.

Diplomats say if the UN Security Council endorsed such a report it would trigger the lifting of an embargo on Iraqi oil exports.

However, they say it would not herald the automatic end of wider trade sanctions, despite Iraq's insistence that all sanctions must go when it is declared free of chemical, biological and long-range ballistic weapons.

"There will be strings attached to lifting trade sanctions. It's a political issue," one diplomat in Baghdad was reported to have said. "But this is the best day for Iraq since Kofi Annan's visit."

In a press conference before the talks Mr Butler said there had been a great deal of co-operation from the Iraqis since February when the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, visited Iraq.

He added that UN weapons inspectors were "near the end" of their task. "We have no second list in the backroom," he said.

But Iraqi newspapers have accused the chief UN weapons inspector of overstepping his mandate in his latest visit to Baghdad.

The newspaper Babel, owned by President Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, called for the Australian diplomat to be silenced. "Isn't it time we stopped being courteous and cut off the tongue of this dog?" Babel demanded.

The Iraqi Government has also been critical in public. Mr Aziz accused the UN of double standards for its inaction on the recent Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests.

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