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Wednesday, 21 February, 2001, 19:07 GMT
Iraq takes hard line with UN
Sudanese demos against US-British attacks
There was widespread international anger at the allied air strikes
Iraq is going to demand that the United Nations end sanctions immediately at a meeting with Secretary-General Kofi Annan next week.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said that Baghdad would not accept pre-conditions on the lifting of the sanctions, but was ready to enter a process of dialogue on the lifting of the embargo.

The talks are aimed at breaking the impasse over the stalled UN weapons inspections and at moving towards lifting the international sanctions.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf
Sahhaf: Iraq to demand the lifting of sanctions
Under Security Council resolutions, the sanctions should remain in place until UN weapons inspectors certify that Baghdad has destroyed its weapons of mass destruction and a weapons monitoring system is established.

Some reports suggest Iraq may be more flexible than its publicly stated position.

Baghdad may be willing to accept some form of monitoring of its weapons capability that is less intrusive than weapons inspectors in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Talks doubts

The long scheduled talks between the UN and Iraqi officials were thrown into doubt by last Friday's US and British air strikes on targets near Baghdad.

Iraq says the raids killed two people and wounded 20.

They were also jeopardised by Mr Annan's unwillingness to criticise the attacks, despite widespread international condemnation of the action.

Mr al-Sahhaf said he was going to New York with documentation that showed his country was free of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Allied plans

Iraqi officials on Tuesday angrily denounced US and British plans to ease the UN embargo.

What they said may mislead those who do not know the reality, but in fact what they said is poison

Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan
The Vice-President, Taha Yassin Ramadan, called them "poison".

The United Kingdom and the United States have indicated that they are carrying out a review of sanctions against Iraq, aimed at moving towards so-called "smart sanctions".

The review is said to be aimed at scrapping any sanctions that appear to hurt the Iraqi people - while continuing those against the Iraqi Government.

'No Chinese engineers

Baghdad on Wednesday dismissed reports in the US that Chinese workers are helping to install fibre-optic cables to improve Iraq's air defence, in violation the sanctions.

Pentagon officials said earlier this week that last week's air strikes in the Baghdad area were staged on a Friday partly in an attempt to avoid casualties among workers, including Chinese engineers.

Beijing has said such allegations about Chinese assistance to Iraq in breach of sanctions were an attempt to divert crticism of the allied air strikes.

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See also:

21 Feb 01 | Middle East
Iraq denounces sanctions review
20 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Iraqi sanctions under review
19 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Iraqi raids 'self-defence'
20 Feb 01 | Middle East
Iraq strikes timed to 'avoid Chinese'
17 Feb 01 | Middle East
Iraq defiant as allies strike
17 Feb 01 | Middle East
Iraqi press calls for revenge
17 Feb 01 | Middle East
Little support for Iraq attack
16 Feb 01 | Middle East
Analysis: A tougher line?
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