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The BBC's Mark Devenport
"Iraq is demanding an immediate lift of the organisation's sanctions"
 real 28k

Foreign Office minister, Brian Wilson
"Saddam Hussein is using sanctions as a propaganda weapon"
 real 28k

Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh
"Whether it is a smart or stupid sanction, any kind of sanction is illegal"
 real 28k

Monday, 26 February, 2001, 00:29 GMT
Annan pressed on Iraq sanctions
Saddam Hussein with cabinet
Saddam Hussein discussed sanctions ahead of the talks
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is holding talks in New York on Monday with an Iraqi delegation over the lifting of UN sanctions.

The talks coincide with a visit by US Secretary of State Colin Powell to Damascus to urge Syria to stop illegal oil imports from Iraq.

I don't think we are going to have a miraculous breakthrough, but at least it's a start

Kofi Annan
Iraq wants the sanctions - in force since the Gulf War - lifted, but the UN insists that arms inspectors, who left Iraq in 1998, should be allowed to return, to ensure Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction.

International support for sanctions, which Iraq says are hitting innocent civilians, was eroded following this month's US and British air strikes near Baghdad.

The UK and US are now talking of modifying the UN embargo by introducing so-called smart sanctions - targeting the Iraqi leadership.

Breakthrough unlikely

BBC correspondent Mark Devenport says that prospects for immediate progress at these talks are not good, with Iraq and the UN still far apart.

Kofi Annan
Annan was unwilling to criticise air raids on Iraq
Mr Annan was cautious about their possible outcome.

"I don't think we are going to have a miraculous breakthrough, but at least it's a start," he told the French news agency AFP.

Exploring any room for flexibility, whether it involves smart sanctions or not, will undoubtedly take many months to come, our correspondent says.

But 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.

Iraq's Foreign Minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, who is leading the Iraqi delegation, said he was going to New York with documentation that showed his country was free of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.


Mr Powell intends to ask Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop its importing Iraqi oil - 100,000 barrels a day according to the US - without UN approval.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Said al-Sahaf
Al-Sahaf: Will try to prove Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction
He will also set out US and British ideas to streamline sanctions.

Correspondents say that, as a former General, Mr Powell remains deeply concerned about Baghdad's military ambitions.

But Iraq does not see smart sanctions as any better than the smart weapons used against it.

It views them as a poisonous plot intended to keep the embargo in existence.

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein hopes the sanctions will be lifted altogether or continue crumbling as his neighbours no longer enforce them.

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See also:

26 Feb 01 | Middle East
Powell aims to plug Iraqi oil flow
25 Feb 01 | Middle East
Western show of strength in Kuwait
21 Feb 01 | Middle East
Iraq takes hard line with UN
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