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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 17:43 GMT 18:43 UK
Iraq-UN weapons talks end
UN inspectors, Baghdad, 1998
Arms inspectors have been barred from Iraq since 1998
Iraq and the United Nations have ended three days of talks in New York, with no sign of a breakthrough on the key issue of the return to Iraq of international weapons inspectors.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri
Sabri: Talks "useful, frank and focused"

One-on-one talks between UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri were held alongside separate discussions by weapons experts on both sides.

Mr Sabri said that a third set of talks with Mr Annan would be held later this year.

No date has been set for these meetings, but Mr Sabri said that Friday's discussions had been "useful, frank and focused".

"We continued our debate in the same positive spirit of cooperation that characterised our meeting in March," he told French news agency AFP.

Mr Annan, is expected to brief the UN Security Council later on Friday about his discussions with Mr Sabri.

Concerns

The BBC's Greg Barrow said that the UN had been impressed by how seriously Iraq had taken the talks and with the positive approach taken by the country, although Iraqi delegates repeated their concerns about other issues including US threats to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and disputes over the no-fly zone.

The meeting followed earlier talks between the two parties on Wednesday, prior to which Mr Annan had said he wanted discussions to focus on the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq.

Iraq has refused to allow inspectors back in to continue their search for weapons of mass destruction since the UN evacuated its inspection team from Iraq in December 1998.

Under the terms of UN resolutions, Gulf War sanctions cannot be lifted until the inspectors certify that Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons have been destroyed - along with missiles to deliver them.

Mixed signals

Baghdad has given mixed signals about whether it will agree to the return of weapons inspectors.

Earlier talks with the UN in March were described as positive and constructive.

However Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said recently that he thought it was too early to talk about a return of UN inspectors.

Our UN correspondent said the Iraqis may think they have room for manoeuvre because it is widely accepted in diplomatic circles that Washington wants to avoid a military campaign against Iraq while there is no end in sight to the Israel-Palestinian crisis.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Greg Barrow
"The UN wants weapon inspectors back into Bagdad"
Education for Peace in Iraq, Erik Gustafson
"I think it is extremely important inspectors get back into Iraq"
See also:

04 May 02 | Middle East
Analysis: UN and Iraq 'talk shop'
29 Apr 02 | Middle East
Bush 'still undecided' on Iraq
28 Apr 02 | Middle East
Iraq celebrates Saddam birthday
22 Apr 02 | Middle East
Iraq 'moving up anti-aircraft missiles'
19 Apr 02 | Middle East
UN condemns Iraq on human rights
08 Apr 02 | Middle East
Iraq vows to defy Western 'enemy'
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