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Saturday, 6 July, 2002, 04:44 GMT 05:44 UK
Iraq refuses return of arms inspectors
Kofi Annan (centre left) faces Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri during talks
No date has been set for fresh talks
Washington has said it is not surprised that talks on ending the stand-off between Iraq and the United Nations have ended without agreement.

A State Department official said Iraq was still "preventing and delaying focus on its core obligations".


We see no basis or need for prolonged discussion of Iraq's obligations - they are well known

US State Department
Over two days of negotiations in Vienna, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan failed to persuade Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri to allow back UN weapons inspectors.

With no date set for a new meeting, Mr Sabri said Iraq wanted a "comprehensive settlement" which would cover both UN sanctions and its security.

Iraqis demonstrate in Baghdad
Arms inspectors left Iraq in 1998
United Nations spokesman Fred Eckhard told the BBC that the talks had stumbled on the issue of sanctions.

"They want a little bit more assurance that the sanctions will be lifted in a reasonable timeframe," he said.

The UN Security Council has made the lifting of sanctions imposed after the Gulf War 12 years ago conditional on Iraq passing an inspection for weapons of mass destruction.

The inspectors have been barred from Iraq since leaving the country in 1998, accusing the authorities of hampering their investigations.

'Nothing to discuss'

Iraq asked Mr Annan for assurances that the United States would not take military action in the event of agreement over weapons inspections, but the secretary general made clear that this was not a matter for the UN.

The BBC's Bethany Bell reports that Iraq is taking a major risk in focusing on a perceived US threat to overthrow its President, Saddam Hussein.


The United States wants a return of inspectors to update the information they provide to their planes

Naji Sabri
Iraqi foreign minister
The Iraqis may be reluctant to make concessions if the American threat is genuine, she writes, but their refusal to comply with the UN on the issue of arms inspections could make an American strike against Iraq more likely.

US State Department spokeswoman Jo-Anne Prokopowicz said Iraq's obligations were well known and the US saw no grounds for discussing them at length.

The Iraqi foreign minister accused the US of wanting to use inspectors for spying on his country.

"The United States wants a return of inspectors to update the information they provide to their planes and those of Britain to strike the Iraqi people," Mr Sabri said.

UN officials had warned not to expect too much from the meeting in Vienna - the third such meeting this year.

Mr Eckhard noted after the meeting that relations with Iraq had gradually become "more friendly, more relaxed" but Mr Annan conceded that, while there had been movement, it was "obviously not enough".

Sanctions

The session between Mr Annan and Mr Sabri followed detailed talks by officials from both sides on how any return of inspectors would be handled on the ground.

The multinational UN team wants to check accusations that Iraq is developing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

Under Security Council resolutions, inspectors must certify that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction have been destroyed, along with the long-range missiles that could deliver them.

There was one agreement made on the first day of talks when Iraq agreed to return 90% of the archives it took when it occupied Kuwait in 1990 - the act that sparked the Gulf War.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Childs
"The Bush administration still seems to be struggling with how to deal with Saddam Hussein"
The BBC's Greg Barrow
"The longer Iraq delays the greater the chance the US will take the matter into their own hands"

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05 Jul 02 | Middle East
04 Jul 02 | Americas
17 Jun 02 | Americas
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