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Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 22:36 GMT 23:36 UK
UN puts conditions on Iraqi offer
Iraqi soldier outside UN base in Iraq
Iraq wants the UN to look at a range of issues
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has told Iraq it must accept the Security Council's terms on disarmament and weapons inspections before a UN official can take up an Iraqi invitation to visit.

It is my sincere hope that a speedy resumption of inspections will help facilitate the resolution of all outstanding issues

Kofi Annan
In a letter to Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, Mr Annan did not reject the invitation but said talks would have to focus on practical arrangements for weapons inspections.

Mr Annan's response came as Iraq tried to build up support in the Middle East region amid ongoing speculation of a US military attack aimed at toppling Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Washington has already dismissed Baghdad's offer to the UN, as well as a similar invitation for US congressmen to visit the country.

Annan's terms

Mr Annan had already made his position clear - that the Iraqi invitation to UN weapons inspection chief Hans Blix for more talks in Baghdad was at odds with a 1999 Security Council resolution on the terms for a return of the inspection team.

However, the secretary general has welcomed what he called the Iraqi Government's expressed desire to continue talks aimed at reaching a comprehensive solution to the outstanding issues between Iraq and the UN.

The Security Council resolution calls for UN weapons inspectors to return to Iraq and make an assessment of what are termed the key remaining disarmament tasks.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan: urges Iraq to accept Security Council resolution terms
Within 60 days, the inspectors would have to report back to the Security Council and seek its approval for an inspection regime aimed at discovering the full extent of the Iraqi government's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons capability.

In his letter, Mr Annan said he looked forward to receiving confirmation from Iraq that it accepted this timetable of events.

The BBC's UN correspondent Greg Barrow says the onus now is on Baghdad to respond.

On Tuesday, Mr Blix said he felt there was very little new in the Iraqi offer describing it as "tricky diplomatic language".

He told Swedish radio: "Everything indicates, when you read it very carefully, that it [the offer] is the same sort of setup as we have had during three rounds of discussions in New York in the spring."

He called for practical discussions about the arrangements for any inspection.

"We don't want conflict once we're in," he said.

Regional unease

The foreign ministers of Iraq and Turkey met in the Jordanian capital Amman on Tuesday to discuss the growing threat of a US attack on Iraq.

Recent American reports have said that Jordan could be used as a base for launching military strikes on Iraq, but Amman has dismissed the suggestion.

Turkey - a Nato ally of the US - also opposes a strike on Iraq.

Naji Sabri
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri wants to 'clear up issues that are behind us'

The US and the UK have insisted on an unconditional and immediate resumption of weapons inspections.

UN weapons inspectors pulled out of Iraq in 1998, citing lack of Iraqi co-operation, and they have not been allowed back in.

The US, which accuses Iraq of secretly rebuilding weapons of mass destruction, has dismissed an Iraqi invitation for the US Congress to send a fact-finding team as "a joke".

US President George W Bush has said openly that he is determined to see a change of regime in Iraq.

The BBC's Rageh Omaar in Baghad
"This would not be a conflict between two military equals"
Kawa & Shatha Besarawi, former Iraqi residents
"We are very worried about our families"

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See also:

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06 Aug 02 | Middle East
06 Aug 02 | Politics
05 Aug 02 | Middle East
05 Aug 02 | Middle East
04 Aug 02 | Politics
03 Aug 02 | Middle East
02 Aug 02 | Middle East
30 Jul 02 | Americas
02 Aug 02 | Middle East
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