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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Iraq pushes for UN dialogue
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tarik Aziz (left) and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg
Mr Aziz (left) said Iraq wanted a reasonable solution
Iraq says it is ready to consider re-admitting UN arms inspectors, but only as part of a wider agreement which respects Iraqi sovereignty and brings an end to UN sanctions.

Iraqi deputy Prime Minister Tarik Aziz told UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in Johannesburg that Baghdad was still hoping for a peaceful solution to the current conflict with Washington, but was "preparing to defend itself" form the threat of a US attack.


Sanctions, the continuous aggression, threats of war - all these issues have to be addressed

Tarik Aziz
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has meanwhile been making out the case for possible pre-emptive action against Iraq at a special news conference in his constituency.

He said Iraq posed a "real and unique threat" to the security of the Middle East and beyond, and the international community must stand with the US to deal with it.

Mr Blair promised to publish a dossier of evidence against the Iraqi leadership "in the next few weeks" and appeared to align London more closely to Washginton's policy of "regime change" in Iraq.

The BBC's Middle East analyst says Iraq is hoping to exploit a moment of diplomatic opportunity with much of the world opposed to a US attack on Iraq and with mixed messages coming from Washington.

UN role

Mr Aziz told journalists that Iraq "could consider" allowing arms inspectors to return, but only as part of a "comprehensive settlement" that would see the end of economic sanctions and threats from Washington.

"As I told the secretary general, if anybody can have a magic solution so that all these issues are being dealt with together, equitably and reasonably, we are ready to find such a solution and we are ready to co-operate with the United Nations," he said.


Iraq changes positions on whether they'll let the inspectors back in more often than Saddam Hussein changes bunkers

Ari Fleischer, White House Spokesman
Ahead of the meeting with Mr Aziz, Mr Annan told the BBC that the UN Security Council had an important role to play in resolving the crisis.

"Everyone is talking of the implementation of Security Council resolutions," he said.

"The council is the ultimate authority on its own resolutions, and there should be an interpretation of its resolutions. I hope they will have a word to say about this before anything is done."

Mr Aziz said that the issue of weapons inspections was not the only sticking point between Iraq and the US.

"Sanctions, the continuous aggression, threats of war - all these issues have to be addressed," he said.

"Let us solve all the problems comprehensively. There is no crisis between Iraq and the United Nations. The problem is with the Americans."

Split in Washington?

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said that if Iraq allows UN inspectors back in to complete their assessment of its weapons industry, it will be a "first step".

He has also said that the US needed to present evidence of the threat it believes is posed by Iraq so that an informed judgement can be made about a possible military strike.

US Deputy Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz
Wolfowitz said Europeans do not care enough about Iraqis
But US Vice-President Dick Cheney has said there was no point in sending inspectors back to Iraq and argued forcefully for military action.

A White House spokesman denied that there was a split in the Bush administration.

"Iraq changes positions on whether they'll let the inspectors back in more often than Saddam Hussein changes bunkers," Ari Fleischer said.

UN weapons inspectors pulled out of Iraq before US-led air strikes in 1998, and Baghdad did not allow them to return.

Mr Aziz's meeting with the UN secretary general comes as US statements on Iraq continue to attract international criticism, especially from Europe.

America's Deputy Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, retaliated by accusing the Europeans of caring too little about the plight of the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein.

He told the BBC that President Bush had a vision of the world that was not much different from the European perspective.

The trans-Atlantic differences were, he said, over tactics.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Matt Frei reports from Washington
"The Iraqis are doing their best to woo the world"
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan
"I have been talking to the Iraqis about the return of the inspectors"
Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz
"We are taking the threats very seriously"

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See also:

03 Sep 02 | Americas
03 Sep 02 | Politics
02 Sep 02 | Middle East
02 Sep 02 | Middle East
30 Aug 02 | Middle East
02 Aug 02 | Middle East
03 Sep 02 | Middle East
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