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Sunday, 29 September, 2002, 20:14 GMT 21:14 UK
Iraq woos Iran in anti-US drive
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami (left) and Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri
Iran says it would support UN-led action against Iraq
Iraq has sought to rally support from its neighbour and former foe Iran as the United States maintains its threat of military action against Baghdad.

On a visit to Tehran the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Naji Sabri, told Iranian President Mohammad Khatami that US behaviour "is not just a threat to us, but a threat to the Islamic world".

Hans Blix
Blix: Beginning "technical" talks with Iraqis in Vienna
He said there was a consensus in the international community opposing military action against Iraq, which he hoped the US would respect.

And he added that Iraq wanted to restore normal relations with Iran.

Both Iran and Iraq, who fought each other in the 1980s in a long-running war, have been branded by US President George Bush as forming part of an "axis of evil".

Iran wary of US plans

President Khatami told Mr Sabri that Iran "is in favour of a region without weapons of mass destruction," the official Irna news agency reported.

The BBC's David Chazan says that while Iran may have little affection for its old enemy, the overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein might give Tehran less cause to celebrate if carried out by the Americans.

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

Iran has repeatedly expressed its opposition to a US attack, but says it will support UN-led action if inspectors confirm that Baghdad is still developing weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq earlier said US jets have bombed the civilian airport in the city of Basra, attacking passenger terminals and the radar system.

Support withheld

The UN weapons inspectors' chief, Hans Blix, is to meet Iraqi officials in Vienna on Monday to discuss plans for the inspectors' return.

Mr Blix said that he was keeping "absolute silence" until the talks started but that they would be technical rather than political.

Key demands
Acceptance of resolution within seven days
Declaration of arms programmes within 30 days
Access for inspectors to all sites
Armed guards to accompany inspectors
Use of military force for any non-compliance

The US and UK are meanwhile continuing their diplomatic initiative to secure backing from other permanent members of the UN Security Council for a tough new resolution on Iraq.

British envoy William Ehrman is in Beijing to try to secure Chinese approval.

Although China has said Baghdad should comply with disarmament resolutions, it has also said that any attack not backed by the Security Council would have "incalculable consequences".

The diplomatic offensive has already taken American and British envoys to Paris and Moscow, although there has been no clear message of support from either capital for a tough new resolution.

Speaking after meeting US and British officials on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov declined to comment on the draft, but said Moscow favoured the inspectors' "quickest possible" return.

The envoys also made little headway on Friday in Paris, where President Jacques Chirac said he continued to support a two-step approach.

Russia, France and China - as permanent members of the Security Council - have the right of veto over any resolution.

Disarming Saddam

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has said Saddam will be disarmed one way or the other.

Mr Blair told the BBC there was no disagreement about two essentials - that Saddam posed a threat, and that he had to be disarmed. The only question was the best way of doing it.

Mr Blair was speaking on the opening day of the annual conference of his Labour Party - which is divided on the use of force against Iraq.

The BBC's Nicholas Jones at the conference says a big anti-war demonstration in London on Saturday has encouraged delegates who want the conference to say that Britain must not join an American attack unless it is authorised by the UN.

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The BBC's Richard Forrest
"Iran has little affection for its old foe"

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29 Sep 02 | Middle East
28 Sep 02 | Politics
28 Sep 02 | Americas
28 Sep 02 | Americas
28 Sep 02 | Media reports
26 Sep 02 | Americas
26 Sep 02 | Americas
24 Sep 02 | Politics
26 Sep 02 | Americas
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