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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 00:28 GMT 01:28 UK
UN arms chief 'waiting for decision'
UN inspectors in Baghdad, 1998
Iraq has agreed to the inspectors' return
The chief United Nations weapons inspector, Hans Blix, has said arms teams will not return to Iraq before a new UN resolution on the matter is adopted.

It follows speculation in the past few days that weapons monitors might return to Iraq on 19 October.


What we are now waiting for is not really so much for further clarifications [from Iraq]... but rather a new resolution

Hans Blix,
chief UN weapons inspector
Mr Blix was speaking as the UN Security Council was preparing to hold an open debate on Wednesday, amid continuing disagreement over whether a new resolution was needed.

Many nations are opposed to the idea of the Security Council passing a US-backed resolution that they say would give Washington a green light to intervene militarily in Iraq.

The United States, backed by the UK, has called for the UN to issue an ultimatum to Iraq to fully co-operate with the weapons teams or face military action.

Uncertainties

Mr Blix told the Security Council that Iraq had not yet answered all questions on the practical arrangements for new inspections raised at a meeting between Mr Blix and Iraqi officials in Vienna, Austria, on 1 October.


He made it clear, for the first time, that he was not prepared to resume inspections without a fresh UN mandate.

"What we are now waiting for is not really so much for further clarifications [from Iraq], which would be nice to have, but rather a new resolution from the Security Council."

Iraq has been pushing for an advance party of inspectors to return to the country on 19 October, but Mr Blix said it was "highly unlikely" this date would be met.

The weapons inspections chief said an advance team would probably be able to return about 10 days after a new resolution was passed.

Iraq is under pressure to readmit inspectors, who have been barred since leaving in 1998 after they claimed they were being obstructed in carrying out their job.

Open debate

The Security Council, however, remains divided over whether - or what kind of - a new resolution is necessary.

The five permanent members have been haggling over the wording, aims and objectives of draft texts for nearly a month.

While the US and the UK seek a tough resolution, France, China and Russia want Iraq to be given a chance to co-operate first.

The BBC's correspondent at the United Nations, Greg Barrow, says although there is still no resolution to vote on, UN member states have been frustrated at their inability to influence discussions on how the UN should disarm Iraq of its remaining weapons of mass destruction.

Now, the wider UN membership, comprising 191 states, will be able to make its views known.

South Africa's UN ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo, whose country called the debate, urged the council to take the opportunity and allow inspectors to return to Iraq "as quickly as possible".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Peter Biles
"The question of what to do about Iraq is about to get a much wider airing"

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