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Sunday, 10 November, 2002, 18:44 GMT
Iraq 'will accept' UN resolution
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (R) and Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher (L)
Egypt has been pressuring Iraq to comply
Iraq is poised to accept the new United Nations resolution calling on Baghdad to give up its alleged weapons of mass destruction, according to Arab League foreign ministers.


There are statements at the highest level in Baghdad on the readiness to co-operate with any resolution which carries assurances that it does not foresee a military strike

Ahmed Maher, Egyptian Foreign Minister

An emergency session of the Iraqi parliament has been called to debate the issue.

So far, Iraq has said only that it is "quietly" studying the resolution and will announce its position in the next few days.

Arab League ministers - who gathered in Cairo for an extraordinary session on Sunday - said they wanted Iraq to comply in order to avoid US-led military intervention that they fear would unleash popular anger across the region.

After meeting Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, his Egyptian and Saudi counterparts indicated that Baghdad had already accepted the resolution, the BBC's Heba Saleh reports from Cairo.

"There are statements at the highest level in Baghdad on the readiness to co-operate with any resolution which carries assurances that it does not foresee a military strike," said Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher.

Inspectors go to work in Baghdad in November 1998
The new UN resolution calls for unimpeded inspections

His Saudi counterpart, Saud al-Faisal, said the Arab ministers "welcomed Iraq's acceptance" of the resolution "following assurances from Syria that this resolution does not provide for automatic military action".

Resolution 1441 was passed by all 15 members of the Security Council on Friday, including the only current Arab member, Syria.

In his first comments on Saturday, Mr Sabri did not reject the resolution outright, focusing instead on the absence of any clause that would give the US the automatic right to take military action to force Baghdad to comply.

Meanwhile, the United States is pressing ahead with planning for a possible military attack on Iraq.

Syria's deputy UN Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad at the Security Council meeting
Even Syria voted in favour of the new resolution

The New York Times, quoting senior administration officials, says President George W Bush has approved a war plan for Iraq, involving up to a quarter of a million troops.

And a senior defence official told the BBC that the Pentagon was already looking at where it might station forces in Iraq in order to ensure stability in the aftermath of any conflict.

Cautious optimism

The UN resolution was backed with a threat of "serious consequences" if Baghdad failed to show it had got rid of its weapons of mass destruction.

Next steps
7 days: Iraq must confirm whether it will "comply fully" with the resolution
30 days: Iraq must reveal all programmes, plants and materials which could be used for weapons production
45 days: Inspectors must be allowed to resume their checks
Thereafter, inspectors have 60 days to report back to the Security Council but may report violations earlier

Baghdad has until Friday to accept what the council called "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations".

Iraqi state television said on Sunday that parliament had been summoned by President Saddam Hussein to debate the resolution.

However it did not say when the emergency session would take place.

Ministers from all 22 Arab League states were expected to attend the meeting in Cairo.

A source close to the meeting told our correspondent that preliminary talks had been mostly harmonious.

He said there were none of the heated exchanges and bombastic rhetoric which often characterise such meetings.

Even though the Arabs see the UN resolution as a last chance to avert war, they still mistrust America's intentions, our correspondent says.

They have repeatedly warned that a US-led war would destabilise the region - unleashing popular unrest and exacerbating existing tensions.

Our correspondent adds that Syria's "yes" vote at the Security Council will have been taken as a strong message in Baghdad, and this time there is no room for manoeuvre.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Shukman
"The resolution means zero tolerance"
The BBC's Hebah Saleh reports from Cairo
"Arab Ministers said Baghdad's response would be favourable"
Abdel Bari Atwan, Editor Al Quds Newspaper
"The major thing Arab leaders are hoping for is to avert war"

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09 Nov 02 | Europe
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