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Sunday, 10 November, 2002, 20:16 GMT
Arabs back UN move on Iraq
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (R) and Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher (L)
Egypt has been pressuring Iraq to comply
The Arab League has welcomed the United Nations resolution on disarming Iraq and urged the sides to continue co-operating.

However, foreign ministers meeting in Cairo also called on the Security Council to honour assurances given to Syria that the resolution was not a pretext for military action.

The emergency session's final statement did not contain an explicit call on Baghdad to accept the resolution.
Inspectors go to work in Baghdad in November 1998
The new UN resolution calls for unimpeded inspections

But some of the ministers indicated earlier that Iraq had signalled its acceptance.

There has been no official word yet from Baghdad on its response to the move by the UN, which calls on Iraq's leaders to give up their alleged weapons of mass destruction.

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

No time has been set for the meeting, but it is widely expected to take plaec on Monday.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Baghdad says many Iraqis see the terms of the new UN resolution as deliberately humiliating, but the government knows it has no choice and is apparently convening parliament to help sell the decision to concede.

Arab 'anger'

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

The UN resolution threatens "serious consequences" if Iraq fails to show it has got rid of its weapons of mass destruction.

Arab League ministers say they want Iraq to comply in order to avoid US-led military intervention that they fear would unleash popular anger across the region.

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

After meeting Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri on Sunday, his Egyptian and Saudi counterparts indicated that Baghdad had already accepted the resolution.

"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.

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".

Even though the Arabs see the UN resolution as a last chance to avert war, they still mistrust America's intentions, the BBC's Heba Saleh in Cairo says.

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

Syria's deputy UN Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad at the Security Council meeting
Even Syria voted for the UN resolution

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

Our correspondent says 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.

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.

Military build-up

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

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.

The BBC's David Shukman
"Syria said the resolution could not be used as a pretext for war"
The BBC's Louise Bevan
"No response yet from Saddam Hussein"
Abdel Bari Atwan, Editor of 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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