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 Monday, 20 January, 2003, 08:57 GMT
UN and US demand Iraqi action
Mohamed ElBaradei (left) and Hans Blix (right)
Mohamed ElBaradei and Hans Blix want answers
The United Nations and the United States have warned Iraq to act soon to show a change of heart on disarmament.

"Time is running out," said the head of the UN's nuclear agency, Mohamed ElBaradei.

He and the chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix have begun a second round of talks in Baghdad with senior Iraqi officials.

They reported "some progress" in Sunday's meeting, in which the Iraqis disclosed the existence of four empty chemical warheads.

KEY DATES
27 Jan - First full report on inspections presented to UN
29 Jan - UN discusses report
31 Jan - Bush meets Blair
15 Feb - Anti-war protests across Europe
27 Mar - Blix submits new report to UN

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Washington would know in a matter of weeks whether Iraq was giving its full co-operation.

Mr Rumsfeld said he would favour Iraqi leaders going into exile if that would avoid a war, describing it as a "fair trade".

But he refused to be drawn on whether this would include immunity from prosecution for President Saddam Hussein.

In the UK, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described the idea of letting Saddam Hussein flee Iraq and go into exile as a "very sensible suggestion".

He said he would consider supporting immunity for Saddam Hussein if it might help avert conflict.

More warheads

Mr ElBaradei said his talks with officials in Baghdad were "constructive" and achieved "some progress".

"I think they have listened carefully to our message and the message is simple: Time is running out," Mr ElBaradei told the BBC after his talks.

"It is a very tense situation. Iraq needs to take a very proactive approach. It should not just be appearing to be dragged into compliance," he said.

His warning was echoed by senior figures in the US administration, who signalled Washington's growing impatience with Iraq.

But Mr Blix said the Iraqis revealed on Sunday that they had found four more empty chemical warheads similar to 11 others discovered by UN inspectors on Thursday.

The test is: Is Saddam co-operating or is he not co-operating?

Donald Rumsfeld

"We have to ask: is this one find or are there weapons hidden all over the country?" said Mr Blix.

The discovery last week of the warheads and new documents possibly relating to the development of nuclear weapons in Iraq heightened the UN inspectors' suspicions.

Mr Blix and Mr ElBaradei are due to report their findings to the UN Security Council on 27 January.

Iraq was represented at Sunday's talks by President Saddam Hussein's scientific adviser Amir al-Saadi and General Hussam Mohammad Amin, head of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate.

Mr ElBaradei and Mr Blix also held talks later with Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan.

US pressure

The US administration kept up the pressure on Baghdad on Sunday, following a day of mass protests worldwide against a possible US-led war on Iraq.

Suspect warhead found in Iraq
Thursday's find of warheads raised suspicions

Referring to support for military action against Iraq, Mr Rumsfeld told Fox television news that the US already has "a sizeable coalition of the willing... with or without a second UN resolution".

"The test is: Is Saddam co-operating or is he not co-operating? That's what the UN asked for. He is not doing that," he said.

America's top serving military officer, General Richard Myers, is visiting Turkey on Monday to visit US forces and discuss war plans.

Washington has been hoping for Turkish agreement to station thousands more personnel in the country.

The US has offered financial inducements to help upgrade Turkish facilities, but the Turkish authorities, faced with overwhelming domestic opposition have stalled.

US national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said 27 January - the date of the chief inspectors' report - was "not a deadline," but "probably marks the start of a last phase".

"I think we are at the verge of an important set of decisions, because time is running out here," she told NBC television.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Rageh Omaar reports from Baghdad
"Iraq has begun to take on the message that the UN came to Baghdad to deliver"
  Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter
"Iraq is co-operating to some extent"
  British foreign secretary Jack Straw
"War is literally a last choice"

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19 Jan 03 | Middle East
19 Jan 03 | Middle East
19 Jan 03 | Middle East
19 Jan 03 | Middle East
14 Jan 03 | Americas
19 Jan 03 | Europe
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