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Saturday, 1 February, 2003, 07:47 GMT
Iraq to chair UN disarmament talks
UN inspectors in Iraq
Iraq's disarmament is still in question

Iraq, by an ironic twist, is to be the new chairman of the UN Conference on Disarmament.

The move comes as the Security Council braces itself to receive evidence from the US that Saddam Hussein's regime has been stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein is under intense US pressure
The Geneva-based conference, which opened earlier this month, is responsible for consolidating the work of several arms-negotiating bodies.

Its chairmanship is automatically rotated and, after Iran stepped aside, Iraq will head the meetings from mid-March.

By anyone's standards, this is not great timing for the United Nations as the US steps up pressure on Baghdad to surrender any banned weapons or face military action.

Embarrassingly, the conference on disarmament is the same international forum which negotiated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and steered talks on the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.

The position of conference chair has no political significance as it rotates in alphabetical order, but this is the first time Iraq has headed the pre-eminent meeting since it first joined, 16 years ago.

Talks deadlocked

In this session, the body is due to discuss bans on producing nuclear bomb-making material such as highly-enriched uranium.

It will also decide whether a new treaty is needed for covering weapons in space.

Negotiations are already in deadlock.

In November 2001, the US walked out of talks aimed at strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention, claiming Iraq was an untrustworthy partner.


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31 Jan 03 | Americas
31 Jan 03 | Politics
30 Jan 03 | Americas
29 Jan 03 | Politics
27 Jan 03 | Americas
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