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Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 00:06 GMT
Iraq accepts spy plane flights
A car carrying UN inspectors drives past a portrait of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
The UN inspectors are cautiously optimistic
Iraq has agreed to allow U-2 surveillance flights - a key demand of United Nations weapons inspectors who want to see better co-operation from Baghdad.

If the world, except the United States, finds that the U2 (planes) are important then it has to tell the United States and Britain to stop firing on us

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
Iraq's ambassador to the UN, Mohammed al-Douri, said his country would also act on the inspectors' call for a new law banning the production of weapons of mass destruction.

The United States has brushed aside Iraq's new promises to co-operate, describing them as tactical retreats.

Iraq's agreement to the spy plane flights sparked a fall of gold and oil prices on world markets which had been ratcheted up by tensions over the potential conflict.

U-2S SURVEILLANCE PLANE
U-2 plane
High altitude surveillance plane
Can be fitted with radar, photographic, infrared or electro-optic sensors
Max cruising height: 17 miles (27km)
Baghdad had until now opposed surveillance flights, saying the planes' safety could not be guaranteed because of US and UK bombing of the two no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said the attacks should stop, saying that to ask Iraqi air defences to stop firing on US-British war planes would be "surrender".

"If the world, except the United States, finds that the U2 (planes) are important to carry out more aerial surveys (in Iraq) then it has to tell the United States and Britain to stop firing on us," he was quoted as saying by the state INA news agency.

Baghdad last week for the first time allowed Iraqi scientists to be interviewed without the presence of officials - another key demand by inspectors.

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

But US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Iraq had still not indicated it would comply with UN demands over disarmament.

"I haven't seen anything worth getting excited about," he said. "In fact one has to question whether those ideas would have any relevance."

The weapons inspectors are to give their assessment of Iraqi co-operation at the Security Council on Friday.

The two chief inspectors, who held talks in Baghdad at the weekend said they wanted "quick progress" from Iraq but have been cautiously optimistic.


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