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Saturday, 15 February, 2003, 21:40 GMT
Inspections should go on, says Annan
UN inspections vehicle drives past Iraqi flag in Baghdad
Annan said responsibility ultimately lay with Iraq
The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has said he believes that weapons inspections in Iraq should continue for the present, but cannot be maintained indefinitely if Saddam Hussein's regime does not co-operate.

Iraq should not think that we are in disagreement, because when dealing with complicated aims everyone agrees

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
"I believe inspectors should continue their work," he told Abu Dhabi Television.

"But if there is no co-operation then the council will see that the operation has become meaningless and that inspections could end."

"The ball is again in the Iraqi leadership's court."

Mr Annan's comments came after UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said he still believed the UN should deal with Iraqi disarmament, but toppling Saddam Hussein would be "an act of humanity".

'Tangible progress'

Mr Annan said the UN may need to pass a new resolution on Iraq, but the timing would be left to the Security Council.

Chief inspector Hans Blix (r) presenting report at UN
Blix: Demanding more Iraqi transparency
He said the report by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix report to the Security Council on Friday had been "neither black nor white," but said that "tangible progress" had been made.

However, Mr Annan warned that despite the apparent disarray within the Security Council between countries regarding the use of possible force against Iraq, it should not be over-confident in predicting that war had been averted.

"Iraq should not think that we are in disagreement, because when dealing with complicated aims everyone agrees," he said.

'Moral case'

Mr Blair was speaking one day after Mr Blix told the UN Security Council that after almost three months of work, his team had found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Mr Blair told a conference of his Labour Party in Glasgow that "there will be more time given to inspections" - but he also stressed "the moral case for removing Saddam".

"I continue to want to solve the issue of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction through the United Nations."

Anti-war demonstrators should remember the hundreds of thousands of people whose deaths the Iraqi leader was responsible for, Mr Blair said.

He warned that if the issue of Iraqi disarmament was not dealt with then the authority of the UN would be compromised and a far bloodier conflict would eventually come.

"If we do not confront these twin menaces of rogue states with weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, they will not disappear. They will just feed and grow on our weakness," he said.

Divisions

The UN Security Council remains deeply divided over the Iraq crisis.

COUNCIL VIEWS
Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan (l) and French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin
For military action: US, UK, Spain
Sceptics or opposed: France, Russia, China, Germany and Syria
In doubt: Angola, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan
Nine votes and no veto required to pass a resolution

France, China and Russia - which all have the power of veto - say inspectors should be given the time they need to complete their task.

But the US, backed by Britain, says Iraq must not be allowed to string out the inspections process.

The US and Britain would prefer the UN Security Council to pass a second resolution authorising the use of force against Iraq - which would provide international backing.

Friday's session demonstrated the level of opposition within the Security Council to any moves to cut the inspections short, the BBC's Susannah Price reports.

Mr Blix said that while serious questions did still remain - notably the disappearance of large quantities of chemical and biological material - definite progress had been made.

In his report, Mr Blix said that while disarmament could be still be achieved, "the issues of anthrax, the nerve agent VX and long-range missiles [are]... perhaps the most important problem we are facing.

"Iraq itself must squarely tackle this task and avoid belittling the questions," he said.

The chief inspector said 1,000 tons of banned chemicals and other proscribed weapons remained unaccounted for.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Steve Kingstone
"For now the talking is being left to the Secretary of State"
Dr Hans Blix, chief UN weapons inspector
"Iraq itself must squarely tackle this task"
Mohamed ElBaradei, IAEA head
"We have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear activities"
 VOTE RESULTS
Should UN inspectors be given more time?

Yes
 66.07% 

No
 33.90% 

30577 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


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15 Feb 03 | Middle East
15 Feb 03 | Media reports
15 Feb 03 | Middle East
15 Feb 03 | Americas
14 Feb 03 | Europe
14 Feb 03 | Politics
14 Feb 03 | Middle East
14 Feb 03 | Middle East
13 Feb 03 | Middle East
14 Feb 03 | Asia-Pacific
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