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Saturday, April 18, 1998 Published at 20:26 GMT 21:26 UK

World: Middle East

Iraq calls for time limit for inspections

Iraqi foreign minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf with Egyptian foreign minister Amr Moussa

The Iraqi Foreign Minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, has called on the United Nations to set a time limit on its weapons inspections in Iraq.

He was speaking in Cairo, after talks with President Mubarak and the Arab League Secretary General, Ismat Abdel Meguid, before travelling on to New York for talks at the UN.

Mr al-Sahaf also dismissed the latest report by UN weapons inspectors as "baseless and boring".

Earlier this month, the UN report accused Iraq of continuing to hold back information about its germ warfare programme.

The inspectors said almost no progress has been made over the past six months in verifying that Iraq has destroyed its remaining weapons of mass destruction.

The report also said that Iraq has provided no evidence to prove its assertion that all biological weapons, and weapons capacities have been destroyed.

The Iraqis have urged the Security Council to lift sanctions now they have opened disputed sites to inspection.

On Saturday, the American defence secretary, William Cohen, said Iraq must provide solid proof that it has destroyed its chemical and biological weapons before sanctions are lifted.

He was speaking in southern Turkey where he visited American forces policing the no-fly zone over northern Iraq.

Mr Cohen said it was not enough for President Saddam Hussein to open his palaces and other sites to UN weapons inspectors - he must also show where, when and how the weapons had been destroyed.

Correspondents say that Mr Cohen's tour, which has now taken him to Jordan before going on to Egypt, Israel and Greece, is largely aimed at bolstering support for American policy towards Iraq.

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