ElBaradei: U.N. inspectors advised to leave Iraq as France, Russia oppose ultimatum
The United States has advised the U.N. nuclear agency to start pulling its inspectors out of Iraq, the agency chief said Monday.
Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the warning was made late Sunday night to the Vienna-based nuclear agency as well as to the New York-based inspectors looking for biological and chemical weapons.
"Late last night ... I was advised by the U.S. government to pull out our inspectors from Baghdad," ElBaradei told the IAEA's board of governors Monday. He said the Security Council was informed and would take up the issue later Monday.
"I immediately involved the president of the Security Council and asked for guidance. I also informed the U.N. secretary-general," ElBaradei said. "I understand that the Security Council will take up the issue today."
ElBaradei told the nuclear agency's 35-nation board that he was worried about the safety of the teams but still held out hope that war could be averted.
"Naturally the safety of our staff remains our primary consideration at this difficicult time," he said. "I earnestly hope — even at this late hour — that a peaceful resolution of the issue can be achieved and that the world can be spared a war."
U.N. officials have said the roughly 200 inspectors and support staff in Iraq could be evacuated in as little as 48 hours.
Meanwhile, France called for an emergency U.N. ministerial meeting Tuesday to set a timetable for Iraq's peaceful disarmament, ignoring a Monday deadline set by the United States and three allies for the United Nations to authorize war in Iraq.
U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix was also ignoring the threat of a possibly imminent war for the moment and preparing to give the Security Council a 30-page report Monday listing about a dozen key remaining disarmament tasks that Iraq should complete in the coming months.
The Security Council scheduled closed consultations on Iraq at 1500 GMT Monday to discuss the resolution sponsored by the United States, Britain and Spain setting an ultimatum for Iraq to disarm within days or face war. The current resolution would set the deadline for Monday, but U.S. officials said that could be extended briefly.
In Moscow Monday, a top diplomat said the council would not approve the U.S.-backed resolution. "This draft has no chances for passage," Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov told Interfax news agency. "No additional resolutions are necessary."
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Monday that France cannot accept a second U.N. resolution that includes an ultimatum or resorts to automatic use of force to disarm Iraq. Speaking to Europe-1 radio, de Villepin reiterated France's threat to use its veto in the Security Council to block a resolution that paves the way to war.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said he would continue to fight for peaceful disarmament. "I think it is always worth it — even in the last minute — to push for peace and to fight for a peaceful disarmament," Schroeder told German television ZDF late Sunday. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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