More Iraqi scientists interviewed as Blix and ElBaradei arrive in Baghdad for crucial talks
The top U.N. disarmament officials for Iraq, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, arrived in Baghdad on Saturday for a new round of crucial talks with Iraqi officials.
Blix and ElBaradei are to meet with Iraqi officials over the next two days. They are scheduled to report their findings to the U.N. Security Council on February 14.
The pair on Friday said that private interviews with Iraqi scientists and surveillance flights were major issues on their agenda.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is in Germany for an annual security conference, said on Friday the march toward a showdown with Iraq had quickened.
For its part, Iraq bowed to a key U.N. demand and let weapons inspectors hold private interviews with Iraqi scientists. The first interview occurred on Thursday. On Friday, Iraq said U.N. weapons inspectors held private interviews with three more scientists. A Foreign Ministry statement said the interviews lasted between 2 and 3 hours.
Inspectors had long pressed for scientists to be interviewed without other Iraqis present to protect informers from reprisal.
Blix gave Iraq's move a cautious welcome, but warned Baghdad inspections could only work with "active cooperation from Iraq, not on process but on substance."
ElBaradei called for a meeting with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, which he said would greatly help in getting better cooperation. "We would be willing to meet with him obviously if he's ready to meet with us," he said. "That would be useful to have a discussion with him and explain to him our needs to make progress." (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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