U.N., Iraq resume talks on return of weapons inspectors
U.N. weapons inspectors opened talks Monday with Iraq over a return to Baghdad. Chief inspector Hans Blix told reporters at the Vienna headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency that the talks would operate under the assumption that nothing in Iraq — including Saddam's palaces — will be off-limits to inspectors hunting for nuclear, biological and chemical weaponry.
"The purpose of the talks is that if and when inspections come about, we will not have clashes inside" over what the inspectors will do, Blix said. "We'd rather go through these things outside in advance."
According to news agencies reports, both parties will review "practical arrangements" with the Iraqis for inspections, he said, such as where the inspectors would be based, their accommodations and security, and how samples would be taken out of the country for analysis. Blix said he would be reporting back to the UN Security Council on Thursday after two days of talks.
Briefing journalists on Monday's talks, chief IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky called the atmosphere "businesslike" and said the discussions were "very thorough." "We're moving along nicely," he said. "They're all aware of the importance that there be no misunderstandings."
IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the success of a new weapons inspection mission would hinge on Saddam's promise of full cooperation.
The Iraqi side is being represented in Vienna by Amer Al-Sadi, special advisor to Saddam Hussein. Al-Sadi has called British Prime Minister Tony Blair's charge that Iraq could be as little as a year away from having a nuclear bomb as "nonsense, absolute nonsense." (Albawaba.com)
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