The chief U.N. weapons inspectors will return to Baghdad on Feb. 8 for last-minute talks before their next Security Council report on Iraq, Iraqi and U.N. officials said Saturday.
Arms monitors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei are seeking concessions to speed their investigators' day-to-day work — in particular removing obstacles to U.N. reconnaissance flights and to private interviews with Iraqi scientists.
They prefer to see such issues resolved even before their visit next Saturday, said ElBaradei's spokeswoman in Vienna, Austria, Melissa Fleming. Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Mohamed al-Douri, said in New York the two sides would be "discussing all the outstanding issues, including interviews with Iraqi scientists."
ElBaradei, head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, had indicated Friday that the chief inspectors should meet with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein if they returned. But Aziz seemed to rule that out.
Blix's mission "could be dealt with the experts, who will talk to him about technical matters," the deputy prime minister told reporters. "And when he was on his last visit, he met the vice president and the foreign minister, and in my opinion that is enough."
On Iraqi state television Saturday, Saddam was shown giving encouragement to his military commanders. "I am your leader and I am confident that you will defeat the enemy," he told them.
"There is an important point I want to emphasize here: Keep your temper for the right moment," he said, adding that they should watch for signs of impatience and frustration by an invader. "When you see that the enemy losing its temper, it is time to use your weapons in the right moment," he said. "Don't be late or don't be hasty concerning deployment of troops."
Earlier in the day, a handful of American activists gathered Saturday at Baghdad's Amiriya bomb shelter, where more than 400 civilians were killed by a U.S. missile strike in 1991.
"We hope that there might still be time for people to say, `Stop! Wait!" said Kathy Kelly, leader of the Iraq Peace Team. She said a U.S. attack would amount to "the world's largest firing squad aimed at civilians in their crosshairs." (Albawaba.com)
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