U.N. and Iraqi officials fail to reach agreement on returning U.N. inspectors to Iraq

Friday, July 5th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ After two days of talks, the United Nations and Iraq failed to agree Friday on the return of U.N. weapons inspectors.

Diplomats agreed to keep talking, however, planning another round in Europe in the coming months. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the Iraqis needed to consult with officials in Bagdhad. Annan said a date for the next round of talks had not been set.

``There has been some movement, but obviously not enough,'' Annan said, adding that contacts would be maintained.

Annan and Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri spoke privately before the announcement, but were unable to agree on any face-saving measures.

The unsuccessful session came after technical experts from the United Nations and Iraq discussed the details of returning weapons inspectors to Iraq in closed-door talks had an agreement been reached.

Sabri said the talks would continue on a technical basis because after 12 years of unsatisfactory contact with the United Nations, much work remained to be done and both sides needed to search for agreement where there was common ground.

``We agreed to continue contact on technical matters,'' he said. ``There are a lot of issues involved.''

The two sides did reach agreement on how to handle the return of Kuwait's archives that were taken during the Iraqi invasion which prompted the 1991 Gulf War.

Sabri and Annan had emerged smiling after talks on Thursday _ a departure from two other rounds held earlier this year.

Iraq had a broad list of subjects it wanted addressed in talks, while the United Nations was focused largely on the return of the inspectors.

The Iraqis want the United Nations to lift sanctions and address U.S. threats to topple Saddam Hussein before giving ground on the inspectors.

Under U.N. resolutions, sanctions can be lifted only when inspectors certify that Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons have been destroyed, along with the long-range missiles that could deliver them.

The Security Council, and particularly the United States, has accused Iraq of trying to rebuild its banned weapons programs and of supporting terrorism.

The United States has warned Saddam he faces unspecified consequences if he does not allow the return of the inspectors, who left ahead of 1998 allied airstrikes meant to punish Iraq for blocking inspections.

Sabri had given Annan a list of 19 political questions at their first meeting _ and Iraq is still waiting for answers. The questions focus on lifting sanctions, U.S. threats against Iraq, ``no-fly'' zones in northern and southern Iraq enforced by U.S. and British aircraft and the creation of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East.