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Source: Inspectors could return by October

Blix: Working against the clock with just two days of talks scheduled
Blix: Working against the clock with just two days of talks scheduled

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U.N. authorities open talks with Iraqi officials on the return of inspectors following a four-year absence. CNN's Chris Burns reports (September 30)
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CNN's Christiane Amanpour reports Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix is in Vienna to lay out practical arrangements for inspectors in Iraq (September 30)
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VIENNA, Austria (CNN) -- Iraqi and U.N. officials Monday completed the first day of talks assessing Iraq's offer to resume weapons inspections, and a source told CNN that inspectors could return to Iraq by mid-October.

"Many issues have been clarified, and we will continue tomorrow," said Hans Blix, head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission, or UNMOVIC. "By the end of tomorrow, when we are finished, I hope that we can say a little more than we have done today."

Sources described the closed-door talks at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna as generally positive.

Iraqi officials agreed to present U.N. officials with four years' worth of documentation on Iraqi "dual use" facilities -- those that have both military and civilian applications.

The talks are meant to establish "practical arrangements" for inspectors' return after a four-year absence.

Topics include access to Iraq, accommodations and headquarters for inspection teams, and inspectors' security and freedom of movement, Blix said. He said he would report to the Security Council on Thursday.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said the goal was to get inspectors back into Iraq with unfettered access -- "anyplace, anytime."

The Iraqi delegation was "positive and businesslike," ElBaradei said. "They are coming here with a desire to reach an agreement."

Iraq denies U.S. and British allegations that it has weapons of mass destruction in violation of U.N. resolutions.

'Their words change, their actions do not'

On September 16, amid U.S. and British threats of military action to enforce U.N. resolutions requiring Baghdad to disarm, Iraqi officials offered to allow weapons inspectors to return without condition.

U.S. officials have greeted the offer with skepticism. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld put it this way: "Since the Persian Gulf War, Iraq has agreed to a series of U.N. commitments and failed to fulfill each one."

And White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Monday: "Their words change, their actions do not."

A senior diplomatic source close to the talks said the first U.N. inspectors could go back to Iraq in mid-October, with others joining them to start work the third week of October -- unless the Security Council stops them.

It could take inspectors a year or more to verify that Iraq's work on weapons of mass destruction has not advanced since 1998, the source said.

But, the sources said, several issues had not yet been discussed in the Vienna talks, including inspectors' overflights of "sensitive" sites, such as the Iraqi defense and intelligence ministries and the headquarters of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath Party.

Another issue not yet discussed is the establishment of other UNMOVIC offices in Mosul, in northern Iraq, and in Basra, south of Baghdad.

Inspections of so-called "presidential" sites were not discussed, since those are governed by a 1998 agreement between Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The source said that would have to be addressed by the Security Council.

Washington opposes sending inspectors back to Iraq without a new mandate backed by the threat of force. At the United Nations, the United States and Britain are urging the Security Council to demand that Saddam comply within seven days or face military action.

But Russia, France and China, any of which could veto a resolution, have expressed reservations about the U.S.-British proposal. An Iraqi source told CNN Iraq hopes the Security Council will adopt a new "compromise" resolution and hopes that Iraq will be able to cooperate with it. (More on European Union objections)

At the United Nations, Chinese Ambassador Wang Yingfan said Beijing favored a political settlement "through the U.N. framework."

Wang endorsed the French idea of a two-step process, which would call for the return of inspectors in one Security Council resolution and a second spelling out the consequences if Iraq failed to comply.

'Most intense bargaining ... since end of Cold War'

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said inspectors should return to Iraq "as soon as possible."

"All questions around Iraq should be not only discussed [but] resolved by diplomatic means through the United Nations Security Council," he said.

In Turkey, Aziz said U.S. threats to topple Saddam were a danger for the whole region. (Full story)

President Bush has warned that Washington would move to oust Saddam on its own if the United Nations failed to act. Annan said Monday he expected the Security Council to "work this out and come up with an acceptable resolution."

In Baghdad, an Iraqi parliamentary official repeated Iraq's long-standing demands that any inspections must respect Iraq's sovereignty, security and dignity -- demands that have undercut previous inspection efforts.

And Iraqi officials were said to be briefing Blix on a proposed piece of legislation in the Iraqi parliament that would formally renounce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

The Iraqi team in Vienna includes Gen. Amr al-Sadi, an adviser on scientific and technical affairs; Hasam Mohammed Amin, head of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate; and Saeed Hasan, a Foreign Ministry official who was Baghdad's former ambassador to the United Nations.

"We are seeing the most intense bargaining among big states that we have seen since the end of the Cold War, with war in the offing and no certainty about the outcome," said Harvard University analyst Graham Allison.

"There is going to be lots of twists and turns here, and I think both the U.S. and Iraq will end up making some compromises, accommodations, as we get towards endgame."

Tim Trevan, a former U.N. weapons inspector, said earlier inspections "were good for proving Iraq was doing things," but failed to find many of the weapons Baghdad was believed to have.

"My advice to the inspectors would be simply to go in to the Iraqis and say, 'You have to cooperate. We're not going back to cat and mouse, because that's not good enough.

"'Cooperate means you have to tell us where the documents are that explain the entire past activity and where the missing items are. If you don't provide that, we're going to report you to the Security Council as not cooperating.' "

CNN correspondents Christiane Amanpour and Jane Arraf and producer Ronni Berke contributed to this report.

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