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Iraqi official to push for end of sanctions

Foreign minister meeting with U.N. chief Annan this week

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Calling the economic sanctions against Iraq "criminal and unethical," an Iraqi official said Sunday he hopes U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan can persuade the Security Council to lift them.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri is to hold a round of meetings with Annan on Thursday and Friday in Vienna, Austria.

"We hope this round will be a step toward achieving comprehensive settlement and a comprehensive solution, at the forefront of which comes a lifting of the embargo imposed on our people for more than 12 years," Sabri said in a written statement.

Under U.N. conditions, the sanctions -- imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait -- cannot be lifted until U.N. inspectors certify that the country's programs to build nuclear, chemical and biological weapons have been dismantled, along with the missiles to deliver them.

The inspectors were forced to leave shortly before the United States and Britain bombed Iraq in December 1998, and they have not been allowed to return.

Sabri also said he wants to address other issues with Annan, including oil prices and the sorties flown by U.S. and British aircraft in no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq.

Iraq has chafed at U.S. allegations that the country is a terrorism threat. It blames the United States for keeping the sanctions in place.

In January, President Bush labeled Iraq as part of an "axis of evil," along with North Korea and Iran.

"The U.S. doesn't want the world body [United Nations] to behave in accordance with its charter," Sabri said. "Nor does it want international law to take its course."

-- Producer Rym Brahimi contributed to this report.




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