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Iraq Repeats Position on Weapons Inspection

Aired August 16, 2002 - 13:36   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Appeals have been made to allow U.N. weapons inspectors into Iraq, and now Iraq has a response for the U.N. request.
Our Jane Arraf is on the phone with us from Baghdad on the latest from there.

Hi, Jane.

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fredricka.

We have the foreign ministry letter from Iraq to the United Nations with us, and it essentially says that Iraq is willing to discuss the return of weapons inspectors. Now, there have been some mixed signals lately, and confusing statements if Iraqi officials, including one who says that weapons inspections were over, indicating that door was completely closed. This response today says that Iraq is -- quote -- "determined to continue the dialogue with the secretary-general of the U.N. And it also said that it would like the technical team that it has asked to come in past, including the chief weapons inspector, Hans Glick (ph), and a team to come to Baghdad for discussions.

Now the significant part of those discussions is that, in this letter, Iraq says that they are willing to discuss anything that team would like to put forward, including -- quote -- building a common ground for the coming phase of monitoring, basically Iraq saying that it would like to continue dialogue, would like to continue the discussions.

It is not exactly what the U.N. was looking for, which was an unconditional invitation to the weapon's inspectors, but it is a clear signal from Iraq that it want to continue talking -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Jane, if there would be a continuance of some sort of dialogue, is there anything that is coming out of what kind of timetable we are talking about? Weeks, months from now? Or perhaps within the next year?

ARRAF: Well, according to Iraq, they would like Hans Glick (ph), the chief inspector, and his team to come as soon as possible. The question is, what exactly will happen once they come.

The U.N. of course led by -- and the United States want immediate access to weapon sites, walkthrough weapons inspections starting immediately. Now Iraq seems to be saying that it wants to talk about it first, and wants to talk about it in the context of addressing all of U.N. resolutions, which means it wants that it wants a push to end trade sanctions, which have been on since the end of the Gulf War.

Basically, what it seems to be doing is trying to buy a bit more time, and not closing doors to weapons inspections. It is indicating that it is getting some leeway, that it's concerned about these threats from the U.S., and it certainly doesn't want the close the door on something that could put it under greater threat -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jane Arraf, on the telephone from Baghdad. Thank you very much.

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