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S P E C I A L: The Standoff with Iraq

Annan, Iraq sign weapons-inspection deal

In this story:

February 23, 1998
Web posted at: 4:49 a.m. EST (0949 GMT)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Iraq signed a breakthrough deal Monday that allows U.N. arms monitors full access to suspected Iraqi weapon sites, including the presidential palaces that have been at the heart of the four-month standoff.

"I am pleased to announce that after detailed and intensive discussions with the Iraqi authorities, culminating in the meeting with President Saddam Hussein on Sunday afternoon, I have concluded an agreement with the government of Iraq on the issue of the United Nations weapons inspections," Annan said in a joint news conference with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz Monday afternoon.

Watch the entire news conference
icon 28 min. VXtreme video

Annan said he believed the agreement was balanced for every party involved and that he would present it to the Security Council Tuesday immediately on his return from Baghdad.

Annan and Aziz
Annan (left) and Aziz at a Baghdad news conference  
icon Sound clips from the press conference:
Annan: "Let's look forward and move on."
(740 K / 34 sec. audio)

Aziz: "We are going to work together in good faith and cooperation..."
(416 K / 17 sec. audio)

The secretary-general said there are "no time limits or deadlines in the agreement" on the inspection of presidential palaces.

"We will try to do our work in a reasonable period," he said.

The United States had vigorously opposed such a limit, and agreement on that point reportedly was clinched only when Annan met Hussein for three hours Sunday afternoon.

Aziz added: "This is an agreement of reason and as the secretary-general said, it is balanced, it is in conformity with U.N. resolutions."

Annan and Aziz signed the agreement in a brief ceremony at the Foreign Ministry, which the Iraqi News Agency said took place at 10.25 a.m. (0725 GMT). The government limited coverage of the signing only to U.N. officials and Iraqi government reporters.

The crisis over weapons inspections has brought the Gulf to the brink of war, with the United States sending a naval armada and 25,000 troops to the region to mount possible air strikes.

Washington wants to review fine print

U.N. and Iraqi officials provided few details of the accord, which the United States has yet to approve. Washington has said it wants to review the fine print of the deal before embracing it.

In the joint news conference broadcast live on Iraqi television, Annan -- asked when U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War might be lifted -- said it would depend on the completion of the work by U.N. weapons inspectors.

Asked if he believed the crisis would repeat itself, Annan said: "I genuinely believe if we do the things we say we will do, we won't have that kind of crisis."

Earlier in the day, Annan had described the sanctions and Iraq's mistrust of the United Nations as a key sticking point during negotiations.

"(Iraq's) sense is that the sanctions have gone on long enough and that whatever they do does not seem to be enough -- and that we keep asking for more and more and more and more without giving them any credit ... for the progress they make," he said.

'Give diplomacy a chance'

Aziz, dressed in a green military uniform, expressed Iraq's gratitude toward Annan and praised him for seeking a diplomatic resolution to the standoff.

"We highly appreciate the nature of the discussions we had ... and we happily reached a final agreement," Aziz said. "We are going to work together in good faith and full cooperation."

Asked if the threat of a U.S.-led military strike helped or hindered the discussions, Aziz said: "The military buildup in the Gulf does not scare the people and the leadership of Iraq.

"What helped in reaching this agreement between the secretary-general, my president and the Iraqi government is the goodwill (Annan) brought with him ... not the policy of saber-rattling."

Added Annan: "Many leaders around the world and in this region, and ordinary people, have pleaded with us: Give diplomacy a chance."

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