U.N., Iraqi officials meet in Baghdad
Inspections of presidential sites to begin soon
March 23, 1998
Web posted at: 6:51 p.m. EST (2351 GMT)
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.N. officials expressed optimism Monday as the U.N.'s chief weapons inspector completed two rounds of talks with Iraqi officials to arrange inspections of Iraq's presidential sites.
Richard Butler met Monday with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and other Iraqi officials as he tried to work out the procedures that will allow the inspections to begin.
The meetings were Butler's first since Baghdad agreed to open the sites, narrowly averting U.S. air strikes.
"Everything went just fine," Butler said, as he brushed past reporters after the talks on Monday. On Sunday he said the inspections probably would begin before the end of the month.
Diplomats to arrive in Baghdad soon
U.N. officials say inspections will probably begin by the end of the month
Under the agreement worked out between Aziz and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, diplomats will accompany inspectors into eight presidential sites. The diplomats are expected to arrive in Baghdad shortly.
"I've had affirmations on everybody's part that goodwill will be maintained. I'm sure that we will be able to implement the memorandum of understanding in good faith," said U.N. Undersecretary-General Jayantha Dhanapala, a disarmament expert who will lead the diplomats.
Sweeping U.N. economic sanctions, imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, cannot be lifted until arms inspectors declare that Iraq has eliminated its weapons of mass destruction.
The U.N.'s special envoy to Iraq, Prakash Shah, said the U.N. is looking beyond last month's crisis. "I would much rather look at the future than to worry about what has happened in the past," he said.
Iraq's parliament brands Clinton a war criminal
Iraqi TV is running footage of mass military training
But Iraq is not so ready to dismiss the past. The National Assembly met for a second day Monday to discuss war crimes charges against U.S. leaders. The assembly called U.S. President Bill Clinton and former U.S. President George Bush war criminals and voted unanimously that the international community should put them on trial.
"They should be punished by the international community because as you heard there are many crimes," assembly member Sultan Al-Shawi told reporters. The action followed a U.S. Senate resolution urging that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein be tried as a war criminal.
A leading Iraqi newspaper also referred to Butler on Monday as a "mad dog," and Iraqi television is still running footage of mass military training that began at the height of the recent tensions between Iraq and the United Nations.
Correspondent Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.