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Iraq 'ready to work with U.N.'

Tariz Aziz
Tariq Aziz: Baghdad seeking a solution to Iraq's differences with the U.S.  

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz says Baghdad is ready to work with the U.N. to resolve the crisis between Iraq and the U.S.

Emerging from a 30-minute meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, Aziz said: "If anybody can have a magic solution, so that all these issues are being dealt with together, equitably and reasonably, we are ready to find such a solution and we are ready to co-operate with the United Nations."

Annan said Iraq has made no commitment on the inspectors' return to Iraq, and if they agree to admit U.N. inspectors again, Aziz has said it must be a different process.

Aziz complained last weekend that the inspectors brought in after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 stayed seven-and-a-half years -- far too long -- and left without certifying that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, so economic sanctions remain in place.

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Aziz repeated an invitation to U.S. politicians to visit Iraq to check for themselves whether it had weapons of mass destruction.

"Let them tell us and the world that their concerns are genuine and that they are not using them as a pretext to attack Iraq -- if those concerns are genuine we can find a solution to that," Aziz told reporters.

"We invited the Americans themselves, we invited the British to come. If they come for a special mission they are welcome because that is what we want them to do.

"But if they send people who will drag their feet for years without reaching a conclusion as they did for seven-and-a-half years, that's not going to work."

President George W. Bush has repeatedly said he wants to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, whom he accuses of developing weapons of mass destruction in defiance of the United Nations.

But Saddam says the U.S. wants to invade his country in order to take control of the region's oil reserves.

Aziz earlier told CNN that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and that Baghdad was willing to prove it to U.S. congressmen by "technically viable" means.

"Everybody in the world should know that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," he told CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. (Full story)

Aziz has said previously that Iraq would consider the return of U.N. weapons inspectors as long as it was part of an overall settlement of the differences between Baghdad and Washington.

U.N. arms experts left Iraq in December 1998 ahead of a U.S.-British bombing campaign to punish Baghdad for its alleged failure to cooperate with inspectors.

Washington accuses Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of seeking weapons of mass destruction and Bush has called for a "regime change" in Baghdad, but has insisted no decision has been made on military action.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, who arrives in Johannesburg on Tuesday, has called for international debate before any strike goes ahead -- a view echoed in some European capitals.

Russia has said it will not support any U.S. military action against Iraq because it would only "complicate" attempts to resolve problems in the Middle East. (Full story)

However, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Russia's traditional support for Iraq would end if the nation did not halt its programme to develop weapons of mass destruction -- chemical and biological.

A conference of Arab parliamentarians from 17 countries meeting in Iraq on Tuesday to discuss the Iraqi weapons issue and the plight of the Palestinians, whom Iraq supports.

A senior parliamentarian told CNN the two-day meeting would deliver separate messages to the U.S. and EU stressing that the Arab people would reject any attempts by Washington to change governments by force.




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