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Nobel winner Carter warns Bush

Carter: "The United Nations is the best place for nations to resolve the differences that always exist"

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OSLO, Norway -- Nobel peace prize winner-elect Jimmy Carter has urged the U.S. to respect the United Nations' rulings on policy over Iraq.

The ex- U.S. president, speaking ahead of the 2002 Nobel prize giving ceremony on Tuesday, also called for renewed efforts to solve "the festering problem" of Israel and its neighbours.

Carter told a news conference on Monday: "If there is (Iraqi) compliance, as judged by the U.N. Security Council, then I see no reason for armed conflict."

President George W. Bush has threatened to take military action to oust Saddam, with or without U.N. support, if Washington judges that Baghdad has lied about its weapons.

Carter spoke as experts in New York and Austria began analysing the contents of Iraq's dossier detailing its weapons programmes. (Full story)

The 78-year-old statesman, who was U.S. president from 1977 to 1981, said Iraq appeared to be complying with U.N. inspectors so far, based on evidence from U.N. officials.

"The United Nations is the best place for nations to resolve the differences that always exist," he said.

But he warned that conflict would be "quite likely" if Iraq did not remove or account for all of its weapons.

Carter also expressed hope for implementation of a 1967 U.N. resolution telling Israel to withdraw from occupied territories in return for other nations respecting its right to live in peace within secure borders.

He said: "One of the key factors that arouses intense feelings of animosity in the world is the festering problem in the Holy Land, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the inability of Israel to live in peace with its neighbours.

"I think this is the single most disturbing element in animosities and misunderstandings and hatred and even violence in the world.

"I think that is an exacerbating factor in dividing people, not only in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel, but also throughout the world."

Carter's nomination for the Nobel Prize is in recognition of decades of work for peace, human rights and democracy, from Cuba to North Korea.

Gunnar Berge, chairman of Peace Prize committee, said when the prize was announced that giving it to Carter should be considered a "kick in the leg" to Bush for his hard line against Iraq.

Carter said he believed he was being honoured for 20 years of work at his Carter Centre in Atlanta, Georgia -- whose slogan is "Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope" -- rather than for his years as president.

However, during his years in the White House he was instrumental in securing the 1978 Camp David Agreement, for which he narrowly missed winning the Nobel Peace Prize, which went to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

Carter says he was disappointed in the presidents after him -- Ronald Reagan, George Bush Snr. and Bill Clinton -- for not capitalising on the Camp David Accords he brokered.

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