Iraq and the United Nations have agreed to hold talks in early May to have U.N. weapons inspectors return to Baghdad.
The talks will be held from May first through May third at U.N. headquarters in New York. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Iraqi foreign minister Naji Sabri will be the main participants. Also attending the talks on the U.N. side will be Hans Blix, the chief U.N. arms inspector, and Mohamed El Baradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The United Nations is not saying anything publicly at this point about expectations. Iraq has not allowed weapons inspectors into the country for more than three years.
But U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said the aim of the talks is to have U.N. weapons inspectors return to Iraq.
"The objective is for Iraq to come into full compliance with Security Council resolutions, which specifically and probably first and foremost as far as these talks are concerned means allowing U.N. inspectors to go back to Iraq to finish the verification of disarmament, in terms of weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Eckhard said.
The U.N./Iraqi talks had been scheduled for mid-April. But Iraq canceled them, saying it wanted the world to keep its focus on the Israeli/Palestinian crisis.
The inspectors must confirm that Iraq no longer has any programs for producing weapons of mass destruction before the Security Council would consider lifting U.N. sanctions on Iraq. Those punitive measures were imposed shortly after Iraqi troops invaded neighboring Kuwait in 1990.