The U.N. Security Council told Iraq that the return of arms inspectors to Baghdad is key to a lifting of the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990. The Council was briefed Monday on last week's talks in Vienna between the Iraqis and Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which failed to reach agreement on a resumption of the inspections.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he wants to wait until the Iraqi delegation has fully informed its government before he commits his conclusions to paper. The Security Council agreed to give him that time.
But Council president Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's U.N. ambassador, said the Council expects the talks to continue and Iraq to finally accept a return of the inspectors, who have been out of Baghdad for nearly four years now. He said diplomats in New York will seek the advice of the U.N.'s chief arms inspector Hans Blix on what remains to be done.
"There is no way forward," he said, "without the return of inspectors. We must have advice from Dr. Blix on where we go with the key remaining disarmament tasks. That is the key to unlocking the end of sanctions, for Iraqi implementation of resolutions in cooperation with inspectors on the ground. We have said that that is essential. We are not getting a response on that."
An influential Iraqi newspaper Monday blamed Mr. Annan for the failure of last week's talks, saying the secretary-general refused to discuss issues Iraq considers vital, such as U.S. threats to topple Saddam Hussein and the no-fly zones over Iraq imposed by Washington and its chief European ally, Britain.
The secretary-general, for his part, has been equally insistent that he is not authorized to discuss anything but the weapons issue.
So, the standoff on the inspections continues for the moment. The Security Council, restrained by its own resolutions, is unable to give Iraq the economic relief it seeks.
No date has been set for new talks. The secretary-general has signaled he would not represent the U.N. side for the next round unless he has some guarantees of progress.