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Asian Reaction to Iraq Offer is Mixed - 2002-09-17


China welcomes Iraq's decision to allow the unconditional return of United Nations weapons inspectors. Some other Asian countries are reacting more cautiously to the announcement.

China says Iraq's agreement to let U.N. weapons inspectors back into its country is a positive step, and the result of worldwide cooperation.

At a news conference Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan says he hopes U.N. weapons inspectors will be allowed into Baghdad as soon as possible to continue their work. Mr. Kong adds that he hopes the inspectors will soon be able to present an objective and fair report on its findings to the U.N. Security Council.

Elsewhere in Asia, Malaysia called for United Nations sanctions on Iraq to be lifted. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told a conference in Kuala Lumpur that sanctions are not hurting Saddam Hussein, Iraq's leader, but instead hurt many poor people, elderly and pregnant women.

Japan also welcomed Iraq's announcement. But Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi says Tokyo will watch carefully to see if Baghdad carries out its promise. Ms. Kawaguchi says it is important that all related Security Council resolutions are obeyed, including those calling for Iraq to destroy all weapons of mass destruction.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard says Iraq's agreement to allow the U.N. weapons inspections is a cautious first step. But Mr. Howard warns the Iraqi president should not be trusted. He told the Australian Parliament Tuesday that the world should welcome this development with a great deal of reserve and a touch of skepticism.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri told U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan Monday that Baghdad will allow the return of weapons inspectors to "remove any doubts" it has weapons of mass destruction.

Washington, which has threatened to take military action against Iraq, called the announcement an evasive tactic that would fail.

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