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Iraq's Foreign Minister Rules Out Return of UN Weapons Inspectors - 2001-02-28

Iraq's Foreign Minister, Mohammed Al-Sahaf, says two days of talks with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan were the beginning of an ongoing dialogue. Mr. Al-Sahaf again firmly ruled out the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq.

After concluding the last round of talks, Mr. Al-Sahaf told reporters the Secretary-General mostly listened as the Iraqi delegation presented its positions in detail. The Iraqi Foreign Minister announced no major breakthroughs but did express encouragement that what he calls a "dialogue" with the United Nations has begun. He said another round of meetings will probably take place in a few weeks.

The two biggest issues, of course, involve international sanctions against Iraq and Iraq's refusal to allow U.N. weapons inspectors in the country as called for in Security Council resolution 1284. Mr. Al-Sahaf had a definite answer when asked if he has any plans to meet with Hans Blix, the head of the weapons inspection commission. "Not at all," he said. "Hans Blix is a detail and we are not dealing with a detail. You know our position in regard to resolution 1284. We are not going to deal with it and Mr. Blix is a detail of that bad resolution."

Earlier, Mr. Al-Sahaf dismissed as "stupid" a proposal by American Secretary of State Colin Powell to modify the sanctions against Iraq. Mr. Powell said restrictions on civilian items could be eased while sanctions against armaments are tightened.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan had no immediate public comment on the two days of talks with the Iraqi delegation. Mr. Annan will brief the U.N. Security Council on the talks in a closed meeting on Wednesday.