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UN, Iraq Talks on Inspectors Fails

Iraq and the United Nations have failed to reach an agreement on the return of arms inspectors to Baghdad. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri had been engaged in a third round of high level talks this year.

The announcement came from Secretary-General Annan following two days of talks in Vienna, Austria. Diplomats agreed to keep talking however and another round of discussions is planned in Europe in coming months.

Mr. Annan said there was some movement, but not enough and the Iraqis need to consult with officials in Baghdad. The Iraqi foreign minister said contact between the sides will be maintained.

Diplomats earlier had expressed concerns about continuing the talks indefinitely, saying Iraq could be using the sessions to stall for time. Iraq went into the talks with a broad list of subjects it wanted addressed, while the United Nations focused mostly on the return of the inspectors.

Iraq held to its position that a resumption of inspections must be part of a comprehensive settlement on a number of issues. These include U.S. threats to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and steps towards lifting sanctions imposed when Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait in 1990.

U.N. arms inspectors were pulled out of Iraq on the eve of joint U.S. and British air strikes launched against the country in December of 1998. They have not been allowed back since.

According to U.N. Security Council resolutions, sanctions can be lifted only when inspectors certify that Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons have been destroyed, as well as the long-range missiles that could carry them. Iraq did agree, however, to return the contents of Kuwait's national archives, which were looted during the Gulf War.