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Britain Sees Iraq Offer with Skepticism - 2002-09-17

Britain says the world should be skeptical about Iraq's offer to allow U.N. weapons inspections to resume. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw discussed the matter with reporters before emergency talks on the Iraq crisis with Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr. Straw said Iraq has given conflicting signals about the weapons inspections, and the world should view the latest offer with a critical eye.

"This apparent offer is bound to be treated with a great degree of skepticism by the international community, coming only four days after the deputy prime minister of Iraq, Tariq Aziz, had said precisely the opposite," Mr. Straw said.

The British foreign secretary said Iraq has only acted under international pressure, led by the United States and fully supported by Britain.

And he said efforts at the United Nations will continue to pass a new Security Council resolution.

"We shall continue to work with our international partners for an effective resolution before the Security Council," he said. "The old resolutions are now at least four years old, and if we are going to have the reintroduction of weapons inspectors without conditions and without restriction, we believe that we need a new resolution and we are working with our international partners to achieve that."

Officials of the other two European members of the U.N. Security Council have also reacted to the Iraqi offer.

The French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said Iraq must now live up to its words and not "be let off the hook."

But Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the threat of war has been averted and there is no need for a new Security Council resolution for the inspections to resume.