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Details on Sending UN Inspectors to Iraq to be Finalized Before End of Month - 2002-09-18

Iraq has agreed to meet with chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix in Vienna on Sept. 27 to make final arrangements for resuming inspections, after a nearly four-year hiatus. The two sides met in New York Tuesday after Baghdad said it would permit the inspectors to return.

The United States is demanding that Baghdad comply with U.N. resolutions calling for Iraq to submit to international weapons inspections. The inspections have been on hold since 1998.

Iraqi foreign ministry official Saeed Hassan called Tuesday's discussions useful and fruitful. He indicated the Vienna talks would be conclusive and said Iraq wants a speedy and smooth resumption of the inspections:

"And we are looking forward to meeting with Ambassador Blix to finalize the work and go ahead in order to implement fully all provisions of Security Council resolutions in order to lift sanctions and return the situation to normal.

A statement released by Mr. Blix said the Iraqi delegation had asked for time to study his proposals. It was then that they agreed to another meeting the week of September 30.

Meanwhile, the United States is pressing the Security Council to pass a new, tough resolution on Iraq. President Bush says he does not trust Iraq and wants to keep the pressure on.

The Council is divided on the need for another resolution. Russia, a key member, says the first priority should be to get the inspectors in as fast as possible to find out if Baghdad has weapons of mass destruction, as Washington claims.

U.N. experts concede the task facing the inspectors is daunting. Iraq last submitted a mandatory report on its sites and facilities in January of 1999. The experts say Baghdad could have moved things around since then or devised new hiding places. At the same time, they also note that Iraq agreed to present Mr. Blix when they meet in Vienna with updated information that would cover that more than three year gap.