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UN Inspections Chief Hans Blix to Meet Iraqi Arms Experts Monday - 2002-09-29

Diplomatic pressure is building on Iraq as U.N. weapons inspectors begin meeting with Iraqi arms experts in Vienna Monday, to prepare for a new mission. The inspectors hope to return to Iraq after a four year break.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix has already had three unsuccessful sessions this year in efforts to make arrangements for resuming inspections to check for weapons of mass destruction.

But now the circumstances are very different. As he meets with Iraqi officials, the Security Council is considering a tough U.S.-draft resolution that threatens military action and changes the operating rules for inspectors.

The draft reportedly seeks guarantees that inspectors be protected by armed U.N. security forces and be given access to all Iraqi territory. Iraq would have just one week to accept the measure after it is adopted. Baghdad initially rejected the draft resolution.

At the Vienna talks, Mr. Blix is expected to discuss practical arrangements for a resumption of inspections. These include offices, communications escorts, transportation and more.

Iraq has also reportedly promised an updated list of equipment and materials that have both civilian and military uses. Mr. Blix has said he hopes to have an advance party in Iraq by mid-October.

These talks are the first test of Iraq's cooperation since Baghdad on September 16, said that the inspectors could return without preconditions.

The inspectors left Iraq about four years ago. They pulled out in December 1998 amid allegations that Baghdad was not cooperating.

U.N. weapons teams originally went to Iraq following the 1991 Gulf War, under Security Council resolutions that linked Iraq's disarmament to the lifting of U.N. sanctions. Those sanctions were applied after Iraq invaded Kuwait.