Iraq has agreed to a resumption of U.N. weapons inspections, and an advance team of inspectors is prepared to go to Iraq in about two weeks. U.N. and Iraqi officials made the announcement after two days of talks in Vienna.
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said Iraqi representatives accepted all inspections under the relevant Security Council resolutions. Access is a crucial issue, because U.N. inspectors pulled out of Iraq four years ago saying they were not being allowed to work effectively.
"On the question of access, it was clarified that all sites are subject to immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access," he said. "However, the Memorandum of Understanding of 1998 establishes special procedures for access to eight presidential sites."
The memorandum, which was agreed by the U.N. Secretary-General in 1998 and endorsed by the Security Council, establishes special arrangements for inspecting presidential sites, such as prior notification. Meanwhile, an unwritten understanding in earlier inspections that sensitive sites, such as key government ministries, would require prior approval appears to have been eliminated. Mr. Blix said there is no reference to this in the current agreement, because the text treats all sites on the same basis.
Iraqi delegate Amir al-Sadi confirmed this, saying approvals and waiting periods for such sites would not be needed.
"We have come to a very practical arrangement that we would from our side anticipate every inspection to sort of go to sensitive sites and we will take the measures that cancel the need for waiting period and getting approvals," he said.
U.N. and Iraqi officials say an advance team of inspectors is prepared to go to Iraq in about two weeks. On the question of how a tough U.S. draft resolution, changing the operating rules for inspections might affect things, chief inspector Blix said he was aware of this but his planning was based on existing resolutions.