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Baghdad Ready to Accept UN Inspectors, Says Iraqi Ambassador - 2002-11-13

Iraq has sent a letter to the United Nations accepting a new resolution ordering Baghdad to disarm, setting the stage for a resumption of weapons inspections this month.

Iraq's U.N. ambassador Mohammed Aldouri delivered what is apparently a letter of acceptance to the office of the U.N. Secretary-General, signed by Iraqi foreign minister Naji Sabri. The Iraqi ambassador said Iraq is ready to accept U.N. weapons inspectors, who have been away from the country for almost four years.

"Iraq will deal with the Security Council resolution 1441, despite its bad contents. We are prepared to receive the inspectors within the assigned timetable. We are eager to see them perform their duties in accordance with international law as soon as possible," he said.

The Iraqi ambassador indicated that Baghdad's acceptance of the resolution is unconditional. "Certainly the government of Iraq decided to accept that resolution, that it will deal with the whole question, with the whole issue, of the resolution itself, Mr. Aldouri said.

At the same time, ambassador Aldouri reiterated Baghdad's position that it does not have weapons of mass destruction, as the United States and Britain maintain. This, of course, is what the inspectors will be going to Baghdad to find out. According to the timetable set out in the resolution, Iraq has under 30 days from now to present a full dossier of its weapons programs.

The Iraqi letter is still being translated from Arabic. Diplomats here want to make sure there is no hidden language in the message from Iraq's foreign minister that would imply conditions or restrictions on the inspections.

Meanwhile, chief arms inspector Hans Blix plans to send an advance team to Baghdad Monday, November 18. The inspectors will be headquartered in the Iraqi capital, with offices spread around other Iraqi locations, as the experts resume their search for the banned weapons.

Sixty days after they begin their work, the inspectors have to report to the Security Council on Iraq's performance. The United States says Iraq faces possible military action if Saddam Hussein's level of cooperation falls short of full compliance with UN disarmament demands.