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Annan Asks for Cooperation from Iraq, Says War Not Inevitable - 2002-12-09

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called on Iraq to cooperate fully with inspectors looking for banned weapons. He has also appealed to all members of the Security Council to give the inspectors a chance to do their job, before deciding on a more aggressive course to disarm Iraq.

Secretary-General Annan said war against Iraq is not inevitable, if Saddam Hussein complies fully with U.N. disarmament demands. "It is up to President Saddam Hussein to disarm, to cooperate fully with the inspectors, and honor all his obligations to the United Nations. If that were to be done, I would see no reason for war," Mr. Annan said.

At the same time, the secretary-general called on Security Council members not to rush to judgment, and to allow the inspectors the time they need to do a thorough, professional job of searching for the banned weapons. His remarks were taken as directed toward Washington, where preparations continue for possible military action, if Iraq is considered less than fully cooperative.

"The inspectors have work to do, and we should allow them to do a professional job. And, I have indicated, they should be given the time and space to do it. And, I hope all member-states will do that," Mr. Annan said.

The Secretary-General also appealed for patience on work related to analyzing the required arms declaration submitted by Iraq on Saturday. The U.N. received thousands of documents, and experts say, much of it is very complex and technical, and needs careful assessment.

Meanwhile, the five permanent members of the Security Council, who are also the world's acknowledged nuclear powers, will receive the Iraqi declaration in full. They include the United States, Russia, Britain, China and France.

Chief arms inspector Hans Blix had wanted to withhold a lot of the information in those documents, because they are likely to contain nuclear secrets, which raised fears they could fall into the wrong hands. But he was overruled by the five permanent Security Council members, who said they already know everything there is to know about nuclear arms. However, the rest of the Council, the 10 non-permanent members, will not receive the entire package.

Mr. Blix is expected to give the Security Council a preliminary report this week. He is scheduled to have a luncheon meeting Tuesday with the full council and Secretary-General Annan.