Top United Nations weapons inspectors say the first round of disarmament talks with senior Iraqi officials Saturday were useful and substantial. The talks that could shape a report to the U.N. Security Council next week.
After nearly four hours of high level discussions with the top two U.N. inspectors, Saddam Hussein's top advisor, Amer al-Saadi and other Iraqi officials, U.N. inspectors said progress towards disarmament was made.
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iraq had given explanations for some outstanding issues. He said they addressed U-2 surveillance flights, private interviews of Iraqi scientists and accounting for Iraq's weapons programs. Mr. ElBaradei said these critical meetings were not the last chance for peace.
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix left the talks calling them "useful" and very substantial."
An unnamed U.N. official said Iraq handed over documents, but did not specify their contents.
Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, speaking Saturday in the U.S. state of Virginia, said there is "total unanimity" among Security Council members, the Arab League and Iraq's neighbors that Baghdad must disarm. He said the chief inspectors went to Baghdad to convey that message again.
"They are back in Baghdad making clear to Iraq once again what it must do to comply in both spirit and letter with its obligations to disarm," said Mr. Annan.
Weapons inspectors continue discussions with Iraqi officials Sunday. The talks come ahead of a key report by the inspectors to the Security Council, due February 14.
Iraq's level of cooperation could seriously impact that report and set a path to war, or peace in the region.