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Iraq OKs U-2 Overflights to Aid Weapons Inspections - 2003-02-10

Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations says Baghdad has accepted U.N. weapons inspectors' demands to use surveillance planes over the entire country to aid the inspection process.

Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed al-Douri says Iraq will permit U.N. inspectors to use American-made U-2 surveillance planes, a key demand of U.N. weapons inspectors.

The comments follow a visit to Baghdad by chief U.N. inspectors Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei.

Both inspectors said after their talks in Baghdad that they see signs of a possible change in attitude on the part of Iraq. Iraqi officials turned over additional documents to the chief inspectors and promised to fulfill other demands.

But White House Spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed the Iraqi announcement on the surveillance planes, saying the bottom line for President Bush is disarmament. He said "this does nothing to change the bottom line." He said that, although the Iraqis claimed there are no conditions attached, the Bush administration remains skeptical.

While the inspection teams are continuing their search for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei are to present a progress report on the inspection process to the U.N. Security Council later this week.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday that, after the report, the Security Council, which remains divided on the issue, will have to consider its next step, which could include a resolution authorizing military action against Iraq.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for discussions in the Security Council on Thursday on humanitarian contingency planning for Iraq.

Most of the humanitarian planning for the consequences of a possible war is taking place in Geneva, where the Swiss government will host an international conference beginning Saturday of governments and aid agencies.