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Iraqi return of inspectors letter only a beginning

Iraqi letter on return of weapons inspectors only a beginning - Annan

17 September – Iraq's recently announced decision to allow the return of UN inspectors - absent since 1998 - should be seen as a beginning and not an end, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference along with principals of the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East - including the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation and the United States Secretary of State - Mr. Annan said Baghdad's new position, expressed in a letter received yesterday, must be viewed "as a beginning in our effort to return the inspectors who are going to disarm Iraq."

The Secretary-General also recalled that between 1991 and 1996 in particular, UN inspectors "did an incredible job" destroying Iraq's weapons. At the same time, he acknowledged that "given the history of the past, there are delegations and Member States who feel that we should not return business as usual, and that we should take steps to ensure that the inspectors are able to go about their work unimpeded and with the full cooperation of Iraq."

"They would want Iraq to understand that this is not going to be business as usual or a repeat of what happened in the past," he added.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said "the only way to do make sure that it is not business as usual, and to make sure that it is not a repeat of the past, it seems to me, is to put it in the form of a new UN resolution."

"We have seen this game before," he said, calling for a new and tougher stance to satisfy the needs of disarmament, and adding that other issues must be dealt with as well.

"We note the letter, and now we will go back into consultations with our colleagues in the Security Council to see what appropriate action is now before us," Mr. Powell said. "The Security Council should speak again."

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the Security Council and the international community have constantly sought to bring about the return of inspectors to Iraq in order to address concerns about the country's possession of weapons of mass destruction - "the central problem about which there are appropriate resolutions."

He welcomed the fact that thanks to international efforts, Iraq had given its consent to the return of inspectors without any preconditions. Of course there would be many opinions regarding whether or not Baghdad could be trusted, but it would be essential to look at the facts alone, he stressed. In order to get the facts, "we need to bring about the speedy return of inspectors to Iraq."

"From our standpoint, we don't need any special resolution for that to occur," said the Russian Foreign Minister. "All the necessary resolutions, all the necessary decisions about that are [on] hand." There were members of the Security Council that sought to adopt a new resolution, and such proposals were under discussion, he added.

Stressing the importance of unity, Mr. Annan said, "from my experience, the Security Council has a lot of impact and gets a lot done when they work in unison, and we should try and retain the unity of purpose that has emerged over the last few days as we move forward."

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