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Inspections Will Go On Until SC Decides Otherwise

In Europe, Annan says Iraq inspections to go on until Security Council decides otherwise

United Nations inspectors will carry on with their work until the Security Council decides otherwise, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in Rome, stressing that there is no time limit in the Council's resolutions and that a debate is going on in the 15-nation body about how much more time is needed.

"If the Council were to decide that there had been a material breach and that serious consequences were to follow and to determine that, the inspectors may have to suspend or stop their work," the Secretary-General said to reporters following his meeting with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy. "Until that judgment is made, they will have to go on."

During his working lunch with Mr. Berlusconi, the two held discussions focusing on Iraq, and also touched on Afghanistan, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Côte d'Ivoire, according to a UN spokesperson in New York.

While in Rome, the Secretary-General also met with President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi shortly before having a scheduled audience this evening with Pope John Paul II, during which he is expected to talk about Iraq once more, spokesperson Hua Jiang said. Mr. Annan is also to meet with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Secretary of State for the Holy See.

Yesterday, kicking off his two-week European trip in Brussels, the Secretary-General urged the continent's leaders to stay focused on Iraq and its obligations to disarm, and to "avoid the tendency of turning on each other."

Speaking to journalists after he addressed the closed summit meeting, Mr. Annan said, "We should approach this issue positively. What is required at this stage is cooperation, persistence and constant pressure."

He added that it was imperative for Iraq's Government to understand the gravity and urgency of the situation, and to "choose compliance over conflict."

The Secretary-General also discussed the impact of the Iraq crisis on the United Nations, saying that if the Security Council can resolve it successfully and effectively, "its credibility and influence will he considerably enhanced." But if action is taken without the Council's authority, he warned, then "the legitimacy and support for that action will be seriously impaired."

Mr. Annan also held several meetings in Brussels after his arrival yesterday afternoon, including one with Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, with whom he discussed Iraq and efforts to conclude an agreement on Cyprus by the end of this month, and another one-on-one encounter with Belgium's King Albert II.

The Secretary-General also met with Pat Cox, President of the European Parliament, and eight leaders of European political groups, who emphasized their strong commitment to the multilateral process and the UN's central role on Iraq, Ms. Jiang said.

In the evening, before he flew to Rome, the Secretary-General discussed Iraq further with Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel. He also met with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis to discuss Iraq and Cyprus, including the impact on the peace process in that country of the recent Greek Cypriot elections.

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