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'Delicate question' of Iraq tops Security Council

'Delicate question' of Iraq tops Security Council agenda for March, President says

The most "delicate question" currently before the Security Council - that of Iraq - will be taken up on Friday with an open briefing by the chief United Nations weapons inspectors, the current President of the 15-nation body said today.

In a press briefing on the Council's programme of work for the month of March, Ambassador Mamady Traoré of Guinea said that even though there was a previous agreement that Friday's meeting would be closed, during "open and frank" consultations this morning it was decided to hold an open debate as Foreign Ministers from France, Germany, Spain and Syria had confirmed their intention to attend and other Ministers might follow suit.

During the meeting, Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), and Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will brief the Council and Council members will express their views. Afterwards, the Council will address the matter in closed consultations.

Ambassador Traoré said other important matters on the Council's agenda for this month include questions concerning Africa, particularly the situations in Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone, as the continent has been plagued by one crisis after another during the last 10 years.

On 18 March, the Council will organize a workshop - to be attended by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and presided over by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guinea, François Lonseny Fall - on the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and the use of mercenaries as a threat to peace and security in West Africa.

"The West African sub-region is particularly beset with never-ending conflicts and many citizens in the sub-region are cut down by gunfire from these weapons," he said. "The socio-economic development of these countries is largely compromised, therefore, because of this situation."

The Council will also address the question of Timor-Leste, where the situation was deteriorating, Ambassador Traoré said.

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