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France Calls for Immediate Sanctions Suspension

France Calls for Immediate Suspension Of Civilian Sanctions Against Iraq

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Speaking to reporters after a closed door session of the UN Security Council this morning, the Ambassador of France said he called for the immediate lifting of civilian sanctions against Iraq. Ambassador Jean Marc de la Sabliere also expressed his wish for cooperation in the search for any weapons of mass destruction:

"I have proposed the decision to immediately suspend civilians sanctions. And I also propose that there should be some work to coordinate and combine the work of the American teams on the ground and the work of UNMOVIC and IAEA so that the Iraqi disarmament could be internationally verified."

The United Kingdom also supported the return of the UN inspectors to Iraq, but Ambassador Greenstock said the time was not yet ripe:

"More patience is needed before we get to the point when the agencies are able to do their work on the ground and in the meantime the coalition forces are acting both actively and responsibly in dealing with anything they come across in the area of weapons of mass destruction."

Blix Stresses Independence and Objectivity of his Inspectors

Dr. Hans Blix, the head of the United Nations weapons inspectors, said he expects his inspectors to return to Iraq when the situation is safe and stable. He stressed the importance of the independence of his inspectors:

"I underlined the need in the future to make use of and respect the independence of inspectors. They are operating under the UN Charter, not taking orders from any individual governments, and no governments being allowed to give them instructions either and and this is a sort of added value."

The chief weapons inspector also told the Council that there was no adversarial relation between international inspection and that currently being conducted by the coalition forces:

"The situation has changed. We were faced with a country where we suspected that the authorities might be trying to conceal weapons of mass destruction and we are now in a different situation where you have the armed forces and you have also coming into being presumably a regime that will be open to international verification."

Dr. Blix also informed the Council that he has 85 inspectors on contract until the middle of June and that they can be recalled at any time. He reminded the Council of its resolutions that his agency's reports on disarmament are the basis for action against the sanctions. Finally Dr. Blix officially informed the Council that he will not be extending his contract beyond the end of June.

Annan Calls for Unity in Dealing with Post- War Iraq

The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, today appealed to member states to heal the divisions which emerged before the war in Iraq. Speaking in Vienna, Austria, he said the focus now should be on the efforts to help the people of Iraq return to normalcy and return to the family of nations. He added that as the international community concentrated on post-conflict Iraq, it should bear in mind that there are other major challenges. United Nations spokesman in Amman, Jordan, Nejib Friji:

"And therefore the unity that this requires to help us deal with Iraq is also needed in the other areas whether it is Israel-Palestine, Afghanistan, the fight against terrorism, the fight against poverty and so on and so forth."

Syria Sends back Iraqi Refugees

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, today expressed serious concern about the removal of Iraqi refugees in Syria back to Iraq.

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