Iraq agrees to let inspectors back

16 November 2002

The government on 13 November agreed to the return of inspectors, in accordance with the newly passed UN Security Council resolution 1441, but has continued to maintain that Iraq does not possess weapons of mass destruction.

The effective acceptance of the UN resolution, which was passed unanimously on 8 November, came in the form of a lengthy letter from Foreign Affairs Minister Naji Sabri to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It was prefaced by a verse from the Koran, in which God tells Moses to address the tyrant Pharaoh in a mild way so that he might repent and be afraid. The letter goes on to state categorically that the claims of US President Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair that Iraq has been developing weapons of mass destruction are empty slanders, and that the weapons inspectors will establish that Iraq has not produced and is not producing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. 'Let the inspectors come to Baghdad to carry out their duty in accordance with international law,' the letter said.

Annan said he would wait to see whether the language used in the letter meant that Iraq would be 'going to play games...I think the issue is not their acceptance, but performance on the ground'.

According to the resolution, Iraq must present a full report documenting its weapons of mass destruction programme by 8 December. The inspectors are to start active operations by 23 December (see Cover Story).

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