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Iraq Blames US for Breakdown in Talks with UN

6 July 2002

Iraq blamed the United States for the breakdown in its talks with the United Nations on the return of UN weapons inspectors to Baghdad, accusing it of looking to escalate the issue as part of its plan to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein.

"The US administration is responsible for the lack of progress in Vienna," Baath party official Saad Qassem Hammadi said in reference to the failed talks between Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

UN and Iraqi officials Friday admitted that negotiations on the return of UN weapons inspectors to the country, seen as a step toward lifting the 12-year-old embargo on Baghdad, had broken down.

"One or two states are responsible for this," Sabri told Iraqi Youth Television.

"With their right of veto in the Security Council, they are preventing the council from doing its job with Iraq," Sabri said, referring to the United States and Britain and their hardline policy on Baghdad.

The results of the Vienna talks, the third since a resumption in dialogue between Iraq and the UN in March after a one-year hiatus, "weren't a surprise for us because US pressure on the UN delegation was known in advance," Hammadi said.

By applying pressure, the United States was seeking to "block the legitimate demands of Iraq being met ... as a prelude to an escalation against the country as part of the American plot," he told AFP.

The New York Times reported Friday that a top secret US military document outlines a massive, three-pronged attack on Iraq by land, sea and air with as many as 250,000 troops and hundreds of warplanes.

Sabri charged that Washington was only insisting on a return of arms inspectors to assist its planned military action against Iraq.

"The United States wants a return of inspectors to update the information they provide to their planes and those of Britain to strike the Iraqi people," he told the Dubai-based Arab satellite TV channel MBC.

"This is a dream which will never come about. These are the colonialist dreams of the evil leaders in Washington."

The US administration has repeatedly threatened to launch a military strike on Iraq to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein, whom it accuses of developing weapons of mass destruction.

During the Vienna talks, Sabri demanded answers on issues including disarmament, the nature of inspections, UN-Iraqi relations and threats of force against Baghdad, but Annan focused on the practicalities of the return of arms inspectors to Iraq.

UN inspectors were pulled out of Iraq amid deadlock with Baghdad over their activities, ahead of a US and British air blitz on the country in December 1998.

They have not been allowed back since, although a lifting of the embargo depends on the elimination of banned weapons programs in Iraq being certified by international inspectors.

Annan vowed "there will be a new round of negotiations," but did not give a date or location for the next talks.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jo-Anne Prokopowicz said Iraqi representatives continued raising issues "aimed at preventing and delaying focus on its core obligations, which include cooperating fully and unconditionally with weapons inspectors."

"We see no basis or need for prolonged discussion of Iraq's obligations, they are well known," she added.

Kuwait's state minister for foreign affairs, Sheikh Mohammad Sabah al-Sabah, warned that "the failure of negotiations ... will lead to instability in the region."

The emirate, liberated by a US-led coalition in the 1991 Gulf War from a seven-month Iraq occupation, has said it is opposed to any military action against Iraq.

Published by Agence France Presse ©c) 2002 AFP

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