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Mussa to ask Annan to Include Arabs in UN

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Mussa to ask Annan to include Arabs in UN inspection teams for Iraq

November 11, 2002, 01:17 PM

CAIRO (AFP) - Arab League chief Amr Mussa said he would ask UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to include Arab nationals on arms inspection teams being sent to Iraq under a tough new disarmament resolution.

Mussa was acting on a statement issued Sunday by Arab foreign ministers who called on the UN Security Council's permanent members to respect "assurances" not to use its new resolution as a pretext for a war against Iraq.

The ministers, while urging Iraq to accept the resolution as a last chance to avoid war, asked for Arabs to join the inspectors after Syria warned that a report from them of Iraqi failure to cooperate could "spark" military action.

"I will convey this demand today," during a telephone conversation later Monday with Annan, the League's secretary general told journalists in Cairo where the organisation is based.

"Having Arab inspectors or observers would enhance the credibility of the inspections," Mussa said after briefing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the ministers' two-day meeting.

"I understood that out of the 250 members" of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), "there are only four Arabs, all translators; there are no Arabs among the inspectors," he said.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said he hoped the UN arms experts would "not resort to provocations" and supported the idea of Arab participation in the inspection teams, in another sign Baghdad was preparing for their return.

Baghdad has until November 15 to reply to Security Council Resolution 1441 which it has called "unfair," and the Iraqis parliament was to meet late Monday in emergency session ahead of a decision by the country's leadership.

The idea of including Arab inspectors in UNMOVIC was first raised by Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara, whose country is a non-permanent member on the 15-member Security Council.

Syria sided with Washington in voting for the new resolution after saying it had received assurances from permanent members the United States, Russia and France that it would not serve as a pretext to launch a war on Iraq.

But Shara said here Sunday that although Resolution 1441 averted an immediate strike, it could conceal "traps."

In Washington, US officials said Sunday that the United States does not require UN permission to take military action against Iraq.

The resolution, adopted unanimously Friday by the Security Council, warned Iraq of "serious consequences" if it failed to comply with strict disarmament terms.

The resolution lays down a strict timetable for Iraq to declare whether it has banned programs of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons as well as long-range missiles, and then submit to a stringent verification by the inspectors.

Under the resolution, Iraq's top-secret presidential palaces would also have to be submitted to inspection.

An agreement by Iraq would lead to a return later this month of the inspectors who left in December 1998 on the eve of a four-day, US-British bombing blitz, sparked by Baghdad's alleged obstruction of their work.

Mussa said "there are indications that Iraq is moving towards dealing positively with the recent UN Security Council resolution" on disarmament. "I think Iraq will cooperate positively with the resolution," he added.

Egypt's government newspaper Al-Ahram urged Iraq to implement the resolution because it would be Baghdad's "last chance" to avoid a "a US military strike against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime."

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