- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 2, 2003

NEW YORK The chief weapons inspectors will return to Baghdad on Feb. 8 for two days of talks with Iraqi officials in an attempt to resolve disputes about the search for banned weapons of mass destruction, Iraqi and U.N. officials said yesterday.
"They'll be discussing all the outstanding issues including interviews with Iraqi scientists," Iraqi U.N. Ambassador Mohammed al-Douri said.
Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed the trip, saying that her boss, Mohamed ElBaradei, and Hans Blix, head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission, are both going to Baghdad.
The trip will put Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei back in the Iraqi capital days before their next reports are due to the Security Council on Feb. 14. Their last, largely negative, reports on Jan. 27 set off a diplomatic campaign by the Bush administration to convince allies that military force may be necessary to disarm Iraq.
Iraq issued the invitation Thursday and in a joint reply to the Iraqis on Friday, Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei proposed the dates for the visit.
But the inspectors said they would only be willing to make the trip once the Iraqis agreed to certain conditions and removed major obstacles that are preventing inspectors from conducting aspects of their work.
Ewen Buchanan, spokesman for the U.N. inspectors, said the U.N. teams were still waiting for Iraq's reply to the letter.
He said that the inspectors were ready to meet with their Iraqi counterparts, but that the Iraqis needed to clarify "the purpose of the visit" and "how to achieve prompt progress in the resolution of open disarmament issues.".
Iraqi officials suggested that only Mr. Blix would be making the trip, but Mr. Buchanan said Mr. Blix would travel with Mr. ElBaradei.
The Iraqis didn't specify what, if any, clarifications or concessions Baghdad was willing to make in order to facilitate the meeting. But Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, said it was unlikely the inspectors would get to meet with President Saddam Hussein.
"I don't think that's going to happen," Mr. Aziz said. "Mr. Blix has a certain mission, and that mission could be dealt with the experts who will talk to him about technical matters."
Mr. ElBaradei said it was "very important that … we meet at the highest level of the leadership, and hear from them a clear commitment."
In other Iraq news:
The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowand Williams, said war with Iraq is "unacceptable to me as a Christian" in an interview published in the Sunday Times of London.
British police boarded the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior late yesterday to end the environmental group's attempt to prevent the departure of a military supply ship bound for the Persian Gulf.

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