- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a letter to Iraq yesterday calling for the immediate admission of U.N. weapons inspectors and rejecting Saddam Hussein's proposal that a visit by the weapons inspections chief for discussions precede the admission.
The secretary-general's rejection of Saddam's maneuvering on the weapons issue came amid spreading opposition in the Middle East and Europe to a U.S.-led attack on Iraq.
Yesterday Turkey and Jordan openly opposed any attack, while Russia and China called for more diplomacy and Germany and France remained cool on military action.
"I don't think [the Iraqi offer] should be dismissed," said Mr. Annan on CNN.
"But my concern is with the agenda and how it proceeds."
After a meeting with the ambassadors of the 15 member states of the Security Council yesterday, Mr. Annan prepared a letter that would not reject outright the Iraqi offer to allow the return of Hans Blix, chief U.N. weapons inspector, but still insist on a broad return to the inspection program ended four years ago by Iraq.
"Everyone is on the same page as far as what is required of Iraq full implementation of existing U.N. Security Council resolutions," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte yesterday.
Those resolutions include a requirement that Iraq allow U.N. inspectors to determine that Iraq has eliminated weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles.
Under the terms of Mr. Annan's offer, the inspection team would spend 60 days determining what needs doing, then Iraq would have a chance to comment.
Iraq agreed to the inspections as part of the cease-fire after it was crushed by a U.S.-led coalition in the 1991 Persian Gulf war and driven out of Kuwait. But Baghdad threw inspectors out in 1998.
Mr. Annan sent the letter to Iraqi Foreign Minister Najib Sabri yesterday, said U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard.
Iraq made the offer to host Mr. Blix, and offered to host a delegation of U.S. congressmen and their staffers, as fears grew in the Middle East that the United States is determined to replace Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
The invitation to Congress was quickly rejected.
"I can't think of anything funnier than a handful of congressmen walking around they'd have to be there for the next 50 years trying to find something," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.
"It's a joke."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said Monday: "The U.S. Congress isn't asking for an invitation, we're asking Iraq to grant the U.N. weapons inspection team the full, unfettered access they need to do their job."
Yesterday Jordanian and Turkish leaders met in Amman and voiced fears that a U.S. attack on Iraq would lead to human suffering and regional instability.
Both countries border Iraq and would be called on by the United States to host air and possibly ground forces aimed at overthrowing Saddam.
A U.S.-led attack would "have disastrous economic and human consequences on Iraq and regional stability," Jordanian Prime Minister Abu Ragheb was quoted as telling the Turkish foreign minister.
"We certainly agree with the Jordanian position and share the same concerns," said Turkish Foreign Minister Sukru Sina Gurel. "We feel every problem in the region should be settled through peaceful means."
However, upon return to Turkey, the foreign minister expressed doubt that Iraq has really agreed to allow the return of unfettered U.N. inspections.
Air bases in Turkey had been vital during the Gulf war and during enforcement of no-fly zones since then. But Turkey has lost billions of dollars in trade and oil trans-shipment fees due to the U.N. embargo on Iraq.
Mr. Sabri, the Iraqi foreign minister, will continue diplomatic efforts to avert a U.S. attack and will visit at the end of August his two strongest allies on the U.N. Security Council, Russia and China, reports said yesterday.
There was "not too much agreement," on Iraq policy at the Security Council yesterday said Gennady Gatilov, the deputy U.N. ambassador from Russia, which is seeking to ease the embargo on Iraq so it can collect billions of dollars owed by Baghdad for weapons.
China has welcomed Iraq's invitation for the chief U.N. arms inspector, calling it "a positive step," state media said.
In Britain, the only country strongly behind President Bush's push toward overthrowing Saddam, clergy yesterday spoke out against an attack on Iraq.
"It is our considered view that an attack on Iraq would be both immoral and illegal and that eradicating the dangers posed by malevolent dictators and terrorists can be achieved only by tackling the root causes of the disputes themselves," the clergy stated.

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