- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2002

NEW YORK Expectations for tomorrow's meeting between the United Nations and the Iraqis couldn't be much lower, despite mounting pressure on Iraq to re-admit international weapons inspectors.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is to meet with Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, and both sides say the emphasis will be on fulfilling U.N. Security Council resolutions relating to Iraq.
But the Iraqis are concentrating on lifting 11-year-old sanctions, while Mr. Annan has emphasized the need to put idled U.N. weapons inspectors back to work.
The distance between two was illustrated by their public statements yesterday.
"As far as the secretary-general is concerned, he'll be talking about the U.N. resolutions and his emphasis will be on implementation, implementation, implementation," spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York.
But Mr. Sabri, addressing reporters at Baghdad's airport, said, "We hope that this round of talks would constitute a serious step toward achieving for the Iraqi people the legitimate and legal demands they deserve, namely the lifting of the sanctions, halting the aggression and ending the plundering of their riches."
Participants and observers have repeatedly said they don't expect a breakthrough at tomorrow's meeting, despite the Bush administration's reported willingness to use military strikes to force Iraqi compliance with the resolutions.
"I think this is the beginning of the visible elements of a kind of dance around some serious propositions, a working out of the pressure that is starting to accumulate," said one Security Council ambassador.
That pressure is coming from around the globe.
In Washington, President Bush has declared Iraq a member of the "axis of evil" and repeatedly indicated that Saddam Hussein must disarm and renounce terrorism or face unspecified consequences.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned in a column in the Times of London yesterday that Saddam has both the ruthlessness and capability to use weapons of mass destruction.
Since inspectors were kicked out of Iraq in 1998, Mr. Straw wrote, "evidence has been building up that the threat from Iraq's weapons programs is growing once more. Many of the facilities damaged in 1998 by the American and British strikes in Operation Desert Fox have been repaired."
"Iraq has persisted with its chemical and biological programs, and is developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering such weapons."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, writing in London's Daily Express, also gave a clear warning that action against Saddam was near.
"He should not underestimate the determination of the international community to prevent him developing and using weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Blair wrote.
"If we fail to continue to restrain Saddam Hussein, what is already a volatile situation in the region could easily become a world crisis."

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