- The Washington Times - Monday, February 10, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 10 (UPI) — Iraq Monday approved the use of U-2 surveillance planes to aid the two bodies given the task of searching for proscribed weapons of mass destruction in the country.

Mohammed al Douri, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, said his side had sent a letter detailing Iraq's acceptance to Hans Blix, chairman of the U.N. Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission, and Mohamed ElBaradei, executive director of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The letter "expresses our acceptance (on) U-2 and other — perhaps Russian or French — aircraft without any conditions," al Douri told reporters at the United Nations.

Blix and ElBaradei were in Baghdad over the weekend, meeting with top Iraqi officials over disputed issues.

"I can confirm that we received this letter," Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the IAEA, told United Press International.

UNMOVIC had no immediate comment.

The weekend meeting with Iraqi officials, including Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, focused on specific ways Iraq can increase its cooperation with the world body.

Although Iraq handed over documents on anthrax and missiles to Blix and ElBaradei, there was no agreement on surveillance by U-2 aircraft. Blix said Sunday he expected the Iraqis to respond to the issue by Friday.

Blix and ElBaradei are scheduled to present their report on the status of inspections to the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

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