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Iraq wants to resume inspection talks

Iraq wants to resume inspection talks


From Liz Neisloss
CNN New York Bureau

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Iraq invited U.N. weapons inspectors Thursday to Baghdad to resume weapons talks.

The Iraqi mission to the United Nations delivered a letter from Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri to chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix that welcomed Blix and his experts.

Iraqi diplomats said the timetable for talks would have to be mutually agreed upon.

In early July, the United Nations and Iraq held a third round of unsuccessful talks aimed at the return of weapons inspectors.

Immediately after the talks, Iraq remained insistent that discussions would progress only if issues such as U.S. threats against Iraq, no-fly zones and sanctions against Iraq were on the table.

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But U.N. sanctions can only be lifted after the weapons inspectors verify that all of Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons have been destroyed.

Inspectors have not been in Iraq since December 1998, when they left in advance of a U.S.-British airstrike. They have not been allowed to return since.

Meanwhile in Washington, President Bush issued an order extending sanctions against Iraq for another year, saying he is looking at "all options" in handling the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

And as a Senate panel conducted a second day of hearings exploring how to remove the Iraqi regime, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asked Pentagon planners to come up with a plan for lightning-quick attacks against the regime. (Full story)

Bush told Congress in a letter that Hussein's government has continued to engage in activities "hostile to U.S. interests." The penalties were imposed on Iraq 12 years ago after Hussein's troops invaded Kuwait.

"The crisis between the United States and Iraq that led to the declaration of a national emergency on August 2, 1990, has not been resolved. The government of Iraq continues to engage in activities inimical to stability in the Middle East and hostile to U.S. interests," Bush said.

"Such Iraqi actions pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."