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U.N., Iraq fail to reach agreement on return of arms inspectors

Iraqi Foreign Minister Sabri, left, and U.N. Secretary-General Annan in Vienna
Iraqi Foreign Minister Sabri, left, and U.N. Secretary-General Annan in Vienna  

VIENNA, Austria (CNN) -- Top diplomats called the third round of talks between the United Nations and Iraqi officials "constructive," but the two-day meeting ended Friday without an accord on the return of arms inspectors to Baghdad.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had said he hoped that the two days of talks, which began Thursday, would lead to "conclusive decisions" on the return of the arms experts.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said contact between both sides for further discussion would continue.

Annan and Sabri both termed the discussions "constructive." But Sabri indicated that it would take a while for such talks to bring agreement on matters between both parties since there has been "12 years of lack of contact" and "12 years of conflict" between both sides.

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Many issues need to be hashed out in order to "reach a common ground," Sabri said.

"We have to discuss, we have to exchange views," he said.

Among the issues discussed were the oil for food agreement and the effect of sanctions on citizenry. Sabri said progress was made on the return of Kuwaiti documents.

The previous two rounds of the U.N.-Iraq talks were held in New York in March and May.

Sabri gave Annan a list of 19 political questions at their first meeting -- and Iraq is still waiting for answers.

The questions focus on lifting sanctions, U.S. threats against Iraq, "no-fly" zones in northern and southern Iraq enforced by U.S. and British aircraft and the creation of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East.

Under U.N. resolutions, sanctions can be lifted only when inspectors certify that Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons have been destroyed, along with the long-range missiles that could deliver them.

The Security Council, and particularly the United States, has accused Iraq of trying to rebuild its banned weapons programs and of supporting terrorism.

The United States has warned Saddam he faces unspecified consequences if he does not allow the return of the inspectors, who left ahead of 1998 allied airstrikes meant to punish Iraq for blocking inspections.


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