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Annan to Meet With Iraqi Minister

April 23, 2002

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will meet Iraq’s foreign minister in early May for talks expected to focus on the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to the oil-rich Middle East nation, a U.N. spokesman said Tuesday.

The talks had been set for mid-April but Iraq sought a delay, saying it didn’t want to distract attention from the crisis in the Middle East.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said the talks would be held from May 1-3. Annan will be accompanied by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, Eckhard said.

Annan and Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri met for one day, March 7, in the first high-level U.N.-Iraq talks in a year. Blix attended the meeting but ElBaradei did not.

That meeting produced no sign Baghdad would allow weapons inspectors to return _ the first step toward the lifting of 11-year-old U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraqi troops seized Kuwait in 1990.

Inspectors left Iraq before the United States and Britain carried out airstrikes in 1998 to punish Iraq for not cooperating with the inspection program. Saddam Hussein’s government has barred the inspectors from returning.

President Bush has warned Saddam that he faces unspecified consequences if he fails to allow the inspectors back in.

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