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Iraqi Leader Saddam Hussein Agrees To Allow American Arms Inspectors Back Into the Country,

November 20, 1997

Iraqi Leader Saddam Hussein Agrees To Allow American Arms Inspectors Back Into the Country, Ending His Defiance of U.N. DemandsBy WAIEL FALEH

BAGHDAD (AP) _ Saddam Hussein today reversed his ban on American weapons inspectors in Iraq, ending his defiance of U.N. demands and apparently concluding a three-week standoff that raised fears of a military confrontation.

Iraq agreed to the inspectors’ return under a deal arranged by Russia and its foreign minister, Yevgeny Primakov.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the agreement involved no concessions by the United States or the United Nations. The Iraqis ``are prepared to have the inspectors return unconditionally,″ she said.

However, the U.N. Special Commission, which oversees the weapons inspections, was to meet Friday to discuss ways to reform procedures for monitoring Iraq’s arms arsenal and preventing it from developing weapons of mass destruction.

Richard Butler, head of the weapons inspectors, said that if all goes well, ``We’ll be on the plane tomorrow morning and back in business on Friday.″

He told ABC’s ``Good Morning America″ that when the inspectors return, ``They’ll go out and resume inspections _ and let’s see how they do, OK?″

Speaking in Cairo, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told reporters that the Security Council’s permanent members had made no ``specific commitments″ under the Russian proposal. However, he said Russia has promised to work for a ``just and fair diplomatic solution″ to the confrontation.

The Iraqi News Agency said the Russian proposal was formally endorsed by a joint meeting of the Iraqi leadership comprising the Revolution Command Council and the ruling Baath Party headed by Saddam.

The official news agency said Iraq accepted the weapons inspectors _ who work for the U.N. Special Commission _ because the government believes that Russia is sincere in its pledge to work for lifting of the sanctions.

``It has been decided to invite the Special Commission in its entirety back to resume its duties,″ the news agency said, quoting a statement by the Revolution Command Council.

Saddam’s agreement to readmit the American inspectors to Iraq concludes three weeks of growing tension, during which Baghdad threatened to shoot down U-2 spy planes, the Americans sent aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf and the United Nations pulled out all weapons inspectors in solidarity with their banished American colleagues.

While the standoff brought new attention to the threat posed by Iraq’s arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, it also exposed weaknesses in the Gulf War coalition as the United States succeeded at winning verbal condemnations of Baghdad’s actions but little more. Many Arab states were openly critical of America’s refusal to rule out military action.

It also may provide Iraq with a new platform for its arguments that tough sanctions imposed at the end of the war need to be lifted. Iraq emphasized a Russian pledge to pursue an end to the sanctions.

Maj. Gen. Nils Carlstrom, the Swede who heads the Baghdad monitoring office and who remained in Iraq as part of a skeleton staff, said today that only formalities remained before all inspectors could return from the Gulf state of Bahrain.

``We are now waiting for the processing of an official letter from the Iraqi Foreign Ministry to send our inspectors back from Bahrain,″ he told The Associated Press. ``They are ready to come back but are waiting for the letter.″

The government has been organizing demonstrations against Washington for weeks, but the mood today seemed more upbeat with the crisis eased.

``America has failed in its conspiracy!″ shouted the demonstrators, most of them members of state-run unions and other official organizations.

``This is the first step toward lifting the sanctions,″ Saad Qassim Hamoudi, the head of parliament’s foreign relations committee, told the crowd.

The newspaper of Iraq’s ruling Baath party, Al-Thawra, said today that ``America should not interpret Iraq’s preparedness for a dialogue as a sign of weakness.

``The records of the past and present show that the United States will not learn any lesson from this ill-fated experience,″ it said in an editorial.

Word of a possible end to the crisis came first from Primakov, who convened a late-night meeting in Geneva of his counterparts from the United States, Britain and France and told them Iraq’s parliament was ready to end the stalemate over U.N. weapons inspections.

``We expect that today Iraq will make a decision that absolutely all the inspectors, without any exceptions, will return to Iraq, and will begin to work there normally,″ Primakov said as he left the nearly two-hour meeting.

Primakov was proud of what appeared to be a major diplomatic coup for Moscow.

``That’s what Russia achieved ... without any use of violence, any use of weapons, without a show of force, it was achieved through diplomatic means,″ he said.

Russia all along has sought to avert a military strike on Iraq, much as Primakov tried unsuccessfully to stop the Bush administration in 1991 from attacking Iraq after the occupation of Kuwait.

The American secretary of state advised caution in accepting Baghdad’s word that it would allow weapons inspectors back into the country.

``I want to see what happens. I will believe it when I see it,″ she said at a news conference, adding that it was ``completely premature″ to discuss reversing the recent buildup of American forces in the region.

Less than two hours later, the Iraqi News Agency in Baghdad was announcing Iraq’s decision to allow the weapons inspectors to return.

``An agreement has been reached that Iraq will accept the return of the Special Commission in its entirety and the resumption of its work starting today, November 20, 1997,″ said the text of the statement carried by the agency.

It said ``that Russia on its part will participate to implement U.N. resolutions related to the quick lifting of the sanctions and especially the implementation of article 22 of resolution 687.″

The special U.N. commission, set to meet Friday, will ``discuss ... ways to make UNSCOM’S work more effective on the basis of the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council,″ said a joint statement by Albright and the foreign ministers in Geneva.

``I think there will be discussion on whether more inspectors should be added and how it should work, but as far as we are concerned, we believe that UNSCOM is working effectively, that it does its job, that it needs to get back on the ground working,″ Albright said.

The 20-member U.N. commission on Iraq, set up shortly after the 1991 war, meets every six months to oversee the weapons inspectors. Last week, at Russia’s insistence, the Security Council agreed to call an extraordinary session for Friday, bringing in commission members from around the world.

It was not clear how the commission would make its inspection teams more effective. Iraq had demanded a change in their composition, with a broader range of countries represented.

Iraq has claimed that American weapons inspectors were spies. It also threatened to shoot down U.S. planes on surveillance flights, but two flights have been made without incident since the crisis began.

The British have sided with the Clinton administration, which has reserved all its options, including military ones.

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