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UN: Foreign Minister Says Iraq Eliminated Illegal Weapons

United Nations, 27 February 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Said Sahaf says he has provided UN officials with proof that Iraq no longer possesses weapons of mass destruction and he ruled out a return of UN inspectors. Sahaf told reporters on the first day of talks at UN headquarters yesterday that Iraq's proof that it has eliminated illegal weapons programs means that sanctions should be immediately lifted by the Security Council.

UN weapons experts and Security Council members have said such Iraqi claims in the past were not credible.

Sahaf said any UN monitoring in Iraq should only be in the context of regional disarmament. He said Israel should undergo inspections first because of what he said was its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

The Iraqi foreign minister's comments came after several hours of closed-door talks with UN officials on disarmament issues. He later discussed the UN's humanitarian program with senior aides of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Despite the public statements from Sahaf, Annan said the visiting Iraqi officials are seeking a way to break the deadlock over UN sanctions.

Sahaf said he expects more discussions with UN officials after the current round of talks ends later today. The two sides are set to have morning and afternoon sessions.