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Iraq, U.N. Officials to Discuss Weapons Inspectors

Aziz, who is attending the UN sustainable development conference in South Africa, said Annan had asked to meet with the Iraqi official.

“Tomorrow, I am going to talk to the secretary-general. He wanted to see me and I am glad that I would be able to meet him. So we will talk about this matter and I will explain to him what I explained to you,” he told reporters.

Aziz also indicated the government would be willing to consider the reintroduction of inspectors.

“We would consider this issue [of the inspectors] within the context that I mentioned, with the comprehensive settlement,” Aziz said.

The move comes as more international leaders criticized the U.S. for threatening to topple Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein. On Monday, Russia’s foreign minister and former South African president Nelson Mandela voiced opposition to any U.S. military action.

“Any decision to use force against Iraq would not only complicate an Iraqi settlement but also undermine the situation in the Gulf and the Middle East,” Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said after talks with Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri.

Mandela spoke even more forcefully, saying he was “appalled” at the thought of U.S. intervention.

“What they are introducing is chaos in international affairs and we condemn that in the strongest terms,” Mandela said. “We are really appalled by any country whether it is a superpower or a poor country that goes outside the United Nations and attacks independent countries.”

In the United States, a new poll indicated nearly 60 percent of Americans support the idea of military action to oust Hussein. But the Los Angeles Times poll also indicated that 61 percent of those who support action said it should be contingent on the support of the international community.

Also this weekend, new comments from Secretary of State Colin Powell indicated members of the Bush administration may differ on the importance of dispatching weapons inspectors into Iraq.

On August 26, Vice President Cheney said in a speech, inspectors would offer no guarantee that Hussein was not developing weapons of mass destruction.

“A person would be right to question any suggestion that we should just get inspectors back into Iraq, and then our worries will be over. Saddam has perfected the game of cheat and retreat, and is very skilled in the art of denial and deception,” Cheney said. “A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with UN resolutions.”

But over the weekend, Powell told the BBC that the American government was committed to returning the UN teams “as a first step.”

“The president has been clear that he believes weapons inspectors should return,” he said.

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