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Iraqi Diplomat Pledges Proactive Cooperation With U.N. Inspections

Al-Douri said, ”[W]e are reaching out to the international community, saying we will go a step farther and proactively cooperate with the inspectors to prove that these baseless allegations are nothing but fabrications.”

Top U.N. weapons inspectors Mohamed ElBaradei and Hans Blix called upon the Iraqi government to more proactively cooperate in the inspection process during a Monday report to the Security Council on the progress of the ongoing weapons inspections in Iraq.

“We need active Iraqi cooperation because that will speed the process and will make it much more credible, but we also need very proactive inspection process,” ElBaradei told the NewsHour on Tuesday.

“The inspection process is based on fact finding. It is not simply that a country tells us ‘here’s what we have’ and we simply say, ‘yes, that’s fine, we can give you a clean bill of health.’ That’s not the way it works,” he added.

The Iraqi promise for proactive cooperation comes in the wake of President Bush’s State of the Union pledge to present new evidence to the U.N. next week as the Security Council continues its debate over Iraq’s alleged weapons programs and its calls for Saddam to disarm.

“The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene on February 5 to consider the facts of Iraq?s ongoing defiance of the world,” the president said Tuesday. “Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraq?s illegal weapons programs; its attempts to hide those weapons from inspectors; and its links to terrorist groups.”

Referring to the ongoing debate among world leaders over military action against Saddam, the president stuck by his stance that Iraq should be disarmed regardless of the state of diplomatic negotiations.

“We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him,” the president said.

“It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see, and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened,” he added, referring to Iraq’s level of cooperation with U.N. inspectors.

The president’s promise to provide further information sparked cautious optimism from U.S. allies who have been vocally opposed to a rush to war against Baghdad. France, one of the most vocal European nations opposing military action against Iraq without full U.N. backing, said it would join Powell in presenting information on Iraq at the Feb. 5 Security Council meeting.

“I’m delighted by this American decision,” French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said of the planned meeting. “We’ll put it all together and examine the situation.”

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a European leader who has maintained a staunch anti-war stance, welcomed the promise of new information but also expressed concern that diplomacy alone may not avert war with Iraq.

“We both welcome [the fact] that countries which have information they have received from their intelligence agencies want to make it available to the inspectors,” Schroeder said Wednesday after a meeting with Mexican President Vincente Fox. Mexico holds one of the 10 rotating seats on the Security Council and has also called for a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis.

“The international situation, especially the crisis over Iraq is worrying me. I am worried about whether we will succeed in avoiding a war in Iraq,” Schroeder told a joint news conference.

Ahead of a Wednesday closed-door meeting between the 15-member Security Council and chief U.N. weapons inspectors, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Sergei Lavrov, claimed that earlier comments made by Russian President Vladimir Putin were misinterpreted as indicating that Russia was beginning to change its position on the Iraq debate. Russia is considered Iraq’s most powerfully ally on the Security Council and has opposed a U.S. led attack on Baghdad.

“He [President Putin] said, ‘We believe that inspections must continue, and that if Iraq stops cooperating with inspectors and starts blocking inspections we must look into it,’ ” Lavrov told reporters. “We have been saying this all along, that we are not in favor of inspections in spite of Iraqi cooperation, but as long as Iraq cooperates, they must continue. So, there is no change in Russian position.”

When asked what type of evidence would sway Moscow to declare Iraq in material breach of U.N. Security Council resolutions on disarmament, Lavrov said, “We would like to see undeniable proof.”

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