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United Nations, Iraq Reach Tentative Agreement

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix told reporters after the meeting that an advance party of inspectors could be sent to Baghdad in around two weeks.

“The Iraqi representatives declared that Iraq accepts all rights of inspection provided for in all the relevant Security Council resolutions,” Blix said. “There is a willingness to accept inspections that has not existed before.”

Blix had initially pressed for unconditional access to Hussein’s palaces and designated sites, a critical US demand, but cited the “Memorandum of Understanding of 1998,” between Iraq and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan which says inspectors are not allowed to visit the presidential sites unannounced and must be accompanied by a team of international diplomats when they do. For now, Blix says, inspectors will not visit those presidential sites.

Blix said that the Iraqis had also handed over four CDs containing reports of weapons activity in the country for the last four years. Blix said the information could fill in holes left after Iraq barred inspectors from re-entering in 1998.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Bush administration opposes the return of inspectors at this point, telling reporters, “We feel the inspectors should not go in until there is a resolution that gives them the authority and instructions of the Security Council.”

Late Tuesday, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the U.S. would continue to pursue a new U.N. resolution on Iraq. Powell told the NewsHour Monday that the Bush administration wanted the U.N. to pass a resolution that would clearly state Iraq was in breach of U.N. regulations and create “a tough set of conditions for any new inspection regime.”

Meanwhile, President Bush said he could not accept the language of a compromise resolution offered by Sens. Joe Biden (D-Del.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), telling reporters, “I don’t want to get a resolution which ties my hands.”

The compromise resolution encourages Bush to exhaust diplomatic efforts at the UN before using force and makes clear that the primary reason for military action would be to dismantle Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction instead of a regime change. The compromise would authorize the president to use military force against Iraq, but would not allow Mr. Bush to widen the scope of the congressional approval to other areas in the Middle East, as he has requested.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said the Senate could begin debate on Iraq as early as Wednesday. The House is expected to start its debate next week.

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