Annan says Iraqi officials public comments on UN inspections will not affect

“As far as I’m concerned, the [UN-Iraq] discussions are taking place behind closed doors and these public statements may not necessarily reflect what will happen behind closed doors when we get together,” the Secretary-General said in response to questions during a news conference in New York. “We started reasonably well but it was only a start and one should not conclude that it is going to succeed or fail.” The Secretary-General added that he would “aggressively” pursue the UN’s aim during talks slated for April. “My objective is clear: that there is compliance and return of the inspectors, and so I will focus on what their envoy tells me when they meet and not what is being said in the papers,” he said.Asked whether he would seek to work out a deal with Iraqi officials, the Secretary-General said any such arrangement would have to come from the Security Council. “My mandate is clear: I’m basing my discussions with them, and my demands, on the Council resolutions and not [going] beyond that.”Meanwhile in Geneva, the Governing Council of the UN Compensation Commission, which pays damages arising from Iraq’s 1990 invasion and subsequent occupation of Kuwait, approved today payments totalling nearly $1.8 billion. To date, the Commission has awarded compensation of over $37.7 billion to successful claimants. read more

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