I By Karen DeYoung
raq said it is ready to receive United Nations weapons inspectors in accordance with the Security Council resolution approved Nov. 1.
An eight-page letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan from Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri was filled with invective against the United States, Britain and the 13 other council members that voted unanimously for the measure. Sabri said that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction for inspectors to find, but he said: “We are prepared to receive the inspectors within the assigned timetable. … We are eager to see them perform their duties … as soon as possible.”
“We take it they have accepted,” Annan told reporters Wednesday after a White House meeting with President Bush. The first inspectors, Annan said, will arrive in Iraq on Monday to begin setting up their headquarters and establishing a work plan.
Iraq’s acquiescence to the resolution – along with its apparent acceptance of the tough new inspection program it establishes – crosses the first, and perhaps the easiest, of a number of hurdles set out by the Security Council. The Bush administration has said that failure at any juncture would provide justification for war, either under U.N. auspices or, if the Security Council does not agree, with U.S. forces acting alone or with like-minded allies.
Baghdad has until Dec. 8 to provide inspectors and the council with “a currently accurate, full, and complete declaration” of all its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. Inspections must officially start no more than 15 days after that. Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix then has 60 days before he must make his initial report to the council on Iraqi cooperation.
Bush said the United States will have “zero tolerance” for Iraqi deception.