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Baghdad Will Allow Planes To Aid Weapons Inspections

By Maggie Farley
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- united nations

Baghdad agreed Monday to allow weapons inspectors to use surveillance planes in Iraq in a last-ditch show of cooperation before a crucial inspectors’ report on Friday, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan SM ’72 called a private meeting of the Security Council for Thursday to talk about the humanitarian effects of a potential war.

Friday’s assessment by chief inspectors Hans Blix and his nuclear agency counterpart, Mohamed ElBaradei, will be crucial in determining whether to use force against Iraq or continue inspections aimed at uncovering any banned chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programs.

Two veto-holding members of the Security Council, France and Russia, along with Germany crafted a joint communique Monday saying that “there is still an alternative to war” and that peaceful means to disarm Iraq have not been exhausted.

But the United States and Britain are drafting a second resolution authorizing military action in case the inspectors report that Iraq is not cooperating fully, and could present a draft as early as next week, diplomats say. That makes the timing of Annan’s briefing on what will happen “the morning after,” as he put it, all the more significant.

“I think he has the feeling the situation has become dangerous,” said Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Douri. “As the United Nations, they have to prepare themselves.”

U.N. planners have been examining the possibilities that as many as 500,000 people could be injured or traumatized by a war in Iraq and that more than 2 million refugees could need care. Epidemics of cholera and dysentery are regarded as likely. Roads, bridges, ports and railroads could also be ruined, making it extremely difficult to deliver relief supplies.

Douri hand-delivered a letter from his government to Blix’s office Monday, accepting the use of U.S.-made U-2 spy planes, French Mirages and Russian Antonovs for aerial monitoring. The letter reversed an earlier stand by the Iraqi government that it could not guarantee the safety of U.N. pilots if they flew in “no-fly” zones patrolled by British and U.S. aircraft. “The letter has no instructions, no conditions at all,” Douri said.

The ambassador said that in a meeting with inspectors over the weekend, Iraqi authorities handed over 24 more documents dealing with the destruction of deadly VX toxins and anthrax, and 18 empty chemical warheads that inspectors recently discovered.

Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, has addressed the inspectors’ three key issues by consenting to the spy planes, by pledging to pass legislation next week banning weapons of mass destruction and by encouraging more private interviews with scientists, he said. Iraqi officials also offered to allow the inspectors to drill into the ground at the sites where chemical and biological weapons were reportedly destroyed and analyze the findings.

In Baghdad, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein added a postscript to the letter, saying that British and U.S. aircraft in the “no-fly” zones should not carry out air raids on Iraq while the United Nations is conducting surveillance flights.