In another development, the Security Council decided Friday night to hold an open debate on Iraq on Wednesday, as had been requested Thursday by the Non-Aligned Movement.
The two-page letter from Iraq, a copy of which was obtained by United Press International, was from Gen. Amir Al-Saadi, an adviser to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who took part in the talks. It was written to Hans Blix, executive director of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission on Iraq, and Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who had met with him.
The letter came as the permanent five members of the council, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, negotiated over a new Iraq resolution. London and Washington pressed for a strong measure authorizing force while China, France and Russia were reluctant to grant the right to military action in a single resolution, pushing instead for the French two-measure approach, where a second resolution would be needed if inspections failed and before force could be used against Baghdad.
While the Al-Saadi letter acknowledged the Blix-ElBaradei Oct. 8 letter and confirmed "our full readiness to receiving the advance team" of inspectors Oct. 19, it did not mention any of the agreements reached in the talks as had been detailed in the U.N. letter.
However, Al-Saadi said he did agree with a joint statement issued to the media at the end of the Vienna discussions at a news conference and to the contents of a briefing to a closed-door session of the Security Council Oct. 3 by Blix and ElBaradei.
In the Oct. 8 letter, Blix and ElBaradei spelled out to Al-Saadi what their understandings from the Vienna talks were and concluded: "We would appreciate your confirmation of the above as a correct reflection of our talks in Vienna."
But, in addition to ignoring the request for confirmation, Al-Saadi raised the possibility of more talks.
"I suppose you share our view that some of the difficulties which may confront our work in the future with respect to the practical arrangements could be resolved through consultations," Al-Saadi said.
"This doesn't even address the letter of Oct. 8, just the press statement," said an official at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. "He's simply making a statement."
The official said the letter Al-Saadi sent "means more delay and deception, more drawing it out."
He said it was "not a serious response."
Said a diplomat from one elected member-country of the council, who requested anonymity, when shown the letter by UPI: "I would have been shocked if they said anything other than this."
"I think it's an interim letter," he said. "We all know there may be another resolution and if there is one, it may impose additional conditions ... on practical arrangements."
Said the diplomat: "This doesn't really reply to the letter" of Oct. 8.
The Oct. 8 U.N. letter was a litany of accords reached on specific logistical, communication and protocol questions ranging from visas to rehabilitating old monitoring sites.
It also broached the early 1998 Memorandum of Understanding negotiated between Saddam and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Baghdad requiring strict rules of advance warnings of presidential site inspections and that perhaps those inspections also would be without condition. But Al-Saadi ignored that aspect and referred only to resuming inspections under the resolutions already in place.
In December 1998 inspectors were withdrawn on the eve of an allied (Britain and the United States) bombing that was punishment for the lack of cooperation by Iraq in the inspection program. Baghdad never let them back in.
Only after U.S. President George W. Bush's Sept. 12 General Assembly speech threatening U.S. action did Iraq say it would accept inspectors.
Sanctions were imposed on Baghdad after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which led to the 1991 Gulf War. For those sanctions to be lifted, inspectors must verify Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction.