Japan welcomes the planned visit by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to Baghdad on Friday to seek a diplomatic solution to the confrontation over Iraq’s refusal to allow the U.N. to inspect its suspected weapons sites, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kanezo Muraoka said Wednesday.

Muraoka told a regular news conference that Japan hopes Iraq will decide immediately after discussions with Annan to allow the U.N. to inspect the sites where weapons of mass destruction are allegedly being kept. Annan has won endorsement from member countries of the U.N. Security Council for his mission to the Iraqi capital to negotiate an end to the crisis.

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