• Kyodo

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Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, meeting with her Iraqi counterpart, on Saturday urged Iraq to unconditionally comply with U.N. weapons inspections, a Japanese official said.

Iraq’s foreign minister, Naji Sabri, responded with complaints that Iraqi sovereignty has been violated by American and British bombings in the no-fly zones, the official said.

During the 30-minute meeting at the United Nations headquarters, Kawaguchi urged Iraq to accept U.N. weapons inspectors “immediately, unconditionally and without restrictions,” the official told reporters.

Sabri told Kawaguchi that Iraq does not necessarily oppose the acceptance of U.N. weapons inspections required under U.N. Security Council resolutions. But, he argued, the U.S. and Britain have violated U.N. resolutions on Iraq.

Sabri said the U.S. and Britain have unilaterally imposed no-fly zones in southern and northern Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf war and bombed Iraqi targets in violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.

Kawaguchi told Sabri that if Iraq abides by the U.N. resolutions, its security would be guaranteed, the official said.

Sabri insisted that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction, calling the issue “propaganda.”

The Iraqi foreign minister reportedly claimed that there is not a single piece of evidence that Iraq has such weapons and that the issue has been used as an excuse for a military attack on Iraq.

Kawaguchi replied that if Iraq’s insistence is true, Baghdad should accept U.N. inspectors and prove that it has no weapons of mass destruction, the official said.

Sabri accused the U.S. of trying to control Iraqi oil and to change the government in Iraq with the use of force. He said Iraq is not a threat but rather the victim of various threats, according to the Japanese official.

The Kawaguchi-Sabri meeting, the first ministerial meeting between the two countries in 12 years, came amid growing concerns about a pre-emptive strike by the U.S. to stop Iraq’s development of weapons of mass destruction.

In a speech before the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday, U.S. President George W. Bush said the U.S. will work with the U.N. on the Iraqi issue. At the same time, he said “action will be unavoidable” if the U.N. fails to force Iraq to accept U.N. weapons inspections.

U.N. support required

Japan needs a U.N. Security Council resolution to extend support for a possible U.S. military attack on Iraq, a senior member of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Sunday.

“If there is a U.N. resolution, I think (Japan) will be able to take considerable action,” LDP Secretary General Taku Yamasaki said on a TV program aired in the morning.

Yamasaki indicated, however, that Japan cannot do much if the U.S. strikes Iraq without a U.N. resolution. “There would not be much action Japan could take,” he said. “At least, it would not lead to the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces.”

Yamasaki also referred to a request earlier this week by U.S. President George W. Bush calling on Japan to work with the international community on a possible U.S. attack against Iraq. He said the request means that Japan should take action based on a U.N. resolution.

Bush asked for Japanese support during his summit meeting with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in New York last week.

On the possibility of enacting a new antiterrorism law resembling one that enables the SDF to provide U.S.-led forces with logistic support in the military campaign in Afghanistan, Yamasaki expressed a negative view, saying, “We will not have enough time.”

Makoto Koga, a former LDP secretary general, agreed with Yamasaki on the same program and said Japan should be cautious of supporting the U.S. if there is no U.N. resolution.

“We should not take steps suggesting (Japan) will only cooperate with the U.S. We should firmly hold to such a position,” Koga said.

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