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Iraq Won't Head Disarmament Agency

February 15, 2003|From Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — Iraq has decided not to take its turn in the rotating presidency of the world's top disarmament forum, a prospect that had prompted strong U.S. opposition, the United Nations said Friday.

Iraq was to take over the monthlong chairmanship of the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament on March 17.

But Baghdad's U.N. mission informed Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday that "the Iraqi government had sent a letter to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva saying they would not be assuming the rotating presidency of the conference," a statement from the U.N. spokesman said.

The presidency of the conference rotates in alphabetical order. India is the current president, to be followed by Indonesia. Iran also has given up its turn to chair the body; Ireland follows Iraq on the list.

The prospect of Iraq's chairing the conference, at a time when Baghdad could face U.S.-led military action for failing to prove that it has eliminated banned weapons, prompted strong protests by the Bush administration.

The 66-nation Conference on Disarmament was established in 1979, taking over from other Geneva-based negotiating bodies. It has negotiated major arms control and disarmament agreements, including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the nuclear test ban treaty. It also steered talks on the Biological Weapons Convention.

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