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Agence France-Presse, PTI
Brussels, November 21, 2002
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Monday it was "absolutely certain" that Iraq would be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction, as a team of UN inspectors headed by Hans Blix arrived in Baghdad. "The ball is in Saddam Hussein's court," Straw told reporters at a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels.

"It's up to him now whether he is disarmed peacefully or by other means, but one thing I'm absolutely certain of: Saddam Hussein will be disarmed of his weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Nobody could trust the Iraqi leader, Straw added.

"What, however, we do recognise is that he has a degree of common sense, an instinct for survival, and he knows what the situation is and what the consequences will be of his failure to comply."

Straw said unanimous support in the UN Security Council for a resolution demanding Saddam disarm had paid off, backed by "the credible threat of force" issued by US President George W. Bush and Britain.

"This is the only reason we've got this far," the foreign minister said.

The advance group of UN inspectors led by Blix, who heads the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, was to lay the groundwork for the resumption of full inspections set for November 27.

The inspectors have a mandate from the UN Security Council to find the biological, chemical and nuclear weapons which Saddam's regime is suspected by the United States of developing.

If Iraq does not cooperate, it will face "severe consequences", expected to be military action led by the United States, which has pushed the Security Council to act against Saddam.