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In Iraq: February 22

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The Secretary General expressed optimism as he left for his meeting with Saddam Hussein on Sunday. The framework of an agreement was done, but one substantive issue remained, and it was described as a possible "deal breaker."

The issue was a time limit for inspecting the eight disputed presidential sites. Annan and the Security Council demanded unlimited free access, while Saddam reportedly wanted a 60-day deadline. At the end of his three-hour meeting with Saddam, Annan sent word that they were on the verge of a breakthrough, but it was not until his evening meeting with the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister that the deal was finalized.

"We think this agreement faithfully fulfills the two criteria we set for ourselves at the beginning," said Fred Eckhard, spokesman for Annan, "full respect for the Security Council resolutions on Iraq and preserving the integrity of the UNSCOM inspection process."

"We hope that this agreement tonight will be the next step by Iraq towards full implementation, and once that's done, once the disarmament is completed and verified, then the sanctions can be lifted," Eckhard said.

Annan briefed representatives of the permanent Security Council by phone several times Sunday. He will not announce the terms of the agreement until he has met with them in New York, but it's clear that the U.N. delegation in Baghdad expects full acceptance.

When the final wording is done, a signing ceremony is expected to take place early Monday morning.

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