U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday he was satisfied that Iraq was complying with weapons inspections and expressed hope the new cooperation will speed up the task.

Annan met with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz for about 30 minutes to discuss developments since a Feb. 23 accord under which Iraq agreed to open all sites to weapons inspectors, including President Saddam Hussein's palaces."I am satisfied that things have much improved and Iraq has lived up to its obligations under the memorandum," Annan said.

The secretary-general met with French President Jacques Chirac just before his talks with Aziz.

France, a past ally of Baghdad, is pressing for an end to U.N. sanctions imposed against Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which led to the Persian Gulf War. The sanctions cannot be lifted until the U.N. weapons inspection team certifies that Iraq has eliminated its long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction, as required by U.N. resolutions ending the war.

Annan urged the Iraqis to continue cooperating with the U.N. weapons inspectors.