All five members of the U.N. Security Council _ including Russia _ are in accord that the multinational inspection teams will return to Iraq unconditionally, spokeswoman Anne Luzzatto said.
President Clinton was notified of Saddam's decision at 10 p.m. Wednesday night by Sandy Berger, his national security assistant.
"Generally speaking," Luzzatto said, "we view this as an encouraging development, but one that ultimately must be tested by what Saddam Hussein does. We have to see how it unfolds."
The U.N. Special Commission, which oversees the search in Iraq for illicit biological, chemical and other weapons material, is to meet Friday on procedures for monitoring Iraq.
Its recommendations are subject to unanimous approval by the Security Council.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in Geneva, Switzerland, where she met with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primkaov, that the agreement involved no U.S. or U.N. concessions. The Iraqis "are prepared to have the inspectors return unconditionally," she said.
Albright's spokesman, James P. Rubin, said the secretary views the Iraqi announcement as a "step in the right direction."
"But proof of whether our objectives have been met is whether the teams go back to Iraq and are allowed to perform their work unconditionally," he said.
Reports from Baghdad indicated Russia may have promised Iraq that some sites would be off-limits to U.N. inspectors and that Russia would work for a lifting of U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq.
An administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States would not be bound "by any side arrangement" between Russia and Iraq. "Our position on the U.N. inspections is unchanged," the official told The Associated Press.
A U.S. official traveling with Albright acknowledged the administration has "deep concerns" about whether the Iraqis have been able to take advantage of the three-week absence of the inspectors.
According to some experts, the delay could have permitted Iraq to produce weapons-grade anthrax _ a process said to take just a matter of days.