VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 17, 2002 ( John Paul II described Iraq's willingness to cooperate with the international community as "good news," and renewed his appeal to avoid war and its potential fallout in the Mideast.

Addressing more than 7,000 pilgrims during today's general audience, the Pope that in "recent days, following the winds of war that threatened to disturb all the Middle East region, the good news has arrived of the possibility of a renewal of Iraq's collaboration with the international community."

The Holy Father exhorted believers "to continue in prayer so that the Lord will enlighten leaders of nations, to be open and to support signs of good will, and lead humanity, already afflicted by so many evils, toward coexistence free from war and the outrage of violence."

The Iraqi government agreed to meet with the United Nations in Austria within the next 10 days in order to finalize practical arrangements and allow the immediate return of international disarmament inspectors.

Said Hassan, an official of the Iraqi Foreign Affairs Ministry, explained that this decision was the principal conclusion of the meeting held with Swede Hans Blix, head of the U.N. arms inspection teams.

The meeting took place at the U.N. headquarters. It was the first between both sides, after Saddam Hussein's regime on Monday announced its willingness to readmit the inspectors unconditionally.