After two days of talks that had raised hopes Iraq might relent, the United Nations said Friday it had failed to convince Baghdad to allow the return of U.N. weapons inspectors.

Diplomats agreed, however, to continue talks in Europe in the coming months.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the Iraqis needed to consult with officials in Baghdad and no date was set for the next round.

"There has been some movement, but obviously not enough," Annan said Friday.

Annan and Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri spoke privately before the announcement, but were unable to agree on any face-saving measures.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jo-Anne Prokopowicz said the administration was not surprised the talks failed, claiming Iraqi statements in advance of the meetings foreshadowed the outcome.

"Iraqi representatives continue to raise issues aimed at preventing and delaying a focus on its core obligations," she said. "We see no basis or need for prolonged discussions of Iraq's obligations."

Diplomats earlier had expressed concerns about continuing the talks indefinitely, saying Iraq could be stalling in the face of American threats to attack and topple leader Saddam Hussein.

The unsuccessful session came after U.N. and Iraqi technical experts discussed the details of the return of inspectors should there have been an agreement.

Sabri said the talks would continue on a technical basis and called the two days of negotiations "constructive."

"We agreed to continue contact on technical matters," he said. "There are a lot of issues involved."

Sabri, meanwhile, dismissed an article in Friday's New York Times which said the Bush Administration had drawn up plans for an attack.

"This was not a factor in our discussions," Sabri said. "We heard a lot of rubbish about these plans. These are wishes entertained by old colonialists and evil people."

Before allowing inspectors to return, Iraq has demanded the United Nations lift sanctions imposed on it for invading Kuwait and prompting the Gulf War.

Under Security Council resolutions, sanctions can be lifted only when inspectors certify that Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons have been destroyed, along with the missiles that could deliver them. Inspectors left in 1998 just before allied airstrikes to punish Iraq for having blocked the inspectors' work.

Iraq did agree, however, to return Kuwait's national archives, which were looted during the Gulf War.