Iraq's new government has asked U.N. weapons inspectors to return to the country, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Tuesday.

"The return of U.N. inspectors to Iraq is an urgent necessity; not to search for weapons of mass destruction but to write the final report about the nonexistence of [such] weapons ... in Iraq, which will enable the lifting of sanctions," Mohamed ElBaradei (search), director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (search), told reporters in Cairo.

He said the invitation was issued by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari (search).

The inspectors will be sent in the next few days, ElBaradei said.

U.N. inspectors left Iraq just before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, and the United States refused to allow them to return, instead deploying its own teams to search for weapons of mass destruction.

ElBaradei said the coalition inspectors did not have a mandate to prove or disprove Iraq had banned weapons.

"The sole mandated authority is the IAEA and the international inspectors will continue the mission they started before the invasion," he said, adding that its mandate does not end until the final report is submitted. Once the report is complete, sanctions imposed on Iraq can lifted.