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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 14:01 GMT
Iraq seeks to deflect US pressure
US aircraft at Incirlik airbase, Turkey
US aircraft patrol Iraqi skies on a daily basis
Amid signs that Iraq may be the next country Washington turns its attention to in its war against terror, a senior Iraqi official has rejected charges that his country is amassing weapons of mass destruction or harbouring terrorists.

On Monday President Bush said that Iraq's President Saddam Hussein should allow in international weapons inspectors once more - or face unspecified consequences.

I think it is a part of [President Bush's] national campaign for America

Muhammad al-Douri, Iraqi ambassador
Former arms inspector Scott Ritter says the recent Anthrax cases have underlined the still unresolved matter of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, but he has urged a pragmatic approach.

The Iraqi ambassador at the United Nations, Muhammad al-Douri, told the BBC that any attack on his country would be unjustifiable, and warned that Iraq would respond.

"We don't feel that there's a real reason which pushes United States to do such an attack. If the United States [goes] in that very dangerous direction ... we will defend ourselves," he warned.


Aside from the politicians' rhetoric, Mr al-Douri said he believed that elements of the US media are pushing the government into widening the scope of its anti-terror campaign.

The lack of weapons inspectors in Iraq has fuelled speculation over what has transpired since UN weapons inspectors were pulled out in 1998

Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector

The ambassador said Baghdad linked any further weapons inspections to the lifting of UN sanctions against Iraq.

"Our position is very clear. We would like the Security Council [to] implement their own obligations vis--vis Iraq within the Security Council resolution," he said.

When asked whether Iraq was producing weapons of mass destruction, Mr al-Douri replied: "Absolutely not - Britain and the United States know better than anyone that there is no such production."

He added: "I think it is a part of [President Bush's] national campaign for America, but certainly he knows very well that this is not the opinion of others - even members of the Security Council."

The ambassador also strongly rejected the suggestion that members of Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, which the US holds responsible for the 11 September attacks, might find sanctuary in Iraq if they were driven out of Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda condemned

Mr al-Douri said that because al-Qaeda is thought to include former mujahideen guerrillas who received training from the US during the 1979-89 war, before 11 September it considered the organisation pro-American.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Colin Powell favours a pragmatic approach

"Americans know very well that we are not, from the beginning, on good terms with those which we consider pro-Americans," he told the BBC.

"So we are certainly not on good terms with them and certainly we will not have relations in any way with them for the future," he stressed.

"They are not our friends at all, and you know they are Wahhabis [Saudi Arabian Islamic sect] We have very tough position - even before 11 September - vis-a-vis those people," he added.

See also:

29 Nov 01 | Middle East
Mid-East warns US on Iraq
26 Nov 01 | Americas
Bush warns Iraq over UN inspectors
07 Nov 01 | Middle East
Iraq 'smart sanctions' postponed
03 Jul 01 | Middle East
Iraq escapes 'smart sanctions'
26 Jun 01 | Middle East
Russia resists new Iraq sanctions
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