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Sunday, 20 January, 2002, 12:42 GMT
Saddam moves on diplomatic front
Amr Moussa, left, meets Saddam Hussein in Baghdad on Saturday
The two men talked for two hours
The embattled Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, appears to be proposing a new initiative to the United Nations and Arab states.


The subject is very important and I may be able to speak about it in the future

Amr Moussa
Secretary General of the Arab League
The Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, said after talks in Baghdad that the Iraqi leader had asked him to convey the initiative.

Mr Moussa declined to give details, only saying that it was "very important" and he might reveal more shortly.

Last week, US President George W Bush warned the Iraqi leader he would have to face the consequences if he did not allow UN weapons inspectors back into the country.

Iraqis burn a US flag on the anniversary of the Gulf War
Iraq shows no sign of bowing to US pressure
The inspectors, who first went to Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction after the Gulf War, left in 1998, and have not been allowed to return.

"The president has asked me to convey a certain stance and certain points within the context of the current and expected developments," Mr Moussa said after completing a two-day visit to Iraq.

"The subject is very important and I may be able to speak about it in the future."

Defiance

Saddam Hussein said last week that Baghdad was ready for war again with the US following Mr Bush's warning over the weapons inspectors.

In a speech marking the 11th anniversary of the start of the Gulf War, he said Iraqis were more confident now than they were in 1991.

UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, November, 1998
UN weapons inspectors are routinely dismissed by Iraq as "spies"
Speculation has been mounting since the 11 September terror attacks on America that Iraq could be targeted in the US-led global war on terrorism.

Washington fears Iraq, which is still subject to tough UN sanctions, could be building biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

Iraq has used poison gas in the past, against Iran and against its own Kurdish population in the 1980s.

In a flavour of the defiant mood within Saddam Hussein's regime, the Iraqi army newspaper Al-Qadissiya has ridiculed the US president's warning by linking it to his recent health scare.

"Whether [Bush spoke] before or after he fainted and fell, [his remarks] contain all the attributes of, first, hallucination and, secondly ... recognition that the United States sponsors and practices terrorism," it wrote.

The paper's Sunday edition also dismissed UN weapons inspectors as "spies, no more and no less".

See also:

18 Dec 01 | Middle East
US builds support against Iraq
10 Dec 01 | Middle East
UN chief warns against Iraq attack
22 Nov 01 | Middle East
Iraq fears US military attacks
17 Jan 02 | Middle East
Iraq defiant over US threat
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