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Monday, 12 August, 2002, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
US opposition to Iraq attack grows
An influential US senator has added his voice to growing opposition to a military strike against Iraq.
Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the US military was much more cautious about going to war with Iraq than civilian officials.
He said "containment of Saddam is working".
"It's almost certain that if we did attack Saddam that he then would use the weapons of mass destruction because he'd have nothing to lose in response to that kind of an attack," the Michigan senator said.
But Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said that it was a "lie" that Baghdad still had weapons of mass destruction and that the work of United Nations arms inspectors had finished four years ago.
The UK and United States have demanded unfettered access for the UN inspectors, amid fears that Iraq is developing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.
US President George Bush has repeatedly said he wants "regime change" in Iraq, and is looking at a range of options to ensure Iraq cannot use weapons of mass destruction.
Over the weekend, he stressed that he was still consulting with Congress and America's allies and that no decision had been made.
'He's a survivalist'
Mr Levin, who is familiar with the thinking of America's top generals, said it was unlikely that Saddam Hussein would strike first.
He is not the first senior lawmaker to speak out against attacking Iraq.
Last week, Republican Dick Armey, the majority leader in the House of Representatives, caused a stir when he broke ranks and said the Iraqi leader should be left to rant and rave on his own, warning against taking action without "proper provocation".
Iraq has made a number of gestures towards compromise in recent days, saying it is willing to discuss allowing UN weapons inspectors back into the country.
MP meets Saddam
But Mr al-Sahhaf told Arab al-Jazeera TV that the US administration was "confused" in its thinking about Iraq and was using weapons inspections as a way of aggravating the crisis.
The minister's remarks appeared to contradict a statement by a British MP, Labour member George Galloway, who met Saddam Hussein in Baghdad last Thursday.
The MP said Saddam Hussein told him he was willing to comply with the outstanding UN Security Council resolutions in Iraq, which would allow arms inspectors unfettered access, although Mr Galloway conceded the Iraqi President did not use the word "unfettered".
'This changes nothing'
The UK Foreign Office dismissed the offer.
"This changes nothing. Saddam Hussein knows clearly what he has to do and that is comply with UN Security Council resolutions. The ball is in his court," a spokesman said.
Mr Galloway said he was surprised on his visit to see Saddam Hussein praise Britain as a major influence on Iraq.
"Even at the height of our strategic relationship with the Soviet Union, Britain was the Iraqis' first choice," the MP quoted Saddam Hussein as saying.
Meanwhile, an opinion poll released on Monday showed that almost two-thirds of Britons believe an attack on Iraq would be unjustified.
According to the survey, conducted for the Daily Telegraph newspaper by YouGov, an internet-based pollster, 90% of Britons fear that Islamic fundamentalist terrorists would respond with attack on the West.
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