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Monday, 12 August, 2002, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Iraqi minister rejects inspectors
Facility closed by inspectors in 1996
The UN says the inspectors' work is not finished
A senior Iraqi official has rejected calls for United Nations weapons inspectors to return to Iraq, saying they finished their work there four years ago.

Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said it was a "lie" that Iraq still had weapons of mass destruction and that US policy towards Baghdad was "confused".


Inspections have finished in Iraq

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf
Iraqi Interior Minister
Britain and the United States have demanded unfettered access for the UN inspectors - who left in 1998 and were barred from returning - amid fears that Iraq is developing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

US President George W Bush has repeatedly said he wants a "regime change" in Iraq, and is looking at a range of options to ensure Iraq cannot use weapons of mass destruction.

But Mr Bush, who stresses that no decision has yet been taken over Iraq, faces growing opposition at home to the prospect of military action against the country.

Conflicting signals

Mr al-Sahhaf told Arab al-Jazeera TV that the US administration was using weapons inspections as a way of aggravating the crisis.

Saddam Hussein inspects a sword he received for his 65th birthday on 10 August 2002.
Iraq's leader expressed admiration for Britain
He said that the inspections were not up for discussion as part of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's invitation to dialogue with the UN.

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".

The UK Foreign Office dismissed the offer, saying Saddam had to comply with the UN resolutions.

'He's a survivalist'

Some senior US politicians have meanwhile been voicing their concerns over the prospect of a US strike against Iraq.

Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that containment of Saddam Hussein was 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.

Senator Levin, who is familiar with the thinking of America's top generals, said it was unlikely that Saddam Hussein would strike first.

"He would not, in my judgment, initiate an attack with a weapon of mass destruction, because it would lead to his own destruction. ... He's a survivalist. He is not a suicide bomber," he told NBC television's Meet the Press.

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".


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11 Aug 02 | Middle East
08 Aug 02 | Politics
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