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Saturday, 17 August, 2002, 07:51 GMT 08:51 UK
Bush holds firm on Iraq
A facility closed by inspectors in 1996
UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998
US President George W Bush has responded to mounting domestic and international criticism of his policy towards Iraq.

He said he had been listening to those who warned against military action to replace the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein.

George W Bush
Bush: "I'll be making up my mind based on the latest intelligence"
And he characterised dissent within his own Republican party as healthy debate.

His comments came as the Iraqi Government sent another letter to the United Nations, urging further technical discussions on any future weapons inspection mission.

But the text appears to fall short of UN demands for an unconditional invitation to weapons inspectors to resume their work.

Mr Bush, who is on holiday in Texas, said: "We'll continue to consult. People should be allowed to express their opinion.

"But America needs to know I'll be making up my mind based on the latest intelligence and how best to protect our own country plus our friends and allies."

Brent Scowcroft, a former US national security adviser and retired general, has warned that an attack on Iraq could jeopardise or destroy the American-led war on terror.

Right-wing Congressman Dick Armey has spoken out against the Iraq policy, as has the senior Democratic senator, Carl Levin.

Iraqi letter

The Iraqi letter - from Foreign Minister Naji Sabri to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan - reportedly requests more technical discussions on the aims and scope of any future UN weapons inspection mission before agreeing to its return.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
Annan rejected an earlier overture
This proposal is similar to a previous Iraqi overture.

Iraq's earlier offer was rejected by the UN, with Mr Annan insisting in a letter to Mr Sabri that the UN wanted nothing short of a formal invitation for the return of weapons inspectors.

Mr Annan's letter outlined steps Iraq should take to comply with a 1999 Security Council resolution calling for the return of inspectors.

The BBC's Greg Barrow, at the UN in New York, reports that diplomats are saying that the Iraqi strategy is to string out negotiations with the UN with the aim of staving off US military intervention.

But he adds that unless Baghdad comes up with new ideas, that tactic may not work.

The US has been demanding that Baghdad agree to new inspections without further discussion to demonstrate that it is not developing weapons of mass destruction.

UN inspectors have not been allowed back into Iraq since leaving in 1998 - seven years after they went into the country.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
UN weapons inspection chief Dr Hans Blix
"We would be quite pleased to have discussions with the Iraqis at any time"

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12 Aug 02 | Middle East
06 Aug 02 | Middle East
06 Aug 02 | Politics
06 Aug 02 | Middle East
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