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Sunday, 15 September, 2002, 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK
Arabs urge Iraq to end defiance
Iraqi Muslims leave Friday prayers in Baghdad
Many Iraqis are nervous about the prospects of war
Iraq is coming under increasing pressure from Arab states who are opposed to US military intervention to comply quickly with United Nations resolutions to avoid the threat of war.

We think there is a window of opportunity....we hope Iraq will take this opportunity to come through

Prince Saud Al Faisal
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal told the BBC that since Baghdad "claims that it has no weapons of mass destruction, it seems the normal thing to do is to invite the inspectors in and finish the crisis".

Resolving the issue would, he said, spare the Iraqi people "great hardships".

The Arab League made a similar appeal to Iraq after a meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the margins of the General Assembly in New York on Saturday.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has spent the past few days meeting Security Council members in search of support for a tough new resolution on Iraq.

Japanese foreign minister Yoriko Kwaguchiu meets Iraqi counterpart Naji Sabri
Iraq has also been canvassing for support
But President George W Bush repeated on Saturday that he was willing to act alone unless the UN started to "show some backbone" by confronting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher has expressed hope that the crisis could be solved without the need for a new resolution.

"We are discussing the way to overcome the present difficulties, if we do, then I suppose there won't be need for a resolution," he said, adding that Egypt detected "signs of flexibility" in Iraq's position.

'Unjustifiable aggression'

Iraq has accused the US and Britain of fabricating fears about its alleged weapons programme in order to seize Iraqi oil and "redraw the map of the region".

Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told journalists in Baghdad that the US had turned down all of Iraq's offers to check for weapons of mass destruction and was looking for a "pretext to justify an unjustifiable invasion and aggression on Iraq".

Italian Prime Minster Berlusconi with President Bush
Bush wants the UN to show "backbone"
Mr Aziz said Iraq was open to all suggestions for a solution to the arms inspection crisis but that at the moment no one had come forward with any specific plan.

If there was such a plan, he said, Iraq would consider it.

Sunday's Iraqi newspapers called President Bush a "liar, son of a liar" for his speech on Thursday outlining the threats posed by Iraq to the US General Assembly.

"He clearly expressed the arrogance of his administration and his bellicose side which the world rejects and condemns," the daily al-Thawra said.

'Growing support'

US Vice President Dick Cheney has said he sees international support building for Washington's position.

It's not going to be enough here to simply invite inspectors back in and say, 'There, the problem is solved'

Dick Cheney
"There are going to be a lot of countries that will say, 'Look, the US is serious, President Bush is serious about this, and we basically want to sign on and support that effort,'" Mr Cheney told the American TV network CNN.

He also stressed that a return of weapons inspectors to Iraq may not be enough to satisfy the US.

So far, only Britain has aligned itself with the Bush administration's policy to bring about "regime change" in Iraq.

However, the foreign ministers of both Egypt and Saudi Arabia - whose support could be crucial to Washington - indicated they would co-operate with a US-led attack on Iraq backed by the UN.

"If the United Nations takes a decision, by the Security Council, to implement a policy of the UN, every country that has signed the charter of the UN has to fulfil it," Prince Saud said, also in an interview with CNN.

The BBC's Michael Voss
"Arab countries are pressing hard for Iraq to let weapon inspectors back"
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz
"In all their inspections they didn't find a kilo of chemical weapons hidden"

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See also:

15 Sep 02 | Politics
14 Sep 02 | Middle East
13 Sep 02 | Middle East
13 Sep 02 | Politics
13 Sep 02 | Media reports
13 Sep 02 | Middle East
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