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 Monday, 23 December, 2002, 05:10 GMT
Washington rebuffs Iraq's CIA offer
Arms inspectors visit the al-Battani space research centre on Sunday
UN experts dropped in on Iraqi facilities every day
The United States administration has dismissed as a stunt Iraq's offer to admit CIA agents to assist United Nations arms inspectors.

We are now entering a final phase in how we compel Saddam Hussein to disarm

White House official
A White House official said the burden of proof rested with President Saddam Hussein to show that he was not developing weapons of mass destruction.

On Sunday, Iraq said it was ready to answer any questions raised by the US and UK governments on its weapons declaration to the UN.

An adviser to the Iraqi leader, General Amir al-Saadi, said all available information had been provided. He invited CIA personnel to direct arms inspectors to any suspect sites.

But the White House official rejected the offer, saying Baghdad appeared "not to have made the strategic choice" to renounce weapons of mass destruction.

Presidential adviser Amir al-Saadi
We do not even have any objections if the CIA sent somebody with the inspectors

General al-Saadi
"While we have not given up on disarming Iraq through the United Nations, we are now entering a final phase in how we compel Saddam Hussein to disarm," the official told Reuters news agency.

The BBC's Ian Pannell in Washington says the administration is reluctant to engage in any form of direct dialogue with the Iraqis, preferring to put pressure on the UN process.

Although officially a diplomatic solution is still possible, in practice it is increasingly distant, our correspondent adds.

War preparations

Iraq insists it has nothing to hide.

"After 24 days of inspections covering practically all the sites [...] the lies and baseless allegations have been uncovered," General al-Saadi said.

IRAQI MATERIAL UNACCOUNTED FOR
Chemical warfare bombs waiting to be destroyed
Nearly four tons of VX nerve agents
Growth media for 20,000 litres of biological warfare agents
15,000 shells for use in biological warfare
6,000 chemical warfare bombs
Nuclear information
He said Washington and London had convinced the "IAEA [the International Atomic Energy Agency] and the whole world to believe they have iron-clad evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and promised to provide the evidence".

Referring to UK and US allegations that the Iraqi declaration omitted to account for banned materials, General al-Saadi described them as "a hodgepodge of half-truths, naive short-sighted allegations and lies", and "rehashed allegations" from the time of Unscom - the previous UN monitoring mission.

On Sunday, UN weapons inspectors in Iraq continued their search for prohibited weapons programmes.

They visited six sites, including the al-Battani company - a space research centre near Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the US is continuing its massive military build-up in the region in anticipation of a possible strike against Iraq.

UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix is due to present a full report on the work of his teams to the UN by 27 January.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Ian Pannell in Washington
"The White House says the invitation is a gimmick"
  General Amir al-Saadi, advisor to Saddam Hussein
"The lies and allegations have been uncovered"
  Former Iraqi chief nuclear engineer Khidir Hamza
"The CIA would be more or less another inspector"

Key stories

Analysis

CLICKABLE GUIDE

BBC WORLD SERVICE

AUDIO VIDEO

TALKING POINT
 VOTE RESULTS
Iraq: Is war inevitable?

Yes
 58.14% 

No
 41.86% 

74035 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

22 Dec 02 | Middle East
21 Dec 02 | Americas
21 Dec 02 | Africa
20 Dec 02 | Middle East
22 Dec 02 | Middle East
20 Dec 02 | Politics
19 Dec 02 | Americas
19 Dec 02 | Middle East
21 Dec 02 | Middle East
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