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 Wednesday, 25 December, 2002, 09:37 GMT
Saddam braced for 'holy war'
UN weapons inspectors
Inspectors leave for another day's search
The Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, has used a Christmas message to warn the United States that Iraq is ready to fight a holy war.

In the message, read out by an announcer on Iraqi state television, the Iraqi leader said the UN weapons inspections, if conducted properly, would "expose American lies".

Iraqi scientist Sabah Abd al-Nur
Sabah Abd al-Nur: Meeting was "very friendly"

Accusing the United States of warmongering, Saddam Hussein said the Iraqi people were ready to "deter aggression" by following "the road of Jihad (holy war) and struggle".

Iraq strongly denies US claims that it is trying to develop weapons of mass destruction.

The UN inspectors have set out again for searches of at least five suspect sites in central and southern Iraq.

Saddam Hussein stressed that Iraq was co-operating with the United Nations, including the "bad" Resolution 1441, which gave the inspectors sweeping new powers.

"We are confident that the outcome of the inspections will be a great shock to the United States and will expose its lies, if things remain on a technical and professional course with no hidden agendas," he said.

Threat of war

The United States and Britain have dismissed as inadequate the Iraqi weapons declaration handed over on 7 December.

US MILITARY BUILD-UP LATEST
USS Constellation in the Gulf
1,000 US troops due in Israel for an exercise to test Patriot missile defence system
3,000 US army troops end large-scale manoeuvres in the Kuwaiti desert
USS Constellation and USS Harry Truman battle groups deployed in Gulf and the Mediterranean in mid-December

And the UN chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, has said it consists mainly of old information.

The United States has deployed 65,000 troops to the Gulf and 50,000 more are due to arrive in January. Washington has threatened to disarm Iraq by force if necessary.

The United States says the UN inspectors must be able to take Iraqi scientists and their families abroad so that they can reveal what they know without fear of retribution.

On Tuesday, the United Nations nuclear agency urged countries to guarantee the safety of Iraqi scientists and their families.

"Governments have to step forward and offer protection and even asylum to those people," said Mark Gwozdecky, spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

I informed him about what I know clearly and openly, for in fact we have nothing to hide

Iraqi scientist Sabah Abd al-Nur

The first Iraqi scientist to be formally interviewed by the UN since 1998 has been describing how the questioning went at the Baghdad University of Technology.

UN interview monitored

Professor Sabah Abd al-Nur, a nuclear expert, said an Iraqi liaison official attended the meeting at his request - despite the inspectors' authority to interview Iraqi scientists in private.

"I apologised and requested that a member of the National Monitoring Directorate be present," said Mr Nur.

IRAQI MATERIAL UNACCOUNTED FOR
US troops with Iraqi arms in 1991
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

"The meeting was very friendly. The man dealt with me professionally... He did not raise the idea of questioning outside Iraq."

The United States has not yet offered guarantees of asylum to all Iraqis the inspectors wish to question.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, accused Iraq on Tuesday of transferring weapons of mass destruction to Syria.

"There is information we are verifying. But we are certain that Iraq has recently moved chemical or biological weapons into Syria," he told Israeli television.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"He spoke of the forces of evil"

Key stories

Analysis

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 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:

24 Dec 02 | Middle East
24 Dec 02 | Media reports
22 Dec 02 | Middle East
22 Dec 02 | Middle East
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