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 Thursday, 26 December, 2002, 18:35 GMT
Iraq stockpiles food for war
An university official points at the sticker placed by the U.N. weapons inspectors during their visit to Technology University laboratory Baghdad
Inspectors visited Baghdad's Technical University
Iraq is helping its citizens stockpile food in case of a US-led attack, Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh said on Thursday.

Baghdad began giving Iraqis double rations of staple foods every other month earlier in the year, Mr Saleh said.

The activities of the inspectors have not supported... American and British allegations

Hossam Amin
Iraqi liaison officer
His announcement came as UN weapons inspectors questioned a senior Iraqi scientist about the country's research programme.

Iraq officials say that after a month of inspections, the UN has found nothing to support American and British allegations that the country has any weapons of mass destruction.

Also on Thursday, the Iraqi military said US and British warplanes carried out bombing raids in the south of the country, killing three civilians and injuring 16.

Earlier, Nato's secretary general defended the Bush administration's policy on Iraq, saying there is no question of the Americans taking unilateral military action.

Sticking with UN

Lord Robertson told the BBC's Today programme that President George W Bush had so far kept rigidly to the United Nations route to disarming Iraq.

He also warned that Nato members are morally obliged to give the US whatever help it requires if the process of weapons inspections breaks down and the UN decides to launch military action against Iraq.

The man in charge of co-ordinating Iraqi co-operation with the UN inspectors said on Thursday that inspections had demonstrated that the country was free of weapons of mass destruction.

"The activities of the inspectors have not supported, directly or indirectly, American and British allegations," General Hossam Mohammed Amin said in a briefing to mark a month of inspections.

"On the contrary, the results of the inspections reinforce and reiterate the Iraqi [weapons] declaration of 7 December," which claimed the country had no weapons of mass destruction, he said.

No break

The UN inspections are continuing without a break over the Christmas period.

Sailor hoses down jet aboard 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
Weapons inspectors interviewed an Iraqi scientist at Baghdad's Technology University on Thursday.

They questioned the dean of the university about his staff and their research programmes.

The 100-minute meeting marked the second time UN officials have spoken to an Iraqi scientist in their five weeks of inspections.

They inspected three more sites on Thursday, bringing their total number of inspections to more than 170.

They are next due to report on 9 January, with a final report due on 27 January. Some analysts suggest that report could be the trigger for an attack.

Aid concern

Relief agencies have begun preparations for war in Iraq, fearing that military action will only aggravate the suffering of ordinary Iraqis.

Iraqi child in hospital with her mother
Sanctions have already hurt Iraq's health system
One, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (Cafod), estimates that a US-led attack could result in between 10,000 and 100,000 civilian deaths, including deaths from disease and population displacement.

A spokesman for Save the Children UK said one major concern was the effect of war on infrastructure such as electricity, water, sewerage and hospitals - facilities already exhausted by a decade of tough UN trade sanctions.

Speaking by satellite phone from northern Iraq, Brendan Paddy told Reuters that it was all too easy to overlook the humanitarian fallout of any war.

"The important thing is that people do not lightly dismiss the likely humanitarian consequences of any military action on a society where people are so vulnerable.

"For the people I've been speaking to, there's a slightly different concern and that's that people not forget that they are more than just pawns in some larger game."

  The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"Iraq again insisting that the inspectors will find nothing"
  Nato's secretary-general Lord Robertson
"Nato matters more now than it has for many years"
  The BBC's Rebecca Couper
"The UN weapon inspectors have vistited seven sights in the last 24 hours"

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26 Dec 02 | South Asia
25 Dec 02 | Europe
25 Dec 02 | Middle East
24 Dec 02 | Middle East
22 Dec 02 | Middle East
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