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 Thursday, 2 January, 2003, 17:25 GMT
Iraq accuses US of 'imperialist plot'
A UN inspector leaves the Al Fath company site, west of Baghdad
Iraq says the UN has visited 230 sites and found nothing
Iraq has accused the United States of preparing to invade its territory to seize control of oil resources.

Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said the US was ramping up invasion plans even though Baghdad had co-operated with United Nations' demands.

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz
[The US has] an imperialist design... to invade Iraq

Tariq Aziz
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister
The US is sending another 15,000 troops to the region as it prepares for possible conflict with Iraq if Saddam Hussein does not comply with UN resolutions ordering disarmament.

Iraq complains that UN inspectors are "intrusive" but says it has not obstructed them. Baghdad claims they can find no banned weapons of mass destruction because they do not exist.

Inspectors have now visited 230 sites since returning to Iraq in late November, according to General Hossam Mohammad Amin, the chief Iraqi liaison officer.

He said they had gone beyond their mandate by checking commercial activity, not just suspected weapons production.

But still nothing untoward had been discovered, General Amin said.

War 'for oil'

Mr Aziz said the US was planning to invade regardless of what the inspectors did or did not find.

He said Washington wanted to control the region's oil supplies.

"They didn't say 'let us wait for a while for the result of the inspection and then let's decide what to do'," Mr Aziz told European activists, who are in Baghdad to show their opposition to war on Iraq.

"When they continue their preparations for the war of aggression, what does that mean? It doesn't mean that they are genuinely afraid of an imaginary Iraqi threat. It means that they have an imperialist design," he said in English.

"That design is to invade Iraq, to occupy Iraq and use the national resources of Iraq for the purposes of... the American capitalist regime," he said.

A fighter jet comes in to land, watched by crew on the USS Constellation
The US is sending more troops and equipment to the Gulf region
"When America becomes stronger economically, when America takes over the whole oil of the region and puts it in its hands, it is going to pressure politically and economically every country that needs oil."

At a news conference on the inspections, General Amin called on the world to help Iraq resist aggression from the US.

He criticised the teams for starting plans for a new regional headquarters during the New Year holiday.

Inspectors are preparing to use helicopters to widen the scope of their search for nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programmes.

The chief inspector, Hans Blix, is to make a progress report to the United Nations on 27 January.

He will return to Baghdad before then to assess the situation, General Amin said.

Troop build-up

The desert specialists of the US Third Infantry who have now been ordered to the region will be reinforcements for about 60,000 troops already there.

It will be the first deployment of a full combat division as part of the build-up.

Tens of thousands more US troops are also preparing to be stationed near Iraq.

US Air Force units including B-1 bombers and F-15 strike aircraft are also being told to get ready to deploy.

The BBC's Pentagon correspondent, Nick Childs, says that while the Bush administration is insisting that war is not a foregone conclusion, it is raising the military stakes.

  The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"Inspectors are now planning to widen the scope of their searches"
  General Hussam Mohammad Amin
"All inspections prove that the Iraqi declarations are credible"

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