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Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 12:40 GMT
Iraq disputes weapons report
Iraqis demonstrate in Baghdad in support of Saddam Hussein
Publicly, Iraqis say the country can withstand an attack

Iraq has insisted it is co-operating with weapons inspections, a day after inspectors delivered their report to the United Nations Security Council.

It said it was ready to step up the co-operation further to prove its case that it had no weapons of mass destruction.

But in the face of a questioning Hans Blix and a disbelieving US and UK, the gulf to be bridged seems as wide as ever.

Iraqi child holds lantern as his family shops for emergency provisions
Many Iraqis are stocking up on supplies
The chief UN weapons inspector told the Security Council that after two months of inspections there were still many questions about chemical and biological weapons which remained unanswered.

There were, for example, indications that Iraq had "weaponised" the lethal nerve agent VX despite its denials, and it appeared there were 6,500 chemical bombs unaccounted for.

But Iraq has insisted that in the 1990s it carried out a comprehensive disarmament of its weapons of mass destruction under UN supervision and that it has presented Hans Blix's agency with a full declaration to this effect.

Main stumbling blocks

Iraq says the problem is that it is being pressed to "prove a negative".

In public reactions to the Blix report, Iraq has accepted that it does still have significant differences with the inspection agency over two key issues:

  • The UN's wish to conduct private interviews with Iraqi scientists and officials who may be able to shed light on whether Iraq has really given up its weapons of mass destruction capacity.

  • The UN's plan to carry out U2 surveillance flights alongside the inspections on the ground.

To President Saddam Hussein's staunchest critics, the failure to resolve these issues is symptomatic of Iraq's approach to co-operating with the whole inspections process.

In other words, it deepens their suspicions that Iraq does have proscribed weapons - or is developing them.

Iraq says it is on the receiving end of a campaign of "lies" and psychological warfare by the American and British governments.

Nation prepares

In the midst of all this, the Iraqi people try to carry on with their lives as best they can. If they have doubts about their government's attitude towards the weapons inspections or its claims that the country has no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programmes, they would almost certainly keep them to themselves anyway.

Iraqi soldier salutes as UN vehicle drives past
Iraq says it has co-operated with inspections
Talk to people openly in the streets and they will invariably say the future is in God's hands. Some suggest that Iraq is strong enough to withstand a US-led attack.

It is hard to tell whether they really believe it.

Many are stocking up on extra rations, digging new wells and taking other steps in the event of a war they probably still believe to be inevitable.

Tuesday's newspapers in Iraq, perhaps unsurprisingly, do not give splash treatment to Hans Blix's challenging report. That goes to the Iraqi leader's comments at a meeting with senior army commanders.

One paper quotes this exhortation as its main headline: "O God, destroy those who try to destroy Iraq".

And there is a cartoon that probably encapsulates the official view here as effectively as anything else. It shows a weapons inspector in a noose held by US President George Bush.

The UN, symbolised by a globe, looks on in alarm.


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27 Jan 03 | Americas
27 Jan 03 | Middle East
27 Jan 03 | Middle East
26 Jan 03 | Americas
24 Jan 03 | Middle East
19 Nov 02 | Middle East
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