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Thursday, 6 February, 2003, 19:34 GMT
Iraq scorns US arms charges
UN weapons inspectors search site in Iraq
Blix said prompt access to sites is not enough
Baghdad has rejected outright an extensive US dossier on its alleged banned weapons programme designed to persuade the world of the case against Iraq.

Our mission in Baghdad this weekend is crucial - we hope we will secure 100% co-operation

Mohamed ElBaradei
General Amer al-Saadi ridiculed the alleged evidence presented by US Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN Security Council, saying it was designed for an "uninformed" audience.

The presidential adviser accused Mr Powell of quoting out of context concerns raised by the UN chief weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, whom he also said were being undermined by the US.

However General al-Saadi also announced that an Iraqi scientist was being interviewed by the UN - one of the weapons inspectors' main demands.

Open in new window : Powell's report
View the photographic evidence

Shortly before al-Saadi spoke, both Mr Blix and Mr ElBaradei warned Iraq that it must drastically improve its co-operation with the weapons inspectors if it wants to avoid a negative portrayal in a crucial report to be delivered next Friday.

While Mr Powell's allegations do not appear to have swayed the sceptics, it is thought that a negative report could do much to win the US backing for its tough stance against Iraq.

In other developments

  • Iraq's neighbour Turkey votes to allow US personnel to modify its air bases and ports
  • Nato postpones a decision on a US request for support in any war against Iraq
  • Britain sends a further 8,000 personnel to the Gulf in preparation for war

General al-Saadi said Baghdad was sending a point-by-point rebuttal of Mr Powell's dossier to the United Nations.

The intercepts
Remove the expression 'nerve agents' from wireless instructions

Iraqi officer as quoted in US translation of intercepts

However he took issue with several pieces of alleged evidence presented by Mr Powell - in particular those seen as among the most impressive - the satellite pictures of alleged weapons facilities recently cleared.

"As if - if they contained chemical weapons - they could be so easily sanitised. And no evidence of materials that could be used to sanitise. It is ludicrous," he said.

Baghdad also denied any ties with the al-Qaeda terrorist network of Osama Bin Laden, a charge levelled by the US but widely viewed with scepticism.

He also said he was heartened that "so many people around the world" agreed Mr Powell's performance was a charade.

Current Security Council
UN Security Council
For military action: US*, UK*, Spain and Bulgaria
Sceptics or opposed: France*, Russia*, China*, Germany and Syria
In doubt: Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan
Nine votes and no veto required to pass a resolution

*veto-wielding countries

"The purpose of this show in the Security Council was mainly for home consumption for the uniformed, while at the same time undermining the competence of the IAEA and Unmovic in reaching a satisfactory conclusion," he said in reference to the nuclear and biological weapons teams searching the country.

However the heads of those agencies, Mr Blix of Unmovic and Mr ElBaradei of the IAEA, told Iraq on Thursday that time is running out for them to "drastically" improve their co-operation.

"We hope that at this late hour they will come to a positive response. If they do not do that, then our reports next Friday will not be what they should be," said Mr Blix.

Mr Blix stressed that Baghdad had provided inspections teams with prompt access to the sites they wished to visit.

But he made several demands:

  • that Iraq allow U-2 spy planes to fly over the country
  • present evidence that prohibited items have been destroyed
  • that inspectors be allowed to interview Iraqi scientists privately

In what could be a significant development, General al-Saadi said during the news conference that an Iraqi scientist had just sat down for an interview without government monitors present.

This has been a major sticking point, with Baghdad previously maintaining that it was not able to force scientists to consent to private interviews.

A UN spokesman in Baghdad, Hiro Ueki, was quoted as saying that a private interview had been requested , but he gave no further details.

Nato, meanwhile, failed on Thursday to reach a final agreement on a US request lodged last month for help in any war against Iraq, postponing the decision until next week.

However, Nato member Turkey - which borders Iraq - has agreed to allow the US to upgrade bases which could be used to strike their neighbour.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Istanbul says the parliamentary vote was the first in a series expected to culminate in the house giving the US permission to use Turkish territory and air bases, and, as such, is Turkey's first step towards war.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
General Amer al-Saadi, Iraqi Presidential adviser
"We will send an official rebuttal to the UN"
The BBC's Kim Ghattas
"Willing to be interviewed in private"
US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Full statement on Iraq point by point
 VOTE RESULTS
Are you convinced by Powell's evidence?

Yes
 39.71% 

No
 60.29% 

21801 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


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06 Feb 03 | Middle East
06 Feb 03 | Middle East
06 Feb 03 | Middle East
05 Feb 03 | Americas
04 Feb 03 | Middle East
05 Feb 03 | Middle East
06 Feb 03 | Europe
06 Feb 03 | Media reports
06 Feb 03 | Middle East
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