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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
US rejects Iraqi inspection offer
Handout from the US Department of Defense (their arrows) showing new building at the Nasser al-Azim plant
Nasser al-Azim is identified as a possible weapons site
The US has rejected an offer by Iraq to let it inspect sites it suspects of being used to develop weapons of mass destruction.

The minister in charge of Iraq's weapons programmes, Abdul Tawab Mullah Hawaish, invited journalists and members of the Bush administration to visit two sites of concern - Furat and Nasser al-Azim.


The evil American crows have struck and destroyed the civilian radar system and damaged the terminal halls

Iraqi transport ministry official

But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said: "This is not up to Iraq, this is up to the UN."

He said the only question which remained was the terms on which UN weapons inspectors would return to Iraq, to ensure they could do an effective job.

Both sites were mentioned in the dossier British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently released on Iraq's arsenal.

Allied air raids

Earlier on Thursday, US and British aircraft attacked the international airport at Basra in southern Iraq, further damaging its radar system, Iraqi officials said.

It was the third time the airport had been hit in two weeks.

"The evil American crows have struck and destroyed the civilian radar system and damaged the terminal halls," a transport ministry spokesman told a government-run satellite television channel.

Mr Hawaish again denied that Baghdad had amassed chemical or biological agents or the material for nuclear weapons.

"I am saying here and now that we do not have weapons of mass destruction and we do not have programmes to develop them," he said.


We are peaceful people but when we fight we fight fiercely because we are defending our existence, our heritage and our future

Abdul Tawab Mullah Hawaish
Despite talks between Iraq and the UN on restarting weapons inspections, the US has said it does not want them to resume until a new resolution is passed in the Security Council.

Iraq has repeatedly said the US is not really interested in disarmament but is seeking a pretext for war.

Mr Hawaish acknowledged that rebuilding had taken place at military installations which were destroyed in the Gulf War, and in later bombing in 1998, but denied they were used for developing illegal weapons.

US warned

"We have rebuilt some of what the evil aggressors destroyed because Iraq has not vanished and we have the right to live like any other people," he said.

He warned the Americans against any military intervention.

"If the Americans commit a new stupidity, we will teach them a lesson that they will not forget.

"We are peaceful people but when we fight we fight fiercely because we are defending our existence, our heritage and our future," he said.

US and UK defence officials have in the past said that the targets at Basra are mobile air defence radar systems that lock on to allied aircraft.

Iraq air defences
The US has warned Iraqi gunners to stop trying to hit allied planes
The Pentagon said on this occasion that its planes had come under fire.

Allied jets also attacked an anti-aircraft missile battery near Tallil about 260 kilometres (160 miles) south-east of Baghdad, the Pentagon said.

Skirmishes are reported almost daily in the so called no-fly zones enforced by US and British warplanes over northern and southern Iraq.

American A-10 warplanes last week dropped 120,000 leaflets in the southern no-fly zone warning the Iraqi military to stop trying to shoot down US and British jets.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"The Iraqis say the Americans can come and see they aren't making weapons of mass destruction"

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09 Oct 02 | Middle East
09 Oct 02 | Middle East
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