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Iraq Says It Welcomes Inspections

Baghdad will be cleared of weapons accusations, official says. U.N. team prepares for work.

November 17, 2002|From Reuters

BAGHDAD — Iraq said Saturday that U.N. inspections would disprove accusations that it possessed weapons of mass destruction, and the chief inspector charged with the search vowed he would not tolerate spies on his team.

Deputy Prime Minister Tarik Aziz said that Baghdad welcomed chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and that the results of the inspections would expose as lies the U.S. charges that Iraq maintained weapons of mass destruction.

"The Americans are worried because the truth is going to be exposed and their lies are going to be exposed," Aziz said in one of the first personal statements since President Saddam Hussein agreed Wednesday to new inspections.

Aziz's remarks echoed an earlier message from Hussein to the parliament saying U.N. inspections would prove Iraq was devoid of weapons of mass destruction and allow it to work on ending the 12-year-old U.N. sanctions crippling the country.

Blix and Mohammed Baradei, director of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, are scheduled to arrive in Baghdad on Monday to begin the investigation, with inspections set to start Nov. 27.

Blix said Saturday that he could not rule out the possibility that there might be spies on his team. He added that any intelligence agents would be ordered off the group.

In Paris on his way to Cyprus and Baghdad, Blix said it was important that the team avoid the charges of bias that undermined the work of the last inspectors, who worked in Iraq from 1992 to 1998.

Iraq has accused some previous U.N. arms inspectors of being spies for the United States.

Blix said he expected to have 100 inspectors in Iraq by the end of the year.

In Washington, President Bush had tough words for Hussein, saying he doubted that Iraq would adhere to the U.N. resolution granting inspectors unfettered access to sites across Iraq.

"America and the world are now watching Saddam Hussein closely. Any act of defiance or delay will indicate that he is taking the path of deception once again, and this time the consequences would be severe," Bush said in a radio address.

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