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U.S. Delegation Holds Talks With Iraqi Officials

September 15, 2002|From Times Wire Services

BAGHDAD — A U.S. congressman, a former senator and two other Americans held talks with Iraqi officials here Saturday, urging them to readmit U.N. weapons inspectors but also saying that it would be immoral for Washington to launch an attack without provocation.

The visit by the delegation including Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va.) and former Sen. James G. Abourezk (D-S.D.) marks the first time in years that a sitting U.S. legislator has visited Iraq, which has been under U.N. sanctions since it invaded Kuwait in 1990.

"We are on a humanitarian mission ... not only to convince the Iraqi people that the American people are concerned with their suffering, but also to show that the American people, their vast majority, are peace-waging individuals," Rahall said during a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Tarik Aziz.

"We feel very strongly that this open dialogue is much better than going to any harsh military action that will only evoke more suffering," Rahall said.

President Bush told the U.N. last week that Iraq must grant access to weapons inspectors or risk U.S. action. Iraq has barred inspectors since 1998.

Abourezk criticized moves toward an attack on Iraq and said the United States was being pushed toward war by Israel.

"If America launched an attack on somebody without any provocation and declaration of war, then it will lose its moral standards," Abourezk said. "Bush, pushed by Israel, is trying to build a case against Iraq without evidence."

Israel has accused Iraq of sponsoring terrorism by giving financial support to the families of suicide bombers and trying to smuggle weapons into Palestinian areas.

Rahall said the return of inspectors would be a step toward peace, but he declined to say whether such a move would put an end to Bush's desire to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"I cannot speak on behalf of President Bush.... I am here as an individual member of Congress who has questions," Rahall said.

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