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Iraq promises declaration; U.S., U.N. dubious

An UNMOVIC vehicle stands at the entrance after inspectors entered the al-Sajud palace.
An UNMOVIC vehicle stands at the entrance after inspectors entered the al-Sajud palace.

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CNN's Rym Brahimi has more on U.N. weapons inspectors first unannounced visit to one of Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces (December 3)
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U.S. President George W. Bush says the U.S. will lead a coalition to disarm Iraq if necessary. CNN's Jamie McIntyre reports (December 3)
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CNN's Christiane Amanpour talks to chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix.
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(Part 2)
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(Part 3)
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SPECIAL REPORT
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Deadlines for steps Iraq must take to be in full compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441:
December 8: Iraq must provide a "currently accurate, full and complete declaration" of any weapons of mass destruction program.
On or before January 27: Inspectors must report back to the Security Council.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- An Iraqi official said Tuesday his government would give the United Nations a report on its weapons of mass destruction on Saturday -- one day ahead of the deadline set by the U.N. Security Council.

"We are going to deliver this declaration in the proper time on the seventh of this month and the people here, the UNMOVIC and IAEA, will take this declaration to New York and Vienna," Hussam Mohammed Amin, head of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate, told reporters.

But U.S. and U.N. officials cautioned against assuming that Iraq ultimately would fully comply with Security Council resolution 1441 giving it one last chance to disarm or face war.

The White House warned U.S. allies not to be overly optimistic about Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's initial cooperation with weapons inspectors ahead of the Sunday deadline set by the resolution.

"To countries around the world, I want them to understand the nature of the man who runs Iraq, the nature of a man who doesn't tell the truth, says he won't have weapons of mass destruction. He's got them," President Bush said during a campaign stop in Louisiana.

UNMOVIC is the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, whose inspectors are looking for chemical and biological weapons; IAEA is the International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna, Austria, whose inspectors are looking for nuclear weapons.

Bush has insisted Baghdad must supply a "credible and complete" list of its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons by Sunday.

But Amin declared: "We are a country devoid of weapons of mass destruction. This fact is known to all countries including the United States of America and Britain and all those concerned."

U.S. and British officials say they don't believe that claim. "Any country on the face of the Earth with an active intelligence program knows they have weapons of mass destruction," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday.

Rumsfeld said it wasn't up to the weapons inspectors to give Iraq "a clean bill of health."

"If you go back and look at the history of inspections in Iraq, the reality is, things have been found, not by discovery, but through defectors," he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Iraq's cooperation for the first six days of inspections "seems to be good, but this is not a one-week wonder. They have to sustain the cooperation and effort."

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said the Iraq declaration could be hundreds of pages and perhaps be written in Arabic. Fleischer said he expects it will take four to five days to translate, process and distribute before the administration is prepared to react to its content.

Earlier Tuesday, IAEA inspectors made a surprise visit to the opulent, sprawling al-Sujud compound in western Baghdad, the first to a presidential palace since previous inspections were cut off in 1998.

Inspections of presidential palaces were a flash point between the United Nations and Iraq following the end of the Gulf War. At the time Iraq insisted the teams give advance warning and be accompanied by an Iraqi official. (Palaces riddle)

Resolution 1441, passed unanimously November 8, calls for Iraq to provide unfettered access to all sites, including presidential palaces.

Richard Butler, former chief U.N. weapons inspector, has said his team had information Iraq had hidden illegal weapons material inside and beneath buildings at such sites.

An Iraqi presidential guard watches the inspectors inside the palace.
An Iraqi presidential guard watches the inspectors inside the palace.

"In those presidential sites, we determined there were 1,100 buildings, some of them as large as Giants or Yankee Stadium, really big warehouses," Butler said.

"We also knew that under some of the palaces as such, not just sites, there were subterranean caverns, there were storage areas below the ground. The total area of the sites were some 50 square kilometers."

Inspectors spent less than two hours Tuesday inside the palace on the banks of the Tigris River. They gave no indication afterward of having found anything. Inspectors in 1998 also reported finding nothing.

The inspections have so far apparently found no evidence of chemical or biological weapons, long-range missiles, or nuclear weapons capability.

The biggest problem known so far was that some equipment, including cameras, that inspectors said they marked in 1998 and is now missing at one site. Iraq said some of it was destroyed in a bombing and some was moved to other facilities. (Full story)

CNN also learned Iraqi officials told U.N. inspectors they tried to buy aluminum tubes about six times to use in building conventional rockets -- a violation of the U.N. sanctions regime. (Full story)

Turkey announced Tuesday it would allow U.S. forces to use its air bases and facilities if there is military action against Iraq. (Full story)

But Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis said Turkey, a NATO member, would prefer a peaceful solution to the Iraq situation.

In a separate incident, an Iraqi vessel fired on a Kuwaiti coast guard patrol near the northern Kuwaiti Island of Warba, the Interior Ministry said. There were no reports of injuries. (Full story)

CNN Correspondent Nic Robertson contributed to this report.



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