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Iraq welcomes 'American intelligence' to weapons hunt

Denies 'material omissions' in declaration

Gen. Amir Al-Saadi
Gen. Amir Al-Saadi

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Iraq is challenging the U.S. and Britain to prove that Iraq is hiding weapons
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's top government scientist Sunday said his country would welcome "someone from American intelligence" to show U.N. weapons inspectors where President Bush believes Iraq is hiding its weapons programs.

Gen. Amir Al-Saadi said U.S. and British claims that Iraq is hiding nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programs are "old rehashed reports," some from as far back as 1990, that Iraq has already disproved.

"After 24 days of inspections covering practically all the sites named in those reports and after the submission of our declaration of December 7, the lies and baseless allegations have been uncovered," he said. "The true part of the half-truths appear in detail in our declaration."

America can see for itself and send an agent to the country if it would like, Al-Saadi said.

"We even wouldn't mind if someone from the American intelligence were to accompany the inspection teams to show them the places in which they allege there is something," he said.

Al-Saadi denied British and U.S. allegations that Iraq's declaration of its weapons programs contains serious "material omissions."

The United States and Britain "are the only players in this macabre game against Iraq," the general said.

Al-Saadi cited a statement from the U.S. Department of State accusing the Iraqis of ignoring "efforts to procure uranium from Niger" in its declaration.

"It was not uranium," he said. "It was uranium oxide -- not a weapon -- in the mid-1980s. It is in the declaration. And there has been no new procurement or attempt to procure."

Uranium oxide is a source of uranium, however, and weapons-grade uranium can be produced from it through uranium enrichment.

Al-Saadi also accused former UNSCOM chief weapons inspector Richard Butler of trying to plant evidence that Iraq was producing VX gas, a lethal chemical weapons agent.

"There was an attempt to produce in April 1990 a quantity of VX, but it was not successful," he said. "The material degraded rapidly and the production was abandoned because it was considered a waste. And that was that. There was no VX gas."

The United States has accused Iraq of failing to account for material that can be used to grow such biological agents as anthrax, botulinum toxin, which causes botulism, and clostridium perfringens, a common and potentially deadly cause of food poisoning. It also said Iraq was manufacturing fuel for missiles and hiding mobile biological weapons facilities. Iraq has denied possessing any missiles.

Al-Saadi denied the claims and asked the United States and others to "let the inspectors do their work."

'Substantial likelihood' of winter war

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov Sunday stressed Russia's opposition to any unilateral action by the United States against Iraq.

"Our common goal is to ensure that Iraq should not have weapons of mass destruction," Ivanov said, according to the Russian news agency Interfax. "It must be attained on the basis of the U.N. Security Council's resolution No. 1441. All other goals go beyond the limits of our interests."

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," that so far the course of events had gone on "unfortunately predictably," but he also speculated that Saddam may be inclined to flee a massive build-up of U.S. military force against him.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska, called Iraq's declaration "a lot of nonsense," but said on CBS' Face the Nation that he didn't "believe war is irreversible."

"If the president decides that the only option is to take this country to war against Iraq, then he's going to have to do more than he has done up to this point," he said. "But I believe he understands that."

The incoming ranking Democrat on the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, said on "Fox News Sunday" that war wasn't "necessarily" inevitable, but said Saddam seemed certain "to miscalculate again," bringing "a clear support from the U.N. to use force."

But Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, was pessimistic, predicting "a substantial likelihood that we will go to war with Iraq this winter," and adding that an attack on Iraq would likely spark a flurry of terrorist attacks against the United States at home and abroad.



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