Aziz pledges more Iraqi cooperation with inspectors
Says attack on Kuwait possible if war begins
OTTAWA, Canada (CNN) -- Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz on Monday promised that Iraq will try to cooperate more with U.N. weapons inspectors but said he could not rule out a strike on Kuwait in the event of a U.S.-led military attack.
In addition, he denied Iraq possesses banned weapons and predicted the Iraqi people would not quickly surrender to a U.S. invasion.
Aziz spoke in a wide-ranging interview on Canada's CBC network with anchor Peter Mansbridge on a day in which the chief U.N. weapons inspectors said Iraq was not cooperating fully.
"They are asking Iraq to provide more cooperation, and, OK, let them say that, you see, we are doing that," Aziz replied impatiently when asked about the inspections.
He went on to say that only two items of disagreement existed between Iraq and the inspectors: private interviews of Iraqi scientists by inspectors, and Iraq's allowing overflights of U-2 spy planes flown by U.S. pilots, in support of the inspectors.
"All other aspects of cooperation have been met," he said, "and we promise to be more forthcoming in the future replying to all their needs in a way that will satisfy them."
But Aziz denied that Iraq now has any chemical or biological weapons, saying all were "obliterated in 1991." He said the United States remained unconvinced "of the facts," because to be convinced was in conflict with the U.S. policy of trying to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Aziz insisted that Iraqis would fight "courageously and effectively ... to the last bullet" if attacked by the United States. He was asked about recent comments by Uday Hussein, the president's son, who said Iraq would make September 11 "look like a picnic."
Mansbridge said those remarks suggested a possible attack on the United States.
"No, no, it doesn't ... because we don't have the means and we don't have the wish to make any mischief to the United States inside the United States. We are going to fight the United States when the United States starts its aggression on Iraq and when the United States army enters the territory of Iraq," he said.
Aziz said Iraq would not attack other countries as it did in the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91. "No, we will fight within our territory. Unlike the last time, because the last time we had long-range missiles and we attacked Israel because Israel was in full cooperation with the Americans and their aggression on Iraq."
Other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar were "legitimate targets" in 1990, he said, because U.S. troops were based there. But now, he said, things are different.
"First of all ... we don't have the means to attack beyond our territory. The longest missile we have is 150 kilometers. 150 kilometers cannot reach any neighboring country, as well as Israel."
But Aziz said Kuwait would be an exception: "Kuwait is now a battle field ... and American troops are in Kuwait and preparing themselves to attack Iraq. If there will be an attack from Kuwait, I cannot say that we will not retaliate," Aziz said. "We will, of course, retaliate against the American troops wherever they start their aggression on Iraq. This is legitimate."
Aziz rejected the notion that the war would end quickly and that Iraqis would surrender, saying the Americans were "cheating themselves" if they believed that Iraqis would welcome U.S. soldiers with "flowers."
"They will be received with bullets, not flowers," he said, adding that Iraq had distributed hundreds of thousands of weapons to its citizens.
Regarding the possible exile of Saddam, Aziz declared, "Exile means surrender. This nation, the Iraqi nation, is not going to surrender to the blackmail and to the threats of the Americans."
Asked if he might hold meetings with top U.S. officials to try to avert war, Aziz said, "If they propose a meeting with us, we will go to meet them. We are ready to talk to the British government, if Mister Blair is ready talk. If they ask us, we will go because this is our basic policy, this is our basic attitude."
Aziz said this had been Iraq's position "for the last 12 years" but that no U.S. administration had "reciprocated."
Asked specifically if he was calling for dialogue, Aziz replied, "I do now, I can repeat it, you see, easily, because this is the basic policy of our government."
Dialogue, he said, was worth trying. "Yes, why not? We are civilized people and we have to think of a civilized way to end this crisis."