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Nuclear chief: No 'smoking gun' in Iraq

Iraq handed over its declaration on weapons of mass destruction to U.N. inspectors December 7.
Iraq handed over its declaration on weapons of mass destruction to U.N. inspectors December 7.

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In a taped address to mark Army Day, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein accused U.N. weapons inspectors of spying. CNN's Rym Brahimi reports (January 6)
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.N. agency searching for evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq said Monday that so far it has not found evidence of one.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said inspectors have found no proof that Iraq lied about nuclear weapons in its declaration on weapons of mass destruction presented to the United Nations.

Iraqi officials said the declaration stated that Iraq has no prohibited weapons.

ElBaradei said the agency's laboratory tests of samples taken in Iraq so far have found nothing suspicious.

There currently is no "smoking gun," ElBaradei said, but he noted that inspections are still in their early stages.

The IAEA is searching for nuclear weapons. The U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, or UNMOVIC, is searching for evidence of biological and chemical weapons and high-powered missiles.

The United States and Britain have said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.

If U.N. inspectors find evidence of such weapons, the U.N. Security Council may meet to discuss the possibility of launching military action against Iraq.

ElBaradei's comments came after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein accused U.N. weapons inspectors of spying for the United States in preparation for an attack on Iraq. (Full story)

In a nationally televised speech delivered Monday, Iraq's annual Army Day, Saddam said, "Instead of looking for the so-called weapons of mass destruction in order to expose the distortions and lies propagated by those who endeavor, in vain, to deceive public opinion, the inspection teams are interested in collecting names and making lists of Iraqi scientists ... giving special attention to military camps ... and to other matters, all or most of which constitutes purely intelligence work.

"We are fully prepared for everything and for any eventuality. Our success is in the hands of Allah and Allah shall repel the schemes of the infidels," he said.

Saddam repeated his claim that the United States is leading the U.N. effort to search Iraq for evidence of prohibited weapons as part of a plan to dominate the region and control its resources.

Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter has said some inspectors served as spies during previous inspections, which were cut off in 1998. The United Nations has denied its inspectors engage in espionage.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Saddam's statements were "an attempt to divert attention from the fact that Iraq has still not shown signs that it will disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction."

When asked about comments by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw that war with Iraq now appears somewhat less likely, Fleischer said President Bush "remains very hopeful" that war can be averted -- but it's up to Saddam.

"Hopefully, Saddam Hussein will get the message that the world community, through the United Nations, has called on [him] to disarm. And as the president said, he will either disarm or the United States will lead a coalition to disarm him," Fleischer said.

Inspectors in Iraq went to six sites Monday, including a facility that produces veterinary drugs, a pesticide plant, and an Iraqi army post, where an inspection team began tagging Iraq's Al Fatah rockets.

All of the Iraqi army's Al Fatah missiles, which are ground-to-ground solid propellant rockets, will be tagged this week, a spokesman said.

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