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Iraq's foreign minister: Blix report meager

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri says the inspectors need to work with
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri says the inspectors need to work with "more transparency, objectivity and impartiality."

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Accusing the United States and Britain of pressuring weapons inspectors for political purposes, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri says the inspectors need to work with "more transparency, objectivity and impartiality."

He also calls the report to the U.N. Security Council earlier this week by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix "meager," focusing on "negative presumptions and allegations that are groundless."

Sabri detailed Iraq's stance in a 14-page letter to the January president of the Security Council, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere of France. CNN was provided a five-page summary of the letter by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry.

"Iraq has offered all efforts required to implement Resolution 1441 and regrettably the UNMOVIC statement mentions a charge saying Iraq has not genuinely accepted the disarmament of its weapons," according to the summary, which was written in Arabic.

He said Blix's report simply confirmed "the need by UNMOVIC to have more transparency, objectivity and impartiality" and that inspectors should adopt "technical dialogue with the Iraqi side to remove any vagueness on any issue facing it."

Sabri disputes Blix's account on the use of U2 spy planes over Iraq and says documents found at a scientist's home were declared in 1994.

In particular, Sabri takes issue with Blix on the question of whether Iraq possesses the deadly nerve agent VX and anthrax. Sabri says Iraq's 12,000-page weapons declaration "gave evidence on VX and anthrax."

It is not up to Iraq to prove it doesn't possess those weapons, but rather "UNMOVIC has to present counter evidence that proves that the Iraqi declaration is incorrect," Sabri says, according to the summary.

In his report, Blix said Iraq claimed it had made VX but never weaponized it. But he said U.N. inspectors have "information that conflicts with this account."

On anthrax, Blix said Iraq declared that it produced about 8,500 liters of the biological warfare agent and claims to have destroyed in 1991. He said there has been no evidence of proof that the stock was destroyed.

"Inspection is not a game of catch as catch can," Blix said. "Regrettably, the 12,000-page declaration, most of which is a reprint of earlier documents, does not seem to contain any new evidence that will eliminate the questions."

In explaining Iraq's position on the use of U2 planes, Sabri says Iraq is not in a position to guarantee their safety since U.S. and British planes patrol the northern and southern no-fly zones of Iraq.

"Iraq has suggested that a pre-notice of every trip should be given as it was done previously and that during sorties of U2s, violations by American and British planes of Iraqi skies should stop," the summary says.

Blix had said Iraq placed a number of unacceptable conditions on the U2 flights and that he hoped "this attitude will change."

As for documents found at an Iraqi scientist's home, Sabri said the research titled "separation of isotopes by laser" was purely academic in nature and "does not form a part of classified reports," according to the summary.

He also said research was first reported to the IAEA in Sept. 1994.

"We do not understand why UNMOVIC has not verified the issue to make sure that Iraq had handed over this document in 1994 to the IAEA," the summary says.

In addition, he said Iraq "has not rejected any request to interview" people of interest to the inspectors.

Lastly, Sabri accused the United States and Britain, since 1991, of putting "pressure on the work of inspectors in the service of their aggressive political objectives against Iraq in a way that harms the U.N.'s credibility and its policy of disarmament and non-proliferation."


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