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Nic Robertson: Mixed messages out of Baghdad

CNN Correspondent Nic Robertson
CNN Correspondent Nic Robertson

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•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Speaking on the festival marking the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said Thursday his country is giving U.N. inspectors a chance to prove Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction in order to protect Iraqi citizens.

The Iraqi leader's lengthy statement on the Eid al-Fitr holiday was posted on the Iraqi News Agency's Web site and broadcast on Iraqi state television. The inspectors are halting their work Thursday and Friday because of the holiday.

CNN's Nic Robertson is in Baghdad and filed this report:

ROBERTSON: We've seen very little of Saddam on television here while the inspectors have been here, but he appeared this morning with a lot of senior officials from the Cabinet, from the Baath Party. And he made a statement to the Iraqi people, and this is perhaps the key to it all here.

This was to the Iraqi people, telling them that they faced a test, that they should show their capacity for bearing, telling them that some people would accuse Iraq of producing weapons of mass destruction, fingering America in that regard, but saying the U.N. inspectors should be given a chance to do their job.

Now, very much here that is a message to the Iraqi people, whereas Taha Yassin Ramadan, the vice president, the message he gave was to a delegation from Egypt, as well as a group of Arab journalists.

His message -- apparently more so to the region here -- told these people that the U.N. inspectors are spies for the United States and Israel, being paid for by Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, being paid for by the CIA, all laying groundwork, he said, for a future war.

Iraq has been reaching out to the region here to try and encourage people, encourage countries onto its side, encourage understanding of its position.

So I think what we're seeing is one message for the region, one message for the Iraqi people. For the Iraqi people, this type of message tends to set the president up here, Saddam, as a man offering them the opportunity for peace, not war.

The Iraqi report listing any weapons of mass destruction Baghdad might possess -- or so-called duel use facilities that could be used to produce such weapons -- is expected to be delivered here to the U.N. headquarters on Saturday. It's not clear whether it will all be on paper or whether it will be on CD-ROM.

We understand that this document, in whatever form it's in, will then have to be taken to Vienna for the International Atomic Energy Agency and to New York for the U.N. Security Council and for the inspectors' chief, Hans Blix, there.

So there's going to be this period where it will have to be physically moved there. Now, we're told it will be in Arabic and English, as well. So it's going to be a very complex document, many hundreds or thousands of pages long, and going to take a lot of time, we are told, for analysts to sift through the fine detail. But one thing Iraq keeps saying, every official that comes out here, they say, "We don't have weapons of mass destruction."

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