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Iraq urges the world to oppose US-backed war resolution
More banned missiles destroyed
By Bassem Mroue, Associated Press, 3/10/03
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq urged U.N. Security Council members Monday to stand up to what it called Washington's "bloodthirsty whims" and reject a March 17 deadline for disarmament.
Also Monday, the top U.N. nuclear chief said he was offering suggestions to Saddam Hussein on how to prevent a war.
Saddam's government also asked the Security Council to consider punishing the United States and Kuwait for cutting seven holes in a 120-mile fence separating Kuwait and Iraq as a possible prelude to an invasion.
U.N. peacekeepers patrolling the border found the holes being cut by men in civilian clothes who the United Nations said identified themselves as U.S. Marines. Marines have said they were only investigating.
A senior Iraqi Information Ministry official said Iraq was crushing six more banned Al Samoud 2 missiles on Monday. That would bring the number destroyed to 52 -- more than half of Iraq's original arsenal.
The United Nations ordered the rockets destroyed because some tests indicated they could fly farther than the 93 miles allowed by the Security Council.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri appealed to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to tell the Security Council about the reports that U.S. forces had cut through the border fence erected by Kuwait after the 1991 Gulf War.
"The participation of Kuwait in this aggression will carry legal responsibilities according to international law and the U.N. charter," Sabri said in a letter dated Sunday and released Monday by the Foreign Ministry.
"We hope your excellency will inform the Security Council about this dangerous development so that the council will take the necessary measures about this situation, which represents a threat to the world's security."
The peacekeepers already have complained to the Security Council about the fence cutting.
Chief nuclear inspector Mohammed ElBaradei was quoted Monday as saying Saddam needed to make "an essential change in spirit and essence" if he wanted to stave off a U.S.-led war.
ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was quoted by the Saudi-owned newspaper Al Hayat as saying he would send an Arab delegation with a message to Saddam this week, suggesting several changes in attitude to avert a war.
"The next two weeks will be decisive and the ball is still in the Iraqi court," he said, according to the newspaper. "If Iraq, during the coming week or the next two weeks, fails to present absolute evidence that it does not possess these weapons, we will walk the path of war."
He said he would recommend that Iraq let U.N. weapons inspectors interview scientists outside of Iraq and present more evidence that it has destroyed weapons of mass destruction.
He said such moves would "strengthen the position of those who say the inspections should go on." France, Russia, Germany and China have argued against the U.S. and British-proposed deadline for disarmament.
"The basic issue is that the U.S. would not agree on extending this period without providing absolute indications that it will lead to positive results," he said.
In Baghdad, Saddam met Monday with the speaker of Russia's parliament, Gennady Seleznyov, who brought a message from President Vladimir Putin that Russian-Iraq relations remained strong, Iraqi television reported. It showed images of the two smiling and shaking hands.
The Iraqi newspaper Babil, owned by Saddam's son Odai urged Security Council members to oppose the March 17 ultimatum.
"The logic of justice and law should rule the Security Council, not bloodthirsty whims for a group of adventurers in Washington," it said in a front-page editorial Monday.
The editorial came a day after Maj. Gen. Hossam Mohamed Amin, Iraq's chief liaison to U.N. weapons inspectors, said he was convinced the United States planned to attack Iraq regardless of its efforts to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction.
"We are working hard to meet our obligations and to overcome any obstacles," Amin told reporters in Baghdad late Sunday. "Whether that takes a week, 10 days, or a month, we are doing everything we can. We are not interested in dates and times."
With the prospect of war looming, the Iraqi dinar slid, trading at 2,800 to the U.S. dollar. It was trading at 2,500 to the dollar last week and 2,200 a month ago. Before Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which led to the 1991 Gulf War, each dinar was worth $3.
U.N. weapons inspectors visited at least four suspect sites in and around the Iraqi capital on Monday, the Information Ministry official said. He said they went to a tannery, a missiles factory and a former airfield where they have been trying to verify Iraq's unilateral destruction in 1991 of aerial bombs filled with biological agents. They also went to a site linked to Iraq's former nuclear program.
But the United States remains skeptical of Iraq's disarmament process. U.S. diplomats, speaking in New York on condition of anonymity, said Washington would announce later Monday that it would seek a council vote Tuesday or Wednesday on the ultimatum.
President Bush has said the United States is prepared to forcefully disarm Iraq without Security Council approval. But U.N. support would give the war international legitimacy and guarantee that members of the world body share in the costs of rebuilding Iraq.
The U.S. military, meanwhile, said coalition aircraft enforcing a "no-fly zone" over southern Iraq bombed five underground military communication sites 60 miles southeast of Baghdad.
It said the bombing late Sunday came after Iraqi forces fired a surface-to-air missile at coalition aircraft flying over the area. Iraq had no comment on the reported raid.
The "no-fly zones" over southern and northern Iraq were originally meant to protect Shiite Muslims and Iraqi Kurds from Saddam's army. The United States and Britain in recent weeks have been using airstrikes to weaken Iraqi defenses in preparation for a war.