Saddam says U.N. resolution accepted to avoid U.S.-led war

Sunday, November 17, 2002

From wire reports

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- President Saddam Hussein said Saturday he had no choice but to accept a tough new U.N. weapons inspection resolution because the United States and Israel had shown their "claws and teeth" and declared unilateral war on the Iraqi people.

In an open letter to Iraq's parliament, Saddam said he hoped the weapons inspectors would help the U.N. Security Council "to see the truth as it really is about Iraq being completely free of weapons of mass destruction."

The advance team of inspectors is expected in Baghdad on Monday after a four-year absence. Under a new resolution approved last week, the inspectors are empowered to go anywhere and interview anyone to determine if Iraq still has banned weapons. Failure to cooperate fully will probably bring a U.S.-led attack.

Saddam told Parliament in the letter he accepted the resolution "because your enemy, the alliance between Zionism and the American administration has ... after showing its claws and teeth, decided to wage war unilaterally against our people."

The Revolutionary Command Council, the top decision-making body headed by Saddam, decided on Wednesday to accept the resolution. The rubber-stamp parliament had earlier recommended rejecting it but left the final decision to the Iraqi leader.

Airstrike over no-fly zone

Saddam's comments came shortly before the Iraqi military announced that a U.S.-British airstrike in southern Iraq on Friday killed seven civilians and wounded four.

A Pentagon statement said the bombing was in response to Iraq's firing surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns at American and British warplanes patrolling a no-fly zone.

The U.N. team will begin preliminary inspections of suspected weapons sites on Nov. 27, according to chief inspector Hans Blix. He then has 60 days to report back to the council with his findings.

"We hope and expect to have full Iraqi cooperation," Blix said Saturday in Paris. "A denial of access or a delayed access ... this would be a serious thing."

Blix said access to suspected sites would be key to the mission's success, adding that Iraq would be held accountable for blocking inspectors' work.

He said the previous U.N. inspection program in Iraq "lost its legitimacy by being too closely associated with intelligence and with Western states."

As the U.N. inspection team begins its work, Blix said he would be monitoring closely to assure that the group remains impartial.

"All I can say is that if I see someone having two hats, then I would ask them to walk out from us and to be somewhere else," Blix said.

Buying asylum in Libya

In Baghdad, a government newspaper on Saturday urged the arms experts to resist U.S. pressure and not create pretexts that could open the way for an attack on Iraq.

"The inspectors should not mix up the cards, creating a crisis and fabricating pretexts that aim to harm the people of Iraq," the daily Al-Jumhuriya said in a front-page editorial.

"They should adopt an honest, objective and professional attitude to their work and not to bend to U.S. pressure," it said.

Meanwhile, a London newspaper reported Saturday that Libya agreed to give Saddam's family and members of his regime asylum in Libya if Iraq goes to war with the United States, at a cost of $3.5 billion.

The Times said Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi would not give refuge to Saddam or for his eldest son Odai. But it said Saddam's extended family and 12 senior officials would get sanctuary.

Syria had agreed to provide an overland escape route, allowing the Iraqis to fly on to Libya, the paper said.

Libyan Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassouna al-Shawish denied the report, the official Libyan news agency JANA said.

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