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Iraq Media Speaks Out on Inspections

November 15, 2002

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Iraq’s state-run media said Friday the U.N. weapons inspection resolution amounts to a ``breach of the U.N. Charter″ but the government agreed to it anyway to spare its people from harm.

Al-Thawra, the voice of Saddam’s ruling Baath party, said the resolution approved unanimously last week by the 15-member Security Council was ``ill-intentioned, unjust and bad.″

``In fact, it could be the worst resolution ever issued against our country,″ the paper said. ``It represents a breach of the U.N. Charter.″

On Wednesday, President Saddam Hussein agreed to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to return to Iraq to search for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons _ which Baghdad insisted in a nine-page letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that it does not have.

The advance team of U.N. inspectors is gathering in Cyprus and is expected to fly to Baghdad on Monday, with work beginning Nov. 25. The inspection program was halted in December 1998.

The chief U.N. weapons inspector said in an interview published Friday in Paris that inspectors have identified some 700 sites to check in Iraq and could consider an entry delay of even 30 minutes a serious violation.

Hans Blix told Le Monde newspaper that weapons inspectors would try to keep the location of the sites secret and provide no notice to Baghdad.

President Bush has threatened war if the Iraqis fail to cooperate fully with the inspectors.

However, Russia’s deputy foreign minister said Friday that any use of force against Iraq without U.N. approval would violate international law. Yuri Fedotov told the ITAR-Tass news agency that the weapons inspectors would have to report to the Security Council ``and only (the council’s) members should make decisions.″

Although it supported the U.N. resolution, Russia traditionally has been Iraq’s strongest ally on the Security Council.

The Iraqi government reiterated Friday that even though it accepted the U.N. resolution, it still was unhappy with it.

``Iraq’s acceptance of the resolution is an attempt to save our people from any harm,″ the newspaper Al-Iraq said. ``This is the most important thing.″

A Muslim preacher repeated that message during a Friday sermon in the capital’s Mother of All Battles Mosque.

``Iraq agreed to this resolution to inform the world that Iraq is devoid of any weapons, and weapons factories,″ Abdul-Ghafour al-Qaissi said on Iraqi state television.

``Those who declared that Iraq has weapons are American spies who have no conscience ... If the evil people want to attack us, we are up to it.″

Al-Qaissi, a government-appointed cleric, asked God ``to strengthen us, to give us victory.″

``We’ve been living with these unfair resolutions for years,″ he said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair also broadcast a message to the Iraqi people, saying the showdown about arms inspections is not about religion or oil and they would have a better, more prosperous life without Saddam.

``The idea that this is about oil for us is absurd,″ Blair said during an interview with the Arabic service of Monte Carlo radio that was broadcast Thursday.

``If all we wanted was greater oil supplies we could probably do a deal with Iraq or any other country on that basis.″

Several Iraqis were skeptical about Blair’s remarks and questioned the motives of the United States and Britain.

``Mr. Blair is promising us a better life while, as we hear on the news, he is supporting and preparing to send British troops to take part in a destructive U.S. war on Iraq. This is ironic,″ bus driver Anwar Subhi said.

Kamal Mohammed, a secondary school teacher, wondered why Iraq was singled out for such pressure.

``It is hard for me to believe that Mr. Blair is after Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, because if so, he should have also dealt with other nations which possess banned weapons, such as Israel and North Korea,″ Mohammed said.

``In the case of Iraq, I think Britain and the United States are after oil.″

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