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Iraqi Official Says U.S. After Oil

September 17, 2002

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ In Iraq’s first public comments since agreeing to allow the unconditional return of U.N. weapons inspectors, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz questioned whether that retreat would end the crisis.

``The issue does not end with Iraq’s acceptance of the return of the inspectors,″ Aziz said at the opening of a ``solidarity conference″ in Baghdad attended by lawmakers and other delegates from around the world.

Iraqi officials, citing comments from top members of President Bush’s administration, had speculated in the past that the United States would attack even if they allowed U.N. inspectors back to determine whether Iraq was stockpiling nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them.

``The aim of the American policies is the oil in the Gulf,″ Aziz added in his brief remarks.

In a letter addressed Monday to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Iraq agreed to allow the unconditional return of U.N. inspectors, ``to remove any doubts that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction.″

The White House dismissed the offer as a tactical move and continued to press for a new U.N. Security Council resolution that could open the way to military action against Iraq.

Under Security Council resolutions, sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait cannot be lifted until U.N. inspectors certify that its weapons of mass destruction have been destroyed. Inspectors left the country in December, 1998 ahead of U.S. and British airstrikes to punish Iraq for not cooperating with inspections.

Since then, Iraq has said it would only allow inspectors to return if the sanctions were lifted.

The United States accuses Iraq of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and sponsoring terrorism and has said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein should be toppled.

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