- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 8, 2002

BAGHDAD Iraq handed over its long-awaited arms declaration to the United Nations yesterday, denying it has doomsday weapons, and President Saddam Hussein grudgingly apologized to Kuwait for his 1990 invasion.
It was a dramatic double bid by the Baghdad leadership to end a nightmare decade for their nation.
"We apologize to you," Saddam said in a letter to the Kuwaiti people read on prime-time Iraqi television.
At the same time, at a U.N. compound on Baghdad's outskirts, a government delegation was delivering a massive collection of documents detailing Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear programs, meeting a demand and a deadline set by U.N. Resolution 1441.
The declaration will "answer all the questions," said Lt. Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, its chief author. If the United States "has the minimum level of fairness and braveness," it will accept it as the truth, he said.
Its thousands of pages, to be flown today to U.N. headquarters in New York and the U.N. nuclear agency in Vienna, Austria, will be combed through for months to come by U.N. analysts, intelligence agencies and diplomats, as Middle East peace hangs in the balance.
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the United States will analyze Iraq's claim that it has no banned weapons and "continue to work with other countries to achieve the ultimate goal of protecting the peace by ending Saddam Hussein's pursuit and accumulation of weapons of mass destruction."
The fast-paced events of a Saturday evening in Baghdad were a watershed moment in a chain of war and sanctions set off by the Iraqi army's invasion and seven-month occupation of Kuwait, which ended only when a huge, U.S.-led force drove it out in February 1991.
The huge Iraqi declaration, summarizing largely civilian industrial activity, was an anticlimax, because the Iraqi denial has been repeated endlessly, including by Gen. Amin yesterday. "I reiterate here Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction," he told reporters.
But the Saddam letter was unexpected, and obviously timed in tandem with the "tell-all" arms documents. It was the first time he had offered an apology for the bloody attack 12 years ago although it was an apology couched in bitterness.
"We apologize to God for any act that has angered the Almighty in the past and that was held against us, and we apologize to [Kuwaitis] on the same basis," said the letter, read by Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf.
But the Iraqi president also laid out the justifications for the invasion, from Baghdad's point of view, involving what he considered anti-Iraqi oil policies of the Kuwaiti government.
Distinguishing between Kuwait's people and their leaders, he assailed today's Kuwaiti government, saying it is working "with foreigners" who have aggressive designs on Iraq, and he declared that Kuwait, where thousands of U.S. troops have been based since the 1991 war, is under American occupation.
Kuwait's information minister, Sheik Ahmed Fahd Al Ahmed Al Sabah, said Saddam first should apologize to his own people "for dragging them into wars that wasted their resources and apologize to the State of Kuwait by telling the truth and returning the prisoners."
The U.N. resolution adopted Nov. 8 requires Iraq to file by Dec. 8 an "accurate, full, and complete declaration" of all weapons of mass destruction programs. It also requires Baghdad to declare "all other chemical, biological, and nuclear programs," even if not weapon-related.
The second requirement led to a "huge declaration," as Gen. Amin called it, one heavy with reports on "dual-use" industry civilian facilities whose equipment or products could be diverted to military use. Chlorine, for example, can be used to treat water, or to fabricate chemical weapons.
The result was at least a dozen bound volumes, including four devoted separately to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile activities, titled "Currently Accurate, Full and Complete Declarations." The mass of paper, in red and blue covers, was accompanied by computer disks.
During the 50-minute private handover at the U.N. offices, the Iraqis and U.N. officials checked over three sets of documents one to go to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna; one to the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission in New York; and the third for the Security Council. The council's documents, in a black tote bag, were carefully secured with a stamped, red-wax seal.
These massive reports on past weapons programs and industrial activity will take U.N. experts weeks to analyze and U.N. inspectors months to verify inside Iraq, to ensure production activities do not involve proscribed weapons.
Inspectors returned to Iraq two weeks ago after a four-year interruption, and are making surprise visits to former Iraqi chemical, biological and nuclear weapons installations, and to dual-use industrial facilities.
After a two-day Muslim holiday break, they resumed their inspections yesterday, visiting two sites south of Baghdad previously inspected in the 1990s an industrial complex that in the 1980s helped make medium-range missiles now forbidden to Iraq by the United Nations, and a site associated with Iraq's major nuclear research center.
The U.N. investigators hope the Iraqi declaration will help them with unanswered questions by, for example, supplying convincing documentation on the fate of 550 artillery shells filled with poisonous mustard gas. Iraqi and U.N. accounts contain many such discrepancies from the 1990s.
The U.N. resolution provides that "false statements or omissions" in Iraq's declaration would constitute a "material breach," that is, a potential cause for military action, but only if coupled with Iraqi noncooperation. That would seem to exempt inaccuracies shown to be inadvertent.

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