- The Washington Times - Monday, December 9, 2002

BAGHDAD A top adviser to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein challenged the United States yesterday to produce evidence that Baghdad still has weapons of mass destruction.
"Why play a game?" Lt. Gen. Amer Al-Saadi asked as a huge collection of documents on Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological programs was being flown to the U.N. headquarters. He said that the Iraqi declaration, as demanded by the United Nations, was accurate and complete.
Gen. Al-Saadi told reporters that the documents contain no new evidence to answer lingering questions that inspectors have about crucial parts of Baghdad's chemical and biological weapons programs. Iraq earlier had presented "first-class evidence" that was ignored for political reasons, he said.
But the leader of the biggest Iraqi opposition group told reporters in Iran that he has documents proving that Saddam is hiding weapons of mass destruction and that he would hand over the documents to the United Nations if the safety of his informers inside Iraq was guaranteed.
Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, leader of the exiled Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, offered no details. He said he had not approached the United Nations, instead waiting for officials to come to him now that he has publicized his assertion.
The U.N. resolution requiring the declaration be filed by yesterday also called on Iraq to declare any stocks or programs in chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Baghdad says it has none.
Bush administration officials reject the denials and threaten war in the event that Baghdad, in their view, does not meet U.N. arms control demands. They say that they have "solid evidence" that Iraq retains weapons of mass destruction, but U.N. inspectors indicate that they have seen no conclusive proof from the United States or other sources.
Gen. Al-Saadi, a British-educated former chief of military production for Iraq, told reporters that the declaration was "accurate" and "truthful." Then he added:
"If they have anything to the contrary, let them forthwith come up with it, give it to [the U.N. inspectors]. They are here. Why play a game?"
Gen. Al-Saadi said that the report "will embarrass some nations and companies" cited as having assisted in Iraq's pre-1991 efforts to build weapons of mass destruction, which Baghdad insists it no longer has.
He complained that the U.S. administration, even before reading the dossiers filed on Saturday, had ridiculed the mass of Iraqi documents as a "telephone directory."
"We don't understand this rush to judgment," he said. "A superpower should study and take its time in judging, especially since everyone is looking on as it prepares for a huge military campaign, for an aggression against Iraq. It should behave wisely."
Asked whether Iraq itself has included new evidence in the declaration to address the unanswered questions, Gen. Al-Saadi focused on two issues: reported discrepancies in the disposition of large amounts of lethal VX nerve agent produced by Iraq in the 1980s, and large gaps in documentation linked to the country's biological weapons program.
On VX, he said, "some first-class evidence" was given in the 1990s, but it did not satisfy the inspectors "because they were mainly led by personnel from the United States and Britain." As for biological weapons, he said further evidence doesn't exist because "the program didn't exist after 1991."
A U.N. plane arrived in Baghdad yesterday carrying 25 new weapons officials who will double the inspection staff and allow a quick expansion of inspection schedule.
The inspectors' first helicopter was being assembled yesterday at Baghdad's Saddam International Airport. They expect eight in all, enabling them to range farther afield with their daily surprise inspections.


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