- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 17, 2002

BAGHDAD Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said yesterday 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 tomorrow 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 possesses banned weapons. Failure to cooperate fully will probably bring a U.S.-led attack.
Saddam told parliament in the letter that 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."
"If the unjust persist in their wrongdoing, then you know that the potentials and obligations that we carry from our revolution to withstand all injustice will ensure their defeat," he added.
The Revolutionary Command Council, the top decision-making body headed by Saddam, decided Wednesday to accept the resolution. The rubber-stamp parliament had earlier recommended rejecting it but left the final decision to the Iraqi leader.
Saddam's comments came shortly before the Iraqi military announced that a U.S.-British air strike Friday in southern Iraq killed seven civilians and wounded four.
The unidentified military spokesman told the official Iraqi News Agency that warplanes bombed areas in Najaf province, 93 miles south of Baghdad.
The U.S. military did not comment immediately, and it was impossible to independently verify the claim.
On Friday, 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.
Meanwhile, U.S. authorities are reported to be monitoring hundreds or possibly thousands of Iraqi citizens who work and study in the United States and who may be sympathizers of Saddam.
The plan, first reported on the New York Times Web site yesterday, is part of an intelligence operation meant to flush out potential terrorist threats in the event that war breaks out with Iraq, Bush administration and congressional sources told Reuters news aggency yesterday.
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," Mr. Blix said yesterday in Paris. "A denial of access or a delayed access this would be a serious thing."
Under the resolution, Iraq must declare all weapons programs to the United Nations by Dec. 8. The Iraqi declaration will then be compared with previous data gathered by inspectors.
Mr. Blix said it is important that the team avoid the charges of bias that undermined the work of the last inspectors between 1992 and 1998. He said he could not rule out the possibility that spies are on his team, but any intelligence agents would be ordered off the group.
"People have asked me: 'Can you be absolutely sure we will have no spies in any of the member states?' and I said no, I don't think either the KGB or the CIA can give that absolute assurance," Mr. Blix said at a joint news conference with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin.
"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," Reuters quoted him as saying.
In Baghdad, a government newspaper yesterday 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.

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