- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

BAGHDAD Iraq's vice president said yesterday there would be limits on the U.N. weapons investigation, though the top inspector says Baghdad has agreed to unannounced checks even on Saddam Hussein's "special" sites.
The question of unannounced checks on sites like Saddam's palaces, an issue that helped derail inspections in the 1990s, "is settled by the resolution. It wasn't even discussed," chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said yesterday after departing Baghdad at the end of a two-day visit inaugurating a new U.N. oversight program, four years after the last inspections.
The Swedish ex-diplomat was referring to the new U.N. Security Council resolution describing the inspections as a "final opportunity" for Iraq to meet its post-Persian Gulf War obligations to give up any weapons of mass destruction. In accepting the resolution, Iraq accepted full and unfettered inspections. President Bush has threatened military action if the Iraqi does not disarm.
The United States was contacting allies in search of support if military action is required. In Copenhagen yesterday, Danish lawmakers approved the participation of Danish soldiers and equipment in any international force in Iraq, if necessary.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard, in a speech yesterday in his capital to a group of economists, said Australian defense officials had held contingency talks with their U.S. counterparts over a possible strike against Baghdad. He did not describe what any Australian contribution might be.
In London, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said the United States has requested British troops to join a possible war on Iraq. Mr. Hoon said Britain had not decided on its response.
Meanwhile, U.S. warplanes bombed three air-defense communications facilities in southern Iraq yesterday, one day after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Washington would immediately respond to attacks on American and British warplanes.
Mr. Rumsfeld said the United States would retaliate in such circumstances involving the patrolling of no-fly zones regardless of whether the United Nations views the shootings as violations of U.N. resolutions.
U.S. warplanes struck at the Iraqi defense facilities after Iraqi air defenses fired surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery at U.S. and British planes.
The Security Council has never specifically approved the flights over northern and southern Iraq, which Baghdad considers violations of its sovereignty.
Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said yesterday that Iraq would fully cooperate with weapons inspectors, but he vowed to prevent them from gathering "intelligence."
"Any demand or question or a manner of work that conforms with the objective of the inspectors who want to verify that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction will be met with full cooperation," Mr. Ramadan said in an interview from Baghdad with the private Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation.
"But for demands which are clearly [meant] for intelligence or for other objectives that have nothing to do with the weapons of mass destruction, we will act in such a way so as to safeguard the country's sovereignty and security," he said.
Iraq had raised the sovereignty issue in barring inspectors from Saddam's palaces and other sites in the 1990s.
On Tuesday, Iraqi presidential adviser Amir Saadi confirmed Iraq would meet a Dec. 8 deadline and file a comprehensive list of nuclear, chemical and biological programs. But he gave no indication whether it will contain anything beyond an inventory of Iraqi work in peaceful uses of nuclear, chemical and biological materials. The Security Council resolution demands the Iraqis include any work on weapons development.
Mr. Blix said Iraqis were "somewhat concerned" they would not have time to gather all the information needed by Dec. 8.
"They had particular concerns about reporting on the peaceful industries, like chemical industry they have quite a lot of that and they were a bit concerned about how they would go about" compiling information in that area, Mr. Blix said.
The Dec. 8 list is the standard by which the international community will judge whether Saddam's government is telling the truth about its interest in the most advanced weapons.
Mr. Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said if the Baghdad government cooperates fully with their inspections, they might be able to report in about one year that it has complied with Security Council requirements and U.N. economic sanctions on Iraq should be lifted.
Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei left Iraq yesterday as scheduled, leaving behind most of the two dozen inspectors and other U.N. staff who had accompanied them. Additional inspectors arrive next Monday, and the first field operations are expected by Nov. 27.
Mr. ElBaradei, speaking to reporters on arrival in Cyprus hours after leaving Baghdad, said the work that begins Nov. 27 will be "the real test" of the Iraqis' pledges of cooperation.
The seven-year inspection effort in the 1990s dismantled Iraq's nuclear program before it could build a bomb, and destroyed large amounts of chemical and biological weapons and longer-range missiles forbidden by postwar U.N. resolutions.


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