- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 14, 2002

From combined dispatches
BAGHDAD Iraq yesterday flatly rejected President Bush's demand for a swift and unconditional return of U.N. arms inspectors, bringing closer the specter of a second Persian Gulf war.
"We do not accept Bush's conditions," Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said in an interview in Baghdad that was broadcast yesterday, even as two key Arab states urged Iraq to allow inspections and avert a second Gulf war.
"The unconditional return of the inspectors will not solve the problem," Mr. Aziz said in the interview with the Saudi-owned MBC television network. The interview was conducted Thursday.
He said President Bush's speech to the United Nations was "full of lies and fabrications," the identical phrase used by Iraq's ambassador immediately after the president spoke.
At the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday, Mr. Bush said America would work with other nations on a U.N. resolution demanding Iraq surrender weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them.
Yesterday in a speech in New York to Central African leaders, Mr. Bush said he was highly doubtful that Iraq would comply with a U.N. demand, and thus avert military action.
In his interview, monitored in Cairo, Mr. Aziz said, "We hope it [the attack] is not inevitable, but we are preparing for the worst scenario.
"We don't want malice, and if there is a reasonable way that will prevent the malice, we will deal with it."
U.N. Security Council resolutions passed after the 1991 Gulf war called on Iraq to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, and the means to produce them. U.N. sanctions on Iraq cannot be lifted until it has done so.
Oil prices leapt with traders saying Mr. Aziz's rebuttal raised the likelihood of a U.S. attack on Iraq. The market fears conflict could spread into other countries in the Gulf region, which pumps a quarter of global oil supply.
Iraq has refused access to U.N. weapons inspectors since 1998 and insists it has eliminated weapons of mass destruction and fulfilled the other requirements of the Gulf war resolutions.
Egypt and Jordan yesterday pressed Iraq to let U.N. weapons inspections resume and avert the possibility of an attack by the United States, Arab officials said.
"We have sent an appeal, and we ask our brothers in Iraq to respond to this invitation and accept the return of the U.N. inspectors in accordance with Security Council resolutions," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told reporters.
Jordan, one of Iraq's Arab neighbors, has also repeatedly told the Iraqis they would be wise to let the inspectors back, Reuters news agency quoted a senior Arab official as saying.
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheik Sabah Ahmad Jaber Sabah, whose country Iraq invaded in 1990, urged Baghdad to implement U.N. resolutions and again admit the inspectors.
This, he told the U.N. General Assembly, "would save our region the horrors of a war which we do not want."
"It seems that after the United States was tending toward unilateral action and to take military action against Iraq, it realizes from international and Arab and even American public opinion that this would not be feasible," he said.
"There's too much respect for the United Nations, and I hope that the United States shares this respect, to use the United Nations for any purpose other than a serious attempt to solve a difficult problem in a multilateral way," he said.
He said that Egypt and all other Arab countries rejected the use of military force, citing a warning by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that this could lead to what Mr. Maher called "many problems and international anarchy."
Arab officials at the General Assembly session in New York said they were pessimistic about the chances of averting an attack on Iraq by the United States.
Mr. Bush has said Baghdad is developing deadly weapons in defiance of U.N. demands set out at the end of the 1991 Gulf war and renewed since that time.

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