BAGHDAD Iraqi officials yesterday dismissed Secretary of State Colin L. Powell’s anti-Iraq case before the U.N. Security Council as a collection of “stunts,” “special effects” and “unknown sources” aimed at undermining the work of U.N. arms inspectors in Iraq.
“What we heard today was for the general public and mainly the uninformed, in order to influence their opinion and to commit the aggression on Iraq,” Lt. Gen. Amir al-Saadi, a presidential adviser, told reporters.
Gen. al-Saadi suggested that monitored Iraqi conversations played by Mr. Powell were fabricated, that defector informants were unreliable, and that satellite photographs Mr. Powell displayed “proved nothing.”
He noted that similar photos produced earlier were checked by U.N. teams who found reports of suspicious activities to be unfounded.
Gen. al-Saadi and Maj. Gen. Hossam Mohamed Amin, chief liaison to the U.N. arms inspectors, appeared in a government conference room teeming with hundreds of journalists, Iraqi officials and visiting European Parliament members, who closely followed Mr. Powell’s 80-minute address on live satellite television.
Mr. Powell’s New York appearance was not broadcast on Iraqi TV, which instead aired an interview President Saddam Hussein gave over the weekend to former left-wing British lawmaker Tony Benn.
Mr. Powell’s presentation cited several examples of what he said were suspicious activities by the Iraqis, without noting that those locations were now under regular monitoring by U.N. inspectors.
One example was a missile-engine test installation where U.S. analysts said last year a new structure might test engines that would break a U.N. limit on missile range. “A roof has been put over it so it will be harder for satellites to see what’s going on underneath,” he said. U.N. inspectors visit the facility regularly.
Other installations cited as suspicious by Mr. Powell but which have been under U.N. scrutiny include the al-Taji munitions storage facility, the Mussayib pharmaceutical complex and the Tariq pesticide plant.
Of the Tariq plant, Mr. Powell said, “Iraq has rebuilt key portions of the Tariq state establishment. Tariq includes facilities designed specifically for Iraq’s chemical weapons program.” U.N. teams have inspected that complex several times, without reporting finding any such violations.
Gen. al-Saadi described Mr. Powell’s approach as “a deliberate attempt to undermine the credibility and professionalism of the inspection bodies … by making allegations which directly contradict their assessments or cast doubt on their credibility.”
A key focus of Mr. Powell’s charges that Iraq had mobile biological-weapons labs had been raised by Washington earlier and rejected by Gen. Amin as “totally unfounded.”
On Jan. 18, U.N. inspectors examined two Iraqi mobile food laboratories at a Trade Ministry site. Chief inspector Hans Blix later said they were determined not to be connected with weapons-making. He called on Washington to provide any solid information it had on such labs.
Gen. al-Saadi took up that theme, accusing Washington of violating U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 by not providing intelligence data linked to its claims, as requested in the resolution.
He centered his rebuttal, ironically, on a defense of the U.N. inspectors investigating the Iraqi government and its military-industrial operations since Nov. 27.
“He should give time for the inspectors to do their job,” Gen. al-Saadi said.