- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

BAGHDAD The government will work more closely with arms monitors under a new U.N. accord, but the U.S. military will probably attack Iraq anyway, a senior Iraqi official said yesterday.
"It is possible any minute, any second that while the inspectors are still here; the aggression takes place, because the U.S. administration doesn't care," Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said.
The comments came as President Bush chided allies for their reluctance to wage war against Saddam Hussein's regime, and the White House underlined it was willing to attack without backing from the United Nations.
U.S. ally Turkey announced it would host key Middle East foreign ministers in talks tomorrow to try to find ways to ease the U.S.-Iraq standoff.
"All decision-makers should give an ear to calls for peace rising in the world," said Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of Turkey's ruling party. "It's possible to achieve it, especially if the United States contributes."
Only British Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke in support of the Bush administration, saying there was mounting evidence that Iraq is concealing chemical and biological weapons.
In a question-and-answer session with lawmakers, Mr. Blair said he understood public concern about military action against Baghdad, but added the international community could not duck its responsibilities.
"The evidence about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction is absolutely clear," Mr. Blair said. "The intelligence has grown over the last couple of months, not diminished."
Saddam, meanwhile, struck a confident note, telling army commanders that he has good reason to be happy these days. In the latest of a series of morale-boosting meetings with the military, the Iraqi president said: "I want you to know that even when I am not smiling, I am in fact smiling it reflects my joy at the path we chose and because I am happy to be the leader of men of your caliber."
U.N. arms inspectors dropped in unannounced yesterday on a chemical plant south of Baghdad flagged by British intelligence as a "facility of concern." It was their eighth visit to the Qa Qa Co. since early December, and they have reported no sign of chemical weapons-making there.
On Monday, top arms monitor Hans Blix and the U.N.'s nuclear-agency head, Mohamed ElBaradei, concluded a 10-point agreement in talks with Iraqi officials to clear obstacles to more-effective inspections.
The new accord stipulates, among other things, that the Baghdad government will encourage Iraqi scientists, engineers and other weapons specialists to submit to private interviews with inspectors.
Washington wants to "create the idea that Iraq isn't cooperating," Mr. Ramadan told reporters yesterday. "We hope to increase this cooperation [with inspectors] and overcome any obstacles, so we don't give the U.S. administration any pretext."
The U.S. military is likely to attack anyway, he said. But without international cover, "the aggression would be seen as only an American-Zionist one."
U.N. inspectors yesterday visited the Al-Mutasim missile plant, 55 miles west of the capital. A comprehensive CIA report in October said the size of new facilities at the plant indicated larger missiles were being built there, violating a U.N. prohibition on Iraqi missiles with ranges greater than 90 miles.
After repeated visits to Qa Qa, Al-Mutasim and 11 other installations cited as "facilities of concern" in British and U.S. intelligence reports, the arms monitors have reported no violations of U.N. bans.


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