- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

From combined dispatches
BAGHDAD Iraq mixed defiance with new pledges to cooperate in its first official response to the critical report by arms inspectors to the U.N. Security Council yesterday.
Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, in an interview aired last night on Canadian television, pledged that Iraq would continue to work in good faith with U.N. inspection teams and said his country had neither the desire nor the capability to strike inside the United States in the event of war.
But he said Iraq could hit at neighboring Kuwait and the U.S. forces already massing there.
"Kuwait is a battlefield, and American troops are in Kuwait and preparing themselves to attack Iraq. If there will be an attack from Kuwait, I cannot say that we will not retaliate," Mr. Aziz said.
"We will of course retaliate against the American troops wherever they start their aggression on Iraq. This is legitimate," he added.
Separately, in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan made public yesterday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri again insisted that Iraq had fully answered all questions about its chemical, nuclear and biological weapons programs.
Iraq "is firmly resolved to fulfill its obligations under the Security Council resolutions, despite all the difficulties, arbitrariness and bias involved therein," Mr. Sabri said. The letter was dated Jan 24.
Even before the reports by chief inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Damascus and other Arab capitals to protest the U.S. buildup for a war on Iraq, calling President Bush a "butcher" and describing his administration as "arrogant."
Iraq's official television channel, its sister satellite station and the "youth television" of President Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, all stuck to their usual soap operas and talk shows even as major television channels around the world carried live coverage of the inspectors' report to the U.N. Security Council.
Elsewhere, large crowds protested outside U.N. offices in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain in anticipation of the report.
Syrian demonstrators gathered outside the U.N. office in Damascus, where they chanted slogans calling Mr. Bush a "criminal and a butcher" and demanded he ditch his "plan" to attack Iraq. "We sacrifice our souls and blood for Iraq," chanted young demonstrators.
"America wants to dominate us, it wants to weaken us and to destroy Iraq to control its oil," said student Housam Halabi, echoing a view shared by many Syrians and Arabs.
In the Yemeni capital, leaders from the ruling and opposition parties led tens of thousands of people in a protest march from a main square to the U.N. office to deliver a message demanding the world body step in to prevent the war.
"Those who are amassing fleets speak with arrogance," said Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar, head of Yemen's Islamist opposition Islah Party. "Their aim is to destroy Iraq's … achievements and to control its oil, which is making the bloodsuckers in the U.S. administration drool."
In the Bahraini capital, Manama, about 100 youths asked the United Nations to prevent the United States from making war on Iraq.
The protests come at a time of heightened anti-U.S. sentiment among Arab populations already angry at what they see as Washington's blind support for Israel in its struggle with the Palestinians.
In Baghdad, the regime's official newspapers ignored the U.N. report but continued their daily criticism of U.S. war threats.
The newspaper Babel, which is also run by Uday, said in a front-page editorial that many people "are still wondering why is there such an aggressive campaign against us … when the evil [U.S.] administration does not move a finger against the challenge presented by North Korea."
North Korea recently expelled U.N. disarmament monitors and announced it would restart nuclear facilities frozen under a 1994 accord with the United States.


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