- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

A top U.N. arms inspector called Friday for more cooperation from Baghdad in exchange for talks, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair pressed President Bush on a second U.N. resolution on Iraq.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said its head, Mohammad ElBaradei, was considering an invitation from Iraq for more talks in Baghdad.

"He is considering it and consulting with Dr. (lead U.N. inspector Hans) Blix," Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the agency, told United Press International. "He would like to see positive signals from the Iraqis they were going to change their approach and address … points that have been raised recently."

Those points, she said, included the lack of private interviews with Iraqi scientists, Baghdad denying permission to surveillance by U-2 planes, and other issues.

Iraq's invitation Thursday urged Blix and ElBaradei to visit Baghdad before Feb. 14, when they are due to submit a second report to the world body, for more talks. Muhammad al-Duri, Iraq's representative to the United Nations, said the invitation was to discuss finding ways to resolve disagreements between the two sides.

On Friday, before a delegation of Lebanese visiting Baghdad to express solidarity, another senior Iraqi official repeated the call for a meeting with the two inspection chiefs. Brig. Gen. Hussam Mohammed Amin, head of Iraq's National Monitoring Department, also downplayed the report of Iraqi violations that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to present to the U.N. Security Council next week.

"We expect the report to be as usual unfounded and lacking any evidence to back skepticism over Iraq's stances," said Amin. "No more and no less."

The state-run Iraqi press took a similar note Friday, blasting for a second day U.S. President George W. Bush's annual State of the Union address, which he gave Tuesday evening before the U.S. Congress. Editors in Iraq said Washington should spend its money on improving the lives of U.S. citizens rather than wasting it on wars.

In Washington on Friday, Blair and Bush met in the White House to discuss a possible U.S.-led war to rid Iraq of its suspected weapons of mass destruction and said while a second U.N. resolution on Iraq — which Europe is promoting — was desirable, it was not necessary.

"(Resolution) 1441 gives us the authority to move without any second resolution, and Saddam Hussein must understand that if he does not disarm, for the sake of peace, we along with others will go disarm Saddam Hussein," Bush said at a joint news conference with Blair.

Bush said a second resolution would be welcome if "it is yet another signal that we're intent upon disarming Saddam Hussein."

Blair said a second resolution would show Iraq the world meant business.

"What is important is that the international community comes together again and makes it absolutely clear that this is unacceptable," Blair said. "And the reason why I believe that it will do that is precisely because in the original Resolution 1441, we made it clear that failure to disarm would lead to serious consequences."

The meeting between the two leaders came a day after Blair and Spanish leader Jose Maria Aznar, two of Washington's closest allies on the Iraq issue, threw their weight behind calls for the second resolution.

Resolution 1441, passed unanimously by the Security Council last November, mandates the inspector's presence in Baghdad, calls for "immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unobstructed access" to Iraqi chemical and biological weapons storage sites and manufacturing facilities. Washington says Saddam has not complied with the resolution, responding to disarmament directives with only empty pronouncements and gestures.

"The United States seeks Iraq's peaceful disarmament, but we will not shrink from war if that is the only way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the National Conference of World Affairs Councils of America. "Backing Resolution 1441 with the threat of force remains the best way to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and offer Iraq's long-suffering people hope for a better future."

Next Wednesday, Powell will offer to the U.N. Security Council what the United States has termed evidence that Iraq has been deceiving inspectors and spying on them.

Iraq, however, said it believed there would be nothing new in Powell's evidence.

"We expect the report to be, as usual, void of any evidence and to be a lie that casts doubts on Iraq's positions, no more or less," Amin said Friday.

Meanwhile, U.N. inspectors continued their search for proscribed material Friday and visited four sites, including the State Co. for Agricultural Supplies. Inspectors wore protective clothing as they searched the offices of the firm in Baghdad.


(With reporting by Krishnadev Calamur in Washington and Ghassan al-Kadi in Baghdad.)

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