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Iraq: U.N. Plan Is Pretext for War

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http://wire.ap.org/APnews/?SITE=MITRA&FRONTID=HOME

By CHARLES J. HANLEY

AP Special Correspondent

AP/Gustavo Ferrari [21K]

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — In a point-by-point protest, the Iraqi government complained to the United Nations Sunday that the small print behind the weapons inspections beginning this week will give Washington a pretext to attack.

The new U.N. resolution on the inspections could turn ``inaccurate statements (among) thousands of pages'' of required Iraqi reports into a supposed justification for military action, Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

``There is premeditation to target Iraq, whatever the pretext,'' Sabri said.

His lengthy letter, a detailed commentary on the Security Council resolution, was not expected to affect the inspections, which resume Wednesday after a four-year suspension. Iraq had accepted the resolution in a Nov. 13 letter from Sabri to Annan.

Preparations moved steadily ahead on Baghdad's outskirts Sunday, where technicians at the U.N. inspection center worked to establish a ``hot line'' with liaisons in the Iraqi government.

The first working group of 18 inspectors arrives Monday on a flight from a U.N. rear base in Cyprus. Their numbers are expected to swell by year-end to between 80 and 100 at a time in Iraq.

In seven years' work after the 1991 Gulf War, U.N. experts destroyed large amounts of chemical and biological weapons and longer-range missiles forbidden to Iraq by U.N. resolutions, and dismantled Iraq's nuclear weapons program before it could build a bomb. The inspections were suspended amid disputes over U.N. access to Iraqi sites and Iraqi complaints the United States inserted spies in the inspection teams.

The Bush administration has threatened war to enforce Iraqi disarmament, with or without U.N. sanction. But other governments, including France, Russia and China, say that decision can be made only by the Security Council.

Sabri's letter, dated Saturday and released Sunday, complained that a key passage on providing documentation is unjust, ``because it considers the giving of inaccurate statements — taking into consideration that there are thousands of pages to be presented in those statements — is a material breach.''

Sabri wrote that the aim was clear: ``to provide pretexts ... to be used in aggressive acts against Iraq.''

After talks with the Iraqis last week, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said they had expressed ``particular concern'' about what was expected of them in reporting on their chemical industry, a complex area in which many toxic products can be diverted to military use.

The foreign minister's letter disputed the allegations that his government retained chemical or biological weapons and rebuilt weapons programs. ``The United States and Britain failed to give one credible proof on this matter,'' Sabri wrote.

Sabri complained of what he called arbitrary powers being granted to inspectors, including ``meeting people inside their country without the presence of a representative of their government, or asking them to leave the country with their families to meet (for interviews) abroad.''

Mohamed ElBaradei, the top nuclear inspector, said Sunday night that any interviews of Iraqi scientists outside the country would be handled professionally and aren't an attempt to spirit Iraq's brightest scientists out of the country.

``If this measure takes place it would be for objective reasons,'' ElBaradei told reporters on arriving in Cairo, Egypt. ``(Interviews) aren't aimed at Iraqi brain-drain, won't take place unless the scientists desire to be questioned outside Iraq and won't be forced from our side.''

ElBaradei was in Egypt for meetings Monday with President Hosni Mubarak and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa.

In notifying Annan of Iraq's acceptance of Resolution 1441, Sabri had advised the U.N. chief he would follow with this second letter commenting on supposed violations of international law and other problems with the resolution.

The Iraqi official urged that Security Council member nations ensure that the weapons inspectors are committed ``to their obligations according to the U.N. charter and ... the United Nations' goals.'' If they do so, he wrote, they will ``uncover the false U.S. accusations.''

The U.N. experts' first missions are expected to be visits to Iraqi sites previously inspected in the 1990s, where they will check on cameras and other monitoring equipment left behind in many cases by earlier inspectors.

A top priority was establishing operational security at the U.N. offices, to maintain secrecy surrounding the targets of the inspectors' surprise visits.

``We are still testing our communications equipment to make sure we have secure lines,'' said Hiro Ueki, spokesman for the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, UNMOVIC.

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