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[casi] Iraq offers to allow British inspectors

Yahoo AP article

Washington Post AP article

Iraq Invites Britain to Find Weapons
Fri Mar  1,11:58 PM ET

By SAMEER N. YACOUB, Associated Press Writer

Iraq has challenged Britain to prove it is developing weapons of mass
destruction, saying it was ready to receive "right now" any British
team in the country, an official spokesman was quoted as saying

Iraq maintains it has dismantled its weapons of mass destruction, but
it has refused to admit U.N. weapons inspectors back in the country
since they left ahead of U.S.-British airstrikes in December 1998.

U.N. certification that no such weapons or means of producing them
were still in the country was required after the 1991 Gulf War (news
- web sites) in order for sanctions against Iraq were to be lifted.

"Iraq is ready to receive right now any British team sent by (Prime
Minister Tony) Blair and accompanied by the British media to show
the world where and how is Iraq developing such weapons," the
unidentified Iraqi spokesman was quoted as saying by the official al-
Thawra newspaper.

Britain's Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, speaking to the British
Broadcasting Corp. Friday, said: "They (Iraq) have consistently refused
to allow U.N. weapons inspections and that must mean we are deeply
suspicious about is what is going on. They are a concern that we have
to address," Hoon said.

"That is what we have to learn from the appalling events of Sept. 11,
that we cannot afford to ignore issues that can provoke a threat to
our own security," he added.

Speculation has been growing that Iraq may become a target of a U.S.
military action, after President Bush (news - web sites) called it part of
an "axis of evil," warning Baghdad to let in the inspectors or face

Iraq's latest comments appear to be a response to a Thursday
statement from Blair that Iraq's accumulation of weapons of mass
destruction poses a threat to the world.

"The accumulation of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq poses a
threat, a threat not just to the region but to the wider world, and I
think George Bush was absolutely right to raise it," Blair said on

The Iraqi spokesman was quoted as saying that Blair's comments in a
television interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp. were
"aggressive and misleading," and challenged him to present "true
information to support such allegations against Iraq."

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri will meet with U.N. Secretary-
General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) next week in New York to
have "a focused discussion on the implementation of relevant Security
Council resolutions, including the return of U.N. weapons inspectors
to Iraq," a U.N. spokesman said on Monday.

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