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Publisher: Jordan Times (Amman) By: Posted: 2002-07-29 As Iraq said on Sunday it had taken all measures to face a possible US military strike, its Foreign Minister Naji Sabri charged that Washington was pressuring UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to make the return of weapons inspectors the only issue on the table in their dialogue. In London, a minister said British Prime Minister Tony Blair will not tie his hands by offering parliament a vote on possible military action against Iraq. Baghdad, meanwhile, challenged Blair to prove it is developing weapons of mass destruction, reiterating in a statement Sunday its readiness to allow British investigators to search for alleged weapons sites. Meanwhile, a Kuwaiti minister said in comments published on Sunday that Gulf Arab states believe that any US military strike against Iraq must topple President Saddam Hussein who would otherwise emerge stronger. In Baghdad, Parliament Speaker Saadoun Hammadi said his country had taken all measures to face a US attack to topple Saddam. "Our leadership has prepared everything and our people are determined to resist all attempts against our country," Hammadi said. "Our people's morale is high, our financial potentials are good and we are quite certain we will be able to thwart the US aggression," he told reporters after parliament met to discuss preparations for a possible attack. US President George W. Bush said this month Washington would use all tools at its disposal to topple Saddam. He has branded Iraq part of an "axis of evil" supporting terrorism and developing weapons of mass destruction. Iraq has repeatedly denied the US charges. Saddam said in a speech this month that the United States and its allies would not be able to topple his government and the country's parliament has voted to back military preparations to repel any attack. "We shall defend our country in our territory," Sabri said in an interview with CNN on Saturday night. He said Washington wanted UN weapons inspectors to return to Iraq "for a sole purpose of updating their military and intelligence information on Iraq to be used in any attack on the Iraqi population.” He said Iraq would only allow the return of inspectors if it was based on what he called a UN agenda, not a US one. "Their return could be part of a UN agenda to be based on (UN) Security Council resolutions," Sabri said. "The US agenda for the return of inspectors is to send inspectors here and forget about the killing effects of the regime of sanctions and forget about the continuing bombing by Britain and America of Iraqi territories in the north and south." US and British jets patrol "no-fly" zones in northern and southern Iraq set up by Western powers after the 1991 Gulf War. Iraq does not recognise the zones. Resuming weapons inspections is key to suspending UN sanctions, imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. It could also ward off a US attack on Iraq. Arms experts have been barred from Iraq since December 1998 when the United States and Britain launched a bombing campaign to punish Baghdad's alleged failure to cooperate with them. Meanwhile, Sabri charged that the US was pressuring Annan to make the return of weapons inspectors the only issue on the table in their dialogue. "At our last session of talks in Vienna, the secretary general indicated that contacts between the two sides would continue, including technical discussions, but the fixing of a date for a new session faces pressure exercised by the United States on the (UN) Security Council," Sabri told Iraqi satellite television. "We agreed, Mr Annan and myself, to leave the agenda open, meaning the (dialogue) would not be limited to one point alone, but the United States wants it limited to the question of a return of the inspectors," he said. Annan expressed pessimism last Tuesday about Iraq's wish to resume dialogue on readmitting arms inspectors following talks in Vienna in early July that failed to achieve a breakthrough, though it was the third time both sides met since March. But Sabri said the US focus on weapons inspections "indicates the inspectors will only come to Iraq to gather information on Iraqi economic, military and security installations which they will give to American intelligence services to use in their aggressions which continue against our people." Blair will give parliament vote on Iraq — minister Meanwhile, a minister in London said Blair will not tie his hands by offering parliament a vote on possible military action against Iraq. Ben Bradshaw, deputy leader of the House of Commons, said Blair would consult parliamentarians — many of whom have urged him not to back any US strike against President Saddam Hussein — but would not give them a veto. "No prime minister in British history has ever allowed their hands to be tied like that and none would," Bradshaw told Sky News television. "It is not realistic that a prime minister is going to have to seek a vote before he or she deploys forces." Blair, who has stood staunchly behind Bush since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, has warned that the world must tackle Saddam's refusal to let United Nations weapons inspectors back into Iraq. But he faces growing dissent from left-wingers in his centre-left Labour government who have demanded a fresh UN resolution and the chance for British politicians to have a say before any troops are committed to an attack. At a news conference last week Blair refused to commit to a parliamentary vote and said an attack was not imminent. Bradshaw said international efforts should focus on getting the inspectors back to Baghdad. But if the attempts failed, the world must respond, he said. "It is simply unrealistic to put our heads in the sand and think that if the UN inspectors don't go in that we can simply ignore that threat," he said. Bradshaw was speaking after a poll published on Sunday suggested more than half of Britons would oppose the deployment of British troops in a US- led military campaign against Iraq. The survey of 1,763 people published in the Sunday Times showed that 51 per cent do not want to see British troops used, while 40 per cent would support that. The same number of Britons, 51 per cent, would, however, support in principle an American attempt to topple Saddam, while 37 per cent would disapprove. Forty-nine per cent believe Blair has become the "puppet" of Bush. Iraq challenged Blair to prove it is developing weapons of mass destruction, reiterating its readiness to allow British investigators to search for alleged weapons sites. "If Blair wants to prove that his claims are true, then our invitation to Britain is valid and we challenge him to present any evidence that Iraq is producing such weapons," said a foreign ministry statement faxed to the Associated Press. The spokesman was commenting on Blair's statements in a recent interview with a British magazine that if the time came for action against Iraq, "people will have the evidence presented to them" to show that President Saddam "is trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction, in particular a nuclear capability." Any US attack on Iraq must topple Saddam — Kuwait In a related development, a Kuwaiti minister said in comments published on Sunday that Arab Gulf states believe that any US military strike against Iraq must topple President Saddam who would otherwise emerge stronger. Information Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahd Al Sabah told Kuwaiti newspapers that a possible US "strike must be a knock out which leads to the downfall of the regime." "This is the point of view of Kuwait and the other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Falling short of such a target will give the head of that regime additional strength which is not appropriate for the stability and security of the region," he added. The GCC states — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman — have officially signed on to an Arab stand opposed to a US-led attack on Iraq. Kuwait has said it was not party to any planning to implement Washington's "regime change" policy in Iraq which invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990. The US-led Gulf War ended Iraq's occupation of Kuwait in 1991. The talk of a possible US strike on Iraq is causing concern in Kuwait where residents fear retaliation by Baghdad and an influx by hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees. Several state bodies have in recent days held meetings to review measures needed to deal with the impact of a US attack. Kuwaiti concerns include the possible use of Iraqi chemical weapons against the nearest concentration of US troops. In addition to warplanes and heavy military hardware, the United States has ground troops training close to the border with Iraq as part of ongoing exercises since the Gulf War. © 2002 [Jordan Times (Amman)]. - - - - Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed -- __________________________________________________________ Sign-up for your own FREE Personalized E-mail at Mail.com http://www.mail.com/?sr=signup Get 4 DVDs for $.49 cents! plus shipping & processing. Click to join. http://adfarm.mediaplex.com/ad/ck/990-1736-3566-59 _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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