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U.N. Inspectors in Iraq as Western Warplanes Raid Mon November 18, 2002 12:20 PM ET By Hassan Hafidh BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.N. arms inspectors arrived in Baghdad on Monday to search for weapons of mass destruction, a mission which will decide whether the United States goes to war with Iraq. As chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and his team of about 30 experts flew into Baghdad to resume U.N. work in the country after a four-year absence, Iraq vowed to defend "every inch" of its land if attacked. It also lashed out at Washington as U.S. and British jets again raided Iraqi air defenses, rejecting U.S. charges that it had violated a new U.N. resolution by continually trying to shoot down the warplanes patrolling "no-fly" zones. Blix, who arrived from Cyprus with Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, went into his first talks at the Foreign Ministry with General Amir al-Saadi, an adviser to President Saddam Hussein. "We have come here for one single reason and that is because the world wants to have assurances that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," Blix told reporters on arrival. "The situation is tense at the moment, but there is a new opportunity and we are here to provide inspection which is credible," the 74-year-old Swede said. Referring to U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq because of its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, he added: "We hope that opportunity will be well utilized so that we can get out of sanctions." United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged Iraq's leader to give "prompt and unfettered access" to sites suspected of having nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. "I urge President Saddam Hussein to comply fully for the sake of his people, for the sake of the region and for the sake of the whole world," Annan told a news conference in Sarajevo. U.N. DEADLINES The members of Blix's U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) arrived aboard a privately chartered C-130 aircraft carrying the U.N. insignia. Blix was greeted by Husam Mohammed Amin, head of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate, which liaises with U.N. arms inspectors. The U.N. team was expected to go to the U.N. inspectors' old Baghdad offices at the Canal Hotel before starting work on logistics such as hiring vehicles and setting up laboratories. Formal inspections are not due to start until November 27. Under the U.N. Security Council resolution adopted on November 8, the first big test is a December 8 deadline for Iraq to submit a full account of all its banned weapons programs. By January 27 next year, the inspectors must have given their first report to the U.N. Security Council. In Monday's skirmish in the skies over Iraq, U.S. commanders said U.S. and British aircraft retaliated after being threatened as they patrolled a northern "no-fly" zone. Analysts say such clashes could ignite full-scale conflict. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Sunday that Iraqi firing at Western warplanes patrolling the "no-fly" zones, set up after the 1991 Gulf War that drove Iraqi invasion forces out of Kuwait, was a violation of the U.N. resolution. But he stopped short of suggesting the United States would refer the issue immediately to the U.N. Security Council. Iraq said such statements proved Washington was using the resolution to justify its "aggressive intentions." "This U.S. declaration is an additional expression of American intentions to use (U.N.) resolution 1441 as a cover to justify its aggressive actions against Iraq," a Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted by the official INA news agency as saying. President Bush has repeatedly urged "regime change" in Iraq in recent months, meaning Saddam's overthrow, and has vowed to wage war if necessary if Iraq fails to disarm. Izzat Ibrahim, vice chairman of Iraq's highest authority, the Revolutionary Command Council, vowed on Monday that Iraqis would fight back if attacked. "We will fight them on every inch of Iraq's soil and every Iraqi will fight them," he was quoted by INA as saying. IRAQ VOWS TO COOPERATE Iraq's press said on Monday Baghdad would cooperate fully with the inspectors, but it urged them to be neutral and honest. "We want these teams to prove to the Americans that our country is free from weapons of mass destruction," said a newspaper owned by Saddam's son Uday. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said in Brussels before a European Union ministerial meeting: "The ball is in Saddam Hussein's court. It is up to him now whether he is disarmed peacefully or by other means." In 1998, the United Nations lost patience with what it saw as Saddam's lack of cooperation and pulled its inspectors out. IAEA chief ElBaradei has said the inspectors have a good "game plan," having some knowledge of suspect sites because of tips from U.S. and other intelligence agencies as well as their own advance investigations. Blix says nothing will be off-limits and inspections could include mosques and Saddam's palaces. _________________________________________________________ Designed for 'perfection.' Check your vocabulary with Maktoob Dictionary, instant Arabic/English translator. http://www.maktoob.com/ _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk