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[casi] 2 More Scientists Reject Interviews; Humanitarian Group Warns of "Disaster"



2 More Iraq Scientists Reject Private Interviews With Inspectors

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 30 — Two more Iraqi scientists declined to be interviewed
in private by United Nations weapons inspectors today, and Iraq invited the
two chief United Nations inspectors back here before their next report to the
Security Council in mid-February.

The scientists joined ranks with at least 16 of their colleagues, who have
refused interviews since a visit last week from the chief inspectors, Hans
Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei.

Iraqi officials say they cannot force scientists to speak with the
inspectors. American officials say they believe that the refusals are a
result of intimidation by the Iraqi government.

In a statement issued today, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said the meeting it
proposed here with the two United Nations chief inspectors would be aimed at
bolstering "cooperation and transparency." It suggested a meeting before Feb.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is to address the Security
Council, providing what the United States has described as new evidence of
Iraq's secret weapons buildup. On Feb. 14, Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei are to
give their next report to the Security Council.

Iraq's renewed invitation to Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei came three days after
Mr. Blix reported to the Security Council that Baghdad had not fully
cooperated with his chemical and biological weapons inspectors since their
return in late November.

In Baghdad today, a top adviser to President Saddam Hussein said the nation
would defend itself strongly in street battles against American ground
troops, even if it could do little against a major bombing campaign.

"If they try to invade our country, we can win the war against them," the
official, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, told a German delegation visiting
here. "This is our homeland. We know each and every corner and street in it,
and we'll fight courageously and actively. We are prepared for that, we are
trained to fight and have the means to fight."

He also said Iraq must ready itself for an attack, in light of statements
made by President Bush.

"We have to take his threat seriously," Mr. Aziz said. "We cannot take the
risk that he is bluffing."

The Bush administration has vowed that it will rid Iraq of what it says are
weapons of mass destruction, possibly as soon as several weeks from now. Iraq
denies having any such weapons or programs to develop them.

Iraqi officials briefed reporters today on attack preparations at hospitals,
saying surgical and delivery wards would function even if power supplies were
destroyed, as occurred in the Persian Gulf war in 1991.

The briefing on the hospitals coincided with the release of a report by the
Center for Economic and Social Rights, a New York advocacy group, warning
that bombing Iraq's electrical grid may constitute a war crime.

Expressing concern about "potentially devastating humanitarian consequences
of war," the report documented the health and welfare of Iraqis after a
decade of sanctions. "We find that military intervention is likely to have an
overwhelming impact on an already vulnerable population," it said. "A
humanitarian disaster is likely to occur."

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