Tuesday, Feb 25, 2003
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By Atul Aneja
``It is being studied very carefully and the channels (with U.N. arms inspectors) are still open between us and we will come up with a decision quite soon,'' Gen. Amer al-Saadi told reporters after talks with a South African disarmament delegation.
The U.N. chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, wrote to Iraq last week that Baghdad should begin destroying Al-Samoud 2 missiles by March 1 as these weapons had exceeded the 150-km range limit set by a 1991 U.N. resolution.
Baghdad says these missiles had been designed to stay within the stipulated range. Iraq said on Sunday that Mr. Blix's demand was under "serious'' study and that it hoped to settle the issue through "cooperation and agreement'' between the two sides.
The Iraqi response to Mr. Blix's directive is being seen as a test case across the globe that could swing the debate on whether the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, was complying with the U.N. Security Council resolution 1441.
A negative report by Mr. Blix to the Security Council could become the trigger for a U.S.-led attack. Iraq has signalled that it was willing to disarm by currently hosting and seeking the advice of a South African team of experts that had earlier worked with the U.N. to destroy Pretoria's atomic arsenal built under the apartheid regime.
The U.N. weapons inspectors also visited at least 12 sites on Monday, including four missile-related facilities around Baghdad. Ballistic teams have been busy over the past week, taking an inventory of the Al-Samoud 2 missiles and components. On the diplomatic side, Iraq is lobbying hard with countries belonging to the Non-Aligned Movement to put across its point of view.
The Iraqi Vice-President, Taha Yassin Ramadan, prior to his departure for the NAM conclave in Kuala Lampur, said he was carrying with him documents and tapes to convey to the leaders of the developing world, "the truth of what is happening in Iraq'' and apprise them of "Iraq's cooperation with the U.N. disarmament inspectors."
Iraq's diplomatic activism has also included a fresh dialogue with Russia, which sent its former Prime Minster, Yevgeny Primakov, to Baghdad for talks with Mr. Hussein on Saturday. The Iraqi President also met Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. attorney general, who has been an opponent of war against Iraq.
While indicating its intent to cooperate with U.N. inspectors, Mr. Hussein asserted on Sunday that the U.S. would fail to humiliate Iraq.
He charged the U.S. President, George W. Bush, with behaving without "manhood and chivalry" towards Baghdad.
``The Iraqi (citizen) is not easy when he is angry. The Iraqis are angered by the behaviour of their enemy that has not kept within the minimum of manhood and chivalry,'' Mr. Hussein told a visiting Lebanese delegation on Sunday.
``Tell your brothers that the Americans can damage and destroy buildings and facilities, but they will fail to humiliate Iraq,'' Mr. Hussein said.
Striking a defiant note, he said the Iraqis would emerge victorious in their resistance against any U.S.-led aggression.
``Fighting a war (against U.S.-led forces) will settle a host of things, and will enable Iraq to regain its glory,'' he said at a Cabinet meeting.
Turkey nod for U.S. troops
Ending a high stakes diplomatic standoff, Turkey's Cabinet Monday agreed to the deployment of tens of thousands of U.S. combat troops ahead of a possible war in Iraq, The measure is now being sent to Parliament, where it is expected to face a vote on Tuesday.
The announcement followed a more than six-hour Cabinet meeting, a sign of the deep difficulties during the U.S.-Turkish talks. The basing agreement has been delayed by weeks of tense negotiations. The deadlock was finally broken late last week, when Washington offered Turkey $5 billions in aid and $10 billions in loans to cushion the Turkish economy from the impact of any war.
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