| An Iraqi girl enjoys a ride at a fair on the first day of the Id festival in Baghdad on Thursday. (Reuters)
Baghdad, Dec. 5 (Reuters): President Saddam Hussein said today he was ready to give UN weapons inspectors a chance to disprove American allegations that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction.
His first comment on the inspections since they resumed last week coincided with a burst of defiance from other Iraqi officials, and pressure on the inspectors from Washington to find the weapons of mass destruction that it is sure Iraq has.
No inspections will be taking place today or tomorrow because of the Id holiday, but all eyes were on Sunday’s deadline for Iraq to come clean about any biological, chemical or nuclear arms programmes it has.
Iraq insists that, since it has no such programmes, it will merely be listing “dual use technology” that has peaceful as well as military applications.
“Some might claim we didn’t give them (the inspectors) the proper chance to disprove the American allegations that Iraq produced weapons of mass destruction during the period of the inspectors’ absence,” Saddam said in remarks broadcast on Iraqi television.
“For that reason we shall provide them with such a chance, after which, if the weaklings remain weak and the cowardly remain cowards, then we shall take the stand that befits our people, principles and mission,” he told the Iraqi leadership as he congratulated them on Id.
The inspectors have reported nothing but cooperation from Iraq in their visits to 20 suspect sites since November 27. So far, they have found nothing untoward.
However, in an address in Baghdad yesterday, Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan accused the inspectors of spying for the US and Israel and helping Washington prepare for war on Baghdad.
BBC radio quoted him as saying after his address that independent monitors should observe the inspectors’ work.
And deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told ABC’s Nightline in the US yesterday: “Washington wants the war... The whole issue of weapons of mass destruction is a hoax. When they find that there are no weapons of mass destruction, they would use another pretext to attack.”
US President George W. Bush again insisted this week that Iraq does possess weapons of mass destruction, and has said it will not be acceptable for Iraq to deny their existence in its dossier to be delivered by Sunday.