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Iraq: Government Rejects Inspection Demands

Baghdad, 27 November 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Iraq today rejected a U.S. call to let UN weapons inspectors back into the country. U.S. President George W. Bush yesterday demanded that Iraq allow international inspections to determine whether the country is building weapons of mass destruction.

But Iraq's official news agency INA today quotes a government spokesman as saying Iraq will not respond to "threats" or the unilateral will of any party.

Iraq has demanded that the United Nations lift sanctions imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. But the United Nations demands that Iraq first allow monitors in to ensure that the country is free of prohibited weapons.

Earlier today, U.S. and British warplanes bombed a military target in southern Iraq in response to threats to coalition aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone in the area.

The United States meanwhile wants a UN resolution that tightens restrictions of Iraq's imports of military-related equipment while easing controls on civilian goods.

U.S. President George W. Bush yesterday said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein needs to show the international community whether Iraq is building weapons of mass destruction, connecting the issue with the current war on terrorism in Afghanistan: "I stand by those words: Afghanistan is only the beginning. If anybody harbors a terrorist, he is a terrorist. If they fund a terrorist, they are terrorists. If they house terrorists, they are terrorists. If they develop weapons of mass destruction that would be used to terrorize nations, they would be held accountable. As for Mr. Saddam Hussein, he needs to let inspectors back in his country to show us that he is not developing weapons of mass destruction."

The U.S. State Department yesterday said it was trying to persuade Russia to support Washington's proposals for changing the system of UN sanctions against Iraq. The department says U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the sanctions by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov of Russia. Moscow blocked the changes when the sanctions last came up in the UN Security Council in June.

Russian and Iraqi officials met yesterday in Moscow and called on President Vladimir Putin to help block possible new UN sanctions on Iraq. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Saltanov said Russia wants to develop its economic and political ties with Iraq.