Posted by Jeff from bgp01107368bgs.wbrmfd01.mi.comcast.net (126.96.36.199) on Monday, August 05, 2002 at 10:44AM :
Iraq Invites U.S. Congress to Visit Baghdad
Mon Aug 5, 9:27 AM ET
By Nadim Ladki
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq invited the U.S. Congress on Monday to send a mission to Baghdad and said it would be given free access to any site alleged to be developing weapons of mass destruction.
[Video] Iraq Criticizes U.S. Refusal on Inspectors
Influential Parliament Speaker Saadoun Hammadi, in a letter addressed to Congress, invited a delegation "comprising whatever number of congressmen you see fit, accompanied by experts in the fields you deem relevant to the purpose of the visit, i.e. chemical, biological and nuclear."
President Bush ( news - web sites) accuses Saddam Hussein ( news - web sites) of being a menace to the region and has said he is "looking at all options, the use of all tools" to deal with the Iraqi leader.
The Iraqi leadership held a meeting last Friday, which Hammadi attended. Hammadi is close to Saddam and any statement he makes is likely to have the approval of the Iraqi leader.
The four-page letter said the delegation would be given "every facility needed to search and inspect any plants and installations allegedly producing, or intended to produce, chemical, biological or nuclear weapons."
Hammadi said the delegation would be free to search whatever site it wished, "however deep underground such facilities may be thought to exist."
He said the delegation would be the guests of the Iraqi government for "say, a period of three weeks."
Hammadi delivered the letter to the Polish ambassador in Baghdad. The Polish embassy is in charge of U.S. interests in Iraq.
A copy of the letter in English was obtained by Reuters.
The letter came five days after Iraq invited chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix to Baghdad to discuss all pending issues on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, key to suspending U.N. sanctions imposed when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990.
Security Council members will discuss the invitation to Blix later Monday. The United States and Britain responded to the invitation with skepticism while France and Russia welcomed it.
The U.S. Congress last week held a hearing on the Bush administration's policy on toppling Saddam. The United States accuses Iraq of producing weapons of mass destruction, but Baghdad denies the charge.
"NOTHING TO LOSE"
Hammadi said in his letter U.S. administrations had misinformed the U.S. public since Iraq invaded Kuwait 12 years ago.
"I don't think that you stand to lose anything if you were to take your decision after you have seen the truth as it is on the ground," the letter said.
Earlier Monday, around 3,000 Iraqis, burning American flags and an effigy of Bush, took part in a march in Baghdad organized by parliament members to denounce U.S. threats to unseat Saddam.
"In spite of America, Saddam will stay forever," chanted the crowd, who defied summer temperatures of nearly 50 degrees to take part in the demonstration.
"We are here to protest against American plans to attack Iraq and to declare support for our beloved leader...and express our readiness to defend our country," MP Mohammad al-Adhami told Reuters.
"Bush and his aides will be disgraced," said Maedah al-Zubeidi, a 55-year-old housewife who said she had volunteered for military training to fight any attack.
Bush said over the weekend that "nothing's changed" regarding the U.S. determination to topple Saddam.
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