Posted by Jeff from bgp01107368bgs.wbrmfd01.mi.comcast.net (126.96.36.199) on Sunday, August 11, 2002 at 12:22PM :
In Reply to: An interesting factoid about Iraq-toid posted by Jeff from bgp01107368bgs.wbrmfd01.mi.comcast.net (188.8.131.52) on Sunday, August 11, 2002 at 8:58AM :
Report: Saddam Offers to 'Admit Weapons Inspectors'
Sun Aug 11, 7:37 AM ET
By Peter Graff
LONDON (Reuters) - Iraqi President Saddam Hussein ( news - web sites) has promised a British parliamentarian that he will give weapons inspectors access to his country, a British Sunday newspaper said, but the British government dismissed the reported offer.
The Mail on Sunday said George Galloway, a member of parliament from Prime Minister Tony Blair ( news - web sites)'s Labour Party who also writes a column for the weekly's Scottish edition, had met the Iraqi leader at a secret underground bunker near Baghdad.
Saddam announced "he would implement all U.N. resolutions on Iraq and admit weapons inspectors without hindrance," the paper said, although it did not quote the pledge directly.
It said Saddam had asked for better ties with Britain.
"We don't know why you turned against us more than any other European country," it quoted Saddam as saying.
But Saddam also echoed Winston Churchill to warn that if Western countries invade Iraq, "we will fight on the streets, on the rooftops, from house to house, we will never surrender."
Commenting on the reported offer, a British Foreign Office spokesman told Reuters: "This changes nothing. Saddam Hussein knows clearly what he has to do and that is comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions. The ball is in his court."
Saddam's meeting with the maverick Galloway, who has made several visits to Iraq in the past, comes at a time when Blair is facing increasing unease at home over his backing for a tough line on Iraq.
Blair is the only major Western leader seen as strongly backing Washington's tough line on Iraq.
The Foreign Office spokesman stressed: "No decision has been taken to launch military action. But we are united with the United States in our determination to deal with the threat of weapons of mass destruction."
Polls show a war on Iraq would be unpopular in Britain, and some members of Blair's Labour Party are among the most outspoken opponents of hostilities.
Galloway said: "I believe the anti-war movement is growing in Britain and the message I am bringing back from Saddam will encourage them. Saddam clearly understood that Iraq has to be seen to go the extra diplomatic mile and he promised to do so."
Iraqi officials have said in interviews in the British press over the past few weeks that they hope to shake London's support for Washington's hard-line position.
Washington and London argue that Iraq is in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for it to admit weapons inspectors to search for weapons of mass destruction, leading to the suspension of sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Britain and the United States have dismissed as a ploy an Iraqi offer made in recent days for technical talks on the possible return of the weapons inspectors. The inspectors left Iraq in 1998 ahead of U.S.-British air strikes aimed at punishing Baghdad for failing to cooperate with inspections.
Iraq said on Saturday it was waiting for an official response from the U.S. Congress to an invitation to visit Baghdad which it said could include arms experts.
The Iraqi letter on Aug. 5 said such experts would be given free access to any site alleged to be developing weapons of mass destruction.
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