Posted by Lilly from D007013.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu (220.127.116.11) on Sunday, September 08, 2002 at 8:33PM :
in case some of you didn't hear about this today
Sunday, September 8, 2002
Ex-U.N. Inspector Visits Iraq to Warn Against War
by Hassan Hafidh
BAGHDAD - Scott Ritter, a former U.N. arms inspector who rejects U.S. charges that Baghdad is developing weapons of mass destruction, said in Iraq Sunday it would be a "historical mistake" for Washington to attack.
The U.S. national, who arrived Saturday on a visit he arranged hoping to help stop any U.S.-led war, defied his government to substantiate its claim that Baghdad was producing prohibited weapons and posed a threat to its neighbors.
Ritter, who for seven years was a member of the U.N. body in charge of dismantling Iraq's weapons, urged Baghdad to let U.N. weapons inspectors return without conditions.
"My country seems to be on the verge of making a historical mistake," Ritter told Iraq's parliament, in reference to a possible U.S. attack on Iraq.
President Bush might order a military strike against Iraq to topple the government of President Saddam Hussein, whom Washington accuses of developing nuclear, biological or chemical arms.
"The rhetoric of fear that is disseminated by my government, has not, to date, been backed by hard facts that substantiate any allegations that Iraq is today in possession of weapons of mass destruction or has links to terror groups responsible for September 11 attacks on the United States," Ritter said.
The former U.S. Marine resigned his U.N. post in 1998 -- the year inspectors quit Iraq -- and later accused Washington of using the inspections teams to spy on Iraq.
On leaving his U.N. job, Ritter at the time accused the United Nations and the United States of not being tough enough on Iraq when it violated Security Council resolutions, but he subsequently became a vocal critic of U.S. policy on Iraq.
"Iraq, during nearly seven years of continuos inspection activity by the United Nations, had been certified as being disarmed to a 90-95 percent level," he said.
"The truth of the matter is that Iraq today is not a threat to its neighbors, and is not acting in a manner which threatens anyone outside of its own borders."
Iraqi parliament members listen to Scott Ritter, former chief weapons inspector for the UN, not in photo, addressing the members just hours after his arrival early Sunday in Iraqi capital of Baghdad, Sept. 8, 2002. "I am happy to be here. I hope my presence here will help stop a war," Ritter said. ( AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Ritter, however, said that to avoid U.S. military action Iraq should provide unfettered return of weapons inspectors, who left Iraq on the eve of a U.S.-British bombing campaign in December 1998 for Baghdad's alleged failure to cooperate with them.
"The only path toward peace that will be embraced by the international community is one which begins by Iraq agreeing to the immediate, unconditional return of U.N. weapons inspections operating in full keeping with the mandate as set forth by existing U.N. Security Council resolutions," he said.
Iraq feels that if the inspectors are readmitted, a crisis over their activities could soon arise which the United States would exploit as a legitimate pretext for an attack.
"Iraq has legitimate grievances regarding the past work of the weapons inspectors, and for that reason has sought to keep inspectors from returning to Iraq. But I also know that there will be no peaceful solution of this current crisis unless Iraq allows their return," Ritter told parliament.
© 2002 Reuters Ltd
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