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Baghdad Defends Its Right To Weapons Of Mass Destruction

Undated file picture shows UNSCOM inspectors in charge of disarming Iraq, preparing to destroy Iraqi 122 mm rockets filled with the chemical nerve agent Sarin at an unspecified location in the Iraqi desert.
Baghdad (AFP) Jan 20, 2002
The United States will not be able to prevent the Arabs from acquiring weapons of mass destruction in future "whether overtly or covertly" in order to offset Israel's own arsenal of such weapons, an official Iraqi newspaper said Sunday.

"The Zionist entity, founded on usurption and aggression, possesses various weapons of mass destruction, and this has prompted more than one Arab country to seek to acquire one or more such weapons in order to deter (Israel)," said Ath-Thawra, mouthpiece of the ruling Baath Party.

"Acquiescing to Israel's, but not Arab, possession of such weapons is a case of double standards. But no matter how much those who pursue double standards try to obstruct the Arabs, they will not stop their efforts to achieve this goal, be they overt or covert, in future," it said.

Acquiring weapons of mass destruction is consistent with "the right to self-defence and the requirements of national security," irrespective of the nature of a ruling regime, Ath-Thawra said.

While sanctioning Israel's possesion of weapons of mass destruction, the United States had reacted as if Iraq had committed "an unforgivable sin" when Baghdad "thought of acquiring something of such weapons," the paper said.

"And what did Iraq acquire except for a limited number of missiles, all of which were destroyed under the supervision of the Special Commission?," Ath-Thawra asked, referring to the now-defunct UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) that was in charge of overseeing Baghdad's disarmament.

Moreover, Iraq gave UNSCOM all information about its other, "incomplete programs" to develop weapons of mass destruction, and "all the equipment and material needed" to build such arms were dismantled under its supervision.

US President George W. Bush warned Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on Wednesday that he would "deal with him at the appropriate time" unless he readmitted UN weapons inspectors, who pulled out of Iraq on the eve of a December 1998 US-British bombing campaign against the country.

"We want to know whether or not he is developing weapons of mass destruction. He claims he is not. Let the world see," Bush said.

Iraq is widely seen as a potential target of a future phase of Washington's "war on terror," launched in Afghanistan last October in retaliation for the previous month's attacks in New York and Washington.

The Iraqi army daily Al-Qadissiya said Sunday Bush was "hallucinating" when he warned Iraq it should allow the arms inspectors back or face retribution.

"Whether (Bush spoke) before or after he fainted and fell, (his remarks) contain all the attributes of, first, hallucination and, secondly ... recognition that the United States sponsors and practices terrorism," the paper said.

Three days before he made his remarks on Iraq, Bush briefly fainted and fell with his glasses on after choking on a pretzel, suffering cuts to the side of his face and lip.

The arms inspectors were "spies, no more and no less ... and it was the US administration which instructed Butler to pull his spies out hours before the 1998 aggression," said Al-Qadissiya, referring to UNSCOM chief Richard Butler.

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