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US Skeptical About Iraq's Weapons Inspection Offer - 2002-08-02

Bush administration officials have said they're skeptical that Iraq's invitation for the chief U.N. arms inspector to visit Baghdad signals any change in its defiance of U.N. resolutions requiring it to scrap weapons of mass destruction.

State Department officials said if Iraq intends to make a genuine offer to break the deadlock over U.N. weapons inspections, then the gesture from Baghdad is a positive development.

However, they said the invitation to chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix is more likely a continuation of a long-running pattern of Iraqi "games-playing" to evade the requirements of Gulf War U.N. resolutions.

In a letter Thursday to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Iraq invited Mr. Blix to visit for talks it hinted could lead to a resumption of weapons inspections after a break of nearly four years.

A senior official here questioned what further talks could achieve, since he said Iraq is already fully aware of requirements that it provide full, unfettered access to inspectors and disarm. The Iraqi move comes amid debate in Washington about the possibility the Bush administration might use force to achieve its stated goal of "regime change" in Baghdad.