Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, has appealed to Turkey not to take part in a U.S. led attack against his country. Mr. Aziz also insisted that there was no need for a new United Nations resolution to set the terms of the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq.
Speaking at a news conference in Ankara, Mr. Aziz lashed out against U.S. efforts to push through a new U.N. resolution laying out tougher ground rules for the return of weapon inspectors to his country.
Mr. Aziz termed the U.S. proposal "unacceptable."
"The Americans are pushing for a belligerent new resolution, which reveals their real intention," said the Iraqi official. "I have been watching the American statements after the agreement between Mr. Blix and our technical delegation. They [the Americans] are unhappy about it. They should be happy if they were sincere about weapons of mass destruction. But I have always said that the question of weapons of mass destruction raised by the United States and Britain is a pretext, is a pretext to justify the unjustifiable aggression on Iraq."
Mr. Aziz also denied that his country possessed weapons of mass destruction. The Iraqi official insisted that Turkey should use all its regional clout in order to persuade the United States not to declare war on his country.
Turkey, the NATO alliance's only predominately Muslim member, is expected, albeit reluctantly, to open its bases to U.S. and Allied aircraft, in an operation against Iraq. Turkey fears that the removal of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could result in the sort of political turmoil that would allow Iraq's rebellious Kurds to establish an independent state.
Mr. Aziz was quick to play on such fears, saying that the dismemberment of Iraq could also lead to the dismemberment of Turkey, home to more than 12 million ethnic Kurds.
Mr. Aziz rebuked the Turkish government for allowing U.S. and British warplanes patrolling the no-fly zone over Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq to use bases in southern Turkey.
But in the event of war with the United States, he said, Iraq would not attack any of its neighbors, including Turkey.