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Arab World Appeals for Extending UN Inspections in Iraq - 2003-01-29

While U.N. arms inspectors continued their hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, there were calls from the Arab world to give the inspectors more time to complete their search. And while Kuwait responded positively to President George W. Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday, Kuwaiti officials also said the international community should decide Iraq's fate, not the United States alone.

Kuwait's defense minister says he agrees with President Bush, who said Tuesday that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is a threat and cannot be trusted. But Sheik Jaber Mubarak al Sabah, said Kuwait prefers that a final decision regarding possible war against Iraq be reached by the U.N. Security Council.

Elsewhere in the Arab world, officials and newspapers said President Bush's speech renewed concern about a war on Iraq.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud said a peaceful solution to the Iraqi crisis would be in the best interest of the region and the world.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa called for more time for the weapons inspectors. Mr. Maher said the inspectors progress report to the U.N. Security Council "does not justify war."

While criticizing Baghdad for not fully cooperating with U.N. weapons inspectors, Mr. Maher says the report to the Security Council indicates Iraq has cooperated in what he called "many areas." The foreign minister urged countries to make information about Iraq's weapons available to the inspectors.

The Saudi newspapers al Madina and Okaz accused the Bush administration of having reached the decision to wage war even before Monday's report to the Security Council.

One newspaper, Okaz, urged Iraq not to give Washington any justification to attack, calling on Baghdad to stop what it called "provocation and bargaining." Another Saudi daily al-Madina said the United States is working to complete its military buildup while trying to find political and legal justifications to invade Iraq.

On Tuesday, President Bush told Congress that Secretary of State Colin Powell would provide new evidence to the Security Council next week.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, weapons inspectors went north and south of the capital in their search for banned weapons. The inspectors searched medicine stores, a research center, an Iraqi university, and a company that makes fuses for artillery munitions. A chemical team used helicopters to conduct aerial surveys.