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Saddam Hussein Urges Cooperation With UN Inspections - 2002-12-05

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is urging his people to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, speaking at an official gathering marking the start of the Eid El-Fitr holiday, said Iraqis are eager to show inspectors that the country is free of weapons of mass destruction, and he called on Iraqis to show support to the U.N. inspectors.

The Iraqi leader's comments, which were broadcast on television, are his first on the inspection process since the U.N. team began its search for banned weapons last week. The inspectors are taking two days off because of the Muslim festivities.

On Wednesday, Iraq's vice president issued a strong criticism of the inspectors. Speaking to a group of Egyptians visiting Baghdad, Taha Yassin Ramadan charged that the inspectors were actually spies for U.S. and Israeli intelligence services. Mr. Ramadan said the inspectors' mission was to provide information in an effort to provoke a war against Iraq.

The vice president was especially critical of the inspectors' visit to a presidential palace earlier this week. He said they were trying to incite palace guards to bar their entrance. Had the guards done so, the vice president said, they could have been charged with violating the U.N. inspection mandate, setting the stage for an attack against Iraq.

The comments by Iraqi leaders come ahead of December 8 deadline for Iraq to submit a complete report of its chemical and biological weapons, as well as information on its other weapons programs.

U.N. and U.S. officials have said inspections are expected to greatly increase following the issuance of the report.