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Iraq 'Eager' to Resolve Remaining Disputes with Weapons Inspectors - 2003-02-03

U.N. inspectors are continuing their search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, as Baghdad expresses more willingness to cooperate with them to resolve remaining issues. Regional leaders say it is up to Iraq to avoid armed conflict.

While U.N. weapons inspectors fanned out to military, missile, medical, chemical and biological sites, as well as two Iraqi universities, Iraqi officials are saying they are eager to resolve any remaining disputes with the inspectors.

The Iraqi liaison to the inspection teams, Maj. Gen. Hossam Mohamed Amin, said efforts are being made to resolve the issue of U.N. demands that weapons inspectors be allowed to interview Iraqi scientists in private and to use U-2 spy planes to fly over suspected weapons sites. He also said the Iraqi government might draft legislation this week that would outlaw the manufacture and possession of weapons of mass destruction.

The general said Iraq might offer other concessions in advance of Saturday's scheduled visit to Baghdad by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Both men are scheduled to report to the Security Council next week.

Iraq's U.N. Ambassador, Mohamed al-Douri, said he thinks the two sides will find a solution for all remaining issues.

Iraq's news agency reports the inspectors have found a small damaged warhead and a ceramic mold used in missile production. The agency said the items are not banned, and inspectors have not expressed any concern about them.

Meanwhile, there was a warning from Iraq's parliament speaker, Saadoon Hammadi. He said U.S. aggression will "end up in a catastrophe" for the Americans if Iraq is invaded. He predicted U.S. forces would incur casualties "beyond their imagination."

In Cairo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said it is Iraq's responsibility to avert armed conflict. The Egyptian leader said Iraq must apply "a policy of transparency" if it is to avoid war.

In Amman, Jordan, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said that the chances of Iraq avoiding war are "slim" unless it heeds regional and international warnings to cooperate completely with the weapons inspectors.

The Greek foreign minister arrived in Jordan from Syria. He is on a tour of the region that will include a stop in Beirut. Greece currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. Officials at the European Union confirm that consultations are underway on possibly holding an emergency EU meeting to discuss the Iraq crisis.

In Baghdad, the government-run newspaper Babel, owned by a son of President Saddam Hussein, called for an emergency Arab summit on the crisis. The newspaper said such a summit should adopt a resolution that condemns possible military action and seeks to resolve the issue peacefully. The Arab League is scheduled to meet in March, but Secretary General Amr Moussa has said the meeting might be held earlier because of the threat of war.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has promised to provide what he called "straightforward, sober and compelling" proof that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. But Iraqi officials say the evidence will be what they called "fabricated space photographs or aerial photos." They said it is the kind of evidence they could refute if given an opportunity to study it. Secretary Powell said he will present his evidence to the Security Council on Wednesday.