Iraq - No New Weapons
Inspectors Will Be Permitted
By Louis Meixler
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ U.N. weapons inspection teams will not be allowed to return to Iraq even if they are given a new mandate and their leaders are replaced, a top Iraqi official declared Wednesday.
Iraq repeatedly has claimed that the U.N. Special Commission was a cover for espionage and has accused it of working to prolong U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq. The sanctions, imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, cannot be lifted until the inspectors certify that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction.
``The Special Commission is now something of the past,'' Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said at a press conference. He repeated Iraq's allegation that the inspectors were spies and said they were seen by the Iraqi public as ``stray dogs.''
``Any talk about its future _ whether it is to redecorate the ugly side of the commission or its work, or change its spies or their positions _ is a waste of time,'' he said. ``Iraq refuses to ... even talk about it.''
His comments came as France put a proposal before the U.N. Security Council in New York calling for lifting the oil embargo but imposing a new monitoring system that would focus on preventing Baghdad from acquiring new weapons of mass destruction.
Ramadan did not reject the French proposal outright. But he said the French initiative ``does not match our point of view.'' He added that ``any resolution which is not discussed or negotiated with Iraq ... will be rejected and we will not implement it.''
The U.N. weapons teams were withdrawn before U.S. and British airstrikes against Iraq in mid-December. The raids came after the commission released a report saying that Baghdad was blocking the work of the inspection teams.
Also Wednesday, Iraq said that Western aircraft violated its northern airspace and fired four missiles at civilian areas, hitting a house. The statement by the official Iraqi News Agency did not say if there were any casualties.
In Washington, Army Col. Richard Bridges said U.S. planes fired at anti-aircraft missile batteries in the seventh such incident since Christmas.
On Wednesday, Ramadan vowed that Iraq ``will continue confronting this violation with all our means ... and at whatever cost.''