- 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- The U.N. weapons teams were withdrawn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