Iraq offers to talk to UN weapons inspectors

 

Iraq says it is prepared to talk to the UN inspectorate about its criticisms of the Baghdad declaration on weapons of mass destruction.

General Hossam Mohammed Amin, Iraqi representative to the inspectorate, says he sees no reason for the condemnation.

Inspectors Mr Hans Blix and Mr Mohamed El Baradei says the Iraqi declaration is largely a rehash of old information, and they would be seeking more data from Iraq.

General Amin says his government is "willing to reach an understanding" with the UN.

"We know very well, and they know very well, that we have no weapons of mass destruction."

The United States says the declaration is so inadequate that it amounts to a "material breach" of the council resolution. Britain says the declaration is a lie.

General Amin says his government will not threaten any scientist who accepts an invitation from the inspectors to leave the country for further interviews.

He said the inspectors had been interviewing Iraqi scientists for about 10 days, and his government saw no need to take them abroad.

"We see no necessity for that. In fact, this is not our opinion only. It is the opinion of Blix and Elbradei too. They said they do not see any necessity to interview the scientists outside Iraq.

"This subject is related to the person's right to choose. No one can force him - neither the Iraqi government, nor the others to leave his country. I have no comment on this, but we will not punish anyone."

AP