- BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi
Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said on Saturday the U.S. and Britain
wanted arms inspectors back in Iraq to find excuses to launch a fresh attack.
- His remarks came two days after U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan and Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri ended a meeting in New
York aimed at allowing inspectors back into Iraq.
- Ramadan said the arms inspectors, who spent eight years
in the country after the 1991 Gulf War, had finished their mission.
- Washington and London wanted them to return to "manufacture
a new crisis in order to provide an excuse for fresh American-British attacks
on Iraq," he told a conference of Arab politicians and non-governmental
- The New York talks were held amid speculation that Iraq
might be the next U.S. target in its war on terrorism.
- Tension between Washington and Baghdad has heightened
since President Bush called Iraq part of an "axis of evil" in
his State of the Union address in January.
- U.S. officials have also said they are considering options
for "regime change" in Iraq -- a euphemism for overthrowing Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein.
- Ramadan said that if Washington attacked Iraq it would
gain nothing but "humiliation and failure, thanks to our united domestic
front and to the Iraqi people's loyalty to President Saddam Hussein.
- "Listing Iraq ... in the American axis of evil is
just terrorism and aggression," he said.
- U.N. weapons experts, trying to assess whether Iraq has
weapons of mass destruction, left Iraq on the eve of a U.S.- British bombing
campaign in mid-December 1998.
- They have not been allowed to return since and are key
to easing U.N. sanctions against Iraq, imposed after Baghdad's troops invaded
Kuwait in August 1990.
- Sabri and Annan agreed to hold further talks in mid-April,
after the Arab League Summit in Beirut on March 27-28.
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