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February 05, 2003

IRAQ'S FIRST RESPONSE

In it's entirety, the AP story. It is a valuable story in that it accurately represents both sides not because I agree with everything in it. There do seem to be some Powell claims already explained away by previous UN inspector reports. [see other related posts today before you think I'm attacking Powell}

Iraq Dismisses Powell's U.N. Speech
Feb 5, 4:07 PM (ET) By CHARLES J. HANLEY



BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraqi officials on Wednesday dismissed Secretary of State Colin Powell's anti-Iraq case before the U.N. Security Council as a collection of "stunts,""special effects" and "unknown sources" aimed at undermining the work of U.N. arms inspectors in Iraq.

"What we heard today was for the general public and mainly the uninformed, in order to influence their opinion and to commit the aggression on Iraq," Lt. Gen. Amir al-Saadi, a presidential adviser, told reporters.

Al-Saadi suggested that monitored Iraqi conversations played by Powell were fabricated, that defector informants were unreliable, and that satellite photographs Powell displayed "proved nothing."

He noted that similar earlier photos were checked by U.N. teams who found allegations of suspicious activities to be unfounded.

Al-Saadi and Maj. Gen. Hossam Mohamed Amin, chief liaison to the U.N. arms inspectors, appeared in a government conference room teeming with hundreds of journalists, Iraqi officials and visiting European Parliament members, who closely followed Powell's 80-minute address on live satellite television.

Powell's New York appearance was not broadcast on Iraqi TV, which instead aired an interview President Saddam Hussein gave over the weekend to former left-wing British lawmaker Tony Benn. THIS IS IRONIC FOR THOSE FOLLOWING ALONG

The U.S. secretary's presentation cited several examples of what Powell said were suspicious activities by the Iraqis, without noting that those locations are now under regular monitoring by U.N. inspectors.

One example was a missile-engine test installation where U.S. analysts said last year a new structure might test engines that break a U.N. limit on missile range. "A roof has been put over it so it will be harder for satellites to see what's going on underneath," he said. U.N. inspectors visit the facility regularly.

Other installations cited as suspicious by Powell but which have been under U.N. scrutiny include the al-Taji munitions storage facility, the Mussayib pharmaceutical complex and the Tariq pesticide plant.

Of the Tariq plant, Powell said, "Iraq has rebuilt key portions of the Tariq state establishment. Tariq includes facilities designed specifically for Iraq's chemical weapons program." U.N. teams have inspected that complex several times, without reporting finding any such violations.

Saadi described Powell's approach as a "a deliberate attempt to undermine the credibility and professionalism of the inspection bodies ... by making allegations which directly contradict their assessments or cast doubt on their credibility."

A key focus of Powell's allegations - that Iraq has mobile biological-weapons labs - had been raised by Washington before, and rejected by Amin as "totally unfounded."

On Jan. 18, U.N. inspectors examined two Iraqi mobile food laboratories at a Trade Ministry site. Chief inspector Hans Blix later said they were determined not to be connected with weapons-making. He called on Washington to provide any solid information they have on such labs.

Al-Saadi took up that theme, accusing Washington of itself violating U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 by not providing intelligence data linked to its allegations, as requested in the resolution.

Amin had predicted the Powell material would be largely "lies or fabrications" that Iraqi officials would be able to refute "if we were given the opportunity to see those evidences in detail."

On other points, al-Saadi:

_Said "any third-rate intelligence outfit" could have created the tape recordings presented by Powell as intercepts of conversations between Iraqi officers.

_Said documents found in an Iraqi nuclear scientist's home, which Powell suggested were incriminating, were determined by inspectors to have been unimportant or obsolete.

Saadi centered his rebuttal, ironically, on a defense of the U.N. inspectors who have been investigating the Iraqi government and its military-industrial operations since last Nov. 27.

"He should give time for the inspectors to do their job," he told reporters.

Those U.N. teams, now comprising more than 100 weapons experts, have conducted more than 500 inspections in more than two months without reporting finding any major violations of the U.N. ban on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological or nuclear.

The inspectors were back on the job Wednesday, paying surprise visits to, among other sites, Iraq's major nuclear research center at Tuwaitha, south of Baghdad; a food research center in the capital; a dairy company to the west of the capital, and the Laser Institute at Baghdad University.