Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister says Baghdad will cooperate with United Nations weapons inspections and that U-S charges that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction will be exposed as "lies."
Tareq Aziz spoke to reporters today (Saturday) as chief U-N weapons inspector Hans Blix prepared to arrive in Baghdad on Monday. He will be accompanied by an advance team that will lay the groundwork for the first inspections in four years.
Earlier today, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein said he accepted U-N Security Council demands for Iraq to disarm in order to avoid a U-S attack.
In an open letter to the Iraqi parliament, President Saddam says he considered the parliament's recommendation to reject the Security Council's demands. But he says he chose to act on the demands because of what he called a U-S-Zionist alliance planning to wage war on the Iraqi people.
The Iraqi leader said he hoped new inspections would prove Iraq is not concealing any outlawed weapons.
Speaking to a Paris newspaper today, Mr. Blix said that if Iraqi officials delay inspectors in their work for even 30 minutes, it would be a serious violation of Iraq's obligations to the Security Council.
In a resolution passed on November eighth, the Security Council said Iraq must comply with inspections and rid itself of weapons of mass destruction or face "serious consequences." President Bush has threatened military action and says there will be "zero tolerance" for Iraqi maneuvering to avoid detection of banned weapons.
Meanwhile, Iraq says a U-S-British airstrike in southern Iraq Friday killed seven people and injured four others.
The Pentagon said Friday that the planes bombed an Iraqi air defense site in Najar province after coming under missile and artillery fire. The planes were patrolling the no-fly zone over southern Iraq.
The no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq were set up after the 1991 Gulf War to protect the country's Kurdish and Shiite Muslim minorities.