The United States is rejecting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's charge that United Nations weapons inspectors are conducting what he called "pure intelligence work."
In a televised speech Monday, the Iraqi leader said inspectors are compiling lists of Iraqi scientists and asking questions about army camps and legitimate military operations, at a time when the United States is considering action against Iraq.
He also hailed Palestinian suicide bombers who attack Israeli targets -- mostly recently in Tel Aviv Sunday. The Iraqi leader was speaking on the 82nd anniversary of the formation of Iraq's armed forces.
The United States Monday denounced the Iraqi leader's spying allegation as "unfortunate" and blasted his praise for Palestinian suicide bombers as "horrific."
A spokeswoman for the U-N International Atomic Energy Agency Melissa Fleming flatly rejected the claim that inspectors were providing information to any single government. She told a reporter (for Associated Press) that any intelligence gained was for the United Nations.
President Saddam promised that Iraq would win any showdown with U-S-led forces, and said Washington's public stance against Iraq is an attempt to divert attention from Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.
In another development, The Washington Post reported Monday that U-S defense officials say the military is putting together a ground force that could exceed 100-thousand troops for a possible invasion of Iraq.
The New York Times says President Bush's national security team is considering plans for a heavy military presence in Iraq for at least 18 months after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The plans also are said to call for a quick takeover of Iraq's oilfields, which could provide money to pay for the country's reconstruction.