UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Iraq is free of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, Saddam Hussein told the United Nations in a speech read yesterday by his foreign minister. The White House dismissed the speech as a “disappointing failure.”
It was the first comments attributed to the Iraqi leader since Iraq’s surprise announcement this week that it would accept the unconditional return of international weapons inspectors nearly four years after they left. The decision, which followed a tough speech on Iraq last week by President Bush, has divided the major powers on the U.N. Security Council.
“Our country is ready to receive any scientific experts, accompanied by politicians you choose to represent any one of your countries, to tell us which places and scientific installations they would wish to see, particularly those about which the American officials have been fabricating false stories, alleging that they contain prohibited materials or activities,” Foreign Minister Naji Sabri told the world body, quoting the Iraqi president.
“I hereby declare before you that Iraq is clear of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons,” Sabri said, further quoting Saddam.
The speech to the U.N. General Assembly – one week after Bush addressed the gathering – was greeted with loud applause by diplomats from around the world.
But in Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the speech “presented nothing new and was more of the same.”
“The speech is an attempt to lure the world down the same dead-end road that the world has traveled before and, in that, it represents a disappointing failure by Iraq,” Fleischer said.
Appearing in the afternoon at the homeland security command center, Bush told reporters he had not heard the speech by Iraq’s foreign minister.
“Let me guess, the United States is guilty, the world doesn’t understand, we don’t have weapons of mass destruction – it’s the same old song and dance we’ve heard for 11 years,” he said, calling anew for the United Nations to pass a get-tough resolution.
In the speech, the Iraqi president said he wanted a comprehensive solution to its problems with the United Nations to “bring to an end the cyclone of American accusations and fabricated crises against Iraq.”
The speech heavily criticized the United States and Bush for trying to link Iraq in some way to the tragedy of Sept. 11.
It charged that “the American propaganda machine, along with official statements of lies, distortion and falsehood” was being used for “inciting the American public against Iraq, and pushing them to accept the U.S. administration’s schemes of aggression as a fait accompli.”
Iraq called on the United Nations to help protect its sovereignty in the face of possible U.S. military action.
And it charged that the United States was working in concert with Israel and was trying to control the Middle East oil supply.
“The U.S. administration wants to destroy Iraq in order to control the Middle East oil and consequently control the politics as well as the oil and economic policies of the whole world,” the foreign minister said.
He also charged that the United States was fomenting problems with Iraq to prevent the Security Council from lifting economic sanctions and to keep the Middle East from becoming a nuclear-free zone as called for in council resolutions.
The United States, he said, does not want to embarrass Israel – which he referred to as “the Zionist entity” – or deprive it of the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons it possesses.
Despite Iraq’s offer to admit the inspectors, the United States and Britain have begun crafting a draft resolution that would tighten the timetable Iraq has to comply with previous resolutions and authorize force it fails to do so.