BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Iraq challenged the United States yesterday to produce evidence it still has weapons of mass destruction. “Why play a game?” a top adviser to President Saddam Hussein asked.

As the huge collection of documents on Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological programs was being flown to U.N. headquarters, Lt. Gen. Amer Al-Saadi said the declaration demanded by the United Nations is accurate and complete.

Al-Saadi told reporters that the report contains no new Iraqi evidence to answer lingering questions inspectors have about crucial parts of Baghdad’s chemical and biological weapons programs. Baghdad has previously presented “first-class evidence” that was ignored for political reasons, he said.

A U.N. inspector brought a copy of the part of the report dealing with Iraq’s nuclear program to Vienna yesterday and handed it over to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. agency overseeing nuclear inspections in Iraq. IAEA experts were to begin examining the documents Saturday night, a spokeswoman said.

Two more copies of the report – which in its complete form totals more than 12,000 pages – were on their way to New York, one for the Security Council and the other for the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

The U.N. resolution requiring the declaration be filed yesterday also called on Iraq to declare any stocks or programs in chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. The Baghdad government says it has none.

Bush administration officials reject such Iraqi denials and threaten war if, in their view, Baghdad does not meet U.N. arms control demands. They say they have “solid evidence” Iraq retains weapons of mass destruction, but U.N. inspectors indicate they have seen no conclusive evidence thus far from U.S. or other sources.

Al-Saadi, a British-educated, former chief of military production for Iraq, told reporters the Iraqi declaration was “accurate” and “truthful.” Then he added:

“If they have anything to the contrary, let them forthwith come up with it, give it to (the U.N. inspectors). They are here. Why play a game?”

Al-Saadi said the report “will embarrass some nations and companies” cited as having assisted in Iraq’s pre-1991 efforts to build weapons of mass destruction, which Baghdad insists it no longer holds.

Al-Saadi said the document was so complete that if the council makes it all public, “this means that the Security Council is participating in the proliferation of materials” relating to prohibited weapons. He said the council already was discussing how to handle the report during a meeting in New York on Tuesday.

He complained that the U.S. administration, even before reading the dossiers filed Saturday, had ridiculed the mass of Iraqi documents as a “telephone directory.”

“We don’t understand this rush to judgment,” he said. “A superpower should study and take its time in judging, especially since everyone is looking on as it prepares for a huge military campaign, for an aggression against Iraq. It should behave wisely.”

Asked whether Iraq itself has included new evidence in its declaration to address major unanswered questions posed by the U.N. inspectors, al-Saadi focused on two issues: reported discrepancies in the disposition of large amounts of lethal VX nerve agent produced by Iraq in the 1980s, and large gaps in documentation linked to Iraq’s biological weapons program.

On VX, he said, “some first-class evidence” was given in the 1990s, but did not satisfy the inspectors then “because they were mainly led by personnel from the United States and Britain.” As for biological weapons, he said further evidence doesn’t exist because “the program didn’t exist after 1991.”

The U.N. plane carried the Iraqi declaration out of Baghdad to Cyprus for onward flights. On its return, the plane brought reinforcements for the U.N. weapons inspectors in the Iraqi capital, 25 new investigators who will double the staff and allow quick expansion of the inspection schedule.

The inspectors’ first helicopter was being assembled yesterday at Baghdad’s Saddam International Airport. They expect eight in all, enabling them to range farther afield with their daily surprise inspections.

The U.N. teams continued those missions yesterday, visiting a government mining and survey company in Baghdad with past association with uranium processing, which could help make fuel for nuclear bombs, and a pesticide plant west of Baghdad. Pesticide production can be converted to chemical weapons making.

The long-awaited Iraqi declaration comprised at least a dozen bound volumes accompanied by computer disks, covering such subjects as the 1990s U.N. weapons inspection regime in Iraq, when many arms and much production equipment were destroyed, and “dual-use” industries that can alternate between civilian and military production.

The arms declaration will draw weeks of scrutiny from nuclear engineers, chemists, microbiologists, missile technicians and other specialists as the United Nations searches for clues, among the dry accounts, of hidden arms programs or remaining caches of weapons of mass destruction.

“I hope the international community will bear with us and give us time to do a proper job,” said Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA director-general.

The U.N. experts are expected to “sanitize” the documents for distribution to representatives of 15 Security Council member nations, by removing sensitive information on producing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Translating from Arabic may also cause delays.

The U.N. agencies will compare the new Iraqi information with past Iraqi reports and with their own databases of past inspections and other information. What they learn “will be integrated in our overall strategy” as they plan targets for surprise visits in the coming weeks, said Jacques Baute, leader of the nuclear inspection team here.

“The information provided in this declaration will have to be verified, and the onus of that will fall on us,” said Demetrius Perricos, operational chief for the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, responsible for chemical and biological weapons and missiles.

If Iraq is eventually found to have cooperated fully with the inspectors, U.N. resolutions call for the Security Council to consider lifting economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Although Washington was dismissive of the Iraqi document submitted this weekend, the Russian Foreign Ministry, by contrast, issued a statement saying the declaration shows Iraq is committed “to act in compliance” with U.N. requirements.

In the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar, meanwhile, the U.S. Central Command prepares to inaugurate a seven-day, computer-assisted war game today that some observers speculate could be a rehearsal for a war against Iraq. The exercise will not involve troops in the field, but rather “tabletop” scenarios played out by staff officers.

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