Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz on Wednesday rejected "indefinite" international punishment of Iraq, saying Baghdad would no longer accept UN weapons inspections.
"We are no longer prepared to accept UN inspection of our military arsenal," said Aziz in an interview with the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera.
"Our government does not accept the principle of indefinite punishment," for the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi troops, he added.
"The Kuwait chapter is closed, over for ever; we have accepted and recognized its international borders."
Aziz accused the United States in an interview with the Italian paper La Stampa of "seeking to wipe out the political leadership of our country because it wants Iraqi oil."
"The United States raise the issue of democracy and human rights, but are there democracy, human rights in Saudi Arabia, their ally?" he said.
Aziz said "continuing attacks by the United States, Britain and Iran against us, as well as the embargo" imposed on Iraq after its August 1990 invasion of Kuwait, had so far scuttled plans for a visit to holy sites in Iraq by Pope John Paul II.
"We have good relations with the Vatican, and no problem with the pope's visit, if it was not for the situation in Iraq," he said.
"We cannot guarantee his security," he added.
The UN-imposed embargo is linked to the elimination of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Aziz spoke as Italian members of parliament held a series of meetings with senior Iraqi ministers.
Led by Guido Folloni, the parliamentary delegation held talks with Aziz on "ways of developing Iraqi-Italian cooperation and establishing a permament dialogue" between the two countries.
Iraqi papers cited Aziz as saying that Baghdad "appreciated the role Rome was playing and its call to lift the unjust embargo imposed by the United Nations on Iraq" since its invasion of Kuwait.
Aziz on Tuesday urged UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to intervene to halt the almost daily US and British air raids over the north and south of Iraq.
According to Aziz, US and British warplanes made 178 sorties between June 17th-23rd over Iraq, coming from bases in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – ROME (AFP)
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