Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz said on Friday that Baghdad would give U.N. arms inspectors whatever help it could to prove it does not have any banned weapons of mass destruction.
Hours after chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix delivered his report on Iraq disarmament to the U.N. Security Council, Aziz asserted that Baghdad was ready to defend itself against a U.S. attack but did not have the means to attack other states.
"We will do whatever possible, in our hands, in our capabilities, to help them (inspectors) to reach the ultimate truth about the absence of weapons of mass destruction," he told a news conference in Rome.
Aziz also rejected a call by Osama bin Laden on Muslims to come to Iraq's aid in case of a U.S. invasion, saying Baghdad did not need any outside help to defend itself.
"We do not need any support neither from al Qaeda nor from any other source to defend our country... We have enough brave men and women among the 25 million Iraqis to defend our own country," Aziz said.
Aziz branded U.S. war threats against Baghdad as something out of "a bad American movie," adding that other countries in the Middle East, such as Israel, need not worry about Iraq launching strikes in the event of war. "We don't have the means to attack any country beyond our territory."
Aziz, who earlier met Pope John Paul, warned European countries against rallying behind the United States, who he said wanted to colonize Iraq and dominate its oil fields.
"Other countries who do not share this imperialist objective should not participate in the war," Aziz said.
"If other countries, especially here in Europe and Christian countries, if they participate in such a war of aggression, it will be perceived by the Arab and Muslim world as a crusade."
On his part, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday the latest status report by the chief U.N. weapons inspectors for Iraq confirmed that Baghdad has failed to disarm.
Powell said this latest report to the Security Council provided further confirmation that Iraq was failing to disarm. He stated Baghdad was trying to endlessly string out the weapons inspection process by denying inspectors access to the Iraqi weapons specialists and relevant documents they need.
"These documents would be flooding out of homes, flooding out of factories," he said. "There would be no question about access, no question about interviews. If Iraq was serious about this matter, interviewees would be standing up outside UNMOVIC and IAEA offices in Baghdad."
He told the 14 other members of the Security Council they would have to consider in the very near future "serious consequences" for Iraq's behavior.
Powell conveyed the world should not be taken in by "tricks that are being played on us." "The threat of force must remain," he said.
"We cannot wait for one of these terrible weapons to turn up in our cities," Powell added. "More inspections - I am sorry - are not the answer," the U.S. diplomat declared.
In Washington, President Bush said confronting Iraq is part of the broader war against terrorists. "Saddam Hussein has ties to terrorist networks. Saddam Hussein is a danger and that's why he will be disarmed, one way or another," Bush said.
Earlier, Bush talked by telephone with the leaders of Estonia and Pakistan as part of his effort to build his case against Iraq.
Bush's chief spokesman, Ari Fleischer, told reporters at the White House, "The world still has great cause for concern about Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction. That's what came out of New York today." "The world is watching the United Nations," Fleischer said.
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