A senior Iraqi official said today that he expects Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to present the U.N. Security Council with fabricated evidence this week alleging that the country possesses weapons of mass destruction.
Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, head of Iraq's weapons monitoring directorate and the chief liaison with U.N. weapons inspectors, said the U.S. government would show the council "planted photos" to make its case that Iraq still has banned arms.
"I think they will be fabricated," Amin said. "They will be space photos, aerial photos, of some vehicles that could be interpreted in different ways just to create suspicion around the Iraqi declaration. They will not be real evidences because we have nothing. We have no weapons of mass destruction."
Powell plans to present to the Security Council on Wednesday what U.S. officials have said will be strong evidence that Iraq is working to impede the inspectors and conceal prohibited weapons. The officials have said that Powell probably will brandish satellite images and electronic intercepts of Iraqi communications.
Amin said, however, that his government would demonstrate a "willingness to cooperate" with the United Nations' top two weapons inspectors, who intend to arrive here Saturday for another round of talks before they deliver their next progress report to the council on Feb. 14. The inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, want Iraq to allow the United Nations to conduct U-2 surveillance flights over Iraq and to make Iraqi scientists available for unmonitored interviews. They also want Iraq to provide more evidence about its past efforts to convert anthrax and the VX nerve agent into weapons.
Blix and ElBaradei had insisted they would not travel to Baghdad until Saddam Hussein's government agreed to relent on those issues, but after meeting with Iraq's U.N. ambassador on Saturday, the two men indicated they would make the trip.
Speaking to reporters today, Amin said Iraq cannot guarantee the safety of the U-2s if U.S. and British warplanes do not suspend patrols in parts of the country designated as "no-fly" zones for Iraqi aircraft. And he said that Iraq "can't force" scientists to meet privately with inspectors despite a promise that it would encourage participation in confidential questioning sessions.
In other developments today, a former member of Britain's Parliament, Tony Benn, said he conducted an hour-long interview with Hussein today. Benn said the interview, Hussein's first with a Westerner since before the 1991 Persian Gulf War, would be edited down to a half-hour and broadcast this week.
Benn said he asked Hussein about 10 questions, including whether he still possesses weapons of mass destruction or has ties to the al Qaeda terrorist organization. Benn refused to divulge any of Hussein's answers.
Also today, authorities in an autonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq said they had refused to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to enter a university science facility in the city of Irbil because the team had not informed the local government it was coming, the Reuters news agency reported. The Kurdistan regional government said in a statement that it expected to be given prior notice of inspections. A spokesman for the inspectors, whose Security Council mandate gives them unfettered access to any site in Iraq, could not be reached for comment.