Saddam Hussein's government tonight dismissed the tape recordings, satellite photos and other evidence Secretary of State Colin L. Powell presented to the U.N. Security Council as "stunts and special effects" aimed at undermining the work of arms inspectors and pressuring other nations to support a U.S.-led military invasion.
Gen. Amir Saadi, Hussein's top adviser on weapons issues, called Powell's pronouncements "a typical American show" and argued that the U.S. government instead should have given its evidence to the U.N. inspectors, who could have verified the accuracy of the material.
"What we heard today was for the general public and mainly for the uninformed in order to influence their opinion and to commit the aggression on Iraq," Saadi said at a news conference convened less than two hours after Powell finished delivering evidence that he said led to the "irrefutable and undeniable" conclusion that Iraq was in "further material breach" of U.N. demands to disarm.
Saadi, an articulate, British-trained chemist, offered no new evidence to refute Powell's detailed presentation. Instead, he responded with tart rhetoric, attacking Powell's various allegations as untruths, exaggerations and fabrications.
Although Iraq betrayed no hint tonight of what action, if any, it might take in response, the Security Council session appeared to increase pressure on Hussein to accede to at least some of the weapons inspectors' demands. The two chief inspectors, who plan to travel here this weekend for meetings with government officials, want Iraq to ensure that its scientists consent to private interviews, to guarantee the safety of U-2 surveillance flights and to provide more information about its past weapons programs.
In the news conference, Saadi scoffed at tapes of what Powell said were intercepted phone conversations between Iraqi military officers. In one of the tapes, the officers were purported to be talking about removing a reference to nerve agents from written instructions.
"From what we've heard, any third-rate intelligence outfit could produce such a recording. . . . It is simply untrue and not genuine," Saadi said.
He maintained that satellite photographs Powell showed the council to allege that Iraq had recently moved stocks of chemical weapons "prove nothing." He said the inspectors had visited the site in question and found no indication of suspicious activity.
"Everything was explained, and it's in their reports," Saadi said. "It's unfounded."
In a brief statement read to reporters before Saadi's news conference, Iraq's information minister, Mohammed Saeed Sahaf, dismissed the satellite images as "no more than cartoon films."
Saadi said he would present a more detailed refutation of Powell's presentation on Thursday evening in Baghdad. A senior Information Ministry official said Foreign Minister Naji Sabri would send a formal response to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and each of the 15 nations on the Security Council.
Powell's presentation was not broadcast here on television, which is controlled by the government. The main state-run channel instead aired an interview Hussein gave recently to a former member of the British Parliament in which the Iraqi leader denied that his government possessed weapons of mass destruction or had links to the al Qaeda terrorist organization.
Powell argued that Iraq had engaged in an extensive effort to hide suspicious and incriminating material from inspectors. He alleged that computer hard drives at weapons sites had been replaced and "numerous human sources" had reported that biological and chemical weapons had been scattered in remote locations.
But Saadi noted that the inspectors had searched many of the locations mentioned by Powell and had not uncovered evidence of banned arms. He called Powell's comments "a deliberate attempt to undermine the credibility and professionalism of the inspection bodies . . . by making allegations that directly contradict their assessments or cast doubt on their credibility."
Saadi said Powell's statements about the biological and chemical warfare agents Iraq produced before the 1991 Persian Gulf War "exaggerated their volume and significance." Powell asserted that Iraq manufactured vast quantities of anthrax bacteria and VX nerve agent and has failed to produce sufficient evidence to support claims that it destroyed those products. Iraqi officials have insisted that the anthrax and VX the country produced in the 1980s were not refined enough to remain potent for more than a few years.
Saadi said Powell was lying when he said Hussein had created a high-level committee to obstruct the work of the inspectors. Powell said the group includes Saadi, Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan and one of Hussein's two sons, Qusay Hussein.
Powell also made special mention of Saadi, saying his job "is not to cooperate, it is to deceive" the inspectors.
Saadi lashed out at that contention as "absolute nonsense" and "simply untrue." He said he received an order from the president to "tell everything as it is."