The Iraqi government believes there is nothing more it can do to avert a war with the United States, Iraq's chief liaison to the U.N. weapons inspectors said tonight.
But Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, director of Iraq's weapons monitoring directorate, said his country would continue to cooperate with the inspectors in a bid to strengthen opposition on the U.N. Security Council to U.S. and British efforts to obtain a resolution authorizing the use of force to topple President Saddam Hussein.
"There is a probability that the situation will be enhanced by the [support] of other states in the Security Council and the people around the world," he said at a news conference.
Amin dismissed a proposal advanced by the United States and Britain to give Iraq until March 17 to disarm or face war. Iraq contends that it has no banned arms.
Amin insisted that the Iraqi government was doing its utmost to cooperate with the inspectors, noting that technicians have so far destroyed 46 banned Al Samoud-2 missiles and that experts, by testing soil, were trying to find ways to scientifically substantiate claims that Iraq eliminated tons of chemical and biological weapons in the early 1990s. U.S. officials doubt Iraq's contention and suspect many of those weapons remain intact.
"We are working intensively," Amin said, adding that the government was expending "maximum effort" to address questions raised by the inspectors. "We consider this work continuous and we hope to resolve the work as soon as possible."
In a presentation to the Security Council on Friday, Hans Blix, the chief U.N. inspector for biological and chemical weapons, praised Iraq's decision to begin destroying the missiles and to encourage scientists to sit down for private interviews with the inspectors, but he said the government still needed to do much more to cooperate with the inspectors. Blix said Iraq had not provided sufficient responses to a list of outstanding disarmament issues prepared by the inspectors.
Amin said Iraq received the list from Blix only today, but would work quickly to address the questions. Amin said Iraq might ask Blix to visit Baghdad on March 17. A U.N. spokesman said Iraq had not yet extended an invitation and that if one were to arrive, there would be no guarantee Blix would accept it.
Amin said that resolving the questions, which he deemed "technical disarmament issues," would "disarm the British and the Americans of their pretexts" for war. But he said the government nevertheless believes a war is inevitable.
With more than 200,000 U.S. troops within striking distance of Iraq, Amin said Iraq was continuing with defensive preparations. Sandbagged positions have been set up at major intersections in Baghdad in recent days. An increasing number of armed policemen and soldiers have been seen on the city's streets.
"We are preparing ourselves for a war, and at the same time we are working to resolve remaining issues" with the inspectors, Amin said. "All the people will fight against any foreign forces that try to enter Iraq."
Iraq's armed forces newspaper, Al-Qadissiya, reported today that militias of the ruling Baath Party conducted live-fire war games in three Iraqi provinces Saturday.
Iraq's official news agency reported that Hussein chaired a high-level meeting today with his defense minister, Gen. Sultan Ahmad, and several senior military commanders. "Iraq's leadership, people and army are ready for the battle of destiny," Deputy Prime Minister Abdel Tawab Mullah Huweish told Hussein, according to the news agency.