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Iraq Declares Itself Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction

BY Admin  December 9, 2002 at 12:05 PM EST

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan warned it would take some time before a final analysis of the document was complete.

“The inspectors will have to review them, analyze them and report to the [U.N. Security] Council, and I think that’s going to take a while,” Annan told reporters Monday.

The five permanent members of the Security Council — United States, Great Britain, France, Russia and China — also will receive the complete document. American officials have said they will reserve judgment on the report until the investigators fully examine the dossier.

Lt. Gen. Amir al-Saadi, an adviser to President Saddam Hussein, said Sunday that Iraq had been close to developing an atomic weapon as much as decade ago. Al-Saadi said that Iraq had given up its ambitions and presented full documentation on its suspended nuclear program to the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency.

“We have the complete documentation from design to all the other things. We haven’t reached the final assembly of a bomb nor tested it,” al-Saadi told reporters in Baghdad. “It is for the IAEA to judge how close we were… If I tell you we were close, it is subjective.”

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer warned the U.S. remains skeptical of Iraqi claims that it had given up on its weapons programs.

“In terms of overall Iraqi statements, you need only look at the wistful way that leading Iraqi generals describe how close they came to getting nuclear weapons — that’s why the United States is skeptical of Iraqi intentions,” Fleischer said.

Meanwhile, inspectors in Iraq continued to visit sites suspected of housing possible weapons programs. On Monday, 16 IAEA inspectors returned to the al-Tuweitha nuclear facility, 12 miles south of Baghdad.

An IAEA spokesperson told the Associated Press Monday that inspectors would spend time over the next few days working with analysts in New York to confirm what Iraq said in its document.

“The cross-checking is extremely important, including cross-checking on the ground,” Fleming told the AP. “Should there be elements we feel have to be checked out, we have the advantage of having a team on the ground that can go the next day.”

As U.N. inspectors continue their work in Iraq, U.S. military commanders opened a computer-aided war game in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. Officials hope the exercise will improve the American military’s ability to fight a war in the region, including any possible action against Iraq.