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Saddam bans import of arms of mass destruction

February 15, 2003

BAGHDAD, Feb 14: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Friday issued a decree banning weapons of mass destruction _ hours before the report to the Security Council by chief UN arms experts.

“It has been decided to forbid all individuals and companies in the private and public sectors to import, produce and manufacture nuclear, chemical and biological weapons,” the Iraqi president said in the decree.

“All relevant ministers, each according to his competence, have received the order to apply this decree and take the necessary steps to impose sanctions on those who contravene it,” said the order, cited by an information ministry spokesman.

Iraq’s parliament opened an emergency session to approve the decree shortly after it was announced, with speaker Saadun Hammadi criticizing the United States.

President Saddam, in a meeting with Iraq’s number two, Ezzat Ibrahim, and Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, earlier insisted that Iraq “is free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological.

“The aggressors do not have any hope at all in using this cover as a pretext and a justification for aggression in the UN Security Council,” he said, quoted by the official INA news agency.

“If, after all this, the aggressors stage an attack, the Iraqi people and armed forces will fight them in a spirit of jihad that will please friends and annoy enemies,” he warned.

The declaration and decree came only hours before the anxiously awaited report by chief UN weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei to the UN Security Council.

APPEAL TO INSPECTORS: Iraq’s ruling Baath party called on Blix and ElBaradei not to be swayed by US pressure and present the Security Council with an “objective” report.

They “must today submit to the Security Council a professional and objective report and weigh each phrase in their document (to avoid) dangerous consequences, especially with the United States on the look-out,” the party’s Ath-Thawra newspaper said.

“We do not want to see a report in favour of Iraq, but we ask that the document is truthful, without additions or omissions,” the daily said.

It called on the inspectors “not to amplify the negative aspects or ignore the positive aspects in Iraq’s attitude”.

On the ground, four UN arms experts visited sites in Iraq, according to the information ministry. —AFP