Iraq plays down differences

BAGHDAD jan. 28. Iraq sought on Tuesday to play down differences with the United Nations over arms inspections, arguing that U-2 reconnaissance flights and private interviews with scientists were the only issues left unresolved.

However, U.N. inspectors said two more Iraqis had turned down requests for interviews without the presence of an Iraqi official — something for which the U.S. has been pressing. A U.N. statement said since the inspections resumed in November, 16 Iraqis had been asked to submit to private interviews but none had accepted.

The U.N. inspectors in Iraq, meanwhile, continued their hunt for evidence of biological, nuclear and chemical arms, visiting at least seven sites, including a munitions depot where they discovered empty chemical warheads earlier this month.

Elsewhere, the Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., that Iraq had no plans to attack targets inside the U.S. in the event of war. Nonetheless, Mr. Aziz warned that Iraqis would vigorously defend themselves if the Americans launch a war.

``I would say that if the Americans try to invade Iraq, they will be fought courageously and effectively and they will have a great number of casualties,'' Mr. Aziz said.

Asked whether the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein's government would strike against other countries, presumably Israel, Mr. Aziz replied: ``No. We will fight within our territory.'' Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles, all with conventional warheads, at Israeli cities in the 1991 Gulf War.

But Mr. Aziz hinted that those restrictions would not apply to Kuwait, which Iraq invaded in 1990. The United States is assembling a large force in the neighboring emirate for a possible war.

``American troops are in Kuwait and preparing themselves to attack Iraq,'' Mr. Aziz said. ``If there will be an attack from Kuwait, I cannot say that we will not retaliate.''

The U.S. and Britain dismiss Iraq's claims that it holds no weapons of mass destruction and have threatened war if Mr. Hussein does not give them up.

Mubarak warns Saddam

Meanwhile, in an interview published Tuesday, the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, sternly warned Mr. Hussein to avoid any missteps in dealing with U.N. inspectors.

``The strike is coming — coming unless Iraq abides by the resolutions of international legitimacy and ceases to put obstacles in front of the international inspection operations,'' said Mr. Mubarak in an interview with the United Arab Emirates daily newspaper Al-Itihad. — AP

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