Amman: Jordan's parliament on Wednesday condemned threats of military action called on the government to prevent its airspace and territory being used by "any party" to launch an attack on Iraq.
"We condemn any threats to use force in relations between states as dialogue and diplomatic contacts are the best means to solve problems and less dangerous to world peace," the 80-member elected assembly said in a statement issued after a closed session to discuss the Iraqi crisis. "There was in general a consensus against use of force and a military solution," said leftist deputy Bassam Haddadeen.
Prime Minister Abdul Salam al-Majali told deputies in answers to questions that the government expected the U.S. to go ahead with a substantial military strike against Baghdad if Iraq did not comply with U.N. demands. Deputies also urged in the statement both the U.N. Security Council and the Iraqi government to reach "rational and acceptable solutions" that ensure implementation of U.N. demands while also safeguarding Iraq's sovereignty.
"The assembly condemns any attack which may take place on Iraqi territory or any harm which may afflict the brotherly Iraqi people whom Jordan has stood by in their suffering in nearly eight years of sanction," it added.
Many Jordanians across the political spectrum worry Israel would violate Jordanian airspace, either in retaliation against a possible Iraqi strike against the Jewish state or as part of a broader U.S-led military campaign against Baghdad.
Public opinion in Jordan is hostile to Washington's pro-Israeli policies and in sympathy with the suffering of the Iraqi people. A coalition of Islamist-led opposition parties plan to stage demonstrations in support of Baghdad next week, defying an official ban on public processions.
Baghdad: Arab League envoy Esmat Abdel-Meguid arrived in Baghdad on Wednesday on a peace mission to try and avert a possible U.S.-led military attack on Iraq.
``The Secretary-General of the Arab League Esmat Abdel-Meguid arrived in Baghdad at 6.30 p.m. (1530 GMT) aboard an aircraft,'' the Iraqi News Agency INA said.
The agency said Abdel-Meguid flew to Baghdad aboard an Iraqi helicopter which he boarded at Iraq's border with Jordan. Shortly before arriving in Baghdad Abdel-Meguid said that Arab governments were opposed to any use of military force against Iraq.
Abdel-Meguid told reporters in Amman earlier on Wednesday that he did not believe U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's comments on Tuesday that Arab leaders were prepared to acquiesce to U.S. military action against Iraq if diplomacy failed to resolve the crisis over arms inspections.
``Of course I heard the statements...and it's difficult for me to believe there is a Arab country that agrees on an attack on Iraq militarily,'' Abdel-Meguid added. ``Today we are exerting all efforts to find a solution to the problem and avert military operations...the situation is dangerous.''
He said he would meet Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad to try to defuse the crisis. ``There is a desire in the Arab world to reach a peaceful resolution of this conflict,'' he added.
Abdel-Meguid, not carrying any concrete proposals to the Iraqi President,was asked to travel to the Iraqi capital by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, stressed that his mission had solid Arab support behind it. ``The fact I have been asked to undertake this mission is proof of a serious Arab effort to resolve the crisis,'' he said.
On the eve of his departure, he criticised the United States and Britain for brandishing the military option against Iraq. ``The use or threat of force by the United States and Britain threatens the region and Arab national security,'' he told reporters at the league's Cairo headquarters on Tuesday.
Cairo: Egypt's president again came out against the use of military force, newspapers across the region lambasted what they saw as America's double standard in dealing with Iraq and Israel, and all quarters urged yet more attempts at a peaceful solution.
``The American position toward Iraq cannot be described as anything but coercive, aggressive, unwise and uncaring about the lives of Iraqis, who are unnecessarily subject to sanctions and humiliation,'' said Al-Ahram, Egypt's leading state-owned newspaper. ``No one in the Arab world would see Saddam as worse than Netanyahu, and that is a very significant change since 1990,'' said Mohammed Sid Ahmed, a columnist and political analyst in Cairo.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, meanwhile, ruled out any contribution to the U.S. military effort, although he urged Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to implement all U.N. resolutions. Worries about what might follow an American military strike were underscored by Russian President Boris Yeltsin's warning that Washington could provoke a world war if it attacks Iraq.
Despite Albright's visit, nearly all Arab allies have refused to let Washington use their territory for a strike. That opposition is most striking in Saudi Arabia, America's key ally in the Persian Gulf and home to more than 4,000 U.S. troops and dozens of warplanes.
``It's difficult for me to believe that an Arab country would accept a military strike on Iraq,'' said Esmat Abdel-Meguid, the Arab League secretary-general who traveled to Baghdad on Wednesday.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Fayez Tarawneh warned against the use of force and, ``God forbid, any catastrophic result,'' while Syria declared that an attack ``is absolutely unwarranted.''
Syria's Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam told reporters of concern about a threatened U.S. strike after a two-hour meeting with Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri. ``Any military strike against Iraq would be a very dangerous issue and would create a dangerous state in the region,'' Khaddam told reporters. Nouri, who arrived in Syria on Tuesday for a three-day visit, said Iran had an ``identical'' opinion.
As Albright left for Washington, newspapers were quick to declare her tour a failure, with one Jordanian newspaper ridiculing her ``drums of war and ... high-pitched threats.''
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat also mentioned the US double standard ``If Iraq has not heeded U.N resolutions, Israel has never heeded any,'' said Arafat, who was in Madrid, Spain, for talks on the Mideast peace process. ``I prefer, like all others, a peaceful solution and we hope this will happen after the Iraqi proposal,'' he said.
More ominous for Washington, Kuwait remained alone in signaling its willingness to make its territory available for an attack.
Moscow: Russian President Boris Yeltsin said on Wednesday U.S. President Bill Clinton's actions in the Iraq crisis could lead to world war.
``By his actions, Clinton might run into a world war. '' the Interfax news agency quoted Yeltsin as saying in the Kremlin. The Kremlin press service said Yeltsin made the remarks to Russian reporters during a meeting with First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais.
``We want to make it clear to Clinton that we do not agree with such a policy. And the members of the United Nations Security Council will be against it,'' he said. Interfax news agency first reported Yeltsin's comments and the Kremlin later confirmed them.
Yeltsin said the latest U.S. moves were ``quite unlike Clinton'' and stressed that Russia has done its utmost to avert a military clash. Now, it is backed by other nations including some U.N. Security Council members, Yeltsin said.Clinton and Yeltsin spoke by telephone on Monday, but few details of their talks have been released.
Yeltsin's remarks were the strongest yet against U.S. threats to use military action to force Iraq to comply with United Nations resolutions and allow U.N. inspectors freely to check for weapons of mass destruction across the country.
Russia's lower house of parliament has strongly criticized U.S. threats toward Iraq and was scheduled to vote later on Wednesday on a measure urging Yeltsin to end sanctions against Iraq unilaterally if the United States strikes militarily.
United Nations : The president of the General Assembly, Hennadly Udovenko, appealed to Washington to refrain from military action against Iraq during the Winter Games. The UN Assembly adopted a similar resolution in 1995 before the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.
Hennady Udovenko, Ukraine's foreign minister, issued a statement citing a resolution that the Assembly adopted last November calling for a truce based on the ancient Greek tradition of ``ekecheria,'' when all hostilities ceased during the Olympic Games.
Without mentioning the United States or Iraq by name, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan also appealed for the resolution to be respected.
``I call upon all nations to observe the Olympic truce,'' he said in a statement released by the IOC in Nagano on Tuesday night. ``I am convinced that in this observance, and by working with the IOC to promote the Olympic ideal, we will draw the world's attention to what humanity can achieve in the name of international understanding.''
The IOC also appealed Tuesday for the United States to abide by a U.N. resolution that urges all nations to observe an ``Olympic Truce'' during the Feb. 7-22 Nagano Games.
``We can only pray'' the U.S. government complies with the truce, International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch said. ``We don't see any reason why (the United States) would not abide by the principles they have adhered to,'' IOC director general Francois Carrard said. ``We hope the truce and peace can prevail.''
Anita DeFrantz, American vice president of the IOC, indicated she was pursuing diplomatic channels in Washington. ``Rest assured the notion of the truce is well-known,'' she said. ``The U.S. government knows it was a part of the Olympic truce.''
The United States was among the 178 nations that signed the non-binding U.N. general assembly resolution on Nov. 25. The resolution, based on a tradition dating to the ancient games in Greece, calls on member states to stop hostilities while the Olympics are under way.
``The forthcoming Nagano Games, which will be the last Olympic Winter Games of the century, should become a symbolic link to the next millennium, an important relay point in humanity's quest for a world free of hatred and war, a world where ideals of peace, goodwill and mutual respect form the basis of relations among countries,'' Udovenko said.
Carrard acknowledged the Olympic truce was a ``highly symbolic'' initiative. Three separate truce resolutions have been adopted by the U.N. since 1993. ``With the endorsement of successive resolutions, there is hope that maybe the Olympic Truce can become more of a reality,'' he said.
Beijing: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin is due to arrive in China on Tuesday for talks with Chinese officials which will include Iraq's standoff with U.N. arms inspectors, a Russian Embassy spokesman in China said.
Karasin was scheduled to meet Chinese Foreign Minster Qian Qichen and other ministry officials during his five-day visit, the spokesman said by telephone. "During the visit they will discuss bilateral affairs and international issues, including Iraq," he said but declined to give further details.
China and Russia, both permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, oppose military action to resolve Baghdad's refusal to grant U.N. arms inspection teams unlimited access to possible weapons sites.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is in the Middle East seeking backing for possible military action against Iraq. Of the other Security Council members, Britain has thrown its weight behind Washington while France has expressed wariness towards the use of force.
Russian officials earlier declined to comment on reports by the Itar-Tass news agency that Beijing and Moscow might discuss coordinating their positions on the standoff. Karasin's visit was planned as part of regular Sino-Russian consultations aimed at boosting cooperation between the two neighbors and ending decades of hostility.
Moscow: Gennady Seleznyov, speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament,warned that talk of using nuclear weapons against Iraq was "extremely dangerous" Tuesday.
Worried about the possibility of a military strike on Iraq, the opposition-dominated chamber accepted a proposal to hold a special debate on Iraq and invited Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov to attend. "We are talking possible nuclear war here, maybe global," the Duma's communist speaker, Gennady Seleznyov, told deputies. "Even if it is a U.S. propaganda move, we have a direct threat of nuclear strike in one single country. This has to be stopped," ITAR-TASS quoted Seleznyov as saying
"A tragic turn in events concerning Iraq, if there is a real threat that nuclear weapons could be used against it, could push the world to the brink of a third world war". Seleznyov, a Communist deputy, said he was "astonished at the irresponsibility of the world community" in its handling of the crisis over UN weapons inspections in Iraq, although he did not single out any country for criticism.
Meanwhile China called for calm, saying it was firmly opposed to the use of force to resolve the crisis. "As a member of the United Nations, Iraq's sovereignty, national dignity and rational concern over security should be respected," foreign ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
The Duma prepared a draft resolution, based on a proposal by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, calling for Russia unilaterally to abandon U.N. sanctions on Iraq if there is a military strike which is unauthorized by the Security Council. Zhirinovsky also wants Yeltsin's special envoy to Baghdad, Deputy Foreign Minister Victor Posuvalyuk, replaced. He said Posuvalyuk had been "among those who lead to the international isolation of Iraq."
The draft resolution also urges countries in the Middle East and elsewhere to denounce the possible use of force in Iraq. In December, the LDPR sent a planeload of humanitarian aid to Iraq, which was the first flight to land at Baghdad's international airport since it ceased functioning under the UN embargo.
Zhirinovsky and a Russian parliamentary delegation plan to fly to Baghdad with another planeload of aid on February 8, returning to Moscow on February 11.
Washington: President Bill Clinton on Monday proposed a $270.6 billion US military budget for 1999, including $48.7 billion for high-tech arms while personnel are slashed from the services
Military spending in the fiscal year beginning on Oct 1 is be $3 billion higher than the current Pentagon budget and represents a major slice of the $1.73 trillion federal budget sent to Congress by Clinton.
With defence contactors wagging the Clinton dog the Pentagon budget seeks higher spending on procurement of such new weapons as 30 F-18E/F advanced fighter jets, 66 Army ``Apache Longbow'' helicopters, two initial F-22 radar-avoiding ``stealth'' fighters for the 21st century and bigger stockpiles of satellite-guided missiles and bombs.
Some 23,000 troops would be cut from the US military ranks in fiscal 1999, bringing the active duty armed forces down to 1.39 million troops compareds to 2.17 million at the height of the Cold War.
Also included in the $48.7 billion for modern arms would be more than $2 billion for Army ``digital'' equipment such as tiny satellite receivers in the backpacks of soldiers to tell them instantly and exactly where they are anywhere in the world.
Bio-tech companies are well looked after with $600 million next year spent on detection devices, protective clothing, and establishment of 10 highly trained ``chem-bio'' military teams to move about the United States as needed in such emergencies.
The combined Navy and Marine Corps would get the biggest slice of 1999
defense spending authority at $81.3 billion, followed by $78.4 billion
for the Air Force, $65.2 billion for the Army and $37 billion for other
Washington: As the crisis with Iraq escalates President Clinton on Tuesday will visit the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory in New Mexico which developed the bunker-busting series of mini-nukes.
The bombs are so engineered to explode after shallowly impacting the ground and have an explosive force less than one kilotonne in contrast to the bomb dropped on Hiroshima had an estimated 13 kilotonnes of explosive power.
US Congress passed a 1993 law restricting the development of any nuclear weapons with yields less than 5 kilotons but US weapons labs continued their development of tactical nuclear weapons.
However Robert Bell, of the National Security Council, said the purpose of the president's visit to Los Alamos, N.M., was ``to underscore'' the safeguards contained in the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. Asked by reporters why was it so important for the President to be visiting the labs at this time Bell replied, "Well, the President was going to Albuquerque anyway. ...since he's going to be in the vicinity of one of the premier nuclear laboratories ..it only made sense for him to visit that, get briefed himself.."
Asked if he was "trying to scare Saddam", Bell replied, "No, I don't think so. We had been looking for an opportunity to go to the labs long before this current crisis arose."
Clinton is to see super-computer nuclear test simulation. The earth-penetrating weapon designed at Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL) was tested by the Defense Department in drop tests of bomb prototypes in Alaska and Nevada in 1997.
Clinton last visited the New Mexico labs in 1993
United Nations: Secretary-General Kofi Annan has proposed Iraq be allowed to to increase its oil sales from $2 billion to $5.2 billion over the next six months to avoid a humanitarian disaster.
Annan said the so-called oil-for-food program, initiated a year ago, was inadequate ``to prevent further deterioration in humanitarian conditions.'' Iraq has been under stringent sanctions since 1990. Since then living conditions have deteriorated markedly, with malnutrition widespread and young children dying because of lack of proper medical care.
In an attempt to alleviate the impact of sanctions, council members initiated the oil-for-food program that began a year ago. It allows Iraq to sell $2 billion worth of oil over six months to buy emergency supplies and Annan now wants proposes to add $3.2 billion to that amount.
His proposals must first be approved by the 15-member Security Council.The deal, ironically for Iraq, also pays for the work of UNSCOM. Iraq maintains the United States is using UNSCOM to prolong sanctions, which have been in force since 1990 and can not be lifted until the Special Commission certifies the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
"The inspectors are regarded as 'spooks' by genuine UN officials, not only by the Iraqis. But we can't say anything," said a Western aid worker who did not want to be named.
Of the $2 billion in oil Iraq now sells every six months, it receives $1.32 billion for humanitarian supplies. The remaining $700 million is earmarked for reparations to 1991 Gulf War victims and for U.N. running costs in Iraq. The UN weapons inspectors are paid living expenses by the United Nations while receiving their "normal salaries" from the governments which nominated them to UNSCOM. They are UN personnel only in name only during the three-to-six month duration of their contracts before being rotated.
Annan's $5.2 billion proposal adds $2.1 billion in actual humanitarian supplies to the current $1.32 billion, with the remainder going to the reparation fund and other costs. Some $1 billion of the expenditures are one-off costs to help make emergency repairs in schools, hospitals, water and sanitation systems, dams, agriculture and mine clearance.
The secretary-general, in the report, said that the economic deterioration of the northern Kurdish-dominated provinces, where the United Nations had sole responsibility for the food distribution, was severe. He said he intended to return to the council with proposals for further funding in these regions.
The oil-for-food program has been plagued with delays since its inception over a year ago, mainly because of its complex nature and layers of decision-making. But the United States in the first six months of the program was notorious in delaying or blocking contracts, including food supplies, U.N. documents show.
Davos: U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich in Switzerland justied air strikes on Iraq as a deterrent on Sunday
During a question and answer session, one audience member compared the current situation to the 1986 US bombing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's military compound, which killed one of Gaddafi's adopted daughters.
In response, Gingrich said the Libyan strike appeared to have convinced Gaddafi that the U.S. would escalate its action unless he backed off.
"And in fact we've had about 11 years now of relative quiescence," he said. "The problem that Saddam poses is that he is a much tougher man, with a much tougher regime capable of absorbing a great deal more pain than Gaddafi...Iraq is a much harder problem, maybe 50 to 100 times harder than Libya was," he added.
Gingrich, a Republican, urged international delegates meeting at this Swiss ski resort to consider the military option.
"We cannot afford just a bombing campaign at the end of which he makes weapons of mass destruction,and we cannot afford to walk off and not try to stop him," the Georgia Republican told the gathering of international leaders.
Riyadh: Albright meeting today with Saudi's Crown Prince Abdulla could be the US foreign secretary's toughest challenge in building support for a military attack on Iraq Saudi newspapers said today.
In a front-page edition, Al-Riyadh said: ``No one is thrilled with Saddam ... but at the same time no one accepts the United States becoming the guardian of international security.''
The editorial continued: ``If the upcoming military strike is just going to be a TV event or minor surgery ... Saddam Hussein will be the big winner because he will have been subjected to an attack which all the countries of the world and the nations of the region reject.''
The newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat said ``Arab public opinion makes a distinction between Iraq, the Iraqi people, and Saddam Hussein and his regime. But at the same time it cannot swallow a U.S. military operation against an Arab country.''
The United States has more than 4,000 troops and dozens of warplanes at bases in Saudi Arabia. Saudis, however, have been increasingly uncomfortable about their close ties with Washington since the June 1996 bombing of a U.S. military barracks in eastern Saudi Arabia. Nineteen American servicemen died in the attack, blamed on Muslim extremists.
While no U.S. B52 or B1 bombers are based in Saudi Arabia, there are F16 fighter-bombers that could mete out severe punishment to Iraq. The warplanes are used along with U.S. reconaissance planes based here in patrolling a no-fly zone in southern Iraq.
U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia and Turkey were used extensively during the Gulf War. But the most recent U.S. missile strike against Iraq in 1996 was launched from U.S.warships in Persian Gulf.
Dubai: There were several calls Sunday from the gulf states in opposition to a US military strike on Iraq To many in the Arab world, a military strike on Iraq seems pointless, given that Iraqi citizens already are struggling from the seven years of economic sanctions. There also is distrust of Washington for its unwavering support for Israel.
``All Arabs, with one voice, should say to America, `enough,''' said the Al-Ittihad daily in the United Arab Emirates. ``If Saddam abused international law once, Israel has done it 100 times.'' Others say an attack on Iraq may be designed to divert attention from the sex scandal surrounding U.S. President Clinton.
``If Clinton's administration is suffering a crisis because of his involvement in a sex scandal, 20 million Iraqis suffering under seven years of United Nations sanctions should not have to pay,'' said the Emirates' Al-Bayan daily.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa told Associated Press Television in Davos that Egypt and other Arab countries were seeking a political solution. ``I am not optimistic, but I would say I am hopeful,'' he said.
Qatar's Al-Rayah daily called for demonstrations against Albright's visits to gulf capitals, something unheard of in the conservative region. ``We feel sorry that we haven't heard of one Arab demonstration greeting Albright with placards carrying the word ``no,'' the Arabic-language paper said.
Meanwhile Iranian President Mohammad Khatami urged the 55-nation Organization
of the Islamic Conference to try to resolve Iraq's dispute with the United
Nations peacefully, state-run Iranian radio reported.
Paris: Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement reaffirmed his personal opposition to Western military action against Iraq, describing United States policy as irresponsible on Sunday. In 1991, Chevenement resigned his post as Defense Minister, rather than participate in the Persian Gulf War against Iraq.
"Iraq is no longer a military menace," Interior Minister told state radio on Sunday. "It is time to lift this ferocious embargo, which has already probably led to the deaths of a million people. It is absolutely dishonorable." Chevenement also called Butler's comments to The New York Times "ridiculous."
Earlier a congress of his Citizen's Movement, ``American policy towards the Arab-Moslem world is irresponsible and can only fuel the fires of Islamic fundamentalism,''he said. Chevenement, alone in France's cabinet to openly express such a view, repeated his belief that Iraq was no longer a military threat.
His comments follow the statements of Britain's Gulf war commander, General Sir Peter de la Billiere on Friday, that air strikes alone would not be entirely effective against Iraq. The retired General told BBC Radio 4 that using ``the rather blunt weapon of a single strike military force ...has never worked in history,''
De la Billiere said he believed the West probably had an idea where Iraqi weapons were being stored, but air strikes would not be fully effective -- and a ground attack was out of the question. The West does not have the necessary forces in the region and it would take months to put troops in place, he said.
Baghdad: United Nations missile experts met Iraqi government officials in Baghdad Sunday in the first of a series of "technical evaluation" meetings. The TEM's were initiated at the request of Iraq which argues that its deadliest weapons have already been dismantled in keeping with the ceasefire terms of the Gulf War.
Hussam Mohammed Amin, director-general of the Iraqi monitoring committee that works with the U.N. inspectors, said Iraq would produce documents to show all warheads had been destroyed. ``The (warheads) meeting will last for five days and a scientific and professional atmosphere will prevail in these meetings,'' said Hussam Muhammad Amin, head of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate, which liaises with UNSCOM. Amin said that Iraq did not possess any warheads and would ``submit documents and material testimony to prove that'' in the talks.
Russian Nikita Smidovich, who leads a team of 18 U.N. weapons experts, made no comment as he entered the so-called technical evaluation talks with Iraqi officials.
For the first time in nearly seven years of UNSCOM's work they also included outside experts brought in from Russia, the United States, France, Germany, Britain and China. Alan Dacey, special assistant to the director of a UN arms monitoring centre, said another group of 17 experts led by German Horst Reeps to arrive Sunday for a separate TEM on lethal chemical agents that will start the next day.
Iraq hopes this month's ``technical evaluation talks'' will show it has cooperated with UNSCOM and clear the way for sanctions to be lifted. It says it has no proscribed nuclear, chemical, biological or ballistic missiles and says it has already given UNSCOM all the information, documents and material in its possession related to its weapons programs.
Amman: King Hussein said that the US is not joking about a military strike against Iraq and warned of a deja vu of 1991
The monarch shored up in his "presidential palace" in London talked of his meeting with US foreign secretary Albright in a letter to his brother Crown Prince Hassan which was broadcast by state television. He recalled the fateful days before January 1991, saying he spoke to the Iraqi president at the time not only about his ``fears about the future of Iraq but the whole Arab nation,''
The monarch said that much of the advice he given at the time to help defuse the crisis before it was too late went unheeded at a disastrous cost to the region. Hussein referred to the ``gamble by the leadership of that country (Iraq) over the possibility of a split in the U.N. Security Council over this matter which will avert use of force or that the present position is just a trick or manoeuvre.''
He said Albright briefed him that once Washington finally took a decision on military operations, it would be ``decisive force'' to prevent Iraq from ever having the capability to develop or own weapons of mass destruction in future, as it had done before.
"When members of the (UN) Security Council who made diplomatic efforts to settle the crisis say they have failed, there is no longer any alternative to the use of force to prevent a country from again using weapons of mass destruction that it used in the past and continues to develop," he said. "The United States and the world cannot accept anyone defying the international will and UN resolutions," the monarch wrote in a letter.
``The stubbornness in not responding to the demands of the Security Council is a very dangerous misjudgment and will, God forbid, push towards an explosion,'' the monarch added.
The king said his thoughts on Iraq were prompted by the discussions he held on Friday near London with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who added a meeting with the monarch to a hastily arranged tour of Europe and the Middle East. Albright told him that military force against Iraq would be unavoidable if diplomatic solutions fail to bring Baghdad's adherence to U.N. resolutions, the monarch added.
King Hussein who was an ally of Saddam during the 1990-1991 Gulf Crisis turned against the Iraqi leader in 1995 after sheltering senior defectors and Iraqi opposition groups and publicly calling for change in Baghdad. ``The catastrophe happened and the whole Arab nation was afflicted and God knows how much we suffered from the suffering of the brotherly Iraqi people,'' he added.
A major concern in the latest crisis is that a military showdown could disrupt Amman's oil lifeline from Iraq. More than 600 tankers make the daily journey on the Baghdad-Amman highway, delivering between 10,500 tonnes and 11,000 tonnes of crude oil. Baghdad supplies Amman with almost half of its annual energy needs, worth $520 million, free of charge.
Industry sources say Jordan has no more than three weeks supply of crude
oil at its sole refinery in Zarqa, close to the capital. Jordan, economically
dependent on Iraq, is taking precautionary steps to shield itself from
the repercussions of a possible U.S. military strike against Baghdad, officials
said on Wednesday. They said in the last few days Jordan has bolstered
its defences along its heavily patrolled desert border with Iraq in anticipation
of American action.
The London-based Saudi Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat Saturday reported the United States was planning a three-staged attack on Iraq, starting with a four-day air campaign against Saddam's Republican Guards.
Quoting Western diplomatic sources in Jordan, the newspaper said Saddam would then get an ultimatum that included a demand that U.N. weapons inspections have unfettered access to all sites, including presidential palaces.
If Saddam refused, according to the report, a second air campaign would target the palaces and Iraq's infrastructure. A third stage would include the possibility of landing U.S. and British troops in sensitive sites in Baghdad, Al-Hayat said. The sources did not say if the troops would try to capture Saddam.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright briefed Jordan's King Hussein
at the king's estate at Ascot, outside London on US tactical thinking on
Baghdad: Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf charged that US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was pressuring other UN Security Council member states to abandon any effort to find a diplomatic solution.
Sahhaf told the television news agency WTN that Albright's current European tour was aimed at clearing the way for a US attack. "The American foreign minister ... wants to demoralize the position of the other members of the Security Council and make them feel disappointed that there is no use in continuing their efforts to prevent the Americans from attacking," he said.
Albright, speaking earlier in London, said the time was fast approaching for fundamental decisions on Iraq as diplomacy was proving unable to resolve the crisis. "The window is narrowing...It looks as if diplomacy is not working," she told a joint news conference with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.
However the foreign minister pointed to Russian diplomatic efforts as holding the key to a solution, but he gave no details on reports that Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk was on his way back to Baghdad. "I think the diplomatic efforts exerted in Europe, particularly by the Russian government, is the way ... which we hope the United States will realize," the Iraqi foreign minister said.
Ahead of an emergency meeting of parliament set for Monday, Sahhaf renewed an Iraqi invitation issued in November for representatives of UN Security Council and UNSCOM member states to visit the presidential sites which have been declared off-limits to arms inspectors.
Iraq on Saturday wrapped up a three-day guided tour of its palaces aimed at showing foreign diplomats that its controversial "presidential sites" hold no deadly secrets. The Foreign Minister showed guests around Iraq's former royal palace in central Baghdad on Saturday before moving on to a luxury villa complex on the outskirts of the capital for lunch.
The visits followed similar trips over the three-day Moslem holiday of Eid al-Fitr to a lakeside complex west of Baghdad and a palace in President Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. A Diplomat said they saw nothing to suggest any site was being used for production of any kind of prohibited weapons. He said the villa complex where the diplomats ate on Saturday was the centre of a row in September when U.S. arms inspector Scott Ritter tried to enter barracks of Iraq's elite Republican Guards.
Iraqi officials blocked Ritter, accused of being a U.S. spy, from using an approach road to the barracks because it passed through presidential grounds. "The Iraqis showed us round the villas, a swimming pool and an artificial lake which gave it a serene, quite idyllic appearance," said the diplomat. "It wasn't grandiose, more like a country retreat."
He said the palace in central Baghdad was "more elegant, in an old style which made it look more aristocratic." He said two wings had been added recently, despite stringent sanctions which have crippled Iraq's economy since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Three months ago, when Iraq was locked in an earlier row with the United
Nations over the inspectors, Iraqis flocked into that palace, telling reporters
they were spontaneously volunteering to ensure it was not targeted by U.S.
bombs. On Saturday, residents In Baghdad marked the last day of a three-day
Eid al-Fitr holiday before a mobilization campaign is launched in earnest.
Iraq says it expects one million men and women to sign up for a volunteer
army to defend the country against US strikes.
United Nations : Executive Chairman of UNSCOM Butler's retraction in Bonn of a letter to the New York Times failed to placate Security Council members Russia and China Friday .
Richard Butler, trip to Germany Thursday, to meet German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, brought an explanation of his comments in The New York Times. But they were incomplete and selective ``doesn't actually remove all of our concerns,'' said Sergey Lavrov, Russia's U.N. ambassador.
Russia's Lavrov complained that Butler had still not provided a repudiation of his claim that there was ``a functioning plot in Iraq to produce biological weapons.'' Lavrov called on Butler to give a fuller explanation to the Security Council, which is regularly briefed by Butler's U.N. Special Commission on the progress of weapons inspections in Iraq.
``And there was no denial of the fact that The New York Times article quoted the UNSCOM chairman as saying that Iraq has enough biological weapons and missiles to deliver them to blow out Tel Aviv, which is already causing very serious emotional reaction in Israel,'' he said.
China's U.N. ambassador, Qin Huasun, also complained. ``At the time when diplomatic efforts are going on, it is hoped that parties concerned will act in a way conducive to easing the tensions and avoiding further escalation of conflict,'' Qin said.
Iraq responded to the Butler clarification with scepticism with Gen. Amer Mohammed Rashid, part of the Iraqi team that negotiates with Butler, saying Butler's interview was ``meant to justify the participation of the Zionist enemy in the American plot to carry out an aggression against the Iraqi people.''
Iraq previously called Butler's remarks ``outrageous'' and has written to the United Nations asking that he be reprimanded. ``The last few months have proved beyond any doubt that Butler is not behaving in his position as a neutral international employee, but is still aligned and campaigning against Iraq,'' the letter said.
Iraq's official press published a government statement condemning Butler , saying his remarks showed he was serving ``aggressive American and Zionist aims.'' It accused UNSCOM of being closely linked to U.S. and Israeli intelligence services, and committed to extending sanctions on Iraq indefinitely by refusing to declare it had scrapped biological, nuclear, chemical and ballistic weapons.
In a story Tuesday in the Times, Butler was quoted as saying that Iraq had enough biological material such as anthrax and botulin toxin to ``blow away Tel Aviv.'' The comments were widely reported in the international media, and provoked sharp criticism from Iraq and Security Council members France, Russia and China.
On Friday, the Times published an explanatory retraction from Butler in which he said his full quote had been truncated, and that he had said Iraq had enough weapons to ``blow away Tel Aviv, or whatever.''
``This omission obscures the fact that I was not implying that Iraq had decided to fire a missile warhead loaded with a biological agent at Tel Aviv. I have no such knowledge,'' he wrote. Butler has said that in using Tel Aviv as an example, he was merely illustrating that his inspectors have never been able to fully account for ``special warheads'' that were once filled with chemical and biological weapons.
Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia on Friday appealed to the United States to refrain from unilaterally attacking Iraq, saying there was still time for a diplomatic end to a standoff over weapons inspections.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said any U.S. attack on Iraq would violate multilateral efforts to settle the crisis and said during the 1991 Gulf war the U.N. Security Council was ignored once military action began. ``I hope this matter will be negotiated,'' Mahathir told reporters after hosting an Eid al-Fitr celebration at his residence in the capital.
``I'm afraid if the Americans bomb Iraq, a lot of innocent people will be killed,'' Mahathir said. ``You just can't be that accurate with bombs.''
The Malaysian leader took issue with Albright mission to gather support for a unilatareal strike on Iraq.``The statement made by the Secretary of State Albright that even without support they (United States) will take unilateral action is not in accordance with the spirit of multilateral action adopted by the world,'' said Mahathir.
The Malaysian prime minister praised Russia's efforts to solve the Iraq stand-off diplomatically. ``I welcome the initiative taken by Russia to bring the matter back to the negotiation table,'' Mahathir said.
U.S. officials have said that past U.N. resolutions provide sufficient authorisation for a unilateral strike on Iraq if needed. But any attack is ``weeks, not days'' away, one official said this week.