U.S. plans 'devastating' war, Iraqi official says


Published: Thursday, January 9, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 8, 2003 at 9:25 p.m.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Coalition warplanes struck air defense targets in southern Iraq on Wednesday for the second time this week, and a key Iraqi official said the United States and Britain were bent on war with Baghdad to subjugate the Middle East.
In Moscow, meanwhile, Iraq's ambassador to Russia dismissed rumors Saddam Hussein might go into exile to avoid war and said the Iraqi leader would "fight to the last drop of blood" to defend his country.
Concerns war is imminent have mounted, with the United States and Britain announcing the dispatch of thousands more troops and weapons to the Persian Gulf region because of misgivings about Iraq's commitment to abandon weapons of mass destruction.
Iraq insists it has no such weapons and maintains that claims to the contrary by Washington and London are simply a pretext for war.
"The aggressors in Washington and London are preparing for a devastating aggression against . . . the people of Iraq, and they would like once again to destroy the City of Peace (Baghdad) as they did in 1991," Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told a visiting South African delegation Wednesday.
Aziz said U.N. arms inspectors, who returned to Iraq in November after a four-year hiatus, had strayed beyond the search for weapons of mass destruction. "They are searching for other information about Iraq's conventional military capabilities, the Iraqi scientific and industrial capability in the civilian area, and also espionage questions," Aziz said.
U.N. spokesman Hiro Ueki denied those allegations and said U.N. officials had received no formal complaint from Iraqi authorities about alleged espionage.
Meanwhile, U.S. warplanes struck Wednesday against air defense communication sites between the cities of Al Kut and An Nasiriyah. The U.S. Central Command said the attacks occurred after Iraqi air defense forces fired anti-aircraft artillery at U.S. planes patrolling the southern "no-fly" zone and Iraqi military aircraft entered the zone.

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