Originally created 01/25/03

Iraq says U.N. asks for more interviews with scientists



BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Under U.S. pressure to make scientists available, Iraq said Friday the United Nations had asked to interview three more Iraqi scientists this weekend.

The White House, impatient with the pace of weapons inspections, noted the U.N. Security Council resolution governing inspections requires Iraq to make scientists available for unfettered interviews.

Iraq said Monday that its scientists oppose such interviews unless an Iraqi official is present. U.S. officials are pressing for private interviews, believing that might encourage scientists to speak freely about the country's weapons programs.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry statement said the directorate which works with the inspectors had encouraged the three scientists to agree to speak with inspectors Saturday.

But the statement did not say whether the U.N. request was for private interviews to be conducted without Iraqi officials present.

Hiro Ueki, a spokesman for the inspectors in Baghdad, declined comment on the Iraqi announcement.

With the statement, Iraq was again trying to show it was cooperating with weapons monitors three days before a crucial report by the two chief inspectors to the Security Council.

The United States, which is amassing the biggest military force in the Gulf since the 1991 Gulf War, has been pressing for private interviews, including some outside Iraq, in the hope that scientists would be more forthcoming with information about banned weapons programs.

President Bush has faced growing international opposition to his threat to attack Iraq if it does not voluntarily surrender the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Iraq denies it has any.

Saddam Hussein's elder son Odai warned in a television interview that if the Americans make war on Iraq, the Sept. 11 terror attacks would look like "a picnic" compared to what awaits the United States.

"If the Americans decide to commit a new foolish act, it will cost them dearly," he said Thursday night on al-Shabab TV station, which he runs.