Originally created 02/04/03

Iraqi parliament speaker: Americans to suffer casualties 'beyond their imagination' if they invade Iraq



BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq will inflict massive casualties on American troops if the United States launches an invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, a senior Iraqi legislator declared Monday.

Iraqi parliament speaker Saadoun Hammadi told a group of legislators from the European Parliament that Iraq "will not turn the other cheek" should the United States use force to make Saddam's regime give up banned weapons programs.

"American aggression will end up in a catastrophe for them," Hammadi said. "They will incur casualties beyond their imagination."

U.N. resolutions passed since Iraq's defeat by a U.S.-led coalition in the 1991 Gulf War prohibit nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs in Iraq. Thousands of such weapons were destroyed under a U.N. inspection program in the 1990s.

The United States and Britain insist Saddam is still hiding banned weaponry and say they will disarm Iraq by force - if necessary. The United States has deployed almost 90,000 troops in the Gulf region, a number that may double soon.

Iraq has steadfastly denied it has weapons of mass destruction, but it is under pressure to make concessions and show progress in the U.N. inspections process in hopes of blocking any U.S.-British diplomatic bid for military action.

The inspectors have yet to find anything conclusive and Iraq has claimed that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will fabricate evidence against Saddam when he appears before the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to try to prove the Iraqis are hiding banned weapons.

Powell shot back Monday in a commentary published in the Wall Street Journal, warning that the United States "will not shrink from war." Though he won't give the council a "smoking gun," Powell promised to present evidence of the "programs that Iraq is working so hard to hide."

"We will, in sum, offer a straightforward, sober and compelling demonstration that Saddam is concealing the evidence of his weapons of mass destruction, while preserving the weapons themselves," he said.

He also alleged that Iraq "continues to acquire banned equipment, with proscribed imports arriving as recently as last month."

Saddam is expected to offer his own assessment on the U.S.-Iraqi confrontation in a television interview with left-wing former British lawmaker and anti-war activist Tony Benn. The interview was taped Sunday and will be broadcast in the next day or two, Benn said.

Facing a U.S.-led invasion, Iraq invited the two chief U.N. weapons inspectors back to Baghdad and has promised the government would "do our best" to make Saturday's visit successful.

The chief inspectors hope they will win meaningful concessions from the Iraqis on reconnaissance U-2 flights and private interviews with Iraqi scientists - two of the issues the inspectors say have stalled progress so far.

The talks with chief U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei will come just before their next important report to the council, on Feb. 14. It will be the second round of Baghdad talks for Blix and ElBaradei in three weeks.

In Monday's round of daily arms inspections, inspectors found the abandoned case of a small rocket and a "modified, damaged and abandoned warhead," at a missile parts factory south of Baghdad, the Iraqi News Agency said.

The missile had a range of about 44 miles, which would be well within the 94-mile maximum that the United Nations permits Iraq to have under the weapons inspection program.

It identified the missile as the Russian-made, ground-to-ground Luna, which was heavily used during Iraq's 1980-88 war with Iran, the agency quoted officials at the National Monitoring Directorate as saying.

Other inspection teams Monday dropped in on a frequently inspected chemicals complex south of the capital, and a detergent factory 150 miles to the north, the Information Ministry reported. Sites such as the detergent factory are often of interest because of the "dual-use" manufacturing equipment or product components could be used in making chemical weapons.

In other developments:

- The leader of the biggest Iraqi dissident faction said Monday that a U.S.-led attack on Iraq appears "inevitable," but any ground battles must be spearheaded by Iraqi opposition forces or risk civil unrest.

- Turkey's Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said he would submit a proposal soon to parliament that could open the way for U.S. troops to be stationed in Turkey for a possible war.

- Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, said Monday in Kuwait that it was still possible to avert war on Iraq. "It is not too late for humanity to prevail and peace to overcome," she said.

- Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a strong U.S. supporter on Iraq, said he will go to Washington, New York and London next week for talks about the crisis with President Bush, the United Nations and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

-Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, whose country has a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and veto power, will attend Wednesday's council meeting in New York to discuss Iraq.

-India's Defense Minister George Fernandes says his country will not join military action against Iraq without U.N. authority, and will not provide facilities for the use of U.S. forces.

- Arab foreign ministers will gather in Egypt this month to try to forge a pan-Arab position against war, the Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa said Sunday.