Iraq says it has done all it can to avert war

Defensive remarks come before inspectors' report


BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq offered a pre-emptive reaction yesterday to the United Nations report on weapons inspections here as the foreign minister made a scathing attack on the United States hours before the report was delivered in New York.

His statement was more strident in tone than those issued here in recent days - and more emphatic in claiming that Iraq had little else to offer the United States to head off war.

"The ball is in their court," the foreign minister, Naji Sabri, said at a news conference here.

"They are fond of exporting destruction and death to our part of the world, and we have done everything to avoid this," he added. "They are the ones who are escalating the situation, making a lot of threats, fabricating and creating every day a lot of lies."

Asked whether he thought war was inevitable, he said he could not rule out any last-minute diplomacy. But, he added, "it's inevitable for the warmongers."

By contrast, the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, Muhammad al-Douri, struck a more conciliatory tone, saying repeatedly that Iraq was willing to answer any questions the inspectors pose.

Sabri repeated charges with resonance in Muslim nations: that the United States aims to "colonize" the region for its oil and to protect Israel in what he called its "terrorist aggression against the Palestinian people."

"By controlling this region they are dreaming of dominating the whole world," he said. "So they are intending to terrify the whole people into submission with their evil plans."

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