15 Dec 2002, 20:47 UTC
Iraq's deputy prime minister has warned that any invasion of his country by American or other forces would be met with stiff resistance. And he said such an invasion would destabilize the Middle East.
The United States is threatening to lead a coalition of nations against Iraq to find and destroy chemical and biological weapons. U.N. inspectors continue to search for weapons of mass destruction within Iraq. But Iraqi Deputy Foreign minister Tariq Aziz said Sunday in an interview on the U.S. television program Fox News Sunday that no such weapons exist. He added that Iraq is prepared for a war with the United States and its allies, having fought against U.S.-led forces once before in 1991.
Should such a conflict occur, Mr. Aziz said the Iraqi people will not be on the side of the allies. "Don't fool yourself. The Iraqis are not going to receive the Americans with flowers," he said. "They're going to receive the Americans in their country with bullets, because the Iraqis know the reason for their suffering is not their government. The reason is the sanctions that was imposed on them by America and the U.K.
Economic sanctions were imposed against Iraq after the first Gulf War.
Mr. Aziz said public opinion throughout the Arab world is against a strike against Iraq, and a strike could lead to angry outpourings in Arab countries against the United States. He predicted there would almost certainly be more terrorist attacks directed against Americans both in the U.S. and abroad.
Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence officials are trying to determine whether Iraq has been truthfully reporting it has no weapons of mass destruction.
And Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, said he believes Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is lying. "If Saddam Hussein continues to act the way he's been acting, his regime continues to act the way, I think it is inevitable," he said.
Senator Santorum made his comments on the NBC television program Meet the Press. Also appearing on the program was Michigan Senator Carl Levin, the outgoing chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
Senator Levin said he, too, thinks it's likely Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. But he thinks the United States should not rush quickly to war against Iraq. "We must lay before the world not just our claims of certainty, but the evidence that we believe we have to bring the world along because acting unilaterally has great, great risks for us," he said. Senator Levin believes the United States is moving away from war by continuing to seek the support of the international community, at the same time building up its military forces to put pressure on Saddam.