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Iraq, Arab League react in anger to Bush statements

NEW YORK (CNN) -- President Bush's tough talk Monday about investigating Iraq for weapons of mass destruction set off a flurry of denunciations in Iraq and other Arab nations.

Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed al-Douri, said Bush's statements were "unfortunate." In Baghdad, an anchor on Iraqi television read a statement that referred to United Nations weapons inspectors as dogs.

And at the Arab League, Secretary-General Amer Moussa made it clear that Arab nations would oppose any U.S. military action against Iraq.

"We do not, cannot, will not support, nor in any way participate, in a military attack on an Arab nation," said Moussa. Any U.S. military action against Iraq would be "the end" of Arab participation in the U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition, he said.

On Monday, Bush said Hussein needs to allow inspections for weapons of mass destruction to resume in Iraq. The inspections, initiated at the end of the Gulf War, ended in 1998 when inspectors pulled out, frustrated with what they said was lack of Iraqi cooperation. U.S. forces began bombing suspected weapons sites a short time later.

Asked what would happen if the Iraqi leader did not allow the inspections to resume, Bush said, "He'll find out."

"It is unfortunate that the president of the United States used such language," said al Douri, who denied that Iraq supports terrorism or is trying to obtain weapons of mass destruction. responded. "We are always in favor to discuss, to sit together to discuss issues on which we have different positions."

Sanctions up for renewal

Iraq maintains that it lived up to its Gulf War agreements by allowing the inspections to continue for seven years, and now it wants international economic sanctions against it lifted. Iraq is be relying on help from other Arab countries -- and possibly Russia -- to restrain Washington from widening its war on terrorism to Iraq.

Russia, which holds a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and has been a strong ally of the United States in the antiterrorism coalition, has become Iraq's biggest trading partner. The Russians blocked a previous proposal to tighten sanctions on Iraq.

However, U.N. diplomats told CNN that Russia had agreed to a U.S. and British proposal to change the sanctions. Iraq opposes that move.

Under the proposed change, a "goods review list" would be established, outlining weapons-related materials that would be banned from import to Iraq. Currently, a U.N. sanctions committee must approve all contracts for civilian goods, except for food and medicine, going into Iraq.

Iraq, Russia and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan have all criticized the current process as too slow.

A Russian diplomat told CNN that "we are very close to agreement" on the new sanctions regime, although Moscow still has to sign off on the final wording of the U.S.-British resolution. The measure is expected to be introduced Wednesday, with a vote possibly coming Thursday.

The sanctions will expire if they are not renewed by the end of the month.

--CNN correspondents Jane Arraf, John King and David Ensor contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 



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