Saddam Hussein fesses-up trying to buy tubes

By Noble Johns

BAGHDAD, Iraq (BNW) --
I have always been told that in any confrontation, you always hit a bully first. Yet, when a bully is getting ready to get hit by a bigger bully, the little bully in the case of Saddam Hussein, always fesses-up before the first licks start falling.

Right before the big bully, George Bush starts swinging, Iraqi officials have told U.N. weapons inspectors they tried to buy aluminum tubes to use in building conventional rockets not weapons of mass destruction. He's a bigger damn liar that Bush!

Deadlines for steps Iraq must take to be in full compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441: December 8: Iraq must provide a "currently accurate, full and complete declaration" of any weapons of mass destruction program.

WHAT NEXT? On or before January 27: Inspectors must report back to the Security Council.

However, according to a high-ranking official close to the U.N. inspectors, the Iraqis said they were unsuccessful and they denied the type of aluminum tubes could be used in a nuclear weapons program.

The United States has charged previously that Iraq was trying to get aluminum tubes to use in its nuclear weapons program. Any attempt by Iraq to import materials that can be used for weapons would be considered a violation of the U.N. sanctions regime.

The revelation came as Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw unveiled a dossier accusing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein of masterminding widespread and "horrific" human rights abuses.

The high-ranking official, who was at meetings in Baghdad with Iraqi counterparts on November 19 to relaunch the inspections, said Iraqi officials admitted the government has tried to procure aluminum tubes about half a dozen times, but that their efforts were not successful.

According to this official, the Iraqis told the International Atomic Energy Agency the tubes were intended not for their nuclear weapons program but for their conventional rocket program.

At this meeting, the Iraqis disclosed to the chief U.N. weapons inspectors the diameter and thickness of the tubes. They denied they could be used as centrifuges for enriching uranium.

"They're saying that they violated the sanctions which is a much lesser offense than if they had been trying to build nuclear weapons or long-range missiles," former CIA analyst Ken Pollack said in an interview with CNN. "What they are trying to do is to basically plead guilty to the lesser charge in hopes that that will make it much harder for the United States to use that to build international support for a war," Pollack said.

The weapons inspectors are expecting a fuller accounting either in the December 8 declaration Iraq has to make to the U.N. on its weapons or around that date. Arms experts say if the tubes are in fact of the size Iraq claims, they could not be used for centrifuges for enriching uranium.

Under the U.N. sanctions regime imposed on Iraq, the government is not allowed to import materials that can be used for weapons. Attempts to buy such materials are considered by the United Nations to be violations of the regime.

Analysts say U.N. weapons inspectors will need to see the tubes and talk to their suppliers to determine whether they could be used to produce nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile in Baghdad on Monday, the fifth day of inspections saw U.N. missile, biological and chemical experts to the al-Karamah military-industrial complex in Baghdad -- surrounded by high walls topped with barbed wire and military guard posts.

Al-Karamah was hit during the coalition air strikes that marked the end of the last round of inspections four years ago.

As well as the al-Karamah swoop inspection, at six hours the longest so far, inspectors also swooped on a distillery to the northeast, CNN's Rym Brahimi reported.

Brahimi reported "heightened tension" over repeated U.S. and British air raids in two "no-fly" zones over the north and south of the country.

She said reports from the Iraqi state-run news agency said four people had been killed and 27 wounded in attacks in the southern port of Basra.

The U.S. military insisted its planes had launched "precision-guided" weapons at Iraqi air defences and that they always took pains to avoid hitting civilians.

In a letter of complaint to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Foreign Minister Naji Sabri denounced the raids as state terrorism and said Iraq would always defend itself.

"The raids by American and British planes on Iraq cities and villages and the infrastructure of the Republic of Iraq... is state terrorism, wanton aggression and rude interference in Iraq's internal affairs," the letter said.

The U.N. Security Council has told Iraq it must comply with resolution 1441 demanding it give up any nuclear, chemical or biological weapons efforts or face serious consequences, and President George W. Bush has said the United States will act to disarm Iraq if diplomatic efforts fail.

Iraq, which denies it has any nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, has pledged full cooperation with the inspectors. It must submit a declaration of any banned weapons by December 8.

International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Mohammed ElBaradei said on Sunday that he believed the Iraqis intended to provide a complete report of their weapons program by December 8, but may need more time for the civilian portion of its chemical and biological weapons systems.

"In the Security Council, there is understanding that if Hans Blix ... were to be approached by the Iraqis that they need a little extra time for the civilian activities, the Security Council might give them a little bit extra time," he said on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer.

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