WASHINGTON – Bush administration officials say they want action, not talk from Iraq, which on Monday invited Congress to visit Baghdad to talk about opening up weapons inspections again.
The White House suggested the invitation was a delay tactic by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who has refused to allow United Nations weapons inspectors into Iraq since 1998.
The invitation for a three-week visit, made by parliament speaker Sadoun Hammadi, said the congressional delegation could bring "whatever data your government chooses to supply them with in substantiation of its misguided claim that Iraq has produced chemical and biological weapons and is in the process of constructing nuclear weapons."
In anticipation of a possible U.S. attack, Hammadi said that to prove it is not building weapons of mass destruction, Iraq would let a delegation travel to any site where they suspect weapons are being developed.
Hammadi said he sent the offer, delivered in a four-page letter to Polish diplomats who run the U.S. interests section in Baghdad, because Congress has said it must give approval to any military mission before the president sends in forces.
"See the true facts through direct dialogue, and then reach your own conclusions," Hammadi wrote to lawmakers. After the delegation has "had the chance to see and search in Iraq ... the decision will subsequently still be yours."
Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in Baghdad Monday in an orchestrated effort to condemn the United States and show support for Saddam Hussein.
Salim al-Qubiesi, a member of the Iraqi parliament, called on the world to get rid of Bush instead of Saddam, saying the U.S. president "represents a danger to human civilization because he is the No. 1 terrorist in the world."
Last week, an offer was sent to chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix to visit Iraq for talks about restarting inspections. U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan is set to meet with the U.N. Security Council to discuss once again resuming inspections.
Inspections, the result of U.N. sanctions following the 1991 Gulf War that ousted Iraqi forces from Kuwait, were instituted to make sure that Iraq doesn't try to rebuild banned chemical, nuclear and biological weapons programs. Bush has threatened unspecified consequences if weapons inspectors, who left the country ahead of U.S.-British strikes in December 1998, are not allowed to return.
Bush administration officials said Hammadi's offer amounted to a hill of beans, since the president has made clear that rigorous inspections are they only way to avoid retribution.
"Our position on inspections and disarmament is well-known,'' said Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
After Iraq's invitation to the United Nations last week, Bush said that "nothing's changed," and pledged to use all means at his disposal to change the regime in Baghdad. The United Nations hasn't formally responded to the invitation for Blix to meet with Baghdad officials.
U.S. officials say Iraq needs to disarm, not talk about inspections, and they are skeptical that the offer would produce any results.
But many are now saying the United States should call Saddam's bluff, if that is what this is.
"Kofi Annan, thus far the secretary general of the United Nations, has been clear that he is not about to go back and negotiate whether or not they can come back in because there is a U.N. resolution saying they have to come back, the only thing that is non-negotiable is the terms on which they come back, and if Saddam is not prepared to allow terms which would give us a reasonable prospect of knowing what he is doing, than this is a sham," said Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.
There are some signs that the United States is getting ready for an attack in Iraq. Defense officials confirm that U.S munitions plants are working overtime to replenish the supply of satellite and laser-guided bombs that were used in Afghanistan.
Plants are working extra shifts rebuilding the arsenals and have been doing so for the past few months.
Meantime, U.S. fighter jets attacked an Air Defense command structure in the Southern no-fly zone. It's the 25th time the United States has dropped bombs in the no-fly zones this year.
The attack came as a response to attempts to shoot down American and British warplanes patrolling the area.
Pentagon officials say there is evidence that Iraq has been trying to significantly beef up its air defenses in recent months.
Fox News' Bret Baier and the Associated Press contributed to this report.