Iraq branded as baseless British allegations Tuesday that President Saddam Hussein is pursuing weapons of mass destruction

"The British prime minister is serving the campaign of lies led by Zionists against Iraq," Iraqi Culture Minister Hammed Youssef Hammadi told reporters during the opening of a painting exhibition in Baghdad.

In Cairo, Iraq's Foreign Minister Naji Sabri told reporters the dossier "aims to justify the unjustifiable ... the aggressive intentions against Iraq."

According to the dossier, Iraq has military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, and has tried to acquire uranium from Africa. It also said the country has extended the range of its ballistic missiles.

"I am in no doubt that the threat is serious and current, that he (Saddam) has made progress on (weapons of mass destruction), and that he has to be stopped," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in an introduction to the dossier.

Blair has been a key backer of the United States, which accuses Iraq of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and harboring terrorists and has said Saddam should be toppled.

Hammadi called the British claims "totally baseless."

Sabri, who was in Cairo as Saddam's envoy to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, said Iraq is clear of any weapons of mass destruction or activities to reproduce them.

"Weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons cannot be hidden in a pocket," Sabri said, adding that Blair did not respond to an Iraqi challenge for British experts to come to Iraq and expose these weapons.

Sabri, who spoke at Cairo airport as he was leaving, earlier delivered a message to Mubarak from Saddam as the region's leaders continued to work to ward off a U.S.-Iraq war.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told reporters Saddam confirmed Iraq was prepared for the unconditional return of weapons inspectors and that Mubarak stressed the importance of cooperating with the inspectors.

Mubarak, a close U.S. ally, has joined other Arab leaders in warning a U.S. strike on Iraq could destabilize the region.

Egypt, which fought alongside the United States in the 1991 Gulf War that forced Iraq out of Kuwait, has said it would support a U.S. strike on Iraq if it were done under U.N. auspices.

Egypt also had pleaded with Iraq to permit U.N. weapons inspectors in order to defuse the crisis.

On. Sept. 16, Iraq sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan agreeing to accept inspectors without conditions. But the United States is skeptical Iraq will keep that promise. Annan said at the United Nations Monday that he has not heard anything from Iraq since the letter was delivered.

Iraq, in an attempt to rally regional support, has portrayed itself as the only Arab country willing to stand up to Israel and the United States.

The United Nations imposed harsh sanctions on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The sanctions cannot be lifted until U.N. inspectors certify that the country's weapons of mass destruction have been destroyed.