Iraq Foreign Minister: U.S. Draft Resolution Would 'Never Be Accepted'

Iraq's foreign minister said Sunday that Baghdad may not accept a draft U.S. resolution on United Nations weapons inspections even with Security Council approval.

"How can you expect Iraq to accept such an evil American resolution," Foreign Minister Naji Sabri told reporters. "This resolution is rejected by the international community, and it will never be accepted by anybody."

Speaking at the Baghdad trade fair with visiting Austrian politician Joerg Haider, Sabri said the "whole international community rejects warmongering, the desire for killing ... by this evil administration in Washington."

The proposed U.S. resolution would strengthen U.N. weapons inspections, declare Iraq in "material breach" of its obligations to destroy weapons of mass destruction and threaten "serious consequences," presumably military action, if Baghdad fails to cooperate with inspectors.

Russia, France and China contend the United States could use the resolution to launch an attack on Iraq without getting Security Council approval. They want the possibility of force to be considered in a second resolution only if Iraq obstructs the inspectors.

Security Council members expect the Americans to submit a revised text this week but it was unclear if it would be more acceptable to the Iraqis.

During a speech Sunday in Springfield, Ill., President Bush defended his tough stand against Iraq, saying President Saddam Hussein could "provide an arsenal" to Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

"If the United Nations cannot fulfill its duty, if it doesn't have the backbone necessary to work together to keep the peace and if Saddam Hussein will not disarm, in the name of peace, in the name of freedom, the United States will lead a coalition and disarm Saddam Hussein," Bush said.

With tensions rising, Saddam met with air force commanders and urged them to deliver a "very hard lesson" in case of an attack, Iraqi television said.

Saddam ordered a state of "battle readiness" to prevent "mean and satanic intentions" against Iraq. "We don't like war but if war is imposed on us, we will fight on all fronts," Saddam was quoted as saying.