BAGHDAD, Iraq – Saddam Hussein on Saturday tried to show the world he has nothing to hide when his government presented a mass of documents that is supposed to prove he has no weapons of mass destruction.
The Iraqi government showed off more than 12,000 pages of text detailing its nuclear, chemical and biological activities to the international media.
Later that day, Iraq delivered the long-awaited arms declaration to the United Nations. A vehicle brought the Iraqi document to the U.N. office Saturday evening, Iraqi time. The pile of paperwork will be flown out Sunday on a U.N. plane and will reach U.N. headquarters in New York and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna by late Sunday.
The U.N. Security Council had set Sunday as the deadline for the Iraqi leader to present detailed descriptions on Iraq's past weapons programs and industrial activity.
Also on Saturday, Saddam delivered a message to the Kuwaiti people, apologizing for the 1990-91 occupation of Kuwait by Iraqi troops that led to the Gulf War.
"We apologize to God for any act that has angered the Almighty in the past and that was held against us, and we apologize to you (the Kuwaitis) on the same basis," said Saddam's letter, read by his information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf.
But the Iraqi president also laid out the justifications for the invasion, from Baghdad's point of view, involving what he considered anti-Iraqi oil policies of the Kuwaiti government.
Distinguishing between Kuwait's people and their leaders, he criticized today's Kuwaiti government, saying it is working "with foreigners" who have aggressive designs on Iraq, and he said that Kuwait, where the U.S. has stationed thousands of its troops since the 1991 war, is under American occupation.
But Kuwaitis remain skeptical.
"We don't believe a bit of it," Saud Nasir Al-Sabah, former Kuwait Ambassador to the United States, told Fox News following the address.
Calling Saddam's message a "ridiculous kind of statement and apology" that's 10 years too late, he said: "We will not be deceived again by Saddam Hussein."
Kuwait's information minister, Sheik Ahmed Fahd Al Ahmed Al Sabah, said Saddam first should apologize to his own people "for dragging them into wars that wasted their resources and apologize to the State of Kuwait by telling the truth and returning the prisoners."
Post-Gulf War resolutions of the Security Council require Iraq to make amends to Kuwait, including accounting for some 600 Kuwaitis still missing as a result of the occupation, and for large amounts of looted materials. Iraqi reparations payments are being made under U.N. auspices.
Meanwhile, teams from the New York-based U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, known as UNMOVIC, and the U.N. nuclear watchdog resumed weapons inspections after a two-day break for Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan. The team planned on visiting uranium storage sites and an Iraqi factory that once made munitions for chemical or biological weapons.
On the arms declaration, reporters were shown bound copies of volumes devoted separately to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile activities titled in English, "Currently Accurate, Full and Complete Declarations." The paper was accompanied by computer disks, presumably with additional information.
The thousands of pages of technical detail will shift the Iraq crisis into a new stage, as Washington and Baghdad move step by step toward a crossroads between war and peace.
It's been no surprise that Baghdad is claiming it has no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.
"We have absolutely no weapons of mass destruction," Lt. Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, the Iraqi official who oversaw production of the declaration, told reporters.
But Iraqi leaders aren't too convincing.
Bush administration officials say they're sure Iraq still harbors such arms. If it doesn't disarm, they say, they will seek Security Council sanction for military action against Iraq. Failing that, they say, the United States would initiate such an attack on its own.
U.S. officials have not presented conclusive evidence Iraq has banned weapons. A White House spokesman said Thursday, however, that "solid evidence" would be turned over to U.N. inspectors.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher discounted calls for the U.S. to release more evidence on what weapons Iraq has.
"I think you've got the question wrong," Boucher said. "The burden is on Iraq. The burden is on Iraq to tell the world what it has, to tell the world what these programs are, where its weapons are, where its facilities are, who the people are."
Boucher said the U.S. government has shared "a lot of information with the inspectors already."
Iraq's report will take U.N. experts weeks to analyze and U.N. inspectors months to verify inside Iraq. The task is particularly daunting because much of the text is in Arabic. And U.N. officials said weeding out data that might help others produce chemical, biological or nuclear weapons will further delay handover of material to the Security Council's 15 member nations.
In sum, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said Friday, "no member will get it on Monday."
The U.N. Security Council has decided not to release the Iraqi declaration until after experts have looked it over to make sure there's nothing in it that could aid in proliferation.
U.N. Security Council President Alfonso Valdivieso of Colombia said Friday that members decided to make UNMOVIC the depositary of the declaration. UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency will review it and compare it with international treaties on disarmament and non-proliferation.
"Members of the Security Council will meet next week to decide to on the further handling of the declaration," Valdivieso said.
Blix said the council was "fully aware that as the highest authority in the U.N. system for security, they must make sure that they respect the conventions" related to arms, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention.
The United States on Friday offered to protect Iraqi scientists who cooperate with international weapons inspectors.
The Security Council resolution adopted Nov. 8 allows inspectors to solicit information from Iraqi scientists without Iraqi officials being present. It also requires Iraq to file by Sunday its dossier on weapons programs. Iraq also was required to report on "all other chemical, biological, and nuclear programs," even if not weapon-related.
"It will be really a huge declaration," said Amin, chief Iraqi liaison to Blix's team. He said the material covered the 1991-98 history of U.N. weapons and equipment destruction, as well as "new elements."
In the 1990s, after Iraq's defeat in the Persian Gulf War, U.N. inspectors destroyed tons of Iraq's weapons and dismantled its program to try to build nuclear bombs. But the monitoring regime collapsed amid U.N.-Iraqi disputes.
Inspectors hope the Iraqis at least will help them answer open questions by, for example, supplying convincing documentation on the fate of 550 artillery shells filled with poisonous mustard gas. Iraqi and U.N. accounts contain many such discrepancies from the 1990s.
Blix said Friday that the UN experts in Iraq would welcome "as much information from any member state as to evidence that they may have on weapons of mass destruction, and in particular sites, because we are inspectors -- we can go to sites."
The U.N. resolution provides that "false statements or omissions" in Iraq's declaration would constitute a "material breach," that is, a potential cause for military action, but only if coupled with Iraqi noncooperation.
If Iraq eventually fully cooperates with the inspectors, U.N. resolutions call for the Security Council to consider lifting economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.