Inspectors Visit Seven New Sites in Iraq

As U.N. inspectors scoured the country on Wednesday for weapons Iraq says it does not have, a senior Iraqi ruling party official accused the United States of waging a "psychological war," but said Iraqis could withstand it.

U.N. arms experts visited seven sites Wednesday, including the al-Nasr State Company for Mechanical Industries outside Baghdad. The complex used to produce "special munitions" that were believed to hold chemical agents and it extended the range of Scud missiles imported from the former Soviet Union.

The inspectors have been working in Iraq since Nov. 27 under a U.N. Security Council resolution that threatens serious consequences if Iraq fails to eliminate nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles.

Baghdad says it has destroyed all its weapons of mass destruction, but the United States and Britain do not accept this and have threatened to disarm Iraq by force.

The White House said Wednesday there were serious "omissions" and "problems" with the 12,000-page weapons declaration Iraq submitted to the Security Council earlier this month.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also was dismissive of the document, saying: "This will fool nobody."

"It is clear, even on a preliminary assessment, that it is not the full and complete declaration requested in [U.N. Security Council] Resolution 1441," Straw said.

Both countries stopped short of declaring Iraq was in "material breach" of the resolution, considered the trigger point for military action.

Hans Blix, the head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, and Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, are scheduled to present their preliminary reports on the declaration to the Security Council on Thursday.

"Why does America keep threatening war even before getting the U.N. preliminary report?" a senior official of Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath party asked Wednesday. Answering his own rhetorical question, he added: "To keep the issue alive — to keep up the psychological war and pressure on Iraq."

The official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said Iraqis could withstand the pressure because they had been hardened by "living in a state of war for the past 20 years."

Iraqi officials have taken a tough line in a series of interviews this week.

Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan told the Saudi television channel MBC on Wednesday the inspections had gone well so far, but if "American intervention and pressure are to continue, something bad could happen."

He added Iraq is ready for war if it is attacked.

In an interview with another Arab satellite service, LBC, Ramadan criticized American support for a five-day conference of Iraqi opposition groups that finished this week in London.

U.S. officials "are people who claim to abide by laws and democracy and human rights and at the same time they interfere in the internal affairs of other countries," Ramadan said Tuesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz was asked by the Italian daily La Repubblica if Iraqis could sustain an invasion.

"The Iraqis will fight for their land. If attacked, they'll fight house to house, and months will be needed to wipe out Baghdad," Aziz replied in the interview published Wednesday.

Other people in Baghdad prayed for peace Wednesday. A delegation of American Christians attended a Mass at Saint Joseph's Chaldean Church.

The delegation handed out copies of an open letter to "all people of goodwill in the United States," urging them to press the Bush administration to "stop this madness and commit to a path of active nonviolent resolution."

"A war against the people of Iraq will slaughter thousands of innocent men, women and children in a land already devastated by sanctions. A war could also kill and injure countless Americans," the letter said.

The delegation, which is on a 10-day fact-finding mission, is led by David Robinson of Erie, Pa., who runs the U.S. section of the International Catholic peace movement.