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Saddam: Iraq Is Prepared to Fight

Saddam Hussein said Tuesday that Iraqis were ready to fight a holy war against the United States, and he accused Washington of using lies and military might in a bid to rule the world.

In a vitriolic address read to Iraqis by a television announcer, Saddam said the world was entering a new year "under unique circumstances ... which have been manufactured by the forces of evil and darkness in order to create a situation of instability, chaos and tension."

Saddam said the United States and Israel were bent on waging war against Iraq in a first step to spread their authority "across the world and control fortunes and futures" of other countries.

The Iraqi leader again rejected U.S. and British claims that his regime possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Saddam also said his regime wanted to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors conducting almost daily searches in Iraq to verify Baghdad no longer possesses chemical, biological or nuclear arms.

"We are confident that the outcome of the (U.N.) inspection operations will be a big shock to the United States and will expose all the American lies," Saddam's statement said.

An Iraqi scientist interviewed by U.N. inspectors Tuesday also said Baghdad is not hiding weapons of mass destruction, and Iraqi officials said they were willing to discuss U.N. criticisms of the nation's arms declaration.

Teams of weapons and nuclear inspectors, meanwhile, resumed inspections at numerous sites, with biological experts visiting the College of Veterinary Medicine at Baghdad University and missile teams visiting five sites in and around Baghdad connected to arms production.

The Iraqi Information Ministry said inspectors visited the Hateen Company, a complex of factories 45 miles south of Baghdad that produces artillery ammunition.

Sabah Abdel-Nour, a former member of Iraq's nuclear program who now is a professor at Baghdad's University of Technology, said his interview with U.N. inspectors was "very objective, the discussion was very friendly."

"I explained to them (the inspectors) all that I know and that we do not have anything to hide," he said. "The questions were mainly about what has been done or any progress which has been achieved in Iraq since 1998.

"They wanted to inspect whether this university has anything of their interest, they were inquiring whether there is any advanced equipment which could be used or misused."

But Abdel-Nour said he refused to be quizzed in private, preferring instead to have Iraqi officials present during the meeting.

He was not asked to leave Iraq for questioning.

"I do not have anything to say outside Iraq more of what I have said here," Abdel-Nour said.

Also, Iraq's chief representative to the U.N. mission told The Associated Press on Tuesday he saw nothing to justify the criticisms of Iraq's weapons declaration expressed last week by chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"We have nothing to add, really, of new information, because the information we gave is the real and complete information," Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin said Tuesday.

However, Baghdad was "willing to reach an understanding" with Blix and ElBaradei, Amin said.

Last week, Blix and ElBaradei said Iraq's Dec. 7 declaration largely rehashed old information, and they would be seeking more data from Iraq.

"An opportunity was missed in the declaration to give a lot of evidence," Blix said reporters after reporting to the U.N. Security Council.

The declaration, required by council Resolution 1441, was supposed to be a comprehensive account of Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, the long-range missiles to carry them and the programs to produce them.

The United States said the declaration was so inadequate it amounts to a "material breach" of the council resolution, while Britain said the declaration was a lie. The two allies have threatened to invade Iraq unless it cooperates fully with the U.N. inspection commission and eliminates its weapons of mass destruction.

Amin said his government would not threaten any Iraqi scientist accepting an invitation from the inspectors to leave the country for further interviews.

The U.N. resolution gives inspectors the right to interview scientists outside Iraq, with their families accompanying them, to reduce the chance they may be pressured by the Baghdad government.

Amin said inspectors had been interviewing Iraqi scientists for about 10 days, and his government saw no need to take them abroad.