BAGHDAD, Iraq – An angry Iraqi scientist accused "Mafia-like" U.N. inspectors Saturday of using his wife's illness in an attempt to lure him abroad for interrogation about Baghdad's nuclear programs.
"Never, never will I leave my country," he said.
Physicist Faleh Hassan was one of two scientists whose homes were visited Thursday by inspectors. It was the first unannounced visit to private residences as the United States increased pressure on the U.N. teams to try to take scientists abroad for questioning about possible prohibited weapons-building by the Iraqis.
Hassan ended up spending the overnight hours with the U.N. team at a Baghdad hotel, arguing over whether he would be able to retain copies of documents the inspectors found in his home, he told reporters Saturday in his suburban front yard.
Before that, Hassan, 55, had taken the U.N. experts to a field outside Baghdad where they together inspected what appeared to be a man-made mound, the significance of which was unclear to onlooking journalists. A senior Iraqi official said later Thursday that the field was part of a farm Hassan sold in 1996.
The physicist, once associated with the Iraq government's nuclear program, said that during that side trip, when an accompanying Iraqi official left his side momentarily, a female U.N. inspector offered to arrange for him to leave Iraq as an "escort" for his ailing wife.
Hassan said he was assured that treatment would be arranged for his wife for kidney stones, diabetes and high blood pressure. He said the woman was an American, but could not remember her name.
Hassan said he refused the offer. "This is Mafia-like behavior," he told reporters.
"We would rather live as beggars in our country than live as kings abroad," he said. He said he wouldn't leave even if instructed to do so by his government.
On Thursday, Hassan emerged from his home, after a six-hour U.N. search, carrying a cardboard box packed with documents. After the side trip to the field, he, the U.N. team and Iraqi officials went to the Baghdad hotel, where the inspectors intended to photocopy the material.
There, he said, they tried to renege on a commitment to give him copies, and he stood his ground until after dawn. Finally, they relented and returned copies to him, he told reporters.
He earlier had refused to be taken to the U.N. compound here for the copying process.
"I am not accused of any crime," he said. "No one can force me to go somewhere that is not under the control of Iraqi institutions."
Hassan, director of the Al-Razi military industrial site, said the documents were from his own research work and from graduate theses of students whom he has advised.
"They're old documents, not worth photocopying," he said.
The inspectors are charged with verifying Iraq's claims that it has eliminated all its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, as well as long-range missiles. The United States and Britain insist Iraq retains such weapons and have threatened military action unless its government cooperates fully with the inspectors.
Under a tough new U.N. sanctions regime, inspectors are allowed to speak to Iraqi scientists in private and even take them outside the country for interviews -- requirements Washington hopes will prompt scientists to reveal hidden arms programs.
Inspectors have spoken with engineers and experts at sites they have searched and have reported two formal interviews with Iraqi scientists, both on nuclear programs.
Both scientists who were formally interviewed told reporters they wanted to be interviewed with Iraqi officials in attendance and were. Iraqi officials have said they do not believe it is necessary for scientists to be taken out of the country but will allow it if a scientist consents.
Iraqi officials said Hassan is not on the list of 500 scientists and other specialists connected with nuclear, biological and chemical programs submitted to the United Nations last month.
After speaking to reporters, Hassan brought out members of his family.
"It was an attack on our home and the sanctity of our home," said his wife, who would not give her name. She said one female inspector hugged her during the inspection. "It was not out of affection, but she thought I was concealing something."
Hassan, who received his doctorate at Edinburgh University in Scotland, was not at home when the inspectors arrived Thursday morning. He said his wife's blood pressure rose when she found the inspectors and their cars around their home.