BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq's decision to allow the unconditional return of U.N. inspectors is a "sincere move" that will confirm the country has destroyed all banned weapons, a top Iraqi official was quoted as saying Thursday.
"Iraq's initiative will provide the U.N. weapons inspectors with the chance to know for certain and from close up that Iraq is clear of weapons of mass destruction," Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan was quoted as saying by Iraqi media.
All banned weapons "were destroyed over the past years," he said.
Iraq agreed late Monday, under threat of U.S. attack, to allow inspectors to return unconditionally after a four-year standoff. Washington, however, expressed skepticism that Iraq would fully open itself to inspection and called the offer an attempt to split the U.N. Security Council.
President Bush said Iraq would not "fool anybody" with its about-face and predicted the United Nations would rally behind the United States despite Iraq's "ploy."
But Ramadan called Baghdad's offer "a sincere move which would expose the U.S. administration's false claims on Iraq," according to the state-run al-Iraq newspaper.
Harsh U.N. sanctions were imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait and cannot be lifted until U.N. inspectors certify that the country's weapons of mass destruction have been destroyed.
The inspectors left the country in December 1998, complaining that Iraq was refusing to cooperate. The departure was followed by four days of punishing U.S. and British airstrikes.
Meanwhile, the ruling Baath party newspaper on Thursday said Iraq poses no threat to any country in the world, including the United States.
The newspaper accused Bush of pushing for war against Iraq "to conceal his domestic failures in the economic, social and political levels."