Report: U.S. Wants Iraq Free of Nonconventional Weapons Before Strike

Washington is pushing for the return of U.N. arms inspectors to Iraq to ensure there are no weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein's army could use in the event of a U.S. strike, a leading daily said Sunday.

The Americans "are endeavoring to double-check these myths -- do they (weapons) exist or not," said a front-page editorial in Babil, the newspaper owned by Saddam's eldest son Odai.

"If they exist, as they (the Americans) think they do, they will dismantle them so that they can start their aggression on Iraq," the newspaper wrote. "Once they enter the country and accomplish their objective, they will launch their aggression within 15 days or a month."

The editorial came two days after the United Nations failed to convince Iraq to allow the return of weapons inspectors to Baghdad after two days of negotiations in Vienna.

Babel claimed that the United States has deployed military advisers and American special forces in neighboring Jordan to take part in an attack against Iraq.

"This means that the Jordanians are bringing an oil-coated stick close to a burning fire," the paper wrote in an apparent warning to the Jordanians. Jordan has denied those claims.

The United States has warned Saddam he faces unspecified consequences if he does not allow the return of the inspectors, who left ahead of 1998 allied airstrikes launched to punish Iraq for blocking inspections.

Iraq has been under U.N. sanctions since it invaded Kuwait in 1990. The sanctions can be lifted only when inspectors certify that Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are destroyed, along with the long-range missiles that could deliver them.