Saddam's Envoy in Yemen to Discuss 'Threats'

Iraq's culture minister arrived in Yemen Sunday as part of Baghdad's diplomatic campaign to strengthen opposition to U.S. threats of an attack.

State-run Yemeni radio quoted Hammed Youssef Hammadi as saying that he wants to discuss "the political situation in the area and in particular American threats against Iraq."

The radio said Hamadi would meet on Monday with President Ali Abdullah Saleh and other Yemeni officials.

Washington has said it wants a regime change in Baghdad, accusing Saddam of producing weapons of mass destruction.

President Bush has warned President Saddam Hussein of unspecified consequences if he does not permit the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to verify that Iraq has dismantled its chemical and biological weapons and the missiles that can carry them. The inspectors left in December 1998.

Saddam has dispatched senior officials to international and regional capitals to try to garner opposition to an attack on Iraq.

Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan visited Damascus and Beirut in recent days, while Foreign Minister Naji Sabri left for Moscow on Sunday a day after returning to Baghdad from a mission to Beijing.

"There's still room for diplomatic solutions to avert a war with the United States," Ramadan said in Damascus.

Ramadan told reporters later in Baghdad that Iraq would broaden its diplomatic offensive to include European capitals, in particular Berlin and Paris.

"There is a growing and tangible European opposition to the American policy of aggression," Ramadan told reporters.

French President Jacques Chirac has called the idea of unilateral U.S. action against Iraq "worrying." German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Washington's stepping up calls for military action to oust Saddam is a mistake that undermines U.N. efforts to resume weapons inspections in Iraq.

On Sunday, the British Broadcasting Corp. released a text of an interview in which U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "The president has been clear that he believes weapons inspectors should return."

Iraq claims it has complied with U.N. resolutions -- imposed following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait that sparked the 1991 Gulf War -- but has said it wants to continue a dialogue on the inspectors' return, conditions of which U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has rejected.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said in a television interview on Sunday that the idea of the U.N. inspectors' return is "a nonstarter because it's not going to bring about a conclusion."

Sabri, Iraq's foreign minister, is expected in Cairo for talks with Arab counterparts at Wednesday's opening of their biannual Arab League meeting in the Egyptian capital.

The Iraqi issue is expected to top the Arab League meeting agenda with a draft resolution already being prepared to crystalize a pan-Arab position on the U.S.-Iraqi standoff.