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Hussein: Decision was to avoid war

President Saddam Hussein said Saturday he had no choice but to accept a tough, new U.N. weapons inspection resolution because the United States and Israel had shown their "claws and teeth" and declared unilateral war on the Iraqi people.

In an open letter to Iraq's parliament, Hussein said he hoped the weapons inspectors would help the U.N. Security Council "to see the truth as it really is about Iraq being completely free of weapons of mass destruction."

The advance team of inspectors is expected in Baghdad on Monday after a four-year absence. Under a new resolution approved last week, the inspectors are empowered to go anywhere and interview anyone to determine if Iraq still has banned weapons. Failure to cooperate fully will probably bring a U.S.-led attack.

Hussein told Parliament in the letter that he accepted the resolution "because your enemy, the alliance between Zionism and the American administration has . . . after showing its claws and teeth, decided to wage war unilaterally against our people."

"If the unjust persist in their wrongdoing, then you know that the potentials and obligations that we carry from our revolution to withstand all injustice will ensure their defeat," he added.

The Revolutionary Command Council, the top decisionmaking body headed by Hussein, decided on Wednesday to accept the resolution. The rubber-stamp parliament had recommended rejecting it but left the final decision to the Iraqi leader.

The U.N. team will begin preliminary inspections of suspected weapons sites Nov. 27, said chief inspector Hans Blix. He then has 60 days to report back to the council with his findings. "We hope and expect to have full Iraqi cooperation," Blix said Saturday in Paris. "A denial of access or a delayed access . . . this would be a serious thing."

Under the resolution, Iraq must declare all weapons programs to the United Nations by Dec. 8. The Iraqi declaration will then be compared with previous data gathered by inspectors.

Blix said access to suspected sites would be key to the mission's success, adding that Iraq would be held accountable for blocking inspectors' work.

The United States believes Iraq has been illegally rearming for several years. Inspectors, out of Iraq since December 1998, have not been able to verify that claim.

In Baghdad, a government newspaper on Saturday urged the arms experts to resist U.S. pressure and not create pretexts that could open the way for an attack on Iraq.

"The inspectors should not mix up the cards, creating a crisis and fabricating pretexts that aim to harm the people of Iraq," the daily Al-Jumhuriya said in a front-page editorial.

"They should adopt an honest, objective and professional attitude to their work and not to bend to U.S. pressure," it said.