Baker Raises Concern About Threat from Iraq, As Envoy Defends Position

Secretary of State James Baker expressed concern Wednesday about the growing military threat posed by Iraq.

But Iraq’s ambassador here accused Israel, Britain and the United States of engaging in a “smear campaign” against it because of President Saddam Hussein’s threat to use chemical weapons if attacked first by Israel.

“Is it not the duty of every head of government to warn the pre-emptive attacker not to attack?” Ambassador Mohammed al-Mashad said at a news conference Wednesday at the National Press Club.

Iraq has been under fire in the West since late March, when four Iraqis were indicted in the United States on charges of smuggling through Britain 40 U.S.-made devices that can be used to detonate nuclear weapons. British and U.S. agents intercepted the operation.

On April 2, Hussein threatened to “let our fire eat half of Israel if it tries to wage anything against Iraq.”

Baker told Congress on Wednesday that Iraqi threats to use chemical weapons against Israel are “quite disturbing,” particularly because they are “threats coming from a country that has used chemical weapons.”

But the secretary, testifying before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, noted that Hussein later told a visiting U.S. Senate delegation that his warning about “using chemical weapons was made on the assumption that Iraq would have been attacked by (Israel), with nuclear weapons.”

Baker said Hussein told the five senators, “We will respond with the only thing we have, which is chemical weapons.”

Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) introduced a bill last week that calls for sweeping: U.S. sanctions against Iraq unless it allows international inspection of “suspect” biological, chemical or nuclear facilities, and ratifies the 1972 Geneva Convention on Biological Weapons.

In New York, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith issued a statement praising a House version of the bill, introduced Monday by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.).

But Ambassador Mashad called the sanctions bill “very unfair and unjust,” and said it would damage U.S.-Iraqi relations.

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