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Filed November 12, 2002 By Jeremy Scahill

BAGHDAD—The 250 member Iraqi National Assembly has voted unanimously to reject Washington's UN resolution in an extraordinary session of the parliament called by President Saddam Hussein. Baghdad has until Friday to make a final declaration of its intent regarding the resolution.

A special session of the Iraqi Parliament was called last night to debate whether to accept or reject the U.N. Security Council resolution to return weapons inspectors to Iraq. Photo by Thorne Anderson.

Washington has made clear that if Iraq rejects the resolution, it will attack. But members of the parliament said Bush will bomb Iraq regardless of how cooperative Iraq is. "This is a preparation for war," said Saddoun Hammadi, the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament. "We have to be ready for all the cases. We think that [the resolution] is a preparation for war and a pretext to wage war against our country. The best course of action for Iraq is to protect its independence and protect the integrity of the people. We are not going to turn the other cheek."

Hammadi said that Iraq is not inviting a war in rejecting the resolution. "No. It is a protection for the independence of our people," he said. "This is a rejection of allegations which are not true, of information which is false and of a bad intention which is behind this resolution."

Today's vote, however, is not the final word.

Saddoun Hamadi, right, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, prepares to open the special session of the Iraqi Parliament. Photo by Thorne Anderson.

The parliament affirmed that the "political leadership" should "adopt what it considers appropriate to defend the Iraqi people and Iraq's independence and dignity and authorizes President Saddam Hussein to adopt what he sees as appropriate expressing our full support for his wise leadership." It is widely believed that in the next 48 hours, Saddam Hussein will convene a special meeting of the Revolutionary Command Council, Iraq's governing body before issuing an official response.

The Iraqi legislators voted by a show of hands. Parliament Speaker Saddoun Hammadi announced the unanimous result. The discussion surrounding the resolution stretched over 2 days, during which dozens of deputies spoke out against cooperation with the resolution. The major theme in the discussions was the sovereignty and independence of the country.

"The people of Iraq know that in this resolution there are major allegations which have no proof at all," said Hammadi. "Iraq has fulfilled all the requirements of the previous resolutions. There are no mass destruction weapons in Iraq at all and there was no need for this resolution. The inspectors could have come to Iraq and carried out their work according to the previous resolutions."

The atmosphere inside the meeting was tense. Many deputies indicated they were aware of the repercussions of Iraq's total rejection of the resolution. The stage is now set for the Iraqi President to verify the parliament's decision, though many observers believe that is unlikely, particularly in light of events that preceded today's vote.

Early this morning in Baghdad, legislators and journalists were given copies of a document signed by Saddam Hussein's son, Uday, a member of parliament and one of Iraq's most powerful citizens. Uday did not attend the session in person.

The letter called on the parliament to accept the UN resolution, saying, "We have to agree to the U.N. Security Council resolution with limits on certain points, but not, we say, conditions."

"We have to know our enemy and that the U.N. resolution does not mean stopping him from committing military action," he said. Uday called for cooperation under what he called an "Arab tent."

"There should be Arab experts or technicians and monitors (on the inspection teams) who are familiar with the nuclear, chemical and biological side," he said. Uday also called for an Arab oil boycott against those countries that attack Iraq and urged all Arab countries not to permit the use of their land, air or waterways to attack Iraq. "We also have to take precautions and measures and here we have to ask the Arab countries to immediately cut oil supplies to those countries that launch a military strike or aggression on Iraq and to any country that allows foreign war planes to use their airports or offer logistic support for them for refueling," his letter said.

Mohammed Al-Adhami, Dean of the Political Science Department of Baghdad University and a member of the Iraqi Parliament says he thinks the United States will attack Iraq regardless of whether Iraq accepts the U.N. resolution.

While the legislators did not adopt Uday's position, analysts say it is an indication of what lies ahead. The parliament's decision is simply an official "recommendation" to the Iraqi "leadership." Few believe that in the end Saddam Hussein will reject the resolution, though it cannot be ruled out.

Many ordinary Iraqis expressed shock upon learning of the decision. It was not carried on any Iraqi networks. Most people are slowly hearing the news through word of mouth and Arabic language broadcasts from Al Jazeera, excerpts of which were played on Iraqi TV. Debate is raging in the city about what Saddam will do.

At this point, most Iraqis believe that a massive attack led by Washington is a fait accompli and some say rejection of the resolution would be more dignified than cooperating with a document that will pave the way for bombing.

What is clear at this point is that Iraq is bracing for war. The only real question for many here is whether or not an attack from Washington will come during or after the Ramadan holiday. And more to the point, the question looms whether Iraq will cooperate in a resolution that Baghdad has already labeled a "declaration of war against the UN" and international cover for a massive attack by the Bush administration.

Jeremy Scahill is an independent journalist, who reports for the nationally syndicated Radio and TV show Democracy Now! He is currently based in Baghdad, Iraq, where he and filmmaker Jacquie Soohen are coordinating, the only website providing regular independent reporting from the ground in Baghdad.

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