Iraq in arms climbdown

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AFTER A day of defiant language, Baghdad acceded last night to United Nations weapons inspectors' demands to see an air force document, the withholding of which had threatened to unleash another threat of air strikes by the US and Britain.

"We are witnessing a savage campaign of disinformation - barraging Iraq with accusations" and "demands for imaginary documents", said Iraq's Foreign Minister, Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf. Richard Butler, head of the UN weapons inspection commission, had requested 12 documents, but yesterday Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, insisted they do not exist.

However, after a day of renewed tension, Baghdad's ambassador to the UN, Nizar Hamdoon, said the inspectors would be allowed to take notes from the air force document.

Iraq has been promised a review of its compliance with UN Security Council resolutions in the belief that this will lead to the lifting of sanctions. The US and Britain also want the review to look at the treatment of Kuwaiti PoWs. Iraq says this is a pretext for keeping sanctions in place indefinitely.

It emerged yesterday that Britain played a key role in stopping US missile strikes during the last confrontation. Initial reports in the US blamed France for tipping off Baghdad that missiles were on their way, prompting Saddam Hussein's letter to the UN and last-minute retreat. But a Newsweek report said London told Baghdad, not out of treachery but on the instructions of Washington.

Toppling Saddam, page 11

Leading article, Review, page 3