Saddam Hussein's deputy says Iraq expects to be bombed

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Iraq expects to be bombed by the West but warned that an attack would be a "grave mistake" as it would destroy the coalition against terrorism.

Speaking for the first time since 11 September, Tariq Aziz, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, said Baghdad was aware of plans to strike 300 targets with 1,000 missiles. Mr Aziz, who is second-in-command to President Saddam Hussein, said: "We know that it is just a matter of time before such an attack. That is going to be a very grave mistake. The Arab world is not going to tolerate that ... they know that this is unjust and is sheer aggression."

He said such action would destroy the Allied coalition. He said: "There won't be Arab military retaliation. Political actions and stances will be taken by the Arabs which will add to the isolation of the United States."

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Aziz, who became familiar during the Gulf war as the diplomatic face of Iraq, dismissed as "baseless" any suggestions of an Iraqi role in the attacks on America.

He was equally scathing about reports that his country was behind the anthrax attacks. However, he said that Baghdad would not allow UN weapons inspectors to return to investigate the country's biological, chemical, missile and nuclear programmes.