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Ex-U.N. arms inspector says Iraq is no threat

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BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq is not a threat to its neighbors, a former U.N. arms inspector said Thursday at the end of a six-day tour in which he did not visit suspected Iraqi weapons sites.

Scott Ritter said he had not asked to see such sites for the documentary film he is making on Iraq because he feared that Baghdad and Washington would use the visits for propaganda.

Ritter said the United States' policy toward Iraq is troubling. On the one hand, he said, Washington insists that Iraq abide by U.N. resolutions that require its disarmament, while on the other hand it links the lifting of U.N. sanctions to the removal of President Saddam Hussein.

Ritter resigned as a U.N. inspector two years ago, saying the United States was not aggressive enough in compelling Iraq to disarm.

But he said at a news conference Thursday that he quit because he felt the United States was manipulating the U.N. inspection agency for political ends.

The United States and Britain have been the strongest proponents of Iraqi disarmament, arguing that sanctions cannot be lifted until Baghdad proves it has eliminated long-range missiles and biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.

Ritter said Richard Butler, former chief of the disbanded U.N. inspection agency, UNSCOM, and the United States and Britain had been spreading "inaccurate information, irresponsible speculation" to picture Iraq as a threat.

Ritter said his documentary will say that Iraq has "qualitatively" met U.N. demands and that sanctions should be lifted.

He interviewed senior Iraqi officials, but said he did not go to suspected arms sites because if he had found nothing Iraq would have said that proves compliance. The United States would have said Iraq emptied the sites ahead of time, he said.

Ritter said he borrowed money from an Iraqi-American to make the documentary, but was not sure whether anybody would buy it.