Iraq Brands U.N. Arms Team Chief Blix as 'Spy' August 07, 2002 07:42 AM ET Email this article Printer friendly version DUBAI (Reuters) - Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri has launched a stinging attack on chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix just days after Baghdad, facing threats of military action from the United States, invited the inspectors to resume talks. In remarks published Wednesday, Sabri told the United Arab Emirates newspaper al-Bayan that Blix, a Swede, had caved in to "U.S. pressure and blackmail." "Blix has inherited the same duties undertaken by the spy Butler, who used to project an authority exceeding that of the Security Council and the secretary-general," he said, referring to former chief U.N. arms inspector Richard Butler. Baghdad has repeatedly accused Butler, an Australian, of acting as a spy for the United States and says any new inspections must not be a cover for U.S. espionage in Iraq. Al-Bayan said it interviewed Sabri on the eve of Monday's U.N. meeting to study Iraq's invitation to talks in Baghdad to review suspected weapons of mass destruction programs. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said after that meeting that Iraq must send a "formal invitation" for U.N. arms inspectors to return before further substantive talks. Progress over the return of arms inspectors could create new international pressure on the United States to hold back from military action against Iraq, which the United States is exploring in an effort to oust President Saddam Hussein. Accusing Iraq of obstructing their work, inspectors pulled out in December 1998 before U.S. and British bombing. The inspections are key to suspending U.N. sanctions against Iraq, imposed after Baghdad's troops invaded Kuwait in 1990. Sabri, referring to inconclusive talks he held with Annan and Blix in July, also told al-Bayan: "We did not address the invitation to ambassador Blix but to the technical team which had taken part in negotiations in New York and Vienna." It was not clear if he was suggesting Blix should be excluded from the invitation to Baghdad. Last week's Iraqi letter to the United Nations invited Blix and his team to talks. At issue is Iraq's insistence that talks focus on a U.N. evaluation of what remains to be done in investigating nuclear, chemical, biological and ballistic weapons programs. But a 1999 Security Council resolution says the inspectors cannot determine "key remaining disarmament tasks" until they are back on the ground to see what happened since they left.