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Iraqi Press Blasts U.N. Weapons Chief Butler Criticized For Insisting On Unrestricted Access

Dubbing him a “mad dog,” Iraqi newspapers warned the chief U.N. weapons inspector Saturday to keep away from presidential palaces.

Government-run papers said Richard Butler, who arrived Friday to press for access for his investigators, must respect Iraq’s sovereignty and avoid making political statements.

Butler is expected to talk today with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.

Saturday, Butler met with top U.N. arms monitors for a briefing on Iraq’s disarmament progress, said Alan Dacey, spokesman for the U.N. inspectors in Baghdad.

“Mad dog Butler arrives in Iraq,” declared a headline in Babel, Iraq’s most influential newspaper, owned by Saddam Hussein’s son, Odai.

“Respect for Iraq’s sovereignty means respect for the symbols of this sovereignty which is embodied in presidential headquarters,” said the government newspaper al-Jumhouriya.

Butler’s four-day trip is his first visit to Iraq since he pulled out his inspection teams last month to protest Iraq’s expulsion of its U.S. members.

The expulsion order touched off a three-week crisis, which eased when Iraq allowed the Americans back in Nov. 21 under a Russia-brokered deal. Inspections resumed the next day, and there have been no major confrontations since.

But Iraq has not retreated from its refusal to allow the inspectors into about 60 key sites - including about 40 of Saddam’s palaces - that it insists are vital to national security.

The inspectors are in Iraq to monitor compliance with Security Council orders that Iraq get rid of all long-range missiles and its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Butler reiterated Friday that his inspectors should be allowed to visit any site in Iraq in search of banned weapons. He said he would meet with senior Iraqi officials to push for full access.

He promised that Iraq’s concerns over sovereignty and national security would be respected.