Saddam already defying UN, says White House Saddam already defying UN, says White House By Toby Harnden and Anton La Guardia (Filed: 19/11/2002) The White House last night began to build its case that Saddam Hussein was already defying the United Nations. It said Iraq's repeated attempts to fire on American and British aircraft in the no-fly zones amounted to a "material breach" of the latest Security Council resolution. But Britain has not echoed Washington's comments and officials in London privately expressed concern that America could seize on Iraq's behaviour in the no-fly zones as a possible casus belli. Whitehall sources said key members of the Security Council disputed the legality of the no-fly zones, and Tony Blair would find it difficult to join a war justified only by Iraqi threats to Allied aircraft. As an advance party of UN weapons inspectors landed in Baghdad, saying Iraq had a "new opportunity" to comply, Washington made plain the Bush administration's scepticism that the UN would be able to disarm Saddam. The arrival in Baghdad of Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, and some 30 colleagues was greeted without fanfare at the White House, which remains focused on how to topple Saddam by March. Instead, it opened a new front in the war of words against Baghdad, where state-controlled newspapers pledged that the government would co-operate "in order to expose the lies of US and British governments". Allied aircraft yesterday dropped precision-guided bombs on Iraqi air defences in "self-defence". The White House has seized on the almost daily clashes as a sign of Baghdad's defiance. Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said: "In the resolution it says Iraq shall not take or threaten hostile acts directed at any representative or personnel of any member state taking action to uphold any council resolution." During a trip to Chile, Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, said: "I do find it unacceptable that Iraq fires. It is for the president of the United States and the UN Security Council to make judgments about their view of Iraq's behaviour over a period of time." However, US officials indicated that America would not go back to the UN until further violations - such as impeding the work of the inspectors. UN Security Council resolution 1441 threatens "serious consequences" if Iraq does not co-operate with a reinforced system of weapons inspections. America and Britain say the no-fly zones are designed to protect Iraqi Kurds and Shi'ites, and were imposed to support UN resolution 688 telling Iraq to halt the repression of civilians. But Iraq maintains that they are illegal because they were not approved by the Security Council. Mr Blix was cautiously upbeat yesterday and said he was "making progress" after initial talks with officials. Stepping off a UN transport aircraft earlier, Mr Blix said: "We have come for one reason and that is because the world wants to have assurances that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. "The situation is tense at the moment, but there is a new opportunity and we are here to provide inspection which is credible." American misgivings about the mission were reinforced when Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the team would need "six months to a year" before it could produce the results of its inspections. Mr ElBaradei, who will lead inspections of suspected nuclear sites, called on the international community to "be patient". Nearly three quarters of Americans now back war with Iraq and the Republican victory in the mid-term elections further strengthened the hand of those pushing for military action. Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, and Donald Rumsfeld, Defence Secretary, are understood to believe that resolution 1441 has many drawbacks and presents a potential trap for Mr Bush. They are confident, however, that the trap can be avoided and that a casus belli for war can be presented to the UN within weeks.