- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 12 (UPI) — Iraq has missiles capable of reaching more than 112 miles, well outside the permitted range, diplomats from countries on the U.N. Security Council said Wednesday.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix had asked experts from seven countries to check Iraq’s Dec. 8 weapons declaration that the country’s al-Samoud missile’s range was within the Security Council-imposed limit of about 93 miles. Iraq said that in tests the missiles traveled further than the proscribed limit because they did not carry a warhead or guidance system, which would have lowered the range.

But the expert panel said it found the missile could travel about 20 miles further than allowed, putting Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Jordan within the weapon’s range.

A council diplomat, who didn’t want to be further identified, told United Press International the experts “were pretty clear the al-Samoud went well outside the permitted zone.”

She said all six of the experts drew the conclusion that “the Volga engines should be destroyed,” but that was not the experts’ call.

“I think it is very clear, looking at the (Dec. 8 Iraqi weapons) declaration, that they have flown missiles in excess of (93 miles),” said John Wolf, after emerging from a three-hour meeting of U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commissioners, an advisory panel. Wolf is the U.S. chief liaison to the U.N. inspectors.

U.N. weapons inspectors returned to Iraq in late November under the mandate of Resolution 1441, which was passed unanimously by the Security Council. That tough-worded document promises “serious consequences as a result of (Iraq’s) continued violations of its obligations.”

“We have met with our advisory commission this afternoon and I can tell you that I reported to them on the visit that (International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohammed) ElBaradei and I paid to Baghdad (over the weekend) and the results from that meeting,” said Blix as he left the basement conference room. “We have also had a report from our own staff on the expert meeting on missiles that had taken place over the last two days and I had received very valuable advice as I have always.”

Experts from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine and the United States were requested by Blix to study Baghdad’s Dec. 8 weapons declaration containing Iraq’s explanation, a U.N. official told UPI. Russia did not participate.

Council members agreed Wednesday to schedule a second session at which all member states can comment on Blix’s Friday report, Ambassador Gunter Pleuger of Germany said.

Pleuger, this month’s president of the panel, said Blix would brief the council Friday in an open session at 10:15 a.m. EST and the members of the 15-nation council would then speak.

Next Wednesday, another open session would be conducted in which all U.N. members would be allowed to make statements.

Meanwhile, Pleuger said, “some foreign ministers have made their intention known to participate in (Friday’s) meeting.”

They are expected to include the foreign ministers of the permanent, veto-wielding council nations of China, France and Russia; and Germany, a non-permanent member.

However, council diplomats said it was likely most Security Council members would eventually dispatch their foreign ministers to attend the Friday session.

Though the United States is pressing for a quick examination of the Blix report so that the council can move on to introduce a second resolution authorizing military action against Iraq, the issue was deemed important enough to justify opening the discussion to the whole of the world organization.

There was no immediate word on whether U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell or British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw would attend Friday, although council diplomats felt it was likely they would.

“I can’t confirm the secretary’s travel plans at the moment, but I know that in all probability he will plan to attend, but he hasn’t made a final decision on that,” said U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte. “I think you have to get a final announcement from the Department of State.”

China, France, Germany and Russia are openly opposed to another Iraq-centered council resolution, putting them in direct opposition to Britain and the United States.

Blix is expected to have detailed answers from the Iraqi government over making scientists available for interviews without escorts and allowing high-altitude surveillance flights.

The Iraqis have said they would allow flights by American U-2 surveillance planes and French planes but then issued several qualifications.

A U.S. official at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations said such restrictions were “a clear violation” of Resolution 1441 of Nov. 8, which allowed inspectors to return to Iraq Nov. 27.

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