- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 27 (UPI) — Iraq has agreed "in principle" to chief weapons inspector Hans Blix's directive to destroy its al-Samoud 2 missiles by week's end, an official for the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission said Thursday.

The official cited a letter from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's science adviser.

Blix's deputy, Demetrius Perricos, who is in Baghdad, was working out details with Iraqi authorities, said the official, who requested anonymity.

The letter, dated Feb. 27 in Baghdad, was from Dr. Amir Al-Saadi and addressed to Blix, "stating in principle Iraq accepts the request for the destruction of the missiles and other items listed by UNMOVIC," the official said.

Perricos was to "clarify this acceptance and to start destruction measures," the official said, adding that the letter had been sent to translators for further study.

All 15 members of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday for the first time debated the terse U.K.-Spanish-U.S.-sponsored draft resolution and a counter-proposal introduced Monday. The panel emerged divided after nearly three hours of closed-door talks, but with most envoys vowing to peacefully disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.

The elected 10 members had been holding caucuses earlier in the week on the measures.

On Feb. 21, Blix ordered destruction of "all al-Samoud 2 missiles and associated items," including warheads, fuel and oxidizer and casting chambers for rocket engines.

The missiles were found by UNMOVIC experts to have a range exceeding U.N. Security Council limits of about 92 miles.

"The necessary destruction is to be carried out by Iraq under UNMOVIC guidance and supervision," said Blix's Feb. 21 letter to Al-Saadi. "UNMOVIC will select from a variety of methods of destruction, depending on the items to be destroyed."

Blix said the destruction process should begin by Saturday, March 1.

A quarterly inspections report for the council was sent by Blix to Secretary-General Kofi Annan earlier Thursday. He tentatively was to update it March 7 in the council.

"The process side (of the inspections) is good, where the substance side is not so good, and it clearly reflects both of those things," chief UNMOVIC spokesman Ewen Buchanan earlier said of the report.

After it has been translated into the world organization's six official languages, the report was to be printed and distributed to council members who were expecting to get their first look at it Friday.

In Baghdad, a joint spokesman for UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency, Hiro Ueki, said the first French Mirage IV surveillance flight over Iraq had taken place Wednesday. He did not elaborate.

"An UNMOVIC chemical team returned to the Al Muthana site and supervised the successful drilling of eight remaining artillery shells filled with mustard as well as the detoxification of mustard taken from the shells," he said. "A second chemical team inspected the Northern Refineries Company in Baiji approximately 240km north of Baghdad.

"An UNMOVIC biological team returned to the Al Aziziyah Airfield and Firing Range and observed further digging in search of R-400 aerial bombs and bomb fragments," the spokesman said.

"Iraq claims that these bombs were filled with biological agents and destroyed at this site in 1991. Additional fragments of R-400 bombs were also identified."

Ueki said that an UNMOVIC missile team inspected in Baghdad a company supplying specialized missile equipment. The inspection was in response to Iraq's 12,000-page December declaration.

"An UNMOVIC multidisciplinary team performed an aerial surveillance over and around two large sites situated west and southwest of Baghdad," the spokesman said. "These sites correspond to the facilities, which were involved in chemical and biological research and development in the past.

"One IAEA team inspected the State Establishment for Electrical Industries, which is a small motors and electrical appliances manufacturer in Baghdad," he said. "A second IAEA team performed a car-borne radiation survey in industrial areas about 90km west of Baghdad."

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