- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 1, 2003

NEW YORK Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, yesterday signaled it will vote with the United States on an Iraq resolution at the U.N. Security Council while a Russian official said Moscow might use its veto.
The White House, meanwhile, dismissed Iraq's offer to destroy its al Samoud 2 missiles as a "lie inside a falsehood."
"President Bush has always predicted that Iraq would destroy its al Samoud 2 missiles as part of their games of deception," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said.
"And I think when you summarize Iraq's statement that, in principle, they will destroy their missiles, the Iraqi actions are propaganda wrapped in a lie inside a falsehood," Mr. Fleischer said.
Iraq agreed Thursday to obey a U.N. order to destroy its al Samoud missiles which exceed the range allowed by U.N. resolutions within 24 hours.
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix, who set the missile deadline for today, called the decision "a very significant piece of real disarmament."
In Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf met separately with envoys from both the United States and Iraq, each seeking to sway his nation's vote.
Pakistan, a Muslim nation that was recently elected to a 2-year-term on the Security Council, has said voting against the United States is not an option, though officials say it could abstain.
In Islamabad, a senior government source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that the nation will likely vote with the United States.
The United States, Britain and Spain are sponsoring a U.N. resolution on Iraq that would, in effect, declare Iraq in violation of earlier resolutions and authorize military action.
They need to pick up six other votes on the council while persuading permanent council members China, France and Russia not to use their veto.
Despite signs of new support, Washington remained short of the nine votes it needs.
Some council members said they could support the U.S. plan if it was open to negotiation. A senior U.S. diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, hinted there may be some wiggle room but not on substance.
Mr. Blix, who heads the U.N. weapons inspection team, will appear before the council next week to discuss the findings in a 17-page report on the past three months of inspections.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the Blix report written before Iraq apparently agreed to destroy the al Samoud missiles in which he said Baghdad's disarmament efforts were "very limited so far."
Mr. Blix's report also made clear that the al Samoud missiles were only one of many unresolved issues.
The report says Iraq has not provided crucial evidence about its chemical, biological and missile programs and declares that Baghdad has not fully cooperated with U.N. inspectors on substantive issues.
Nevertheless, Mr. Blix said after Iraq agreed to destroy the missiles, he would have to take that action into account when reporting to the Security Council.
"By next week, when I'm introducing my report in the Security Council, there surely are going to be more [updates]," he told reporters in New York.
Earlier yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Moscow was prepared, if necessary, to cast a veto in the U.N. Security Council.
"Russia has the right to a veto in the U.N. Security Council and will use it if it is necessary in the interests of international stability," Mr. Ivanov said at a news conference in Beijing.
Later, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told reporters in Paris that the missile-destruction agreement was "an important step" and "confirms that inspectors are getting results."
He would not say whether France would use its veto against the U.S-backed resolution.
Iraq is believed to have between 100 and 120 of the al Samoud missiles, and U.N. inspectors say it has continued to produce and test them this week.
Although still in development and relatively unreliable, some of the missiles have been deployed to military units, inspectors say.
Mr. Blix's Feb. 21 order said Iraq must destroy the missiles, their unassembled components, fuel, engines, launchers and software. The program that created the missiles also must go its scientists dispersed and its records wiped out.
In Iraq, U.N. weapons inspectors returned yesterday to al-Aziziya, an abandoned helicopter airfield 60 miles southeast of Baghdad where Iraq says it destroyed R-400 bombs filled with biological weapons in 1991.
At the site, bulldozers moved mounds of earth to reveal rusty, dirt-caked warheads and bomb fragments, some as large as cars. Nearby, missiles bearing U.N. identification tags rusted in a field.
Overhead, an American U-2 reconnaissance plane flew over Iraq for more than six hours the fourth such flight in support of the U.N. inspections, Iraq said.
The U-2 flights had been another key demand of the inspectors until Iraq agreed to them last month.
At the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheik, Arab leaders hope to forge a common position when the 22-nation Arab League, which includes Iraq, begins its annual summit today.
The league is considering sending a delegation to Baghdad to urge Saddam to cooperate with weapons inspectors but will not press him to leave the country, a senior Arab diplomat said.
"The Arab League has to do its utmost to avert a war," said Hussein Hassouna, the league's representative in Washington. "If Iraq does not want to, it will have to bear the responsibility."
Staff writer Bill Sammon in Washington contributed to this report.

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