- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 1, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 1 (UPI) — Making good on promises exacted under the threat of war, Iraq Saturday said it began destroying four of its prohibited al-Samoud 2 missiles as demanded by U.N. weapons inspectors.

U.N. inspectors spokesman Hiro Ueki confirmed for United Press International that four missiles were destroyed by the Iraqis Saturday as well as one casting chamber. They were crushed by bulldozers, as Iraqi officials had wanted, rather than by blowing them up, the preference of UNMOVIC, Ueki said.

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When asked about plans for Sunday, Ueki said simply, "More destruction."

However, "those are only four missiles out of the 100 (the Iraqis) have and they are still producing them," a State Department official told UPI. "They shouldn't even (have) had them in the first place as they are only destroying them because the U.N. ordered them to do so. Just tip of the iceberg, does not fulfill the requirements of the U.N. There are other weapons of mass destruction that are not accounted for, thousands of tons of bio-weapons ammunition," the official said.

Iraq and the U.N. inspectors agreed to carry out the destructions in the al-Taji area, about 15 miles north of the capital, Baghdad.

Iraqi Information Ministry spokesman Uday al-Taei said the two sides agreed on the technical details regarding the destruction operation, the venue for their destruction and a timetable for the measures.

U.N. and Iraqi experts held a second round of technical talks earlier Saturday in the Iraqi capital on plans and preparations to get rid of the missiles which only a few days ago Saddam Hussein said he would keep.

Iraq's director of the National Monitoring Department, Gen. Hussam Mohammad Amin, led the Iraqi talks, while deputy head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission, or UNMOVIC, Dimitri Perikos, led the U.N. side of the discussions.

The beginning of actual destruction of the missiles under U.N. supervision followed Friday's agreement by Iraq. Until Iraqi officials began to chance their position on the issue in midweek, they had insisted that the range of the al-Samoud 2 land-to-land missiles did not exceed the 150 kilometers, or 93 miles, allowed by the Security Council resolutions.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a daily update on the inspector's work that an American-made U-2 surveillance aircraft on Friday flew over Iraq's skies for more than six hours, the fourth such overflight.

The ministry said a group of UNMOVIC ballistic experts on Friday placed stickers on Volka missiles the ministry said were present in al-Hareth Company, affiliated with Iraq's military industry. But it did not give further details.

This was the first time the name of the missiles appeared in an Iraqi or U.N. briefing since the inspectors resumed their search for weapons of mass destruction in late November.

Earlier chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix Friday called the promised destruction of Iraqi al-Samoud 2 missiles "A very significant piece of real disarmament," while at the same time seeking clarification of what Baghdad meant by saying it accepts "in principle" the destruction directive.

But, asked if the proverbial glass was half full or half empty because of increased Iraqi disarmament activity, he said. "Well, it's a glass in which they poured more water."

Blix received a letter Thursday evening from Amir Al-Saadi, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's science adviser, informing him of "our acceptance in principle of your request" to destroy the missiles beginning no later than Saturday.

United Press International obtained an unofficial translation of the Al-Saadi letter to Blix, which suggested "the timing of this request seems to us to be one with political aims especially that those missiles, production and testing facilities" had been declared, were being monitored and "their issue is not considered urgent in comparison with other technical tests related to verifying remaining unsolved issues of previous programs."

Asked how important the missile destruction was, Blix said, "Well, it's very big chunk of things. I mean there are very many of these missiles and a lot of items that pertain to them … to be destroyed. So it is a very significant piece of real disarmament."

The March 1 report Blix is mandated to deliver to the Security Council was sent Thursday to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It was expected to go to council members Friday.

Asked about the report saying Iraq has only given limited cooperation to date, Blix said:

"I am supposed to give a picture of the situation as it exists and if it changes, well then my report changes a bit. When this report was written I had to note that while they had taken a number of steps which might help us to establish facts about questions that were still open they had not come to fruition yet and the same applied to the missiles."

The UNMMOVIC chief said that when he delivers his oral report to the council next week, "There surely are going to be more (changes). The Iraqis are at the present time very active."

He added that "as reality changes my reports change."

As for the reality on the subject of biological weapons as of Friday, Blix said, "We have been digging in the ground quite a lot. They have dug up bombs and fragments of bombs, bottom plates of bombs which are being counted, etc. and it's a little too early yet to say what the result is but there is a great deal of activity."

Russia was prepared to veto a second resolution authorizing force against Iraq if it is necessary to maintain "world stability," Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Friday in Beijing.

"Russia has the right of veto at the U.N. Security Council, and, if it is required in the interests of international stability, it may use this right," Ivanov said following two days of meetings with Chinese officials.

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