- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 2, 2003

From combined dispatches
BAGHDAD Iraq started destroying its banned al Samoud 2 missiles yesterday under the gaze of U.N. inspectors, meeting a U.N. demand in an attempt to prevent a devastating U.S.-led attack. Washington dismissed the move as part of a "game of deception."
Four Iraqi missiles with a range exceeding the 93-mile limit set in U.N. resolutions were crushed under the supervision of U.N. inspectors yesterday. "I can confirm now that four al Samoud missiles have been destroyed," a U.N. spokesman said.
"They built it very strong," joked the No. 2 inspector, Demetrius Perricos, watching bulldozers crush the first missile in a sprawling military complex on a desert plain just north of Baghdad.
Mr. Perricos, who traveled to Baghdad to work out the last-minute details on destruction, said he had agreed on a timetable of "a few days or a very short few weeks" to destroy Iraq's 100-plus missiles as well as components, software and machines used to make them.
He said the missiles' warheads were removed and will be destroyed at a safer site. South of Baghdad, workers began destroying a casting chamber used to make the al Samoud 2, Mr. Perricos said.
Mr. Perricos also held technical discussions with the Iraqis before the destruction began and said he would hold more meetings this morning about stores of anthrax and VX that Iraq says it destroyed.
Iraq is thought to have produced around 100 al Samoud 2 missiles, deploying about 50 in military bases around Baghdad.
Iraqi compliance had been seen as crucial before chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix addresses the Security Council late this week after which the United States and Britain want to bring to a vote a draft resolution that lays the groundwork for war.
Iraq's promise to destroy one of its major weapons systems did little to heal divisions in the U.N. Security Council, with the United States and Britain saying it meant little and Russia welcoming the decision.
The United States says that the missiles are the tip of the iceberg and that Baghdad is trying to mask the fact that it has huge stores of the weapons the U.N. requires it to scrap. Iraq denies it has the banned weapons.
"[U.N.] Resolution 1441 called for a complete, total and immediate disarmament. It did not call for pieces of disarmament. The president has always predicted that Iraq would destroy its al Samoud missiles as part of their game of deception," said White House spokeswoman Mercy Viana.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw echoed the U.S. view, saying, "What Saddam Hussein does … is he plays the international community, trying to divide and trying to trickle out concessions."
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko applauded the Iraqi move. "We see this as highly important evidence of Iraq's cooperation with the United Nations," he told the Interfax news agency.
In a pre-recorded weekly radio address, President Bush again threatened military action while promising a brighter future for the Iraqi people once Saddam is gone.
"The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another," Mr. Bush said.
He has said a new resolution, while desirable, is not necessary for Washington to justify a U.S.-led attack, and he has assembled a large force in the Gulf region to carry one out.
However, U.S. preparations for war suffered a further blow yesterday when Turkey's parliament rejected a long-awaited motion that would have allowed the United States to deploy 62,000 troops in Turkey for a likely invasion of Iraq.
The Vatican, which does not believe an attack on Iraq would be a "just war," said Pope John Paul II would send a senior cardinal to Washington on a personal peace mission.
In Iraq, the Republican Guard, the country's best-equipped special forces, met Saddam and told him they were ready "to sacrifice to the level of martyrdom to defend their leader, their country and their sanctities," the official Iraq News Agency said.

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