- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

BAGHDAD Iraq destroyed six al Samoud 2 missiles in front of U.N. weapons inspectors yesterday but said it will consider suspending the destruction if the United States indicates that it will go to war anyway.
In two days, Iraq has destroyed 10 of the banned weapons, about one-tenth of its stock of the missiles, which the United Nations has ordered eliminated. It also has destroyed two casting chambers used to make engines for the Al Fatah missile. Iraq destroyed those chambers in the 1990s but rebuilt them.
"As you can see, there is proactive cooperation from the Iraqi side," Saddam Hussein's scientific adviser, Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi, said at a news conference.
"Practically all the areas of concern to [the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission] and the subjects of remaining disarmament questions have been addressed," he said. "We hope that it will be to the satisfaction of Unmovic."
But he cautioned that if the United States indicates it will go to war anyway, Iraq might stop destroying the missiles, which fly farther than the 93 miles allowed by the United Nations.
"If it turns out at an early stage during this month that America is not going a legal way, then why should we continue?" Gen. al-Saadi asked.
The United States, which is leading the push for war against Iraq, derided the beginning of the destruction on Saturday. A White House spokeswoman called Iraq's move "part of its game of deception."
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday" that "destroying all of the missiles is not enough for me."
He said Iraq also needed to account for "all of the other weapons of mass destruction that we know have not been accounted for."
Inspectors returned yesterday to al-Aziziya, an abandoned helicopter airfield 60 miles southeast of Baghdad, where Iraq said it destroyed R-400 bombs filled with biological weapons in 1991.
Gen. al-Saadi said 157 of the R-400 bombs contained anthrax, aflotoxin and botulin toxin. He said Iraq has been excavating them and has uncovered eight bombs intact.
U.N. weapons inspectors yesterday took samples of the material in the bombs to confirm their composition.
Gen. al-Saadi said Iraq had destroyed 1.5 tons of VX and was trying to prove that to inspectors.
Meeting another key U.N. demand, a biological expert submitted to an interview Saturday. Two others, however, refused to do so without a witness or a tape recorder, while a fourth could not be located.
One more scientist refused yesterday to give an interview, according to Iraq's Foreign Ministry.
Iraq has agreed to destroy all unassembled pieces, software, launchers, fuel and equipment used to make the al Samoud 2 in "a few days or a very short few weeks," said Demetrius Perricos, the deputy of chief weapons inspector Hans Blix.
But Gen. al-Saadi said Iraq won't let anyone see photographs or video images of the missile destruction because it is "too harsh. It is unacceptable" for Iraqis to see.
Instead, Iraqis saw President Saddam Hussein on last night's television news, listening to a string of army officers telling him of their readiness for war. One said recruits were refusing to take their days off, and another said soldiers are digging trenches to protect themselves from bombs.
One officer told Saddam that American planes are dropping leaflets. The U.S. military said it dropped 240,000 leaflets in northern Iraq and 360,000 in southern Iraq on Saturday alone.
"They weren't able to defeat us with bombs. Are they going to defeat us with leaflets?" Saddam asked the officer.
A Middle East news agency, meanwhile, reported that Bahrain's king has called for Saddam to step down to spare Iraqis and the region another war.
Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, king of the Persian Gulf island nation, was quoted by the official United Arab Emirates news agency as saying a proposal by the Emirates that the Iraqi leader go into exile was "honest advice to the Iraqi leadership."
"It is the only Arab way out to protect Iraq and spare its people and the whole region the threats [of war]," the king said after meeting the Emirates President Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, the agency reported.
On Saturday, Sheik Zayed became the first Arab leader to formally call on the Iraqi leadership to step down, proposing to an Arab summit that the region's nations persuade Saddam to go in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Arab leaders at the summit in Egypt did not discuss the proposal, and Iraq has vehemently denounced it. But the Emirates submitted the proposal again at a gathering yesterday of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional forum that includes Bahrain.
Bahrain is a close American ally and host to the U.S. 5th Fleet.

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