Menu

Blix to Demand Destruction of Al Samoud Missiles

In a blow to Iraq's military, chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix is expected to demand the destruction of Baghdad's Al Samoud 2 missiles and machinery to produce missile motors, diplomats and U.N. officials said Thursday.

Blix planned to send a letter to Iraq on Friday with his decisions, said Ewen Buchanan, spokesman for the chief inspector.

It was not certain whether Blix would also recommend the destruction of 380 illegally imported rocket engines, which could be used for the Al Samoud 2.

Destroying the Al Samouds would present a serious dilemma for the government: It would be giving up a valuable weapons system just as it faces the possibility of a U.S.-led invasion, but if it doesn't destroy the missiles it will be accused of failing to cooperate with U.N. inspectors.

The United States has demanded the destruction of missiles and any other components that exceed the 150-kilometer, or 93-mile, missile range set by a 1991 Security Council resolution.

A U.S. official in Washington said a new U.N. resolution that would give a green light to use military force to disarm Iraq was expected to be presented to the Security Council on Monday, but the timetable might slip by a day or two.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said he expects Blix and nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei to report to the council on Iraq's cooperation before the resolution is put to a vote. Diplomats and U.N. officials said March 7 has been "penciled in" as the likely date for that briefing.

The United Nations joined the United States and Britain on Thursday in saying that Saddam is still not cooperating fully with inspectors despite Iraq's go-ahead for surveillance flights and hand-over of new lists of scientists.

Since Blix and ElBaradei reported to the Security Council on Friday, Al-Douri said his government has sent letters to Blix asking when surveillance flights by French Mirage aircraft and Russian Antonovs will begin and following up on an offer to let U.N. experts analyze the ground where anthrax and VX nerve agent were destroyed.

An American U-2 spy plane flew over Iraq on Monday for the first time in support of the U.N. inspectors, and Iraq said a second U-2 flight took place on Thursday.

Iraq also gave U.N. inspectors the names of people who took part in the destruction of banned materials from its biological weapons and missile programs in the early 1990s, Buchanan said. It previously handed over names of people involved in chemical programs.

In its semiannual report to U.N. inspectors in October, and again in its 12,000-page weapons declaration on Dec. 7, Iraq declared that 13 of the 40 tests of the Al Samoud 2 had gone beyond the 93-mile limit.

Last week, Blix told the Security Council that a panel of international experts he invited to study the missile issue concluded that the Al Samoud 2 exceeds the limit. The experts also concluded that casting chambers which previous inspectors destroyed -- but Iraq rebuilt -- could still be used to produce motors for missiles capable of ranges "significantly greater" than 93 miles.

The experts said they needed more data on another missile, the Al Fatah, which Iraq also reported had gone beyond the limit in some tests. Blix's letter is expected to ask Iraq for this information.

Iraq maintains that some Al Samouds traveled beyond the limit because they were tested without warheads or guidance systems, which made them lighter.

Al-Douri reiterated Thursday that Iraq wants U.N. technical experts to come to Iraq "to see that these missiles cannot exceed in any way 150 kilometers, and not to limit themselves to a written paper, a theoretical report."