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Iraq Reluctantly Agrees to Destroy Al Samoud 2 Missiles - 2003-02-28


Iraq is expected to begin destroying its Al Samoud 2 missiles as early as Saturday, as ordered by chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix. Baghdad has reluctantly agreed to the demand on the eve of Mr. Blix's deadline.

Despite its insistence that the Al Samoud 2 missiles do not exceed a UN mandated limit of 150 kilometers, Baghdad has said it will comply with UN demands to destroy them.

Iraq says it possesses about 100 of the missiles that chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has said can exceed the mandated limit by 33 kilometers.

Baghdad sent a letter to Mr. Blix Thursday, saying it could begin destroying the missiles Saturday as ordered by the chief weapons inspector. Iraq has complained that the order doesn't take into consideration its claim that once the missiles are loaded with guidance and control systems and warheads the added weight prevents them from exceeding UN mandated limits.

Saddam Hussein has said Iraq has no missiles that exceed proscribed limits.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, said Friday Iraq's agreement to destroy the missiles is another indication that Saddam Hussein will only concede to UN demands to disarm under the threat of war.

President Bush has said the destruction of the missiles would not be enough to completely satisfy UN demands. In remarks Thursday, he described the missiles as just the tip of the iceberg and called for complete disarmament by Iraq.

UN technical experts are in Baghdad to discuss the framework and timetable for carrying out Mr. Blix's order to destroy the Al-Samoud-2 missiles.

The 150-kilometer missile range was set by the UN Security Council after the 1991 Gulf war. While the limit would still allow Baghdad to launch missiles against its closest neighbors, it would prevent Iraqi missiles from reaching Israel.

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