Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, has rejected claims that Baghdad has developed missiles that exceed the range allowed by the United Nations.
Mr. Aziz says Iraq has not violated the limits, although he conceded that, not having a guidance system, the missiles could sometimes slightly overshoot their targets.
Mr. Aziz was speaking after his arrival in Rome for meetings aimed at gaining support for Iraq's effort to avoid an attack by a U.S.-led coalition. He has a meeting scheduled with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican on Friday, and is also expected to hold talks with the Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.
The Iraqi official accused the United States of looking for any pretext to go to war. Mr. Aziz insisted that Baghdad is doing all it can to assist U.N. weapons inspectors in doing their work. He says Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction, and says the United States should give the inspectors sufficient time to do their job.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Iraq would be in breach of U.N. disarmament resolutions, if the reports of the range of the Iraqi missile are confirmed. President Bush has again called for the United Nations to enforce resolutions demanding that Iraq disarm.
Mr. Aziz also ruled out the possibility that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will give up power and go into exile. He said Mr. Hussein will remain in Iraq at any price. Mr. Aziz also dismissed the idea that Iraq would accept the deployment of U.N. troops, as proposed by some European countries.