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Discovery of Iraqi Missiles Worries Britain - 2003-02-13

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says the discovery of missiles in Iraq that exceed its limit of 150 kilometers is a breach of Security Council resolution 1441.

Mr. Blair was responding to the disclosure by U.N. weapons inspectors that Iraq has been developing missiles that could exceed its approved range.

According to Iraqi rocket engine documentation recently handed over to the inspectors, the liquid-fueled al-Samoud-2 rocket may be capable of traveling 33 kilometers beyond the permitted limit.

Mr. Blair says that could prove to be a very worrying development. "If these reports are correct, it is very serious because it would be not just a failure to declare and disclose information, but a breach of resolution 1441," he said.

Britain and the United States have been pressing the Security Council to take tough action against Iraq for not responding effectively to ultimatums included in resolution 1441. But other council members, including Germany, France and Russia, want to give Iraq more time.

The British Prime Minister also said that if the Security Council does not stand tough on Iraq, it will be more difficult to deal with other crises, including the dispute over North Korea's nuclear program, which the International Atomic Energy Agency referred to the Council on Wednesday. "There is no doubt we have to confront the issue of North Korea," said prime minister Blair. "But let nobody be in any doubt, if North Korea is an issue, and we need to confront it and we need to find the best way of doing that, then weakness at this point over Iraq, where the United Nations has a clear declared position, weakness is going to inhibit our ability to confront the dangers from North Korea. "

Mr. Blair spoke after meeting with visiting Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who also expressed concern about Iraq's actions. But Mr. Howard said he is waiting for Friday's crucial report by the chief weapons inspectors before going much further. "Clearly the detail of it has to be determined by the inspectors but if it is the case, then that is just further evidence of a long pattern of deceit and evasion and trickery," he said.

Mr. Howard added that he thinks one of the reasons North Korea has re-activated its nuclear program, disabled monitoring equipment, and expelled inspectors is what he called the 'disarray,' in dealing with Iraq.