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Iraq Continues to Destroy Banned Missiles - 2003-03-02


Iraq says six more al-Samoud 2 missiles are being destroyed Sunday as Baghdad attempts to head off a possible U.S.-led attack to disarm Iraq.

Less than 24 hours after destroying four al-Samoud 2 missiles just north of Baghdad, Iraqi officials say the process of destroying six more of the banned weapons got underway Sunday morning.

Bulldozers are being used to crush the rockets, all of their components, the casting chambers to manufacture them and their launchers.

Iraq says it has about 100 al-Samoud 2 missiles, which chief weapons inspector Hans Blix says can fly beyond a U.N. mandated limit of 150 kilometers. The restriction was imposed following the Gulf war in 1991. While the limit would allow Iraq to launch rockets against its closest neighbors it would prevent missiles from reaching Israel.

Baghdad insists the weapons are legal. Iraqi officials say once the rockets are loaded with guidance and control systems and warheads, the added weight prevents them from exceeding the mandated limit.

Nevertheless, Thursday Iraq agreed to the March 1 deadline to begin destroying the weapons.

U.N. officials say it will take a matter of days or a few weeks to destroy the entire stock of the surface-to-surface missiles.

The White House has dismissed the destruction of the missiles as part of Saddam Hussein's "game of deception."

In the meantime, weapons experts are scheduled to hold a technical meeting Sunday with Iraqi officials to discuss Baghdad's claim that it has destroyed its supplies of anthrax and VX nerve agent. Iraq has insisted the chemical and biological agents were destroyed in 1991. But U-N officials have said tons of the agents are unaccounted for and have complained that Iraq has failed to provide adequate documentation to prove the weapons were destroyed.

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