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Blix Welcomes Iraq Pledge to Destroy Missiles - 2003-02-28

The top U.N. weapons inspector for Iraq is welcoming Baghdad's apparent decision to begin destroying scores of its short range missiles, something Hans Blix has ordered Iraq to start by Saturday. The Bush administration is reacting with skepticism.

Just hours before a new report on Iraqi disarmament is set to be made public, Iraq changed course indicating it would adhere to U.N. demands to begin destroying its Al-Samoud 2 missiles. Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said, "They say they accept it in principle and it's to start tomorrow."

But as Mr. Blix points out, that pledge still has to be verified, although he is already describing it as a positive sign. "It is a very significant piece of real disarmament," said Hans Blix.

But the Bush administration says Iraq has no real intention of disarming. A White House spokesman charges Iraq continues to produce more of the missiles, calling this latest announcement from Baghdad continued deception.

Baghdad's apparent decision to destroy its Al-Samoud 2 missiles now comes just hours before release of a new report on Iraq's cooperation with weapons inspectors, which is again expected to say there has been only limited progress at best.