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Britain Dismisses Destruction of Iraqi Missiles - 2003-03-01

Britain's foreign secretary is dismissing Iraq's move to begin destroying its Al-Samoud 2 missiles in accordance with U.N. demands, calling it a cynical trick designed to buy time and avert military action.

Jack Straw is not impressed with the latest Iraqi concession. Speaking before a Labor Party conference in Southport, England, the foreign secretary said, far from representing real disarmament, the move is simply further proof of bad faith on the part of the Iraqi leader. "What Saddam Hussein does and what he has done over the last 12 years in order to maintain his reign of terror and keep his capability is he plays the international community," he said. "Trying to divide them, trying to trickle out concessions. This whole crisis would be at an end, if Saddam Hussein, instead of just doing this, was to say, 'look, I am now finally going to be in complete, immediate and full compliance.' "

Mr. Straw says, even if the Iraqi leader destroys all of his Al-Samoud 2 missiles, his government still controls enormous stocks of chemical and biological weapons, a claim rejected by Baghdad.

The missiles were ordered destroyed because tests show they can travel some 30 kilometers further than the specified limits imposed by the United Nations after the 1991 Gulf war. The Iraqis claim the missiles, when loaded with warheads, would be heavier, and would fly only within the restricted range.

Mr. Straw says any easing of pressure now on Saddam Hussein would be what he calls a disaster for the United Nations and the Iraqi people.