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Iraq Resumes Destruction of Banned Missiles - 2003-03-03


U.N. and Iraqi weapons experts returned to a military complex Monday to resume the process of destroying Baghdad's Al-Samoud II missiles. But Iraq is threatening the process might stop.

Iraq has destroyed 10 Al-Samoud II missiles and the destruction continued Monday, but Baghdad is warning the process may stop if it becomes clear the United States intends to attack Iraq regardless of whether it gets backing from the U.N. Security Council.

On Sunday, the top scientific adviser to Saddam Hussein, General Amer al-Saadi, said that Baghdad might quit the process if it turns out that "America is not going the legal way" and plans to attack Iraq unilaterally.

Iraq began destroying the surface-to-surface missiles Saturday, the deadline imposed by U.N. chief arms inspector Hans Blix, who says the missiles exceed a U.N. mandated limit of 150 kilometers. Iraq continues to insist the rockets are legal, saying once they're loaded with the added weight of guidance and control systems and warheads they do not exceed the mandated limit. Iraq says it has about 100 Al-Samoud II missiles.

Bulldozers were used to crush four of the weapons Saturday and six more have been destroyed since then. The destruction is taking place under the supervision of U.N. weapons experts.

Washington has called Iraq's destruction of the missiles a "game of deception."

In the meantime, a United Arab Emirates proposal that Saddam Hussein quit power to avert war is drawing support from two other Gulf states. Kuwait's cabinet endorsed the proposal put forth by the UAE Saturday during the Arab League summit. The king of Bahrain (Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa) was quoted Sunday as saying the proposal is the only Arab way out to "protect Iraq and spare its people."

Arab leaders refused to discuss the proposal during the summit, and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said Sunday, the majority of Arab leaders do not support the proposal, saying the issue isn't about regime change but rather ensuring that Iraq is disarmed.

The Arab League will soon be sending a delegation of diplomats to the United Nations and then to Baghdad to spell out the Arab position regarding the Iraqi crisis. Mr. Moussa said the delegation would travel to New York within a matter of days.