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Iraqi Missiles - 2003-03-04

Iraq says it is destroying missiles as part of its United Nations mandated disarmament. VOA-TV’s Chris Simkins has the latest.

Under UN supervision, truckloads of al-Samoud missiles were brought to a military base outside Baghdad where bulldozers destroyed them. Ten of the missiles were destroyed but that still leaves more than 100 in Iraq’s arsenal. The UN chief weapons inspector called the destruction of the missiles a significant piece of real disarmament.

Amer al-Saadi, scientific advisor to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, says Iraq is meeting nearly all of the UN demands. He says the destruction of the missiles is evidence of what he called Iraq's pro-active cooperation.

“If war takes place, if war happens it’s not because Iraq has not done all it could regarding disarmament. Iraq is doing all that it possibly can.”

UN weapons inspectors ordered the destruction of the missiles because they exceeded a 150-kilometer range limit imposed by the United Nations. Iraq is also trying to prove to the inspectors that it did destroy large amounts of chemical weapons in 1991. But the Bush administration calls Iraq’s latest cooperation too little, too late. A senior U.S. official said the standard for cooperation demanded by in UN resolution 1441 is full and immediate, not grudging and late.

“These missiles were prohibited in the first place they should have been destroyed long ago. They were told to destroy them some days ago and they have been stringing it out to the very last minute.”

French Foreign Minister Dominiqur de Villepin says war should be a last resort if the mission of the weapons inspectors fails.

“Are we in that situation now? No. Do we need a second resolution? No. Are we going to oppose a second resolution? Yes, as are the Russians and many other countries.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia still might veto any UN endorsement of war. Mr. Putin was in Bulgaria, one of the countries supporting the U.S. in the UN Security Council. At the Arab League Summit in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates became the first Arab nation to issue a proposal calling on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to step down. Arab leaders refused to discuss the proposal but Kuwait and Bahrain have also endorsed Saddam Hussein’s exile.