Iraq continues to destroy its al-Samoud missiles under the watchful eye of United Nations weapons inspectors, nine more of the banned rockets Wednesday, the largest number destroyed in one day.
To date, 28 of Iraq’s 120 missiles have been scrapped. The U.N. Secretary General and China have welcomed the news, but U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld continues to dismiss it.
U.N. arms inspectors also continue to search for banned weapons at other sites in Iraq, while their boss, Hans Blix, prepares to report to the U.N. Security Council Friday, on Iraq’s compliance with the inspections process.
In Paris Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin announced that France, Russia and Germany—all Security Council members – have decided they will not accept a new U.S. backed resolution, which could pave the way for military action against Iraq. The French Foreign Minister made the announcement after meeting with both his Russian and German counterparts.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters there is no need for a new resolution since existing ones are working.
IGOR IVANOV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER
“Resolution 1441 has been efficient. Inspectors have had all the legal tools to carry out their mission. We do not need a second resolution which would put an end to the work of the inspectors and would open the road to the use of force.”
Mr. de Villepin said that as permanent members of the Security Council France and Russia will, as he put it, fully assume their responsibilities on the issue, which diplomatic analysts say may signal their intentions to veto the measure.
In Washington, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said U.S. President George W. Bush is confident the U.S. backed new resolution will be approved.
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN
“The president continues to be confident in the ultimate outcome. He certainly hopes that no nation will use its veto.”
Earlier, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a staunch supporter of the U.S. position on using military force to disarm Iraq, told Parliament that war with Iraq still could be avoided if Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein either fully complies with U.N. resolutions or goes into exile.
As for a possible offensive against Iraq, the U.S. had asked Turkey for permission to deploy thousands of troops there, a request the Turkish parliament recently rejected.
But, the head of Turkey’s powerful military said Wednesday the army supports the government’s stance, which is to allow the American forces to use Turkish bases. The head of Turkey’s ruling party said Wednesday the government is planning to re-introduce the troop deployment measure and will push lawmakers to approve it.
Meanwhile, leaders from the Islamic world met at an emergency summit in Qatar Wednesday. They were united in their rejection of any military action against Iraq.