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Iraq War Can Still be Avoided, says IAEA Chief - 2003-03-10

Iraq said it destroyed more banned Al-Samoud 2 missiles Monday even as a senior Iraqi official said Baghdad believes war will occur no matter what Iraq does. However, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said military conflict can still be averted if Saddam Hussein provides absolute proof Iraq no longer possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Iraqi officials said six more Al-Samoud 2 missiles were destroyed Monday, bringing to 52 the number that have been crushed by bulldozers since destruction of the weapons began March 1.

Baghdad agreed to destroy its most advanced surface-to-surface missiles in response to U.N. demands. But General Hossam Mohamed Amin, Iraq's senior liaison to the weapons inspectors, said late Sunday that he is convinced the United States will attack Iraq regardless of Baghdad's efforts to comply with U.N. resolutions to disarm.

However, on Monday the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said war can still be averted. Mohammed ElBaradei told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that the next two weeks will be decisive. Mr. ElBaradei said weapons inspectors are looking for a dramatic and fundamental change in the spirit and substance from Baghdad in the inspection process.

He also said if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein went on television and announced his readiness to fully cooperate and ordered top Iraqi officials to furnish all documents and arms they possess, such cooperation, he said, could lead to continued inspections for a month to six weeks.

If not, Mr. ElBaradei said, as he put it, we will walk the path of war if Iraq fails to present absolute evidence that it does not possess banned weapons.

Analyst Sami Baroudi of the political science department at Lebanese-American University in Beirut, said Saddam Hussein is not a man who will voluntarily relinquish power.

"You have to think the way the man thinks. I mean he has survived, in the past, the war with Iran. He has survived the first Gulf war. God knows how many assassination attempts he survived. So it's not part of the makeup of the man to sort of give up, especially the way he sees things. He's still counting that one way or another things will sort of fail for the United States and he will not have to step down. So I think that he will take that chance. I mean you don't become a dictator of a country like Iraq unless you've taken lots of chances in the past," Mr. Baroudi said.

Mr. Baroudi, like the other political analysts, said they believe the only option to avert certain war would be for the United States and Britain to decide to allow weapons inspectors more time.