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Iraq Agrees in Principle to Destroy Missiles


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Iraq Agrees in Principle to Destroy Missiles -UN

43 minutes ago

By Bernie Woodall

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iraq has agreed in principle to destroy its al-Samoud 2 missiles but U.N. arms inspectors must clarify the offer with officials in Baghdad, the United Nations said on Thursday.

"They accept in principle the destruction of the missiles and the facilities but this has to be clarified," a U.N. official told Reuters.

The U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, the inspection agency for Iraqi disarmament, must now follow up in Baghdad "to see what exactly the letter means," the official said.

An UNMOVIC statement issued shortly afterward said the inspection agency was "in touch with the Iraqi authorities, through its offices in Baghdad, and through the deputy executive chairman (Demetrius Perricos), who is currently in Baghdad to clarify this acceptance and to start destruction measures."

The Iraqi offer came in a letter to chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix from General Amer al-Saadi, an adviser to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, after Blix last week ordered Baghdad to begin destroying dozens of the missiles by Saturday.

Iraq was also ordered to destroy any al-Samoud missile warheads, engines, launchers and other associated equipment in a key test of Baghdad's willingness to comply with U.N. disarmament demands.

Destruction of the missiles -- on grounds U.N. experts concluded that it exceeds the 90-mile permitted range for Iraqi weaponry -- would be a blow to Iraq as it prepares for a possible invasion by U.S. forces.

But if it failed to destroy them, the United States and Britain could seize on this as proof that Iraq was not cooperating with the United Nations and that war is justified.

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