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Iraq Continues U.N.-Mandated Missile Destruction

Hiro Ueki, the U.N. spokesman in Baghdad, said, ”An UNMOVIC [U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission] missile team supervised the destruction of six al-Samoud 2 missiles at Al Taji.”

“Another missile team supervised the destruction process of a second casting chamber at Al Mutasim.”

The U.N. supervised the destruction of 10 missiles over the weekend.

Chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix had ordered the missiles’ destruction in a letter to Iraqi officials. U.N. inspectors claim the missiles are capable of reaching targets outside of a 93-mile radius limit that Iraq agreed to in 1991.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said in a Feb. 24 interview with CBS News that his country possessed no banned weapons, but on Feb. 27 his office delivered a letter to U.N. inspectors saying Iraq agreed to begin destroying the missiles by Blix’s March 1 deadline.

The change was widely seen as an attempt to avoid armed conflict with the United States, which has threatened to forcibly disarm Saddam if necessary.

However, Iraqi spokesman Gen. Amer al-Saadi said Iraq would stop destroying the missiles if U.S. war preparations continue without a mandate from the United Nations.

“If it turns out at an early stage during this month that America is not going to a legal way, then why should we continue?” al-Saadi said, according to the Washington Post.

On Friday, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Iraq’s promise to destroy the missiles was an expected part of Iraq’s “games of deception.”

Demetrius Perricos, Blix’s deputy, said Iraq originally agreed to destroy all 120 of the al-Samoud 2 missiles in a matter of weeks.

Iraq has also said it will soon submit to inspectors a plan for the verification of its claims that it destroyed its cache of anthrax and the VX nerve agent.

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