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Iraq agrees in principle to destroy missiles

Iraq agrees in principle to UN demand to destroy missiles

Iraq agreed in principle today to a United Nations demand to destroy its Al Samoud 2 missiles, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) announced late Thursday in New York.

Baghdad’s acceptance was conveyed in a letter to UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix from presidential adviser Dr. Amir Al-Saadi, and came after the Security Council wrestled earlier Thursday in intense and lengthy discussions with two opposing plans on how to rid Iraq of banned weapons of mass destruction.

UNMOVIC said Deputy Executive Chairman Demetrius Perricos is in Baghdad to receive any further clarification from the Iraqi side and to establish the procedure for the destruction, which would be carried out by Iraq under the Commission’s supervision. Weapons inspectors have said the missiles can exceed the 150 kilometre-range limit mandated by Council resolutions.

The Council President, Ambassador Gunter Pleuger of Germany, told reporters that the 15-nation body “had a very intense meeting of many hours because of very substantive discussions on the question of how to proceed with Iraq policy.” He added that talks would continue next week.

Members discussed a draft resolution co-sponsored by Spain, the United Kingdom and United States. It would have the 15-nation body decide that Iraq “has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in resolution 1441,” which was adopted unanimously last November acknowledging that Iraq “has been and remains in material breach” of its disarmament obligations and gave the country a last chance to comply.

A second proposal under discussion, also introduced on Monday, by France, Germany and the Russian Federation, notes that the conditions for using force against Iraq have not been fulfilled. While suspicions remain, no evidence has been given that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction. The text also stresses that the Council must step up its efforts to give a “real chance to the peaceful settlement of the crisis.”

Speaking to reporters after the Council’s deliberations, Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of the United Kingdom said resolution 1441 – which set up the present round of inspections in Iraq – demanded immediate, unconditional and active compliance. “But is that happening?” he said. “No, the inspectors have not reported on a single occasion.”

For his part, Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière of France told reporters: “The discussion was very interesting and in my view showed very clearly that the majority of members think the time has not yet come to go to war.”

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