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Iraq offers little response to missile-destruction order

Bush: Prohibited missiles 'just the tip of the iceberg'

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A mockup of an Al Samoud 2 airframe, rear, and a section of the airframe in the foreground sit in a small assembly hall in Karama state.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq has given no official response to a demand from U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix that it begin to destroy its Al Samoud 2 missiles by March 1.

Although Iraqi officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, have previously said they did not think an order to destroy the missiles was justified, Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said Saturday he believes the dispute could be resolved as part of the U.N. weapons inspection process.

But President Bush said Saturday that even if Iraq were to meet the deadline for beginning to get rid of the missiles, Iraq would not be in full compliance with U.N. disarmament resolutions because the missiles were "just the tip of the iceberg."

"My question is, why don't they destroy every illegal weapon?" Bush said.

Bush challenged the United Nations to stand up to Iraq, and said a new American and British-backed resolution would be introduced to the Security Council next week.(U.N. resolution)

Late Friday, Blix sent a letter to Iraqi officials demanding that they dismantle the Al Samoud 2 missiles and the infrastructure that supports them.

A panel of experts commissioned by Blix found that the Al Samoud 2 missiles violate limits imposed on Iraq's missile programs in 1991 in two respects:

• During test firings, the missiles traveled farther than 93 miles [150 kilometers], the upper limit allowed

• The diameter of the missiles' engines was 760 millimeters, exceeding the 600-millimeter limit

Iraqi officials have argued that the violations of U.N. restrictions are minor and that the missiles exceeded the 93-mile limit only because they lacked guidance systems during testing.

In an interview with CNN a week ago, Aziz said destruction of the missiles "would be quite unfair and unacceptable by any scientific and security standards."

"Destruction should be based on a reason, a reason linked with questions of security and peace," he said.

Blix's sweeping order requires Iraq to destroy all of the Al Samoud 2s that have been deployed or assembled, or are still in production, as well as their warheads. The Iraqis also must destroy the missiles' propellant and the computer software used to develop, produce and maintain the Al Samoud 2 program.

Components intended for use in the Al Samoud 2, including engines, guidance systems, launchers and testing equipment, would also have to be destroyed, as well as 380 engines that Iraq imported, in violation of U.N. sanctions, that could be converted for use in the missiles.

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Hans Blix has sent a letter to Iraqi officials demanding that they dismantle Al Samoud 2 missiles and the infrastructure that supports them.

Blix also told the Iraqis they would have to destroy casting chambers that could be used to produce engines powerful enough to propel a missile farther than U.N. limits. U.N. inspectors had destroyed those chambers several years ago, but Iraq rebuilt them.

The U.N. weapons chief said the experts' findings that the Al Samoud 2 violated U.N. restrictions "do not call for further clarification or testing."

"The appropriate arrangements should be made so that the destruction process can commence by [March 1]," he wrote.

The deadline set by Blix is six days before he is scheduled to make his next progress report to the U.N. Security Council on Iraqi compliance with Resolution 1441, passed in November, which requires Iraq to account for and dismantle its programs for making chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and long-range missiles.

U.N. inspectors in Iraq have expressed concerns in recent days about the level of Iraq's cooperation. Under the resolution, scientists involved in Iraq's weapons programs are supposed to submit to private interviews with inspectors, but none have taken place in the last two weeks.

Speaking Saturday from Iran, the head of the U.N.'s nuclear inspection program, Mohamed ElBaradei, said, "We are not getting comprehensive, full cooperation from Iraq, but we hope to get it in the next weeks."

He said the inspectors "would like more active cooperation" from the Iraqis, and in particular to interview Iraqi scientists freely.

"War is not inevitable," he said. "I hope I am proved right. But we understand the world is getting impatient."

-- CNN correspondents Nic Robertson, Kasra Naji and Alessio Vinci contributed to this report.


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