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Iraq begins destroying banned missiles

Bush spokesman: Move is 'part of their games of deception'

Workers at the Taji compound move an Al Samoud 2 missile, which the United Nations says Iraq began destroying Saturday.
Workers at the Taji compound move an Al Samoud 2 missile, which the United Nations says Iraq began destroying Saturday.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq destroyed four of its Al Samoud 2 missiles Saturday, a top U.N. weapons official said, meeting a U.N.-imposed deadline to begin dismantling the weapons.

The Iraqis had to bring in heavy equipment to crush the missiles, said Demetrius Perricos, deputy to chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix. He told reporters it could take several weeks to destroy all of the estimated 100 to 120 missiles.

Perricos also said the Iraqis need to move more quickly to destroy the weapons in order to comply with U.N. Resolution 1441.

"They have to accelerate the activities that they are doing," Perricos told reporters. He added, "We cannot oblige the Iraqi side to have the tempo that we would like. It is up to them."

Perricos said technical talks between the two sides will continue Sunday, when U.N. and Iraqi officials will discuss Iraq's claim that it has destroyed its stockpiles of anthrax and VX nerve agent.

Also Sunday, one of two casting chambers used in making missile parts, which was dug up Saturday, will be destroyed in southern Iraq, Perricos said.

The missiles destroyed by Iraq were at Taji, the primary location for Iraq's long-range missile program. The military installment north of Baghdad houses a storage facility for the missiles, which the United Nations says have a range greater than the 93 miles [150 kilometers] allowed under U.N. resolutions.

Blix demanded that all Iraq's Al Samoud 2 missiles be destroyed under Resolution 1441, which requires Iraq to give up chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and long-range missiles.

The White House called Baghdad's move the latest step in "games of deception."

"Resolution 1441 called for complete, total and immediate disarmament. It did not call for pieces of disarmament," a White House spokeswoman said. "President Bush has always predicted that Iraq would destroy Al Samoud 2 missiles as part of their games of deception."

International reaction

Britain's prime minister also said he doubted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's sincerity.

"Saddam will play his game, throwing out concessions to divide us, weaken our will," Tony Blair said. "He has done it 12 long years. He is at it now. Does anyone really think he would be making these concessions if not for the army camped on his doorstep?

"People say, 'Ah, but what you are saying is, it doesn't matter what he does, he'll never satisfy you,'" the prime minister said. "In fact, he knows exactly what he has to do to satisfy us."

Russia's foreign minister and the foreign ministers of several Arab countries meeting in Egypt for an Arab League summit called the Iraqi statement a positive sign and a deterrent to war.

"There is no basis to say that Iraq has lost its last chance to disarm," Moscow said in a statement released Friday. "On the contrary, the facts prove that this possibility is being realized."

Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Maher, agreed.

"I think this is a positive step," Maher said. "It has to be implemented swiftly, and I think that there are other steps that can be taken by Iraq and should be taken by Iraq in accordance with the report of Blix and [International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed] ElBaradei."

Moscow, too, said it hoped that the latest move by Iraq was "not an isolated episode but the next step in the realization of an entire series of measures increasing Iraq's cooperation."

In another sign that Iraq could be cooperating with inspectors, U.N. officials held several interviews with Iraqi scientists Friday. Sources told CNN that those included private sessions for the first time in nearly three weeks.

U.S. officials said Baghdad has gone to great lengths to prevent scientists from sharing information about weapons programs -- even threatening to kill them and their families. Iraq denies the charges.

-- CNN correspondent Rym Brahimi contributed to this report. For latest developments, see CNN.com's Iraq Tracker.


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