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Iraq: Missile destruction depends on peace

A U.N. convoy enters Iraq's Taji base to oversee the destruction of banned missiles.
A U.N. convoy enters Iraq's Taji base to oversee the destruction of banned missiles.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A top Iraqi scientist said Sunday that Baghdad was working with U.N. inspectors on a schedule to destroy more than 100 Al Samoud 2 missiles but warned that could change if it becomes clear the United States intends to go to war.

Presidential scientific adviser Gen. Amer Al-Saadi told reporters that Iraq had destroyed six missiles Sunday, along with a casting chamber used to make their solid rocket fuel.

U.N. officials confirmed the destruction of the missiles and the chamber.

The inspectors confirmed that Iraq crushed four of the missiles with heavy equipment Saturday, meeting the March 1 deadline set by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix to begin their destruction. (Full story)

The missiles were ordered destroyed because inspectors said they have a range beyond the 93 miles [150 kilometers] allowed under U.N. resolutions.

Al-Saadi said Iraq was destroying the missiles as part of its "proactive cooperation" with inspectors, even though they could be used in a war.

"My task, and only task, is to remove all excuses for waging war in the legal way, the legal route, that is, the U.N. route," he said. "If Iraq is not in material breach on that count, then if war takes place, if war happens, it's not because Iraq has not done all it could regarding disarmament."

However, he added: "If it turns out that in early stages during this month America is not going the legal way ... why should we continue?"

Resolution 1441, passed by the Security Council in November, orders Iraq to destroy chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and long-range missiles.

"Practically all the areas of concern to [the United Nations] and the subjects of remaining disarmament questions have been addressed," Al-Saadi said.

Al-Saadi said war would cost the United States $80 billion dollars in addition to deaths on both sides, while inspections cost U.S. taxpayers nothing because they are funded by the U.N.'s oil-for-food program.

The Al Samoud 2 missiles are being destroyed at Taji, the primary location for Iraq's long-range missile program. The military installation north of Baghdad also stores the missiles.

Iraq, U.N. discuss biological weapons

Iraq and the United Nations were holding technical talks Sunday, addressing Iraq's claim that it has destroyed its stockpiles of anthrax and VX nerve agent.

Al-Saadi said the sites where the chemicals were destroyed have not been disturbed and that analysis of the soil should tell inspectors how much of the agents had been destroyed.

Demetrius Perricos, Blix's deputy, said he had doubts about whether tests on soil where Iraq said they destroyed the agents would be accurate because the chemicals would have been exposed to the elements for so long.

A team of U.N. biological experts was analyzing several intact bombs Sunday that Iraq says are filled with biological agents, according to U.N. spokesman Hiro Ueki.

During the past few days, Iraqi officials -- under U.N. observation -- have been excavating the Aziziyah Air Field and Firing Range southeast of Baghdad, searching for R-400 aerial bombs and bomb fragments they say are biological weapons.

Meanwhile, U.N. inspectors met privately with an Iraqi scientist Saturday night and had asked to interview three others. However, one insisted on having a tape recorder, another wanted to bring a colleague to the meeting, and the third could not be located, U.N. and Iraqi officials said.

On Saturday, 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 spokeswoman said. "President Bush has always predicted that Iraq would destroy Al Samoud 2 missiles as part of their games of deception."

-- CNN correspondents Rym Brahimi and Nic Robertson contributed to this report


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