UN to order Iraq to destroy banned missiles

UN to order Iraq to destroy banned missiles

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The chief United Nations weapons inspector, Hans Blix, is expected to order Iraq, possibly as early as today, to destroy its Al Samoud 2 missiles because they could exceed the 150 kilometre-range limit mandated by Security Council resolutions.

Ewen Buchanan, a spokesman for Mr. Blix, said he hoped a letter would be sent to the Iraqi authorities on Friday saying that the UN has "found this missile to be banned and therefore it must now be destroyed."

"We would have to oversee the destruction of these missiles," he told UN Radio.

Mr. Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), reported to the Security Council on 14 February that a group of missile experts he had convened concluded unanimously that, based on the data provided by Iraq, the two declared variants of the Al Samoud 2 missile could exceed the proscribed range.

Mr. Blix also plans to deliver a list of 30 unresolved disarmament issues to UNMOVIC's' College of Commissioners on Monday, including the question of how much banned anthrax and VX nerve gas Iraq made and what happened to it, Mr. Buchanan said.

Meanwhile in Iraq, UN inspectors continued their search for evidence of banned weapons of mass destruction. An UNMOVIC missile team visited the Musaayib Power Station to check for possible storage of missile-related items, and a biological team carried out an aerial inspection of two sites to the west and northwest of Baghdad.

A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) interviewed two members of Iraq's former gas centrifuge programme. One was an engineer, the other a magnet specialist.