Iraq's promised missile destruction 'very significant, real disarmament' - Blix

Iraq's promised missile destruction 'very significant, real disarmament' - Blix

Hans Blix
Iraq's promised destruction of its Al Samoud 2 missiles is "a very significant piece of real disarmament," chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix said today, as a written report by UN monitors on the inspection process was distributed to Security Council members late Friday.

"It's a very big chunk of things," Mr. Blix told reporters as he entered UN Headquarters in New York, referring to Iraq's agreement yesterday to destroy its Al Samoud 2 missiles, which the UN said could exceed the 150-kilometre-range limit mandated by Council resolutions. "There are very many of these missiles, a lot of items that pertain to them, which we have enumerated in our letter which are to be destroyed."

Last week, Mr. Blix ordered Baghdad to destroy all Al Samoud 2 missiles and warheads, fuel and oxidizer, about 380 missile engines imported illegally and all components associated with the engine. He told reporters today that his Deputy, Demetrius Perricos, is in Baghdad to clarify what Iraq meant when it said it agreed "in principle" to the missile destruction.

Asked about reports that his latest update to the Council on Iraq's disarmament efforts describes Baghdad's cooperation as very limited, Mr. Blix said his reports are a snapshot that reflects the situation at the time of writing. The present one was compiled before the arrival of Iraq's letter yesterday agreeing in principle to destroy the missiles.

The report by the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), which only covers events up to 26 February, says that during that time period, "Iraq could have made greater efforts to find any remaining proscribed items or provide credible evidence showing the absence of such items…It is hard to understand why a number of the measures, which are now being taken, could not have been initiated earlier."

Mr. Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, said today, "The Iraqi side at the present time is very active. And we'll see next week what I'll report in addition to the written report. Of course as reality changes my report changes."

As for whether the glass was now half full or half empty in regard to Iraqi cooperation, Mr. Blix told reporters, "It's a glass where they poured more water."

Meanwhile in Iraq, UNMOVIC biological teams identified more fragments of R-400 aerial bombs that Iraq claims were filled with biological agents at the Al Aziziyah Airfield and Firing range, and inspected the Mesopotamia State Company for Seeds at the Djerf al Naddaf site in southeast Baghdad.

A missile team applied tags to missiles, which had undergone maintenance, and removed tags from missiles scheduled for maintenance at the Al Harith missile maintenance workshop, while an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team conducted a car-borne radiation survey in an area 10 kilometres north of Baghdad.