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Iraq destroys more medium-range missiles under U.N. pressure

AMMAN, Jordan—Describing their actions as "promising," U.N. officials said Iraq destroyed another six Al Samoud 2 missiles on Sunday and dismantled a crucial internal engine component.

Since the destruction of the missiles began Saturday, Iraq has destroyed 10 missiles and one of its two "casting chambers"—the engine part. The U.N. believes Iraq has about 100 missiles.

Hans Blix, the U.N.'s chief weapons inspector, ordered the missile destruction last week after he reported that the Al Samoud 2 missiles exceeded the short-range limit for Iraq weapons established after the 1991 Gulf War. His inspectors reported the missiles have a 150-kilometer range rather than the permitted 100 kilometers (93 miles). Iraq has disputed that assessment.

For Iraq to begin destroying the missiles, the United Nations first tagged them, allowing inspectors to monitor them. Under the supervision of the United Nations, Iraq moves the missiles from one of several locations they are in and takes them to al Taji, a city just north of Baghdad. There, Iraq destroys the missiles using bulldozers. The remaining bits of the missiles will be buried in concrete in al Taji, said Hiro Ueki, spokesman for the U.N. inspectors in Baghdad.

While the United Nations was optimistic, Washington has called the move another delay tactic by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to avert war. Members of his government have called the destruction an effort to cooperate with the United Nations.

If the Iraqis destroy the missiles at the current pace, their total inventory should all be destroyed by the end of the month. The United Nations has not given Baghdad a deadline for the missile destruction, Ueki said.

The first day of destruction was delayed when the first set of bulldozers was too small to destroy the missiles, which weigh about 2,000 kilograms each. U.N. officials said Iraq found stronger bulldozers and officials began working late afternoon. On Sunday, the process moved smoothly, Ueki said, who described it as "promising."

"I haven't heard of any glitches," he said.

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(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

GRAPHIC (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): usiraq+missiles

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