Iraq's promised missile destruction "very significant, real disarmament" - 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.
"It's a very big chunk of things," Mr. Blix told reporters as he entered UN Headquarters in New York of Iraq's agreement in principle to start destroying the missiles tomorrow. UN inspectors have said that the weapons exceed the 150-kilometre-range limit mandated by Security 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 said 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 Iraqi side at the present time is very active, I'd say," said Mr. Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). "And we'll say next week what I'll report in addition to the written report. Of course as reality changes my report changes... Today they have been digging quite a lot in the ground, they have dug out bombs, fragments of bombs, bottom plates of bombs which are being counted and this is too early to say what the result is but there's a great deal of activity, that's true."