BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – U.N. weapons inspectors visited five sites involved in the production of a banned missile yesterday as rockets became a new flashpoint in the Iraq crisis.
The United Nations is deciding whether to insist that Iraq modify the missiles or destroy them – a demand Saddam Hussein would likely find hard to meet.
Iraq’s foreign minister, Naji Sabri, was asked yesterday night what Iraq would do if told to destroy the missiles. He refused to answer, saying the question was too hypothetical.
The U.N. inspectors said yesterday they have put identification tags on components of dozens of Al Samoud 2 missiles, but wouldn’t say how many more remain to be inventoried. It remained unclear what they will do with the missiles they find.
“We are waiting for further instruction from New York,” said a spokesman for the inspection teams in Baghdad, Hiro Ueki.
U.N. officials have banned the missiles because they have been tested at ranges greater than the 94-mile limit imposed on Iraq by U.N. resolutions adopted at the end of the 1991 Gulf War.
Giving up the Al Samoud 2 would mean sacrificing an important part of Iraq’s defenses just as tens of thousands of U.S. and British troops mass on its southern border. But refusing to do so could give Iraq’s enemies arguments to launch a war.
During a visit to Baghdad in January, chief inspector Hans Blix said the Iraqis suggested that when they fitted guidance and control systems and other devices to the missiles, they would be weighed down and fly within the legal distance.