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UN: Experts Say Iraq Has Developed Missile System

United Nations, 13 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. and Russian diplomats at the United Nations say international missile experts have determined that Iraq has been developing a missile system in possible violation of UN-mandated restrictions. It was not immediately clear what action will be taken as a result of the finding about the Al-Samoud 2 missile, which was examined by experts at the UN this week. Reports say the experts found that the missile has a range that exceeds the maximum 150 kilometers allowed under UN resolutions.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, said chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix must now recommend how to deal with the missile violation. Blix is due to report to the Security Council tomorrow.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov said experts had confirmed that the Iraqi missile's range was more than the allowed limit. However, he said no final "conclusion" has yet been reached and that further study is needed.

Meanwhile, The United States military says warplanes have attacked an Iraqi surface-to-surface ballistic-missile system that had been moved by Iraqi forces into striking distance of U.S. troops massed in Kuwait.

The 12 February night attack was the second U.S.-led raid in the past two days on the same mobile Iraqi missile system. Officials said different parts of the Iraqi missile launcher have been targeted in the two days of attacks.

U.S. officials said the surface-to-surface missile system was targeted after Iraqi forces moved it into striking distance of some of the tens of thousands of U.S. troops now based in Kuwait in preparation for a possible invasion of Iraq.

In Brussels, NATO ambassadors are expected to meet for a fourth consecutive day today to try to resolve a rift over extending aid to Turkey in advance of a possible war in neighboring Iraq.

Talks in Brussels ended on yesterday with France, Germany, and Belgium still blocking an accord on U.S. proposals to start NATO military planning to help defend Turkey. The three countries say that NATO moves to start protecting Turkey could undermine efforts to settle the Iraqi crisis peacefully.

French President Jacques Chirac pledged that France would stand by Turkey if the country became genuinely threatened.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he planned to go to the United Nations tomorrow to question the French and German foreign ministers on their Iraq policy. The meeting will coincide with the 14 February report to the Security Council by UN weapons inspectors.