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UN: Experts Say Iraq Developing Missile System

United Nations, 14 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 findings about the Al-Samud 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 that 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 today.

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

The latest reports from Iraq say U.S. military 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 attack on the night of 12 February was the second U.S.-led raid in 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 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.

Meanwhile, NATO has decided to wait until after today's UN Security Council session to resume talks to resolve an impasse over whether NATO should start planning for Turkey's defense in the case of an Iraq war. Four consecutive days of talks in Brussels ended yesterday without a breakthrough, with France, Germany and Belgium still blocking a U.S.-backed request for NATO to start planning to aid Turkey, the only NATO member that neighbors Iraq. France, Germany and Belgium say that moving to aid Turkey now could undermine international diplomatic efforts to avert an Iraq war.

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 that he planned to go to the United Nations today to question the French and German foreign ministers on their Iraq policy. The meeting will coincide with today's report to the Security Council by UN weapons inspectors.