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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 February, 2003, 06:13 GMT
Iraq 'agrees to destroy missiles'
A truck carrying UN weapons inspectors enters a barbed wire- fortified gate at an Iraqi military base
Weapons inspectors aim to clarify Baghdad's offer
Iraq has agreed in principle to destroy its al-Samoud II missiles, a United Nations spokeswoman has said.

The announcement came after the UN's chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said the inspections aimed at disarming Iraq had produced "very limited" results.

He made the comments in a report due to be submitted to the Security Council on Saturday, a draft copy of which was obtained by the BBC.

I don't see a change in the pattern at all
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Mr Blix has given Baghdad until Saturday to start destroying the missiles, which weapons inspectors say are capable of travelling beyond the limits set by the UN after the 1991 Gulf War.

A spokeswoman for Mr Blix's office said Iraq had now agreed to the move in a letter to the chief weapons inspector. UN weapons inspectors in Baghdad plan to talk to Iraqi officials to clarify the offer.

But US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said destroying the missiles would not be enough to prove Iraq was co-operating with the UN.

"I don't see a change in the pattern at all," he told reporters. "You know, this is exactly what's been going to for years."

"They refuse to co-operate, don't co-operate, drag it out, wait until someone finally nails them with one little piece of the whole puzzle and refuse to do anything about it and then finally when they see the pressure building, they say well, maybe we'll do some of that."

Russian warning

In Mr Blix's draft report, seen by the BBC, he says Iraq could have made greater efforts to find proscribed weapons and to provide credible evidence that some of them have been destroyed.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Beijing
Russia's foreign minister says war can be avoided
Saturday's deadline for Iraq to destroy the al-Samoud missiles is being seen as a key test of whether Baghdad is willing to disarm.

Correspondents say countries opposed to military action, like France, are likely to argue that even small numbers of missiles being dismantled is a sign that inspectors should be given more time.

The Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has reiterated that Moscow may decide to use its veto in the UN Security Council to block a second resolution on Iraq.

Speaking in Beijing, Mr Ivanov said Russia would use the veto if it deemed it necessary in the interests of world peace.

But he also stressed it was important to preserve the unity of the Security Council - an indication that Moscow may not have decided which course of action to take.

The Security Council remains bitterly divided. Its latest debate ended on Thursday without any consensus.

The US and UK are hoping the Security Council will pass a second resolution in the coming weeks, saying Iraq has failed to disarm.

Any resolution needs the backing of nine of the 15 Council members and must not be vetoed by any of the five permanent members, which include France, Russia and China.

Six non-permanent members have yet to state publicly which proposal they support.

An unnamed ambassador quoted by the Associated Press described Thursday's discussions as "bitter and unpleasant".

In other developments:

  • UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is to hold talks in Madrid with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar

  • Iraq starts moving major elements of a Republican Guard division south, possibly towards Baghdad or Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit, according to US defence officials

  • The Turkish parliament postpones a vote on whether to allow US troops on its soil until Saturday at the earliest

  • French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin says France does "not exclude the use of force" to disarm Iraq, but that he believes in a diplomatic solution

  • A sixth aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz, is ordered to deploy to the Gulf and will leave the US west coast next week, the US Navy says

  • Several B-2 stealth bombers are to leave for the Gulf in the coming days, US air force officials say.



WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Mike Fox
"The US continues to build up its forces around Iraq"



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