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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 February, 2003, 15:15 GMT
Experts check Iraqi missiles
An inspector tags an al-Samoud II missile
Mr Blix says the missiles are banned
United Nations weapons inspectors have returned to sites related to Iraq's al-Samoud II missile, a system that chief inspector Hans Blix is likely to order destroyed, diplomats say.

UN weapons inspectors visited four sites associated with the al-Samoud on Thursday.

A UN spokesman said they were tagging each seven-meter (23-foot) missile with dozens of labels identifying each part of the weapons system.

Mr Blix declared earlier this month that Baghdad was not allowed to have the al-Samoud because its range violates limits set on Iraqi weapons by the UN.

If Saddam Hussein fails to comply with the expected request to destroy the weapons, the United States could declare that he is defying the UN and launch an attack.

But Russia on Thursday apparently tried to put the brakes on an early move towards military action by saying that inspectors were being put under pressure.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the inspectors were being pushed to leave Iraq or to write reports that said Iraq was not complying with UN demands.

He did not say where the pressure was coming from, but his remarks were widely interpreted to refer to the US.

Missile arsenal

Tactical surface-to-surface ballistic missile powered by liquid fuel
Tested at range of 183 km - in excess of UN 150 km limit
Diameter also in excess of prescribed limit
May be able to deliver biological or chemical warhead

The director of a factory reportedly told UN inspectors this week that Iraq has about 50 al-Samoud missiles and 50 more in production.

Baghdad denies that the missile exceeds UN limits, saying that it flies slightly farther than the prescribed 150 kilometres (94 miles) because it lacks a guidance system.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on 5 February that Saddam Hussein intended to use the missiles to "project power, to threaten and to deliver chemical, biological, and - if we let him - nuclear warheads".

Mr Blix said Iraq has imported 380 rocket engines as well as control systems and chemicals used to make rocket propellant.




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