Wednesday, Feb 26, 2003
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By Sridhar Krishnaswami
The spokesman, Ari Fleischer, has said that Mr. Hussein's reported refusal to get rid of the Al Samoud 2 missiles is an "open defiance'' of the United Nations. "He even refuses to acknowledge that the weapons are prohibited'', Mr. Fleischer said.
The White House was responding to Mr. Hussein's lengthy interview with the anchor of CBS News, Dan Rather. Excerpts of the interview are scheduled to be broadcast today with the entire interview to be aired on Wednesday.
In the course of his three-hour meeting with the Iraqi leader, Mr. Rather has been quoted as saying that Mr. Hussein appeared to be ``unhurried''. "Iraq is allowed to prepare proper missiles and we are committed to that'', the Iraqi President has been quoted as saying. Asked if the Al Samoud 2 missiles are "proper'', Mr. Hussein was quoted as replying, "We do not have missiles that go beyond the prescribed range. "There is a 93-mile limit on the Al Samoud 2 missiles and the U.N. weapons inspectors recently said that this range has been breached. According to Mr. Rather, in the course of the interview Mr. Hussein challenged the U.S. President, George W. Bush, to a live debate, an offer straightaway dismissed by the White House. "This is not a serious issue. There is no debating his need to disarm'', Mr. Fleischer remarked.
Meanwhile, at the United Nations, the top weapons inspector, Hans Blix, has said that he is serious about the imperative of Iraq dismantling and starting destruction of the Al Samoud 2 missiles. Dr. Blix has pointed said that any discussion could only be about the "pace'' of destruction of the missiles. This process is to begin on March 1. "We have set the date for the commencement of the destruction of these missiles and we expect that to be respected. There will be a discussion about the pace of the destruction'', Dr. Blix maintained going on to say that his deputy will be in Baghdad for the purpose. But what has to be taken note of is that even if Iraq dismantles and destroys the Al Samoud 2 missiles, that will not be of satisfaction to the Republican administration here which maintains that Baghdad has to account for the stockpiles of sarin and VX nerve agent.
"This is not about public relations. This is about protecting the lives of the American people. If Saddam Hussein destroys the missiles that he said he never had... you've got to wonder what other weapons does he have'', he said.
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