Iraqi: Banned Missiles Are Key to Defense
BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.N. weapons inspectors tagging Al Samoud 2 missiles for destruction were met Saturday by an irate factory director, who pleaded with them to let Iraq keep its weapons so it can defend itself in the face of war.
Nine inspectors, many wearing blue U.N. caps and black leather jackets, pulled up in sports utility vehicles at the Ibn al-Haithem company on the northern outskirts of Baghdad, which is involved in producing the missile.
Splitting into three groups, the men entered “workshops, assembly areas and all departments. They tagged some of the missiles that were being assembled,” according to Owayed Ahmed Ali, director of the factory.
Ali said he pleaded with them not to force Iraq to destroy the missiles, as chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix ordered it to do Friday. Blix said U.N.-supervised destruction of all Al Samoud 2 missiles, warheads, fuel, engines and other components must begin by March 1.
“I asked (the inspectors), `You would destroy a defensive weapon now that we are threatened by the Americans, who might strike at any moment?'” he said.
“Some said, `You are right, but we have orders,’ while others said, `You have other means to defend yourself,'” he recounted.
Ali said threats of war by the United States and Britain, who have assembled some 200,000 troops around Iraq for a possible invasion, make it difficult for Iraq to give up the weapons it needs to defend itself.
“They want to destroy them at a time when we are threatened daily – every minute and every second,” he said.