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Iraq scraps more missiles to halt war

Baghdad, March 2 (Reuters): Iraq began scrapping a second batch of banned missiles today to try to halt the US march to war — only to have the US dismiss its efforts as a “game of deception”.

American military planners found themselves in a further quandary after the Turkish parliament refused yesterday to let Washington use Turkish soil to open a second front against Iraq. The Turkish decision and the destruction of weapons gave heart to critics of the US view that UN efforts to disarm Iraq peacefully have failed.

Arab leaders meeting in Cairo passed a resolution yesterday saying they opposed an attack on Iraq as a threat to Arab national security — but not without an unprecedented demand from a fellow Arab nation, UAE, that President Saddam Hussein go into exile to spare the region war.

Bulldozers were at work today destroying another six al-Samoud 2 missiles north of Baghdad under the eyes of UN inspectors who had ruled that they exceeded the 150-km range permitted under a decade-old UN disarmament regime.

Officials confirmed 10 of the rockets have been destroyed so far. But a key adviser to Saddam Hussein said Baghdad would stop destroying them if Washington pressed ahead with plans to invade outside the authority of the UN. “If it turns out that in early stages during this month America is not going the legal way...why should we continue (destroying the missiles)'” top scientific adviser General Amer al-Saadi asked a news conference.

Washington insists Iraq still has huge stores of weapons of mass destruction. The US and Britain have presented a draft UN Security Council resolution that opens the way to war.

However, their military build-up, including over 200,000 troops, suffered a setback when Turkey’s parliament voted narrowly not to let its territory be used for an invasion of northern Iraq, choosing to heed popular rejection of a war rather than the promise of up to $30 billion in grants and loan guarantees. Turkey rushed today to repair ties with Washington and warned Baghdad not to delay co-operation with the UN, but Tayyip Erdogan, head of the ruling AKP party, held out little hope to Washington that parliament might be asked to vote again soon.

Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has hailed the scrapping of the al-Samoud missiles as “a significant piece of real disarmament”, something that will not help Washington and London in what has become a furious campaign to win over at least five of perhaps 11 doubters on the 15-member Council.

They must also avoid a veto by two of the leading opponents of war, France and Russia. French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin told BBC Television: “Do we need a second resolution' No. Are we going to oppose a second resolution' Yes, as are the Russians and many other countries.”

One of the doubters is Pakistan, where about 70,000 marched through Karachi in the biggest anti-US protest in years.

In the Arab world, opposition to war is nearly universal and the Arab leaders in Cairo insisted in a final resolution that their countries would not take part in any war. But Gulf states such as Qatar and Kuwait are already playing host to US forces massing to invade Iraq and another, the UAE, became the first Arab state to make a public call for Saddam to step down, to avert war. In Saudi Arabia an American pilot said an Iraqi MiG-25 has sneaked into Saudi airspace last Thursday to probe American reactions.

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