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Iraq may halt missile destruction

It won't comply if the U.S. is going to wage war anyway

Iraq was dismantling six more outlawed Al Samoud 2 missiles Monday and promised to hand over a report showing how it destroyed deadly anthrax and VX nerve agent.

But a top Iraqi official also said Sunday that Iraq may stop destroying the missiles, banned because they fly farther than allowed by the United Nations, if it believes Washington is determined to go to war anyway.

"If it turns out at an early stage during this month that America is not going to a legal way, then why should we continue?" Saddam Hussein's scientific adviser, Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi, said Sunday.

That statement was likely only to provide more fodder for U.S. officials who say Iraq's destruction of the banned Al Samoud 2 missiles is just part of a pattern of deception and doesn't indicate any real cooperation.

Still, U.S. war plans were dealt a new blow Monday when Prime Minister Abdullah Gul of Turkey refused to say whether the country's parliament would quickly reconsider its decision to block U.S. troops from deploying there.

"We are analyzing the situation and we will see what happens in the next few days," Gul said in a news conference.

Turkey's stock market plunged Monday on fears that the decision would jeopardize a promised $15 billion aid package.

On Saturday, parliament failed to get an outright majority to allow the deployment of 62,000 U.S. troops in Turkey, which borders Iraq to the north. U.S. war planners had hoped to use troops there to open a second front in the war.

The uncertainty led the stock market to fall by 11.3 percent just minutes after it opened Monday. The drop accompanied a five percent drop in the Turkish currency, the lira.

Gul said parliament's failure to approve the deployment shouldn't jeopardize the relationship between Ankara and Washington, and warned Iraq not to try to capitalize on the vote.

In Qatar, a meeting of Gulf ministers failed Monday to endorse a proposal by the United Arab Emirates calling on Saddam to step down in a last-ditch effort to avoid a U.S.-led war on Iraq.

"It is a very important initiative, but we have to discuss it further. . . . This has to be discussed among all the Arab states to see how this can be implemented," Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani, the Qatari foreign minister, told reporters after the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting.

"There is a very slim chance this war could be avoided," he added.

While the Arab world grappled over how to proceed, Odai al-Taie, an Information Ministry official, said Iraq had begun destroying more Al Samoud 2 missiles at 9 a.m.

With weapons inspectors supervising the work, Iraq crushed four missiles on Saturday and another six on Sunday. It also destroyed two casting chambers used to make engines for another kind of missile, the Al Fatah.

The 10 destroyed Al Samouds represent about a tenth of Iraq's stock of the missiles, which the United Nations has ordered eliminated because they fly farther than the 93 miles allowed.

Inspectors spokesman Hiro Ueki said Monday that Iraq promised to submit a detailed written report to the weapons inspectors in about a week with a proposal for verifying its claims that it unilaterally destroyed anthrax stores and about 1.5 tons of VX.

The inspectors went to a chemical and explosives plant and a rocket factory where they have been before and to two import companies and a plastics factory, Iraq's Information Ministry said. The inspectors do not comment on their day's work until evening.

The inspectors returned Monday to al-Aziziya, an abandoned helicopter airfield 60 miles southeast of Baghdad, where Iraq says it destroyed R-400 bombs filled with biological weapons in 1991.

Al-Saadi said 157 of the R-400 bombs contained anthrax, aflotoxin and botulin toxin. He said Iraq has been excavating them and so far has uncovered eight intact bombs, as well as many fragments of destroyed bombs.

On Sunday, U.N. weapons inspectors took samples of the material in the bombs to confirm their composition.

U.S.-British coalition jets attacked Iraqi communication sites near An Numinayah, about 70 miles southeast of Baghdad, and a radar site near An Nasiriyah, about 170 miles southeast of Baghdad, the U.S. military's Central Command reported on its Web site. The targets were located in the southern no-fly zone set up after the 1991 Gulf War to protect Shiite Muslims from Saddam's forces.