Deadline set for Iraqis to plan arms-destruction

March 18, 1992|By New York Times News Service

UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations has given Iraq until March 26 to come up with a detailed plan for destroying a long list of equipment and buildings used for constructing and repairing its banned ballistic missiles, according to U.N. officials and Western diplomats.

The deadline, which carried at least an implicit threat of the use of force, was given last week to Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, Iraq's special envoy here, by Rolf Ekeus, of Sweden, the chief of the special commission set up to oversee the elimination of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

This constitutes a critical first test of the vague agreement by Mr. Aziz to cooperate more closely with the Security Council's gulf war cease-fire terms.

[At the United Nations, Western diplomats contacted by Reuters denied that a specific date had been set.

[They said the Bush administration and others had "vaguely spoken" about giving Iraq two weeks' leeway.]

A 35-member team of United Nations ballistic missile experts is in Baghdad waiting to receive the Iraqi plan next week. If President Saddam Hussein's government produces an acceptable schedule of arms destruction, the team will stay on to oversee the work, officials say.

Otherwise it plans to leave, raising the possibility the United States and its allies might opt for a military strike to destroy the sites.

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