Saddam Defies Blixs Direction On Missile, Calls Bush For Live Debate

New York, February 25: | Updated: Feb 26 2003, 05:30am hrs
A defiant Iraqi President Saddam Hussein indicated he will not destroy the Al Samoud missiles as demanded by the UN and challenged US President George Bush to an open debate on the need to take military action against Baghdad.

We do not have missiles that go beyond the proscribed range, Mr Hussein said in an interview to the CBS Television channel indicating that Baghdad will resist attempts to dismantle its missiles considered to be at the heart of the countrys defence.

Last week chief weapons inspector Hans Blix had asked Iraq to start destroying the missiles by March 1 contending that in some tests its range was more than the 150km allowed under the UN Security Council resolution. Iraq, however argues it happened because the missile lacks a guidance system and did not carry a warhead which is why it followed a larger trajectory than 150km.

Mr Hussein, however, challenged Mr Bush to a live televised debate on the need for a war: This will be an opportunity for him, if hes committed to war, this will be an opportunity to convince the world. This (debate) is something proposed in earnest out of my respect for the people of the US and my respect for the people of Iraq and the people of the world. I call for this because war is not a joke, he said in the 3-hour interview to the American channel.

The White House outrightly rejected the offer of debate as a ridiculous stalling attempt by Mr Hussein. Spokesman Ari Fleischer told CBS that its not a serious statement. This is not about a debate. This is about disarmament and complying with the worlds instructions that Iraq disarm.

As for the Iraqi Presidents denial of possessing weapons of mass destruction, he said as Mr Hussein is not facing reality on the issue of the Al-Samoud missiles, why would his other statements have credibility

PTI