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Interview: Janine Di Giovanni of the Times of London Discusses the Al Samoud Missile Dismantling in Iraq

Weekend Edition Saturday: March 1, 2003

Iraq Begins Destroying Al-Samoud Missiles



SCOTT SIMON, host:

I'm told now that we are able to speak with Janine di Giovanni, who is The Times of London reporter in Baghdad.

Janine, can you hear us?

Ms. JANINE DI GIOVANNI (The Times of London): Yes. Hello, Scott.

SIMON: Hi. Nice to talk to you again. And please bring us up to date now. Have those first four missiles been destroyed?

Ms. DI GIOVANNI: Well, I've just come from the UN, the UNMOVIC press conference here in Baghdad. And what we've been told is that the first missile was destroyed by around 6:30 PM our time. We're eight hours ahead of you. The first attempt to destroy it--because the UN has decided to blow them up rather than crush them--didn't--the bulldozers that they were using were not adequate enough. So they had to get a new one. By the time they finally got it, they had--it took until about 6:30, which is about five hours after they started, to actually destroy it.

Now I was just told by Iraqis that they've started--that they're going to continue tonight, and an Iraqi source told me he believes they'll destroy around four. And at 9 AM tomorrow, they'll resume.

We weren't given specific details about the exact number. We did press that point. We believe it's around a hundred.

SIMON: Uh-huh.

Ms. DI GIOVANNI: And the timetable of it is still also slightly unclear.

SIMON: The timetable for destruction. Now inspectors are working on other fronts at the same time, aren't they?

Ms. DI GIOVANNI: Yes, they are. Probably the most important thing are the interviews, and last night, Friday night, there were two interviews of scientists. They were private interviews, which means that they went on without tape recorders. Other interviews are continuing today. We weren't given specific details. We also asked whether or not these scientists would be taken outside of Iraq with their families. We don't know yet if that will happen but, of course, these two things, the destruction of the missiles and the interviews, are the crux of what the UN needs to do to deliver a report, which will come before the Security Council--Hans Blix--on Friday.

SIMON: OK. And, Janine, what is your impression from United Nations officials, or perhaps people in the inspector crew with whom you've been, I would imagine, interviewing one way or another or getting information from for a few weeks now? Are they impressed by the degree of Iraqi cooperation?

Ms. DI GIOVANNI: It's difficult to gauge, because, actually, it's difficult to speak to them. They don't speak to journalists. Our only information comes from press conferences. But the sense that I'm getting is that they feel it's positive. Dimitrius(ph) Perricos said tonight, `I'm very glad it's started. Whether I'm satisfied with the rate, you must ask me at the end of the week.' So I think they believe that these moves over the past week has been progress. But, of course, we really have to see how long the Iraqis take to deliver at the end of it. You know, if there's no definite deadline, then this could go on for months.

SIMON: Yeah.

Ms. DI GIOVANNI: And I think they're trying to push it to try to make them--they say it's up to the Iraqis. It depends how quickly they can do it, how quickly they deliver them, how quickly they aid us. So, you know, they've requested it, but it's really, in the end, up to the Iraqis how quickly it can be done.

SIMON: I mean, when you say the number is believed to be about a hundred, there should be no `about,' I should think, that would satisfy the UN as to whether or not there are another one or two or five missiles left over. They want all of them destroyed.

Ms. DI GIOVANNI: Oh, yes, they want all. It's just whether they will tell us how many there are. They have tagged them already, Scott. They initially, when the first letter went to Hans Blix--I mean, they have tagged them with metal tags. They know how many are there. It's just they won't tell us. But we believe that there is around a hundred. And yes, the UN is very clear that they will destroy all of them.

SIMON: OK. Janine, thank you very much.

Ms. DI GIOVANNI: Thank you.

SIMON: Janine di Giovanni is a reporter for The Times of London, joining us from Baghdad.

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