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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Iraq Responds to British Dossier

Aired September 24, 2002 - 11:10   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: This is Lieutenant General Amir Sadi, who is going to be speaking for Hussein -- for the Saddam government, and we are going to be listening to his comments...
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I think he is ready to go. Let's go to him right now.

HARRIS: If he is ready to go, let's go ahead and listen in.

LT. GEN. AMIR SADI, IRAQI SPOKESMAN: ... of information about Iraq weapons of mass destruction. He has promised to reveal it on several occasions, but changed his mind. We are now thankful to all those people in the Labor Party and in the Trade Union Congress and the British public at large for challenging Mr. Blair to produce the evidence or shut up. He finally did today.

Now, we have something to work on at last. His conclusions that Iraq is engaged in the production of weapons of mass destruction are simply not true.

His allegations along (ph) his evidence is short. His evidence is a hodge-podge (ph) of half truths, lies, short-sighted and naive allegations which will not hold after a brief investigation by confident and independent experts in the relevant fields.

We advice Mr. Blair to pass on his dossier to UNMOVIC and the IAEA for proper assessment.

And soon enough, the truth will come out. We had already invited Mr. Blair, before he revealed his dossier, to send any number of British experts for the necessary duration to assess on-the-ground the validity of his so-called evidence.

He declined to do so. Why? Because he knows that his dossier is for public consumption and propaganda in preparation for war and not for the scrutiny of experts.

This morning, there was a British media group waiting for Mr. Blair to reveal his treasure trove and to chose for themselves sites (ph) he mentioned. They chose, I believe, three sites (ph) and proceeded to visit them. I don't know if the gentlemen are present here, but if they are, did you find anything remotely looking like weapons of mass destruction?

We haven't had time to study all the material of the Blair project, but we will soon, and our comments will be made public. Now, what do we mean by half truths? Half truth is when Mr. Blair chooses a topic which is real -- it exists -- but it is permitted under Security Council resolutions, like, for instance, Al- Zamud (ph) missile. It is a missile which is not longer than 150 kilometers in range, and that project was transparent from the outset. Information about it and the plan of development about it was given to UNSCOM in 1994. Progress reports were given periodically, and they knew about it in the minutest details.

The second part of the allegation is that we have, somehow, increased the range to a range longer than the permitted range. This is the untruthful part of the allegation. It is simply not true.

Another allegation regarding development of missile is the Habil (ph) project which is again within the limit permitted in the Security Council resolutions, and again, it is also transparent and well known to UNSCOM, and progress reports are made.

These reports about the development are kept up by us, even after the departure -- or the actual force departure by the United States and Britain of the inspectors -- UNSCOM inspectors -- in 1998, in order to carry out their aggression on Iraq, if you'll remember.

We kept the records of all the development and the details, and we are taking them with our declarations for the past period from 1998 up to 2002, as required by the relevant Security Council resolutions, and we will take them with us to Vienna, to the IAEA and to UNMOVIC because we have decided to invite inspectors back without any conditions.

And it is planned that we have a meeting about the practical arrangements of their resumption of their activities.

Now all of these allegations will not take long to verify when the inspectors are back, because there are some allegations which are so big and so preposterous, like a missile of over 1,000 kilometer range and about weapons of mass destruction in the nuclear area, chemical area, biological area, which are impossible to conceal. They will soon reveal the truth about those things.

It is not our fault that UNSCOM was destroyed after it was corrupted by the United States and United Kingdom and used to provide pretext for aggression. UNSCOM was destroyed, and the monitoring system was destroyed. The monitor system was the very system established to make sure that Iraq doesn't resume its past program.

If they were concerned about that, in reality, why destroy UNSCOM? Why destroy the monitoring system? The monitoring system which was up and running and very elaborate and costly to install was destroyed during the aggression and now requires build-up practically from scratch.

I have not been informed which plant (ph) the delegation or the media delegation today visited. Are there anyone present here from the...

(UNKNOWN): Yes, we went to al-Amiriya (ph) and Al-Qaqa (ph).

SADI: What did you see in Al-Qaqa (ph)?

(UNKNOWN): We saw what the authorities told us were for producing centeride (ph).

SADI: Yes. Now that plant features in Mr. Blair's report -- I think on page 20 -- 10, I think -- point 10 in the report. This is a well known -- first of all, it's a chemical complex there. It's for the production of nonprescribed items -- all items which are permitted under the Security Council resolution for Iraq's needs, security needs and the conventional armament.

And centeride (ph), the material that is produced by this plant, is a stabilizer that is used with the propellant -- propellant powder which is used from pistols up to artillery guns. And this plant is small, because the need for the centeride (ph) is limited, and to make the allegation that a plant of this size could make chemicals that could be used as chemical weapons is preposterous.

This plant is well known to UNSCOM. It was destroyed together with many other parts of the al-qaqa (ph) establishment in 1991. But when Iraq decided to reconstruct, rebuild this plant, UNSCOM was fully informed. And there was an exchange of letters between UNSCOM and Iraq on that subject. UNSCOM came. They were present when the equipment was disassembled -- what left of the equipment was disassembled and the reconstruction was started. And it was rebuilt with the approval and knowledge of UNSCOM.

And this plant is now in production to produce the material which I mentioned for the legitimate purposes needed for Iraq's defense needs. What worries Mr. Blair, I'm sure, is not that this plant could be used for chemical weapons, but because it could produce propellant powder for our air defense and other weapons which are used in legitimate self defense in the no-fly zones now.

So we know now that probably this plant will be targeted. I think -- we don't have time to answer all the points which Mr. Blair mentioned, but I'll take your questions.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) You said that you'd let the U.N. weapons inspectors back (OFF-MIKE) new ways of hiding these weapons.

SADI: Well he would say that, wouldn't he? I mean, how else could you then have inspectors chasing around up and down the country looking for nothing, I mean, when they learn something doesn't exist, then how can they find it?

I mean, this is a ploy. This is a ploy. It may be persuasive to people who are not in this field, but to experts, genuine experts, independent experts, this doesn't make -- it's not credible.

QUESTION: General, could you clarify (UNINTELLIGIBLE) amiriya (ph) and al-qaqa (ph), where parts of those sites dismantled by UNSCOM before, and have they now been rebuilt? SADI: The al-qaqa (ph) plant was not dismantled by UNSCOM. It was destroyed during the war. And when Iraq wanted to rebuild it, they informed UNSCOM, because it is -- if these plants are called dual-use, and that's why UNSCOM was involved to come and see what they are doing.

They kept tags on this, and they -- the tags, I don't know if you know what they are. The tags are the things they leave on the equipment so that they couldn't be moved or used without the knowledge of UNSCOM. And there was a series of correspondence with UNSCOM regarding this. And everything was legitimate. And there's nothing wrong with that at all.

And it is all the records and documents are kept regarding this plant and its production and where the production goes, for what purpose. And this is part of the six-monthly reports which are compiled by us to give to UNSCOM -- not UNSCOM, the successor, UNMOVIC, which we will duly (ph) do, because there is no UNMOVIC here in Iraq that we could present these reports to.

SADI: As for Alfabyla (ph) -- you asked for Alfabyla (ph)?

QUESTION: Al-Amiriya (ph).

SADI: Al-Amiriya (ph). I don't know what exactly was shown to you in al-Amiriya (ph). What was there? What was -- I'm not familiar with...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... laboratories.

SADI: Ah, laboratories.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but what I'm interested to know is whether -- there's some confusion over whether UNSCOM ever dismantled any facility in al-Amiriya (ph). And also...

(CROSSTALK)

SADI: Who is accompanying you, please?

(CROSSTALK)

SADI: I just want to make proper identification of the site? Who is from the Iraqis with you? Anybody (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SADI: I cannot be sure, but there are some plants which were actually destroyed, completely destroyed, and disposed with. But dismantled? I really -- I haven't identified the site. I mean, al- Amiriya (ph) is a big place.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the U.S. and Britain, all allegations are not true? SADI: Not true.

QUESTION: You said you were inviting the inspectors to come back and verify your claim that you don't have any weapons of mass destruction.

SADI: Exactly.

QUESTION: Are the inspectors going to have unfettered access? SADI: Exactly. Unfettered access.

QUESTION: Wherever they want to go?

SADI: Wherever they want to go, because this will be the subject that is a practical arrangement in order so there is no misunderstanding about the procedures which are to be adopted during the inspection. Mr. Blix is very anxious. He does this before coming here. We are complying.

QUESTION: Do you think the inspectors will be here next month?

SADI: If there are no interference from outside parties, we expect them to be here within -- in the middle of next month -- in the middle of next month.

KAGAN: We have been listening in to Lieutenant General Amir Sadi out of Baghdad giving the official Iraqi response to words we heard earlier from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as he spoke to the House of Commons, presenting a 50-page report on what he believes is a report that shows that Iraqis are amassing weapons of mass destruction.

As we hear, though, from Lieutenant General Amir Sadi, he believes that it's completely the opposite. He says Iraq is not involved in weapons of mass destruction. He says the statements that Tony Blair made today before the House of Commons simply not true, called them basically half-truths and lies.

Let's bring in our Sheila MacVicar, who is standing by in London, and get some perspective here.

Two completely different takes on what's happening inside of Iraq today -- Sheila.

SHEILA MACVICAR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Indeed.

From General Sadi there, we are hearing what we have heard many times before from Iraq, that Iraq, in fact, has no weapons of mass destruction left, and that it is weapons-free. It has accused the United Nations and the U.N. weapons inspectors in the past of simply dragging out the process of seeking to keep Iraq behind the sanctions regime, of saying that it wanted an end game.

So, in very many ways, this is something we have heard repeatedly from Iraq. The most important thing, I think, that the general said here in discussing the question of inspectors going back, "We have decided to invite inspectors back without any conditions." In response to a question, the general said, "Yes, unfettered access, go wherever they want to go."

Again, however, saying that there would be negotiations before the inspectors go back. Those negotiations expected to take place next week in Vienna.

But again, what we are hearing Iraq's position on this, the fact -- the allegation that Iraq is engaged in weapons of mass destruction the general saying are simply untrue. Again, that's something that will sound very familiar to Prime Minister Blair and to those weapons inspectors at UNMOVIC and at the U.N. -- Daryn.

KAGAN: All right, our Sheila MacVicar in London.

We want to go to the White House now, where our senior White House correspondent John King is standing by.

John, we can assume that the White House was listening in to what the general had to say, and not agreeing, probably, with any of what he had to say.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Agreeing with very little, Daryn.

The president -- and we will hear from him momentarily -- already saying this morning that he applauds Tony Blair's statement and the release of the British dossier, that the president says that Prime Minister Blair is being bold in standing up and making the case against Iraq.

And I want to follow up on the point Sheila MacVicar was just touching about, because that is what is of such frustration to the White House and why the president says the United Nations Security Council must adopt a tough resolution before any weapons inspectors go back into Iraq.

You heard the Iraqi leader saying that weapons inspectors could come back in, "unfettered access, yes, wherever they want to go." And then, he said, "Of course, there would have to be practical arrangements."

That is what frustrates the White House. On the one hand the Iraqis say there would be unfettered access for the inspectors. On the other hand, they say there would be negotiations or "practical arrangements" about where and how they could go. That is a great frustration to White House officials, which is why the president says the United Nations must adopt a resolution that says, "If those inspectors go back in, it has to be anytime, anyplace, anywhere, or else."

KAGAN: And that certainly is an interpretation that has had a different definition as the days have gone on over the last week. John, we're going to have you stand by.

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