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Bush Promises to Lead Coalition to Disarm Iraq

Aired October 8, 2002 - 08:33   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush promises to lead a coalition to disarm Iraq, but what countries would ultimately join such a coalition, or will Iraq comply with demands and make military action unnecessary? We have reports now from all over the world. The international community responds to the president's speech last night.
We begin first with Jane Arraf who joins us live from Baghdad.

Good morning, Jane. What was the reaction to the speech?


As a matter of fact, we just a few minutes ago we received a reaction. As you know, the wheels move very slowly here, but this is the official Iraqi government reaction to President Bush's speech, and it is, to state it briefly, that President Bush is attacking Iraq verbally and plans to attack it militarily, not because of the issue of weapons of mass destruction, but because of its support for the Palestinians.

Now part of that, of course, is tied to the U.S. Senate and house move last week to declare the disputed city of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. Part of it is also tied to President Bush's reiteration that Iraq harbors Palestinian terrorists.

One of them, though, was a bit of a surprise here, Abu Abbef (ph), who is the mastermind of the 1985 Akili Loro (ph) cruise ship hijacking. Now, he has renounced terrorism and was, in essence, forgiven by European countries. The charges against him were dropped. We haven't heard very much about him lately. He tells us this morning we was also surprised to hear this reference.

The Iraqi government, again, claiming this is all about Palestine, not about disarmament -- Paula.

And how much have you heard from Iraqi officials lately about Palestine or a Palestinian state?

Every day, that is the overriding issue, not just in Iraq, Paula, but in this region as well, and is really overshadowing U.S. plans for any intervention in Iraq. The feeling is, that as long as there's simmering and as long as the United States is seen to be siding wholeheartedly with Israel against the Palestinians, it really is going to be very difficult to get a coalition here to launch any sort of action against Iraq.

Now the other thing the Iraqi government said in this statement is that President Bush is obscuring its clear program to allow the inspectors in wherever they want. Now, as we know, it's not entirely clear. There's still the issue of the presidential palaces, but Iraq now is trying to get back to that issue of Palestine, saying it's about that, it's not about Iraq and weapons -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thank you, Jane.

We're going to go check in with Jerrold Kessel now, who joins us from Jerusalem. I don't know that the Israelis have had enough advanced notice of the Iraqi's response to this, Jerrold, but how is the government likely to respond to what Jane Arraf just reported, basically saying that this talk of military action against Iraq is really about the pro-Israeli bias of the U.S. government?

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they probably expect that, but really, I think it's sad to say if there's any place that doesn't need convincing that there's a reason to go after Saddam Hussein's Iraq, then it is Israel, and that's why the Israelis are with the United States all the way. They don't need to be convinced. They don't need to have that argument from the president, and that's why they were absolutely with the president's arguments, as he laid them out in his speech yesterday.

But there's another salient reason for the fact that this speech was particularly well received by the Israeli leaders, the fact there was no mention of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, that there is no linkage. But the Israelis have been really delighted, you could say, over the last few days, to hear Mr. Bush trying to shove away any idea of a linkage. Even we hear deriving that when it was brought up by Britain's Tony Blair. The linkage between the need to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the need to go off to Iraq, that there is no such linkage. That's what the Israelis want to hear, what they believe.

But there's another side to the coin, and that is the fact that Washington has been telling Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister, in no uncertain terms, that they don't want to see anything that might get in the way of the U.S. campaign against Iraq, and that's why you had such pressure on Mr. Sharon to lift the siege on Yasser Arafat. That's why you had this criticism of the Israeli action down in Gaza yesterday in which 14 Palestinians were killed. Deeply troubled were the State Department's response.

But Mr. Sharon has said this morning, that he felt that was a successful action, that he says there needs to be more action against terror. This is Israel's battle against terror. So you are likely to get continuing spats between the U.S. and the Israeli prime minister, even as they remain strategic allies, or they see themselves as strategic allies, on the Iraq question.

ZAHN: Thanks, Jerrold.

We move along to Moscow now for the view from Russia.

Let's check in with Ryan Chilcote. How did the speech play there? Good morning, Ryan?

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Paula.

No direct reaction to the Bush speech in Russia. It was 4:00 in the morning here in Moscow. But there was for the first time, a senior Russian official is saying that Russia may consider, or may agree to a new U.N. Security Council Resolution governing the work of the -- of those weapons inspectors in Baghdad, as long as they proposal, as long as that resolution does, one, not contain any -- quote -- "unreasonable language, unreasonable demands" -- unquote -- and two, that it does not contain any clauses that would provide for the automatic use of force against Baghdad.

Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fidota (ph) rejected the U.S. ground -- the U.S. proposal on those very grounds. He said that the U.S. proposal contains -- quote -- unreasonable -- "makes unreasonable demands of the Iraqis."

Now the deputy foreign minister says the French proposal is -- closed quote -- "corresponds to the Russian position." So I would just add that that French proposal is a two-tiered approach that would, one, call for a resolution now, getting those inspectors back in and a resolution later on in the event of an Iraqi noncompliance. That's all from here, Paula.

Back to you.

ZAHN: Ryan Chilcote, thanks so much. And that debate at the U.N. could take many weeks to play out -- Bill.


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