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Showdown Iraq: U.S. Introduces Resolution to UN Security Council

Aired October 25, 2002 - 12:45   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: In the meantime, let's check in and see what's happening as far as Iraq is concerned. As we told you just a little bit earlier, the United States has formally introduced its resolution on Iraq to all 15 members of the UN Security Council. The resolution is also facing some unexpected competition.
In a surprise move, Russia and France started floating around proposals that would water down the seven-page U.S. document. The competing proposals remove language that some say could authorize military force against Baghdad. The 15 members of the Security Council are negotiating the U.S. draft resolution today. So far, Russia has been its strongest opponent, rejecting it completely, France says it's willing to negotiate, while Britain calls it tough but fair.

Time now to discuss these developments. Let's go right to Baghdad, that's where we're joined by CNN's Baghdad bureau chief Jane Arraf.

Tell us what's happening where you are -- Jane.

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Wolf, Baghdad has been saying all along that it can't possibly meet the conditions in that U.S. draft resolution. And now, as you mentioned, with what's going on at the Security Council, it may not have to.

Now the Bhat Party newspaper today declared that that resolution was a pretext for war, essentially, and it still accuses those weapons inspectors of wanting to come into Iraq, not to ensure disarmament, but actually to spy on the country and to conduct industrial espionage.

Now these are very interesting times in Baghdad. The government has been taking some measures to answer critics outside and inside the country, those include most recently a lift on travel fees that all Iraqis have had to pay to leave the country. Now they amount to about $200 per person, an absolute fortune for most people, but the Iraqi president has announced at a cabinet meeting that that will be lifted.

Now just last week he also announced a general amnesty for all prisoners, including political prisoners, really quite an astounding move.

At the same time, though, the country does seem to be taking a couple of steps back in terms of closing off some of its borders. It has asked CNN correspondents and other journalists to leave. It's expelling some of them and not renewing visas for others. It's also not issuing visas for surprising groups of people, for instance, a peace group now in Jordan that's been unable to get visas. There are also other restrictions on Iraqis leaving the country for Jordan. So all in all, an indication that the government here is fairly tense -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is that the explanation, Jane, that the government is tense right now, because I can understand kicking out journalists but not allowing various peace group delegations to come in? That seems to go against the recent trend, the recent tide within Iraq, as you well know.

ARRAF: It is fascinating. The tension that I refer to is the fact that this country really does feel like it's under threat. And when it feels like it's under threat, it sees the threat coming from foreigners.

Now it has, in the past, closed its borders, essentially, to foreigners and made it very difficult for anyone to enter. When it does that, it doesn't really matter whether you're a journalist or a peace activist who wants to help Iraq or a weapons inspector. In that sense, the government here really does feel that it's at active risk of people coming in and spying.

It's also found it's been unable to manage the huge numbers of journalists here, for instance. So while it is making some steps to open up with the prisoner release, with the lift on the travel fees, it's also taking some steps at the same time to ensure that it can maintain the very strong control that it has had up until now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know -- I know -- before I let you go, Jane, a lot of our viewers are interested about you and our other CNN colleagues in Baghdad. What's the latest? What can you tell us about your fate as far as being allowed to stay or being forced to leave?

ARRAF: Well, our fate up until now is we're still told that we all do have to leave. All CNN people have to leave on Monday, basically. We are being expelled, those of us who have valid visas. As for the other journalists here, the Iraqi government has told some of them they can stay, it's told others, whose visas are expiring, that they have to leave.

Now the face that it's put on this is that it's basically cleaning house, that it needs to get rid of these large number of journalists to be better able to manage them. That's not the same in our case, of course. The government has objected to some of our coverage, including our coverage of a protest outside the Information Ministry recently and our coverage in northern Iraq, which is not controlled by the Iraqi government. The move to expel some of us came after protests about that coverage. That's essentially where it stands.

As for the overall picture of how open this country will be going forward if this threat increases, it's still a little murky -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jane Arraf, thanks so much for your great reporting from Baghdad. Thank all of our other CNN colleagues as well. Good luck to all of you whatever the next few days bring.


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