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U.S. Reacts to Iraqi Acceptance of U.N. Resolution

Aired November 13, 2002 - 14:01   ET


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush due to meet in just a few minutes with the United Nations secretary general, who says that he will urge Mr. Bush to be patient when it comes to weapons inspections in Iraq.
CNN's Frank Buckley is live from the White House with more on that.

Frank, I wonder if the president can be patient.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president has made it pretty clear that there is a zero tolerance policy with regard to Iraq and weapons inspectors. We're expecting Kofi Annan to discuss this nine-page letter that was delivered today to the United Nations addressed to Kofi Annan from the Iraqi foreign minister saying that Iraq was, in fact, going to accept the U.N. weapons inspectors into Iraq, and it would comply with U.N. Security Council resolution 1441.

The White House position is this is what they expected all along. They said the Iraqi parliament vote yesterday that recommended rejection of the resolution was, as they put it yesterday, pure theater.

Just within the hour, Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, just wrapped up a news briefing with the first official reaction to this letter. Here's what he had to say.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: I haven't seen the specifics of the letter, but the resolution clearly spells out for the regime in Iraq that any false information or omissions are considered a violation of the resolution, and would be considered a further material breach. That's all spelled out in the resolution. But again, I would reiterate that the latest reports, that the regime in Iraq has agreed to cooperate and comply, that we have heard this before, and now it's time to see it by their actions.


BUCKLEY: The White House has said repeatedly that it's now up to Saddam Hussein to disarm. Administration officials have said that they will not tolerate "rope-a-dope" in the desert. President Bush reiterated the U.S. position earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Zero tolerance. About as plain as I can make it. We will not tolerate any deception, denial, or deceit. Period.


BUCKLEY: And the next major deadline now is December 8. That's when Iraq must provide an inventory of any weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons or part of its growing nuclear program. If the U.S. believes that Iraq is not providing everything that it has, that may be considered a material breach. It would then go back to the Security Council for debate. Marty?

SAVIDGE: Rope-a-dope in the desert. I like that one, Frank. Very good. Frank Buckley live from the White House.

Well, Iraq's acceptance of the U.N.'s demands and conditions comes 48 hours ahead of the stated deadline. So now all eyes are on the next deadline, that's December 8. That's when Iraq is supposed to disclose every last detail about its weapons of mass destruction. CNN's Richard Roth live from U.N. headquarters in New York.

Richard, the weapons inspectors, at least the first batch, go in when?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN UN CORRESPONDENT: The weapons inspectors will go in November 18, led by chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, a team of approximately 15 to 20 people, logistical communications experts. They will set up a base there for the full-fledged inspections that will then resume within a few weeks from that date. They have not been in Baghdad since December of 1998.

If you take a look at the timeline, you have November 18 for the reassumption of inspections, mostly the set-up of telephone lines and a headquarters office. You then have on December 8, Iraq has a deadline of saying what is -- complete weapons of mass destruction program, a full dossier. Baghdad says including today, the ambassador insisted we don't have anything. Well, the U.S. and Britain say Iraq does. By December 23, full inspections will have resumed, even a few weeks earlier, there will be some inspections taking place, in the middle of December.

And then on February 21 of next year, Hans Blix returns to the Security Council with a full report on what he has found after more than two months of inspections. And that report, if there's been no problems since that day, will go a long way towards determining perhaps whether there will be any military action or so.

Iraq, in length letter, as Frank Buckley noted, has told the United Nations, it accepts the inspectors but it still have has problem with that Security Council resolution.


MOHAMMED AL-DOURI, IRAQI AMB. TO U.N.: The letter saying that Iraq will deal with the Security Council resolution 1441 despite its bad contents. We are prepared to receive the inspectors within the assigned timetable. We are eager to see them perform their duties in accordance with international law as soon as possible.


ROTH: A comment about the Iraq letter, splitting along predictable idea logical lines. Arab delegates, Syria and Egypt welcoming Baghdad's bid and understanding them when they say they have no weapons of mass destruction and that it's hard to prove a negative. One western diplomat called the letter a rant and notes that at the end of the letter, Iraq says it's going to send another letter listing its objections. People are always very concerned here about Iraq saying one thing and then doing another, even in letter form -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: Richard, Iraq had 'til Friday. Was anybody surprised that they came right back on a Wednesday and said hey, it's OK?

ROTH: A little bit surprised, but I think they're just glad, many people, that they did say yes and it's not fudged or last minute deadline on Friday. Kofi Annan had already said it should be by business day Friday, 20 -- 7-day period really ends 10:53 Friday morning. Anyway, it's in and now on to the next hurdle.

SAVIDGE: Right. Exactly that. Richard Roth live from the U.N. Thank you.

Now that audiotape supposedly, apparently, made by Osama bin Laden, we get to this story. Intelligence sources say that there is no indication that the tape has been edited or doctored and it appears to be very recent. Maybe two and a half weeks old at the most.

CNN's Mike Boettcher joins me with the contents and the concerns being raised around the world about this letter. Not just that we think it's Osama, but the message that's within what he has to say, right, Mike?

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A very serious message, Marty. We've spoken to analysts who really know bin Laden's words, who've studied him for years, and they tell us this is the most serious threat they've ever seen from bin Laden. Is it bin Laden? Well, privately, government officials are saying around the globe that they are sure that it is bin Laden, that this tape has not been doctored.

Now, bin Laden makes two points with this audio cassette. He shows that he is, indeed, still alive, because he talks about terrorist incidents that occurred in late October. Secondly, he says that he's on the attack and delivers this message to allies of the United States in the coalition.


OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): Rumsfeld, the butcher of Vietnam, killed more than 2 million people, not to mention the wounded. And here's Cheney and Powell, killing and destroying many in Baghdad. More than what the Bulaco (ph), the king of the Tartars. So why are your governments allying themselves with America in attacking us in Afghanistan, especially to mention Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Germany and Australia.


BOETTCHER: Now, this afternoon, President Bush wasted no time reacting. He said he would not comment on whether it was bin Laden. He said he'd leave that to the experts. But he did say this is a clear message that we are still at war.


BUSH: Whoever put this tape out has put the world on notice yet again that we're at war and that we need to take these messages very seriously. And we will. We'll take them seriously here at home by working with the appropriate authorities to deal with threats. And we'll take them seriously abroad by continuing our hunt. We'll chase these people down, one at a time. It doesn't matter how long it takes. We'll find them. And bring them to justice.


BOETTCHER: Now, that tape was released 24 hours ago on the Al- Jazeera Network, the Arabic language satellite network based in the Gulf region. We've just learned that the Islamabad bureau chief for Al-Jazeera, who also writes for "al Hayat" newspaper, based in London, has said that the tape was delivered to Al-Jazeera in Pakistan. So this will be closely watched to try to get some indication of where bin Laden might be. One of the locations that intelligence experts say they believe bin Laden could be hiding would be on that frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan -- Marty.

SAVIDGE: Mike, why not a videotape? Why didn't he just put himself in front of a camera and talk that way?

BOETTCHER: Purely speculation, Marty, but there are several reasons that could account for this. Number one, he still could be ill. His appearance might not be good. Other people I've talked to believe that he's altered his appearance. And number three, it's much easier to smuggle an audio cassette than a video cassette. Obviously, they're feeling more comfortable that they can get out a message in audio cassette, where they didn't before, but maybe they don't want to take the next step to delivering a videotape that could help in some way the coalition in trying to find him.

SAVIDGE: Understood. Mike Boettcher, thank you very much for the insight. We want to remind you, we will go live to Baghdad coming up in just a bit.

First, what do you think when it comes to the issue of Osama bin Laden and this message? Does it increase your fears about a possible al Qaeda attack? You can take a quick vote at The AOL keyword cnn. Right now, 58 percent of those casting ballots say no. Remember, it's not science. Now that Iraq has accepted that resolution for U.N. inspections, what should those inspectors look for on the ground? And what can they really accomplish? We'll talk with a security expert about that.

Also ahead, they can't drive cars, but they can be surgeons. Women in Saudi Arabia. CNN's Christiane Amanpour takes us inside this strategic Arab country.


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