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Iraq to Hand Off Weapons Declaration Today

Aired December 7, 2002 - 09:01   ET


CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get right to the latest developments surrounding Iraq and its weapons program.
Nic Robertson joining us from Baghdad. He was one of the few reporters that was shown the information that will be handed over to the United Nations. And Nic joining us now from the Iraqi capital.

We want to be clear to everyone, Nic, that you were not able to read these documents. You were only able to see, basically, the covers of these documents.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's correct. Iraqi officials wanted to show us these documents before they handed them over to the U.N. inspection teams here. Now, an Iraqi official, the head of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate, that's the group that deals with the U.N. weapons inspectors here, said that the declaration would be handed over today, Saturday. He would not say when. He said that the U.N. did not want this done in the glare of publicity.

Now, when we were shown these documents, they were laid out on a table, some 60 different documents piled up, all on -- or most of the documents on the front cover saying, "A Complete and Full Declaration," on others, on many of them as well saying, "Currently Accurate."

Now, we are told there were some 11,807 pages total, some 1,300 or so in the area of biological weapons, some 1,800 or so in the area of chemical weapons, some 6,800 or so in the area of missiles, the remainder, we understand, in the area of nuclear weapons.

Now, we weren't able to open up these documents. We were given a very brief period to look at them. When we talked with Iraqi officials afterwards about the documents, they would not say specifically what was inside. We know that they have said, and they repeated again, that Iraq does not have weapons of mass destruction.

They did say, when asked would these -- would this declaration meet or give better understanding to all the issues that the previous U.N. weapons inspection team that left here in 1998 had left unresolved? Now, we were told specifically that we would not be told any details, so we were not given any information on that.

One of the remain -- one of the outstanding issues, about 500 bombs that Iraq had -- the U.N. believe Iraq had developed to disperse chemical or biological weapons. When asked, should this satisfy the United Nations, we were told, yes, this has everything in here that should allow for the disarming of Iraq.

Also, we were told that the Iraqis have spent -- they said it had been a huge effort to do this, involving hundreds of scientists, said that they'd have been a great effort for them to produce it within the 30-day deadline, but this was proof, they said, of their commitment to meet Resolution 1441 that they'd achieved it so far, Catherine.

CALLAWAY: Nic, Miles has pointed out that by this video, it looks like these have been laid out very neatly in English. Do we know if all the more than 11,000 pages of information is written in English?

ROBERTSON: We don't know. We do know that in the past, the declarations have generally been in English, the supporting documents have often been in Arabic. Now, some 529 megabytes of information were contained, we're told, on 12 CD-ROMs, possibly some of that is in Arabic. Again, we didn't open the declarations laid out on the table. So possibly the contents inside some of that in Arabic as well.

The supporting documentation, supporting the dual-use processes, these are the civilian industry activities that Iraq is putting forward, the U.N. weapons inspectors say that possibly the equipment being used in the civilian industry could also be used to produce weapons of mass destruction. Iraq has a huge petrochemical industry. Some of the chemicals it produces to do with refining of its oil products, some of those chemicals also have a dual-use application in some weapons of mass destruction industries, Catherine.

CALLAWAY: Nic, we saw a number of scientists, representatives, standing by in that room as you viewed the cover of these weapons. Were you allowed to talk at all with the scientists?

ROBERTSON: There wasn't really an opportunity given to talk with those scientists. However, we do understand President Saddam Hussein's chief scientific adviser, General Amar al-Sahadi (ph), is likely to brief journalists this evening. We were told a little earlier that he would be able to provide us with more insight into the contents of the declaration.

Those scientists there, a representative group, we were told, of those that had put their work into compiling all the declaration that we can see there, Catherine.

CALLAWAY: Thank you, Nic, great job there in Baghdad. That's Nic Robertson.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: As Nic has told us, the U.N. has its work cut out with Iraq's weapons declaration, nearly 12,000 pages, about a dozen CD-ROMs, covering biological and chemical weapons and missiles, plus an additional bit of information about the nuclear program.

CNN's Michael Okwu joining us live from the U.N., where all of this is headed. They call it a document dump. That is no -- that's pretty apt, isn't it, Michael? MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is. I'd hate to have to wade through all these files here at the United Nations, but I can tell you something, that diplomats here at the United Nations, although the corridors are very quiet on this Saturday morning, probably waking up in their missions across the city very eager to get their hands on this document.

But what we know is that members of the Security Council will not be able to get to that any time real soon. They will not be able to review this 12,000-page document until the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, does.


HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: For the first time, the council was discussing the risks of releasing parts of this declaration that might help to achieve proliferation of nuclear or biological or chemical weapons.


OKWU: Blix and members of the Security Council very concerned about providing what they call a manual for weapons of mass destruction. Western diplomats tell CNN that the United States and Russia in particular and other countries on the council are very worried that detailed documents about how to manufacture these weapons could fall into the wrong hand, and that conveying this information could very well violate international treaties and conventions.

It's basically Hans Blix's job and the part of his cohorts as well to basically comb through this long, detailed document looking for anything that might be sensitive and essentially excising it, although council members are expecting to hear from Blix very early next week, a diplomatic source, in fact, tells us, as early as Tuesday, as to when they may actually get their hands on this document. We understand that he won't have anything substantive to tell them until the week of the 16th.

In the meantime, Iraq's ambassador, Mohammed Aldouri, repeating like a mantra for the past week, essentially saying, We do not have any weapons of mass destruction, approached the microphones yesterday and said it again.


MOHAMMED ALDOURI, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: We said again and again that we have no more destruction weapons at all. Everything has been destroyed, and we have no intention to do that again. So Iraq is clean of any kind of mass destruction weapons.


OKWU: Aldouri actually making the point yesterday that he plans to personally hand over the document to the relevant officials here at the United Nations, another sign that Iraq at least publicly wants to appear to be very compliant. Whoever, regardless, who gives this document over, it is going to take weeks rather than days to resolve all of this, Miles.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Michael Okwu at the United Nations. Thank you very much. Stay close, will you? -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: Let's talk a little bit more now about those Iraqi documents and the inspections that continue.

We turn to CNN's Jonathan Karl, who's heading up our document desk in Washington. Jonathan, good morning to you.


Well, now that journalists have seen at least the covers of some of those Iraqi documents, and they've gotten a numerical accounting from Iraqi officials of just how many pages of information, and, of course, how many CD-ROMs are being released, but what comes next? And when might we learn more about just what is exactly contained in those documents?

For that, I check in with our panel of experts. David Albright is a former weapons inspector with the International Atomic Energy Agency. And General Wesley Clark is a former NATO supreme commander and a CNN analyst.

Dave Albright, start with you. You've been here before, you've been looking at these declarations. This is not the first final declaration that the Iraqis have offered or been required to give up regarding their weapons programs. How is this one different than what they've showed us before?

DAVID ALBRIGHT, FORMER IAEA WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, it's really their last chance. I mean, there's been all -- the -- in the '90s there was a lot of guess patience (ph) with the Iraqis to -- they could go back and produce another version of a full, final, and complete declaration.

But I think now this really is their last chance, and they're going to be judged based on what is in this document.

KARL: I mean, the very first one that we saw come out, I mean, they were required in August of 1991 to provide their final declaration, full and final declaration. That was eventually provided within, what, two years. What did we learn? I mean, what did we learn from those previous declarations?

ALBRIGHT: Well, the -- there was a lot declared by Iraq in the declarations. I mean, it -- you know, the process went over many years. The first one in the nuclear area was maybe 20 pages long, turned in in July of 1991. Woefully inadequate. Year later, there was one that was 100 pages long.

After Hussein Kamel (ph) defected, the Iraqis opened up considerably, and the nuclear declaration grew to about 1,500 pages, very detailed technical information about Iraq's prior nuclear weapons program.

KARL: And at least in terms of the area of biological weapons, General Clark, previous declarations have helped the United States, the world community, learn something about the program that the Iraqis perhaps didn't intend to reveal.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, that's exactly right, because each piece of information leads to more questions. And so it's the process of the dialogue and the interrogation and the meeting with people who've been involved in this that's led to so much of the information.

KARL: Now, the Iraqis, it's been said before, are really in a box here, right? I mean, if they provide a complete, full accounting of their weapons programs, a-haha, they've violated the U.N. because they have developed these programs. But if they say they don't have these weapons, they're all destroyed, aha, they've also violated because they've allegedly lied. I mean, how does Iraq get out of this one?

CLARK: Well, I think they are in a box, but I think what you've got here is a sort of middle ground. They're dumping lots of information, they're going to take a lot of time. They're going to try to make a case that they've told everything. They're going to scout out how much the United States knows, by what the United States does and what information the United States provides to the United Nations inspectors.

This is a cat-and-mouse game, and it's in the Iraqis' interest to try to drag this out as long as possible, hoping the United States and its supporters will lose their interest, lose resolve, something else will happen.

KARL: And clearly, this is a massive document dump. I mean, what, you know, 18,000 pages or so of documents. One concern here, right, Dave Albright, is that some of these documents might provide a road map for other countries trying to develop these very weapons, I mean, recipes, if you will.

ALBRIGHT: I think one thing that is different from the '90s is there's a heightened concern about information that could be usable by terrorists. I would be very surprised if anything in these documents would help any country in the Security Council. I mean, most countries there can develop a road map on their own.

But there is a worry that some of it may help terrorists get weapons of mass destruction, because they often know very little, and they're searching the public information for hints on how to proceed.

KARL: So if these documents are public, they may provide a road map for terrorists trying to develop these very documents.

ALBRIGHT: I think that's the biggest concern. I mean, in past cases, Iraq has been told, you know, Produce a declaration that can be released publicly. That was done in the nuclear area for sure. And so I think there is a consciousness of this problem, and that the -- in the past, and I assume the current inspectors did the same thing, they told Iraq not to put in classified information. They have to worry that Iraq did nonetheless, particularly with nuclear weapons design or details about biological weapons production.

So they do have to check these documents.

KARL: OK, now, and I said 18,000 pages, actually, let's be completely accurate, as far as we know, 11,807 pages' worth of documentation there. As a matter of fact, I think we have a graphic that'll show us exactly what we're looking at. There you see the total number of pages, 12 CD-ROMs containing 529 megabytes' worth of data.

Also in terms of the weapons declarations, they are broken down into three major categories. There is the chemical program, which is 1,823 pages' worth of documentation, the biological program, which is 1,334 pages, and the missile program, 6,887.

My question to either of you seems to be the obvious one, if Iraq says they don't have these programs, what are all these documents?

ALBRIGHT: Well, one is the -- in the new resolution required them to declare much more than they did in the past. I mean, the pre -- prior declarations really were, What is your nuclear weapons program look like, your biological weapons program look like? Now they're been asked to also describe dual-use facilities that could be used to make these weapons.

And so that's a large set of facilities and activities in Iraq. So naturally they -- the length grows dramatically.

It could be that the operative pages on weapons of mass destruction themselves are quite short.

KARL: Which -- General Clark, we saw one of the places they were looking at was, you know, distilleries, which, by the way, were -- seemed to be in operation during Ramadan, which I thought was kind of interesting. But, you know, dual-use, then this could be, I mean, a lot of this could be leading inspectors down, you know, blind alleys.

CLARK: Absolutely, and this is a part of the Iraqi strategy, I suspect, to persuade the world community that the United States' intelligence information is mistaken, that what we're seeing is dual- use facilities.

And I suspect the other thing you're going to see in these declarations is a sort of a foot path that goes back to what they've previously said, and then an explanation of what they did with the program then and how it was buried and why it might be perceived as not having been stopped but in actuality it's been stopped.

And they'll try to portray a bunch of dead ends in this.

KARL: And of course it's in Iraqi interest to keep these inspections going on indefinitely. As long as the inspectors are there, theoretically there's not a war in Iraq. So, I mean, how much of this is keeping the inspectors busy, giving them a lot to...

ALBRIGHT: Well, it is, but this has happened before. I mean, often you -- when Iraq is either coming clean or not coming clean, there's been a dump of documents. And they can actually be gone through pretty rapidly. And we're in a stronger position now, because one of the weaknesses in the past was a shortage of translators (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But now particularly after September 11, there's a lot more people able to translate technical Arabic into English.

And so I think the process of analyzing these things can be done quickly. And also, you have the member states, the United States is going to devote a tremendous amount of its resources to dealing with this problem. I mean, they're -- soon as they get the document, they're going to divide it up and send it out to all their experts at the national laboratories, intelligence community. And each one may only be looking at 50 pages, 100 pages.

KARL: Well, and it's unclear how this is going to be split up, though, right? I mean, the question is, how soon does this get to the member states? How soon does it get to the Security Council, the permanent members of the Security Council?

CLARK: That's a question, but my guess is it'll go out very quickly, because the United States is going to be pressing hard to move forward with this process. So we'll have our own experts poised, we'll have other nations, like the British.

We'll probably work with the French, maybe the Russians on this, maybe even the Chinese, because it's in our interests to bring about consensus in the international scientific and diplomatic community that's looking at this document as rapidly as possible on what's in it, what's omitted from it, where the sort of loose ends are, and keep this process moving rapidly.

So as David says, this is going to be broken down and analyzed intensively and quite rapidly.

KARL: Now, one question that's been raised is this question of what do we actually know? And we do need to wrap up. Actually we will come back to that. We have a lot of time to go over all these documents. There's a lot of documents to go through. Our panel of experts, thank you very much.

Let's go back to Atlanta. Catherine?

CALLAWAY: Hi, Jonathan, thank you very much. You're right, a lot of documents to go through.


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