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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Iraq: The Weapons Hunt: Documents and Denials

Aired December 10, 2002 - 09:02   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Now more on Iraq. Documents and denials. We have live reports from Baghdad, Washington and the United Nations.
First, let's start with Nic Robertson, who joins us from Baghdad.

Good morning, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Paula.

Well, the very latest from here, Iraqi officials from the Foreign Ministry saying the United States' acquisition of Iraq's declaration is a historic blackmail of the U.N., calling it a violation of the U.N.'s charter and mandate, and saying the reason the United States wants to get its hand on this document is so that it can manipulate the document so that it can ferment trouble or aggression against Iraq.

Also seeing today four teams of weapons inspectors going out, the furthest team going to the border with Syria, a five and a half hour drive, visiting there a former uranium ore mine destroyed during Gulf War bombing in 1991.

Also an Iraqi official here that deals exclusively with U.N. inspectors, saying that he believes they are acting in a calm and professional manner -- Paula.

ZAHN: All right, Nic, please standby, because we're going to try to check in with John King and come back to you.

John, what's the very latest from there?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, White House officials say it's ludicrous, this charge of blackmail. You just heard Nic's report from Baghdad. The United States is a permanent member of the Security Council, one U.S. official saying who did Iraq think wanted to read the report? That report, of course, required by the new resolution. U.S. officials saying they demanded a copy first. because they have the personnel and the technical expertise to make copies of the report, including the CD-ROMs, to get them, and they've now been received by all five permanent members of the Security Council. U.S. officials say they are reviewing it.

We may get our first reaction from the president, at least his initial reaction to Iraq's filing, later today.

The leader of Turkey's ruling political party is here, Mr. Bush obviously urging Turkey to let the United States use its military bases if there is a military confrontation. The president has not commented directly on Iraq's filing. We may get his first words a little later today.

ZAHN: If you don't mind standing there freezing in the cold for another minute or two, let's check in with Michael Okwu at the U.N. and we'll come back to you.

Michael, good morning.

MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Paula.

All eyes, really, really leery eyes, are casts toward this 12,000 page document. And some journalists here at the United Nations getting their hands at a table of contents, so it gives us a very good sense of what the inspection teams here in offices in New York might be poring through when they look at this document.

Essentially, it's a breakdown of the various disciplines, nuclear chemical, biological, as well as Iraq's long range ballistics missiles programs, and the table of contents also indicates that there could be mentions of some of the suppliers to Iraq in the past, both individuals, as well as companies. One section making references to foreign technical assistance, relationships with companies, representatives and individuals.

Also, there's a mention in here, as well as other programs in the past of what they call a terminated radiation bomb project, or what some people commonly refer to as a dirty bomb. This is no secret, but, again, it gives people a sense of what the inspection teams here in New York's offices are looking at.

We know that the United States and the other permanent five countries of the Security Council at this point do have the full, unsanitized version of the document.

We also know that the Security Council will be meeting at 1:00 this afternoon. It's part of a regularly scheduled luncheon with the secretary-general and with chief weapons inspectors Hans Blix. They will clearly be trying to get from Mr. Blix a better sense of where the document goes from now.

ZAHN: All right, thanks so much, Michael.

Let's go back to John for a moment.

John, you just heard what Michael had to say about the table of contents highlighting this dirty bomb project. We had a former weapons inspectors on this morning who said most of what we're learning from the table of contents is recycled information, much of it that we knew pre 1991. What does the White House have to say with all this?

KING: Initially, the White House agrees with that assessment. Senior officials telling us they will not be able to offer us a complete assessment for several more days. But initially, they do agree. They say they have known in the past about this so-called dirty bomb program. They say that is one of the reasons President Bush and Vice President Cheney have repeatedly raised the prospect of what could happen if Saddam Hussein struck up an alliance with a terrorist group like Al Qaeda.

So that is not a new revelation to the United States. They also say that in the section on Iraq's nuclear program. some 2,000 pages, perhaps even more, are identically copied from a report Iraq filed with the United Nations many years ago.

As for the entire 12,000 pages, though, and the CD-ROM graphics and other demonstrations in there, they say it will take several more days to see how much of it is duplicative. But they do certainly say a good deal of it is, at least on first glance.

ZAHN: Nic, is there any admission on the Iraqi government's part that a bunch of this stuff has already been seen before?

ROBERTSON: They have said that one part of a documentation on each of the four different disciplines, different areas, has been their declarations up until 1991, and that's what was presented to the U.N. here, for the so-called FFCD, the full, and final and complete declaration, Iraq made in 1996.

Now it's very interesting listing to General Amora Saudi (ph), President Saddam Hussein's top scientific adviser, he said that over the following year after that, there was more full, and final, and complete declarations, but he implied when he gave a breakdown of what was in that nuclear dossier, part of a declaration that very much that was what was contained, so I think the Iraqis here have not made a secret of the fact that what they're putting forward now is what they put forward before.

Of courser the key question is, what is there in addition to resolve all the unanswered questions by the last inspections team, and the best analysis on that from General Amora Saudi (ph) seemed to be very, very (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He said that there was no new documentation in several areas, biological being one of the principal areas, an area U.N. weapons have said has got huge gaps in it.

ZAHN: Well, we are counting on all of you to keep us posted as we all try to figure out how this is going to play, both domestically and internationally.

Nic Robertson in Baghdad, John King at the White House, Michael Okwu at the United Nations, thank you for all of your reports this morning.

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