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Blix: Not Enough Evidence to Exonerate Iraq
Aired December 19, 2002 - 13:26 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go back to Andrea Koppel at the State Department. We were talking about some very important wordage, Andrea, that came out of Negroponte's comments, and that was "material breach," "material omissions," continuing to make the point he feels Iraq has not let up on this pattern of deception.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Kyra, and it is the feeling of the Bush administration, in particular, President Bush, which is why those words are being uttered in New York, and will be repeated here in the State Department shortly by Secretary of State Powell. The U.S., as many of our viewers know, this has not been an opinion that is shared by many within the Bush cabinet. There has been a lot of heated debate behind the scenes for weeks now as to whether or not the U.S. should use those words, "material breach." The reason being if you use them, some say, you're trivializing them, because they are a legal justification for a potential war with Iraq.
Now, the decision has been made in the last day to use those words "material breach," Secretary Powell will be making clear in about an hour, we're told, that it is not a trigger for war, but the U.S. is laying out its case, Kyra.
It understands that if it is going to make the decision to take action, military action against Iraq, it needs to show that it has exhausted every option, that it has given Iraq every potential opportunity to come into compliance with U.N. Resolution 1441.
Now, what we're looking at in terms of timeline right now, we have had this presentation that Hans Blix made to the U.N. Security Council today. He's expected to make another presentation when he delivers his final review on January 27. That's roughly 60 days after the U.N. inspections began.
There will also be, in the meantime, coalition building, diplomacy in its finest sense, Secretary of State Powell and others traveling the globe, their aides trying to make sure that they will have the support both for the war, if they decide to go to war, and for the day after the war, the rebuilding of Iraq.
In addition, you'll see an accelerated, intensified weapons inspections that will also involve the U.S. and other allies giving Hans Blix and others intelligence that it has thus far withheld because it was afraid of tipping its hand.
There will also be a system that is put in place to interview Iraqi scientists, the U.S. believes this could be the key to unlocking the door that would prove that Iraq does have a WMD program, and finally, the continuous military buildup. It is all part of the signals that are being sent, Kyra, to Saddam Hussein saying that the U.S. is serious about this, that the U.S. is not bluffing, as President Bush has said, that it means -- what it is threatening right now, that unless Iraq complies, there will be the potential for military action -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: State Department Correspondent Andrea Koppel. Andrea, thank you.
And once again, we wanted to remind you about that interview -- sorry, that news conference with Secretary of State Colin Powell, 2:30 Eastern time. We will bring that to you live as soon as it happens. We are hoping that he will, of course, come out and make comments about what has come out of the U.N. just moments ago.
Now, let's move it over to the White House. Suzanne Malveaux live from the White House with reaction to what has happened in the past half an hour -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, this is a very significant moment for the administration. As Andrea had mentioned before, it is all a part of a choreographed series of public statements building the case against Saddam Hussein. But also, all you have to do, aides say, is just look back at three months ago, where the United States was in this process.
President Bush went before Congress, he won the support of Congress to go ahead, to hold Saddam Hussein to account, even calling for military action if necessary. He went before the U.N. Security Council, had a unanimous vote of support, 15-0.
Calling again, saying that Saddam Hussein had to be held to account, that he had violated a series of previous U.N. Security Council resolutions.
It was just weeks ago that he also got the support from NATO at the NATO summit, having a statement that came out of that meeting, again, talking about the need to hold Saddam Hussein to account.
Quite frankly, this is a moment of vindication for the White House. White House aides very pleased at the public statements, and it cannot be, really, understated how important that is to get that from a world body, to say the type of things, to lay out the case that the administration has been making for weeks now, that Iraq has not complied, that it has not actually provided a full accounting of its alleged weapons program.
Now, just moment ago, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer talking about this, laying out the administration's case. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that it will become increasingly clear that the world community, including the United Nations, sees omissions in the Iraqi document at a time when the United Nations Security Council and the United States and all member states of the Security Council were looking to Iraq to provide a full, complete and accurate description of their weapons programs. There is a wide recognition that Iraq has not done that. There are omissions and there are problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And Fleischer already talking, reiterating the president's point of view, saying this is Saddam Hussein's last chance, that the burden is on him, the burden of proof, to prove that he does not have these weapons of mass destruction. Of course, as Andrea had mentioned before, there are a number of unanswered questions, still debates going on within the White House, within the administration, just how much U.S. intelligence is going to be shared with the inspectors over the weeks to come, how much is the administration going to rely on its own intelligence, as opposed to what type of information comes from the inspectors, the weapons inspectors, and finally, just how much support is the administration going to get if it decides that it's going call for military action to make sure that Saddam Hussein disarms -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: All right. Suzanne Malveaux, from the White House, thank you so much. Live from the White House. State Department and the U.N., we continue to get reaction on sharp words coming from Hans Blix, chief U.N. weapons inspector, also the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Negroponte, talking about the missing -- just the holes and the gaps within the Iraqi declaration as these leaders continue to review it.
Hans Blix coming out and saying there definitely needs to be more evidence presented to exonerate Iraq from a link to weapons of mass destruction.
We go to Baghdad now, Rym Brahimi is standing by live with reaction from there -- Rym.
RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kyra. Well, just when Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei were actually briefing the United Nations Security Council about that declaration, we were briefed ourselves by President Saddam Hussein's top scientific adviser. Very relaxed adviser, I might add.
He just told us he wasn't worried. He said the entire world seems worried, well, we are not worried. And he said two reasons for that.
Responding to what he believed Hans Blix was going to say, and he actually predicted that Hans Blix would say that there were things that -- there was nothing new in that 12,000 page declaration. He said that's not surprising because one -- we were asked to also submit a lot of old things about our old programs, not only things on Iraq's old weapons programs until 1991, but also about what had also been previously checked by the previous U.N. inspection teams until 1998.
He said, as for the rest of it, there are 500 or 600 pages that we submitted in Arabic, and they, from what he knew, he said hadn't been translated yet, so he thought that nobody could actually really provide a complete assessment so far until they had read those pages, which he said simply contained the new elements in that declaration.
Now, to the United States, he responded that the United States had no evidence, and they were just allegations. He said if the United States had any evidence, well, they should come up with it -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Rym Brahimi, live from Baghdad. Thank you.
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