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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Colin Powell Speaks About Iraqi Weapons Report Findings

Aired December 19, 2002 - 14:30   ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Live pictures now. We're standing by waiting to hear from Secretary of State Colin Powell. He's expected at any minute now to give the Bush administration's official response to Iraq's declaration on weapons of mass destruction. When Secretary Powell steps up to the podium in the State Department briefing room, CNN will, of course, bring it to you live.
Meanwhile, while we wait for him let's go to the White House and our Frank Buckley standing by, to give us a bit of a preview.

What should we expect -- Frank.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, we got of sense of what we're expecting Secretary Powell to talk about in the comments today from John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Negroponte talking about the fact that this was another material breach, as he put it, by the Iraqis with this declaration. You'll recall that Security Council Resolution 1441 said that Iraq was already in material breach. So this is now considered another material breach by the U.S.

He talked about the fact that the declaration fails to address what he called scores of questions. He said there were omissions, evasions and untruths, that it fails completely to comply with op. three of Security Council Resolution 1441. That's the operating paragraph that talks about the fact that Iraq has to make this declaration.

Senior administration officials tell us that, in fact, Secretary Powell will list some of the issues that the U.S. has with this declaration that's been filed. We've already heard from Hans Blix, the chief UN Weapons inspector. He has mentioned the fact that ever since 1998, when inspectors left, that the things that the Iraqis have said they have destroyed have not been accounted for.

And there is Secretary Powell. Kyra, back to you.

PHILLIPS: We'll just take it live.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: ... responded to the challenge issued by President Bush in his 12 September speech to the United Nations General Assembly. On that day, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441 requiring Iraq to disarm itself of its weapons of mass destruction and to disclose all of its nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs. Resolution 1441 was the latest in a long string of Security Council resolution since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Previous resolutions, which included requirements to disarm and to end the cruel repression of the Iraqi people, have all been defied or ignored by Iraq.

Resolution 1441 recognized that Iraq, quote, "has been and remains in material breach of its obligations," unquote, but gave the Iraqi regime, quote again, "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations."

Iraq's answer came on December 7 in a 12,200-page document submitted to the Security Council. Resolution 1441 required Iraq to submit a declaration on all its mass weapons programs of destruction, a declaration that was currently accurate, full and complete, in the words of the resolution.

The inspectors told the Security Council this morning that the declaration fails to answer many open questions. They said that in some cases they even have information that directly contradicts Iraq's account.

Our experts have also examined the Iraqi document.

The declaration's title echoes the language of Resolution 1441. It is called "Currently Accurate, Full and Complete Declaration." But our experts have found it to be anything but currently accurate, full or complete. The Iraqi declaration may use the language of Resolution 1441, but it totally fails to meet the resolution's requirements.

The inspectors said that Iraq has failed to provide new information. We agree. Indeed, thousands of the document's pages are merely a resubmission of material it gave the United Nations years ago, material that the U.N. has already determined was incomplete.

Other sections of the Iraqi declaration consist of long passages copied from reports written by the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The only changes the Iraqi regime made were to remove references critical to its own conduct.

The declaration totally fails to address what we had learned about Iraq's prohibited weapons programs before the inspectors were effectively forced out in 1998.

And let me just touch on a few examples, and we'll be giving out a fact sheet later with additional examples.

Before the inspectors were forced to leave Iraq, they concluded that Iraq could have produced 26,000 liters of anthrax. That is three times the amount Iraq had declared.

Yet the Iraqi declaration is silent on this stockpile, which alone would be enough to kill several million people.

The regime also admitted that it had manufactured 19,180 liters of a biological agent called botulinum toxin. The U.N. inspectors later determined that the Iraqis could have produced 38,360 additional liters. However, once again, the Iraqi declaration is silent on these missing supplies.

The Iraqi declaration also says nothing about the uncounted, unaccounted precursors from which Iraq could have produced up to 500 tons of mustard gas, sarin gas and VX nerve gas.

Nor does the declaration address questions that have arisen since the inspectors left in 1998.

For example, we know that in the late 1990s, Iraq built mobile biological weapons production units. Yet the declaration tries to wave this away, mentioning only mobile refrigeration vehicles and food testing laboratories.

We also know that Iraq has tried to obtain high strength aluminum tubes, which can be used to enrich uranium in centrifuges for a nuclear weapons program. The Iraqi regime is required by Resolution 1441 to report those attempts. Iraq, however, has failed to provide adequate information about the procurement and use of these tubes.

Most brazenly of all, the Iraqi declaration denies the existence of any prohibited weapons programs at all.

The United States, the United Nations and the world waited for this declaration from Iraq, but Iraq's response is a catalogue of recycled information and flagrant omissions.

It should be obvious that the pattern of systematic holes and gaps in Iraq's declaration is not the result of accidents or editing oversights or technical mistakes. These are material omissions that, in our view, constitute another material breach.

We are disappointed, but we are not deceived. This declaration is consistent with the Iraqi regime's past practices. We have seen this game again and again; an attempt to sow confusion to buy time, hoping the world will lose interest.

This time the game is not working. This time the international community is concentrating its attention and increasing its resolve as the true nature of the Iraqi regime is revealed again.

On the basis of this declaration, on the basis of the evidence before us, our path for the coming weeks is clear.

First, we must continue to audit and examine the Iraqi declaration to understand the full extent of Iraq's failure to meet its disclosure obligations.

Second, the inspections should give high priority to conducting interviews with scientists and other witnesses outside of Iraq where they can speak freely. Under the terms of Resolution 1441, Iraq is obligated -- it is their obligation to make such witnesses available to the inspectors.

Third, the inspectors should intensify their efforts inside Iraq. The United States, and I hope other council members, will provide the inspectors with every possible assistance, all the support they need to succeed in their crucial mission.

Given the gravity of the situation, we look forward to frequent reports from Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei.

Finally, we will continue to consult with our friends, with our allies and with all members of the Security Council on how to compel compliance by Iraq with the will of the international community.

But let there be no misunderstanding. As Ambassador John Negroponte said earlier today, Saddam Hussein has so far responded to this final opportunity with a new lie.

The burden remains on Iraq -- not on the United Nations, not on the United States -- the burden remains on Iraq to cooperate fully and for Iraq to prove to the international community whether it does or does not have weapons of mass destruction.

We are convinced they do until they prove to us otherwise.

Resolution 1441 calls for serious consequences for Iraq if it does not comply with the terms of the resolution. Iraq's noncompliance and defiance of the international community has brought it closer to the day when it will have to face these consequences. The world is still waiting for Iraq to comply with its obligations. The world will not wait forever.

Security Council Resolution 1441 will be carried out in full. Iraq can no longer be allowed to threaten its people and its region with weapons of mass destruction.

It is still up to Iraq to determine how its disarmament will happen. Unfortunately, this declaration fails totally to move us in the direction of a peaceful solution.

And I'd be prepared to take some questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I'm a little confused because this was to have been Iraq's last chance. And you've just laid out four additional things, including interviewing scientists; you're still saying that Iraq has the opportunity to do so and so and so and so. I don't know if you're saying an airtight case hasn't been made or somehow you have some slim hope it can be turned around by Iraq.

POWELL: It remains to be seen. The resolution was its last chance. And there were obligations for Iraq in that resolution.

One to accept the resolution; two to provide a declaration. We have begun our analysis of that declaration and we find so far that it has failed to do what it is supposed to do.

But we will continue to work with UNMOVIC and IAEA and will consult with other members of the council to see what conclusions the council members arrive at, and to see whether or not more evidence can be brought forward to make the case to the council that Iraq has totally missed this opportunity.

But so far, with respect to complying with the conditions and the terms of 1441, Iraq is well on its way to losing this last chance.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you used the expression "material breach." Can you tell us why you've chosen to use this? And how have you answered those who have been saying this morning that by using this without taking action, you are, in fact, devaluing the aggression?

POWELL: Material breach -- I think perhaps too much has been made of the term. Material breach is a term that from the law that says a party to a commitment has failed in meeting the terms of that commitment.

Iraq has done that repeatedly in the past. That's why 1441 begins with that statement of past material breach on many occasions by Iraq still in material breach, and this is a new material breach.

I don't think we are devaluing the term. I think we are using the term to make it clear to the world that once again we have a breach on the part of Iraq with respect to its obligations. And therefore the spots have not changed.

POWELL: Now, I'll let the other members of the council make their own judgment as to whether they wish to characterize it as such right now.

The important point I think is that what we heard from and Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei this morning and what I heard from other members of the council who have spoken is that there is no question that Iraq continues its pattern of non-cooperation, its pattern of deception, its pattern of dissembling, its pattern of lying. And if that is going to be the way they continue through the weeks ahead, then we're not going to find a peaceful solution to this problem.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, is there a deadline by which Iraq has to show this compliance? And will the United States return to the Security Council and seek another resolution authorizing military action toward the end of next month if Iraq does not comply?

POWELL: There is no calendar deadline that obviously there is a practical limit to how much longer you can just go down the road of noncooperation and how much time the inspectors can be given to do their work.

In the weeks ahead, we expect both the IAEA and UNMOVIC to give regular reports as they get deeper into their inspection work, and as they analyze the declaration further. There are still long sections of the annexes that came with the declaration that have to be carefully examined.

So I would not put a time line on it. But obviously it is not indefinite. This situation cannot continue.

A body of evidence is slowly building since the passage of Resolution 1441 and that body of evidence shows that Iraq is still not cooperating. It is Iraq's obligation to cooperate.

And they are the ones who are supposed to be coming forward under this resolution to demonstrate to the international community what they have done in the past, what they might still be holding and to come clean.

And what we have seen in this declaration is they still have not made a decision to come clean. And the inspectors will not be able to do their work until Iraq demonstrates that they are cooperating and they are coming clean and bringing forward the information.

And until that happens we should be very skeptical and I'm afraid we should be very discouraged with respect to the prospects of finding a peaceful solution.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, when is the U.S. planning to share its intelligence with the inspectors, if at all? I think we were told they were waiting until after the initial assessment. Is now the right time to do that?

POWELL: We have, of course, been sharing our evaluation of the declaration with the inspection teams of both IAEA and UNMOVIC. With respect to providing them additional forms of support that would make the inspection effort perhaps more targeted and effective, we are prepared to start doing that, and we'll be in contact with them.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as you know, the vice president in particular has been very skeptical about inspections. So far the inspectors have not turned up anything. Are you not concerned that if another month elapses and the inspectors are not able to find any of these weapons that you say are hidden, that that's going to undermine your case to the world that there is in fact violations?

POWELL: We have all been skeptical of inspections, because we are basically distrustful of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime, and for good reason. And so the president took the case to the international community. The declaration, I think, is further evidence of Iraq's unwillingness to comply with the requirements of the international community.

And I don't want to prejudge what the inspectors might or might not find, and it is not clear exactly what they have found or not found yet. They are getting up to speed. The number of inspectors has increased. Bits and pieces of information will come together. I hope that when members of the council provide more support to the inspectors it may make their work even that much more effective. But I wouldn't prejudge.

The president has said repeatedly he is interested in the disarmament of Iraq, peacefully if possible, but if that is not possible, it will be done by force.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, if the U.S. goes to war with Iraq, what kind of war will it be? Will it be swift or will it be bloody? How will it differ from Desert Storm?

POWELL: We are doing everything we can to avoid war. The president's made that clear.

But if war comes, the only thing I would say about the nature of that conflict is that it will be done in a way that would minimize the loss of life, and it will be done to be accomplished in as swift a manner as possible, and for the purpose of getting rid of weapons of mass destruction and liberating the Iraqi people. But I wouldn't go any further right now on that.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are you satisfied for the (OFF-MIKE) Turkish cooperation on this Iraq subject?

POWELL: We have been in very close touch with the Turkish government at all levels and the new Turkish government, as well. And we are satisfied with the level of dialogue.

And in the days ahead, now that some political issues are behind us with respect to EU accession, I think the new Turkish government will be able to focus more on consultation with us with respect to Turkish actions and Turkish interest in what we're doing.

QUESTION: Is the Iraqi declaration up to clarifications or more additions, will the United States be ready and willing to accept more qualifications with what they already said? Will you take into consideration that they said, "Oh, yes, well, we forget thus. Here's what we actually have done with this"? Will that be possible to prevent a war?

POWELL: Let's see what happens in the days ahead. I can't hypothesize on that because I have little confidence that the Iraqis will do anything but try to -- "See, we answered your question here, but we're not answering all these other questions that, perhaps, you haven't even asked us yet."

The resolution was clear: currently accurate, full and complete.

It means the burden is on them to come forward and say, "You know we've been doing this. You know we've done it in the past. We have now changed, turned over a new leaf, and we're giving you all the information you need to see that we are giving this up or anything we still are doing, we will not do. And we are demonstrating to you where this is so it can be destroyed. And we are in compliance."

But that has not been the attitude of the Iraqi government for the past 12 years. It is not the attitude of the Iraqi government today. And the world should view this with great skepticism, keep the pressure on, make sure Iraq knows that it will be disarmed one way or the other, and hope that the Iraqi people and Iraqi leaders besides Saddam Hussein realize that they are going to disarm, one way or the other.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you are also facing another crisis in Venezuela. Can you bring us up to date on where that crisis stands? Are things getting better, getting worse, the supply of food and fuels?

POWELL: We are very concerned and we're following the situation in Venezuela very closely. We are concerned about the continuation of the strikes and the demonstrations in the streets that create the possibility of violence and deep political unrest and social unrest.

We also are worried about the fact that the oil sector is slowly shutting down, with economic consequences for all Venezuelans, but as well as others outside of Venezuela.

We are in close touch with the secretary general of the OAS, who is in the lead for the community of American nations on this subject. We have presented some ideas to the secretary general for his consideration. I had a conversation last week with the foreign minister of Venezuela to see if we could play a helpful role.

There have been some efforts in the last day or two to put forward ideas from both sides that might be a basis of discussion. I can't say that much progress has been made on that. Both sides have been acting in a rather intransigent way.

But we're watching it closely and working closely with the OAS and we're also in touch with others who are interested, such as the Carter Center.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Mr. Blix said today that he had asked for lists of Iraqi scientists who had worked on these programs. He said that there were no efforts yet to try and work on modalities for access to these people.

Are you going to push them harder to -- I mean, getting access, after all, is what you're after?

POWELL: We are working on modalities now, and we are putting in place the -- working with Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei, both of them, putting in place means by which one could accomplish this interview task. It has some complex aspects to it. And there will be names that will be made available.

And let us remember this: Under the resolution, when those names are presented to the Iraqi government, they are required to provide these individuals for interview, and for interview in a safe place, and for their families to be in a safe place, where they will not be in danger of losing their lives for telling the truth.

And so we're hard at work in all of these modalities.

Thank you.

PHILLIPS: After examining the Iraqi declaration, he says that a number of experts have found that Iraq has given everything but accurate, full, and complete information. What does this mean? He's disappointed, but he's not deceived.

We're going to go back to the White House. Frank Buckley also listening to Colin Powell's comments. You have to wonder if this is Iraq's last chance or not -- Frank.

BUCKLEY: I think Secretary Powell made it fairly clear that this is, in fact, the last chance. He even said that they are failing their last chance, that they're on their way to losing this last chance, as he put it.

He also mentioned for the first time some specifics of some of the issues that the U.S. has with this Iraqi declaration. He talked about the fact that before the inspectors left Iraq in 1998, there were some things that they knew about -- the capabilities that the Iraqis had.

For example, they believe that the Iraqis had the capability to produce some 26,000 liters of anthrax. That's three times the amount of anthrax that Iraq has declared. They say, the U.S. says that this could result in the deaths of several million people.

They talked about botulinum toxin, 38,360 liters. Mustard, sarin, VX nerve gas. And since 1998, there is the belief that mobile biological units and aluminum tubes that can be used to enrich uranium in a nuclear weapons program are unaccounted for.

The Iraqis saying that, at least in the case of the mobile biological units, that those are dual-use items. Those are items that can be used in both military and civilian use. So several specifics finally given by the Bush administration, with regard to its problems with this Iraqi declaration -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And quickly now, looking forward, making three more points, intensifying inspections also getting scientists outside of Iraq for interviews. OK, we lost Frank at the White House. But these are three more points, Barbara Starr -- as we bring you in from the Pentagon -- I was just listing the next move for inspectors in Iraq. Now with this talk of a possible war and Iraq not cooperating, words from Colin Powell. You're talking about at the same time a buildup of troops.

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Kyra. By all accounts, military planning for war with Iraq is stepping up. General Tommy Franks, the head of the U.S. Central Command, is here in the Pentagon for the next couple of days. He will be going back to the White House tomorrow morning to meet again with President Bush, after speaking with him for more than an hour this morning in a private meeting with President Bush and the National Security team, going over very detailed plans.

What is on the table right now is an order, a deployment order, that General Franks would like to have the president sign, that could send possibly 50,000 additional troops to the region, essentially, doubling the current deployment there. This would be a deployment of any number of ground troops with some additional equipment.

What the military is saying is, look, if we are going to be ready in time for a possible conflict with Iraq early next year, the February-March timeframe, perhaps, the military says they need to get moving now. They need to start moving troops, personnel, to the region. They believe that President Bush will sign this deployment order -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Barbara Starr, live, from the Pentagon. Thanks, Barbara. All right "Talk Back Live" begins at the top of the hour.

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