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Amir Al-Saadi Addresses Reporters

Aired December 22, 2002 - 11:00   ET


RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN ANCHOR: I now take you to Baghdad, to Iraq, where there is a press conference being held by Saddam Hussein's presidential adviser, General Amir Al-Saadi. Let's listen in.
GEN. AMIR AL-SAADI, IRAQI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I'll go straight into the matter. The Americans and the British are the only players in this macabre game being played against Iraq these days. They led UNMOVIC and the IAEA and the world to believe that they have iron-clad evidence that Iraq hides weapons of mass destruction and promised to supply the evidence.

Then we had the Blair dossier, followed some days later by the CIA report some. Both of them chose the public media for transmitting their information.

I do not know how many of you present in this place were present in this place when I spoke to the media from this chair on the same day the Blair report came out. I said that the report was long on allegations and short on evidence. I also said that the report was a hodgepodge of half truths, naive short-sighted allegations and lies. The CIA report was much the same.

Where do we stand today on that score? After 24 days of inspections covering practically all the sites named in those reports and after the submission of our declaration of Dec. 7, the lies and baseless allegations have been uncovered. The true part of the half truths appear in details in our declaration.

Now instead of declaring bankruptcy or at least sacking their advisers and keeping quiet, we have the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and General Colin Powell declaring Iraq in material breach.

On what basis this done? Is it on new evidence yet to be submitted? No. It turned out to be based on old rehashed reports left in 1990 by the discredited and defunct UNSCOM.

The British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw quotes from that report that Iraq's declaration on Dec. 7 does not account for the following: 3,000 tons of precursor chemicals; 360 tons of bulk chemical warfare agents, including one and a half tons of VX; 30,000 pieces of special empty munitions; large quantities of growth media acquired for use in production of BW agents, including three times the amounts of anthrax that Iraq previously declared.

These rehashed allegations date from UNSCOM's days under the executive chairman, Richard Butler. That could be enough for some people to dismiss that report altogether. However, we are ready to deal with each of those questions if you ask us.

Both Mr. Straw and General Powell omit to mention that what was called remaining disarmament issues featured in the report of April 1999 were in fact dealt with in the recommendations of the panel headed by Ambassador Amorim of Brazil, which were adopted by the Security Council Resolution 12-84 of 1999.

That resolution created UNMOVIC, the replacement to UNSCOM and gave it the task of determining the remaining disarmament questions and to elaborate a plan to resolve those questions with Iraq's cooperation, in what was called reinforce ongoing monitoring and verification plan.

That implied that the remaining questions were of less significance than the disarmament work achieved before, which some fair-minded knowledgeable members of the council considered more than 95 percent achieved.

Security Council Resolution 14-41 gave UNMOVIC a much wider mandate, backed by a unanimous council decision. Why don't they let the specialized organs of the United Nations get on with their task? Why interfere in their work in this crude fashion? We should all learn from the past experience with UNSCOM.

All the questions in the Amorim report were responded to by Iraq's -- by the Iraqi side in February 1999 and in Iraq's comment after the report was published in April 1999. Much of those responses and comments were included in the declaration of Dec. 7.

We have received recently a document dated the 20th of -- Dec. 20. It is titled "The U.S. Catalogs, Material Omissions," prepared -- the document says prepared by the State Department on the questions for examples of omissions from Iraqi declarations to the United Nations Security Council. It contains 1 1/2 pages of questions. But I'll take some of them and I leave you to ask any question you'd like regarding that document.

On the nuclear weapons, there's one and a half lines. It says, I quote, "The declaration ignores efforts to procure uranium from Niger. Why is the Iraqi regime hiding their uranium procurement?"

Is it efforts to procure or is it procurement? One is not sure, first of all. Second, when did this occur? There is no question about that, no reference about that. But I remember during their visit Dr. El-Baradei and Dr. Hans Blix to Iraq on the 18th and the 19th of last month, Mr. El-Baradei asked about any procurements by Iraq from South Africa or Niger of uranium.

First of all it's not uranium, it is yellow cake, which is uranium oxide, crude uranium oxide. Second, our response was from South Africa, no. From the Niger, yes, in the mid-'80s and it is contained in our declaration. And that was that. No new procurement or attempts to procure were ever made. That was a question formerly asked across the table and was formerly answered by us.

Now, are we hiding our uranium procurement? Should we address any question thrown at us some -- like that? We have answered the question. Verbally when it was asked and on record what we actually did. And there is nothing more to say.

So that was on nuclear weapon, mind you, not on uranium oxide, yellow cake. It was under the title, frightening title of "nuclear weapons." There is a long story from uranium oxide to a nuclear bomb.

On the VX nerve gas, you have all heard the story of the VX. In fact, it is a scandal. It is not a story. Because Iraq produced a document, which is a first-class document, in evidence of our claim that no production -- proper production was achieved in 1990, and the document is an inventory of all materials produced in 1990. Dated the end of 1990. That should be enough to prove that no VX was produced.

Now, questions and answers, it came out that there was an attempt to produce in April 1990 a quantity of VX but was not successful. That quantity amounted to 1.5 ton, specifically two batches. The material degraded rapidly, and attempts were abandoned to produce it because it was considered -- it was a waste of raw materials. And that was that.

There were evidence to that effect in the production reports during interviews with the personnel involved in that production. And letters and reports on the production dated November. proving conclusively that there was no VX.

Yet, UNSCOM insisted that VX was produced and it is unaccounted for and perhaps even weaponized, and later they produced evidence of analysis from a United States laboratory of fragments of a warhead -- of a rocket warhead, which supposedly contained traces of VX degradation products.

I don't know if I'm boring you with these technical things but this is the truth of the matter. I don't see that this is the business of the foreign secretary of Britain or the United States to talk about these things. They should be left to the experts, UNMOVIC can deal with that.

Anyway, just to conclude that story, UNSCOM, under Butler, brought ampoules of VX material produced in the United States supposedly for the purpose of calibrating their equipment -- their analysis equipment in the Baghdad ongoing monitoring center in the laboratory. Now, we all know you calibrate your measuring equipment when you do a quantitative test. But when you do a qualitative test, you do a preliminary analysis to see if there is any traces of that material and in order to determine how much of it exactly do you calibrate your equipment.

Now bearing in mind that laboratory never performed a VX test because there was no VX to perform tests on it and when samples purported to contain VX were supposed to be analyzed, they were taken to the United States. They were not analyzed here in Baghdad.

Now, those samples for calibration were sealed. And we found out later that they have been opened. And Butler before leaving his post insisted that that laboratory be opened, those samples taken and destroyed and the logbook of the laboratory also destroyed.

Why would they do that? For us it was obvious. That VX was intended to manipulate and tamper with samples taken from Iraq, in order to prove that there were traces of VX on them and that it comes from Iraq.

We insisted the samples should be sent to other reputable laboratories outside the United States under the custody of trusted people, not specifically one citizen of a country that's business is to prove this thing. Representatives of international laboratories from Switzerland and France came and took samples from the same material that previous samples was taken and they performed tests and found no traces of VX.

Now, that should have put the matter to rest, but, no, it wasn't. It still crops up every now and then that Iraq had VX and it weaponized it and Iraq weaponized it.

We addressed this question also in our declaration, yet, I read, I quote, "What is the Iraqi regime trying to hide by not providing this information, this information," question mark. This is the end of the VX nerve gas.

In the Jack Straw quote about precursors, precursor chemicals -- now, precursors are material or ingredients of preparation of agents in the end.

You need several precursors in order to make an agent. If you find some discrepancies in the material balance of one ingredient, and the rest of the ingredients are okay, are all accounted for, it means this discrepancy is insignificant. Because as -- to make it simpler if a housewife is asked how many pies can you produce from one kilogram of flour, she would say zero, because I need other ingredients and I need utensils and I need a stove. If none of these are available, she wouldn't be able to produce the pie. So it is as simple as that.

Some ingredients in the material balance were -- there was a shortfall and we declared that and we gave the reasons. They were not accepted by UNSCOM for a purpose, in order to keep the subject alive. And now it crops up in this U.S. department.

This is the business for UNMOVIC. This is the business that UNMOVIC is charged, according to the resolution, to resolve with the cooperation of Iraq and to report on it. And it's not for Jack Straw or Colin Powell to question us about it.

I think that's enough and I will be ready to answer questions.

QUESTION: (speaking a foreign language) AL-SAADI (through translator): The Iraqi government have asked both America and England to prove and approve that they have the evidence against Iraq of using chemical and biological weapons. Is that the right reason for that the U.N. to come in and check if they have the mass destruction weapons?

No one in the U.N. give them the right to do that.

There is some discrepancies in the CIA reports in America saying that there might be some danger on the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: Do you not have a public relations battle on your hands insofar as Jack Straw and Colin Powell and their statements that have been repeated by Hans Blix and El-Baradei that the 12,000 pages are an incomplete declaration of all that you have, so is there not sort of another apple that you've got to bite here?

AL-SAADI: I think what's -- what is important in this matter is to know exactly what transpired inside the chamber and not outside. Nothing of the sort came out inside the chamber in their formal -- formal assessment. And they asked for more time to study the material further and to analyze and reach a proper conclusion and they would return to the council with better assessment than hitherto.

That is natural. That is acceptable. It is not -- how can one jump to conclusions? On the basis of the assessment that was given in the council, nobody else agreed with the two states that came out with that assessment.

I think the public relation problem is on the other side, not on our side.

QUESTION: ... some more time, but he also raised some specific questions. He said in a few cases there's information in our possession that would appear to contradict Iraq's account. For example, there are indications suggesting Iraq's account of its production and unilateral destruction of anthrax during the period of '88 to '91 may not be accurate. Can you talk about some of these?

AL-SAADI: We would be happy to learn about this, because what we gave is accurate. We know. We have done the stuff and we know how it ended, and we know the full story. If you have another story, tell us.

QUESTION: Have you put this in the declaration, the story on the anthrax?

AL-SAADI: Of course.

QUESTION: Then why would Blix say that there are no answers or they're inaccurate?

AL-SAADI: No, no, that's not -- that's not the point I think he was making. He said there is no change in Iraq's position regarding that. There are -- there are some, let's say, lack of -- lack of evidence, documentary evidence on certain aspects of the biological program, because as we have explained earlier, the biological program was completely obliterated, including the documents. And even the active -- its destruction was removed without a trace.

So it was difficult to recreate and re-establish a story of a dead program. That was the difficulty we made for ourselves.

QUESTION: Sir, one of the things that Hans Blix suggested was that what was missing from the declaration in some instances was supporting documents to back up the declaration. Have you been asked or will you provide any further documentation to the U.N.?

AL-SAADI: We provided all the documentations that we could lay our hands on and we could find, and we didn't have any more.

If you notice, I think Dr. Blix mentioned a document that was recently handed over to them prior to the submission of the declaration. And there is a reference in that, and he said that we are engaged in analyzing the effect of that document on the question.

QUESTION: So if they ask for any further documentation, your response...

AL-SAADI: We don't have any.

QUESTION: You will say you don't have any more.

AL-SAADI: We don't have any more documentation, but we are ready as Resolution 1284 said, to work and cooperate with UNMOVIC to find ways of resolving the remaining disarmament issue, provided also that an assessment is made of the significance of those remaining issues, whether they really amount to weapons or like we have here, the nuclear weapon. Under nuclear weapon there is procurement of yellow cake, allegation of procurement of yellow cake. That is not a weapon.

QUESTION (through translator): Sir, for the U.N. reporting people, they were helping and they were following all the orders and the Iraqi people were being very cooperative with them.

And as I say about the weapons you've been developing, have you reached a really good stage of developing your weapons that you had? And do you really have chemical and biological weapons or you don't?

AL-SAADI (through translator): For the U.N. inspectors after they have visited for us four years, they have visited more than once and they have searched all the weapons we have had more than once.

They have used their full power and the latest technology to use it for searching and looking for any mass destruction weapon. They have not found anything but they have to go back and look again, but this time we have limited time, which is two months which will be ending on the 27 of January.

After this we will have... SAN MIGUEL: You have been listening to Saddam Hussein's presidential adviser, General Amir Al-Saadi. He spent about 20 minutes beginning at 11 a.m. Eastern time refuting allegations from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw that the declaration of weapons that Iraq released on Dec. 7 was, indeed, lacking evidence and was, indeed, in material breach.

General Al-Saadi said that those allegations from Powell and Straw were based on old, rehashed reports from discredited and defunct UNSCOM, the previous United Nations weapons inspection team back in the late '90s, led by Richard Butler.

Denied that they were producing any uranium. They did say that they had tried to procure yellow cake or uranium oxide from the country of Niger in the mid '80s. They said that's not a weapon and that's in the declaration.


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