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Amin Holds Press Briefing

Aired January 9, 2003 - 11:59   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hans Blix's briefing covers some 12,000 pages that the Iraqis presented to those U.N. weapons inspectors, as well as the findings thus far. But the U.N. teams that have visited and revisited more than 100 sites in six weeks continue their work.
CNN's senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth, is joining us now live from the U.N.

What's the latest? The meeting, I take it, Richard, is still going on as of this moment.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Dr. Blix has delivering his comments, and now the various ambassadors are responding with either thoughts or questions. And it's the same tune so far from Dr. Blix, gaps in the declaration that Iraq filed, 12,000 pages, and still a lot of unanswered questions.

Regarding intelligence sharing, Blix says he's starting to get some from the United States. Colin Powell says it's significant, but so far, Blix wants even more information.


HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, we're getting intelligence from several sources, and I will not go into the operative part of that, but it's clearly that this will be helpful in the future to us. We have gone through, I think, about 125 sites already, and some of them were not visited before. There will be more, and as more intelligence comes in, there will be more sites visited. I'm confident that we will get more intelligence.


ROTH: Blix returns January 27, and then the members of the council question him on the 29th. Not much expected here until then -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Richard, stand by. We're going to be getting back to you, certainly, once Hans Blix emerges from that closed-door meeting. We'll want to take his remarks and bring them to the viewers here in the United States, indeed around the world.

But right now, I want to go to Baghdad. The head of the Iraqi Monitoring Directorate, General Hossam Amin is briefing reporters as he does every week. Let's listen in. GEN. HOSSAM AMIN, IRAQI MONITORING DIRECTORATE: ... kilometers. the inspection so far has confirmed our -- this inspection is continuing without any hindrance. The inspection also has confirmed that the British and American allegations are all false and Iraq does not have any nuclear or weapons of mass destruction.

We all remember how Britain and America were adamant that the inspectors should return Iraq. They claim that the absence of the inspectors have encouraged Iraq to carry out illegal programs. So far, I think over 300 sites have been visited and inspected, including 46 sites that are not included and at least the work by UNMOVIC -- the number of personnel of UNMOVIC is 190 people, half of them are not inspectors. They also have helicopters to help them with their work.

The inspector work has started using the helicopters on the 5th of January, the first mission was conducted.

Also, today there was an attempt to use helicopters, but that mission was canceled due to bad weather. Before the introduction of planes and helicopters, there wasn't anything where we discussed in detail operations to ensure the safety of the helicopters and the crews on board.

That's what I have today. And now I'll talk in English.

(in English): Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

The fact that Iraq's declaration is credible is confirmed daily. That declaration which approved that Iraq has no weapon of mass destruction, whether it is chemical, biological, nuclear or missile of ranges exceeds 150 kilometers. The criterion which confirmed this fact is the inspection itself.

This inspection was considered by both the American and the British administrations as a crucial element which can prove that Iraq is clear of weapons of mass destruction. The inspection is continuing without any obstacles or obstructions all around the hours.

The results of the inspection which includes ground survey, air and sampling, in addition to the raw material and final products that were given to the inspection teams and all the industrial sites did not indicate any availability of prohibited activities or prohibited items in Iraq. This fact has been admitted lately by Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei, and I think you listened to their statements.

The number of inspections that have been conducted till now -- since the 27th of November till now is 300 inspections; 46 of the sites are not involved with class per grams or monitoring systems. The number of the staff of the inspectors to date is about 190, half of them are inspectors. A new headquarters in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was opened on the 4th of January, and the inspection teams started their activities there mostly to visit the so-called (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sites.

Thank you very much. And I'm ready to answer your questions.

QUESTION: (speaking in Arabic) UNKNOWN (through translator): The inspection teams have not been able to find any weapons of mass destruction so far.

QUESTION: (speaking in Arabic)

AMIN (through translator): We don't know what these questions entail. We welcome any questions put forward by (UNINTELLIGIBLE) these questions will be dealt with in a positive manner. And we expect these questions to be relevant to the outstanding issues with UNMOVIC. And if these questions were relevant, they can be dealt with in an honest and straightforward way.

AMIN: I have been asked about the questions that have been mentioned by Mr. Blix. Today, he stated that the Iraqi declarations indicate that there are some questions to be directed to Iraqi side. And Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction, but there is a need for directing some questions.

The questions we expected is the same as so-called pending issues or key disarmament issues or pending questions. There are different terminologies in this regard.

And we think that this, from the point of view of the special commission, past the special commission and the UNMOVIC commission, the president's commission, we think that those questions have nothing, no relation with disarmament itself. And these questions could be addressed. And we shall positively deal with these questions. Any questions from the UNMOVIC and from the IAEA to finalize and to resolve any pending issue from their point of view.

QUESTION: Sir, have inspectors come to you and asked you to specifically answer any questions that they have remaining, outstanding?

AMIN: We didn't receive any questions till now.

QUESTION (through translator): After you accused inspectors of spying, are you going to discuss this with Hans Blix?

AMIN (through translator): Of course, we will complain about the behavior of some of the inspectors, especially when the nature of their questioning has a dubious character. We will be discussing this with Mr. Blix and the National Monitoring Directorate. We have been discussing this. Return to them on the 5th of this month, and I gave examples of incidents where the questions were irrelevant to the work.


QUESTION: Can you give us a sense of how long you would welcome UNMOVIC inspectors here, if they need additional time to further investigate?

AMIN: Well, we are ready to, I said, to react, to response with the questions which will be directed to us. And we think that the majority or all of the questions could be resolved during the monitoring phase and during the technical discussions that could be taken between both sides. We have some information that had been mentioned in the declaration itself. It should be studied carefully before directing the questions. We hope that the UNMOVIC studied this information carefully. Thank you.

BLITZER: General Amin, the head of the Iraqi Monitoring Directorate, the man, the liaison between the Iraqi government and the U.N. weapons inspection teams insisting once again, as he has throughout this process, that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction, has come completely clean in their declarations, accusing the United States and Britain of making false allegations, refusing to answer that last question, though, about whether or not the Iraqis would give the inspectors more time, if necessary, to try to complete their job.

We'll continue to monitor that news conference, see if he makes any news, provides any additional information. We will, of course, bring that to you if, in fact, he does.

But here in Washington, the Bush administration is saying that it's now -- is sharing what it calls "significant" amounts of intelligence with those U.N. inspectors and they say they'll get additional intelligence if necessary.

Our senior White House correspondent, John King, is standing by over at the White House with some new details -- John.

KING: And Wolf, senior officials are telling us that that information sharing of very sensitive U.S. intelligence about Iraqi weapons programs has been going on now in a very detailed, a very aggressive fashion for a little more than a week, although senior officials do tell us what they call -- quote -- "the most sensitive information" is still being withheld from the inspectors. That, we are told, because of a fear that the inspectors could not act on that information in a timely manner, and that if they discussed it while on duty inside Iraq, perhaps the government of Saddam Hussein would come into possession of some of the most sensitive U.S. intelligence about Iraq's weapons program.

There remains a concern here at the White House, even as the information sharing escalates, about that information falling into Saddam Hussein's hands. So, the information sharing underway. Here at the White House, officials echoing what Dr. Hans Blix is telling the Security Council today, that in the view of this White House and in the view of Dr. Blix, there are glaring deficiencies in the Iraqi declaration to the United Nations.

Officials here also pointing to the coming January 27 briefing of Dr. Blix to the Security Council. Secretary of State Powell referring to that date in an interview with the "Washington Post" as saying significant decisions will flow from that. Here's a little bit of what the secretary of state said.

He said, -- quote -- "The deadline we have before us right now is on the 27th of January when we will all receive a report from Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei, and we will see what the inspectors have found or not found, and what Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei think with respect to the presence or absence or" -- quote -- "'We don't know yet' of weapons of mass destruction. At that point, we will have to make some judgments as to what to do next, what is the next step, but it is not necessarily a D-Day for decision making."

KING: Here at the White House, they echoed what the secretary of state is saying publicly. They say the president, in his meeting with the National Security Council and the commander of U.S. forces in the region yesterday says the military buildup should escalate, the United States should be prepared to act, if necessary, by the middle of February, but that his decisions will come only after the inspectors, led by Dr. Blix, report to the Security Council -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. John King at the White House. Thanks John, very much.


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