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CNN SHOWDOWN: IRAQ

Blix, El-Baradei Get Set for Visit to Baghdad

Aired January 18, 2003 - 12:00   ET

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

RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN ANCHOR: Now, to SHOWDOWN: IRAQ.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANX BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: The world would like to be assured Iraq is rid of weapons of mass destruction and until, we, the inspectors, have been convinced of that we cannot so report to the Security Council.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAN MIGUEL: That was U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix speaking on the eve of his next visit to Baghdad. Our exclusive live interview is moments away.

We have a very busy hour, beginning with Richard Roth in Larnaca, Cyprus.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: I'm Richard Roth in Larnaca, Cyprus. Next stop, Baghdad. That's the destination for Hans Blix and Mohamed El-Baradei, an interview coming up.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INT'L CORRESPONDENT: I'm Nic Robertson in Baghdad, where today U.N. weapons inspectors revisited the site where two days ago they found a dozen chemical warheads.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kathleen Koch in a very frigid Washington, D.C., where 10 of thousands protesters, young and old, from across the country have come to call for peace.

The question is, can they change U.S. policy -- Renay.

SAN MIGUEL: All right. Thanks very much, everybody.

Now, to Cyprus, where the U.N.'s chief weapons inspector and nuclear watchdog agency head are getting set for a crucial visit to Iraq. Hans Blix and Mohamed El-Baradei arrive in Baghdad tomorrow for meeting with Iraqi officials.

And on the eve of their visit, both men are demanding sincere and genuine cooperation from Iraq. CNN's senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth is traveling with Blix and El-Baradei. He joins us now from Larnaca with an exclusive interview with the two men.

Richard, it's all yours.

ROTH: Thank you.

Hans Blix has now rendezvoused once again with Mohamed El-Baradei here in Larnaca, Cyprus. It is the remote listening post, you might say, for the U.N. weapons inspectors who are focused on Baghdad, Iraq.

A lot of topics as you prepare on this eve to go into Iraq once again. You were there two months ago.

Mr. El-Baradei, let me start with you. The weapons inspectors went into homes of Iraqi scientists on Thursday. A lot of the publicity and fuss was about empty chemical warheads, but there were also documents found. What is the significance of the thousands of pages taken out of the home.

MOHAMED EL-BARADEI, DIRECTOR GEN., IAEA: Well, Richard, we have gotten something like 3,000 pages of original documents, we're -- in Arabic. We're going through the translation of these documents right now.

They appear to be relevant to an enrichment technology. Laser enrichment technology. It's something we knew about in the past. The documents relating to the late '80s, however, we haven't received these original documents before. And that precisely refers to the point we keep emphasizing, that is Iraq should be proactive.

We should not try to find these documents on our own. Why these documents have not provided to us? Why they have been kept in the private home? Why they have not come out on their own to say, here are the originals. Is there any other document we haven't seen?

So, these are the some of the questions, which are coming out of these cache, which we found at the private home. Why are they kept in a private home? These are all quite -- what does that say for our inspections in the future? These are some of the questions that are coming as a result of our last inspection.

ROTH: Very briefly, what would that technology be used for overall?

(CROSSTALK)

EL-BARADEI: Well, they use it for different things. But they can -- laser could be used for enrichment, enrichment of technology, for enriching uranium.

ROTH: To make a nuclear bomb?

EL-BARADEI: Yes, to make a nuclear -- however, it is very complicated. We know that they have not really gone that far with their work on that area. But still, the point is, if you are transparent, you come out with the original document. And we haven't seen them before.

ROTH: Iraq said, in their 12,00-page document filing, that this was once again, a total, final and complete delivery of all information. Dr. Blix, let me ask you, meanwhile your inspectors were at a site, a munitions warehouse, where 12 empty chemical warheads were found. But yet you have said the find is not that important. Why do you say that?

HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, they should have declared it. And we will decide also to destroy it. But -- and they didn't do that. So, again, it shows that they have not been as complete as they should have been.

But everyone has to keep sense of proportions, too. They were empty, they did not contain chemicals and in that sense, they were not dangerous.

ROTH: But these were chemical warheads, though. Is a serious omission?

BLIX: It is an omission, at any rate. Because they were made to contain chemicals and they should have been declared.

ROTH: Now, at that home, there was a woman there, the wife, I believe, of one of the scientists, the Iraqi scientist charges Mafia- style tactics used to go into the home. The wife had kidney stones, I believe. What is your response to that?

BLIX: Well, I think that if the Iraqis were to say that private homes are off bounds for us, it would mean that there are sanctuaries in terms of where we can go. And it's been clearly established by the Security Council that there shall be no sanctuary, presidential palaces or anything else.

I think the case also shows since we found documents, that were in private homes, that it is necessary to go there. And if they were to try to stop that in the future, I think it will send a very bad signal that the Council will not accept.

EL-BARADEI: Richard, I say a few things.

It was done in a professional way. There were only women inspectors who went to the home. To make it clear that we are not encroaching on the privacy of the home.

But that's precisely underline what Hans is saying. You know, why are you keeping documents at the private home, official documents at the private home? If we see a document at the private home, can we exclude visiting other private homes?

They need -- Iraqi needs to shift gears, they need to have a different frame of mind to come, become proactive, to come with the evidence on their own. Otherwise, we will continue to go different sites, different locations, private homes, factories, because we need to unearth all of the facts before we report to the Security Council in order to achieve our mission.

ROTH: I mean, the wife says this woman American inspector was sort of playing on her illness to say, you can come out for medical care. And then the husband, the scientist, would have to follow her. Are you trying to get to the scientist through the family members? Since you have been unable to get them to come out on their own?

BLIX: We are interested in the document that we suspect could exist in that house and found them. So it was entirely justified, what we found.

EL-BARADEI: I guess if you want a scientist to come out, we'll go directly to the scientist, Richard, and say we would like to interview outside of Baghdad. I don't think we'll go through the family members.

ROTH: What are you going to do? You haven't been able to get a scientist to want to come out of the country or even be interviewed without Iraqi officials present. Are you going to change tactics? What are you going to do?

BLIX: Of course, we have been concerned that the Iraqi authorities might try to intimidate them and to control what they are saying. This happened in the past when they scared the people and, therefore, we have asked that the persons should come to our offices and to be interviewed privately with us.

And so far, the response from the scientists had been, no, we only want to be interviewed in our own headquarters and in the presence of Iraqi officials. This is, again, sends a bad signal.

They would need, as Mohamed says, to be very proactive. If they claim they have nothing to show, that there is nothing left of weapons of mass destruction. Then it should be in their interest to have everybody speak in a manner that is credible.

ROTH: You have been saying this, to anyone who will listen, for weeks. Do you think the Iraqi government hears your message? You were there two months ago. You're not there for that long this time. What do you want to hear from the Iraqis, very specifically, and are you keeping visits short to say, listen, we're not going to wait around for?

EL-BARADEI: I think, now we are going with a lot of knowledge after seven, eight weeks of inspection. We have a lot of technical details, a lot of questions we need to ask them. But primarily we need to impress on them that business as usual is not sufficient, that you need to come forward on your own with knowledge, with evidence, with interviewing people in private.

If we continue to say, we are not able to exclude you have weapons of mass destruction, that's not sufficient for the Security Council. And that is the beginning of what the Security Council talked about serious consequences.

BLIX: The Security Council, one, and the world wants to have confidence that Iraq has done away with the weapons of mass destruction, or that they're doing away with them that they're delivering to us. And then they have to behave in a manner which inspires that confidence. What you talked about a moment ago, does not inspire that much confidence.

ROTH: Can we clarify your work schedule? Some newspapers, which I think you have said are not that accurate, have said that you're ready to work it into the spring. That Tony Blair, in Britain, talked to you about speeding up your inspections.

And you have two different Security Council resolutions to work under. But how long do you need to work to tell the Security Council, yes or no; you're happy, you're not happy with Iraq and what they've been doing?

BLIX: I think the answer is very simple. If the Iraqis really cooperate, very actively with us, then it could be a short time. That was what was anticipated in 1991. They did not actively cooperate then, and therefore it dragged out. The same thing could happen now. What we are looking for in this tense situation is that they, as Mohamed says, change gear and that they actively cooperate.

ROTH: Are these smoking guns, either the documents or chemical warheads? If not, what would it take you to go to the Security Council to say, here's a big problem?

EL-BARADEI: I don't think they are smoking guns, Richard, but they are indicative of a frame of mind which is not helpful. I think what we need, again is transparency and we're not seeing that transparency. How long it will take us depends on how cooperative Iraqis are; how much information we get from member states. And we intend on our own to intensify our work as much as we can.

It is more complicated in the area of chemical and biological because we started from a different baseline. We started from an Iraqi program that has been neutralized in the nuclear field. Chemical and biological was a lot of open questions. The time line might be different. But we both agree, if Iraq fully cooperates, we can get the job done.

BLIX: But in order to be balanced, we should also say that in terms of access to sites, and in terms of prompt access, the cooperation has been OK.

EL-BARADEI: Yes.

ROTH: Very briefly, Colin Powell, quoted as saying the world will see by the end of the month that Iraq is not cooperating. Do you know something that he knows?

BLIX: Well, we are not yet at the end of the month. And I hope that we have better cooperation and full cooperation before we come to the Security Council.

ROTH: Are you expecting a semi declaration from them? Have they told you now, you are getting new paperwork? New ... EL-BARADEI: We are making a last-ditch effort before the 27th of January, Richard, to impress on them that this is an opportunity, do not lose that opportunity. Give us what we need to be able to report publicly to the Security Council.

ROTH: OK, Mohamed El-Baradei, International Atomic Energy Agency, the director general, and Hans Blix, chief weapons inspector for Iraq, they will have dinner tonight. They will be talking things over. Who knows, maybe they will discuss how to settle 30-year old Cyprus problem.

(LAUGHTER)

This is Richard Roth with the lead weapons inspectors for the international community on Iraq, in Larnaca.

SAN MIGUEL: We want to turn now to CNN military analyst General Wesley Clark, he is in Little Rock, Arkansas. We want to get his thoughts on this crucial trip to Baghdad by Blix and El-Baradei. And he also has some insight on the military training that some Iraqi exiles will be getting in the Hungary.

General Clark, thanks for being with us today.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FMR. NATO SUPREME CMDR.: Good to be with you.

SAN MIGUEL: So, you heard both Blix and El-Baradei say that the warheads that were found, the empty warheads, and these documents that were found in a private home, not necessarily smoking guns -- but indicative of a frame of mind that not helpful. No transparency on the part of the Iraqi government. All of that enough to trigger military action, do you think?

CLARK: Getting close. I think when you hear the "last-ditch" phrase and you listen to them talk, you can sense the enormous pressure that these two men are under to declare, or not declare Iraq and bring it forward to the United Nation, in one way or another.

Tony Blair talking to them, what General Powell has said and so, these guys are going back into Baghdad with their team and it's going to be a very intensive, critical period.

If the Iraqis don't change their attitude, if there's anything else discovered, or even if there isn't, if they don't change their attitude, I would say that when they come back to the Security Council, the United States would be able to go forward and make a strong case, that enough's enough, there's no point in giving more time. Let's move to the next step.

SAN MIGUEL: So, just a lack of cooperation? I mean, not so much the fact the so-called smoking guns have not been found yet, but the idea that we're not seeing enough transparency could be enough for President Bush to take to the military, and say, it's in your hands now?

CLARK: It could be. The question really is not about that evidence itself. It's about how other people will view the United States. Whether that's enough for him to gain domestic -- the kind of domestic support to undercut the demonstrations and the attitude of the American public, which is still sort of "show me".

And whether it's enough to bring the allies on board the way he wants. Those are questions the administration has to be wrestling with right now.

SAN MIGUEL: OK. Let's focus on some other issues here regarding Iraq and the buildup here. Hungary now offering up a base that would be used for training Iraqi exiles by the U.S.; how important is that development? Just talking about Hungary's cooperation here?

CLARK: Well, smart move for Hungary. This is a government in Hungary that really wants to be pro-American. They wanted to make a tangible contribution. They've got the facility there that we opened up back in the mid 1990s in preparation for the work in Bosnia.

So, this is good for the government of Hungary. It's also a good move by the Americans, we'll take some of these Iraqi exile groups; we'll bring some people out. We'll start to build a common purpose.

They may get in during the war; they may get in after a war; they might be the nucleus of the constabulary force, or a national police or something to help hold the country together. It is a good move.

SAN MIGUEL: I was going to ask you, just what, you know, what kind of role would the Iraqi exiles play? You know, maybe half military, half military support, everything from just providing language translation to actually carrying a gun and going into battle?

CLARK: It could range the gamut. And part of it will depend on the timing of the operation. I wouldn't think the training is these crucial determinant in the timing of the operation. But it's a good insurance policy because the longer the operation is dragged out, before it starts, the greater the number of trained Iraqis who could come in and assistant.

And just as you suggest, translation, local scouts, ability to liaison with the population; and after the fighting's over, the nucleus of a different kind of Iraqi authority.

SAN MIGUEL: Doesn't this also give the U.S. a chance to have greater control over the different opposition groups in Iraq right now? If you bring them under one heading here, you won't have like maybe the situation we had with the warlords in Afghanistan?

CLARK: I think that's exactly right, Renay. It's a very smart move because it will tend to bring together the different opposition groups, it will tend to undercut their ability to form their own private armies, that can conflict with each other.

SAN MIGUEL: One other question here, before we have to let you go. On a different topic, that being North Korea. South Korea's president, you may have heard today, saying North Korea, military action was discussed by high-level U.S. officials regarding North Korea's nuclear program.

You were kind of expecting that to be one of the options, maybe not one that would eventually be taken, but that certainly had to be on the table at the time?

CLARK: Had to be right up front as one of the options being looked at. We looked at it in 1994, too. The problem with it is, you can strike the complex, but you invite a wide-open war on the Korean Peninsula, which would be extremely damaging.

That's the difference with Iraq. In Iraq there is a military option. And there wasn't a military option, there is not a good one in Korea. But it still remains a fact that the military forces are there in Korea. U.S. capabilities are there. The military option will always be there, even though it's a last choice in Korea.

SAN MIGUEL: General Wesley Clark, CNN military analyst, good to talk to you. Thank you so much for being with us.

U.N. weapons inspectors are taking a second look at an ammunition site in Baghdad. Coming up, we'll go live to Baghdad for the latest on the hunt for weapons of mass destruction and Hans Blix and Mohamed El-Baradei's visit to the region.

And next, people around the globe are shouting "no" to war today. Coming up, we'll go live to Washington, D.C. for a national rally there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAN MIGUEL: A sea of people at the nation's capital today for a protest there against any possible war with Iraq. As thousands of Americans rally against a war with Iraq this weekend, there are certain to be a few celebrities among them.

Hollywood stars are speaking out against war, but not everyone wants them talking. Our guests will be talking about this in our "Sound Off" segment.

Actor Mike Farrell is with the Artists United to Win Without War; he's in Los Angeles and radio talk show host Steve Malzberg; he's joining us from New York.

Gentlemen, thank you both for being with us today.

STEVE MALZBERG, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Thank you.

SAN MIGUEL: Mr. Farrell, let me start with you, regarding this group that you are involved with, Winning Without War. It sounds like at least you agree that there is something to be won here, and that is perhaps Saddam's exit from power in Iraq. Is that what you are talking about, indeed? And, if not through war, how?

MIKE FARRELL, ACTOR: Well, certainly we have seen any number of options that have been discussed with -- outside the government that have -- unfortunately, don't seem to be discussed within the government.

As your question seems to suggest, the only option is war. It seems to me what we're seeing is inspectors on the ground who are doing their work, and in fact succeeding in doing their work. And it seems to me that if we were to support the continued use of the inspectors, and continuation of them -- allowing them to fulfill their mandate, we would foreclose any kind of option about the warfare.

Because they would be able to continue to do what they were sent to do, which is to seek out, find and dismantle and/or destroy any weapons, potential weapons of mass destruction, precursors, therefore, or any of that kind.

I'm a little concerned that the approach of the administration is tantamount to if all you've got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It seems to me that there are many options that have yet to be seriously considered. One of which would be to expand, for example, the inspections team. And if necessary, send in troops, a small force, necessary to allow them to do their work if they receive any serious opposition.

SAN MIGUEL: Let me get Mr. Malzberg to come in here.

MALZBERG: Yes.

SAN MIGUEL: Because I see him chomping at the there. Go right ahead, Steve.

MALZBERG: It is just incredible these actors think that they know what is best for the country better than our government does. Listen, did he once -- did Mike Farrell once criticize the action of Saddam Hussein? Did you hear him once say --

FARRELL: Do we have to do this?

MALZBERG: Excuse me, did I interrupt you?

FARRELL: No, you didn't, but I didn't attack you.

MALZBERG: Can I go on?

FARRELL: Don't be silly.

MALZBERG: Can I go on?

FARRELL: Might I just point out --

MALZBERG: Did he once -- did I go on.

(CROSS TALK)

MALZBERG: Oh, I'm not allowed to go on.

(CROSS TALK)

SAN MIGUEL: Let me go ahead and let's give Steve 30 seconds here.

FARRELL: I'd just like to make the point.

(CROSSTALK)

FARRELL: I didn't start out criticizing you or your profession.

MALZBERG: Did he once say that Saddam Hussein should open up access, that -- did he hear the Hans Blix interview, where Hans Blix has said the Iraqis are not being fully forthcoming. They're not being cooperative, as evidenced by what they found so far. And that they had better be so by January 27 or they could face war?

I mean, have you heard everybody on the Hollywood left say that? Sheryl Crowe goes up and receives an award, her T-shirt is anti-war, not anti-Saddam, not Saddam open up, not Saddam stop hiding, anti- Bush, anti-U.S., anti-war. They are loony left.

(CROSSTALK)

SAN MIGUEL: Let me go ahead. Mike, let me give you a chance to respond there.

FARRELL: Thank you.

SAN MIGUEL: Would there be any situation where you would -- where Winning Without War, your group, would support military action against Saddam Hussein?

FARRELL: First, can I just ...

SAN MIGUEL: Please, go right ahead.

FARRELL: ...object openly to the stupid kinds of personal attacks, this kind of silly stuff is really silly. There is a debate to be had in this country and it seems to me that because people are celebrities or actors doesn't mean they lose their citizenship.

Of course I heard what Hans Blix and Mr. El-Baradei said. And it seems to me that there are concerns that have to be addressed, which is why we have inspectors on the ground there. And it seems to me that any thoughtful government can be -- should be able to be counted on to support the actions of those inspectors, rather than undercutting them.

MALZBERG: We're not undercutting.

(CROSSTALK)

SAN MIGUEL: Let him finish, please. Let him finish.

FARRELL: Saddam Hussein -- Saddam Hussein is, in my view, a war criminal and ought to be brought before an international tribunal tried and imprisoned.

Absent the possibility of doing that -- and part of the reason we can't do that is we don't support the international criminal court -- but absent the possibility of doing that it seems to me that we ought to be able to broker the opportunity for Saddam Hussein to leave that country, and live in exile somewhere in splendor if he so chooses.

I would like to see the former, rather than later but I would not like to see us waste hundreds of billions on a war that is going to kill tens of thousands of innocent people unnecessarily when we have inspectors on the ground doing the job that we hope will succeed in disarming the nation.

SAN MIGUEL: Mr. Malzberg, let me get you to focus on the other side of the equation here, in Hollywood.

MALZBERG: Sure.

SAN MIGUEL: Where are all the pro-administration celebrities, in Hollywood?

MALZBERG: Well, you know, I'll say that many celebrities have come forward. There's Bo Derek, who is an open conservative Republican. There are a few others, but many of them are reluctant to come forward because they are afraid of being blacklisted, not only on this issue but being known as a conservative in general.

The same is true in many newsrooms around New York City. I know lots of reporters. And I'm a conservative talk show host and when they meet me, they say, Oh, we listen to you all the time, shhh, I can't come out and say that because I'm afraid.

There is a liberal bias, obviously, that runs Hollywood and that runs the news media -- some may not want to believe it - and that is why they're not evident.

But I do have to tell you the president of the United States has gone before the United Nation, he's gone through the U.N. Security Council, he's going through inspections, he's doing everything by the book. And then, those like Mike Farrell and Sean Penn and Barbra Streisand and Susan Sarandon, who thinks Ireland is so lucky because they have been bombed already, these people don't think that Bush is doing the right thing.

They're first to criticize America -- always.

SAN MIGUEL: Mr. Farrell, let me give you one last quick response here.

FARRELL: Thank you.

SAN MIGUEL: Because the name of Sean Penn was brought up here.

(CROSSTALK)

SAN MIGUEL: Do you think that Sean Penn should have gone to Baghdad? Many folks saying he was used as pro-Iraqi propaganda.

FARRELL: People will say all they want, as this gentleman is demonstrating. Sean did what he did as a citizen of the United States and he is free to do so and he has resource to do so. And he came back and he said what he said.

The fact is the president went to the United Nation very reluctantly. The president has indicated, as has Mr. Perle and Mr. Wolfowitz, recorded some 10 years ago, indicated that they want war and they want to eliminate Saddam Hussein.

What we are saying, it is not necessary to have a war. There are ways to do this ratcheting up, if necessary, incrementally so that we don't put at risk tens of thousands of innocence people and our own military people, when we can achieve the aims we want without war.

SAN MIGUEL: We will have to leave it there. Mike Farrell and Steve Malzberg, thank you so much for joining us. Wish we had another five minutes to talk about it.

MALZBERG: Thank you.

FARRELL: Thank you.

SAN MIGUEL: I think we'll be talking to you gentlemen again. Thanks for being with us, though.

FARRELL: Thank you.

SAN MIGUEL: Thousands of troops deployed to the Persian Gulf, but how long will they wait for war? Coming up, we'll talk to a "Newsweek" reporter about the toll the long delay takes on the troops. Live from Kuwait, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAN MIGUEL: U.N. inspectors in Iraq revisited the site where they found a dozen empty chemical warheads two days ago. They also examined several other sites in their search for banned weapons. Let's get the view from inside Iraq right now. CNN's Nic Robertson is in Baghdad with the latest -- Nic.

ROBERTSON: Renay, hello. One of those other sites visited, a food storage and testing facility close to Baghdad. That site of particular interest, we are told, to the U.N. inspection teams. A mobile laboratory. Now, it was covered in dust, there was very little evidence that it had been in recent use. But mobile laboratories have been one of the things that weapons inspectors here have been keen to look at. According to an official at that particular facility, that mobile laboratory had been designed because of a threat of attack against Iraq. They wanted to ensure that they could test the country's food to make sure it was safe.

Now, the U.N. weapons team returned to (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the ammunition storage site about 120 kilometers, about 80 miles south of Baghdad today. Went back there, we understand, to look again at one of the chemical warheads that they discovered there two days ago. Do not have any of the findings of their visit there today. Also today, an Iraqi scientist spoke out about the questioning of -- and inspection of his house two days ago in Baghdad. He told journalists that the inspectors had come to his house, that the documents that they had found when they had gone through his property had been documents that were his own research going back over a number of years, and that's why he had gone with inspectors to have them photocopied because he didn't want to lose them.

However, in the last half an hour, in an exclusive interview with CNN, Mohamed El-Baradei, the chief -- the head of the nuclear inspection teams here said that those documents were some 3,000 pages and that they were official documents relating to the enrichment of uranium. He said that the Iraqi officials should have handed or declared these documents already, that there was not right that the U.N. should have to go to houses, private houses of scientists to find them.

Now, one of the things the scientists said that happened two days ago when the U.N. weapons inspectors came to his house, he said that he was approached by them in a Mafia style, he said one of the women on the inspection team had said to him, your wife is sick, would you like us to help you get treatment for her outside of the country? You, too, can come outside of the country. He was asked by a journalist if he would be willing to leave Iraq for questions by inspectors. He said, absolutely no, never. But even if the government told him to go, he said he would stay in Iraq -- Renay.

SAN MIGUEL: Nic Robertson reporting live from Baghdad. Thank you very much.

The Bush administration says Iraq is failing to disarm and it's not cooperating with the arms inspectors. We get the latest on that and some new poll numbers from CNN's Suzanne Malveaux at the White House. Good afternoon, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Renay. The White House is very confident that they have a strong case against Saddam Hussein. They bring up the fact that as an incomplete declaration, the weapons declaration, they also say there is proof that Saddam Hussein has been moving around weapons components, and the final piece, they say, is the discovery of these 12 empty chemical warheads. They say U.S. officials looked at the Iraqi weapons declaration, that 12,000-page document, did not find it listed. They say that this is just another piece of evidence that Saddam Hussein refuses to disarm.

Yesterday, the president visited the Walter Reed Medical Center; that's where he visited with soldiers who had been injured in the battlefields in Afghanistan. Now the focus being on disarming Iraq, Saddam Hussein, it seems like a distant memory for many Americans, the hunt for al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. But the White House making it very clear that the war on terror may have to be expanded inside of Iraq. The president has not yet made up his mind, aides tell us, but they say if he does decide that, that he will prepare the American people, that he will make his case. The question here is whether or not Americans agree with the president. This from the latest "TIME"/CNN poll, the question being, do you think President Bush is doing a good job handling the Iraq situation? Well, 49 percent say good, 44 percent say poor. Clearly, the American public split on this decision -- Renay.

SAN MIGUEL: One other quick question here, regarding a different topic, but one that's still on the president's agenda, North Korea. South Korea's president-elect came out this morning, as you know, and said that the possibility of military action was discussed by high- level U.S. officials when they found out about North Korea's nuclear program being restarted. Any explanation from the White House on that?

MALVEAUX: Well, I just spoke with the State Department spokesman just a moment ago, who says they will not comment specifically on that kind of conversation, on that quote, but they do say that the administration maintains its position, as it has from the very beginning. They have no intention of attacking North Korea.

I should also tell you as well that it was in a press briefing, this was last week, with the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Myers, who was asked specifically about that question, whether or not there was any kind of military planning that was on the table at the Pentagon. He actually did say that out of prudent planning, and I stress this, prudent planning, that they dusted off their target list to see if perhaps if there were certain targets out of abundance of caution in North Korea, should North Korea attack or do something that was (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They said that sources say that it would involve some sort of surgical strikes, but again, they are emphasizing this is all just war gaming, this is hypothetical, that there is no intention of the administration attacking North Korea.

SAN MIGUEL: All right. Suzanne Malveaux, live from the White House. Thank you very much.

Well, several anti-war protests are already under way around the globe. Coming up, the latest from the rally in the nation's capital. That's still ahead. Stay with us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... doesn't match your action. You talk soft but you walk (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We celebrate King's day the right way...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAN MIGUEL: Time now for our military "Guns and Ammo" segment. And today it's the long wait for troops in the Persian Gulf. Some 10,000 sailers and Marines set sail from San Diego yesterday to join troops who have been in the Gulf region for months, but with no war declared against Iraq, it's just more of a wait and see situation for the troops. We go now to Kuwait City, where "Newsweek's" Kevin Peraino has spent the last week with the troops. Kevin, thanks for being with us today.

KEVIN PERAINO, NEWSWEEK: Thanks for having me. SAN MIGUEL: Give us the sense of how many troops we are talking about here and how many ultimately are expected before any decision to attack is made?

PERAINO: Well, in Kuwait, right now there are about 15,000 expected to be here shortly within the next few weeks. Those are from one division, the 3rd Infantry Division, which is based in Georgia.

Before Christmas, there were about 5,000, just one brigade of that division was here, and the remainder of the troops are flowing in right now. So in the region, total troops, there are about 60,000, 70,000 before Christmas, depending on who you talk to. There are another 60,000 or 70,000 on their way to the region, and then there's another roughly about the same amount, 60,000 or 70,000 who are on alert who could be sent to the region too.

SAN MIGUEL: So if the U.S. had to go to war tomorrow, though, could it be done with the troops that are there right now?

PERAINO: Short answer is no, I don't think. If you believe the news reports that an attack would take roughly half the size of the force that it took during the first Gulf War, which was about half a million troops. If you need 250,000, 200,000 troops, they're not here yet, although they could be by the end of February. And the last call for the ground war didn't start until the last week of February.

SAN MIGUEL: So the troops are over there right now and they are waiting for the go word here. How are they holding up?

PERAINO: Depends who you talk to. But they seem to be holding up pretty well. There is two sort of camps out here. There is the base camp, and then there's out in the desert you have field maneuvers. At the base camp, I mean, the tents are nicer than my apartment. They have got video game consoles, TVs, Internet connections, power. Then once you get out into the field where I was there last week watching some urban training maneuvers a few miles from the Iraqi border; they've set up this town, a mock town they have called Chinatown, and the conditions out there are a little bit harsher.

First of all, it's very cold. It gets down to at night around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And these guys are sleeping out in sleeping bags next to their tanks and their Bradley fighting vehicles. It also, when it gets dry, the dust kicks up. And I talked to one guy out there this week whose eye was all red, it looked like he had pink eye or something, and he had gotten sand in it and scratched it up. So if you spend a lot of time out there, there are pretty harsh conditions.

SAN MIGUEL: I was just going to ask you how the environment was taking a toll on the troops, between the sand not only getting in their eyes but also in the gear as well. Maintaining the gear, the vehicles, the weapons. That has to be a big part of the activity of daily life out there as well, right?

PERAINO: Yeah, it absolutely is. And that is also something that could get to be very expensive if these troops end up being here for a long period of time. I have seen estimates that it could cost depending on the size of the force that's out there, $1 billion or more per month just to feed and provide water and provide hazard pay to the troops. But then you add this whole other factor, as you mentioned, about the wear and tear on the equipment. And I've seen estimates that puts that at another $1 billion, or $2 billion per month. So it could get to be expensive.

SAN MIGUEL: If the U.S. is talked into a delay here of two or three months so that the U.N. inspectors can take a little bit more time to do their job, what kind of an effect do you think that's going to have on the morale of the troops and their readiness?

PERAINO: Well, it will undoubtedly have an effect on their morale. They're used to -- you know, there have been this brigade- size element out in Kuwait, they have been doing like three or four month rotations. They would come here for three or four months; come home. So they are used to coming and going home. Now they're not doing that.

So, yes, I mean, there is no question, being away from their families can take a toll.

Now, that said, we're -- if you remember in the first Gulf War, basically the Internet wasn't even around. And now there are a lot of modern ways to communicate now. There are Internet kiosks at these camps that the soldiers can use. Some of the senior commanders have tactical satellite phones that they can call home from the field. I don't know whether they are supposed to or not, but they can and they do. So that's one sort of caveat to being away from home. They are able to stay in touch a little better than they were in previous wars.

SAN MIGUEL: Exactly. They don't have to rely on the snail mail any more. Kevin Peraino with "Newsweek" magazine, thanks for the insight. We appreciate your time.

Well, Kevin mentioned the Internet. The latest on the U.S. military buildup in the Gulf is only a mouse tick away for you. Log on to cnn.com/Iraq. You will find an updated map of U.S. military units deployed to the Gulf. Again, that is cnn.com. For AOL users, it's key word CNN.

Thousands protest a war with Iraq today. Coming up, live to the protests in Washington. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAN MIGUEL: Welcome back to SHOWDOWN: IRAQ. From Paris, to Tokyo, Bangladesh, to Pakistan, thousands took to the streets around the world in a day of protests against a possible war with Iraq. Even here in the U.S., thousands converged on Washington today in support of a peaceful solution in Iraq. CNN's Kathleen Koch is there covering the demonstrations. She joins us now live.

Kathleen, I know they were expecting very cold temperatures today. Any affect on the turnout that you can see? KOCH: Not that I can see at all, Renay. The skies are very clear, the warm sun is helping a bit, and the temperatures don't seem to be affecting the protesters whatsoever. They say that they are here on a mission, which is to stop a war before it starts.

So the rally itself here began almost two hours ago. We have heard from a wide variety of speakers, some Hollywood stars like Jessica Lange, civil rights and religious leaders. But, you know, it's perhaps some of the people in the crowd, some of the Americans who have come from great distances who have the most poignant stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH (voice-over): A Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home where peace protesters gather waiting to head to Washington. But only one truly understands war's grim realities.

AVA CUTLER: And I'm not afraid to speak out, because this is why I came to this country, to speak my mind if I have to.

KOCH: Seventy-six-year-old Ava Cutler was a Jewish teenager in Budapest, Hungary when her country was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1944.

CUTLER: We're being besieged day by day, night by night, constantly we were being bombarded. There are no winners in wars, there are only losers, and we have to find a different way of how to deal with differences.

We've had all the differences with Russia, didn't we? OK, did we go and attack Russia? No.

KOCH: Local reporters quiz Cutler whether Saddam Hussein, like Hitler, is a danger to the world.

CUTLER: He was a threat to Kuwait, then we went to help Kuwait. That was legitimate. What is the reason now?

KOCH: Cutler isn't a member of any protest group. She decided to come on her own, catch a ride with a busload of young people, all to stop another war, to stop more fighting.

CUTLER: I'm not fighting for myself anymore. I'm fighting for all the other people who have to face the same thing that I have had to go through, possibly, or worse.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH: Now, it's because of protesters like Ava that the speakers up on stage are being encouraged to keep their remarks to two minutes or less today, because it is just simply so very, very cold. Now, in about an hour, everyone will start heading up to Capitol Hill. They're going to take the march, take the rally to the U.S. Navy Yard, where what organizers are calling a people's weapons inspection team will demand to inspect U.S. weapons of mass destruction. Organizers promised that there, as here, the protest will remain peaceful -- Renay.

SAN MIGUEL: Kathleen, I don't suppose you are seeing anybody that is supporting the Bush administration offering up any kind of counter protest? Anybody brave enough to face up against those kinds of crowds that we just saw?

KOCH: Well, Renay, we are told that before this rally began, that there was a plan for a counter protest in various spots around Washington, D.C., but you know, once you get into the middle of this crowd, as you saw when the camera lifted up, it's very hard to get out. So we have not seen any around here, but you know, it's a very peaceful crowd. I think even if counter protesters came here and expressed their opinion, there wouldn't be really any confrontations.

SAN MIGUEL: Got you. Kathleen Koch, reporting live from Washington, D.C., thank you very much.

That is the situation in the nation's capital. Just a sampling now of some of the protests staged around the globe. In Moscow, a crowd gathered outside the U.S. embassy to protest. Russia has long been a key trade partner with Iraq.

Thousands of Palestinians marched yesterday in Gaza in support of Saddam Hussein. Some called on Iraq to strike Tel-Aviv.

And in Baghdad, members of the Iraqi journalists union demonstrated outside the hotel where the U.N. weapons inspections are headquartered.

So, do you have what it takes to survive West Point?

WHITNEY CASEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now I'm going to see if I can survive West Point. Dr. Death (ph) and her husband from West Point are going to put me through what the cadets have to go through every year. They've trained 27,000 cadets, and that's when SHOWDOWN: IRAQ comes back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAN MIGUEL: So, do you have what it takes to be a cadet at one of the nation's top military academies? That's what the National Geographic Channel wants to know. The channel is offering a surviving West Point challenge to some adventurous New Yorkers. They'll be put to a series of tasks like cadets. CNN's Whitney Casey joins us now live from West Point, New York with more.

Whitney, when you woke up this morning, you didn't think you'd have to face an obstacle course today, right?

CASEY: No, but I do live in New York, so possibly. But not one like this. I have already just briefly gone through it once. So just so you know, it's only been once through. This is Bonnie and Bob Stouffer (ph). They are here with me this morning. They -- between the two of them, have been at West Point for some 40 years and trained 27,000 cadets with what we are going to be doing here this morning. I'm also going to introduce you to, this is Jill Tu (ph), she's my Svengali here this morning, she's also going through this.

But we're going to get started right away. Just so you back at home can see exactly what you would have to go through if you went to West Point.

Her nickname is Dr. Death (ph). She may be diminutive, I'm six feet, but don't let her fool you, she gets up in your face and it is scary. So we're going to start this. This is going to be a brief, sort of like one of those cooking segments. You're going to put us through the brief exercises that you guys have been doing. Let's start it right now. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Line up, face me. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). One, two three, four. One, two, three, four.

CASEY: We're doing jumping jacks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three, four. One, two, three, halt. Don't keep moving after I told you to halt. The next exercise is the push- up. You will do it at my cadence. Start position, move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the way down.

CASEY: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In cadence, exercise. One, two, three, four. one, two, three, four.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three.

CASEY: OK, wait a minute, this is more than one push-up. Wait.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three, halt. Position of attention. Move.

CASEY: OK. That's way more than one push-up. Those are three push-ups all in one?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, actually, you actually did eight push- ups all in one; that's a four-count push-up.

CASEY: And how many would a normal cadet have to do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, just to barely pass, a normal cadet would have to do 42 if they are a man and 19 if they are a woman. And you can see all of this, you know, when you're watching that surviving West Point, you will see the cadets training and trying to do this.

CASEY: OK. We have one minute. So let's do the field exercise...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Again, here we go. When I say go, you're running. When I say stop, stop here. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Stop. Go. Go wide. Now remember, you could be seeing this. Here we go. Bring it in. Stop.

CASEY: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go. Bouncing ball.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get those hands up off the floor.

CASEY: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mountain climber.

CASEY: Mountain climber. Reminiscent of college. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go. Go. Move those feet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go.

CASEY: OK, stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move those feet.

CASEY: OK. So then normally, and also you're going to take about 70 New Yorkers who are adventurous, who are going to try to do this today. They are going to climb this, they are going to climb ropes, there will be an obstacle course here, and you can watch all of this this week on a 14-part series. But we will be back later on tonight to show you even more of the obstacle course and some of those intrepid New Yorkers and intrepid reporters that are going through this. Back to you, guys.

SAN MIGUEL: I was going to say, Whitney Casey stars in the sequel to "Full Metal Jacket." I'm telling you. Very nice job there, though. Thank you very much, Whitney. We appreciate it.

CASEY: Thank you.

SAN MIGUEL: Well, CNN will continue to bring in-depth coverage of the crisis with Iraq. "CNN PRESENTS" tonight: "Showdown: Iraq, Five Questions." That airs tonight at 8:00 Eastern time.

And tomorrow, don't miss "CNN PRESENTS": "Showdown: Iraq, War Clouds." That airs at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.

We do thank you for joining us on SHOWDOWN: IRAQ. I'll be back in about an hour to host "NEXT@CNN."

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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