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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Discussion with Former Weapons Inspector Terrence Taylor

Aired February 3, 2003 - 07:39   ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to get back to Baghdad right now. The chief inspectors have accepted an invitation to go back to Iraq for talks. In fact, they'll go this Saturday of this weekend.
From D.C. this morning, let's talk about that return.

Former U.N. weapons inspector Terrence Taylor is back with us this morning.

Good to see you again, sir.

Good morning to you.

TERRENCE TAYLOR, FORMER WEAPONS INSPECTOR, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE STRATEGIC STUDIES: Nice to be with you.

HEMMER: Let's tick off three quick points here. The "L.A. Times" percolating this story yet again today about the Brits and the U.S. coming together and essentially putting out a six week deadline, which would put a possibility for military conflict somewhere around March 10th.

Does that time line, does that schedule square with how you analyze this right now?

TAYLOR: Well, I'm not surprised to hear this kind of deadline. I think what both London and Washington want to do is avoid a repeat of the 1990s, where we stumbled from month to month and even year to year. And so I think by putting a deadline on this increases the pressure, in their view, on Baghdad to deliver up some new data, new information and to help the inspectors do their job.

HEMMER: And point number two, when Hans Blix goes back with Mohamed ElBaradei, apparently they will push the Iraqis on two issues, primarily -- accept the U2 surveillance flights over your country of Iraq and allow your scientists to be interviewed in private without any Iraqi minders.

If these two conditions are not met, Terry, what then?

TAYLOR: Well, I think that just increases the case for the United States and the U.K. to press ahead. I mean it does demonstrate that Iraq is not genuinely cooperating.

As far as the U2 over flights, that's the high altitude surveillance aircraft supplied by the United States, but acting in support of the United Nations, that is very, very important for the inspectors. We used it extensively during the 1990s and it was certainly a very important part of our missions. So it shouldn't be difficult for the Iraqis to actually agree to allowing these flights to take place. This is nothing new for them.

HEMMER: Terry, we want to borrow your words now. You're quoted in "Newsweek" magazine this week, in fact. You say, regarding the trip of Colin Powell to the U.N. on Wednesday, you say, "My nostrils are choked by a dozen years of smoking guns. There's a mountain of evidence."

How precise, how large is that mountain, Terry?

TAYLOR: Well, I think Dr. Blix in his presentation to the U.N. Security Council on the 27th of January certainly outlined the main points of that, and he, I think, helpfully outlined the history of Iraqi defiance of U.N. inspections and not answering key issues on their chemical, biological weapons programs and their missile programs, and also on the nuclear program, as well, according to Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

So there's a lot of questions and outstanding issues. And we're talking about not just allegations, but substantial evidence of materials going into Iraq and not being accounted for, which could only, in my view, be destined for weapons programs.

HEMMER: Let's talk later...

TAYLOR: So we're not talking about sort of wild allegations here.

HEMMER: Got it.

TAYLOR: And I think Colin Powell, the U.S. secretary of state, will reinforce this point when he talks to the Security Council on the fifth of February.

HEMMER: The thing that kind of hangs me up, though, is you say there are plenty of smoking guns. Colin Powell says there will not be a smoking gun on Wednesday. Then add it up for us. What's the evidence you prove, what's the evidence you bring and how many people are buying your argument?

TAYLOR: Well, I think when the term smoking gun is used, when, it might, in the quote you mentioned from "Newsweek," I was making a technical answer. There's a whole pile of hard evidence produced by the U.N. Special Commission On Iraq and the International Atomic Energy Agency which points towards weapons programs continuing in Iraq. So that's a technical statement.

But there is a political dimension to it and I think when you hear ministers and secretaries of states speak, they're really speaking politically. Is the evidence they're going to present sufficient, you know, to actually change the course of action immediately? And I think what Colin Powell is saying, that on Wednesday, that he's going to present evidence but there will be time allowed for Iraq to respond in some way or another. And so what he's saying is not immediate action when he speaks on the fifth of February.

HEMMER: Let's talk later this week, OK?

TAYLOR: Yes. I look forward to it.

HEMMER: Terry Taylor in D.C. Good to see you again.

TAYLOR: All right, Bill.

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