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Hans Blix Gives Briefing on Iraqi Compliance

Aired March 5, 2003 - 13:02   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: First this hour, we are awaiting a briefing by Hans Blix the chief U.N. weapons inspector. Blix is in the eye of the diplomatic storm over going to war with Iraq. And how he judges Iraq in the next few days could be of huge importance.
CNN's Richard Roth is standing by now live at U.N. headquarters with more.

Good afternoon, to you, Richard.


Well, all the pressure hasn't outwardly affected Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector Hans Blix, but there is an inordinate amount of global pressure on him. He may not want to admit his writings affect world peace, but he is aware as an experienced Swedish diplomat that this is the case. If we can look live -- you're looking live now at the room where Hans Blix will meet with members of the United Nations Correspondents Association. Blix is going to update his report on Friday, inside U.N. headquarters, to the full U.N. Security Council. You see reporters putting their tape recorders down, awaiting the big moment.

He issued a quarterly update last weekend, in which he said Iraq's cooperation had been rather limited, that he would like more time to continue inspections, but that if Iraq had only come clean earlier with more information, that could have provided more fruit, he said. There is increased security, we're told, in the room for Chief Inspector Blix. I traveled with him on the way to Cypress and Baghdad the last few months. And the first few journeys, there was rather no security and Blix was like the average man as he waits on a French train platform or took a taxi from the JFK Kennedy Airport.

Now considering what's at stake, the U.N. added extra security for Hans Blix. This report is going to be delivered in open session in the Security Council on Friday. Followed by what could be a very fiery debate among members of the Security Council who continue to disagree on a new resolution on Iraq, and whether there should be force used against Iraq. The weapons inspectors have asked for more time. They don't state their opinion as to why their opinion should stop a war. They just feel they have a job to do.

The United Nations here will see Colin Powell, secretary of state with Dominique De Villepin of the French government. They were the two main verbal combatants of last time, along with the German foreign minister and others. But it was the French that drew applause inside the Security Council chamber, very rare by diplomatic standards, not allowed under U.N. rules, when the French foreign minister gave a passionate defense for the U.N. and why war was not needed at this time.

Here at the United Nations, of course, Hans Blix, former Swedish foreign minister, has been working for about two or three years in his job, but only a few months ago did he and his inspectors finally get in on the ground, allowed under a new resolution accepted by Iraq, a resolution passed unanimously, number 1441.

The White House today of course saying that resolution was agreed to by, even, France, even Syria, and since it threatens Iraq with further consequences, and that they're already in material breach, Iraq, Washington says, has not, in any way, fully disarmed, fully cooperated. Even Blix, the chief weapons inspector seen here the other day meeting with Europeans parliamentarians, has said the cooperation has not been proactive enough, hasn't been, quote, "spontaneous enough." And Blix going to continue, we believe, to make that point in his reports.

But, he is also able, Heidi, to come up with a delicate balancing act in the written document and oral report. He will disagree with Colin Powell and his high-profile intelligence briefing of February 5, complete with slides and audiotapes, by saying, well we haven't been made fools of by Iraq. We haven't been infiltrated and we don't think the Iraqis moved materials and prohibited items just before we got there. But on the other hand, he will say Iraq is not complying. And, thus, that's music to the ears of diplomats in Washington. This is what we've been seeing.

Heidi, back to you.

COLLINS: I'm wondering, Richard, if there's any movement you know of or hearing from your sources about the undecided members going one way or another at this point.

ROTH: Yes, even Bulgaria today, an undecided member, said he was somewhat confused by the announcements out of Paris today and the disagreements among the French, Russians, and Germans, and the U.S. government.

You see Hans Blix walking into the press conference room, escorted by the president of the United Nations Correspondent Association, Tony Jenkins, who we believe will make an opening remark or two. And then Hans Blix will take questions. The United Nations Correspondents Association has been in the building for over 45, 50 years, and this Iraq issue has certainly given it more of a limelight, which the United Nations Correspondents Association would like to have. I can guarantee you your going to hear remarks to that affect.

Chief Inspector Blix will report to the Council on Friday. That, as you mention, Heidi, the undecided six, the swinging six, you even heard one ambassador say, I am not a swinging vote, the other day. Those undecided have been heavily wooed by both sides, both blocks. And it's going to happen probably up until Friday.

Let's listen to the head of the U.N. Correspondents Association.

Here's Tony Jenkins.


QUESTION: I'll start off with the first question by asking him, is the inspection process working?

HANS BLIX, CHIEF UNITED NATIONS WEAPONS INSPECTOR: There is an expression in the Resolution 1284 "fully operational," and we have defined that meaning, and that is to be reported to the Security Council. And we are. And I think that we are fairly close to being fully operational.

We, under 1284, we should also have ready a work program, and we should have made our proposal as to what we think are key remaining disarmament tasks. And the work program, including the key tasks, will be approved by the Security Council. After that, I think we will be fully operational in the sense of 1284. And even as it is now, we are pretty much operational. We're missing a few things. We are talking to the Russians about adding some AM (ph) airplanes with night vision. The Mirages are in the air already.

And a number of things are going on, and so I think we are pretty close to it.

QUESTION: Yes, but you know, that's not the question I'm asking.

BLIX: I'm not asking if you're fully operational. I'm asking, I guess, are your inspectors disarming Iraq?

BLIX: Well, that was a different question. That wasn't the one you were asking.


QUESTION: All right, well, let's go with that one then.

BLIX: Well, clearly, the missile is real disarmament. Here, weapons that can be used in war are destroyed in fairly large quantities. There's a whole program, and it is the various items that are related to that, like launchers, casting chambers, et cetera. These are being destroyed.

Now that is real disarmament.


... and the quantities of choline or VX that were poured into the ground. Now, this I think one could characterize as efforts of verifying disarmament.

BLIX: Because the actual disarmament, if it took place, was deploying the material into the ground. And this is the verification. There have been lots of question marks attached to many things of the past. And here then is the very creation, if we can straighten out the question marks. And now we have to examine each of the case, each of the things they are doing. And Iraqis are undertaking quite a lot of steps in this direction.

So yes, I think that, one, there are greater efforts made. And I think that responds to some demands in the Security Council that Iraq should be active, and we should verify.

They have, since January, turned to (inaudible) that we have characterized as particularly important, like the anthrax issue and like the VX issue. They have spontaneously gone at them. What exactly these measures they are taking will result in, well, that will be decided by the critical analysis are our experts.

MODERATOR: All right, I'm going to throw it open.

BLIX: Am I getting closer to your answer?

MODERATOR: I don't think we're done with you yet, actually.


I'm going to start off with Al Jazeera TV.

QUESTION: Dr. Blix, in terms of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, is Saddam Hussein a danger today to the world?

BLIX: Well, that's not really a question that the resolutions ask us.

I think that when I read, not what our inspectors say, but when you read about the status (ph) military capacity of Iraq, everybody agrees that they have a much, much smaller capacity than they had -- capability than they had in 1991 and that also Iraq is closely watched and surveilled, and there are almost a couple of hundred thousand people nearby. So whatever capability it has, it's smaller than before, and it is very closely guarded.

QUESTION: Is that still a danger to the world, that small quantity? BLIX: Well, it's a military question, more military and political, more than the verification question. I think you ask the generals about that. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) television.

MODERATOR: I now come to Russian TV.

QUESTION: OK, Mr. Blix, as we know, you renewed your contract with the United Nations until June. They believe inspections will be going on until June? And also, do you feel a lot of pressure from the capitals?

BLIX: Well, when we watch the Americans and others build up, we don't know what's going to happen. And people assume that there will be use of military force and whatever will happen with the inspection operations then, I don't know. I have the executive responsibility for the protection of our people. We have evacuation plans. I think that the Security Council that has created UNMOVIC, they have the political responsibility for this organization, that they should also face that responsibility.

Yes, I have prolonged my contract through the end of June. It's a nice time to come home for mid-summer.

QUESTION: About the pressure from the capitals, do you feel something like demanding...

BLIX: Any capital in particular?


QUESTION: Yes, Washington, Moscow, Paris, London.

BLIX: I think a bit too much is made of that. I constantly meet people asking me, "Aren't you under terrible pressures? It must be awful, et cetera." No, I don't think so. And therefore, I have thick skin. But I don't feel that way.

I think the discussions I have with the governments, whether the U.S. government or the French or the German or the Russian, they are civilized discussions. I've been somewhat amazed at some of the reports that have come here when I met or talked to Condoleezza Rice, that she was admonishing me. She has never admonished me. We carry on very civilized conversation, and not always agreeing, but a very civilized conversation.

QUESTION: Yes, Dr. Blix, can you give us an indication, sort of, bring us up to date on the interviews -- unmonitored interviews? Have there been any totally unmonitored interviews yet?

And also, if you could comment on the -- there was a leak of the interview between UNSCOM and General Hussein Kamal, with General Kamal suggesting that every -- all the stocks and missiles had all been destroyed. Is that a credible ascertain that he had made? And just give us your assessment please.

BLIX: Well, frankly, I don't think that interview has leaked from UNMOVIC. And on the whole, my feeling is that we leak relatively little. Our quarter report leaked (UNINTELLIGIBLE) meeting in the College of Commissioners and another part of it leaked a little later when it was in technical preparation in the house (ph), but not from us.

We have the report from Hussein Kamal, and I read it. My attention had been called to it. Someone said that it had been published. So then, I read it. I had read it a long time ago and I did notice the passage in which he says that they did destroy all the chemical and biological weapons.

But what credibility is given to each of these things that he says, that's another matter. I don't know from where it came, but, of course, what he says is certainly interesting. And it was of great use -- even more use, I think, was the documents they found at the chicken farm, that was substantial -- contemporary. Whatever he said will nevertheless will have to be corroborated by examination in the field.

Now, as to our interviewing of people in Baghdad now, yes, I have a paper showing me that we have carried out a number of interviews on our terms. And I think there were nine of them, which were completely...


BLIX: ... seven -- completely on our terms.

You remember that for a time, we insisted that it be neither recorder present nor should there be any minders present. And after a while, we didn't seem to get anyone on that. We asked one after another, and they want to have either recorder or they want to have minder, so we stopped it for a while; said there's no use of calling people. And then, we resumed it and I assume that the Iraqi side have, as they call, encouraged their people to come on our terms, and we have now had seven on our terms, precisely.

The purpose of this is that they partially increased their credibility. And the background of the provisions in the resolutions were that you should have private interviews, that it was called. That contrasted to interviews that UNSCOM had and we sometimes became caricatures of interviews. They had lots of minders in the room and they even interrupted the person.

Now, we are going, perhaps, very far in the other direction. We won't have any minder. We won't have any recorder. But, of course, we are aware that we are in a society where hotel rooms may be bugged and where many people carry their recorders in their pockets or transmitters on themselves. So I don't think we have any illusions that they're absolutely safe, that they are not following some line that they believe that the government would wish them to follow.

Nevertheless, having said that, the resolution showed that we are not naive. I must say that the interviews, according to our experts, do give interesting results; that they are informative. And it's always been that way, that between two scientists there is a limit to how much you can fool each other. If they try something that is scripted and implausible, then our person, our interviewer will say, "Well, come on. You realize that you can't get away with that." So, yes, they are informative and useful.

There is a lot of importance attached to that, because we have received from the Iraqis long list of people who participated in the 1991 destruction -- unilateral destruction measures. And even so detailed as to telling us who took part in the transportation and who did this and who did that. And we are, of course, turning to those also for interviews.

QUESTION: Let me follow-up Collin's (ph) question just a little bit before I move on, which is there was also talk at one time of taking some of these people outside Iraq to interview them. Is that a dead letter now?

BLIX: No, it's not. In fact, I wrote recently to another Arab government in the region to ask whether we could take persons there. Because we have the agreement with the government of Cyprus that we can take people there. We also have assurances by some governments that they would be ready to give asylum to people who might not want to go back to Iraq. So the Larnaca channel is open, but we would like to also have a channel to an Arab country. It could be that some persons who'd we'd invite to go that they prefer to go in Arab country. And I am hopeful that we will be able to do that.

But have not done it yet. I think it may come about. Evidently, that could give a little further -- yes, I could give further, better conditions for credibility, because anyone who has said something that the person might feel would go against the government might then be in that position to ask for asylum.

But it's still a difficult operation, you know, to bring the families and large families. So it's not anything that we have undertaken, but it's still certainly on the books.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) is that country Egypt or do you want to tell us which...

BLIX: Well, I don't want to reveal it since I haven't had a reply from them yet.

QUESTION: A couple of clarifications. We have heard that the Iraqis were supposed to give you letters on the VX and anthrax, and we don't know whether it has been received by you. And also, we don't know whether you concluded definitely that the technology they spoke about that is able to determine the quantities of that, whether you determined it is no good; you cannot do that.

QUESTION: And my question is that the French, the Germans, the Russians seem to think their position is in support of you, UNMOVIC, of your continuation in doing the work. Are you ready to come out and say that you accept their position and that you appreciate it and that's what you want; you want the continuity of your work, otherwise your report on Friday would become really academic and irrelevant?

BLIX: Well, on the question of the Iraqi measures on anthrax and on VX, it is right that they have suggested that we actually (ph) dig into the ground and we actually (ph) take samples of the earth. And then there are some original methods that could be applied, and they hope would give some idea about the quantity that has been poured into the ground.

Our experts have been somewhat skeptical about the possibility of their pouring lots of quantities into the earth in 1991, and now in 2003 try to see how much did you pour into the ground. I mean if you pour some milk into the ground 10 years ago, then analyze the soil, I can understand the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of it. It might not be so easy to see whether it was one liter or two liters or a hundred liters. However, as Mr. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) said on the television the other day, we are open-minded and we will see what they come out with by way of analysis.

Now, your second question was then how do we respond to the Russian and the French suggestions for a speeded-up war program. I suppose most of you have seen the communique from Paris a little while ago, where they also talk about this. We will listen to what they have to say on Friday.

But what I think you should know, all of you, is that there is one resolution behind 1441, namely 1284, which created us. And that resolution foresees that we shall put together a work program 60 days after we have, as a quote, "started to work." And we have calculated and the time lines agreed with members of the council. This should be around toward the end of March -- 27th of March is the time when we would be held obliged under Resolution 1284 to submit a work program for inspections.

Now that work program shall contain, as many of you know, a list of what we consider to be key remaining disarmament tasks. And it will also indicate what we will plan to do in these tasks and what we would expect the Iraqis...



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