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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Discussion with David Albright

Aired March 7, 2003 - 09:13   ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: What is Hans Blix ready to tell the Security Council? We're told it could be a mixed bag yet again. David Albright, a former inspector, now live back with us in Washington D.C.
David, good to have you back. Good morning to you.

DAVID ALBRIGHT, FMR. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Good to be here.

HEMMER: We heard the president say they're in the final phases of diplomacy. What does that mean? How do you define that?

ALBRIGHT: In terms of the inspections, I think President Bush last night put a very high standard on what Blix has to meet, and I don't think you can. I mean, it's -- there's no way Hans Blix can report to the Security Council that Iraq has complied sufficiently to the point, or as defined by President Bush.

HEMMER: David, do you think that it the demand last night is any different than what we've heard in the past, though?

ALBRIGHT: I think there's more patience in the past. I mean, it really was, in a sense, the last straw for President Bush, and I think with what we expect from Hans Blix's report, namely, as you said, a mixed bag, I think President Bush is also trying to head off the kind of conflict that happened when Blix reported last time, this sort of bitter fighting, and he's trying to basically message that says, Iraq hasn't complied, and Hans Blix will show that, even when he gives a mixed bag.

HEMMER: OK, so if he shows that, then, David, where are we today at 5:00 in the afternoon? Do you have any way to estimate that?

ALBRIGHT: It's -- I think it's hard to know. I mean, so much of it depends on how the United States and Britain have defined their schedule to go to war. I mean, listening to President Bush's speech last night, it's hard to believe that they don't -- that he hasn't already made up his mind, even though he said he hadn't. The tone seemed to imply that. So I think what we're going to face at the end of this day is inspection report that's going to report on some progress that has been made, and missiles have been destroyed, interviews with scientists in Iraq have happened. Blix will probably say no, you know, there's a lot of work left to do. I think you mentioned this report that will state a lot of unanswered questions about the Iraqi WMD programs. And so I think there's a real chance that at the end of this day, President Bush can say, look, I told you so, Iraq has not complied sufficiently, and that's going to be very frustrating for people.

It's -- most people in the world want the inspection process to continue, they want the inspectors to continue finding things, and perhaps one of the unfortunate tragedies that's going to emerge today is that the inspectors are getting their act together, really starting to make some progress, becoming more aggressive, too late.

HEMMER: David, though, if you think about this argument, just take the flip side of this, how much longer can the inspections last if the dribble continues? And if that dribble does continue without the presence of the U.S. and British military sitting essentially on all four corners surrounding the country of Iraq, at some point, do you have to say, hey, throw your cards on the table, as the president did last night, and we call your bluff?

ALBRIGHT: Well, that's clearly the position of the side that wants to go to war and settle this once and for all. I mean, those who don't want to go to war would say, look, leave those troops there for the next six to nine months and keep the pressure on Iraq and let the inspectors slowly grind away at Iraq and force, through that process, Iraq to give up its weapons of mass destruction, and also contain Iraq, make sure it can't do anything with its weapons of mass destruction, and also can't produce any more. So I think both sides want the military forces there as the real hammer in this whole situation.

HEMMER: David...

ALBRIGHT: The question is, how long can they be there?

HEMMER: I don't mean to truncate your answer there at the end, but in the 15 seconds we have left, have you thought about the possibility, if there is an invasion and a war, Iraq is overtaken, and you can't find these weapons of mass destruction, what then?

ALBRIGHT: Well, think there's going a lot of egg on the face of the Bush administration, if, for example, they just don't exist.

HEMMER: Do you see that as a possibility or not?

ALBRIGHT: After assessing a lot of the intelligence information on the nuclear side, I'm becoming a little skeptical about some of the claims that I've advocated, that Iraq has a pretty sophisticated nuclear weapons program. So I think that the other side of it, it's going to be critical to look for weapons. I mean, we can't let them slip out of the country, for example.

HEMMER: No question about that, yes. David, thank you. See you a little bit later this morning. Thanks for hanging out. David Albright, down in D.C.

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