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Blix, ElBaradei Set to Brief Security Council

Aired March 7, 2003 - 09:53   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: CNN correspondents are posted at key points all over the world to gauge potential reaction.
Jim Bittermann is standing by. He reports from Paris this morning. Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty is standing by in the Russian capital, and we have Jane Arraf in Ankara, Turkey this morning. We're going to get started in Paris with Jim Bittermann.

Good morning, Jim.


President Bush's remarks last night came a little bit too late for most of the morning newspapers, but Le Mon (ph), the influential daily, came out just a little bit of ago, and this is how they summarize what President Bush had to say, "War With or Without the United Nations."

And their correspondent in Washington put particular emphasis on the fact that President Bush chose to make his remarks before Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei have had a chance to speak, which, of course, really grates on many Europeans, because it, once again, calls into question what this is all about. If it's about disarmament, you wait and hear what the inspectors have to say. If it's about overthrowing a sitting government, then many Europeans, the French, the Germans, even the pope say, that, in fact, that is not only immoral, but illegal.

So, therein, once again, the Bush administration seems to have aggravated things with this news conference last night -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Jim. Now on to Jill Dougherty.

Good morning, Jill.


You know, this is a very important decision for President Vladimir Putin. Last night, he was on the phone. In fact, we're told he was on the phone with George W. Bush at 1:00 a.m. Moscow Time, talking about Iraq once again repeating what he believes, at least at this point, that there is still some time for diplomatic peaceful solution.

But we also got some intriguing comments from the Giorgi Manareve (ph), who is the deputy foreign minister of Russia who, today, when we asked him, could Russia support that British compromise proposal, and he said, well, look, if it's going to authorize war, then there's no way that we can do it. But he added, if it is a sincere attempt to come to some type of political solution, then we could take it under advisement.

So that's really the first kind of opening of the door that we've seen in the last couple of weeks. I want to show you this paper, Es Vista (ph), which is, kind of like "The New York Times" of Russia.

They had an article, very intriguing, consensus British style, and they have a picture of Tony Blair here. Essentially, what it says is Tony Blair puts together this proposal, compromised proposal, that makes everybody happy. The United States and Britain interpret it for going to war. The others interpret it completely the opposite way. So that's the view from Moscow.

And now we go to Jane Arraf in Ankara, Turkey.


Here in Turkey, they're certainly hoping for a second Security Council resolution that would give some international legitimacy to any war, but they've made clear that no matter what happens at the Security Council, their relationship with the U.S. and that with the U.S. military is a separate thing. And to that end, it does look as if parliament here might meet again and authorize the us combat troops to be based on -- in Turkey for that second front that the U.S. would like to open up -- Paula.

ZAHN: Jane Arraf, thanks for that report. We want to thank the rest of our trio, too, Jim Bittermann, who joined us from Paris, and Jill Dougherty from our Moscow bureau.

Now back to Wolf in Washington.

We're standing by for the start of this critically important u.n. Security Council meeting. But in the meantime, let's talk about some of the U.S. troop deployments. The U.S. Army's fourth infantry division based in Ft. Hood, Texas is in limbo after Turkey balked at permitting the troops to set up bases on Turkish soil. Their equipment is still packed up on ships in the Mediterranean, and the role they might play in Iraq at this point remains pretty much unclear. Pentagon says it can work around Turkey, but clearly, military planners see it as a serious setback.

The retired NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark is joining us now live from Little Rock with his perspective. He, of course, is a CNN military analyst.

General Clark, how big of a setback is this?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, (RET.) CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think it's on a scale of 1 to 10, it's probably a 3 or a 4. It's not decisive, but it is significant in the sense that it does reduce the ability to mass a major force north of Baghdad and north of Tikrit, and then come in from the north. So it is a setback, but it's not a crippling setback to the plan, as we know it. BLITZER: I've heard critics of Turkey suggest what they are now doing by refusing the U.S. troops mission to go in to Northern Iraq from Turkey and forcing them, in effect, to come in from the south, let's say Kuwait they're potentially endangering U.S. lives because it becomes a much more difficult mission.

CLARK: I think it's true that the risks go up when they come in from Turkey, but I think that it's not -- when they don't come in from Turkey, but it's not critical, and I think that we can still do the job. But, yes, there will be added risks.

BLITZER: Let's talk about plan b, some of the options that the Turkish position holds, which it looks like it is right now. I want to got to the telestrater and show our viewers what we're talking about right now. This is Turkey, of course right over here. These are where some ships are waiting to unload equipment. There are also two aircraft carriers in the Eastern Mediterranean. They'd like to be able to fly over Turkish airspace into Northern Iraq, but they might not get permission to do that. They possibly could get permission from Israel and Jordan to fly this way into Iraq. That's unclear if they are going to get that. They may have to go through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea, and then fly over Saudi Arabia to unload their bombs.

What are the best options, if the Turkish position holds?

CLARK: The best option is the Saudi option. And operate out of the Red Sea. We've done that in the past with cruise missiles. It's more difficult and more confusing in the region if you have to go through Israeli airspace and Jordanian airspace. So the Saudi option would be the best option in that case. It takes a little while to get position for it, a few days..

BLITZER: A few days to go through the Suez Canal down to the Red Sea?

All right, General Clark, stand by for our continuing coverage.

We're standing by, of course, for the start of this U.N. Security Council meeting -- Paula.

ZAHN: Wolf, if everything goes on time and as planned, we should hear the beginning of the reports probably about a half-hour or so from now.

We wanted to welcome you all back to our continuing coverage here, SHOWDOWN: IRAQ: THE WEAPONS REPORT.

I am Paula Zahn in New York, where we just mentioned that we are awaiting the weapons inspectors reports. You just saw Wolf in Washington. He'll be with us throughout our special coverage, as will Christiane Amanpour, who joins us from our London bureau this morning.

Heading our coverage this hour from around the globe, senior White House correspondent John King, who joins us from the White House this morning, State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel in New York with Secretary Powell, and senior international correspondent Nic Robertson in Baghdad, senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth, who joins us from the United Nations.

Welcome all.

Let's start off with Richard Roth this morning.

Good morning, Richard. What might we expect to hear about a half hour from now?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, it may not be a half hour. Right now, Secretary of State Powell is entering the Security Council chamber. He's going to milling around with other diplomats there and ambassadors. This is his fourth visit in the last couple of months. It's almost familiar, this scene of the U.S. secretary of state coming up here to either present an intelligence portfolio of what the U.S. thinks it has on Iraq, and also defending the Washington position, while the French go the other way, along with Russia, Germany and China, and says the inspectors should be given more time.

The chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, has already met with Germany's foreign minister today. The German government strongly against any use of force, and they think Blix and his inspectors are doing a solid job, and are beginning to get cooperation from Iraq. Those two men in a meeting this morning.

Hans Blix is going to tell the U.N. Security Council what he feels Iraq has been doing and not doing over the last three months. It's a quarterly update, but he's going to add in an approval, praise for Iraq dismantling some of the Al Samoud II missiles. The U.S. says those missiles are not weapons of mass destruction, and that Baghdad has a lot more, in the chemical and biological fields especially, to come clean on.

Blix will also add an addendum and an extra report, 160 pages, where he's going to say what 29 key disarmament tasks Iraq has to do, in effect, to avoid war, though that judgment is not up to Blix. Those 29 cases may form the basis for some type of amendments to a new resolution that was introduced last week by the U.S., United Kingdom and Spain, and that is give Saddam Hussein and his government a short deadline to start complying with some of these tasks.

What you will see inside the Security Council chamber here, there are about 12 foreign ministers here, along with several ambassadors. They've already had some several private meetings with Secretary of State Colin Powell. The French foreign minister was asked about the meeting with Powell this morning. He said it was a good meeting. We're expecting inside this session Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency will deliver reports, and then the ministers will air their views on the Blix report, and then on the debate.

And, Paula, as you and I have discussed before, some of these speeches are written ahead of time, and some are quickly adjusted to react for public national consumption and for internal use inside the council chamber.

Go ahead, Paula.

ZAHN: Yes, point well taken. Hans Blix, though, has had time to study what Colin Powell said earlier this week about the specific issue of the Al Samoud II missiles. They secretary of state charging that as quickly as the Iraqis dismantle these missiles, they are remaking them in another part of the country. Do you expect Hans Blix to specifically react to that charge?

ROTH: Perhaps. Last time he, if in effect, knocked down the U.S. intelligence reports of Secretary Powell, at least one or two locations. He said his agency wasn't infiltrated, was not getting to weapons sites and only to find the Iraqis moving things just ahead of time. But Blix is not one -- he is an experienced Swedish diplomat, former foreign minister. He may not take on point by point what Powell is saying. In a way, he's still able to walk the diplomat tightrope we've seen, parsing out praise on one hand, and on the other hand, saying Iraq can do more. But he does want more time. He tends not to come out and say it officially.

You see British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw there on the left. To his left, British ambassador here, Sir Jeremy Greenstock. These huddles will go on for several minutes before the speeches begin here.

BLITZER: And have we gotten any new insights into what this second resolution, or any compromise amendment language might be?

ROTH: Well, one U.S. official said that they've been working object this for several days. Another official said the U.S. and British government have been trying to tweak this resolution to get support. Another diplomat last night told me he expects amendments to be circulated. Another said they will be circulated today, because this council will go behind closed doors to start discussing the resolution.

The real work, that's in about six hours from now, working over what the British, as seen by Foreign Secretary Straw on the left there, will be introducing. Will it be enough to get the nonpermanent members on board? We don't know. We can take a quick look at the rundown of where these countries stand in terms of that resolution. The U.S., U.K., Spain and Bulgaria are in favor. There are only four. The U.S. needs nine votes. Against this resolution right now, France, China, Russia, all of these countries have veto power, Syria and Germany. The best the U.S. could hope for would be abstentions. They could also vote no. On the fence, Mexico, Pakistan, Chili, Cameroon, Guinea and Angola. Many of those countries are hoping the pressure doesn't come to them. They'd like to see the big powers settle their differences. All of those countries have enormous economic interests at hand with the United States and with the European powers, and they don't want to offend either of them.

BLITZER: Finally, this morning, Richard, you were saying the secretary of state had an important breakfast to try to sway one of those undecided countries, which I guess has been to refer to by some folks as the minnows. Tell us about that. ROTH: Mexico was at breakfast. Part of the wooing campaign for days now. Several times Secretary Powell has met with the Mexican foreign minister. Also the Chileans has been heavily involved in the discussions. The Mexican government has been in touch with the Chilean government. All sides trying to forge a compromise. So many diplomats who oppose war, they at least want to get a united Security Council. Kofi Annan, while saying it's not going to be destructive to the United Nations, he said continued inspections could only help, but he's not going to come out and give his opinion.

On the right there is Kuwait's ambassador, and on the left there is deputy U.S. ambassador James Cunningham, by the way, as the final dialogue goes on here.

A lot of tension. Last time, as you remember, Paula, the French foreign minister drew applause, violating U.N. rules, as various countries who sit and overlook the chamber applauded his remarks -- Paula.

ZAHN: Well, we're going to continue to keep an eye on the glad- handing going on in advance of the reports. And, Richard, we'll be counting on you to be our eyes and ears once things get under way.

Thanks so much. Back to, Wolf, now in Washington.

BLITZER: Thanks, Paula.

Today's report sets the stage for the highest kind of political poker at the United Nations. President Bush says it's time for everyone to show their cards, win or lose. There will be a vote he says on this second resolution, one designed to authorize war, potentially at least. Let's bring back our senior White House correspondent John King.

The president is determined, by all accounts, to move ahead with or without the U.N. Security Council.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that is exactly right, and it is reflected in the president's schedule book, yesterday and into today and beyond.

Ari Fleischer, the president's press secretary, just moments ago saying, this is now a question of -- quote -- "What value does the United Nations have?" Like the president last night, Ari Fleischer saying there is no question Iraq has not complied fully, completely and immediately disarming as called for in resolution 1441, and the Security Council must now deal with the question of whether it meant what it said. Now as that goes on, we are learning the president spoke last night, both to President Putin of Russian and President Vincente Fox of Mexico, two votes on the Security Council, two critical votes.

So the president still lobbying for so support on the council. But the president also just moments ago wrapping up a National Security Council meeting here at the White House, where the contingency plans for war in Iraq were agenda item number one. That meeting just breaking up.

And later today, Wolf, the president will stop by a meeting here at the White House. The foreign minister of the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, a key staging point for U.S. warplanes in the region, is here at the White House to meet with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. The president will stop by that meeting as well, to thank one of the countries that is giving critical support to the U.S. war machine in the region.

So the president not giving up just yet on diplomacy, but he made clear, just a few more days to try to get a compromise out of the United Nations, and the president is moving aggressively ahead with making sure the war plans are in place. Aides telling us that critical decision could come within a matter of days, certainly within the next week or so -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Qatar, of course, John, being where the U.S. Central Command and General Tommy Franks have established their temporary headquarters at a military base just outside of capital of Doha.

John, the president was center stage of course last night moving forward. You say he is making phone calls. He spoke with President Putin. But what about Chancellor Schroeder of Germany or President Chirac of France? Is there any chance the president is going to get on the phone and talk with those two NATO allies?

KING: We're told there is a possibility of a call to President Chirac in the coming days. No one here at the White House expects the president to call Gerhard Schroeder, the chancellor of Germany. The bad blood in that relationship goes back to Schroeder's election campaign late last year, where the White House believes he was gratuitous at taking slaps at the Bush administration policy in Iraq. There have been some efforts to mend the relationships. Secretary Powell gets along with Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister. But the president had only a very brief conversation with Chancellor Schroeder at the one meeting, a NATO meeting, in which they have come together since. White House officials say there is still, what Don Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, once called poison in the relationship. Some of it healed.

But don't look for the president to call the German chancellor. The French vote, of course, is much more critical, because France, unlike Germany, has veto power on the council. It is possible. Those two leaders get along. President Chirac and President Bush get along. There are pointed disagreements right now. The White House draws this distinction. They say whenever President Chirac is going to go out and publicly criticize the United States, he gives the White House a heads-up. They say the Germans have not done that in the past -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, John, stand by at the White House, we'll be getting back to you as well.


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