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U.S. Will Go Through With Resolution Vote

Aired March 7, 2003 - 09:31   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, we begin at the U.N., where the anticipation is growing, and where our Richard Roth is standing by. He has been spending a lot of time on the phone, and shaking down members of the Security Council to try to get a better sense of what anybody is expecting to hear at the U.N. -- good morning, Richard. What have you learned?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't want to be accused of a shakedown, but definitely these diplomats and ambassadors on the council are being shaken down by the United States primarily for support for their latest resolution on Iraq.

We asked the French foreign minister, who met a short time ago with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, How was the meeting? The French minister said it was a good meeting. Of course, these two have dueled before inside the Security Council chamber.

This is Secretary Powell walking towards the private consultation room where he talked one-on-one with several ministers, including Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov.

All of these diplomats are going to be inside the Security Council chamber in a short time listening to Hans Blix. The chief weapons inspector is going to explain that Iraq is starting to cooperate more.

He's already called it real disarmament when Baghdad started destroying dozens of Al Samoud 2 missiles. The U.S. says that's not weapons of mass destruction, and there is still a lot more to be accounted for.

Blix is also going to submit an extra report filled with areas where Iraq should disarm. These are benchmark areas, though the U.S. doesn't want to use those tones. The countries that oppose war want to give Iraq more time to comply with those areas. Also in the report, the U.N. will say that Iraq horded more anthrax than first believed, 10,000 liters of anthrax after the Gulf War -- Paula.

ZAHN: So you just sort of laid out what Hans Blix might say to defend the credibility of the ongoing inspections. The president made it very clear last night that he believed the inspection process is all but irrelevant.

Do we expect Hans Blix to respond to some of the president's specific criticism last night of the process?

ROTH: Well, both Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei will probably implicitly, explicitly state that they would like more time. Already, Blix has said in several reports that he would -- the only way to guarantee the disarmament would be to get more months there.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency wrote in today's "Wall Street Journal," -- quote -- that "there is always some risk, and for that reason we need to continue to maintain a monitoring and verification presence in Iraq well into the future.

He echoed those comments this morning to CNN. He said that he'd like to help avert a war, and that they could use more time -- Paula.

ZAHN: Richard, if you would, stand by. We're going to be coming back to you throughout the morning as things are about to get underway at the U.N. Thanks so much. Back to Wolf now.


Let's get over to the White House where President Bush last night answered reporters' questions, and in the process addressed the nation and indeed delivered a message to the world.

The president says the time for a decision draws near, very near. He said leaders who are still on the fence must -- and I'm quoting -- "let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam."

For the latest, let's go to our senior White House correspondent, John King. He is standing by there -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And Wolf, in that news conference, the president upped the stakes in what is already quite a significant drama. Mr. Bush committing to a vote next week at the Security Council on that U.S. resolution win or lose.

Some aides had said, perhaps, the president would pull the resolution off the table and not seek a vote if it was clear he would not win. The president saying no. He wants every member of the council to have to show their cards, as the president put it. The president also anticipates, as Richard just noted, a mixed report from Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei. He expects Dr. Blix, for example, to say, Yes, Iraq is cooperating by destroying some Al Samoud 2 missiles, yes, Iraq is cooperating by giving us some access to more documents.

The president firmly last night in his news conference said if that is what Dr. Blix says, then the Security Council must come to the conclusion that Iraq failed the test because, in Resolution 1441, the council said Iraq's compliance must be full, total, and immediate. The president says this is a defining moment for the Security Council.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This issue has been before the Security Council. The issue of disarmament of Iraq for 12 long years. The fundamental question facing the Security Council is will those words mean anything? When the Security Council speaks, will the words have merit and weight? I think it's important for those words to have merit and weight, because I understand that in order to win the war against terror, there must be a united effort to do so, and we must work together to defeat terror.


KING: The has authorized Secretary of State Powell to negotiate some amendments to that U.S., British, and Spanish resolution, but the president also made clear that he wants the vote within a few days.

The president saying the time for diplomacy is drawing short. He wants the process at the United Nations wrapped up by the middle to the end of next week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John, is there any follow-up to this British proposal, perhaps, for a few more days? Some sort of new compromise language? The president surprised some of us by saying he wants that vote whether or not the U.S. has the votes. He wants all 15 members of the Security Council on record.

KING: Well, by saying he will definitely seek a vote, the president essentially framing this now as a test, asking the members of the Security Council to choose, in his view, between the United States and Saddam Hussein.

As for the possible amendments, Secretary of State Powell, we are told, is in what are described as quite serious and intense discussions, along with the British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, trying to see if you can add some sort of a deadline, three to seven days we are told is as far as the president is willing to go, and if that deadline would get you more votes, but I spoke with several officials this morning who are pessimistic that you can get such a deadline that Russia and France will sign on to.

They don't believe three to seven days is enough time. The president is not willing to go any further. So many here at the White House believe that the United States would have to give up too much to get enough votes, but those conversations will continue today at the U.N., certainly continue throughout the weekend, but the United States, and the president made it crystal clear last night, he wants this vote early to the middle of next week because he believes he must move on then to the much more critical decision whether to send in the troops.

BLITZER: All right. John, stand by at the White House. We're going to be getting back to you, obviously, throughout our special coverage.


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