The Web     
Powered by
powered by Yahoo!
Return to Transcripts main page


General Houssam Amin Holds Press Conference

Aired March 9, 2003 - 10:29   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And we want to take you to Baghdad right now where there's a briefing taking place. Let's listen in.

GENERAL HOUSSAM AMIN, IRAQI NATIONAL MONITORING DIRECTORATE (through translator): During the last week, there has been intensive inspections. All of it has been unplanned and it covered large areas in Iraq using airplanes and other equipment. A number of sites have been visited, some belong to the military industry, others belong to the agriculture and other ministries like the higher education, and also, a number of sites owned by the private sector.

The number of inspections last week was 72. The overall number since November to now was 923 inspections. Two hundred and one sites have been visited, which were not included in any previous visits. These -- 180 teams of inspectors are working in Iraq now -- in Iraq and (UNINTELLIGIBLE), using airplanes and French Mirage. They've been up in the air for 48 hours. Thirty-five by U-2 planes and 14 by the French Mirage, and this since the 17th of February 2003. The use of the U-2 is almost daily. The number of flying over have been over 11.

Today, the number of missiles that have been destroyed is over 50 and that includes the number of batteries and other components. The Iraqi side has offered and provided answers to UNMOVIC as requested. The work is continuing intensively to provide the evidence that Iraq has destroyed all of the anthrax since 1991. And also the air bombs, all 400, they all have been destroyed. And this will go to consider the Iraqi position.

The Iraqi (UNINTELLIGIBLE) are continuing to cooperate with the inspectors, mainly the anthrax and VX that was declared in 1991. The Iraqi figures are consistent with our earlier reports.

UNMOVIC, there are a number of issues between Iraq and UNMOVIC, which are being worked out at the moment.

The interviews with the scientists are continuing and Iraqi authorities are facilitating access to the scientists. So far, we have 28 interviews. Another promise, Iraq is free or weapons of mass destruction and all the claims by the British and American administrations are a pack of lies. And the inspection over the last three months prove the Iraqi position. The record by Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei also confirm the degree of Iraqi cooperation. The report by Mr. Blix in front of the -- before the Security Council also confirms the Iraqi position. Mr. ElBaradei has said that an allegation that Iraq is trying to import uranium. False allegations that were based on a document provided by the British, which turned out that it was a false and fabricated document. And this proves the lies perpetrated by Blair and the CIA.

UNMOVIC and the Atomic National Agency have maintained that Iraq is cooperating fully with the inspection teams. Iraqi cooperation is both a procedural one and also in substance. We hope that this assessment will help UNMOVIC and the international agency to conclude that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction, and recommend to the Security Council to lift the sanctions against our Iraqi people.

OK, OK, I shall speak in English. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

UNMOVIC and IAEA inspection teams are conducting their continuous and intensive activities in Iraq. All of the inspections were surprising and without previous notice to the Iraq site. The inspections covered as usual wide range areas through which helicopters were used for transportation and surveillance. Various sites were inspected last week. Those sites included sites related to the military (UNINTELLIGIBLE) corporation, ministry of defense, ministry of health, ministry of agriculture, ministry of higher education, and ministry of industry.

Last week, the number of inspections were 72 inspections. Thus, the total number of inspections since the 27th of November 2002 was 923 inspections. Those inspections cover 722 sites of which 201 sites are irrelevant to the past programs or to the ongoing monitoring system. The total number of UNMOVIC and IAEA staff in Iraq is 181. Why the number of inspectors is 100.

The aerial surveillance of fixed-wing planes U-2 and the French Mirage has been implemented continuously. The total number of surveyed flying hours is 48 hours, 35 hours of U-2 and 13 hours of Mirage.

The helicopters are also continuously used and almost daily. The total number of aerial surveillance flights amounted to 11 flights since the 16th of January 2003.

The destruction of Al-Samoud 2 missiles is going on regularly without any problem. And the total number of the missiles that have not been destroyed until today is 40 missiles, 30 of them were combat and the other 10 were training missiles. One launcher and five rocket engines were also destroyed.

In the last week, Iraq handed over many letters, which clarify answers to questions read by UNMOVIC and IAEA. The work is also being conducted intensively to obtain substantive evidences, which prove that Iraq had destroyed, in 1991, all of the R-400 aerial bombs filled with biological agents. The findings were encouraging and they confirmed that Iraq has implemented the unilateral destruction of its weapon of mass destruction in 1991. And those findings enhance the supporting documents provided by Iraq in this regard.

Iraq is keeping on exhorting support to carry out its proposal to introduce to UNMOVIC concerning the scientific thoughts, to calculate quantities of the unfilled destroyed anthrax at the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) site in 1991. Iraq support -- our continuous -- also, to calculate the quantities of VX chemical agents and as a precursor, destroyed in 1991.

The calculations are implemented according to 100 persons' Iraqi proposals. Those calculations were discussed with UNMOVIC delegation heads by the chairman of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Mr. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the 2nd of March 2003.

Interviews are being conducted regularly. The Iraq side presented by the National Monitoring Directorate is encouraging those interviews, according to the agreed announcement signed by both sites last month. The total number of interviewed persons are 28 until today.

Once again, we confirm that Iraq is clean of weapons of mass destruction and that all of the American and brutish allegations are mere lies and baseless accusations. These facts proved through the inspections and proliferation implemented in the past three months. In addition, it has also been declared subjectively and clearly by Mr. Hans Blix and Mr. Mohamed ElBaradei in their report last week and also in their briefing to the U.N. Security Council on the 7th of March 2003. For instance, Mr. ElBaradei declared clearly that the accusation attempt to import uranium from major was proved that it's based on forgery to comment provided by the British Intelligence Service, which prove -- and as a consequence -- as a result of that, that the Blair's report and the CIA report is just also lies and baseless.

In these two reports, UNMOVIC and IAEA stated that Iraq is cooperating fully and cooperatively in implementing its obligations. This cooperation does not cover process aspects only, but it also covers (UNINTELLIGIBLE) aspects. We hope that this will expedite UNMOVIC work to reach to the position that Iraq is again completely of weapon of mass destruction and to the comment to the Security Council lifting the sanctions imposed on the correction of the Iraqi people.


QUESTION (through translator): Hans Blix said before the Security Council that Iraq would produce a report that would include banned weapons. Mohamed ElBaradei also said today that Iraq produced small material in the few days. How do you respond to that?

AMIN (through translator): As for the Republican decree, the UNMOVIC and the IAEA have noticed that the decree requires that all military and laboratories to ban any experiments on weapons of mass destruction. This is not accurate. Since the -- or the government bodies are included in the United Nations resolutions. Therefore, there's no need to produce a decree to that effect. The decree covers private institutions that are not included under the government. But this decree needs to be authorized by the National Assembly and other bodies.

As for the evidence which was mentioned by Mr. ElBaradei, where we have all of the evidence and nuclear (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and we don't have outstanding issues according to the IAEA. There are a number of issues that can be tackled through the inspection itself. If Mr. ElBaradei had meant the other areas like biological and missiles, then that would be addressed separately.

QUESTION (through translator): Just what is your evaluation of ElBaradei and Blix's report to what do you think are facts on the ground? What do you believe there is full cooperation and effective cooperation? The second point is there are a number of issues that were raised in Blix's report, and which was intended to show that there are a number of outstanding issues that were then begin discussed. Do you think there are outstanding issues that prevent the -- Mr. Blix from issuing a clean bill of health to Iraq? How do you respond to this?

AMIN (through translator): As for the report that was mentioned, there are a number of outstanding issues. We have received this report, if you also go from UNMOVIC, and we haven't been able to study it yet. But we expect to find these outstanding issues as -- from UNMOVIC point-of-view, from a biological, chemical and missiles.

And the outstanding issues are issues that have been analyzed and studied in 1999. And I pointed out that there are a few issues that have called key disarmament issues related to disarmament.

As for the other points, that can be addressed by monitoring. We cooperate with UNMOVIC and we are trying to reach a solution to these issues.

QUESTION (through translator): What does Iraq intend to do in the coming few days as Washington said regarding those outstanding issues? And would you invite ElBaradei and Blix to come back to Iraq again?

AMIN (through translator): Well, we are working hard to meet or obligations and to overcome any obstacles as far as the IAEA and UNMOVIC. Whether that takes a week, 10 days, or two months, we are doing everything we can despite everything we are (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We aren't interested in dates and times. We are doing our best.

As for Mr. Blix's visit, I think now it is possible that he might come over on the 17th of this month.


AMIN: I already answered this question to (UNINTELLIGIBLE). OK. We are working intensively. The Iraqi side is working intensively and its paid its maximum effort to resolve any questions addressed or asked by UNMOVIC and IAEA. Regardless, those targets of seven days or 10 days, we don't want it and we consider the work is continual. And we hope to resolve the questions, as soon as possible.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) AMIN: This is political and it is regarded to the situation of the Security Council. It has not resolved to now. We think that these attempts will be refused by the other states, the other members of the Security Council.


QUESTION (through translator): How would you respond to reports today that the international forces on the border between Iraq and Kuwait have withdrawn? And does that mean that war is imminent?

AMIN (through translator): As far as this withdrawal, I heard that on the BBC and I haven't heard it from any other source. I don't have any official document about this. And if it is true, then this is an indication, as you said. However, Iraq is prepared for any possibility and we are -- the president (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is in constant meetings with the military commanders and other officials and these meetings are part of his activity and it is normal.

QUESTION: I'm a reporter from Hong Kong and my name is (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And I wonder do you expect, you know, the issue could be -- the crisis could be resolved diplomatically and peacefully, given the March 17 ultimatum? I would consider it an ultimatum.

AMIN: Well, I think the crisis could be resolved peacefully. Why? Because -- simply because there is no crisis. The crisis is created by the Americans and if the Americans and the British go to their -- it depends on the wisdom and on the voice of their people and the voice of peoples all around the world. They will put an end to this crisis, to this publicized crisis, indeed.

QUESTION: Sir, just to follow up, do you plan any new initiatives in the coming days given the harsh reality of this ultimatum that the United States and Great Britain are pushing? You went through a litany of things that are ongoing, efforts that you've been working out for some time, but is there really anything new that you think you can offer in the coming days?

AMIN: As I told you in the beginning that we are working intensively to put the answers to the questions of UNMOVIC and IAEA. These technical aspects usually are used by the United States administration and the British government as a pretext to the directory, their aggressive stance against Iraq. So we think that if we resolve those technical points, we can disarm the British and the Americans from these pretexts. This is what we can do.

QUESTION: OK, General, I have a question concerning about Al- Samoud missiles. Last week, General Saadi said that as long as Iraq sensed that there will be, let's say, a signal from the United States to attack Iraq and Iraq might consider to stop destroying Al-Samoud missiles and also -- so my question is are you going to do this now since there is a deadline put forward by the Americans and the British? And the second part of the question is that reports indicated that so far the 40 missiles destroyed are mostly components and not missiles deployed in the Iraqi army. Are you going to destroy those missiles deployed in the army? Thank you.

AMIN: With regard to the American aggression, it is a daily aggression against Iraq. We are destroying. We accepted destruction of Al-Samoud 2 although the negotiation was really unjustified completely. You can say that. And it had been adopted under the pressure of Iraq, the United States and Great Britain.

Although, we are implementing the destruction of Al-Samoud 2 to give the opportunity to our friends in the Security Council to defend our case correctly and to not be -- and not to be criticized by the others. This first. And the second, destroyed missiles were -- some of them were taken from the army units and the others from the production lines. And the process, as I say in the beginning, is gone on regularly and without any obstacles. Thank you.

QUESTION (through translator): That you said that you're working hard and dedication, what's the point of working hard if President Bush has said that he will attack Iraq regardless if there was a resolution -- United Nations resolutions or not? So why are you destroying them? Besides that could help you to face this aggression. Why are you continuing to disarm if this is the case?

AMIN (through translator): We have agreed to destroy Al-Samoud 2 missiles not out of love of America but to defend our obligation to UNMOVIC and to honor our agreement to work with the inspectors. The destruction of these missiles, this minimizes our capability, but we have enough to defend ourselves with these missiles. But its range is less than 150 kilometers. However, this destruction has harmed our capability, but has also improved our critical position.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) United Nations and suggested by French?

AMIN: Well, the calendar suggested by the French government was based on the Resolution 1284 and this resolution, the timetable that is following. The ongoing monitoring and verification system should be established after the -- after the inspection resumption -- four months after the resumption of the inspection -- four months, the monitoring system would start working, functioning. And after four months of testing the Iraqi cooperation, let's call it, in the monitoring phase, the sanctions should be suspended, not lifted, but suspended and six months later should be lifted. This is the arrangement that -- which we understand.


AMIN (through translator): The Volga missiles are air-to-air missiles and has nothing to do with Al-Samoud 2. The engine for Al- Samoud 2 is similar to that, the engine of the Volga missile. And we've had agreement with UNMOVIC that the destruction should not include engines of the Al-Samoud -- for the other missile.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) destruction that is -- and the destruction of the Al- Samoud 2 missiles was the mother of all distractions. It's been suggested that you're not progressing fast enough with this destruction. Can you go faster with the Al-Samoud missiles?

AMIN: I don't understand why the speed of destruction is so important for Mr. Bush. This is a technical issue. It should be resolved by both sides, by the technical people, the experts on both sides, of the Iraqi side and UNMOVIC, and this is what had been -- took place. Both sides made the meetings and they put plans, and it was -- in this plan decided how many rockets could be destroyed daily. This is -- Mr. Bush cannot -- cannot say this is slow or fast. This is a technical thing, and I think Mr. Bush as a president of a superpower should not put himself in this position.

QUESTION (through translator): You said that the number of Al Samoud missiles that have been destroyed counted today is 40. Have you destroyed any today?

AMIN (through translator): Yes, today, six more missiles have been destroyed.

QUESTION: Do you believe that no matter what you do America is determined to go to war?

AMIN: Sorry, will you repeat the question, please?

QUESTION: Do you believe that no matter what you do in terms of cooperation and disarmament, America is determined to go to war?

AMIN: Yes, we believe -- we believe that. We believe that, really. But there is a probability that the situation will be enhanced by the supporting of other states and the Security Council and the people all around the world.

QUESTION: Based on that answer, sir, with the Al Samouds, General Al-Saadi said last week that if it looks like war with the United States is inevitable, that they will hold back on the destruction of those missiles. Is that part of the Iraqi plan?

AMIN: Well, I think what General Al-Saadi meant by that if the aggression, if the -- I mean the war, the aggression, the war will be -- will start, of course the Al Samoud destruction will stop automatically, because there would be no activities for UNMOVIC or IAEA. The case will be a war case, and this is what I understand.

Why? Because the aggression, the American aggression and the British aggression is daily is going on. I mean, the aerial aggression in the south and north of Iraq. But everything is going on normally with regard to the relation with UNMOVIC and IAEA.


AMIN: I don't have any official information on this regard. I only listened to the news today, and I -- I told your colleagues from BBC, and I have no official information about this.

QUESTION: Sir, the IAEA has said that the Iraq situation (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was almost totally final. So do you expect that you would go -- ongoing monitoring (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? AMIN: Thank you. Yes, indeed, the ongoing monitoring and verification in the nuclear field has started since maybe one month ago through the so-called gamma survey activities, which is taking place by the instruments of the IAEA. This technique, which is called gamma survey, can detect any prohibited activities in the nuclear field. And it is taking place all around the state and all around Iraq and inside (UNINTELLIGIBLE), inside factories, inside buildings, inside even the residential area in Baghdad and other cities.

QUESTION (through translator): The decision by Blix and ElBaradei that there has been fabrication in some of the documents. Today we have an American warning that -- and a deadline for the 17th of March. On the other side, we have the Iraqis preparing for war.

AMIN (through translator): As I said at the beginning of this briefing, we are prepared for any possibility. There are two fronts. There is the first one that calls for aggression and war, and the other side that calls for a peaceful solution, and the conflict between the two sides is still ongoing and hasn't been concluded yet.

Therefore, we work, we build our work on all possibilities. There are preparations in all areas of Iraq through intensive -- also side by side as far as the Iraqis working hard with UNMOVIC and the IAEA, therefore, this subject is almost dictated by what's happening on the ground.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) drone or unmanned vehicle that was found here by the inspectors, that appears to be able to go much further than the allowed distance. What can you tell us about this?

AMIN: Well, the UNMOVIC and the IAEA hired a system called Luna, Luna 2000, which is a drone, it is a remotely controlled vehicle, and it is equipped with a videocamera, it can fly at very low altitudes to survey or to monitor small area from very low altitude. Technical discussions have been conducted between both sides in the last month, and it was agreed upon the usage of this drone to support the high level, medium level altitude surveillance U-2 and Mirage.

QUESTION: How much are the inspectors are still in the country at the moment?

AMIN: The number of inspectors are 181. Half of them are -- 100 of them are inspectors, but the total sum is 181 today.

QUESTION: And they are here?

AMIN: They are here, all of them.

QUESTION: Is Iraq still planning to present a report on anthrax and VX before the Security Council votes on the resolution, and how complete will that report be? UNMOVIC said they're still waiting for it.

AMIN: Yes, Iraq is still working on this report. Indeed, what we are doing is that -- trying to resolve a pending issue from the UNMOVIC point of view. That is the -- to prove the quantity of the anthrax and VX destroyed in 1991.

The special commission before 1998 convinced totally that destruction took place for anthrax and VX. Quantitatively, qualitatively, sorry, from the quality point of view, but quantitatively, the Iraq side did not present the comments (ph) or evidences that prove the total quantity had been destroyed.

So we are working to prove that the total quantities of produced VX and anthrax have been destroyed, and by depending on the procedures and methods purely scientific.

QUESTION: Will that be before a resolution is voted on?

AMIN: Well, I cannot -- I cannot tell you when exactly we shall be able to present this report, but we are still working.

QUESTION: If I may, I want to follow up to CNN. Why did the UNMOVIC team suggested that you blow the Al Samoud 2 missiles up, but you not do it piecemeal and try to slice them apart? If you could comment on that. And secondly, if you could comment on the exclusive Al Jazeera report this morning that talked about a training camp north of Baghdad for suicide bombers.

AMIN: Well, with regard to the Al Samoud missile, was a long debate between Iraq and the UNMOVIC. We think that the Al Samoud missile range is within the permitted range that is less than 150 kilometers, but we accepted to destroy the missile since the UNMOVIC did not convince that it has this range. It could be developed for greater distance range. And the purpose of our acceptance is political, frankly speaking, and the destruction of this missile will not -- will not eliminate the combat capability of Iraq, since it has other missiles that are monitored by UNMOVIC also.

QUESTION (through translator): Do you know that biological program is one of the most difficult issues, and you had difficult time convincing the previous inspection teams that you have destroyed your biological weapons? How far have you got with the current inspection team in convincing them that you have disposed of your biological program?

AMIN: OK, my -- sorry. I think that I answered this question before. It was addressed by the madam. That is -- OK, we are preparing for all probabilities. We are preparing ourselves to a war. At the same time, we are working to resolve the any pending issues with UNMOVIC and the IAEA. So we have to prepare ourselves. And all the people will be -- will fight against any foreign forces who will try to enter Iraq.

And -- excuse me. I have to answer the question of biological issue, which had been addressed by Al Jazeera.

(through translator): The truth is that biological program that -- the allegation that biological weapons could be produced in small laboratories is false. But these are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) weapons. When biological materials turn into weapons, they need big factories that are well equipped to deal with this side that can produce and transfer these agents into weapons.

As for the other question, whether we've managed to convince UNMOVIC or not, well, we have took the initiative. We've been proactive, and we have provided the evidence that we have destroyed some of these agents and we have suggested these things to UNMOVIC, and 157 biological bombs have been destroyed.

UNMOVIC has endorsed this, but demanded that we provide the proof that we have destroyed these bombs. Therefore, we are now working to provide this evidence. I believe there has been progress in a satisfactory way that would convince UNMOVIC that all weapons, biological and biological agents have been destroyed.

WHITFIELD: The pressure is on Iraq as well as U.N. diplomats as the U.N. this week considers whether, indeed, to back the second U.S. and British resolution that imposes a March 17 deadline on Iraq to comply to disarm fully.

In the interim, Iraqi National Monitoring Director General Houssam Amin says Iraq has cooperated, and here's the evidence, he says. Already there have been interviews of 28 Iraqi scientists. He says he has presented, or Iraq has presented some evidence of the destruction of anthrax and the VX agents, and he says they've destroyed 50 missiles, including 46 Al Samoud 2 missiles.

Is that enough to help secure perhaps a peaceful end to this conflict? A conflict that Amin is describing as a crisis created by Americans and British and one that is, in his words, "unnecessary." Or perhaps does this put the U.S. a bit closer to getting the nine U.N. votes it needs in which to get this resolution to perhaps impose military force against Iraq if Iraq does not comply?

Let's bring in from New York, Michael Okwu from the U.N., who has also been monitoring this press conference out of Baghdad. We heard a lot of the same, Michael, but at the same time we also heard that there might be an invitation being extended to Mohamed ElBaradei, as well as Hans Blix, to make their way back to Baghdad to get a closer look at what is going on there.

MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, that was one of the more interesting facets, I think, of this press conference. The timing of it is very interesting. As you know, there's a second resolution that's on the table pushed by Great Britain and the United States that if accepted would essentially set up a deadline of March 17 for Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government to comply. That is specifically the date that this Iraqi official has said that Iraq has invited Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei to join them for further discussions.

However, we have spoken to a U.N. official, a spokesman for Dr. Blix, who says the following -- and I will read it -- he says, quote, "I'm not at this point aware of any official invitation. Were such an invitation received, we would have to study the letter and the rationale of such a visit and what might be expected to be gained from it." Maybe a reference there, perhaps, that the Iraqis may be doing this politically, knowing that that date is a very important date that potentially is looming on the horizon here.

And, Fredricka, you heard him say that the Iraqis have been essentially given a clean bill of health by the weapons inspectors, and so at this point, the Iraqis are hoping that the Security Council can lift the sanctions that have been imposed on Iraq since the early 1990s. Very unclear at this point, but unlikely that that would happen.

The Security Council will be meeting tomorrow afternoon. On the docket, the whole Iraqi issue. Perhaps a lifting of sanctions may come up, but it's more likely that they will focus very much on the second resolution on this potential deadline, and, of course, discussions, proposals that the French were making that heads of state convene to actually work out, hammer out some of the details of this issue -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Michael, let's bring in Dana Bash, who's at the White House. And Dana, if you were able to watch that briefing coming out of Baghdad, as well, Houssam Amin made it very clear that, when asked is the White House, is the Bush administration bent on this war, it seems as though Amin was saying that no matter what Iraq does, that President Bush is trying to make sure that a war is to take place. How does the White House respond to this kind of criticism that is not just coming from Iraq, but there have been other diplomats across the world who have said the very same thing?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what officials at the White House would likely say is probably something similar to what we heard from Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice this morning, which is the same thing they've been saying for awhile, that is that it is not the United States that wants a war, but instead it is Saddam Hussein who is almost inviting one if one would take place because he has not complied with the U.N., complied with as they would say 12 years of resolutions requiring him to disarm, and that they would say that the president feels, as he said in his press conference on Thursday night, the president feels that he needs to do what it takes to defend the American people, and if Saddam Hussein does have weapons of mass destruction, which, of course, the U.S. and the U.N. has even said that he does, that the White House is going to have to do what it takes.

But when you hear the secretary talk about what is going to take place next week at the United Nations, that is Secretary of State Colin Powell, he was talking about the fact that March 17, that is the deadline for Saddam Hussein to comply, that's not -- that's just at the end of next week, that's one week from today. That is enough time. And when he talked to Wolf Blitzer this morning in a taping for "LATE EDITION," he made that very clear that time has run out.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We believe that we have given him more than enough time, that it's time for the council to make a decision, this week, that he has blown his last chance. We simply have not seen that strategic change of direction or intent that 1441 and all the previous resolutions called for. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, the secretary also said that he has been working the phones, has been talking to some of the key swing nations on the Security Council to try to get the votes. It is an uphill battle, but try to get the votes to pass that resolution. He says that he is feeling optimistic that nine or 10, he believes, which is needed for a majority, is a possibility, but he also said that he wouldn't be surprised if France vetoes the resolution. That would kill it.

So, the question is, what would happen then? If there is no resolution, if the resolution dies, the secretary made clear that the president has all along said that he already has the authority to disarm Saddam Hussein. He already has that authority under U.N. Resolution 1441. That passed in November. And the secretary said that he believes at this point the possibility of war is very real.

WHITFIELD: All right, Dana, thank you very much.

And indeed, time is certainly a factor, not just because of the voting process, whether the vote would indeed take place this week involving the U.N. on that second resolution, but time was also an issue that Houssam Amin brought up in terms of the destruction of weapons.

Let's go to Baghdad now, where Nic Robertson is and has been for some time now. And, Nic, Amin made it very clear that there has been a lot of criticism over how quickly the destruction of Al Samoud 2 missiles can take place, as well as producing of evidence, and he says the Bush administration is rushing things. And this is a very slow, painstaking and technical process. Those were his words.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Indeed. He did go -- he did also say that there was no need for this to be pressured into it, because they worked out a timetable with the U.N. weapons inspectors here. The U.N., of course, has said that it has left a timetable entirely up to Iraqi officials, that they check in with them every day to coordinate the destruction, but it doesn't go beyond that.

Very interestingly, General Houssam Amin, when being pushed after almost about 35 minutes of talk in there, saying that Iraq is preparing for war, at the same time as it cooperates with the U.N. weapons inspectors. When the issue of would Iraq speed up its cooperation with weapons inspectors to time with the March 17 deadline, to show that Iraq really is intent on getting rid of its weapons of mass destruction, he indicated that he thought their ongoing cooperation with the U.N. was sufficient and even he used a phrase that the cooperation Iraq has with the U.N. inspection team here would be able to disarm the intentions of the United States and Great Britain. He also said that he didn't think that this new U.N. resolution would pass, or that it would win enough support.

And on the issue of the Al Samoud 2 missiles, he said that the only reason Iraq had gone ahead and made the move to begin destroying the missiles was to win political support from wavering countries at the U.N. Security Council. Clearly, the view coming from General Houssam Amin is that Iraq still has the majority support of the U.N. Security Council, and, therefore, it doesn't need to speed up its process of weapons destruction and declaring its past weapons programs -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And Nic, you talk about how Iraq is re-emphasizing that they, too, are preparing for war. What kind of evidence are you seeing as you look around Baghdad, that are you seeing that these troops are mobilizing, are behaving a little bit differently, feeling like the time is encroaching upon them?

ROBERTSON: One does get that feeling. For example, at a girls' school here in Baghdad today, the girls were getting training on first aid and what to do if a bomb fell near the school, and the teacher was reminding them they had glass in the windows, that they should lie on the ground. They had rehearsals in the school yard, lying flat on the ground. The teacher saying the shrapnel flies out, so lay on the ground and you'll be safe.

We see it to a degree on the streets here. There are a few sandbag bunkers, albeit small ones, appearing at a few locations around the city. That is certainly something new over the last few days. But we're not seeing widespread panic, we're not seeing people lining up at gas stations, lining up in food stores, but it's certainly clear that people are becoming very, very concerned, they are certainly very aware that the threat is real and that the threat is close. We've been saying that for several weeks now, but one does feel from people here they're very, very anxious right now, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Nic, thank you very much, from Baghdad, thanks, as well to Michael in New York and Dana in Washington, as well.


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.