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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Information Suggests Iraq Has Unmanned Aircraft Capable of Delivering WMDs

Aired March 10, 2003 - 09:03   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Newly declassified information suggests that Iraq has unmanned aircraft that could deliver weapons of mass destruction.
For more on that story, we are joined now by Suzanne Malveaux from the White House, Nic Robertson reporting from Baghdad this morning.

Good morning to both of you. We're going to get started with Suzanne this morning -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Paula.

Well, senior administration officials I spoke with today say, essentially, they are frustrated. They feel the information was buried in a document. It was not presented by chief weapons inspectors Hans Blix on Friday before the U.N. Security Council. That is the frustration here. This more evidence, they say, that shows Saddam Hussein refuses to disarm, talks about rockets, talks about this drone that was not declared. They say this is something that should have come up in the oral argument that Blix made before the U.N. Security Council. They really feel this would have bolstered their case. This is something the administration is going to be using today in the days to come to convince those undecided members that they should support that resolution.

Secretary Powell yesterday saying, yes, there is a drone, as they call it, or a UAV program, that they came upon, that they discovered, that they are not supposed to have. It looks like a prohibited item. He goes on to say, that's the kind of thing we're going to be making some news about in the course of the week and point this out, and there are other things that have been found that I think more can be made of -- Paula.

ZAHN: Let me ask you a question, is anybody in the administration going as far as saying that this was an attempt by Dr. Blix to bury this stuff, to hide the revelation to avoid war?

MALVEAUX: No one is saying that in the administration, that this was intentional, that it was an attempt to actually bury that information, but of course, Paula, there is a sense of frustration here that that was a very strong argument that could have been used on Friday that simply wasn't. That is why the administration is bringing it forward, not only this weekend, but today, make the point that yes, this is another example, a significant example that Saddam Hussein refuses to comply. And senior official says it is not a smoking gun, necessarily, but definitely significant.

ZAHN: Finally this morning, CNN broke some news in the last hour when they learned that it appears the Russians will vote against the second resolution. No is one using the veto word, but one can assume that what is they mean. Any reaction from the White House?

MALVEAUX: The White House is being mum on this. They are not reacting yet. This is not surprising; this is the way the administration has been all along. Until the vote happens they are not going to comment on what Russia, or China or France does, that they still have hope, that they are holding out, that perhaps with there will not be a veto. One thing Secretary Powell said yesterday, he thought there was a good chance France might veto, not Russia, but again, he also emphasized the Bush administration would go forward without the U.N. Security Council.

ZAHN: Going to have to leave it there. Suzanne Malveaux, back to Nic Robertson there in Baghdad.

Good morning, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Paula.

Well, on the issue of that drone that apparently has a wingspan of approximately 25 meters, that could have been buried or was in fact put in this 167-page U.N. document, U.N. officials here say that Iraq had declared two of these unmanned drones, RPVs -- remotely piloted vehicles. These vehicles, U.N. inspectors had seen, they had seen the declaration, Iraq's declaration on these vehicles, said they could travel some 100 kilometers.

Now, the U.N.-specified distance that these aircraft are not allowed go beyond is 150 kilometers. What U.N. inspectors are saying here is that they did discover on an inspection in Iraq this unmanned vehicle with a wing span of 25 feet.

Now, they believe, because Iraqis have not presented documentation on this remotely piloted vehicle, they do not know whether it goes beyond the specified 150-kilometer limit. They say it needs further investigation to determine whether or not it could. If it could, if it is judged that it could beyond the 150-kilometer limit, then possibly this RPV with the 25-foot wingspan that Iraq hadn't declared, possibly then it could be considered a smoking gun, but at this stage, the U.N. here saying this particular vehicle that Iraq hadn't declared does need further investigation -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Nic. Nic Robertson from Baghdad this morning.

Now on to Moscow for the latest on some of the statements from the Russians on the diplomatic battle at the U.N. Russia says this morning that it will vote against a new U.N. resolution authorizing force against Iraq, that according to Russia's foreign minister.

For some Clarification on what this means, we go now to Moscow where Jill Dougherty is standing by.

Jill, does this mean a veto?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Well, you know, these things, you have to look at the fine print, which is what I did. I just listened to that tape carefully, to what Igor Ivanov said in Russian, and he did say if this resolution in the form that it is right now, and he says it has ultimatums that cannot be fulfilled by Iraq, if that continues in the form that it is, that Russia will vote against it.

He did not, as much as I heard use the word veto, but that's pretty categorical.

Now, how can you interpret this? because the conventional wisdom has been that, in the end, Russia would not go against the United States, that the interest of Russia and the United States are too important, and they wouldn't want to sink that relationship.

But some people have said this could be a game of high-stakes poker, Paula, where Russia is trying to scare the United States into taking that resolution off the table, because if they know it's going to lose, then maybe they wouldn't want to bring it up. That was one theory. But I would say my only warning would be that the man who makes the determination is Vladimir Putin, and we still have to hear from him. We haven't heard precisely what he's going to say or do, but it sure sounds at this point as if the Russians are very intent on taking this to the end and voting against it.

ZAHN: It seems pretty interesting, one of the theories is the Russians would like to get this taken off the table. Based on what we heard from the secretary of state yesterday, that seems like a very remote possibility indeed.

DOUGHERTY: Absolutely.

ZAHN: Jill, we're going to have to leave it there. Thanks so much for the update. That helped clarify, I think what we're looking at today, the reporting, not Jill's, but just the reporting around the perimeter of this, has been very confusing.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Another question is, when does the vote come? Does it come tomorrow? Perhaps. If not, it's going to be delayed after that. And at that point, Richard Roth is probably only guy in this town who knows.

Richard, good morning to you. What are you hearing?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, I also know some lottery numbers for tonight, but see me later. Here, you are going to have to wait until the last minute. I can tell you what happens even as late as filing into that formal Security Council chamber, people have sometimes changed their minds or been swayed, or they go back into the private room and talk about just one word sometimes on Mideast resolutions that can change from "condemn" to "deplore," and that's enough to get a vote. Of course, this a lot bigger issue regarding the looming war, but that still could happen, and it might happen at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. Don't expect everything to happen very orderly and businesslike. A whole lot of drama, I can guarantee you, still ahead.

What about the possibilities of a French veto? The United States has been trying to isolate France, and at the moment, will deal with it as it comes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECY. OF STATE: Well, I would let the French use the veto word, and they haven't, but it's clear that they have expressed strong opposition to another resolution, and said they would do everything they could to stop it. So, we will to see what they do when the vote comes, but they are certainly signaling veto.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROTH: As you see more reports in recent days regarding unmanned drones, and cluster bombs and rockets. The U.S. will try a last-ditch effort to pile on as much information they believe that showcases the fact in their belief the Iraq is not cooperating on full weapons of mass destruction, but many diplomats believe it's too late to sway voters on the council on this point. It's really a question of war or peace, and they're not going to be swayed on one particular weapons item.

HEMMER: Richard, we just heard Jill Dougherty explain the Russian position. Why is that France will not come out and use the 'v' word? Why is it that Russia so far has held off on the language? Is it because the resolution may never come for a vote, and that's what they are hoping for? Or is there something more to that?

ROTH: Everybody, yes, you want to wait until as long as possible before you guarantee something you could not back up or live up to. They still want to have wiggle room. And even the United States could still take it off the table, though they've said they are going forward. Jill said poker game. I think it's high-stakes chicken.

HEMMER: Thanks, Richard.

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