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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Interview with Royal Air Force Spokesman

Aired March 26, 2003 - 03:38   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We want to throw it back to Kuwait City now. Daryn Kagan, indeed, has her interview.
Daryn, who are you talking to?

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, since it's such a big day in the U.S. with British Prime Minister Tony Blair coming to town, we wanted to talk -- look on the British side of the military action here. We've invited spokesman for the Royal Air Force, Captain Jon Fynes to join us.

It's good to see you and have you with us here again.

CAPTAIN JON FYNES, ROYAL AIR FORCE SPOKESMAN: Hello.

KAGAN: You can't get away from this weather, first of all, especially as someone who flies. I want to know what the impact of the weather is on British operations?

FYNES: Not as much as you might expect.

KAGAN: Really?

FYNES: Yesterday we flew about 85 percent of the sorties we planned. The helicopters find it a bit harder, particularly when the -- when the visibility gets bad. But for us, we've got the latest bombs so we don't need to see what we're actually going to drop them on.

KAGAN: And in terms of safety, and that's been a big concern, especially for the British?

FYNES: We've obviously got a lot of precautions and safety procedures, but we're used to bad weather in England. This is very similar to fog for us.

KAGAN: For fog, all right. Fog or dust storms, take your pick.

Let's talk about some of the certain developments that have taken place. The discovery of the Iraqis having chemical suits, this would seem to go against their suggestion that they don't have chemical weapons. Of course none have been found yet, but it's the fact that they know that the British and the Americans are not going to use chemical weapons and they don't have chemical weapons, it makes you wonder why they would need them in the first place?

FYNES: Well we know why we're here because we know he's got weapons of mass destruction. So finding these suits, to us, is just more evidence of what we know he has. If he's foolish enough to use chemicals though, it won't have that much of an effect on us. We're prepared, we're trained and we've got our own equipment.

KAGAN: Let's look at some of the specific hot spots right now. First of all, Basra.

FYNES: Basra, was, you're probably aware, there's, we hope, an uprising going on in the city. We certainly know that the Iraqi soldiers have turned on their own people yet again, and we're trying to do what we can to support the people to come out. We know that the people want to come out to us with open arms. And they've been treated so badly over the last 20 years, so many of them have been killed, unless certain it's safe, they won't come out.

KAGAN: But it was about 24 hours ago that the British made the decision that this had to -- there had to be a change in tactics and use this as a military target instead of just blowing by this as another major metropolitan area. Why was that decision, why did it have to be made? Because the resistance was a lot stronger than originally anticipated, is that not true?

FYNES: Be careful, Basra isn't a military target. The soldiers that have now taken refuge in there will be. So we're going to take it slowly, carefully. We're going to wrinkle out those soldiers and we're going to get the food, humanitarian into Basra.

KAGAN: Which is a big, big problem. Basra, of course, being the second largest city in Iraq, 1.7 million people, perhaps without clean water, without electricity, two, three days now. How long do you think it'll be before help can get in there, before it's safe?

FYNES: Well, humanitarian aid, it should be coming into the port Thursday, tomorrow.

KAGAN: To Umm Qasr?

FYNES: To Umm Qasr. We'll get the aid into Basra as soon as possible. But again, it's worth remembering, those 1.7 million people, they've been sort of on the bread line suffering over the last 20 years. The war has made that slightly worse, but we're ready to relieve it as soon as we can. Those thousand soldiers, or whatever he's got in there, are just hurting their own people, they're not hurting us.

KAGAN: Well a lot of people want to see that aid get in there to Basra, to Umm Qasr, to -- across all of Iraq.

Thank you so much. Group Captain Jon Fynes of the Royal Air Force.

FYNES: Thank you.

KAGAN: Appreciate it.

With that, we're going to try to hunker down here in the dust storm and toss it back to you at CNN global headquarters -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Daryn, thanks very much.

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