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Negroponte Addresses Reporters

Aired April 22, 2003 - 13:18   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm being told we're going to take you back to the U.N. John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., speaking to reporters now.

JOHN NEGROPONTE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: ... sanctions should be lifted as soon as possible. So we now need to work with France and other countries to see how best that can be achieved, and how quickly.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) suspending the sanctions. The French proposal -- what about some of the shortcomings that you see, sir?

NEGROPONTE: I don't want to comment on the specific tactics at this point. Our objective is the lifting of the sanctions. I think we've got to get into discussions with the older delegations about the practicalities of how one achieves that.

QUESTION: What would be the U.S. view about getting the inspectors, though, back in there as soon as the security permits, to really give their credibility to their work and to play to the French proposal, which I think is...

NEGROPONTE: The coalition has assumed responsibility for disarming of Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. Some initial work was done during the phase in which we were conducting active military operations. Now that there is a somewhat more permissive military environment, the coalition effort will be substantially increased and expanded.

And I did take some time to explain to the council the various types of activities that the coalition envisioned undertaking, in terms of interviewing scientists, examining documents, going to all the different suspected sites and so forth.

But for the time being, and for the foreseeable future, we visualize that as being a coalition activity.

QUESTION: Ambassador, some of the inspectors have long experience talking with these scientists that could cross-check what they've said in previous interviews. Would the United States entertain the idea of working together with U.N. inspectors with previous experience?

NEGROPONTE: As I said, at the moment, the coalition has assumed the responsibilities for disarming Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. I think with respect to Iraqi scientists, I think at first it's important to note that a couple important scientific figures have either been captured or turned themselves in. And secondly -- and this again is a point I made in the council -- the entire atmosphere has changed now, and hopefully this will enable Iraqis -- any Iraqi who was familiar with the past activities in this sphere to speak more freely and speak without fear of retribution to those who are asking them the questions.

QUESTION: How is it that your country can guarantee the security of U.S. inspectors, but not the security of U.N. inspectors?

NEGROPONTE: Well, I'd come back to two points. First of all, the coalition has assumed responsibility for enforcing pertinent U.N. Security Council resolutions and conducting the operation of disarming Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.

And secondly, this still will be a military operation conducted by -- certainly lead and coordinated by military personnel. I believe a major general has assumed that function; the deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency will be charged with that responsibility.

QUESTION: Ambassador, given the United States has named 52 Iraqi officials it wants captured, are you contemplating any change in your position to the International Criminal Court?

NEGROPONTE: To the best of my knowledge, no. Certainly given what we went through last year, I have difficulty visualizing any change in our position toward the International Criminal Court.

QUESTION: Hans Blix is indicating that he would require total freedom, the kind of freedom of movement that he had during the regime of President Saddam Hussein. Is this at all practical? Is it all likely that Dr. Blix will be able to play some sort of role in certifying the disarmament of Iraq?

NEGROPONTE: Again, this was not a decision-making meeting of the council. It was an informational meeting.

As I said earlier, the coalition has taken on this responsibility now. And we just didn't get into that kind of detailed discussion about what might conceivably, might or might not happen at some point in the future.

QUESTION: Is Dr. Blix personally the problem actually in that?

NEGROPONTE: The problem from the outset, sir, was the absence of cooperation on the part of the government of Iraq. We always pointed out how difficult it was for inspectors to play this kind of cat-and- mouse or hide-and-seek game. And I think one has to place the responsibility squarely where it belonged, which was on the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Thank you very much.

PHILLIPS: Addressing reporters at the United Nations, John Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., talking about the readiness of inspectors to return to Iraq, calling it now a coalition effort, and that the coalition will take over that job. Negroponte saying now that Saddam Hussein's regime is gone. That coalition will reassess the framework designed to disarm the regime, given the new facts on the ground.


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