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Powell Attends 10th Anniversary of Kuwait's Liberation; Iraq/U.N. Talks Begin

Aired February 26, 2001 - 1:03 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Secretary of State Colin Powell returned to Kuwait today after a decade since the Persian Gulf War. Powell met with the Emire of Kuwait and marked what they call the Liberation Day, the 10th anniversary of the retreat of Iraqi troops from that country.

As chairman of joint chiefs of staff at the time, Powell helped lead the U.S. and allied forces to victory. That was back in 1991.

Powell winds up his Mid East trip with stops in Saudi Arabia and Syria.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Among other things, Powell is trying to persuade Arab nations to support the sanctions that were imposed on Iraq after the Gulf War. As you know, those sanctions are in question by many countries these days.

For more, let's go to CNN's Christiane Amanpour. She's in Kuwait City.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There were fly-bys, parades, and lots of praise for the invited guest who had liberated Kuwait 10 years ago. Former U.S. President George Bush remains a hero here. And he promised that Kuwait need never fear again.

GEORGE BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We are never going to betray our responsibilities to help preserve the peace of Kuwait. We fought too hard. Too many died.

AMANPOUR: Bush and other American diplomats and dignitaries laid a wreath to the U.S. servicemen and women who were killed during the Gulf War.

General Norman Schwartzcopf, who had led them into battle, paid tribute to their service.

GEN. NORMAN SCHWARTZKOPF, U.S. COMMANDER IN GULF WAR: Because they believed even in this very, very cynical world we live in, that there are still things worth fighting for, and there're still things worth dying for. And one of those things is freedom. AMANPOUR: But behind the celebration lies a new challenge for the United States and Britain, as most of the Gulf War coalition now wants to lift sanctions and do business with Iraq, some publicly rebuffing U.S. claims that President Saddam Hussein continues to threaten this region.

(on camera): No U.S. or British official has yet publicly explained just how they plan to pursue policy on Iraq. But the former prime minister during the Gulf War, John Major, says the allies should try to build a new consensus to sharpen and refocus the existing sanctions policy.

(voice-over): Major says they should propose a deal that the Arab allies would find difficult to refuse.

JOHN MAJOR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: If one can reach an agreement with the nations who are very leaky on sanctions, that they will tighten up their sanctions on the areas that would actually give Saddam Hussein the economic power to continue his weapons of mass destruction program and loosen the sanctions elsewhere, where they're facing hardship on the individual Iraqi, then it seems to be there is a potential deal to be done.


AMANPOUR: In the meantime, United States says it is determined to maintain the security of Kuwait. It keeps some 4,000-plus military personnel here. And it doesn't want to withdraw them any time soon, nor does Kuwait. The U.S. says it had to mobilize those forces six times since the end of the Gulf War to counter Iraqi threats or to act as a deterrent -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And Christiane, what are the thoughts there in Kuwait about sanctions against Iraq?

AMANPOUR: Well, certainly here in Kuwait, they want to keep the sanctions on, and they want to keep the rhetoric tough and the actions tough.

However, all countries in the alliance, including Kuwait, agree that they want to do something to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people, because Saddam Hussein has successfully blamed the alliance for the suffering of the Iraqi people, even though food and medicine are not restricted by the sanctions, and even though he has an $11 billion fund in escrow with the United Nations that allows him to buy food, medicine, consumer items for the people of Iraq. But that, he hasn't touched yet.

ALLEN: Christiane Amanpour reporting live from Kuwait City, thanks, Christiane.

WATERS: All the while, at the United Nations today, Iraq's foreign minister tries to bring about an end to those sanctions.

Our senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth has been following that story. He joins us now with the latest -- Richard. RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, Iraq's foreign minister has left the building. The first round of talks have concluded. There in a lunch break now, though some Iraqi delegation members are still here. These are the most significant talks between Iraq and the United Nations in years.


(voice-over): With winter's chill taking a break, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan walked to work and direct talks with the Iraqi envoys. Perhaps, the stroll gave him more time to remember how 10 years after the liberation of Kuwait the Iraq deadlock is the U.N.'s biggest political headache.

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: I'm encouraged that the Iraqi delegation is here. We are looking forward to a frank and constructive dialogue. And I hope we will be able to find some ways, as we move forward, of breaking the current impasse, which no one considers satisfactory.

I do not expect miracles in the two days of talks. But at least, it is a beginning.

ROTH: It was Iraq that requested the talks with the U.N., the first significant discussions in two years.

MOHAMMED SAEED AL SAHAF, IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER: It is well known that the secretary general is a man of dialogue, among the members of the United Nations, whenever there is a need for dialogue. And this, is what we expect from the secretary general.

ROTH: Contrary to prior declarations from Baghdad, as the foreign minister said he did not bring any new information regarding the most contentious issue, weapons capabilities. The minister said Iraq has complied with Security Council resolutions, including disarmament, though the U.N. has not been able to verify that.

But as a sign, there will not be a breakthrough here. The U.N.'s top weapons inspector on Iraq is not part of the U.N. meetings.

HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I don't think that Iraq by itself is passing to stating that they've done away with their weapons of mass destruction would have credibility in the world. And after all in 1991, they declared very little. And they have made many so-called full, final and complete declarations. That has not increased the credibility.

ROTH: The United Nations will be in a listening mode, while the major Security Council powers resolve differences on a strategy, one which might entice Iraq to accept inspectors in exchange for a lifting of some economic sanctions.


ROTH: The United Nations secretary general doesn't expect any agreement after these two days of talks. But he doesn't exclude further discussions -- Lou.

WATERS: Because of the influence of the major powers, Richard, has any dialogue been established, for instance, between U.N. secretary general and the Bush administration on this particular subject?

ROTH: Well, Secretary of State Colin Powell was here a few weeks ago. And certainly, it's expected that he told Secretary General Annan that they're reviewing policies on sanctions in Washington and London, and presumably told him more.

Annan today called it a healthy, important shift by the Western governments regarding sanctions, that now he says he wants a further policy review by the Baghdad government regarding weapons of mass destruction.

WATERS: Richard Roth at the U.N.



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