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Bush Expresses Concerns About Iraq

Aired September 13, 2002 - 08:32   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We need to break away to something that came to from us the president a little bit earlier today. We are going to replay a piece of tape where the president expressed some real, I guess, concern that Iraq will not meet U.N. demands.
Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... frank and constructive dialogue about how to (OFF- MIKE) pursuit against terror and how we will work together to promote prosperity.

I look forward to a constructive dialogue. So thank you all for coming. Before we begin our discussion, let me answer a few questions.

Are the interpreters working right now? They are? Yours isn't working? There you go.

Before we begin our dialogue, I want to take three questions from the American press corps.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Knowing what you know about Saddam, what are the odds that he will meet all of your demands and (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: I am highly doubtful that he'll meet our demands. I hope he does, but I'm highly doubtful. The reason I'm doubtful is he's had 11 years to meet the demands. For 11 long years, he has basically told the United Nations and the world he doesn't care.

So, therefore, I am doubtful, but nevertheless made the decision to move forward to work with the world community. And I hope the world community knows that we're extremely serious about what I said yesterday and we expect quick resolution to the issue, and that's starting with quick action on a resolution.

QUESTION: How soon are you expecting the resolution from the United Nations? A week, month, day?

BUSH: As soon as possible.

QUESTION: And what kind of deadline would you perceive within that resolution?

BUSH: Well, there will be deadlines within the resolution. Our chief negotiator for the United States, our secretary of state, understands that we must have deadlines, and we're talking days and weeks, not months and years.

And that's essential for the security of the world. This man has had 11 years to comply, and for 11 long years, he's ignored world opinion and he's put the credibility of the United Nations on the line.

As I said yesterday, we'll determine -- how we deal with this problem will help determine the fate of a multilateral body which has been unilaterally ignored by Saddam Hussein. Will this body be able to keep the peace and deal with the true threats, including threats to security in Central Africa and other parts of the world, or will it be irrelevant?

QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you. Are you concerned that Democrats in Congress don't want to go there until after your (ph) action?

And secondly, have you spoken with President Putin since your speech yesterday, sir?

BUSH: I have not spoken to President Putin since my speech. I did speak to his foreign minister, as did Colin Powell. I'll speak to President Putin, I'm confident, soon. We'll have a -- I think we've got a scheduled phone call, actually.

And the first part of the question was are Democrats waiting for the U.N. to act? I can't imagine an elected United States -- elected member of the United States Senate or House of Representatives saying, "I think I'm going to wait for the United Nations to make a decision." It seems like, to me, that if you're representing the United States, you ought to be making a decision on what's best for the United States.

If I were running for office, I'm not sure how I would explain to the American people and said, you know, "Vote for me, and oh, by the way, on a matter of national security, I think I'm going to wait for somebody else to act."

And so I haven't -- we'll see. My answer to Congress is they need to debate this issue and consult with us and get the issue done as quickly as possible. It's in our national interest that we do so.

(BREAK IN COVERAGE)

BUSH: He's a threat, and we must deal with him as quickly as possible.

Thank you all.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: The president making it quite clear to the reporters who is he taking questions from that he is highly doubtful that Saddam Hussein will comply with U.S. and U.N. disarmament demands, and the most interesting piece of news out of that was that he suggested that the resolution that Secretary of State Powell is now working with -- working on with members of the Security Council will actually include some kind of a deadline. He went on to say, we're not talking about days -- or we are talking about days and weeks here, not months answer years.

He also mentioned he has spoken with a foreign minister of Russia.

Let's go to Jill Dougherty, who is standing by in Moscow. He didn't say much more than that, Jill.

Do you have any idea what kind of communications have taken place between Russian officials and U.S. Officials since the president's speech yesterday at the U.N.?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, it's a lot of heavy duty lobbying right now on the part of the United States. So far, Russia is really being pretty noncommittal. It did say we still believe there is a possibility for a political settlement on the issue of Iraq. And the foreign ministry came out with its official reaction to the speech by President Bush. They said, we agree with Mr. Bush, we need decisive joint action to fight terrorism, but, they said, the central role in all of this should be on the part of the United Nations, and should be based on international law.

And then, finally, specifically on Iraq, they said a political diplomatic resources for resolving the issue are far from exhausted. That is pretty much what we have heard before, Paula. But the U.S., as I said, is very heavily pushing Russia, trying to bring it on board. After all, Russia is a member of the U.N. Security Council, has a big role and a big voice and a big veto, or vote, and so that's what they want to do.

The big issue here is trying to pull together a resolution that, as the United States would like, would have the threat of force. And Russia so far has been saying it does not want the use of force, but there are those who do believe that under certain circumstances, Russia, indeed, would go for that -- Paula.

ZAHN: The fact remains that the U.S. could take action or has wiggle room outside of the Security Council, but everybody is saying the most critical vote on the council, on this regulation -- or the resolution that is cobbled together will come from the Russians.

DOUGHERTY: Right. Because the Russians, after all, are a crucial player on Iraq. They are old friends and traditional allies of Iraq, but they also are very serious about the fact that those inspectors have to go back into Iraq. And symbolically, when Russia moves, it has a lot of influence on Europe, and it has a lot of influence on other countries, and if you look back at '91, that is pretty much what happened. The Brits were on board, and then eventually, they got the Russians, and then the Chinese abstained, so you could be seeing something of the same thing right now -- Paula.

ZAHN: I know the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Richard Holbrooke, was on the air yesterday, and he said as we watch how this plays out in the Security Council, we are really going to find out if the president of the United States really saw Mr. Putin's soul when he met with him for the first time.

I'm just curious what you think that personal relationship, or how that personal relationship between the two of them might impact the negotiations going on in the Security Council with the Russians and other members of the council?

DOUGHERTY: Well, there is certainly, Paula, more trust between the two men than there ever was before, and Vladimir Putin supporting the war against terrorism. He really has come on the side and supported what the United States is doing. But Iraq is kind of a difficult issue, it's complex. You can see Russia here trying to balance the main thing that they are interested in in Iraq really is money. They have a lot of economic interest in Iraq, and what they want to do is to protect that.

So the question is, how do you do that? And the Americans, according to a senior U.S. official that we spoke to today, the message that they are delivering is, look, Russia, it would be in your interest to have military action, to have a regime change, then you could have a more normal economic climate, and then you could make more money.

ZAHN: All right. Jill Dougherty reporting from Moscow. I'm sure we will be spending a lot of time with you in the weeks to come. Appreciate that update.

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