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Showdown Iraq: Two Resolutions Being Debated in Congress, U.N.

Aired September 30, 2002 - 12:29   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The debate is heating up over resolutions in Congress and at the United Nations. The U.S. and Britain are lobbying other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to support a crackdown on Baghdad, and there is a serious debate unfolding on Capitol Hill as well.
For the latest on both fronts, we are joined by CNN's senior United Nations correspondent Richard Roth. He's in New York. And on Capitol Hill, CNN congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl. He's on Capitol Hill.

Jon, let me begin with you. What's going on as far as a congressional resolution is being drafted?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, tomorrow, Wolf, the Senate will begin debating a resolution on authorizing the president to use force in Iraq. Negotiations are still under way on what Republicans are describing really as the final draft that has been negotiated with the White House, a draft that would give the president wide authority to wage war against Iraq, but limit his use of force to Iraq and not to the broader Middle East area.

Some Democrats are still not happy with that, and they are still negotiating. As a matter of fact, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, Joe Biden, is working with one of the top Republicans on that committee, Richard Lugar, on an alternative resolution. They sent a draft of that to the -- their draft on Friday.

So, there's still a lot of negotiating, a lot of back and forth. But the bottom line, Wolf, is that the debate on this will begin tomorrow in the U.S. Senate. It will begin also this week over in the House of Representatives. And it's expected to pass in whatever form by quite a large margin.

BLITZER: Jon, as you know, Chuck Hagel, a Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been somewhat cautious in terms of going to war against Iraq, even though he's a Republican, a strong supporter of the White House. Of course, he is expected to be giving a speech here in Washington within the hour or so.

Do you have any advance word on what his message is going to be?

KARL: Well, just before I ran over here, I did get a copy of Senator Hagel's speech. Senator Hagel, it's a wider foreign policy speech, but what's interesting is he raises some very sobering questions about what happens in Iraq after a war.

And he says -- I'll read you a couple of quick passages here, Wolf. He says, "We should not be deceived that regime change in Iraq will be an easy task." He talks about what's going to happen afterwards in terms of the commitment of U.S. troops, saying, "A democratic transition will require a strong U.S. political, economic and military presence and engagement for the months and years after Saddam's removal."

So, he is raising the possibility of the need for military engagement in Iraq for potentially years after whatever war would come in the coming months to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Hagel is giving that speech later this afternoon; also raising some other questions about what needs to be done in the Middle East.

He's not coming out certainly against a war with Iraq, but he's just saying we need to not fool ourselves to think that this would be an easy war.

BLITZER: Chuck Hagel, a very thoughtful, smart guy on Capitol Hill.

Thanks very much, Jonathan Karl.

Let's go up to the United Nations, where Richard Roth is standing by.

What's happening as far as a new United Nations Security Council resolution is concerned -- Richard?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Nothing yet so far. Of course, Wolf, in Washington, you have over 500 votes to consider on a resolution in Congress. Here, it's a smaller number, but perhaps more significant; 15 votes on the U.N. Security Council.

But it really is the Big Five that the U.S. has to shop for on this new resolution -- four other countries with veto rights, including France and Russia, who will probably be the most difficult.

The U.S., right now is shopping the resolution around. Later in the day, the U.S. and specifically the United Kingdom will show the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council the details of this tough resolution, which has several deadlines for Iraq to comply with.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, though, was optimistic that things could be settled here.


KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: And I expect them to get together. I expect them to work this out and come up with an acceptable resolution.


ROTH: It could be several days, perhaps weeks, before the Security Council does decide on a resolution. The United States has a lot of negotiating to work out. China said, we want to see a political settlement within the context of the U.N.

Nobody here likes to hear President Bush talk about a lack of U.N. backbone, or Washington going it alone perhaps on the military route -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The key question, Richard: Will this new U.N. Security Council resolution change the terms of reference as far as surprise inspections are concerned, the deal that was worked out in '98 between Kofi Annan and the Iraqi government? What's the play on that?

ROTH: Well, the U.S. first draft says the inspectors can go anywhere they want to. Now, the Iraqis, especially over the weekend, said, we won't accept a new resolution with different terms.

Hans Blix will take his marching orders, though, from the Security Council. Colin Powell, the secretary of state, has said the inspectors should not return, as they are set to do October 15, without some new mandate from the Security Council.

BLITZER: Richard Roth at the United Nations, we'll be checking back with you often. Thank you very much.



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