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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Chief UN Weapons Inspector Speaks After Meeting With Iraqis

Aired October 1, 2002 - 13:22   ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Straight to Vienna now, where Hans Blix is now addressing members.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

HANS BLIX, CHIEF UN WEAPONS INSPECTOR: ... a business-like and focused manner. The Iraqi representatives declared that Iraq accepts all the rights of inspection provided for in all the relevant Security Council resolutions.

The Iraqi declaration handed over four CD-ROMs containing the backlog of semi-annual monitoring declarations for the sites and items covered by the ongoing monitoring verification plans for the period of June 1998 to July 2002.

Technical matters are often crucial for the effectiveness of inspections, and thereby their credibility. It is, therefore, better to have thorough discussions about them in Vienna than in the field.

It has been found that many practical arrangements followed between 1991 and 1998 remain viable, viable and useful and could be applied.

On the question of access, it was clarified that all sites are subject to immediate unconditional and unrestricted access. However, the memorandum of understanding of 1998 establishes special procedures for access to eight presidential sites.

Some past practical arrangements would be modified. For improved efficiency, airplanes used by inspections staff arriving in Baghdad will land at Saddam International Airport, rather than at Habbaniya which is some 80 kilometers from Baghdad.

On the question of the use of fixed-wing planes as well as helicopters for inspection, the Iraqi delegation declared that the Iraq would take all steps within its control to ensure the safety of inspection air operations. However, Iraq could not provide full guarantees about safety in the no-fly zones.

Now that is the text that we have agreed. I don't know whether we want to add something to it. Otherwise, we are ready to take some questions.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied that under existing U.N. Security Council resolutions you have a full agreement in order to restart weapons inspections? BLIX: Well, Iraq has said that they accept all the rights of inspections which are laid down in the Security Council resolutions. So we have specified some of the matters with practical matters here.

QUESTION: And so, you're satisfied? What are you going to tell the Security Council?

BLIX: I'm going to give a much more detailed briefing than the one you get.

QUESTION: But are you satisfied?

QUESTION: Mr. Blix, what is the concrete result?

BLIX: Well, we have gone through a very great many practical arrangements, and I know we have tried your patience in waiting for us, but they start by the question of where. Do you fly into Baghdad? From where? And then how the customs controls? What can you bring in? The accommodation of inspectors in Baghdad, the premises for our center in Baghdad and the refurbishment, the movement within Iraq and such. We have gone through -- no, you can't foresee everything, no. But you can foresee a good deal. And I think we have talked openly about them, and we have gone through what you can at this stage.

QUESTION: Mr. Blix, what's different? What's the key difference now from 1998 when the inspections ended, when they were blocked, when they were being hampered? What's the crucial difference now? And what's the reason for it?

BLIX: Well, at the end of 1998, the inspectors left on their own account, although there had been many difficulties in inspection during the autumn of 1998, as you know.

Since then, Iraq has not been ready to accept inspections. They have not declared readiness to accept Resolution 1284. There is now from the declaration in the General Assembly by Foreign Minister Sabri, following up on that, there is a readiness to accept inspections that did not exist before. And there have been the readiness declared at that time to, "Let's go through the practical arrangements." We were interested in doing that, and even last summer there was not a readiness to discuss these practical things. You need to go through them in order to get to inspections. So there is a big difference from the end of '98.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied that the difference being resumed inspections will mean that inspectors will have access that they did not have in 1998?

BLIX: Well, we have now established that there are access to all sites. We are not making any differences between any sites, except that the MOU concerning presidential sites is regulated separately.

QUESTION: You understand my question, sir? Are you resuming a process that has proved itself to be a failure?

BLIX: I hope not. I hope not. And I would dispute the categorization that it was all a failure. I think that everybody recognizes that under the old inspection regime more weapons of mass destruction were destroyed than during the Gulf War. However, there were severe shortcomings. There was not a full confidence that Iraq had done away with all its weapons of mass destruction. That is doubted by many parties still. And that is why many governments want to have inspection, to seek a full assurance of that.

QUESTION: A question to the Iraqi please.

Doctor, are you happy with these agreements? When are the weapons inspectors going back? And will they have immediate access to the sensitive sites, please, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we are happy to reach this agreement and we expect the advance party to arrive in Baghdad in about two weeks. And we expect no difficulty regarding that.

QUESTION: For Dr. Blix and for the Iraqi representative, could you be specific in what modalities have been changed as far as visiting sensitive sites?

BLIX: Well, the text does not refer to any modalities about sensitive sites, but places all sites on the same basis with the exception of the MOU on presidential sites.

QUESTION: General al-Sadi (ph), will restrictions that Iraq placed on sensitive sites and ministry buildings, have you now lifted those?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have come to a very practical arrangement that we would, from our side, anticipate every inspection to, sort of, go to sensitive sites. And we will take the measures that will cancel the need for waiting period and getting approval.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The minders are always there. They facilitate entry. They smooth difficulties. They are authorized to take the inspectors wherever they want to go.

QUESTION: Question to both Dr. Blix and Mr. Al-Sadi (ph). The Americans and the British have made it very clear that any sorts of conditions, pre-conditions on access to the presidential compounds is simply unacceptable. How are both of you going to get around that?

BLIX: Well, we are not discussing the memorandum of understanding. That is an agreement that exists -- has been reached between the Secretary General and Iraq, and it has been endorsed by the Security Council. We are not changing the law that is adopted by the United Nations. Security Council can take measures whatever it like. We are a subsidiary organ of the Security Council and we will be bound by them, but we are not changing them on our side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I concur with that. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I might just add, I think that under the existing mandate we have, we have now the assurances from the Iraqi side that we will have unrestricted, uninhibited, unconditional access to all sites in Iraq with exception of the presidential sites that are covered by the memorandum of understanding between the Security Council and the government of Iraq. And I think that assurance, I think, is very important. The question I think you raised that what is different, the difference, I think, is that we got assurance by the government of Iraq for full cooperation in all respect; that we make full use of our rights to use our inspection rights under Security Council resolution. And I think that, of course, has to be tested when we go back to Iraq. We need to make sure that we are making full use of our rights.

QUESTION: Dr. Al-Sadi (ph), I wonder if you could address the issue of access to presidential sites. You must understand that from, certainly, the American perspective that is seen as critical to the success of any future inspections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quite honestly, I don't understand why it is so critical. Anyway, it was not a subject on the agenda. It was...

QUESTION: So will there be access?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is regulated by a memorandum of an understanding and it is also referred to in the Security Council resolutions. And that remains valid.

QUESTION: Dr. Blix, is the message from your meeting here today to the American and the British governments, "Back off, and give the inspectors a chance"?

BLIX: Oh, well, that would be very presumptuous of us to have any such message to anybody. I'm going to report in all humility to the Security Council what we have done. It's for them to decide. We are not deciding.

PHILLIPS: Hans Blix, chief UN weapons inspector there with the other representatives as they address reporters in Vienna as an agreement has been made with regard to the return of weapons inspectors into Iraq. Confirming that they expect weapons inspectors to arrive in Baghdad within two weeks.

White House correspondent Kelly Wallace also following this news out of Vienna. She join us now live from the White House.

Kelly, very interesting, the question -- the first question right out of the box from reporters, does this mean unrestricted, unconditional access, Hans Blix saying yes, but then it's also a couple of the other representatives saying not to presidential sites. So I'm a bit confused.

KELLY WALLACE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, exactly. Understandably so, Kyra, because the key is all the leaders there saying that the subject of access to presidential sites, that was not a subject of discussion. But you did have Hans Blix and others there saying that the Iraqis have agreed to unconditional access to all sites -- not, of course, of those presidential sites you mentioned.

So we don't have immediate reaction from this administration. But I can tell you we're likely to hear just what you said. Number one, this administration very much believes you have to have access to those presidential sites, Ari Fleischer, the president's spokesman, telling reporters just a short time ago this administration believes that those are not places where Saddam Hussein lives, but are places where he hides his potential weapons of mass destruction. That's number one.

The second thing, the administration all along has been pushing for a tougher, new UN Security Council resolution. It would like a time table for compliance by Iraq to these disarmament demands and also setting out the consequences Iraq could face if it did not comply.

So that work will go on. This administration would like to have that resolution passed before inspectors go back inside Iraq. Now it appears the clock is ticking: That could be two weeks from now.

The real bigger issue here, though, Kyra, is how this all complicates the administration's efforts to get that tough new UN resolution. It has faced an uphill battles with countries such as France and Russia, countries which say, Wait, let's get those inspectors back in under existing UN resolutions, and go from there.

So this is likely to complicate an already difficult diplomatic challenge for this administration -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Difficult, diplomatic, yes. We agree with both of those words.

Now, Kelly, reporters -- everyone, really -- has been pushing this unfettered access issue, because there have been so many allegations that Saddam Hussein is building weapons of mass destruction and has these factories underneath his presidential sites, these sensitive sites and hospitals and other places. Isn't that true? Isn't that why this is becoming such a hot button issue?

WALLACE: Exactly. Clearly, you heard the president, Kyra, earlier today saying the old way just doesn't work; he will not accept the status quo. And he believes the time is now that the international community must show "backbone"; and he this the UN must really stand up and say, No, we're not going to let the old way of doing things work. Inspectors were in there years ago; they eventually left in 1998 because everyone felt -- the international community -- they were not getting the access that the international community felt those inspectors needed.

So clearly, the administration is pushing for unconditional, unfettered access -- important words. Clearly, the administration will be watching to see what conditions, if any, the Iraqis will put on there. What are we talking about when it comes to presidential sites? Will the Iraqis allow these inspectors to go where they want to go. And again, it's really a complicating factor.

How this will all play up at the UN as the administration tries to get that tougher UN resolution -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Then Ari Fleischer with the White House briefing today, he had some interesting comments towards the end there about the costs of war.

WALLACE: He did. It was an interesting headline. The spokesman was asked about the costs of war. He said the president hasn't decided to pursue war, so he won't speculate. But then he said the cost of war, that would be more than the cost of a one-way flight, insinuating the Iraqi people could go ahead and send Saddam Hussein into exile. He also said the cost of a one bullet would be less than war.

So he was pressed a little bit about what exactly he meant by that. Here's an exchange with a reporter a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: I'm asking you if you intend to advocate from that podium that some Iraqis person put a bullet in his head.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Regime change is welcome in whatever form that it takes.

QUESTION: So the answer is yes.

FLEISCHER: Thank you. Regime is welcome in whatever form it takes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: A very significant moment: the president's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, using that podium to say regime change is welcome in whatever form it takes the, in essence, the administration supporting, encouraging the assassination of Saddam Hussein by the Iraqi people.

Important to note that it really is a law under an executive order and a U.S. official ban from assassinating another world leader. Fleischer asked if that remains the case today, he said yes it does, but clearly a message coming out today, Kyra, this administration sending the word to the Iraq people if you're unhappy with Saddam Hussein, then you can do something about it -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Quite a twist. I have a feeling we'll be talking a lot more about that.

Kelly Wallace, live at the White House.

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Meeting With Iraqis>

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