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Ari Fleischer Conducts White House Press Briefing

Aired October 30, 2002 - 12:41   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is answering questions now on the situation with Iraq. Let's dip in and listen to what he's saying.
FLEISCHER: ... went to the United Nations, believes in the importance of an effective inspection regime. Hans Blix would be the head of the inspectors.

Hans Blix has previously traveled to Moscow, to Paris, to Beijing, to London and Washington to talk about inspections with all the heads of the Security Council states. And this is the consultation that Hans Blix is doing as a thorough and deliberate inspector.

So the president was pleased to see him here, stressed how the United States wants to work with the inspectors to make sure that they are able to carry out whatever the ultimate decision of the U.N. is, which is the disarmament of Saddam Hussein.

QUESTION: On a couple issues. First to follow up Helen's question, are you saying that in the event of a post-Saddam Iraq the U.S. military would have no role in administering the Iraqi oil fields?

FLEISCHER: I can't speculate about every type of potential military operation. What I can tell you with certainty is that in the event there is a military operation the cause will have been that Saddam Hussein has defied the world and has weapons that present dangers to the Americans and to our allies and to our friends.

FLEISCHER: That would be what would precipitate a military action.

QUESTION: But it is possible that the U.S. military would administer the Iraqi oil fields?

FLEISCHER: I think that it's impossible for anybody to speculate about anything and everything that could possibly happen under any military scenario. And I wouldn't even try to start guessing what the military may or may not do.

QUESTION: But you acknowledge, don't you, that this is a widespread perception, that we want the oil?

FLEISCHER: If the issue was the United States wanted the oil, then why not lift the sanctions? Iraq is limited in the amount of oil that it can deliver as a result of the sanctions that the United States supports that are imposed on Iraq under the oil-for-food program. So I totally dismiss that.

QUESTION: Yes, but if we got control of it all, we could divvy it up.

FLEISCHER: That's not the way America works.

QUESTION: On Blix. What specifically is the U.S. looking for in an inspections regime, in terms of the timing of the reporting that Mr. Blix would do of any noncompliance by the Iraqis, in terms of what sites he and his teams might go after first? Is that the nature of the discussion?

FLEISCHER: Well, what the United States is looking for is something that is very plain and public, and it's been reprinted in many newspapers, which was the original draft of the resolution that was submitted to the Untied Nations. That draft remains under discussion at the United Nations. But the heart of it called for a 30-day period in which for the first seven days Saddam Hussein would have -- or Iraq would have seven days to indicate whether or not they're going to comply with the expressed will of the world as expressed through the United Nations Security Council.

Then over the next 23 days, up to 30 day total time, Iraq would have to then produce documentation about what weapons of mass destruction it possesses. And that way the inspectors would be able to go in and verify, and therefore also be able to disarm. The resolution walked through a whole series of steps that would empower the inspectors to be able to carry out their duties, in terms of people to talk to, rights to visit presidential palaces, rights of free movement without being hindered by Iraqis. All in all, it's a series of provisions that give the inspectors the tools they need to do the job.

FLEISCHER: Fundamentally, whatever tools they are given to do their job still comes down to Saddam Hussein and Iraq's willingness to allow the inspectors to do their jobs, because no matter how strong the United Nations resolutions are, it still involves Iraqi agreement to let the inspectors do their jobs for the purpose of disarmament. And that still remains an ultimate test of Iraq and whether they are willing to listen to the world or whether they will again defy the world.

QUESTION: But if all those conditions have already been made public...

BLITZER: Ari Fleischer making a case, a strong case for disarmament of the Iraqis, calling for a strong resolution at the United Nations Security Council. Negotiations still very much under way. The president and the vice president, as well as the national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, meeting earlier today with Dr. Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, as well as Dr. Mohammed El- Baradei, the chief executive director of the International Atomic Energy Agency. They're prepared to go back and resume those inspections in Iraq, but only after a new Security Council resolution is approved. And those negotiations at the United Nations, as we all know, have been very intense. Apparently, though, they're moving toward some sort of compromise resolution.

For that, let's get the very latest from our senior U.N. correspondent. He's our eyes and our ears over at the United Nations, Richard Roth.

Richard, what's the latest right now?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you never know when people talk about moving towards a compromise, whether they're just hoping to spin this to get other people on the council to think more positively. But it does appear that if there is a resolution, the vote might happen next week, probably after Election Day in the United States. The usual controlled frenzy now upon entering the Security Council. The meeting currently under way, Security Council ambassadors going over some of the less important paragraphs that are disputed in the resolution.

One U.S. officials saying they're making progress in there. Several delegations are now offering suggestions. The key problem remains the phrase "Material Breach," language that could trigger a U.S. military attack, because it would indicate that according to Washington, Baghdad is in material breach of Gulf War cease-fire resolutions. In effect, the Gulf War is back on again. Some delegations such as France don't want that phrase to be so active. They want to put it in the past tense and force another meeting of the Security Council, if the inspectors, such as Dr. Blix, reports back that his teams were obstructed. It would be at that point there would be another debate, another meeting.

The U.S. wants to think that it always has the go-ahead if this first resolution is passed. They're hammering away at this language. It's still going to be time over that. The threat about serious consequences is in that, but it's also always in the interpretation.

Hans Blix will be back here in the U.N. shortly from Washington and his visit to the white house -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be watching all of that together with you, Richard Roth, our man at the United Nations. Thanks very much.


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