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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Showdown Iraq: Iraq Hosts International Trade Fair

Aired November 1, 2002 - 12:06   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: They're talking business in Baghdad today, where the threat of war, notwithstanding the business issue, is going forward. Get this: Entrepreneurs from around the world have shown up for a trade fair in Baghdad.
That's where CNN's Rym Brahimi is joining us now live with details of that -- Rym.

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes indeed, Wolf. About more than 1,200 companies represented here from 49 different countries, many of them U.S. allies, many of them -- some of them members of the U.N. Security Council.

Now, it was a highly-publicized event here in Baghdad, a big, big affair, and preparations had been under way for a long time to make this inauguration possible today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRAHIMI (voice-over): To a chorus of girls telling President Bush they love Saddam Hussein, Iraq's trade minister arrived for the big event, the Baghdad International Trade Fair. It's not so much what's for sale, as who is selling. The trade fair is a barometer of which countries are eager, or at least willing, to be seen doing business with Iraq. It's all legal business under the U.N.-approved oil for food program.

But Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, touring a display of Iraq's military industries, made the point that Iraq has many resources. Among the biggest participants at the fair: Russia, France, and China, the three permanent U.N. Security Council members, which Iraq hopes will help ward off the looming threat of U.S.-led war.

TAHA YASSIN RAMADAM, IRAQI VICE PRESIDENT (through translator): Hoping, God willing, to meet with you at the Baghdad International Fair's ground in the next session in 2003, and Iraq is crowned with great victory on its evil enemies, enemies of mankind and progress.

BRAHIMI: Although Iraq's oil revenue has fallen in the last year due to disputes with the U.N. over pricing, it still has plenty to spend, several billion dollars a year for food, medicine and other goods to keep the country running. Everything from the latest model cars, like these, to the basic kitchen sink.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BRAHIMI: Now, Wolf, I have actually just returned from that trade fair, and as you said, there's a lot of talk of business, but there is also talk of war. A lot of businessmen I spoke to are worried about the talk of war that's going on in Washington right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But it seems that the Iraqis must be getting ready to receive those United Nations weapons inspectors, if this resolution is passed next week. Hans Blix is ready to move very, very quickly. Are they ready for those kinds of unrestricted inspections the Security Council will seek?

BRAHIMI: Well, Wolf, here's the deal: What Iraqis have been saying is they've been ready for the inspectors ever since they agreed on that during the U.N. General Assembly back in September. So they say that in fact it's the U.S. that's in violation, because they'd agreed with Hans Blix for him to arrive on the 19th of October.

Now, as far as the conditions are concerned, they keep saying -- Iraqi officials have said and it's all over the state-run media here, that the conditions that the U.S. draft resolution is trying to impose on these inspections are both unacceptable and impossible to meet. They believe the U.S. is deliberately trying to put obstacles in their way to complicate the rules of engagement of the inspections in order to create clashes between the inspectors and the Iraqi officials here on the ground.

So, they have said, though, that, you know, they're waiting for the inspectors. They've said also that they want to give them unfettered access. They've also said they want the media to be present, because they don't trust the inspectors.

So, we'll see what all that amounts to when they're here on the ground -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yesterday, Rym Brahimi was on the border with Saudi Arabia for that opening of the border between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Today, she is covering this trade fair in Baghdad, a very busy Rym Brahimi reporting for us. Thanks very much, Rym, for that good work.

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