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Iraqi Reaction to Resolution Awaited

Aired November 8, 2002 - 11:01   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Within the past hour, the U.N. Security Council approved a U.S. resolution on Iraq. We're still waiting for more of the repercussions from that vote. We expect we'll be hearing some statements coming from Great Britain, and we're also trying to get some kind of a reaction from Iraqi administration members. So, stay with us on that.
The Security Council vote, as we said this morning, was unanimous, and the resolution now that was before that council gives Iraq until November 15 to accept its terms and pledge to comply.

The resolution gives U.N. arms inspectors -- quote -- "immediate, unimpeded and unconditional access to search anywhere," and that includes Saddam Hussein's presidential sites.

The resolution threatens Iraq with serious consequences if it fails to cooperate.

Now, let's go back to the White House. Our senior correspondent, John King checking in from there -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Leon, this a major diplomatic victory for President Bush. After seven weeks of frustrating negotiations at the United Nations, now a unanimous vote. The president said the world now standing together in putting Iraq on notice. It must disarm or face the prospect of being disarmed by military force.

Mr. Bush coming out into the Rose Garden here at the White House shortly after the vote. Up in New York, Secretary of State Powell, his lead negotiator at his side. Mr. Bush said he would fully support the new inspections regime, and we are told by sources that means the most sensitive U.S. intelligence about suspected weapons sites.

Mr. Bush also made clear that there is no wiggle room in his view. Any interference would justify military force. Mr. Bush says the world has put Saddam Hussein on notice, and it's his choice to face now.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The resolution approved today presents the Iraqi regime with a test, a final test. Iraq must now, without delay or negotiations, fully disarm, welcome full inspections, and fundamentally change the approach it has taken for more than a decade.


KING: Now, Mr. Bush had to make some concessions to get this unanimous vote, chief among them, the United States agreed that it would not act right away, that if there is interference with those inspectors, it will wait and let the inspections teams report back to the Security Council, but Mr. Bush also making clear that if that debate bogs down, he will not wait for Security Council authorization to use military force.

In his words, The old game of cheat and retreat is over. Mr. Bush saying, very bluntly, Saddam Hussein now faces this test.

Mr. Bush says the answer is already in. Iraq will be disarmed. Saddam must now decide whether he will do so voluntarily and peacefully, or whether he will be disarmed by the use of military force -- Leon.

HARRIS: Now, John, to pull this off this morning, a lot of cards, final cards had to fall into place within the last hour, even, this morning. What do you hear from the White House about the last minute drive there, the last minute machinations to make that happen?

KING: The last minute drive was to get the vote of Syria. As of early this morning, we were told to expect Syria to abstain, but we were also told Secretary of State Powell sent a letter to the Syrian delegation, impressing upon them what he thought was the urgency of a unanimous vote, and the message, especially with a key Arab nation like Syria voting in favor of this resolution.

Secretary Powell thought that was the best way, in his view, to avoid war, to send a clear, unanimous message, including the Arab nation of Syria to Saddam Hussein that he must meet this test.

That apparently persuasive in the end, U.S. officials saying with Syria's vote now, Saddam Hussein has no wiggle room. He must know that the Security Council is serious, and he certainly should know after that statement in the Rose Garden, the president of the United States is quite serious.

HARRIS: No doubt. John King at the White House. Thanks, John.

As a matter of fact, John, any minute now, we expect to hear some words coming from Number 10 Downing Street.

There is the picture you see there, set up outside the residence of Prime Minister Tony Blair.

We expect he will be coming out -- in fact, he may be coming out now. Let's take a look and see if this is him coming out -- he is supposed to be -- that is obviously not him.

Tony Blair is going to be coming out, and we'll listen to what he has to say about this rather dramatic vote that has taken place at the U.N.

Of course, this has got the attention of people in Baghdad right now, most specifically, the administration there of Saddam Hussein. Let's check in now with our Baghdad bureau chief, Jane Arraf -- Jane.

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Hi, Leon. Well, Iraqi officials are certainly watching this very closely, and they would have heard the U.N. secretary general say that the road ahead will be difficult and dangerous. No one disputes that.

Iraq now has seven days to accept this resolution. So far, it's been quite coy about it. This afternoon, as the discussions were going on before the resolution vote, an Iraqi official, Iraq's trade minister, said that the resolution, in fact, is a pretext for war, and there is nothing new in it.

Now, that has been the line, but apart from that, there have been clear indications from President Saddam Hussein and in the official media that Iraq indeed will accept.

It's just a matter of how and when exactly it's going to do it. That vote by Syria at the Security Council, extremely significant, and again, a clear message to Iraq that that it can count on its allies up to a point, and that point has probably been reached, that now it has to do what it said it will do, which is let the inspectors in unconditionally and give them unrestricted access -- Leon.

HARRIS: Now, Jane, we were just talking with John King at the White House, and you may have heard him talk about how the administration here had been lobbying the Syrians to basically speak for the Arab world for them, and join this unanimous vote on the Security Council. There had to be some efforts being made there in Baghdad, or at least from Baghdad to try to get the Arab world to not join in on this.

What are you hearing about that?

ARRAF: Well, Iraq has actually launched quite a successful diplomatic campaign over the past few months and over the past few years, actually, to get some of these former enemies during the Gulf War on side, and it has actually succeeded.

Now, you remember, after the Gulf War, relations with a lot of the Arab states were cut, severed, because of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Things have been repaired, with quite a lot of them, even Saudi Arabia is warming up.

So in that sense, it has been quite successful, but where they draw the line is at where we are now, which is trying to get the weapons inspectors back, and prevent war.

No one here in this region is under any illusion that a war here would be quick or painless or easy, and wouldn't have very serious consequences for the region.

Now Iraq can certainly count on some of its allies, but that message from Syria certainly was a clear message that there are things that it does have to do to get back into the good graces of all of its Arab neighbors -- Leon. HARRIS: Well, let me ask you about the general population there, Jane, and I know it may be difficult to gauge this sort of thing, but is there any way to tell whether or not the people there are actually receiving and absorbing this message from President Bush about how the U.S. is now stepping up to be their defender in all of this, and their liberator?

ARRAF: They're certainly seeing it, but Leon, they don't believe it, and this is not just rhetoric, this is not what people say on camera. They really don't believe it. They feel they have been let down by the United States, and over the past decade, not just in Iraq, but in other parts of the Arab world, and in the Palestinian territories, they have seen the U.S. do things that many people are convinced are -- go against Islam.

Now, it's a very difficult message for the United States to get across, but this is all, in U.S. terms and U.S. view in their benefit, even today, Friday, the first Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar.

When people went to the mosques, the main mosque in a government sanctioned sermon that was aired on Iraqi TV, the imam was telling people that President Bush, whom he calls the "little dwarf," was threatening Mohammed. He said, how dare he threaten Mohammed. How dare he threaten the people of Mohammed.

Now, that's extremely strong language, indicating that the message here to the people is not that this is against Iraq, but that it's against the entire Muslim world -- Leon.

HARRIS: Jane Arraf reporting to us there in the evening hours of Baghdad. Thank you, Jane.


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