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Bush on Iraq Accepting U.N. Resolution

Aired November 13, 2002 - 11:03   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we have tape coming in. President Bush meeting with cabinet members. Let's listen in.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... service to the country.

We talked about issues facing the country. We talked about the need to secure the homeland. We talked about our economy.

We talked about making sure that we lead, particularly when it comes to being wise with the taxpayers' money. We have a responsibility to spend people's money wisely, and so we had a little budget session here, to make sure that as we come back to deal with the '03 budget, as well as the '04 budget, we do so in a way that resists the temptation in Washington to overspend.

We feel strongly we can meet our nation's priorities and be wise with the people's money at the same time.

I'll be glad to answer some questions.

QUESTION: Sir, is bin Laden alive? And whether or not he is, does the reporting signal the potential for an imminent terrorist attack?

BUSH: We are looking at this latest tape. Our experts are analyzing the voice content, and we'll let them speak about whether it's him or not.

Nevertheless, the contents of the tape, the message is a serious message and it reminds -- should remind all of Americans and remind our friends and allies that there is an active enemy that continues to hate, is willing to use murder as a way to achieve their goals.

Whoever put this tape out has put the world on notice yet again that we're at war and that we need to take these messages very seriously, and we will. We'll take them seriously here at home by working with the appropriate authorities to deal with threats. And we'll take them seriously abroad by continuing our hunt. We'll chase these people down one at a time. It doesn't matter how long it takes, we'll find them and bring them to justice.


BUSH: We're making great progress in the war on terror. Slowly, but surely we are dismantling the terrorist network. We're finding their sanctuaries, holding people to account.

Our coalition of freedom-loving nations is up to 90 now. There is an international manhunt on.

I warned the American people that this is going to take time to achieve our objective. We're in a different kind of war. It's a war that requires international cooperation. We got to cut off their money. We got to share intelligence. And we're on a manhunt and we're not quitting. Slowly, but surely we're achieving our objective.

QUESTION: Sir, what happens on Friday if Iraq fails to say, "We'll comply." Do you go back to the U.N. or do you move to a military posture?

BUSH: I have told the United Nations we'll be glad to consult with them, but the resolution does not prevent us from doing what needs to be done, which is to hold Saddam Hussein into account.

We hope that he disarms. We hope that he will listen to the world. The world has spoken. A diverse group of nations in the Security Council spoke with one voice; the United States Congress spoke with one voice; and that is, in the name of peace he must disarm. If he chooses not to disarm, we will disarm him. That should be clear to Saddam Hussein and everybody else.

And if he chooses not to disarm, we will have a coalition of the willing with us. A lot of nations understand that in order to keep the peace, Saddam Hussein must be disarmed. That's (inaudible) decision (inaudible).

There's no negotiations with Mr. Saddam Hussein. Those days are long gone. And so are the days of deceit and denial. And now it's up to him. And I want to remind you all that inspectors are there to determine whether or not Saddam Hussein is willing to disarm. It's his choice to make. And should he choose not to disarm, we will disarm him.

QUESTION: Mr. President, (OFF-MIKE) what you believe will constitute a material breach of his obligations?

BUSH: Zero tolerance, is about as plain as I can make it. We will not tolerate any deception, denial or deceit, period.



BUSH: Yes. Good to see you.

QUESTION: Alan Greenspan...

BUSH: You're looking beautiful today, by the way.

QUESTION: Well, thank you.

(LAUGHTER) BUSH: You don't qualify.


QUESTION: Sir, Alan Greenspan said today that the economy has hit a soft spot. He also said that households have become more cautious in their purchases while business spending is not showing a substantial vigor. What do you plan to do about this? Do you think this is an indictment of your tax cut? Or do you take this as a call that a new round of such tax relief is necessary?

BUSH: I think that, first of all, I appreciate the wisdom of Chairman Greenspan. He uses the word soft spot. I use the words bumping along. Both of us understand that our economy is not nearly as strong as it's going to be. And our job here in Washington is to create the environment necessary for people to feel confident about risking capital; and to create an environment amongst our consumers where they're confident about the future.

And one way that we have addressed this problem up to now is to insist that Congress allow people to keep more of their own money, and it seemed to have worked well during the first three quarters of this year. And to the extent that we need to continue doing that, I'm willing to listen to ideas, and I want to work with Congress.

I sent a signal to Congress that I believe that we need to have further discussions how to best stimulate the economy, and I'm very serious about that. And so, when the Congress comes back from the -- when the new Congress comes back we will have some ideas to discuss with them. In Washington, we've got to be constantly on alert about people not being able to find jobs, and we've got to be working together to put the environment in place so they can find jobs.

Like the chairman, I am not satisfied with the economic growth of the country. Like the chairman, I'm worried when people can't find work. We've been active in the past on economic vitality; we will continue to be.

One way Congress can help immediately in terms of the job picture is to pass a terrorism insurance bill so that the hard-hats can find work. People complain about the cost of a terrorism insurance bill -- there is no cost if there's no terrorist attack. And if there's a terrorist attack, a terrorism insurance bill will mitigate the damage of a terrorist attack. It makes eminent sense to have a terrorism insurance bill, and I hope the Congress can get it done before they go home.

QUESTION: So what about the deficit, though, in this context.

BUSH: Well, we have a deficit because tax revenues are down. Make no mistake about it, the tax relief package that we passed -- that should be permanent, by the way -- has helped the economy, and that the deficit would have been bigger without the tax relief package.

The deficit is caused by the fact that revenues have not come in, and there's two things we can do about it. One, stimulate the economy to create more revenues; and two, hold down spending. And today, we spent time here at the Cabinet talking about how we hold down spending, and we hope the Congress gets that message as well.

Thank you all.

KAGAN: All right. That tape coming as -- this was a cabinet meeting that took place just a little while ago in the White House. We'll bring John King in, in just a moment, but first we want to tell you about breaking news we are confirming here at CNN.

CNN has talked with a high ranking Iraqi official and has confirmed that, indeed, the Iraqis are sending a letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, saying they will accept the U.N. resolution, demanding that Iraq disarm. With that, we want to go ahead and bring our John King in on that news and also what we were hearing from inside of the White House this morning.

John, good morning.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Daryn. The secretary general of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, will be here at the White House in just a few hours to see President Bush. Reporters supposed to get in at the top of that meeting. So by then, perhaps, we will know whether Mr. Annan has received that letter or, at least, received word that letter is coming.

White House officials are following these reports. They say they have no official confirmation at all. Of course, there is no contact between the United States government and the government of Iraq. White House officials, though, saying that they have fully expected, all along, that Saddam Hussein would accept the U.N. resolution, saying he really had no choice.

The question now, and you heard President Bush discuss it in those remarks we just played during the cabinet meeting here at the White House, the question now is what happens when inspectors get in on the ground in Iraq. Mr. Bush saying he would have, quote, "zero tolerance" for any interference, any violations by Iraq of the new terms of the inspections mandate and other items included in that resolution.

So it appears this confrontation is moving forward, as the White House anticipated, after the resolution was adopted by the Security Council. More details, more discussion of how fast to get the inspectors in, how fast they can be and up and running, how quickly they will put any Iraqi commitment to the test, later today, when President Bush meets with Kofi Annan here at the White House -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Well, John, perhaps one thing the administration did not anticipate, and that is the other big story of the day and that's this new tape, believed to be Osama bin Laden coming out with a number of threats. Given that the Iraqis are going to accept the U.N. demands and these threats from al Qaeda, won't this, once again, bring up the argument and the debate about where U.S. focus should be on Iraq or on the al Qaeda terrorist threat? KING: Well, it may well reinvigorate that debate, but you heard the president, to get in there, making the case he has made consistently, that the United States cannot choose which order to fight the war on terrorism, as he sees it. Mr. Bush saying he would -- very restrained in his words. He would not even say whether he believes it is the voice of Osama bin Laden.

We are told, though, by senior officials that the President has been told that an initial analysis suggests that it very well is the voice of Osama bin Laden and that, while they're going back to check to make sure this was not fabricated in any way, the early conclusion is that it is the voice of Osama bin Laden and at least, as of a few weeks ago, that the al Qaeda leader was alive.

Mr. Bush would make the case that he faces the unfortunate task of waging a war on terrorism on many fronts, including Iraq. Whether that comes to military conflict at all, they would say here at the White House, is up to Saddam Hussein. But yes, it is likely to revive the debate by those who say focus on al Qaeda, first, put Iraq on the back burner.

KAGAN: John King at the White House. John, thank you -- Leon.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. At this point, it might be a good idea to just walk the folks here who are watching this morning through some of the demands that are being placed on Iraq and to which Iraq is now submitting, according to reports that we're getting.

And it's acceptance of this letter, issued by the U.N. Security Council last week here. The U.N. resolution now calls for weapons inspections to begin within 45 days of its adoption and the resolution demands weapons inspectors have unrestricted access to presidential sites, equal to that have other sites. In other words, the presidential sites, which had been such a point of contention in the past, are now to be treated as any other regular sites and inspectors are to have unfettered access to those sites.

Now let's go to our Richard Roth, our U.N. correspondent who is standing by now in our New York bureau. Richard, what have you been hearing about all this?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, a letter from the Iraqi government is on its way to the United Nations, directed to Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is in Washington, by the way, today. This has been done by Iraq before, as a means of communicating responses from the government in Baghdad. Sometimes in the past it would be, as it is today, the Iraqi ambassador who will go from his mission or residence on New York's Upper East Side, over to the United Nations headquarters building and he will deliver this letter to U.S. officials.

That letter is going to be a positive response to the United Nations unanimous Security Council resolution of last Friday, telling Iraq it must accept the terms of this resolution within seven days. Iraq, despite what some critics and analysts said about taking it to the limit, is going to give this response now with about 48 hours to spare.

Secretary General Kofi Annan said yesterday that Iraq had the full business day of Friday, though the resolution was passed about 10:50 Friday morning.

Arab analysts had predicted and confirmed today it would be a positive response and there wasn't that much worry in the hallways. Many people there had thought that Iraq, indeed, would indeed comply. So the United Nations will accept this letter and then will transmit it on to the Security Council. So for now, any type of early test crisis would be averted with a positive response -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right. Two things here, Richard. First of all, how is this to be read then, if this positive response is being sent earlier than expected and this -- in the wake of this vote by the Iraq parliament, that was urging Saddam Hussein to go the exact opposite direction? How is that being read there?

ROTH: Well, as for the Iraqi parliament, diplomats always thought that was for domestic consumption, domestic politics. They really didn't want to criticize it as the U.S. did, as saying it was a farce or political theater, but they know it for home consumption and even Secretary General Annan said, I don't think that the Iraqi parliament was speaking to him, but instead, locally. He said governments have a way of, quote, managing their own environment. As for why it came today, well, the Security Council certainly said it meant business this time and Iraq possibly fearing any type of attack or any hint of it, didn't want to leave any room for misjudgment or confusion.

HARRIS: All right. Well, then, with that being said then, how soon before the inspectors will actually be dispatched by the U.N.? Do we know that?

ROTH: Yes. Well, beginning Friday night, several people will start heading towards Cyprus, which is a transit point, a local Mediterranean headquarters, but then on to Baghdad, November 18, Monday. his is a early team full of logistical people, communications people, to set up an office there. However this early squad will be directed and led by Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, and Mohamed El Baradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. People started leaving New York and Vienna and elsewhere Friday evening, New York time.

HARRIS: Richard Roth, the U.N. correspondent, standing by now in our New York bureau. Thanks, Richard -- Daryn.

KAGAN: I want to go from New York, right to Baghdad, and that's where our Rym Brahimi is standing by with reaction from there.

Rym, hello.

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Daryn, yes, we are hearing from Iraqi officials that they will accept that resolution -- Resolution 1441 -- on Iraq's disarmament, that defines the rules of engagement of the weapons inspectors. Now, there have been a few indications in the past few days, since that resolution was adopted, that Iraq would accept it. But of course, there hasn't been an official announcement made public, so far, here in Baghdad.

We're still waiting for news on the television or on the Iraqi state-run media to hear more about that, to hear the details. But so far, all we've had have been signs and this news just now that Iraq's officials are saying that they will accept the resolution -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Yes, and Rym a question that Leon just asked to Richard Roth, what about the difference between the Iraqi Parliament, which turned down the request, and now Iraq's leader saying that yes, indeed, they will accept a resolution?

BRAHIMI: Well the Iraqi parliament, I think, was really more -- it's appearing much more clearly now for international public consumption, more than anything else. Interestingly enough, the Iraqi parliament voted: one, to reject that resolution; but number two, they voted also to allow the president to make the ultimate decision about the resolution.

And what was reported on Iraqi's state-run media was not that they rejected it, it was just the second part of the vote that they actually allowed the president to go ahead and make the appropriate decision, under the circumstances. So this was clearly a case of saying, well, if Iraq does, indeed, accept the resolution which it is looking very likely to do, well, it will do so, under protest -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And any surprise there, Rym, on timing? The Iraqis did have until Friday to accept this resolution.

BRAHIMI: Well, maybe. I think a lot of people were expecting this decision to come a little bit later. Decisions like this usually take a while before they come up. So maybe from that point of view, just a day off or so, but not much more. I mean, there was no doubt at all that they would, obviously, respect that deadline, and it has been quite clear what the answer was going to be.


Rym Brahimi in Baghdad. Thank you, Rym.

HARRIS: Let's talk about this now with a guest we have scheduled to talk with us about other matters, but since this one is on the table, let's get right to it. Jamie Rubin, the former U.S. State Department spokesman is with us this morning in our New York bureau.

Good to see you stateside now, Jamie.


HARRIS: Got to ask you, are you surprised by this development and to see it's coming as you heard Richard Roth say here 48 hours before the deadline was actually imposed by the U.N. Security Council? Every expectation had been that if this was going to happen -- as a matter of fact, Jamie, hold that thought. We want to go right now to the U.N. and listen in.


MOHAMMED AL-DOURI, IRAQI U.N. AMBASSADOR: We are prepared to receive the inspectors within the assigned timetable. We are eager to see them perform their duties in accordance with international law as soon as possible. This is the essence of the letter.


AL-DOURI: Well, the one, I think we explained in the letter the whole Iraqi question dealt with here within the United Nations the activities. So we tried to explain our position, saying that Iraq have and had not and will not have any mass destruction weapons. So we are not worried about the inspectors when they will be back in the country.

QUESTION: So do you want to repeat the assertion in the letter that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction.

AL-DOURI: Yes, yes, yes, Iraq is clean, yes, yes, yes.

QUESTION: Why did you decide to accept now? How do you describe what made Iraq make this decision now?

AL-DOURI: Well, this is I think the government of Iraq decided it, and they decided right now because they think that it is at the proper time, at the right time, to give the answer right now.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) decision of war and peace. Are you confident now that your government has achieved peace?

AL-DOURI: As far as Iraqi government is concerned, yes. We are always opting for the path of peace.

QUESTION: What impact did the Security Council resolution's threatening serious consequences and the bluster in Washington, what impact did that have on Iraq making this decision to re-allow weapons inspectors?

AL-DOURI: Well, I just say that we choose always the peaceful ways and means, and this is a part of our policy, vis-a-vis to protect our country, to protect our nation, to protect the region also from the threat of war which is real. And everybody knows about it, what does that mean, the threat, the American threat against Iraq.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) very quickly [ foreign language ]

HARRIS: And what we're hearing right now is of course this question being asked of the Iraqi ambassador to the U.N. in French and he's responding in French. And we heard the beginning of that response saying that -- the question being about what was contained in the letter that the Iraqis are delivering to the U.N. Security Council. And the words that we were getting in the beginning of that response there from the ambassador is that Iraq accepts the demands being made of it by that -- the demand issued by the U.N. Security Council last Friday.

And those demands included unfettered access to all sites within Iraq by the U.N. weapons inspectors who will be sent back to that country and all sites, naming, including presidential sites which had been such a point of contention last time around. Any inspections that actually occur in that country.

Let's go back now to Jamie Rubin,who's patiently sitting by in our New York bureau.

And, Jamie, I want to get back to our question, but first of all, based upon what you just heard there from the U.N. ambassador, the ambassador to the U.N. from Iraq, Mohammed Al-Douri, what do you make of what you just heard?

RUBIN: Well, I think there's good but some pretty troubling news in that statement. I think most people expected Iraq to accept this resolution and he's confirming they're going to accept it, and they're going to allow the inspectors to return. And I think most people expected that was going to happen. The key thing is what will they do on day 30? What will their declaration look like?

The difference between this resolution and all the previous resolutions in the United Nations is this time the international community is expecting Iraq not to just passively allow itself to be inspected, but to actively cooperate in the disarmament process by revealing all the programs the United States and United Nations believe it has. And what the ambassador said there is we have no weapons of mass destruction and that flies in the face of the elaborate documents put out by the British government, by the American government. And if that's the posture that Iraq takes on day 30, which is December 8, when they have to declare all of the programs related to weapons of mass destruction, the crisis may start right just then.

HARRIS: Well, you know, that's what they have been declaring all along, is it not? That's nothing new, I don't believe. We've been hearing them say that as recently as just last night.

RUBIN: That is their position all along. I'm not suggesting that it isn't. What I'm suggesting is that this resolution that the international community has adopted unanimously says that any false statement in the declaration they're supposed to provide on December the 8th will be a material breach justifying the use of force. And the United States and the United Kingdom and many other countries I suspect do not believe that Iraq has zero weapons of mass destruction programs. And so if the ambassador's statement is a harbinger of what their declaration is going to look like on December the 8th, then we're in for a crisis much quicker than one might have imagined.

HARRIS: All right. Well, we heard him say there, right before he went off to begin speaking in French there, that Iraq is eager to see the inspectors return and perform their duties. Again, that's what they say. What's important is what they actually do once those inspectors get on the ground there. With your concern, as you said here, about what happens on day 30, what has to be done in the meantime? What is the next step now for the U.S. and for the State Department and for the president here?

RUBIN: Well, I think it is to begin to condition our public opinion, international public opinion for this very issue: that we are not going to sit back and play hide and seek again where Iraq allows inspectors to go to places and doesn't interfere with them, but doesn't take any active steps to disarm the programs that we know are there. And I think if the president intends to follow through on what's in the resolution, namely if he intends to use a false statement in the declaration as a causis belli -- I think it's high time for the administration to make that clear.

Zero tolerance is the words that the president has used, but what's important now is to make clear that a false declaration coming as soon as December 8 means the jig is up, we're not going to wait for inspectors to go around for weeks and weeks and weeks, to report back to the Security Council.

And that's the ambiguity which has still not been resolved in the international community. And I think the State Department and the White House and the other officials are going to be in constant contact with their colleagues in France and London and elsewhere to make sure we can come to an agreement that if there is a false declaration on December 8, that would be considered a material breach by everybody.

HARRIS: And if that happens, then of course the next step is now that causis belli has been established and that means that the door should be open for any military action to be taken against Iraq. But what are your sources telling you inside the State Department about what that department believes in terms of the depth of the faith of the Security Council in the resolution it passed? Many of the members came on board very, very slowly. It took a lot of wrangling. It took a lot of arm twisting by Secretary of State Colin Powell as well as others to make this all come together. What makes them believe, in the State Department, that the Security Council will be strong behind them if it does come to a point where force has to be used?

RUBIN: Well, I think the working assumption is that this is a pretty substantial victory for the secretary of state to move from a stage where we weren't even going to seek a U.N. resolution to get unanimous agreement to it. I think the unanimity came because many countries, countries like Syria, France, Russia, others, are hoping that if it's unanimous, that Iraq will have a 180 degree turn not in what it says, but what it does when the time comes, that it will disarm, that it will choose disarming voluntarily rather than being disarmed involuntarily as the United States is determined to do.

So I think a lot of the people who supported and voted yes are hoping that their "yes" vote -- countries like Syria, France and others -- that their yes vote will avoid a war. And so I think they're going to be quite troubled if they learn in the coming weeks that Iraq has not done a real change in terms of whether it's going to voluntarily disarm itself, which is what the resolution require.

HARRIS: Jamie, we're going to move on right now for just a bit. We want to talk some more about this. And I want to see, is it possible for you to stick around for a while this morning? Can you stay with us for a while?


HARRIS: Good. All right. Jamie Rubin's going to stick with us, folks, and we'll get back to you in just a minute.


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