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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Hans Blix Press Conference

Aired November 15, 2002 - 12:00   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's Richard Roth, he is at U.N. headquarters in New York. Nic Robertson, he is in Cyprus, and Rym Brahimi, she's in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. We're also standing by momentarily to hear from Hans Blix, the head of the U.N. monitoring verification and inspection commission better known as UNMOVIC. Hans Blix and his team will begin their long journey to Baghdad after this final news briefing at U.N. headquarters in New York. You are looking at a live picture, reporters gathering. They are standing by. They are getting ready to ask questions of Dr. Blix.
Let's catch up on what we might anticipate to hear from him, from our senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth. He is at the U.N., Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf.

Hans Blix takes a lot of questions now before he starts asking questions, when he gets to Baghdad. Mr. Blix will leave tonight for Paris, France. Talk with the French government, which of course would like to meet him, since he already met with President Bush, then he passes through Vienna on his way to Cyprus. He'll pick you want director general of International Atomic General Agency, who handles the Iraqi nuclear file, and they'll both go to Cyprus before heading in with about 30 to 40 people to Baghdad on Monday morning. For Blix likely here at this press conference, a lot of questions about what is his threshold for Iraqi violations. What will make him want to come back, break off the inspections or halt them and come back and tell the Security Council, where he has problems or not -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, I guess you could call it violations and violations -- some minor violations, some major violations. I am sure the U.S. -- the Bush administration's definition of a violation's going to be different, let's say, from the Russian definition.

How does Blix work that out?

ROTH: Yes, that's right. I think a senior white house officials may be a coma out of place, but a definitely lower threshold as we await here, as we are looking at the press conference, where momentarily we expect Hans Blix to come out.

I think as you interviewed Mr. El-Baradei of IAEA, he wants to see a pattern. He doesn't want to see five minutes problems here and there. He doesn't want to go to the council -- quote -- on one omission in the declaration that Iraq must give by December 8th on their entire weapons of declaration file. But it's the up for Blix to come to the council, and that of course will trigger the second big issue, is who will determine whether it's a material breach, and whether Washington will wait around for any resolving of that question.

BLITZER: Richard, I see three seats up there. Who's going to be joining Dr. Blix at this briefing?

ROTH: Well, it's going to be the Blix show, because it will be a U.N. spokesman, and then a general assembly spokesman, but they rearranged the timetable, because usually the guest have to wait for 20 minutes of highlights. But Mr. Blix will go first, and then he'll finish his work here and he'll travel on his way to Iraq.

He's never been in Iraq since he took this job. He was in Iraq as the head of International Atomic Energy Agency in the early '90s -- or rather the late '80s -- took a lot of heat because Iraq was able to build up a nuclear program while his team there was. But Blix of course has said that Iraq fooled his agency and a lot of people getting supplies legally and illegally from around the world from various countries, and then turning it toward the weapons programs.

For Blix, it's possibly to wipe that off of his record with a stringent process. One key thing he may speak with journalists, the issue of scientists, interviewing them out of the country, that, Wolf, we've talked about on this program. The U.N. officials, the weapons inspectors, really are not keen on taking that many people out. They know that Iraq will give them a hard time and may not be too opened on pointing out who used to work on a weapons program, feeling that that person and his family might just defect.

BLITZER: Richard Roth at United Nations.

We're going to go back to that briefly, obviously, once it begins. Richard, thanks for much. We're standing by for this briefing, Dr. Hans Blix, the head of the U.N. weapons inspections teams. He's going to be answering reporters' questions at U.N. momentarily.

Well, actually, here is right now.

HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Thank you very much. I would like to start with an apology, that we are not accessible all the time. We are still a relatively small outfit. And we are aware that there are many requests for interviews. And if we are to do any work, we simply cannot take all the interviews. I will say that when we have something to tell, well, then we come out and do it. And I have a preference on what I might call material news...

(LAUGHTER)

... if you understand my allusion.

Now, to go to the material news right now, it is the facts that a group of UNMOVIC people are going to Iraq via Cyprus, where we are setting up a field office. And in Cyprus, we'll be joined by a group of IAEA people and with Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA leading them. And together, then we plan to go to Baghdad and arriving on Monday in Baghdad.

And the purpose of the trip is to initiate this new chapter of inspections. We have requested to see representatives of the Iraqi government. The main job, however, will be carried out by those who stay after me and Mohamed ElBaradei, and to do the logistics.

As most of you know, we have a center there, and that has now not been manned since the end of '98. So we will have to make sure that the pigeons that have broken through the windows will be chased out and that we will have new paint on the walls and that the laboratories will be equipment with new equipment.

BLIX: The communication, of course, is important, telephones and faxes, secure lines. And transportation, jeeps and buses, and indeed a little later on also helicopters. So we'll have people staying there and doing this for us.

And the first group of inspectors from our side, from the UNMOVIC side, will arrive about one week after us. And we calculate the -- expect that the first inspections may take place then on the 27th of November. And this will then will mark in the language resolution resumed inspections. And from that you can then calculate back to we will -- that we will have 60 days before -- to report or give an updating as the (inaudible) resolution to the Security Council.

Long before our updating, already early in December, the Iraqi government has asked under the resolution to submit at declaration. That's one month, 30 days after the adoption of the resolution. So that should be of the 8th of December. Hence, you can see that we will have inspectors on site before the Iraqi declaration. Once that comes in, there will be a lot of work for us analyze that declaration.

Perhaps one word also about the media in Baghdad. We understand that they have a lot of interest, even in Cyprus, but also in Baghdad. And we will have one spokesman there in Baghdad, Mr. Hiro (ph), with me, who he is familiar to you. He will be our man in Baghdad.

BLIX: He will not be allowed to say that much.

(LAUGHTER)

And most of the significant things will be handled by us here, because the inspectors are reporting to us, and we are reporting to the Security Council. And it's not for us to reveal much before we have had a chance to tell the Security Council on significant matters.

So I think you should expect -- and perhaps, you who are stationed in New York, are pleased to hear this, that is in New York -- that Mr. (inaudible) and Mr. Hiro (ph) will be in Baghdad, and the interest that is there will be taken care by him. And we would anticipate there are many occasions, at any rate, at the end of the day he will tell how many inspectors have been out in the field and maybe where they have been, et cetera. We will also try -- when we can, for this first trip, Mr. ElBaradei and I will be available as we arrive in Baghdad. And on the Tuesday evening, the last evening we are there, I think we'll also try to arrange that we can talk to media after we have been in touch with the Iraqis.

Well, so much for hard facts. And now, I'll be glad to take any questions you might have.

QUESTION: President Bush keeps talking about zero tolerance, which puts a lot of pressure on you. What do you consider a serious violation? At one point you've said a half-hour delay would not be one, a two-hour delay in getting access to a site might be one.

And also, would an omission in the declaration be something you would report as a serious violation?

BLIX: I'll take the first part of your question, first. I think it's useful to have this discussion because it really deals with what could trigger armed action and war. So it is an important discussion.

At the same time, I think one needs to nuance it. I've seen that several people in high positions have talked about it and I, myself, have talked about one flat tire, well, that's a flat tire, if it is with our own people, is one thing.

BLIX: If it is with the Iraqi escorts having one flat tire is one thing. If they have four flat tires on the way, delaying us much more, then it may be a different thing.

So what this points to I think is that you may have to take account whether you can read an intention into something. I haven't seen that referred to in discussion. I think we still have to use our common sense in judging whether something is a way of hindering us in the inspections, or if it is not.

What I made absolutely clear is that we do not judge whether something constitutes a material breach. We will report factually what has happened. And then it is for the Security Council first to assess whether in its view it constitutes a material breach, and after having drawn such a conclusion, it is for the council to decide what will they do about it. One should not run to the conclusion that, "Ah, now there will be armed action." The council, especially when its united, will have a whole spectrum of measures at its disposal.

Your second question...

QUESTION: If there was omission in the declaration...

BLIX: An omission in the declaration.

QUESTION: ... that you would report it as a serious violation.

BLIX: Yes. Well, we take one day at a time here, and the declaration should come before the 8th of December, and then we will then analyze that. Of course, I think this is one of the most important moments we foresee, is the declaration by Iraq. Because you'll recall that in 1991, the Resolution 687 at the time, the concept was that Iraq declares and we verify. And this was -- some said that this developed into they hide and we seek. And we are now again getting back to a wish to a declaration, which in the view of the Security Council offers a last opportunity for Iraq to declare what they may have.

BLIX: We are not on our side contending that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. We have a great many questions. We cannot exclude it. And we are not saying that all the intelligence is wrong. It may be right, but we are not also confirming it.

So the Iraq's declaration -- I come back to now -- is a very important document. And we hope that they take it very seriously. And when it gets here, well, then we would have all our people analyzing it and comparing it with the knowledge that we have of the past.

QUESTION: Dr. Blix, on this -- on a similar subject, the Iraqi government, in its letter of acceptance, reiterated several times that it has no programs for weapons of mass destruction. This would assume that in its declaration it will not refer to any programs of weapons of mass destruction.

My question is that in Washington, some U.S. officials have said that if, in fact -- if the Iraqis go ahead with what they have said in this letter, that this in itself would be a cause for a falsification or an omission. And I was wondering if you could comment on this contention and the idea that this could be the start of triggering a material breach.

BLIX: Well, the first point I think is that, although Iraq, in its response to the resolution, has reaffirmed that there are no weapons of mass destruction, nevertheless they will have one month -- not quite one month to consider this and to examine their archives and their stores and stocks to see whether indeed there is something or not.

We have seen that they have changed their position on other matters, for instance, on inspection.

BLIX: I mean, there was no acceptance of inspections under the foreign minister, Sabri, came to the General Assembly and declared. So there could be a change also on this matter.

Now, if, as you say, a declaration comes and it maintains the position of the past, then I think it will be the moment for those who consider that they have evidence to consider whether they put that evidence on the table. I don't think they can simply -- or anyone can simply say, "It is wrong and we all know it is wrong." I think one would have to present evidence.

And we've seen it as our task, at any rate, always to deal with evidence. We are performing inspections. And I said also that if I have solid evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, then I would put that on the table of the Security Council. I do not have that, but others may have such evidence, and I think that would be the moment to possibly present it.

QUESTION: Dr. Blix, do you concur with people concerning Article IV, saying that any false statement of omissions in the declaration submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with and to cooperate fully with the implementation of the resolution, that is what we understand from this Article IV that omission in itself in the declarations of the Iraqis will not constitute a material breach unless it's accompanied by failure to comply and cooperate fully with your inspectors? Is that your understanding?

And my second question, quickly, do you concur with Kofi Annan when he said -- the general secretary said in Washington that the United States, about going to war, seems to have on the surface a lower threshold than others may have? And he asked for you inspectors to be given enough time and space to do your work. Do you concur with that opinion?

BLIX: Well, first of all, we are not, on our side, as I said a moment ago, assessing whether something constitutes a material breach or not. An omission of something can certainly be very serious. I mean, look back to the biological program, which was not declared, first, and then it was not declared that there was a weaponization of it. Well, these were omissions that certainly were very significant.

I say significant. I don't say material breach, because, again, it's for the Security Council to do that.

Now, as to cooperation, again, we will look upon it, and it depends what circumstances are. If you had a denial of access somewhere, even for a relative short time, seems to me that concerns something that is very essential to the mission. There is hardly any resolution about Iraq in which it is not -- the council doesn't affirm that there should be a right to immediate, unconditional, unrestricted access.

BLIX: So anything that touches that, even though it may be a very long delay, could be a very significant matter and to be evaluated by the Security Council and they will then take the decision if that amounts to a material breach.

Kofi Annan, I thought, made an excellent statement, as always, in Washington, and very frank at that. I think the United States government is determined that there shall be no cat-and-mouse play. And this is how I also understood that the Security Council takes that view. Zero tolerance is a very strict word. Certainly cat-and-mouse is something that will -- I'm sure will not be tolerated in the future.

QUESTION: Dr. Blix, when you talk about omissions, it suggests that you have a predetermined list that you'll be working over, things that you do know. Does such a list exist? And will you be cross- referencing that with this declaration on December the 8th?

And just on top of that, could you also answer how soon you think you will be moving toward the monitoring and verification part of your work?

BLIX: Well, we don't have -- sometimes it's been said in the past that only 5 percent remained of the weapons of mass destruction. I have never wanted to join that, because I say, "5 percent of what?" If we had a predetermined list, if we knew that they had so and so many pieces of a particular weapon, then we could check it on the ground and decide that ought to remain so and so many. In many cases we don't know.

In some cases we do, because it's been imported. And then you can have information from the exporter. But in other cases where you have production from the Iraqi side, you may not know what they have.

We will analyze the declarations that come in and compare that with the earlier analysis that we have from earlier Iraqi declarations. Sometimes there are contradictions between one -- from one declaration to another. And we will then, if we can, conclude that there is some omission.

But as I told you, in most cases we don't have lists of what there was originally. So this might be a difficult point.

What was your second question was?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BLIX: When do we begin with the monitoring and verification? Well, under the Resolution 1284, monitoring and verification goes into the same concert (ph), strengthen system of monitoring and verification.

Monitoring in past used to be originally the idea that once you have weeded out the weapons of mass destruction, you will monitor and make sure that there is nothing new coming up. However, it was realized that we were not sure whether something was left and where it was left. And therefore, the IAEA merged the two things: They continued with monitoring and at the same time reserved themselves the right to look for something from the past.

BLIX: In the new resolution from 1999 we do both. If we are convinced in one area that there could hardly be anything left from the past, well, then maybe one could go over to more routine-like visits. But there will always be available for us to step it up to more intrusive, more comprehensive means if we have any suspicion that something could be found.

BLITZER: Dr. Hans Blix, he's the chief U.N. weapons inspector, preparing to return, to go to Iraq to resume those weapons inspectors after four years no inspections. He'll be joined by his colleague from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Mohammed El-Baradei. They'll be leaving New York, heading to Paris. Then from Paris, they'll be going to Cyprus. That will be the field office for the new U.N. inspection team. From Cyprus, they'll be flying to Baghdad, arriving in Baghdad on Monday. They'll be staying there Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, leaving on Wednesday, leaving a small team behind. Dr. Blix saying, though, that they hope the inspection, the resumed inspections, will begin by November 27th, the full-scale inspections. That's a little bit faster than the initial U.N. Security Council Resolution, had envisaged 60 days after that.

By the end of January, the U.N. inspection teams must report to the United Nations security council with their initial assessment to provide in the words of dr. Blix, an update to the u.n. Security council on what's going on. A key date as he points out is December 8th. That's when the Iraqi must submit a declaration of their programs, of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. They insist they don't have any. He says they'll be watching very closely to see what is in that form of declaration. And if there are other powers outside, presumably the United States and Britain that have information that is not consistent of what the Iraqi says, he is ready to hear that information at that point. We are of course, going to be watching all of this.

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