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Blix, El-Baradei Brief Press

Aired November 17, 2002 - 08:14   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR. Live pictures now. Larnaca, Cyprus. There you see Hans Blix surrounded by a gaggle of reporters. He has obviously arrived, safe and sound. This is the next stop on his journey to Baghdad. His team numbering approximately 280 eventually. Will be on the ground shortly. They won't have the full force of that team there right away, but he does indicate he's ready to begin inspections in as short as 10 days. Let's listen to what Mr. Blix has to say.
HANS BLIX, U.N. CHIEF WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Pleased to be on our way to a new chapter of inspections in Iraq.

As you know, there have been no inspections in Iraq since the end of 1998, so we will start the new ones after the resolution that was adopted unanimously by the Security Council on the 8th of November.

And we have now had the response from Iraq, also, which welcomes inspections to come, and also response from Arab countries in the region, including the Arab League, that have welcomed the renewed inspections.

We are going there to initiate the cooperation with Iraqis and to talk with representatives of the Iraqi government. And we are also bringing a number of people who will arrange the logistics of it.

There will be laboratories that we'll have a large number of jeeps, helicopters, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) an airplane and so forth, so there's quite a lot to organize.

The first inspectors will arrive in about one week after us. And they will go out to inspections from the 27th, I think, we count upon being the first inspection, actually. And two months after that, we shall update the Security Council on what we have seen.

Meanwhile, Iraq is expected and asked by the Security Council to submit a declaration on the 8th of December, 30 days after adoption of the resolution. And we will then analyze that declaration, and, of course, very much depends upon the contents of that declaration. We hope and we trust and we expect that they will report in the declaration whatever may remain of the programs and also a great deal of things from the sector which they came off for peaceful purposes or nuclear or biology, in chemistry, or -- yeah, not in this sense (ph), but at least in these areas.

So we are on our way. And we are off tomorrow. And then we'll be back soon. But we leave some people behind. And I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to my friend, Mohammed El-Baradei, who will speak on behalf of the International Atomic Energy.

MOHAMMED EL-BARADEI, INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY: Well, as Dr. Blix mentioned, this is a new phase in our inspection in Iraq. We are now backed fully by the Security Council to verify the disarmament of Iraq through an inspection. This is an opportunity for peace. I hope Iraq will make full use of it. It's an opportunity for Iraq, if it's fully cooperative, or cooperating in all respect in the language of Security Council resolution, that they open the way for them to come back, to be full member of the international commune and to suspend and eventually eliminate sanctions.

We are going to have lots of work to do. We are going to do a thorough independent objective inspections. It is going to take a lot of time, so you have to bear with us, but we need to do a comprehensive work. We will, as Dr. Blix mentioned, report to Security Council two months after our resumption of inspection, which we expect to be before the end of this month.

QUESTION: How does it feel effectively, gentlemen, to hold the whole issue of regional war and peace in your hands?

BLIX: Well, we are not actually feeling that we do that. I would say that the question of war and peace remains first of all in the hands of Iraq and the Security Council and the members of the Security Council. We have a very important role to play, and we are not going to play that down with you. We have a very responsible task that we have before us. We will inspect and we will report cooperation and lack of cooperation. And we'll do so objectively to the Security Council.

But it's for the council to decide what, how they assess that, whatever lack of cooperation or cooperation there is and to draw the consequences from it. It's not me who will do that.

QUESTION: Dr. El-Baradei, as one of the sole Arabs on the team, don't you feel enormous pressure on yourself personally to, I don't know, to toe the line?

EL-BARADEI: I don't. I wear in my position one hat. It's an international hat. In our job, we are color blind. It could be Iraq today. It could be country X tomorrow. What we need to do is have a comprehensive, objective job and that's what we are after.

QUESTION: Are you optimistic?



BLIX: We will see on the 8th of December. And we think they should look into their stores and their stock and they should give us and the world a complete declaration.


BLIX: Well, we are getting advice. The resolution, this resolution and earlier resolutions asked members of the United Nations to assist us and to recommend. And we will get such recommendations. But it is we who decide what we will do. And we will do so in the light of the resolutions. We have the confidence of the whole Security Council, and we act as subsidiaries. Well, we are subsidiaries. The IAEA is an independent organization, but they work also with and for the council.

EL-BARADEI: But I think to make it very clear, we are to work in an independent manner. There are lots of market place of ideas. There's a lot of second guessing. We are the ones to do the work. We are the ones to report to the Security Council. Our role is to report objectively to Security Council, as Dr. Blix said. It is for the council to evaluate our report and decide what to do next, whether they're in compliance or non-compliance.

QUESTION: How can you be sure? Dr. Blix, how can you be sure? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) weapons inspectors, how can they be sure that the Iraqis haven't actually concealed their weapons of mass destruction, even as they declare they have none?

BLIX: Well, there will be lots of allegations about concealment or about putting weapons of mass destruction in mobile targets, et cetera. And it certainly is a challenge to try to find underground installations. We do, of course, expect to get tips from various member states. We also have modern equipment, which is very superior to what we had in the past.

But in the first place, we would like the Iraqis to declare, because this is an opportunity for them to do so. And we hope that they will seize that opportunity.


EL-BARADEI: We will get the declaration, the declaration hopefully will be comprehensive and accurate. But we also learned everywhere in inspections that we do not take no for an answer. We have to verify to make sure that the no is actually no. And we trust the declaration, but we have to do a thorough verification before we come to any conclusions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One at a time, please.


EL-BARADEI: Well, that's mostly, I think (AUDIO GAP).

O'BRIEN: All right, it appears we lost our signal from Cyprus. We'll try to regain it and, as a matter of fact, I believe -- it's back and forth. You heard from Hans Blix who heads the U.N. weapons inspection team, not a subsidiary, but a separate group, the Vienna- based International Atomic Energy Agency also a participant in this effort. They're obviously focusing on the nuclear aspect of this. Mohammed El-Baradei.

I believe we have the signal back. Let's try to listen in again.

EL-BARADEI: ... they are absolutely independent and impartial. He I think heard them yesterday saying that, and I share that, anybody who we will find working for anybody else other than the United Nations, UNMOVIC, IAEA will be immediately fired. We have no tolerance.

QUESTION: What's the difference between spying (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

BLIX: Well, coming back to what Mr. El-Baradei answered, there are important differences between the earlier organization and UNMOVIC. The most important one is that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) financing. UNSCOM was supported by member states. They contributed the staff. They contributed the equipment, et cetera. We have .8 percent of the Iraqi (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all the people -- or practically all the people we have are hired in our contracts. There are our people on the U.N. contract, who serve under article 100 of the U.N. Charter which means loyal to us.

And as Mr. El-Baradei said, I cannot guarantee that everyone will be 100 percent in my service, nor can the KGB or the CIA guarantee the same thing. All the promise is that if anyone -- we find anyone doing something else, then it's bye-bye.

So we are determined to be an honest organ, subsidiary of the Security Council. And until now, that is also how we have been perceived. Our composition is one that is normal for the United Nations. The first criteria is competence and skill. The second criteria is that we seek a broad geographical distribution of our staff. And we do have that.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE), I understand, but I would like to say since we are on Cyprus territory, that we are very grateful to the government of Cyprus here to accommodate us and to allow us to be here, and have a field office so that we can fly into Baghdad very conveniently. They have been very, very helpful in the short time, and I'd like to express my appreciation to that.


BLIX: Well, we say that Cyprus is a place where the United Nations has had a long experience and I think the United Nations also become used to Cyprus and is of use to Cyprus. So there is a long interplay and cooperation between the two. And we are very happy to tag on to that.


EL-BARADEI: I don't think it is true. I mean, we had in the past quite a number of Arab inspectors on the IAEA team. We are going to have many of them on our next team. But as Dr. Blix said, the key is -- the key is competence and impartiality. You can have an inspector from one or two nationalities who are completely biased. Nationality really doesn't mean anything. It's a non-issue in that. What we look for is integrity, competence and independence. And that's what we look for primarily. However, as I said, we are having a variety of nationalities on our teams. I think in the next team coming here next week, you will see some Arab nationals on our team. But as I said, that's not really -- we are not playing a geographical numbers. We are playing competence and we are playing impartiality.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) questioned. Have you decided on the place they could be questioned? Is it going to be Cyprus (UNINTELLIGIBLE) authorities here?

BLIX: Well, I think I'll wait for the hypothetical questions. The first point for us is to go into Iraq rather than get out of Iraq.

QUESTION: What is Iraq's answer to you regarding your two-day stay? Do you have an idea what you'll be doing? And if not, does that concern you that there seems to be no (UNINTELLIGIBLE) information there?

BLIX: No, we are not concerned. We have requested to meet representatives of the government of Iraq. And I trust we shall do so. We also have work to do in order to start up the offices. We'd like to see that, both Mr. El-Baradei and I, and we have brought with us competent people who will continue to stay beyond the time, the short time that we are staying.

EL-BARADEI: We are expected, Richard, to have, you know, high- level talks in Baghdad. I think Mr. Tariq Aziz mentioned yesterday that they are going to welcome both Dr. Blix and I and engage in a dialogue with us on how best we can cooperate together. But also, we have a lot of technical work to do, you know, to initiate the process, you know. We have been out for four years. And it will take us some time to get on with the job.

QUESTION: And the fact that this is a daunting task?

EL-BARADEI: It is a daunting task, but this is not the first daunting task we have ever, you know, undertaken.

BLIX: One more question. One question.

EL-BARADEI: I think we will do it with our best abilities.

BLIX: OK. One more question.

QUESTION: Do you have any concerns (UNINTELLIGIBLE) developed between the United Nations and United States and Iraq?

BLIX: Well, we are representing the U.N., and we'll do what we are being told by the Security Council to do. And if there's any test of will, I think it will be in the Security Council. They have had it and they've managed to come -- to agree eventually to a unanimous decision, which is very important for us, because we are no inspector stronger than the Security Council is. And we now have that full backing. And I think the Iraqis will also be very much aware of that. And whatever we do, we will do on the instructions of the council. EL-BARADEI: We have the unanimous support and backing of the Security Council. Not only the United States, but the 15 members of the Security Council. And this is the best incentive for Iraq to cooperate and the best deterrence against non-cooperation.

BLIX: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: All right, we've been listening to Hans Blix and Mohammed El-Baradei. They are set to depart for Baghdad tomorrow, leaving Cyprus with the vanguard of their team. Ultimately it will number about 280. They'll have about two dozen with them as they begin their effort.

Lot of technical stuff at the beginning, getting vehicles and helicopters and airplanes running, and so forth. But the timetable remains what it has been. November 27, Mr. Blix says they will be able to begin some level of inspections. They will be obviously anxiously anticipating a December 8 deadline for a declaration from Saddam Hussein's government as to what is out there, what weapons of mass destruction capabilities are there in order to guide them toward more comprehensive inspections program.

Very clear that this group is trying to set itself as being a neutral, fact-finding group, not in a position to make any decisions, purely reporting back to the United Nations Security Council.

Having said that, they offered sort of both a carrot and a stick. Mr. El-Baradei talking about this being an opportunity for Iraq to comply and possibly leading down a road which will lead to the end of sanctions, which are economic sanctions which have, obviously, put a stranglehold on the Iraqi economy over the past decade or so. He also said, practically in the next breath, we will not take no for an answer. So carrot and stick right there.

Richard Roth is on the line with us. He is among that gaggle of reporters you heard there. As a matter of fact, I heard him ask a question or two. Richard, any other thoughts you want to share with us?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: No, you see the same determination, but yes, I will share some thoughts with you. Hans Blix and Mohammed El-Baradei, I flew with them just now from Vienna to Cyprus here, along with their team. It's the meeting up of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations weapons agency on Iraq.

And they're very calm and in good humor. You might think that they are high strung or tense on the eve of this return. They might as well all been going to a golf match. I mean, they are just solid professionals, what you see. The question is, what kind of access are they going to get in Iraq and what kind of cooperation. That remains the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at one point in the aisles, when I mentioned to Dr. Blix how I have been denied a visa, he said, "well, let's hope we get in."

I mean, there's always that element of doubt regarding the relationships between the U.N. and Iraq. And as you noted, they stressed the key is impartiality of the inspectors, the confidence. And El-Baradei saying that -- and Blix saying that anyone -- you can't guarantee 100 percent regarding the intelligence services, but that neither can the KGB or the CIA guarantee the neutrality or impartiality.

As to the weapons sites they want to see, El-Baradei said there's a lot of marketplace of ideas on that, though he's heard obviously a lot of second guessing from others on where they should or should not go. The two men did not seem to stress that Iraq has not communicated exactly what they'll do in Baghdad other than refurbishing their headquarters. But El-Baradei said they do expect to have appointments with high-level officials. Back to you, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Richard, one question for you. You know, Dr. Blix and Mr. El-Baradei, seasoned professionals, as you put it, people who are going into this with some expertise, understanding, with their eyes wide open. That said, the team is not the most seasoned of teams, because of one of the constraints that was agreed to by the Security Council, which is that everybody has to be a U.N. staffer. In other words, experts cannot be drawn from the various governments which are constituents of the Security Council. Do you get the sense that there's some concern that this is a rookie team going in there that might get bamboozled?

ROTH: Well, the teams are filled with a mixture of long experience and new experience. There are new people in there. There were problems with some in the past who did say that they gave information to their national governments. That wasn't really strictly barred, I believe. I mean, they were given over in the countries.

Now they're all U.N. staffers, working specifically for these agencies. The teams are going to be tested, obviously, and perhaps maybe some fresh bodies and some fresh legs. You are going to need that in Baghdad, because it can be a wearing experience just trying to get permission to go from the hotel to anywhere.

O'BRIEN: Richard Roth in Larnaca, I hope you get your visa. We'd like to talk to you from Baghdad. But before you head off there, we'll talk to you at the top of our hour. Richard will be joining us live with an additional report on events as this inspection process begins. A new chapter, as Dr. Blix is calling it.


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