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Ari Fleischer Discusses Day Five of Weapons Hunt in Iraq

Aired December 2, 2002 - 12:24   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: In day five of the weapons hunt, U.N. inspectors hit the heart of Baghdad to visit what's believed to be a military-industrial complex. On their to-do list, everything from manufacturing plants to presidential palaces.
Today we're going "One-on-One" with someone who knows firsthand the difficult tasks facing the United Nations inspection observers. Olivia Bosch served as a weapons inspector in the mid-1990s. She is joining us now live from London.

Olivia, thanks for joining us.

Give us your initial reaction to what's happening over these past five-six days.

OLIVIA BOSCH, FMR. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Right. Well, it would appear so far that there are reports of the cooperation from the Iraqis. This is welcomed. And also, it would also appear to be a time of warming up, an opportunity for the inspectors to get used to their processes that they're having to do, and also for the Iraqis to get used to having inspectors back again into the country after four years.

So, we're still in the early stages, and it's very speculative at this point, too, because really, the real tests are still to come.

BLITZER: All right...

BOSCH: And we are waiting for the declaration -- OK.

BLITZER: All right, Olivia, I want you to stand by a minute. The White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, is speaking about this subject right now. I want to listen in, hear what he has to say.


QUESTION: You continue to tell us that the president is very skeptical that the Iraqis will cooperate. So, in the event that they do, as they have so far, do you have a plan B? What happens if this actually doesn't turn up anything, then what do you do?

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, I would urge you to wait until the president's speech this afternoon, and we will see precisely what the president says. And then there's also this interest and question about what will Iraq do when they have to honor the United Nations resolution and provide a list of their weapons that they hold in violation of United Nations resolutions. It's up to Saddam Hussein to produce that list

QUESTION: You're assuming in your answer that they have weapons of mass destruction which they're hiding. They say they do not.


QUESTION: You say that they do.

FLEISCHER: I think the history of the people who accept Saddam Hussein at face value and take his word for accurate is one of disappointment, because they have been deceived. Saddam Hussein does not exactly have a track record of telling the world the truth. So, he, on December 8, has to indicate whether or not he has weapons. Let's see what he says. If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.

QUESTION: How would you know?

FLEISCHER: We have intelligence information about what Saddam Hussein possesses.

QUESTION: So, you say that you do have information that he has...

FLEISCHER: Well, I think it's no secret. We've said many times, and you've heard the president say it repeatedly, that he has chemical and biological weapons and he has missiles that can reach in excess of 150 kilometers -- all three of which are violations of his sworn commitments to the United Nations.

QUESTION: One quick follow-up. What happens on December 8?

FLEISCHER: December 8 will begin -- it will mark the beginning of a process, a process of verification to find out whether or not Saddam Hussein is indeed telling the truth, and whether or not he has indeed disarmed. That will mark the beginning of that process. If Saddam Hussein indicates that he has weapons of mass destruction and that he is violating United Nations resolutions, then we will know that Saddam Hussein again deceived the world. If he says he doesn't have any, then I think that we will find out whether or not Saddam Hussein is saying something that we believe will be verifiably false.

QUESTION: What's the process? What do you mean?

BLITZER: Well, White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, explaining why next Sunday is an important day in this entire showdown with Iraq, that's the day the Iraqis must inform the United Nations weapons inspectors what capabilities they have in nuclear, chemical, biological weapons, as well as in missiles -- ballistic missiles capable of delivering those kinds of weapons.

We interrupted our interview with Olivia Bosch, a former U.N. weapons inspector. She is joining us once again now live from London.

Olivia, when you hear the White House press secretary say they will know if the Iraqis are lying on December 8, which is next Sunday, what goes through your mind?

BOSCH: Well, this is the challenge that the Iraqi regime has. They clearly know what they do have to report. There have been various press reports here about the degree to which the materials may have moved already. And there is an opportunity for the Iraqi regime to make a full declaration in a way that they have not yet done so.

So, the test is still to come. The 1444 -- the U.N. resolution that was passed on the 8th of November, states that the Iraqis have up until the 8th of December to make this declaration. They, in fact, may make it a few days before, as was the case when they made their statement to agree to comply with this a few days before the deadline set to them.

So, it's possible that they even may make this by the end of this week.

BLITZER: That Resolution 1441...

BOSCH: The challenges are there.

BLITZER: That Resolution 1441 does give the deadline of Sunday, but they could, as you point out, come in earlier. What do you expect, knowing the past record of the Iraqis in coming up and meeting these kinds of deadlines, declaring what kind of capabilities they have? Do you anticipate that they will come clean and tell the truth of what they have?

BOSCH: Well, one of the past lessons has been that when they have the threat of military force upon them, they are much more cooperative than in the past. And if the Iraqi regime now knows that this is the final opportunity, it is possible that they can come clean at least to a certain point.

We won't know for sure, but it's likely that they may make statements about some of the material that has been unaccounted for in the past. This material that's unaccounted for may include some component parts of the longer-range missile that Ari Fleischer referred to; also unaccounted for stocks of chemical agent and precursors that are known to be unaccounted for.

So, it's quite possible that the Iraqis will make a statement to that effect in terms of accounting for their previous military weapons programs, but we will have to wait and see. It is very speculative, as I said before, what they will declare. It's unlikely that they will say nothing. But they may very well make some concessions on quite a few things, and may leave some parts out. But then again, if they leave something out and the intelligence reports suggest otherwise, then we have a false statement. And the declaration is to be made to the U.N. Security Council, as well as to Hans Blix, the head of UNMOVIC, and also to Mohamed el-Baradei, head of the IAEA.

So, all of these entities will receive this declaration, which will be then assessed. So, we have to wait for that assessment period, and no one knows quite how long that will take as well. BLITZER: Well, we'll be watching as this countdown to Sunday, of course, continues. All eyes will be on that Iraqi declaration. Olivia Bosch, a former U.N. weapons inspector, thanks for joining us from London. We'll have you back as we continue to watch this showdown with Iraq.


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