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Details of Iraq's Weapon Declaration is Discussed

Aired December 7, 2002 - 08:29   ET


CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: This everyone, we want to bring back on the phone with us Nic Robertson, who's standing by near Baghdad, where journalists got their first look today at Iraq's weapons declaration -- Nic, what's the latest development?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've just had a briefing from the head of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate, General Hassam Amin. He is in charge of dealing with the United Nations weapons inspection teams here.

Now, he tells us that the documentation, Iraq's declaration will be handed over today. However, he will not say what time it is. He says that both the U.N. weapons inspection program and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna have both asked that the documents be handed over by Iraqi officials quietly, without the full glare of publicity, of all the media who are gathered here in Baghdad.

For that reason, they are not saying exactly when they will hand it over, only saying that they will hand it over today.

Now, he also said, when asked specifically if this declaration will resolve some of the outstanding issues left by the previous U.N. weapons inspection teams here -- that would be questions on the nerve gas, that would be questions on aerial bombs capable of delivering biowarfare elements or also chemical agents -- he said he could not say that. When he, he said he was not going to go into the details.

When asked would this declaration contain anything on weapons of mass destruction, again, the declaration now being shown to journalists, he said he could not say that it would contain anything about weapons of mass destruction. He said that Iraq does not have weapons of mass destruction.

He did say, however, that it would contain elements, a lot of elements about their dual, Iraq's dual use capabilities, about what new industries or new developments there may have been in the area of industries that use equipment that the U.N. officials consider could be used as part of a chemical or biological program. He says there will be more declarations on that.

But specifically on the issue of weapons of mass destruction, he said, again, that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. He said, when asked if he believed that this document would satisfy the U.N. Security Council and governments around the world, he said that it should do. He said any country that believes just purely in the disarmament of Iraq, then the document would go far enough to allow the disarming of Iraq. He said specifically that he believed that the United States and Great Britain had hoped by presenting Iraq with the impossible situation of preparing this declaration within 30 days, he said that Iraq had proved that it could and was able to do it. He said the United States and Great Britain set out in an effort to make sure that Iraq was presented with too short a space of time to do it, specifically saying that the resolution, that the document, rather, was, should be sufficient for any government, including the United States and Great Britain, he said, if those governments believed in purely and simply disarming Iraq, then, he said, there would be enough contained in it.

But specifically not saying what was included and not saying even if it would answer the questions that remained unresolved when the last weapons inspection officials left here in 1998 -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: And, Nic, I want to point out to you that we are just now showing the video that your crew was able to shoot. These are the first pictures that we've seen yet of this voluminous document, some 11,000 pages, and CD-ROMs, as you can see, all laid out on the table there.

Nic, you were not able to view any parts of these documents, just the cover, right?

ROBERTSON: That's correct. We were shown in, taken to a room in the building of the National, Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate. That's the official Iraqi body that deals with the U.N. weapons inspection program. They have those documents, as you can see, laid out on tables, piled up, or presented on (UNINTELLIGIBLE), some in ring binders, some with white covers with the names of what was contained inside the documentation on the table.

Many of the documents saying that they contained a full declaration, a full and complete declaration. Many of them on the front cover saying they were completely accurate.

However, we were not allowed to look inside that documentation and we're not, it appears at this time, being given any specific idea of the content of that declaration. There were a group of Iraqi scientists in the room at the time when we were being shown the declaration. On a board inside the room it was indicated there were 11,807 pages of declaration in total. The officer in charge of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate here, General Hassam Amin, says that in total there would be over 12,000 pages delivered to the U.N. a gain, though, saying he would not say what time it was going to be handed to the U.N. officials here in Baghdad, only that it would definitely happen on Saturday -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: Nic, what is included on the CD-ROMs?

ROBERTSON: The CD-ROM, we understand, is part of Iraq's biannual declaration to the International Atomic Energy Agency and to the other U.N. bodies. This is part of U.N. Resolution 718 and he said that this was complying with that resolution, U.N. Resolution 718, that twice a year Iraq has to make a declaration. He said that was a declaration in addition to the declaration called for under the latest U.N. resolution, Resolution 1441. he said that this document or declaration contained within the 12 CD-ROMs would be presented to the U.N. just a few minutes after they presented the main document. All those documents laid out for us to see a little earlier today.

CALLAWAY: All right, Nic Robertson bringing us this video, the first that we've seen of this, some 12,000 pages and CD-ROMs presented to the U.N. later today -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: The United Nations in New York is where ultimately these documents are headed.

CNN's Michael Okwu is there with more at that end of the story -- Michael, it appeared just from looking at it, we didn't get a chance to ask Nic this go around but we'll ask him in a bit, that a fair amount of this is in English, at least the cover pages are. That could help matters a little bit, I guess.

MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly could help matters here. But as you remember Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix saying yesterday that the translators are at the ready. They are really waiting to get their hands on this document.

All is quiet in the corridors of the United Nations here today. But you can imagine that in missions all across the city, and, I dare say, all across the world, that ambassadors, diplomats all very eager to get their hands, get a quick look see at this document.

But Blix making it very clear at a press conference yesterday that the Security Council would not be seeing that document until he got a very close look at it. He took his marching orders from the Security Council. Blix and other members of the Security Council, diplomatic sources tell us, mainly Russia and the United States, very concerned that information having to do with prolif -- that could lead to proliferation of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons is something that they really want to keep under wraps.

So it's going to be Blix's job to basically comb through that, those 11,000 or 12,000 pages now we're hearing, to make sure, to siphon out any sensitive information, to go back to the Security Council. We understand at some point early next week he will be giving them a sense of when they might be able to get their hands on the document. A diplomatic source tells us that on the week of the 16th he will give them his initial assessment and then they can work it out from there.

But, Miles, it's a very interesting angle on all this, because presumably all along the thinking was that basically international intelligence agencies, most notably in the Washington, D.C. area, would be trying to compare their own independent information with information provided in those documents so that they could have a much clearer position to make an argument that Iraq was either, was in compliance with this resolution of in non-compliance. And without really getting a very clear look at all sections of this document, that will be very hard to do, indeed. So you can imagine in the coming days now as they anticipate this document getting here on Sunday, that is an issue that behind closed doors they will be trying to iron out -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Get those speed readers out there.

Michael, stay with us. We're sort of, by the look of the clock on the wall, we're in our, the Insights and Inputs segment right now.

I want to toss it over to Rym Brahimi in Baghdad for just a moment, because I think she has a bit of an update for us -- Rym, just quickly, looking at those pictures from Nic Robertson, at least the cover pages on these documents, nearly 12,000 pages worth, are in English.

Is it apt to be Arabic underneath those cover pages? What, have you been told anything one way or another on that?

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, we were told that the declaration would actually be partly in English and partly in Arabic. So it could be that parts of it, referring, for instance, to Iraq's past programs of weapons of mass destruction, that it is likely to be -- I'm just guessing here -- it's likely to be in English, because these are things that they have been through and that have been translated probably in the past for the previous U.N. weapons inspectors teams.

Now, what's probably new is -- my guess again -- would be the Arabic parts. I imagine it also depends on the scientists that have been working on it. We were told that armies of scientists, literally hundreds of experts were working on this around the clock to be able to make the deadline and actually be able to present that document ahead of the deadline.

So parts of it will be in English, a lot of it will be in Arabic. And those translators are right to actually be on standby there -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: And I suppose it would be hopeful thinking to ask the question if there's an executive summary somewhere in all of this.

BRAHIMI: Yes, very wishful thinking, indeed, Miles. I don't know of any executive summary. We might have to wait for that and who knows, maybe the U.N. weapons inspection teams will come up with something like that in order to maybe facilitate or make the read easier for some of the diplomats. That's not clear right now. But we'll have to find that out later.

You know, Miles, there's also a very interesting piece of news as this declaration or as this media frenzy here has taken place around this declaration. On the one hand here, you see you've got Iraq making a very, very public show of that declaration and the handover. On the other hand, you've got the U.S. making a very public show of its military buildup in the Gulf.

Well, in between what we understand here, we just heard news that President Saddam Hussein plans this evening to address the Iraqi people. We're not sure what that's about, but we're going to be hopefully going to that live later on when it does happen, and we'll be able to update you on that later -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's get this straight, Rym. Is there two separate addresses, one to the Kuwaiti people, one to the Iraqi people? Or is it to both?

BRAHIMI: No, my understanding, Miles, is it's actually an address just to the Kuwaiti people. And that was, we were informed of that by the state run Iraqi news agency a little while ago and we're hoping this is going to come through in maybe two or three hours from now, a little more maybe. And it's going to be in the form of a TV address. Now, is it going to be a commentator just reading this address by Saddam Hussein to the Kuwaiti people? Is it going to be the president himself reading a pre-taped address to the people of Kuwait? That we can't say for now.

But it's definitely an address to the neighbors, not to its own, not to his own people -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, Rym, stay there. Don't go far.

Rym's a part of our trick of reporters/experts who are going to be a part of our Insights and Inputs segment, coming up right this, well, just take a break. We'll be back with that. The phone number once again is 800 -- help me out -- 807-2620. 800-807-2620. Operators, as always, are standing by. We invite you to participate.

Stay with us


CALLAWAY: We want to get right into our reporter's notebook, which is now called Insight and Input. We've been taking your comments and we want to take your phone calls. That number is 1-800- 807-2620. Here's our panel, Major General Don Shepperd, who's in Qatar. We have Rym Brahimi in Baghdad and Michael Okwu is at the U.N. in New York.

I'm ripping through this so we can get right to the questions -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, this one, let's send this to, let's start with Rym. Maybe General Shepperd wants to weigh in on this one, too.

"Why are the inspectors not looking at the Republican Guard bases? Surely if anyone in Iraq has control over these weapons, it would be Saddam's most trusted divisions." And that comes from Keith Cooper in New Orleans.

Rym, why don't you start with that, then maybe General Shepperd you could weigh in?

BRAHIMI: Well, my understanding, Miles, is that they've actually got a long, long list of things they want to look into. They've only just started, remember. It's been maybe a little more than a week. They've been to many sites. They say they have something like 700 to 800 sites they need to see just to begin with.

Now, obviously they also have to know that something has been going on in a place, for instance, said they will look at the reports that had been done by the previous U.N. inspection teams. And they have found quite a lot of things. So they're going to be going through that to see what's left from that time and then they're going to go into the new sites. But that probably will come a little later on after this famous declaration is handed over today -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: General Shepperd, Republican Guard bases? Is that a likely place for the inspectors?

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, they'll look there eventually, Miles. But as Rym says, this is the very early stages of these inspections. The inspectors will also be given intelligence from the United States after we digest this voluminous report that we've received. I assume that we will be telling them where we think they ought to look at the Republican Guard would be a good guess, Miles.

CALLAWAY: All right, we want to throw one to Michael Okwu who's standing by at the United Nations.

A question for you, a proposal, I don't know if the U.N.'s ever asked this. "Why can't the U.S. just demand that Saddam Hussein take a series of polygraph tests to find out where all of his weapons are?" It seems too easy. This is from Randall.


OKWU: Well, I guess that's what we should be doing.

CALLAWAY: Gee, why didn't we think of that?

O'BRIEN: Randall, that's a great idea.

OKWU: Well, I...

CALLAWAY: I don't think that's going to happen, grand idea though it be.

OKWU: Well, you know, U.S. officials have been so keen on saying both privately and publicly that Iraq has a history of lying. And, again, the U.S. view that Iraq has a history of lying. So to even think that that is something that would be a credible option, I think, is beyond the pale.

O'BRIEN: Ah, sometimes you've got to think out of the box, I guess.

CALLAWAY: Well, that's right. You never know.

O'BRIEN: All right, here's one e-mail, then we'll get to a phone call. "The camel in the arms inspectors' living room" -- nice play on words there -- "that no one is talking about is that during the Gulf War Saddam hid his entire air force in Iran." Many of you may recall that. "How hard would it be for him to simply load any evidence for weapons of mass destruction onto trucks and hide it next door?" That's from Ed Fisher.

General Shepperd, what are your thoughts on that one?

SHEPPERD: Well, he didn't hide them willingly in Iran. A lot of them defected to Iran and Iran still has many of those airplanes. He didn't get them back. So I think Iran would be willing to take anything he had and then turn it over to the international community. So I don't think that's a, I don't think that's a credible scenario there.

On the other hand, if you look at the map of places he could ship it across the border, the only likely place would be into Syria, Miles.

CALLAWAY: Let's squeeze in a phone call really quickly. Dee from Tampa, you're on the line. Quickly, please, what's your question?

O'BRIEN: I think we've lost Dee.

CALLAWAY: I think we lost Dee.

Why don't we take a break and come back and do more and more?

O'BRIEN: Let's take a break. Let's take a break. Maybe we'll find Dee. And if not, we have other questions.

CALLAWAY: Our panel is standing by. We'll be back with more in a moment.

O'BRIEN: Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: President Bush on his way to Camp David. These are taped images. It should be morning there on the South Lawn in Washington. A little bit of snow there, but that doesn't slow down Marine One one bit, does it?

Let's get back to our reporter's notebook, shall we? We don't have much time.

CALLAWAY: No, we don't.

O'BRIEN: Let's get that phone call in.


O'BRIEN: I think we have the name right this time.

CALLAWAY: It's not Dee, it's Dean, which would be why Dean didn't answer when we called for him. O'BRIEN: Yes.

Dean, are you there?

CALLAWAY: He's on the line with us, we hope, from Tampa. Good morning.

DEAN: Yes, good morning, folks.

CALLAWAY: What is your question?

DEAN: Yes, first of all, concerning how many countries actually helped during the embargo with Iraq, it doesn't surprise me that other nations are storing his mass destruction weapons. My question is with the shell game that's currently being played out between the inspectors in Baghdad, how has the U.N. cooperation been this time compared to the inspections done before the Gulf War?

CALLAWAY: Michael, you want to start with that one?

OKWU: Well, I think nothing speaks much more loudly than the fact that the U.S. and Great Britain, who were really pushing for Resolution 1441, were able to get a 15-0 vote in the Security Council. But as you know, that, you know, it's always very tenuous here at the United Nations. There are back room deals made all the time, especially between other nations and the United States. So it really depends to see what the coming months will bring.

That's why it's always so keen on the part of the United States to keep the coalition together, to not rock the boat too, too much.

In fact, just the other day there was a vote as to whether they should continue the Oil For Food program going on in Iraq. The United States wanted a two week extension of this so that they could put on a whole list of items that they don't want imported into the country. No one else on the Security Council was willing to do this and the United States relented. It was a public defeat.

And part of the reason it was, they were willing to be defeated so publicly was the fact that they want to hold this coalition together. So it's a strong coalition, but it's always, it's always a tenuous one. You never know what's going to happen the day after.

CALLAWAY: OK, thanks so much.

O'BRIEN: All right, Rym Brahimi in Baghdad, it's your opportunity now to defend the honor of our illustrious news gathering operation. "So the U.N. does not want the document to be made public because it may be a textbook on how to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and CNN has this document. How much do we trust CNN?" that's from Kenneth Shikun and I think this is an opportunity, Rym, for you to clarify on our behalf exactly what we have gotten a hold of by way of information there.

BRAHIMI: OK, well, yes, indeed, what we, we've been able to see the document and we've been able to show to our viewers what it looks like. Now, that doesn't mean that we've actually been able to see and especially not to read the document.

As you said, Miles, well, the problem is with that that the chief U.N. weapons inspector has specified that there's no way he's going to let even the other diplomats in the U.S., in the U.N. Security Council actually read the document before his experts have actually analyzed it, to make sure it doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

Basically what they want to avoid is that if there's anything at all that describes how to make weapons of mass destruction, well, they want to make sure that it's not going to fall into the hands of countries who don't have weapons of mass destruction. So they want to make that clear. It's going to be analyzed first and then the diplomats are going to see it.

So you can imagine for us journalists, we just were able to take a peek at it. We were able to see how it was laid out on that table. We were able to see the CD-ROMs, to see the labels on it. And that's as far as it went. In terms of content, we just have to be content, if you will, with what the Iraqi officials that spoke to us and that spoke to our senior correspondent Nic Robertson are telling us about what's inside -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, just to button that thing up, Rym, for our viewers, if we got a hold of a piece of this, if it leaked out and it was something that we feel might aid that mettlesome issue of nuclear arms proliferation, we would certainly vet that through experts. I can't imagine us releasing that willy nilly. So please rest assured we're not going to be doing that sort of thing, dear viewers.

CALLAWAY: Yes, we wanted to get in more phone calls and more questions this morning.

O'BRIEN: Are we done?

CALLAWAY: But we -- yes, we, well, I wish we could squeeze in Mike from Minnesota.

O'BRIEN: Let's do it.

CALLAWAY: Can we please?

O'BRIEN: Mike in Minnesota, come on quickly. Give us a quick question.

CALLAWAY: Very fast, please.

MIKE: Yes, if weapons of mass destruction were used against Allied forces or Israeli forces, would the U.S. or the Allied forces or Israel respond with the same type of force?

O'BRIEN: Great question.

CALLAWAY: All right, General?

O'BRIEN: General Shepperd?


SHEPPERD: It's unknown. We made it very clear during the Gulf War that they, they bore that risk if they use them. This time it's less clear, but they can be secure that if that happened, it would be taken most seriously by the United States and we have all sorts of means to respond, Miles.

CALLAWAY: All right, thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: Great.

CALLAWAY: We want to thank Major General Don Shepperd, Rym Brahimi in Baghdad and...

O'BRIEN: Great questions, as always.

CALLAWAY: And Michael Okwu at the United Nations. Thank you all three for being with us this morning.


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