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Iraqi Weapons Report Arrives at U.N. Headquarters in NYC

Aired December 8, 2002 - 19:50   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Those U.N. documents the United Nations now possesses. The documents the Iraqi government provided, are now in New York City.

Hello, I am Wolf Blitzer.

The documents, some 12,000 pages of documents, have arrived at Kennedy Airport in New York City. They will be taken via motorcade to the United Nations headquarters approximately 40 minutes or so away, assuming the traffic is not too bad. The documents will then be delivered to the United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix. A team of U.N. officials is awaiting the documents, some of which will have to be translated from the Arabic into English.

These documents potentially could set the stage for either war or peace involving Iraq, if the United Nations team begins to conclude that these documents are not the complete, complete story as far as Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities are concerned. That could set the stage for a U.N. Security Council decision that would deem Iraq to be in material breach of United Nations' Resolution 13- 41, which last month passed the Security Council 15 to nothing. A unanimous decision.

The United States will be most interested, of course, together with Britain in determination if the Iraqis are concealing information about their weapons of mass destruction. These documents now in New York. The long journey began yesterday, 24 hours before the deadline imposed by the U.N. Security Council when the Iraqi government made available to U.N. inspectors these 12,000 pages. Pages that include details of their chemical, biological, and nuclear programs.

The Iraqi government insists it has no weapons of mass destruction, is not involved in any programs dealing in weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, they say they do have chemicals and they do have biological agents, but they are involved in what are called "dual use" programs, "dual use" programs being that they could be used for other purposes beyond weapons. They could be used for medication, for health purposes, for sanitizing water, for developing petrochemicals.

The Iraqis have gone to great lengths to challenge the United Nations, especially the U.S. and the U.K., to say if you have other evidence to the contrary, go ahead, show it. Make it public and then we will deal with it. But right now, they say they've done what they were required to do by the U.N. Security Council, and their mission is now resolved.

These documents will be moved from Kennedy airport to the United Nations, and at the United Nations we're also told that Arabic language translators are standing by to help in the -- beginning the process of translating the Arabic into the English. Some of the documents, we are told, are indeed in English, but many others are still in the original Arabic.

The Iraqis have done this before. Some eight times over the past 12 years since the Persian Gulf War of 1991, when they lost that war but were required as part of the cease-fire to release all of the information they have involving biological, chemical, nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles that might be necessary to deliver them. Eight times they have come forward and maintained they have no such weapons. Eight times the United Nations has said that is not the truth. We need more information.

The United Nations officials now anxiously awaiting the arrival. One additional note: one set of these documents has already arrived in Vienna, Austria, where the International Atomic Energy is headquartered, and they are reviewing the documents in connection with information that potentially could involve Iraq's nuclear program.

CNN correspondent Michael Okwu is over at the United Nations. He is awaiting the arrival of these documents as well.

Michael, there is no reason any of us in the news media have to believe that these documents will be made public to us any time soon, is there?

MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely not, Wolf. In fact we know that they will not be made to us public any time soon. We know that Security Council members very concerned along with Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix, that these documents have very sensitive information, in that having to do with the -- basically the making of weapons of mass destruction. And therefore, there has been an agreement among the members of the Security Council to keep that information private. To keep it secret. Hans Blix will be the only person to really get a clear look at the document first. He will look through it. The 12,000 pages long, and essentially sifting through and taking out any sections in there that might be considered sensitive.

As you will watch this convoy on the street, essentially, Wolf, what you are seeing is the next chapter in this 12-year odyssey to disarm Iraq. Reporters and diplomats here at the United Nations, very eager to get their hands on the document and start this process. Basically we have got live pictures for you, Wolf, also here at the United Nations. The entrance -- at the secretariats entrance here, where we imagine that that document is going to walk through the door with U.N. officials on its way up to the office of Hans Blix.

The documents, of course, left Baghdad yesterday on their way to a staging ground in Cypress where some of the portions having to do with Iraq's nuclear program were there flown to Vienna where U.N. officials handed it to the IAEA headquarters. We understand that at some point tonight, Hans Blix again will speak in front of the cameras to reporters, give us a sense of what he is expecting to do tonight.

We do know that there has been an extra set of translators on call here at the United Nations. We don't know when they are going to actually work, but with 12,000 pages, Wolf, you can imagine that they are going to want to start their work early. The Security Council, we know, will be meeting Mr. Blix on Tuesday, essentially at a regularly scheduled luncheon where they hope they will learn from Mr. Blix just when they can get their hands on the document.

But we also understand, Wolf, that the -- according to U.N. officials here, that the United States is pressuring the Security Council president, to actually try to get their hands on an un- sanitized version of this document. We also understand from a diplomatic source, that the Security Council may very well take up this issue tomorrow, tomorrow before that Tuesday meeting, to find out and to determine whether permanent five members of the council should have their hands on un-sanitized versions. Wolf?

BLITZER: Michael, what possible reason, what is the explanation that Hans Blix and his team might have for not sharing all of these documents as they are, the un-sanitized version, with the members of the U.N. Security Council. I can understand why they might not want to share the information publicly with journalists, with the public at large, but what is their explanation for not wanting perhaps to share the unedited versions with the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France, the five permanent members of the Security Council?

OKWU: Well, of course, there are other members of the Security Council as well, and so when they came together on Friday to start talking about how they would go over this, it sort of a bit of a diplomacy really, Wolf. The fact is the five permanent members of the Security Council, all nuclear powers presumably know how to make weapons of mass destruction. So really, the thinking I think behind the United States, if in fact this is true, in wanting to get its hands on the un-sanitized version is that we already know how to do this. So we shouldn't be kept out of the process.

The fact is, there are international treaties and conventions that govern the rules of conveying this information. The Security Council is the main diplomatic arm that exercises this, and they didn't want to be put in the position of not doing that, Wolf.

BLITZER: And so right now for the time being, no one is going to see these documents other than United Nations officials, the translators, the staff workers, the -- all the others who are going to be reviewing them. Michael, stand by. We are going to be coming back to you in the course of our coverage, but just briefly recap for viewers, the United Nations now has possession not only of the nearly 12,000 pages of documents from the Iraqis, but those documents are now in New York City.

They are on their way. They will shortly be on their way from Kennedy Airport. We are told by the "Associated Press" that that Lufthansa flight with the documents has arrived. The motorcade will be bringing those documents to the United Nations headquarters. Hans Blix will be taking delivery of them. We have much more coverage. Coverage coming up on a special addition of CNN PRESENTS.


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