Deadline for Disclosure: Iraq to Submit Documents
Aired December 9, 2002 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Welcome to our special edition of "CNN Presents", this special welcome of course, to our viewers around the world on CNN International. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting tonight live from Doha, Qatar in the Persian Gulf.
It's already early Monday morning here in the Persian Gulf and only hours from now, the United State's military Central Command will begin a series of exercises, code named Operation Internal Look at the temporary headquarters of the Central Command here in Qatar.
These will be computer-assisted war games that potentially could be a prelude to the real thing. Whether the war games forecast future depends of course, in a large part to events unfolding thousands of miles away in New York City. That's where U.N. experts are about to begin examining a massive Iraqi report; a response to allegations Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.
If the experts conclude that Iraq is indeed lying, it could give President Bush support to lead a military assault. If on the other hand, they conclude Iraq is telling the truth, it could get harder for the President of the United States to achieve his ultimate goal, regime change in Baghdad.
We'll have live reports coming up in just a few moments from the United Nations and from the White House.
But let's begin now with where these documents originated, namely in the Iraqi capitol of Baghdad. That's where we find our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson. Nic.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, well it was only several hours ago, early yesterday where those documents left on a U.N. transport flight; left Baghdad on an fairly morning flight for Cyprus.
In Cyprus, one set of documents sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna, the other then flying from Cyprus to Frankfurt boarding the Lufthansa aircraft, in Frankfurt headed to New York. Now just landed in New York.
In Baghdad however, it continued to be a day like the days we've seen recently. Inspectors going out to two different sites. One team visiting a geological institute survey site in Baghdad; the other team headed to the West of Baghdad, the Faluja, a site there that makes chemicals that makes pesticides. U.N. inspectors have believed in the past that the site there, casting beam processing plant capable of making a deadly biological warfare agent, Risin. That's now 23 sites U.N. inspectors have visited here, 25 more U.N. inspectors arrived beefing up forces here.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Also Sunday -- Also on Sunday President Hussein's top scientific advisers General Amer Al-Saadi briefed journalists a long 45 minutes briefing about the contents of the Declaration; explaining how in each of the four different disciplines: the nuclear, the chemical, the biological, the missile disciplines, how the Declaration was broken down. He says there was a past programs elements, a past weapons program element up to 1991; done an accounting, a section of the accounting of what had happened since 1991, another section with supporting documents.
Now, one of the key questions people have been asking is, does this Declaration resolve the outstanding issues left by the U.N. weapons inspections team when they left in 1998? One of those outstanding issues is what happened to 1.7 tons of VX nerve agent? The Iraqis in their Declarations in 1996 and subsequently in 1997 said, that they've accounted for the VX, that they'd accounted for 50 missile warheads, things like this.
Hans Blix said when he was in Baghdad a little over 2 weeks ago that if Iraq wanted to say it didn't have weapons of mass destruction; they would have to very carefully account for every thing it said they don't have.
Now, General Amer Al-Saadi saying when they've gone through all of their documentations on many of these issues, they've been unable to find any more supporting documentations to support their case.
LT. GENERAL AMER AL-SAADI, IRAQI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Our problem now is to produce the complete evidence of the picture of the biological program. We have presented documents regarding-supporting documents. Now those documents had not been increased since then. Not by a single document, because we have done all the researching that we could and we could not find any more.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Now when asked about Iraq's nuclear weapons program that was brought to a halt in 1991, when asked how close it was to producing a bomb, General Amer Al-Saadi was a little bit evasive.
AL-SAADI: We haven't reached the final assembly of a bomb nor tested it. So, if you want to follow that, there's no guarantee that you will succeed. We don't know, it's for others to judge. It's for the IAEA to judge how close we were. If I tell you we were close, it is subjective.
ROBERTSON: Even saying after that, implying that if he did go ahead and say something it might even be considered a little bit boastful of Iraq's capability at that time.
Now, another point you raised was some of the language inside the Resolution 1441 pointing to the issue of Iraq's biannual Declaration saying in fact, they are semi annual Declarations. His point being they have to submit reports twice a year not once every two years. For him that was a point showing that the Resolution 1441 written by politicians he said Wolf, not by scientists.
BLITZER: Nic, it was very interesting that the Iraqi scientists almost boasting that they were very close to developing a nuclear bomb when in the past, over all these many years, indeed decades, the Iraqis flatly denied they were engaged in any such effort. Did he explain that apparent contradiction?
ROBERTSON: No, he said that if he really answered the question, then it would in his case be more subjective than objective. Hinting again that they were close. Of course, all that development of Iraq's nuclear weapons program happening when Hans Blix, the now U.N. weapons chief was head of the International Atomic Energy Agency that was charged with overseeing that Iraq was indeed not working in the direction of a nuclear weapons program at all.
BLITZER: And Blix has been criticized in the past for that, for apparently misjudging what Iraq's intentions in the nuclear field were.
Nic before I let you go, as you know it's no secret, the Bush Administration is putting a lot of pressure on Hans Blix to seek defectors, Iraqi defectors who might be willing to leave the country with their families has authorized by the U.N. Security Council resolution and go ahead and cooperate, disclose information to those U.N. weapons inspectors. Has the Iraqi government officials said anything at all about that scenario?
ROBERTSON: Well, General Amer Al-Saadi is the perhaps the most senior person to address that issue. And he addressed it at a very personal level, he was asked that would he be willing to leave the country to tell the information and he was very clear, very categorical saying, "Absolutely not."
For the U.N. inspectors here, Hans Blix when he was here said the formula for doing this was that Iraq would have to submit a list of scientists. Now the top nuclear inspector who was here last week, Jack Boat indicated that he already knew exactly who the nuclear scientists were, it was just a matter of when they would perhaps choose to call upon them to do it. But so far, all the indications here is this is being viewed as a last option. It's not one of the first things the inspectors are rushing to do here Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson in Baghdad. Thanks very much Nic for that report.
As our viewers in the United States and around the world know, one set of documents has indeed arrived in Vienna, Austria; that's where the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency is. Now, a second set of documents has landed in New York City and on their way to the United Nations' headquarters.
There, our Michael Okwu standing by with other reporters to tell us what will happen next in this lengthy and complicated process. Michael.
MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a great deal of anticipation here. This has basically been a 12-year odyssey to disarm Iraq. Reporters and diplomats here standing by, waiting for this voluminous document to get here to the United Nations.
Earlier, this evening just within the past half hour, a Lufthansa flight landed at John F. Kennedy Airport here in New York bringing this document along with U.N. officials who will officially hand it over here to U.N. headquarters. The document is going to be looked at by Hans Blix once it gets to the United Nations.
We want to show you live pictures here at the U.N.; the corridor, the Secretary's entrance where Mr. Blix is set to talk to the media when all of this happens. A mass of reporters standing by, you can't really see them in the shot but this is one of the most highly anticipated events here at the United Nations in recent history.
Of course, all of this started just yesterday when the document was officially handed over by Iraqi officials to U.N. officials in Baghdad. The document made its way to a staging area - a U.N. staging area in Cyprus and then as you mentioned Wolf, portions of the document having to do with Iraqi's nuclear program were taken to Vienna and handed over in at the IAEA headquarters. And of course, the whole, total entirety of 12,000 pages of the documents including, biological, chemical and nuclear programs as well as programs that the Iraqi's might have long range ballistic missiles started making its way here to New York to the United Nations headquarters.
Hans Blix, again the chief U.N. weapons inspector is going to be the very first official, the first person actually who will be taking a look at this document. He has come to an agreement with the members of the Security Council to essentially comb through this 12,000 pages and make sure there are no sensitive pieces of information that could be conveyed and gotten out to the public; and specifically, to perhaps nations who might be desirous of making their own weapons of mass destruction.
OKWU (on camera): And also concerns that conveying this information might very well interfere or violate international conventions. Wolf.
BLITZER: The United States and Britain among other countries, Michael as you well know, want to see those documents in their raw, unedited, un-sanitized form. The United Nations chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix might not let them see it. Explain to our viewers the issue at stake, the concern here.
OKWU: Well, the concern really is that the Council as a group, and they've been behaving fairly unanimously has been making decisions about what will happen with this document. In fact, what will happen with Iraq?
The thinking is that the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China; all of the permanent members of the Security Council already have nuclear capabilities and they should be able to look at the documents. That's what they believe. However, the feeling has been if the United States and France and the other countries of the permanent five Security Council have the documents themselves and don't - if they have the documents - whatever they have the other people should have.
It's really a question of behaving diplomatically Wolf.
BLITZER: I get the sense Michael that there's going to be a little battle underway between the U.S. and the U.N. on this specific point. But we should of course, see very, very soon. Thank you Michael Okwu at the United Nations, very much.
There's great anticipation also of course in Washington, especially over at the White House. That's where we find our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux. The sense at the White House is they want to see the documents they want to see them quickly. They certainly don't believe that the Iraqis have come clean, do they Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly don't Wolf. And really the credibility of the White House is on the line here because Iraq is challenging the United States to actually prove that Saddam Hussein has these weapons of mass destruction. It was early today President Bush returned from Camp David, he did not directly address that challenge but senior Administration officials are saying, yes they have the evidence and they will provide it in their own good time.
Iraq declares it has no weapons of mass destruction and dares President Bush to prove otherwise.
AL-SAADI: We hope that it will satisfy because it is currently accurate as they have asked for and comprehensive, truthful, everything. If they have anything to the contrary, let them forthwith come up with it, give it to the IAEA, give it to (ph). They are here, they could check it. Why play this game?
MALVEAUX: A possible war game; now just an escalating war of words.
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Sometimes one of the best ways to hide or to deceive is to come out with such a voluminous document that it makes people miss the things that aren't in there. You know, another way I've put that is just because Iraq hands over a phone book to the United Nations doesn't mean that nobody inside Iraq has an unlisted phone number.
AL-SAADI: It's right that the Declaration and the White House spokesman call the Declaration telephone books.
MALVEAUX: Members of Congress, like the White House are doubtful if the documents tells the truth.
SENATOR JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: It would be a great surprise if the 12,000 pages they filed yesterday did not amount to one 12,000 page, 100 pound lie.
MALVEAUX: US intelligence officials say they have clear evidence that Saddam Hussein has an extensive weapons program. Even proof in recent months that Iraqi scientists have taken measures to conceal biological and chemical facilities.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The question is now whether or not he chooses to disarm. And we hope he does. For the sake of peace he must disarm.
MALVEAUX: But Mr. Bush is skeptical he will. White House official says the Administration will analyze Iraq's Declaration and provide some intelligence to weapons inspectors to help them in their search. But there is little faith that will be enough.
SENATOR TOM DASCHLE: If we can find that the defectors, if we can find people who are willing to tell the inside story, it may be our single best way with which to extract the truth.
MALVEAUX (on camera): Now Wolf, White House aides telling us it will take some time to get to the truth; weeks to analyze Iraq's Declaration; also weeks for those weapons inspectors to continue their search. But Administration officials also say there is a time limit for the US has to decide whether or not forcibly to disarm Saddam Hussein, and that is with or without the approval of the U.N. Security Council. Wolf.
BLITZER: When I interviewed Senator Daschle earlier today Suzanne, I asked him if he had confidence in Hans Blix and that U.N. weapons team and he said, he did. But I get the sense and correct me if I'm wrong that not everyone at the White House, in the Bush Administration believes Hans Blix is capable together with this team of effectively disarming the Iraqis.
What can you tell our viewers about the mood in the White House towards the chief U.N. weapons inspector? MALVEAUX: Well, absolutely Wolf. You really bring up a good point, and that is there's really a division within the White House on the Hans Blix's role and how well he is doing.
There's one camp that really wants to push for the weapons inspectors to be a lot tougher, they want to build consensus, they want the support of the United Nations before they decide to act. There's another camp that says we are wasting our time here, we need to make sure that we rely on our own US intelligence to go in there as quickly as possible.
A lot of that looking at Hans Blix and how he is doing in his job and that really has been shaping how Administration has been dealing with him. But also these two camps, how confident they are that he'll be able to get that job done.
BLITZER. Suzanne, the Iraqis have now effectively challenged the President, the Bush Administration to show what they have about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Are you getting any indications the Bush Administration, now that the documents are in New York and Vienna, will in fact release its own set documents to try to back up the desertion that the Iraqis do indeed engage in programs to develop weapons of mass destruction?
MALVEAUX: Well, that's certainly isn't going to happen anytime soon. They are going to take their time they say once they actually take a look at the documents; it may be days and weeks before they actually come out with a statement. But they've been saying all along that they're going to share at least some US intelligence, giving inspectors some of that intelligence to go in and do their job; also to compare it with the voluminous document we have received today. So that is something that they say they'll respond in their own good time. But it's not something that we're expecting any time soon.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House. Suzanne thanks very much.
We have much more coverage coming up in this special edition of CNN Presents. US troops, they're on the move. They're ready to go.
They're engaged right now in military exercises. Coming up, we'll go live to the Pentagon where the troops will be ordered in to deployment if the President gives that order. What additional firepower is heading to the region?
Also, look at this. You're looking at a live picture of that Lufthansa aircraft that just landed outside Kennedy Airport -- in New York City that is. Inside that plane, the documents, 12,000 pages or so of Iraqi documents demanded by the United Nations Security Council. Those documents now on the way now to United Nations headquarters. We're also standing by for direct word from Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector. When he speaks, we'll bring you his remarks.
Stay with us as our special coverage continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: You're looking at pictures of Kennedy Airport, that's where documents have just arrived aboard a Lufthansa flight. You're looking at these exclusive pictures made available to CNN. We anticipate very soon those documents will get into a convoy, to a motorcade, they'll be driven from Kennedy Airport to U.N. headquarters in Manhattan. It's about a 40 minutes or so drive.
Once they arrive at the United Nations those documents will be handed over to the chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix. A lengthy, complicated process will then be underway to start translating those documents and reviewing them to assess whether or not the Iraqis have in fact come clean about their so-called weapons of mass destruction.
Welcome back to our continuing coverage, this special edition of "CNN Presents." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting tonight from Doha in Qatar in the Persian Gulf.
Steadily and repeatedly and determinedly over these past several day and weeks, the region has seen a steady build up of US troops throughout the region. More firepower indeed is on the way, anticipated if the President of the United States gives the order to go to war against Iraq. The Bush Administration says that that is a possibility, though they will allow these U.N. inspections to try to resolve the matter peacefully, if indeed that is possible. If that doesn't happen, the US will be prepared for war.
And as CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr reports that process is becoming increasingly more obvious.
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As the aircraft carrier, Harry S. Truman heads for the Mediterranean; it is the latest deployment in the military buildup for possible war with Iraq. Within days, four aircraft carriers will be within striking distance of Iraq but just for a while if the current plan holds.
Determine and the USS Constellation are arriving, the USS George Washington and the Abraham Lincoln plan to head home. There is considerable firepower, each carrier battle group has about 80 aircraft and more than five thousand troops. Sources tell CNN any decision to go to war is still weeks away. But there is a steady buildup of forces getting ready for war in the desert just case.
WESLEY CLARK, (RETIRED) GENERAL: The forces that are deployed are doing exercise and training. They've been doing the same type of training back home station. Although, not in the same environmental conditions probably.
STARR: In Kuwait, 12,000 troops, mostly Army; training exercises close to the Iraqi border continue. These will be the frontline troops launching into Southern Iraq if there war. In Saudi Arabia, 6,000 personnel, mainly Air Force. The US hopes to use the Air Operation Center at Prince Sultan Airbase to coordinate the air attack. But if the Saudis deny permission, there are other options.
The main alternative? Qatar, where nearly 4,000 personnel are stationed, some running a backup operation center, others conducting Internal Look - a training exercise to practice running a war against Iraq.
There are also 4,000 Navy troops headquartered in Bahrain. Another 3200 Air Force personnel in Oman and the United Arab Emirates and more in Turkey for operations in Northern Iraq.
STARR (on camera) But Wolf, this is far short of the 200,000 troops that will be needed if there is war. If combat breaks out, there will have to be a massive buildup of troops, weapons and equipment. But that buildup is not expected to begin unless and until President Bush makes a decision that war with Iraq could not be averted.
There is no interest on the part of the Pentagon to have thousands of US troops sitting in the region possibly until early next year. Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara, any such decision will also require a massive mobilization to call up a reserve Air National Guard, National Guard troops as well. Is there any indication that that kind of activation of the reserve forces is anticipated or anything along those lines happened yet?
STARR: Right. This gets to this very critical question of timing. It's why they don't want to begin this massive buildup unless and until they know that there is a decision to go to war because if they call up the Reserves, the reserves will be used to fill in for the active duty troops, which are then deployed overseas. They don't want to call up the Reserves, call those people away from their regular homes and jobs and have them sit on active duty for weeks or months until there's a decision to go into combat.
So, all of this timing is critical. Senior military officials have said, at this point they've pretty much done everything they can to put the initial force into place. If there is a decision to go into combat, then they will very quickly move these additional thousands of troops into the region activate the National Guards and Reserves to fill in for the places where the active duty forces have left and gone overseas.
BLITZER: Now Barbara, as our Pentagon colleague, Jaime McIntyre has reported the first sure signs that the US is about to go to war would be any decision to withdraw, to get those U.N. inspectors out of Iraq and out of harm's way. If in fact, if the US does launch air strikes, or ground strikes or any combinations thereof; so the bottom line of what you're saying right now Barbara, is that this war, if in fact there is a war, is not going to begin tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.
STARR: There is - That is every indication that we have that things are in place to begin if they have to if Iraq was to make some very unexpected move. But there is every indication tonight that the Administration wants to still let some of this U.N. inspection process play out, leave the inspectors to do some of their works, see what develops.
This will also be critical of course, to developing the international consensus with the allies; that the United Nations and the inspections process has been given a fair and credible chance. If that does not work, then the US military says it ready to do whatever the President asks. Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thanks Barbara very much.
Joining me know to get a little bit more insight into what's going on, our CNN military analyst retired General - US Air Force, General Don Shepperd.
General, within a matter of only a couple of or 3 hours exercises are going to be beginning, or simulated war games called Internal Look. The US Commander Tommy Franks, the Central Command commander brought a lot of his troops from Tampa Florida; Migdale Air Force base here.
This is going to go on for about eight, nine, ten days but if possible could be the dress rehearsal for the real thing.
MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, it could be the dress rehearsal Wolf. But it's certainly important whether the dress rehearsal or not, this is the first triad of the new deployable headquarters and we're with some of the troops this evening. And they're very serious about this.
It's not a lot of fun. There's not airplanes and tanks and troops involved in this. It's electrons whizzing through the air but it's very, very important to tryout that he can command and control from this new headquarters. We'll see.
BLITZER: In the past during these exercises, these kinds of Internal Look exercises, these simulated war games, if you will, they've always come up with a lot of glitches and presumably, they will now as well.
SHEPPERD: Yeah, I fully suspect that he'll find a bunch of glitches and eliminate a lot of them. I also fully suspect that once you think you've got all of the glitches worked out, when you go to real work you're going to find more glitches and some bad things will happen at improbable times. This is why we exercise all the time and we're used to reacting to the unexpected. It's tough business.
BLITZER: We are getting e-mail from our viewers. We have this from Duluth, Minnesota: "What are the chances of the use of nuclear weapons by American forces especially in the face of use of chemical and biological weapons by Iraqi forces."
SHEPPERD: That is a really, really good question and a chilling question. One of the reasons that we think Saddam Hussein did not employ the chemical and biological agents that he had during the Gulf War was his fear of massive retaliation from the United States. We made it clear to him that if he did that, he risked that type of retaliation.
We never take our nuclear weapons off the table as a threat. Saddam Hussein has to wonder what would happen if he used those weapons of mass destruction. And I think that's a healthy wonder Wolf.
And there's one person that knows the answer however, and that's the President of the United State, the only person with the authority to release them.
BLITZER: You remember 12-years ago during the Gulf War, the Vice President, now the Vice President, then the Defense Secretary made it very, very clear, Dick Cheney that all options were opened and he deliberately tried to send that message to Baghdad.
SHEPPERD: Serious and chilling business. That's why we want to eliminate weapons of mass destruction from Iraq.
BLITZER: All right, we have another e-mail question from Michael who asks this question, which is also a good question: "What is the fatigue factor for a person serving in the Middle East. How is this factor figured in regard to maintaining 100% awareness? Are there enough soldiers in the Middle East?"
SHEPPERD: Well, fatigue is always a factor in military operations. We train for it, we think about and we do it by rotating troops and rotating sleep schedules.
We do it on long flights, we condition the crews, we talk to them about it, we give them physiological training but basically, what it amounts to is, you cannot have tired troops out there operating at maximum efficiency.
Now, having been in the business a long time, I can tell you that when shooting starts, adrenaline takes over but you can't run on adrenaline forever. We do have enough troops here, they will be trained and they will be rotated. We won't put them at risk because of lack of sleep.
BLITZER: And they can stay at this high -- high degree of readiness for long periods of time:
SHEPPERD (on camera): You can stay at high -- degrees of readiness for long periods of time but you can't simply go without sleep forever. You have to rotate people. And you have to take this into consideration when you plan your operations from the beginning: how long troops are going to be engaged in operation and how long you're going to re-supply and refresh them.
BLITZER: The whole purpose of this internal Qatar; let's talk a little about it. You and I, right now in the Persian Gulf in this small emirate. Why Qatar?
SHEPPERD: Well, Qatar is an alternative right now to Saudi Arabia where we have questions of whether or not we're going to be able to use their bases and air space. But basically, Qatar provides the facilities that are far enough from the action and close enough to the action that General Franks can command and control through reach back, but closer enough than he could from Tampa, Florida.
We needed a deployable headquarter and Qatar is a good place, it's got a long runway, it's got secure facilities and it's just an ideal location for this type of exercise and for headquarters if General Franks decides to move it here as an alternate location.
BLITZER: And we're told they're not going to break down this command and control modular system that they're building up this week. So, presumably they'll have that ready to go if in fact, he wants that to be the headquarters.
SHEPPERD: Indeed, and you'll also want to make sure you don't have just one headquarters. If something happened and it got wiped out, we'd be out business.
BLITZER: All right. General Shepperd, you'll be with me for the next few days as well as we cover this exercise. Thanks very much for your insight.
BLITZER: We have much more coming up including the tough job of being a United Nations weapons inspector. When we return, we'll speak with the former chief U.N. weapons inspector, Richard Butler. We'll ask him about the enormous challenges facing this new inspection team.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of the gate, the security gate at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan in New York City. We anticipate that those Iraqi documents having flown from Baghdad via Cy-Europe -- Cyprus, Europe and now arriving at Kennedy Airport in New York, we anticipate that those documents will be arriving through those gates.
We see those gates opening, obviously. Right now we don't know what is going to be --that looks like someone is leaving the United Nations headquarters. We anticipate though that at some point in the not too distant future a convoy will be bringing those documents inside U.N. headquarters where the process will begin to review the documents, translate those that are still in Arabic and let the U.N. weapons inspectors get on with their job.
BLITZER (on camera): Welcome back to this special edition of CNN Presents. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting tonight from Doha, Qatar here in the Persian Gulf.
Let's bring in the former chief U.N. weapons inspector, Richard Butler. He's joining us now live from his native Australia. And he is -
Well, here we-- As we speak, Ambassador Butler you're looking at a live picture of Hans Blix walking at the United Nations presumably, we're not sure what. But he's waiting there to get those documents.
BLITZER (on camera): When you see all of this activity Ambassador Butler, this flurry of activity involving these documents, are we over reacting? Are they more important, or less important than we may think they are?
RICHARD BUTLER, FORMER U.N. CHIEF OF WEAPONS INSPECTOR: These are deeply important Wolf. The Security Council adopted a resolution three weeks ago, which used language -
BLITZER: Ambassador I want to -- I'm -- I apologize, I want to interrupt, I want to interrupt but Hans Blix is speaking right now. Let's listen in.
HANS BLIX, CHIEF UNITED NATIONS WEAPONS INSPECTOR: We'll take a look at that and get an overview of how many pages are printed, and how much we get to CD-ROMs. And tomorrow we'll get copies made of the Declaration and we'll start to work. And either tonight as we look at it we can probably plan some of the work that is going to be done. And in the days to come that will continue. On Tuesday lunch, there is a lunch, the Secretary General gives the lunch for the Security Council and I shall be there in the further handling of it. And it will be further discussed at that luncheon.
QUESTION: Sir, are you going to give copies to any member of the Security Council earlier than expected?
BLIX: Well you know, we'll discuss with the president of the Security Council exactly how we will handle it physically but we'll also be - I hope to this evening that we'll have that discussion.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that President Bush is already declaring that document is not...
BLIX: OK. No, I'm not concerned about that. They will have their reaction and we will have our study. And here are the documents.
QUESTION: The documents?
BLITZER: And so you see the documents now in the United Nations headquarters. A courier carrying those suitcases, the documents from Iraq that have just arrived at U.N. headquarters. Hans Blix, on a Sunday evening in New York, there to physically, to personally receive those documents and begin the lengthy process of reviewing them to determine whether or not the Iraqis have come clean, have completely informed the U.N. weapons inspector of all of their weapons of mass destruction programs.
As we watch these pictures, Ambassador Richard Butler, the former U.N. chief weapons inspector re-joining us from his native Australia. Ambassador Butler, I'm sorry about that, I interrupted but you certainly can understand why -
BUTLER: Sure, sure.
BLITZER: What do you make of what Doctor Blix just said that they're going to review with the president of the Security Council whether or not to make the original documents, the uncensored, un- sanitized version available to members of the Security Council..
BUTLER: Well, that's a procedural matter Wolf. I don't make a great deal of that. Hans Blix is proceeding cautiously. He wants political guidance on whether the inspectorate can keep the documents to themselves for 2 or 3 weeks while they review them. Or whether the president of the Council will say he feels Blix has got an obligation to share them straight away with member states.
I don't know which way they'll jump on that but a guess is sometimes a little bit hazardous Wolf; but I suspect that the president of the Council might say to Blix, I think you might have to make them available to members of the Council relatively soon.
But Wolf, can I just finish the answer to your earlier question? You asked me are these documents important? I'm going to say something really dead simple about that: you bet they're important, because Wolf what is at issue here is war or not; war or peace. And these documents, I strongly suspect, hold the key to and the answer to that question.
That makes them very important.
BLITZER: Well, let's flesh it out a little bit as we once again take a look at the pictures of these documents that have just arrived at U.N. headquarters. Why do our viewers who are not necessarily noticing every little nuance in this story, why do these documents hold the answer to the question: war or peace?
BUTLER: Well, Wolf the Security Council decided 3 weeks ago to give Iraq a final chance. I've never seen language like that before in a Security Council resolution. To make it as simple as possible for viewers without dumbing it down, there's something basic at issue here. The Iraqis, it is asserted by the international community, the Iraqis have weapons of mass destruction, which have been declared illegal.
Iraq says it has no such weapons and that's why it threw our inspectors out 4 years ago. They said, we don't want you to keep looking for these things that we say we don't any longer have.
Now, the Security Council said it goes like this; you will make a declaration of your weapons of mass destruction in full, accurately, honestly. The inspectors will verify that. They will look and see if you've told the truth or not by reading the documents and by making inspections. And then finally, this resolution said if in this process you lie or block an inspection or mislead or if this process fails to get to the truth of the matter to everyone's satisfaction in some way, then you will face - you Iraq will face serious consequences. Meaning a military attack.
So, Wolf these documents are crucial in determining in the end whether or not this process will work and there will be peace or there will be war. That's why I say they're very important.
BLITZER: And Ambassador Butler, before I let you go, this challenge today from the Iraqi government to the United States, to the Bush Administration to say; if you have evidence to contradict what we said, they say they have no weapons of mass destruction, go ahead and show us what you have.
What do you make of that?
BUTLER: Two things. The Iraqis have once again been demonstrating extreme skill of playing their case to world public opinion. They're master propagandists, that's not to say everything they is wrong but having made that point, I want to say that a lot of what they say is plainly misleading. Such as they have no weapons of mass destruction.
But the second thing is this, in playing it into world public opinion in this way; they're onto something important Wolf; because I predict this to you. If the United States throws out this Declaration and says it's not worth the paper it's written on. Or for some other reason, decides to go to war and use this as its reason for that - that it has privately held intelligence information, which it will not share with the world. Then Wolf, what I predict to you and to your viewers is that the world will not believe the United Sates.
And I think that would be an appalling position. And I think the United States would have seen to have gone to war for reason that it's not prepared to explain to the world. Now, that would be a very bad situation.
Iraqis are playing their card. Maybe they're playing it well. I don't think that there is any doubt that they have weapons of mass destruction; I don't have any doubt that serious problem should be dealt with. But if the United States does have evidence that contradicts their position, the time will come, I believe, where it will be obliged to make that clear to the world and it should do so.
BLITZER: An issue of war or peace. The most important issues that the policy leaders, world leaders could of course address.
Ambassador Richard Butler, always good to speak with you. Thanks very much for your insight.
BUTLER: Thank you.
BLITZER: A dramatic development tonight in New York City at the United Nations, at the U.N. headquarters. Those documents, those Iraqi documents, some 12,000 pages are now in the possession of U.N. officials. The chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix just took delivery, personal delivery of them at the U.N.
When we come back our special edition of "CNN Presents," we'll go back to the United Nations, get some more details on what exactly is going on.
Stay with us.
Dramatic developments tonight in New York City. You're looking at Lufthansa airliner that arrived just a little while ago at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City. Aboard that Lufthansa flight, some 12,000 pages of documents; documents the Iraqi government has made available to the United Nations weapons inspectors. Those documents were then brought via motorcade from John F. Kennedy Airport to United Nations headquarters in New York City, physically transported and delivered.
You're looking at pictures of the courier bringing those documents inside U.N. headquarters where the chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix took possession of them, received them, said a few words to reporters and will now begin the process of reviewing those documents.
Michael Okwu is once again standing by at the U.N. to join us.
BLITZER (on camera): Michael, this is indeed historic dramatic; we heard from the former U.N. chief weapons inspector, Richard Butler say that those documents could hold the key to war or peace. What could be more important than that?
OKWU: That's exactly right Wolf and you heard Hans Blix basically saying they're going to start rolling up their sleeves and going to work on this tonight. We do know that there are extra translators who have been called in on standby tonight. And you can imagine that what's going on in the very upper floors of the United Nations building tonight, are people beginning to pour through the 12,000 documents because the first thing they've got to do is to translate this Arabic. And then begin the very hard work of actually excising the sensitive materials that is contained therein.
As you know Wolf, the Security Council members very concerned that the information included in this document includes the making of weapons of mass destruction. It has been made very clear by members of the Security Council that they do not want that information conveyed. Wolf. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BLITZER: Michael, what they also have to do is compare what Iraq has said in this latest Declaration to what they've said in earlier Declarations and what the U.N. weapons inspectors have in their own database. And that process could be critical in determining whether the Iraqis are in material breach of that U.N. Security Council resolution.
OKWU: That's exactly right Wolf. This is not the first time that the Iraqis have come forward with a Declaration. They started doing this as early as 1991 when a Resolution 687 was passed, sometimes referred to by U.N. officials here as the mother of all Iraqi resolutions.
They were supposed to put forward their weapons program having to do with chemical and biological programs, and it turned out Wolf that they were proved to be not very forthcoming back in 1995. So, you can imagine that U.N. officials along with intelligence agencies, most notably, intelligent agencies here in the United State, once they get their hands on this, will be trying to compare that information with information that they have on their own. Wolf.
BLITZER: Michael Okwu at the U.N. Michael thanks very much for all your fine reporting tonight and indeed every day.
We have more coverage coming up, including, US troops on the move. Not only here in Qatar, a small nation in the Persian Gulf but also in the Horn of Africa. We'll explain what's going on when our special edition of CNN Presents continues.
BLITZER: In the global war on terrorism, all of a sudden we're learning a lot about many small nations; including this one where I am right now, Qatar. But also in Eastern Africa in the Horn of Africa, there's a small country called Djibouti that increasingly could play a critical role in this new war.
CNN military analyst, retired General George Harrison has a closer look.
GEN. GEORGE HARRISON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: As a matter of fact, Djibouti is an interesting part of the world. It's a very small colony, or a very small nation about half a million people, located north of Somalia, east of Ethiopia and south of Eritrea. It's a former French colony that was established in about 1977.
The important strategic fact about Djibouti is that it sits south of the Red Sea, just west of the Gulf of Aden and guards the approaches to the Gulf of Aden and provides assured access from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.
As you know, all of these areas including the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden are areas where we might need to operate aircraft carriers. In addition to that, Yemen has been a hotbed of Al Qaeda activity and we've had significant problems in that area for several years.
So, staking forces from Djibouti provides access to the southern portion of the Arabian peninsula as well as guarding some access. And we have seen some reports over the years, over the last few months - we've seen reports that Special Forces have been operating in and out of the territory of Djibouti and we believe that a task force including the USS Mt. Whitney has been operating for the last month in the vicinity of Djibouti.
Clearly, this important area provides us access across the area and provides us more flexibility as we put together the very complex operation to enforce the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction sanctions.
BLITZER: Retired US General George Harrison, our CNN military analyst over at CNN Map Room explaining the importance of a small nation, Djibouti potentially in the US and global war against terrorism.
We have more coverage coming up on this special edition of CNN Presents. When we come back, we're back live in the United Nations. That's where documents have just arrived, Iraqi documents; some 12,000 pages. We'll go back to the United Nations to find out what's going on. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Let's go back to the United Nations, that's where thousands of pages of Iraqi documents have just arrived, documents that will be reviewed very thoroughly by U.N. weapons inspections teams.
Michael Okwu, once again is standing by.
Do we know Michael precisely whether or not those documents, the process will begin tonight? It's already nighttime, obviously. Sunday night in New York City, or they'll wait till business begins Monday morning at the United Nations.
OKWU (on camera): Well, Wolf that's an excellent question. It's something all the reporters here at the United Nations really trying to nail down. But you heard Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector making it very clear when he walked in the door with documents trailing behind him that we will begin the work. He said, "We will begin the work." Unclear whether it's going to be tonight, but we do know that there are translators who are standing by, extra translators who have been called in to standby for duty tonight.
So, one would have to make the assumption that Blix knowing that this is a key document, a very key process, that they have to start the work almost immediately. Wolf.
BLITZER: Michael Okwu at the U.N. Thanks Michael for that reporting.
Let's go back to Baghdad. Now, Nic Robertson is standing by there. Nic, do the Iraqi officials with whom you speak fully comprehend how critically important these documents are to the future of the region? War or peace?
ROBERTSON: They're very much aware of the interest that's been placed on these documents in the United States and elsewhere in the world. They're very aware of the stakes and the level the situation has been raised to.
There's not a huge amount said that comes down from very senior levels here Wolf to be perfectly honest at this time. But there's certainly is a recognition of just what is at stake and clearly the very fact that, so many journalists have been allowed into Iraq; have been allowed to follow the weapons inspection program so closely is an indication of just how much pressure the Iraqi government feels at this time.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson in Baghdad. Thank you very much.
And once again, the documents are now in New York City.
At the United Nations headquarters, a team of officials, experts, linguists, they'll be reviewing these documents not only over the next several days, but over the next several weeks.
One key question right now, will those documents in their uncensored form be made available to the other 5 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council? Perhaps including all 15 members of the Security Council.
We'll be watching those documents here on CNN.
BLITZER (on camera): Our continuing coverage of course, we'll always be there for you. Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting tonight from Doha, Qatar in the Persian Gulf.
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