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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Iraq National Monitoring Directorate Press Conference

Aired December 19, 2002 - 11:02   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you to Baghdad. As we said moments ago. we understood that Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector is now, right now, briefing the U.N. Security Council. As a matter of fact, also right now in Baghdad, we're getting a response to the claims being made in the briefing. You're looking at general has General Hussam Mohammed Amin. He is director general of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

AMIR AL SAADI, IRAQI SCIENTIFIC ADVISER: ... of the past program.

However, the new part, which is written in Arabic, requires translation, and it's not just straightforward translation, it's technical translation, which requires time and accuracy, and that has not, as far as we know, has not been completed. That's why I also expect both gentlemen to say that they haven't finished their translation work and, hence, the assessment of that part of the declaration.

As I said, we are not worried. It's the other party that is worried, because there is nothing that they can pin on us. All their statements were merely allegations, not supported by evidence. Whatever evidence they dared to submit was checked out.

Both agencies, their inspectors here on the ground, they went around the country, from north to everywhere, looking at the sites that were named in those allegations, in the Blair document or the CIA document later on.

I will not preempt their findings. They have been checking everything, records, they've been taking samples, taking measurements. And some of these analyses will take some time. So I'll not preempt and say they found nothing. It's for them. In due time they will say whatever the truth is.

I will now ask my colleague, General Hasam Amin, to brief you about the week's activity. And then after that we'll accept questions from you. Thank you.

AMIN: Thank you, sir.

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. As you know, this is the third week which has passed on the first activity of the inspection teams, I mean IAEA and UNMOVIC inspection teams. The inspection activities continued intensively and intrusively throughout Iraqi territories, and these activities cover large number of sites which belong to the different ministries, such as military-industrialization corporation, ministry of defense and ministry of industry, and other ministries.

The number of sites which have been visited (inaudible) increased each week. And I have a few figures. I shall mention them to you.

GEN. HUSSAM AMIN, IRAQ MONITORING NATL. DIRECTORATE: For example, first, the total number of sites should have been inspected are seven sites; while we're in the second week, 17; and third week, 40 sites; during the fourth week, about 66 sites. Total is 130 sites which have been inspected.

One-hundred-sixteen of them are subjected to the monitoring system, while 14 are not subjected for the monitoring system. And 53 sites have been visited by UNMOVIC and inspection teams, while 77 sites were visited by IAEA teams. Till now, we've received five UNMOVIC teams and two (inaudible) teams.

I would like to mention also that all the sites which have been mentioned by Blair report -- the famous report -- and the CIA reports and the Western mass media reports, have been visited.

Those sites are Fallujah II, Fallujah III and Muthanna site, (inaudible) site, al-Rasheed (ph) site, which has three sub-factories and Mamorn (ph) (inaudible) Fucar (ph) and (inaudible); al-Qa'qaa site, the main nuclear site. And the Vaccine Institute, (inaudible) company, Foot and Mouth Disease (ph) Institute, and (inaudible), which is the company responsible for manufacturing the liquid propellant, mortars and rockets.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: We know that the United Nations inspectors have formally asked Iraq to submit this list of scientists. And we know that as General Amin was saying the other week that Iraq is drawing up such a list of Iraqi scientists to be questioned by Iraq. What I want to know is, are you in discussions with the United Nations with the U.N. weapons inspectors, UNMOVIC to work out a mechanism of how they will be interviewed, in particular about this question of whether you as the Iraqi government will cooperate if the U.N. wants to take these scientists out of the country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven't been in discussion with UNMOVIC or the IAEA since they left Baghdad on the 19th last month. However, I received a letter from the consulate (ph) asking exactly what happened. And the time frame for that is by the end of this year. We are working on this list. There are no details being worked out at all. We will submit a list in time. And that's that.

QUESTION: But no mechanisms in terms of trying to find some accommodation about...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody asked us anything. Don't forget that the paragraph seven says that UNMOVIC and the IAEA have the right to do that. And they -- when they require it, they will ask for it. But it doesn't mean that automatically they would want to take people out. Perhaps they would choose to meet them inside the country. Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): There is nothing new in the latest of (inaudible) according to the United States and (inaudible). As I mentioned, we expect that Hans Blix and ElBaradei see that there is nothing new, which is true. There is nothing new as far as the is concerned. What is new is -- that covers the period from '98 up to date that covers all the activities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): And paragraph three, which says that all activities under biological, chemical and nuclear must be mentioned to prove that it has no connection with weapons of mass destruction. So that is what is required of us under the declaration which was about 500-600 pages in Arabic.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): How would you respond to Blix and ElBaradei in light of what has been reported that the United States government has leaked some information to the American press? How do you deal with this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): First, I expect Blix and ElBaradei to say that the only new development is the period covering -- period from '98 to 2000.

As for the American accusations, there's nothing new there. There was a report that was prepared by Ambassador (inaudible) which came under the heading of questions relating to (inaudible) and deals with weapons, conventional weapons. It's our position, and still the same.

There is a work plan. And this is also being agreed, which was endorsed by the Security Council. There are issues that out of date and goes back to a very long time ago. And that is what we call ongoing monitoring. Some people choose to ignore what happened in '98 and '99 and prefer to see it as a new development, but actually what they're talking about is old stuff that has been resolved.

HARRIS: We've been listening to Amir Al-Saadi. I apologize for having misidentified him in his press conference. That's Amir Al- Saadi. He's the scientific adviser to Saddam Hussein. The other gentleman who was speaking was Mohammad Amin.

We've been listening to the press conference, and we heard Mr. Amir say that basically, the assessment that has been made by the U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix, that there is nothing new this declaration, he says he expected that kind of declaration to be made by Hans Blix.

Speaking of Hans Blix, he is right now briefing the U.N. Security Council. There you see a live picture from the U.N. We expect he'll be coming out and giving the press at least some indication of what's going on in the briefing room, the assessment he's giving the Security Council members. We'll hear something on that coming up.

Right now, we want to bring in Garth Whitty. He's a former U.N. weapons inspector himself, and he has been joining us from time to time from London to talk about this issue, and he's also been listening as well to this press conference, and thanks, Garth, for taking more time to talk with us again about all of this.

I want to ask you, have you heard anything in this press conference that struck you as significant?

GARTH WHITTY, FMR. U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I don't think there are any surprises. We knew as soon as the declaration had been submitted, that the majority was a reiteration of information that had been submitted previously. And that in addition to that, there was a small amount of new information, and that was primarily in Arabic.

I don't believe that Hans Blix will have made any pronouncements without making sure that that has been very carefully translated and interpreted. Inevitably, the Iraqis will take a different position.

HARRIS: I'm sorry to cut you off; that's a satellite delay.

I know what he was saying there was that he believes that Hans Blix has not had a full interpretation of all of these documents that were delivered in Arabic, and you don't believe that that's the case?

WHITTY: Well, I can't see what Hans Blix would probably gain by making any pronouncements until he's absolutely confident. His (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is to very much minimize the possibility of war by finding everything to his satisfaction, and he has no hidden agenda. He wants to do the job he's been given, and I just can't see the circumstances under which he would do anything else.

HARRIS: At the risk of sounding overly critical here, doesn't it seem a bit juvenile to argue that there is no -- the reason why Hans Blix is going to say there is no new information, is because that's proof that there is no new weapons program or there is no program of weapons of mass destruction in existence right now in Iraq. That proves it.

WHITTY: Yes, I find myself confused, and I'm sure lots of other people are. Initially, the focus of the U.S. government and the U.K. government was a continuing or new program. Most of the reference, thus far, has referred to the discrepancies from the old program, where there were a specified number of mustard-filled artillery shells and various other items that don't seem to have been accounted for. But that was residue from the previous program, nothing to do with a new program.

HARRIS: All right. Now, we've heard the Iraqis themselves say that this report has nothing new in it because there is nothing new. Does that now mean that it is time now to get someone in there to interview the scientists, or it is time now to get these scientists out of Iraq and have them interviewed somewhere else? There is no time to delay on that any longer?

WHITTY: I think certainly that has to be done. I have a fairly high degree of skepticism as to just how that will work. I don't think anyone disputes that the regime in Iraq is a particularly brutal one. And the possibility of people leaving Iraq or, indeed, being interviewed within Iraq, without any form of coercion either over themselves or their families seems incredible to me. So even if people are taken out, they will be subjected to considerable pressure in terms of what they say.

HARRIS: I've got to think that if Saddam Hussein is listening to what's being said here in the press in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world as well, particularly in London as well, that it is quite clear that this document that they've submitted is proof of a material breach and, therefore, some sort of military activity is going to have to happen and that they're now talking about setting at least a timeframe for it, saying it's going have begin or something is going to have to get started sometime around the end of January. Doesn't that almost automatically mean that Saddam Hussein is not going to allow any scientists to leave that country?

WHITTY: I think that's absolutely right. The declaration, for whatever reason, hasn't met the requirements set by the U.S. and the United Kingdom in particular. And I'm don't think what happens from this point on is going to change that. And the reality is that perhaps, you know, what's being happening or what's happening is really taking away from the regime any desire to cooperate, because they will assume that the final outcome has already been decided.

HARRIS: All right, If that is the point that we've reached, that if Saddam Hussein believes we've come to that point and there's no backing away now, if you were one of the inspectors in Baghdad, speaking as a former inspector yourself, would you be concerned for your own safety?

WHITTY: I don't think I would. Of course, I'm not there, so it's easy for me to say. But although the Iraqi regime has been very obstructive over a number of years, there are very few instances where there's been personal threats against individuals. Certainly, that wasn't my experience, and I was there during some fairly tense times.

And yes, there were threats against the United Nations, there were threats against the United States and the United Kingdom, but not personal threats. Now, that may well have changed. But certainly, from my experience, that was very much the case. It wasn't directed at individuals.

HARRIS: Those times when you were there may have been tense, but it appears that they may be getting tense once again over there.

Garth Whitty, thank you very much again for your time in London.

Daryn, over to you.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Once again, chief weapons inspector Hans Blix before the U.N. Security Council right now. Let's go to the U.N. and our Richard Roth for more on that -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Thank you, Daryn.

Well, the Security Council is hard at work right now, they're listening to Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei. There are the two leading international weapons inspectors for Iraq. They entered the Security Council about 45 minutes ago. The Iraqi general, the top scientific adviser there, said they won't be able to pin anything on us, not clear whether it's Blix and El Baradei, or the Security Council members. There you see Dr. Blix and the International Atomic Energy Agency director-general entering the council.

Huge amount of press here, larger contingents than ever as this crisis continues to get bigger.

U.S. ambassador John Negroponty (ph), in the middle NEVILLE: ere, is expected to come out of the council after the Blix briefing and lay out the United States position, which will be that these declarations that Iraq has provided, not enough information, and Blix and El Baradei also expected to say pretty much the same, but in more coded, diplomatic language.

There's the Syrian ambassador on the phone. His instructions, don't attend most of this meeting. And the Russian ambassador also entering. For Syria, it's case saying, we didn't get the full 12, 000 pages, we're being discriminated against, and the Syrian ambassador says in no way will they be able to make a conclusion about Dr. Blix's summation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no judgment, because I will not share in these judgments, since we did not receive the whole text. So how to judge the report if is not complete to be read?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROTH: The 14 other countries, though, are certainly going to debate the issue behind closed doors. And basically, U.S. and U.K. diplomats saying that this declaration does not explain anything about what Iraq possessed in nuclear, chemical, biological, missile fields. There are still significant questions to be answered.

Blix is expected to echo that, but nobody here, Daryn, is going to declare any material breach. There won't be a declaration of war today, and the Security Council is likely not to say anything as a group. It will be individual countries on their own -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Richard, explain to me difference between what's happening today and what's going to happen on January 27.

ROTH: This is an early outline of how the inspectors are doing and about the 12,000 pages, which they're still going through here in New York, and in Vienna. And the rest of the council, having just gotten it two days ago, packed it off by mail and by courier to those capitols. It's still early in the game.

KAGAN: All right, Richard Roth at the United Nations, thank you very much.

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