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Iraq: The Weapons Hunt: Is War Unavoidable?

Aired December 20, 2002 - 13:09   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well the question now on everyone's mind is whether war with Iraq is unavoidable, and it's all the more urgent after yesterday's charge that Iraq hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction. That case was made by the U.S. government to no one's great surprise, but also, by the chief weapons inspector. As we said, his name is Hans Blix, and he's standing by now in New York with CNN's Richard Roth -- Richard.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm here at the United Nations, and I'm with Hans Blix, the chief United Nations weapons inspector dealing with Iraq.

What does the declaration by the U.S., again, a material breach, something that you have no role in determining, what does that mean though for your inspection efforts now?

HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: We are trying to clarify what Iraq has done and clarify the weapons programs of the past. And if they have something still, and they have not revealed that now, well, that would be a breach. It's for the U.S. and the Security Council to determine whether it is a material breach. Whether it's so significant as to be characterized as material.

ROTH: But this has to add some type of pressure at least to the urgency of the work as Secretary of State Powell uses the phrase and ratchets it up, doesn't it?

BLIX: Well, we couldn't be more accelerated than we are. In fact, we have worked much faster than the Security Council asked us. The council said that there should be in operation and do the first inspection at the latest next week. We have been there almost one month, and we have about 80, 90 inspectors in place, and carried out more than 40 inspections, and we should be accelerated further.

ROTH: One an arms expert on the nuclear side says that the overview has been done for the council, and we're going to move now from reconnaissance to investigative efforts, maybe returning to sites three times. You have gone back to sites, but is there a different tenor in the next few days following the briefing?

BLIX: Not in the next few days, I don't think so. This is a systematic thing that we're doing. We have anything between 500 and 1,000 sites to visit. And of course, it's important to visit those sites, because Iraq will know that we can come there, that means they cannot use the sites of production of a chemical or biological weapons, but we also would like to have clues from member governments who had intelligence to suggest to us it's a good place to go. We'll do it.

ROTH: You led me to that area. Secretary Powell seemed to indicate the U.S. giving your agency intelligence. Have you gotten a call yet?

BLIX: Not yet, but I hope we'll get it very soon.

ROTH: What's the level of cooperation with intelligence sharing? You don't have it yet.

BLIX: Well, there's discussion about how to be done and given, of course, briefings in the past about what they believe they know about the chemical program, et cetera. Much of this they may have learned from procurement information. But as to sites, no, they haven't had it before, and I hope they come, because our strong side is inspections, so we would like to learn where should we go.

ROTH: Without it?

BLIX: Well, without it, you have to have a systematic investigation all over the country. And, as I said, that's important to deter the Iraqis from using the chemical industries, but it doesn't mean that you have zero in on where they're hiding something.

ROTH: The U.S. worries about the intelligence being in the wrong hands or Iraq finding out about ahead of time. Do you allay their concern?

BLIX: I have full respect for the wishes of the U.S. or the U.K., that their sources should not be revealed, because that would put people in jeopardy and death jeopardy, so we'll tell the U.S. and U.K. exactly how to handle the information, so that it will be secured.

ROTH: This has to sting a bit. A lot of tough talk from the U.S. and a lot of conservative critics in the U.S. saying they're not doing anything in the U.S., doesn't hand over information.

BLIX: There are lots of things to do. The intelligence is not the only source. You also have overhead satellite imagery, you have procurement, you have information that we have and open sources, so it's not the only one, but it's desirable to have, highly desirable. And the more contending that they're convinced the Iraqis have continued with programs, the more desirable to put specific evidence on the table.

ROTH: And the U.S., you're very familiar with this issue, the scientists. The U.S. says, let's bring them out. You say there's problems, yet the government of Iraq preparing a list of scientists, but on the other day, an Iraqi official said we'll cross the bridge when we come to it, regarding taking the scientists out, or giving the names of the families and things like that. Do you think you're going to get them the scientists of the country?

BLIX: Well, that's two different pieces. We have asked for names of all those who participated in the programs in the past. And we've been interested to know where are they now? For that, we don't have to take them out of the country.

The question of taking people out of the country is interesting, because Iraq may be intimidated for people to speak inside the country. However, lots of practical problems in taking them out. If you identify one single person, the Iraqi government will know that, and they will immediately go and sanitize the place where they worked, then the material might be gone when the inspectors come. You have to consider quite a number of issues related to this. We are not against the idea, but we don't want to do it an amateurish fashion.

ROTH: What's the most biggest omission in that 12,000, 200 page declaration by Iraq?

BLIX: Evidence.

ROTH: In anthrax, you talked about there were contradictions. What were the contradictions?

BLIX: Well, you see, it's evidence that we're missing. If you're sure that they have a program, say, on anthrax or VX, well, then you can say they had omitted information, because there wasn't much on it. But we don't evidence they had such a program, and therefore, we are not contending that they are omitting it, but we would like to have the evidence.

ROTH: You mentioned biological germ media, things like that, what is the danger that you can't find those?

BLIX: They could use it in the conflict. That's as in the past. We know in this country what the anthrax could do, even a small country, around perhaps one single individual.

ROTH: How long does it take to your work? Mohammed El-Baradei of the United Nations said it would actually be a year, his official said that. I mean, are you really going to get a snapshot by January 27th, when you're due to return to the Security Council?

BLIX: I wouldn't want to give any timelines at all. UNSCOM worked from 1991 to 1998. I hope that we will be done in much shorter time than that.

ROTH: What are you hoping to get in the intelligence field in the -- when the U.S. does -- what do you need? What is it? Is it names? Is it places? I mean, you've been there. You have thousands of pages. What are you lacking?

BLIX: Places. We would like to have clues as to where U.S. and other countries intelligence feel they know that the Iraqis are storing weapons of mass destruction, then we can send in the inspectors. America cannot send in -- they don't have inspectors there, nor does the U.K. We can do that.

ROTH: The U.S. wants more frequent briefings from you, with a council. You are going to that in early January, right?

BLIX: There will be probably a briefing sometime early in January, and then on the 27th of January, there will be another updating of the council. I don't think I should dramatize that. We're not expecting any very big things, like a declaration, this time.

ROTH: All right, drama, war, television, it's what's happening.

Dr. Blix, thank you very much.

BLIX: Drama is for you.

ROTH: Well, not always. We deal with the fact.

Thank you very much, Dr. Blix, chief weapons inspector, the UNMOVIC agency, here at the United Nations.

Back to you, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Richard Roth, thanks so much.


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