CNN BREAKING NEWS
White House: Warheads Troubling and Serious
Aired January 17, 2003 - 10:13 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We've managed to get ahold of our John King at the White House to get some more information on this pronouncement coming from the White House about this discovery of some 12 missile warheads found in Iraq yesterday, John King standing by at the White House.
John, what's the latest word?
JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, good morning to you, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer speaking to reporters, as he does almost every morning. He said the president finds it -- quote -- "troubling and serious" that the inspectors found these chemical weapons warheads inside Iraq.
Ari Fleischer saying U.S. officials have gone back and checked, and they do not find those warheads noted in Iraq's declaration to the United Nations. Ari Fleischer saying Iraq said it had no weapons of mass destruction, then the inspectors found the warheads yesterday.
A senior Iraqi official was quoted yesterday as saying, Iraq had forgotten it had the warheads. Ari Fleischer said that begged the question, what other mental lapses was the Iraqi government having in failing to keep its commitment to fully disclose its weapons of mass destruction.
It is clear here at the White House they will use this to build the case that Iraq is not cooperating with the inspectors. There is a debate right now about how long the inspectors should be allowed to go about their work before the United States and perhaps the United Nations Security Council discuss the issue of whether it becomes time to turn to military confrontation.
The White House in voicing its frustration with this one example says it is part of what the White House views, Leon, as a growing cumulative case that Iraq is frustrating the work of the inspectors on the ground, and that it simply lied when it filed the 12,000 pages with the United Nations, saying it had no weapons of mass destruction.
John, in the view of the White House, it's troubling and it's serious, are they also going as far as to say it is an ironclad open- and-shut case of a material breach?
KING: Well, Ari Fleischer said to the White that's not really the point. He said certainly it's proof that Iraq is in defiance of the resolution, which would make it, through logical extension, a material breach. But Ari Fleischer said it is clear, at least from the U.S. perspective, that Iraq already is in material breach and has repeatedly been in material breach because of other violations.
Ari Fleischer said the bigger point to the White House and certainly to President Bush is not to have a debate about whether this is a material breach, or a minor breach or something in the middle. The White House says it is clear, crystal proof that Iraq lied when it said it had no weapons of mass destruction, and Iraq is compelled under the resolution to show the inspectors everything.
So these warheads should have been shown to the inspectors, in the White House. The inspectors were not supposed to have to go looking for them. That is the case the White House will make that this is proof, whether you think 11 warheads is a big discovery or a minor discovery, proof to the White House, that this inspections regime, like the past inspections regime, are being stonewalled by the Iraqi government.
HARRIS: Thanks, John. John King at the White House.
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