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Amin Addresses Reporters

Aired January 23, 2003 - 10:59   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We are awaiting the weekly briefing from General Hussam Amin, head of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate. When that begins, we will go ahead and bring it to you live. In fact, he is beginning to speak right now. Let's listen in.
GEN. HUSSAM AMIN, IRAQI NATIONAL MONITORING DIRECTORATE: ... immediate access to them. All sites have been secured. The total number of the sites or inspections which have been conducted since 27th of November 2002 until today was 449 inspections. Seventy-five of them were conducted for irrelevant sites; that is the sites which are not subjected to the ongoing monitoring and verification plan.

The number of inspection teams which belongs to UNMOVIC is 11 teams, while the number of the inspection teams which are sent by the IAEA is five teams. So the total is 16 teams now.

The number of the staff of UNMOVIC and IAEA (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and logistics staff is 236, while the number of the staff -- I mean, the inspectors is about 120 inspectors. The number of helicopter (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 38 and the number of the fixed-wing aircraft is 12.

The sites which have been visited last week belongs to the different ministries, such as ministry (UNINTELLIGIBLE) agriculture, ministry of higher industry, ministry (UNINTELLIGIBLE), agriculture ministry and ministry of higher education.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) with Dr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei (OFF-MIKE) questioning of Iraq scientists came up and Iraq (OFF-MIKE) be interviewed in private by the inspectors. Have they come forward and asked (OFF-MIKE) to interview a number of scientists? And if so, have they said whether any of those would be interviewed outside of Iraq? Just bring us up to date on this question of how many people they've come forward and said they'd like to talk to.

AMIN: We received about six requests from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Baghdad to make private interviews. And the proposal was to make the interview in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hotel (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and that the interview to be conducted in private, alone.

And as we promised, that we shall encourage the scientists to make the interview. We did our best to push the scientists and send them to the site. But they refused to make such interviews without the presence of National Monitoring Directorate (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And some of them asked that in addition to that, they wanted also some type of the communication, of video tape camera or audio recorder (UNINTELLIGIBLE). No requests were received to make an interview outside Iraq.


AMIN: Indeed, they met some of them. They met some of them, but with the presence of the National Monitoring Directorate, and they tried to convince them that the presence of the witness is not necessary, but they refused that.

QUESTION (through translator): Iraq is expecting a positive report by Blix and Baradei later on this month that proves that Iraq is cooperating with the inspectors, but there are doubts that this report will not be as positive as hoped. Does that mean there are differences between you and inspection teams? And how can you overcome these differences -- technical differences?

AMIN (through translator): You were present when Mr. Blix called for a press conference in Baghdad, which was attended by Dr. ElBaradei, where he praised the Iraqi cooperation with the inspectors and he called the talks constructive.

However, upon his departure he said that there were some outstanding issues. He accused us of putting unrealistic conditions and so forth, which is, in fact, inaccurate. What we asked was for safeguards to organize the work of our air defenses to ensure the safety of the airplanes and the helicopters.

As far as meetings with scientists, when we receive a request by the inspectors, we approach the person named and we secure his presence, but it's up to the person whether to attend an interview alone or when he insists on the presence of a member of the National Monitoring Directorate. So therefore, this report, we don't expect it to be a brilliant report. However, we expect it to be a professional report and to highlight the fact that these outstanding issues are not that great.

QUESTION: (through translator): Don't you think that there's contradiction between what was said by Blix and ElBaradei here and what was said after their departure, especially when they said that Iraq was not forthcoming in certain areas? Also, Russia said that it's foreign minister will not be present when Blix submits his report to the U.N.

AMIN (through translator): Of course, I was surprised personally by the contradiction in Mr. Blix's statement after he left Iraq.

Iraq had provided all the documents in its possession. All the documents that were asked of us were provided to the inspectors.

You must have read the communique, which you could tell that there are so many information given by the Iraqis to facilitate the work of the inspectors. There is exaggeration of highlighting the outstanding issues or the points that could not be agreed upon. This does not go in line with neutrality and objectivity which we have been promised.

The United Nations resolution was an American and British resolution. Also, the 10 points (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Mr. ElBaradei said that he will say in his report that the inspection is only -- it's halfway.

We spoke to Mr. ElBaradei about this. And we say that -- especially when he said that the work is only halfway and Iraq must do more to provide information, he said that he did not mean the nuclear site and he meant other areas.

As we know, I think, you know, it's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to Mr. ElBaradei to stick to his field. He said it during the negotiations, that the nuclear program is closed now. The work that he's interested in is the work between 1998 and 2002.

QUESTION (through translator): Well, you said the nuclear program has been closed in Iraq, but the statements by Blix and ElBaradei and the latest escalation by Washington, is there a link there? And what are you going to do as a result of the report by Blix?

AMIN (through translator): Well, there are contradictions between Blix and ElBaradei. Sometimes ElBaradei talks about issues that are not within his mandate. He talks about other programs, not the nuclear programs which he is in charge of; and he admitted that. And we told him that it wasn't his responsibility to talk about chemical and biological programs. And that leads to confusion.

And as for your other question about how we are going to react to the report, well it is for the future.

QUESTION (through translator): Have you agreed to have some more talks with Blix and ElBaradei?

And when such talks are planned?

AMIN (through translator): Well, when the foreign minister of Iraq met Mr. Blix and El-Baradei, there was an agreement to continue the visits and the meetings. And I think there has been agreed the next visit should be sometime next month (ph).

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) and suggested that the UNMOVIC people have the sanctity of a mosque. And this was not declared by either Iraqi government nor by UNMOVIC.


AMIN: OK, what happens is is that five inspectors, UNMOVIC inspectors, they went directly to the mosque. And they asked the people there to enter inside the mosque after the midday or the afternoon prayer. And they met the imam of the mosque. They asked him really strange questions, which are irrelevant and they are unconnected with the disarmament tasks which have been entitled to the UNMOVIC and IAEA.

They asked him whether the mosque contains shelters, underground shelters and whether the mosque have some hidden buildings underground and what is his relation with the other governmental organizations and how many -- the number of the prayers and what is the period of the construction of the mosque, et cetera? This took place on Monday, exactly at 13 (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Nobody told us, not the imam, not UNMOVIC. OK? But the imam, he considered it as this is very strange visit. The visit was conducted without the National Monitoring Directorate minders. So we did not know about it, really.

And it was from a security point of view very danger to them, for their safety and security. And they were lucky because there was no people in the mosque, because, you know, maybe perhaps some people who would like to make some problems, they would physically direct an aggression to them or hit them or I don't know.

First of all, UNMOVIC denied such visits. I contacted the director of Bolvic (ph), Mr. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And then, this morning he admitted the visit, but he said that this visit had been conducted just to see the nice building of the mosque as a tourist, you know. And he alleged also that the people there in the mosque, they invited the inspectors.

Then I investigate what happened exactly. And I concluded the following. The visit was not for tourist purposes, because at that day Mr. Blix and ElBaradei, they were conducting high-level talks in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And all the staff of UNMOVIC and IAEA in Baghdad, they were alert and they were waiting what is the results and conclusions of the talks between the two sides. This is first.

And the second that, the UNMOVIC inspectors who visited the mosque two times they surveyed the street and the area in which the mosque situated in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) area. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) intended inspection visit without the presence of National Monitoring Directorate staff.

Thank you.

QUESTION: You said a little earlier there that you didn't expect Mr. Blix's report about Iraq to be very brilliant. Can you explain what you mean?

AMIN: I said indeed I expect that the report of Mr. Blix will be gray, not white, not black. And I hope that he will not put a magnifying lens on this agreement points (ph) which are mainly related to the U-2. We have nothing.

And I think the situation of Iraqi side with regard to this point is fair and logic, because what we asked for is to secure our right to defend our sky and our ground. This is what we wanted. Not to mix with the -- you know, there is every day hostilities from the American Air Force and British air force in the north and south of Iraq. And the flight of the U-2 in those areas would complicate the air defense process.

And we went, indeed, discussions with the specialists of UNMOVIC and IAEA, and also with Mr. Hans Blix and ElBaradei during their visits. What we want is to secure our rights that our air defense will work properly and normally.

QUESTION (through translator): (OFF-MIKE) the new legislation that will ban any illegal material.

AMIN (through translator): This legislation is needed for the post-monitoring area.

And this will only be accomplished after we resolve all the outstanding issues. This legislation will deal with the previous programs, and we have promised that this legislation will be produced as soon as possible.

QUESTION (through translator): What are the former regulations under UNSCOM that Iraq is now demanding for?

AMIN (through translator) The U-2 in the past was under the American command? It used to fly out of a base in Saudi Arabia. And we would be informed when it will be entering the Iraqi air space. The mission used to take between four to five hours, and it's been proved that that particular airplane was conducting spying missions over Iraq. And all the information collected would be sent to the CIA. And this is according to admission of Scott Ritter and other people. And this data processing and those films were transferred to the American -- to CIA instead of UNSCOM.

QUESTION (through translator): A large number of Iraqis have criticized UNMOVIC and the inspectors and considered their presence at places like mosques provocative. Did you discuss this with ElBaradei and Blix? Do you think that these visits will escalate the tension?

AMIN (through translator): We consider these visits are irrelevant to the mission of searching for weapons. Our position is that there are no weapons of mass destruction. You can't conceal weapons of mass destruction in a mosque or in a farm or a house or a school or a ministry.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) lies and fabrications and pretext that Americans are trying to promote to apply pressure on the UNMOVIC and IAEA so it could lead to a confrontation between Iraq and the inspectors, and also to provoke the Iraqis and the Muslims, like when they go to the mosque.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) on Tuesday that he thought that the U.S. would strike and that war was inevitable, no matter how much you cooperated with the U.N. inspectors. I wondered whether you thought that that was possibly why the scientists are refusing to be interviewed in private or if you could venture some other reasons why they would be reluctant.

And secondly, if I might, if I could ask you to list what steps, both on the procedural side and on the substantive side, that you have taken to show Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei, from when they left ahead of the Monday meeting, that you have taken?

AMIN: Thank you. With regard to the scientists, indeed the procedure is the following. I received a letter from Bolvic (ph) asking me to tell the scientist X the wish of the UNMOVIC to make an interview with him at Bolvic, first of all. And then after the talks with Mr. Blix and ElBaradei the place was changed to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hotel. OK? And they determined also the timing of the interview.

What I did is I shall tell the scientists please this letter for you and you have to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hotel to make an interview there. He would sign that he was informed by National Monitoring Directorate on the same letter of the UNMOVIC. And some of them write that: I refuse to make the interview unless the following conditions should be secured. First of all, I have to be accompanied by a National Monitoring Directorate representative. I have to bring with me audio recorder or video tape camera, et cetera.

And some of them -- really one of them at least, after the visit of Mr. Blix and ElBaradei, he refused to make the interview at (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hotel. He wanted the interview to be made in National Monitoring Directorate building.

And this is the procedure really followed up after the visit. Before that, practically the same, but there was difference in the place of proposed interview.

QUESTION: I'm wondering if you could help us. Why they might be reluctant to do it. I mean, whether you have an audio tape or a video tape, it's very plain for all of us to see. I just wondered if you, you know, could help us in terms of what might be behind it.

AMIN: OK. The first interview which had been conducted in the technology university was conducted with Dr. Sabah Habanor (ph). And the second interview was conducted with Dr. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), OK, in Al- Rasheed (ph) hotel. After the second interview there was a statement from Bolvic (ph), from the spokesman of Bolvic (ph) here in Baghdad.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to step away from this press conference coming from Baghdad...


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