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Blair, Aznar Answer Questions

Aired January 30, 2003 - 13:22   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Right now, we are going to go live from Madrid where Prime Minister Tony Blair is holding a joint press conference with Spain's prime minister, who you see there, Jose Maria Aznar.

JOSE MARIA AZNAR, PRESIDENT OF SPAIN (through translator): ... regarding his obligations to disarm and that his obligation to disarm has proven the fact that he's complied with it.

In 1991, Resolution 687 of the U.N. Security Council required an unconditional dismantling of any kind of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons that Saddam's regime may have. The U.N. Security Council, since 1991, has on nine occasions condemned noncompliance by Saddam Hussein's regime of the U.N. resolutions. And Resolution 1441 is the one that gives this last opportunity and warns of the consequences of noncompliance.

The work carried out by inspections, which we deeply appreciate, has not proven that disarmament, and I have to remind you that the Iraqi regime's duty is to cooperate with inspectors, and inspectors have to verify that the Iraqi regime dismantles its systems in accordance with the resolution.

My fourth point is that I intend and prefer this problem to continue to be taken within the framework of the United Nations and, most specifically, the Security Council, and my firm desire is for a second resolution of the U.N. Security Council to be possible under which the Security Council would assume its responsibilities, would assess the situation and adopt the measures made necessary by the circumstances at the time. That would be good proof of the fact that the international community is united in defending international legality and be of the Security Council.

And finally, we confront the risks linked by weapons of mass destruction in the hands of certain regimes -- authoritarian regimes who even use them against their people, and the link with terrorism -- and the link between terrorism and WMD is not in the realm of fantasy but reality, and no one can decide (ph) when we are facing the possibility of terrorist groups having access and possible use of weapons of mass destruction. That is a serious responsibility of all and it must be borne in mind.

We want peace and security for all, and we know that everyone's peace and security requires respect for legality and not violations. And we know that the responsibility is fully in the hands of those who have to prove and have not yet proven to comply with the U.N. Security Council resolutions.

To date, ladies and gentlemen, seven heads of government and one head of state, the two here present, plus the Italian prime minister, Portuguese prime minister, Poland, Hungary, president of the Czech Republic and, as I've been told this afternoon, the president of the Slovak Republic, all share the same idea. And we stated these criteria in some media already and we want to confirm this position and we trust that our endeavors for peace, security and for a new U.N. resolution that allows us to carry out this operation in the best way possible for the benefit of the world is within our reach.

BLAIR: Thank you, Jose Maria.

First of all, can I extend my thanks to President Aznar for welcoming me here in Spain.

And say how pleased I am that we are in complete agreement as to the right way forward to deal with this issue.

And I think he is absolutely right in posing the question, why are we in this position? And it is because of the history of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime that for many years have been told by the United Nations in successive resolutions to disarm themselves of chemical, biological, potentially nuclear weapons; have had numerous processes of inspection, which have failed; had a situation, where in 1998 when there was still quantities of chemical and biological weapons, in particular, left over; the inspectors were effectively put out of Iraq; and where the world does now come together in a new resolution, 1441, and given Iraq one last chance and Saddam Hussein one last chance to disarm themselves of these weapons.

And the reason why the United Nations has taken this position not just over the past few months, but over many years is because of the threat these weapons pose in the hands of Saddam Hussein who has used these weapons, not merely against other countries, but also against his own people.

Now, we are therefore in the situation, whereas we say in our article signed with other leaders today, we are insisting that Saddam Hussein abide by the United Nations resolution, that that resolution makes it very clear that his duty is to cooperate fully with the inspectors in that disarmament process, that we must support the U.N. inspectors in making sure that that disarmament process happens. But that if it cannot happen through the United Nations weapons inspectors and (inaudible) to the U.N. resolution, then it must happen by other means.

And I agree entirely also with President Aznar, no one wants conflict in this situation. But we also have a duty to protect our people in a world that is threatened not just by international terrorism, but also by the issue of weapons of mass destruction and their proliferation.

And I believe also that these issues are linked. And I think when our people see the threats around them, the problems that are posed by these terrorist groups, the fact that these terrorist groups have no compunction at all about the numbers of innocent people that they killed, and the fact also that we know of the existence of these types of weapons, chemical, biological, potentially nuclear weapons proliferating in the world. I really say to people it is only a matter of time before these threats come together in a devastating way.

And therefore the reason we are acting in this way is not because we want conflict, but because we need to protect the peace and security of our people. So, I believe this is an important moment for us all. It is a test of the seriousness with which we are treating this issue of weapons of mass destruction. It is a test also of the United Nations and the international community, and how we resolve it through the United Nations which is what we want to see. And it is also a test of our political will and political resolve.

And I am grateful that President Aznar has shown leadership on these issues to put them before people, and to say as I say and as we've said in the joint article today, that this is an issue we must confront. We confront it through the international community, but we must insist that the issue is dealt with, and dealt with to protect our people and to make the world more secure, more peaceful in the future. Thank you.


QUESTION: Good afternoon. For Prime Minister Blair, there has been talk that the weather or the state of the economy could be reasons for starting military actions rather than later. Are those just reasons for giving the inspectors weeks rather months before starting the war?

(through translator): And for the president of the government. Why is the European partners in this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of eight? Isn't this weakening Europe's common policy? Thank you.

BLAIR: On your first point, the thing that should determine our military action and the time of it is the justice of the case and also whether the United Nations process through the inspectors can work. And I want to make one very, very crucial point here, which is something President Aznar alluded to when he was speaking on it.

The duty of Saddam is to cooperate fully with the U.N. inspectors. That does not just mean giving access to science. It also means allowing witnesses to be properly interviewed, free from intimidation or Iraqi so-called minders. It means an honest and true declaration of what weapons it has, and it means in particular telling us precisely what has happened to the thousands of tons of this material ammunitions that we now are left over from 1998.

And the real significance of the report of Doctor Blix on Monday is that he has not answered these key questions about what has happened to the weapons left over from 1998, and he is not committing witnesses to be interviewed properly. Now that is not cooperating.

And therefore what is important, and this is what determines the timing of any action that we take. What is important is that Saddam realizes cooperation does not just mean some cooperation, it means full cooperation, because that is what the United Nations resolution 1441 says.

Otherwise, if we don't take that view, and enforce it very clearly, we will have a situation which is precisely what happened in the 1990s, where the inspectors go in, they look around as if there some form of detective agency, which they're not, Saddam conceals his weaponry, and they spend years trying to do their work on our table to do it.

Now, as I say, there can't be any doubt at all as to what the duty of Saddam is or what Resolution 1441 lays down. And it's that, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to that resolution or the lack of it, that determines any military action and indeed the timing of it.

AZNAR (through translator): Answer that question, a pleasure. If I start at the beginning of this session, we are strictly within the framework of Resolution 1441. And the guarantee that the European Council at Copenhagen gave to that resolution and as one, the backing given by the Atlantic Alliance at the Prague Summit. That's exactly what our position is and what we are defending. That's why some prime ministers have decided to express the idea reflected by the European Union and by the Atlantic Alliance in an article.

I don't think there are many precedents of eight heads of state and government signing an article in which they state their common position. But I think it's a good thing that it has happened. But that's where we stand. And we will continue to act within the framework of those commitments that oblige us all.

QUESTION: There seems to be a slight difference on interpretation of the article. The British prime minister said that if we cannot -- if it cannot happen through the United Nations, it must happen by other means.

Can we assume that Spain and the other signatories to the article accept that if the U.N. can't reach agreement, perhaps because of France or Germany being engaged in some kind of blocking maneuver, then military action without a further resolution would be supported by Spain and those countries?

BLAIR: First of all, let me make it clear what I am saying. If the process of disarmament can't happen through the U.N. inspectors, then it will have to happen by force. Now, I believe that is consistent with the U.N. position, Resolution 1441. So I don't exact at all that the U.N. won't come behind the position that I have just described.

Now, I have set out, as you know, on many occasions, what I believe would be the situation if the inspectors certify a breach or certify the facts that justify the judgment that there is a breach. And there was then a -- what I would call an unreasonable use of the veto. But I have also said I don't believe we will be in that position.

And the point that I am making and the point that I think is shared indeed by everybody is that if the process of disarmament can't happen through the U.N. inspectors, then it should happen indeed with the full authority and consent of the U.N. through force because that is the only alternative to a failed inspection's route.

In other words, as I said throughout, what is inevitable is disarmament. And it is up to Saddam to choose the means, either through the U.N. inspectors or through another way.

QUESTION: So you are saying...

AZNAR (through translator): In any event, I think that right now what we have to focus on is on what we are doing, on what we have said. And what has been done with the inspectors isn't so much a matter of extending their work, but rather sends a -- giving the Iraqi regime more time to be able to prove that it does not possess weapons of mass destruction and that it is complying with U.N. resolutions. That's what we have to focus on and also to unite our efforts in order to achieve the greatest possible consensus.

And that's what we say in today's article. That's why we are extending this call to everyone's responsibility and to a consistent, coherent action by the U.N. Security Council.

QUESTION: You both use the phrase "last chance," and yet the Spanish Prime Minister has just talked about giving Hans Blix more time. When you say last chance, how long do you mean? And are you talking about including a deadline in that second resolution?

BLAIR: The form of any second resolution obviously is something that we discuss. But the time, as I have said again on many occasions, is not a question of setting some arbitrary time limit. It is a question of making a judgment as to whether Saddam is going to cooperate with the weapons inspectors or not.

And that is why I say to you, the crucial thing that has to be kept in mind is that the job of the inspectors is not to play hide and seek with Saddam. It's not to go in and see if they can find things whilst he can conceal them.

The job of the inspectors is to go in and, with the full cooperation of Iraq, inspect, destroy the weaponry, and then monitor it. That's how it's supposed to work. So, the time that is necessary is the time necessary for us to reach a judgment, is Saddam cooperating or not?

Now, Hans Blix said on Monday, Iraq is not fully cooperating. Well, they have to cooperate fully. That is what the Resolution 1441 says. And I think it's a really instructive thing in this debate to go back to Resolution 1441 and read the precise terms of it. Because there is set out the full obligations of Saddam. And those obligations, all of them, have to be met. So that's the judgment. And that's the judgment that will determine the timing.

AZNAR (through translator): I don't want to say that this last chance expression is my own. I just want to say that this view is shared by the EU, by the Atlantic Alliance and by the U.N. I think that makes a large party.

QUESTION (through translator): The question for Prime Minister Tony Blair. The road is certain that the North Korean regime has weapons of mass destruction. In addition (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people of the world -- on the other hand, does not have the certainty of Saddam Hussein owning nuclear weapons. Why then does this international coalition not threaten North Korea? Is it because North Korea has no oil?

BLAIR: Again, this is a question I've been asked and answered many times. North Korea is a real issue for the international community.

Let us be clear, the issue of weapons of mass destruction is not limited to Saddam, but there are U.N. resolutions going back over 12 years in respect to Saddam, and Saddam has used chemical weapons against his own people.

Now, that doesn't mean to say we ignore North Korea. Indeed, the United Nations will have a discussion soon about North Korea. And there will be different strategies that we adopt for different countries in relation to this, and what those strategies are is something that we will discuss with other allies and partners.

But the fact that North Korea is also an issue that we have to discuss does not mean to say that we avoid implementing the United Nations' will in relation to Saddam.

And I simply say this to you -- and this is one of the reasons I believe so passionately that we have to deal with this issue of Saddam -- if having come to a world view, the whole of the international community -- if having come to that view about Saddam and the necessity of his disarmament, if we then fail to enforce that view, then does anyone believe that when we turn to North Korea and say, "Now let us sit down with you and work out how we deal with the problem that you pose," does anyone believe that North Korea will take us seriously? That's why this issue is important.

And it may be that there could have been 12 years of resolutions about North Korea, but there hasn't been. There have been 12 years of resolutions about Saddam, and that's why we need to deal with it. And if we deal with this properly, it will assist us then in dealing peacefully, indeed, with other nations.

AZNAR (through translator): I think that consistency lies in complying with U.N. Security Council resolutions. That's what it's there for. This dates back to 1990, you shouldn't forget.

QUESTION (through translator): Mr. President -- well, to both prime ministers.

As the initiative on the article has produced formal reactions, complaints, I would like to know what the procedures should be. Many countries said that they agree with the contents, but not with the way the things are going to be done. We know that there was an initiative and that President Aznar drew up the first draft, but I don't know if -- what addressed President Aznar. We don't know who received this article and who didn't.

And there's a paragraph that applauds U.S.'s contribution to peace and democracy in Europe during the last war. I would like to know if this is also -- has its source in President Aznar because it's not applicable to the Spanish case?

AZNAR (through translator): Well, I (OFF-MIKE) important these things can be. I don't know who coined the idea of writing an article, but I don't think there's any offense in writing an article. We've just written an article in which we expressed our respect for U.N. Security Council resolutions and our agreement with the EU and Atlantic Alliance's positions, and that's all we do in the article.

We say that the relationship between the United States and the European Union are extremely important, that they concern us and that we should also in our transatlantic relationship build bridges, vehicles of understanding, promote understanding between us because that will contribute to the peace of all.

We think that's quite reasonable. On the other hand, I think that we cannot rewrite history. It happened the way it did and it's not a matter of discussing what would have happened if what was done hadn't been done, and what we have to do is determine that peace, security and freedom in the world is better safeguarded with a strong transatlantic link between Europe and the United States.

Last question, please, because Prime Minister Blair has to fly Washington; I have to go right next door.

QUESTION (through translator): Your position is far from France's and Germany's on Iraq. Apparently, these two governments have become somewhat isolated. What would you recommend to France and Germany's governments in this conflict?

AZNAR (through translator): I am not here to recommend or give advice to anyone. They haven't asked me for advice, and even if they did, I wouldn't give it.

I respect everyone's position, but I maintain what we said. The framework of the U.N., NATO and European Council. That is our framework and we wish that our endeavors for peace and security bring results, and we're going to do everything in our hands to achieve a safer and peaceful, more peaceful situation in the world for all.

BLAIR: First of all, I would simply point out to you that the European Union position which was set out in the foreign minister's statement some time ago, and is of course fully supportive of Resolution 1441, and our article is based on the need implement that resolution.

But the article was also designed, as was being said a moment or two ago, to make it clear our support for close relationship between Europe and America.

And, I mean, let me say this to you very frankly that there will be issues where Europe and America disagree. There are trade issues that we have disagreed in. There's the Kyoto issue of climate change.

But I do believe that it is important that where possible Europe and America realize that what unites them is infinitely more important than anything that may divide them.

And I believe that, whatever the differences there are from time to time, when we stand together, the world is a more secure and more peaceful place.

And sometimes, we just need to be reminded of that basic fact and basic sense on both sides of the Atlantic where there may be people who think it's somehow a good way of proceeding that we drift apart, it isn't.

The only people that will ever gain from America and Europe coming apart are the people who do not have the interests of either Europe or America truly at heart.

And that sometimes it's just important to go back to that fundamental truth and state it.

COLLINS: All right. We have been listening in to Prime Minister Tony Blair holding a joint press conference with Spain's prime minister (sic), Jose Maria Aznar. This is happening in Madrid, things wrapping up there as you can see. What we have heard is more of the same. We heard from the Spanish prime minister (sic), of course, wanting a second resolution. And we heard Tony Blair talking tough, once again, stating his position alongside the United States and the other countries we're hearing from today, saying that because several things have failed in the past with the Iraqi regime, like inspections, containment, Resolution 1441, now the only thing that can be done is disarmament by force.

That is the gist of it as we just heard from Madrid. He also spoke on North Korea, saying that Iraq could possibly be a precedent for how things would be handled in North Korea. Much more on that to come.


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