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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Iraqi Scientific Adviser Responds to Powell

Aired February 5, 2003 - 14:13   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go straight to Baghdad where we have General Al-Saadi speaking.
GENERAL AMER AL-SAADI, IRAQI SCIENTIFIC ADVISER: ... the first impression about Secretary Colin Powell's expose to the Security Council this morning. This was a typical American show, complete with stunts and special effect.

However, the whole performance is in violation of Security Council Resolution 1441. Paragraph 10 of the resolution calls upon member states to submit all evidence in their possession to the proper authority, that is, the two agencies, the IAEA and UNMOVIC. Anything, any information relevant to their mandates in accordance with that resolution should be handed over to them, because they are the proper channel to process and verify and assess these claims. What we had today was for the general public and mainly the uninformed in order to influence their opinion and to commit the aggression on Iraq.

I will take some of the points he raised, not necessarily in the order they appear, but tomorrow we will take them point by point.

Regarding the telephone intercepts, from what we have heard, any third-rate intelligence outfit could produce such recordings. It's nothing beyond their capability. It is simply untrue and not genuine. The reason is simple: because we have nothing to hide. Therefore, we don't talk about hiding anything or congratulating ourselves for hiding anything. This is simply manufactured evidence. It's not true at all.

This idea of concealment is an American idea. It's called the concealment theory. And the author of that theory is still around. He is Scott Ritter. He knows everything about that and how it all started. And he is happily around. And you can ask him about the concealment theory, which Secretary Powell continues to refer to.

Regarding the evidence that is purported to show that Iraq hides or performs or conducts activities which are not -- proscribed activities. This is, his findings and allegations, are a deliberate attempt to undermine the credibility and professionalism of the inspection bodies, UNMOVIC and the IAEA by making allegations which directly contradict their assessments or cast doubts on their credibility.

Regarding his allegation that Iraqi officials ordered the evacuation of proscribed weapons from the palaces. No, this is a lie. There is no such thing. And we all remember all palaces were inspected by UNSCOM and the IAEA -- yes, UNSCOM, the old body, and the IAEA. And they took samples, swipes from walls and trees and furnishings and whatever. And they found no trace of anything during that time (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 1998.

And also more recently, the inspectors have visited presidential sites. And again they performed some tests which can verify even the presence of anything, traces of anything that could be called proscribed items.

As regards that Iraq had hidden documents at the scientists' home, in the private homes of scientists, this is unfortunately -- again the pretext for this allegation perhaps was furnished by Dr. Blix inadvertently by jumping to conclusion in his report before he had the benefit of knowing exactly what was in the -- what were the details of those documents seized from the Iraqi scientist's home, Dr. Faleh (ph). He went on to say that perhaps this is not an isolated case of something overlooked, but a deliberate measure taken by authorities perhaps to hide proscribed documents.

Careful examination after their translation of the document showed that the report, which was mainly cited as a confidential report, which shouldn't be in the scientist's home, was not so at all.

It was a report which dealt with laser separation, which was academic work. And the IAEA in 1994 had asked that a seminar about this subject or Iraq's attempt or research in those matters, a seminar should be given about them, and Dr. Faleh (ph) himself gave the details of his work. And at the end of the seminar a copy of that very report which was found in his home was given to Mr. Gary Dillon (ph) of the IAEA, chief of the action team on the nuclear side. And this receipt of that report was acknowledged in the IAEA report of the 26th of September, 1994.

So nothing of the sort is really -- nothing of the sort that was in the allegation could be concluded like that. So that's where he goes wrong on that score also.

Regarding the satellite and aerial photographs that were shown by Secretary Colin Powell, they prove nothing. This has happened time and time again before. And the inspectors, when they inspected those very sites, they had the same photographs from satellite imagery from previous times, and they asked all the pertinent questions regarding those changes that were seen from the photographs shown and this present status quo, and everything was explained and its in their reports.

So that again was something which is absolutely unfounded.

Regarding the U-2, which Secretary Colin Powell says Iraq refuses to allow, this is not true again. Iraq never said it refuses to grant permission for the U-2 flyover flights over Iraq. We said simply that for the duration of the flight of the U-2 over Iraqi territory there should be a suspension of the aggression committed on daily basis by aircraft belonging to the United States and the United Kingdom in violation of the same resolution.

In fact, their daily flights over those so-called no-fly zones are a daily violation of this very resolution which they asked us to respect, 1441. In the preamble of that resolution it says that member states should respect Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity, and they violate that on daily basis.

So Secretary Colin Powell should pay attention to that. And it is our request that the flights of the aircraft, enemy aircraft over Iraqi territory should be suspended for the duration of the U-2 flight. Is that unreasonable? How can we otherwise accept responsibility for the safety of the U-2? We are asked to accept responsibility for the U-2 while the British and the U.S. aircraft are attacking our country.

Mr. Powell also reviewed at length the so-called outstanding issues, exaggerating their volume and significance to an unrecognizable measure, threatening that Iraq threatened the peace and security of the whole world, not only the area.

The importance and significance of the remaining issues are given their proper measure in the Almarim (ph) report as the issues which can be resolved within the ongoing monitoring and inspections when resumed by UNMOVIC. This is stipulated in Resolution 1284, and he should give time for the inspectors to get along with their job and do that very job, which he now accuses us of blocking or hindering the work on it.

We are ready and we have asked UNMOVIC, even before their return, to engage in technical dialogue on those very issues so that we can see ways and means of resolving them. But UNMOVIC consistently refused our requests and only recently is paying attention to them because the United States is focusing on them and putting them in the spotlight.

OK, we will do that. We have time to do that. What is the hurry? They have waited -- we have asked them since early in 2002 to consider those issues and they refused.

They said, "We will only consider them with you when we come back and preform our re-baselining inspections," as they call it, "and then we will get onto those issues." Suddenly those issues are put in the forefront and exaggerated out of all recognition in order to portray Iraq as being a threat to international peace and security. And also to provide ammunition for the next allegation, which is relationship with al Qaeda.

I will not deal with that. It's not my competence. My colleagues will deal with that perhaps during the questions and answers, and in more details tomorrow, in the press conference tomorrow at 8:00 in the evening.

Secretary Powell cites information from defectors, Iraqi defectors, ignoring Dr. Blix's assessment of the information provided by those defectors. He said in so many words as to mean that they are without value, they're valueless, and the aim from them is to have some personal gains and nothing more, and nothing reliable was ever given. So those again are something which are in contradiction with the findings of UNMOVIC. Another contradiction is given by Colin Powell regarding the aluminum tubes. There has been an assessment from the IAEA which he is not questioning. Are they the proper authority charged by the Security Council resolution or Mr. Powell is the authority charged by that resolution? I mean, let it be clear who's responsible for that assessment.

So the aluminum tubes, the Iraqi explanations and declarations are 100 percent correct and true. And anything to the contrary is pure allegations.

Secretary Powell also mentioned that Iraq claimed that some scientists have since died and the word "deceased" was put against names of scientists previously were involved in the program. How can we say something which is not true in that regard? But this lie can come out very easily.

And if he thinks any of those scientists marked as deceased are still in existence, then let him come up with it. After all, with modern science it's very easy to prove from DNA and whatever that a person is dead, and it's that person and none other.

So it's ridiculous. It is really below the level of a country leading the world now to come up with such allegations and ideas.

Thank you very much.

BLITZER: General Amer Al-Saadi, the scientific adviser to President Saddam Hussein dismissing as lies almost everything that the secretary of state, Colin Powell, made in his presentation before the U.N. Security Council, insisting that this was a typical American show, complete with stunts and special effects, going on to say that what the secretary of state did was, in effect, a violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 passed last November unanimously, insisting that if the United States had such evidence, it was supposed to provide the information to the U.N. inspectors as opposed to making this information public.

Also saying that those telephone -- those communications intercepts were the work of third rank amateur intelligence organizations. We're getting all this information as we are also getting word that the deputy prime minister of Iraq, Tariq Aziz, will be traveling to the Vatican next week on February 14 to meet with Pope John Paul II.

Let's bring in our State Department correspondent, Andrea Koppel, who has been traveling with the secretary. The diplomacy is going to be intense in the coming days. I understand that tomorrow, the secretary of state will be back here in Washington, and he'll be testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to try to further make his case -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. But even before then, Secretary Powell is going to be holding a series of private meetings known as bilaterals with the other -- the remaining members of the Security Council that he hadn't met with before his presentation.

These private meetings the U.S. views as being extremely important in sort of getting their -- putting their finger on the pulse, if you will, of where these countries stand.

Remember, all of those presentations that we heard following Secretary Powell had been preprepared. They were reading from notes. And so while you don't want to necessarily dismiss them out of hand, them aren't necessarily reflective of what the final position of these governments will be.

In particular, actually, I just got off the phone with one U.S. official who was pointing out what he saw as being quite interesting. In the comments that were made by both the Spanish foreign minister and by the Chilean foreign minister, both members of the Security Council, he said that the Spanish actually seemed to be quite helpful, in his opinion, taking on the French, trying to rebut the French position that inspectors should be given more time.

In addition, this official pointed out that the Chilean foreign minister also seemed to be coming out much stronger, much tougher with respect to Saddam Hussein's actions with weapons inspectors.

But, again, these comments made in the council chamber following Secretary Powell's speech had all been precooked. They had come in with their talking points ready. There was no ad-lib. So in the hours and the days to come as we approach both February 14 and the weeks after that, you can expect some real, as you said, serious nitty-gritty diplomacy as the U.S. does some -- you've got to imagine -- major arm twisting behind closed doors to get the countries, the support that they will need, not just 9 out of 15 votes on the Security Council, Wolf, but also guarantees from the permanent members of the Security Council -- Russia, France, China and Great Britain -- that they will not veto a second resolution if the U.S. decides that that is the path it wants to takes in introducing it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Andrea, as you know, 13 of the 15 members of the Security Council were represented today by their foreign ministers as opposed to their U.N. ambassadors. Does the secretary late today and tonight have one-on-one meetings scheduled with these foreign ministers to do, as you say, some arm twisting?

KOPPEL: You've got to imagine that. That's certainly not the way U.S. officials want to characterize it. These are private discussions that the secretary wants to have, obviously, taking advantage of the presence of the foreign ministers, not just their ambassadors here at the United Nations, to really, as I was saying, put their finger on the pulse of where these countries stand.

The U.S. laid out what it believes to be its strongest case in mapping out, if you will, how Saddam Hussein has not disarmed, both biological weapons, chemical weapons, and nuclear weapons. In addition to his ballistic missile program, how the U.S. again claiming that Iraq has had direct links with al Qaeda members, and also accusing Iraq of a variety of human rights abuses. Now, whether or not he's going to get immediate responses during these private meetings remains to be seen, but certainly there will be telephone diplomacy that continues both with Secretary of State Powell and with President Bush in the days ahead, and there may even be some more meetings, visits to Washington in coming days by other foreign ministers.

So it is really an intense period that we're entering right now. The U.S. knew when it put this case together, Wolf, that the evidence the U.S. laid out would be put under the microscope, and they believe, in fact, that is one of the reasons why it took so long to get the final speech together because they were going over the evidence with a fine-tooth comb, making sure that it would stand up to the scrutiny of the international community -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Andrea Koppel, our State Department correspondent at the United Nations today. Andrea, thanks very much.

And Paula, as I throw it back to you, remember this. The four other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Russia, China, France, Britain -- three of them, with the exception of Britain, all saying give the U.N. inspectors as much time as necessary, what's the rush, in effect. Strengthen the U.N. Inspectors, all of that obviously better than war. So the secretary of state, the Bush administration, Paula, will have their work cut out for them in getting the kind of unanimous support they certainly would like to go ahead with the possibility of war.

ZAHN: They certainly do, and that's something I would like to talk to Jamie Rubin more about now. He rejoins us from London. He, of course, was the former assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration.

Welcome back, Jamie. I wanted to ask your opinion of your reaction to what you heard from Mohammad Aldouri, the Iraqi ambassador to the U.N., and General Al-Saadi, who we just heard refute Secretary of State Powell's speech, basically phrase by phrase. You've got to understand that most Americans watching this were either probably laughing out loud or got sick to their stomach. Which was it for you?

JAMES RUBIN, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, really, both. But the interesting thing is that the supporters of the Iraqi position, in the sense of more time for the inspections, France, Germany, Russia -- they had to be wincing, too.

Because their view is not that Colin Powell lied, that Colin Powell made up these things. Their view is that containment and further enhancing of the power of the inspections is the better course of wisdom. And what the Iraqis were trying to do is wrap themselves in the integrity and support of the inspectors.

So the Iraqis presented themselves as the better friend of the U.N. inspectors than the United States, and the French and the Germans and the Russians are saying they are the friends of the U.N. inspectors. So in a sense, you saw the geostrategic lineup today where there are several countries who want to rely on the inspections to avoid war because they're concerned that the risks of war outweigh the benefits, and you have the Iraqis trying to split the Security Council by giving evidence and support and arguments that will bolster the case of France and Germany and the Russians, and wrapping themselves in the integrity and uniqueness of the inspectors. And that's the fault line of the Security Council the Iraqis are still hoping to play.

ZAHN: Yes, pretty obvious fault line there, which brings me to my next question, which is all the questions that are being raised about the credibility of the U.N. in the wake of Secretary of State Powell basically saying there were -- there have been several material breaches since it was agreed to by the member body.

RUBIN: Well, I think that is the most powerful case that was made today, because the clearest and most compelling piece of evidence was this smoking intercept that the Iraqis are not complying, and I think the -- Powell will put that to the French, put that to the Germans, put that to the Russians in saying they're not going to comply. More inspections, more inspectors, more support for the inspectors aren't going to get us a better chance of working, if the Iraqis won't comply. So why do you want more planes, more inspectors, more efforts to inspect if Iraq is not going to comply?

And I think those are the conversations that are going on behind the scenes. How long will you wait when the Iraqis won't comply? And I don't think the French and the Russians have a great answer for that.

ZAHN: ... time, help us understand what the Iraqis might agree to. I know that you and I spoke earlier about the U-2 surveillance flights. I guess the general made it pretty clear they would be willing to allow that unmanned vehicle back up in the air if the no- fly zone -- if no planes went into the no-fly zone anymore, particularly American and British craft.

RUBIN: Yes. They're not going to stick to that position, because Blix wants the U-2 flights, regardless of American and British aircraft in the no-fly zone. I'm -- my best guess is that Iraq is going to give Hans Blix pretty much everything he asks for, because they're trying to wrap themselves in the integrity of Blix, get the French, the Russians and the Germans to support Blix, to support more time. So they're going to give them procedures for the scientists. They're going to give them procedures for these U-2 flights.

They're going to give them whatever they want to try to maintain this containment rather than war, which is -- they're trying to prevent by giving the inspections more and more time and playing on the support for giving more time that the Russians, the French, and the Germans have put forward. So I would be surprised if the Iraqis thwarted Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei and their trip in any serious way.

ZAHN: Jamie Rubin, thank you for your insights. Really appreciate your sticking with us throughout our coverage here today.

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