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Blix, ElBaradei Hold News Conference

Aired February 9, 2003 - 11:33   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Back to this press conference that you see, coming to us from Baghdad. This is not live, we should let you know, it is on tape, but as you see, there is Hans Blix. He is along with Mohamed ElBaradei. They are discussing these two days of talks with high level Iraqi officials. We are getting the breakdown now on those crucial meetings.

HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Much was, as you know, destroyed after 1998. But the Security Council noted in 1999 that there are, quote, unquote, "unresolved disarmament issues," and they asked Iraq and us and the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) IAEA to resolve them.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) unresolved issues does not mean that there necessarily are weapons. It means that we don't know if they exist, and we would like to know that they don't exist.

Inspections are the means to be used for this purpose, and since November 27 of last year, we have been engaged in accelerating exercise of inspection here. And you know that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) muscular (ph) force today, with expanded numbers of helicopters, et cetera.

Iraq has been, as we have said, helpful on process. We distinguish between cooperation on process and cooperation on substance. We have had a good enough help from Iraq on the process. We have noted (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that access to sites has been obtained, that all sites that we have wanted to see, and access has been prompt and practical (ph) at all places. Not only opening doors but also answering (ph) a lot of cases (ph), showing around the inside, explaining, et cetera. It is not just opening doors. But the general statement with Iraq, cooperation on process has been good.

Cooperation on what we call substance, that is the resolution of the remaining disarmament issues, in my view, has been less good. And those are referenced quite recently in a letter to the president of the Security Council to so-called (UNINTELLIGIBLE) issues. And they were referred to as not being of very material significance. Now, that is to belittle the issues of the Security Council and the world and we are interested in.

These days, these two days, we have had a talk with our Iraqi colleagues. I hope I have seen, in those days, a beginning of taking these remaining disarmament issues more seriously.

There are some good developments which I would like to note from these two days.

We have been given, I'm proud to (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a number of papers on specific high-profile unresolved issues. In response to a point that was made at our last visit here, when Iraq was ready to amplify (ph) and to explain further what they said in their declaration.

This statement (ph) relates to anthrax issues, they relate to missile issues, they are notably to the Al-Fatah and to the Al-Samood (ph). And I should mention in that context that we will have an (UNINTELLIGIBLE) expert in New York (ph), tomorrow and on Tuesday, which will look at these two -- these two issues, Al-Fatah and Al- Samood (ph).

We had also had papers submitted to us on VX, the chemical nerve agent, which is a very important one. And these papers were given to us yesterday, and our experts got to work and they stayed in this building until about two o'clock this morning and went through what they were.

And they (ph) met with our Iraqi counterparts, during our morning session today, and I clarified further points and they will evidently be established and even more studied. So I have these proposals from the Iraqi side that I think are constructive to try to undertake physical tests in order to measure weapons which they have declared destroyed and have poured into the ground, like choline (ph), like anthrax and like VX. They were then destroyed and disappeared years ago and they are suggestions for methods by which you could detect not only (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but also have some idea of what the quantity was. It remains to be examined how helpful these methods are.

You recall that when we were here last times, there had been a finding of 12 empty chemical warheads of 122 millimeters. And a commission of inquiry was appointed by the Iraqi side under Mr. Mohammed Shatah (ph) as the chairman. And they had worked and they found almost immediately four more of this kind of warheads.

I should make the comment in the margin that when we made a statement of this, about this, we did say that we felt and believed that they were stored in a new bunker and that therefore we must conclude that they had been moved there after 1991. After further study, we should correct that statement that the base where they were stored was not new, and I'd like to stand corrected on behalf of my commission that we were (ph).

This commission that dealt with the 122-millimeter chemical warheads has now had its mandate broadened, and it has been given the authority to look for any proscribed items, whether they be chemical, biological, or any other sphere. And we welcome that.

I should also say that today, one of our teams actually found a -- one more 122-million-liter empty chemical warhead at (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And we -- this will evidently contribute to the work of the commission that has been appointed here.

A new commission has also been appointed on documents, on finding documents. We have always requested more documents as evidence, and a new commission has been formed on the Iraqi side that's headed by the former minister of oil, General Dr. Amir Rasheed, and is authorized to look all over Iraq for any documents that may be relevant and to transfer them to us. We welcome that. Documentary evidence is valuable.

We mentioned lists of personnel when we were last here, and we were not satisfied with the lists that we had received, and the Iraqi side promised that it would be supplemented. We have discussed that question today and, more particularly, what categories we would like to have added to it. It should be relevant categories, not endless. We can't have a list that is endless, and that is not our idea. We want what is relevant.

It has also been confirmed what was stated in our agreed statements, joint statement last time, namely that persons who are asked for interviews here in private will be encouraged by the Iraqi authorities to accept such interviews.

The experience we have had is a somewhat mixed bag. Some of those Iraq interviews have insisted on having some Iraqi representative present. Others may have insisted upon having a tape recorder. And there have also been persons who have been accepting to being alone with us and without any recorder, and we think that gives the highest degree of credibility to the interview.

We hope that this practice will develop into something a little more relaxed than it has been in the past.

The last two points I have relate to the U-2 planes and aerial surveillance and to legislation.

We have discussed our need for aerial surveillance. And you know that we take satellite images. We buy them commercially, and we get them from member states. This is a running operation. And we also have -- with the Iraqi authorities, we have discussed that we will have drones, German drones, that will assist us in the field. And the Germans, I think, are already here. In any case, there is no difficulty raised on the Iraqi side for these drones.

However, the intermediate layers we're still discussing. And on our part, we would like to arrange to have U-2 planes for the highest layer and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) planes for the next. And we would like to have the Russian (UNINTELLIGIBLE) plane, which has night vision, on the next level.

That has been discussed with the Iraqi side today. I have been promised that we shall have a reply on that issue before Friday.

We have also discussed legislation implementing the Security Council resolutions. And we hope that a speedy action will be taken on the -- by the Iraqi government on that. We have no date set on that.

This is where I am, and my friend Mohamed is taking over.


Let me say that we came here to this meeting with three basic objectives. The first is to ensure that we are able to make use of the full authority provided to us by Security Council resolutions.

We explained to our Iraqi counterpart that the more intrusive our inspection is, the better assurance we can create for them.

The second objective was to ensure active, full and active, Iraqi cooperation. I have been saying, and I think echoed obviously that by the Security Council members, that Iraq should show, as the resolution said, full and active cooperation. I personally have been saying that we need to see Iraq eager to comply, and not dragged into compliance.

The third objective was to see to it that there is some movement on the remaining disarmament issues in the chemical, biological and missile areas.

As Hans just mentioned, although a large quantity of these chemical, biological, missile have been destroyed during, you know, during the inspection since 1998, there are remain some remaining, outstanding issue. And those obviously have to be taken seriously and have to be brought to a closure.

So these were the three objectives we came for: full inspection, full Iraqi cooperation, movement on the remaining disarmament issues. And I think we made good progress on all these issues.

I think I would say, I've been again saying that we need to see a change of heart on the part of Iraq. I would say that I'm seeing the beginning of a change of heart on the part of Iraq. There are, I think, eagerness we have seen for them to move on these issues.

If I speak on the nuclear file, which is obviously my responsibility, I think we had good technical meetings today where we discussed a number of issues that are relevant to our work.

Again, I would like to clarify, these are four files with different time lines -- the nuclear, the chemical, biological and missile. We start from the premise that in 1998 we eliminated Iraq nuclear weapon program. As I mentioned, on the other three files, there were outstanding issues.

So our, in the nuclear area, our focus to see what exactly happened in the intervening four years. We are looking into a number of reports which came to our knowledge with regard to importation, or effort to import aluminum tubes, the use of high explosives, the importation of magnets, and reports again of possible effort to import uranium. So these are issues where we have discussed today during the technical meeting. I think we are moving on these issues, and I hope, again, we continue to move forward on these issues.

I emphasize that, because we made it clear to Iraq that they need to move on the four files. You know, the four files have to move. I made, I think Hans and I made analogy with four horses, and we said the four horses has to move, you know. One of them, they might not reach the end, the end, the line, you know, end of the line at the same time, but all of them have to move and have to move forward.

And therefore, we made it clear that Iraq cooperation in all areas has to be simultaneous.

ELBARADEI: In the nuclear field, of course...


COLLINS: You were just listening to Mohamed ElBaradei and Hans Blix at a press conference in Baghdad. They have just met for two days with high-level Iraqi officials about the situation with weapons inspections. Let me go over quickly for you what we've been hearing. Most telling to me was Mohamed ElBaradei saying that he needs to see a change of heart with Iraq, but that he's beginning to see a change of heart. So we will get some more information on that.

Also, several committees have been formed, we can tell you. There is a committee that was formed to look into more documents, trying to be more forthcoming, to bring documents to the weapons inspectors on possible weapons of mass destruction.

Also, Iraq handing over papers related to anthrax. And also, asking for the weapons inspectors, that is asking for more U-2 surveillance planes to go in and fly over and help with those inspections.

I do not have an answer on that yet. We are hearing that we will have a reply from Iraq on Friday for that.

I want to go ahead and bring in, do we have Rym Brahimi? We want to bring in Rym Brahimi. She's in Baghdad. She is going to give us a little bit more information about what we have heard -- Rym.

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed. The first press conference in more than 36 hours of talks here in Baghdad between the chief U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei and high level Iraqi officials. Several points were made.

So far, as far as we know, Heidi, first of all, Hans Blix spoke to reporters, saying that Iraq has handed over a series of documents that he thought were quite important. These documents related to anthrax, VX nerve agent papers that were handed over yesterday, and also the issue of ballistic missiles.

Now, some of the documents were taken home yesterday by the U.N. weapons inspectors to check and verify the -- assess, if you will, their validity, or maybe their value. And then they came back to the Iraqi officials to ask for more clarification from those documents.

The inspectors have also asked to carry out physical tests in order to measure what has been destroyed, what remains to be examined. So there's been a lot that seems to have been accomplished. The two chief U.N. weapons inspectors, both Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, saying to reporters that they hope that this is a beginning of a process of close cooperation. Mohamed ElBaradei in particular saying the last time they were here, they wanted to see more eagerness, rather than Iraqis dragging their feet in this inspection process. Well, they're hoping now that what they have seen in the past 36 hours is an indication of an improvement, a great improvement between their relations, and what they're going to be able to accomplish in terms of disarmament and inspections -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Hans Blix also said, Rym, that he wants more inspections versus some other type of solution. Is all this coming too late, in your eyes?

BRAHIMI: Well, it's very difficult to say. There was a question when they -- when the two chief U.N. weapons inspectors arrived yesterday, U.N. sources told us that there was a question floating around. Was this the last time they would come to Baghdad?

I think the impression is, as far as what they can accomplish, as they've been working with the Iraqis to see how much the Iraqis are willing to cooperate, in order for Hans Blix to be able to tell to the U.N. Security Council, this inspection process is working. Inspectors have said that they believe that they are achieving something. U.N. sources have told us many times they believe they are being able to push things forward to findings, and will be able to disarm gradually.

Now, of course, the question is, how much time. And while the inspectors may be ready to do this and take the time it needs, and while impressing on the Iraqis that they have to move rather (ph) quickly, there are, of course, members in the Security Council who may not be as prepared to give that much time, notably, of course, the U.S. and Britain. So it's probably going to be played out at a different level, at the political level among the members of the Security Council -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Rym, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the IAEA, also said that the ball is very much in Iraq's court. What do you see happening next here, and how quickly will they have to move, as he mentioned?

BRAHIMI: Well, they will have to move very quickly. Of course, now they have until Friday to deliver an assessment of a number of other issues. I think what the two chief U.N. weapons inspectors have been keen to impress, also, is, for instance, all the things that Iraq has done in recent days to show that it's willing to cooperate...

COLLINS: Rym Brahimi, pardon me...


COLLINS: Rym, can I interrupt you for just a moment? We do have the feedback from the press conference in Baghdad with Mohamed ElBaradei and Hans Blix, taking some questions there. Let's go back to that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLIX: Well, you like such drastic words, like "drastic" and "breakthrough." As a diplomat, I'm more cautious than that. I said that I perceived a beginning more serious attitude of cooperation on substance, and I welcome that.

"Breakthrough" is too strong a word for what we are seeing, but we are seeing some positive elements, and I registered that, and I'm glad to register that. And I hope that, before the end of the week, we will have more of that.

But Mr. ElBaradei and I would much prefer to see inspection (UNINTELLIGIBLE) than some other evolution, and I think it would be tragic indeed if we do not succeed.

So we are doing our best.

ELBARADEI: On your second question, we have met today with the vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan. We did not meet with the president.

However, we made it very clear that it is very important that clear guidance from the top leadership to all Iraqi national citizens, go with a clear instruction that full cooperation, full transparency. Because, as I said, the more Iraq cooperates, the more Iraq shows transparency, the more credibility we can generate through an inspection and the quicker the process.


BLIX: ... interviews.

ELBARADEI: And interviews, as Dr. Blix is mentioning, is a clear indication. I mean, that's an area where we would like very much Iraq to encourage the scientists, very much so. To tell them that it is in Iraq's national interests to come for free and private interviews to satisfy us that there is nothing is being hidden, to corroborate information we have.


COLLINS: We are having trouble keeping that feed for you. I wonder if we do have it back? Yes, we do have it back. We're going to go back to Baghdad.


ELBARADEI: I personally have been saying that we need to see Iraq eager to comply, and not dragged into compliance.

The third objective was to reiterate (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the remaining disarmament issues on the chemical, biological and missile issues. As Hans just mentioned, although large quantities of these chemical, biological and missiles have been destroyed during -- you know, during the inspections since 1998, there are remain some remaining outstanding issues, and those obviously have to be taken seriously and have to be brought (UNINTELLIGIBLE). These were the three objectives. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) inspection, full Iraqi cooperation, movement on the remaining disarmament issues. And I think we made good progress on all these issues. I think I have said -- I have been saying that we need to see a change of heart on the part of Iraq. I would say that I'm seeing the beginning of a change of heart on the part of Iraq. There are, I think, eagerness we have seen for them to move on these issues.

If I speak on the nuclear part, which is obviously my responsibility, I think we had good technical meetings today, when we discussed a number of issues that are relevant to our work. Again, I would like to clarify, these are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) chemical, biological and missile. We started from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 1998, we eliminated Iraqi (UNINTELLIGIBLE) program. As I mentioned, in the other three files, there were outstanding issues.

So our in the nuclear area, I was looking to see what exactly happened in the intervening four years. We are looking into a number of reports which came to our knowledge with regards to importation or import of aluminum tubes (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the importation of magnets, and report again of possible (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


ELBARADEI: But I think they also make it here that these things (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They said this is not an exhaustive process. In fact, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a new committee to look for documents. We very much hope that this will be a comprehensive, in-depth look in throughout Iraq for any documents that can help move the remaining issues through.


COLLINS: All right. I tell you what we're going to do. We're going to go to Suzanne Malveaux. She's standing by at the White House for some reaction to this information that we're hearing from Mohamed ElBaradei and Hans Blix in Baghdad. They have just met with all of the top high level Iraqi officials for two days now, so we were hearing a little bit of a wrap-up of what they discovered, and some progress that they say they have made. So we have Suzanne Malveaux now standing by.

Suzanne, any reaction this early on from the White House to all of this?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it certainly was not unexpected. This is not a surprise to administration officials here. They really thought that they would hear this type of language. And it really kind in a preemptive move from the administration. We had heard from the president, we had heard from Secretary of State Colin Powell, as secretary of defense, Rumsfeld, all talking about how it's not good enough to get this information piecemeal, that it is too late, the time is up for Saddam Hussein, that he must comply, and that the game is over.

President Bush just moments ago in West Virginia at a retreat before Republican lawmakers making that very point.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Saddam Hussein has fooled the world for 12 years. Is used to fooling the world. Is confident he can fool the world. He is -- he wants the world to think that hide-and-seek is a game that we should play. And it's over.


MALVEAUX: Now, what we heard from Hans Blix and ElBaradei, really quite, frankly, concerned some of the administration officials who believe that it's going to chip away at the resolve of the international community for support for the administration's efforts. That is why we've been hearing from officials saying that, look, time is up. That Saddam Hussein must comply. That all evidence says he is not doing so. That's why we have seen really the focus of the administration now on this possible second resolution from the U.N. Security Council, really calling for the U.N. Security Council to say, at the very least, that Iraq is in material breach of previous resolutions that would require for him to disarm, at the most, possibly authorizing the use of military action.

But I have to say that administration officials very confident they already have that authorization through previous resolutions. They are pushing this forward, hoping to build as much international support as possible. We heard from Secretary Powell earlier this morning saying that, yes, they will wait until Friday for the final report from the weapons inspectors. But make no mistake, that they are determined to move forward.

COLLINS: All right. Suzanne Malveaux live from the White House. We'll all be watching very closely this week, and of course on Friday for more developments on this story. Thank you.


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