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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

General Amin of Iraqi Monitoring Directorate Holds Press Briefing

Aired February 23, 2003 - 10:02   ET

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

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you straight to Baghdad right now, where a press conference is under way involving General Hussam Amin. He's the chief of the National Monitoring Directorate. Let's listen in right now.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GENERAL HUSSAM AMIN, CHIEF, NATIONAL MONITORING DIRECTORATE (through translator): ... has always given logistical support, securing access samples of air and earth and other primary material and wide-scale surveillance operations.

Total number of inspections so far are 780 operations, including 635 sites across Iraq. One hundred and forty of them were not covered by the surveillance operation and they weren't even part of previous programs. As for the number of inspection teams, there are 16 teams from UNMOVIC and 16 from IAEA. The total number of both of these is about 203 individuals, among them are 100 inspectors.

UNMOVIC uses planes to carry out reconnaissance operations and transport operations for long distance. These planes can take pictures and other technical facilities to take pictures, photographic pictures in addition to ultraviolet photography with heat-seeking cameras. In addition to planes, they also use other types of planes from high altitude to use the U-2 planes. A number of hours of flight are up to 17 hours, total about 314 during the last week. The UNMOVIC intent is a Mirage for the French mirage for, in the next few days.

I also would like to tell you that Iraq had accepted the use of drones to fly on lower altitudes, German drones, but have been detailed technical discussion between our side and UNMOVIC two weeks ago on -- regarding the flights of these drones.

As following the reports of Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei, which was submitted to the International -- to the United Nations Security Council on the 14th of this month. Iraq had submitted specific technical proposals aiming at resolving outstanding issues from the point-of-view of UNMOVIC and the IAEA. Iraq also had submitted extra lists of people who had taken part in previous programs. This was welcomed by Mr. Blix. The Iraqi side has also sent a number of letters with detailed technical letters in response to questions. The International Atomic Energy had posed as -- on the issue of alleged attempts to import uranium and the aluminum tubes, the well-known case of the aluminum tubes. The Iraqi side has also told UNMOVIC that digging in areas where -- to dig in areas where biological weapons have been destroyed, to prove that these have been destroyed in 1991. The Iraqi side has also invited UNMOVIC to take part in this activity. Iraq has also invited UNMOVIC to take part in technical discussions regarding outstanding issues on the anthrax and VX and they termed technical methods as to ascertain how these have been destroyed. This invitation has been accepted. A technical team is expected to arrive on the 2nd of March, according to a letter Hans Blix sent out a couple of days ago.

Iraq is still seeking to encourage its scientists to take part in interviews. These interviews are already taking part regularly with the International Atomic Energy. All these activities confirm Iraqis' declarations that it does have high credibility to prove the lying of American and British allegations that Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction.

On the 21st of February, Iraq received a letter from Mr. Hans Blix demanding the destruction of al-Samoud II missiles. The letter is currently being studied. We are serious in our investigating this issue. We hope that this will be resolved without American or British intervention. After this, we did sent a letter on the 19th in response to Mr. Blix's letter. We invited the experts in the field of missiles to come and study this issue and to discuss it. I also believe we'll be able to resolve this issue without evil intent-- sides with evil intentions.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. In a couple of days, UNMOVIC and IAEA inspection teams will complete three months of their staying in Iraq. They are implementing their various inspection activities intensively and normally. Iraq cooperates fully with them and assures the immediate access to all sites that are being visited daily without prior notification. Iraq also provides inspection teams with logistical support and facilitates their missions to take samples of weathered soil, air and to survey-wide areas by using gamma techniques.

The total number of inspections ranged to 780 covered, 635 sites. One hundred forty-five of those sites are uncovered by monitoring and has no relation -- no connection with the past programs whereas the number inspection teams, total 16 inspection teams belong to UNMOVIC, plus six inspection teams belongs to the IAEA. The total number of UNMOVIC and IAEA personnel is about 203 and including 100 inspectors.

UNMOVIC and the IAEA are using eight helicopters for low altitude surveillance and for transportation. These helicopters are capable of taking photos by video not by cameras as well as thermal cameras. UNMOVIC also started to use the fixed-wing aircraft for the high altitude air surveillance. The airplane is the U-2; the total number of flight hours is 17 hours during three flights. In addition, UNMOVIC intends to use the Mirage for the French airplane in the next couple of days for medium altitude of surveillance.

I would like to inform you that Iraq also agreed to use the low altitude German drones called Luna. Details of these discussions were held between National Monitoring Directorate and the UNMOVIC in the presence of the German crew two weeks ago.

With accordance to UNMOVIC and IAEA reports presented to the Security Council, Iraq made certain technical proposal that consider the suspended issues specified by UNMOVIC. Iraq also submitted additional lists of personnel that participated in the past programs. This step was welcomed by Mr. Hans Blix. Iraq has sent several letters supported by technical access as a response to IAEA questions, such as the allegation concerning the attempt to import uranium from Niger and the issue of aluminum tubes. The Iraqi side notified UNMOVIC that it had started an excavation processes and the biological weapon instruction area to prove the quantitative and qualitative account in concerning destruction of those weapons. It has also asked UNMOVIC to participate in this important activity.

In addition to that, Iraq invited UNMOVIC to hold technical discussion on the suspended issues concerning the anthrax and VX after identifying technical missiles by Iraq to verify the -- quantitatively the destruction of those agents. UNMOVIC accepted this invitation and a technical delegation will arrive in Baghdad on the 2nd of March of -- for this purpose.

Iraq is still (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to encourage the scientists, who participated in the past programs or the current activities, to hold the private interviews. Many of such interviews were achieved with IAEA teams. All of these activities and the inspection operations confirm that Iraq is clean of weapons of mass destruction and prove Iraq's declaration's credibility. They also refute the American allegations that Iraq is still possessing weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq has received on 21st of February, a letter from Mr. Hans Blix, asks for the destruction of al-Samoud II missiles. The letter is under deep consideration. We have sent a letter on the 19th of February in which we asked UNMOVIC to dispatch a team of specialists and experts to discuss al-Samoud II missile issue. We did not yet receive any response to our letter.

In addition, Mr. Blix's letter dated the 21st of February 2003 did not refer to our letter. However, we hope that we shall be able to resolve this issue without the interference of others. Thank you very much.

QUESTION (through translator): When are you going to respond to Mr. Blix' letter? Will you take into consideration the American's declaration that instruction of these missiles will not affect the outcome? The second question is on -- have you agreed so far to the U-2 plane flight -- over-flights and the interviews of scientists? And some of the other regimes that are pro-Iraq, as there are -- they demanding more Iraqi cooperation? What does -- does that mean anything to you?

AMIN (through translator): The first part of the question I've already told you briefly about. We are seriously considering Mr. Blix's letter through General Amir Al-Saadi regarding the destruction of Samoud II, and we hope and emphasize -- we hope that this issue will be resolved through cooperation and mutual cooperation between the two sides. As to the issue of the U-2 planes we have allowed them -- they are allowed such over-flights. Also Mirage and the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) planes, this should -- the number of U-2 over-flights and create a former balance and to give more security to these planes while flying over -- in our territorial space.

The second question, what was it?

QUESTION (through translator): Even Iraqi regimes are demanding more Iraqi -- the pro-Iraqi Arab regimes demanding more Iraqi corporation.

AMIN (through translator): I believe that he is asking us of more cooperation, he has to be specific. What does he want us to do? We have carried out all the demands of previous U.N. resolutions. And 1441, despite being a bad resolution, start being an American resolution making it possible for us to comply. We have -- we are style dealing with the U.N. weapons inspectors and the UNMOVIC and the IAEA teams.

Maybe what's meant by more cooperation is to have more quickly -- and that's what we're trying to do to secure addressing all- outstanding issues from the point-of-view of UNMOVIC and the IAEA.

QUESTION (through translator): If Iraq, as you said, Iraq accepts the destruction of Samoud II, would this new Iraqi flexible position would help Hans Blix to submit a more fair report to the United Nations Security Council? What is your assessment of the team of experts from South Africa who are due to arrive in Iraq?

AMIN (through translator): First, I have not suggested that Iraq would accept or not accept. I said the issue is currently being studied. No decision has been taken so far. We hope that this issue would be resolved by mutual understanding and mutual cooperation. In fact, this issue will be -- the way this issue is determined will show how professional the operations are. That's all that I can do, what I can say at the moment.

The experts from South Africa are due this evening around midnight and I would meet them tomorrow. We will exchange point-of- views, technical points-of-views. They will offer supplies and provide us with their expert teams in the way they presented the declarations on weapons of mass destruction and how to verify weapons of mass destruction and how to destroy them. We also exchange -- we also offer them our version, our own experience and the outcome of our discussions, hopefully, will be used to resolve the outstanding issues.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: ... has outlined not only the destruction of the al-Samoud II missile, but many components associated with it. How long, in your assessment, will that process take?

AMIN: Well, I stated to Mr. Blix that we are studying the letter of Mr. Hans Blix deeply and comprehensively. And we hope resolving this issue as soon as possible by the cooperation of both sides and by the mutual understanding of both sides. Thank you very much. I cannot say any more.

QUESTION (through translator): Do you think the demand to destroy al-Samoud missiles has -- does it have a political or military dimension as part of the American military campaign? Is it a result of pressures, American pressures, and Hans Blix, particularly, if we take into consideration that Iraq could actually use these missiles to strike at hostile troop buildup on the Iraqi borders? Question number two, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) company, who is in charge of the missiles, he says he's issued a challenge to all experts to come and do an arbitrary test, any missile in the possession of the Iraqi army, to fire these weapons, to make sure whether Iraq has actually exceeded the limits set by the United Nations. Is this -- would this be part of your negotiations with the United Nations?

AMIN (through translator): As to the second part of the question, we have offered UNMOVIC to choose samples, arbitrary samples, without prior consultation with Iraq and to choose any rocket they like and to fire this rocket to determine the maximum range of such missile. We believe that it will reach below the limited range. We have, so far, not received any response to our offer.

As to the first part of the question, whether the destruction will affect our military mobility and the political dimension of the demand, we have already declared that we do have these missiles in our final declaration, which was submitted on the 7th of December and it's not an issue. As a matter of fact, UNMOVIC had inspected the missiles and old issues related to the missiles and tagged these missiles and know the entire situation surrounding this issue.

Certainly, the destruction of these missiles will affect our fighting ability, but will not deal a final blow. It will not be a strong impact -- have a strong impact in our capability. We hope that this issue will be resolved peacefully through technical and scientific cooperation and understanding between the two sides.

QUESTION: The Iraqi scientists have slowed down very much. Can you explain why? Is there a reason for that?

AMIN: Well, what I can say that the private interviews are going on in the nuclear fields. The IAEA is requesting the interviewing of Iraq scientists and specialists. I cannot say daily, but at least three to four scientists are to be interviewed a week.

With regard to the UNMOVIC, maybe the process was a slow down. Why? Because the IAEA is accepting the using the using of the audio recorder while the UNMOVIC is refusing this technical means. And the idea of using the recording audio was presented or proposed by UNMOVIC itself and the IAEA.

Indeed, we are encouraging our scientists. If any scientist say, "I want to go with audio recorder," we shall not say to them, "No, you have to use recorder." It is up to the scientist.

QUESTION: If Dr. Blix asks you to have interviews in private in foreign countries will you accept that?

AMIN: Me, personally or...

QUESTION: No, your government?

AMIN: Well, we think that is not necessary to make interviews outside Iraq.

QUESTION: General, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) destroying the weapons (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the deadline for his next report, how much pressure do you feel to see to that demand in order to try and influence a positive report?

AMIN: Well, we think that Mr. Blix is trying always to be professional and balanced man. And we think that, in his capacity, we have good experience with the chairman of UNMOVIC when he was the head of IAEA in 1997. At that time, he had produced indeed balanced and factual reports with regard to the nuclear programs, past programs. And we hope that he would resist, like the 1997 resistance, the applied pressure, the American pressure on him and on his commission. Thank you.

QUESTION (through translator): Any pressures from those working?

AMIN (through translator): Inspectors to leave the country, I have mentioned in my brief that the number of personnel here, about 203, including 100 inspectors. This number, if you will notice, is constant. It hasn't changed. Maybe it's more now or less, slightly more or less, but there are no signs of them leaving the country and we know that very well. And they have denied this, as a matter of fact. They all want to continue to be here, to work here.

QUESTION: Certainly, an important issue. Do you intend to challenge the science of how the tests were conducted by the U.N. and the findings of the panel or are you challenging, as well, that this might be an issue where, as you were just eluding to American and British pressure, might be forcing the inspectors to a certain conclusion that you don't think is -- and do you still maintain these weapons are not illegal?

AMIN: Indeed, we have no intention to challenge the scientific judgment or the scientific methodology of the United Nations, but we hope that the United Nations presented by UNMOVIC, they will listen to our point-of-view. They will take into consideration our point-of- view because this subject is technically -- I'm speaking as complicated -- I cannot explain it to you in this conference, this meeting. We have to sit down together. And the letter of missile (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is about, I think, three or four pages, OK. This is one indication that the issue is complicated and it should be resolved by technical meetings, by exchanging the point-of-views, et cetera. And we hope that UNMOVIC will understand our standpoint.

QUESTION (through translator): General, UNMOVIC -- is it clear that UNMOVIC and other bodies are continuing to demand Iraq to destroy weapons they claim they've exceeded the range, the allowed range like al-Samoud II and other allegations. It's clear that war is imminent. Don't you see that they are trying to deprive Iraq of its defensive weapons, to make it easier for Britain and the United States to launch an attack without Iraq using -- accept using clashing colds and other type of artillery?

AMIN (through translator): This question should be put to them, to the other side, really, particularly the Americans. It's an old issue and we have declared it in our complete and definitive declaration of 7th of December of last year. It is not a new issue. We discussed it several times before. In fact, it's that we had not expected UNMOVIC to demand Iraq to destroy this type of missile.

This missile is not --does not -- it's just one aspect of our defensive capabilities. We have a comprehensive capability. We hope that the UNMOVIC will understand our standpoint on the issue of negotiation and work to sort out this issue.

QUESTION: ... had indicated that the United States would continue to press for a second resolution authorizing force against Iraq regardless of whether Iraq deciding to comply or not with Mr. Blix's letter. How, in any way, did these problems from the president -- will they affect or influence your decision as to whether or not you comply with the demand from Dr. Blix?

AMIN: Well, first of all, President Bush was not successful in describing this issue as the iceberg because the missile is not a weapon, OK? The weapons of mass destruction are biological, chemical and nuclear. The missile is not a weapon. This is just -- so it cannot be an iceberg if we respect his point-of-view.

The second, there is not necessity for adopting a new resolution because Iraq is cooperating. And this is -- this was admitted by Mr. ElBaradei yesterday and it was admitted by Mr. Blix in his report of 14th of January.

QUESTION: Sir, these inspectors interviewed in private -- (OFF MIKE)

QUESTION: Second, again, another question. Did you -- are you disappointed because the inspectors are in and the war is imminent? Thank you.

AMIN: The war was imminent since a long time ago and I think the interview is not a sticking point. The interview is an issue, which is related to the person himself, to the scientists. And our commitment is to encourage the people, to encourage the scientists to conduct the private interview and the place and time required by UNMOVIC. Therefore, I think Iraq is doing its best to encourage the scientists and to pass this point, this obstacle. And I would like to remind you that a number of scientists decided to conduct the private meetings without audio recorders, and --- to comply with UNMOVIC itself. Three of our scientists who are working at National Monitoring Directorate, under my responsibility, they conducted the private interviews without the tape recorder.

QUESTION (through translator): My first question, have you asked guarantees from UNMOVIC regarding the use of U-2 planes particularly when you are -- have you asked for guarantees when -- regarding that it will be used only for inspection? Is there a demand from Arab experts to join the international team of inspectors? Particularly, this would be reassuring for Iraq. The third question, some Iraqi scientists have complained or felt that there is a tendency to look for weapons, traditional weapons -- Iraqi traditional weapons. Is there a clear distinction between weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi -- traditional Iraqi capabilities? Thank you.

AMIN (through translator): As to the U-2 planes, yes, we have emphasized importance that UNMOVIC would keep the information that these planes gather. Hans Blix has reassured us more than once. Also, the UNMOVIC has reassured us that information would go one direction only, i.e., to the UNMOVIC and not to other parties, i.e., information will be leaked to other countries.

As to the second part of the question, as to Arab experts, yes, Arab League has nominated some Arab scientists from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and probably also Algeria or Morocco to work as inspectors in the UNMOVIC.

Another question about the weapons of mass destruction, traditional Iraqi capabilities, weapons of mass destruction are completely different from traditional weapons. This is one thing and there was another thing. There's a huge distance between two. There is -- there could be no issue of misunderstanding on the difference between the two.

QUESTION: (OFF MIKE)

AMIN: Well, officially speaking, we didn't receive any indications that the next report will be on the 14th of March as had been -- as it once had been suggested by the Security Council in last meeting on 14 of January. There are -- we are hearing that perhaps it will be conducted on the 1st of March.

QUESTION: On the al-Samoud II missiles, what option does Iraq have, what choice do you have? Surely, if you don't just destroy it, you will be found in breach of 1441 and this will provide the prefix for an attack.

AMIN: As I stated before, this issue is under study from the Iraqi side and we hope that it will be resolved between both sides peacefully without the interference of the others, especially the Americans and the British. And this is a technical marker that could be -- come to a conclusion between both sides.

QUESTION: (OFF MIKE)

AMIN: There are many (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We are studying it.

QUESTION (through translator): First question from AFP, last question. Regarding Hans Blix demand to destroy al-Samoud II. On what basis did Mr. Blix base his demand? As long as the missiles, Samoud II has only a range of 150 kilometers and it is legal under Resolution 786, do we have evidence that these missiles exceed that range? Thanks.

AMIN (through translator): I've already mentioned in my brief that this is a complicated issues, but I would like to say that Iraq has declared all what -- all information it has regarding these missiles in its complete and full declaration on the 7th of December last year. Part of this declaration was a number -- was a limited number of tests in which this rocket exceeded the 150 kilometers and the reasons for that were technical reasons acknowledged by missile experts. One reason was that this rocket was not equipped with the guidance system. When the rocket is -- or the missile is equipped with a guidance missile -- with a guidance system -- because when it is equipped with a guidance system, fuel will be used to -- for the guidance system and when there's no guidance system, the rocket will exceed the limit. Also the weighing -- the measures weren't in final -- the measurements weren't in their final and definite form.

The rocket was also still being tested. It was not in its final design. The measurements weren't definitive. We used lighter measurements. Al-Samoud I, which exceeded the range was a difference in the weight between the warhead, 40 kilos in difference, which affects the range of the missile. There are other factors, which I do not wish to bore you with because these are very technical issues.

QUESTION (through translator): Thanks, General Amin.

WHITFIELD: This press conference has been coming to you from Baghdad involving the chief of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate. That was General Hussam Amin. He's talking of his country's cooperation within the inspection process over the past couple of months. He assessed that over 780 inspections have taken place across the country, involving 635 various sites. And those inspections have involved 16 UNMOVIC teams and six IAEA teams and the use of low-flying German drones, which he says have been welcomed in that country.

He says, however, the real sticking point -- it agrees with the real sticking point during that Q&A session of that press conference was the destruction or the request of the destruction of the al-Samoud II weapons. That request and demand being made by U.N. chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix. And you're seeing now a little bit more detail about the al-Samoud II weapons. The request to destroy those weapons, but General Amin said that they are still considering that request.

He was asked about some sort of timeline as to when that country might be responding to the request and he said simply that no decision has been made so far. Perhaps there will be -- quote -- "mutual cooperation."

The bottom line, however, according to General Amin is that he said Iraq has demonstrated that it is -- quote -- "clean of all weapons of mass destruction." The White House, of course, still in dispute of that and that is why in the next coming days, perhaps, a second resolution may be presented to the U.N.

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