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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

British Prime Minister Blair Addresses Parliament

Aired February 25, 2003 - 07:30   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: In his first interview with an American journalist in almost a decade, Saddam Hussein says he will not destroy Iraq's Samoud missiles despite the approach of a weekend deadline to do so. The Iraqi leader also challenged President Bush to a debate, which the White House is telling us this morning is a bit of progress. They say this rather facetiously, from the time that he wanted to duel George Bush.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Interesting comments yesterday. Boy. If you think about it right now, what's happening in the world and everything.

And Tony Blair, it's my understanding right now, is now in the House of Parliament.

Let's listen now.

The British prime minister.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: In 1991, at the conclusion of the Gulf War, the true extent of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction program became clear. We knew he had used these weapons against his own people and against a foreign country, Iran. But we had not known that in addition to chemical weapons, he had biological weapons, which he had denied completely, and was trying to construct a nuclear weapons program.

So on the third of April in 1991, the U.N. passed the first U.N. resolution on Saddam and weapons of mass destruction, giving him 15 days to give an open account of all his weapons and cooperate fully with the U.N. inspectors in destroying them. Fifteen days (AUDIO GAP) a flawed and incomplete declaration denying he had biological weapons and giving little information on (AUDIO GAP)...

It was only four years later, after the defection of Saddam's son-in-law to Jordan, that the offensive biological weapons and the full extent of the nuclear program were discovered.

In all, 17 U.S. resolutions have been passed. None has been obeyed. At no stage did he cooperate, as he should. At no stage did he tell the full truth.

Finally, in December of 1998, when he had begun (AUDIO GAP) and harassed the U.N. inspectors, they withdrew. When they left, they said there was still large amounts of weapons (AUDIO GAP) material unaccounted for. Since then, the international community has relied on sanctions and the no fly zones, policed by U.S. and U.K. pilots, to contain Saddam. But the first is not proof against Saddam's deception and the second is limited in its impact.

In 2001, the sanctions were made more targeted. But around $3 billion a year is illicitly taken by Saddam, much of it for his and his family's personal use. The intelligence is clear. He continues to believe his weapons of mass destruction program is essential both for internal repression and for external aggression. It is essential to his regional power.

Prior to the inspectors coming back in, he was engaged in a systematic exercise in concealment of those weapons. That is the history.

Finally, last November, U.N. Resolution 1441 declared Saddam in material breach and gave him, and I quote, "a final opportunity to comply fully, immediately and unconditionally with the U.N.'s instruction to disarm voluntarily."

The first step was to give an open, honest declaration of what weapons of mass destruction he had, where they were and how they would be destroyed. On the 8th of December, he submitted the declaration denying he had any weapons of mass destruction, a statement, frankly, not a...

ZAHN: You've been listening to Prime Minister Tony Blair as he repeats things we've heard him say before in this potential run up to war with Iraq, saying that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein's internal repression will turn to external aggression.

Here to tie all this together for us this morning, former Defense Secretary William Cohen.

Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.

Good to see you again.

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Good morning, Paula.

ZAHN: Help us understand the risks for Tony Blair right now. There's a lot of analysis this morning that suggests that one of the reasons why the United States is going for this second resolution is to take some pressure off Tony Blair at home.

Is it going to help him?

COHEN: Well, I think that's the case. If you go back to Resolution 1441, it indicated at the time that the United States would consult with the United Nations. It did not indicate it would seek consent from the United Nations to have a second resolution. So I think this clearly is an effort to bolster the stock of Tony Blair, who has been the steadfast ally of the United States in the, from the very beginning. And during the time that I was secretary of defense, it was Tony Blair who was right beside us in the operation called Desert Fox.

ZAHN: I'd love to hear your reaction to a report in the "Washington Post" this morning, which is basically characterizing the battle before the Security Council not as to whether the U.S. and Britain will ultimately go to war, but whether the U.N. will remain legitimate. And there's a senior official being quoted that says you're not going to decide whether there is war in Iraq or not. "That decision is ours. We've already made it. The only question now is whether the Council will go along with it or not."

Is that surprising to you or did you really believe true dialogue was going on at the U.N.?

COHEN: I think that most members of the United Nations Security Council understand that the president is determined to go forward, hopefully with the endorsement of the Security Council, but clearly willing to go without it. So this does not come as any kind of a surprise.

I think what's surprising here is that the United Nations, after all of the resolutions, is unwilling to really seek to enforce its own rule of law. And if you have a continued violation or flouting of the rule of law, it only breeds contempt for the rule of law.

I think that's really what is at stake here as far as this new resolution that will be offered or proposed to be offered by the United States, Britain and Spain, is there any circumstance under which the Security Council will say enough is enough, Saddam, you have failed to comply for the past 12 years, time is up, you must do so now or you will face a United Nations condemnation and support for forcibly disarming you.

ZAHN: Based on the way the votes appear to be lining up against this resolution, do you see any scenario where the Security Council would back this new proposed resolution?

COHEN: I think it's rather remote, but if Saddam continues, once again, to stick his finger in the eye of the United Nations by saying I'm not going to destroy these missiles that the inspectors have declared to be in violation of the international law, so to speak, it really puts the members of the Council on the spot, saying we're giving him every opportunity to have one last chance and he continues to defy us by declaring that he has nothing illegal and do what you will, I am not budging.

So it puts a good deal of pressure, I think, on both France and Germany. But I'm not sure that'll be enough to force them to change their positions at this point.

ZAHN: But as you have just argued, you have said that Saddam Hussein has repeatedly poked his finger in the eyes of the members of the Security Council.

COHEN: He has flouted the Security Council resolutions since 1991. On each and every occasion where he has had an opportunity to comply, he has rejected it. And I recalled, went back to what Tony Blair was just talking about, in December of 1998, that President Clinton at that time said if he were to open up and let the inspectors back in and comply with the U.N. Security Council resolutions, there would be no attack upon Iraq.

He, once again, violated that pledge, that he would let the inspectors back in and comply. At that point, Mr. Butler, Ambassador Butler was leading the inspectors. And so on each and every opportunity has been given to him. He has chosen to either deceive or lie about his, the possession of those weapons, and it's clear that he's not going to.

So the question becomes what will the U.N. do, if anything? And if it decides to do nothing, then its resolutions really are quite meaningless.

And so I think that's what's at stake in terms of the debate taking place right now on the pages of the "Washington Post," the "New York Times" and other papers.

ZAHN: We've got about 15 seconds left. Your reaction to the significance of North Korea firing a land to sea based missile into the Sea of Japan? What does that mean?

COHEN: I think it was grandstanding to divert attention from Secretary Powell and the new president of South Korea to say look at us up here, we still have this potential and what they have to offer, of course, is only missiles. But that's important. But they're trying to shift the attention away from the new president and Secretary Powell's visit and put it back on North Korea.

ZAHN: William Cohen, now chairman and CEO of the Cohen Group, the former defense secretary in the Clinton administration.

Thanks for your time this morning.

Appreciate it.

COHEN: My pleasure.

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