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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

U.S., Britain, Spain Offer New Resolution

Aired February 25, 2003 - 10:06   ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein reportedly says he wants to join in this debate with a live televised face-off with President Bush. The White House is dismissing Baghdad's challenge.
Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson in the Iraqi capital with more.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, this is something we've been hearing more and more from Iraqi officials through their newspapers here, the fact that they're saying that they want dialogue to solve this current crisis. A few weeks ago on television, a lot of play about the possibility of war, a lot of war rhetoric in the newspapers, but of late, it's been along the same lines, let Iraq be part of the bigger debate.

However, on the issue, the key issue of whether or not Iraq will go along with getting rid and destroying those Al Samoud II missiles this weekend, still, Iraqi officials say they are studying the issue. President Saddam Hussein's top scientific adviser, after meeting with some South African disarmament experts, said the same thing, we're still studying it. Also the deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, after meeting with some Egyptian journalists here, said the same thing, we're still studying it. That's the message, I think a feeling in the diplomatic community that Iraq possibly is moving towards accepting this in some shape or form. We don't know what form that may be.

But most people here expecting some word from Iraqi officials coming pretty soon -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Nic Robertson, in Baghdad. Nic, thank you.

HARRIS: Now to the White House, where they're hoping to keep focus on the newly submitted resolution passed along to the Security Council with the backing of Great Britain and Spain as well.

Our senior White House correspondent John King standing by at his post at the Executive Mansion.

Good morning, John.

JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Leon.

As we speak, the president meeting in the Oval Office with the prime minister of Bulgaria. Bulgaria sits on the Security Council, and that is one vote the United States believes it already has. The United States, the United Kingdom, Spain and Bulgaria, the four votes the administration has now. It needs nine, of course, to get that resolution passed, and it needs there to be no vetoes, as Richard Roth mentioned.

Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, saying that in the end when the vote is taken, and the White House hopes that will be about 13 days, two weeks from now, Ari Fleischer says the president is confident he will get the votes in the end, and this resolution will be passed.

Now many here at the white house behind scenes saying they believe that -- I'm sorry, I have to go back to you in Atlanta -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, thank you, John.

We want to take you back to the U.N. Hans Blix speaking.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

HANS BLIX, CHIEF WEAPONS INSPECTOR: ... which we have now presented to the college and we'll achieve -- have their advice on it and then finalize it.

QUESTION: You've received like six letters from Iraq in the past three days on all kinds of issues. In those letters, is there any indication of substantive progress on their part toward more proactive cooperation, indicated in those letters?

BLIX: Yes, there are some elements that are positive and which need to be explored further. There is one letter which tells us that they have found an R400 bomb containing a liquid in a site which is known to us, at which they did dispose of biological weapons before. There is another letter that tells us that they have found some handwritten documents concerning the act of disposal of prohibited items in 1991. Now, all of these have to be followed up, but these are new elements.

QUESTION: Is the Al-Samoud issue open for debate?

BLIX: Not between us and Iraq.

QUESTION: Where does that stand at this point, sir? Have you had any further communications...

BLIX: No, we have had no official response from the Iraqi side.

QUESTION: Yesterday President Chirac said it was up to you define any kind of deadline, time line, straight time by which Iraq should do certain tasks. Are you going to do that ahead of the March 27 date originally envisaged?

BLIX: We are going by the resolutions which the council gives us. We are the servants of the council. Whatever deadline they set, we will abide by. But it's not right to say that we are asking for an extension of our work. The council's resolutions do not set a deadline. It can terminate them. It can say that you should finish at such and such time, or we can, of course, be forced to finish by events on the ground. We have not asked for further deadlines.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) interview with Hussein where Hussein stated that he would not destroy the Al-Samoud. Do you have a reaction to that? And if that's true, what happens next?

BLIX: This is not an official response to us. We are still awaiting the official response.

Thank you.

HARRIS: And with that, that is the chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix there, now heading off to -- we believe there is going to be a meeting there at the U.N. He just briefly talked this morning about the receipt of some letters from Iraqi officials revealing discovery of a certain weapon that they knew the existence of, as well as a number of documents. He says they still have to go through all that and check it all out.

Let's go back now to John King, who is standing by at the White House -- John, what he did not say was anything about an official decision coming from Iraq on what to do about the Sacagawea II rockets or missiles that Hans Blix has demanded that Iraq destroy by this weekend. Got to think that the stance taken by Saddam Hussein in the recent hours has to be heartening to the White House's position.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, the White House believes if Saddam Hussein directly defies a demand from the inspectors that he destroy those Al Samoud II missiles. If Iraq defies that demand, the United States believes that would strengthen its case at the Security Council. But you also heard Dr. Blix talking about some letters suggesting that there might be more cooperation, or that Iraq has found certain weapons here and there.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice met with reporters yesterday and she talked about such a dynamic. She said she expects over the next couple of weeks some examples of partial Iraqi cooperation in an effort by the Saddam Hussein regime, she says, to stall and delay and buy more time. She says that will be not enough, the Bush administration will make the case, compliance must be full and complete and immediate. That came up this morning here at the White House briefing as well. Many believe war is inevitable. The president himself says he is convinced Saddam will not disarm. Ari Fleischer said there remains -- quote -- "an off ramp" to going to war, and that would be full and immediate Iraqi compliance, a point also made across the Atlantic this morning by the British prime minister, Tony Blair.

HARRIS: John King at the White House. Thanks, John, as always.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: ... people do, but even now, he could save it by complying with the U.N.'s demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully. I do not want war. I do not believe anyone in this house wants war. But disarmament peacefully can only happen with Saddam's active cooperation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And Leon, hard to find anyone in this house, the White House, who believes Saddam Hussein will meet that demand and will fully, completely, and immediately disarm in Iraq. So there are preparations for war continuing, including a meeting this morning here at the White House of the National Security Council -- Leon.

HARRIS: Understood, much more to come from Washington today. Thanks, John. John King at the White House.

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