CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
General Amir Al-Saadi Holds Press Conference
Aired March 2, 2003 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome back. We want to take you straight to Baghdad right now, where the Presidential Scientific Adviser Amir al-Saadi is now speaking, and talking to reporters there. Let's listen in.
AMIR AL-SAADI, IRAQI PRESIDENTIAL SCIENTIFIC ADVISER: Last week, during last week, there were intensive inspections. Totaling for the week 73 inspections. That brings the total from 27th of November, 2002, to 853 inspections. Of these, 165 were inspections to sites that are unrelated to past programs.
The U-2 entered during the week for five hours and 15 minutes, making a total of 22 hours, 55 minutes, up to now. In addition to that, Mirage 4 also -- sorry. Mirage 4 total was five hours, 15 minutes. And the U-2 was 22 hours and 15 minutes. In addition to eight sorties by helicopters.
The total number of inspectors was 265. In Baghdad and Musal (ph); 182 of them are inspectors and 36 are helicopter crews and eight are crews of fixed wing aircraft. During the past two days there were destruction of al Samoud 2 missiles, four yesterday and six today, bringing the total to ten.
In addition, today, there was destruction of what is called the casting chamber. The casting chamber is the vessel with which rocket propellant, solid propellant, is cast.
Also during the past two days there were some further interviews, a mixed bag of interview. Some were private, a few of them were private. And one or two failed interviews because, in those cases, the person being interviewed asked for a tape recorder, and the other one asked for a friend to be present. But UNMOVIC declined. But the rest, I think, a total of three, there were successful private interviews.
This evening, at about this time, there is a meeting at the Baghdad center of UNMOVIC, in which technical discussions are being conducted between experts from both side, the Iraqi sides and UNMOVIC, on the question of verification of the destruction of anthrax and VX, in addition to VX precursors, which is the intermediate products -- intermediate chemical materials.
So, as you see, there is proactive cooperation from the Iraqi side. And also during the last week, there were a number of letters sent to Dr. Blix connected with what the Iraqi side achieved in its effort through the high-level commissions and the areas of the remaining issues of disarmament. They covered all areas practically -- anthrax, VX, chemical precursors, our 400 bombs, and material balances for these, plus the 155-millimeter mustard shells and the 122-millimeter empty warheads. In addition to the fate of conventional warheads from al Hussein missile, all these letters were supported with explanations and newfound corroborating evidence, or documentary evidence. And there's another letter being prepared today, also, which concerns the indigenous production of rocket engines, and that will be sent this evening.
So in total, practically all the areas of concern to UNMOVIC and the subjects of remaining disarmament questions have been addressed. And this is an ongoing process, because some of these letters are progress reports, rather than the end of the matter. But some of them were actually concluding reports, that is, the final results. And we hope that it will be to the satisfaction of UNMOVIC and -- on the IAEA, France, there were also further letters regarding questions of similar nature, that is, questions pending from 1998 or -- they're not disarmament questions, by the way. And some newly arisen questions concerning the yellow K import attempt, the aluminum tubes, and the magnetic bearings. All these have been also addressed and, we hope, to the satisfaction of the IAEA.
You may ask -- I don't know if you've seen any pictures of destructions? No. This was intentional. We had asked that no pictures be released. Although, it is tempting because we could gain from these pictures and their impact on western media. But we also think of the impact on the Iraqi people. Too harsh, unacceptable. That's why we haven't released any pictures, and we don't know if there will be any pictures released by UNMOVIC. But we have also requested them to pay attention to this matter.
Just before I answer questions, I would like to share with you some thoughts I had the other day. When I was watching a TV report that showed, that reported that experts, military experts and scientists, American scientists, were thinking about designing a new weapon, which could penetrate deep bunkers and incinerate any stocks of chemical weapons, biological weapons that may be hidden there. And there was also computer graphics of this weapon, and the actual penetration, and it is tipped with a nuclear device, small-yield nuclear device just to do the job, reportedly, cleanly. Then I was thinking, well, if they know the coordinates, because you need an input for this weapon to hit its targets, that is if you had the coordinates of the bunker, it would be much easier and less costly, and much faster to provide those coordinates to UNMOVIC. They'll do the job free of charge, at no cost to the American taxpayer. Wouldn't you agree? So that's one thought.
The other also reminded me of a remark by Dr. Blix when he said that UNMOVIC costs $80 million a year. A war on Iraq would cost upwards from $80 billion, plus blood shed on both sides. This $80 million, the money for UNMOVIC, Dr. Blix didn't say where it comes from. It comes from Iraq, of course, because it is deducted from oil for food program. So disarmament, peaceful, at no cost, to the American taxpayer. A war of $80 billion plus, to achieve disarmament -- well, I don't -- I will not go any further. Another thought was -- that occurred to me was that Mr. Bush and Prime Minister Blair never seemed to tire from repeating that Iraq must get rid of its weapons of mass destruction, or face the consequences. This steady drumbeat of lies upon lies is all we hear these days. They're sending their soldiers thousands of miles away from home to fight people who have not threatened them, living in their own homes, in peace. It is a war driven by greed and nothing else. It's not exactly an away (ph) match, it's much more than that. Bush and Blair will gain credibility if they did something about Sharon's occupation of the Palestinian homeland, and that will not cost them neither blood, nor money. Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right, as they continue to take those questions in Arabic. When they begin to take those questions and answer them in English, we'll be going right back to that coverage there out of Baghdad, with the Presidential Scientific Adviser Amir al-Saadi.
Quite poignantly, he said that so far there are signs of a lot of progress, proactive cooperation from Iraq, he says. He says, so far, here's the evidence. In all, ten al Samoud 2 missiles have been destroyed. Four yesterday, six today. He says a casting chamber has also been destroyed. And that is a vessel which houses rocket propellant and where it is cast. This evening, he says, there will also be open discussions of the destruction of anthrax, of VX nerve agents, and of mustard gases and shells. He says, is this enough for the Bush administration?
And, in fact, he even addressed the issue of cost. What a war would cost in dollars and in bloodshed. This is a very question we have been exploring all day here on CNN, as many within the US are grappling with the cost and the estimated cost of war, upwards of $80 billion a day. And it was the Presidential Scientific Adviser Amir al-Saadi who said, in fact, this is a process, the U.N. process of inspections, that comes at no cost to the US. Does it make more sense to explore this cost of no cost to the US, or a war that would be upwards of $80 billion? He merely just shook his head and said, I don't need to say any more.
Let's now explore the issue of the costs, as well as the diplomacy of what is being said from the presidential scientific adviser here, as we bring in our Michael Okwu, who is at the U.N.. Surely, Michael, it is the position of al-Saadi who says here there is progress that's being made. Is this enough progress for the U.N., and for the new resolution that the US has proposed?
MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that certainly remains to be seen. Clearly, the French and the Russians believe progress has been made. They believe progress was being made, even before the press conference that you and I just saw. The French saying just a couple days ago that they believe inspections are working. The fact that they started destroying the al Samoud 2 missiles seem to be even further proof for them that Iraq can be disarmed peacefully.
The Russian foreign minister just days ago threatening to use a veto, saying that this is no time, essentially, for a second resolution that would, in effect authorize war. So these press conferences, now, that the Iraqis seem to be engaged on, this public relations blitz, if you will, seem to be aimed at winning over the international community and perhaps some of those very key swing votes on the council, those six votes that may still be up for grabs.
Of course, Fredricka, as you know, the United States has been staunchly opposed to continuing inspections. It's very unlikely that the US will back away from their resolution at this point. Of course, they're working with Great Britain and Spain on this. The United States saying this is really a game of deception, the fact that the Iraqis are coming forward now and offering things. The US officials have been saying for two weeks they expected this all along, that the Iraqis would be engaged in a public relations campaign to drag this out, to play a cat and mouse game, and then at the very end to come forward with some kind of cosmetic olive branch, is the phraseology that's been used here. So I don't expect to see major change at the Security Council this week. Fasten your seat belts.
WHITFIELD: Well, you know, it's interesting you talk about this public relations war that's going on, trying now to garner more world support. Al-Saadi also mentioned that, you know, he's being very open and forthright about how many inspections have taken place since November. So far, 853 inspections. Of them, 165 have been inspections that were not even at sites where there had been any past programs taking place.
That the Iraqi government is trying to be very open with the world audience, members of the U.N. are certainly much smarter than just, you know, basing all their opinions on what is or isn't coming out of these press conferences. So how much of a difference might this be making to any U.N. resolutions or any new plans?
OKWU: Well, it's a good question, Fredricka. I think really what you're going to have to do is wait for the Blix report. All of the council members here at the U.N. have been saying, regardless of the information that comes out of Washington...
WHITFIELD: Michael, let me just interrupt you real quick, because they are beginning to take those questions back in English now. We want to go back to Baghdad and listen in.
AL-SAADI (through translator): Don't you think that would serve in the Iraqi interest in the long term? It is in our interest, of course but at the same time, and building on our previous experience, we know that could be demoralizing. As for your other questions, it's all about -- I'm not going to get involved in speculation. At this stage we have to...
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) chemical and biological scientists, to help explain how you dispose of the past agents. You seem to be, again, however, at an impasse over getting the interviews to go through with the scientists. How do you propose getting around this? This is the second time we appear to have reached the impasse.
AL-SAADI: Well, the whole question of interviews I think is politically loaded. It's not really pure difficulties of interviewing people. People will describe to you how they carried out destruction of some materials. If it never happened, they couldn't make up a story like that. They have to describe it accurately and with details, and those details must tally. And I don't think there is difficulty in reaching a conclusion. A conclusion through even an open discussion, with all the people connected with the discussion even present.
This idea of conducting interviews in private stems from the presumption that Iraq is hiding something and this way -- this is the way to uncover it. We went along with that, but we can't force people. We can encourage them, as much as we could, to accept private interviews and to get on with it, but some find it unacceptable. You can't force them to do something like that.
It's not an impasse. I mean, the discussion today with the -- with UNMOVIC experts is to find another way of verifying our declaration, which is actual calculation in a scientific way, using modern techniques of analysis. And this is what we're proposing. So that will obviate the need for conducting interviews. If you have direct evidence of material, specific material being destroyed, at that site or that location, what do you need interviews for? It is for lack of evidence, verifiable evidence, that you resort to interviews. I hope I have answered your question.
QUESTION: General, you're destroying the missile system, although you claim this is not a scientifically justified order, you're doing the excavations at al-Jazia (ph) in the context you were just discussing, you're encouraging the scientists to do these interviews. Are you doing this because think there's a chance of avoiding an American attack? If you don't think there's a chance of avoiding that attack, why are you giving up a potentially useful weapons system?
AL-SAADI: It so happens that my task, and only task, is to remove all excuses for waging war in the legal way, the legal route, that is, the U.N. route. And if Iraq is not in material breach on that count, then if war takes place, if war happens, it's not because Iraq has not done at all could regarding disarmament. Iraq is doing all it could, possibly can -- could possibly do, in this regard, and for me, that's enough. I'm focusing on that and I'm not concerned about the other side. There are other men who are looking after that.
QUESTION (through translator): Despite Iraq's acceptance to destroy the missiles, it seems that's not enough as far as the American administration's concerned, and they're continuing with their military build-up. Do you think this would pose a danger to Iraq in the long-term?
AL-SAADI (through translator): Well, these weapons are important, but it's not everything. We calculated what we are doing and we agree these weapons could be sacrificed.
QUESTION: These weapons are being addressed (UNINTELLIGIBLE) satisfactory, all the documents, presented. And now we see technical discussions between the two sides (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Also, in private interviews. So people are asking what's going to happen next. What is the Iraqi side going to do next, if someone, says, you need to present more, or there's more things the Iraqis should do? Thank you.
AL-SAADI: Well, I don't know if you remember, the American administration promised to provide UNMOVIC and the IAEA with evidence that Iraq harbors weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq is now undertaking activities which are proscribed.
They are still, if you look at the breakdown of the inspections, they are not all centered on sites which are under monitoring, they also include other sites. Now, these other sites are intelligence information. And they have been chasing around that.
And unfortunately, from our point of view, UNMOVIC doesn't clearly say which inspection is motivated or -- yes, is motivated by intelligence information, or it is motivated by rebaselining, which is regaining the position, the information, they know previously from that site under monitoring. And, also, they don't report the results. I think they owe it to us to report results of intelligence inspections, and the fate of this.
I mean, the United States cannot continue to provide information, and then this information are taken seriously and credibly. Because so far, nothing has been found to contradict our declaration. Our declaration is described by Secretary Powell as false and yet their allegations are truths. So we should -- we need a judge on this issue. The judge is UNMOVIC. They should say what is false and what is true?
I've read a report from -- I think on the CBS Web site. One inspector here was asked about this and he preferred to be anonymous and he said that all we got from the United States is garbage and more garbage and more garbage. Three times he said "garbage." OK. If they continue to feed them garbage, they should say so, publicly, in the Security Council.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how many al Samoud missiles we're talking about? And also, if the Americans react negatively to Mr. Blix's report on Friday and indicate they're going to go ahead with war anyway, will you stop the destruction program right there and then?
AL-SAADI: That, again, is a hypothetical question. We're talking about more than 100 missiles. And in addition to missiles in various stages of assembly in the factory, and components, and so on. So, maybe all in all, they could be 120 missiles. That will take time to destroy. There is a schedule that was being worked out with UNMOVIC, and it is being reviewed every evening to follow up where we stand and what difficulties we face, et cetera. If it turns out at an early stage during this month that America's not going the legal way, then why should we continue?
QUESTION: Thank you very much. As you said (UNINTELLIGIBLE). On the other hand, you said that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair are insisting that Iraq should destroy missiles, otherwise, Iraqis should face the consequences.
AL-SAADI: I didn't say "destroy missiles." I said Iraq must disarm -- destroy its weapons of mass destruction. You can't call those missiles weapons of mass destruction. Please. Go ahead.
Having in mind all these things, and as we know, very clearly, the target of this, the aim of this attack, is not only the chemical and biological weapons, but the government of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I will ask you a question. Do you believe that Saddam Hussein will run his entire (UNINTELLIGIBLE) take in to consideration (UNINTELLIGIBLE) especially by Bush and Blair?
AL-SAADI: Your question presumes that there is chemical and biological weapons, because you say not only biological. My job is to provide evidence that Iraq does not have any weapons of mass destruction and Iraq does not have any activities which are proscribed, and that is my job. The rest is political speculation, and I will not go into that. Please.
QUESTION (through translator): There have been talk that inspectors have been looking for ordinary weapon, not only so-called weapons of mass destruction. What do you say to that?
AL SAADI (through translator): There's a question which keeps repeating itself. As far as the scientists are concerned, scientists have been asked if they'd like to be interviewed abroad. Other questions also been asked involving the background of the person, what they do, and so forth. So far, we haven't had anything out of the ordinary.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE). Do you think what you've done this weekend is enough to stop that happening?
AL-SAADI: Well, to all fair-minded people who are neutral and free, it's more than enough. I don't know what I can say. I mean, there are all kinds of pressures. There are unbearable pressures, sometimes. And that in itself is an indication, is an indication. I will not say more than that.
QUESTION: General, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) nuclear and ballistic weapons are not an issue at all. The inspectors, yes, have said that they've not found anything, yet, in chemical and biological fields. But can you tell us, what is the progress that we've made on this 550 shells of mustard gas on this 1.5 tons of VX and on these several warheads -- I mean, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and the war (ph) is more or less believed to be full of anthrax? I mean, the unaccounted biological and chemical weapons, what kind of progress we have made?
AL-SAADI: Considerable. For instance, on the 155 missing mustard shells, they were found. They were not missing. They are now -- they are included in the total number of shells destroyed by UNSCOM previously, but they -- there was a mistake in calculation, and we found that -- we found evidence that among the shells that were destroyed in 1992/'93, mustard shells, there were some which had signs of burning on them. And this question was raised. And if you remember that -- what we said about the 550, they were in a truck, and during the disturbances after the war, they were burned.
So those -- the contents of this truck ended up in a site -- collection site -- and were included in the total destroyed amount. The missing figures actually appear due to another report, which now we found is inaccurate.
So that is one question resolved. The other regarding -- you said anthrax or VX? VX.
AL-SAADI: Both. With the anthrax, there are 400 bombs which are unilaterally destroyed in 1991, summer 1991 (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 157 of them. They contained anthrax and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) toxin and another material, botulin toxin. And these are now being excavated and taken out.
So far, we have reached a figure not quite 157, but we are nearing it. There's work in progress. So far, more than eight (ph) have been found which are still intact, not perforated, which could be tested for the material inside. And that would corroborate our -- so that could be said as result.
But there's another question with the anthrax, is the bulk material that was left over, that was unfilled, that was unilaterally destroyed also in a site called al Hakem (ph). And this is what the meeting this evening is all about, that the destruction site is known and it is still undisturbed, and we could look for DNA signatures of those materials, and perhaps we could quantify this material, not just qualitative tests but quantitative tests, to estimate how much was destroyed there. And that, in addition to the 157 bombs in Azizia (ph), will make the total.
QUESTION: And VX?
AL-SAADI: VX, similarly, 1.5 tons, which is still to be accounted for, was unilaterally destroyed in a dumping site near the Al-Mukana (ph) establishment. And we have made analysis which strongly indicate that the total material was destroyed there. And this is also subject of the discussion this evening between our two teams. The results that we've made so far indicate that something which is near -- quite near that total was destroyed there, from determination of the phosphorous (ph) that was there.
And they could, UNMOVIC, if they see our calculations and are convinced about the way they have gone with it, they can check it with more modern techniques and get a more precise determination to finalize this question as well. This is why we have -- we're having this discussion.
What is your third point?
AL-SAADI: Thank you.
QUESTION: General Al-Saadi, what do you fear (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? And second question, do you now feel the war is further away because of your proactive cooperation?
AL-SAADI: It's not fear, actually. It is just hurting people. Those people here, in Iraq.
QUESTION: Can you just explain a little bit further on how it's going to hurt...
AL-SAADI: These are creation by the people who designed, worked and manufactured, and they belong to families, and people -- they are -- the whole people will be affected by this. I know I'm affected by this. Particularly when we are being treated unjustly regarding that. It's not as if there are weapons of mass destruction and we are holding on to them. No, they're legitimate weapons that we -- that are not proscribed. That's why it hurts.
QUESTION: Secondly, if you could, whether or not you feel because of your cooperation war is further away, whether you think you have...
AL-SAADI: As I said, this is our job and we do it to the full. The rest is not up to us to speculate on or even to take measures against. This is someone else's job.
QUESTION: General Al-Saadi, just if I could clarify a little bit further on the question of the report of the images of the missiles being destroyed. Considering that Iraqis saw so many of those kinds of images during the 1990s of parts of Iraq's arsenal being destroyed, why -- why do you draw the line on this case with the missiles, and does it have anything to do with the possibility that there could be a conflict in the future?
AL-SAADI: Yes, legitimate questions. My answer is that. Those images you've seen of the past destruction were not released by the Iraqi side, they were released by UNSCOM to the world. They were not our images. Although we photographed everything, but we never released anything like that.
This time, we have asked them not to release. Whether they will or not, we don't know. We are not releasing those images. As we did before. We never released images that showed material being destroyed, Iraqi material being destroyed.
QUESTION: Does that decision this time have anything to do with the possibility that there may be a conflict in the near future that the Americans are (OFF-MIKE)?
AL-SAADI: Not really. I think it's a question of how people feel about this. Especially when we declared that this is unwarranted, unjustified, and we do, we believe that, it is unwarranted.
Last question, please.
AL-SAADI: Sorry, I'll take both questions. OK.
QUESTION (through translator): About the same subject, which is the biological weapons, I was one of those people who went to one of the sites and saw these weapons. How convinced are UNMOVIC is and have you reached a mechanism to prove that Iraq is free of these weapons?
AL-SAADI (through translator): Every act must be treated separately. We have approached a number which is very close to the figure, you know, you have in mind. And we have noticed that the destruction sometimes is difficult, mainly for those parts on the top. We are hoping to get to the figure of 157. And if UNMOVIC is convinced, then that would be the end of this part of the work, but other outstanding issues, which will be dealing with.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the deployment of the American troops?
AL-SAADI: It's heartening for us, it's heartening, we like that, of course. But whether that will -- whether that will continue -- I think the government may try again tomorrow. And who knows. But we are very encouraged and heartened by that decision. We appreciate it. Thank you very much.
WHITFIELD: From Baghdad there, Iraqi presidential scientific adviser Amir Al-Saadi, in what has become a regular public address, trying to show the cooperation of the Iraqi people to the U.N. inspectors there.
He says a few things have taken place. They have encouraged scientists to conduct the interviews by the U.N. He says they have destroyed now 10 al Samoud 2 weapons, six today, four yesterday, and he says Iraq is removing all excuses for any war to be waged against it.
He says if, however, Iraq is not in material breach, then it will be the U.S. that is defying any international laws. And he says, if war takes place, it has nothing to do with disarmament.
He says that -- he is intimating, rather, that the U.S. is actually likely to undermine the U.N.
Let's find out exactly how some U.N. members might be considering all those measures from our Michael Okwu, who continues to be there at the U.N. in New York. And Michael, is it the opinion of many U.N. members that perhaps the U.S. just might be looking for ways to undermine that body?
OKWU: Well, diplomats won't come out clearly and say that the U.S. is doing that, Fredricka. They've always had reservations that the United States tends to behave a little bit like a bully, particularly when they're working with their main ally here, of course, Great Britain.
The interesting thing I think that diplomats will take from this press conference is how will it all be distilled by the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix. As you know, Fredricka, he's already submitted a written report to the 15 members of the Security Council, saying that up to at least that point that their behavior on disarmament, their cooperation on disarmament was very limited so far, and he's already said that he's going to have to make some revisions to that report.
Now, he's due to talk, present his report to the Security Council sometime this week. We expect that to happen on Friday, and diplomats here will be keenly watching to find out just how he's distilled the information that just came out of Baghdad. They've been saying all along that regardless of what comes out of Washington, regardless of what comes out of Paris and London, their chief source of information here is going to be the chief weapons inspector.
So it really depends on what -- whether Blix has determined that, in fact, these are the key remaining issues having to do with disarmament and that the Iraqis have really conclusively dealt with them -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: And as you say, Michael, looking at the timetable for the U.N., it is just five days away, then, then chief weapons inspector Hans Blix is expected to brief the U.N. Council there on the goings on in Iraq, on the inspections that have taken place thus far.
But certainly, there has to be some measure of encouragement that is coming out of the U.N. when looking at how cooperative Iraq has been so far in its public campaign or -- whether it be through the continued inspections there, the destruction of the missiles so far, and even the encouragement of the interviews of the scientists.
OKWU: Well, diplomats, again, always very cautious about this. They would like to believe that what's coming out of Baghdad is, in fact, true and accurate. If you talk to most diplomats here, particularly those six representatives from those six nations that are still sort of the middle states, the swing votes, they do not want to go to war. They are very, very reluctant to support the U.S. position. At the same time, they want to apply pressure on Baghdad.
All along, they have been saying that the main key task here, the objective of everyone on the Security Council is, in fact, to disarm Iraq. So if, in fact, the news coming out of Baghdad is determined by Hans Blix to be, in fact, accurate, then you can imagine that those countries on the Security Council that don't want to go to war now, who will want to continue inspections, will be gratified, indeed. It just all remains to be seen, Fredricka. It's very early to say at this point, but it does sound encouraging for them.
WHITFIELD: All right, Michael Okwu from the U.N., thank you very much. When we come back, we're going to take a short break right now, when we come back, we're going to go back to Baghdad and talk to our correspondent, Nic Robertson, on the other side. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back.
Iraq qualifies it this way, saying there has been proactive cooperation now that 10 al Samoud 2 weapons have been destroyed. Our Nic Robertson was in that press conference where we got this latest update from the presidential scientific adviser just moments ago in Baghdad. And one very interesting point, Nic, that Al Samoud also brought up was that nobody wants a war that is not only going to cost money but cost lives. By allowing Iraq to continue to try to adhere to U.N. regulations, they can avoid bloodshed and it won't cost the U.S. any money. That's an interesting little stickling point that he was able to put into that press conference, wasn't it?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very interesting. It's always interesting to look at these press conferences. And maybe it's not the technical details, because these particular press conferences are usually a week in review of the weapons inspection process. But quite often, they appeal to wherever the sort of divisions seem to be in the international community, or appeal to the -- to perhaps the people rather than the leaders of the countries.
And very clearly trying to do that here today, General Amir Al- Saadi saying that the cost to the taxpayer, the U.S. taxpayer of a war would be $80 billion. Now, of course, these figures have come out and been talked about in the last week. He said the cost to the U.S. taxpayers if the U.N. mission here would be to continue, he said that would be zero, because the U.N. mission costs $80 million a year, and that is paid out of Iraq's Food for Oil program. Iraq's oil goes to pay for the weapons inspection process. He said it would be cheap indeed.
He also went on to say all that money could be saved. He said that he'd seen -- he'd seen and heard about a bunker-busting bomb that could -- the United States, he said, planned to use, that could be used to destroy weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological agents buried deep in the ground, but he said if the United States has the coordinates to use that type of device, then why not just give the coordinates to the U.N. and save all the money?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. AMIR AL-SAADI, IRAQI PRESIDENTIAL SCIENTIFIC ADVISER: You need an input for this weapon to hit its target. That is, if you have the coordinates of that bunker, it would be much easier and less costly and much faster to provide those coordinates to UNMOVIC. They'll do the job, free of charge, at no cost to the American taxpayer. Wouldn't you agree?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: Now, he also went on to say that there was no concrete timetable for disposing of the Al Samoud 2 missiles. He said that they were in daily contact with the U.N., working on that.
Very interestingly, he said that if it appeared the United States was prepared to go to war with Iraq while that process was ongoing, then he indicated that Iraq would stop destroying the Al Samoud 2 missiles.
Another interesting point on the Al Samoud 2 as well -- he said that it was not in the interests of the people of Iraq, that it would hurt them, in fact, if the pictures of the destruction of this missile were shown on television. And that hasn't happened so far. Until now, pretty much everything that the weapons inspectors have done here, Iraqi television, whose cameras follow the weapons inspectors right into the inspection site, they've provided all of us with television pictures. That will not be the case, he said, this time.
One other item, talk going on at the moment between U.N. weapons inspectors and Iraqi officials, about trying to find out how much VX and anthrax Iraqi officials poured into the ground at a couple of different locations. He said that the basis for analysis there would be a DNA analysis of the soil there. And he said Iraq has done some preliminary test and it thought an accurate quantity, an accurate assessment of the quantity of those materials Iraq disposed of could be made by the U.N. The U.N. at this time talking to Iraqi officials about that -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: In fact, Nic, Amir Al-Saadi said it was 1.5 tons of that VX nerve agent that had been destroyed. Is there anyone, at the U.N. in particular, disputing that?
ROBERTSON: Well, the U.N. officials who have talked publicly about this so far, and that is Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, and his deputy, Demetrius Perricos, have both said that they believe the analysis that Iraq has put forward is probably not going to work. The analysis to try and determine these quantities.
The reason, they say, is because the equipment they have may not be sophisticated enough and because these agents that had been poured into the ground or disposed of at these sites have been exposed to rain, they've been exposed to huge changes in temperature. And the U.N. basically at this moment doubts whether this analysis put forward by Iraq will work.
WHITFIELD: Now, the presidential scientific adviser was sounding awfully confident, wasn't he, when he said, in particular that Iraq is doing all that it can to proactively cooperate. And if, indeed, there is no material breach, if war is to take place -- his words now -- he says, "it has nothing to do with disarmament."
ROBERTSON: Well, that's been a position Iraqi officials keep pushing here. They believe and they've said this for a long time, they say that U.N. Resolution 1441, the weapons inspection mission here is just a front, they say, for a U.S.-led war against Iraq. And that's what we were hearing again.
We've heard many, many, many times over the last number of months Iraqi officials say again and again, we're doing whatever we can. We're doing everything that we can. What we've seen over the last couple of weeks is actually a really acceleration in the number of things Iraq can and has done. It's put forward lists of scientist, put forward numbers of documents. We asked about the issue of the scientists that that Iraq can and has done. It's put forward a list of scientists, it's put forward numbers of documents.
We asked about the issue of the scientists that Iraq has put forward lists of scientists, but yet still not getting all those private interviews the U.N. inspectors want. General Amir Al-Saadi again saying that he'd done everything and Iraq had done everything it could to encourage that -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right, Nic Robertson, thank you very much for that debriefing from Baghdad. Appreciate it.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com