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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Discussion with Ambassador Joe Wilson

Aired March 7, 2003 - 09:47   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm joined by Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was a top ambassador in Iraq from 1988 to the start of the Gulf War in 1991, one of the last American diplomats to meet face-to-face with Saddam Hussein. He is currently an adjunct scholar to the Middle East Institute.
Welcome back. Good to see you.

AMB. JOSEPH WILSON, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: Thank you. Good to be here.

ZAHN: I saw you kind of rolling your eyes when you saw this just in bulletin, but the timing of this notice from the North Koreans should be of no great surprise to the Bush administration?

WILSON: I wouldn't think so. I think this is probably an organized strategy by the North Koreans to ensure that we don't forget them, and to try to bring pressure on the administration to address their concerns, whether they're legitimate or not. They certainly have the sense now that they have not been addressed in any meaningful way whatsoever.

ZAHN: The president has made it quite clear last night he's opposed to bilateral talks now with the North Koreans. What is it they are trying to extract?

WILSON: I mean, curiously, the president wants to, bilaterally, or with his coalition of the willing, invade Iraq, but he doesn't want to bilaterally deal with North Korea. He didn't -- doesn't want to talk to them; he wants to throw this into a forum with the other interested parties with assumed responsibilities.

ZAHN: But the North Koreans know that. What do you think they want today?

WILSON: I think what the North Koreans want, is they something to get them back to a negotiation where there is additional money extracted from the United States in exchange for their sort of ceasing and desisting or going back into deeper hiding on uranium enrichment- type activities. I don't think they're going to get it, I don't think they deserve it, and I think the administration is right to be playing hardball.

But certainly not to talk to them and not to in somehow create a framework that allows the process to go forward, just causes, with every passing day, additional danger. ZAHN: Finally, back to what the president said last night about Iraq and the prospect of war. Put into context today the relevance of what Hans Blix and Mr. Mohammed ElBaradei's remarks are.

WILSON: I don't think it's going to change anything at all. I think they're basically going to come up with a report that says there's been some cooperation. Mr. Baradei wrote to that effect in the "Wall Street Journal" today, Dr. Blix the day before yesterday in a press conference addressed some of that. It's not going to be satisfactory to the administration, which, in my judgment, not only has already made the decision to go to the war, but has already begun to take offensive actions. And we will see whether or not next week whether the votes are there to pass a resolution, whether the vetoes are going to be there, whether the French, Russians, and maybe others actually act on their implicit threat to veto, and I think the president will go forward, he and his coalition of the willing.

ZAHN: Ambassador Joe Wilson, if you don't mind, we'd love to have you stand by with us for the next couple of hours, and we'll look forward to your analysis of these reports at the U.N. right after they unfold.

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