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Search for Compromise to Win Over Security Council Members Continues

Aired March 11, 2003 - 08:04   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And I think we're ready now to take Mr. Mohammed ElBaradei as he addresses questions of reporters in Vienna.
Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... attendance here over 100 countries, over 600 participants. The conference is sponsored by the U.S. government, the Russian Federation and I'm, again, delighted to have Minister Remiensif (ph) with us today here.

What we are looking for is to take stock of what we have done and agree on what needs to be one and I do hope at the end of the conference we will be better prepared to take care of our security, better prepared to take preventive and as well as additional whatever necessary measures in case of any incident or accident.

I will turn the floor to Mr. Secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham, and I'm sure he will give you more on from his perspective.

SPENCER ABRAHAM, SECRETARY OF ENERGY: Well, thank you very much.

Last September, as the director general indicated when we had the annual meeting of the IAEA, in my remarks I recommended that a conference focused on RDDs, on...

ZAHN: We just wanted to give you a sense of some of the issues that they're going to be discussing in Vienna. Among the chief concerns is how you step up security around the world to prevent radioactive material from slipping into the hands of terrorists.

We're going to keep an eye on that news conference and if any news comes out of it, we will be sure to share it with you.

Meanwhile, the search for a compromise to win over Security Council members for an Iraq war resolution continues at the U.N. Both President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have been working the phones to sway votes. A vote is expected some time later this week.

We have reports from Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, Richard Roth at the U.N.

Good morning to both of you.

We're going to get started with Suzanne this morning -- Suzanne.


Well, now U.S. officials say they are open to a possible extension of that March 17th deadline by days, perhaps even as much as a week, but they are not talking about weeks or months, as some U.N. Security Council members would like. The administration also insisting they want that vote on the U.N. resolution some time this week. This is all a part of the negotiation process. President Bush yesterday on the phone, calling eight world leaders, trying to drum up support for the resolution. Those leaders from countries, China, Japan, South Africa, Turkey, Senegal, Nigeria, Oman and Spain, some critical calls, of course, to Spain, that supports the resolution, China that does not. British Prime Minister Tony Blair this morning talking about possible compromise, a benchmark, this morning pushing forward and getting that resolution passed.


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: And I believe passionately that if we end up with Europe and America dividing apart, that will be very damaging for both of us and for the rest of the world. So I think we've got to work very, very hard over these next few days to see if we can't come to a common position. And as I hope Britain has been showing in the Security Council, you know, we are prepared to try and find that common ground. But we need others to be equally willing to do so.


MALVEAUX: Now, Paula, make no mistake, with these threats from France and Russia of vetoing this resolution, that possibly there is nothing that the administration can do to actually get that resolution passed. There is a robust debate that is taking place inside the White House whether or not they should just simply wring their hands and forget this whole diplomatic effort and just move forward -- Paula.

ZAHN: Suzanne, the question I have for you, Jeremy Greenstock, who is the British ambassador to the U.N., was a guest in our last hour and when I asked him about this compromise that they're thinking about offering, which would provide these benchmarks that Saddam Hussein would have to meet at a date specific time, he suggested that this thing could go to the end of March.

Have you seen any willingness on the Bush administration's part to let it go to that date?

MALVEAUX: Well, it's pretty close to what the deadline was before, March 17th. If you look at days, perhaps a week. That puts you pretty close to the end of March to begin with. I have to tell you, the administration really bending over backwards. They are trying to do as much as they can to give Tony Blair the political cover that he needs and also they really do want the support of the U.N. Security Council. The administration saying yes, we have the legal authority, we will go ahead with this coalition of the willing, but also very clear this underscores the importance that they want this international body to be willing to go forward, as well. ZAHN: Suzanne Malveaux in the middle of a light snowstorm.

Let's go to Richard Roth, who's toasty indoors at the U.N. -- good morning, Richard.

What's the latest buzz you're hearing this morning? RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is that faced with a certain veto in the Security Council at this moment, the U.S. and Britain are looking to buy time in order to win more support for their proposed resolution. And as you indicated, they're certainly going to be more flexible when it comes to the ultimatum deadline of March 17th in this resolution that at the moment is not gathering much support.

British Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock about an hour ago certainly indicated flexibility on that date.


SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: We are not setting any particular deadline. We have gone for the exemplary date of 17 March to indicate to the Security Council that time is short. It's up to leaders to decide on the precise date they're prepared to do one thing or the other. But the United Kingdom is in a negotiation and it's prepared to look at timelines and tests together. But I'm pretty sure we're talking about action in March. Don't look beyond March.


ROTH: It appears it may be a two phased approach, but certainly the first phase would be a series of tests that Iraq would have to accept in order to show it is truly disarming. "The Guardian" newspaper in London reporting it might be 12 benchmarks. The British ambassador telling us he thinks it's more like five or six -- Paula.

ZAHN: So tell us what we can expect to happen in the next 48 hours or so. One of the questions I posed to Sir Jeremy Greenstock is whether he felt there was any language they could arrive at that would be veto proof by the French.

ROTH: Well, they definitely are looking for that language by examining these tests. That's what a lot of the other countries who are uncommitted, that's what they were looking for, give Saddam Hussein more time and certainly space in which to show he's truly disarming and thus it gives the inspectors more time. The British may be willing to give the inspectors more time, also, if Saddam Hussein shows he's passing these first few tests. Also today and tomorrow more speeches. The rest of the world frustrated, perhaps, by the deadlock, gets an open forum in the Security Council.

ZAHN: Richard Roth, thanks so much.

And joining us now to talk more about the president's diplomatic strategy on Iraq, "Time" magazine columnist Joe Klein.

Good to see you. Welcome back.


How are you?

ZAHN: I wanted to start off this morning with a question that you posed in the latest issue of "Time" magazine. In your column you write, "Is the administration's disdain for diplomatic precedent a strategy, a conscious effort to challenge the institutions and arrangements of the past 50 years or merely a matter of presidential pique? The flattery, hand holding and creative fudgery that are at the heart of diplomacy are the very sort of fancy pants flummeries that the president abhors."

KLEIN: My god, did I write that?

ZAHN: You wrote that. Do you recognize it at all?

KLEIN: Oh, yes I do.

ZAHN: I didn't write that. So what is the strategy as you see it?

KLEIN: God, you know, it's hard to tell. I mean this seems to be an act of diplomatic belligerence on the president's part. I think the initial motivation was to help Tony Blair through with his public. They, you know, the British wanted to have a second resolution. But now at this point there are two possible results. Either we lose the vote or we lose the vote, you know, we win the majority and then France and Russia vetoes. You know...

ZAHN: But there are people within the administration who think that if you get the nine votes in the Security Council, that would be construed as a moral victory even though France would veto, because they said France basically is going to veto whatever you write.

KLEIN: But I think the public division of the Atlantic Alliance is a long-term defeat. I mean you look at the way we handled these sort of situations in the past when we wanted to do something, like in Kosovo and other places, and we knew that there was going to be a Russian veto. We just didn't even take it to the Security Council because we didn't want to create the appearance of disunion. And here there seems to be at least part of the administration, maybe not the president himself, who just wants to see the U.N. discredited.

Now, the fact is the president has the legal authority to go ahead and do this thing. We have all those other resolutions.

ZAHN: Well, sure, and what is it the Security Council signed onto with 1441?

KLEIN: That's right. And if they're talking about benchmarks, I mean, you know, there are hundreds of benchmarks to be met, things, all kinds of things that Saddam Hussein has to own up to, all the different kinds of chemicals, all the different kinds of bacteria, all the different kinds of weapons systems. And he's going to have to meet a benchmark every 15 minutes if we're going to do it in March. But just...

ZAHN: What's wrong with that?

KLEIN: It's impossible. It is physically impossible and it's very unrealistic. I think that what we're doing now is we're pushing this for, to be able to say that we had a majority of the Security Council. A short-term victory, long-term not a victory.

ZAHN: Do you believe Saddam Hussein has a genuine desire to disarm?

KLEIN: Of course not.

ZAHN: OK. So what would be your strategy to get him to disarm?

KLEIN: Well, I think at this point we're past that. We have 250,000 troops in the region. I mean if you're going to ask me what my strategy would be, it would have started last fall. I mean that's when you needed to have a series of benchmarks and a deadline set up. In fact, we could have asked the French, when do you think the deadline should be? Why don't you guys name it.

ZAHN: And who do you blame for that?

KLEIN: Well, I think that you have to blame the administration in part. I don't know that we would have been able to get the French to do it even then because I think the French have found a wonderful melodramatic role that they can play where they can be their idealistic romantic selves and, you know, the problem is going to be after this thing is over, getting them off of center stage. I mean are they going to see their role in the future as leading a coalition of the unwilling against every American initiative in the world?

I think that, you know, this was a time to kind of tamp tings down and not let it get as explosive as it's gotten now.

ZAHN: So what you're saying, it is your belief that there's no way out of war at this juncture?

KLEIN: Yes, you could have a coup. I mean, you know, it's entirely possible at the 11th hour and 59 minutes that, you know, that a bunch of, you know, the people in the Republican Guard, for example, will say well, we want to live and overthrow Saddam. It's possible.

ZAHN: But the likelihood of that happening is?

KLEIN: Who knows? I mean, you know, it's very clear that if we do this, we're going to do it and we're going to do it decisively. People want to live, usually.

ZAHN: Joe Klein, thanks for dropping by.

Check out his column in this week's issue of "Time" magazine.



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