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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Russian Ambassador Answers Questions

Aired March 11, 2003 - 12:04   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: In and around Baghdad, more evidence of Iraqi compliance and defiance.
CNN's Nic Robertson is joining us now live from the Iraqi capital. First of all, Nic, any reaction, any official government reaction there to the suspension of these U.S./U.N. U-2 overflights over Iraq?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So far nothing, Wolf. Generally, Iraq's news agency gets a briefing some time during the day from Iraq's air defenses. That's generally broadcast in about the next hour or so, so we may get something on it later, but so far nothing.

From U.N. officials today, they say another three Al Samoud missiles destroyed today. They say nine warheads for those missiles destroyed, one launcher, and some canisters for propellants. They also say a number of smaller components for the missile systems also destroyed. The U.N. saying they had asked today for an interview, a private interview with an Iraqi researcher, a chemical researcher.

However, he wanted to attend the interview with an audio tape recorder. The U.N. said that was not the conditions of the private interviews, therefore no interview taken place. The U.N. also saying today that their numbers here are down to about 70 inspectors. Normally they have about 100 inspectors inside Iraq. They say they're expecting more inspectors to come in later this week. They're going through a rotation process. Contracts, three month contracts are up. People -- some people are choosing to leave and new people are rotating in.

Also, we've seen around some of the government ministries here in Baghdad today some sandbagging going on, building not big bunkers, quite small bunkers. We have some at the government ministries, but an indication for everyone here the government getting ready, preparations are underway. And they are really raising already high levels of uncertainty about just what's going to happen here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson with the latest from Baghdad. Clearly they're preparing for the worst case contingency as well. Nic Robertson, our man on the scene for us.

On the diplomatic front, the United States and Britain are delaying a vote in the U.N. Security Council, but not beyond the end of this week. At least that's what they're saying right now.

Britain, for one, says it's willing to push back a proposed Iraqi deadline, but not beyond the end of this month. And then there's a new public warning from the United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan, against waging war outside U.N. auspices.

In an op-ed piece running today in the "Wall Street Journal," Annan writes this: "Let's remember that the crisis in Iraq does not exist in a vacuum. What happens there will have a profound impact on other issues of great importance. The broader our consensus on how to deal with Iraq, the better the chance that we can come together again and deal effectively with other burning conflicts in the world."

BLITZER: Let's go to the United Nations now. Our senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth, is standing by with developments there. There's going to be a meeting at the U.N. Security Council later today. Is that right, Richard?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This afternoon, another session where nations of the world who are not on the Security Council get to vent their views on the Iraq crisis.

Since the last time that happened, we have a new resolution that is being considered, and the threat of vetoes. And also, Wolf, let's take a listen now, by the way, to one of the noncommitted members of the council -- actually, not committed. He's with the U.S. The Bulgarian ambassador on the Security Council.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Also, we feel responsible for the future of this organization and this body, to say nothing about the -- the divisions within NATO, within the European Union. These are two very important organizations that (ph) Bulgaria, we are going to join in the near future. So, of course we feel the pressure.

Thank you.

ROTH: That's the Bulgarian ambassador to the Security Council. Bulgaria's vote is already in the U.S. pocket, but the search for more votes continues to go on here.

But what is new is that the United States, looking to help out its British partner, giving a little bit more time towards a vote, either -- they say later this week.

That's because they may move to an area where they're going to tell Iraq specific disarmament tasks that it needs to do. That's the only way it can avoid any military action it would appear imminently.

Also, a U.N. official is saying that if there is a new resolution considered, that would be produced in the council, the U.S. would be willing to let a ten-day deadline be moved on, a rollover, you might say. So that if there is a new resolution, the March 17 deadline would be superseded, and if there was a compromise agreement on a new resolution, ten more days after that would be Iraq's deadline for complying -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Richard, we did hear Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador to the United Nations, tell CNN's Paula Zahn earlier this morning that no way would they agree beyond the end of March for that kind of deadline. At least that's the British position right now.

ROTH: That's right. The British realize that the U.S. does not want to string this out, that the U.S. feels Iraq has been given more than enough time to comply, and many governments here are saying the British ambassador really has not produced, what are his instructions, what exactly are the undecided tasks that Iraq has to do?

Let's listen to the Russian ambassador, if we have a moment. Sergey Lavrov, who is right at the microphone right now.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

QUESTION: ... the countries who haven't yet seen the need for a second resolution would come closer to their ideas.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: M-6 (ph)? M-6 (ph)? Is it a special service...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... the so-called undecided countries.

LAVROV: I see. But you said M or N?

QUESTION: Middle. Middle. M-6 (ph).

LAVROV: Oh, middle. I see. OK. OK.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... I mean, this would be a compromise which has chances also to find some support from those countries which haven't been -- which didn't see yet the necessity for a second resolution?

LAVROV: It's a long question. But I have not seen anything of that sort submitted to the council. We still believe that the inspections should be strongly supported and the effectiveness of inspections was again confirmed yesterday during the briefing -- or rather consultations with Dr. Blix.

And our position is the same: We see no reason whatsoever to interrupt the inspections and any resolution which contained ultimatums and which contains automaticity for the use of force is not acceptable to us.

And when you read in "Financial Times" today that Russia is thinking of applying old Soviet tactic of "no show" during the vote and that Russia's ambassador would find an excuse to leave the room when he would be required to raise hands, please remember my words that this would not be the case. There would be a show and there would be no no show.

QUESTION: Some of the African nations appear to be talking about a timeline with... ROTH: All right. That's Russian ambassador Sergey Lavrov, one of the more charismatic delegates here Wolf, having a little fun with the undecided six, and sort of merging that into the middle six, and British secret services. Anyway, Russia is still intent on vetoing any resolution. The U.S. preparing still to run that gauntlet with a potential vote later this week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A very tough line taken by the Russian government, as we just heard from Sergey Lavrov. Richard Roth, thank you very much.

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