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CNN BREAKING NEWS

U.S. Government Advises U.N. Inspectors to Leave Iraq

Aired March 17, 2003 - 05:43   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: But we have to talk about a pending war. Perhaps the most ominous sign yet that war is coming, United States government has informed the weapons inspectors in Iraq that they should leave.
We want to go now to Iraq for reaction from there and Rym Brahimi.

Of course we just got word of this, so there's probably no reaction yet from Saddam Hussein's government, but what is the mood there in Iraq?

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, no reaction, indeed, from President Saddam Hussein's government, but reaction from the spokesman here of the U.N. weapons inspectors. I just spoke to him a short while ago, Carol, to check what was being said. Now he says that although the IAEA has said this publicly that the U.S. has advised them to leave, well they have not here on the ground received orders from New York to leave the country. The spokesman, Hiro Ueki, told me that although they are prepared to face any of travesty (ph), including evacuation, they're all ready to go at any moment now.

Well, they haven't yet received the orders from New York, which is the headquarters of the group of inspectors, but also the headquarters of the United Nations Security Council. And that's really key, Carol, because the U.N. weapons inspectors will be looking to their headquarters in New York to receive any marching orders. This evening, in actually about four hours from now, it'll be the morning in New York, they're going to be having a meeting. The chief U.N. weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, will be meeting with members of the United Nations Security Council. They were supposed to discuss a whole lot of things, including even the invitation by the Iraqi government for Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei to come over to Baghdad. But instead, it could well be that they may receive their marching orders as well for Baghdad to pull out. But that decision has not been made so far.

Now, Carol, as I was saying, the inspectors are ready to leave at any time. They have a plane waiting for them. It only takes them a couple of hours to get ready in a way and then to leave from the airport, Saddam International Airport here. And there's only 60 inspectors and some 140 -- out of some 140 international staff that they will need to evacuate.

As for the mood here, well it is pretty tense, and it's been pretty tense for the past three days. People have been rushing to fuel stations to fill up. Very, very tense, and everybody really preparing for what's going to come, maybe -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Rym Brahimi, reporting live from Baghdad, many thanks to you.

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