CNN BREAKING NEWS
U.S. Advises Inspectors to Exit Iraq
Aired March 17, 2003 - 05:49 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We have Gordon Whitty live from London, a former weapons inspector, to talk with us right now.
Mr. Whitty, are you there?
GARTH WHITTY, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I am indeed. It's Garth Whitty.
COSTELLO: All right. OK, I'm sorry.
Mr. Whitty, tell us, you were a former weapons inspector, when the word came for the inspectors to leave Iraq, you know back during the first Gulf War, what was the mood?
WHITTY: Well, certainly it wasn't unexpected. I mean during 1992 when I was there, there were a number of occasions when there was a probability of having to leave because in response to noncompliance by Saddam saying there were threats from the U.S. to send in some cruise missiles. And you know it was all part of what we expected and left no doubts. In view of the buildup to the likely military action over the next couple of days, the current weapons inspectors will be equally well prepared.
COSTELLO: Mohamed ElBaradei is disappointed that the United States government gave this warning to leave Iraq because he feels that the weapons inspections are working. Was that the way that you felt when those warnings came to you?
WHITTY: Yes, I mean I was specifically involved with destroying chemical weapons, and throughout my 12 months in Iraq, we made extremely good progress. Obviously not good enough, because supposedly there's still some there. But it is a ways (ph) a disappointment. And if you're engaged in weapons inspection or destruction of weapons systems, then if you have to leave, it's very much seen as a failure on your own part.
COSTELLO: In your opinion, has President Bush made the right choice?
WHITTY: I think he probably had no choice other than to go down this particular route. I think the original rationale for building up military forces and that was not necessarily correct in so far as it was suggested there was a covert nuclear program and linkage to al Qaeda. None of -- neither of those have been proven. But what we have discovered is that there's a significant amount of anthrax and chemical weapons that haven't been accounted for and we -- if nothing was certain (ph) now, I think Saddam Hussein would be significantly emboldened and in fact more likely to ally himself to al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.
COSTELLO: In light of what you're saying, what do you think the Security Council will rule when it comes to ordering those inspectors out of Iraq?
WHITTY: I think that they're going to say that the inspectors have 24 hours to get out. And yes, despite some continuing political initiatives, a lot of diplomacy going on over the next 24 hours, I'm sure no one expects anything other than war. It's extremely unlikely that Saddam Hussein will leave, which is really the only way out of this particular predicament. But I would have thought that all of the inspectors are well prepared, both physically in terms of having their equipment ready to go and psychologically for the move out.
COSTELLO: Yes, I was just going to ask you what that process will be like when they -- when -- you know when it comes down to when they have to leave.
WHITTY: It should be pretty slick. I mean we understand that five of the helicopters that were supporting the inspection teams have already left because of a question over insurance of those helicopters, but they still have up to three there. They have their road vehicles and a transport plane. So certainly in 1992 some of the U.N. agencies in Iraq didn't have very slick procedures. So I think the UNISCOM teams were -- was very much better and they've had lots of time to practice these procedures.
COSTELLO: All right.
WHITTY: So it's really making sure that everyone gets on vehicles or whatever sort and gets out in an orderly manner.
COSTELLO: Mr. Whitty, thanks for joining us live on DAYBREAK this morning. We appreciate your insight.
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