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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Colin Powell: Security Council Did Not Meet Test

Aired March 17, 2003 - 11:12   ET

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

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Diplomacy now apparently dead at the U.N. We just heard Secretary of State Colin Powell saying this was a test that the Security Council did not meet. You also heard that the U.N. plans to pull its weapons inspectors out of Iraq. That should happen almost any moment.
Lots going on there. Let's go right now to our U.N. correspondent Richard Roth, who joins us with more on all of this.

Hello, Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Leon.

Well, it looks like that card game is not going to happen here. A week and a half ago, President Bush said it was going to be time for countries to show their cards, see where stand, let's have a whip count -- it's just not going to happen. It was the British who really needed this resolution.

But when you hear Secretary Powell say the time for diplomacy has passed, and he led a tireless effort in the Bush administration to bring the president back to the U.N., first several months ago for a resolution. Back again for another attempt at the last mile, as Secretary Powell said; you know it's pretty much over.

It was the British ambassador who announced that the U.S., UK and Spain were withdrawing the resolution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEREMY GREENSTOCK, BRITISH AMB. TO U.N.: Having held further discussions with council members over the weekend and in the last few hours, we have had to conclude that council consensus will not be possible in line with resolution 1441. One country in particular has underlined its intention to veto any ultimatum -- quote -- "no matter what the circumstances" -- unquote. That country rejected our proposed compromise before even the Iraqi government itself and has put forward suggestions that would row back on the unanimous agreement of the council in resolution 1441, and those suggestions would amount to no ultimatum, no pressure, and no disarmament.

Given the situation, the co-sponsors have agreed that we will not pursue a vote on the draft UK, U.S., Spanish resolution in blue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROTH: "In blue" referring to diplomatic jargon, when a resolution is ready to be voted on within 24 hours. France's ambassador immediately responded to the Greenstock statement there, saying that the reason the resolution was withdrawn is that 11 other members were not in favor of a resolution that would authorize force. There's still a dialogue going on inside the Security Council.

Important notes that we're getting from a diplomat inside. The French ambassador, again, saying he was unhappy about the public statements singling out France, as the British ambassador did. The German ambassador said it is no time to suspend inspectors, though it appears likely that Kofi Annan, who has not spoken yet in the council, will ask the Security Council the final blessing on withdrawing the weapons inspectors.

Now the U.S. ambassador said the U.S. inside, Leon, saying the U.S. had warned inspectors to be prepared to move out of Iraq.

And another ambassador from the Arab League said about the U.S. withdrawal of the resolution and impending military action -- quote -- "It's a very grave day. This is the day that international law that has been shoveled away. War will not solve this problem. Unfortunately, those who are going to war will find it very difficult to get out of it" -- Leon.

HARRIS: Richard Roth on a very important day at the U.N..

Thank you very much, Richard.

Carol, over to you.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's talk some more on this issue. We went live to Iraq now and Nic Robertson, who's in Baghdad.

Nic, you're probably not hearing what's happening, but President Bush is set to go on television 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time and ask Saddam to leave his country.

Any possibility that he will do that?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely no indications of that so far. What we've heard from the Iraqi leader over the past weeks and from some of the top officials as well, President Saddam Hussein set to stay here. That's the image that's been portrayed on television here. Many, many meetings meeting last night with military commanders threatening to take the war, take it all over the world. What we're seeing President Saddam Hussein do this afternoon on Iraqi Television is meet with Tunisia's foreign minister. He told the foreign minister, Habeeb Bin Jaja (ph), that Iraq had not given in to United States threats or pressure to cooperate with the U.N. weapons inspectors. The Iraqi leader saying they had done it because Iraq was serious. Also saying that if United States wants to be the leader of the free world, and not the most hated state in the world, as President Saddam Hussein put it, then the United States should end its programs of manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, destroy its stocks. Then he said if the United States took those measures, what would stop other countries then getting rid of their weapons? We haven't heard this from the Iraqi leader before. We also heard him tell the Iraqi people, explain to them at least why Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction in the first place. He said it was for defensive means. He talked about their eight-year war with Iran. The need to have the weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological weapons then to fight their neighbor at that time, that being back in 1980s, or 1988. Of course the Iraqi leader saying now Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. The view -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Nic Robertson, I was just going to ask you about Saddam Hussein telling his people that Iraq had one time had weapons of mass destruction and the significance of that.

Do we still have Nic? Nic, can you address that?

ROBERTSON: Carol, it's very difficult for me to hear you. I think we're having trouble with the line, if you can ask me the question again.

COSTELLO: OK, one more time -- Saddam Hussein telling his people that Iraq at one time had weapons of mass destruction. That's unusual. What's the significance of that?

ROBERTSON: Well, at this time, the Iraqi leader really needs to keep support off the Iraqi population. This type of explanation is not something the president talks about much on television. Of course everyone here knows that the country has had weapons of mass destruction, chemical in the past. The president laying out a reason why they had them. They needed them for defensive measures. These are the sort of explanations at this time perhaps they will weigh on people's minds at this time as the country heads into war.

Of course, we heard the Iraqi leadership say time and again and in their referendum last year, the president has 100 percent support of the people. Of course that, when we talk privately to people, not the case. What they're trying to do, it seems to be, is to remind their people of why they have these weapons and to try to at least keep some support in this very critical time -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Nic Robertson, reporting live from Baghdad.

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