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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Diplomatic Solution Off Table Now

Aired March 17, 2003 - 11:28   ET

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

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Prime Minister Blair had better be prepared for quite a few body blows to come in the days and weeks ahead. As you know, we've been watching the polls and the British public has only been supporting this whole venture up to war only in the low teens percentage-wise. So this could be some very tough times ahead for Prime Minister Tony Blair. We're going to keep our eyes on that situation there as well as around the world.
A diplomatic solution for the showdown with Iraq pretty much off the table now. President Bush is going to be coming out and issuing an ultimatum tonight to Saddam Hussein and his cohorts as we heard this morning. But some world leaders are standing firm against military action in Iraq, and we have extensive coverage of the latest reaction coming in from around the globe this morning.

CNN's Jim Bittermann is in Paris, Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty is in the Russian capital, and Rula Amin is in Ruwaishid, Jordan. That is where refugees are crossing the border, coming in from Iraq.

Let's begin, first of all with Jim Bittermann -- Jim, hello.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Leon. As you say, the French position has not changed at all. Before breakfast this morning, Dominique de Villepin, the foreign minister, was on French radio saying that basically France still remains opposed to any kind of resolution in the United Nations that automatically implies the use of military force, which was the case with the resolution that was before the Security Council just recently withdrawn by the United States and Great Britain. And the French ambassador to the United Nations says he believes that, in fact, the resolution was withdrawn because the United States and Great Britain realize that they did not have anything near majority support on the Security Council to get that resolution passed. The French have said this all along. They said it's not because of the veto that they have threatened, but rather the fact that the U.S. and Great Britain came to recognize they could not get nine votes necessary to pass the resolution. And basically, the French have stood on this position because of the fact that they believe the inspections are working. The inspectors that are being withdrawn today are not being withdrawn because their mission has come to some kind of a road block or come to some kind of an end, they're being withdrawn because they're under the threat of military force.

So, basically, they believe the inspections can be made to work to disarm Iraq peacefully. A similar kind of view that one hears in Moscow, I take it, and here's Jill Dougherty to explain further. JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Well, taking that resolution off the table really is something that Russia absolutely wanted. In fact this morning, you had a deputy foreign minister saying there is no way that that resolution is going to pass. After all, the Russians did not want it. They did not want to have it pass. But on the other hand, they didn't want to use their veto and damage the relationship with the United States.

So now, it's not an issue. You also had some comments from President Vladimir Putin who has maintained a studious silence over the past few weeks. He said that war in Iraq would be a mistake, and that it would be fraught with the gravest consequences, which would result in casualties and also damage the international situation.

This has created some problems, of course, between the United States and Russia, but today we had some fence mending. The -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- I guess we have some technical problems here.

RULA AMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm standing at the town of Ruwaishid. This is the last Jordanian town before travelers get to the Iraqi border.

Baghdad is just about five hours drive away from here, and throughout today, we have seen diplomatic cars and other cars bringing diplomats and journalists who seem to think Baghdad is not safe anymore with war looming so close.

And ten minutes, just ten minutes drive up this road there are -- where the Jordanian government and U.N. agencies are preparing to receive refugees, refugees that will be fleeing Iraq in case there is a war. The U.N. estimates about 600,000 people will try to get out of Iraq into Iraq's neighboring countries like Jordan, like Turkey, like Iran, and they're trying to prepare the ground, the pace of work has really picked up since last week, with bulldozers digging the ground, preparing the ground to set up this camp.

For the town of Ruwaishid and for the rest of Jordanians, the fact that the diplomatic solution has closed down is just bad news. People here are very angry, very frustrated, and they don't see that this war is justified, and they don't see it is legitimate. The humanitarian crisis that may result from this war is a major concern for people here where they feel that the Iraqi people may end up paying the highest price -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well, Rula, the question that jumps to mind first is, these people who are coming across the border, are they blaming their plight right now on Saddam Hussein, or are they blaming it on the U.S.?

AMIN: Well, there are no people crossing the border right now. However, the people we have been talking to, even Iraqis who have left Iraq in the last few years and who usually blame Saddam Hussein for their misery are very anxious and apprehensive about the U.S. war. They keep on telling us that they cannot accept, no matter how much they dislike Saddam Hussein and they dislike his regime, they cannot accept the fact that Americans would go to Iraq and occupy it. They tell us this is unacceptable, and they don't -- they will not accept it.

Jordanians, for example, say that the Americans are going to war not to disarm Saddam Hussein. Many of them tell us that they are suspicious that the Americans are going to war in order to control the Iraqi oil, to control the region, and that's why there's very strong opposition to any military strike against Iraq.

Even those people here who really wish to see that Saddam Hussein disappear tomorrow, are very apprehensive about the fallout of this war. For example, the Jordanian government here has made it very clear that there will be some economic -- huge economic losses for Jordanians in case there is a war because Iraq is a main trading partner for Jordan, and they will lose a lot if there is a war -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right. Thank you very much, Rula. Rula, before we let you go, let me ask you one last question. The question is whether or not people there that you've been talking to actually believe that whatever happens, that when this is all over, and it is said and done, that there will be a better chance for true democracy in that region?

AMIN: Well, Leon, actually, this argument doesn't sell here. For example, they say if the U.S. really wants democracy in Iraq, why is it only Iraq? How come the U.S. is not pressuring other allies in the region, different Arab countries who are not democratic? The other thing is that people are concerned for Iraq's stability and for the integrity of Iraq as a country. Even the governments, the Arab governments, who are very much anti-Saddam Hussein, they are concerned that instability in Iraq would lead to instability in their own countries -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right. And speaking of instability, you may have some there, so we want you to be careful. Rula Amin reporting live for us from Ruwaishid there on the border of Jordan and Iraq -- take care. Be careful.

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