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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Hans Blix

Aired June 11, 2003 - 19:18   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Now before the shooting started there had been a United Nations effort to track down illegal weapons inside Iraq. Hard to forget that, of course.
The man who led the search, Hans Blix, he is finishing up his time as the U.N.'s chief weapons inspector. And our senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth sat down with Blix today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Did the U.S. Bush administration mislead its public into going into war based upon claims of weapons of mass destruction?

HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I would not make any such accusations. What we have said from our part is that the intelligence we got regarding sites, and that was the intelligence we were interested in, did not lead us to any sites that contained any weapons of mass destruction.

A few cases, they led us to something interesting, but they were not weapons of mass destruction. Hence, I felt that there was a short coming of this.

ROTH: A lot of people in Washington said some pretty bad things about you. Do you feel that you were the victim of a smear campaign?

BLIX: No, I think that if you are in public life, and you are as exposed as I've been then perhaps it was inevitable there would be some nasty things said about you. Even e-mails arriving saying that you claim you are a watchdog, but you're a French poodle or something like that.

ROTH: But in some print interviews recently you returned fire a bit. You said some pretty strong things.

BLIX: Well, I said it vexes me if I have what I regard as totally unjustified accusations, but I don't lose sleep over it and I have certainly pursued my job here.

ROTH: You used the word beginning with "B."

BLIX: I wasn't sure that would be printed. I don't think it would be printed in America.

ROTH: So to you think they were? To use the word printed "bastards?"

BLIX: I certainly thought -- I had a low opinion about these detractors but it's not really worth much time.

ROTH: What does this mean for the United States globally if nothing is uncovered?

BLIX: I think what it tells us is that starting an armed action of some kind anywhere, then one should be fairly sure that it is justified. I think one has to be cautious in making use of the armed force on flimsy or shaky grounds.

ROTH: Finally, if nothing is found, would you like an apology from some people?

BLIX: We do not get apologies in politics. My conscience is entirely clean and I think that we demonstrated that you can have independent and effective international inspection and that is good enough. It would have been even nicer if we would have been able to come to conclusions and if the war could have been avoided by a demonstration that there was nothing left, but we did part of the way, at any rate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: For more on Hans Blix I am joined now by Richard Roth. Richard, is this the last we've heard from Hans Blix?

ROTH: No, it's not. He is going to write a book. In fact, I don't know if he was referring to it, but Secretary-General Kofi Annan of the U.N. said we haven't heard the last of him. But he defended him and Colin Powell in Washington today said it was no smear campaign by the U.S. government.

COOPER: It's interesting in this publication overseas, he said -- he described his detractors as bastards. Yet he seemed surprised that people would find out about it.

ROTH: Yes, he gives many interviews. He's very open, but he and the other U.N. colleagues he has, sometimes they're not totally aware of the distribution process of one quote. Especially a quote with the "b"-word and how it's going to get picked up. And they're always surprised about that. And sometimes they don't understand what's on the record, off the record, what's said as you're showing the reporter out the door. So Blix has had this happen before. He only has a few weeks left before he retires.

COOPER: All right. Richard Roth, thanks very much. Good interview. Thanks.

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