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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview with Senator Pat Roberts and Senator Evan Bayh

Aired July 31, 2003 - 20:29   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Paul Bremer, the man in charge of rebuilding Iraq, has repeatedly said it will take years to establish democracy there, until this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL BREMER, U.S. ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: It is certainly not unrealistic to think that we could have elections by midyear 2004. And when a sovereign government is installed, the coalition authority will cede sovereignty to that Iraqi government and my job here will be over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Is this a major shift? And, if so, what is the cause behind it?

I'm joined by any Senator Evan Bayh, a member of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, and Senator Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence.

Welcome, gentlemen. Glad to have both of you with us tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Senator Roberts, I'm going to start with you this evening.

Why do you think Mr. Bremer changed the timetable here? And is it realistic?

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Well, I'm not sure he had a timetable that you could really pinpoint on a several-year period. But we have made some progress in Iraq. Obviously, we're still suffering casualties. But we just had Dr. Kay and also General Dayton before the Intelligence Committee and the Armed Services Committee today.

And they're predicting that, hopefully, they're making some real progress on finding the WMD. I don't think it's unreasonable to predict that it might be possible that, in the next year, they could hold a constitutional convention and we could see a lot more stability.

ZAHN: Senator Bayh, there are members of your party tonight suggesting that this shortened timetable was announced publicly to silence some of the administration's critics. Do you subscribe to that? SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Paula, I don't.

I think this is an inexact science and the date of the election is going to depend upon events over the course of the next year. If we're able to build up the Iraqis' several authorities to the point they can assume control in the country, well then, the sooner the better.

But obviously, we don't want to do that prematurely and have anarchy come back. So regardless of when the election is, whether it's next summer or a little later than that, I think even when Paul Bremer is gone, as my colleague, Dick Lugar from Indiana has pointed out, we're going to be there for several years.

ZAHN: Do you really have confidence that a government, Senator Bayh, when you say maybe next summer or after that could really become stable during that period of time?

BAYH: Well, Paula, I hate to tell you I don't know, but so much just depends on events. Are we able to apprehend Saddam? Do his diehards in the Baathist Party decide to throw in the towel? Do some of the foreigners that have come into the country to create havoc, are we able to eradicate them? What about the attitude of the Iranians? And many of these things, I think we're just not going to know.

My best guess for you is things will gradually get better, and that perhaps by sometime next year we can turn over a large chunk of authority to the Iraqi. But again, it's inexact science, and the last thing we want to do, as desperately as we would all like to leave Iraq, is to pull out prematurely and have everything that we fought to accomplish go down the drain.

ZAHN: On to the issue of now of weapons of mass destruction. Senator Roberts, you were quoted as saying that you never expected investigators to find a smoking gun, but you also said...

ROBERTS: I believe I said a smoking missile.

ZAHN: Smoking missile.

ROBERTS: Right.

ZAHN: Oh, I'm sorry we switched that on you.

But let me ask you this. You also, if we have this correct, said that you suspect there will be some WMD surprises. What do you expect to happen?

ROBERTS: Well, basically, I'm quoting Dr. David Kay, who indicated that the surprise may be -- that there will be a surprise to the American people. We have the best and brightest as part of this Iraqi survey group. I think they're making progress. They have a better criteria now than they've ever had before by getting, really, some help from the Iraqis in determining where the weapons of mass destruction may be and the program that was devised and also Dr. Kay is moving very, very slowly, step by step, and so he says that the criteria have to be there, the evidence has to be there, and the physical evidence has to be there. He is quoted in the press in thinking that hopefully they can put that together in six months or less time.

It was a very good hearing today. They were forthright. They were very candid and they were consulting with Congress, which is what they ought to be.

ZAHN: And Senator Bayh, you were at the same hearing, I understand. How did you learn about how much closer the United States might be to finding weapons of mass destruction?

BAYH: Paula, we're making progress. And as much as we would like to find a barrel of the stuff tomorrow, I think it's just going to take a little while.

You know, before the war there was a very strong case based upon circumstantial evidence. Now that's being fleshed out, little by little, in terms of more direct evidence. As the chairman mentioned, in terms of personal eyewitness accounts, document -- documents substantiating that. And then hopefully, physical evidence. So it's just going to take some time. But ultimately, I think that we're going to find that he did have a program in place and probably weapons as well.

ZAHN: Senators Bayh and Senators Roberts, thank you so much for joining us tonight. It's nice to have some collegial members of Congress side by side from Capitol Hill.

ROBERTS: Good to be with you.

ZAHN: Thank you.

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