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White House To Brief Representatives Sunday; President Obama Weighs Strike In Syria; Syria: We Are "Ready" For Any Attack; U.S. Strike Could Aid Syrian Rebels; U.N. Officials Holding Briefing On Syria
Aired August 31, 2013 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're going into our second hour now. Hello again, everyone. CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. A look at our top stories that we're following for you.
President Barack Obama is weighing a critical decision today, what to do in Syria and a briefing is expected at the United Nations this hour after inspectors gathered evidence to determine if there was a chemical weapons attack. We have reporters in New York, Washington and of course, around the world.
And texting while driving, it's against the law in a lot of place, but what if you just send the text message and your recipient is the one who's behind the wheel and gets into an accident? We'll explain why you could face legal trouble as well.
And it has been three weeks since 16-year-old Hannah Anderson was rescued after a family friend abducted her and took her into the wilderness. Now, we hear from the sister of that family friend.
In about 30 minutes, we're expecting a briefing at the United Nations surrounding the crisis in Syria. U.N. inspectors left the country today after gathering evidence on a deadly chemical weapons attack at the briefing room of the United Nations where we'll be taking those comments live in about 30 minutes.
Meantime, the representative for disarmament affairs arrived in New York last night. That's her in the center. She's meeting with the secretary general today and the upcoming briefing will be about that meeting as the world waits to hear what was found exactly. The United States appears to be getting ready to strike.
Jill Dougherty is live for us now at the White House. So Jill, of course, the big question is, will the strike happen with or without the U.N. approval?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, they have said, made it very clear, they would not need U.N. approval, but I think more importantly right now, what seems to be happening is the administration according to one senior U.S. official, needs to give more briefings to congress and they need to give more briefings to the allies and so, we have this now more specific information about those, about the conference calls, unclassified conference calls, that we already knew going to be taking place today. In fact, the first will be with Senate Republican conference at 1:00, so that would be in another hour or so and then the second one today would be the Senate Democratic caucus at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Those are again, unclassified and they would be by phone. Remember, a lot of you know, senators and representatives are out there in their home districts.
But, the more significant thing I think is tomorrow, Sunday, we are told by a senior U.S. official that there will be a classified briefing on Capitol Hill for those members of the House who want to see the classified version of that intelligence report. That would be things that have not been disclosed to the public that only members of Congress can see and they have to be here physically in Washington to do that again, because of security issues.
And these briefings will be taking place and held by senior officials, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and others. We also have seen video -- we also have seen the arrivals, which we have on video, of a number of those officials. They came here earlier today. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs, Secretary Kerry is here and also Vice President Biden.
So, a number of things happening on a very quickly changing day and then finally, also, Fred, tweets coming out and they've become very important, obviously. Several coming from National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who gave in a short form, the reason this administration believes you need to take some kind of action. She says at the core of this decision is U.S. security and preventing attacks on innocents using the world's most heinous weapons. So back to you, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much, Jill Dougherty. Keep us posted on these meetings today with the caucuses taking place today. Appreciate that. Let's go to the Pentagon now. Barbara Starr is live there. So Barbara, what moves have already been made by the U.S. military to get ready for these possible strikes?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, over the last couple of days, we've watched as the U.S. Navy has assembled five warships in the Eastern Mediterranean off of Syria equipped with about 40 Tomahawk missiles apiece. These are, of course, the unmanned cruise missiles, very precise guided to their pre-programmed target via satellite GPS coordinates. Thousand pound warhead, very lethal.
This is the type of precision strike against a list of specific targets that the military would undertake if the order comes from the president. This is the weapon of choice, if you will, in this kind of situation, very narrow, very focused mission and not the risk of putting an aircraft with a pilot on board over Syrian air space and risk being shot down -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: OK, and is there any indication of timeline? They're all at the ready right now? Whether the White House were to say let's do this tonight or in two days?
STARR: Right. You know, well, there's certainly the political timeline Joe was talking about in terms of the briefings, the consultations with Congress, with the allies that the administration is going to calculate need to take place and what else needs to take place on that political timetable.
On a military timetable, they are ready to go, we are told. All this really awaits is an order from the president to execute his orders, his operation and then the military will swing into full gear very quickly. And things could start unfolding very rapidly, but again, it will await that very formal execute order from the president of the United States -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Barbara Starr, thanks so much. Appreciate that from the Pentagon. So, if the U.S. decides to take military action to punish the Syrian regime, it could happen at any time. You heard Barbara say that. Today, Syrians are watching and they're waiting and they're wondering what, if anything, the Assad regime might do to retaliate if there is indeed an attack. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Syria's use of chemical weapons is quote danger to our national security.
Our Fred Pleitgen is right next door to Syria in Lebanon. So, what are you hearing from the regime?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the regime is saying in the form of the prime minister, Fred, that they are in a full state of readiness with their finger on the trigger and to elaborate, they obviously mean their antiaircraft systems that they have. They said they've been building these for the past 20 years and they're highly modernized and they say they are ready to strike back if in fact Syria is attacked by for instance, the United States.
Now, it's not exactly clear what they could do. Certainly, their air defenses are fairly capable, but no match against anything that the United States has and also, if you look at the Syrian Air Force, most of their planes are from the 1970s and '80s and that seems to be something many people on the ground know as well. Many we're speaking to on the ground in Damascus say they don't believe the U.S. will strike.
There are some out there who aren't sure these strikes are going to happen and there are those who say they hope the strikes will be limited. Of course, the Obama administration has said it doesn't want to do that, however, people there are quite anxious, quite nervous, but at the same time, you don't see masses of people fleeing, at least not from the government's side.
WHITFIELD: All right, Fred Pleitgen, thanks so much. Keep us posted from your vantage point. Appreciate it.
Weighing this options in Syria, what happens if Bashar Al-Assad's regime falls? Will the rebels be friend or foe to the U.S. Peter Bergen joining us live.
And the sister of James DiMaggio speaks out. She says the man accused of kidnapping Hannah Anderson and murdering her mom and brother is not the man that she knew. The exclusive interview coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: With intelligence it says dead on, the United States seems braced to launch a military strike on Syria. While the government says it's not about regime change, a strike will help the Syrian rebel forces, but who are the rebels taking on Assad? Joining us now is CNN's national security analyst, Peter Bergen. So, Peter, are you able to answer, who are the rebels?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, they're a mix. I mean, one of the reasons that the Obama administration's been so reluctant intervening in Syria is by one account, there are more than 1,000 different sort of groups. The Free Syrian Army, which is regarded as being more moderate, less anti-western and then of course, you have the most effective fighting force, al Qaeda. It doesn't go by the name of al Qaeda in Syria.
It goes by the name of Al Mussara and other names, but it effectively is a branch of al Qaeda in Iraq. It's the most effective fighting force on the ground and is one of many reasons the Obama administration has been so reluctant because at the end of the day, best he could do to overthrow the Assad regime as well.
WHITFIELD: But we've heard at least loosely from the White House that the objective here is not to overthrow the Assad regime, but certainly, a strike will perhaps destabilize it or does this strike bode well for the rebels?
BERGEN: Well, I think it, during the course of a war, air strikes went on for 78 days, so if it turns out to be two or three days of strike, I think in terms of what happens on the ground in Syria, that's going to be almost irrelevant. Will it send a strong signal to Assad not to use chemical weapons? May be, but the administration right now ironically given their public position about this for a long time doesn't really want to overthrow Assad because what would follow would likely be a, you know, a country where al Qaeda controlled a good chunk of the country. Maybe not the entire country, Fredricka, but the fact that they're the strongest fighting force on the ground speaks for itself.
WHITFIELD: So, you mentioned there are many factions involved in how the rebels are being represented, but if there are some who are indeed tied to al Qaeda, you know, how much more dominant might those rebels be over the other groups of rebels that are taking on the Assad regime?
BERGEN: I think there are, I mean, not my opinion, I think it's widely held view that the al Qaeda affiliate is the most effective fighting force for several reasons in Syria. One, a lot of them have battlefield experience in other wars, such as a Iraq war. Two, they're willing to sacrifice themselves in this struggle. They're willing to take great risks. Three, they're regarded as being un- corrupt, which is distinct from other rebels. They are not involved in looting.
Four, they seem to have learned from some of their mistakes that al Qaeda made in Iraq. They're not imposing Taliban style rule in the population in general. They're not cutting down on relatively minor infractions. They are acting almost in a Hezbollah-like manner in which they're providing social services to the population, food, medical services, legal services, and that explains why they're being pretty effective -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: OK, Peter Bergen, thank you so much. We'll be checking back with you. Meantime, we just learned that the president of the United States, President Obama will be taking to the air waves or speaking on this matter at 1:15 Eastern Time. We'll of course, bring that to you.
Again, all of this on a day where the president is also scheduled to have unclassified conversations, conference calls with Republicans and Democrats and we have learned that classified talks will take place involving members of Congress and top level members of the white house administration.
That will take place Sunday, but headline right now in about an hour from now, the president, of course, will be taking to the air waves. At least do some sort of briefings on the Syrian crisis and of course, we'll bring that to you.
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WHITFIELD: All right, this just in. Just a day after president Obama says that any strike in Syria would not be open ended, that it would be very limited, a very limited engagement and that he is also consulting members of Congress. Now, we understand in just about an hour or so, less than an hour from now, the president will be taking to the Rose Garden with a statement.
Our Jill Dougherty is at the White House for us now. So, Jill, what's our expectation?
DOUGHERTY: Well, this decision by the president to come out into the Rose Garden and make a statement comes right in the middle of a period in which they are consulting with members of Congress. Both the Senate today and we were led to believe tomorrow. There would be a classified briefing on Capitol Hill, so if that is case, then we would have to think what would the president want to say at this point?
He might want to make the case more strongly. Again, we do not know specifically what he is going to say, but remember, Secretary Kerry, Secretary of State Kerry, made the case in a more formal way and then the president came in yesterday making it in a less formal way, so now, the president is going to weigh in and some have been saying that it's about time that he actually make the case, so we will have to see. It's coming very soon, but this is the context in which the context is going to make these statements.
WHITFIELD: This is very perplexing timing if the president indeed is going to be making that statement and further stating the case on a day when these unclassified conference calls are taking place and as you underscore, a classified conversation would be take taking place tomorrow on Capitol Hill involving top level White House folks. It seems like a strange order of events, does it not?
DOUGHERTY: It does unless this is not working the way the White House wants it. Unless there is much more convincing that has to happen and there are indications of that coming from members of Congress, as well as some of the allies. Some of the international leader that is the administration has been talking with. So, it may be part of that. That classified briefing tomorrow was to present the actual classified information, which members could not get just on a telethon, so that would also indicate they wanted to provide more intel to them to make the case.
WHITFIELD: Then I guess the symbolism that comes from the backdrop of the Rose Garden when the president makes this statement certainly can't be overlooked. Jill Dougherty, thanks so much. We'll check back with you again. At 1:15 is the scheduled time we've been given by the White House, a tweet going out by Jay Carney, that it will be 1:15. In about 45 minutes, we'll be taking that live when it happens and hearing directly what the president has to say. We'll have much more right after this.
WHITFIELD: Just want to let you know in about 45 minutes from now, a scheduled statement coming from the president of the United States right from the Rose Garden. Of course, we'll carry that live. President Obama talking about the crisis in Syria, 45 minutes from now from the Rose Garden, this just less than a day after the president spoke from the cabinet room describing what this strike could potentially be, that it would be very limited. This is what he said yesterday.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This kind of attack is a challenge to the world. We cannot accept a world where women and children and innocent civilians are gassed on a terrible scale. This kind of attack threatens our national security interests. By violating well established international norms against the use of chemical weapons. By further threatening friends and allies of ours in the region like Israel and Turkey and Jordan. And it increases the risk that chemical weapons will be used in the future and fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us.
So, I have said before and I meant what I said, that if the world has an obligation to make sure that we maintain the norm against the use of chemical weapons. Now, I have not made a final decision about various actions that might be taken to help enforce that norm. But as I've already said, I have had my military and our team look at a wide range of options.
We have consulted with allies. We've consulted with Congress. We've been in conversations with all the interested parties. And in no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground, that would involve a long-term campaign, but we are looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow act that would help make sure that not only Syria, but others around the world, understand that the international community cares about maintaining this chemical weapons ban and norm.
But again, I repeat, we're not considering any open ended commitment. We're not considering any boots on the ground approach. What we will do is consider options that meet the narrow concern around chemical weapons understanding that there's not going to be a solely military solution to the underlying conflict and tragedy that's taking place in Syria.
And I will continue to consult closely with Congress in addition to the release of the unclassified document. We are providing a classified briefing to congressional staff today and we'll offer that same classified briefing to members of Congress as well as our international partners and I will continue to provide updates to the American people as we get more information.
WHITFIELD: So, again, that was Friday afternoon. The president there in the cabinet room saying that he was considering a number of options as it pertains to the crisis in Syria. That he is continuing to consult Congress. That this would not be an open ended commitment, no boots on the ground and now, we understand 25 minutes from now, from the Rose Garden, the president will be making a statement.
Unclear whether he will be making a stronger case about the U.S. military involvement, but you heard him yesterday, it may not be just the military involvement, but there are other options that the president, the White House, is considering and all this on a day when the president also underscoring his consultations with Congress.
There are unclassified conversations taking place today with Democrats and Republicans and we did understand that there would be some classified conversations tomorrow, but again, 45 minutes from now, we'll be taking live the president's live statement on the crisis in Syria from the Rose Garden.
And then we also understand that just within minutes in New York at the United Nations, there is also a statement being made to reporters there. We want to listen in right now.
MARTIN NESIRKY, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL SPOKESMAN: -- and Angela King, who is the high representative for disarmament affairs. The secretary general met with Miss King, who just returned from Damascus and Ms. King briefed the secretary general on her trip and on the current status of the investigation. She reported there was a wide range of fact finding activities pertaining to the 21st of August incident.
She thanked the Syrian government and opposition for their cooperation during this mission. The mission will be in a position to transmit its conclusions to the secretary general as soon as it has received the results of the laboratory results of the samples. The secretary general looks forward to receiving the mission's findings as soon as possible. So he can promptly present the results to member states and to the Security Council.
The secretary general expressed his sincere appreciation to Dr. Selstrum and his team, including the security personnel and interpreters for their exceptional bravery and professionalism. He also praised the organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons and the World Health Organization for their extraordinary cooperation.
And finally he thanked Miss King herself for her effective coordination between the mission and government of Syria, despite the extraordinary and difficult circumstances. Just a couple of other points simply to say that the secretary general did speak briefly this morning with Dr. Selstrum right after the chemical weapons team had arrived in the Netherlands.
This was simply to say thank you to the team and the secretary general will be briefed in more detail by Dr. Selstrum tomorrow. That is being done by telephone. That's what I have for you tomorrow and just to update you on one other aspect. The team now in the Netherlands will be spending the day collecting the samples and other evidence which they have prior to the testing in the laboratories in Europe, so that's what I have at the moment and I'm happy to take questions that you may have. Yes. Please use the microphone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much for briefing us on a Saturday. Thank you. Sir, yesterday, the Secretary of State John Kerry said it clearly there is nothing inspectors can tell them that they don't know already and he also explained that the mandate of inspectors does not include finding who used the chemical weapon, only if it was used or not. And that the administration had concluded that the weapons chemical weapons had been used.
My question is why doesn't the United Nation and the secretary general step up to the plate and expand the mandate of the inspectors to include finding out who is the culprit that used chemical weapon because when asked this question to secretary general, he said he will give the evidence to the international committee and they will decide.
We know very well that the division within the Security Council will lead everybody to incriminate the other side and it will be no nearer to finding out who used this. We need an independent, fair and partial like the U.N. to determine who are the culprits who used the chemical weapon.
NESIRKY: That's a very long question, but simply to say thank you for your vote of confidence in the United Nations and that is precisely the point here. That let me say it very clearly and forcefully, that the United Nations' mission is uniquely capable of establishing in an impartial and credible manner, the facts of any use of chemical weapons based directly on evidence collected from the ground.
With regards to the other part of your question, the mandate is the mandate. The team and the secretary general will abide by that mandate to be able to expectations of the international community come up with as I've just said, in an impartial and credible manner, evidence collected from the ground and then analyzed and those findings will be made as I've just said, just a little while ago, available to member states as soon as that analysis is completed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand this is the mandate, but while my question is why doesn't the United Nations secretary general take the brave step of stepping to the plate and expanding the mandate to determine who did this because we all know there's no accountability which the secretary general has --
NESIRKY: You seem to misunderstand where the mandate derives from. The secretary general's mechanism as defined, and you can read all the details about it online, derives from a general assembly resolution that was then subsequently endorsed by the Security Council resolution. Therefore, I think you can see where difficulties might arise with changing the mandate.
The mandate is robust and provides for the United Nations to be able to provide in an impartial and credible manner. A picture of what happened and let's be also very clear that the secretary general and the team have stepped up to the plate already. Let's not forget that these are scientists and technical and medical experts who braved sniper fire to go to collect samples and to interview witnesses and survivors. I think I would say that's the definition of stepping up to the plate. Yes, then to pan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven't learned yet who shot at the team when they were --
NESIRKY: Well, frankly, it doesn't matter who's shooting when you're under sniper fire going to a job. It does not matter who is shooting. I frankly don't care who is shooting. It's outrageous they were shot at. What's your question?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened to the investigation in -- the first reported one and this is where everything was initiated based on.
NESIRKY: I'm glad you asked that because as I said yesterday and aisle happy to repeat it again, the team has given a very clear und undertaking to the Syrian authorities that it will return, the team will return to conduct investigation into all the pending allegations, including Assad. As I just said, the team left Syria this morning so that they could take the samples safely to the laboratories where they will be analyzed and of course, beyond the samples, there's an entire body of evidence, witness statements, interviews with doctors as well as survivors, all of that needs to be collated and in some cases, translated and then analyzed. They have work to do, but will be returning to complete their investigation into the pending allegations, all of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Given the time lapse, given the opposition has told -- for some time now, shouldn't they have tampered with the -- wouldn't you expect they have tampered with the evidence?
NESIRKY: Well, listen. This is an argument that's been put forward also with regard to Hota and the team has been able to collect samples from the sites both by medical samples and environmental samples and they are satisfied they have material that they can now angel ice and there are also many other ways to help to investigate the pending allegations as we've said before. Already, the work had begun on analyzing and collecting information that it was possible to collect at a distance without being on the spot. I'm going to go to someone else, okay? Please blue tie. Yes, you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the secretary general try to convince the United States not to strike any time soon before the report of the inspectors come out?
NESIRKY: What we have said and the secretary general has said publicly, is that the team need time to do its job. It needs time to be able to analyze the information and the samples that it has collected. And the secretary general has said repeatedly there is no alternative to a political solution to this crisis, overall crisis in Syria. A military solution is not an option, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaking of that time, is there any sort of time frame being given, maybe an earliest date or latest date, just is there any time frame being given for these results to be analyzed in the laboratories?
NESIRKY: We are not giving a timeline, simply to say that I can help you here. That the mission as I just said, left Syria and arrived in the Netherlands today and it will then begin its evaluation of all the available material. All the available information regarding the Hota incident, including the analysis in two designated laboratories, but before the mission can draw any conclusions, the process must be completed and secretary general has requested for the laboratory phase to be expedited as much as feasible and as he put it himself this morning, when speaking with Miss Kane, whatever can be done to speed up the process is being done, but we are not giving a timeline. Yes, Pan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mentioned yesterday that the secretary general in the P5 meeting which includes the United States and France underscored the importance of the charter, which of course, prohibits use of military force. Is the secretary general reaching out to the U.S. and France, who have indicated the possibility of a military strike, so encourage restraint or to discourage a strike? And also, what are you doing for the 1,000 U.N. staff in Syria to protect them?
NESIRKY: Well, I'm glad you asked that question and I'll deal with that first. I've seen all kinds of reporting suggesting that the departure of the chemical weapons team somehow opens a window for military action of some kind. Frankly, that's grotesque and it's also an affront to the more than 1,000 U.N. staff who are on the ground in Syria delivering humanitarian aid and who will continue to deliver critical aid.
Of course, it would be only prudent to look at the composition of the team, that 1,000 plus, to see who is most critical. To the work that's being done, but I can assure you that with humanitarian work that has been going on in extremely difficult circumstances working with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and others to provide aid to millions of displaced people, not to mention those in the neighboring countries who are refugees. That work will continue.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
NESIRKY: On the first part, I would simply just say what I suggest today, which is that the secretary general has underscored the importance of the charter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Made any effort -- has he had any separate conversations --
NESIRKY: I'm just going to stick with what I've said. Yes, helpful colleagues.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, very. Can you give some examples of which U.N. humanitarian bodies have a lot of staff in Syria and secondly, you said the secretary general was being briefed tomorrow, but the team --
NESIRKY: No, by Dr. Selstrum.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he briefing somebody else after that?
NESIRKY: Meaning what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You, like me?
NESIRKY: We will certainly endeavour to provide a readout of that briefing and with regard to the first part of your question on which humanitarian agencies under the U.N. umbrella operating there, WFP, Unicef and others and I will endeavour to provide a more detailed list. Obviously, we're in the going to get into staff numbers and so on of each individual agency, but simply to say that critical staff, who provide critical assistance will continue to do so.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are they international or local or both?
NESIRKY: They are U.N. staff. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just, you said repeatedly, there is no timeline for these reports. This is regarding the chemical analysis of everything going on. What about the interviews? Do you have any idea when the interviews are going to be translated and available or is it going to go all together over the report?
NESIRKY: The latter. Of course everything needs to be compiled into a report. As we said yesterday, there will be this report on the 21st of August incident. It hinges on the analysis of the samples and on the evidence witness statements that have been collected. Yes, they need to be translated. And yes, they need to be compiled, but all that is being put together and will be put together in that report on the 21st of August incident in that one report.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the secretary general after this report will be submitted to him and he seemed to expect that from the information of the whereabouts of the origin of the chemical weapons, more clarity will be put in who did that. He shows the curiosity when he talks to Mr. Selstrum, et cetera.
NESIRKY: The aim of the game here, the mandate is very clear. That is to ascertain whether chemical weapons were used and not by whom and that remains the mandate. I'm going right back to the back of the room. Yes, sir, right to the back of the room. What are you watching on the TV this time?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing. There's nothing going on yet, 1:15 probably. Can you tell us if president Obama will meet in person with secretary general after he gets more details tomorrow from Dr. Selstrum and will he be meeting with the Security Council maybe on Monday or Tuesday after they establish the new president. Do we know if there might be a meeting in person with him?
NESIRKY: That, I do not know. I can tell you that the secretary general has been in touch both with the outstanding president of the counsel. In other words, the current representative of Argentina and with the incoming representative of Australia, that's what I have at the moment and as regards, the first part of your question, I do not anticipate any meeting as you've just described.
I would point out this secretary general is going to be attending the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg. He announced that yesterday and that provides a good venue for meeting all kind of world leaders, but at this point, we do not know exactly, precisely, which leaders he will be meeting with.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, martin. Can you tell us if the secretary general has spoken with President Obama today and if so, what did he say to him and secondly --
NESIRKY: He has not. He hasn't spoken with him today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us what is the secretary general's position on whether a military strike would be legal, legitimate or helpful?
NESIRKY: I would simply say what I said earlier, that the secretary general has underscored the importance of the U.N. charter. OK, yes, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'm wondering about the report that came out today from the veteran AP reporter in the Middle East who interviewed many of the rebels and has said that the rebels had been behind the chemical attack. I'm wondering as far as the mandate goes, he claimed that the rebels told him --
NESIRKY: I've answered that question with respect. Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Martin, our eagle eyed camera man down in the lobby didn't see this. Miss Kane come in today at about ten after 12:00. Did they sneak in the garage, meet at his residence? How long was the meeting?
NESIRKY: I would simply say they met for just over an hour, but not in the garage. No. Please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During the meeting today has Miss Kane described her view on the possible attack by United States or France?
NESIRKY: The focus was on the mission that's just been completed in Syria and the work that needs to now be undertaken to analyze all of the material, the evidence that's been collected during what was obviously an extremely arduous undertaking for the technical and scientific experts and for the support team around them, including Miss Kane, but including interpreters, drivers, security personnel.
If you look at it, if you look at the time frame, this was done in an extraordinarily swift fashion. Extremely professional with a limited number of hours to be able to get what they needed. They believe they have got samples they can work with and that's what they intend to do now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The focus of that meeting, but are there any reference from Miss Kane about possible outcome? Military attack?
NESIRKY: I would just stick with what I've said. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Martin, once the report of the inspectors would come out and the strike if it will happen, what will be the nature of the mission of the inspectors when they go back to Syria?
NESIRKY: I'm not going to speculate at this point. I will simply repeat that we have given an undertaking. The team has given an undertaking to the Syrian authorities that it will return to complete its investigation. I've got time for two more questions. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he asked American to wait for the outcome of this U.N. investigation and also he asked if American has any other evidence to bring it to the U.N., what's your reaction to that?
NESIRKY: I don't have any specific reaction at this point to President Putin's remarks. I've seen them, we have seen them. I would simply say again that the team had a mandated job to do and is continuing with that job. Now, what they need to do is to analyze the samples and work on all of the other material evidence they have collected so that they can come up with their findings as soon as it is feasible and as I just said, the secretary general has said that whatever can be done is being done to accelerate that process. Last question, yes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A few days ago, said that he is almost sure that -- have you had a chance to talk to him and understand -- based on?
NESIRKY: Well, I think my colleague has addressed that already and I would simply reiterate that --
WHITFIELD: Sorry about that. Just lost that signal out of the U.N., but you can hear during that briefing now that we understand the Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, has met with the leading weapons inspector, all of the weapons inspectors who were in Syria, to look at the evidence of chemical weapons, have now made their way out of the country, but Ban Ki-Moon has met with Angela Kane apparently, the collating of samples is now taking place in the Netherlands.
All of this taking place as about 15 minutes from now, we understand the president of the United States, President Obama will be taking to the Rose Garden to make a statement about the crisis in Syria. But we understand from the White House that this will not be a statement about any military strike being imminent, but instead, this will be a statement to the American people.
All of this taking place just a day after the president made the statement yesterday from the cabinet office saying, that this will not be an open ended strike. If it does indeed come to that, there will be no boots on the ground and then of course, the Secretary of State Kerry, underscoring that the president will want to continue talking to congress as he has been doing this weekend and of course, to the American people.
So now, that portion possibly taking place today from that briefing coming from other rose garden. Jill Dougherty is live for us at the White House. So, this statement being underscored that this will be a statement being made to the American people, so it sounds as though the president will be trying to make the case about the importance of where U.S. military action and diplomacy play in Syria.
DOUGHERTY: What we were being told is this is not a statement by the president about any imminent military operations in Syria. It is, we understand, an update to the American people about the decisions he is making about how to proceed, in other words, the way forward. It would be a step in advance of what they said yesterday. They think they've made the case, but there are some who are not convinced.
Those briefings we have been talking about with members of the Senate, both Republican and Democrat, are going ahead. We're told that the Senate Republican conference that was going to be happening right about the time now that the president's going to be speaking, that's pushed back, but it's still happening. That's not classified.
And then there's another not classified, unclassified briefing by phone with members of the Senate from the Democratic caucus. And then, he appears tomorrow, Sunday, that classified briefing on Capitol Hill is going ahead as planned. So, again, stressing not a big announcement about any military -- it's him telling the American people where he is in his decisions on how to proceed.
WHITFIELD: And all of this, clearly the message being said in concert with the secretary of state yesterday, also spelling out all the reasons why the U.S. has to care about the crisis in Syria, but at the same time, not compromising national security, but making it clear that this country is making decisions based on its own timelines.
So the president is known to be very careful about decisions being made. Kerry underscoring that, too, and again, the president then perhaps stating, making a case to the American people just 15 or so minutes from now. Jill Dougherty, we'll check back with you. We'll have much more from the news room right after this.