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Kissinger: Little chance now of avoiding war

Dr. Henry Kissinger
Dr. Henry Kissinger

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who served in that post from 1973 to 1977, was interviewed Tuesday night by CNN anchor Aaron Brown. The topic: Iraq and the role of the United Nations.

BROWN: Dr. Henry Kissinger is with us. He doesn't need much of an introduction, so we'll just leave it at that. It's good to see you, sir.


BROWN: Imagine yourself -- I think that you can do this -- imagine yourself in the Oval Office and the president of United States says, Henry, do I take the chance of losing the U.N. vote just for the sake of going through the exercise? What's your advice?

KISSINGER: I would say make the nations vote. Because, by now, all the talking has been done. All the arguments have been made. And we might as well see where the nations come down on.

BROWN: He says, do I -- should I compromise more than I already have? Do I run the risk of looking weak, both domestically, and to the Iraqis? What do you say?

KISSINGER: I would say the only argument now to make, any of its maneuvers at the United Nations, is to have a friend like [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair. That there's no compromise that can be made now, where among the compromises that are being proposed, that would make the slightest difference in the outcome. Because whether there are -- it's another week delay, or whether there is a criterion being put down for disarmament, Saddam has had 12 years to disarm.

He's had six months under Resolution 1441. The progress that [chief U.N. arms inspector Hans] Blix is mentioning is almost entirely procedural in one category of weapons that has a range of maybe 100 miles. The fundamental weapons, the weapons of mass destruction, no progress whatever has been made in the six months that Resolution 1441 has existed. So I think whether there is another week given or not, if it gives great comfort to Blair, and Blair wanted it, I would tell the president to look at it.

But at this point, I think the fundamental issue has to be confronted. And I think that this is a direction the president will go. That's what I would do if you asked me.

BROWN: Well, let's talk about this from a different direction. I think we may have -- sometimes I forget whether we have talked about something on the air or off the air. How much damage has this caused to the institution of the United Nations?

KISSINGER: Well, here -- we had the option, which is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) not remembered. The president could have said under Article 51 of the United Nations charter, which actually defines the right of self-defense, we could have said that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in a region from which terrorism comes in the hands of country that has actually used them is to eliminate these weapons as essential for our security.

He, in a respectful world opinion, went to the United Nations by general procedures. A unanimous Security Council vote was passed demanding that Iraq disarm and give an honest accounting of the weapons they had. They say they have no such weapons. And there has been no progress that anyone except U.N. inspectors can find, because most of the progress, as I said already, is procedural.

So I think that the president has shown great respect for the United Nations. Now it will do great damage, but there's going to be enormous reluctance to go back to the United Nations on other issues.

BROWN: Is the United Nations then fundamentally changed today from what it was 10 months ago today? Will we forever or for a while look at it differently than we had?

KISSINGER: Well, it's a weird situation when countries like Guinea, Cameroon and Angola, far removed with small populations, suddenly become the subject of visits by the French foreign minister, appeals from the president of the United States, on a matter that the president and American public considers is essential to American security. And that one says world opinion is defined by this relatively small group of nations. And one has to redefine for oneself what one really means by the Security Council under these conditions.

BROWN: But to their credit, it has seemed to me that many of them at least have said, in one way or another, this really isn't our decision to make. You all -- Americans, British, French, German, Russians, Chinese -- work it out.

KISSINGER: Yes. Chile had said that, and I think that's a very good argument. But it's really putting too much pressure on countries that would just as soon not be in that position.

Now, among the big countries, among the veto-carrying members, one could make an analogy of the reasons why each country is taking the positions that it is. And not all of them are directly related to Iraq.

BROWN: There are always other issues. When all is said and done, do you think there is any chance the country will not go to war before the end of this month?

KISSINGER: Unless Saddam resign, retires, which there's maybe the slight chance that that exists, is being prevented in part by the behavior of some of our allies and Russia. Unless he resigns, I think there's no chance of avoiding war.

BROWN: Always good to see you.

KISSINGER: Good to be here.

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