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CNN LIVE ON LOCATION

White House Awaits Iraqi Report With Skepticism

Aired December 2, 2002 - 14:02   ET

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

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: We begin this hour, though, with skepticism being openly expressed in the White House ahead of that December 8 deadline that's facing Iraq. Iraqis have six more days to tell the U.N. everything that there is to tell about their chemical, biological and/or nuclear programs, be they civilian, military or both.
CNN's senior White House correspondent, John King, joins us live with an update on this.

And the White House must be counting down the days -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Marty, the White House counting down these days, even going as far as saying the inspections we have seen over the past week are little more than a warm-up act; that the true test is December 8, when Iraq must give to the United Nations a full listing, any and all programs, weapons of mass destruction, any stockpiles of any chemical or biological agents.

Here at the White House, they say that is the test President Bush will apply: Is Saddam Hussein telling the truth when he files that with the United Nations?

We will hear the president himself, later this hour when he is at the Pentagon, outline his standard, how he will assess the Iraqi filing.

The White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, making clear in the briefing earlier today, they're not expecting Saddam Hussein to tell the truth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Saddam Hussein does not exactly have a track record of telling the world the truth. So, he, on December 8, has to indicate whether or not he has weapons. Let's see what he says. If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Ari Fleischer and other senior U.S. officials also saying that once the United States has the declaration, the report from Iraq, it is prepared to match it up with sensitive U.S. intelligence, and then prepared to go to those inspectors on the ground in Baghdad and say, we believe you should look here, we believe you should go there, we believe Iraq has weapon stockpiles that it did not declare in its report to the United Nations -- Marty.

SAVIDGE: John, what's the White House saying so far about the weapons inspections? They haven't found much.

KING: They haven't found much, and that is why the White House is saying that this is a warm-up act, if you will. The White House says the inspections will only matter once Saddam Hussein has said what he has. Of course, Iraq's position is that it has no weapons of mass destruction.

The White House understanding the political momentum, you might say, that Saddam Hussein could get out of this week of unfettered access, this week of no discoveries. The White House saying these are preliminary, these are the inspectors just sort of testing out their equipment, getting their feet on the ground, that the true test comes after December 8.

And we are told the White House is prepared to encourage inspections of the most sensitive sites, like presidential palaces, once it sees what Saddam files with the United Nations.

SAVIDGE: John King live from the White House -- thank you very much.

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