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Iraqi Press Conference; Interview with Lawrence Eagleburger

Aired December 4, 2002 - 11:01   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Now, let's go to Baghdad live. An Iraqi official there is about to hold a news conference to give us some answers on what exactly Iraq is going to admit to when it sends its documentation to the U.N.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): ... to visit 20 sites. Most of these sites are under constant surveillance, according to U.N. resolution 715. Part of these sites, namely seven sites, or eight sites, has been accused by the British prime minister and others that it concealed banned materials since the departure of the inspectors in 1998.

The inspection teams have been able to see for themselves and to prove that these allegations were false and lies, which will support the position of Iraq against any aggression by the American and British governments.

We have been cooperative with the teams right from the start of the inspections. We are in daily contact and coordination on daily basis. We are trying to overcome any obstacles or problems to speed up the process so the inspectors can write their final report and recommend lifting of sanctions.

(English): Gentlemen, ladies. This briefing is to brief you about the activities of the special teams. These activities have passed one week on it and principally comprises 20 inspections conducted by two teams. One belong to the IAEA and the other to the UNMOVIC, to the commission of inspection and verification.

Those 20 sites which have been visited (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the majority of them are subjected to the monitoring plan, to the monitoring system, and they were visited hundreds of times, or tens of times, in the period of 1991 to 1998.

Seven or eight of those sites were accused that they are conducting prohibited activities. This accusation was addressed by the well-known report of Mr. Blair, the prime minister of Great Britain (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The inspection teams were (UNINTELLIGIBLE), they checked everything by their (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and by their visual, and they inspected (UNINTELLIGIBLE), they inspected computers, everything, and they were aware and they were sure that no prohibited activity had been conducted in the previous four years.

Of course, along with those 20 sites was the presidential site, al-Sujud site, or palace. Yesterday it was inspected. Today two sites have been inspected, and I think you are aware of that. One of them is the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) establishment, site, which was the establishment responsible for producing the chemical agents, and the other was the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) site, which is the nuclear facility complex south of Baghdad.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The United States claim that these pipes are used for manufacturing weapons.

My second question, yesterday the inspectors went into the Sujud palace, and we noticed that they're wearing civilian clothes (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the American and British claim that there are factories manufacturing chemical weapons in these palaces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As for the aluminum pipes, there is one type of aluminum, which is called high tensity (ph) aluminum, which is included and is classified as a double agent. Iraq has a quantity of this material that was imported in the '80s, and this material has been under inspection. This material, since it was imported in '87, until the departure of the inspector in '98, this material was used in developing missiles, but now considering how old this material is, it has lost its...


HARRIS: Moments ago, we were listening to the Iraqi weapons monitoring directorate head, Hassan Amin (ph), and we anticipated that he was going to be divulging to us exactly what it was Iraq was going to be detailing in its documentation that it says it's going to submit to the United Nations on December 7, a day ahead of the deadline, where it's supposed to declare everything it has in its weapons programs.

Let's bring in now former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, who was also listening as well, and I'm not sure if you were actually able to hear anything that struck you of any note from Hassam (ph). Did you?

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The only thing I heard that struck me at all was, as usual, he's probably lying. I didn't hear anything in terms of a detailing of anything that he's going to tell us, other than that his continuing to say they don't have any weapons of mass destruction, which, you know, may be true, but I don't believe it.

HARRIS: Well, we want to also let you listen to some words that we also -- that we missed just a moment ago from President Bush. Here's what he had to said about Iraq just a moment ago.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This isn't about inspectors. The issue is whether Saddam Hussein will disarm. Will he disarm in the name of peace? And we expect him to fully comply. And, you know, one of my concerns is that in the past, he has shot at our airplanes. Anybody that shoots at U.S. airplanes or British airplanes is not somebody that looks like he is interested in complying with disarmament. He wrote letters, stinging rebukes to what the U.N. did. He was very critical of the U.S. and Britain. That doesn't appear to be somebody who is that anxious to comply.


HARRIS: I want to ask you about these words that we're getting from President Bush. When you weigh them against the statements that we've been hearing in recent days by other people, it seems to be there's quite a broad range here of statements coming from this administration. We've heard him say these words, we have heard Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld coming out and saying, Of course, the inspectors aren't going to find anything.

We also heard just yesterday Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is travelling abroad, who is saying we're off to a good start, seeming to mirror the same comments that we have heard from Secretary-General Kofi Annan about the inspection process that is underway. What do you make of this panoply of statements coming from the administration?

EAGLEBURGER: What I make of that is that you can take your pick. Look, I think what we're seeing here now is nothing more nor less than trying to lay out on the part of the administration a range of alternatives that are going to be open to them. I don't see anything to surprise us in terms of the way the president's putting it. He's making it clear that as far as he is concerned and therefore the administration is concerned, he's going to make the decision as to whether he feels that Iraq has or has not met our demands.

But at the same time, I think you need to understand that he's boxed in a sense by the fact that we've gone to the U.N., we have the inspectors back in place, and I think it's going to be very tough for him not to at least let the inspectors go through the process, see whether they find anything, see how the Iraqis respond to the inspectors before he finally decides what he's going to do so he can talk tough now, and I think he should, I don't argue that, but I think you have to remember he's got himself into a situation now where I think he's going to have to let the process work for a while. So I would not take this as indicating anything immediate.

HARRIS: Well, let me ask you this. If the next step is that these inspectors come back and they have not found anything, if nothing is uncovered, does that mean then that the administration is going to have to come out and offer publicly proof of what it knows? It cannot just say that there is a system there or there are these weapons there, and have inspectors go there and find nothing?

EAGLEBURGER: I think it's going to be -- if they've got information, then I think, yes, it's going to have to be -- it is going to be more likely that they are going to have to come out with it. I don't think it's essential, but I think the president and the administration is then going to face a very tough question of whether they decide to go ahead and move against Iraq, despite the fact that nothing has been found.

Now, having said that, I think they can substantially create an argument that they have to go ahead anyway, but I think it's going to be a tougher one to make, that is all.

HARRIS: What about the inspection regime right now that we've seen in the last five days, or six days now, on the ground there? What do you make of what you've seen so far? We have heard Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, saying now that the administration wants these inspectors to be more aggressive, in fact, they are also pushing for an even bigger force of them. What do you make of the process so far? Do you agree with the administration?

EAGLEBURGER: Yes, I do, but I think, again, they're just starting, and I think what's going to be fairly clear as time goes on is that the administration's correct. They're going to need more people, and I think they're going to have be very, very pushy in this process, but again, I don't expect that the inspectors are going to be any less than pushy. I think they're going to have to be, and I think they will be, but I think it is also clear they're going to need more people, and I'm very much hoping at least that they will get some U.S. experts into that mix.

HARRIS: Now, we have heard some officials who have been saying, maybe not publicly or loudly, that they don't think that the inspectors have any intention of actually finding something over there. Do you think...

EAGLEBURGER: I think that's nonsense. I really -- the inspectors are professionals. They are clearly intent on doing their best job. I don't think that's true. I think what may well be true is that the Iraqis have had enough time to put whatever weapons they have into areas where it's going to be extremely difficult to find them. That I think may well be true, but I have no doubt that the inspectors themselves are intent on doing their job professionally and well.

HARRIS: Former Secretary of State Thomas (sic) Eagleburger. Thank you. Appreciate you coming back and talking with us again.



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