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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Iraq to Release Weapons Declaration

Aired December 7, 2002 - 07:59   ET

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

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we welcome our views all around the world as we continue our coverage of the release of Iraq's weapons declaration. That release is in work as we speak. Reporters have had a look at documents, basicly the covers and the stack of them. We are told by the reporter on the scene Nic Robertson. It's numbers in excess of 11,800 pages, plus a few assorted CD-ROMs, all with information on chemical and biological warfare and the possibility of missiles to deliver said weapons.
Nic Robertson is at the ministry, the monitoring directory, specifically, in Iraq where these documents have been presented to reporters, reporters obviously not reading them, but just getting a look see.

Nic, what can you tell us about the scene there right now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, I must say, it was a very chaotic scene here a little earlier. Iraqi officials brought us here to a suburb of Baghdad to the building, to the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate. Journalists were asked to line themselves up to be taken into a building to see these documents.

Now, there were, I would say, dozens and dozens of camera crews, everyone very eager to get through the doors. At one point a plate glass window was broken with people pushing and shoving, trying to get in. I fortunately was among the first group of journalists to get into the room to see the documents. It was a fairly large room inside the building. There were a number of Iraqi scientists in the room. There was a large table in the room, as well, perhaps about two feet by eight feet. On that table were about 60 different documents piled up.

Now, they were all presented on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) paper, all carefully and neatly stacked up on the table. Some of them large ring binders, some of them smaller folders of information. On the front covers of some they said currently accurate and full and complete declaration.

Now, on a board inside the room written in felt tipped pen were the numbers of pages that the Iraqi scientists said were in these documents -- 11,807 pages total, they said; 1,334 specifically on the biological area; 1,823 on the chemical area; 6,887 on the missile area.

Also laid out on the table were 12 CD-ROMs. On those, we are told, there were 529 megabytes of information. On the CD-ROMs, two of them related, it said, to the documents supporting the chemical declaration, two of them supporting documents relating to the biological declaration, another two CD-ROMs supporting, decision supporting the missile declaration.

We were allowed possibly about five minutes in that room and right now we are just moving, being told to move to a building -- you may have heard that there, a press conference in two minutes here in Baghdad -- to hear from officials from the head of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate on when these documents will be handed over -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Well, Nic, I don't want to hold you up. If you have to go, go. But if you can walk and talk with me, the one thing that stands out as you give me this list, 1,334 pages biological, 1,823 chemical, 6,887 on the missile. Nothing specifically indicating nuclear weapons.

ROBERTSON: Miles, there were documents there supporting the nuclear weapons. They were stacked on one corner of the table. There were -- I counted at least 12 different documents in the area of nuclear. Now, these documents, we know, will be going to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna for review there. Some of the people giving those documents a review the very same inspectors who have been working here on the ground -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Nic, you said there were scientists in the room. Were they available in any way to answer reporters' questions?

ROBERTSON: We are told they will be available in this press conference that's about to get under way. Now, we've been told that in the compilation of this documentation over 100 scientists have been involved. Iraqi officials have described it as a huge project. Indeed, they say less than 24 hours ago they were still putting the finishing details into that project.

And, again, Miles, I'm being reminded I should go into this briefing.

O'BRIEN: All right, Nic, I'm going to let you go. Get into that briefing. If you can establish a live connection with us or at least report back to us as soon as you can, we obviously are interested in that.

Nic Robertson, who is there at the Monitoring Directorate in Baghdad getting the first look at 11,807 pages plus a dozen CD-ROMs and a few other assorted documents, Iraq's declaration on the subject of weapons of mass destruction. Obviously a lot to digest here -- Catherine.

CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: And as these documents and CD- ROMs make their way slowly into the hands of United Nations representatives, Rym Brahimi standing by in Baghdad, where about 30 minutes ago she told us that Saddam Hussein plans to address the people of Kuwait in about four hours from now -- interesting development, Rym.

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed. That's a very interesting development. Also, the timing is kind of interesting. At a time when there's this huge media frenzy, this huge international interest on the declaration that Iraq is supposed to submit to the United Nations Security Council, well, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein comes up and says well, I'm going to talk to the Iraq -- to the Kuwaiti people. That's quite something.

Now, we're not sure exactly what he wants to talk to the people of Kuwait about. We're just sort of speculating. There have been a few incidents, reportedly, at least, that Iraqi vessels would have fired on Kuwaiti vessels in the Arabian Gulf a few days ago. That was denied by the Iraqi foreign ministry.

But there are still quite a few of outstanding issues between Iraq and Kuwait, one of them regarding Kuwaiti POWs that Kuwait says are still in Iraq. Another issue is the archives that Iraq had taken from Kuwait when it invaded the country in 1990. It returned them, but Kuwait says that there are still things missing.

So there are a lot of questions as to why, what the timing is about this address to the Kuwaiti people. And, of course, it comes, Catherine, just as there's this immense, very, very public buildup by U.S. troops in the whole region and specifically in Kuwait -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: Rym, as Saddam Hussein prepares to present his case to the people of Kuwait, what is being presented to the people of Iraq?

BRAHIMI: Well, what's being, what the people of Iraq are being told is that the inspections have been going on well, that Iraq has cooperated and that it has been in Iraq's interests to actually fully cooperate with that resolution allowing the inspections to go ahead. The Iraqi president only a couple of days ago talking to the Iraqi people and talking to his top level ministers and advisers said that the decision had been made to let the inspections go ahead in order not to give a pretext to the United States to attack Iraq.

Now, that's pretty much the message that's being sent today in the edit, one of the editorials of a state run newspaper. Iraqis were being told that the Bush administration clearly have no interest in disarmament and that's why they were being very pessimistic about this declaration and that obviously the, what Iraqis are being told, as well, is that the U.S. administration is only interested in putting its hands on the oil in the entire region.

And that, Catherine, is actually something that a lot of people believe, when you talk to them in the street. That's a sentiment that people will tell you, that the U.S. administration is going to get Iraq no matter what. It just plans to attack no matter what because of the oil -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: Rym, as these documents are being prepared to be handed over to U.N. representatives, what is going on with U.N. weapons inspectors? Does work continue as planned?

BRAHIMI: Yes, they continued as planned today. They had a two day break because it was the end of Ramadan. And there's a holy feast here, a Muslim holiday. So they didn't work during those two days. Nobody would have been available anyway.

But today they went back to work. They visited two sites. They split up in two teams, as they have been doing. The nuclear team went to a site down south that they've seen already. They actually visited that a few days ago. It's a site called al-Tuwaitha. And that was a place where there used to be, a long time ago, some nuclear reactors that were bombed in 1981 by the Israelis.

Now, what the inspectors said they found were a few bits of equipment that was tagged. The director of that facility spoke to journalists and said that the inspectors had come and spent a little over two hours in there and then gone back, having found what they were looking for.

The other team, the chemical and biological experts, Catherine, they went to a site about 40 kilometers south of Baghdad, to a place that's part of Iraq's very, very big military industrialization commission -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: Thank you, Rym.

That's Rym Brahimi in Baghdad for us.

And we'll see you in about 20 minutes for our reporter's notebook.

Thanks, Rym.

Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, we are going to be telling you now more about Iraq and the declaration of its weapons programs even before the information was handed over and that is still in the process. It's really not handed over just yet. Reporters have had a look see at those documents. Iraq repeatedly denied having any weapons of mass destruction. You've heard those denials over and over again.

Last night Connie Chung spoke with the Iraqi ambassador about all of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MUHAMMED ALDOURI, IRAQ'S AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: If we don't have such sites, how we can lead inspectors to go to sites which we are not, which we, which are unknown by us? How? What would be the situation? What would be the case? I cannot understand really what the Americans want. They want the impossible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: If President Bush decides to attack Iraq, it will be a far different military operation from the Persian Gulf War more than 10 years ago, more like 12 years ago. For one thing, the potential for casualties is higher this time around.

Our Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon tells us about the military strategy in this case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Instead of Desert Storm, think desert swarm, an everywhere, all fronts, lightning assault from the air, ground and sea designed to shock Saddam Hussein's generals into surrender before they can carry out his orders to unleash nerve gas or deadly germs.

The likelihood is very good that he could use weapons of mass destruction. It could be very, it could get very messy. The collateral damage could be very great. And our own casualties could increase significantly.

MCINTYRE: In the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the U.S. suffered only 148 combat deaths. But this time around, the body count could be in the thousands. Eleven years ago, when the objective was evicting Iraq from Kuwait, the U.S. spent five weeks wearing down the Iraqi Army from the air before launching a crushing four day ground invasion across open desert.

With the aim now deposing Saddam Hussein, U.S. troops, including elite special forces, will likely have to hit downtown Baghdad on day one.

The nightmare scenario is that six Iraqi Republican Guard divisions and six heavy divisions reinforced with several thousand anti-aircraft artillery pieces defends the city of Baghdad. The result would be high casualties on both sides, as well as in the civilian community.

MCINTYRE: Urban combat is something U.S. troops train for. At this realistic mock city at Fort Knox, U.S. soldiers last year practiced the same kind of intense door to door fighting they may have to do against Saddam Hussein's best troops.

(on camera): The military has a saying, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. And as realistic as this training is, it's not real war. On the battlefield, things can and do often go wrong, and when that battlefield is an urban setting, that's doubly true.

All our advantages of command and control, technology, mobility, all of those things are, in part, given up and you are working with corporals and sergeants and young men fighting street to street. It looks like the last 15 minutes of "Saving Private Ryan."

MCINTYRE (voice-over): Still, the U.S. does enjoy an overwhelming high tech advantage, everything from smarter satellite guided bombs to more unmanned eyes in the skies to sophisticated computer simulations created from satellite photos to familiarize troops with the streets of Baghdad. And there is a real belief by some military planners when it's clear defeat is at hand, Saddam Hussein's inner circle may turn on him and end the war without a lot of bloody fighting.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CALLAWAY: And let's get some more insight now into the Pentagon's battle plan for Iraq.

Joining us now, an expert on military matters, is Retired Air Force Major General Don Shepperd. He's actually in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar this morning.

Thank you for being with us, Major General.

You just heard Jamie McIntyre's piece on preparations for the Pentagon on a possible war with Iraq. And, indeed, it looks like U.S. troops are preparing for a worst case scenario there.

What is different this time? Certainly there is that high tech advantage that we heard Jamie talk about and you have the air base there in Qatar that is like no other.

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, Catherine, it's going to be considerably different this time than last time. Basically, we had a 37 day air war followed by a three day ground war. This time it's going to be much more simultaneous. The difference, however, this time is the last war, all we had to do was kick Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait and then the war was essentially over.

This time we're talking about changing the regime in Baghdad. We're talking about taking the whole country of Iraq. That makes it much more complex and a much harder scenario than what we went through last time.

CALLAWAY: You're there at the billion dollar air base in Qatar. How is that different from the last time? And this portable command and control complex, it seems like this mission will be heavily relying on computers a lot.

SHEPPERD: Yes, this exercise over here is called Internal Look. It's an exercise preparation to exercise the headquarters command. It's a computer based and computer assisted exercise, as opposed to the movement of airplanes, ships, troops, etc. So, this is, sure, it's on a billion dollar base, but it's just one of the many bases, expensive bases in this particular area.

It could play a role in a war, but we're not on the verge of war right now. We are basically exercising the command and control and the headquarters functions that General Franks would need if he goes to war in the region.

CALLAWAY: General Shepperd, you're right, we're not on the verge of war. But, you know, the possibility has to be discussed and we have heard from Jamie in his piece about the high tech advantage that Allied forces would have. But would that really stand up with what could happen, that being chemical warfare?

SHEPPERD: Well, we're trained in chemical warfare and the troops know how to protect themselves and decontaminate. But it makes themselves, it makes us, it's a very messy scenario when you get involved with chemicals. Even scarier, of course, is the biological and the nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

On the other hand, you can't let the bad things that might happen scare you away from the things that you have to do. We have troops that are trained. We have good equipment. We know how to do these things. General Franks has plans and if it becomes necessary to employ forces, our forces are going to be prepared, Catherine.

CALLAWAY: All right, General Shepperd, we want to cut this interview short because I know you're going to be back in about 14 minutes to answer some questions from our audience out there. So stand by. We'll be back with you in just a few minutes.

More insight and input into the inspections, Iraq's documents and the potential for a military strike. Joining us coming up at 8:30 Eastern time, we will have correspondent Rym Brahimi in Iraq and we'll also have Michael Okwu, reporter Michael Okwu standing by at the United Nations. And, again, we will hear from General Shepperd, who is standing by in Qatar. You can ask them questions. Send us your questions at wam@cnn.com.

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