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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Draft Resolution Offered by U.S., Spain, Britain Taken Off Table

Aired March 17, 2003 - 10:13   ET

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

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Richard, let's go back to now.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the United States wanted this resolution more for British government in support of international cover, international legitimacy for any military action, though they believe they have legal basis in resolution 1441 passed November 8 by all 15 members. It will not be known whether those uncommitted who will probably drift from the limelight now, Cameroon, Guinea, Pakistan, Mexico, Chile, exactly how they would have voted. They were desperately trying to come up with other diplomatic solutions, but they died over the weekend, and even Friday, as prospects dimmed for this resolution and the U.S., UK and Spain huddled in the Azores Islands.

Kofi Annan will tell the security council now that he is going to withdraw the inspectors, and he presumably will get blessing of the U.N. Security Council, because inspectors report to the full council. We talked earlier about how council refurbishment and handiwork had forced all the ambassadors down in the basement. That's why you saw them ambassadors Negroponte and Greenstock speaking there. Now there moving up to full council chamber, which you now see, because the room was too small in the basement. This was high-powered politics. France sticking to its veto threat, sticking to the end. Many thought France would crumble, crack as some say in the past. They stayed to it, and thus Russia was emboldened to also join in possible veto threats. China would have maybe joined in or would have abstained.

Now the United Nations diplomatic path is over, and here there is a feeling that it's just a matter of time before its military approach with Iraq -- Leon.

HARRIS: Thank you very much, Richard.

Richard Roth at the U.N. this morning, as developments there seem to come fast and furious.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: You are not kidding, Leon.

So there will be no vote on the second U.N. resolution, and the president will speak to the nation at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Let's go to our White House correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, what will the president say?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were told by Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, that the president will speak at 8:00 Eastern tonight. He will address the nation and what he will say, Ari Fleischer said, is that to avoid military conflict, Saddam Hussein must leave the country. That is what Ari Fleischer says the president will say at 8:00 in address to the nation. Ari Fleischer also saying that the diplomatic window is now closed. He said the U.N. has failed to meet its own demands, and as a result, the diplomatic window is now closed, and so that is what the president will say tonight.

As you said, it is clear that the resolution has been withdrawn from the U.N. and things are moving quite quickly -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Dana, that diplomacy has apparently failed. Does the president look upon this as a failure?

BASH: Well, it depends how you look at it. If you are talking about failure at the United Nations, I think the president made it very clear his frustration with the United Nations when he spoke yesterday in the Azores, he was making it very clear that the U.N., he felt and still feels, has the responsibility to live up to what he says, as Ari Fleischer said again today, is their own demands, and that demand is for Saddam Hussein to disarm or face serious consequences. Those were the terms of resolution that passed in November, that was resolution 1441 that passed in unanimously. What you've seen at the White Houses is an attempt by President Bush and his chief ally Tony Blair and others to try to get the U.N. to pass a second resolution, because they felt that that was what some of the president's allies, particularly Tony Blair, needed at the U.N.

But that has not happened, the White House failed to get other countries on board at the United Nations, and the president has been saying for a while that the diplomacy has weeks, not months. Now clearly, that diplomatic window, as Ari Fleischer said just moments ago, point blank, that diplomatic window has now closed.

COSTELLO: Completely. Dana Bash, thanks very much.

Again, the president will address the nation at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. Ari Fleischer will present a White House briefing. We'll carry that live, too. That will happen at 12:15 p.m. Eastern Time. That's this afternoon.

Diplomacy is over. Activity in Baghdad quickening, Iraqis scooping up provisions as they face the prospect for hunkering down for war.

We want to take you to the Iraqi capital now for the view from Baghdad.

CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is there.

Has Saddam come out and said anything, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Carol, not at this time. We've seen President Saddam Hussein appearing on Iraqi television this afternoon with the Tunisian foreign minister, and perhaps for the Iraqi viewers, a chance to hear something from their leader that they haven't heard before about the weapons of mass destruction. He did say that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction, something we've heard many, many times before.

What people haven't really heard here and what President Saddam Hussein was telling the Tunisian foreign minister was that Iraq had had these weapons of mass destruction in the past for defensive use. He said Iraq fought a long war, an eight-year war with Iran, and it had needed to have chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction at that time.

This is, as far as we can tell, this sort of description about why Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in the past has not been heard from the Iraqi leader, at least for a very long time.

We also hear from U.N. inspectors here, while they are certainly aware that it very much appears at this time that there is going to be a formal request arriving here, requesting them to leave. They say they have not heard that request yet. They are waiting for U.N. weapons chief Hans Blix to formally pass that information to them.

There are 56 weapons inspectors in the country at this time. The U.N. here says that it has 134 staff total in the inspection mission, and that their primary plan at this time would be to fly out of Iraq, if and when they get that evacuation order. They do have the option of driving to Jordanian border, that would take somewhat longer, but the plan at this time, as we understand, is to evacuate by aircraft to Cyprus.

We have heard today from Iraq's information minister, talking about the Azores Summit, essentially calling it a failure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a failure. Those despicable three failures, they tried again to divert the attention, and all they presented is a series of lies and series of dark, black propaganda, like Mr. Bush and the others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: Now Al-Sahaf (ph) also saying Iraq continues to cooperate with the weapons inspectors, however, with the weapons inspectors clearly on the brink of leaving, that appears to be all over -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Nic, let's go back to Saddam Hussein admitting that he once had weapons of mass destruction. What is the significance of that?

ROBERTSON: Well, the significance is that this is really an explanation for the people of Iraq, at a time when President Saddam Hussein is looking to keep the people of Iraq behind him, to give them, if you will some sort of credible explanation for why Iraq has had weapons of mass destruction in the past.

It's one thing here for people to hear the leadership, saying the country has no weapons of mass destruction, while many in the international community say Iraq does. It's one thing for them to hear that from the Iraqi leader, but now getting some sort of explanation about it, the timing obviously very, very critical. This is a time for the country here, for President Saddam Hussein, to look to his people to give him support. We know from officials here, they say in the referendum last year, people voted 100 percent in support of President Saddam Hussein.

But at this time, the leadership really needs to know and really needs to make sure that it does, at this very critical time have that support in a credible fashion.

COSTELLO: It just seems to be late for that, but we'll see what happens. Nic Robertson, reporting live from Baghdad today -- Leon.

HARRIS: Now we have some news coming to us out of the State Department in Washington. We've just received word that Secretary of State Colin Powell is going to be having a press conference this morning. We expect it to get underway in about 20 to 25 minutes or so. We think it's going to be around 10:45 Eastern, and of course, live coverage right here on the network, as Secretary of State Colin Powell talks to us after this word coming from U.N. that the draft resolution offered by the U.S., Spain and Britain is now being taken off the table.

Now, earlier today, both the U.S. and British governments urged their citizens to leave Kuwait immediately. The State Department cites quote "a deteriorating security situation in the region," end quote. The U.S. State Department issued the same orders for nonessential consular personnel and dependents, not only in Kuwait, but elsewhere in the Middle East. Evacuation orders include Syria, Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

And the consequences of staying in that region may get serious, because we have some breaking news coming from the Pentagon, officials saying that Iraq may be, may be preparing to use chemical weapons if war breaks out.

Let's go to Barbara Starr who's standing by at the Pentagon. She brought us this news recently. Let's go to her for the latest -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, what U.N. officials here in Washington are saying that in the last few days, there is recent and fresh evidence that Iraq is preparing to use chemical weapons.

Now they are very clear, no one has actually seen chemical weapons move, no one has seen physical evidence of chemical weapons yet, but there is in their words more chatter in the system, reminding us, of the time that Secretary of State Colin Powell played some audiotapes at the U.N. just a few weeks ago of Iraqi commanders talking to each other, officials say, think of the evidence in those terms. Now, U.S. reconnaissance is watching Iraq virtually around the clock at this point, looking for any evidence of that type of activities, and officials are saying, if they can find the chemical weapons and they see them on the move, indeed those munitions will be struck.

One of the biggest concerns is that in last several days as well, there are many large pieces of Iraqi artillery that have been moved close to the Kuwaiti border and aboard and along the Al-Fap (ph) peninsula. These artillery pieces are said to be capable of firing chemical munitions, and many of those artillery pieces now are within range of U.S. troops in Kuwait.

But again, officials saying, at this point, it is chatter in the system. They haven't sent seen the munitions yet.

ZAHN: Troubling news there. Thanks, Barbara.

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