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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Ambassadors React to Security Council Impasse

Aired March 17, 2003 - 12:41   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go back live to the U.N. British ambassador to the United Nations speaking now.
JEREMY GREENSTOCK, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: ... draft. There would need to be a very clear signal that Iraq, and particularly the Iraqi leadership, had taken the strategic decision to produce cooperation of a type we have not seen so far since the passage of 1441; cooperation that fits entirely the text of 1441, which called for immediate, unconditional and active cooperation; and that that call for cooperation should be associated with the threat of military pressure, which has been a factor all the way through from, I would say, last summer, in producing any of the positive response that we have had from Iraq in certain limited areas.

So that pressure must be maintained. And the key into returning to our draft or taking forward the work program of the inspectors has to be that new signal of a strategic decision to produce the cooperation as called for in 1441.

QUESTION: Until when are you leaving it on the table, until when are you leaving it on the table, this draft resolution?

GREENSTOCK: There is no date left for it to remain on the table. It just stays on the table.

QUESTION: Do you honestly believe that if no country had threatened to use a veto you would have won nine votes on the Security Council for your draft?

GREENSTOCK: We believe that that particular intention, to veto whatever the circumstances, affected the framework for others to take their decisions, yes.

Thank you very much.

COOPER: You have just been listening to Sir Jeremy Greenstock, British ambassador to the U.N. Here is John Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

JOHN NEGROPONTE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Well, perhaps I'll go right to questions, since we spoke this morning. And you've heard, I fully associate myself with what Ambassador Greenstock just had to say.

It's been four months now since the passage of 1441, which called on the government of Iraq to immediately and unconditionally disarm. It's clear that, after this four-month period, that they have failed to comply.

We sought a resolution that would have stated that Iraq had failed to take advantage of the final opportunity offered to it by Security Council Resolution 1441, but in light of the threat of a veto by one of the countries, even though we think the vote would have been close, we decided under the circumstances not to put that resolution to a vote. And so now we are at the situation that has been described to you on various occasions this morning.

But I'd be pleased to take any questions you might have.

QUESTION: How close was that vote?

NEGROPONTE: Well, I don't want to get into that. I think that, as we said, we believe it was close. And as Ambassador Greenstock said, we think that the atmosphere and the context of our entire discussion was affected by the fact that one permanent member explicitly stated that it was intent on frustrating the purposes of our draft resolution.

(CROSSTALK)

NEGROPONTE: Afterwards in Spanish.

QUESTION: Is the U.N. as we've known it for decades dead now?

NEGROPONTE: As the secretary general himself mentioned, and he mentioned to us in the council chambers this morning, he will be directing a letter to the president of the council regarding some of the issues and tasks that he thinks will need to be addressed in the event of conflict.

No, there's a lot of work that is ongoing and that will have to be done, and there are examples from the past where the council was not able to reach agreement in a particular conflictive situation or another, such as in the case of Kosovo, but went on to carry on -- carry out very important responsibilities.

So I guess the answer to your question would be no.

QUESTION: But President Bush has presented it as a test for the Security Council. Would you say the Security Council has failed that test?

NEGROPONTE: Well, it was a test, and it's most regrettable, as we said earlier, that in light of the explicit decision of one country to exercise its veto it was not possible to move this resolution forward.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Are there still a few hours or days for Iraq to make the strategic decision to disarm, to avoid a war?

NEGROPONTE: Well, I'm not going to comment on that further. Obviously, time is virtually run out. I think the time for diplomatic activity is literally exhausted. But the president will address our nation tonight at 8 p.m., so I think I'd prefer to wait to hear what he has to say on that subject.

QUESTION: Some of your allies in the gulf, in the Middle East, they requested or they demanded a resolution from United Nations for them to join any campaign. How you going to explain that to them?

NEGROPONTE: Well, again, as we said, it's regrettable that a resolution has not been passed, but as Secretary Powell said this morning, we believe that, at least as far as we're concerned, there's ample authority under Resolutions 678, 687 and all the way through to 1441 for whatever future course of action might be contemplated. And I think that we might find that a number of countries agree with us on that point.

(SPEAKING IN SPANISH)

This'll be the last question, en Espanol.

COOPER: Richard Roth standing by -- Richard, what are you hearing out of these press conferences?

ROTH: Well, Anderson, you're seeing again U.S. and U.K. diplomats there putting the blame on France. The belief is that Russia would never have vetoed if France was not going to veto. But the French are furious here at the United Nations for being singled out because they say they weren't alone in opposing this resolution. It was a war authorization, they complained, and that 11 other members of the council were not in favor of this.

Secretary-General Annan virtually saying he believes the U.S. military action, if it comes, would be against international law. He said this in a press conference in the Hague last week. Didn't come as close this time to saying it, but that's what he believes. The United States still leaving some glimmer of a diplomatic window, even though Secretary Powell said it's all but gone, by saying that the resolution is still on the table. Ambassador Greenstock of Britain saying it's wrong for people to report that the resolution was withdrawn. He says it is still there, but he didn't want to give any timeline for how long it will be there. That resolution had a date -- as Secretary Powell said, that was going to die anyway.

Here is Ambassador Pleuger of Germany.

GUNTER PLEUGER, GERMAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: We have heard this morning that the cosponsors have said that they would not submit the draft resolution to the vote for whatever reasons. But I think this gives the council an opportunity to make a last-ditch effort to find a common approach to our common goal of disarmament of Iraq.

We have reiterated on the lines of the common declaration of the three foreign ministers of Germany, France and Russia that has been distributed yesterday as a council document that we share the goal, the common goal of the international community to disarming Iraq, and we don't see at present any circumstances to break off the inspection process, especially at the time when the inspection process yields results.

And as you know, France, Germany and the Russian Federation have made proposals how to strengthen these inspections, and therefore we don't see any reason to stop that program now.

Now, another good information we got this morning was that Dr. Blix is ready to give us his program of work this afternoon, so maybe that we will have a final chance to come to a consensus in the council, because what was in the draft resolution of the cosponsors, five benchmarks that would have to be fulfilled, is not so completely different from the report of the -- from the work program of the inspectors, because there they have put together 12 key remaining disarmament tasks. And these are very similar to the benchmarks in the draft resolution.

So we will do everything to make an effort to come to a common conclusion how to avert military action at the last minute and find a way to achieve our common goal, the peaceful disarmament of Iraq.

QUESTION: Are you going ahead with your ministerial meeting idea?

PLEUGER: This proposal has been made in the declaration of the three ministers, and the question is now of course how the other members of the council will react to that, and in what time frame we can achieve this. It could be done tomorrow, but on the other hand, tomorrow the presidency has scheduled a meeting on West Africa and the problem of small weapons. So the meeting could take place on Wednesday morning.

QUESTION: Isn't this rather unrealistic? The secretary general is pulling the inspectors out. You're talking about a program of work, meetings on West Africa. Isn't this Alice in Wonderland?

PLEUGER: Well, you see, the Chinese ambassador once said, "If you have 1 percent chance of keeping the peace, you should make 100 effort to achieve this." And I think that is what we are doing now. We are not resignating, and if we are not successful we will at least be able to tell us and you that we have worked to the last minute to find a consensus in the council and a peaceful solution to the disarmament of Iraq.

QUESTION: Was it the council who allowed the withdrawal or relocation of the inspectors, or was it the general secretary just told you that we are moving the mark, relocating temporarily. Was it your wish that they'll be withdrawn?

PLEUGER: No. It is the responsibility of the secretary general to take care of the safety and security of all U.N. personnel on mission. And it is a decision of the secretary general who has informed the council of his decisions, and the council has taken note of this.

QUESTION: Do you believe that we are at this moment able to stop any war (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? PLEUGER: We are working, as I said before, from making a last ditch effort to find a solution on the basis of the declaration of the three foreign ministers of Russia, France and Germany to finish the disarmament of Iraq in a peaceful way. And we are optimistic that that will be possible even now because we have just heard from Dr. Blix and recently also from Dr. ElBaradei that it would not be a matter of days or years, but a matter of a few months. And we feel that it is worthwhile to use these few months and see whether we can achieve the peaceful disarmament of Iraq. And if it doesn't succeed then we can at least say that all other avenues before using force have been explored.

QUESTION: (SPEAKING IN FRENCH)

PLEUGER: I think the member of the council are in constant contact and are deliberating all possibilities and exploring all avenues because this is a question of war and peace, and every member of the council is aware of the gravity of the question before the council.

QUESTION: Ambassador, the inspectors have been withdrawn, and so have the other U.N. bodies from Iraq. Isn't a bit dreamland to talk about 60 days, 12-point work program?

PLEUGER: Well, I think trying to save the peace is never a dream. It is useful and it is necessary. And if we are not successful, then at least we have made the last effort.

QUESTION: In the event of unilateral action, will your country support in the council a condemnation of the potential military intervention without U.N. authorization?

PLEUGER: I'm not speculating on hypothetical draft resolution that I have not seen. We will cross that bridge by the time we arrive at it.

Thank you very much.

COOPER: You have been listening to Germany's ambassador to the United Nations. Coming up to the podium right now, France's ambassador to the United Nations -- let's listen in.

JEAN-MARC E LA SABLIERE, FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: As you know, we had a long discussion this morning. And the cosponsor of the draft resolution, United States, U.K. and Spain, told us that they have decided not to put to a vote this draft resolution.

Then we took note of the decision, why did they take this decision? Well, they took the decision because there was no support in the Security Council for a draft resolution authorizing the use of force. And I think the cosponsor have tried for days and now weeks to convince member of the council that the council should authorize the use of force and the majority in the council thought that it won't be justified.

This is the first point I wanted to raise. The second, there was an interesting discussion about the program of work of the inspectors. I think that the majority of the delegation wanted to see the program of work adopted as soon as possible and incorporating key remaining disarmament issues. And I hope that the program of work, which would be circulated today by Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei, could be discussed and adopted on Wednesday.

I'm mentioning that because there is a feeling in the council that it is still possible and it would be very hopeful that we do our best to try to continue the Iraqi disarmament through peaceful means.

It is possible, it is possible to disarm Iraq through peaceful means. It is possible to have the job done by the inspectors. So it is important to continue to have this resolution and Resolution 1441 implemented.

Now, there was a third point which was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a proposal we and Russia and Germany have made to have a ministerial meeting as soon as possible. This idea was received with interest. And this ministerial meeting could have two purposes. One purpose would be, and as soon as possible, to adopt a program of work, but also to have the minister discussing if there is still a chance to save peace. It has to be -- it has to be discussed at the level of ministers.

Now, we also, as you certainly know, discussed the question -- well, listened to the secretary general, who took the decision to withdraw temporarily the U.N. personnel from Iraq. This is a decision he took on the basis of security consideration. And we took note of this decision.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, everybody's putting the blame on France for not voting on this draft resolution, the president, vice president, Colin Powell, Mr. Negroponte. Now, do you feel if they would have put up a draft for the vote, would they have got the nine votes they needed?

DE LA SABLIERE: Certainly not. Certainly not.

We have said, and because we are responsible, that if the draft resolution (UNINTELLIGIBLE) draft resolution authorizing the use is put to a vote, we will vote no. Such a no vote coming from a permanent member of the Security Council is transformed into a veto if there are nine votes.

What I think everybody know very well in the council, and I think here in the U.N., is that the draft resolution cosponsored by United States, U.K. and Spain does not get or did not get support in the council. The majority of the member of the council consider that it is not justified, it is not legitimate to authorize the use of force, whereas we are doing the job, which is disarm Iraq through peaceful means. It is possible to do it. This is what the majority of the council think. QUESTION: Is it not the case that had the French not threatened to use their veto, whatever the circumstances, there would have been a greater chance of the British and U.S. draft resolution finding nine votes?

DE LA SABLIERE: Certainly not. A draft resolution did not get the vote because the member of the council, the member of the U.N., the majority in the U.N. and, I would say, people -- the majority of the people in the world do not think that it would be right in the present circumstances to use -- to have the council authorizing the use of force. Why? Because the use of force should be always the last resort.

We did not rule out the use of force. It was very clear from what President Chirac said that if -- if there was a circumstances where the inspectors came to us and say to the council that they cannot do the job or they cannot anymore do the job, which is to disarm Iraq through peaceful means, then -- then -- it would be for the council to consider other options, including the use of force, but not now, not now, for one reason.

For one reason is that the inspection are making progress. And this is something which must be very clear to everyone, is that disarming Iraq through peaceful means, it's not only possible, but it is possible in a short time.

Thank you very much.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We have been listening to Jean-Marc de la Sabliere. Here is the Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations, Munir Akram. Let's listen to him.

MUNIR AKRAM, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: ... has expressed its disappointment also at the impasse which has been faced in the Security Council. We have sought the implementation of Security Council resolutions for the peaceful disarmament of Iraq and we are disappointed that no convergence was found on any of the proposals that were on the table.

Nevertheless, although we face a grave situation, we believe that the time for diplomacy never ends, and we certainly hope that even at the 11th hour we might find a situation which could turn the tide and avoid a conflict. This is our hope, and we hope that the United Nations Security Council will continue to play a part in promoting peace and security in our region.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... peaceful disarmament would mean for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq (OFF-MIKE) now, is that what it means?

AKRAM: No. I believe that he could, indeed, as the United Kingdom ambassador, you just heard him ask for a strategic decision, there are certain very specific tasks which have been sought. And if there was at least a response, perhaps some space for diplomacy could still be found. QUESTION: Over the last few days you must have received many approaches from the U.S. and the U.K. How did you advise them you were thinking of voting?

AKRAM: I think that our friends, all our friends in the council are aware of our preoccupation with finding a peaceful solution. We tried to find a middle ground, convergence in the council. I think we made an honest effort. And I think those efforts were appreciated by everyone concerned.

QUESTION: Ambassador, is there any language in 1441 that you believe gives the U.S. the legal right to use force at this point?

AKRAM: I think that you heard the secretary general on the issue. We would not wish to express a national position on that. I think we will see how events unfold.

The Security Council and the United Nations, in our view, will continue to be relevant to the situation no matter what happens.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, in event of war, I would like to know what's the stand of your country.

AKRAM: Well, I think we have made our stand very clear. We would not wish to see a conflict. We would wish to see the welfare of the Iraqi people looked after. We would wish to see regional stability in the area. But we also are committed to the implementation of these resolutions of the Security Council.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... the elected 10, do they feel now the issue is disarmament or regime change?

AKRAM: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: The elected 10, non-permanent members, do they feel that the issue now is disarmament or regime change?

AKRAM: I don't think that the elected 10 have considered the issue. I think everybody has his own assessments, and I think we should leave it -- leave those national assessments.

QUESTION: Sir, how much more time does diplomacy have, you think?

AKRAM: As I said, we don't believe that the time for diplomacy ever ends, no matter what the situation. So we will continue to work at it. It's very encouraging that both sides of the discussion in the council have stressed the role of the Security Council and of the United Nations.

Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Munir Akram is the ambassador from Pakistan to the United Nations. This is Miles O'Brien at the CNN Center in Atlanta. And we are now listening to the Guinean ambassador to the United Nations -- Mamady Traore.

MAMADY TRAORE, AMBASSADOR OF GUINEA TO U.N. (through translator): I wanted to tell you that after arduous consultations in the council this weekend at the request of certain delegations, I've decided to hold consultations this morning. These consultations took place with the presence of the secretary general, Mr. Kofi Annan, and I must say that we had very open and frank discussion.

What I can tell you about these discussions is that we have decided on Wednesday morning to have a meeting about the work program for Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei.

Regarding the security of U.N. staff in Iraq, including the inspectors, I know that the secretary general met with you a moment ago and talked to you about that and the steps that are being taken. I would prefer myself not to talk about that.

I would like to tell you that whatever events occur later on, I would like to tell you that the presidency will do its utmost to bring views closer together and see to it that the council is unified.

Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: Mamady Traore, who is the Guinean ambassador to the United Nations. Long succession of ambassadors reacting to the announcement today that there will, in fact, be no vote at the U.N. Security Council on the situation with Iraq.

The Bulgarian ambassador, Stefan Tavrov at the microphone.

STEFAN TAVROV, BULGARIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: ... that it was a sad day for the U.N. and the Security Council because the divisions in the council seem to run very deep indeed.

While saying this, we also underline the fact that we should work now within the council and outside the council to limit the negative effects of the present situation, and should concentrate on the central role the Security Council has to play in international relations.

We, as a European country, for Bulgaria, the divisions within the European Union in particularly are very bad news. As you know, two members of the European Union are on one line, two others are on the other. As a prospective member, future member of the union, Bulgaria regrets deeply that.

We believe that the transatlantic relationship should be strengthened and not weakened. And we are going to work within the council to achieve those goals also in the future.

QUESTION: [speaking in Spanish]

TAVROV: [speaking in Spanish] What I actually just said in Spanish was -- I should have said something in English -- Bulgaria is open for dialogue and for diplomacy in the hours and days that come. Always diplomacy and dialogue are the best solution. That's what we believe.

Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You were listening to Stefan Tavrov, the Bulgarian ambassador to the United Nations, speaking first in Spanish, and then in English. And now to the microphones, the Syrian ambassador, Mikhail Wehbe.

MIKHAIL WEHBE, SYRIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: ... discussion this morning, but, indeed, we were disappointed very much for the news and the request of the United States from the IAEA and UNMOVIC. They requested them to withdraw the inspectors, which means for us another indication towards military action. And they said it is for their safety and security.

The members of the council expressed an idea that they will trust the secretary general to take the necessary action with regard this matter -- I mean, the inspectors.

And the diplomatic hope still there, because we asked the last week Mr. Blix to present to the council the list of the main remaining issues of the mass destruction weapons in Iraq. And indeed, as he promised, he just talk about it today. And he is going to distribute the report this afternoon, and we'll be discuss it on Wednesday at the ministerial level, which proposed this ministerial level by the three ministers of foreign affairs, France, Russia, Germany, on the 15th of this month. So we are waiting, on Wednesday, to discuss it.

But withdrawing the inspectors, it has very significant meaning and it has an implication, very dangerous implication, which it means there is no more inspections, which it means there is no disarmament peacefully to the Iraqis, which we have been working all the time on this matter.

This is the most important implication of withdrawing the inspectors, and, again, withdrawing UNIKOM, as well. If UNIKOM should not be there at this time, the war of action, and when we need it at the humanitarian level, badly need it, I don't know when we need UNIKOM to be there.

QUESTION: Ambassador, I asked this question to one of the other people on the council, they didn't want to even address it. In the language of 1441 is there anything in that resolution that you feel enables the U.S. to take a war action at this point?

WEHBE: 1441, we believe, and we expressed many times, that 1441 still valid, should not be really jeopardized by any other resolution at this stage, and there is no need for new resolution. And that's why the majority of the members of the council, they were not with the war solution or military action solution for disarming Iraq.

That's why the draft resolution cosponsored by U.S., U.K. and Spain was not, I mean, favored to the majority of the members of the council, including my country.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, I would like to ask about those Iraqis who are in your country or refugees. And in the event if a war starts, there will be more Iraqis coming to your country. How you are coping with this? And if the United Nations is trying to help these Iraqis to be able to live further.

WEHBE: The Iraqis our brotherly people. And they can meet all kind of cooperation and assistance from the Syrian government and the Syrian country. And these details will be arranged with the United Nations.

QUESTION: Can I ask, how many at this moment refugees do you have (OFF-MIKE)?

WEHBE: I have no idea really about how many at this stage, whether there is or there isn't. But anyway, as I told you, the details will be discussed between the United Nations and the Syrian government.

QUESTION: Ambassador, it is confirmed that that's a ministerial meeting on Wednesday?

WEHBE: Yes, confirmed now. But there are some countries, they want to consult their capitals whether their ministers are able to come on Wednesday or not. But it is confirmed, principally.

QUESTION: And there will be no further discussion today in the council on Iraq.

WEHBE: No, there is no further discussion. Tomorrow, there is another kind of meeting. On Wednesday, will be discussed the report of Mr. Blix about the main remaining issues.

Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Mikhail Wehbe, who is the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations ending a long string of U.N. ambassadors addressing microphones today in the wake of the announcement that there will, in fact, be no vote. Reaction to a nonvote, if you will. A fair amount of disappointment expressed there. They are, after all, diplomats, and to a person pretty much, they felt that diplomacy never runs out of time.

Let's send it now to Richard Roth who is our senior U.N. correspondent. Richard, a couple things to consider here. First of all, doesn't seem like there's much room for diplomacy despite what the ambassadors say.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't seem that way. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, off camera telling us that there's still a 1 percent, 2 percent chance -- quote -- "the diplomatic process isn't totally over," it's 98 percent, 99 percent over. There's a little hope.

And you heard Germany and Syria and others say we're not going to give up, but it may just be window dressing, these types of comments.

Now we hear that the next Security Council meeting is Wednesday. Various foreign ministers from Germany and Russia are expected to fly in for that. Hans Blix will be at the meeting. They are going to go over the program of work of the disarmament tasks for Iraq.

But you heard several reporters saying to ambassadors from Germany and elsewhere, are you in dreamland, is this like Alice in Wonderland, hinting that military attacks could already be underway? What is the purpose of all of these meetings?

It may turn out that those meetings turn to a forum to denounce the U.S., U.K., or Spain should military assaults take place by then.

We now know that the inspectors are going to be withdrawn. Secretary-General Annan telling the Security Council he has made the call, and you heard Secretary-General Annan earlier in the day say, in effect, that he believes any military action now without official council approval on another resolution is something that's against the legality of the United Nations' charter.

But still at the Security Council, for many diplomats a sense of frustration, disappointment, expressed by Greenstock of Britain, saying it is personal disappointment. He looked at this as one of his last final culminating acts of a long diplomatic career. He is set to retire from here in July. Also disappointment expressed by other countries.

France still angry that it was singled out by the United States and U.K. diplomats for being the blocking force here with a veto threat. France denying this, saying the resolution was never going to get enough votes, that there were 14 -- that there were 11 against, 4 in favor. Now it's just sort of a sense of resignation awaiting what might happen with President Bush's announcement -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Quickly, Richard. There are dozens of inspectors left in Baghdad, about 200 U.N. personnel in all when you look at all the relief agencies. How much concern is there for their well-being right now?

ROTH: I think they feel that there will be enough time for them to get out, that U.S. planes will not be flying while these inspectors are on their way out. There is some concern about the plane itself that might carry the U.N. weapons inspectors out, but they have been through this drill before. The last time, in 1998, it was a lot more controversial because the then-leader of the U.N. weapons inspectors withdrew the U.N. inspectors because they were not official U.N. staff, and he made the call after getting some warnings from the United States. That has rankled many Security Council members to this date. Secretary-General Annan wanted to -- quote -- "get it right," handle it in proper channels, and thus, he told the Security Council he was making the call. The Security Council, without a vote, signed off on this.

O'BRIEN: Richard Roth at the United Nations. We'll be checking in with you in just a little bit. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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