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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Chemical Weapons Investigation: Interview With Terrence Taylor

Aired April 7, 2003 - 14:55   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You've been watching breaking news here on CNN, a firsthand investigation of some suspicious chemicals found at a facility outside of Karbala in central Iraq.
Joining me once again on the telephone, Terrence Taylor, a former U.N. weapons inspector.

Mr. Taylor, you heard what the general had to say, you saw the pictures, you heard what the Defense Department, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs had to say. What's your assessment at this very, very preliminary stage of this investigation?

TERRY TAYLOR, FMR. CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSP.: Well, that's a very tough call, Wolf. But it's something that is well worth -- obviously, they're going to follow it up in full detail and the military and the Department of Defense are going to be very careful about how they pronounce on this because getting it wrong, of course, would be -- would be not a good thing politically as well as militarily as well.

It seems to me that there are certain things hidden away. I find it quite extraordinary that quantities like this would be buried away under the ground for no apparent reason other than to hide it. We have to wait and see what the sampling comes up with, the detailed sampling. But it is typical of the Iraqis to place things in what we would call weird -- inspectors used to call dual use facilities, in other words they've had a legitimate purpose like, for example, pesticides, as an example. But they would also use the same facilities for storage and for manufacture and production as they would for chemical warfare agents or biological warfare agents as the case would be.

So this is a very suspicious case and I think it will be interesting to see how it's followed up technically. but very careful sampling is going to be needed, very careful analysis. It's got to be right. The international community has got to be convinced, too. It's not just the forces on the ground of course and the U.S. administration.

BLITZER: Well, if it is a nerve agent or some sort of blister agent, as we heard, the suspicion is -- what is the testing process contained entail? How difficult is it to find out what it really is?

TAYLOR: Well, when we're looking at quantities of chemical like this which are not in a munition and so on, it has to be done very carefully. One of the equipment that's used beyond the crew devices -- you're seeing they're very good devices, but they're used for defensive purpose in field, paper that's tested, chemical agent monitors, a sort of sniffer that you've seen the troops holding there in your pictures. That is rough and ready and tells them whether they should be masking up or carrying out decontamination procedures.

But the kind of thing you do perhaps in a field laboratory would be to would be mass spectrometry which would be looking at it through the system-- a mass spectrometer which can be done in the field but it is much more efficiently done, of course, in a proper building, in a proper laboratory with all the facilities, because this has got to be done right.

BLITZER: Terrence Taylor, former chief U.N. -- former weapons inspector for the United Nations helping us understand this very, very important story. Mr. Taylor, we'll be checking back with you as our coverage continues.

Just to update our viewers, suspicious material found at an agricultural location not far from Baghdad, near Karbala, in central Iraq. Further tests to determine whether or not these are the banned chemical weapons, the banned chemical agents that the U.S. has been looking for as part of the -- its war in Iraq. We're going to continue to monitor this potentially significant story. Has the U.S. found the so-called smoking gun? No definitive answer yet. Much more investigation to continue.

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