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Interview With Rep. Curt Weldon

Aired February 1, 2004 - 18:18   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Now we move on to Libya and its weapons program. Congressman Curt Weldon leads an historic delegation delegation to Tripoli this week. And he met privately with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for half an hour. He joins to us from Wilmington, Deleware to talk about some of the details of that closely watched visit. Congressman, thank you very much for being with us today.
REP. CURT WELDON, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: Happy to be with you, Carol.

LIN: Tell me what you were able to see and how much access you had to the Libyan dictator.

WELDON: Well, we -- the Libyans gave us everything I asked for. We had 14 meetings over two days met with everyone in the administration, the prime minister, deputy prime minister, the foreign minister, the minister in charge of all of the WMD program working with the U.N and the IAEA in a positive way to remove those assets. And also a two-hour meeting with Gadhafi, including 30 minutes alone with the colonel.

LIN: How do you know he's not lying to United States, that he really is serious about dismantling any weapons of mass destruction program that he's developed?

WELDON: Well, that's the ultimate question. The only way you can know that is to test and verify and I told him that. I said your comments were right on the mark. They have sparked the enthusiasm of the U.S. and the world community, but now you've got to follow through and you've got to show that what you're saying you will do, in fact you will do.

Now, while we were there, I had asked for access to a WMD site. We went to the nuclear complex. We donned the robes and the materials and were given access to a 10 megawatt research reactor they have. And we were given access to the scientists and allowed to ask them any questions we wanted. And the week that we were there, I believe significant material was in fact, removed from Libya.

So, so far, I think Gadhafi is on the mark. And, up until this point in time, I think based on my conversation with him and his government leaders and his son, who aspires to be the new leader of Libya, that they truly want to turn this around and become a positive player with the West after years and years of terrorism and stagnation.

LIN: You are on the national security committee. Obviously, you've been tapped into the reports about conflicting evidence if no evidence at all, of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Now, we are anticipating that the president may announce an investigation by appointing a blue ribbon panel sometime this week in Washington.

The Democrats who are running for president say nothing short of an independent investigation into our intelligence services and what they knew and what they didn't know would suffice. What is your opinion on this matter? Should it be a be an independent investigation?

WELDON: Well, I think all the questions that people have need to be answered. But I can tell you, as the vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and someone who has worked on proliferation for the past 17 years, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein had and, in fact, the U.N. has documented used significant weapons of mass destruction on his own people, both the Kurds and the Iranians. In fact, tens of thousands of innocent people were killed using weapons of mass destruction.

The question is whether or not we will actually find them. I think it's still yet to be answered. I had meetings in Iraq when we went following our Libya trip to Baghdad and we met with David Kay's team. That team is very, is very perplexed by his comments that he's made publicly. And in fact, they are continuing to work hard. And these military experts, who are apolitical, really believe there is still work out there and still the possibility of them finding evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

My own opinion is I think Saddam moved them and I would not be surprised if they're in Syria.

LIN: Especially given your trip to Tripoli, I mean, on the international stage, this is embarrassing for the United States, already France, Germany, Russia, Great Britain, those who -- well, not necessarily Great Britain perhaps, but all of those countries are saying that the fact that Moammar Gadhafi has come forward through negotiations to give up his weapons of mass destruction is one for negotiation, that these things should be negotiated peacefully and that in many respects, a majority of the countries say it was a mistake for the United States to go to war against Iraq.

WELDON: People like Jacques Chirac and the Germans, Schroeder, really have I think, no argument whatsoever. They were the ones that pushed the U.S. into the war against Milosevic to remove him. And they deliberately avoided the U.N. because they knew Russia would veto any request through the governing council of the U.N. to support that effort.

So, it was Jacques Chirac and Schroeder both, the Germans and French who pushed us into a conflict to remove Milosevic. Anyone that looks at the hard evidence of the U.N. and those human rights groups around the world, certainly sees that Saddam Hussein makes Milosevic, who is a war criminal, look lik a street thug. I mean, Saddam Hussein wrote the book on Human rights violations.

So for the French and Germans to say there was no reason to take Saddam out, that's just, it's nonsense. And it shows that, in my opinion Chirac has no credibility in terms of his position on this issue.

The French had an obvious financial interest in Iraq. That's been documented that time and again they were involved financially in Iraq and in some cases, I think with weapons of mass destruction, basic technology.

LIN: Thank you very much, Congress Curt Weldon, for sharing your insights not only in Iraq but on your trip to Tripoli.

It does looks like there is going to be some sort of an investigation into what exactly the intelligence services knew or didn't know before we went to war.


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