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MARGARET WARNER: With me is the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock.
Welcome back, Mr. Ambassador.
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Thanks, Margaret.
MARGARET WARNER: Your reaction to the agreement announced today in Vienna?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: It’s a very good first stage agreement. Hands Blix and his team have done an excellent job in, as Secretary Powell I think called it clearing away the under brush, the technical matters that are necessary for the establishment of the teams in Iraq. And they’ve done that on the basis that the Security Council resolutions have laid out up to now. So a number of, I hope, fairly straight forward things have been done. The Iraqis know that it’s unconditional, unrestricted access that we’re talking about. And that’s a very good step taken.
MARGARET WARNER: You think this is something you think can be built upon?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: I don’t think that Hans Blix has yet done all he needs to do before his inspection teams go back to Iraq. He’s coming back to talk to the Security Council in two days’ time. And we will discuss with him what remaining preparations have to be done before he has the instruments in his hand to make sure that Iraq cannot block inspections at any time anywhere or access to anyone relevant to the program. And we’ll be going through those final points with him when he comes back.
MARGARET WARNER: So are you and is the British government in agreement with the U.S. Administration that this agreement alone is simply not enough and that it would not be an acceptable set of ground rules for inspectors to return under?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Oh, yes, we are in total agreement with the U.S. that there needs to be more clarification in the more difficult areas. As Hans Blix has very rightly said, he does not want to go back into Iraq with certain things left unclear or where there may be confrontation. It’s for the Security Council to take some further decisions on the full range of instruments in Hans Blix’s hands, and then he will need a further discussion with the Iraqis about that.
MARGARET WARNER: Have you canvassed the other three permanent five members of the Security Council on their reaction to this and are they in agreement with the U.S. and Britain that more needs to happen?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: We have started discussions in New York that flow from a number of discussions between capitals. So this started a long time ago. We’ve been in consultation with our closest partners on the Security Council for some time.
MARGARET WARNER: I actually meant this afternoon, though, the reaction to this. Because obviously the Iraqis are essentially saying, okay, we’re ready to let you back in and these are the ground rules as far as we’re concerned.
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: I think the United States and the United Kingdom are making it very clear, and the other members of the Security Council know this perfectly well, that we need to have no fudge whatsoever in any part of the arrangements for the inspectors that may cause difficulties, which may lead to decisions being taken that we would rather avoid. So absolute clarity in what Hans Blix and his teams can and cannot do still needs to be thrashed out and we need to do that with the concurrence of our partners on the Security Council and they are not yet absolutely clear in their own minds as to what they will agree to. So those discussions are going to continue.
MARGARET WARNER: Now the Presidential sites being in their own special category, were not included in this today. Is it fair to say that that’s a nonstarter as far as the U.S. and Britain are concerned having them be in any special category?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: The way in which the memorandum on Presidential sites was interpreted is a nonstarter. No territory can be immune. You can hide the kind of weapons that we’re talking about underneath any bit of territory in the Presidential sites are huge. So of course the dignity of senior Iraqis will have to be respected in the right way. We’re not asking the inspections to be discourteous. But the territory, the sites themselves have got to be open to inspectors, 100 pervent of Iraqi territory has got to be open to inspectors. Otherwise we will get into the kind of fudge and concealment that we had in earlier years, and we’re not going back down that route.
MARGARET WARNER: The Iraqis pointed out today, and in fact Hans Blix did also, that this understanding that was reached back in ’98 between Kofi Annan and Iraq on the Presidential sites was endorsed by the Security Council in a resolution. Are you seeking to rescind that resolution?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: I think we’re seeking to make it clear that the circumstances have changed, we’ve got a different inspection team. UNMOVIC is not UNSCOM. The Security Council wants to remain in control of what is now going to happen. And Hans Blix has acknowledged that the Security Council will be giving him his instructions. So the Security Council is in a position to clarify what it wanted out of the inspection process in 1998, which was, we think, distorted by the Iraqis in practice, and to go back to the original concept of 1991, 687 which was immediately accepted by the Iraqis, for full, unconditional, unfettered access, that’s what we’re going for.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, Colin Powell said just moments ago that as far as the U.S. is concerned — and I think this is what you’re say too — is that you still want a very toughly worded new resolution that covers a lot of areas, not just the Presidential sites. What is the procedure, however, if you don’t get this new resolution within two weeks when Hans Blix said he’s ready to go back and the Iraqis are ready to have him come, what happens? In other words, is Blix sort of on autopilot and you’d have to vote or tell him not to go? Or does he need authorization from the Security Council to go?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Hans Blix is not on autopilot as he himself has acknowledged. I think that Hans will not want to start his inspection teams deploying if he sees the Security Council is still discussing the basis on which he will be deployed. So I don’t believe that he will wish to make that mistake of being unclear about the instruments that he is carrying, both physical and metaphorical, before he goes in. So that is an adjustable time scale.
MARGARET WARNER: So just to make sure I understand, you’re saying even if there’s disagreement among the permanent five, let’s say perhaps the Russians would like to go ahead under these ground rules and the U.S. and Britain wouldn’t, that you do not believe Hans Blix would go, that essentially this could be put off until the Security Council comes to an agreement?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: I think it’s much too difficult for Hans Blix to go if there remains a division between members of the Security Council, whether permanent or nonpermanent. I think he will want to wait until there has been a new decision by the Council, since we’re preparing to do that, and he knows that he would be unsafe for him, politically as well as an inspection terms, to go if there was still discussion going on, yes.
MARGARET WARNER: Politically, does this agreement today complicate your efforts to get this toughly worded new resolution that you and the United States have been promoting?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Absolutely not. And let’s be quite clear about what this toughness means. It’s toughness for an inspection regime that is going to work. This is what we’re both saying, the U.S. and the UK, we want the inspections to do the job that was not done in previous years. We don’t need military action to do the job if the Iraqis cooperate with the inspections to do it before there is any decision of that kind. But it’s quite clear from history that it’s also necessary that the Iraqis realize that they’ve got to cooperate, that there’s no second chance beyond this last option. So we’re steering between the Iraqis not recognizing that the threat of force is real and inspections that are not powerful enough to do the job. And I think that the discussions over the next few days are going to be able to do that.
MARGARET WARNER: And you aren’t dismayed or… that’s not really the word I’m looking for here, but when the Iraqis said this past weekend that they would not accept any new ground rules.
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: The Iraqis don’t have a say in this. The Security Council is likely to pass a mandatory resolution making it absolutely clear what Hans Blix is empowered to do, and the Iraqis are obliged to accept that. We would much rather they accepted it willingly. But we have to have an arrangement where by there is no territory, no time, no person that is relevant to inspections, that is debarred or delayed for inspection. And that is going to be the product of this resolution.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much.
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Thank you.