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Newsmaker: Ambassador Aldouri

January 31, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT

RAY SUAREZ: Mr. Ambassador, welcome back to the program.


RAY SUAREZ: The latest response from the chief U.N. weapon inspector, Hans Blix, to your government’s invitation to come to Baghdad, is that he and Mr. ElBaradei would like certain conditions met before they make that trip. Is Iraq interested in meeting their terms and getting them to come over?

MOHAMMED ALDOURI: Well, when we ask for ElBaradei and Mr. Blix to come to the Baghdad, that means a lot, not only for us, but also for international community.

Certainly, we would hope to have a good discussion, a positive one, so to overcome all technical problems and perhaps advance for the work in the future. Hopefully, whatever we can do, both sides as one party to achieve the goal of not only of Iraqi goal, but also the aims of the United Nations.

RAY SUAREZ: Mr. Blix has expressed some interest in meeting with your president. Do you think that’s possible?

MOHAMMED ALDOURI: Well, you know, this is not…hopefully, this is not a condition just as expressing his wishes. I don’t know really what will be the situation there, what will be the conditions of our president. Perhaps he can do that, and perhaps he cannot do that. Anyway, whomever they have to meet in Baghdad, I think that will be a positive step for the future work of the UNMOVIC and IAEA.

RAY SUAREZ: The inspectors have also requested that U-2 surveillance planes be allowed to fly over Iraq, and that the inspectors be able to interview Iraqi scientists involved in weapons programs. Is your government willing to make either of those things happen?

MOHAMMED ALDOURI: I think my government is not opposing both these two things.

There were technical discussions between both parties in the past, and I think they will continue on the days ahead to seek solutions for this technical problem. It is not problem of principle, because we have had in the past such experience with U-2, and also we have long, long interviews with all our scientists.

So in my point of view, this is not a problem, but it is a technical point to discuss more in the days ahead.

RAY SUAREZ: Are you getting the feeling that you don’t have as much time to make these arrangements as you might have, let’s say, last year? Both the British prime minister and the American president have referred to Iraq having weeks, not months, to come into full compliance.

MOHAMMED ALDOURI: We are doing our best. We are doing our utmost, not because Mr. Blix or Mr. Bush ask us to do that, but it is in our interest to have this problem be resolved once forever.

This is a very hard problem for us. It is harming us. So, in the interest of Iraqi people, of the future of Iraq, of the future of the area, of Middle East, to have this problem resolved completely once forever, so not because we are hearing on a daily basis a threat from Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair that we are doing our job. I think this is for… this is within the international interest. This is the Iraqi hope, the Iraqi will, this is the Iraqi wish, to have this problem resolved.

RAY SUAREZ: While he was saying that it is a matter of weeks, not months, President Bush has also said that he still hopes this matter can be resolved peacefully. Is Iraq ready for war? Is Iraq preparing for war?

MOHAMMED ALDOURI: We are not… we are not… no, I think there is no people in the world want to go to war. There’s no government in the world want to go to war.

I only heard United States and the Britain wishes to go to war. We hope that we can find a peaceful solution for this problem and to finish, as I said, once forever.

But if we have to face the war, certainly we will do our utmost, our best, to defend our people, our independence, our country.

RAY SUAREZ: Earlier this week, Dr. Blix read out a report that was very harsh on Iraq’s compliance with Resolution 1441, not that there had been active efforts to thwart the inspections, but that the Iraqis had not helped inspectors find the things they needed to find to certify that Iraq was in compliance.

Does your country have what they’re looking for?

MOHAMMED ALDOURI: We qualified the report of Mr. Blix as unbalanced one. But, at the same time, we are still encouraging him to do his work through his teams working in Iraq. And we gave all possibility, all access, to all places any time to go wherever they want to go. And they did that.

They found nothing relating to mass destruction weapons. They want perhaps more so-called proactive cooperation from Iraq. We are ready to do that. And I think for this purpose, we did ask Mr. Blix and ElBaradei to go to Baghdad in the next few days.

RAY SUAREZ: All along your government has maintained that the things the inspectors are looking for have been destroyed, but you haven’t been able to present any proof that large amounts of material have been destroyed.

How can you help them prove that to their satisfaction?

MOHAMMED ALDOURI: Well, Mr. Ekeus, the director of U.N.SCOM, already in 1994 did declare, and later on this month declared that more than 95 percent of the whole program of mass destruction weapons is completely destroyed. So we are hoping that for the rest, we consider that there is no rest really at all.

But if we will do our best in trying to find something which might satisfy Mr. Blix and his team, and also ElBaradei, but both Mr. ElBaradei and Mr. Blix said that, so far, there is no mass destruction weapons within Iraq found yet.

RAY SUAREZ: Some world leaders have speculated in the past few weeks that one way to diffuse the situation is for your president to go into exile. Has that been given any serious consideration?

MOHAMMED ALDOURI: Certainly not. We have not to take these talks as serious ones. We consider that this is a kind of intervention of internal affairs of others. This is a country, independent country, this is a member of United Nations, this is a nation with 4,000 years behind it. So I don’t think that up to others to ask Saddam Hussein, Mr. Saddam Hussein, to go away or — it is not the right of anybody to do that. It is only Iraqi people, and the wish of Iraqi people to do that — if he wishes to do that. Otherwise, we cannot accept from anybody to ask us such questions at all, or such demands.

RAY SUAREZ: Next week, the secretary of state of the United States will present America’s intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs. What do you anticipate will come out of that report?

MOHAMMED ALDOURI: Well, we think that, as before, as other reports have been presented by Britain, and by CIA, you know, we have two reports right now talking about real evidence. But when the international community has a look on these reports, there were, in fact, nothing.

So, for Mr. Powell, I think he will not, because he will not be able to say that there is mass destruction weapons in Iraq or still mass destruction weapons in Iraq, because this is up to Mr. Blix and his team to say this thing exists. But that doesn’t exist.


MOHAMMED ALDOURI: With what about the links between Iraq and al-Qaida — we are confident and we are sure — we know ourselves — that he cannot prove that there were any kind of links between Iraq and al-Qaida in the past or in the present or even in the future, because this is not the nature of our regime to have links with terrorist groups.

RAY SUAREZ: Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri. Mr. Ambassador, thank you.

MOHAMMED ALDOURI: Thank you very much.