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Iraq Accepts U.N. Resolution

November 13, 2002 at 12:00 AM EST
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KWAME HOLMAN: Iraq’s acceptance came in a nine page letter delivered this morning in Iraq by Iraq’s ambassador to the U.N., Mohammad Aldouri.

MOHAMMED ALDOURI, U.N. Ambassador, Iraq: The letter is saying that Iraq will deal with the Security Council Resolution 1441 despite its bad contents. We are prepared to receive the inspectors within the assigned timetable. We are eager to see them perform their duties in accordance with international law as soon as possible. This is the essence of the letter.

REPORTER: Can you describe what the contents are?

MOHAMMED ALDOURI: Well, one, I think we explained in the letter the whole Iraqi question dealt with here within the United Nations activities, so we tried to explain our position saying that Iraq have and had not and will not have any mass destruction weapons so we are not worried about the inspectors when they will be back in the country.

REPORTER: So did you repeat the assertion in the letter Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction?

MOHAMMED ALDOURI: Yes, yes. Iraq is clean, yes.

KWAME HOLMAN: At the White House this afternoon President Bush and Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke to reporters.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I am grateful for your leadership at the United Nations. A while ago the United Nations Security Council made a very strong statement that we the world expects Saddam Hussein to disarm for the sake of peace and the U.N. stepped up to its responsibilities and I want to thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, I appreciate your leadership.

KOFI ANNAN: With regards to the Iraq decision, I want to thank you, Mr. President, for working with the United Nations and the Council and working through the Council. And I remember when you came to the U.N. on the 12th of September, nobody knew which way you were going to go. And in my own speech before yours, I was pleading that we go the multilateral route, and I think we were all relieved that we did, you did. Today I received a letter from the Iraqi government accepting the resolution, saying that they would work with the resolution. And Mr. Blix and his team will go back. We expect them to get there on the 18th and actively begin their work.

KWAME HOLMAN: An advance team led by chief arms inspector Hans Blix is expected to arrive in Iraq on Monday. Having met the first provision of the U.N. resolution passed by a unanimous Security Council last week, Iraq now has 30 days to declare any chemical, biological, and nuclear facilities and programs. Inspectors will report any violations or failure to comply to the Security Council. Iraq’s decision followed, by a day, the unanimous rejection of the U.N. Resolution by the Iraqi parliament. But the parliament said the final decision would rest with Saddam Hussein.

GWEN IFILL: Now we get two views of the Iraqi response and what happens next. Terence Taylor, who was a member of the commission overseeing U.N. weapons inspectors in the early 1990s; he’s now executive director of the Washington office of London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies. And Edmund Ghareeb, an adjunct professor in the School of International Service at American University.

Professor Ghareeb, we heard today that Iraq decided to accept inspectors but in the nine-page letter they wrote to Kofi Annan and U.N. Security Council it was full of belligerent rhetoric. They called the United States evil, said they would always be at war with America because of its values, called Tony Blair a lackey. Why such language in a document in which they were apparently agreeing to the U.N. agreement?

EDMUND GHAREEB: I think that’s a very good question. I think there is no doubt that they are first of all venting their frustrations; that’s what they believe has been unfair treatment of Iraq by the United States and by Britain. And although I don’t know how wise the use that have language is especially when you are ultimately going to agree to the resolution but I think another purpose is that they are sending also a message about their views about their interpretation of the resolution of the actions of the United Nations Security Council as well as of the actions of the United States and Britain to Iraqi public opinion, to Arab public opinion, to Islamic public opinion about what they feel has been an injustice, because I took a quick look at the letter and noticed a couple of things they mentioned.

One of them was when they were talking about the resolution for example, they said that there was an agreement between the Iraqi representative and the representatives of UNMOVIC, Mr. Blix and a representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mr. ElBaradi, and with the Iraqi representative about sending the inspectors back in and the United States did not agree to that and they insisted on going to the Security Council and getting a new resolution after an agreement was reached.

GWEN IFILL: So they are accusing the United States of being disingenuous about this but in the end did Iraq have any choice to agree to the U.N. resolution?

EDMUND GHAREEB: I think it was very difficult, the Iraqis didn’t have much of a choice agreeing to the resolution; I think they realized that, although it was interesting what we heard the position of the Iraqi parliament and then the position of the Iraqi leadership.

I think they were doing two things: with the position of the Iraqi parliament they’re sending a message again through their own public opinion, through the Arab public opinion this is an unfair resolution, we want to avoid war. I think on the other hand, they realized that they cannot avoid this, because there is no longer the French nor the Russians nor the Chinese supporting them, even an Arab country like Syria supported the resolution, and basically they felt this might be also an option, this may be the only option left to agree to the resolution.

GWEN IFILL: Mr. Taylor, we just heard the Iraqi ambassador to the U.N. say that Iraq is clean, in fact, the language in the letter says Iraq has not developed weapons of mass destruction whether nuclear, chemical or biological as claimed by evil people. How believable is that declaration?

TERENCE TAYLOR: Well, I don’t think Washington and London and a number of other capitals around the world believe that is a credible statement. So I think this was one of the most interesting things that we heard today and in the letter and also of course we heard the Iraqi ambassador at the U.N. also saying that in public because one of the things they’re required to do is declare within 30 days any information they have on these prohibited programs. And if the declaration is they have none of these things, I think that will not be believable in major capitals around the world.

GWEN IFILL: Let’s talk about the resolution, the resolution also says that Iraq in order for Iraq to accept the resolution they have accepted the language, which says they already are in material breach their own disarmament obligations; have they basically admitted guilt already by agreeing to this resolution, no what this letter says?

TERENCE TAYLOR: Well, I suppose technically you could claim that but quite clearly they have had weapons of mass destruction programs, this was proved conclusively by the U.N. Special Commission –the previous inspection commission and the IAEA the International Atomic Energy Agency. And they have admitted to them, too.

And I think it’s quite clear from the final work of the U.N. Special Commission which was reviewed by an independent panel at the request Iraq, they also said that Iraq had major areas to explain yet. So I think we’ll have to see what the declaration they make the official declaration they make, which is due within the next 30 days.

GWEN IFILL: Professor Ghareeb, let’s talk about the 30 day deadline that Mr. Taylor was just talking about; that takes us to about December 8, 30 days after the resolution passed the U.N. Is that a realistic deadline for that first declaration?

EDMUND GHAREEB: I think there’s no doubt they accepted it but I don’t know if you can answer or reply. Actually, I think that was one of the weaknesses of the resolutions or one of the pressure points on the Iraqis, because this requires a declaration by Iraq of not only of its weapons capability, chemical nuclear biological programs, but also of any chemical, biological or nuclear programs that have nothing do with weapons.

So basically it is going to be very difficult for them. On the one hand there has to be a complete declaration and if they have do have weapons of mass destruction, then they’re already going to be looked at as if they have been in material breach. If they don’t submit and provide information and inspectors do find something else, they’re going to be also considered in material breach.

So it’s going to be very difficult for the Iraqis but what’s interesting again from the program from the letter is that they are saying that we don’t have any weapons of mass destruction and so in sense I think this is an important period also. It’s an important period not only testing period for Iraq it’s also a testing period for the inspectors, because one of the important things is that UNSCOM in the past was seen not being an honest broker, not reporting to the Security Council of the United Nations so this is going to be a very delicate time, a testing time for Iraq as well as for the inspectors. Are the inspectors going to operate in an independent fashion and a fair fashion and unbiased fashion and will they report strictly and directly to the Security Council and I think this is an important area to look at.

GWEN IFILL: Mr. Taylor, Hans Blix and his inspectors are supposed to arrive in Baghdad on Monday to begin the process. What are the first things they have to do? It’s been four years since inspectors have been there, anything could have gone on; where do they begin?

TERENCE TAYLOR: First of all they have to set themselves up logistically; they have to put all the communications in place, the computers, set up all the arrangements for transport and even things like catering and all sorts of things have to go on. And the two organizations that is the IAEA and the U.N. Mission UNMOVIC have to do all of this within 45 days.

I think they’ll be able to do this. But there are issues such as helicopter teams to be brought in and so on. It’s quite a substantial job so I don’t think you’ll see any inspections proper happening for a month or so to come.

GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask you about that 30 day deadline. It is conceivable that Iraq can just show up with a blank piece of paper and say again what they, in essence, said in the letter today, we have nothing and stop the process?

TERENCE TAYLOR: I think that will be the first big challenge. Of course, they don’t really need 30 days. They know what they have got, so they could do it pretty quickly. Under the original Resolution 687, the cease-fire resolution 1991 they only had 15 days but they have been given a month in which to do this.

If they come up with a zero on all counts, that is, no nuclear , no chemical, no biological, no missile programs, I don’t think that is going to be believable in major capitals around the world. So that will be the first area of tension I should think.

GWEN IFILL: And what is it that U.N. inspectors will be looking for, are there specific types of science you’re looking for, or do they have equipment to allow them for instance to see what’s been built in the time and find out what’s going on under those roofs?

TERENCE TAYLOR: Well, they’ll start with the information that was gained by the U.N. Special Commission, which is substantial; in fact, they’ll also use information they’ve acquired in the meantime either from capitals or from various sources. And they will be making an inspection plan.

One of the first things they’ll have to do is rebuilt baseline, in other words, go to those places where they knew there already exists equipment that could be used on a weapons of mass destruction program, they have to go for example, to the missile production factories and so on.

So they still have to rebuild the baseline. But I think initially too in that first 60 days or so before they report formally to the U.N. Security Council, they’ll have to go to places where they suspect there might be hidden programs if we get that far.

GWEN IFILL: Professor Ghareeb, one of the things that Iraq asked for in agreeing to this U.N. Resolution today was that there be Arab inspectors as part of team’ what’s the significance of that?

EDMUND GHAREEB: I think the significance and this is by the way not an Iraqi demand the Arab League also Monday night they asked for this today the Secretary-general of the Arab League and the Syrian foreign minister have demanded that there be Arab inspectors along and I think part of this because there has been questions in the past about the neutrality about the fairness of UNSCOM and UNSCOM process when UNSCOM was seen by many and later on it was proved that they were also not playing just the role of neutral inspectors but they were also doing spying on Iraq and the Iraqi leadership, Iraq security services and that raises a lot of questions.

The Iraqis in the beginning made accusations not too many people believed them against UNSCOM but since them a lot of information has come out. So this is one of the issues. While these countries would like to see unimpeded access to the sites inspectors want, they want the inspectors to be doing a fair job.

GWEN IFILL: What’s to stop accusations from being made again if Iraq comes out in 30 days in 15 days or in 45 days and says here’s our list and the U.N. finds it blatantly unacceptable and Arab nations say hey they answered your questions, what’s your problem, does the coalition begin to fray right away?

EDMUND GHAREEB: I think this is an important question but however Mr. Blix and Mr. Elbaredi are saying that they are going to be independent, that they are going to be basically responsible to the Security Council and not to anybody else. If this is what happens and that’s why they’re asking for Arab inspectors to be there and inspectors from different countries, who could tell actually what’s going on, and I think if it seems the inspectors are really biased or not doing their job properly, then I think we’re likely to see some divisions and some problems. But if the inspectors appear to be doing their job as they ought to be I think the Iraqis are going to be in a more difficult position.

GWEN IFILL: Mr. Taylor, as we mentioned before, it’s been four years since inspectors have been in Iraq, what is the worst case scenario of what could have gone on during that time?

TERENCE TAYLOR: Well, they could have rebuilt and extended their programs in particular on the chemical and biological front. There have been a number of accusations or allegations if you like with information coming in about the rebuilding of a uranium enrichment plant. They could have continued to develop nuclear weapons components a whole range things they could have been doing, but this is why we need the inspectors back, which, by the way, I should recall when I was with UNSCOM, Arabic inspectors were amongst our teams as I’m sure they’ll be amongst the teams of the IEA and UNMOVIC in the forthcoming inspections too.

GWEN IFILL: But also in the last four years has the job of actually doing the inspecting once you have the infrastructure in place that you outlined earlier, has it become easier, simpler, or more complicated?

TERENCE TAYLOR: I think it will be a very challenging job. My worry is that the U.N. mission and perhaps the IEA don’t have enough resources to get the job done in a reasonable time. For example, if you were to take one of the large sites, like these compounds, the so-called palaces, which have a very large number of buildings you may need 50, 60 or 80 inspectors to deal with a very large site like that.

So it would be very difficult for them to carry out simultaneous activities. It could be that Dr. Blix will be calling for more resources and I think really needs to once inspections get underway but that won’t be for another month or so yet.

GWEN IFILL: All right Terence Taylor and Edmund Ghareeb thank you very much for joining us.