NEWSMAKER: AMBASSADOR HAMDOON
March 2, 1998
The agreement reached between U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Iraqi president Saddam Hussein averted a military strike for now, but will the pact hold? Margaret Warner examines the Iraqi view of what has been agreed too with Iraq's ambassador to the U.N., Nizar Hamdoon.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The Iraq story is first. At the United Nations there was debate over what follows the Kofi Annan deal with Iraq. We start with the Iraqi view and to Margaret Warner.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
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MARGARET WARNER: And that view comes from Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Nizar Hamdoon.
Why did Iraq sign the deal?
Welcome, Mr. Ambassador. The U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said last week that what made this deal credible in his view was that Saddam Hussein for the first time had personally been involved in negotiating this and agreeing to it. Why did Saddam Hussein agree to this?
NIZAR HAMDOON, U.N. Ambassador, Iraq: Well, I think that Iraq had to respond positively to the positive gesture from the Secretary-General of the United Nations. And Iraq has been calling for a peaceful resolution of this issue for quite some time. And we have to reciprocate it too--too--reciprocate with Mr. Annan, and the deal was done, and we intend to honor our word.
MARGARET WARNER: And let's look at the deal--and I just want to make sure we understand your understanding of the deal. Does it provide for full, unfettered access to all suspect sites, as the administration has insisted?
NIZAR HAMDOON: Absolutely.
MARGARET WARNER: And is this with no advance warning necessary, no time limits, no limits on repeat visits?
NIZAR HAMDOON: Absolutely.
MARGARET WARNER: And at the presidential sites does it include any buildings at all within the presidential sites?
NIZAR HAMDOON: All buildings, things, structure, whatever within the eight presidential sites will be provided with full access to the teams that are going to go in.
MARGARET WARNER: So, in other words, under this deal U.N. inspectors can go anywhere any time they want?
NIZAR HAMDOON: Yes.
Who is in charge of UNSCOM?
MARGARET WARNER: Now, on these eight presidential sites and the special teams that are going to be put together to look at these, what is your understanding of the role of the diplomats who are going to accompany the inspectors on these teams?
NIZAR HAMDOON: The diplomats will be part of the team. The team will consist of diplomats and of experts from the UNSCOM that will be appointed by the Secretary-General on consultation with the chairman, Mr. Butler, and the team will be headed by a commissioner from the special commission panel of commissioners that will also be appointed, which he has already been appointed by Secretary-General.
MARGARET WARNER: What is your understanding of who will be in charge of these teams? Is this any different from the other inspection teams in which Mr. Butler ultimately is in charge, and he does the reporting to Mr. Annan and the Security Council?
NIZAR HAMDOON: The man who will be in charge of the team and of the operational features of the team will be the commissioner, who has been appointed by the Secretary-General. And he has drawn upon the special commission to help that team. He will be in charge of the operations, and he will be doing the reporting which goes through Mr. Butler, then back to the Secretary-General, then to the Security Council.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, now, Mr. Butler said yesterday his understanding was quite different; that he was going to be in charge of these teams. He said, this commissioner is only overseeing the diplomatic members of the team, and he described the diplomats as simply observers. Do you disagree with that?
NIZAR HAMDOON: If you go back to the text of the agreement, you will find it over there, the composition of the team and the appointment of the head of the team by the Secretary-General.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, why don't you just tell our viewers what your understanding is, though? I mean, there seems to be a difference here. Mr. Butler on CNN yesterday directly disputed that, and he said, ultimately this team is run and operated, and the analysis comes through him, just as any other team does.
NIZAR HAMDOON: Well, I think that the major task of the operation will be done by the UNSCOM experts, who will be appointed to this team, and defined and checked, so to speak, by the diplomats, who are not experts, but at least they are there to witness, to make sure that everything goes along the lines that are being drawn by the secretary-general and by the chairman of UNSCOM and collaboration, and the chairman of that team will take care of all the operational aspects of the team. And then the reporting will be done by the commissioner under the text of the agreement, and again goes through the UNSCOM chairman, back to the Secretary-General, then to the Council.
MARGARET WARNER: So you still see Mr. Butler as the--ultimately the point man who deals with, that it does come through him?
NIZAR HAMDOON: Well, he would have to, to have a major role in that. I'm not denying this, but I am saying that the Secretary-General for the first time in the history of our relations with UNSCOM on these eight sides operation would be overseeing it.
Amb. Hamdoon: "We think that the last crisis that we have had is going to speed up the process of the lifting of the sanctions."
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let's move on to the issue of sanctions. What understandings, if any, do you have with the Secretary-General or other members of the Security Council about what may be done about lifting sanctions anytime soon as a result of this deal, or in relationship to this deal?
NIZAR HAMDOON: Well, we think that the last crisis that we have had is going to speed up the process of the lifting of the sanctions because of the awareness of the international community and the different governments throughout the last couple of weeks that something would have to be done. Otherwise, the world cannot continue to be under the threat of military force used or the threat of crisis at large.
MARGARET WARNER: Some Arab experts have suggested, following up on what you just said I think on this program and elsewhere, that, in fact, Saddam Hussein may well have generated this latest stand-off exactly for that purpose because he wanted to focus world and U.N. attention on the issue of sanctions and what he felt was the difficulty he was having in getting them lifted, is that correct, do you agree with that?
NIZAR HAMDOON: Well, I don't necessarily have to agree here, but obviously, Iraq has to have a strategy to try to face the continuation of the sanctions. When last October things started to even slow down a bit, when the reviews were turned from sixty days to six months period, the reviews only on the sanctions, when it looked like the United States is pushing towards the endless delay and the process. So I don't think that Iraq should have not strategized in a way that brings the attention of the international community to the problem. I don't see anything illegitimate about that.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, Bill Richardson, the U.N. ambassador, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said on this program last week that he felt that the lifting of sanctions was, as he put it, more remote than ever. What do you think that means? How do you interpret that?
NIZAR HAMDOON: Well, this is not a U.S. decision. This is a United Nations decision. Everybody refers to the United Nations when it comes to resolutions and that kind of stuff, and I don't think that Mr. Richardson is here to challenge the authority of the institution of the Security Council. And if you look into this latest British draft, though, it was amended by the pressures of the different Council members--
MARGARET WARNER: I'm sorry. What are you referring to?
NIZAR HAMDOON: Today's draft--
MARGARET WARNER: Today's resolution.
NIZAR HAMDOON: --which is going to be adopted by the Security Council. It has been amended by many Council members to try to include something about the lifting of the sanctions when the work of the special commission will come to an end.
MARGARET WARNER: So, is it your understanding that once Iraq satisfies the weapons-related resolutions that that's enough, as opposed to I think the U.S. view has been that Iraq has other resolutions it must comply with dealing with Kuwaiti prisoners, human rights, other issues?
NIZAR HAMDOON: Well, if you read the letter of the Resolution 687, which was authored by the United States, it says that clearly in Section C once disarmament is done, then Paragraph 22 will be invoked, which is the lifting of the economic embargo on Iraq. I mean--
What will happen if Iraq breaks the deal?
MARGARET WARNER: Let's turn finally to the subject that was being discussed at the U.N. today. What is your belief or understanding about what would happen if Iraq--again--for whatever reason--denied access to U.N. weapons inspectors?
NIZAR HAMDOON: That's very hypothetical. Iraq does not intend to violate this agreement. We intend to honor our word, and there is no reason to think otherwise.
MARGARET WARNER: And what is your interpretation of what the U.N. Security Council, which has not voted yet, but the draft that they are now considering?
NIZAR HAMDOON: Well, as I mentioned earlier, the draft--the British draft from the beginning was unacceptable to the majority of the Council members. Some amendments were done. I don't think it is satisfactory at large. But, again, I mean, Iraq is not involved in this process. It's up to them. Iraq has not been asked to provide its view on this. This is a matter that has to be discussed with them because of--
MARGARET WARNER: But just following up before we go, President Clinton said last Monday that if Iraq were to violate this agreement, he believed that the U.S. would then have what he put the unilateral right to respond at a time, place, and manner of its own choosing.
NIZAR HAMDOON: We don't intend to violate it. We have no interest whatsoever in violating it, but the Council have stressed--the majority of the Council members stress the need for the Council to take over the issue again if there is anything that is needed in the future and not to agree to what the U.S. and the U.K. wanted of automatic reaction once there is any problem, though I should say that's still very hypothetical because Iraq will not benefit from such incidents.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much.
NIZAR HAMDOON: Thank you.