AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER
August 6, 1998
On Monday, Iraq declared that it would no longer allow U.N. arms inspectors to conduct searches for weapons of mass destruction. The U.N. Security Council condemned the decision but has not decided on a course of action. After a background report, the U.N.'s chief arms inspector, Amb. Richard Butler, discusses the latest confrontation with Iraq.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And now to our Newsmaker interview with Ambassador Richard Butler, executive chairman of the U.N.'s Special Commission on Iraq. Thank you for being with us, Mr. Ambassador.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
August 6, 1998
A background report on the latest impasse with Iraq.
June 24, 1998
A Newsmaker interview with Ambassador Butler.
May 4, 1998
The U.S. decides six Iraqis detainees pose a security risk and must return home.
April 27, 1998
Iraqi exiles search for an alternative to Saddam Hussein.
March 13, 1998
A panel of experts debate whether it is time to lift sanctions on Iraq.
Noam Chomsky and James Woolsey debate U.S. foreign policy.
March 4, 1998
An interview with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
March 2, 1998
An interview with Iraq's Ambassador to the U.N. Nizar Hamdoon.
February 27, 1998
Congressional views of the U.N. deal with Iraq.
February 24, 1998
James Baker and William Perry discuss the deal's impact on U.S. foreign policy.
February 20, 1998
A panel of experts examine the crisis from the Iraqi perspective.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the Middle East and the United Nations.
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER, U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector: A pleasure.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What happened today in Iraq? Were your inspectors prevented from doing your work?
Disarmament inspections grind to a halt.
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: In part, yes. The decision by the Iraqi government is basically to slice off our disarmament inspections, because, you see, they say they're disarmed, which, of course, is not the case, but to allow us to continue the inspections we do to monitor certain industrial and other places to be sure that they're not recreating the weapons. So our monitors point out today and without blockage-but I kept our disarmament people at home in conformity with what Iraq has said are the new rules, pending the beginning of Security Council consideration of what Iraq has done.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Are there any threats to throw out the inspectors?
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: No, not at this stage.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And what are you telling them to do tomorrow?
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: To go ahead with the monitoring work. I won't be instructing the disarmament people to go out tomorrow. The International Atomic Energy Agency held back a disarmament team today for the same reason. So we've started a debate on these really rather grave issues in the Security Council today-a four-hour debate. That's a beginning of a process. And I think we'll just hold things steady, while that process unfolds.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What did you tell the Security Council today?
Amb. Butler: "I don't have a magic wand."
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: Oh, I gave them a count of what happened a few nights ago, a few days ago in Baghdad. Quite simply, after a day of talking with Mr. Aziz and his team, where we had intended to have two days, he made a demand of me in the evening where he said, look, you must go back to the Security Council and say we are disarmed. Missile, chemical, biological, the lot-go tell them that truth. If you don't, you'll have it on your conscience, he said, and that's my demand. I said, well, I can't do what you've asked me to do, because, you see, I don't have a magic wand. I can't just wave it over these weapons. I can't do disarmament by declaration. I have to do it on the basis of evidence. That's what we've been sitting here talking about, our need for more evidence. We'd love to be able to do it, but we need the evidence. So I can't do what you asked me to do. And he said, well, if you can't do that, then we've got nothing more to talk about. In short, that's what happened, and so I brought my team home to report to those who are in charge here, the people for whom we work, namely the Security Council.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The Secretary-General said today in his press conference he believes that the Iraqi position is not closed. That was the word he used. Do you agree with that?
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: I was very interested to hear the Secretary-General say that in our council meeting. He had just been on the telephone with Mr. Aziz, and that was, I guess, encouraging news, and certainly I think it helps the council chart the next steps to try to bring Iraq back under the law and into cooperation. The Secretary-General also did say that what Iraq has done in these last few days is in violation of the law. He didn't mince words about that but pointed out that maybe their position isn't absolutely closed and that we should think creatively about how to get this back on track--Iraq obeying the law, get our disarmament work moving forward again, and that's the task the council now has.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The Secretary-General also used the word "desperation" to express what the Iraqis are feeling about their attempts to comply. Could you expand on that.
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: Well, I think, as I recall, what he said was frustration about their inability-the inability they think they've suffered from to have their disarmament case adequately heard. That's my line of country, and I'll have something to say about that in a moment. Desperation, he was referring to the fact that sanctions have been on the Iraqi people for some seven years. That isn't my line of country. So I won't be commenting on that.
But as far as the disarmament is concerned, obviously, I hear with interest when Iraq expresses frustration about the disarmament work not having come to an end, but let's face it. There's only one reason why that's the case, and it's because they have made it so. This-the key to this is in their hands. I said to them recently, look, what we need-what remains is really rather small-materials and documents both. We need some physical materials and we need some evidentiary documents. They do exist; they are in a position of the government of Iraq. For God's sake, give them to us. The sooner you do that, the sooner we'll verify and get out of here and tell the council that you are disarmed. That's what we have to do, not what Tariq Aziz asked on Monday, which is pass some kind of magic wand over this-can't do that.
Standstill could be tied to recently discovered documents.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think that this breakdown has happened because those particular documents are documents they are particularly sensitive about?
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: Oh, it's not very easy to know exactly what motivates these decisions. It's a complex polity in Baghdad. It's a complex part of the world. But from my perspective, I find it very hard to draw a division between what they decided in these last few days and the fact that in the last few weeks we discovered a rather incriminating document, which they've now withheld from me, and a few weeks before that, we discovered the presence of VX nerve agent in weapons fragments where they swore blind for seven years they'd never weaponized that stuff. Now that was just not true. And that points to a possible unraveling of other parts of their story, so you know, if you follow the principle of looking at what people do, rather than what they say, the evidence of the behavior here is that they may be a bit concerned that we were starting to home in on some really serious disarmament objectives, and they didn't want us to proceed.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Can you tell us anything more about that document?
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: Well, it's under-well, sorry, we didn't get it in the end, but our-
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The one you're looking for.
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: Our chief inspector did see it before it was seized away from her, and it has got some disturbing discrepancies in it between what Iraq says was its use of chemical weapons in the past and what this document on actual use describes. I can't go further than that in public, but I did say to the council today that there is a discrepancy revealed by this document that is potentially disturbing.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In his letter to the President of the Security Council on all this, the Iraqi deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz says essentially that you're upping the ante all the time, that they answer one set of questions and then Iraq gets another set of questions, and he actually gave a list of those questions. I don't know if they're the right questions or not, but he-for example-said that you wanted to know about a certain matter the size of the blade in the excavator used to destroy some missile heads, warheads.
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: Yes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now what's your answer to that? I mean, it's a fairly long document, but that is the gist of his complaint.
A trivilization of weapons inspectors' concerns?
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: Well, sadly, I find it really rather pathetic that recourse has been taken to this kind of trivialization of what we do. Weapons of mass destruction are hardly a laughing or trivial matter. Now, he presented us with that list of questions on Monday, and I could see what was happening. It was trivialization and a smoke screen to draw attention away from the fact that Iraq has simply not told us the truth about key aspects of its weapons programs, and nothing will alter that. There can be no substitute for the truth in this deadly serious game.
Those questions look bad on paper, but I want to tell you this. I checked with our experts, and the fact is that those apparently trivial questions that they asked in interview were asked because Iraq had presented to us the materials involved that led to those questions. They had said that they'd moved missiles with a bulldozer and a certain blade and so on, and in order to verify what they were claiming was the truth of the matter, we were asking questions like, well, which bulldozer, what date, how many people were there? We were just trying to prove their truth, so, as I said, it's rather silly and rather pathetic, and it should not allow-be allowed to divert anyone's attention from the fundamental course here, which is weapons.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How serious is this current impasse?
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: I'm not sure. It's at a beginning now. The council's become seasoned of it straight away today, and I would-I think what the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, proposed was creative and constructive, and I think people are going to put their heads together and try to find a way to solve this problem-bringing Iraq back under the law without recourse to force and I-and break this syndrome of repeated crises with Iraq every six months. And I think a lot of good people are going to be working quite hard on getting that done.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, Ambassador Richard Butler, thank you very much for being with us.
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: Thank you.