March 11, 2003 | Broadcast

CNN American Morning with Paula Zahn

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Back to U.N. action. French President Jacques Chirac says his country will vote against any U.N. resolution that could pave the way for war. That would effectively veto the measure.

For more now, we go to Paris, where Jim Bittermann is standing by with the very latest — good morning, Jim.


From the extreme right to the extreme left of the political spectrum here there was general applause for Jacques Chirac’s statement last night on French television that no matter what the circumstances, France will vote no on the resolution that’s currently before the Security Council. That’s with one addendum, I should point out, and that is that France doesn’t really believe it’s going to have to vote no because it does not believe the United States is going to get the nine necessary yes votes to get that resolution approved.

Now, I thought you might like to see how the French press were playing this this morning. “Liberacion,” on the left side of the spectrum, a very dramatic headline, “No!,” N-O, spelling it the English way. In French it should be N-O-N, but they just want to make sure they get the message across to the British and the Americans.

And over on the other side of the political spectrum, in “Figaro” there was a rather straight report on the speech, but then below the fold an interview with Muammar Qaddafi, the leader of Libya, where he says that he believes a war would lead to a rise in terrorism.

He said, “The day that America launches a war it should expect the worst. All scenarios are possible.”

And, of course, a rise in terrorism is exactly one of the things that was on Chirac’s mind last night when he made his speech. He said one of the things that he’s worrying about, particularly domestically, is that there could be a decline in the relationship between Jews and Muslims here in France. They have, France has the largest two, the largest Jewish and Muslim community in Europe and there’s a concern that it could heighten tensions between the two communities.

One other thing I’d just add, Paula, is that, in fact, France seems to be fairly confident about what it’s finding. Diplomatic sources say this morning that because of that trip by Foreign Minister de Villepin through Africa yesterday, they now believe that Cameroon and Guinea both will abstain when it comes time to vote on that Security Council resolution, if it’s brought forward the way it has been constituted, and that would be, that would pretty much thwart America’s interests in terms of getting that resolution passed — Paula.

ZAHN: It’s interesting, because we just interviewed Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador to the U.N., who suggested that he wasn’t ruling out the possibility that you’d come up with language that would be veto-proof. But I guess you’re saying the French public was left with the impression no matter what they come up with at the U.N., it would ultimately be vetoed if they do have to vote no.

BITTERMAN: No, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, because the French have in the past, on Friday, when the foreign minister here was in front of the United Nations, afterwards at a news conference, he suggested the French would be willing to compromise on some things. So I think there is the possibility a compromise resolution could come up.

All of this relates to what’s on the table now, and that is the Security Council resolution which authorizes military action after the 17th of March. That, the French are saying, they would vote no on. This is not to say that there wouldn’t be some kind of compromise that would change things in the future — Paula.

ZAHN: Jim Bittermann, thanks for that update.

Appreciate it.

Now it may not be a smoking gun, but the Bush administration says evidence that Iraq is not disarming was buried in Hans Blix’s latest report to the Security Council. Included in the 173 page report was the discovery of an illegal drone aircraft and a cluster bomb capable of spreading chemical weapons. Weapons inspection chief Hans Blix responded to questions about that.


HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Everyone tries to squeeze us to get as much mileage out of us as they can. Nowhere in this document is it assorted that Iraq has, positively asserted that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.


ZAHN: Joining us now to debate the Blix report and the work of the inspectors, from Washington, Cliff May, former RNC communications director, now with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and Democratic consultant Victor Kamber.

Welcome back, gentlemen.

Glad to have both of you with us this morning.



ZAHN: Cliff, I’m going to start with you this morning.

Is it your belief that Hans Blix deliberately left this drone aircraft out of his oral report because he’s opposed to war? MAY: Yes, in a word, yes, I do think that’s true. I think it’s clear to Hans Blix, it’s clear even to the French, it’s clear to everybody that Saddam Hussein has not done what he was required to do under Resolution 1441 and the 17 resolutions before that and that’s disarm. Saddam Hussein has not made the strategic decision to disarm. He’s decided not to.

So Hans Blix deemphasized the worst things he had — cluster bombs that can spread chemical weapons, drones that can carry them to various places. He wants his agency to continue to operate. He wants to continue to be doing the job he’s doing and show how important it is. And, yes, he buried that in the report and didn’t mention it and it’s just a conspicuous omission.

ZAHN: Well, it wasn’t that he didn’t mention it. It was in the written report, right? MAY: In the oral report. In the oral report he didn’t mention it. I’m sorry.

KAMBER: Yes, I just don’t accept that. You know, I can’t speak to motives of any individual, but the reality is it was in the report. We, believe it or not, in spite of our discussion of who doesn’t like us, we have many friends in the U.N. There was no doubt that that section of the report was going to see the light of day. I think it was an oversight, frankly. But I’d like to think it was an oversight. I hope it wasn’t an omission on purpose. But I have no reason to believe it was.

ZAHN: What if it was an omission on purpose?

KAMBER: Then I think you have to question him as the cir. But the bottom line is he is the cir. There are many, many people doing the work out there and we have yet to see anything in terms of the reality of what we’re asking for, the — you’ve got hundreds of inspectors or scientists, everything, who are many, many friends of this country, and nothing has been leaked out that would sort of suggest to us that we should be at war, that we, that what Saddam Hussein has today is a threat to this country. MAY: Paula, I think that…

ZAHN: Cliff, let me ask you this. MAY: Yes?

ZAHN: Senator Levin and actually Senator Rockefeller on our shows yesterday suggested that the CIA is deliberately withholding information from the inspections team to, and they allege this, to compromise the integrity of the inspections. If you were to, I guess, read into that even more is that they want to, in their words, you know, press for war, and if it looks like inspections work, that hurts their agenda. MAY: Right. I don’t think that’s true, although I think the following is possible, that the CIA is not telling the inspectors everything they know because they believe the inspection team is compromised, that is, that whatever goes to the inspection team is one way or another very quickly leaked to Saddam Hussein. So that if they say that in this town, near this town there is this cache of weapons, before the inspectors get there, somehow Saddam Hussein will have moved those weapons and then we won’t know any longer where they are.

I think there is a lack of faith in Hans Blix and it really began on December 8th when Saddam Hussein released his full, complete and final declaration in which he denied having the weapons of mass destruction we know he has and that we expect he’ll use against us if and when there’s a war. And one can only ask if Saddam Hussein uses weapons of mass destruction against our troops, will Hans Blix then be able to find them.

KAMBER: It’s amazing this conspiracy theory that we give this Saddam Hussein, a Third World power, so much credit, so much ability to move major weapons of mass destruction from one part of the country to the other with no ability for us to find them. I think the reality has to be we know what Saddam Hussein has because we gave it to him and we paid for it. We just can’t seem to find it right now and we don’t know if it’s in good condition or not.

What we do know is it’s not a threat to the United States at this time, any more than it has been for the last 12 years while… MAY: Let me just…

KAMBER: … he’s been contained. MAY: Let me just pick up on that.

ZAHN: All right, well, wait, wait, wait. Cliff, I do want to ask you that question, because this certainly has been widely debated. There are many people who believe the Bush administration has overplayed the link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. MAY: Right. And let me say this. I would love anybody to tell me, including Victor, why Saddam Hussein would not use terrorists from al Qaeda or any other group as a delivery system to take vials of anthrax or ricin or sarin V.X. nerve agent or sarin and deliver it where he wants to? What scruples would he have that would say oh, I can’t possibly use these terrorists to do it?

ZAHN: All right… MAY: And he is a supporter of terrorism, after all. We do know that, whether or not there are close links with al Qaeda, as many suspect.

ZAHN: Vic Kamber, I’ll give you 10 seconds. We’ve got to go.

KAMBER: I think anyone that’s under attack is going to fight back. Anyone that’s been attacked will fight back. So I don’t expect that if Saddam Hussein is invaded that he will not strike back if he can strike back. But there’s been no proof up to now that he’s been linked with any of the terrorists that have attacked this country, al Qaeda in particular.

ZAHN: Gentlemen, we’re going to have to leave it there.

Cliff May, Victor Kamber, always glad to have the two of you.

KAMBER: Thanks. MAY: Thank you.

ZAHN: Glad we keep you in separate booths, soundproof booths.