Press Briefing Excerpts - 2/14/03 (Full Transcript)
QUESTION: Just one more on this. Did Hans Blix
disappoint the President with his presentation? Did he think that Dr.
Blix, perhaps, understated the lack of Iraqi noncompliance in the
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think the report from Hans Blix this
morning was very diplomatic with its bottom line being that the world
has no confidence that Saddam Hussein has disarmed. And that's what
this is about. As Secretary Powell just indicated, this is not about
whether U-2s fly. This is not about whether Mirages fly. This is
about whether Saddam Hussein's claim that he has disarmed is itself a
QUESTION: Ari, what does the President want the
Security Council to do now? Does he want another resolution
specifically authorizing force? Or is he willing to settle for
something watered down that everybody can agree on?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President wants the world to study
carefully what Mr. Blix said. There are important things that Mr. Blix
revealed to the world this morning, that the United Nations Security
Council has to consider, the members of the Security Council have to
consider. And I think it's likely that they will.
QUESTION: Is he not going to -- or is Secretary
Powell not going to come forward at some point with a resolution asking
for specific authority to use force?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the President has made it clear the
United States will welcome a second resolution from the Security
QUESTION: Authorizing force?
MR. FLEISCHER: The exact words I think will be discussed.
But already the United Nations Security Council has said that if Iraq
fails to comply with Security Council Resolution 1441, which ordered
Iraq to fully and immediately disarm, there would be serious
QUESTION: Can I just ask one more? The specific
reply to something the French Foreign Minister said, no one can assert
today the path of war will be shorter than the path of inspections.
Are you persuaded that the path of war would lead to quicker
disarmament of Iraq than further inspections?
MR. FLEISCHER: Given the fact that it's taken more than 12
years for Saddam Hussein to disarm, there's no question that if force
is used, it will achieve the objective of preserving the peace far
faster than the current path that we're on.
QUESTION: When would you expect the U.S. to submit a
resolution to the U.N. for action for authorizing the use of military
force? Does Blix's statement today change the timing in the U.S.
MR. FLEISCHER: As for Mr. Blix's statement today, I think
it's worth analyzing exactly what he said, which is what the
fundamental issue comes down to again. If you accept the premise that
it's not about the process matters, whether the U-2 flies or anything
else, it's about whether Saddam Hussein disarms -- examine carefully
Mr. Blix's own words. Mr. Blix reported to the world today that the
issues of anthrax, nerve agent, VX, and long-range missiles deserve to
be taken seriously by Iraq, rather than brushed aside.
Those are Mr. Blix's words about weapons that kill. Then he added
in a crucial sentence: it is not the task of the inspectors to find
it; it is the task of Iraq to provide it.
Mr. Blix continued -- and these are his words when he said, it is
not the task of the inspectors to find it -- which is a telling
statement. He continues, for the first time saying this publicly: the
two declared variants of the Al Samud II missile were capable of
exceeding 150 kilometers in range, the missile is therefore
He continues: Iraq has declared that it has reconstituted the
chambers necessary to build these missiles. These experts have
confirmed that the reconstituted casting chambers could still be used
to produce motors for missiles capable of ranges significantly greater
than 150 kilometers. Accordingly, these chambers remain proscribed.
The third item that he said is proscribed are 380 -- 380 -- SA II
missile engines, which also are proscribed. If they're proscribed, you
can ask what comes next. Under United Nations Security Council
Resolution 687, which ended the Persian Gulf War, it's clear what comes
next -- I'm reading from 687.
"Iraq shall unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or
rendering harmless of all ballistic missiles with a range of greater
than 150 kilometers and all related major parts and repair and
So when you listened to Mr. Blix this morning describe the very
fact that the weapons that kill are, one, proven to be in the hands of
Iraq in a proscribed manner, and the weapons of mass destruction that
kill even more -- the anthrax, the nerve agent, the VX -- are
unaccounted for. The world still has great cause for concern about
Saddam Hussein possessing weapons. That's what came out of New York
QUESTION: And what's the timing on submitting a
MR. FLEISCHER: The timing will be something the United
States, in concert with our allies, will determine. I think it's too
soon to say at this point. I think it typically happens after
presentations of this importance are made to the Security Council as
the member states take time to study them, to absorb them, to think
about what it means that now we have three categories of missiles that
are proscribed; that Iraq has not accounted for the VX, the nerve
agents; and this new sentence -- it is not the task of the inspectors
to find it.
QUESTION: Can you shed any light on the new evidence
that the Secretary made reference to in his remarks, new evidence that
he'll be presenting to the U.N. about Iraqi noncompliance?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, Iraqi noncompliance remains an ongoing
matter. And I think Mr. Blix alluded to it. I don't think it is a
small statement for the head of inspectors to say, it is not the
inspectors task to find the weapons -- which brings you right back to
the central problem that the world has faced for 12 years. And that is
that Saddam Hussein has built up a massive, massive apparatus to hide
the weapons he has.
QUESTION: The inspectors, however, had identified and
located these proscribed missiles. Is the United States -- is the
administration now demanding the destruction of these missiles? And
will that be a substantive step forward?
MR. FLEISCHER: What is important, Terry, is the world is
watching the United Nations. The United Nations is charged with
enforcing Resolution 1441 that's called for the full and immediate
compliance by Iraq of disarmament, and it said there would be serious
consequences if there is not. And Resolution 687, which ended the Gulf
War on April 3, 1991, set out the path for a proscribed material.
QUESTION: So the missiles are proscribed -- should
they be destroyed?
MR. FLEISCHER: All you need to do is read Resolution 687,
which the United States voted for, which lays out the path of what
QUESTION: So that's a "yes"?
MR. FLEISCHER: Resolution 687 which the United States voted
for states that: these missiles shall be destroyed, removed or
QUESTION: So if Iraq --
MR. FLEISCHER: This remains a next important test.
QUESTION: The next important test. So if Iraq meets
this test, that would be a substantive step forward in actual, factual
disarmament on the ground that they destroyed 380 missiles?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me raise another issue that is related
to this, because the threat to the world doesn't only come from these
missiles, which Hans Blix cited this morning in his remarks. The
threat to the world comes from what Hans Blix said the world has no
confidence that Saddam Hussein has destroyed, which is what UNSCOM
found in the late 1990s in regard to the VX, in regard to the botulin,
in regard to the chemical munitions warheads.
This morning, if you can believe it, Iraq has said, in an act that
sounds like a democracy, that they would pass a law banning possession
of weapons of mass destruction. This comes 12 years late and 26,000
liters of anthrax short; 12 years late and 38,000 liters of botulin
short; 12 years late and 30,000 unfilled chemical munitions short.
It's not just about one weapon system that Iraq possesses to wreak
havoc and to kill people in the neighborhood, including Americans,
including our allies and including risks that could be transferred to
terrorists. It's not just one system, Terry.
QUESTION: Fair enough. The argument that will be
put, however, based on today's conclusion by Dr. Blix, is that this is
the way inspections work, one system, one program, one threat at a
time, perhaps, and here the inspectors have identified and declared a
proscribed system. Six eighty- seven, as you point out, calls for its
destruction. Should that happen, you know that allies will say, bingo,
MR. FLEISCHER: That's not the way inspections work. The
way inspections work is as Hans Blix said, it's not the job of the
inspectors to find it, it's the job of Iraq to show it and to destroy
it. And it's also the job of Iraq to comply with something that was
full and immediate. This is three months. It's neither full nor
QUESTION: The President spoke to President Musharraf
this morning, can you count on Pakistan's support for any new
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it would not be my place to predict
votes of sovereign nations. But, again, the President has expressed
his belief that in the end, even with statements that we have heard
today from our allies, in the end the President is confident that the
United Nations will be a relevant organization dedicated to fighting
proliferation and not an organization that fights proliferation on
paper only while tyrants develop weapons that they can use.
QUESTION: Are you reaching out to other undecided
countries, like Mexico?
Are you at the point of counting votes at this point?
MR. FLEISCHER: Sure, I think as you know the President has
been making many phone calls around to members of the United Nations
Security Council, and that will continue.
QUESTION: There's no link between September 11th and
Saddam Hussein and Iraq -- that's still the administration's position?
MR. FLEISCHER: Sure, the President has said that.
QUESTION: Did the President watch the Blix
MR. FLEISCHER: No, he was meeting with Turkish officials at
the time, or for a portion of when they spoke. He was briefed on it,
MR. FLEISCHER: By -- I think Dr. Rice talked to him about
it. I think there may well have been a few other people who talked to
him about it, too.
QUESTION: What we hear see today, it seems likely
that in the permanent clash up at the Security Council that you have
Britain and the United States on one side, and China, Russia, and
France on the other. And it does seem likely that unless any second
resolution is a vapid one, there will be a veto. Is the President
still rolling along with the willing members of the coalition to go it
alone if the Security Council does not act?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it just -- we've seen this before, where
people try to guess what nations are going to do at the United
Nations. Typically, it's American reporters trying to guess what
foreign nations will do with a vote, which is something that is very
important to them. And I would urge you to be very cautious and
judicious in your predictions on how other nations will vote. The
President has been engaged in consultations and will continue. And, as
you've seen in the past, these typically have led to very fruitful
results in terms of the world supporting the United States position, or
at least not objecting to it.
QUESTION: But is he still holding back the -- the
willing coalition if the Security Council does not act?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's no question at all that the
President has said either the United Nations will disarm Saddam Hussein
or a coalition of the willing -- which I think you've seen how
substantial and sizeable it is, and is growing to even increasingly be
-- will take that action.
QUESTION: Ari, the French Foreign Minister suggested
today that there would be another report from the arms inspectors on
March 14th. What is the U.S. view of that?
MR. FLEISCHER: As the President said several weeks ago,
this is a matter of weeks, not months. And I would hesitate to make
any guesses about specific days or dates. But the President has said
weeks, not months.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. contemplate any further
reports from the arms inspectors before the issue is joined over
whether or not the inspections should go forward at all?
MR. FLEISCHER: I wouldn't want to speculate about that.