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Interview: Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock Discusses The Just-Passed U.N. Resolution

Weekend Edition Saturday: November 16, 2002

U.N. Arms Team, Iraqis Prepare for Inspections

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

The United Nations' chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, is already en route to Baghdad with early stops in Paris and Cyprus. This week, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein agreed to give unobstructed access to the UN to seek out weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Those inspections will likely begin later this month. Under UN Resolution 1441, Iraq has just over three weeks to declare all its biological, chemical and/or nuclear weapons. Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock is Great Britain's permanent representative to the UN and an architect of the Security Council resolution. He joins us from our studios in New York City.

Hello, Ambassador Greenstock. Welcome.

Ambassador JEREMY GREENSTOCK (Great Britain UN Representative): Hello, John. How are you?

YDSTIE: Good, thank you. What happens when Hans Blix arrives in Baghdad Monday? How will he proceed?

Amb. GREENSTOCK: He's got two main jobs. One is to form a relationship with the Iraqis with whom he'll be dealing and to try and make that workmanlike and productive. And secondly, to deploy his inspectors around where they should be. He's got to set up an office in Baghdad. He's got to choose some regional headquarters for the wider work within the Iraqi territory.

YDSTIE: They won't begin inspections immediately, though.

Amb. GREENSTOCK: No, he might start some test inspections. Remember, this team, which is called UNMOVIC in the UN language is different from the old UNSCOM of pre-1998. And as a team, they have never had any experience of inspecting on the ground. So they've got to work up a bit of form and then they'll get down to serious work over the following two months.

YDSTIE: There is a separate track as well. There's a deadline for Iraq to declare all its weapons programs by December 8th. So far, Saddam Hussein has denied having any weapons of mass destruction. Do you think it's possible that we'll get to the December 8th deadline and the Iraqis will say, `We have absolutely nothing to present to you'?

Amb. GREENSTOCK: I think it's unlikely because they realize that that is going to lead to a very strong outcry probably from more than the United States. People are so convinced that he has been concealing things, that there are leftovers from 1998 and before that UNSCOM was still pursuing at that point. A zero return is just so uncredible that it would be a bad mistake. I think he'll probably try and keep some things back, but aim to give enough to the inspectors to keep them going for a few months.

YDSTIE: And then the US and its allies have created a trap for Mr. Hussein. Once he declares on December 8th, they will then reveal to UN inspectors what they know about the weapons of mass destruction that he might have. It does seem like a difficult trap for Saddam Hussein to escape from. Do you think he will find a way to wriggle out?

Amb. GREENSTOCK: There's no trap if he actually cooperates with the United Nations and produces the residual weapons of mass destruction that we know he has and records of the whole program and where things he may have destroyed have been destroyed. See, if he chooses to take another route, it's a trap he's made for himself.

YDSTIE: What kinds of technologies and what kinds of processes are these inspectors going to use to try to discover and uncover these weapons of mass destruction?

Amb. GREENSTOCK: Many of the methods have evolved from previous years. They can sniff the air to see whether there are particles of chemical or biological materials floating around. They will have the benefit of overhead imagery and cameras and things. They can use helicopters to pilot this aircraft to check on the movement of trucks and things from the back of buildings when they go in the front, but they are standard inspectors. They have UN rules. And the most important aspect of what the inspectors will be doing on the ground is person-to-person communication. It's interviews with people in the Iraqi program. They have the right to get the names from the Iraqis of all the people on current programs. They need to talk to people about what's been going on and have them spill what now needs to be dealt with under the resolutions.

YDSTIE: One of the techniques that wasn't used before is to take Iraqi scientists out of the country along with their families, if they wish, to be interviewed about weapons of mass destruction. You believe the Iraqis will go along with this?

Amb. GREENSTOCK: Well, this is in the hands of the inspectors. There's no compulsion on the inspectors to do that. They've got discretion to do that for the obvious reasons, that people will be intimidated potentially inside Iraq, but Hans Blix has made it clear that perhaps in most instances he would be perfectly happy to interview Iraqis with Iraqi officers present if necessary, whatever makes the interviewee most comfortable, so long as he's there to tell the truth and not to be intimidated.

YDSTIE: UN Resolution 1441 was passed unanimously by members of the Security Council, but opinions seem to differ on what would be the kind of material breach that could trigger the serious consequences that might lead up to a war against Iraq. President Bush has called for zero tolerance and Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other members voice concern about setting the threshold too low. What is your view and Britain's view on where this threshold should be in terms of what constitutes material breach?

Amb. GREENSTOCK: Well, we've expressed it in general terms rather than trying to say, `You know, one slammed door or four flats in your tires as you come up in the morning or whatever is enough to end the whole business.' Members of the Security Council will want to be convinced that Iraqi behavior is of the kind that makes proper inspections impossible or impractical, that there is a pattern or a systematic intention not to cooperate.

YDSTIE: Can Saddam string this out and avoid any military action for the next year?

Amb. GREENSTOCK: I think only by cooperating genuinely. He doesn't know what we know in terms of what he's got or what he's been doing. So he's uncertain about this. I think the pattern will begin to make itself clear as to whether the cooperation is genuine or not, and if it's genuine, he could can on forever. Pure, simple, good cooperation keeps him free of military action indefinitely.

YDSTIE: Thank you very much, Ambassador Greenstock.

Amb. GREENSTOCK: Thank you, John. I enjoyed talking to you.

YDSTIE: Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock is Britain's permanent representative to the United Nations. He joined us from New York.

It's 18 minutes past the hour.

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