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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Briefs Foreign Reporters

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
January 28, 2003

(Meeting at the White House with various members of the foreign press)

Wolfowitz: Let me just say I think it was a very strong speech. I think it really meets a very high standard for these addresses. It had to, but it succeeded. I think it's a very strong display of national unity that the whole country had a chance to see and the whole world had a chance to see.

Saddam Hussein has really made the case against himself and the President I think laid it out for the world. It's just a series of evil weapons unaccounted for, huge quantities of anthrax that can kill millions of people, huge quantities of botulinum toxin that can kill millions of people, ricin that can kill millions of people. He talked about the mobile biological labs, excuse me, production facilities that we have learned about from three different defectors. Saddam's made no accounting of them. He's made no accounting of the various things we know about his nuclear program. It's a pretty devastating case, and indeed his behavior toward the inspectors, his obstruction of surveillance flights, I think most seriously his intimidation of his own scientists. It's very clear from what we hear from various defectors, from refugees, from intelligence sources but also just from the evident behavior of his own people that he is intimidating people and threatening them in all the old ways to continue supporting the lies that were contained in those 12,000 pages of his declaration.

So I think the President delivered a very strong message to the American people and to the world, and perhaps maybe Saddam Hussein will get it. But as we've said over and over again, time really is running out for a peaceful resolution of this problem.

Q: I would like to ask you about Iran. The President has called on Iran as a repressive regime. Could you elaborate on that? And is there any way the United States --

Wolfowitz: -- countries are different. I think if you read the President's speech, I think it's very clear that you see in Iran something you don't see in the other two countries--which is a great deal of open expression by the people of their desire to live in freedom, to have a different kind of government. I think a government that would ultimately be better for the security of everybody in that region. I think a lot of our hopes rest on ultimately that aspiration.

Q: What's the point of the February 5th [UN speech]?

Wolfowitz: Resolution 1441 [inaudible] to do is come back to the United Nations and it's clear that if we're going to come to a conclusion that the use of force is necessary, it's not a conclusion we're going to come to lightly. It's not a conclusion we're coming to by ourselves. And there are a number of international bodies, the Security Council is obviously the premier one, in which we will make our case and talk to our partners. And if there's any last chance of getting Iraq to change -- not Iraq, but the Iraqi regime--to change its fundamental pattern of behavior that the President talked about, it probably will only come through a clear demonstration of the unity of international communities.

Q: Mr. Secretary, what kind of evidence are you ready to show?

Wolfowitz: There's a lot of evidence. A lot of it has been there already. It's astonishing that Saddam Hussein didn't even bother to respond to what the United Nations said he had five years ago. These are huge quantities of the most deadly biological weapons we know -- ricin, anthrax, botulinum toxin. He's failed in any way to account for things that we know about through a variety of sources. Some of these we probably will be able to talk about. Some of them come from people who risked their lives to tell us. So Secretary Powell is going to have to decide next week what things we can say, what things we can't say. But there is, fortunately, an enormous body of information that indicates very clearly that Iraq has weapons, they haven't given them up, and they're engaged in a pattern of non-cooperation, intimidation, hiding, and concealing them -- the complete opposite of what a country does when they want to get rid of them.

Q: [inaudible] deadline. How might [inaudible]?

Wolfowitz: That's a decision that in our country is our President's to make. He hasn't made it yet, and I don't think as I say that he's going to make it by himself. He's consulting closely with many coalition partners, some of whom, like Prime Minister Blair, are very out in the open and public. Some others prefer to be consulted with quietly. But we're talking with a great many governments about what to do.

I don't think there is a deadline, at least as of now. But very clearly we're talking about -- It's been said repeatedly--Secretary Powell has said it--time is running out. This is not something we can afford to live with for another 12 years.

Q: Weeks or months?

Wolfowitz: I can't give you time frames. It's a matter of real urgency.

Q: [Was the State of the Union speech a] declaration of war?

Wolfowitz: Absolutely not. I was asked that question by one of the Middle Eastern networks because they hear the President speak to the troops to raise their morale, and I think to some people this sounds like a declaration of war. It's anything but. I think sometimes people don't understand what the relationship is between the President and the military in a democratic country. But these are his people; they're his troops. He made it clear that the last thing he wants to do is send them into combat where they may be killed. But they are our real hope for peace.

And recognize the decision that has to be made here if we're going to avoid the need to use force is for Saddam Hussein to fundamentally change his standard of behavior. The only thing that may convince him is looking at those ships and looking at those airplanes and looking at the resolve of the American soldiers.

Q: [inaudible] attempted to [inaudible] the inspectors in Iraq and then [inaudible] to the Iraqi police. Were you aware of this incident? And is there any [inaudible] to protect people who want to provide information against the regime? Did you follow [this incident]?

Wolfowitz: I followed it from the news, as you did. I think it's a further testimony to what any Iraqi confronts if they try to cooperate or provide information. It was a kind of graphic demonstration of what we hear over and over again from a variety of sources inside: that Saddam has issued the most cold-blooded orders that anyone who cooperates with the inspectors will be killed, their families will be killed, and this is a man who is known to make good on those kinds of horrible threats.

So the clearest sign of a change in Iraqi attitudes and the most important sign of a change in Iraqi attitudes would be to create an environment in which the scientists who have been in this program were talking freely, were comfortable talking freely, and instead we haven't had a single interview in circumstances that were confidential and free.

Q: If and when you decide to go, will you give advance warning to your allies including Russia, that they need to take action, take their people out?

Wolfowitz: That is one concern that many countries have about having some idea in advance if there were going to be a decision. That's obviously something only the President can decide but it's certainly on his mind. There are a lot of people who are concerned who would like some warning. At the same time I think you understand, there are military considerations that go into that too.

Q: [inaudible] solution [inaudible]. What can be the next step for that in terms of [inaudible]? What will be the next step for the U.S.?

Wolfowitz: We're still in the early stages of putting together a diplomatic approach to North Korea. People say repeatedly, why do you treat Iraq and North Korea differently? I would start with the fact that we have 17 UN Resolutions that apply to Iraq and number 17 was said to be the last final chance to come clean. We haven't yet even taken the North Korean issue to the United Nations. The International Atomic Energy Agency gave North Korea one last chance to comply before it refers it to the Security Council.

So we're in a much earlier stage with North Korea trying to put together that kind of diplomatic approach. As with Iraq, our hope would be to resolve this terrible problem without the use of force.

Thank you very much.