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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript


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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript


MR. RUSSERT: David Kay, we thank you very much. Now we are joined by Senator Joe Biden and Senator Chuck Hagel. They have been on a tour of Middle East nations, on a fact-finding mission. Senator Biden, Senator Hagel, let me bring you in here. You have visited northern Iraq, met with the Kurds. You have observed Saddam Hussein's release of these 12,000 documents. Senator Biden, where are we?

SEN. BIDEN: I think we're where the president said we should be, and that is we are going to take a look at those 12,000 documents. It's going to take some time. In the meantime the inspectors will be under way, and I am sure our intelligence service is making a judgment as to what they can and should release to the inspectors. And it's very important as we started down this road that we appear to the world to in fact be part of the process of doing what the U.N. said we were going to undertake to do, and we encourage them to do.


MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden, you met with the Kurds in northern Iraq. What did they tell you?

SEN. BIDEN: Well, they told us three things, Tim. One, first of all, they wanted to impress upon us that they patched up their differences, that they were not going to continue to fight one another, that they were united. The second thing they wanted to show us was that in 10 years of being able to run that part of their country that they had made phenomenal gains, which they had in building hundreds, if not thousands, of schools and hospitals and facilities for their people. And it was impressive to see. MORE

And the third thing they wanted to impress upon us was that their neighbors should not be afraid that they are going to seek an independent status, that they want to be part of a unified Iraq, and that they wanted to see Saddam go down. But they were concerned that Saddam, in being taken down militarily, might very well once again use chemical weapons on them. There's no doubt in their minds Saddam had and still possesses weapons of mass destruction.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Hagel, if in fact there is military conflict, who can the United States rely on in that region for assistance?


SEN. BIDEN: Tim, if I could add to that very briefly, I am convinced that if the president continues to show this determination and patience that he will have all that he needs -- all the help, all the bases he needs in the Middle East. And I think you'll see a coalition outside the Middle East larger than anyone anticipated.

MR. RUSSERT: And, Senator Biden, if the president however deems that the Iraqis are guilty of a material breach, that they were not forthcoming in their 12,000 documents, and the U.N. Security Council -- for example, France, Russia, China -- says, Well, you know, they didn't tell the whole truth, but let's give them another chance; the president insists, No, no, now is the time -- would you support the president going forward without support of the U.N. Security Council?

SEN. BIDEN: I predict to you, Tim, he will not do that.

MR. RUSSERT: If he did, would you be supportive of him?

SEN. BIDEN: I will not speculate. It would depend on how it was done and what he did. But he will not do that.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden, do the people you've spoken to in the region believe that war is inevitable?

SEN. BIDEN: They keep asking us that question, and we say that the president has not made that decision yet. And but I believe they, all the folks with whom we spoke, think there's inevitability to this. And I think it matters very much to them how the president arrives at that point. And if he continues the way he's going I believe he'll get support that will surprise a lot of people.

MR. RUSSERT: You are both headed for Saudi Arabia. I want to show you and our viewers what Prince Nayif, the Saudi interior minister, said the other day about September 11th, quote: "We put big question marks and ask who committed the events of September 11th and who benefited from them. Who benefited from the events of 9/11? I think they the Zionists are behind these events." Senator Biden, what do you plan to tell the Saudis about that comment and about their behavior vis-a-vis the United States?

SEN. BIDEN: It's totally irresponsible, number one. Number two, if they expected to be treated like a mature nation, they have to act like a mature nation. Number three, it is time to get over this. It is time for them to step up to the ball and act responsible. And, number four, although they are our friend, and they have been in fact a partner of ours in many endeavors, that the fact of the matter is they need us as much as we need them, and it's time to stop this foolishness.


MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden, what's the most important thing you've learned during your mission?

SEN. BIDEN: That every single party, from our European friends to Kurds, to the Jordanians, to the folks in Qatar -- everyone across the board understands that if we use military action we are locked in in Iraq for a substantial period of time. There's no doubt about our prospect of prevailing. We will prevail. Everyone believes that. I know that. But there is a clear and unequivocal feeling, from the Israelis to the Kurds, from the Arabs to the Europeans, that we are locked in to maintain order in that country, and keep it whole, keep it one solid piece. And that's going to take considerable effort, considerable money, and considerable time. And I don't think our fellow Americans fully understand that part of the equation.

MR. RUSSERT: Senators Biden and Hagel, thanks very much.

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