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ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulos Transcript

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ABC News Transcripts February 9, 2003 Sunday
Copyright 2003 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.  
ABC News Transcripts

February 9, 2003 Sunday



(Off Camera) We're back now with the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Delaware Senior Senator, Senator Joe Biden. Good morning.

Hey, George, how are you?

(Off Camera) I'm doing well, thank you. You're batting cleanup today. So let's get you first on this French/German proposal, more robust inspections, UN peacekeeping force, more reconnaissance flights. Does it make sense to you?

Only if Hans Blix comes back and says that there's been significant change in cooperation. Look, we can have all the inspectors we want in there, if they're not going to cooperate, it's going to be very, very difficult for us to be able to find anything out. Remember, last time, it took about three years of inspectors before a relative of Saddam Hussein in a friendly country spilled the beans as to where things were. That's when we made the big breakthrough. We need fundamental change in the cooperation.

(Off Camera) That's significant, though. If Hans Blacks come, Hans Blix, excuse me, comes back on Friday and says, I need more time, you'd be willing to give it to him?

Well, it depends what he means by more time and depends on what he says. If he says I need more time, because they've now given us a list of the following nine sites where they can account for 210 tons of blah, blah, blah, then I'd say, okay, we'll give you time for that. And by the way, let's beef up the inspectors like France wants, immediately, and let's put in additional forces to follow Hans Blix in that effort. But if he comes back and says, look, over time we will be able to get this done, the idea that we're going to be able to maintain a couple hundred thousand forces in the middle of the desert going into the summer on station is not practicable, and the idea we could bring them home without suffering a significant consequence in terms of encouraging malcontents around the world, I think is worse than going in, and so I think we're kind of put in a box here. It depends precisely what he says and how long, George, he's asking for.

(Off Camera) How long would you give him?

Well, I'd give him, if he said that he was, if we were really making substantial progress uncovering large caches and getting some of these scientists coming over telling us what we know they know, then I would give him the time as long as that kept coming even if it did mean at the end of the day we would be, not being able to go to war at the most optimum time for our interests, if in fact, there was genuine progress, but it relates to not merely, you know, a dribble of this material. You outlined, George, earlier with my friend Congressman Kucinich, you said, you know, we know he has these hundreds of tons of this terrible stuff. Well, if you're starting to turn up bits and pieces of it, that's not enough time, I'm not going to go for more time. I wouldn't personally. But if we go out there and we find a 100-ton cache of this and we find a large cache of VX and they say, hang on, give us more time, we'll get you all the rest, then I'd consider it. But it really, this is, this depends on precisely what Hans Blix tells us and what we can expect right out of the box in terms of results.

(Off Camera) The President seems much more open now to a second UN resolution. I just wanted to get your thoughts on what that resolution should include, a deadline and authorization of force. How about this idea put forward by the Saudis that it should include some offer of asylum or amnesty to Iraqi, the Iraqi military?

I think all three of those ideas are good. I think that I have great faith in the diplomatic skills of our Secretary of State, and I'm not being solicitous. I really do. I've been one, George, as you've known, I've been saying for the last month we will get a second resolution and he'll be able to do that, and I think all three of those pieces make sense. One of the things I kind of don't think we should lay to rest here is we have the difference between, if I can state it, the Kucinich point of view and the Rumsfeld point of view, about the rationale for going to war. This is not about having to know we're under imminent threat. This is not about preemption, this is about a guy who invaded another country, sued for peace, a condition for him staying in power was he would give up all these weapons. If this were 1939, he would have been in Versailles signing a peace agreement. But it isn't. The United Nations resolutions that embody what this guy promised, Saddam Hussein promised to do, and for no other reason than the legitimacy of the United Nations, we have to enforce that resolution. And so I hope we stop talking about, you know, there's a need for an immediate preemptive threat, excuse me, an immediate threat before we have a right to act or we have a right to act preemptively. This is not about that. This is enforcing a peace agreement we're talking about, and it's important in and of itself it that that be done for the legitimacy of the United Nations and for the credibility of the United States.

(Off Camera) You asked Secretary of State Powell some very pointed questions about that terror camp we showed earlier at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.


(Off Camera) I know he didn't want to speak about it in public but did he give you or did the State Department give you satisfactory answers in private to your question of why they didn't destroy that terrorist camp?

They gave me a position that is defensible but I'm not, I mean, you know, this is easy, the Monday morning quarterback. If racin(PH) is really coming, ricin is really coming out of that camp, if these terrible things are coming out of the camp, it seems to me that it would have made sense to eliminate the camp, because you can't collect that stuff back from the capitals of western Europe or other places, but that was a judgment call. They had a rationale. It was not, it is not one that's not defensible. I can't discuss it. And so I'm not going to second guess it at this point.

(Off Camera) The Secretary of State did not seem too eager to have new direct talks with North Korea. Is that a mistake?

I think that is a mistake. Look, the Secretary said, and I have great admiration for Colin Powell. The Secretary said, you know, why shouldn't we, I wrote it down here, why shouldn't we include China and Russia? Because they don't want to be included. It's wonderful. We should include them. It would be wonderful if China, Russia, South Korea, Japan all said we're going to have this meeting. We think we should do it immediately and within this meeting we'll provide the umbrella to allow you to have bilateral talks with the North Koreans, but what are the Koreans say, what are the South Koreans saying to us, George? They're saying, go talk. What are the Japanese saying, they're saying, go talk. The Chinese are saying go talk, because this is very different, the Secretary pointed out to you what had been done so far. All of that was done before they restarted the reactor. All that was done before they started to move their 8,000 fuel rods, and the reason that's important, I know you know this, but those fuel rods, when they came out of that reactor, that is the one that they promised to shut down, and they have now reopened. When those rods came out, they're the kind of rods that if you take them to a reprocessing plant and you put them back in this process out of it you get plutonium. Plutonium is not detectable. It doesn't go off like a Geiger counter. It can be smuggled around the world. It can also be used to make another half a dozen nuclear weapons in North Korea in the near term. Now, that is a point at which there is a, there's no return. And that's the, that's the direction the North Koreans are going. So I hope we don't allow, the President in his State of the union Said look, I, President Bush, am interested in results, not in form. Well, I hope we don't let form overcome substance here. This makes sense for us to begin to talk to them immediately, because you got an isolated country and an isolated leader who's demonstrated he misjudges the intentions of other countries very badly, and I think we should have that private talk and lay down some red lines. There are no red lines here, George. We cannot go to war in North Korea to take out or even take out that facility without the permission, in effect, of South Korea. Why? Because if we move they can take out South Korea. They can take out Seoul. We'll win the war eventually but you need South Korea in on the deal.

(Off Camera) Finally, sir, yes or no. Are you still thinking about running for President next year?


(Off Camera) Thank you very much. We'll be right back.

When "This Week" returns, our roundtable, the road to war, the battle over President Bush's budget, and why is there so much controversy over this judicial nominee? Later, George Will, in praise of an ornery leader.

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