Transcript: Mohammed ElBaradei on Fox News Sunday

Following is a transcribed excerpt from Fox News Sunday, Dec. 1, 2002.

TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: U.N. weapons inspections teams began work this week in Iraq. In the first four days, they have searched 11 of at least 900 suspected sites with little apparent resistance from the government of Saddam Hussein.

What's the secret to successful inspections? Joining us with answers, Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He joins us from Vienna. The IAEA is the nuclear monitoring arm of the United Nations.

Also here with questions, Juan Williams, Fox News contributor and national correspondent for National Public Radio.

Dr. ElBaradei, first question. Saddam Hussein says he is doing no experimentation, no development with weapons of mass destruction. Do you have any reason to believe that's the truth?

DR. MOHAMMED ELBARADEI, IAEA: Well, Tony, we have to go and check the voracity of that statement. They are supposed to come with a complete declaration on the 8th of December. Once they provide their baseline, we are going to do an intensive inspection campaign to make sure that this statement is accurate.

Before we do a lot of inspection activities, we cannot come to any conclusion on that statement. We have to verify the voracity of that statement.

SNOW: There is some skepticism in the United States about how aggressive U.N. weapons inspections teams are going to be. So I want to ask you, some of your inspectors in the last couple of days actually provided advanced notice to a couple of Iraqi facilities where you were going to do technical checking. Why did you do that?

ELBARADEI: Well, I think it is absolutely misunderstanding, Tony. I checked that with our people today in Baghdad.

In the two cases, we need to take away old equipment that were installed on top of Iraqi facilities. In one case we needed Iraqi to provide a crane. So it was logical to tell them that we are coming, that we need the crane to take an air sample for fixing from on top of a roof.

In the other case, there were old cameras that we need to collect. These were not even inspections. It was just collecting old equipment to fix and reinstall back.

And that's why I really would like the media to be careful on what they report. We need the support we get. We do not need this shooting from the hip, if you like, without understanding the facts. Inspection is very complex operation, and we need to do it and we need to do it properly to be able to achieve credible results.

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS : Dr. ElBaradei, I've read where you said the inspectors were fooled previously in the early 1990s when they went into Iraq. This time the difference would be intelligence coming from the United States and other nations about what they know to exist inside Iraq.

Have you been given information from the U.S. or other governments about what they know exists in terms of nuclear, biological, chemical weaponry inside Iraq at this moment?

ELBARADEI: Well, we are getting — I'm not sure, Juan, that we were fooled in 1990. In 1990, we didn't have the authority to go beyond declared Iraqi activities, before the Gulf War.

ELBARADEI: It's completely different situation now with the full authority we have from the Security Council. We have a very intrusive, very comprehensive system of inspection and a lot of authority to do whatever we like to establish the fact.

Yes, we are, as you are rightly said, we are getting intelligence information. We expect to get more intelligence information as we proceed. As I have been saying, in addition to the authority we have, we need information to know where to go and where to inspect. This is a key to our success.

So we need the authority, we need the information, and we need also the full support throughout the process by the Security Council and all the members of the international community.

WILLIAMS: Dr ElBaradei, so far you have not requested that Iraqi scientists and people who may in fact have knowledge of where Iraq is storing nuclear, chemical and other weaponry be removed from the country and that their families be removed from the country, so that they can honestly speak with you and advise you as to where you might find such weaponry. Why not? Why haven't you taken these people out of Iraq?

ELBARADEI: Well, we have we have just started five days ago. We have first to identify those who are ready to cooperate with us and provide information.

Then we need to develop a lot of practical arrangements. Where are we taking these people? Who is going to provide them asylum? How do you define families? How you check whether they have really credible information or just make use of the facility to leave out of the country?

So there's a lot of practical arrangements we need to work before we use that authority. But I can assure you, if we have scientists who have information, who are ready to cooperate, we will make full use of that authority.

SNOW: Sir, there are reports that Saddam Hussein has now put his chief scientists and workers on these programs into compounds where they are all being held together. Is that the case? And if so, doesn't it highly complicate the mission of trying to figure out who is going to talk and who is not?

ELBARADEI: We haven't heard that, Tony. I think what we — the Iraqis are under obligation to provide us the full list of all scientists who are working on weapons programs in the past. And we are getting that list. We have already been in contact with some of these scientists. I don't think we have heard that they are in one compound.

And we have the right to have full access to all the scientists. In the past, we didn't do a lot of interviewing. And as I said, we intend to do a lot of interviewing in the future, both at the workplace, both in private and, if need be, outside the country.

SNOW: The concern in the United States has been that, in the past, when scientists did speak to weapons inspectors, they died. And Saddam Hussein took immediate measures after them. So do you think it is possible to conduct an interview safely with the scientists without removing that person and/or the person's family from Iraq?

ELBARADEI: Well, a lot of the interviewing, Tony, were to ensure that the scientists are no longer working on weapon program. So a lot of these interviews were done at no notice at the new workplace to make sure that the scientists are working on something else.

We now also have the right to interview scientists even inside Iraq, in total privacy. If that's not enough, if we feel that there will be retribution, if the scientist is afraid for his and his family's life, then, obviously, we will arrange to interview them outside of the country.

SNOW: Dr. ElBaradei, help us understand how the process works. Let us suppose that somebody finds some evidence, whether it is documentary evidence or physical evidence, of the development of a weapon of mass destruction. Who reports to whom? How does the information make its way to the Security Council?

ELBARADEI: Well, this information comes to us. It comes to me insofar as a nuclear weapon program. It goes to Dr. Blix insofar as the chemical, biological missile program.

We then, obviously, have to check this information. If we find that the Iraqi has been concealing information or have been concealing weapon programs, then we obviously have to report to the Security Council.

Security Council then will evaluate the nature of these violations, whether they constitute material breach. And if they so, then they will decide over the next step to take against Iraq.

SNOW: All right. So how long would that take? Do you have any estimate? Suppose you give piece of information today, how long would it take to reach the Security Council? Would it have to wait until February 21st?

ELBARADEI: Well, not at all. I think if we see any evidence of violation, that will be reported immediately to the Security Council.

Our report, in general, will be a status report on the assumption that we have not found any violation of Iraq's obligation and that there is full cooperation. If we discover at any time that Iraq is not providing us full access, or if we discover that Iraq is not telling us the full and complete truth, we will immediately report to Security Council. We are not going to wait.

SNOW: Dr. ElBaradei, thank you for joining us today.