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Transcript: Sens. Richard Lugar and Joe Biden on Fox News Sunday

Following is a transcribed excerpt from Fox News Sunday, Dec. 22, 2002.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Late in the week, the Bush administration made its first formal comments about Iraq's 12,000-page weapons declaration. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the document was part of a pattern of deception.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: It should be obvious that the pattern of systematic holes and gaps in Iraq's declaration is not the result of accidents or editing oversights or technical mistakes. These are material omissions that, in our view, constitute another material breach.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: So what happens next? For answers, we turn to the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who is joining me here in the studio, and from his home state of Delaware, the incoming ranking Democrat, Senator Joseph Biden.

Good morning, and welcome to you both.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR, R-Ind.: Good morning, Brit.

HUME: Let me start out with what you just heard Secretary of State Powell say, that this failure of the Iraqi declaration to disclose what the U.N. resolution said that it must disclose constitutes a further material breach. Do you agree with that assessment, Senator?

LUGAR: I do. And in the press there were lists of the things that were omitted, and that's important because many American editorial writers are asking, where is the beef? And there's a lot of beef there, things that really have to be disclosed by the Iraqis, and Powell has listed those in his report.

HUME: Senator Biden, what's your assessment of that?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN, D-Del.: I agree completely. And I think you'll find that the French and some of our reluctant suitors will agree also. I think the administration has handled this the right way, stating this another material breach, building the case. Saddam, once again, has severely miscalculated.

HUME: Now, what do you expect the administration course to be now? I mean, is war now inevitable, in your judgment, Senator Biden?

BIDEN: No, not necessarily, but it's getting a heck of a lot closer. I just got back from Iraq and Qatar, and Tommy Franks is ready to go if he has to, on the call of the president.

I think that you see the response, both on the record and off the record, from the French. The Russians are still reluctant, but I think you'll see the administration playing this out, continuing the inspections, making demands based upon what was excluded through the international agencies, the IAEA and the U.N. inspectors.

And my guess is, Saddam -- this is his last chance. He either decides to pony up, or he's going to be out. And I'm quite frankly afraid he's going to miscalculate once again, and I think we'll get a clear support from the U.N. to use force.

HUME: Senator Lugar, let me ask for your assessment on whether war is inevitable, or whether you see some diplomatic way out of this yet?

LUGAR: Well, things have gone on an unfortunately predictable course, and this report this week by the Iraqis is a part of that.

Two things are likely to occur. The United States is going to share some intelligence. The British are going to share some intelligence. We're reluctant to do that, for fear that the Iraqis will hunt down the sources, but nevertheless the U.N. inspectors will get what they want.

Secondly, we have been making them promise to try to get some Iraqis out of Iraq. There are a lot of details of this -- who's going to give asylum to these people and their families and all the rest. But nevertheless, I think some of that is going to occur.

Now, as that occurs, Saddam Hussein himself will have to make some decisions as to whether he's going to stay in Iraq or not. That could be something that we can see down the road. At least it's a tough call for him. But I...

HUME: Do you think there's any chance he might just pack up and leave?

LUGAR: I think there is. But I would say that we're about a month away from January 27th, from the fateful day on which Hans Blix lays down the next big report. And until then, there will be reports in the press every day of military preparation, not only by the United States, but by a very large coalition of allies, so that it's apparent that something is going to occur on or after January the 27th.

HUME: And so you think there's a real chance that Saddam just might go -- just flee into exile?

LUGAR: That is a possibility. And of course then that changes the course of things very substantially, although we still don't have the weapons of mass destruction.

What we're about is disarmament, making certain that we rid Iraq and that we have some inspection regime there that keeps that situation.

HUME: I want to ask you both about, sort of on the broader subject of the war on terrorism, comments made this week by your Senate colleague, Patty Murray of Washington, who is of course a member of the Democratic leadership.

HUME: She was speaking to some students out in her home state, and she said of Osama bin Laden, quote, "We've got to ask why this man is so popular around the world. He's been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven't done that."

Senator Biden, what do you think of that characterization of Osama bin Laden by a member of the United States Senate, a member of the Democratic leadership?

BIDEN: Well, knowing Patty, I know she didn't mean it the way that came out. I assume what she was trying to say to those high school students was that the reason he's popular in various parts of the world is, along with the Saudis, they built 70,000 madrassas and they did go in there -- he did go in there, with our help and millions of dollars, to, you know, kick out the Russians, et cetera.

But I think it was -- I would hope if she had a chance to rephrase it, she would change that. The idea that Patty Murray thinks we should pattern ourselves after bin Laden is not -- I don't believe she thinks that at all. I think it's a very bad choice of words.

HUME: Senator Lugar?

LUGAR: Well, clearly, what Senator Murray and all the rest of us ought to be talking about is our own public diplomacy. What do we do in that area? I wouldn't want to use Osama bin Laden, as she did, and she probably regrets doing so, as sort of a benchmark. That is a tragic thought...

HUME: Well, hold on just a second, Senator. Let me just -- let's show you what she actually did say when pressed about this in reaction. She said, "Osama bin Laden is an evil terrorist who's responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans. Bringing him to justice, nailing his terrorist network, and protecting our nation from further attacks must continue to be our government's highest priority."

She then goes on to say nothing that said -- that retracted any of the stuff she said about his humanitarian philanthropy, if you will, and so on. So the statement then, to some extent, stands. What about that?

LUGAR: Well, I suppose in further discussions, she would say more. The fact is, our government is trying to interdict all the funds that get to these charities, that have financed Osama bin Laden's charitable thoughts. He has not been able to do that all by himself.

And so we finally get to the ground point. We have got to be active not only to stop bin Laden and the terrorists and Al Qaida, but in a proactive way to make a difference in the Middle East in terms of our own relationships.

HUME: Senator Biden, what both you senators are saying remind me a little bit of the immediate reaction to what Senator Lott said. Different issue of course, different arena, but a forgiving attitude toward a colleague who you feel perhaps with some empathy may have slipped up.

But I wonder if a slip-up of this kind, portraying this man as a humanitarian benefactor and going on to say the United States, in effect, is not, is something that can be tolerated in a member of the leadership.

BIDEN: Look, Brit, the fact is that, as (inaudible) said, there are millions of dollars that have been funneled -- tens of millions of dollars have been funneled through charities to people who think bin Laden is the person who is funneling it to them, is responsible for them getting it. And so that is -- that's factual.

Now, whether or not -- the idea that he is a charitable person does not go along with that. But the notion that we have been trying to cut off, by definition, these so-called charities that are being funded to the tens of millions, hundreds of millions of dollars is a reality.

And so, the fact is, in some parts of the world, he is viewed by some people as -- some very uninformed, ignorant people in deep trouble, that he is being charitable.

Like, I just got back from northern Iraq. It's not bin Laden, but you're right (ph) in northern Iraq, which I did for about 11 hours on the road, and the bottom line is you see these magnificent, beautiful mosques, all gleaming white. Looks like tile and marble. And I said, where the hell -- heck did they come from? Well, that's the Saudis are building these mosques up here. And they've been people by extremist -- of the Wahhabi Sunni faith. And so, it's hard for those people in those areas to distinguish between propaganda and mind-bending, you know, propaganda and generosity.

And as Dick said, we've been fighting for a while in the committee to get more focus on this whole notion of public diplomacy, getting our story out there.

HUME: All right.

BIDEN: And we're just not doing that well.

HUME: Senator Lugar, let me move you on to another issue, South Korea, new election. President Roh Moo Hyun -- there you see a picture of him -- seems eager to further -- even more eager, perhaps, than his predecessor, for some sort of rapprochement with the North at a time when we're basically trying to confront the North to some extent about nuclear weapons and other weapons programs.

What about that election? What does that do our diplomacy there? And what should we be doing?

LUGAR: Well, President Bush very promptly called President-elect Roh and invited him to come to the White House and have a visit. That invitation has been accepted.

LUGAR: We have to be very vigorous, at this point, in two ways, one of which is to make certain we understand the new South Korean government's attitude. But secondly, to make sure we have a strong ally, along with Japan, and as we try to work with China, to try to contain the nuclear developments.

Even as we saw that election, the North Koreans are reported to be taking down the apparatus up at the plutonium site where the international inspectors have been for quite a while in preparation, perhaps, for more plutonium production.

So, we cannot take an attitude, I believe, in which we just simply say they are wrong -- that is, the North Koreans -- we're not going to talk until they do some things right. We're all going to have to talk, talk continuously to South Korea, to North Korea, to Japan, be heavily engaged. It's a tough thing to do. While we're dealing with Iraq, we must do two things well simultaneously.

HUME: What about that, Senator Biden? Your chairman-elect seems to feel that basically the administration's on the right track. Do you agree with that?

BIDEN: Your outgoing chairman thinks that too. And the bottom line here is that the key point that Dick made is that we have to be talking. We cannot stiff-arm everyone out there. And I think the president is on the right path.

This is a greater danger immediately to U.S. interests at this very moment, in my view, than Saddam Hussein is. We're talking about them being able to, if they lift the seals on these canisters, they're going to be able to build four to five additional nuclear weapons within months if they begin that reprocessing operation, that's within a year.

And the idea that we can just say, "Look, we're not going to talk to you at all until you do the following things," a little like Ariel Sharon saying, "I'm not going to discuss anything until there's not a single solitary death in Israel," it is a non-starter.

And so I think the president is absolutely right reaching out to the new president. And I think the new president of South Korea is going to have a bit of an epiphany himself, in this holiday season, realizing when confronted with the facts, just how dangerous his neighbor to the north is. But we've got to talk. We cannot let this get out of hand.

HUME: Senator Lugar, we've got a major crisis in Venezuela, very near our borders, a situation where our relations with the president down there appear to be all but nonexistent at this point. What is the proper course on that issue?

LUGAR: On that issue, we have to be much more vigorous in our own diplomacy.

HUME: To do what?

LUGAR: To try to get a compromise, which probably means accelerating an election date in Venezuela. That is what we...

HUME: An acceleration of an election date is complained about as a goal because of constitutional issues, legal issues.

LUGAR: I understand.

HUME: Can this country be in the position of going down there and saying, telling these people when to hold their election?

LUGAR: We're not going to tell them to, we're going to strongly advise at a much higher profile level than we've had thus far. We've been holding the code of the OAS people, have become a little bit more active.

But in my own conversation with Secretary Powell, and he agrees, we really have to have a big leader in our assistant secretaryship position that can really, in a comprehensive way, look not only in Venezuela, but the rest of Latin America...

HUME: Well, that's a confirmation issue, isn't it. I mean...

LUGAR: It is. And the administration...

HUME: ... are you prepared to move ahead with the administration's nominee?

LUGAR: Well, they've not made one yet. But I strongly advise that they make a very good one, because we really need help there. The president needs help, Secretary Powell needs help, so that we do not get into these situations, sliding along without a proper United States representation.

HUME: What about it, Senator Biden?

BIDEN: I'm going to -- we're going to ruin each other's credibility. I agree completely with Dick Lugar here. This is a -- we've been holding the OAS' code (ph). The president of Columbia has been making a good effort. We have to ratchet this up, and we need someone of significant stature in that position.

HUME: Well, Otto Reich is the nominee. Otto Reich has been the nominee.

BIDEN: Otto Reich will not be -- Otto Reich will not be, in my humble opinion, does not fit that bill and could not be confirmed.

HUME: Well, he's been serving in the position. Your belief is he couldn't be confirmed?

It is your belief, Senator Lugar, that Otto Reich, who's been the president's choice, cannot be confirmed?

LUGAR: Well, I've indicated that I don't think he has the votes in the committee, and I think that the president and Secretary Powell understand that.

HUME: All right. Thanks to both of you, Senator Lugar, Senator Biden. Nice of you to be with us.

LUGAR: Thank you.

BIDEN: Thank you very much, and happy holidays.

HUME: And the same to you, as well.