Interview With Kenneth Roth [excerpt and html editing and additions in [ ] by J. Gruber]

Aired January 18, 2003 - 04:30   ET



                    RICHARD ROTH, HOST: ......
                    Welcome to DIPLOMATIC LICENSE. I'm Richard Roth


                    R. ROTH: Waden and other veterans say toxic chemicals spewed into the air following bombing of Iraqi weapon sites may have
                    caused the vets to get sick, so they banded together in a lawsuit, not against Iraq, but against businesses that they say sold Iraq
                    chemicals and supplied it equipment before the Gulf War.

                    GARY PITTS, PLAINTIFFS ATTORNEY: They were enabling an international outlaw with weapons of mass destruction, and it was
                    foreseeable that people were going to get hurt.

                    K. ROTH: Houston attorney Gary Pitts represents Waden and 3,000 other veterans.
                    Their Gulf War Syndrome lawsuits stalled in court for eight years because Pitts was unable to prove which companies sold Iraq chemicals -
                    chemicals that could have been turned into weapons of mass destruction. Both the U.S. government and the United Nations weapons inspection
                    agency, UNSCOM, now titled UNMOVIC, declined Pitts request for information.

                    HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: UNSCOM had a practice of not revealing the names of companies, of
                    suppliers of equipment to Iraq, because they often had the possibility of getting information from the companies, and the best way of
                    getting these companies to talk to them was not to publish their names.

                    PITTS: Figuring that this might be the result, that we'd reached dead ends with the U.N. and with our government, came up with the
                    sort of creative idea of approaching Iraq...

                    R. ROTH: The attorney found his way to approach Iraq, ironically at a U.S. veteran's convention. His connection, this former Marine
                    and former U.N. weapons inspector, who used to be the biggest thorn in the side of the Iraqi leadership.

                    SCOTT RITTER, FMR. U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I believe the United States has an obligation to care for those who put on
                    the uniform in defense of their country.

                    R. ROTH: Scott Ritter, who now calls Iraq a de-fanged tiger posing no threat decided to help the veterans when he traveled to Iraq last
                    year and spoke to its Parliament.

                    RITTER: I brought out a series of compact discs, which contained the totality of the Iraqi declaration.

                    R. ROTH (on camera): Given to you...

                    RITTER: By Tariq Aziz.

                    R. ROTH (voice-over): Ritter says Aziz, Iraq's deputy prime minister, gave him three discs containing Baghdad's full final and
                    complete declaration from 1998 including the secret list of firms, companies which allegedly supplied, knowingly or not, Baghdad's
                           past chemical warfare programs. Ritter gave the list to Pitts who provided it to CNN.

                    According to U.N. sources, the list matches company and supplier names now in U.N. hands. The sources say the list is mirrored in
                    Iraq's latest 12,000-page declaration delivered to the Security Council in early December.

                    PITTS: If they are hit in the pocketbook, if they know that the dictator they provide this stuff to is eventually going to turn them over to
                    the public and they're going to be held accountable for what they've done, they are less likely to sell these things to Saddam or
                    somebody like him in the future.

                    R. ROTH: In all, the Iraqi supplied list contains 56 companies, most from Europe. Germany heads the list with 14 major suppliers,
                           followed by The Netherlands and Switzerland, each with 3, then France, Austria and the U.S., each with 2. Both American
                    companies listed are no longer in business. No one from the company Al-Haddad could be reached. The other firm, Alcolac, paid a fine
                    in 1989 under U.S. law for one charge of exporting a chemical that could be used to make mustard gas. That shipment
                    (UNINTELLIGIBLE) however was destined for another country, not Iraq, says a spokesman for Alcolac's new owner who tells CNN
                    the veterans' lawsuit has no meat.

                    One of the largest alleged suppliers to Iraq's chemical program, according to Iraq's list: the German company Karl Kolb. A spokesman
                    for the company tells CNN it has done business with Iraq for 35 years, but denies any connection to its weapons programs.

                    Preussag, since acquired by the travel conglomerate TUI, supplied chemical precursors for Sarin nerve gas, according to Iraq's
                    declaration, but the German firm tells CNN that claim is untrue. Several German manufacturers listed gave us the same response. They
                    had no connection to Iraq's weapons plants and the lawsuit's accusations are false. The Dutch company, Melchemie, denies it supplied
                    strategic raw materials to Iraq. It admits improperly shipping chemicals to an Iraqi agricultural producer once in 1984. Melchemie paid
                    a fine and bought the containers back, now exporting tomato and cucumber seeds to Iraq.

                    A Dutch-bases subsidiary of Phillips Petroleum, sued by the Gulf War vets, exported chemicals to Iraq, but nothing illegal, says an
                    attorney for Phillips Petroleum. He says any substance Phillips would have sold to Iraq would have been a useful and beneficial
                    product if used properly. The Indian company, Exomet Plastics, now part of EPC Industrie, said chemicals if sent to Iraq were for
                    pesticide. The firm tells CNN when advised of their possible misuse, it says it stopped further shipments.

                    The largest chemical supplier in the 1980's according to Iraq was a firm from Singapore. Iraq told the U.N. it supplied more than 4,000
                    tons of chemical precursors for mustard gas, Sarin and VX. Our efforts to get a response from the firm were unsuccessful. Despite
                    their names being listed by Iraq, the French firm, De Dietrich and the Portuguese owned Tafisa deny ever doing business with Iraq.

                    R. ROTH (on camera): In fact, half of the firms listed by Iraq are now targeted by the lawsuit as major suppliers are either unreachable
                    or out of business.

                    (voice-over): Still, critics think some of the companies listed by Iraq had to know they were aiding in the buildup of President Saddam
                    Hussein's arsenal.

                    RITTER: There are thousands of American veterans who continue to suffer. My loyalty is to them. I don't give a (EXPLETIVE
                    DELETED) about these companies. If they're innocent, they're innocent and they won't pay a price. If they've done something they
                    need to be ashamed of, then let your shame be public.


version: May 7, 2003
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