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U.S. Hopes for Recent Mideast Peace Summit

Aired October 13, 2000 - 8:21 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now we want to go to the White House where President Clinton is closely monitoring events in the Middle East.

That's where we find CNN's Major Garrett.

Major, I know that the president is hoping that this five-way summit can happened in Egypt as soon as tomorrow. Is he confident enough to pack his bags, even if Yasser Arafat refuses to attend?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly not, Carol.

Right now the White House is telling CNN that the summit, possibly as early as tomorrow, but that's no way a hard and fast date -- remains an option. Senior White House official telling CNN, "we're still exploring a lot of different options," unquote, that it certainly one of them.

Now, of course, the administration has been pushing for almost a full week now for a summit in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt; and for a while, early this week it looked like it was possible, then momentum dramatically declined as the violence intensified in the region. The question now is, well why is a summit back on the table?

Well, the key factor occurred yesterday. Two telephone calls the president made to important leaders in the Middle East, one to King Abdullah of Jordan and one to Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt. Both, for the first time this week, said that they were receptive to the idea of hosting an emergency summit about the tension in the Middle East.

That's a key development, that's why the idea of a summit is now back on the table. But it is, by no means, certain that one will occur. Senior administration officials telling us this morning that, before the president will participate in any summit, one of two things has to happen.

First, there has to be an unequivocal declaration, both from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak of calling for an end to the violence between Palestinians and Israelis. Secondarily, the administration is also looking for a dramatic cessation of that violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Is the administration optimistic that one or both of those events will occur? Actually, not very optimistic, at least not at this hour. One senior administration official telling CNN this morning, and I quote, "The parties know this is a dangerous situation. They know what they need to do, but it is unclear if they are willing to do it" -- Carol.

LIN: All right, well, the evidence clearly on their television screens as they monitor the events as the clashes continue in Ramallah today.

Major, what is the president saying now about the investigation into the explosion at the U.S.S. Cole?

GARRETT: Well the president only public remarks, of course, were issued yesterday in the rose garden. He is meeting early this morning with his top military international policy advisers, both on the Middle East and on the situation involving the U.S.S. Cole.

The president has made clear he wants regular updates on the casualties of that attack, which I underscore -- it's important to point out the U.S. government still calls an apparent terrorist attack. There has not been an official U.S. government declaration that this is an act of terrorism. The president also wants regular updates on those service personnel who are injured, how they are being treated, where they're being treated, and also he wants regular updates on how the families, both of the injured and of those who died, are being dealt with, both in Norfolk and other parts of the country.

So the president's asked all those involved for regular updates on that, and we will continue, of course, to monitor that situation, as well, throughout the day -- Carol.

LIN: All right, thank you very much Major.

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