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Interview With Rafik Hariri

Aired March 29, 2002 - 14:30   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: As we continue our discussion of what is happening in the Middle East and our coverage with a very important phone call standing by. Rafik Hariri, prime minister of Lebanon, calling in from Beirut. Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for calling us.

Hello, sir? Are you there? Mr. Hariri?

RAFIK HARIRI, PRIME MINISTER OF LEBANON: Yes, yes. I hear you.

KAGAN: OK. It's Daryn Kagan at CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Mr. Hariri, have you had chance to speak with Yasser Arafat today?

HARIRI: Yes. I just spoke to him. Yes.

KAGAN: You just spoke with him?

HARIRI: Yeah. Yeah. I just spoke to him. Yes.

KAGAN: And...

HARIRI: An hour ago.

KAGAN: And what was the discussion? Did he talk about what had happened in his compound today in Ramallah?

HARIRI: He was telling me about the situation he is living in. He said that all the buildings around his residence have been destroyed and they are -- they are on fire. And he told me that there is five people have been killed and they cannot move them. And about 40 persons were injured, and they cannot transfer them to the hospital.

KAGAN: And what about his own personal safety? Was he -- had he been hurt, or did he fear for his safety?

HARIRI: Yes. He is concerned. And -- but he said I have -- I cannot do anything, I am under siege.

KAGAN: The Israeli government has made it very clear -- I don't know if you've gotten this word, but certainly we've heard it here on CNN and from Secretary of State Colin Powell -- that Yasser Arafat is not their target. They do not intend to kill him in this operation.

HARIRI: So what they are trying to do? Undermine him? Put pressure on him? His people? I don't know what they are doing.

KAGAN: Is today a discouraging day for you, sir, especially since history was made in your country yesterday, with the approval by the Arab League of the Saudi peace proposal?

HARIRI: You know, the picture in the Arab world that there is in one hand, a peace plan, has been agreed from all the Arab countries, and was supported by the United States, Europe, China, Russia, the European Union and all the other countries in the world. And on the other hand, we see that the Israeli government is attacking that part of the Palestinian leader. This is a political scene in the Middle East today.

KAGAN: I don't know if you were able to hear earlier. We certainly carried his comments on CNN and CNN International. But U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, very clear the U.S. believes that Israel has a right to defend itself, in light of the recent suicide bombings.

HARIRI: Yeah. Everybody has the right to defend himself, but by attacking headquarter of President Arafat, this will lead to -- to the security of Israel? I doubt that.

KAGAN: Were you able to hear -- were you able to hear Secretary Powell's comments earlier today?

HARIRI: Yeah. I had -- I didn't hear him in person, but I saw in writing what he said.

KAGAN: And you could see then, if you saw the writing, that he was very critical of the Palestinians, and almost completely blaming them for the breakdown of the peace process, saying the one reason that the peace process is breaking down is because of raw terror, whereas not being so harsh on the Israelis. What's your reaction to that?

HARIRI: You know, it's very hard here in this part of the world to understand those statements. I'll be very frank with you. We do respect highly the secretary, but it is very hard for us to understand this statement at this moment, after -- especially after the Arab peace plan and the action of Arafat.

KAGAN: And how would you suggest -- how would you suggest that that peace process get back on track and move past today's violence, sir?

HARIRI: First of all -- first of all, I believe that the Israeli government has to announce clearly and loudly that they do accept that peace plan, which has been accepted by the whole world, including the U.N. Secretary-General, including everybody in the world. And to stop that attack against the Palestinians and the Palestinian leader.

KAGAN: And are you hopeful that's going to happen? There are certainly some elements of that peace plan that the Israelis are not comfortable with. HARIRI: You know, it is very clear that the Israelis, they don't want this plan and they don't agree. You know, the irony in our situation is the following. That we have public opinion in the Arab world who is supporting the peace initiative and the peace plan and the government -- all the governments in the Arab world are for it and they support it. And they vote for it 100 percent.

On the other hand, we have in Israel, an Israeli government which has been elected by the Israeli people. Their political agenda is not for peace. They are from the camp anti-peace.

KAGAN: Mr. Prime Minister, I want to get back to your conversation that you had just a little bit ago with Yasser Arafat. We're showing to our U.S. domestic audience right now videotape that shows Yasser Arafat meeting earlier today with advisers in his compound.

Was he able to relate to you how much he's able to do this right now, whether it's meeting with other people within his compound, or clearly get phone calls out? I mean, obviously, he was able to make contact with you, so there is some communication that's taking place.

HARIRI: Yes. There is a satellite phone which is still working. He said, "I'm talking to you in the dark. I have no electricity." And he explained to me that situation of the buildings around him. He said he's in the dark, and that his satellite telephone is working.

KAGAN: And just one note from yesterday, were you able to explain to him and can you explain to us now, sir, why you blocked his speech that he was trying to give to the Arab meeting yesterday? Why did you not let that play?

HARIRI: It -- it wasn't -- it was a technical problem. The Lebanese president told the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and he will come, President Arafat, and any speech he wants to make. But the Palestinian delegation, I prefer that (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And that's what happened.

KAGAN: OK. Very well. Understood. Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon. Sir, thank you for calling us. We appreciate your time. A difficult day in your part of the world today.

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