CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS
Interview With Ariel Sharon; New Osama bin Laden Video Released
Aired April 15, 2002 - 17:00 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.
ANNOUNCER: Now on a special edition of WOLF BLITZER REPORTS: LIVE FROM JERUSALEM: an interview with the Israeli Prime Minister.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Are there other Palestinian leaders that could replace Yasser Arafat?
ARIEL SHARON, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL: You know, Mr. Blitzer, you know that though we don't like to leave, everyone might be replaced. There's a place for everyone of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A regional war? What is Secretary of State Colin Powell doing to prevent it?
Blasts in Bethlehem near the birthplace of Jesus. What were Israelis targeting?
And just released terror tapes, including pictures of Osama bin Laden. What do they show?
It's Remembrance Day now here in Israel. Tonight, this country pays its respects to all its fallen soldiers over its many wars, going back to 1948. Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Jerusalem. We welcome our international viewers. Earlier today, I went over to the residence of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and sat down with him for a candid conversation about his hopes for Israel and about the future of Israelis and Palestinians relationship, and that tops our Mideast news alert.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says Israeli troops will leave most of the re-occupied towns in the West Bank within a week. But, he says, troops won't leave Bethlehem and Ramallah until the current standoffs in those two towns are resolved. Mr. Sharon calls for an international peace conference, but without the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. We will air my interview with Prime Minister Sharon in just a minute.
He is a top leader of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, a key figure in the Palestinian uprising and the alleged mastermind of numerous terror attacks. Marwan Barghouti is now in Israeli hands, captured during a West Bank raid. Barghouti has been both a supporter of peace with Israel as well as an open advocate of attacks on Israelis. He has been touted as a possible successor to Yasser Arafat.
Explosions echoed through Bethlehem today, and smoke rose over an area near Manger Square. The Israeli army says troops blew up an explosives lab found in the city and that the operation had nothing to do with the siege at the Church of the Nativity, where some 200 armed Palestinians and 40 church workers remain holed up.
Ambulances have been making their way through the rubble of the Jenin refugee camp on the West Bank, as Palestinian teams begin retrieving bodies. International Red Cross monitors have also been allowed into the camp. Palestinians say hundreds were massacred at Jenin. Israel says the number of dead is far lower, insisting most were gunmen killed in the fighting.
Warning of a wider conflict: Secretary of State Colin Powell took his search for peace to Lebanon and Syria, seeking help in quelling violence along Israel's northern border. After talks in Beirut, Powell was told by Syrian president Basher al-Assad that he would be in touch with the Syrian-backed Hezbollah group about its almost daily attacks. CNN has now confirmed that Secretary of State will meet tomorrow, Tuesday, with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but will meet with Yasser Arafat in his Ramallah headquarters only on Wednesday, a day after earlier planned.
Earlier today, I was at the residence of the Prime Minister of Israel, and we had a candid conversation. Here is my interview with Ariel Sharon.
Thank you very much for joining us on CNN, CNN International, all of our networks. We appreciate it very much.
ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Let me ask you the question the whole world has been asking you. Maybe you can give us the answer. When will the Israeli military withdraw from those areas in the West Bank that they recently reoccupied?
SHARON: Ultimately we don't have any intention to say in those cities or cities of terror. We are accomplishing our mission now and I made it very clear that once we accomplish, we will be leaving. I believe that in one of those towns it might be within two days. Another one maybe will take another week. And I believe that altogether we'll be leaving those towns, as I have said.
BLITZER: Within a week there will be complete withdrawal from those towns?
SHARON: I will say in these towns. We have problems in Bethlehem.
BLITZER: In Bethlehem.
SHARON: We are ready to withdraw from there, but we have a problem there, of the terrorists, who took shelter. And...
BLITZER: In the Church of the Nativity.
SHARON: Yes, the Church of the Nativity. And once they will be leaving -- and we already agreed with the Americans what is going to happen with them -- they will be leaving there because we have accomplished our mission there. So that's what will happen.
BLITZER: So basically what you're saying is that within a week, Israel will be out of all of those areas recently reoccupied?
SHARON: I would say -- I mention two towns, first two towns.
BLITZER: You mentioned Bethlehem.
SHARON: One is Jenin and the other one is Shechem.
SHARON: Yes. About Bethlehem, that depends on what will happen there with those terrorists. As about Ramallah, we have a problem there. The problem is that those murderers of the minister of tourism, we cannot let them out. So that's a problem there. Altogether, we are on our way out and that's what is happening. That's exactly what I have said. And I was asked in the past, I said when we have accomplished, we will be leaving.
BLITZER: Excuse me, sir. Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but I may still be confused. You say within a week you will be out of all of these areas, with exception of Bethlehem, unless there's a resolution of that issue?
SHARON: And Ramallah.
BLITZER: And Ramallah. You won't be out within a week, of Ramallah.
SHARON: Unless we'll be able -- if those terrorist will be handed over to us, we'll leave there.
BLITZER: But you will stay in Ramallah around the headquarters of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority until those individuals that you want are handed over to you.
SHARON: These individuals -- and I want to say, these individuals, one would think now that they have just some people there that we are looking for. I speak about the heads of the Popular Front, a terrorist organization that instigated, planned and killed Minister Zeevi inside Jerusalem. First of all, I think justice will be made.
Second, I don't think the public opinion here will accept it. Do not accept it. And the third point is that our own general is very strict on this thing and said that he -- they must be brought and tried in Israel.
So that's our position. And together with them for the Shubuki (ph) delegation with Iran. And the one -- and we have all the documents now -- that have been final thing, those suicide bombers.
BLITZER: So what you're saying is, unless (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and some others inside Ramallah...
SHARON: Think about the murderers of -- the murderers of Minister Zeevi.
BLITZER: Unless they're handed over, you'll surround that compound in Ramallah indefinitely.
SHARON: Yes. Yes.
BLITZER: And in Bethlehem, until there's a resolution of the Church of the Nativity standoff with those 200 Palestinian gunmen.
SHARON: I don't think there are 300 there.
SHARON: Yes, I think maybe 200. There we have agreed what to do with them.
BLITZER: You say you've reached an agreement with the U.S. government?
BLITZER: What is that agreement>
SHARON: The agreement is a very simple one. They have to leave their weapons behind. They must come out. They're going to be identified. And those that -- those with no connection with terror will be released immediately.
Those that have terror relations or were connected, or participated in acts of murder and have, say, been members of terrorist organizations, they will have two possibilities. One, to be tried in Israel. And the other one, to be expelled or deported from the area to a country -- which I do know if there is a country like that, already. But they are going to be taken by British plane just to bring them to that country.
BLITZER: Correct me if I'm wrong. What you're saying is there may be individuals inside that church who have committed acts of terrorism against Israelis, but you're going to let them go free and leave the country?
SHARON: Yes. There are two groups: those that got blood on their hands will never be able to return. Those that were members of terrorist organizations, we might consider in the future -- that will be a committee that will decide about their future. In any case, they have to leave the country. BLITZER: But they will be allowed to leave freely? You won't go after them outside of Israel?
SHARON: No. No. When Israel -- Israel sticks to it commitments.
BLITZER: And this is an agreement you say you have with the U.S. government.
BLITZER: The Palestinians, as you know, have rejected this proposal.
SHARON: Maybe the Palestinians expect that within a few days now there will be a change. Maybe Israel will have to leave those places. I would like to make it fairly clear, we are ready to leave Bethlehem, but only after they will be deported, or will decide to be arrested and tried in Israel.
BLITZER: And so, just to be precise. We've discussed the issue of Ramallah. You're going to stay there until you get those people you want.
BLITZER: We discussed that one. Jenin...
BLITZER: You say within a week, your forces will be out of Jenin?
SHARON: I think it will be before.
BLITZER: It will be before a week?
BLITZER: You know the accusations that have been made against the Israeli military, that Israeli troops committed a massacre at that refugee camp.
SHARON: You know, you already know that this story is a lie. It's a lie. What happened there, it was a very hard battles there. I think that the Israel forces -- not like any other armed forces, being involved in a very hard battle -- were very careful not to hurt civilians. As a matter of fact, I believe that you know that already now. And when you still using this term, it's a thing...
BLITZER: I'm saying it was an accusation that was made -- an accusation that seemed to get some credibility to some people because the Israeli military prevented Red Cross, U.N., journalists, from entering that area, suggesting that perhaps Israel might have something to hide. SHARON: We don't have anything to hide there. It's not only that we don't have anything to hide. I think that every democracy, every army would have been very, very proud at the behavior of its soldiers. It was very heavy battles. We suffered heavy casualties there. But still, were very careful not to harm civilians.
BLITZER: Do you know how many Palestinians were killed in Jenin?
SHARON: No, but I think less -- many less than has been spread in all those rumors there.
BLITZER: Because we've heard everything from a few dozen to 500.
SHARON: I think there's a few dozens. But in any, case nothing to do with this figure of 500.
BLITZER: And in Nablus, you say the Israeli troops will withdraw immediately?
SHARON: No. I will say that there it might take -- I'm saying about -- not more than a week.
BLITZER: So they'll be out of Nablus within a week. The only two places that Israeli troops will remain after a week will be Ramallah and Bethlehem, assuming the standoff at the church is not resolved.
SHARON: I hope it will be resolved, because we are very much interested not to involve the church in all the other things. And we are very careful we are not entering the church. We do not enter the church. And therefore, once his agreement has been achieved, will be implemented there, we are going to evacuate Bethlehem.
BLITZER: So, all of the areas except for those two other areas, you will withdraw within a week.
SHARON: Yes, from the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), from the towns.
BLITZER: Were you at all concerned, Mr. Prime Minister, when President Bush, days ago, said -- and let me read it to you precisely what he said. And he's a strong supporter of Israel, as you well know. "I meant what I said to the prime minister of Israel. I expect there to be a withdrawal without delay."
SHARON: As a matter of fact, that is what we're doing. Said that very clearly. Once we'll accomplish, we'll be moving. I think we're involved in very heavy battles. I think there is -- it's about President Bush -- first of all, we feel a deep friendship and the relations are very friendly. And I think that we share common values and I think we share same targets.
It's acting and fighting against terror. That's what we are doing. Understand the problems. Understand the difficulties that the president is facing. Of course, the president enjoys here not only friendship, but a real admiration for his courageous decision to act against terror, and the first phase in Afghanistan. And of course, he gets all our support and backing when it comes to the next phases.
So I believe that the president has decided that one cannot get into compromise with terror. And I think that's very important we share those values. And we are ready to help, as a matter of fact, in every way.
But just imagine one thing. Today, as you know, we manage to capture Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Barghouti. Marwan Barghouti is the head of the Fatah movement and the head of the military arm, the Tanzim, that caused most of our casualties in the recent months -- were caused by them. And just imagine if we would have withdrawn, say, one day earlier. He would have been free and he would be able to continue.
So on our hand, of course we understand. And therefore, I say that Jenin, I believe it will be a matter of maybe a couple of days. It's about Shechem, it will take a few days longer. That's what we are doing. Of course, it will be not far from those towns. If it will be quiet, we'll move further. But we have to check it for several days to see the development there. In any case, we understand the difficulties.
BLITZER: Your cabinet reached the decision, we're told yesterday, that once you withdraw, it won't be a complete withdrawal. There will be these so-called buffer zones that you want to establish, at considerable expense, to try to protect your citizens?
SHARON: First, we have to protect our citizens. You know that Israel suffered very heavy casualties among civilians. And now that I had many calls calling from all around the world, asking about the candles of Mr. Arafat, he had no electricity. They were complaining he is having only two rooms, or 2 1/2 rooms. Though he got about I believe more than 20.
And so many questions were asked. I must say, nobody asked me about those two small girls that lost their parents. That went -- I speak with really small girls -- were left with no relatives, no parents. And they went to a toy shop and both killed and their mother was pregnant with twins.
Nobody asked me about this family where three members, father and two children, were murdered by the Palestinians in an act of suicide bomber. And the mother in the very bad condition.
Nobody asked me about the lady of 93 years, a survivor that survived the Holocaust in concentration camps, and was killed in the Seder on the eve of Passover, one of the most holiest days that we have. Nobody asked about that.
Everyone asked about things, other things. And that of course should bring us to -- to understand the situation -- our situation, when we see all those demonstrations in Europe. I know that in Europe there are millions of Arabs there. Millions of Arabs there.
BLITZER: You know that Israel has been widely criticized. But let's get to the issue of Yasser Arafat. When the secretary of state of...
SHARON: I would like -- with your permission, Israel has been criticized. But what happened here, the victims were criticized and the murderers got support. That would say the cynicism of the world. That's what really happened.
BLITZER: Do you blame Yasser Arafat directly for the suicide bombings that occurred here in Jerusalem, or Netanya, or Haifa? Do you say that he directly ordered those suicide bombings?
SHARON: In the past, one could have saw that maybe we're just blaming him or maybe something personal. Nothing personal here. At first I tried with him very hard. I declared several times a unilateral cease-fire. We reduced our activities. I sent to him our minister of foreign affairs Mr. Peres. I wrote him.
I talked to him twice on the phone. He called me and I talked to him about this subject. And nothing happened. The only thing that happened, after every cease-fire that we declared unilaterally, or accepted their (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on their holy day to reduce our activity, we have done that. The reaction was only terror, terror and more terror.
So now once we found so many documents there, there is no doubt that he was involved in this strategy. First of all, he adopted strategy of terror. Second, he formed a coalition of terror. Of all of those terrorist organizations, including some of his own organizations, like the Tanzim, the Fatah, and the president's guards -- all those were involved in terror.
But we know now that he instructed himself inside, that money should be paid to terrorists that were involved in sending suicide bombers to our towns. And besides that, he may be a friend and he's now together with him, Mr. Fachubiki (ph). He paid the accounts of the suicide bomber for the equipment.
And now we know that, for instance, that 700 shekels, that what it cost this equipment of a suicide bomber. And he got that in the account there. They paid them, and now we know all these things. Besides that, he was very active calling Israeli-Arabs.
As you know, we have one million Palestinians who are Israeli citizens, live together with us. But he was very much involved in trying to push them and to call them to participate in terror.
BLITZER: But, Mr. Prime Minister, even your foreign minister, Shimon Peres, whom I interviewed yesterday, effectively says there's no other leader of the Palestinian people. There is no alternative to Yasser Arafat. And if you're not going to sit down and negotiate with him, who will represent the Palestinians?
SHARON: First, the problem with Mr. Arafat is that you cannot reach peace with him.
BLITZER: The secretary of state of the United States is definitely trying. He said the meetings yesterday in Ramallah were useful and constructive.
SHARON: Look, I don't -- the secretary have said, the secretary met him, spent several hours with him. I met the secretary yesterday. I'm going to see him again tomorrow. But one thing I can assure you. That if somebody wants to reach peace -- and we want to reach peace, and I myself am committed to peace.
Because I saw all the horrors of wars. I saw -- I participate in all the wars of the state of Israel. And I saw all the horror of the wars. I lost my best friends. I was very badly injured twice in battles. And I felt those terrible pains and I had to take decisions of life and death.
Therefore, I believe that I understand the importance of peace, if I may say, better than many of the politicians that speak about peace but never had that experience. But for me, peace should provide security.
BLITZER: So is the secretary of state making a mistake in meeting with Yasser Arafat?
SHARON: Look, I said that before. I already said it was a mistake. I think it was mistake. I cannot interior in the American policy. I said that meeting with Arafat only create a situation that -- the possibility to reach a cease-fire -- the first thing, which you like to do, to go and say through Tenet, which we are committed to. And then it should be completely -- it should be full cessation of terror, of citizen incitement.
And then we have to go into a Mitchell report. And then I would say -- with God's help, it's not going to be easy. It's hard for us. It's hard for the Palestinians. And altogether, I would like you to know, it's hard to be a Palestinian. I know it's hard to be a Palestinian.
BLITZER: But you know that, inadvertently, you have helped make Yasser Arafat more popular today on the Arab street among Palestinians in the Arab world, than he's ever been before. There's an enormous amount of support and sympathy for him right now.
SHARON: Yes. But that did not change the basic thing, that with him, I personally think, that we'll not be able to reach any agreement. I believe there are others. I met them here, where we are sitting now.
BLITZER: Who are the other Palestinian leaders that could replace Yasser Arafat?
SHARON: You know, Mr. Blitzer, you know that though we don't like to hear it, everyone might be replaced. There's a replacement for everyone for us. And I don't want to mention names, but you know that I met with them. Not to answer, once here and once on our farm in -- in the southern part of the country.
BLITZER: But don't all those Palestinians, with whom you met, express their support for Yasser Arafat? SHARON: Look, one must understand that in order to have others to negotiate, it should be -- it should be clear that Arafat is not, in the eyes of the Americans, the one that should lead those negotiations, or should lead this nation. As long as people are coming to see him and he's embraced and praised, that only, I would say, postpones that possibility and altogether postpones the possibility to reach peace earlier.
BLITZER: The Bush administration rejected your ideas on this particular issue about maintaining contact with Yasser Arafat.
SHARON: Are you asking if the American...
BLITZER: The American government is looking to Yasser Arafat still to try to achieve a cease-fire.
SHARON: Understand that -- I believe that the American administration, which we really appreciate and keep close contact -- I don't think they that have -- I think that they know Arafat well. But they have other problems here in the Arab world. Problems which they would like -- which makes it harder for them. Therefore I think they turn to Arafat.
But if I can express my position about that, with him I don't think it would be any possibility to reach peace.
BLITZER: I want to move on and talk about this regional peace conference you proposed. But let me give you a chance to perhaps explain to our viewers around the world, what you meant when you said in the newspaper "Maariv," a daily newspaper here in Israel on February 1st.
You said, "In Lebanon, there was an agreement not to liquidate Yasser Arafat. In principle, I'm sorry that we didn't liquidate him," referring to 1982 during the Israeli invasion when you expelled Arafat from Beirut.
SHARON: I think that -- I don't think we have to deal with what happened in the past.
BLITZER: Are you sorry you didn't kill him then?
SHARON: Look, I don't think that we have to deal with everything in the past. I think we have to look forward, how we can reach an agreement, cease-fire, peace, which will bring us to a -- to really live in security. And with God's help, I would say to bring to the end of conflict.
I don't think that we have to deal with what happened. It's so complicated. It's so complicated now. Let's deal with the current situation and with the future.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the future. You've put forward a proposal for a peace conference, a regional peace conference, but without Arafat participating. You want Palestinians to participate, but not Arafat. The Palestinians say that's a nonstarter. SHARON: Look, what I've said -- I propose these original talks between the leaders of the countries here. They believe in peace and would like, I would say, to move toward peace. And I thought about Israel. I thought about Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and maybe Morocco. These countries are a coalition of peace.
And we have a coalition of war that is Iran, Iraq and Syria. These are the coalition -- I say coalition versus coalition.
BLITZER: But you don't want Arafat to participate.
SHARON: Look, I think the only thing, if somebody wants to reach peace -- and I want to reach peace -- I don't think that with him you can reach peace. But I don't think that that is the point. The idea, I think it was a good idea. And I'm glad that, in many case by now, it got positive reactions by the American administration. That's the important thing.
BLITZER: Some American officials are suggesting this meeting should occur at the foreign minister's level so that you can fudge the issue of whether Arafat would attend. He could dispatch one of his top advisers, one of his top aides. Would that be acceptable to the Israeli government?
SHARON: Yes, why not? Look, we have been making every effort to reach peace. Not exactly what you have been, I would say, showing. But we made every effort to reach peace. I would say for years -- 34 years. Doesn't make a difference who will be in the meetings. It will be foreign ministers meeting. It will be the leaders meeting. And that's not a problem.
The problem is how to try and talk to Arab leaders. And I -- I was ready to go to Beirut, which (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But therefore it should be done. I think that's what's important. And it might start on this level, or another level. It doesn't make any difference.
BLITZER: You know, the Palestinians make the point that there's been a 35-year Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories. And they feel frustrated. They're angry. They don't have F-16s. They don't have Apache helicopters. They have to do something to try to liberate their land.
SHARON: Look, if you want, we'll discuss the historical side here. But it's not the case now. But, if speaking about occupation, we never occupied any Palestinian land. They never had independent, never had any government there. They never got the independence when this area was under a Jordanian occupation for 19 years.
All these areas, how they became occupied? They become occupied because in 1948, seven Arab countries invaded Israel. And as a result of this war, this part stayed under Jordanian occupation. At the beginning it was Iraqi and Jordanian. The Iraqis withdrew. And then they stayed under occupation of Jordan for 19 years. So in effect, who occupied Jerusalem?
BLITZER: Mr. Prime Minister, unfortunately we don't have much time for history. But let me ask you one final question, because we're almost all out of time. The secretary of state went to Beirut today. He went to Damascus today, to try to restrain the situation along Israel's northern border.
How tense of a situation is this? Because there's a great fear that the Hezbollah mortars could result in Israeli retaliation and a broader regional war, perhaps even with Syria.
SHARON: So if just to say another sentence about what we were talking before. I believe that we may reach peace. I will make every effort to reach peace. I'm going to make painful concessions for a durable, true peace. I cannot make any concession whatsoever when it comes to the Israeli security or the security to the very existence of the state of Israel. Here, there's not going to be any (UNINTELLIGIBLE) whatsoever.
Now coming to a discussion. I think the situation is very dangerous there. I think that we show restraint. We have been showing restraint. We are under shelling daily. And we have what happened there, that Iran build there an infrastructure where they're having maybe 8,000 or more Katyusha rockets. They have other rockets there, much longer range.
They have there the Iranian guards there that are acting together with Hezbollah. All that could not have happened without the support of Syria. And that, of course, is a major threat I think in the current time. There is a danger to stability in the Middle East. It's Lebanon.
We've withdrew from southern Lebanon. The Lebanese army had to be deployed around the border. The Syrians never alarmed them. Instead, the Hezbollah sit on the border. And they create this tension.
And we make every effort not to -- not to, say, enable any dangerous developments with the nation, because we don't want it. We understand the danger to stability of the Middle East. I'm very glad that the secretary have been there today. He talked to me about it yesterday. We talked about it. I believe that he talked to them in a way that they understand now what are the dangers.
And we have, of course, to watch the development. What declarations in this part of the world are much less important than (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And I hope that this will be avoided. And I hope that they will make an effort of course not to escalate.
We are against any escalation of the situation in the Middle East. And of course the Iranians are working on -- the Iranians working now among the Palestinians' war, Israeli citizens, inside through the Islamic movement. And then of course they are keeping contact with Mr. Arafat. And they're still smuggling weapons. Now they do it via Lebanon.
The Iraqis are smuggling weapons. And though Jordan takes all of the necessary steps to stop it, but they do it. As a matter of fact, the Iraqis are paid $25,000 to every family of suicide bombers or suicide terror. And it then develops.
I think that maybe, I think altogether we discussed with our friends the Americans, altogether that might be one of the greatest dangers to the free world, that kind of suicide bombers, suicide shooters, that we can see here. But altogether, with all those problems, and we've talked only about problems, I believe that we can look forward with optimism.
BLITZER: The prime minister of Israel speaking to me earlier today here in Jerusalem.
And our "Web Question of the Day" is this: "Do you think there will be peace under Prime Minister Sharon's watch?" You can vote. Go to my Web page: CNN.com/Wolf. While you're there, let me know what you're thinking. There is a "Click Here" icon right on the left side of the page. Send me your comments. I will read some of them on the air each day. That's also, by the way, where can you read my daily online column.
When we come back, we'll have reaction to what Prime Minister Sharon just said. We will get the Palestinian perspective. And later: Just-released tapes of terror, what do they tell us about Osama bin Laden?
But first, more on our top story in our "News Quiz": What position did Ariel Sharon hold before becoming Israeli prime minister? Was it minister of defense, minister of agriculture, minister of construction and housing, minister of national infrastructure, or foreign minister? The answer coming up.
BLITZER: Earlier we asked: What position did Ariel Sharon hold before becoming prime minister? The answer: all of the above. Sharon has served as minister of defense, agriculture, construction and housing, national infrastructure, and foreign minister. His career also includes tours of duty in the Knesset and in the Israeli military.
Later this hour, I'll speak live with Palestinian Cabinet Minister Nabil Sha'ath for a reaction to my interview with Ariel Sharon.
But first, let's check on some other of the day's major developments. Kate Snow is standing by for that in Washington -- Kate.
KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Wolf.
A newly-released video of Osama bin Laden shows the al Qaeda network clearly claiming responsibility for the September 11 attacks. The tape, aired today by Al Jazeera television, is part of a documentary which also features a statement by one of the hijackers.
CNN national correspondent Mike Boettcher takes a look.
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The two video clips are part of a longer documentary released by a reportedly pro-al Qaeda production company.
Titled "The Wills of the New York and Washington Battle Martyrs," the tape was received a week ago by the Arabic-language Al Jazeera network. In one segment, Osama bin Laden and his top adviser, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, appear relaxed, seated in a picturesque outdoor setting.
In the segment shown by Al Jazeera, only Al-Zawahiri speaks. He makes the most explicit claim of credit yet for the September 11 attacks by al Qaeda.
AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI, AL QAEDA (through translator): This great victory that was achieved is only thanks to God. It is not because of our skill or tricks or excellence. It's all because of God. Our 19 brothers gave their lives for God. God chose them for this great victory that we are living now.
BOETTCHER: The date of the videotaping is unknown. However, terrorism experts suspect it was done before the U.S. counterattack in Afghanistan, because a previously-released videotape of bin Laden, believed recorded after the U.S. military campaign began, seems to show bin Laden under stress.
Another segment of the documentary is identified by Al Jazeera as the videotaped last will and testament of Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Haznawi, one of the 19 September 11 hijackers. U.S. investigators say he was on board United Flight 93 that crashed in a Pennsylvania field.
Al Jazeera reports that the videotape was made in Kandahar, Afghanistan about six months before the September 11 attacks. The man in the videotape matches the photograph of Al-Haznawi distributed by the FBI.
AHMED IBRAHIM AL-HAZNAWI, SEPTEMBER 11 HIJACKER (through translator): We left our people to deliver a message that is written in blood, so it can reach the entire world.
BOETTCHER: If it is Haznawi, the picture of the burning World Trade Center had to have been superimposed behind him long after he taped his statement. There is at least one edit apparent in the video.
AL-HAZNAWI (through translator): Our message is to say that the time of oppression and enslavement is over. It is time to kill the Americans on their own soil among their own sons and next to their soldiers' intelligence agencies.
BOETTCHER (on camera): It's not clear whether Al Jazeera has more of the al Qaeda documentary or whether there are more videotaped statements from hijackers out there. U.S. officials are closely studying these newest videotapes to see if there are any clues that could help in their war against terrorism.
Mike Boettcher, CNN, Atlanta.
SNOW: Let's check some other headlines now in our "News Alert": Four U.S. Army soldiers were killed today and one was badly injured in an accidental explosion near Kandahar, Afghanistan. The U.S. Central Command says the men were disposing of 107-millimeter rockets when the accident took place. U.S., coalition and Afghan government forces secured the site and are investigating.
Officials at the National Transportation Safety Board are helping investigate the crash of an Air China flight in South Korea. The Boeing 767 smashed into a mountain in foggy and rainy conditions today as it approached the southern port city of Pusan. Almost 130 people are missing or dead; 39 people survived.
In Washington,tens of thousands of pro-Israel demonstrators converged today on Capitol Hill. Speakers included lawmakers and religious leaders. Organizers called on Arab nations to condemn the killing of Israeli civilians and urged supporters to contact members of Congress to back Israel.
U.S. cardinals will be on their way to Rome soon to discuss the growing priest sex abuse scandal that's rocked the Roman Catholic Church. A Vatican official says the pope has summoned all U.S. cardinals for a meeting next week.
Joining us to talk about the meaning behind that meeting is John Leo, a columnist for "U.S. News & World Report."
The Vatican doesn't cave to public pressure very often, sir. Why do you think they're calling this meeting? What do you make of it? What will they do at that meeting?
JOHN LEO, COLUMNIST, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": It's very curious, because, just a couple of days ago, the head of the Conference of Bishops came back from Rome saying, "The pope wants us to handle it ourselves." And, as soon as he had finished saying that, the pope summoned the cardinals to Rome.
So, there's something very curious going on, and in Boston as well, where the cardinal said he would definitely not resign. But there were a couple of stories over the weekend saying he hasn't made up his mind. There's a lot of contradictory forces in play here.
SNOW: Could the Vatican, for example, ask Cardinal Law or other cardinals to step down? Is that something they could do at a meeting like this?
LEO: Sure, but it's very unlikely.
Cardinal Law is not only the most powerful Catholic churchman in America, he's very close to the pope. For the pope to ask him to step down would be like the pope cutting off his own arm. And since he likes to keep heavy contact with America, it's very unlikely that he'll ask Cardinal Law to step down. I don't think the cardinal can stay very long, because the pressures are building here at home. But I'd be very surprised if the Vatican asks him to step down.
SNOW: Do you sense, though, that this indicates the pressure is also building in Rome now? Do you sense that perhaps Rome is suddenly getting the picture that this is a real crisis in the U.S.?
LEO: We just don't know. It's very hard to be a Vaticanologist and to try to guess as to how the Vatican is taking in information from America. I think they do understand that there's a chance that everything can unravel here.
And I think this is probably a pep talk. There's no agenda. So, you have a summit meeting with no agenda. Neither side has a plan. So, I assume the pope is going to give them a talking-to and say stand fast or do better. But it's very hard to see how anything more than that can come out of an impromptu meeting like this.
SNOW: I mentioned off the top the Vatican is sort of known for not responding a lot or giving in to public pressure, if you will. Do you think, though, the fact that they're calling this meeting is perhaps meant to quiet some of the public criticism?
LEO: We just don't know. It's just a guess.
You're right that the Vatican hates to give in to public pressure. We all hate to do that. But the Vatican has said really nothing since January. It's almost three months. So, it's astonishing that they've hung back there and not reacted to what is a huge crisis here.
SNOW: If some action were to be taken, a lot of people questioning where that action would come from. Do you think that the pope himself would be responsible for any kind of reprimand or action or outcome out of this meeting?
LEO: Well, it's very unlikely that is going to happen now. It could. The pope is a very smart man. He's in terrible health, but his mind is sharp.
I think the obvious thing is, you have to clean house. You have to get rid of all people who lied and supervised and allowed pedophiles to proceed. Now, whether the pope has the energy to do that or whether he's afraid that the whole thing will unravel further if he does it, I have no idea.
SNOW: We'll watch and see.
John Leo, columnist with "U.S. News & World Report," thank you so much for your insights tonight.
LEO: Thank you.
SNOW: We're going to toss it back to Wolf Blitzer live in Jerusalem -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Kate.
When we come back, we'll speak live with Nabil Sha'ath. He's a Palestinian Cabinet member. We'll get reaction from him regarding my interview with Ariel Sharon. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Let's get some reaction now to Ariel Sharon's comments in that interview with me earlier today.
For that, we turn to Nabil Sha'ath. He's a Palestinian Cabinet member. He joins us live from Cyprus.
Mr. Sha'ath,, once again, thanks so much for joining us.
What do you make of the conditions that Ariel Sharon put forward, requirements that he says would be necessary before Israel could withdraw from Ramallah and Bethlehem, as opposed to the other cities and towns on the West Bank?
NABIL SHA'ATH, PALESTINIAN CABINET MINISTER: If Mr. Powell rekindled some hope, Mr. Sharon just dashed it all, killed it all.
The man does not really want to withdraw. He just wants to reposition his soldiers wherever he wanted. He wanted to accomplish his mission. So condescending and dehumanizing, the man doesn't even recognize that he's in occupation of other people's territory. So, if the crime was never committed, why should he ever deal with it? It's very, very disappointing.
And I think it should really tell Mr. Powell that he needs a lot of work to get this man to comply with Mr. Bush's requirement that he should get out of the Palestinian territories now, without delay, immediately. President Bush used the three words. What Mr. Sharon is saying has nothing to do with that statement. He wants to stay there. He is not in occupation, he says.
BLITZER: Well, what about his proposal for a regional peace conference, perhaps at the foreign minister's level, a way that some U.S. officials suggest could avoid having Yasser Arafat personally participate?
SHA'ATH: Again, I think it's just a continuation of his ideological stand of his occupation.
The man wants to decide what peace conference is going to meet. He decides the composition. He decides who represents the Palestinians. He puts the terms of reference. He decides the international participants. It's really a nonstarter. This man does not want to comply. If you want an international conference, it has to have all the players, including Syria, Lebanon and the Europeans and the United Nations. It should based on proper terms of reference, of the Security Council resolutions, the Arab plan, the Bush statement in the United Nations, the Powell statement, and the latest Security Council decisions and resolutions. It should be -- really, it should have international guarantees. And it should allow the Palestinians the choice of their own representatives, which is President Arafat. And, finally, it should really be thought of only when he has fully withdrawn from the Palestinian territories he's occupied.
BLITZER: What about his decision today to go forward and arrest Marwan Barghouti, the leader of the Fatah movement, someone that Mr. Sharon branded a terrorist, someone that you know quite well? What does this suggest to you?
SHA'ATH: I worked with Marwan Barghouti in many peace conferences and in meetings with Israelis all over the European continent. He's really a young leader of Palestinians who worked so much for peace with Israel and were really stunned very much with Israeli reoccupation.
I think the move by Sharon will just exacerbate matters and will just make things very difficult. And, of course, if he moves to harm him, as he did so many with summary executions and extrajudicial assassinations, it will be really a catastrophe and will explode things even much further.
BLITZER: But he says that Marwan Barghouti personally is responsible for some of those suicide bombing attacks against Israelis, including the most recent ones, for which the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, affiliated with the Fatah movement, claimed responsibility.
SHA'ATH: Well, once again, he is judge and jury. He is policeman, as if we have elected him to be our representative and we are secessionists or rebels, and he wants to decide what to do. He already decides the verdict and makes the immediate implementation.
And if anything happened to Marwan, he will say he's already executed what has already been ordained. How awful -- I mean, how horrible and how dehumanizing. Once again, we're facing a leader who looks very much like Milosevic. It's the second time he does it, after Sabra and Shatila 1982.
How do you deal with a man like this? How do you make peace with a man like this?
BLITZER: He also says that the allegations of an Israeli massacre in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin are simply a big lie. And he says the whole world will see that as a big lie once these international observers, including journalists, Red Cross officials, go in, which the Israeli government is now permitting them to go in. What do you hear about what happened? How many Palestinians were killed?
SHA'ATH: We don't know the exact number, because already a lot of the bodies have been snatched and buried elsewhere in unidentified graves that we learned about during the Jenin massacre. He took six days to perpetrate the massacre and six days for a cover-up.
And he will not repeat what he has done in Sabra and Shatila. In Sabra and Shatila, the next morning the 4,000 bodies were still in view. And, therefore, the indictment was very clear. This time he, took six more days for a cleanup. He didn't allow anybody to come in. And he will only allow them after he has done the cover-up. We are facing a very, very serious crime.
BLITZER: All right, Nabil Sha'ath, unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. We're out of time. Thanks so much for joining us and offering that Palestinian reaction to the interview with Sharon.
And this note: For a complete wrap-up of all of the day's activities here in the Middle East, please join Bill Hemmer, "LIVE FROM JERUSALEM" tonight 8:00 Eastern. Bill Hemmer is live from Jerusalem.
Let's go to New York now get a preview of "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE." That begins right at the top of the hour -- Lou.
LOU DOBBS, "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE": Wolf, thank you very much.
No progress to report in the Middle East negotiations despite Colin Powell's diplomatic mission -- we'll be going live to Jerusalem for the very latest for you. Richard Murphy, the former U.S. ambassador to both Syria and Saudi Arabia, will be here as well, as Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author David Shipler (ph). In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez makes a stunning return to power. We'll be going live to Caracas for a report. And a disappointing session on Wall Street, we'll be telling you about that as well. I'll be talking with market strategist Chris Wolf (ph) -- and all of that, a lot more coming right up at the top of the hour. Please join us.
Now back to Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Lou.
Let's get the results of our Web poll question earlier today: "Do you think there will be peace under Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's watch?" Look at this: 33 percent say yes, but 67 percent say no. A reminder: This is not a scientific poll.
Let's get some comments from our viewers.
Steven asks: "Why do the Palestinians now claim there has been a massacre in Jenin? The terrorist fighters there said they wished to fight to the death. They obviously got what they wanted."
But Abdul writes: "It is amazing how much deception, cheating and brain-washing is done by the Israeli-dominated media about the genocide of the Palestinians."
That's all the time we have tonight. I'll be back here in Jerusalem for another special edition tomorrow, 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE" begins right now.
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