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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Interview with Michel Cousineau

Aired September 25, 2002 - 11:43   ET

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

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We are trying to get the latest information we can out of the country of the Ivory Coast, this Western African nation which -- right now is the host to some 200 or so American citizens, a hundred of which are children who have been hunkering down in a school there.
We are joined now on the telephone by Michel Cousineau -- Mr. Cousineau, are you there?

MICHEL COUSINEAU, SCHOOL SECURITY OFFICER: I'm here. Hello?

HARRIS: Mr. Cousineau -- hello. Mr. Cousineau, as I understand it, you are a security officer there at the school?

COUSINEAU: I'm the security officer and business manager.

HARRIS: All right. What can you tell us right now of the situation there on the ground at the school?

COUSINEAU: I can tell you that we have loaded up in 17 vehicles, and we are getting ready for departure in three minutes.

HARRIS: Now, you are loaded up in vehicles -- are they French vehicles, or U.S. vehicles -- as we understand it, French troops have been there for some time, securing that compound, and U.S. troops have been trying to make their way to you. Whose troops are taking you out?

COUSINEAU: The French troops arrived here on campus at 10:00 this morning, and we are -- they are escorting us with the French military vehicles, escorting our own personal vehicles.

HARRIS: And where are they taking you?

COUSINEAU: We are going to Yamoussoukro for our first stop, and from there, we are not sure where we will be going. We will spend the night in Yamoussoukro.

HARRIS: And in Yamoussoukro, you are going to be -- you will be going into the custody of the U.S. troops that are there?

COUSINEAU: We will be going into the custody of the vice counsel of the United States.

HARRIS: OK. Now, traveling with you, I assume, will be all of the children from the school?

COUSINEAU: That's right. All of the children will be with us.

HARRIS: Now, is that all of the children from all of the different nationalities there, or just the U.S. children?

COUSINEAU: It will be all of the children of all nationalities that we have here.

HARRIS: OK. Will they be reunited with their families there in Yamoussoukro?

COUSINEAU: No, they won't. They will be reunited with their families when we get to our final destination, which we are not certain of that.

HARRIS: You are not certain of how that is going to happen?

COUSINEAU: No, we're not.

HARRIS: How about the situation with the fighting going on around the school? Has that lessened now that these troops have been on the scene?

COUSINEAU: Yes. We haven't heard any firing going on since they have been here.

HARRIS: OK. How are the children handling all of this?

COUSINEAU: They are doing great. You know, children are resilient. They are doing -- they are doing really good.

HARRIS: How soon do you think it will be before they are all out of there?

COUSINEAU: I'm not sure.

HARRIS: You're not sure. Any idea as to when you will arrive in Yamoussoukro?

COUSINEAU: We should arrive in Yamoussoukro in about four or five hours.

HARRIS: Have the children and the folks who are there with family outside of there, have they been in touch with their families elsewhere?

COUSINEAU: Yes, they have.

HARRIS: Do you know of any arrangements that are being made to reunite them all?

COUSINEAU: No, not at this point.

HARRIS: All right. And at this point, I'm assuming...

COUSINEAU: I have got to go because the convoy is leaving. I am going to get left behind. HARRIS: I understand -- all right, we don't want that to happen either. Thank you very much, Michel Cousineau, thank you very much for that information coming in at the very last minute. Folks, we were just able to get that phone link established there.

It looks as though -- the good news for those of you who may have some sort of family connection with the children who are there at that school compound, it looks like everybody in that school, everybody, is being ushered out of there, and should be on their way to Yamoussoukro, which is where we understand earlier this morning that the U.S. troops landed there and may be staging to leave from there back into Ghana, and then from there, points elsewhere.

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