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CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS

Threat Level Dropped to Yellow; Peterson Family Feud

Aired May 30, 2003 - 17:00   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Just ahead this hour, threat level dropped to yellow. But what's all this back and forth costing taxpayers? Our Jeanne Meserve will take a much closer look.
And Peterson family feud, find out why police were called out to Laci's former home.

WOLF BLITZER REPORTS starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): Let bygones be bygones? President Bush in Europe -- can he mend fences with the French, the Germans, the Russians?

Ahead of historic Middle East summits, an urgent warning to Americans.

SARS, it's right on the border. Is it headed our way? I'll speak with Canada's health minister.

And it's been a long time since they rocked and rolled. But Led Zeppelin is back with eight hours of previously unreleased live material. Joining me live, legendary guitarist Jimmy Paige.

ANNOUNCER: CNN live this hour, WOLF BLITZER REPORTS, live from the nation's capital, with correspondents from around the world.

WOLF BLITZER REPORTS starts now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: It's Friday, May 30, 2003.

Hello from Washington.

I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

The Laci Peterson murder case is taking another strange twist with people now entering the couple's home and removing items even in the midst of a continuing investigation. We're standing by for details. We'll go live to Modesto shortly.

But we begin with our top story. The president of the United States is now in Europe beginning his most challenging overseas journey since taking office. This important trip will bring the president face to face with those European leaders who tried to block his campaign for military action in Iraq.

Later, meetings with Middle Eastern leaders as the president promotes his road map toward peace.

But already, a new warning has been issued for Americans in the region.

CNN's Kelly Wallace is standing by live in Jerusalem.

But we begin with our Senior White House Correspondent John King. He's already at the president's first stop, Krakow, Poland -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the first stop on this trip, this high stakes trip for the president, is friendly territory. Poland, of course, stood with the United States in the war with Iraq, even sending a modest number of troops in to support the U.S. and other coalition forces. President Bush says he is here to say thank you and he says the United States will remember its friends.

At the same time the president is saying he's not holding any grudges, that he is not here in Europe for a confrontation. But he will, as you noted, in the days ahead come face to face with the president of Russia, the president of France, the chancellor of Germany, the three leaders who most fiercely opposed the United States when it came to waging war in Iraq. Those leaders also say they want to put this behind them. But you hear in some European capitals rumblings that there have been no major finds of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, some saying this is proving that George Bush's war was illegitimate.

The president, in an interview with polish television, forcefully disputes that. He says those weapons are being found.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've found the weapons of mass destruction. You know, we found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world and he said Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations' resolutions and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on.

But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: On Air Force One on the way across the Atlantic, Secretary of State Powell acknowledging there is still "bad blood" in some of the relationships with traditional European allies. But Secretary Powell says he and the president both very much want to move on. That will be put to the test in the days ahead and, of course, Wolf, the president ends this trip about a week from now, traveling to the Middle East to key meetings with Arab leaders, that dramatic three way summit with Prime Minister Sharon of Israel, Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.

The White House take is that there has been some fragile momentum built in the past 72 hours, maybe the past week or so. The president wants to try to build on that momentum by implementing the early steps in the Security Council road map for peace. And when President Bush leaves the Middle East, he will leave behind a team of U.S. diplomats to be left in the region 24-7 to monitor both the Israelis and the Palestinians as they promise to take those early steps on the road map -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, John, I think it's interesting he begins the trip tomorrow officially with a visit to Auschwitz and Burkinau, the former Nazi death camps in Poland. What was the White House thinking behind that?

KING: Well, it is symbolic for both parts of this diplomacy, if you will. The president obviously wants to send a signal to Israel, as he urges Prime Minister Sharon to take some very difficult steps, that the United States will never do anything to undermine Israel's security and will always stand by Israel. And as for the European part of this trip, the president says the history he will encounter tomorrow, the brutal tragedy at Auschwitz and Burkinau is, to him, a reminder that evil must be confronted immediately and that evil is best confronted when the United States and its allies work together, not bicker like they did when it came to Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John King will be covering this trip for us every step of the way.

John, thanks very much.

And while the president may not be quite ready to forgive and forget the stance taken by France, Germany and Russia, how do the Europeans feel about this American leader?

A short while ago, I asked CNN's Christiane Amanpour to assess the mood.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Christiane, I assume that the president is going to try to patch things up with the leadership in Europe. But there's been some really serious strains, as you well know.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There have, and, you know, a phrase has been resonating around Europe, the much repeated attributed to Condoleezza Rice phrase, which went something like this, we're going to forgive the Russians, ignore the Germans and punish the French. And certainly that's what people are sort of thinking about, wondering about.

All eyes are going to be on the initial meetings President Bush and his summit colleagues at the G8 in Evian. How will it be when he shakes hands with Jacques Chirac? What will he do? Will he embrace Gerhard Schroeder or won't he? The likelihood is probably not. We'll see. But certainly a lot of people are looking to that and we already know that according to the schedule, there is no one-on-one scheduled with Schroeder in Evian. There is a short one scheduled with Chirac. After all, it is in France, Chirac's country.

But that's the sort of mood that people are looking at and that is being speculated in the press here right now.

BLITZER: I assume, though, that the leadership, there's so many common interests, they'll pass things up as best as they can. What about the people in Europe? Are they still angry at the Bush administration, at the president or the speedy U.S. wind in Iraq, has that changed, turned around attitudes?

AMANPOUR: Well, I think it's turned around attitudes to an extent, both in the leadership and when it comes to the people. Certainly leaders are now going out of their way to say we have got to figure out a world in which we can go forward as an international community, not as a divided, disparate group of nations doing their own thing.

And they simply are waiting with bated breath in many parts of the world to see what's next, where does this world go next and what is the next target, if you like, if the U.S. chooses to set one in its sights?

BLITZER: Christiane, as you know, Tony Blair strongly encouraged President Bush to roll up his sleeves, get involved in the Israeli- Palestinian peace process to try to get it off the ground. Is there a sense there where you are in London that President Bush is really doing this because he wants to do it or only doing it because it's a sort of pay back, a reward for Tony Blair, who's been pushing him to do it?

AMANPOUR: Well, one, very definitely payback. It was definitely the Blair's, if you like, quid pro quo, and we've been told that by senior British officials, also, the Arab countries who supported the war in Iraq. But in terms of what people are expecting, I mean they really are expecting the president of the United States to get involved and they really do feel that without him and without the willingness of the president to use political capital and the vast political power that he has now, to use that to leverage both sides to a meaningful peace, then it won't happen.

That's what a lot of people believe.

BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour in London for us.

Thanks, Christiane, very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And after the summit meetings in Europe, the president will directly turn his attention to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Let's check the mood in Jerusalem. That's where CNN's Kelly Wallace is standing by -- what's the president likely to find when he gets there, Kelly?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he'll find some cautious, cautious optimism. The two sides also facing some pressure to show some progress before they huddle with President Bush in Jordan next week and the two sides touting some progress after their meeting last night. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, in fact, in an interview this evening with an Israeli television station predicted that he could achieve a comprehensive cease-fire with all the radical Palestinian groups in about three week's time frame. That would mean convincing all these groups to stop their attacks against Israelis.

But Mr. Abbas knows that the Israelis and the Americans are expecting more than a cease-fire. They say they want to see a full dismantling of all these radical Palestinian groups.

Now, as for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in that meeting last night he told Mr. Abbas he would take a number of confidence building measures to improve life for the Palestinian people, including today lifting the ban on Palestinian access into Israel from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Israelis say they will take many more steps, but only after they see a visible crackdown on terrorism and an end to some 50 terror alerts they say they get each and every week.

And on that note, Wolf, an alert came out today, but this one concerning Americans. The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, on its Web site, saying today it has received "credible reports" of plans to try and kidnap Americans in the Gaza Strip. Now, there are no details about these reports or who could be behind these attacks, but the U.S. State Department right now is urging Americans to defer travel to Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pretty good advice, presumably.

Kelly Wallace, thanks very much, from Jerusalem.

CNN, of course, will have complete coverage of the president's trip to Europe and the Middle East. Stay with CNN for all of that throughout the coming week.

Here's your turn to weigh in on this story. Our Web question of the day is this -- do you approve or disapprove of the president's handling of international affairs? We'll have the results later in this broadcast. You can vote. Simply go to my Web page, cnn.com/wolf. While you're there, I'd love to hear from you. Send me your comments. I'll try to read some of them on the air each day at the end of this program. That's also, of course, where you can read my daily online column, cnn.com/wolf.

From orange to yellow, the U.S. threat level goes down. But are we really any safer and what's the cost of all this back and forth? We'll take a closer look.

An incident at Laci Peterson's former home, her friends go on the offensive. We're live in Modesto, where passions right now are running very high on all sides.

And Led Zeppelin revival. Lead guitarist Jimmy Paige will join me live.

First, today's news quiz. What is Led Zeppelin's best selling song of all time? "Dazed and Confused," "Whole Lotta Love," "Stairway to Heaven," "Song Remains the Same?" The answer, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The nationwide terror alert has been lowered from orange to yellow, meaning there's now an elevated, rather than a high risk of an attack.

Let's bring in Jeanne Meserve. She's following all of these developments -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was the fourth period of orange alert and it was the shortest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE (voice-over): Ten days after it went up, the terror alert level came down. The Memorial Day weekend, considered a period of heightened vulnerability, is over and U.S. intelligence is picking up fewer indicators and warnings. However, the danger of terrorist attacks is never eliminated and sources say there is continuing concern about suicide bombings or vehicle bombings like those seen earlier this month in Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

A consideration in lowering the threat level, cost. For some local and state governments and private industry, threat level orange means green, as in money.

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI (R), NEW YORK: Well, there's no question that being at this heightened level of alert has cost New York State hundreds of millions of dollars.

MESERVE: Neighboring New Jersey says maintaining threat level orange costs $125,000 a day. And the City of Baltimore estimates its costs at $300,000 a week. But some say after four periods of orange alert they are learning to target their security and spend less money.

CHIEF WILLIAM BRATTON, LOS ANGELES POLICE: We had a less of a response at the airport, for example. We really did not do a lot of overtime assignments in the city, that we were able to cover things with our general patrol.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: The Department of Homeland Security has started dispersing money to states and localities to help defray the costs of being at orange. That appears to have lowered the volume of complaints. And some officials say they just did less this time, that this orange alert was nowhere near as intense as the one during the war with Iraq -- Wolf. BLITZER: But the down side, threat fatigue. People sort of get confused. They don't take it seriously.

MESERVE: That's right. It's four times that it's been up and down and absolutely nothing has happened. And there is a worry that people are stopping, starting to pay less attention to it than they have.

In addition to that sort of attitude fatigue, there's real fatigue on the part of some first responders who have been asked for months to work very extended hours. They're just getting worn out.

BLITZER: It seems like that there's no choice, though. You've got to do it if you've got to do it. The intelligence is there.

MESERVE: Well, in some places that's how they view it. In other cities, they've done nothing at all. They simply don't see the risk as pertaining to them.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne Meserve, thanks very much.

We have much more news coming up, including a very strange twist that's developing today in the Laci Peterson murder case. Coming up, the family fight over Laci's possessions and why the police were called to help settle the situation. And later, new details of a Justice Department investigation of how some September 11 detainees were handled. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A very unusual development in the Peterson murder case just a few hours ago. A group of people who said they were friends of Laci Peterson's family went to her former home and removed what appeared to be many of her personal belongings.

CNN's Elaine Quijano is in Modesto. She's joining us now live with details -- what's going on, Elaine?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Wolf.

A number of developments to tell you about. First of all, at this hour we understand that Mark Geragos, the attorney for Scott Peterson, is in discussions now with some high ranking officials with the Modesto Police Department about what the next step should be. We understand that no police report has apparently been filed just yet.

All of this in response to what happened earlier today out at the home of Scott and Laci Peterson. Attorneys for Sharon Rocha, Laci's mother, confirm that Sharon Rocha actually entered the house, that she retrieved some items belonging to Laci. She was there with several other people.

Now, the defense says that she did not have permission to be there. The Rocha family attorneys, however, say that she did. They had essentially put out a letter that listed the items Sharon Rocha wanted to retrieve. That letter was put out yesterday. Apparently, according to the Rocha family attorney, that letter angered Mark Geragos, who they say called their offices and said, "If they want war, they've got war."

Sharon, this has been a very emotional week for her, apparently chose then to take action. And her attorneys saying that essentially she acted from the heart.

Now, during the course of the day, we also saw a representative from the defense team stop by the house. This was after the items had apparently been retrieved. And he had some angry words, the defense very concerned. They said they wanted to conduct some videotaping, some filming in the house because they were not done with their own investigation.

And let's take a listen now, I believe we have that, of one of the representatives. This would be Matt Dalton, an attorney on the Scott Peterson defense team.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT DALTON, DEFENSE TEAM INVESTIGATOR: According to their lawyer, the D.A. has given them permission to break into the house.

QUESTION: OK.

DALTON: It's ridiculous.

QUESTION: So there was never any permission...

DALTON: Absolutely ridiculous. They've got zero evidence in this case, zero, zero.

QUESTION: Was there any (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

DALTON: So now we're concerned that they have planted evidence in the house.

QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait. What are you saying?

Washington wait, guys...

DALTON: What is going on here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark Geragos doesn't want you talking to them so (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

DALTON: OK, well, I'm not going to talk to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

DALTON: Was a police report filed on this burglary? Was there a police report filed on this?

QUESTION: What's your response to what's going on over here?

DALTON: There's a burglary that has occurred in this house. They had no right to break into this house. I've got no comment. We'll talk to Geragos about it.

QUESTION: What do you plan to do, though?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: And again at this hour, Mark Geragos apparently in discussions with members of the Modesto Police Department. We understand that there's been no decision just yet on whether or not a police report should be filed. However, we also understand at this hour that police are now at the home of Sharon Rocha. We have confirmed with a lieutenant with the Modesto Police Department, who says that they are treating this as a civil matter. They are cataloging all of the property in question. They are making lists of the items and they're dealing with this as a civil matter only.

So, Wolf, those are the latest developments in what's been a strange turn of events here in Modesto -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A quick question, Elaine, while I have you. Is this a coincidence that this is happening the day after the leaking of at least parts of that autopsy report or was this plan going on in the works for some time?

QUIJANO: Well, actually what the attorneys for the Rocha family say is that they had been trying to keep this very low profile, this request for the items in the home several weeks before any of these leaks came out. But it was actually yesterday, a very emotional day, as you can imagine, when Sharon Rocha heard some of the media reports detailing the excerpts from the autopsy report on baby Conner, that she was in a very emotional state, according to her attorneys, and that she said something to the effect of I've got to do something. Maybe I'll go out there.

So certainly not a coincidence, this a very trying time for everybody involved -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very emotional moments right now, understandably so.

CNN's Elaine Quijano in Modesto doing a solid job of reporting for us.

Thanks, Elaine, very much.

The war on terror, has it gone too far when it comes to civil rights? The Justice Department's own investigator adds his voice to the chorus of critics. We'll have a report.

Plus, hurricanes a coming. See if you may get blown away this summer. And some call him the greatest guitar player ever. Jimmy Paige joins me live on life, music and the Led Zeppelin revival. Will the rock legends tour again?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: CNN has learned that a coming report by the U.S. Justice Department's inspector general criticizes the way the government has been handling detained immigrations as part of the September 11 investigation. CNN's justice correspondent Kelli Arena has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hady Hassan Omar says 73 days in solitary confinement drove him into a depression so deep he wanted to kill himself.

HADY HASSAN OMAR, FORMER DETAINEE: I was confused and afraid.

ARENA: Omar, an Egyptian immigrant, was arrested on September 12, 2001, at his mother-in-law's house in Arkansas. He had bought an airline ticket at this Kinko's in Florida in late August, the very same place that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta bought a ticket just the day before.

Omar was never charged with anything related to terrorism. He was accused of violating his visa. He says his humiliation started with a body cavity search.

OMAR: I was videotaped in front of a crowd of people while I was searched and -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in prison. However, I told them from the first day that I can't eat pork and it's against my religion.

ARENA: Omar is suing the government, saying his treatment amounted to torture.

OMAR: When we make mistakes, we go to prison and we are held accountable for what we do. And it should be the same way with the government when they make mistakes.

ARENA: CNN has learned the Justice Department's inspector general has found significant problems in the way immigration detainees like Omar were treated. Sources say the inspector general will report there was an unwritten policy, no bond for immigration detainees until they were cleared by the FBI. That the clearing process had low priority, was understaffed, detainees were held much longer than necessary, and that there was insufficient oversight of prison conditions.

In defense, Justice officials say they, quote, "believe the report is fully consistent with what the courts have ruled that the department's action are fully within the law." In the past, the Justice Department has made no apologies for using every legal tool to prevent a future terrorist attack.

VIET DINH, ASSIST. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Each and every single arrest and detention has been made by the Department of Justice since September 11 in connection to the events of that tragic day, has been based upon an individualized predicate, either a violation of immigration law, a violation of criminal law, or pursuant to a judicially issued material witness warrant.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA: The inspector general's report is expected to reignite controversy over how far the Justice Department has gone to fight terrorism, and some say it could help detainees like Hady Omar in their suits against the government -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kelli Arena, thanks very much. We're going to have a debate on this issue Monday if that report comes out as expected. Thanks very much.

A U.S. judge today blamed Iran for the 1983 terrorist bombing that killed 241 U.S. Marines in Beirut. Judge Royce Lamberth ordered Iran to pay damages to survivors and the relatives of those killed. Lamberth said the suicide truck bombing was carried out by the terrorist group Hezbollah with the approval and funding of senior Iranian government officials. He called the bombing "the most deadly state-sponsored terrorist attack against Americans prior to the September 11 attacks."

And in a related development, Iran today sharply rejected U.S. accusations that al Qaeda operatives in Iran may have been involved in suicide bomb attacks in Saudi Arabia. The foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, says suspected al Qaeda members were in Iranian custody before the May 12 attacks took place. A senior U.S. defense official told CNN that intercepted communications before and after the Saudi bombings indicate Iran is providing safe haven to al Qaeda operatives.

In the eyes of many people both in this country and Iran, the serious division between the United States and Iran today can be traced to one man, the Ayatollah Khomeini. CNN senior political analyst William Schneider reports on the religious leader whose power shook the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The Iranian revolution of 1979 came as a surprise to the United States.

JON ALTERMAN, CSIS: We had a whole policy, a defense policy in the Persian Gulf which was based on having the shah there protecting American interests, who were shocked when the shah fell.

SCHNEIDER: More than 30 years into the Cold War, the U.S. assumed its enemies would come from the radical left, communists and communist-inspired radicals like the Soviet Union and Fidel Castro and the Viet Cong.

Suddenly in Iran, a whole new enemy appeared. A religious fundamentalist, anti-communist and anti-American, a leader who seemed to want to take his country back to the seventh century, and a country that seemed to want that.

There was wild rejoicing when Khomeini returned to Iran in February 1979. Once in power, Khomeini wrought revenge on the country he called the Great Satan. The torment of 52 American hostages for 444 days helped bring down one U.S. president. Another president was lured into an embarrassing arms for hostages deal with Iran.

ALTERMAN: The idea of Khomeini standing up to the West and standing up for Iran and for Islam is a something that a lot of Iranians still find attractive.

SCHNEIDER: But there's another side to Khomeini's legacy, a fundamentalist ideology that rejects freedom and human rights and subjugates women, a brutal reign of terror against opponents. Death decrees against free thinkers like author Salmon Rushdee, dangerous nuclear ambitions and sponsorship of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.

Anything positive?

PROF. SHAUL BAKHASH, GEORGE MASON UNIV.: The only positive thing you might say is that by politicizing a large number of Iranians demand now for democratic, accountable government, for a system of checks and balances, for the rule of law is fairly widespread, and I think genuinely understood.

SCHNEIDER (on camera): Khomeini's model of Islamic government has inspired radicals all over the Muslim world, much as the Soviet Union once inspired leftist radicals. The radical Islamist threat has outlasted the communist threat, and may prove to be far more dangerous.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The rising dangers from SARS in Canada. The quarantine now covers thousands of people. How the country is fighting back. What this may mean for us here in the United States? The story right after a break.

And later, he created some of the hottest music in hard rock. I'll talk live with Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin about the band's latest project.

(MUSIC)

BLITZER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) headlines around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): G-8 protests. Protests erupted in the streets of Geneva on the eve of the G-8 summit across the border in France. Police fired tear gas to drive stone-throwing demonstrators from the headquarters of the World Trade Organization and other symbols of global economic power.

Congo fighting. A U.N. emergency force will deploy to Congo in a bid to stop ethnic fighting that's killed almost 400 people in recent weeks. About 1,400 troops, half of them French, will take up positions in the northeastern part of the country.

Deadly heat wave. Relief officials report 81 more people have died in a heat wave scorching southern India. The death toll stands at more than 600.

Only in Britain. A little known electric train, the royal mail, is for sale. The 75-year-old mail rail network runs for 23 miles under the streets of London and at its peak, carried 12 million bags of mail a year, but it's fallen victim to belt tightening and new technology.

Flying into history. The last Air France Concorde flight from Paris to New York is over. The needle-nosed supersonic plane landed in New York just three and a half hours after taking off from Charles de Gaulle Airport. Air France ends all commercial Concorde flights when the plane returns to Paris tomorrow.

Treated like everyone else. That's how Britain's Prince William describes his life as a college student at Scotland's St. Andrews University. William, who turns 21 next month, says he briefly considered dropping out, but changed his mind after talking with his father, Prince Charles.

And that's our look around the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

In Singapore, progress to report today in the battle against SARS. The World Health Organization is removing the nation from the list of countries affected by the respiratory illness. The U.N. Health Agency says it's been 20 days since the last case of SARS was transmitted there. That's twice as long as the incubation period. Health workers in Singapore blame SARS for killing 31 people since March.

Meantime, Canada remains in the grip of the flu-like illness. The number of suspected and probable cases of SARS in Ontario has reached 41, and as a precaution, more than 7,000 Canadians are now under home quarantine.

Just a short while ago I spoke to Canada's minister of health, Ann McLellan, to get the latest on the situation in Canada.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Minister McLellan, thank you very much for joining us. Unfortunately, the subject is not so great.

We thought it was over in Toronto and Canada just a little while ago. Now it's back. But is it getting worse or is it getting better?

ANN MCLELLAN, CANADIAN MINISTER OF HEALTH: No, in fact, it's not getting worse. I think obviously, it was disheartening for every one to see this second cluster develop. But again, I think public health officials in Toronto have done a tremendous job. I do believe that there's no community spread into the larger community.

What we've got here is a hospital-based outbreak and at least some of our -- I think key epidemiologists are saying over the past day or two that they think this second cluster has probably peaked and we're on the way out of this one more time.

BLITZER: So what do you do to make sure it doesn't rear its ugly head again?

MCLELLAN: Well, I think what this tells us is that we need to be constantly vigilant.

I think some now describe the world in which we live, not only in Canada, but generally with something like SARS, a global disease like SARS that we have a new normal, which means that as it relates to infection control protocols, public health management protocols in our hospitals, in our doctor's offices, in our emergency rooms, that we are going to have to have an enhanced degree of vigilance.

BLITZER: What about here in the United States? So far no cases, but how concerned should people of the United States be that this might jump across the border?

MCLELLAN: Well, certainly, we're doing everything we can to make sure that doesn't happen.

We take very seriously our obligation to not export cases of SARS from our country to other countries around the world. And let me say, I'm in Atlanta today. I had the opportunity to spend the day at your Centers of Disease Control. And we're working very closely with them.

I came here today to see what we could learn in terms of enhancing our public health infrastructure in Canada, but throughout this whole situation in Toronto from the very beginning, we've been working with the CDC and we're exchanging information. There are people on the ground in Toronto. We have some one here in Atlanta, full time with the CDC right now. I think if we work together, if we collaborate, if we're vigilant, all of us vigilant at our borders, at our airports, if people take an increased degree of personal responsibility, if they went any where in the hospital, for example, that is SARS affected they should be voluntarily quarantining themselves. I think if every body acts responsibly and if we're all vigilant, I think we don't need to worry about exporting cases to the United States or elsewhere.

BLITZER: All right. Let's hope you're right. Minister McLellan, thank you very much. Good luck to all our friends in Canada.

MCLELLAN: Thank you so much.

BLITZER: He's written and performed some of the greatest rifts, certainly some of the greatest rock 'n' roll of all time. Jimmy page of Led Zeppelin fame joins me live to talk music memories and what's next for the biggest selling hard band of all time. You won't want to miss this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): Earlier we asked, what is Led Zeppelin's best selling song of all time? The answer: "Stairway to Heaven." It's also become the most played track in radio history.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The rock music world, late 60's, fusing into the 70's -- of all of the bands, one stuck to its guns blasting its way into the minds of countless fans every where, but especially here in the United States. After two decades of silence, Led Zeppelin is flying high again.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): As only they could say it.

(MUSIC)

BLITZER: It's been 23 years, to be exact -- 23 years since one of rock's most formidable bands called it quits.

(MUSIC)

BLITZER: Now Led Zeppelin is back with a purity that seems to mock the other bands of their era who are still plowing through reunion tours.

This week, Led Zeppelin came out with a compilation of previously-unreleased live performances from the band's heyday in the 1970s.

(MUSIC)

BLITZER: Three CDs featuring live material from California concerts in the early 70's and two DVDs with footage from four concerts in England and New York from 1970 to 1979.

This is Led Zeppelin at the height of its power: relentless guitar, bass and drum rifts, by the legendary Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham -- and the unmistakable ripping voice of Robert Plant.

(MUSIC)

BLITZER: These four musicians helped create the heavy metal era, helped sway over a generation and over 11 years, became one of the biggest-selling rock groups of all time -- more than 200 million albums sold worldwide.

It all came to an abrupt end after drummer John Bonham died of an alcohol overdose in 1980.

But for Zeppelin fans it's all here, from the classic "Whole Lot of Love" and "Dazed and Confused" to the ballad that became an anthem for generations of teenagers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now Led Zeppelin lead guitarist Jimmy Page. Jimmy, congratulations on this remarkable work. Thanks so much for joining us. Bringing back a lot of good memories from many of my generation. What about this decision you did? Why did you do this, decide to go back and recreate Led Zeppelin, in effect, on DVD and CD?

JIMMY PAGE, LED ZEPPELIN GUITARIST: You know, Wolf, the band Led Zeppelin was really weighed up by the albums that it had out each album being quite different to the next. We didn't put out any singles and we were really there to be stand up and be counted by the live shows that we did. Every show was quite different.

In actual fact we only, as you said, quite rightly said, we only actually managed to film four of our concerts with the -- and have an audio track so those were our four source -- sets of source material. And you know with the advent of DVDs and digital quality, surround sound, it seemed exactly the right thing to do to show people the other side of the coin, that the live performances after all of the studio material had come out.

BLITZER: You took the lead in getting all this stuff together. A lot of us remember in the heyday, you didn't do a lot of interviews. There weren't a lot of taped performances. How did you collect all this material?

PAGE: Well, actually it's true, because we didn't put out singles, that meant that we didn't have that awful scenario where you'd be on television miming. You know we really wanted to be a live band and that was it, you know. That's how we wanted to do it.

So because we weren't going to fit into the television format, we actually had to film the band ourselves. The first time we did it was in 1970 in Albert Hall in London just after the second album had come out. So that was quite a good point for us. The second time that we did it was three years later at Madison Square Garden. And that was the source of 1976 film, "The Song Remains the Same." And that's all there is. It's a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) document, you see?

BLITZER: It's an amazing documentary.

When we hear, at least when I hear, certain Led Zeppelin songs it brings back specific memories. What about you? Talk a little bit about specific songs and the memories they bring back to you.

PAGE: Well you know they've all got memories for me. They're all --the way that they were recorded each song had a very strong identity to it, you know, an ambience to it which really comes through to speakers when you hear those songs and the way that they were actually laced in to the albums. They were laced there for reason, to give light and shade and dynamics.

As far as the live performances go, the truth of that is when you went up on stage you never really knew what was going to happen between that point and coming off stage because there would be sort of musical ESP that we had with these four very different characters in everyday life coming together, joining together those four elements.

And what we created musically on stage was absolutely, really from inspiration right on that stage at that particular point of moment. We went on stage forgetting exactly whatever happened in the day. You just let the music do the speaking, really.

BLITZER: You guys helped create heavy metal. Who do you see as the heirs? Who do you like to listen to, the music, the genre that you helped create?

PAGE: Well, you know, one of the most interesting things for me and well, inspiring for me as well is the fact that you know since 1980 every year there's been bands and musicians, you know, young kids to even professional musicians and said, you know, it's hearing your band that really made me want to get into music.

So that has been an inspiration for others. And I must say that's been inspiring for me. So in actual fact, that's sort of spirit of Led Zeppelin, which is really the spirit of rock, the sort of thing that I access through the rock of the '50s like Elvis, really, you know, is really there sort of permeating through many bands right now. That's great.

BLITZER: You know a lot of people are going to buy these DVDs and these CDs and wonder if they're ever going to see another life concert by what remains, of course, of Led Zeppelin. What are you going to tell them?

PAGE: Well, one of the things is that this musical communication that we had between the four members of the time, after 11 years of that we knew each other so well musically and we could throw any idea at each other and it would just evolve and move and -- you know what? That's why when we lost John Bonham, we just really -- it was the right decision in respect to his part of the band at the time not to carry on. I think it would have been each and every one of us, if it ever happened to myself or Robert or whatever, the same decision would have been made.

You know with all this DVD and the CDs that have come out, was there input for the rest of the band. You know obviously, on the end of the -- doing the covers and all of that. And even here we'd been doing press.

And I've to tell you with my hand on my heart that we haven't discussed getting together to play. But I tell you that the only way we could really do it is knowing what the spirit of what the music is and was would be to get into in a studio -- I'm sorry, in a room with instruments and do a couple of Led Zeppelin numbers. And you know what? If there was a smile in each other's eyes at the end of that, then it would be worth really doing, you know? BLITZER: Well if you do it, we'll come and watch. Not only my generation, but many generations. Jimmy Page, congratulations. Thanks so much for joining us and bringing back some good memories.

PAGE: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

We have much more coming up. Our hot "Web Question of the Day." Do you approve or disapprove of President Bush's handling of international affairs? You can still vote cnn.com/wolf. We'll have the results immediately when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's how you're weighing in on "Our Web Question of the Day." Remember, we've been asking you this: do you approve or disapprove of President Bush's handling of international affairs? Look at this, 17 percent of you say approve, 83 percent of you say you don't approve. Remember, this is not an exact vote tally. Not scientific by any means. You can continue to vote on our Web page cnn.com/wolf.

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