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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Jimmy Carter

Aired September 19, 2003 - 21:00   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLDA MEIR, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: President (UNINTELLIGIBLE), King Hussein and all the other, must have the courage -- why do they have so much courage to send their men to war? Why haven't they the courage to meet us at the negotiating table? That courage they are lacking, that somebody must do for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: And somebody did.

Tonight, former President Jimmy Carter, the many who brought those ancient enemies, Israel and Egypt, together to make peace, 25 years ago this week. And yet, the Middle East remains a place of turmoil and bloodshed to this day. We look back, we look ahead with Jimmy Carter for the hour next, on LARRY KING LIVE.

September 17, a historic date in American history. That date is the date of the famed Egypt-Israeli Accord, signed in Washington, the famed Camp David Accords, the 25th anniversary celebrated on the 17th.

Joining us, who better to discuss it than President Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States, recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.

On the day that they celebrated the 25th anniversary, the Carter Center marked it with a sponsoring of a major symposium at the Woodrow Wilson International Center. Former Vice President Mondale was there and Jimmy, of course, and former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

What was that like?

JIMMY CARTER (D), FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Oh, it was just like a wonderful reunion. We had people there from Israel, Egypt and the United States and so last night we had a wonderful get together to talk about all the little interesting and funny things that happened and then the serious things.

Today we really recapitulated what brought us up to Camp David, what we did there, the aftermath which came six months later with the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, not a word of which, by the way, has ever been violated. And then this afternoon we talked about the present circumstances which exist, unfortunately, in the Mideast. So it was a full day and I'm glad to be on with you so I can let folks know what happened.

KING: What was that day like for you? That historic afternoon?

CARTER: Well, I had not been to sleep for 36 hours. I had been madly going back and forth between Begin and Sadat, trying to get a last minute settlement, whereas the day before I had told Bill Kline (ph) to prepare a failure statement that I could read to the public and express to the Congress.

So it was the last few hours there that we finally had a breakthrough. Prior to that, for nine solid days, Begin and Sadat had not even seen each other. I had kept them apart because they were so completely incompatible with each other.

So it was a series of ups and downs that lasted, as you already have said, 13 days.

KING: What triggered the change?

CARTER: Well, I think both sides saw finally that the draft proposal that I had put forward was in the best interest of themselves, their nations, and if rejected and then exposed, would bring discredit on them, because it was so obviously good for both countries.

The last breakthrough came because Prime Minister Begin had said on his word of honor before God that he would never dismantle any settlements, and there were 17 settlements on Egyptian territory in the Sinai Desert, and the way we finessed that was finally to get Prime Minister Begin to agree not to interfere and not to dismantle any settlements or order them dismantled, but to let the Knesset make the decision. So that was the key that broke the -- opened the lock.

And so we presented it later to the Knesset and parliament of Israel and they voted 85 percent to accept the accords. So it was a big breakthrough.

KING: I remember once in an interview we did where you told me that Begin was the kind of guy who dotted "I's" and crossed "T's" and could be very frustrating, but every time he frustrated you, you thought about the fact that you didn't see your parents shot in front of you as he did his.

CARTER: That's exactly right. He had been through torture. He was from Poland, as you know. He had seen his parents and his siblings killed by the Nazis, and he had become what we would now call a terrorist in that he headed up a group that actually blew up one end of the King David Hotel and killed 91 people, but he saw that as a liberation effort.

But he was hard-nosed, tough and a superb semanticist. He knew words and the meaning of them and the subtleties of them and so when pressure was applied to Prime Minister Begin during our negotiations, he would resort to minutia, you know, to the minor details or exactly how you word something, whereas Sadat, when you put pressure on him, he would resort to generalities and global problems and things of that kind.

So the two men were so completely different that it made it possible for us to wiggle in between and finally get an agreement.

KING: Was it hard to be balanced, for you?

CARTER: I was familiar with the techniques and theory of mediation, and there is no way -- no way -- to successfully resolve a complicated problem between two leaders who know and are antagonized by one another, without being balanced. Unless both sides feel that you are representing their interest to the best of your ability, there is no possible way to have any kind of success.

So, yes, I was balanced between them and I think both Sadat and Begin knew it.

KING: What was Sadat like to deal with?

CARTER: Sadat was both generous. He didn't like to be bogged down in details. So if I would write out a paragraph or some explication for a complicated issue and present it to Sadat, he would glance over it and say, "That's OK with me," he always called me "my friend, Jimmy."

And then I would go to Begin, who was in a different cabin -- as I say, he never saw Sadat in the last 10 days -- and finally get Begin to agree, but Begin would go over every detail, every word, and then if he made a few corrections -- if I understood Sadat's feelings, I could even go ahead and accept on behalf of Sadat.

So Sadat was very flexible, except for two issues. One: every Israeli settlement and every Israeli airfield and everything else had to be off his Sinai territory. And the other one is that the maximum effort had to be made to protect the interest of the Palestinians. Those were his two bottom lines.

KING: The moment they signed it, and you were standing there, what -- can you remember what that feeling was like for you?

CARTER: It was one of relief and euphoria and hoping that I hadn't made any serious mistakes.

There were recognized omissions that we still had to finesse or delay. We also had to have three different drafts carefully negotiated, because Prime Minister Begin had his own words for things. As far as he was concerned, there was no such thing as a Palestinian, because everyone who lived in Palestine was a Palestinian, including the Jews. So as far as he was concerned, it was a Palestinian-Arab.

And there was no such things for him as the West Bank and Gaza. This was Judea and Samaria. So we had to accommodate, you know, different ways, but the agreement I worked out was that the binding text, if any altercation ever arose, was the English version.

KING: And that agreement has held.

CARTER: Yes. We went from there to another negotiating period of six months, and that was in the spring of 1979, when we concluded final agreements on an actual peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, and not a word of it, as I said earlier, has ever been violated.

And that followed four different wars of a very horrible nature over the previous 25 year period, including a massive war just in 1973, a few years before that, when, as you probably remember, that was the only time in history that the United States and Soviet Union put their nuclear war plans on alert. Yes.

KING: We'll take a break and come right back with President Jimmy Carter, peace-broker extraordinaire, Nobel Prize winner, and of course we remember 25 years ago and that historic afternoon, early evening, and the famed Camp David Accords. Right back with President Carter after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: During the last two weeks, the members of all three delegations have spend endless hours, day and night, talking, negotiating, grappling with problems that have divided their people for 30 years. I hope that the foresight and the wisdom that have made this session a success will guide these leaders and the leaders of all nations as they continue their progress toward peace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALTER CRONKITE, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: The cast for this drama has now assembled at Camp David. Their talks formally begin tomorrow, but so secret are the arrangement there's no guarantee they won't begin tonight, or perhaps have begun by now.

Bob Schieffer reports on the day's developments.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sadat left Paris this morning after meeting with French President Giscard. He was making no predictions en route, but seemed in high good humor. He told reporters he felt marvelous, fully relaxed.

Begin spent the night in New York. He too appeared relaxed as he headed for the talks, as did Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, who used the flight for a quick nap.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with President Jimmy Carter, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the accords that were drawn up together at Camp David.

All right. That accord hasn't been broken and that treaty hasn't been broken, but certainly the region is still unsettled.

CARTER: Yes.

KING: Why can't it work?

CARTER: Well, at this moment you don't have a Begin and you don't have a Sadat, first of all. And there are some very entrenched problems that relate to the West Bank and Gaza and the question of carrying out the basic United Nations resolution that covers that whole area, and that United Nations resolution 242, the preamble of which says there's no acquisition of territory by force and the other one basically says that there's no peace without Israel withdrawing from the occupied territories and the rest of the world, including all the Arab nations, recognizing Israel's right to exist.

So swapping land for peace is the basic premise on which any Camp David Accord in the future, or a similar one, can be predicated.

KING: And that's leaped over whole (ph)?

CARTER: I'm sorry?

KING: That's some leap to be made to accomplish those things.

CARTER: Yes, it is, and those are still the two premises that haven't been resolved. Israel -- at that time, Israel had 25 little settlements with a total of around 4,000 settlers, and I could see, and everyone else at Camp David could see, that if the Israelis continues to expand their settlements all over the occupied territories that they would create facts that would be very difficult to undue.

And now there are 125 settlements with about 250,000 settlers on the West Bank and Gaza territory and at the same time the whole Arab world has at least promised publicly that they will recognize Israel's right to exist and to live in peace and will try to control terrorism if Israel will restrain from the settlement activity.

That is a bridge that hasn't yet been crossed by Israel.

KING: Clinton tried, Bush tried, everyone seems to try and things seem to go awry. Would you like to get -- if President Bush asked you to go over there, would you like to do that again?

CARTER: If he asked me, I would certainly go, and I offered as soon as President Clinton was elected. One of the first things I did was to go to Washington and meet with Secretary of State Warren Christopher and offer all the services of the Carter Center and also the services of all of those Americans who were at the 25th anniversary today, of the 11 who were at Camp David, 9 of them are still living, and they all retain an intense interest in peace in the Middle East.

I think all of us would be willing to go if called upon, yes.

KING: What do we do about harsh feelings? Israel threatens to throw Arafat out if terrorism continues, suicide bombings. How do you deal with -- it's a small fragment of the population but it sure can cause an uproar.

CARTER: What it does -- of course, what's present now is the so- called roadmap for peace that was put forward the last day of April this year, and it spells out, Larry, almost exactly the same premises on which the Camp David Accords were based and on which the Oslo Agreement was consummated 10 years ago, in 1993.

But the problem is that no one is carrying it out. If you read the text of the roadmap for peace that's been put forward by President Bush, you see that it's a very good document. There's supposed to be four partners involved in this process, and that's the United States, Great Britain, Russia and the United Nations, and in effect the other three have been pushed off to the side. They are no longer even active. And as soon as the roadmap for peace was put forward, the Israeli parliament rejected 14 major issues in it out of hand and the Palestinians resorted to terrorism and violence, as you say, some of them, like Hamas.

And that's where the thing stands right now, and there's not any real concerted effort at this point to implement the so-called roadmap.

KING: And what about Mr. Arafat and the threat to throw him out?

CARTER: Well, in another role of the Carter Center, we went over there, with full approval of the government of Israel and at the request of the Palestinians, in January of 1996, and we held a very honest and fair election. It was the first election to chose leaders of the Palestinian National Authority, which is their parliament, and that's when Arafat was elected president.

That was seven years ago, and of course he's still the only elected leader of the Palestinians, but for the last two or three years, as you know, he's been holed up in just one partially destroyed little apartment building and he doesn't have any capability of controlling the rest of the Palestinians.

As a matter of fact, after he was elected, I spent several days over there trying to work with the Hamas leaders, who were well-known, to get them to accept Arafat's leadership. They refused to do so. So he has never had control over Hamas. But there are militants within the Palestinian community in addition to Hamas and they have not been controlled.

And I don't predict that they will be controlled unless they have a sense, an assured belief, that they will have a contiguous nation, as President Bush has promised them and has been promised ever since 1967.

KING: We'll take a quick break and I'll ask the former president if he thinks maybe new leadership is needed. Our guest is President Jimmy Carter, Nobel Laureate, and the 25th anniversary celebrated this month of the historic Camp David Accords.

Be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT ANWAR SADAT, EGYPT: Let us join in a prayer to God Almighty to guide our path. Let us pledge to make this spirit of Camp David a new chapter in the history of our nations. Thank you, Mr. President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK

KING: We're back with President Carter. He's got a new book coming in November. We'll ask about that later. We'll cover other areas as well, and we're celebrating the historic accords at Camp David, 25 years ago this month.

What about new leadership? Would that work?

CARTER: Well, as you know, neither Prime Minister Sharon of Israel nor President Bush of the United States are willing to negotiate at all with Arafat. At fact, President Bush has refused even to meet with Arafat since he's been in office in Washington.

So in effect, you have Palestinians with their elected, chosen leader, who is not able to negotiate under any circumstances, so the finessing technique has been for Arafat and his parliament to chose a prime minister. The one they chose first, Abbas, has stepped down because of lack of support in the Palestinians. I think he had about 3 percent public support. And another one, who has been the speaker of the parliament, has just been appointed, and hasn't yet been approved for negotiation by the Israelis and the United States.

So it's up in the air right at this moment.

KING: Boy, is it.

Do you think the United States policy is wrong, not to meet with Arafat?

CARTER: I really think Arafat has lost his credibility as a peace negotiator. As you will remember, 10 years ago he and Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister of Israel, negotiated with the sponsorship of the Norwegians and worked out what's known as the Oslo Agreement, which was a wonderful agreement.

It brought euphoria and celebrations and peace and harmony and friendship to the Middle East region there, for two or three years, as a matter of fact, until Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli militant who didn't like his proposal. But at that time, Arafat did a wonderful job of negotiating and he and Rabin both won the Nobel Peace Prize for that accomplishment. But since then, I would say that Arafat has fallen into discredit. And certainly, if he can't even speak to the president of the United States, whose supposedly the mediator, and if he can't even speak to his adversary, the prime minister of Israel, then he is really on the shelf for good.

KING: Bush, though, is the first American president to call for a Palestinian state. Was that a bold and correct move?

CARTER: I think it was a correct move. It gave the Palestinians some hope that they will be an independent nation in effect, adjacent to Israel. It was a step forward. When I had been in office about two months, a brand new president still wet behind the ears, I called publicly for a Palestinian homeland, which sent shockwaves through, you know, some circles in the Middle East.

And then since then there has been an evolutionary move toward a concept adopted by most Israelis, that the Palestinians should have their own nation next door, but without a military of their own that might create a military threat to Israel, and that's the basic premise under which things are going.

So I think the adoption of the phrase "Palestinian state" was a good move.

KING: Do you think the invasion of Iraq has had any effect on the Arab-Israeli situation?

CARTER: I certainly don't think it's had any beneficial effect. It hasn't lessened tensions at all.

A major part of the animosity that exists against America and some basis for the incitement to violence or terrorism has been the feeling that the Palestinians are mistreated and that the United States has taken a position against that troubled small part of the Arab world.

And I think the invasion of Iraq has just been an additional factor, but as far as bringing peace or harmony to the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, I don't think the invasion of Iraq has had any beneficial effect at all.

KING: What, Mr. President, is your overview of Iraq?

CARTER: Larry, I was strongly and openly against the United States invasion of Iraq absent the United Nations' cooperation, a multi-national military action if necessary.

When our troops went into Iraq, heroically, and did such a superb job, I refrained from any criticism of the action that was taken. Now I still believe that after the troubles we are having there with sustained violence and no prospect for stability, either economic or political or military stability, I think the thing to do is to pursue aggressively what Colin Powell has recently been putting forward, and that is to get the United Nations to join in the United States in its occupation of Iraq. I would not be in favor of seeing another commanding officer in charge of the military. I think that has got to be American, but as far as dealing with economic matters, like extraction of oil, or political matters, forming a new government in Iraq, that, I think, almost has to be a multi-national and not just United States and Great Britain acting almost alone.

KING: We'll be right back with President Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States, recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Camp David Accords.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: It's been more than 2,000 years since there was peace between Egypt and a free Jewish nation. If our present expectations are realized, this year we shall see such peace again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MENACHEM BEGIN, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We had some difficult moments. As usually, there are some crisis in negotiations. As usually, somebody gives a hint of perhaps he would like pick up and go home. iT's all usual. But ultimately, ladies and gentleman, the president of the United States won the day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with President Jimmy Carter as we celebrate the 25th anniversary this month of the Camp David Accords, one of the great moments in political history and certainly one of the great moments in the history of negotiations -- successful negotiations.

The administration has been criticized for post-war planning in Iraq. Do you join those critics?

CARTER: Not publicly.

I think that there was an overly optimistic assessment of the Iraqi situation when we went in. There was no doubt that we could prevail militarily, but I think the vice president and the secretary of defense and everybody else was saying we were going to be treated with euphoric crowds who would welcome us there and the problems of administration of the Iraqis' economic and political affairs was going to be a very easy job. I think they have been seriously disillusioned.

But whether it could have been more accurately predicted if I had been in the White House or someone else, I wouldn't claim that at all.

KING: Now what about finding Hussein? Is that essential? CARTER: It would be a major achievement for President Bush and his administration if they could find Hussein and also Osama bin Laden, both of whom are still at large, and I think this is a question -- one of the many questions -- that hangs over both Afghanistan and Iraq. I'm sure this would be one of their top wishes that President Bush would have if a genie said, "What do you want -- three wishes," that might be one of them.

But, you know, I don't think that would materially effect the situation there. I don't believe that the violence is directly attributable to the fact that Saddam Hussein is still alive. I think there is still an undercurrent of resentment of an invasion and occupying power, most of which would still be remaining.

KING: So it would be there, dead or alive.

CARTER: I think most of it would.

KING: All right. Former U.N. Arms Inspector Hans Blix says that he's now more and more convinced that Iraq destroyed most of the weapons of mass destruction that they had. Do you share that view?

CARTER: Well, I would trust him, and I think even American leaders now are saying that he destroyed them. When, I don't know.

We all know that Iraq had them when Iraq was at war with Iran, which was 10 or 11 years ago. Whether Iraq had them during the couple of years preceding the war or six months preceding our invasion of Iraq, I don't have any way to know.

KING: Is it a bona fide campaign issue for the Democrats?

CARTER: Not the invasion. I don't think the weapons of mass destruction issue is a bona fide issue. But I think the current situation in Iraq and the continued violence in Iraq and the substantial abandonment of Afghanistan, where we only control the capital in Kabul and the rest of the country is being taken over again by warlords and the Taliban is coming back -- I think those kind of things are inevitably going to be placed on the agenda for almost all the candidates.

And those who didn't favor the Iraqi invasion at all are having a little increase in their favor, but not much. I think most people now think that it was good to get rid of Saddam Hussein, even though the weapons of mass destruction were not there and even though there's no allegation now from even the top leaders in our country that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the 9-11 disaster.

KING: We know you don't get involved in the primaries. Do you have any thought on General Wesley Clark coming in?

CARTER: I'm glad he's come in. I know Wesley Clark fairly well. I've talked to him a few times. Just two candidates have asked my opinion about whether they should run for president or not, and I've advised both of them to become candidates, and he's one of them.

KING: Who is the other one?

CARTER: Howard Dean.

KING: Do you see a little of yourself in Howard Dean?

CARTER: Well, it made me feel good about a year ago, when nobody was paying any attention to me at all, when Howard Dean called up and asked for an appointment, and he came down to Georgia and met with me, and particularly to my wife, asked a whole bunch of questions about what did you do at the beginning and how did you treat -- what did you do in New Hampshire and things of that kind.

So he claims, at least to me, to have had in part of his campaign technique about what worked for me in those ancient days in 1976. The only difference is that I didn't have any money and he's today used the Internet in a wonderful fashion.

So I think he's been an exciting candidate and I even toward the end of this primary season, I'm not going to express any preference about who should be our nominee.

KING: Will Clark be impacting, though?

CARTER: I think so. Even before he announced, I noticed that he was like fourth or fifth on the total, you know, present list of popularity, but that is such an intransigent thing, that's just a brief indication.

KING: Back to Iraq -- we'll touch a little on politics later. Back to Iraq. Are you hopeful about a resolution there? Hopeful about that country getting on its feet?

CARTER: I don't think we have any alternative, Larry, no matter how long it takes, no matter how much it costs in injury to our military personnel or in dollars. We can't back away from Iraq.

And so we've got a difficult decision that I'm sure President Bush is making right now. Should we call on the international community to come and join us and share the responsibility financially and otherwise or should we continue to act almost all alone, with the exception of Great Britain, so that we can keep control of the military situation, which I think we ought to do, and also keep control of oil and all of its economics, and also keep control over the selection of the future leaders of Iraq.

We have not yet decided to give those controls up, but I noticed that from his public statements, that Secretary of State Colin Powell is making those proposals and he claims that his proposals are flexible. I don't yet know what that means.

I think it's going to be very interesting to see what President Bush says in his upcoming speech to the United Nations.

KING: Back with more of President Jimmy Carter on this historic occasion, the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the peace accords at Camp David. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with President Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, the Nobel Laureate and the -- of course the man who brought together Sadat and Begin in that historic peace accord 25 years ago.

Let's turn to North Korea. In comments earlier this month in Tokyo, you said that the Bush administration policies toward North Korea pulled North Korea and the United States into what you believe to be the greatest threat in the world to regional and global peace. Should Bush have acted differently?

CARTER: As a matter of fact, I made that statement in an op-ed piece in "USA Today" and I was questioned about the same thing in Tokyo, but I made the statement in this country.

Yes, I do believe that the North Korean situation is the greatest threat to world peace. If North Korea does proceed to become an effective nuclear weapons power, then that would mean, I think, a major destabilization of that entire region. I don't see how over the long period Japan could avoid becoming a nuclear power. Maybe the same thing with South Korea. It would certainly destabilize the region.

And what many people don't realize about North Korea is although they starve their people, they have never starved their military, and they have superb technological capabilities. Their missile systems, for instance, are avidly sought by countries around the world who want a good product, and their selling those.

So if we don't work out some arrangement whereby North Korea puts its nuclear capability under international inspections and we give them adequate assurance that we will not attack North Korea or try to destabilize its regime, that's the two issues that have to be resolved.

And I just got back from China and was talking to the new leader of China, and he says to me that although the first meeting was very brief and just an exchange of thoughts, that he intends to call the six powers back together in October perhaps. Maybe we can make some progress then.

KING: Were you misquoted? Did you say that both the United States and North Korea were at fault?

CARTER: I didn't say it in those words, but yes, I know the North Koreans maybe as well as any American. I'm not an expert. I've been there and I've met with their leaders and spent hours and hours with them and have stayed in touch with the North Koreans who come over here to the United Nations and so forth. And I know them to -- what I said in my article was that they are a paranoid nation. They think everybody is against them to begin with. They are isolated. They have a deep and genuine fear that the United States intends to launch a military attack against North Korea and that some of our actions have confirmed their natural fear.

One was the branding of them as an axis of evil when they hadn't taken any specific steps to warrant that charge; our condemning the Clinton administration and the president of South Korea for opening up peace agreement efforts with the North Koreans; our intercepting their ships at sea; our building up a missile defense system in Alaska; and our announcement that we would not any longer abide by our long- standing prohibition against the first use of nuclear weapons. Those kind of things, whether we intended them or not, have sent a new wave of fear through the North Koreans and made them even more withdrawn and even more likely to lash out in suicidal but possibly devastating military attacks.

KING: Mr. President, religion has played such a part in conflict in the Middle East -- 9-11 with Muslim religious fanatics. Do you ever doubt your faith when you see all that happens around you?

CARTER: Not really, no, I don't. I worship the Prince of Peace, and when I was president, when I was governor, all during my life, I have tried to do everything I could to promote peace for my own country and whenever possible other people as well.

So when I see the outbreak of unnecessary conflict and when I see the devastation of unnecessary suffering among the poverty-stricken people of the world, I just feel an obligation to do what I can to implement the tenets of my faith.

KING: Where were you on 9-11?

CARTER: I was on the way -- I had just returned from China and Mongolia, and I had landed in JFK Airport on the night of the 10th and had gone home and slept a few hours and was on the way back toward Atlanta, to the Carter Center, when we heard on the radio that an airplane had flown into the towers.

KING: Do you remember your first reactions?

CARTER: Not very much concern at first, because I thought a small plane had gone out of control and crashed into the side of a tower accidentally. We were in the car and turned on the radio and began to get more accurate pictures.

It was a reaction of horror and genuine disbelief. I just could not believe what I was hearing and then later when I got to the Carter Center, about an hour later, I saw the television films of what had happened. It was a matter of -- sick at my stomach.

KING: In your opinion, how are we doing in the war on terror?

CARTER: It's hard to know, because the only way you can judge that accurately is to know what would have happened if we hadn't taken certain actions, and I think that I've been very thankful that we haven't had another serious incident in this country.

I feel that a lot of steps have been taken to make the airplane flights more safe and that sort of thing. As far as the global effort against terror, I think we got sidetracked to a major degree when we invaded Iraq. And I don't think that lessened the threat of terror. I think it probably built up a few more misguided people who wanted to attack us in some sort of revenge.

And of course our own officials now are saying that part of the attacks against our military personnel in Iraq are terrorists who have come into that country across the border and are launching some of these bloody attacks on our soldiers. In fact, I think the secretary of state recently said maybe 100 terrorists had come into Iraq since our invasion.

So I don't think our invasion of Iraq helped with the terrorist problem. It probably aroused more animosity against our country in some circles.

KING: We'll touch some other bases in our remaining moments. It's always an honor to have him with us, the former President of the United States Jimmy Carter.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIEFFER (voice-over): For 13 days, they had stayed inside the gronds at Camp David to work on it, and last night they were in the East Room of the White House to tell about it, the audience composed of many of the same aides who had helped them put it together.

The president, whose idea it had all been, called the result an answered prayer. But he warned there is still much work ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with President Jimmy Carter on the 25th anniversary occasion of the singing of the peace accords.

What do you make of the California elections? Do you have an overview of that? I'm not going to make you get -- force your hand there. But what do you make of recall?

CARTER: I'm glad I'm not the governor of California.

Well, I personally don't think the recall is a good idea. And if I had my preference about the outcome of the recall vote, I would hope that it would be rejected. Of course, that's a matter for Californians to decide. Obviously, I don't have any influence there at all. But it's been kind of like a circus, and I think it's brought a lot of jokes and so forth, but that's part of the extreme examples of what democracy might become in all the states.

But I think the referendum there and removing a governor from office when he has had no criminal act and no malfeasance in office is a mistake.

So, although I have not talked to Gray Davis about it, my own hope is that he will survive.

KING: You have written a novel. It will be published in November by Simon and Schuster, called "The Hornet's Nest," historical fiction based on real events in the Revolutionary War. You may be -- are you the only president to write fiction?

CARTER: I'm the only president whose ever written a novel and I've written a book of poetry in the past as well.

But this is a very long and, I think, a very good novel. It took me eight years to write it. I wrote a few other books in between. But it's a first really definitive book that I know about that tells the history of the American Revolution in the Deep South. Not many people know how much happened in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. And it has very interesting fictional characters mixed in with a very accurate historical presentation of those days.

KING: Did you have fun doing it?

CARTER: I really did. I never have done it before. I read and I really studied about 35 books about the Revolutionary period, books written by great British people, biographies of British soldiers and officers. History was written extremely biased at the time on both sides and I studied about, you know, how you grow flax and how you grow different kind of crops, how you made shoes in those days, the travel, the inter-relationship between Whigs and Tories and British and American troops and officers and men and what kind of guns they used and how they traveled and what role the Indians played between the Americans and British.

You can tell by my demeanor, perhaps, that I really did enjoy it.

KING: How's your health?

CARTER: Fine. Fine. I was working out this morning in the gym in Washington, and Rose and I still take a lot of exercise and really enjoy it, and insofar as I know, we've been blessed with good health.

KING: Where do you go next?

CARTER: Well, the Carter Center is deeply involved in a number of places in the world, mostly Africa. We have programs in 35 nations in Africa dealing mostly with horrible diseases. We try to bring peace to people if they have a threat of a conflict.

We are right now involved in trying to help Venezuela survive a crisis. They have an upcoming referendum that might parallel the actions in California by overthrowing an incumbent president. There are some problems in Bolivia and other places.

So the Carter Center has a wide range of constant problems -- opportunities is a better word. So Rose and I enjoy being involved in that. KING: Touching some loose ends. Do you think we'll see peace in the Middle East?

CARTER: Larry, I've always prayed that we would, and I have confidence in prayer.

I have an underlying foundation of confidence in the Palestinian mothers and Israeli mothers and Jordanian and Syria mothers that all want to see peace, and I think the major obstacle is the leaders, the political leaders, on both sides, that are not honoring what their people want.

And so I do believe that in the long-term we will have peace there.

KING: Long-term being your lifetime?

CARTER: I hope so. I hope I live that long, and I hope it comes early. Yes.

KING: And, again, if asked, you would go.

CARTER: Yes. I've always offered to go, but I don't -- one of the policies since I left the White House is not to interfere in a sensitive area of the world, if the White House and State Department were involved -- it's their playground, and if they ask me, I will go.

KING: Play pundit. Is it going to be a very close election next year?

CARTER: I think so. I believe increasingly the Democratic side sees an opportunity for a real victory, whereas three or four months ago I would have said that President Bush looks like an overwhelming choice or likelihood to be reelected. Now I think it's a toss up.

KING: Mr. President, it's always an honor having you with us. Stay in good health.

CARTER: Thank you, Larry, very much. Same to you.

KING: President Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, the Nobel Prize recipient for 2002, and of course the man who made possible the famed accords at Camp David, which six months later became a treaty, which has still held up. We thank him very much.

We thank you for joining us, and we'll be back in a couple of minutes to tell you about tomorrow, don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEGIN: Today, I visited President Sadat in his cabin because in Camp David you don't get houses. You only haver cabins. And he then came to visit me. We shook hands. And thank God we again could have said to each other, You are my friend.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Hope you enjoyed the former President of the United States Jimmy Carter. We'll be back with another great guest tomorrow night.

But right now it's time, speaking of greatness, to turn it over to Aaron Brown, the host of "NEWSNIGHT." Thanks for joining us and good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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