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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Adnan Pachachi; Interview With Senators Roberts, Boxer

Aired November 28, 2004 - 12:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5 p.m. in London, 8 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
We're standing by to talk about Iraq, the stalemate over U.S. intelligence reforms and more with two leading members of the U.S. Senate.

First, though, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: We begin in Iraq, where it's been another deadly day. Despite the violence and calls by several Iraqi groups to postpone the country's planned elections, the Iraqi government is insisting the voting will take place as scheduled on January 30th.

CNN's Karl Penhaul is in Baghdad. He's following all of these developments. He's joining us now live with the latest.

Karl?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, those Iraqi parties, when they called for the postponement of the January 30th elections, one of their main reasons was the fact that they didn't believe that the security situation was good enough to guarantee voters' safety at the polls.

And underscoring those comments today, in the morning we saw a roadside bomb explode in the northern city of Samarra. That's just north of Baghdad. In that, five civilians were killed. Two cars were hit by that explosion. We also understand the bomber who was laying that roadside bomb also died in the blast -- that according to U.S. military sources in the region.

Now, Samarra, as you know, several weeks ago was the target of a major U.S. offensive. The U.S. military said that they've cleared insurgents out. But obviously in this type of guerrilla war, very difficult to secure terrain because guerrilla cells keep coming back again.

Here in Baghdad also this morning, a suicide car bomb on a U.S. military convoy as it made its way to the Baghdad airport along the Baghdad airport road. We understand two U.S. soldiers were wounded in that. There were no dead, but this was the second bombing on that road in as many days. This has now become one of the most dangerous stretches of road in the country, and it's in the heart of Baghdad.

And in a third incident, in the city of Baqubah -- that's about 20 miles north of Baghdad -- a police station was mortared. At least four mortar shells impacted on the politician station. And we're told there, three policemen were injured. No deaths reported, Wolf.

BLITZER: Karl Penhaul reporting for us from Baghdad.

Karl, thanks very much for that update.

One of those calling for a delay in Iraq's elections is Adnan Pachachi, the former president of the now disbanded Iraqi Governing Council. Mr. Pachachi is joining us now by phone from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Thanks very much, Mr. Pachachi, for joining us.

Why do you believe it's imperative to delay the elections?

ADNAN PACHACHI, FORMER PRESIDENT, IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL: For two reasons.

The first reason is that we should give an opportunity for those who are still reluctant or unwilling to take part in the elections in order to have a dialogue with them and to see whether we can address some of their demands and grievances and also try to persuade them that it's in their interest to join in the elections.

But that's why we want to have this delay.

The second reason, of course, is the security situation, which, as you have indicated, is still rather precarious and uncertain.

And, therefore, a little time more would be much better. Otherwise, we might have an election in which that segment of the Iraqi population would not take part. And I don't think that would be conducive to bringing peace and order to the country. And it could easily (ph) exacerbate the security situation.

BLITZER: What we hear, Mr. Pachachi, from the Bush administration, as well as from the interim Iraqi government, is that any delay would merely be a victory for the insurgents, for the terrorists. It would embolden them to escalate their activities against the Iraqi government over the following six months.

What do you say to that argument?

PACHACHI: I don't agree, because I think a short delay would give us a chance to speak to those who are reluctant, who are really excitable (ph) political parties, who have their roots in certain areas of Iraq, to see whether we can persuade them to take part in the elections.

BLITZER: When you say a short delay, Mr. Pachachi -- when you say a short delay, what kind of delay are you talking about?

PACHACHI: What we propose is within a period of six months, which means that we would be able to reach some kind of accommodation even before that.

But I personally, you know, Wolf, have always been in favor of having early elections. I've worked very hard for that.

But, I mean, we are really faced with a dilemma. We either have good, real elections, or we're going to have elections which are not complete, in which vast segments of Iraqi population would be left out. And I think this would lead to even greater insecurity in the country. We have to...

BLITZER: You're a leader of the Sunnis, Mr. Pachachi. What percentage would you say of the Sunni minority -- and probably 20 to 30 percent of the population is Sunni -- what percentage of them won't vote, do you believe, feels that this election is stacked against them?

PACHACHI: I, in fact -- my party has more Shias than Sunnis.

And what we feel is it is important that many parts of Iraq should not be left out from the electoral process. It cannot be one- sided.

And for this reason, I think just a short delay should not have made much difference, because even the preparations are not complete for the election and a little more time would have been useful.

And, frankly, I think it would be in the interest of those who are asking for the elections to be held on the 30th of January, that it's in their interest that the elections that would be held if they are going to win those elections, they should be perceived as proper, as fair, as honest, as inclusive elections.

This is the most important thing. They have to be inclusive. Otherwise the elections will be questioned from the point of view of legitimacy.

BLITZER: Will you run, when the elections do happen, Mr. Pachachi?

PACHACHI: I beg your pardon? What?

BLITZER: Will you run for election? If the elections take place, will you be a candidate?

PACHACHI: Well, I have to consult my people and our party, and we have to make a decision. But as I said, I am anxious to take part in these elections.

About two months ago, I said there should be no delay. But now, we are faced with a dilemma. We either have an incomplete, illegitimate, perhaps, election, or we just give us a little more time, maybe we'll be able to have an election which is inclusive, which is honest, which is proper and in which all parts of Iraq will take part.

BLITZER: Adnan Pachachi, a leader in Iraq, joining us on the phone.

Thank you very much, Mr. Pachachi. Good luck to you. Good luck to all the Iraqi people.

The Iraqi government in Baghdad, the government of Iyad Allawi, is sticking to its January 30th deadline, with the firm backing of the Bush administration here in Washington.

Joining us now to talk about that and more, two guests: the Republican chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts. He is also a key member of the Armed Services Committee. And in San Francisco, California, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer. She serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, just won re-election to office.

Congratulations to you, Senator Boxer.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Let me begin with Senator Roberts. You heard Adnan Pachachi, a strong supporter of the U.S., a bitter opponent of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, saying, you know, what's wrong with delaying this election for a few months in order to do it right?

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Well, if you have one delay, you're going to have another delay. And if you have a delay, I think the insurgency will increase. I don't think it will decrease.

On the other side of the equation, basically you have the Ayatollah Sistani issuing a fatwah, along with the Islamic Supreme Council, telling all of the Shiites, "You will vote." It's an edict. They have banners. No more mass graves, no more terrorism.

So you have 60 percent of the population who wants to vote. You have 20 to 30 percent of the population -- you didn't mention the Kurds. The Kurds would like to sit on the sidelines. Obviously you're in a power struggle.

Then, lastly, you have some jihadists, about 6,000 strong, and a new Islamic army, moved out of the urban areas out into the countryside, and they say they're going to have terrorism, and they're going to kill people.

BLITZER: You say go ahead January 30th, get the election done, even if there are those who oppose it, who are going to resist it, and it's not going to be necessarily perfect?

ROBERTS: Well, I don't think it's going to be perfect. I don't think anything in that country is perfect right now in terms of a democracy. What you want is stability. I hope that we will still continue to be very aggressive in terms of the military.

This business of local policing and trying to take care of that, that might be OK with crime, but you've got an insurgency. We need a national security force. Why not take the people that are trained in the south, bring them up north, and the people that are trained in the north, you know, go down south?

We have to be much more aggressive to try to provide the security necessary for an election to be held at that date, January 30.

BLITZER: January 30th, Senator Boxer, not very far away. What is your assessment?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: I think, listening to my friend, Pat, who is very knowledgeable on so many of the nuances of the situation, as well as your conversation with one of the leaders there of the political -- I guess he says he's a Sunni, but he has Shias in his party -- you can see there are just no good choices here, not good choices.

If you go ahead with an election and it's marred by violence and a lot of people boycott it, the insurgents are going to grow. If you don't go ahead with the elections, that's a broken promise from our country.

I think there is absolutely no way you can delay this election, even though it's not a great choice. You have to move ahead. You have to do everything you can to make it as safe as you can.

The only way, I think, it could be delayed is if the clerics came together, the Sunnis with the Shias, and they decided to jointly ask for a delay. Otherwise, I think you need to move forward.

BLITZER: Senator Boxer, as Senator Roberts just pointed out, the Ayatollah al-Sistani, the leader of the Shiites, saying you must go ahead and vote January 30th.

They've been the majority of Iraq for so many decades...

BOXER: That's right.

BLITZER: ... but they've repressed by the Sunni minority. They want to sort of formalize their leadership now.

You can understand, though, why the Sunnis and the Kurds, to a certain degree, are worried about that.

BOXER: Yes. Well, that's why I said the only way I see that you could move this election back is if the Shia had a change of mind, if Sistani had a change of mind. But there's no question they've been the majority of the population, frozen out by Saddam Hussein. They want to have their day.

So, as I say, there are no good choices. In any option you have, I see this insurgency not going away. I don't even think we are facing the fact that it's as large as I think it truly is. And it's very worrisome.

And it's frankly, up to this point, we haven't seen a good policy. And that was one of the reasons I joined with Senator Levin way early on and said, "There's got to be a better way to get rid of Saddam than the way we went about it." And we're paying the price, and so many of our beautiful young men and women are paying the price as well.

BLITZER: Senator Roberts, there were indications this week the interim government of Iyad Allawi is ready to hold meetings in Jordan with insurgent leaders. I was pretty surprised to hear that.

But you're the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. What's going on?

ROBERTS: Well, he made the offer, but I don't think anybody took him up on the offer.

I mean, if you have some outfit now that has dubbed themselves the New Islamic Army -- and they're made up of the Baath Party, who will lose power, and the former Republican Guard and some jihadists -- by the way, we did capture a top lieutenant of Abu Zarqawi. If we could get him, that would help.

We have cleaned up Fallujah, Samarra, Mosul, but now it's a different kind of war, Wolf. It isn't what we thought we would see all along in regards to urban warfare and house-to-house. Now it's village by village and no-man's land.

So it's very difficult. I mean, there's no reason for the insurgents, as extreme as they are, who want to kill Muslims in order to make their point.

BLITZER: All right. You're a member of the Armed Services Committee.

ROBERTS: Yes.

BLITZER: Does the U.S. have enough troops in the ground now between now and January 30th, the scheduled date for the elections, to get as much security as possible to ensure some sort of stable election?

ROBERTS: We have different units now going over there that probably didn't expect going there this quickly. And we have different units that are being held over, so the numbers will go up.

And again, it's the national security forces that I think are very important in regards to the Iraqis themselves.

I want to go back to this policing. If you have community policing and there's a crime, that works. If you have an insurgency and they are killing the police, which they are doing, and then killing their families, that's not working.

BLITZER: All right. What do you think, Senator Boxer, enough troops on the ground to get the job done right now?

BOXER: The question is, which troops? And the whole point of this operation has been to train Iraqis to defend their own country. That is the key here. I mean, this could be endless. We could keep sending troops and troops and troops. If the Iraqi people don't show that they want freedom and democracy, this is a losing effort, period.

I mean, you could look at the Ukraine. Look at the people in the streets there, demanding democracy. The people themselves have to want this. And I don't think it's right to put this on the backs of our young men and women over and over again.

We had no plan for the peace; that is clear. Now we have to move toward these elections unless everyone comes together in agreement, which, as you point out, doesn't seem possible that they will. We need to move forward. And the Iraqi people have to take control over their own destinies, Wolf. That's the bottom line.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to pick up that and move on, talk about some other issues. I want both of you to stand by. We'll take a quick break.

More with the Senators Barbara Boxer and Pat Roberts. That's coming up.

Then, nuclear nations, how dangerous are Iran and North Korea? We'll ask a separate panel of experts.

And later, Republicans still flush with victory, but is a rumble among the GOP ranks on the horizon? We'll talk with three Republican members of the U.S. Congress.

"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our Web question of the week asks this: Which country is the larger threat to world security -- Iran, North Korea? Or are both of equal threat?

You can vote right now. Go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results later in our program.

Also ahead, a diplomatic dialogue with the British, French and German ambassadors to the United States. They're standing by to weigh in on four more years of President Bush on the world stage, what that means for U.S.-European relations.

You're watching "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're talking with the chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, and Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California, member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

It looks like Pakistan, Senator Roberts, has stopped looking in some of their provinces now for Osama bin Laden. What are you hearing about that?

ROBERTS: Well, the word about that is that the travel chieftains have indicated that they are going to put a stop to any, quote, "troublemaker" or, say, infidel like Osama. And, quite frankly, they've had about 3,000 people in there with a lash-up with our intelligence looking for him. That's in that never-never-land in between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So I think a conclusion has been reached that he is probably not there. And under the circumstances, they're not going to cease and desist, but they're going to try a different kind of -- a priority to try to find him.

BLITZER: Does anybody have a clue where he is?

ROBERTS: I do not. We constantly ask that in hearings, and we have estimates, and we have people dedicated in the CIA that have spent a lifetime trying to find him.

I think the more dangerous person is Abu Zarqawi in Iraq. If we could locate that fellow, I think we could really stabilize the country a lot better, or at least that task would be easier.

BLITZER: Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist leader in Iraq. The report is he went from Fallujah to Mosul. Are you picking that up?

ROBERTS: Well, he certainly has left Fallujah. Where he is right now, I can't tell you that. I would place a bet, in this no- man's land of small communities where the fighting is now taking place, there are an awful lot of places to hide.

BLITZER: What's your reading, Senator Boxer, on the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the hunt for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?

BOXER: Well, let me say this. There's always this talk, "When we get Saddam, everything will change." First, we got the sons and showed their bodies; everything was going to get better. Then we were going to get al-Sadr, and then he came to the table. He's still out there, because now he's playing ball, supposedly, and being peaceful.

Zarqawi -- Osama "been forgotten," which is to quote some comedian who said, you know, this is the man who attacked us. He's the one who attacked us, and we got turned around away from him and went on this other excursion.

The bottom line is, we have to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice. And I don't think it's a good sign that they've stopped looking for him. I mean, how far could he get, given his circumstances? So, you have to believe somebody and many people are helping him.

Now we're hearing the Taliban coming back and staging more attacks in Afghanistan. Again, Afghanistan should have been made the model.

You know, I had a lot of Californians killed that day on 9/11. And I'll tell you, we have taken our eye off the ball. After the president said Osama bin Laden, dead or alive, and then he said he's not worried about it -- we've got to get back to getting him.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on, talk about 9/11 intelligence reform legislation. The Congress is coming back for a few days in December. Is it going to be the law of the land? Will President Bush get a piece of legislation that he can sign into law?

ROBERTS: Well, I hope so. We're going to give it CPR. It passed the Senate 92-6.

I think people don't stop to realize how tough reform is, and this plan had a lot of opposition in various aspects. It's tough to change. We've tried 24 years to reform the intelligence committee. That's the editorial "we," the Congress. This is the 25th year.

It took us three years to get the Goldwater-Nichols jointness reform passed and two years to implement it.

So we took a good first step in the Senate. There are members in the House who are very much opposed to this, and I understand that. But hopefully, we can come together, we can pass a bill.

BLITZER: Do you believe, Senator Roberts, the White House, the president, is doing everything possible to convince, to twist the arms, let's say, of those Republicans in the House who are resisting?

ROBERTS: Well, I think he's going to have to sooner or later, and he's going to have speak with one voice. I think the administration has to speak with one voice on this. You can't have a differing view, say, within the administration.

Now, having said that...

BLITZER: When you say they're speaking with different voices, it seems like the only ones who are opposing it are the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They're saying this is not good for the U.S. military. They're agreeing with Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

ROBERTS: Well, you have the appropriators, you have the Armed Services Committee, you do have the Pentagon.

Secretary Rumsfeld indicated that let's not forget the military is the primary user of intelligence. With all due respect to the secretary, that's wrong. The primary consumer is the president of the United States and then the National Security Council and then the Congress.

The majority user of intelligence is the military. And there is no plan, even the one that we introduced in the Intelligence Committee some months back, that does anything with the tactical intelligence and the lash-up between the intelligence community and that war- fighter.

So I'm not saying it's a straw man. I know Duncan Hunter, he's a good friend of mine. He will go down in history as a great chairman of the Armed Services Committee. But the flag that he is waving -- it just isn't accurate to describe the intelligence reform bills as any danger to the tactical intelligence of the war-fighter. I'm a former Marine. We're not going to do that.

BLITZER: So you don't buy that?

Well, let's talk about another issue, Barbara Boxer. Senator Boxer, let's bring in Congressman James Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, says he won't go along with it unless there are provisions that ban undocumented immigrants in the United States, undocumented workers from getting driver's licenses. Otherwise, it's going to be a prescription for future terrorist acts down the road.

What do you make of that?

BOXER: I think it's a total smoke-screen, because we know we can handle that.

And I agree with Pat, my colleague...

BLITZER: Let me press you on that, because, as you know, those 19 hijackers, all of them had valid legal driver's licenses, which enabled them to go through security and board those planes.

BOXER: As I know, our intelligence community didn't even talk to each other. That's why this underlying bill is so crucial.

In terms of driver's licenses, we're trying to deal with that. Our governor wants to do that, and we're working with law enforcement to try to do that in our state.

The 9/11 Commission, that was not a main focus of the commission. They said, "Take a look at this; it's important."

But I just want to say something here and maybe put out a challenge to the administration, if they would be listening, which I don't know. And that would be this.

The votes are there for this bill. Pat knows that; I know that. It passed 92-votes-plus in the United States Senate. The fact is, there are the votes in the House.

There is something going on beneath the surface. And I don't believe the chairman of the Joint Chiefs would do what he did -- after all, he serves at the pleasure of this president -- to try to hold up this bill. Something is happening.

And I would challenge the president now. He says he has political capital. He owns the Congress -- the House, the Senate, all of that. There is no reason this bill can't be voted on.

Yes, you may have some "no" votes, Wolf, but we have "no" votes on everything we do. I mean, seriously, it's rare that we get 100-0. But we will carry the day. Let's get that bill out there. Because I tell you, if we don't get it out there, it's going to be delayed. And if we are attacked again, it's going to be a sad day in this country that we didn't do what we had to do.

BLITZER: Senator Roberts, I'll give you the last word. Go ahead and respond to Senator Boxer.

ROBERTS: Well, I want to say something for Dick Myers, who's the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He's a fellow Kansan. He firmly believes there's no hidden agenda here.

The chairman of the Armed Services Committee wrote the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said, you know, "What do you think of intelligence reform?" I've talked to Dick about it. He does not want to see a rush to judgment in the middle of the war. I have a different opinion, but I respect his opinion, and I respect Duncan's opinion.

Reform is hard. And no matter what we pass, the two intelligence committees are going to have to conduct oversight on this for several years. It isn't going to be an overnight fix.

But, you know, Barbara's right in regards to the Senate passing this. I thought it was a 96-2 vote. Maybe it was, you know, 92-6. But it was an overwhelming victory. We just need -- and I also...

BOXER: But, Pat, reform is hard; being attacked is harder.

And I agree with the two chairmen of the 9/11 Commission. If we don't do this now, we're going to really face the music.

And I respect Duncan. He's a friend of mine and all of rest of it. But as you know, and you said it, there's not one thing in that bill that interrupts the chain of command on the field in wartime.

So that, I think, it's really a red herring. And I think there's something else going on. But we'll find out. We need to pass the bill.

BLITZER: Well, we'll find out in the next few days when the Congress -- 96-2, by the way, was the final vote in the U.S. Senate in favor of that.

But I will a just point out to you, Senator Roberts and Senator Boxer, it wasn't just the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Myers, it was all of the chiefs writing letters separately to Duncan Hunter, saying this is a bad idea.

ROBERTS: Yes, I know that. Everybody with stars on their shoulders.

BLITZER: That's right.

ROBERTS: Everybody with stars on their shoulders.

But every bill that we have proposed preserves that tactical intelligence.

BOXER: That's right.

ROBERTS: I'm on the Armed Services Committee. I'm a Marine. Anybody that has sat in the Intelligence Committee and gone Khobar Towers, USS Cole, Khartoum chemical plant, embassy bombings, 9/11 and even the latest threat warning to the United States, what I call these "Oh, my God" hearings -- "Oh, my God, how did this happen?"

We have systemic problems in the intelligence community. I'm not blaming the intelligence community, because you can't get 100 percent, and they do the best they can. But we have to make a change.

BOXER: That's right.

BLITZER: All right. We, unfortunately, have to leave it right there.

BOXER: And we agree.

BLITZER: A good discussion. Senator Roberts, Senator Boxer, thanks to both of you for joining us.

BOXER: Thanks.

BLITZER: And coming up, we'll get a check of what's in the news right now, including the latest on Ukraine's election crisis.

Then, can the leaders of Iran and North Korea be trusted when it comes to nuclear weapons technology? Three experts join us to assess the threat.

"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Iran is sending mixed signals about its nuclear program. After initially agreeing to suspend it, the Iranian government later backed away from the deal. But now Iran is apparently saying it will accept the conditions outlined by the International Atomic Energy Agency. No official confirmation yet.

There's also North Korea, widely believed to already have nuclear weapons.

So exactly what dangers do both of these countries pose to the world?

Joining us now for some insight, a distinguished panel of weapons and security experts: Here in Washington, the former assistant secretary of defense, Richard Perle. He served during the Reagan administration. He's currently a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Also, the former Clinton assistant secretary of state and adviser on North Korean policy, Wendy Sherman. She's now a principal of the Albright Group, here in Washington.

And joining us from London, the former U.N. weapons inspector, Robert Gallucci. He is also a retired U.S. diplomat. He is now the dean of the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service, here in Washington.

Good to have you all on "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much.

And, Richard Perle, I'll begin with you. Iran apparently, at this last minute, is going to go ahead and say they are going to freeze all enrichment of uranium. Do you buy this? Is this a done deal now, that Iran is going to back away from a nuclear weapons program?

RICHARD PERLE, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Well, there's a difference between promising this freeze for a limited period of time and backing away from a nuclear weapons program. They may well continue a nuclear weapons program, clandestinely.

I think they're not to be trusted. They've provided a history of lies and deception. So however much comfort we wish to take in their signing an agreement, we should be wary about whether it be properly verified.

BLITZER: So what should U.S. policy be?

PERLE: Well, I think we have to have an inspection regime that is as close to foolproof as one can design. And under IAEA rules, even with an expanded protocol, we do not have that.

BLITZER: So, in other words, refer immediately to the U.N. Security Council and get international weapons inspectors to go into Iran the way they used to go into Iraq?

PERLE: Well, that would help. It would certainly help if they could go anywhere at any time and see anything they wish to see.

BLITZER: Wendy Sherman, what do you make of that?

WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: I think that Mr. Perle is quite right, that one has to be very wary. When you are dealing with nuclear weapons, you don't trust. You must verify. You have to negotiate in a very tough way.

I think it's very positive that we've gotten this suspension, this freeze. But there are very, very difficult negotiations ahead.

And I think what's very important here is the United States can't just sit on the sidelines. In many ways, we've played the tough cop, allowing the Europeans to negotiate, and then we can say, "Oh, we like it. We don't like it." But I think we have to engage ourselves as well with Europe in a coherent policy, which we don't currently have. BLITZER: You don't think the United States is working very closely with Britain, France and Germany and trying to negotiate some peaceful resolution of this?

SHERMAN: I think we have certainly consulted with those three countries. What hasn't happened is a really coherent group of carrots and sticks that all of the countries agree on together, so that we go into this negotiation with every tool that we possibly have to get a deal that is as foolproof as it can get. It won't be perfect, but as foolproof as it can get.

BLITZER: Robert Gallucci, what is your assessment of what is going on? You're joining us from London right now. The British government clearly deeply involved in this effort to find a way out.

ROBERT GALLUCCI, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, this may cause Richard to re-examine his position, but I think I would agree with him...

(LAUGHTER)

... about the skepticism we ought to have over this.

I think, moreover, though, that it's not only that Iran may cheat on the deal, and it's important that we have an inspection regime that would catch them if they did, but there's also the little matter of the plutonium program, which would not be cheating. We haven't stopped that.

And they're pursuing a program to produce a research reactor, a heavy-water moderated reactor that would produce very fine-quality weapons plutonium. And presumably that would involve reprocessing. And we would have the similar problem of fissile material through plutonium rather than highly enriched uranium.

Moreover, the larger issue here is that we have been negotiating a suspension. And Iran has been very clear that, over the long haul, it has a right to enrich uranium. And we still have a huge step to take if we think we're solving this even at the diplomatic stage with an agreement. Because the agreement does not stop the enrichment program; it suspends it.

BLITZER: Based on everything you know, Ambassador Gallucci, are the European allies -- Britain, France and Germany -- on the same page when it comes to Iran as the Bush administration is?

GALLUCCI: As you know, I'm not in the Bush administration, so that's hard for me to say with any confidence.

But I would say that the administration has had a posture of skepticism about negotiating with rogue states, whether they be Iraq in the old days, Iran and North Korea now.

But I do think there's been a willingness, or even a grudging willingness, to accept this as a good first step. I think really the larger question is, what happens next? Will the United States coordinate with the three Europeans, and I would add Russia here, to try to continue to put pressure on Iran on the one issue that they're really sensitive to? And that is, avoiding sanctions in the United Nations in order to get a more permanent stop to fissile material production and the kind of inspection regime that both Richard and Wendy referred to.

BLITZER: Wendy Sherman, Richard Perle was speaking about carrots and sticks, that the United States might be able to have a more cohesive policy. Is there a military option, a stick, if you will, that should be held over the government of Iran's head?

PERLE: Oh, yes, absolutely. If we didn't have a military option, I don't think these talks would be taking place.

BLITZER: Well, what is the military option?

PERLE: The military option was indicated in 1981, when the Israelis, seeing that a so-called research reactor was in fact part of a nuclear weapons program, destroyed the Iraqi reactor at Osirak. And they did so with precision bombing. There were very few casualties. One moment, Saddam had a nuclear weapons program, and the next moment he didn't.

BLITZER: So you think it would be wise for the U.S. to have that kind of military contingency available or outsource it to the Israelis?

PERLE: No, I think it would be unfair to the Israelis to expect them to bear our burden. We're the United States of America. If we deem that Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, I think we will have no choice but to take some action. And we're far more capable of taking that action than the Israelis.

BLITZER: Does that sound realistic to you, Wendy Sherman, a U.S. military option against one of the charter members of President Bush's so-called "axis of evil," namely Iran?

SHERMAN: I always think the military option should be on the table when it comes to negotiations to stop, to dismantle nuclear weapons programs. So I agree it should be on the table.

This is not as simple as it was in Iraq, because there is not just one facility. We may not even know where all the facilities are in Iran. So it's a very complicated procedure. It cannot be done by the Israelis alone.

So it needs to be on the table. But I think we have our hands quite full at the moment, so I wouldn't see it as a first step under any circumstance.

PERLE: There are other things we can do that are neither sitting back and hoping for the best or taking military action. And the strategy that appeals to me is supporting the internal opposition to the mullahs running Iran. Iran is a dictatorship. It's a very unhappy place. There's massive disapproval of the mullahs and eagerness to liberate their own country. We should be helping.

BLITZER: I want to take a break, but I want to bring Ambassador Gallucci in for a moment.

The Israeli option -- a couple weeks ago, I interviewed the former defense minister of Israel, General Ephraim Sneh, who said there was a two-year window that the Israelis had before the Iranian program got too hot, if you will. He said there was no military option right now that Israel was contemplating, but listen precisely to what General Sneh said, because I want you to react to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENERAL EPHRAIM SNEH, FORMER ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER: We don't prepare a preemptive strike, but gradually, along the axis of time, we are pushed to the corner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: His point being that if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be an existential threat to Israel. What do you make of that?

GALLUCCI: I take the Israelis quite seriously, but I would caution anyone who gets too enthusiastic about this as an option.

Richard described a situation in 1981 with the strike at Osirak as "there was a program, and then there wasn't." But then, of course, there was again, and a very serious one, and three or four or five different technologies that went largely undetected. So we shouldn't look happily at this as a prospect for us or the Israelis.

And by the way, I don't really think we should be contemplating a regime change here. If it's just a military strike, we should be very certain that we have the targets that we want to take out. And I think Wendy's correct; we can't be certain that we know all of the targets.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. We'll pick up on that thought. We'll also talk about North Korea, what's happening there. More perspective from our panel when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're talking about the world's new nuclear threats with former Reagan Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle, former Clinton Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and former U.N. weapons inspector Robert Gallucci.

Richard Perle, North Korea already has, by almost all accounts, at least one or two, maybe as many as six, nuclear bombs already. So what do you do about that?

PERLE: Well, it's a very unhappy situation, because we have reason to fear that they might sell nuclear material or, indeed, nuclear weapons to terrorists.

BLITZER: But there's no military option, viable military option, given the fact...

PERLE: No.

BLITZER: ... that they have a nuclear bomb. The U.S. isn't going to launch some sort of preemptive strike.

PERLE: Well, their ability to deliver that nuclear bomb against the United States is now quite limited, but...

BLITZER: But not South Korea or Japan...

PERLE: ... it may not be in the future.

BLITZER: ... they have that capability.

PERLE: It would be a suicidal act, of course, for them.

I think there are some options. The most interesting and comforting, if we could do it that way, would be to get the Chinese, who have enormous influence, decisive influence, to make it clear to Kim Jong Il that this has to stop.

So far the Chinese have not been willing to do that, and I think one reason why they've been unwilling to do it is that they don't fear the consequences of the failure to do it. We need to make them concerned about the failure to do this peacefully.

BLITZER: You've met with Kim Jong Il. Is there any way, even under Chinese pressure, he would give up those nuclear bombs?

SHERMAN: I don't think we know the answer to that question, and I think you can only find out the answer through very, very tough negotiations and test their intentions. Again, the military option has to remain on the table, though it is certainly a catastrophic choice and not one anyone wants to make.

But I do think what we have to do here is not just contract this out to the Chinese, but we need to be at the table in those six-party talks again in a coordinated effort of carrots and sticks to try to test out the intentions of North Korea.

BLITZER: Robert Gallucci, you've been to North Korea. By all accounts, Kim Jong Il wants a little respect, and he wants it from the United States. He wants bilateral talks with the United States, which the Bush administration is reluctant to engage in.

What do you think should happen?

GALLUCCI: I think, first of all, Wolf, we should work backwards here. We really cannot get ourselves in a situation in which North Korea, or Iran for that matter, ends up with accumulations of highly enriched uranium, which they could then transfer or sell to terrorists groups. That is our worst nightmare. And we have to exclude that, and that's why the military option always has to be on the table.

Recognizing how ugly that option is in either case, I think that should drive us back to the negotiating table. At the risk of sounding like an incurable negotiator, I do believe that we haven't tried recently to engage the North Koreans.

I think bilaterally, within the six-party context, is perfectly reasonable to test and see if we can get the North Koreans to back away. That will involve carrots. As long as the stick is held in reserve, I think that's the best course for us to follow at this time.

BLITZER: Richard Perle, do you want to weigh in on that?

PERLE: Well, we've done that before, of course. We had an agreement with the North Koreans, and they violated it. They adjusted one program, which was under surveillance and created an entirely new secret program.

BLITZER: So does that mean you can't negotiate a new deal simply because they violated an old deal?

PERLE: Yes, I'm very skeptical about a signature from the North Koreans.

And Ambassador Gallucci made a very good point a few moments ago, which was that Saddam Hussein, after the destruction of the Osirak reactor, reconstituted a nuclear program while Iraq was under IAEA surveillance, and we didn't know about it.

So trusting the North Koreans to abide by their word, or the Iranians for that matter, is a very dangerous business.

SHERMAN: The question is, is it good enough or at least a step forward, to get someone to defer, to deter, to slow down their nuclear program, even if you can't wipe it out completely?

So, yes, Saddam Hussein did reconstitute, but we did at least deter him from moving forward on a more rapid process.

Had the current administration been engaged with North Korea bilaterally within those six-party talks, we might not have three to six to 10 nuclear weapons now in North Korea.

And in fact, I think what we must do that's quite critical is not only deal with these bilateral situations, but we need to go at a global regime on nuclear nonproliferation.

BLITZER: On that note, unfortunately, we have to leave it because we're all out of time. I want to thank all three of you for joining us, Richard Perle, Wendy Sherman, Robert Gallucci. We'll continue down the road.

And there's much more ahead on "LATE EDITION." Stay with us. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

We'll talk with the ambassadors of Great Britain, France and Germany in just a moment. First, though, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Let's move on now to Ukraine, where street protests over that country's disputed election results are now in their seventh day.

CNN's Jill Dougherty is in Kiev. She is following these developments. She's joining us now live via videophone.

What's the latest, Jill?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, a very heavy fog has descended upon the city. You really can't see anything. And it's almost like the political situation -- not clear where this is going.

Both candidates were out talking today with their constituents at rallies, and both of them talking about the most important thing, which is still these people who have been on the streets, hundreds of thousands of them now, for almost a week.

Viktor Yushchenko, the opposition candidate, telling his people that they have the right to stay in the streets, but they should keep it peaceful, as they have from the beginning.

The other candidate, the man who officially won the election, that is the government-backed candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, meanwhile, was out in the eastern part of country, in Donetsk. And he was telling his followers that there is danger that these demonstrations could spin out of control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VIKTOR YANUKOVYCH, PRIME MINISTER OF UKRAINE (through translator): I call on you not to take any radical steps. I repeat, none. As soon as the first drop of blood is spilled, we won't be able to stop that flow. It will be on the conscience of those people who provoked this situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOUGHERTY: So the president of Ukraine, outgoing president, Leonid Kuchma, is saying that any attempt to block these government buildings here in Kiev would be illegal. And then he also said that the negotiations that are currently taking place between the two sides are not going well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEONID KUCHMA, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): It is clearly understandable that negotiations are going on with considerable difficulty. And today, it's hard to say what compromise can be reached or whether it can be reached. But I think, and others will agree with me, that a compromise is very necessary for Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOUGHERTY: So the next step in all of this will come Monday when the supreme court will begin to hear the complaints from the opposition about the vote rigging. And that will be a very, very important day, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jill Dougherty doing an outstanding job covering this important story for our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Jill, thanks very much for that report.

Not just here in Washington, but around the world, there are new questions about what to expect over the next four years from President Bush and the new faces in his Cabinet.

Helping us look ahead to the challenges on the world stage, three ambassadors to the United States from key European countries: Jean- David Levitte is the French ambassador to the United States; Wolfgang Ischinger is the German ambassador to the United States; and Sir David Manning is the British ambassador to the United States.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION," Ambassadors. Appreciate it very much.

And let me begin with the Ukraine, a very sensitive subject very important to the world. I take it that the Western European allies pretty much agree that there has to be a new set of elections.

And we're looking at live pictures now from what's happening in Kiev.

Let's start with the French ambassador to the United States.

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE, FRANCE'S AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Yes, the presidency of the European Union has said very clearly that probably the best way forward is new elections. And this has been said, but it's for the Ukrainians themselves to decide the best way forward.

BLITZER: And so you don't think it would be good enough for the supreme court in Ukraine to decide the validity of this election? You think that no matter what the supreme court decides, it's important that there be a new election?

LEVITTE: No. We are in a very difficult moment where everybody is trying to find the best scenario forward. And we cannot replace the leaders themselves. That's in their hand.

But from the outside, and also from the inside -- because what is important is for your viewers to understand that there were invited in the room Javier Solana, President Kvashnievsky (ph), and they participated in discussions.

BLITZER: International observers who monitored the elections.

LEVITTE: Yes. And they were also invited to participate in some of the discussions in the last two days.

But now it's for the Ukrainians to decide the best way forward.

BLITZER: What to you think, Ambassador Ischinger?

WALTER ISCHINGER, GERMANY'S AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: I think it is a very important moment. It's a serious moment for the future not only of Ukraine, but also for our effort to have a Europe with no dividing lines anymore.

I think our countries, the European Union, has played a very useful role already in trying to prevent violence from breaking out. And I totally agree with what my friend, Jean-David, has just said.

Our advice is that maybe the best way forward would be new elections. But, of course, the first thing to happen now is for the Ukrainian supreme court to speak. And the entire European Union is standing ready to assist in whatever efforts will be required.

BLITZER: I'll ask Ambassador Manning to answer this question.

Is it just a foregone -- is it just a notion that, without any question, these elections were fraudulent, were criminal, if you will?

SIR DAVID MANNING, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: I don't know if they were criminal. I think the assumption is that they were very irregular in the way they were conducted. The E.U. observers obviously thought so. So did the OSCE observers. And you had Senator Lugar, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, in Ukraine for these elections. And it's clear that everybody was very exercised about the way they were conducted.

BLITZER: So, in other words, in your opinion, you agree with your colleagues from France and Germany that there has to be a new set of elections?

MANNING: I think there has to be some new way forward. It's difficult to be prescriptive, and it's ultimately for the Ukrainians, we hope, to resolve this, and above all, peacefully.

But it is quite clear that you don't have millions of people demonstrating across a country for seven days during snowstorms unless something serious has gone wrong.

BLITZER: Are you convinced, Ambassador Levitte, that the European allies, the three, your countries in this particular case, are on the same page as the Bush administration when it comes to Ukraine?

LEVITTE: I don't think so.

BLITZER: You don't think so?

LEVITTE: Oh, yes. And what is at stake is the future of democracy in Europe.

BLITZER: Is there any difference between Washington and Paris on Ukraine?

LEVITTE: No, of course not. We hope for a good electoral process which will take roots for democracy in Ukraine and beyond. Democracy is our common goal.

BLITZER: The other issue that this all brings in -- and I'll ask Ambassador Ischinger to respond to this and bring you all in -- is President Putin, Vladimir Putin of Russia, has been making some statements in the recent months and taking certain actions which are raising serious concerns, especially here in Washington and I assume in your capitals as well.

For example, this statement he made the other day, on November 17th. I want you to listen to what he said about his nuclear weapons program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): We will continue our efforts to build our armed forces as a whole and their nuclear component.

We are not only conducting research and successfully testing new nuclear missile systems, I'm sure that they will be put into service within the next few years.

And what's more, there will be developments, there will be systems of the kind that other nuclear powers do not have and will not have in the near future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And as you know, Ambassador Ischinger, in addition to these statements, he's taking a strong stance saying the elections were fair in Ukraine. He doesn't want to see a change.

ISCHINGER: Well, I'm not sure whether the Russian position on the elections in Ukraine is not also evolving. We had, just a couple of days ago, a summit meeting between Russian leadership and the European Union.

And while it's clear that one did not totally agree on what exactly is the best way forward, my understanding is that, yes, there is agreement between us, the West and Russia, that first of all this should be a process where the law is obeyed, where the Ukrainian people have the last word, where outside forces should absolutely not intervene, and that we're active only to the extent that we want to assist the forces in Ukraine to find a peaceful solution.

I think there is agreement on these basics. BLITZER: But are you concerned about some of the so-called undemocratic tendencies, statements, actions, that have been coming forward in Russia in recent months?

ISCHINGER: Well, there is a debate in Europe, like there is a debate in Washington, about how to think about certain developments in Russia.

I can tell you what my government thinks. My government believes that President Putin is, in principle, on the right track. That doesn't mean that we find every single step and every specific action that he takes totally, you know, positive. But in principle, our view is that we have made enormous progress between the European Union and Russia.

BLITZER: Ambassador Manning, do you agree with that?

MANNING: I do agree with it. I think what my government wants is a partnership with President Putin's Russia. And we have come an enormously long way since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia is now a very different place from its Soviet predecessor. But that doesn't mean to say that we're going to agree on everything.

If I can just say, Wolf, on this Ukraine issue, I think it's important to be clear we don't want a competitive bidding relationship with Russia over Ukraine. And we don't see any need for that. What we would like to do is see the Ukrainians sort their election out for themselves and see a Ukraine that wants to work with us in the E.U., with you in the United States and with Russia. We don't believe that it has to be one or the other of these options.

So that is how we would like this crisis resolved.

BLITZER: I'm going to ask all three of the ambassadors to stand by. We're going to take a quick commercial break. Much more to discuss, insights on the world's flashpoints, security and other matters. Our conversation with the ambassadors from France, Germany and Britain will continue.

Then, is the Republican Party taking a sharp right turn? Three Republican members of the U.S. Congress speak out on the GOP's direction.

"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

We're talking with the ambassadors to the United States from key allies in Europe: France, Germany and Great Britain. Let's start with the Ambassador Sir David Manning from Britain.

There was that headline in the Daily Mirror right after President Bush was re-elected, and we'll put it up on the screen, with a caption that said, "How can 59,054,087 people be so dumb?" Is that the prevailing attitude in Britain, despite Tony Blair's strong support for the U.S.? The overwhelming majority of the people in England would be critical of the Bush administration?

MANNING: I think that's the prevailing opinion of the Daily Mirror. I think what you have to distinguish between is a newspaper that may have its own views and an acceptance by the vast majority of the British people that the American people will make up their own mind and that that is what democracy is all about.

And as Tony Blair has said, the United States will elect the president, he has elected to work with him. And I think everybody accepts, in Britain, that the United States will reach its own conclusions through its own democratic procedures.

BLITZER: Have you seen a change in France since the election, an attitude of, "Well, that's what the American voted in the democratic election; they have a right to have that position." Or is there still that bitter animosity as a result of the war in Iraq?

LEVITTE: No, there was a poll conducted in France at the same moment, and you have to know that 72 percent of the French people have expressed positive views about the American people. And 90 percent of the French consider it important to maintain good relations with America. That's the mood in France today.

BLITZER: The French president, Jacques Chirac, on November 17th said, referring to the war in Iraq, "Is the world any safer," and I'm quoting now, "I'm not so sure. To a certain extent Saddam Hussein's departure was a positive thing, but it also provoked reactions in a number of countries and from the men and women in Islam, which has made the world more dangerous."

Is the world a more dangerous place now as a result of the U.S.- led invasion and removal of Saddam Hussein?

LEVITTE: History will decide if this war was necessary or not. That's also what President Chirac said.

And we want to work for the future. What is important now is to make Iraq a success story, and France is ready to work for that.

BLITZER: Well, France is not ready to help militarily.

LEVITTE: We will not send troops, but we have participated in the successful negotiation on the Iraqi debt. You know that now there has been a decision to forgive 80 percent of the Iraqi debt, and we hope that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others will join us.

BLITZER: Why not send troops though?

LEVITTE: Well, because we don't think that adding more foreign troops will help to build a more secure Iraq. What is necessary now is to train and equip more Iraqi security forces, and we have proposed to train Iraqi gendarmerie, that is, military force.

BLITZER: What about Germany? Germany has troops and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Why not help the Iraqis prepare for their election?

ISCHINGER: Wolf, I'm not aware of any requests by either the Bush administration or by Prime Minister Allawi to my government to send troops.

BLITZER: If they asked, would you say yes?

ISCHINGER: No, but they haven't asked, and therefore it's a moot question.

BLITZER: Well, they're not going to ask knowing that they're going to get a "no."

ISCHINGER: There is no request.

There is a request on the table, to which we have responded positively, to help train people both in military, as well as in police matters, as well as a number of civilian areas, and that's what we're doing. And we are working very hard on these reconstruction and rehabilitation and training programs. We take that seriously.

We want Americans to feel that we Europeans are not simply sitting on the fence waiting for America to continue to have difficulties. But the true question continues to be not something to which we could respond positively if it were asked. It has not been asked.

BLITZER: This is where Britain disagrees totally with Germany and France, because Britain has sent in thousands of troops to help the United States in Iraq. Why is Britain right and your European colleagues are wrong?

MANNING: We took a different view over Iraq, Wolf, as you know, and this goes back a long way. Our analysis was different, and therefore our actions were different.

I'm not sure now that it helps much to rake this over. I think what my French colleague said is right. We need to look forward. We need build on what's happened in the last few weeks.

We need to help the Iraqis toward their elections. And we need to try and produce an Iraq that is stable and successful, both for its own people and the neighborhood.

And I think those are principles that we can all gather around, even if, in the past, we've had deep differences of analysis about the war itself.

BLITZER: Well, this is what a lot of Americans don't understand, Ambassador Levitte. There is this historic alliance, the NATO alliance, the transatlantic alliance. And the war is history now; the war has happened.

Why can't Germany, France, Britain, the United States, all the allies, now seeing what's there, work together to make sure that there is agreement and that it's a positive outcome as opposed to a negative outcome in Iraq?

LEVITTE: But we are participating, I said...

BLITZER: Militarily we're talking about.

LEVITTE: Not militarily. Because we consider that, more and more, there is a feeling of occupation in Iraq. Maybe we are wrong. But certainly the Iraqi had a feeling of liberation when Baghdad fell, when a bloody dictator fell. But now there is a change of mood.

And that's why we say the main priority for all of us is to train new Iraqi forces, new Iraqi bodies. And we are ready to do so.

BLITZER: But France is participating militarily in Afghanistan. What's the difference between Afghanistan and Iraq?

LEVITTE: Well, first, you have to know that we work hand in hand in this fight against terror. And we are sharing intelligence and so on. And we considered that to destroy the Taliban regime and al Qaeda was the proper response to 9/11.

And we participated in the war in Afghanistan fully, right from the beginning. We (UNINTELLIGIBLE) troops. And we still maintain in Kabul military forces, French military forces. A French general is in charge of the NATO operation. We have special forces trying to get bin Laden on the border with Pakistan. And we are training the new Afghan army.

But for us, Iraq was a different story, because we didn't see at the time stocks of arms of mass destruction or any link between Saddam Hussein...

BLITZER: All right. I want to just briefly go...

LEVITTE: But that's passed. That's passed.

BLITZER: Let's talk about another hot issue right now, Iran, very briefly.

And I'll start with you, Ambassador Ischinger. Is there any difference whatsoever on the issue of Iran and nuclear weapons between Germany and the United States?

ISCHINGER: We have had encouraging words from President Bush on repeated occasions with respect to the effort which has become known as the EU-3 effort on Iran, namely an effort by our three governments to try to see whether we can work out a deal, which is now on the table in Vienna, to make Iran, for the time being, suspend its nuclear militarily-related activities and to engage Iran in what we expect would be a long-term agreement to really stop these activities for good.

BLITZER: Have they agreed, based on up-to-the-minute information that you're getting right now? What's the latest that you know, as far as the Iranian position is concerned? ISCHINGER: We are hearing reports so far, wire reports, that Iran has given up on its last, you know, point of opposition to the implementation of the deal.

I am going to be cautious here and wait for final confirmation at the negotiating table in Vienna. But what I've heard over the telephone in the last couple of hours sounds rather more encouraging than what we heard yesterday and the day before.

BLITZER: Is that what you're hearing, Ambassador Manning?

MANNING: It is what I'm hearing. But we must wait, I think, to see what the paper says when it's actually delivered in Vienna.

ISCHINGER: The devil is in the details.

MANNING: Yes, let's see what is actually inside that letter when it comes.

BLITZER: But do you think you can trust the Iranian government, no matter what they agree to?

MANNING: Well, I think we have to be very vigilant. We have to be realistic. We have thought in the EU-3 that it is worth trying to engage Iran. We are very clear-sighted about this. But we think it's worth trying to engage them in a debate about their nuclear program. And we shall have to see.

I saw what the president said on Friday, that he supported this but that we would need proper verification. And of course we understand that. We shall need to be very vigilant. We shall need proper verification. And that's what we will try to ensure.

BLITZER: I'll give Ambassador Levitte the last word on Iran right now.

Is it your sense that this is going to be resolved peacefully, or will it be referred to the U.N. Security Council, where sanctions could be imposed?

LEVITTE: We have never excluded to go to the Security Council, if need be. But for the time being, as my two colleagues said, we are cautiously optimistic about the possibility to obtain a suspension, verifiable and complete, of enrichment procedures. And it will give time to try to reach a more global and permanent deal. And for that, probably we'll need to have America on board.

BLITZER: America what?

LEVITTE: On board, working with us and not waiting, encouraging (ph) us. We would like to see the U.S. administration joining our efforts, because that's very important to have more leverage.

BLITZER: We're going to leave it right there on that note.

Thanks to all three of you, the ambassadors from France, Germany and Great Britain, for joining us here on "LATE EDITION."

LEVITTE: Thank you.

ISCHINGER: Thank you.

MANNING: Thank you.

BLITZER: And up next, a quick check on what's in the news right now, including the latest on the unrest over Ukraine's disputed elections.

And already looking ahead to the next U.S. presidential campaign, we'll ask a panel of Republicans, and we'll ask them about who's running and who's not.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital. And now I intend to spend it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: One big question here in Washington, whether his political friends, fellow Republicans, that is, are going to help President Bush spend that political capital and follow his lead. Early evidence, so far, mixed.

Joining us now, three Republican members of the House Of Representatives: in New York, Connecticut Congressman Christopher Shays, just re-elected; in Miami, Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros- Lehtinen, re-elected, as well; and in his home state of Arizona, Congressman J.D. Hayworth.

Good to have all of you here on "LATE EDITION."

Last week we had a panel of Democrats looking ahead at the Democratic Party; now the Republicans' turn.

Let me start with you, J.D. Hayworth, and play for you a sound- bite, an excerpt of what the former Republican governor of New Jersey, Tom Kean, said earlier today. He was the co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, saying, you've got to move forward and get this 9/11 intelligence reform legislation passed. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM KEAN, CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: We know there's another attack coming. You and I can't say if it's not week or six months from now, but it's coming.

So it's six months when none of these things will happen: not better security at the borders, not more help for local people, nothing, nothing. And I just don't think we can wait that long. And I think it does, in essence, risk lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Are you on board to support this bipartisan legislation?

REP. J.D. HAYWORTH (R), ARIZONA: I would say, Wolf, what Governor Kean said is precisely the point. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right.

Number one, to clear up any ambiguity about the chain of command concerning our troops in the field and their commanding officers vis- a-vis intelligence information.

Number two, making sure we take care of border security information. Not allowing folks who come into the country, as the 19 September 11th hijackers, with some 64 driver's licenses and other documentation, getting tough and understanding that border security is synonymous with national security.

Number three, making sure that we have stricter rules on asylum, not allowing terrorists to come in and utilize and game our system for asylum.

And, overall, within the framework, making sure that we have penalties that fit the crimes. In the conference, we took away death- penalty provisions for those who would use weapons of mass destruction.

So the bottom line is, Wolf, let's have the details worked out. We're coming back to Washington. Let's get it done, but let's do it the right way, not a series of half measures or cosmetic measures or politically correct measures. Let's do it the right way.

BLITZER: So you'd rather see -- you'd rather, right now in this lame-duck session, see nothing as opposed to what's currently on the table?

HAYWORTH: Oh, Wolf, I didn't say that. I said there's still a chance to re-open the conference and get it right.

What are the objections to making sure there are stringent rules for illegals and for those who would come in and try to game the system? Why not have the toughest penalties, the death penalties for would-be terrorists? What's wrong with putting that in the bill?

Again, it's important to govern responsibly.

BLITZER: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, let's bring you in. I want you to listen to what the other co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission said earlier this morning on "Meet the Press," Lee Hamilton. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEE HAMILTON, VICE CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: The Pentagon is understandably reluctant. They've had this control for a very long period of time. They have a very valid equity here, the protection of the war-fighter. Nobody wants to undercut that.

But what they want to maintain control of is national intelligence, as well. And national intelligence must flow unimpeded to the president and to the policy-maker and not be filtered through the Department of Defense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you agree, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, with Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the House Armed House Committee, or the president of the United States, George W. Bush?

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: Well, Duncan Hunter knows what is going on in Iraq. He not only has visited there with the troops, as I have, but he has had his son deployed there twice. I am going to have my stepson in Iraq in just a few months. So, we're looking at this not just as members of Congress, but as parents and congressmen who represent many families that are impacted by this war.

And I agree with J.D.; we've got to get it right. Now, I originally voted against that bill, because they had a lot of anti- immigrant provisions that were not going to allow immigrants who had bonafide reasons to seek political asylum to apply for that, and it was going to take away due process rights. They've taken that away from the bill.

Now we're talking about just very small matters that I am very confident that as a Republican conference we're going to come together, and we're going to bring a lot of Democrats and voting in favor for this bill, as well.

So, I think it's a bill that's worthy of passing. I wish we could have passed it before, just a few weeks ago. But we will pass it, Wolf. And it is going to be the right bill for the troops and for the protection of the American families back here, as well.

BLITZER: So you'll support it as it is, without any additional changes?

ROS-LEHTINEN: I would support it as it is, without additional changes. But I understand that many in our conference have problems with the bill as it's written.

It's important to get a consensus bill with Democrats voting for it, because this is going to vamp our intelligence and our defense system for a long time to come. And I think it's important to get it right. We understand the problems, but we want to make sure that this is a project that we could all live with.

The president's message is simple: freedom and democracy and making sure that we support our troops in the best way possible.

BLITZER: Chris Shays, you're one of the leaders in the House of Representatives when it comes to homeland security, but James Sensenbrenner, the chairman, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, says he can't live with this legislation because it allows these undocumented workers, in effect, to get driver's licenses.

Listen to this. Listen to what he says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R-WI): I don't like to vote for things on serious issues that might look good on a bumper sticker but which I know have so many loopholes that they won't work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is he right, Congressman Shays?

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: Well, he's right in part. I mean, I agree with J.D. If we can make this bill tougher, let's do it. But let's not lose the bill because we don't have the immigration changes that many of us may want.

There's two parts to the bill. One is intelligence reform. That is the most important element to deal with first. Let's get that done. And then there are some improvements, toughening of immigration. Let's accept those.

And then next year, let's try to do even more. We're the majority party. We have the ability to bring all the issues up that we didn't get passed and try to pass them again next year.

BLITZER: Do you believe that there will be an agreement, some sort of compromise worked out in the coming days during this lame-duck session?

SHAYS: Yes. Oh, I do, and because, you know, J.D. and Ileana and I aren't that far apart, our conference isn't that far apart. A lot of Democrats support many of these changes. We just need to agree that we're going to at least do what we can do now and then keep doing more in the years to come.

BLITZER: When you say you're not far apart, a lot of the Democrats, especially in the Senate side, say that provision on the driver's license, that's a deal-breaker right there.

SHAYS: Well, you know, if it is, then let's get this bill done without it, and then let's bring that issue up next year and have a good debate that -- but don't hold it hostage to that issue.

So, that's maybe where J.D. and I might disagree.

HAYWORTH: And this is the point, Wolf. And it's something that needs to be pursued. Why would that be a deal-breaker? For heaven's sake, the 19 9/11 hijackers had access to some 64 official documents, including driver's licenses from several states.

Border security and national security are synonymous. And so I don't see why there should be reticence on the part of the Senate to making sure that we have in place a framework for driver's licenses, that we don't sacrifice our security on the funeral pyre of the politically correct. It is too important to be caught up in the usual Georgetown cocktail chatter. This is serious business.

SHAYS: It is.

HAYWORTH: We're talking about the security of our people. And we have to put in place those mechanisms that allow us to secure the nation, including securing the borders.

SHAYS: Well, without the driver's license, we're going to have a terrific bill. If you can include the driver's license, I think you make it better. But I don't want to see us lose the bill on that issue.

And I think that's the area that we're going to have to debate. We are in the majority. We can bring that issue up next year. We could have a week-long debate on that one issue, if we choose to.

And I hope one of the things we do next year, Wolf, is have more debate on the House floor about these issues, because we need to educate the American people more about what's at stake.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. I want to continue this conversation.

Much more with our panel of Republicans. I'll ask them whether the president did in fact win a mandate, a mandate, to go forward with major changes, domestic and foreign policy.

Does Bush have a mandate to advance the Republican agenda? A new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll said only 29 percent said yes, 63 percent said no.

Much more coming up on the Republicans and the Congress. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Does President Bush have a mandate to advance the Republican agenda? Twenty-nine percent of the respondents in this CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll said yes. Sixty-three percent said no.

We're talking about the future of the Republican Party with our three members of Congress: Chris Says of Connecticut, Ileana Ros- Lehtinen of Florida and J.D. Hayworth of Arizona.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, I'll begin with you. How convinced are you that the president has this mandate to go forward and make major changes, for example, when it comes to Social Security?

ROS-LEHTINEN: He does, but I don't think a mandate to push a Republican agenda. He's got a mandate to push the American agenda. And it doesn't have any party label to it.

And it's about freedom, advancing the cause of freedom here at our base and as well as abroad, advancing the principles of democracy, making sure that we don't have all of this bureaucracy in our lives and freeing up American entrepreneurial spirit, creating more jobs, stimulating the economy.

BLITZER: All right...

ROS-LEHTINEN: Reforming Social Security, he's got a clear mandate. He does have political capital. He has it in the House and in the Senate. And we're going to help the president to improve Americans' lives.

And it's not a Republican agenda. It's for all Americans.

BLITZER: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, listen to what the Reverend James Dobson says the president must do over the next two years. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REVEREND JAMES DOBSON, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: I think that this president has two years, or more broadly the Republican Party has two years, to implement those policies -- or certainly four -- or I believe they'll pay a price in the next election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He's referring to some of the so-called social issues -- opposing gay marriage, for example, opposing abortion rights for women -- to take those issues, to make those front and center right now. Do you agree with him?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, Dr. Dobson is a wonderful man, and he's certainly entitled to his opinion, which he spreads to millions of folks who listen to him, as I do as well.

But these are the same kind of threats that people said about the Republican senators when they were nominating Arlen Specter to lead the Judiciary Committee. They said, if you do that, then you're going to lose all of these votes next election time. So we're going to get threatened by a lot of the social conservatives.

But I think that the president's vision is a clear vision, to make sure that we can strengthen the family spirit. And it doesn't mean that we need to pass a very restrictive social agenda. But he's very much attuned to the American spirit, the heartland.

And I don't think that you need to go one way or the other just to maintain the course the way that the president has envisioned through the heart and soul of the American family. It's not an extreme vision.

BLITZER: Chris Shays, did the Republican caucus, the Republican Party, in the House of Representatives do the right thing when they changed the rules saying that a member who is indicted could still retain a leadership position? We're referring to the House majority leader, Tom DeLay of Texas, who might be indicted; an aggressive prosecutor in Texas going after him.

SHAYS: Yes, I don't think he'll be indicted, but I do think we did the wrong thing.

When we set out 11 years ago to make it clear to people that we would be different as a majority party, that we wouldn't be arrogant, that we would be reform-minded, that was one of the reforms we put in. You're indicted, you just step down. You still serve as a member of Congress.

So it was something we didn't even need to take up. And I would have loved Tom DeLay to just come before the conference and say, "Don't move forward with this rule change. I think it sends the wrong message."

And that's the thing, it sends the wrong message.

BLITZER: J.D. Hayworth, what do you think?

HAYWORTH: Well, Chris and I agree on this point. I don't believe we should have changed the rules. I think the perception out there is one that is unfortunate, because, let's understand, nobody can dispute the fact there is a lot of partisan wrangling going on in Texas. But by the same token, whatever prosecutor Ronnie Earl (ph) is taking a look at vis-a-vis Tom DeLay, rules are not made for a single member of the Republican conference.

They're made for everybody. This rule was in place when I came to the Congress of the United States. We want it to be a different majority, so to that degree I think that we should have stuck with the rules we had.

But also understand our friends on the other side of the aisle have kind of had a free ride on this. I haven't seen their changes to their rules. I haven't seen anything that affected their leadership. So, let's not be naive about it.

But by the same token, we should have stuck with the rules we had.

BLITZER: Let's just let Ileana Ros-Lehtinen weigh in, as well.

Should the rule have been changed?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Yes, it should have been changed, because I don't think that rules are commandments that are written in stone. What we have seen in Texas applied, perhaps just to Tom DeLay, but this is a very important rule change, which was important to do for the Republican Party for many generations to come. Because you've got the state prosecutors who really are political hacks, who are out to get, with a vengeance, a certain member. And I think we've got to strengthen our rules to make sure that it's not going to be violated just for political reasons. BLITZER: Well, you know, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, you know, this prosecutor has gone after more Democrats than he's gone after Republicans.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, that may or not be true, but it still may be for political reasons, not because of any true ethical violations. He may be against the Democrats as well as against the Republicans, but it's a partisan attack on Tom DeLay, and he's been doing it with a vengeance.

And I think that this rule change is important for all members in our conference. It is not just for Tom DeLay. It's to give us protection, to make sure that if it's a federal indictment, that person will be stepping down.

So, I had no problem supporting it, and our conference supported it wholeheartedly. And I think that the Democrats should be more ethical watch-dogs.

BLITZER: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, in the minority, at least on this panel, 2-1, but not necessarily in the minority when it comes to all the Republican members of the House of Representatives.

Unfortunately, guys, we have to leave it right there.

I want to thank our panel for joining us: Chris Shays, as usual, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, J.D. Hayworth. A good discussion. We'll continue to do it again down the road.

Up next, the results of our Web question of the week. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Check out the results of our Web question of the week. Take a look at this. Remember, though, it's not a scientific poll.

That's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, November 28th.

I'll be here twice a day, Monday through Friday.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

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