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Iraqis Turn Out to Vote

Aired January 30, 2005 - 11:00   ET


RUDI BAKHTIAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Rudi Bakhtiar at CNN's global headquarters in for Fredricka Whitfield. Ahead this hour, Iraqis vote in their first meaningful election in more than 50 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This day represents a birthday for the Iraqi people and the birthday of the political process here in Iraq.


BAKHTIAR: Only CNN takes you live throughout Iraq and in other Middle East and American cities where Iraqis are casting their ballots. Insurgents try their violent best to prevent the voting. We're also going to have the latest on the deadly obstacles Iraqi voters have had to overcome. But first, the top stories in the news right now.

Just a short time ago in Iraq, military officials report a British transport plane has crashed north of Baghdad. The wreckage is said to be scattered over a wide area. It is a C-130 Hercules aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin. It can carry both troops and armored equipment. No immediate word yet on casualties or the cause of the crash.

The icy weather in the southeast is taking a turn for the better at this hour with temperatures forecast to go above freezing. However, the problem now is the electricity. Here in Georgia, power companies say 300,000 customers are without electricity, most of them in the Atlanta metro area.

Jury selection is scheduled for tomorrow in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial in California. In a video message on his Web site, Jackson is complaining about leaks in the case calling them disgusting and false. The singer denies all the charges and predicts he'll be acquitted.

Also a gun battle in Kuwait between police and Islamic militants has left three people dead in Kuwait City. They include a security force member, a militant and a Bahraini citizen living in Kuwait. Police say militants were using his residence as a safe house.

A day of democracy, a day of defiance. Iraqi voters defying insurgent threats to their lives and turning out in huge numbers for historic elections there. It has been a brave journey for Iraqis amid a string of very deadly violence. We're going to go live now to Baghdad and CNN's Anderson Cooper. Anderson, give us the latest. ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rudi, an Iraqi election official says that 72 percent of eligible voters here in Iraq turned out to vote today. Those are very early percentages. They did not we should point, release any actual numbers of Iraqi voters so it is impossible for us to independently verify that 72 percent figure.

It is very high if you look at what the Iraqi government had predicted the turnout would be. They had previously predicted in days gone by some 57 percent of the eligible voters would actually turn out at the polls. The election spokesman even said that in some areas of Iraq, the turnout was up to 95 percent which is extraordinarily high. Again we should just look at those numbers perhaps and take them with a grain of salt. It is very early hours here. The polls closed just some, well let's see, some two hours ago.

There were long lines all day long in many polling stations. The polling station I was in, the line lasted about an hour long. All day long U.S. helicopters circled over the city of Baghdad, security extraordinarily tight. We continually have used the word historic. You have heard that no doubt on the news all day long and all week long. Today was a historic day, but it makes it sound kind of dry and dull.

Today was an emotion filled day. It was a day of drama. It was a day of celebration and really an extraordinary day here when you consider what has happened here not only in the last year, in the last two years, but in the last 10 and 20 and in the last generation here. There has been so much loss and so much suffering and so much pain. For people to go to the polls today, it seems such a simple act putting a check mark on a piece of paper, folding it up and putting it in a ballot box but.

But I got to tell you, for everyone who was there at these polling stations today, it was moving and it was sort of subdued almost at some polling stations. The one I was at the line was very long. No one was complaining. Everyone was sort of waiting quietly. People weren't really smiling. There was sort of a, just a quietness, but as people left the polling station, people were smiling. One woman I met was sort of yelling out loud her excitement. It was just on a personal basis I think for a lot of people, it was an extraordinary day, an extraordinarily moving day and a day which I think a lot of Iraqis will never forget Rudi.

BAKHTIAR: I can only imagine, Anderson. Anderson Cooper in Baghdad, thank you.

The voting is over in Iraq, but the violence hasn't ceased. In Baquba, a U.S. military operations center came under mortar fire shortly after the polls closed there. There's no word yet on casualties. Earlier a steady stream of Iraqis passed through one polling place in Baquba. CNN's Jane Arraf was there and has the story of those very determined voters.


JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The voting day began and ended with explosions. The polls here closed just a short while ago. A steady stream of people came to this schoolhouse, in fact, more than 1,400 of them. So many of them that the election worker handing out the ballots and stamping them told us he calluses on his fingers from doing that work. Everything had to be explained. This was brand new. People had not done this before in their lifetimes and they held up their ink stained fingers and said they weren't afraid of terrorists. They weren't afraid of insurgents. This is their right to vote and they were doing it for their future.

One of the last people in here who came just after the polls officially closed was absolutely distraught when they told him that he couldn't cast his ballot. He was born in 1924. In the end they let him. This was a family affair. Women came. Men came. Families came with their children all crowding around these polling booths to check off names on the national list and provincial list.

Now in other places in the Baquba and the heart of the Sunni triangle, election workers were intimidated into not coming. Perhaps one-third of the polling stations in this region did not function because they didn't have enough workers. But here the workers showed up. The Iraqi police showed up. The army showed up, voting at the end and keeping this place secure. And as night falls they are doing something unprecedented. They are counting the ballots.

These ballots were to have been sent to Baghdad to be counted for the first time. Instead, because of fears in security, fear that someone could steal them on the highway, they are going to take them out of these plastic boxes, count each one and put them back again to send them to Baghdad. They're doing this by the light of an electric battery operated lamp. There's no electricity here. There's no heat. There is not really much of anything, except the spirit among the people who voted here today that perhaps Iraq does have a future. Jane Arraf, CNN, reporting from Baquba.


BAKHTIAR: No doubt President Bush will be monitoring election returns from the White House and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on the weekend news circuit, calling the ballot a positive development that couldn't have been foreseen three years ago. Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux joining us now with that. Hi Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Rudi. A White House spokeswoman summed it up this way saying that President Bush believes it is a great day for democracy. We saw the president and the first lady heading to church early this morning. We are not certain whether or not he's going to come out and say directly how he feels about the election. There is a possibility that he may, but of course it's not surprising this message.

The White House strategy of course has been low expectations, also to cast Iraq's elections in and of itself as a success and of course his new national security adviser Steve Hadley we're told briefed the president throughout the morning on developments, as well as his new Secretary of State Condoleezza rice. Condoleezza Rice making the rounds on the talk shows including talking with our own Wolf Blitzer, making it very clear to the American people building up a case here that they believe that of course Iraq's elections and its democracy really is about U.S. national security, also that it is essential war on terror and she addressed the critical question that comes up next. When is it that U.S. troops will withdraw from Iraq?


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: The conditions on the ground will dictate the particular mix of Iraqi forces and coalition forces. The coalition is there under U.N. mandate to help the Iraqis because they're not quite capable yet of carrying out their own security functions but we are concentrating on training those forces. They had a good day today, the Iraqi security forces. General Casey reports that they have done well. And so they have done well in support of their own democracy. That's a good sign.


MALVEAUX: So Rudi, Rice saying today was a good day, but still of course the president and the administration not willing to agree to a certain timetable yet. They are kind of taking a wait and see approach, just how soon and how quickly they can train those Iraqi forces. And finally of course, the administration was looking at two key factors for the election.

First, of course security concerns and also the voter turnout, particularly among the Sunni population. Very interesting Rice in kind of a preemptive move of her own saying that there are already mechanisms they believe that will be in place to bring about Sunni participation and writing up the constitution, participating in the national assembly. That of course in case they look at those numbers, those figures and see it very low for Sunni turnout and they'd still want to make sure that people believe that this is a legitimate election.

BAKHTIAR: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, thank you. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is going to appear with Wolf Blitzer today on CNN LATE EDITION. It's a four-hour live special beginning at noon Eastern. Don't miss it.

The U.S. has a major stake in Iraq's push for democracy. The elections are only the first step in that very long road ahead. With us now is former political adviser to the coalition provisional authority, Michael Rubin. He is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Michael, thank you for joining us.


BAKHTIAR: The results are yet to come in but voter turnout has been high. What's your assessment of how things have done so far?

RUBIN: Things have gone surprisingly well. I mean it's not that much of a surprise. Given an opportunity, people do tend to vote for liberty over tyranny. They are exercising their right and they're grateful for it.

BAKHTIAR: What are some of the biggest challenges that lie ahead?

RUBIN: This transitional national assembly is set to write a constitution which will in turn go to a referendum and if that's approved, you're going to have another set of elections to pick a government. So what they are really doing is picking up the pieces of more than 30 years of dictatorship and trying to join the world community again.

BAKHTIAR: Michael, you spent a lot of time in Iraq and I understand that you got back from Iraq just a couple of weeks ago. You spent some time there. You have seen the media reports, very pessimistic leading up to these elections. What's your assessment of that in terms of let's bring in the Sunni and their lack of participation in these elections because of all the threats.

RUBIN: First of all, I do hope that as many Arab Sunnis participate as possible. But for example, in South Africa, when the Afrikaners didn't vote in large turnouts in their first free election in 1994, no one questioned the legitimacy of that election. I really do think it is an unfair question. That said, there seems to be this cartoonish assumption that all Iraqi Sunnis carry grenades and all Shia have turbans and that's not the case in Iraq. Iraqis tend to be a lot more politically sophisticated and a lot less maximalist in their demands than oftentimes we give them credit for.

BAKHTIAR: What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge for bringing in the Sunnis and getting their voices heard, as well?

RUBIN: When I was -- first of all, on the Sistani list, the so- called Sistani endorsed list of Shia candidates, what's often forgotten is that there is over 30 Sunni candidates on that list. On January 9 there was a big rally down in Najaf, which is the site of the holiest Shia shrine and Sunni candidates participated in that and then went to pray at the holiest of Shia shrines afterwards. Iraqis do tend to work together. Baghdad is a multiethnic city, multi- sectarian city. Families are intermarried. It tends to be a lot less of a division than sometimes we hear about in the west.

BAKHTIAR: Let's pull back and look at the broader picture of what this means to the whole of the Middle East, democracy in Iraq. What do you think the other countries are going to do? How are they going to react to this?

RUBIN: The ironic thing was with the expatriate voting for example in Syria, Syria witnessed its first free election and only Iraqis could take part. Syria is worried about federalism because of its large Kurdish community. Iran is worried about federalism. Saudi Arabia is worried about federalism because of its large Shia community. This is really a shot that's going to be heard across the Middle East and I think it is a good thing.

BAKHTIAR: Michael Rubin, former adviser to the coalition provisional authority. Thank you for joining us. RUBIN: Thanks for having me.

BAKHTIAR: Still ahead right here on CNN, Arab leaders in the region are closely watching Iraq's elections today. We're going to hear what they have to say about today's elections in a little bit. But first, we're going to go live to Damascus for a check on how the expat balloting went there. CNN LIVE SUNDAY continues in a moment.


BAKHTIAR: Welcome back, everyone. Just a few minutes ago, we spoke with Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute about the Iraqi election. Now with a look at the reaction in the Arab world, we're going to go to Hisham Melhem in Washington. He's a TV talk show host on Al Arabiaya, and Washington bureau chief of "An- Nahar," the leading daily paper in Lebanon. Thank you, Hisham, for joining us.


BAKHTIAR: All right. Let's talk about how this election is being viewed from the Arab perspective.

MELHEM: Well, the Arabs are watching the elections with a great deal of interest both on the official level and the societal level. There is a great deal of -- there is mixture of trepidation, concern and some hope that these elections will be historical. The official reaction so far has been one of caution and concern. Some Arab states have talked in an exaggerated terms about the rise of Shia crescent. They are talking with a great deal of exaggerated fear about the rise of a Shia majority in Iraq and they talk about the lack of representation of the Sunnis and those same governments never cared in the past about the unspeakable brutality that Saddam put on the Shias and the Kurds.

Among the elite, the academics, the human right activists, there is a debate about the validity and the authenticity of these elections. And many people are not seeing the irony that these elections in Iraq today, just as the elections in Palestine recently have occurred under abnormal conditions to say the least, occupation and yet people watched long lines of Palestinians and Iraqis exercising a right that is denied to most Arabs especially in the neighborhood of Iraq.

And one of the ironies in the Middle East today is full of ironies is that the Iraqi expatriate community in Syria for instance is exercising a right that the Sunni governments denies to its own people. In most Arab elections, Rudi, you know that the president or the leader runs unopposed. This is the case in Egypt, in Syria and in Tunisia and in those elections where you have parliaments elected as in Jordan and other places, with the exception of Lebanon and Kuwait to a lesser extent, these elections are seen as sham as they should be seen. And that's why the Iraqi election has put the Arab leaders on the horn of a dilemma. They cannot condemn elections in principle. At the same time, they are worried about the exercise and what it will do to their own people. BAKHTIAR: So you don't think that these elections will ever be viewed as legitimate?

MELHEM: First and foremost, the Iraqis themselves should see these elections as legitimate and not have to wait for the results to find out exactly the nature of the turnout and all of that. The reaction of the Arab world -- I don't want to minimize it -- it's important, but first and foremost, the Iraqis themselves should see this election as legitimate or not. I mean, judging by the fact that at least 14, 15 million Iraqis have registered to vote, notwithstanding the campaign to intimidate them on the part of Saddam's loyalists and the terrorists and others, that in and of itself, speaks volume about the yearning of the Iraqis, Arabs, Kurds, Shia, Sunnis to determine their own future after so many years of living under the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein.

BAKHTIAR: What about the neighboring countries of Iran, Syria? They must have a lot at stake in terms of what comes out of these elections.

MELHEM: There is a great deal of talk about Iran as being the major power in the Gulf. Of course Iran became the major power in the Gulf recently after the Americans decimated Iraqi forces in 1991. The Iranians have played a very smart politics vis-a-vis Iraq. They built bridges with a variety of Shia groups and others, including Kurds, and they are investing politically in the future of Iraq.

That does not mean for a moment that the Shia of Iraq are going to put themselves in the orbit of Iran. I always say the shakalara (ph) that divides Iraq and Iran is not only physical barrier. It's also a cultural barrier. The Iraqi Shia in particular, who have been marginalized for 80 years, are not going to at this moment in their own history, when they are trying to determine their own future, decide that they are going to be in the political orbit of Iran.

There should be a good relationship between Iraq and Iran because of a variety of reasons, the fact that Shia is a common religion for the majority of both people, because of history, because of economic needs and what not. But what is taking place in Iraq should not be exaggerated as the prelude to the emergence of a theocracy in Baghdad similar to the one in Iran. Iran is not really a very attractive model for the neighboring states.

BAKHTIAR: All right. We're going to have to leave it at that. Hisham Melhem from Al Arabiya. Thank you so much for joining us.

MELHEM: Thank you.

BAKHTIAR: And President Bush is expected to speak about the Iraqi elections at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. That will be live here on CNN. We'll be covering it for you, of course. Wolf Blitzer will be here along with others. Please stay tuned for news coming straight up right after this break.


BAKHTIAR: And welcome back, everyone. We've been covering an amazing, historic day of Iraq history, Iraqis taking to the streets and voting en masse. President Bush is scheduled to speak about it at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. We will be covering that for you live and all of the news coming out of Iraq still ahead. A closer look at what the Arab media is saying about today's elections in Iraq. And later, the voting and the violence. CNN LIVE SUNDAY will be right back.


BAKHTIAR: Welcome back everyone. A bomb exploded at a hotel in the Spanish resort town of Denia. At least two injuries have been reported. A Spanish official told CNN that the blast occurred after the Basque separatist group Eta, phoned in a warning.

And a weekend winter storm has blasted parts of the southeast, parts of Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were covered with ice, sleet and snow. More than 300,000 customers in Georgia are without power and the storm is being blamed for three traffic deaths in the region.

In a video statement posted to his Web site, pop star Michael Jackson described recent leaks from grand jury transcripts as false and misleading. Jury selection is set to begin tomorrow for Jackson's trial on child molestation charges.

More now on our top story: The violence and the vote in Iraq. Polls have closed in Iraq's first free election in half a century. Many voters today paid for that freedom with their lives or the lives of their loved ones. CNN's Anderson Cooper joining us live once again from Baghdad with more. What a day it has been, Anderson.

COOPER: An extraordinary day indeed. Yes, there was violence, and yes, people did die, and yes, that's a tragedy. But for Iraqis who have seen death on every day for the last many, many years, today was a day of celebration. A day of quiet celebration, perhaps. People quietly waiting in line, waiting for the chance in a lifetime, the chance to actually vote.

I spent the day at one polling station for a short amount of time. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): Omar Shakur Saeed (ph) didn't mind waiting in line for an hour to vote today. He's already waited his entire life.

"Voting is a very good feeling," he says. "We want sovereignty and to get rid of injustice."

Hundreds showed up to vote at this one polling station in a residential Baghdad neighborhood. All day, U.S. choppers circled overhead. On the ground, Iraqi police and soldiers stood guard.

Police confiscated cell phones commonly used by insurgents to coordinate attacks.

(on camera): You can hear shots ringing out. It's a common occurrence of every day life here in Baghdad. Security is very tight at this polling station. Even to get this close, people have had to go through about two different security checkpoints, even to get inside they'll have to go through at least one, maybe two more. All the while, U.S. soldiers are about 200 yards away, standing on the roof of a building watching everything.

(voice-over): A sign on the wall tells Iraqis, "do not live in fear."

Abbas (ph) came with his wife and 7-year-old son.

"First I was nervous, because security is not stable," he says, "but we came anyway to put our votes in the boxes. These elections represent the people and decide our fate."

"Everyone is eager to vote," says Mohammed (ph). "I voted, too."

Once voters actually made it inside the room to cast their ballot, there were a confusing number of choices -- 111 lists to choose from for the 275-seat national assembly; 62 lists to choose from for a provincial council.

(on camera): The Iraqi election observer here, who doesn't want to be photographed because he fears for his own safety, says that people are confused by the ballot, but they get the hang of it pretty quickly.

(voice-over): After voting, each person dipped one finger in a bottle of ink, to ensure they wouldn't vote again. To many, however, the ink on their finger was a symbol of change.

"I consider this a new beginning of life," says Omar (ph). "Now you're free to vote for whomever you want. No one tells you who to vote for."

"I wasn't scared at all," Fadria Flahy (ph) shouts. "Last night, I couldn't sleep. I was so eager to come here and vote, and may God save all Iraqis, Sunnis, Shias, Arab, Kurds. We're all one Iraqis, one nation."

Everyone applauds.

After all the fear and all the loss, it seemed like such a simple thing. Men and women casting votes, finally having a say in what happens next.


COOPER: And it is a very simple thing when you think about it, but here in Iraq, it has been a very complex process, and no doubt it will continue to be. This is not the end of the story. This is not the end of the bloodshed, this is not the end of the insurgency. But today the insurgents did lose. Today the insurgents, who had vowed to wash the streets of Baghdad with the blood of anyone who voted, today it was shown that they were just talking. Yes, they did kill people today, and yes, they will kill people tomorrow, and in perhaps in weeks and months to come, but today the Iraqi people voted, and that's an extraordinary thing indeed -- Rudi.

BAKHTIAR: It sure is. Anderson Cooper in Baghdad, thank you so much.

For some more perspective now on the Iraqi election as it is being covered in the Arab media, let's bring in our senior editor for Arab affairs, Octavia Nasr. Thank you so much for joining us, Octavia.


BAKHTIAR: An amazing day for the Middle East. Leading up to these elections, though, there was a lot of pessimism in the Arab news media. I'm sure everyone remembers that. Has that changed?

NASR: It seems like it. It seems like it's a different day, different story for Arab media, and the tone has changed. A lot of talk about what a new day this is, what a great day this is for Iraqis. Take an example of this article from "Al-Hayyat" newspaper, this is a pan-Arab newspaper based in London, widely read and respected. The author here, Osam Sharbil (ph), says just check things out under Saddam. Under Saddam, people couldn't even vote. A vote meant just renewing your allegiance to the president. Even dead people could vote. You know...


NASR: Really, you know, if you didn't show up to vote, you know, the intelligence will vote for you, basically.

BAKHTIAR: But it really was true that they had yes or no, but no one dared to say no because...

NASR: This author says because if you say no, that means you're wiped out and your entire family tree is wiped out with you, under Saddam. So basically, there's an introduction here to a new era, and a lot of Arab editors are inviting the Arab street to try and learn something from this experience.

Here's an example of one quote that -- a headline that we picked, also. It says "the new Iraq will be born today." This is from "Al- Ittihad" in the United Arab Emirates. Another headline says, "under one eye lie lies fear and under the other lies hope."

More headlines we have. "An unprecedented and historic event: An Iraqi scene unlike any other in the region. The Iraqi elections will serve as a lesson for neighboring countries to assume power through voting and not overthrowing."

These are powerful words, as you know.

BAKHTIAR: Very powerful. And neighboring countries, I assume they are talking about Syria, Iran, Turkey.

NASR: Right, and the rest of the Arab world.

BAKHTIAR: The ramifications.

NASR: Yes, this is going to be a lesson in democracy for a lot of these countries, because yes, Iran is looking at these elections to see how the Shia are going to do in these elections, because of course there is the thought that maybe this will be another Islamic state. Turkey, because they want to see what the Kurds are going to do and how well they are going to do in the elections.

It is very interesting for the entire region, and of course Arab media are focusing on how important this is also for President Bush, how important it is for terrorists like Abu Musab al Zarqawi and their future. Lots of questions. And again...

BAKHTIAR: And hopefully Osama bin Laden is watching...

NASR: Yes.

BAKHTIAR: ... for that, as well.

They are using a lot of humor, though, to portray these very serious situations and what the Iraqis are going through. Let's talk a little bit about that.

NASR: They are. You know, Arabs are known for their cynical view of the world, and this one is interesting, because look at this one, for example. This one shows you the ballot box, and here's the Iraqi man standing there trying to get to the box, except there are all these bombs ready to go that are standing in between him and the ballot boxes.

Again, humor, maybe more cynicism, I guess, and concern about the safety of all those Iraqis trying to cast their ballots.

Here's another one. This one comes -- the first one came from "Adesud (ph)" in Jordan. This is one from "Asherk al-Qatar (ph)." Basically, you see this Iraqi man going to the poll with a U.S. soldier in his back holding a gun, sort of pushing him toward the ballot, and then there is the insurgent holding a gun to his face from behind the ballot box. Again, some humor, but a lot of messages embedded in this humor.

BAKHTIAR: And very real situations there, you know. They were fearing for their lives, and yet 72 percent, we're hearing, went to the polls. How remarkable is that, and how will that reflect in tomorrow's headlines?

NASR: It is going to reflect positively in tomorrow's headlines. But again, that 72 percent number is -- seems to be a bit inflated. Some Arab media are saying that this is wishful thinking on the part of the Electoral Commission in Iraq, that the numbers are not that high, and even the commission itself is backing off that number. So we have to be realistic here and just think that the day has passed, No. 1. Iraqis went to the polls and voted on this historic day. What tomorrow will bring is definitely another era and another day, and not just for Iraqis and Iraq, but for the entire region, and perhaps as you mentioned, for the whole world. We'll wait and see. And we'll of course monitor how Arab media report it.

BAKHTIAR: Thank you, Octavia. Octavia Nasr, senior editor for Arab Affairs Department. Thank you.

NASR: Thank you.

BAKHTIAR: Well, this is the third and final day of voting by Iraqi expats around the world, and also here in the U.S. Jim Clancy is in Amman, Jordan, where the voting just wrapped up there. Jim, what can you tell us?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that voting has ended, of course, and it appears that the turnout is indeed very high. The turnout in terms of the number of registered voters, about 90 percent or more appear to have turned out here in Jordan and in many other places.

Now, that is not unusual in terms of the way that this is conducted. At the same time, there was a low voter registration of expatriate voters. Once again, that also in line with the numbers that were expected.

What was perhaps more significant was the reaction here. And remember, there's not much of any difference between Iraqis inside or outside their country. The Iraqis here were watching the situation very closely. They breathed a sigh of relief when they saw that the suicide bombers, although they did strike, although they did take lives, they saw that it wasn't as bad as they had feared.

Still, many of the people that were here said, it is a responsibility to vote. A responsibility to face up to those that who had intimidated them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This shouldn't stop us. I mean, it shouldn't stop anybody from going to vote. I mean, if your day is coming, your day is coming. So it didn't stop me here in Jordan, or -- I hope it doesn't stop anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think maybe the road of freedom, the road of democracy cannot be paved by roses. It should be paved by blood, of course. It needs high sacrifices.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great feeling. Last woman, when I stamped her fingers, I remembered a lot of friends. Personal friends. They give their blood for Iraq a long time. I remember a friend that give their blood in a prison, exile, people caught by Saddam's regime. I remember all of them. How much they -- blood from their blood. For me maybe now it's blue blood. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CLANCY: Blue blood. Holding the index finger aloft like so many Iraqis inside and outside the country this day. Evidence of faith in a process as much as in the politicians they were casting their ballots for.

At one point, we saw a man go forward to the ballot box and he paused. He kissed that ballot box before he dropped his vote into the collection. Back to you, Rudi.

BAKHTIAR: Wow, Jim. What amazing emotion. Powerful emotion there. Jim Clancy in Amman, Jordan, thank you.

And here in America, Iraqis had the opportunity to go to various states to cast their ballots. And we were hoping to have Denise Belgrave from Nashville, Tennessee to talk to you about that. Hopefully we'll try it again, get her back up for you and bring it to you as soon as we can.

For now, though, let's take a break. Coming up, heightened security in Iraq, yet insurgents were able to carry out more than a dozen attacks across the country. We're going to bring you an attack breakdown next on CNN LIVE SUNDAY.


BAKHTIAR: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Rudi Bakhtiar at the CNN Center. We have been covering the Iraqi elections for you all day, and it has been about over two hours since the polls have closed, but expats are also voting in different countries. We were with Jim Clancy in Jordan. Now we want to go Brent Sadler, who is standing by in Syria, in Damascus. Can you tell us what is going on there, Brent?

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, Rudi, I can. In the past few minutes, ballot boxes left this polling station, one of 10 centers in the Syrian capital, Damascus. They were taken away in a convoy of vans to a counting center. When these boxes were taken out, it was quite extraordinary if not moving to see the reaction of the election officials themselves. Many of them Iraqis. They were beaming with satisfaction, really joyous that they had conducted Iraq's first election in somewhat nearly 50 years. So real joy and satisfaction when they took those ballot boxes out of here just a short time ago.

Now, about 16,000 plus voters registered here in Syria over the nine-day registration period. We'll see how many of those 16,000 actually voted over this balloting period, this taking place here over the past three days. Really extraordinary to see some of the heart- moving scenes, really heartwarming scenes of Iraqis coming in here, and over the past three days really wanting to embrace this process and really to be seen to be taking part in what they think is a significant step towards building democracy in Iraq -- Rudi.

BAKHTIAR: Our Brent Sadler in Damascus, thank you very much. And back here in the United States, as we were telling you, Iraqi expatriates had the chance to go to cast their ballots in five different states. Denise Belgrave is standing by in one of those polling stations in Nashville, Tennessee. Denise, how is it going over there?

DENISE BELGRAVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Rudi. It's a joyous day here in Nashville. We have been out here for about 3 and a half hours since the polls opened. And if you look to my left here, we have got an impromptu celebration going on. These are a bunch of people who have come down from Dallas, Texas. Many of them drove all night to get here, in order to vote in this election.

As you can see, they are having a really great time, and they're dancing and celebrating. It is a big day for them. And they really do hope that this is going to bring some change to their country.

We spoke with officials, and they said about 2,500 people, they believe, have voted so far. That's out of about 4,000 -- almost 4,000 who have registered. So we really are pleased to be here and report this to our audiences -- Rudi.

BAKHTIAR: Thank you, Denise. Denise Belgrave in Nashville, Tennessee.

All right. Let's go to another part of the U.S. Our Bob Franken is standing by in New Carrollton, Maryland. Bob, how are things going where you are at?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you can see, it is snowing here today. And that has made it even more difficult, the getting to this polling place, which is in suburban Washington, one of five around the United States. Of course, though, they had a huge turnout yesterday. About 70 percent of those who were registered along the eastern seaboard, that is to say the ones who were eligible to vote here, turned out yesterday. It was quite a little celebration. It is a little bit slower today because of the snow and because so many people had come.

Of that 2,000, we're told about 1,500 already have voted. The polls are open here for a little bit more than five hours. Many people who are voting are expressing great pride. Many people who are not voting have a variety of reasons. One that the registration was difficult. Only about 10 percent of those did register. Others have objections to the voting itself.

But it is going on. Heavy security here for the obvious reasons. And the snow is slowing things down perhaps, but people are still coming from many hundred miles away in some cases -- Rudi.

BAKHTIAR: All right. Our Bob Franken in New Carrollton, Maryland, thank you.

Let's get some perspective now on the attacks throughout Iraq going on today. And for that, let's bring in our senior military analyst, retired U.S. Air Force Major General Don Shepperd. General, thanks for joining us.


BAKHTIAR: Give us an overview, if you will, of the entire country, and start from the north and start pinpointing where these attacks are coming from.

SHEPPERD: Yeah, here's the lay down so far. Eight suicide bombings. I know about a ninth rumor, but not confirmed. Eight other types of attacks combined of IEDs, mortars, even one where election workers were seen to have ink on their fingers and grenades thrown at them.

We're going to zoom in here on this map, this fly-over map. We're going to fly over from the southwest over Saudi Arabia and pass Kuwait and go into the northern part of the country. And let me give you a quick lay down here. We expected a heavy turnout in the northern area up here, and indeed we saw it. We did see some attacks in the Mosul area up here, and we also saw some -- we also saw some attacks in the Kirkuk area.

Nic Robertson is in Sulaimanyia. We did not see any attacks there.

If we can go into the central area, we expected also a lot of attacks in the central area, and we're flying in again from the southwest. And we have had some attacks here in the vicinity of Baquba, southwest of Baquba. And the Sunni triangle, surprisingly, Falluja, Ramadi, Tikrit, all of that has been fairly calm.

We have also had a crash about in this location, north of Baghdad. It is about a third of the way up to Tikrit. A C-130, an RAF British C-130 went down about 30 miles to the northwest of Baghdad. We still don't have any information on casualties there.

So again, the central sector has been fairly calm, if you will.

Taking a look at the south here, flying in again from the southwest into the Baghdad area. We have had some attacks down in the Basra area, way down here to the south. We've also had a bus attack in Hilla, and of course we've had numerous attacks in Baghdad, which we will look at later.

If we can zoom in on Baghdad itself, that's where most of the attacks have occurred. And you would expect that, because most of them are going to occur in big cities where there's lots of cover to operate.

Here's a location of some of the attacks. Some of the notorious ones. A mortar went down up here in Sadr City, Sadr City area. We have also had some others to the southwest down here, and other explosions, particularly in the Mansoor area, as you can see. And it has been fairly calm overall, so the turnout and the violence has been less than expected on the violence, more than expected on the turnout. And that's what it looks like, Rudi. BAKHTIAR: All right. Thank you, Major General Don Shepperd, our CNN military analyst. We thank you for that report.

We're going to have more in a moment on the Iraqi elections. Stay with us.


BAKHTIAR: Welcome back. One of my favorite shows, "LATE EDITION," is coming up in about 10 minutes. Wolf Blitzer joining us now from Washington with a preview. Wolf, an extra special day for us today.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, LATE EDITION: Thanks very much, Rudi. Actually, less than five minutes away until the top of "LATE EDITION." We've got a big show, four hours today on the Iraqi elections, starting off with my interview with Condoleezza Rice, the new U.S. secretary of state. At 1:00 p.m. Eastern, a little bit more than one hour from now, we'll also hear from President Bush. He'll be at the White House speaking to the American people about these historic elections.

Also, reaction from the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, John Warner, the ranking Democrat, Carl Levin. A lot of Iraqi political leaders who are running for various positions. All that coming up only a few minutes away on "LATE EDITION." Rudi, back to you.

BAKHTIAR: All right. We'll be watching. Thank you, Wolf.

And here in the U.S., one of the big stories for us has been the weather. Let's check in with Rob Marciano to see if it is going to get any better.


BAKHTIAR: And that's going to do it for us here at the CNN Center. Stay tuned for Wolf Blitzer coming up next in "LATE EDITION."


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