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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Mowaffak Al-Rubaie; Interview With Ahmed Nazif; Interview With Wayne Hale

Aired July 31, 2005 - 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, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5:00 p.m. in London and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
We'll get to our interview with Iraq's national security adviser in just a moment. First, though, let's get a quick check of what's in the news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: With the deadline to complete an Iraqi constitution just three weeks away, there are serious concerns that an unrelenting insurgency and disputes over the role of religion could derail that goal.

Just a short while ago, I spoke with Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, about the political and security challenges still facing his country, the upcoming trial of Saddam Hussein and much more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Mowaffak al-Rubaie, thanks very much for joining us from Baghdad.

There is word now that there may have to be a delay of, what, 30 days in terms of drafting the proposed Iraqi constitution. The deadline was supposed to be mid-August, August 15th. What's the situation right now?

MOWAFFAK AL-RUBAIE, IRAQ'S NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think some little problems need to be ironed out, and I believe we will try our level best to stick to the timetable, because it is very important for the credibility of the government and for the political process as well. So I am very much hopeful that we will meet all these deadlines.

BLITZER: Well, can you confirm that you will seek a 30-day extension beyond August 15th? Is that already official?

AL-RUBAIE: Well, the constitutional committee has not finalized this yet, and I believe if it is delayed, it is going to be the intention of it is to include all parties, especially those political parties who have not taken part in the last election. BLITZER: You're referring to the Iraqi Sunnis, the minority in Iraq.

What is the major problem that's forcing this delay?

AL-RUBAIE: Well, Wolf, they are fine-tuning on the issue of federalism, the extent of the authority of the federal state, and what are the role of the center as opposed to the regions. And also, the role of religion is still -- there's some fine-tuning on the drafting before we put it forward to our people.

And a couple of days, a few days is not going to make a huge difference. I think we need to get our Sunni Arabs included in the political process. It is pivotal part of the Iraqi society. And also if we get -- if we want to get the referendum and our people to ratify our draft of constitution in the next referendum, we need to include every part of Iraq.

BLITZER: As you know, under the terms of the law, you could extend this drafting of the constitution for six months beyond the August 15th deadline. Do you think that might be necessary beyond the 30 days? I assume you're confirming that the 30 days will be required, an additional 30 days. But would it be necessary to go an extra six months?

AL-RUBAIE: No, I can't confirm the 30 days now. But I can tell you, everybody in the political process, be it Shia or Sunni, Kurds or Arab, Kaldo-Assyrians are so determined, and the government is so determined to meet all the deadlines and to not get any postponement of this political process.

Because we believe that any delaying of the political process is going to play into the hands of the terrorists and of those who are adopting violence, and they will claim victory that they have succeeded in delaying the political process.

BLITZER: The Los Angeles Times this week suggested that the draft Iraqi constitution would include -- and let me read from the story in the Los Angeles Times -- "Islam is the official religion of the state. It is the basic source for legislation. It is forbidden to pass a law that contradicts its fixed rulings."

Is that true? Will Islam be the official religion of the state and the source of all law in Iraq?

AL-RUBAIE: Well, it doesn't say the source of all laws. It says the basic source of laws.

And remember, this is an Islamic country. The background, the culture, the history, the identity of the country -- this is an overwhelming majority of the population in this country are Muslims. So, this is I think -- it's very normal.

It does not mean that there's going to be a discrimination against other religions. We have a sizable and a large-size community, a Christian community, and they are going to be very well- respected. Also, there are other Sabians, Yazidis and other religions. So they're going to be all respected minorities in the country.

BLITZER: What do you say to those who might fear, though, that Iraq, a Shia-dominated Iraq, with Islam the official religion, could turn out to be like its neighbor, Iran?

AL-RUBAIE: I think those who are claiming that, they do not understand the nature of this country. This is a multi-societal country. This is a very heterogeneous country. This is a country which is composed of all sorts of sects, religion, nationalities and ethnic minorities.

And to form and establish a democratic, a liberal system in Iraq, no community should dominate. Democracy, as you know, Wolf, is the rule of majority, but also it's to maintain and security -- or securing the rights of the minority as well.

BLITZER: As you know, there are 139,000 or so U.S. troops in Iraq right now. General George Casey, the U.S. military commander on the ground in Iraq, suggested earlier in the week that perhaps that number could be significantly reduced beginning in the spring. Is that an optimistic assessment or realistic?

AL-RUBAIE: I think it's very realistic. Prime Minister Jaafari has proposed to a series of meetings of the Ministerial Committee for National Security, a proposal whereby the multinational forces will pull out from some of the provinces, some of the cities where the security is OK, and the Iraqi police and a new Iraqi army can maintain the security in these regions.

So we believe that the multinational forces are ready to leave some of these cities, some of the provinces, and we take over the responsibility of the security of these provinces, regions and large cities.

BLITZER: So what is a realistic number for the spring -- 139,000 going down to what?

AL-RUBAIE: Let me give you some, well, figures or approximate figures. Of course, these figures are going to be condition-based. Because until and unless the right conditions are created in some of these areas, the multinational forces will not leave, and the Iraqi government will not ask them to leave.

But if we create -- and we are working very hard to create these conditions in some of these provinces and some of the regions as well as districts -- when these conditions are right, then we will ask the multinational forces to leave these areas.

I would have a guess of a very good number in tens of thousands will leave in the first part, in the first half of next year. And a considerable number of the multinational forces will probably leave Iraq before the end of next year.

BLITZER: So, in other words, it would go down from 139,000 to what, let's say, by next summer, a year from now? What would be a realistic number?

AL-RUBAIE: I wouldn't like to guess a figure because I think this will play into the terrorists hands, as well as it's unfair.

There are so many factors who are playing in this process. And one of it is the training of our Iraqi security forces, and the other is the level of insurgency and the level of violence and the terrorism, our evaluation of our enemies and our Iraqi security forces.

There are so many factors who are variables. There are so many are variables in this process. I don't think we should guess numbers here.

BLITZER: The vice chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, who will become the new chairman, said this past week, he said, "Only a small number of Iraqi security forces are taking on the insurgents and terrorists by themselves" -- a small percentage.

How many Iraqi troops and police forces are fully capable of operating right now without U.S. or multinational coalition assistance?

AL-RUBAIE: Admittedly the number -- I wouldn't go into percentages. But let me tell you something. By December, we will have a total number of our Iraqi security forces including Iraqi policemen, a new Iraqi army, and counterterrorism, special forces. They're going to be in the region of 200,000-plus.

BLITZER: But of that 200,000-plus, how many of them are fully capable right now to operate without U.S. assistance?

AL-RUBAIE: We hope by the end of the year probably more than a third of this security force, Iraqi security force, are going to be able to operate independently. And obviously, you will need the multinational forces to stay over the horizon, just in case they need the help, and they would get the help.

BLITZER: There was a report released by the Pentagon and the State Department this past week on Iraqi military preparedness. Among other things, it said this: "Recruitment and vetting procedures are faulty. Despite recent improvements, too many recruits are marginally literate. Some show up for training with criminal records or physical handicaps, and some recruits allegedly are infiltrating insurgents."

Is that accurate?

AL-RUBAIE: Admittedly, Wolf, we do have some problems in recruitment and the vetting procedure and the possible infiltration of our security forces. We do have a few problems.

But we have solutions, as well. For the vetting procedure, we have now established a procedure to scrutinize and meticulously vet our intelligence agencies recruits. We have also strengthened and tightened the recruitment procedure for the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense.

So we are doing the work. Remember, this is a country which we start a year ago with no single policeman, no single new Iraqi army. And now, we're about to have 170,000 Iraqi security forces now.

So you're bound to, in this process -- and it's a very quick, fast process of recruitment and training -- you're bound to have some mistakes, and we are addressing these mistakes. I can't deny there are some mistakes.

BLITZER: When will the trial, the real trial, of Saddam Hussein finally begin?

AL-RUBAIE: I would very much hope that he will be in the box, in front of Iraqi people, in an Iraqi specialists tribunal, well before -- well before the 15th of October, before we go for our referendum and to ask the people to say yes to our constitution or that constitution on the 15th of October, we will say, this is your future, and this, Saddam Hussein, gone into the past and gone with the wind, if you like.

BLITZER: So when do you think it will all be wrapped up, would you guess? How long will this trial last? And can we assume he will get the death sentence?

AL-RUBAIE: Well, this is not going to be a political trial. We're not going to allow Saddam Hussein to be another Milosevic, or is going to give us his rhetorics and his speeches on his nonsense. We are going to concentrate on the criminal side of it, and we stick to the criminal side of it.

And we have now at least five completed files on Saddam Hussein, on crimes Saddam Hussein has committed, and we have some of these files -- we have documents, material evidence in his own handwriting, in his red ink signature, that crimes he has committed and making orders to commit crimes.

So each one of these crimes, five files we have now against Saddam Hussein, probably can execute him, can sentence him to death.

But we are not going to make this a political one. We are not going to wait for ages until we get ready for all his crimes, because if you wait for all his crimes, probably we'll wait all our life because his crimes are innumerable.

BLITZER: So do you think that his trial will last weeks or months?

AL-RUBAIE: Well, I wouldn't like to preempt or influence the trial because this is independent judicial process, and I would not like to apply any pressure on the judge to speed up the trial. I think we'll leave the judicial system to its own devices, so that they will take their own time and they will sentence Saddam.

But we will make this as an example for the whole of the -- in the Arab world, in the Muslim world, that this is going to be a fair, just trial with a defense counsel in there, with a proper prosecuting counsel as well there, and everybody will watch this trial live on television.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, Mr. al-Rubaie, but I know your prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, is working on a multi-point plan to deal with life in Iraq right now.

We see the images, nearly daily insurgent car bombings, suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices. How do people go about their day-to-day activities, living in this constant fear, and manage to allow life to go forward under any semblance of normality?

AL-RUBAIE: Well, the prime minister has proposed a 12-point plan for the national security, and it was discussed in detail in the Ministerial Committee for National Security chain of meetings.

And this plan incorporates coordination of our intelligence agencies. Also it incorporates securing Baghdad as the capital of Iraq and also increasing the protection of the infrastructure, formation of special forces or target-oriented special forces.

Also, increasing the intelligence activity, because, you know, this is a intelligence-led war; this is not a traditional, classical war. So it includes also the increase of the inclusion of political parties. Also the role of the people in -- those 8.5 million who voted for this government, what is their role in the security.

There are a lot of other issues, which are included in this process, or in this 12-point plan of Prime Minister Jaafari.

BLITZER: Mowaffak Al-Rubaie, it was kind of you to spend some time with us here on "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much. Good luck to you, and good luck to all the people of Iraq.

AL-RUBAIE: Thank you very much for having me, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And just ahead, is a timetable set? Should one be set for U.S. troops to start leaving Iraq? We'll ask two key United States senators about that and more.

Then, Discovery's mission. We'll talk with NASA's deputy shuttle program manager, Wayne Hale, about concerns over the shuttles safety.

And later, Egypt trying to recover from a deadly terrorist strike. We'll talk with the country's prime minister, Ahmed Nazif, about the global war on terror.

"LATE EDITION" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our Web question of the week asks this: Should religion play a role in Iraq's new constitution? You can cast your vote. Go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results later in the program.

Straight ahead, Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman and Republican Senator John Kyl. They're standing by to weigh in on where things stand in Iraq, the war on terror and much more.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENERAL GEORGE CASEY, COMMANDER, COALITION FORCES: I do believe we'll still be able to take some fairly substantial reductions after these elections in the spring and summer next year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: U.S. Army General George Casey, the head of coalition forces in Iraq, talking this past week about the possible start of U.S. troop withdrawals next year.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

Joining us now are two key members of the United States Senate. In his home state of Arizona, Republican Senator Jon Kyl. He's a member of the Judiciary Committee. And here in Washington, Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. He's the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees.

Senators, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

And, Senator Kyl, let me start with you. Is it realistic to assume that tens of thousands of U.S. troops might be able to get out of Iraq by next summer?

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Well, General Casey and the president and the other military advisers will make that decision. I don't think we have any way of knowing right now whether that's realistic, but it certainly is the hope. That's why the Iraqis are being trained up in order to take a lot of the fight that our military is engaged in right now. And obviously that is our hope and our expectation.

BLITZER: Senator Lieberman, what's your expectation?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: It's a great goal, but I'm worried about projecting it too much to the point that we mislead people.

People like Senator Kyl and I who've supported the war in Iraq know how important victory is. And we've got to be very careful that we don't just declare victory but we achieve victory, that we don't give encouragement, frankly, to those who have been pressing us to set a deadline for getting out of Iraq. You can only get out of Iraq when we achieve the mission. And unfortunately, the recent reports we've had from the Pentagon to the Senate Armed Services Committee about the state of readiness of the Iraqi security forces are not encouraging. Maybe they'll make progress in the time between now and next spring. I hope so.

There's nothing I'd like more than seeing the troops come back, but only if circumstances justify it.

BLITZER: Senator Kyl, there's one argument that's being made, that the Iraqis would be better off with a much smaller U.S. military footprint there. For one reason, it would give greater pressure or put added pressure really on the Iraqi military really to take charge.

KYL: Well, and that's the tension. And Senator Lieberman is exactly correct. We can't leave until we've achieved what we are there to achieve, which is a secure country, with the Iraqis being able to do it themselves.

But there's always a tension between staying too long in order to do the job the way we would do it and yet giving them an opportunity to try their hand at it.

And our military people are on the ground. They're able to make those judgments. And I think we have to defer significantly to their judgment in that regard.

BLITZER: The other argument, on the other hand, Senator Lieberman, you hear from Senator McCain and others, the U.S. doesn't have enough troops to really get the job done. Now more troops really should be added to the mix instead of withdrawing them.

LIEBERMAN: Well, I've said that along the way.

I mean, I'll be real direct about it. I'd be surprised if we don't increase the number of American troops, coalition forces we have on the ground, between now and the end of this year, because we have got the referendum on the constitution coming up, we've got the election of the Iraqi assembly hopefully in December. Those are times when the terrorists are going to be looking to create havoc, and we want to secure the country as well as we did in January.

BLITZER: So the number from 139,000 may go up in the short term before it eventually starts to go down?

LIEBERMAN: I would not be surprised if it did.

Look, this leads to larger question, just to mention briefly, Wolf. A bunch of us in Congress worry that the Army that we have today is not big enough, and we're stressing it and the people in it, sending people back to Iraq two, three times.

I believe we do actually need an increase in the end-strength of our Army so our commanders in the field will have the troops they need as the facts on the ground dictate.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on. We'll get to that subject on another occasion, the overall strength of the U.S. military.

The war on terror, Senator Kyl. What about your estimate right now? Is the U.S. prepared for similar kinds of strikes that we have seen in recent days in London, two series of attacks there, as well as Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt?

KYL: Wolf, that's a question that has several different answers to it.

The first answer is, we can never assure the people in America that they are totally protected from that kind of attack. This country is wide open. We enjoy our freedoms. It is simply impossible to protect every single shopping center, every single bus, every single train or any other place where terrorists may wish to strike. And they adjust their tactics in order to find out what we're protecting and therefore what they want to change to attack a softer kind of target that isn't protected.

So our strategy is not only to do what we can in prioritizing protection of the homeland, but, frankly, conducting offensive operations against the terrorists. And that's where our emphasis should be. That means a very good intelligence capability both abroad and in the United States. That's what makes the Patriot Act so important.

BLITZER: But have you seen, Senator Kyl, a dramatic improvement in intelligence gathering, human intelligence, infiltrating these cells over the past few years on the part of the United States?

KYL: It's improved. It is not -- I wouldn't call it a dramatic improvement, but it certainly is an improvement. With things like the Patriot Act, strengthening the FISA enforcement, allowing the intelligence agencies and the FBI to talk to each other, we have gone, since 9/11, without an attack here in the United States. We have broken up cells. We've arrested people, put them in jail.

We've done the same abroad. We've thwarted literally well over 100 attacks abroad with an aggressive intelligence operation.

So the war on terror is really a war with many fronts, the first and foremost among them being trying to fight the enemy abroad and engaging in a significant intelligence operation to disrupt their ability to attack.

BLITZER: Yet, Senator Lieberman, there are still widespread reports that the U.S. doesn't have enough human assets, spies, that are penetrating some of these cells, some of these al Qaeda-related organizations, doesn't have enough native speakers in Arabic or other languages, part of these groups.

Are you satisfied that there's been enough improvement since 9/11?

LIEBERMAN: No, none of us should be satisfied. I don't think any body on Capitol Hill or in the administration is satisfied.

We're safer today than we were on 9/11. We have a homeland security department. We have a recently reformed director of national intelligence. But are we -- the key here, as Jon Kyl said, is intelligence. Look, what did the terrorist attacks in London and Egypt in the last couple of week tell us? We are in a world war. We're in a world war that Islamist terrorists declared against the rest of the world. And the United States has been a target and surely will be again.

We've got to do more to improve our intelligence. We've got to do more to improve the security of our rail and transit systems. Senator Collins, Susan Collins, and I are going to do hearings on that in the fall.

BLITZER: Let me bring Senator Kyl in and ask him this, then I'll ask you, Senator Lieberman, to weigh in as well.

A lot of the law enforcement authorities especially in New York City -- the police commissioner, the mayor -- saying they're not going to get involved in ethnic or racial or religious profiling whatsoever in dealing with potential threats to the trains, the subways, the buses.

Should there, though, be an element of that kind of profiling in dealing with these issues, Senator Kyl?

KYL: There should be profiling, but it shouldn't be based on religion or race.

BLITZER: Why not? What's the answer that you give, since most of these terrorists since 9/11 and even earlier have been Muslims, have been Middle Eastern origin? A lot of viewers are asking me, why shouldn't there be this kind of religious or ethnic or racial profiling?

KYL: Because we care about the rights of our citizens and those who are visiting our country.

But when I say it shouldn't be based on race or religion, I don't mean to exclude appearance. If we have a profile of some kind of killer in this society, and frankly there's rapist on the loose in Arizona right now, and there is a picture that's been drawn by police artists of what this guy looks like. And anybody that has an appearance somewhat like him should expect to be profiled by the police here. By the way, he happens to be a young, white male, apparently.

But whatever the appearance of a potential terrorists is is fair game for profiling. But it shouldn't be based exclusively on -- first of all, it shouldn't be based at all on their faith. How do you know someone's faith when you see them? And secondly, in terms of ancestry or ethnicity, that should simply be one of the factors of appearance that you profile.

BLITZER: I want to take a quick break, but I want to let Senator Lieberman weigh in on this.

The argument is that law enforcement authorities, transportation security authorities, they're spinning a lot of wheels, wasting a lot of time examining grandmothers and babies and making people take off their shoes when they should be focusing in on real threats as opposed to potential random threats out there.

LIEBERMAN: The random threats are there.

And, look, we have an intelligence to say that the terrorists groups including al Qaeda may use people -- Europeans, for instance -- who are not appearing to be from Arabic background.

But Jon Kyl has it right, I think. We're at a point where I'm glad that the New York subway system is beginning to randomly search people getting out of the subways. We've been much too lax about rail and transit security. We've got to get to that.

And, you know, appearance and ethnicity ought to be one of the factors that law enforcement is allowed to consider. Obviously, if you're wearing a heavy coat, that's a telltale sign. If you have a backpack on, you should expect to be searched more frequently.

We ought to look at random use of magnetometers as people get into rail transit.

The enemy is out there. They're trying to kill us. They have killed 3,000 of us. We've got to be as tough as possible to protect people's security.

BLITZER: All right, I want both of you to stand by.

We have to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Senators Lieberman and Kyl.

Up next, though, a quick check of what's in the news right now, including some late-breaking developments in the London terror investigation.

"LATE EDITION" will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

We're continuing our conversation with Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Republican Senator John Kyl of Arizona.

Senator Lieberman, is it a good idea for the president to give John Bolton what's called a recess appointment, skirting the U.S. Senate, as the next U.S. ambassador to the U.N.?

LIEBERMAN: It would have been a lot better idea for the administration to give the senators on the Foreign Relations Committee the information they said they needed -- and I think they were right -- before they could vote on the Bolton nomination. Then we would have had an up-or-down vote, and my guess is John Bolton would have been confirmed and he would have gone to the U.N. without a cloud over his head. A recess appointment, which I gather is coming for Bolton, will send him there with a cloud over his head. But, look, he will be our U.N. ambassador. He'll have the obvious authority of the president of the United States. And I think we've got to hope he does the best job he can in a tough time, important time up there.

BLITZER: He would be, Senator Kyl, the first United States ambassador to the United Nations who did not get confirmation from the United States Senate. Is that a problem?

KYL: It would have been better had he been confirmed, but, under the circumstances, everybody at the U.N. will know that he's the president's man. Yes, he's a tough guy, but I think they appreciate the fact that the president felt at this time in the U.N.'s history, when it could use a little tough love, John Bolton is the kind of guy to do the job that the president wants done there.

BLITZER: Senator Lieberman, based on what you know right now, are you inclined to vote to confirm John Roberts as the next U.S. associate justice of the Supreme Court?

LIEBERMAN: Too early to say, Wolf. I think this is a nominee for whom the hearings before the Judiciary Committee are going to be real important. But I'd say this: So far, so good.

You know, I was a member of the group of 14. We got together to stop the so-called nuclear option that Senator Frist was talking about. But I think, in a larger sense, we were saying to the president, "Mr. President, I hope you'll send us someone who doesn't blow the place up, doesn't create his own or her own sort of nuclear option." And I think that the president has done that.

Some may vote against, but this is a clearly very, very accomplished nominee, and we have to know more about how he thinks on issues.

BLITZER: There are some conservatives, Senator Kyl, as you know, who are a little concerned that he doesn't have the paper trail on abortion-rights issues, on other issues that would make him more acceptable to you.

Are you very pleased or moderately pleased with John Roberts?

KYL: I think he's an excellent nominee.

Frankly, if there are people on the left or the right that are not sure how he's going to rule on a case, that's fine by me. He's a judge. He's supposed to take the facts when they're given to him, apply the law, and make a decision.

And I think he's the kind of person who, based on his previous experience, including his most recent experience as a judge on the court of appeals, has demonstrated that he'll do exactly that. An excellent nominee.

BLITZER: The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, this week, Senator Kyl, came out in favor of an expanded version of stem-cell research, beyond what the president would like, breaking with the president.

Are you influenced by what Senator Frist says? Are you now about to go along with him?

KYL: Well, I'm certainly influenced by what Senator Frist says, because he's a respected physician, he knows the subject very well.

In this particular case, I agree with his previous position and that of the president. I'll certainly listen to all of the debate and anything that Senator Frist, Dr. Frist has to say, but my own views reflect those of the president on this matter.

BLITZER: So you don't have an open mind, is that what you're saying?

KYL: No. You know, my father always used to say, always have an open mind, but remember there's a difference between an open mind and a hole in the head. So, I'll apply my own judgment and be open- minded. But, again, I have basic principles that I apply to decisions as well.

BLITZER: Senator Lieberman, what about you?

LIEBERMAN: I've been for more funding for stem-cell research. It's one of the most exciting medical developments of our age. It could bring better treatments, even cures for diseases that cause a lot of pain and death to millions of people.

I thought Bill Frist's statement this week took a lot of guts. He changed a position he had, but that's human nature, and you've got the confidence to do that. Very significant.

I believe now that the Senate will pass the legislation that we're talking about, which is more funding for stem-cell research on frozen embryos that are extra, basically have been set aside for in- vitro fertilization. I think we're going to pass it by more than the two-thirds required to overturn an expected presidential veto, and it's really the right thing to do.

BLITZER: But that also has to pass in the House of Representatives, where that two-thirds veto threat may not -- you may not have the votes.

LIEBERMAN: You're absolutely right. So unfortunately the outcome is in doubt, but a lot of lives are on the line here.

BLITZER: Senator Lieberman, Senator Kyl, I want to thank both of you for joining us. Always good to have you on "LATE EDITION."

KYL: Thank you.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up next, Discovery's astronauts are hard at work in space today, but is the future of the U.S. shuttle program in jeopardy? We'll get answers from deputy shuttle program manager Wayne Hale when "LATE EDITION" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN SHANNON, FLIGHT OPERATIONS MANAGER, NASA: We were wrong, and we missed something, and we have to go figure out what it was and go fix it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: John Shannon, the shuttle flight operations manager for NASA, talking about the piece of foam that broke off the Discovery shuttle shortly after lift-off this past Tuesday. That mishap prompted NASA to ground all future shuttle flights. Still, Discovery's mission, the first U.S. manned space trip since the Columbia shuttle explosion in 2003, is being extended by one day.

Just a short while ago, I spoke with shuttle program deputy manager Wayne Hale from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Wayne Hale, welcome to "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us.

I guess the key question on everyone's mind right now: Are those astronauts in danger upon their return to Earth?

WAYNE HALE, SHUTTLE PROGRAM DEPUTY MANAGER: Good morning. It's good to be here.

And the answer to that is, of course they are. Returning from Earth orbit, traveling 25,000 feet per second, 17,000 miles an hour, coming to a complete dead-stop at a runway in Florida, that is a hazardous operation.

The way we minimize the risk and maximize the safety for the crew is by thorough engineering analysis and review of every potential hazard. And we are in the process of doing that.

And we believe that the crew will be as safe as normal, coming back when we get ready to, a week from today.

BLITZER: Are they in greater danger because of that miscalculation of that small piece of foam emerging upon lift-off?

HALE: Well, the short answer is no. That piece of foam missed the vehicle, and any damage that might have occurred is hypothetical. That is the problem that we have so solve for the next flight.

For this flight, we understand what happened in terms of damage to the orbiter. And we believe it will be safe to re-enter.

BLITZER: Is that 100 percent sure now that they will return a week from tomorrow aboard the Discovery shuttle, as opposed to some emergency procedure that might be required to bring them back?

HALE: We have maintained the emergency rescue vehicle on stand- by, and we will continue to do that for a couple more days until we have completed all our entry analysis. At that time, we'll release the Atlantis for its normal processing for its next flight.

So as of right now, we have not taken a rescue off the table, but we think the probability is remote.

BLITZER: Listen to what a former NASA engineer, Bob Dougherty, said to our Miles O'Brien on Friday about the possibility of this rescue emergency vehicle being required.

"I wrote a letter to the president, telling him that we shouldn't have a full crew on this thing. We should only fly four people because of situations like this." That's what he said.

HALE: Well, the rescue vehicle, if it's required, will have only four people on it. We have provisions to bring back the entire seven- person crew of Discovery, if required in an emergency situation.

We certainly don't think that's going to happen at this point. But we're holding that preparation in readiness in case something changes.

BILTZER: How do you do that? Do you have to have the same rescue vehicle go back and do that twice? Is that what you're saying?

HALE: No. The rescue vehicle Atlantis is outfitted so that we launch it with a crew of four and we have seating for the full Discovery crew, plus the four on the rescue vehicle. We'll be bringing home 11 persons if that became a necessary thing to do.

We've made the accommodations. We've built the recumbant seats and the other emergency provisions to bring back that larger crew on a single rescue flight, if required.

BLITZER: How did this miscalculation happen?

HALE: You know, we looked very hard at the foam on the PAL ramp before flight. We looked at it with X-ray-like machines. We looked at it with a special high-frequency radar-type machine to look at any small voids or areas where the glue that binds it to the substrate might have come loose. We did not see anything of significance.

So right now we are scratching our heads, trying to understand what mechanism caused this piece of foam to come off. It must be different than the mechanism that we had identified earlier and had done work on other areas to prevent foam loss from occurring. So the engineers are going to have to take another look at this. We thought we understood what we had. Clearly we were wrong. And more work is required.

BLITZER: The Los Angles Times had an editorial on Thursday that included a shocking line. I just want to find out if it's true. It said this: "The aged shuttle -- Discovery is 21 years old -- are already at more than twice their intended design life. Engineers are sometimes reduced to hunting for obsolete hardware and electronics on eBay."

Is that true?

HALE: Well, the shuttle was designed for 100 flights in 10 years. And we've flown them -- the Discovery, for example, almost 20 years old, has flown 30 times. So in terms of length of time, they are older than they were designed for.

But we have in fact upgraded areas. We have ongoing programs to evaluate the effects of pure age on hardware. This hardware is very well-maintained. We have environmentally controlled areas where we do all our work. So we believe we understand the effect of aging on our equipment.

Some of the ground equipment, some of the ground test equipment that was designed in the late '70s or early '80s, that has not been updated, occasionally they have had to go to some unusual places to find replacement parts. But that's the ground equipment that we're referring to, not the flight equipment.

BLITZER: Including eBay?

HALE: I'm not sure exactly where they've gone, but they have told me they've had to be very ingenious sometimes to find some of these older electronic parts.

BLITZER: We're almost completely out of time, but a quick question: When do you believe, if it happens, the next shuttle will take off?

HALE: Well, we are putting together a team that will go off and do an investigation and come up with the solution on this problem. And I am very hopeful that the delay will be short. It's our intention to get to the bottom of this and fix it in a very rapid manner.

We have windows in September, November, December, and then in February, and I believe we'll be flying in one of the near-term windows.

But the point of the matter is, we must understand what this problem was caused by, this PAL ramp foam-loss problem, and provide a solution to it because it's unacceptable to fly until we fix it.

BLITZER: Well, good luck to all of NASA, especially those astronauts on board the Discovery. And we'll be praying and hoping for the best.

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

HALE: Thank you very much, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: And don't forget our Web question of the week: Should religion play a role in Iraq's new constitution? You can cast your vote. Go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results in the next hour.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

We'll get to our interview with Egypt's prime minister, Ahmed Nazif, in just a moment. First, though, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: More details now on the terror investigation in Great Britain. Authorities have arrested six more people in connection with the July 21st attempted bombings.

CNN's Jim Boulden is joining us now live from Scotland Yard with more.

Jim, what happened today?

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, actually, the number is now seven people who have been arrested in Sussex. Now, that's a county south of London. We believe that it's six men and one woman. That brings seven people arrested today, at least at one address in the city of Brighton.

We are told, however, there were no armed police officers involved in this operation. So it's much different from the arrests that we saw last week. We don't believe that this so-called mastermind or master bombmaker, if there is indeed one, has been detained in these arrests so far.

But Wolf, it does bring the total of 35 people who have been detained in the U.K. since the failed bombings of July 21st. And at this moment, 18 are still in custody.

Of course, four of those are the suspected bombers, failed bombers from July 21st. We know that the fifth one is currently -- another one was arrested in Birmingham the week before, and we know that one is being held in Rome.

So, so far, no mastermind. But a few more arrests going on around the U.K. Not a surprise -- as they arrest and as they go through some of these houses, they find other addresses that interest them, and those people get detained. However, we have seen a number of people also released in the last week or so.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Is there a working assumption that there was a direct link between the bombings of July 7th, the successful bombings on July 7th, and the unsuccessful bombings of July 21st?

BOULDEN: It's a very good question. It's a question we keep asking the commissioner of police here, Ian Blair. He will not make a direct link yet. If the police have found that direct link here in the U.K., they have not told us.

We might hear more information about that out of Rome, where one of the suspects is talking to police and where some of the information is coming out of that where we might be hearing more about this connection.

But as of now, there has been no definitive proof of a connection between the two.

You have to remember there was a two-week break here. And even though the scenario seemed the same -- three underground, three on the trains underground, and one on the bus -- other than that, right now they are not making that link, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

Jim Boulden at Scotland Yard with the latest for us.

Thanks very much.

Let's get some additional perspective now on the terror threat, what it's going to take to counter it. For that, we turn to three guests: in Los Angeles, the counterterrorism chief for the Los Angeles Police Department, John Miller. Here in Washington, the former acting CIA director John McLaughlin. He's now a CNN national security adviser. Also here in Washington, the former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security Clark Kent Ervin. He's now a CNN security analyst.

Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.

John Miller, let me start with you. As one of the few people in your former life as a journalist to have actually interviewed Osama bin Laden, what do you think about these two terror attacks on July 7th and July 21st in Great Britain, in London? Is this the work of al Qaeda?

JOHN MILLER, LAPD COUNTERTERRORISM CHIEF: Well, it probably is the work of al Qaeda, Wolf, but it's the work of the new al Qaeda, not the old al Qaeda.

The old al Qaeda was very much like "The Sopranos." It had a boss and an underboss and crews with captains. The new al Qaeda is much more amorphous, much more like quicksilver.

These are cells that are self-generating, like the Madrid cell, probably these London cells, cells we've seen in Morocco and other places where maybe one person either has al Qaeda experience or training, may be following the Web sites and bin Laden's calls for action. And they just put together what they can and go. It's early in this case, because Scotland Yard hasn't had a chance to make all the connections, and I'm sure we'll find some. But if I was betting today, I would say that this is probably very much like the other cells we've seen in London: cobbled together by one person inspired to commit violence based on al Qaeda's calls for that, much more than it is based on their connections to an al Qaeda manager.

BLITZER: Let me bring in John McLaughlin, the former CIA acting director.

Do you agree with John Miller on that, that it looks like al Qaeda, feels like al Qaeda, but it may be a different kind of operation than what 9/11 was here in the United States?

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Yes, I do, Wolf.

Today, al Qaeda, as I think John was indicating, is driven less by geography and hierarchy and command than it is by ideology and the Internet.

We shouldn't fool ourselves, though, into thinking that these are strictly localized movements. The example that bin Laden has set, the example of 9/11, all of these things -- the training that's available on the Internet -- all of these things are important.

And I think while the correspondent made the point that it's not clear yet whether there's a connection between the first and second set of bombings, as I've looked at this, the first set of bombings looks to me more professional, more likely in the end to have some kind of identifiable al Qaeda connection than the second set of bombings, for a variety of reasons.

BLITZER: So these guys who have been picked up in connection with the second set of bombings, are these just foot soldiers as opposed to the brains behind this operation?

MCLAUGHLIN: We're going to learn a lot now from their interrogation and so forth. But at this point, the contrast between them is kind of striking. The first group of bombers were rather well-to-do, born and bred in Britain for the most part. The second set, their formative experiences were elsewhere; they were not as well-to-do. They seemed to have been kind of talked into this by one of the persons, one of the people involved in the bombing.

And they look, at this point, based on everything we know, to be more like foot soldiers, the mules of the movement, so to speak. Whereas the first group had, remember, a 30-year-old primary school teacher who seemed to have been the ringleader and who had been in Pakistan and more likely had some contacts.

BLITZER: And I want to get to that in a moment because there's some debate going on now whether those who were killed in the first set of bombings on July 7th were, in fact, mules, if you will, weren't really suicide bombers. They didn't know they were going to die. They may have thought they were just leaving these bombs. We'll get to that in a moment.

But, Clark Kent Ervin, I want you to weigh in as well. It looks on the surface very similar, these two sets of bombings. But as John McLaughlin points out, there are significant differences in the suspects, the bombers, where they came from and what they were all about.

CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: That's exactly right.

In the second bombings the suspects appear to have connections -- they did have connections to East Africa, East African in origin, as opposed to the initial suspects, three of whom were of Pakistani origin originally, one being Jamaican. So that's significant.

Secondly, it appears as though they were amateurs, as John and John have said.

So there are real differences.

The second set seems to be a copycat as opposed to a well- thought-out, sophisticated plan.

MCLAUGHLIN: I think, as we go along, we'll find that there was greater technical sophistication on the part of the first set of bombers...

BLITZER: Well, clearly, because it worked on the first one. They were duds on the second one.

MCLAUGHLIN: Across the board.

BLITZER: John Miller, this is an important question: whether the bombers on July 7th and the bombs that killed more than 50 people were, in fact, suicide bombers or dupes, if you will, being used by others to carry these bombs to the trains and that double-decker bus.

This is a significant question because there are significant ramifications for U.S. counterterrorism as well.

MILLER: And there's probably some significant connotations for recruiting others in the future if it becomes a fact that they're tricking people into being suicide bombers.

But I think it's pretty early in the investigation.

The disadvantage in the first case, Wolf, is, of course, that the bombs were destroyed. In those cases there's not much physical evidence to go on. The high advantage in the second series is that the bombs were all recovered relatively intact, including many more devices, and that gives them a lot to work with. And we've seen some of that stuff as we've gone over the evidence provided to us by Great Britain.

But I also think if you look at what they're using, the mixtures like TATP and HMTD, these are very unstable. It is just as possible that they mixed it too hot the first time and that these guys, while they were initiating the fuse that they were supposed to leave, just blew themselves up. They then adjusted and mixed it too cold the second time, and none of the devices functioned.

These are a lot of the questions they're going to have to answer.

BLITZER: John McLaughlin, do we know for sure -- the 19 9/11 hijackers, did all of them know they were on a death mission, that they were going to die?

MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think that we've ever established that, but I think most of the evidence indicates that they understood that, certainly...

BLITZER: All 19 of them?

MCLAUGHLIN: Certainly the vast majority of them.

BLITZER: Because there's some suggestion that the ringleaders knew on each of the planes, the pilots, if you will, but the others in the back didn't necessarily know that they were going down.

MCLAUGHLIN: It's something we'll never know with certainty, but I think my view would be that most of them knew they were going down. There may have been one or two who didn't.

Going back to the London case, there's another point here that's worth making, on whether they were suicide bombers or not.

The main piece of evidence that suggests they might not have been is that some large number of explosives were left behind in a car, as though they were going to return there. There's some other pieces too.

But that could also indicate that other terrorists were prepared to pick up those explosives. In other words, you could interpret that evidence one of two ways. They were suicide bombers and there were other operations planned...

BLITZER: Do you know, Clark Kent Ervin, if those original, those first suicide bombers, if they were suicide bombers -- let's call them "bombers" -- of July 7th, had they prepared their bodies for martyrdom? Had they shaved their hair? Had they shaved their beards? Had they put on the bath oil that they're supposed to do, preparing themselves for paradise? Do we know if that had been the case?

ERVIN: We don't know that. There doesn't appear to have been any shaving; we know that. But there doesn't appear -- we don't know whether there was the bath oil and that kind of thing that is typical preparation before a martyrdom attack. We just don't know.

BLITZER: And usually, John Miller -- correct me if I'm wrong -- on a lot of these suicide bombers, especially in Israel, when we see this in buses or in discotheques, there are videotapes or documents or papers, something that's left explaining why they're doing what they're doing.

In this particular case, in London, I take it, none of these guys left any indication. Their families were totally shocked by this.

MILLER: I think that's more evidence to stack toward the theory that they probably were not suicide bombers, at least witting suicide bombers, Wolf, because, as John points out, there were additional devices left behind.

If you look at the case in Madrid, the Madrid train bombings as the precursor for this event, in form and in substance, they left those packages behind. A totally different kind of explosive. Much more stable, so they didn't have the problems that they may have experienced in London with these devices' functioning. But they had another attack planned, where they left a bomb by the tracks, within a week or so of that. And when the police came to their flat, they blew themselves up, indicating they too had a lot more explosives stored.

al Qaeda's affiliates, these lost cells are making a major play against our European allies. That's what this is all about. And I think what's notable is, they're not attacking the government, they're not blowing up the president's palace or the senate. They're attacking the people. They're trying to get the ultimate policymakers, the voters, to go after the government for them. That's what this is all about in London. It's what it was all about in Spain, and it worked there.

BLITZER: All right. I'm going to have all three of you stand by. We're going to have to take a quick commercial break, but all of you will be coming back.

Also when we come back, I'll speak live, exclusively, with the prime minister of Egypt, Ahmed Nazif. He's standing by in Alexandria, Egypt.

Much more "LATE EDITION" right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Along with Iraq and Britain, Egypt has become a front in the war on terror. The country is trying to recover from the recent deadly attack at the Sharm el-Sheikh resort. The increased security concerns come as Egypt is under pressure to implement political reforms.

Joining us now exclusively from Alexandria, Egypt, is the Egyptian prime minister, Ahmed Nazif.

Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to "LATE EDITION."

Let me get right to the issue of the terror attacks at Sharm el- Sheikh, the southern-most tip of Sinai. Was this the work of al Qaeda?

AHMED NAZIF, EGYPTIAN PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's very difficult to say, Wolf. It's very early to say so, as well. It doesn't look this way, certainly at this point in time.

You know, Egypt has been the subject of a lot of terrorist acts. And they haven't been related to al Qaeda in any way in the past. So it would be a new thing if we see al Qaeda working in Egypt.

But it's very early to tell. And I don't think it is the case.

BLITZER: So what are you working under, what assumption? That these were homegrown Egyptian terrorists who launched these bombings?

NAZIF: Well, as you know, we had an incident in Taba last October. And the M.O. of the incident seemed to be similar to that happened in Sharm el-Sheikh -- that is, you have a truck, a semi-truck that is filled with explosives, somebody drives it is in and tries to ram it into the lobby of a hotel or into a marketplace or something like that.

Now, that kind of M.O. has not been typical to Egypt before. But to do that, you have to have some connections with the locals, the tribesmen in Sinai. And that's the main assumption we're working on right now.

BLITZER: Was your conclusion of the bombing in Taba and elsewhere in Sinai the work of Egyptians, Palestinians or others?

NAZIF: Well, as you know, in Sinai, people have been living there all the time. They're mostly Egyptian tribesmen with connections to the Arabs living in Palestine. And, of course, they have dealings with Israel and with the Palestinian territories. So it's a mix of people that live there. They are tribesmen. They live primitive lives. They live in the mountains, some of it in areas that are hard to get to.

BLITZER: Are you referring to the Bedouin of Sinai? Do you suspect that they were involved in some way in the Sharm el-Sheikh bombing?

NAZIF: Well, certainly some of them were involved in the Taba bombings. So there is a good suspicion that that's also some remains of those people, that have been pursued by the security forces, but have maintained some sort of an organization and have taken that action.

BLITZER: As you know, many of the Bedouin are deeply, deeply worried that the Egyptian government is not going to take strong action against them in Sinai. Are you planning on doing that?

NAZIF: Well, it's not the Bedouins. Most of the Bedouins in Sinai are really, you know, peaceful people. They're living there. We've worked with them socially and economically to improve their living conditions. But these are really outcasts. Some of them are actually outcasts from their tribes themselves that go and live in the mountains. There's evidence that many of them are young people in their teens sometimes, late teens, early 20s. And those are the ones that seem to be doing those violent acts.

BLITZER: Are they acting on their own, though, or do they have a higher political agenda?

NAZIF: Well, it doesn't seem to be so. In both cases, we didn't have any claims that are valid claims that we can see, people that are justifying a certain cause. Of course, there's no justification whatsoever to the killing of innocent people.

But you still see people, young people, who are willing to sacrifice their own lives in this. So they must be programmed somehow to do this, I mean, just to go in and do this suicide killings. And that has to be done by somebody else who is programming them to do so.

BLITZER: Who do you believe the somebody else is?

NAZIF: Well, it could be somebody who's trying to prove their own points in building, you know, based on some religious extremism, trying to make a point.

But the difficult thing about it is, you really don't have a dialogue with these people. They don't tell you that they're doing this because so-and-so or anything like that. It is just an extreme act of violence. It is senseless in many ways, and it's sometimes very hard to put logic on something that is illogical by nature.

BLITZER: Let me read to you from an editorial in The Washington Times, a conservative newspaper here in the U.S. capital, that appeared on Wednesday.

Here's an excerpt: "Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has a lot more to do in combating what has become a dangerous al Qaeda network in the Sinai. al Qaeda has managed to set up a dangerous terrorist infrastructure in the Sinai, apparently with weapons and explosives smuggled in from Saudi Arabia."

Is that accurate?

NAZIF: No, it's not accurate at all. I don't see even any proof or actual facts that would say that this is true. I don't think that it is. There is, so far, no evidence whatsoever of al Qaeda involvement in those acts. We cannot say that, not in the Taba case, not in the Sharm el-Sheikh case.

BLITZER: Well, one indirect piece of evidence is that tourism is the life-blood. It's such an important ingredient in Egypt's economy. And that going after the tourist industry, trying to scare people from becoming tourists and visiting Egypt, is going to undermine Egypt's economy.

And this is one of the hallmarks of al Qaeda. They try to undermine the economic interests, whether the United States, Britain, Italy or Egypt, for that matter.

Is that a source of concern to you?

NAZIF: It definitely is a source of concern. I mean, the Egyptian tourist industry is an important one. It is our main source of revenues for the Egyptian economy. And we do believe that it does have an effect, I mean, on tourism, on the people coming to Egypt. And Sharm el-Sheikh is one of our most popular tourist destinations. It's one of the most popular in the world, actually. And so, it does have an effect.

But so far, our tourism industry has shown resilience enough to allow it to take that kind of blow. But it's important that we make sure that it doesn't happen again, and that's what we're working on.

BLITZER: Do you have any hard evidence that additional plots may be in the works right now against Egypt?

NAZIF: We don't think so. We think that we're tightening security enough not to allow this thing to happen again.

As I said, this is mostly local in nature. Our security forces are dealing now with those insurgents that have done this, that have come from the mountains. It's really possible to make sure that Sharm el-Sheikh itself, as a city, other tourist destinations in Egypt are safe enough, so that this doesn't happen again. It's important for us, and we intend not to allow those people to have their way.

BLITZER: Egypt's top diplomat in Iraq was recently kidnapped and killed by the insurgents. Are you planning on sending someone else to represent you diplomatically in Baghdad?

NAZIF: We definitely will not allow those killings and the killing of our ambassador there to deny us that right. I mean, it doesn't make any sense. We still think that we need to stand behind the Iraqi people, to make sure that the process that's taking place in Iraq ends up with the Iraqis taking control of their own lives, having a democracy that represents all Iraqis.

So, we will continue to work on that. And as you know, President Mubarak just called for a summit that will take place, by the way, of all places, in Sharm el-Sheikh, an Arab summit there. One of the main points on the agenda is that the Arabs should stand behind Iraq. And then we should look forward to actions on behalf of the Arab League and the Arab leaders to support the Iraqi people.

BLITZER: Is the region more secure or less secure as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq?

NAZIF: Well, that's a difficult question. And definitely we can see that the acts of violence are increasing. Now, whether that is directly related to the U.S. invasion of Iraq or not is for anybody to guess.

But I do think that terrorism is on the move. We need to sort of group together, we need to work together on combating terrorism. It does not have any borders. It's striking everywhere -- in Europe, in London, in Spain, in Egypt, in Saudi Arabia, and of course in the States before that. I think that this is an ugly face of terrorism that we're seeing around us that is widespreading.

Now, some say that that terrorism is because of the instability in Iraq, it's because of the instability in the whole region. Now, nothing would justify the killing of innocent people. However, having said that, we still need to make sure that those conflicts are being solved. We need to get the Palestinians their homeland. We need to make sure that the Iraqis' situation is resolved, that the Americans get out of Iraq. That will definitely calm things down.

I'm not saying that there is a direct connection, but what I am saying is that those are two issues that we have to deal with as two issues. Terrorism is something that we have to face. We cannot allow and we cannot justify under any cause.

But, on the other hand, those conflicts must be resolved. Those people have legitimate rights. The Iraqis have legitimate rights. The Palestinians have legitimate rights. And we need to address those rights and make sure that we solve those, so that we don't give those terrorists any prejustification for what they claim they're doing.

BLITZER: One final question on the upcoming elections in Egypt. President Mubarak has announced he wants to serve another term.

I want you to listen to what President Bush said on May 26th about the effort to achieve real democracy in Egypt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There ought to be international monitors. And the idea of people expressing themselves in opposition to the government getting beaten is not our view of how a democracy ought work. It's not the way that you handle free elections.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: If you didn't hear it because the audio was not very good, he says there ought to be international monitors watching the elections in Egypt.

Will you allow representatives of international organizations to come in and monitor the upcoming elections?

NAZIF: Well, we're intent on having free and fair elections. We're inviting everybody to have a look. There's no problems there.

Now, whether they are monitors, meaning people running the elections for us, that will not be the case. We have -- the judicial system in Egypt. We have an independent election commission that has been already elected and will be running the elections and supervising it.

But of course, the election will be monitored by the international media. It will be watched also by NGOs, people working in the country.

So I do believe that we will show the world, and we'll show our own people actually, that we can and are capable of running multi- candidate presidential elections in which one candidate is President Mubarak and we'll have 10 other candidates at least that have already shown interest in this.

We do believe that this is a great step ahead in advancing democracy in Egypt, and I think that the world will see that we're serious about that reform.

BLITZER: Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif of Egypt, thanks very much for joining us. Our condolences to all the Egyptian people on the terror attack in Sharm el-Sheikh. We'll have you back on "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us.

And just ahead, we're going to resume our discussion about the war on terror and homeland security with our panel of security experts.

Up next, though, a quick check of what's in the news right now, including an attack on Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi's bodyguard.

Much more "LATE EDITION" right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is "LATE EDITION." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

We're talking about security and the war on terror with the Los Angeles Police Department's chief of counterterrorism, John Miller; the former acting CIA director John McLaughlin; and the former Homeland Security inspector general Clark Kent Ervin.

Let me start with John McLaughlin.

Why do you think the prime minister of Egypt was so reluctant to acknowledge that perhaps al Qaeda was seeking to undermine Egypt operating in Egypt?

MCLAUGHLIN: My sense is the prime minister was focusing pretty narrowly on what evidence there is, and saying they don't have hard evidence of that yet. But in the intelligence world, the absence of evidence is never evidence of absence. You've always got to look beyond that.

We don't know yet who was behind this. I'm confident of that. But at the same time, it's also true that even if al Qaeda did not author this event, it certainly would applaud it. After all, when you look at the writings of, particularly of the deputies, Zawahiri and al Qaeda, Egypt is always singled out as one of the places in the world that would be important for them to take over, ultimately, along with Saudi Arabia.

They need a base of operations. This would be the heartland of the new caliphate they are trying to create. So, whether they were behind it or not, they would have a lot to gain from any success here.

BLITZER: And just as Osama bin Laden is a Saudi, Ayman Al Zawahiri is an Egyptian, and he has his own agenda as far as Egypt's concerned.

Let's get back to the London terror attacks. John Miller, the Rome connection, the fact that they've picked up, Rome authorities, Italian authorities, a suspect in Rome raises this question, at least in my mind. If he was involved in that 7/21, the July 21 botched terror attacks in London, how did he get to Italy?

MILLER: Well, I think that terrorism in general has made the world a very small place. And Europe, in particular, a very small town. We've seen that kind of travel. And you can do that by -- with no trouble in Europe, especially with the European Union and all of that. It's a very porous place there that serves a network like that very well.

BLITZER: The other suspect that's been arrested outside of England, outside of Britain is the July 7th terror suspect known as Haroon Rashid Aswat. Clark Kent Ervin, he was picked up in Zambia.

ERVIN: That's right. And we're particularly interested in him because there is at least the allegation that he might have been involved in plotting to set up a terrorist training camp here in the United States, in a very remote place called Bly, Oregon. So we're very, very interested in him. And of course, the British authorities are trying to extradite him now from Zambia.

BLITZER: Is Osama bin Laden at least indirectly calling the shots, John McLaughlin?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I don't see him sitting at a command post working a bank of phones and pressing buttons. But he certainly continues to give general direction, general guidance. His writings, his videotapes, all of that continue to be the text from which people take their inspiration in this movement. And so I think his role has receded in that sense but is still enormously important.

BLITZER: So it's still enormously important, from your perspective, to find this guy and to get him.

MCLAUGHLIN: Absolutely, absolutely.

BLITZER: John Miller, when you were an ABC News correspondent, you interviewed Osama bin Laden. That's several years ago, before 9/11.

Let me read to you what President Pervez Musharraf said this past week, the president of Pakistan. He said this: "Our military police and other law enforcement agencies have completely shattered al Qaeda's vertical and horizontal links and smashed its communication and propaganda setup. Therefore, it is absolutely baseless to say that al Qaeda has its headquarters in Pakistan, and that terror attacks in other parts of the world in any way originate from our country."

Do you buy that?

MILLER: Well, I think President Musharraf is being a little self-serving there. And I mean that with a great deal of respect, because they are a terrific U.S. ally. But I think, like the Egyptian prime minister, he's suffering from a little cognitive dissonance. He's half right and he's half wrong.

Pakistan and the United States and our allies really have smashed al Qaeda's ability to have a headquarters and command and control. But many, if not most, of al Qaeda's commanders that have been captured have been captured operating in Pakistan from little sub- bases set up in apartments with laptops and cell phones.

And while, as John McLaughlin duly points out, there is no command center with a bank of phones and maps and buttons to press to launch attacks, there are these little hubs. And as long as bin Laden can send out those videotapes and Zawahiri can send out those videotapes and audiotapes, and we've seen them do that, they still have the ability to tell those people in London and Madrid, these cells that will pull themselves together and ask what they want them to do. And we're seeing the cells do those things.

BLITZER: Clark Ken Ervin, there was a poll, a CNN-USA Today- Gallup poll, that asked the question whether the American public thought acts of terrorism in the U.S. were likely or not likely in the next few weeks. Fifty-seven percent said they were likely; 42 percent said not likely.

What do you think?

ERVIN: Well, I think that's reasonable for people to think that we're at a heightened level of concern of threat because of the recent events in London. And I myself believe that we are under increased threat. There's no question about that. We have to remember that in London the terrorist level, the threat level had been reduced just before the attacks. Intelligence is key here.

And I'm afraid that complacency before the attacks was beginning to set in, in this country. If the attacks had any salutary effect, it may heighten the concern of Americans about our continued vulnerability here.

BLITZER: John Miller, the other poll question that we asked: Were government efforts to prevent terrorism on mass transit not enough or about right? Fifty-three percent said not enough; 39 percent said about right.

What about on the ground in Los Angeles where you are? How does it look from your perspective?

MILLER: Well, Wolf, I think one of the problems there is that the same 53 percent who said not enough, if we actually implemented airline type screenings at the trains absent an incident, would be saying it was too much, that it was inconvenient and so on. That's just a guess on my part, knowing the American public and its ways.

What we've been doing here is we really stepped up patrols in mass transit. We've injected a lot of our bomb-sniffing canines. And we have a robust canine capability here in Los Angeles when it comes to the bomb-sniffing dogs for two reasons: one, frankly, to give it that visibility, to make people feel better. And secondly, operationally, those dogs are always on alert. If they smell something, they're going to go to it and sit down.

And that's key that people see that if they're commuters; it's key that people see that if they're bad guys. We want it to be a deterrent.

BLITZER: I'd like all three of you to weigh in on this question -- we have a few seconds left, so if you can be brief -- on the question of whether or not the American people should have a national I.D. card for all Americans. In this poll, 66 percent favor the idea of a national I.D. card; 33 percent oppose it.

John McLaughlin, would it make a difference in fighting terrorism and security if there were a national I.D. card in the United States?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, in addition to being on the offensive overseas, it's important that we be on guard and have as much data as we can have domestically. There are arguments pro and con; I would favor it.

BLITZER: What about you Clark Kent Ervin?

ERVIN: Well, I would favor it as well, Wolf. Essentially we have one in terms of driver's license and the Social Security card, the combination of the two. As important as it is to have such a device, it's important that there be measures to make sure that the identity actually matches. It's got to be a document with integrity if we move in that direction.

BLITZER: John Miller, from your perspective out in L.A.?

MILLER: Listen, the cop in me would really like to see it. It would make my job easier. The American in me has a very bad feeling about it. We're the country where you don't need to show your papers, and if we lose that, the terrorists win by a little bit.

BLITZER: All right, John Miller, John McLaughlin, Clark Kent Ervin, an excellent discussion. Thanks to all three of you for joining us on "LATE EDITION."

Up next, in case you missed it, "LATE EDITION's" Sunday morning talk show round-up. We'll tell you what the other shows were doing. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States.

On CBS's "Face the Nation," Republican Senators Arlen Specter and Sam Brownback squared off over the issue of stem-cell research.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: Big step. This would be one of the first times -- I believe the first time -- we've ever used taxpayer money to pay for the intentional destruction of human life. And that's what this does.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We are not creating embryos for research purposes. There are 400,000 of these embryos frozen that are going to be thrown away. If they could create life, I would never be for using research.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BLITZER: On "Fox News Sunday," Senators Chris Dodd and Mitch McConnell discussed the impact that documents about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts would have on his Senate confirmation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: In terms of the documents, the administration, as you indicated, has turned over 70,000 pages. I think the Senate clearly has enough information to make a decision on Judge Roberts, and I think they're going to confirm him.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY WHIP: He's a conservative choice, but one with a distinguished legal record, an academic record. He's certainly qualified on all of those grounds to be on the Supreme Court.

The open-ended question for us clearly is what are his views about some of the basic values, the equal protection clause, the privacy clause of the Constitution. If he comes through it and answers those questions well, he'll have my vote.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BLITZER: On NBC's "Meet the Press," Discovery shuttle commander Eileen Collins addressed concerns about the foam that fell off the spaceship's external fuel tank during Tuesday's launch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EILEEN COLLINS, DISCOVERY SHUTTLE COMMANDER: I'm going to put myself in the middle of this, but I knew that this area of the PAL ramp had not been fixed. We needed to work on that.

They did something called non-destructive inspection and looked at the PAL ramp area and did not see any voids or any imperfections underneath. So we didn't think there was going to be any problems with the PAL ramp, so decided not to fix it and fly.

And again, I was also surprised when I saw the foam fell off because I was not expecting that to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And on ABC's "This Week," Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania set the record straight, sort of, about his presidential ambitions in 2008.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I'm not going to run.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, ABC'S "THIS WEEK": You're not going to run?

SANTORUM: I said I have no intention of running.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's different. You promised the Pennsylvania voters that if they vote for you in 2006...

SANTORUM: Then I'm not going to turn around and start a campaign in...

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's exactly what I'm...

SANTORUM: I'm not going to start and turn around a campaign in 2008. What I'm saying is that there might not, you know, there's always things that happen in your life, things that happen in politics, that I've made a pledge never to say never because strange things can happen. But I will say is that after the 2006 election, I'm not going to turn around and head to New Hampshire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Some highlights from the Sunday morning talk shows here on "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

Up next, the results of our Web question of the week: Should religion play a role in Iraq's new constitution? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our "LATE EDITION" Web question asked this question: Should religion play a role in Iraq's new constitution? Here is how you voted, at least so far: 21 percent of you said yes; 79 percent said no. Remember, though, this is not a scientific poll.

That's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, July 31st. Please be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

Don't forget our new program, "The Situation Room," starting Monday, August 8th. That will air weekdays, here, from 3 to 6 p.m. eastern. We're very excited and getting ready for that.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

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