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121 Killed in Plane Crash in Greece; Israeli, Palestinian Forces on High Alert in Gaza

Aired August 14, 2005 - 09:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And we're updating you with new information on breaking news out of Greece. A passenger plane carrying 121 people slammed into a mountain north of Athens. The government of Greece confirms there are no survivors. There are reports the pilot was not in the cockpit. The co-pilot was slumped over the controls, and passenger had text-messaged loved ones saying there was a problem with the air-conditioning.
Israeli and Palestinian forces are on high alert in Gaza. They're hoping to prevent violence during this week's withdrawal of Israeli settlers from the occupied region. Israel has given the Jewish settlers to leave their homes or be forcibly removed.

Tropical Storm Irene has lost some of its punch and turned away from land. Forecasters no longer believe it could become a hurricane later today. At last report, Irene was located about 300 miles east- southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

It is Sunday, August 14th, 2005. And good morning from the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'm Tony Harris.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Betty Nguyen, and we want to thank you for starting your day with us.

Coming up this hour, Iraqi leaders working on a draft constitution today. Will Iraqi women be included?

John Crawford thought his soldiering days were over. Well, he was wrong and went to Iraq. He's here to tell us all about that. And taking the road less traveled on a vehicle less pedaled. It's not as easy as it looks.

HARRIS: And we are bringing you the latest details on breaking news of the crash of a jetliner in Greece. Helios Airlines flight 522 crashed into a mountain near Vernava (ph). It's a seaside resort town north of Marathon. It happened at about noon local time in Greece. There are no survivors. And at this hour, there is word the crash sparked a forest fire.

For the latest, we go live to Greece and Paul Anastasi. And Paul, what can you tell us?

PAUL ANASTASI, JOURNALIST: Well, the latest is, as you say it, that there are no survivors. This has been officially confirmed from various government departments. A side effect unfortunately has been that a large forest fire has broken out. There's black smoke covering the area. That hampers the effort of the rescue teams to collect the bodies.

The two governments, the governments of Cyprus and Greece, are in close contact, cooperating, and what we are expecting now is that two pilots, two jet fighter pilots who actually escorted the passenger jet until its last moments, until it crashed, they are coming back to the capital with photographic material that will show what exactly they saw in the cockpit as the plane went down.

HARRIS: And, Paul, can you give us any indications -- I believe it was in the last hour, you indicated that this plane might have a bit of a spotty maintenance record. Can you give us any more information on that?

ANASTASI: That's right. There are -- theories that it was a terrorist incident or a hijacking appear to be receding, and what's gaining ground is that the accident occurred because of a technical problem. The pilots of the jet fighters saw that the oxygen masks had come down. There are -- they saw that the pilot was not in his place. He had obviously gone back to the main body of the aircraft. They saw that the co-pilot was slumped over the controls. He was -- he had passed out or was dead. And therefore, various experts are saying that it might have been decompression, or carbon dioxide got into the oxygen system.

There are indications that something went wrong with the whole ventilation system, and the plane was out of control for about half an hour on automatic pilot before it went down.

There is no indication of a forced takeover or a threat to inhabit it, inhabit it -- parts of Athens or the regions around. Theories are concentrating on a technical problem that arose in mid- flight.

HARRIS: Journalist Paul Anastasi in Athens for us. Paul, thank you.

NGUYEN: Well, lots of clues, but many more unanswered questions. CNN's aviation correspondent Miles O'Brien has been following the latest on the Cypriot plane crash. And for more with some perspective on this, he joins us live on the phone. Good morning, Miles.


NGUYEN: Well, one of the first things that we learned was that the pilot was not in the cockpit. This is what we have learned from pilots of those F-16s. Why would a captain leave the cockpit?

O'BRIEN: Well, it's hard to imagine a scenario where that would be part of the routine or part of the regulation for that airline. And we should note that if there's some sort of circumstance which requires one of the crew members to leave the cockpit, the remaining crew member is required to at least have the oxygen mask around his neck, and in many cases, depending on their altitude, actually have an oxygen mask on, for just this sort of eventuality. So we can make an assumption here that for whatever reason, the captain determined he had to troubleshoot some sort of problem. But if this were a situation where the crew had come to the conclusion that there was some sort of a decompression problem -- in other words, they weren't able to sustain, there wasn't enough air in the cabin for the passengers or the crew, the first order of business is to get down lower. To get down where the air is thicker and where that is less of a problem, below, say, 14,000 feet.

Just to give you an example, if they were cruising at 35,000 feet, and there was a decompression, that the so-called time of useful consciousness for people who don't have supplementary oxygen at that altitude is about a minute, and after about a minute, hypoxia, lack of oxygen takes hold, and you lose consciousness.

So it's hard to come up with a scenario that would prompt that captain to get out of his seat in that circumstance. The first order of business is to get down, get down on the ground.

NGUYEN: You know, we just learned from reporter Paul Anastasi just moments ago, Miles, that the co-pilot was indeed in the cockpit. He was slumped over, but we learned from Paul that the oxygen masks had come down. I guess the question is, did he have it on?

O'BRIEN: Well, that's the question. Of course, it is a little different in the cockpit. You know, the passengers have those masks which deploy automatically. In the cockpit, it's a manual situation. They actually have a mask which is a much more tight-fitting mask. It actually gets oxygen into the system a lot more effectively than those small masks that you would get in the situation if you were a passenger.

So the fact that he was slumped over is something to consider here for just a moment, because if in fact the plane was on autopilot, and on cruise, and there was this problem that occurred, harken back for a moment to October of '99 -- Payne Stewart, the professional golfer, on the Lear jet, Orlando, headed north, ultimately crashed in South Dakota after the plane ran out of gas. It stayed on autopilot all that time.

The question here is, why did this plane apparently crash with plenty of fuel onboard? You heard the reports of a forest fire being started. So clearly, there was fuel onboard this airplane. There is -- if it was on autopilot, it probably would have continued on past Athens on the same heading, and held that altitude until it ran out of gas, unless for some reason, the pilot slumping over drifted on to the yoke, is what it's called or the steering wheel, if you will, and caused that autopilot to disengage.

But there are so many contradictions here how this scenario played out, as to why that captain left that cockpit. That's a question that is so key right now. What prompted him to leave, especially in the post-9/11 world, you know, the crews are trained and drilled to stay inside that cockpit under any circumstances. It had to be something very extraordinary happening on that airplane to prompt that captain to leave. NGUYEN: Indeed, it is a big question, and, of course, we'll be following this all day long. Thank you, Miles, for that information -- Tony.

HARRIS: Jewish settlers in Gaza and the West Bank have about eight more hours to begin leaving their homes. Palestinian forces and Israeli troops are on hand to make sure the massive and historic resettlement goes smoothly. CNN's Guy Raz tells us some settlers are planning to defy the order.


GUY RAZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A frantic rush to prepare for a hold out. The hard core who remain inside the Gaza settlement stocking up on food and water.

ELI GOLDMINTZ, DISENGAGEMENT OPPONENT: Nobody can really see the future. So people are stocking up. And they don't know if the water is going to be flowing. So everybody is buying water, as much as they can.

RAZ: Rumors are spreading fast among those who have decided to defy Israeli authority and remain. The government will cut water and electricity, they whispered. Dysentery will spread. People will die of hunger. Hogwash, says the Israeli army. But it hasn't quashed the conspiratorial tone that circulates among the shoppers.

OFRA MERMELSTEIN, GAZA SETTLER: We're stocking up on food, because our government is closing us in.

RAZ: Elsewhere, the protests continue. But few in Israel are listening anymore. The settlers have lost the political battle for now. But few are prepared to acknowledge it.


RAZ: Chaim Eisen displays his stock of provisions. His friend Rachel Saperstein refuses to pack. In her home, a Kassam rocket, fired by Pakistan militants just beyond the settlement, displayed like a work of art.

RACHEL SAPERSTEIN, GAZA SETTLER: We're going to have to tell the government, no, you cannot take the people out of Gush Khatif.

RAZ: Rachel Saperstein too is preparing for siege.

SAPERSTEIN: We're going to stay here as long as possible, as long as our food supply holds out, our water supply and beyond that.

RAZ (on camera): Beyond that probably won't be so long. Come Monday morning, Israel's army will seal this road behind me. No traffic in or out, except for the army vehicles moving the settlers back to Israel.

Guy Raz, CNN, Nevah Dekalim settlement, Gaza.


HARRIS: And let's take you to Gaza City now and CNN's Hala Gorani. And Hala, there, on the ground, what does it feel like? How -- what is the mood? Paint a bit of a picture for us, if you would.

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the mood is one of anticipation, and Palestinians on the Palestinian side of the Gaza Strip are waiting for what's being called E-day. In a few hours, all Israeli civilians that are still in the Gaza Strip will be considered illegal, and then they have 48 hours, basically, to pack up and leave, or they will be forcibly removed.

Let's tell you a little bit about the mood. Ben Wedeman is here with me. He'd been traveling up and down the Gaza Strip. Ben, the Palestinian security forces are also deployed to try to prevent trouble, to try to prevent militants or any ordinary Palestinians from creating trouble along the border with the settlements. Are they equipped to do that?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they have the right number of people. The problem is, they're low in, for instance, ammunition. We heard from a senior member of the Palestinian Authority that because Israel will not provide them with bullets, because they don't know where these bullets will end up, the Authority has to buy on the black market, bullets at $8 a piece. That's awfully expensive, and this at the same time when some of the militant groups are apparently very well-equipped, with not only weapons, but ammunition.

GORANI: Give us an idea of what is going to happen come August 17th, when all of the Israeli civilians in the settlements are expected to be gone? Will Palestinians then rush in and take the land?

WEDEMAN: No, they won't, because in fact, the Israeli army is going to stay here for several weeks. And what is hoped is that eventually they will leave, the Palestinian Authority will take over that land, and control who gets into these areas, because they're afraid that Hamas and other groups are going to basically take over bits and say, this is our land, we liberated it, and the Authority has no right to it.

GORANI: All right. Ben Wedeman, thanks very much.

As you heard there, Tony, a sense of anticipation. Also a sense that the next two to three days will determine how the disengagement plan of Ariel Sharon will go, how it will go on the Israeli side and also on the Palestinian side. Will there be trouble? Will it go smoothly? We'll certainly be watching from here and bringing you the latest. Tony, back to you.

HARRIS: Hala Gorani and Ben Wedeman, thank you both.

NGUYEN: Back here in the U.S., no matter where you pull up to fill up these days, gas prices are soaring through the roof. AAA says the national average price for a gallon of gasoline is around $2.41. You can see that from looking at the map here. In Santa Barbara, California, for example, gas is going for a whopping $2.76 a gallon.

Now, Dan Simon hit the streets to find out how people are coping with the price hike.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fuel pinch feeling more like a punch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never seen it this high personally myself. I was shocked when I pulled in.

SIMON: Some motorists having to pay upwards of $50 to fill up their tanks. $2.81 for basic unleaded at this Shell station in Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you can car pool, car pool. That's what I do. I mean, like you know, and I can ride with somebody. You know, you should do that because I mean, like it saves you money.

SIMON: Those looking for a little bit of a bargain headed to discount stores like Costco. Check out the lines in Burbank. Some drivers waiting more than a half an hour to fill up. Was it worth it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know that I saved about $6.00.

PAUL GONZALES, AAA: This is the peak of the driving season.

SIMON: And Paul Gonzales of AAA says the high prices don't seem to be slowing anybody down.

GONZALES: And this is when most people are out driving. They're enjoying summer. And if it costs a little bit more to drive, they're still going to do it because this is when they have their vacations.

SIMON: Still for many, the cash concerns are great. And the Department of Energy warns the price could remain at least $2.00 through much of next year.

(on camera): All this according to AAA has meant a decrease in the sales of SUVs, while hybrid vehicles have skyrocketed. And now better news if you own a hybrid. If you drive a certain model, you just might be able to drive in the car pool lane.

I'm Dan Simon for CNN, Los Angeles.


NGUYEN: Now, the Web site can help you find cheaper gas. Just log on and type in your zip code, or click the state that you're in. You can find out where the lowest and the highest gas prices are in your area.

Now, all this brings us to our morning e-mail question. Are high prices causing you to change your spending habits? And what are you cutting from your budget to compensate? Send us your response at We'll read those replies throughout the morning.

HARRIS: And still ahead this morning, daylight shows the destruction. Look at these pictures. A Wyoming town torn apart in an instant.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I looked out of the hallway window and I seen the trampoline and all the debris flying through the air, so I told my girlfriend to lay down on the floor. We no more than got face down on the floor, and trailer house started rolling down the street.


NGUYEN: More on the devastation caused by a deadly twister. That's coming up.



NGUYEN: We're going to give you look at our top stories right now, and we want to start with some breaking news that we've been following all morning long overseas. There are no survivors from the crash of a Cyprus jetliner in Greece. One hundred twenty-one passengers and crew were aboard the Helios Airways plane. It was frying from Larnaca, Cyprus to Greece when it crashed in the mountains north of Athens.

Now to Iraq. Several roadside bombings and a shooting incident have killed seven U.S. soldiers since Friday; 1,850 American troops have been killed in Iraq, 52 so far this month alone.

And some major changes may be on the way for airline screenings. New TSA recommendations are looking to reduce hassles for travelers. That may include fewer patdowns and a shorter list of limited items. It also means no more taking off your shoes.

HARRIS: In other news across America now, in downtown Miami this morning, the eight-story former Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge on Biscayne Boulevard came tumbling down. A 67-story luxury condominium and boutique hotel will be built in its place.

A huge wildfire in Washington state is still burning, largely unchecked. The blaze has charred some 49,000 acres and burned more than 100 homes and summer cabins. Elsewhere, wildfires in Idaho and Montana threaten dozens of homes.

All missing persons are now accounted for after a tornado ripped through the eastern Wyoming community of Wright. Two people were killed. Residents of a mobile home park lost almost everything when the twister hit Friday. Winds are estimated up to 130 miles an hour.

NGUYEN: Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider will have your Sunday forecast. That is coming up. And as the heat rose in New Jersey, Phil Mickelson's lead, well, it shrank. We'll have a live report from the greens at the PGA Championship right after the break.



HARRIS: Well, it is a tie for the lead heading into the fourth and final round of the 87th PGA Championship. CNN's Larry Smith is live for us in sultry Springfield, New Jersey. Larry, yesterday Phil Mickelson had an opportunity to run away from the field, but he ran back to the pack, didn't he?

LARRY SMITH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. He decided he wanted to join everyone else and make this a little interesting.

Speaking of weather, though, Tony, we're happy to report the heat wave is over. A record 99 degrees on Saturday. Today, the high is a very chilly 94 degrees, but again, it will be hot on the course. Final round of the final major of the golf season, this 87th PGA Championship. Phil Mickelson, as you mentioned, had a chance to really set himself apart from the rest of the field, but he didn't do that. Only one birdie in a round of two over par 72, as he came back to the field and now is at 6 under par.

Joining him in the final twosome, teeing off at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, is Davis Love III. The 41-year-old from Sea Island, Georgia had an outstanding round. Shot a 2 under par 68. He also was a 6 under par as Love, well, now tries to win his first Grand Slam since he won the PGA Championship back in 1997.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that there are a lot of guys that are right there, within a couple of shots. They get hot, make some birdies, it will put some pressure on us. But on the other hand, we're in the last group. We know what we need to do, and hopefully we'll be in a position to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last three majors I've gotten frustrated. I promised myself I wasn't going to get frustrated this week, that I was going to have fun and play hard, and give every shot my best, and, you know, I've been remarkably calm and I've had a lot of fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like a difficult course to hold the lead on, because there's no real -- there's no real holes you can point to and think, you know, that's where you might get a shot back. So, you know, I think there is a lot of guys all the way down to probably even par who have a good shot at this tournament.


SMITH: Well, Steve Elkington, a decade since he won his Grand Slam at the PGA back in 1995, the Australian. No European has won this tournament since Tommy Armour back in 1930. Maybe this man can do it. Thomas Bjorn of Denmark tied a record with the lowest round ever in a major when he shot a 7 under par 63. He is one shot off the pace at 5 under par, and again, trying to win his first career Grand Slam.

As for Tiger Woods, his quest for an 11th Grand Slam title certainly is not completely in the woods. He's at even par, yet he's off at 120. If he can get going early on, who knows? Maybe he can make a run. He'll be on the eighth hole by the time the leaders tee off. It will be fun to see if he can duplicate the magic he found on the back half. And Tony, I can tell you this much: This should not be completed or decided until down to the final putt. The front nine play very, very tough all week. The back nine, there are more than twice as many birdies than bogeys among those even par and better on Saturday, so we'll get a chance to see a lot of shot-making on that back nine. However, the pin placements, very difficult, I can tell you that right now.

HARRIS: (INAUDIBLE) pins. Ninety-four degrees, huh? OK. Grab a sweater, Larry.

SMITH: It's cool. Yes.

HARRIS: All right. Thanks, Larry.

NGUYEN: More like head for some air conditioner.

All right. Called away from college to fight on the front lines. Straight ahead this morning, one former National Guardsman recounts life in war, a war he did not support. You might be surprised when you hear his account of what really goes on during war.

HARRIS: And history in the making. As Iraq prepares to draft its first-ever constitution, many are asking, will women's rights be protected? We're going to talk about that a bit later.


HARRIS: Updating a breaking story we're following. Greek authorities have confirmed that there are no survivors from the crash of a Cyprus jetliner. It went down this morning in the mountains north of Athens with 121 people onboard. Authorities are ruling out terrorism as the cause of the crash.

Jewish settlers are now on deadline. Israel has given them until Wednesday to withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. After that they will be forcibly removed. Some have vowed to not leave. The evacuations start at midnight.

Military officials in Iraq now confirm seven U.S. soldiers have been killed since Friday. Six of them died in a string of roadside bombing attacks. The seventh soldier was found shot to death. The Army is investigating that incident.

Protesters both sides of the Iraq war faced off in Crawford, Texas, near President Bush's ranch. It all centers around Cindy Sheehan, the mother of the young soldier killed in Iraq. She's now in her second week of trying to get a private meeting with President Bush about 250 Bush supporters held counter demonstrations across from Sheehan's campsite and her supporters.

NGUYEN: As Tony just mentioned seven more troops have been killed in Iraq since Friday. Most died during a span of roadside bombings. Now, meanwhile, other fallen U.S. troops are being mourned. Family and friends gathered for the funeral of one Marine killed earlier this month. Marine Lance Corporal Brett Wightman was buried full military honors at his hometown in southwest Ohio, yesterday. Wightman and four other Marines were killed two weeks ago by a roadside explosion in Iraq. Friends and family, well they also paid their respects to Lance Corporal Timothy Bell, Jr., who was in the same Marine company as Wightman.


TIMOTHY BELL, SR., LOST SON IN IRAQ: We hugged a long time because I just -- you know, I knew I wasn't going to see him for a long time and I told him I'm going leave, I told him I'm not going to look back because I'm just going to go ahead and go and as I turned around he grabbed me he said, dad, hold on and he handed me his Marine ring that he got for graduation and he told me to wear it. But he wanted to it back when he got home, so now I'll wear it forever.


NGUYEN: And in Pasadena, Texas, hundreds of marines, veterans, family members and friends gathered to dedicate a memorial wall to those who have died in Iraq.

Now, in this morning's "Soldier's Story" it gives us a firsthand account of what it's like for American troops fighting in I Iraq and it comes former National Guardsmen, John Crawford. Crawford was newly married and just two credits away from completing his degree at Florida State University when he was sent in Iraq. He has written a book about his experiences and it's called "The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell." And he joins us now from Tallahassee, Florida.

I'm really interested in this title because, John, it's the last true story you'll ever tell. Why that title?

JOHN CRAWFORD, NAT. GUARDSMAN AND AUTHOR: Actually, the title just came out of nowhere. I just mentioned that it was a -- I was kind of juxtaposing the differences between what it's really like in a war and what people think it's like and showing the difference between a true story and a false story and it just kind of came from there.

NGUYEN: This one is true.

CRAWFORD: Yes, ma'am.

NGUYEN: All right. The truth of the matter, you signed up so that you could get your college education paid for at Florida State University. Now, in the book you write, "Two credits from graduating, recently married, and with less than a year left in my contract, I was going to Iraq." In face, you got this news while on your honeymoon cruise. How'd you feel about going to Iraq?

CRAWFORD: I was upset. I didn't think that the -- that the reasons that were given to us for going to war were quite there. I think war is a last resort and I didn't think we had quite reached the last resort yet, but that being said, I've never sat in on a Pentagon briefing and I've never been in the oval office, so I assume there's a lot of stuff that I don't really know.

NGUYEN: But, you signed up and you were there to do your duty. You also write about how the National Guard was treated differently from those in active duty, and here's what you say: "We became shadows of the 'shock and awe' troops that Americans saw on television. My uniforms were torn beyond repair and my boot his no soles on them. Still we walked on, day and night, sloshing through the sewage-filled streets." Now, beyond uniforms and boots how else do you feel you were treated differently and why were you treated differently?

CRAWFORD: Well, I think the National Guard is oftentimes seen as second-class soldiers because of the amount of time that they put in the states. Only one weekend a month, two weeks a year, but it was a little bit more difficult for us since my unit was almost entirely composed of prior service active duty guys. But, yeah, we were given water rations. I think for a while we were on one liter a day. We were given two meals a day, most of the time it was tea rations, just like chili or eggs, you know, twice a day. And you know, the equipment's old, we had old flack vests and old rifles and nobody really, you know, cared. You're not really like the newsmaker, you're not the big deal...

NGUYEN: True, you had to steal cars just to have a vehicle?

CRAWFORD: Yeah. We didn't get any vehicles we got in Baghdad. And the one or two that we had managed to get from the 3rd Infantry Division died pretty quick. So yeah, we stole cars and knocked off the doors, they're sport utility vehicles, knocked off the doors and mounted machine guns on the back.

NGUYEN: In the book you talk about what you didn't have, but you also mentioned, especially when it comes to steroids and drugs, that they are often readily available. This is what you write, "Some soldiers were making huge gains, but then steroids weren't illegal in Iraq and are illegal in the Army only on paper," you go to onto say, "Me, I was a Valium and Prozac type of guy, anything to chill me out, get me a buzz." Was the military turning a blind eye on this usage?

CRAWFORD: I don't think the military's turning a blind eye. I think in a lot of cases you're talking about small units and at the platoon level, you know, your platoon leader and your sergeant have a lot of things to worry about when you're in a combat situation and they're not paying, you know, close attention to what you're doing in the gym. And we weren't getting them on post, we were going out on the streets and we were patrolling and going to the pharmacy and it was so cheap to buy them there that, I mean, a lot of people were taking part in it, but the Army didn't really condone it, but they didn't really notice either. NGUYEN: I was struck about how frank you are in this book. You also talk about the looting of Iraqi homes by American troops and you say, "It was the one and only time during the war that I was embarrassed by our behavior. We had looted in Nasiriyah, but that was during the invasion and all of the previous occupants were dead." But, also in the book you go on to talk about how Americans in your unit looted even after the occupation. Was this something that happened quite often?

CRAWFORD: I don't think it happened quite often. That was the only time I ever saw it and it was more of a -- I think it was more lashing out, a little more anger, because nothing that was taken was worth anything. The people we arrested that day were definitely bad people and things that were taken were a little bit of stereo equipment, things of that nature, you know, like pictures off the wall. It was more lashing out than anything else.

NGUYEN: You know, you're definitely talking about the darker sides of war in this book. Were you fearful of putting that information out?

CRAWFORD: I was more fearful about what my friends would think, the guys that are in the unit, but actually as they've started to read it everybody's liked it a lot, everybody's been very supportive of me, so, but I wasn't fearful of any government retaliation or anything like that.

NGUYEN: What's your impression of the situation there now after being back?

CRAWFORD: I mean, I think it's terrible. I think it's a horrible mess, but you know, you're stuck in the middle of a fight and there's not much you can do, but finish it now.

NGUYEN: And, one last thing, very quickly. This was the last true story that you were going to ever tell, but interesting, you're still writing a book now, right. Is that going to a true story too? Are you sticking by your word?

CRAWFORD: Well actually I've start -- I probably won't stick by my word. No. I haven't started on a book yet, but I have been talking with friends and I may end up, you know, going back to Afghanistan some time early next year and embedding.

NGUYEN: But, you're still doing some writing. All right, we'll see if it's the last, indeed the last true story you'll ever tell. Thank you so much, John Crawford for your experience and your information and your insight, today.

CRAWFORD: Thank you for having me.


Well, still ahead this morning -- Tony.

HARRIS: Yeah, still ahead this morning, Iraq's constitution, is it a man's world? How much of a say will women have in it? We're going to talk about that right after the break.


HARRIS: Our "Top Stories" this morning: Greek authorities say there are no survivors after a jetliner crashed this morning north of Athens. Officials have ruled out terrorism as the cause of the crash.

NGUYEN: Iraqi lawmakers hope to have a constitutional draft finished today, before tomorrow's deadline. Leaders have agreed that oil revenues will be distributed to all regions, but there is still doubt a final deal will be reached. Completing the document is seen as a major step toward democracy in Iraq.

HARRIS: And no matter where you live soaring prices at the gas pump are making you dig deeper into your pockets. AAA says the average price for a gallon of gas is around $2.41.


Now we want to give you a look at some of the stories making news around the world, today.

HARRIS: CNN has gained exclusive access to North Korea's chief nuclear weapons negotiator. With highlights from that interview Femi Oke joins us from our sister network, CNN International.

Femi, good morning.

FEMI OKE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, good morning, good to see you all. Let's start with the CNN exclusive. A rare interview with North Korea's vice foreign minister, Kim Kye-gwan. Speaking this weekend during a visit to South Korea, the minister said that Pyongyang was ready to abandon its nuclear weapons and even have nuclear facilities monitored.


KIM KYE-GWAN, VICE FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): (INAUDIBLE), who is so concerned with regard to our possible nuclear activities which could lead to the manufacturing of nuclear weapons then we can leave the operations under the strict supervision.


OKE: Let me quickly say that was a translation, not the actual voice of North Korea's vice foreign minister, Kim Kye-gwan. The United States, the two Koreas, Russia, China and Japan will pick up discussions on North Korea's nuclear program at the end of this month.

To Iraq now where the Monday deadline to finalize the new constitution is looming, still to be worked out are questions about regional autonomy and the world of Islamic law in the government. Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, set the weekend -- out the weekend, but he was confident the draft constitution would be ready in time.

And finally, Tony, back to you, when I say Afghanistan to you, what's the very first thing that comes to mind?

HARRIS: Poppies, these days.

OKE: Yeah.

NGUYEN: Well, it's definitely what you're about to show us.

OKE: Yeah, sheep skin coats, maybe.

HARRIS: Yes, yes.

OKE: Osama bin Laden, of course. But for some reason, you probable don't associate Afghanistan with the sport of bodybuilding.

NGUYEN: No. Not at all.

OKE: Absolutely not. But, it is very popular there and now the very well toned men of Afghanistan have a national competition to show what they're made of. Forty-eight competitors took part in the very first Mr. Afghanistan Competition.

NGUYEN: My goodness.

OKE: Take a look at that! It was held in the Afghan capital -- oh, I'm sorry, Tony. Twenty-three-year-old Khosraw Basheri walked away with the prize weighing in at 212 pounds and a gallon of oil! There we go.

NGUYEN: Don't be sorry, Tony looks just like that under his suit.

HARRIS: Hey look, look.

NGUYEN: At least I'm told that.

HARRIS: Can we put him to work now rebuilding that country? We've got roads we need to repair. Good, nice, strong, fit men.

NGUYEN: And you got a lot of oil to use. Right?

HARRIS: That's right. Put them to work.

Femi, thank you.

OKE: You're very welcome, take care. Have a good weekend.

HARRIS: You, too.

We're watching the clock as Iraqi lawmakers grapple with the task of drafting a constitution before tomorrow's deadline. In all the discussion, one woman is trying to make sure Iraqi women get their fair share, representation in the new government and that's a tall order to fill in the Muslim world. That woman is Manal Omar and she joins us live from Amman, Jordan with more.

Manal, good to see you. MANAL OMAR, WOMEN FOR WOMEN, INTL.: Likewise.

HARRIS: Well, I guess in the draft -- the draft of the constitution sets aside 25 percent of legislative seats for women, but it's only in the first two terms. Are you fighting to make that permanent?

OMAR: That's definitely something that the Iraqi women are fighting for is making the 25 percent quota permanent and it's also really important to point out that there's a difference between female participation, which the 25 percent in the first two terms does guarantee, and women's rights defenders. You know, traditionally particularly after the elections there have been female participation, but many Iraqi women feel it's not necessarily the same as having people defending women's rights.

HARRIS: In this new constitution, how large a role will be given, do you think, to Islamic law?

OMAR: Well, it's clear in the new constitution that Islamic law, whether in a formal or informal setting will be playing an important role. Iraqi women are pointing out that because of some of the ambiguous clauses referring to Islamic law, particularly stating that any law that contradicts with Islamic law without qualifying which Islamic law or what forms of interpretation can lead to a free for all in terms of discrimination for Iraqi women. Iraqi women aren't necessarily allergic to the use of Islamic law. And overall, we have been seen where Islamic law has been used to promote women's rights but they feel that the current constitution it is ambiguous in terms of its reference in terms of Islamic law, particularly in terms of its relation to the international law.

HARRIS: OK, and the ambiguity can certainly lead to all kind of confusion on issues of personal status rights, property rights, inheritance rights?

OMAR: That's exactly among -- exactly. A marriage, divorce, all that you're mentioning are the crucial issues that women are fighting for. By just leaving that ambiguous statement in terms to a reference in Islamic law and not contradicting the legal laws that are drafted later on in the Iraqi legislation does leave an open door in terms of on the ground, the civil courts application. As we all know there are so many different interpretations of Islamic law. Iraqi women are asking for more safeguards, particularly in an article that specifically refers to women's rights, nondiscrimination and protection of violence against women.

HARRIS: Manal, let me challenge that for just a second. Isn't it true that millions of devout Muslim women in Iraq look forward to the day when more of the country is ruled by Islamic law over secular law and civil law.

OMAR: Oh, most definitely. I mean if you put it in that sense, if that's the way you're going to phrase it, overall women, if you make them choose between Islamic law and secular law, many women will choose Islamic law. In fact if you were to force me to choose between Islamic law and secular law then I myself will choose Islamic law, but in reality that's not what Iraqi women feel they're choosing between. They feel that they can have a framework of Islamic law, but still safeguard international legal rights in terms of women. It really isn't one or the other. Iraqi women are among the first in Iraq who to reject being forced between extremes and I would argue that you saying you either have Islamic law that's ambiguous without referring to interpretations or just a vast secular law is being forced between the extremes. Iraqi women are looking for a more complex answer in the sense that they're able to develop something in the middle.

HARRIS: Hey, I want to ask you one more question, quickly. I've read the constitutional process in Iraq is the fight for the soul of the country, a test of whether the country will become a forward- thinking nation. How do you think this is playing out?

OMAR: I think that the Iraqi public has a lot of challenges in terms of the soul of the constitution. Overall, what the Iraqi women's struggle exemplifies is process itself and not just the paper that comes out in terms of the constitution. I think that Iraqi women have proven that they are willing to fight for their right at the table and to have their rights expressed in the constitution which really does show that there is still a vibrant and healthy civil society, that they're not just simply accepting what's being presented to them and that they are ready to reject if they need to in mid- October, a constitution that they feel doesn't represent them.

HARRIS: Manal Omar from Amman, Jordan thank you very much.

NGUYEN: Well, Bonnie Schneider has your Sunday forecast. That is ahead. And this man doesn't need to pay those high gas prices, nope. Just a lot of energy and a lot of patience. What he's doing why he's doing it after the break.




NGUYEN: Jose. Can't we get a Bonnie, a Betty or a Tony in there somewhere?

BONNY SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, Bonnie -- Bonnie is a hurricane name back in '98.


NGUYEN: I know, they retire it once it becomes...

SCHNEIDER: Absolutely.

NGUYEN: And that was a big one, too. All right, Bonnie. Thank you.

Well, if the spiraling price of gas has you considering getting back on your bike for basic transportation, you can't get any more basic than the unicycle, but as Nicole Masinsick (ph) reports from our affiliate, KNAZ-TV, one unicyclist prefers the road less traveled.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some might say Ky Tierney is reinventing the wheel. He's been mountain unicycling for a year and a half and goes anywhere he can.

KY TIERNEY, UNICYCLIST: It took a lot of practice and a lot of falls. That's why I wear protection for sure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's not training for the circus, but with this balancing act is sidekick, Zoe who's always by his side.

TIERNEY: It's out of this world. There's nothing -- nothing I've done on this, since I've been alive that's come close how exciting this is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, he gets a good workout.

TIERNEY: It's just a blast, man. Every time I get on the unicycle I have a smile.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is about so much more than exercise.

TIERNEY: I just spend intense quality time with god out here, just dealing about my thoughts, deal praying for my friends.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ky's not close to giving up and he's rarely has days where he has to push himself to get out and ride.

TIERNEY: No, not even close. I love it way too much. It's the funniest thing I've ever done.


TIERNEY: Come on Zoe.



NGUYEN: Boy, that is some exercise. You can hear him. Hear his breath trying to get through it all. But, he enjoys it, looks like fun, just maybe not what I would do for a workout?

HARRIS: Exactly.

NGUYEN: All right, we want to thank you for joining us. We'll see you back here next Saturday morning beginning at 7:00 Eastern.

HARRIS: Working that remote wears me out. "ON THE STORY" is next. Have a great weekend.


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