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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Zalmay Khalilzad; Interview With Hoshyar Zebari

Aired October 16, 2005 - 11:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's 11:00 a.m. Washington, 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:00 p.m. in Baghdad, and 8:00 p.m. in Islamabad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
We'll get to my interview with Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, in a few minutes. We'll hear from the United States ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad.

First, a quick check of what is in the news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get more insight to what has just happened in Iraq. Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, is in Baghdad. She's following all of these developments. She's joining us now live.

Christiane, how did it go?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the day itself went much more smoothly than a lot of people had thought. Of course, there was a very, very large, effective clamp- down on security by the U.S. military.

Iraqis actually took the lead at the polling centers, the polling stations, and there was quite a low level of any kind of disruption or violence -- almost negligible, although there were these election workers kidnapped and there were at least one ballot box stolen.

But in terms of major violence other than, of course, as you reported, five American soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb in Ramadi -- that was yesterday; we just had that announced today.

But people did turn out. The biggest difference between this time around and last time around was the Sunni participation. You just heard and just played a clip of the Iraqi foreign minister saying that they believe the constitutional referendum will pass.

Although he did also say that he believed that, perhaps in two provinces, the Sunnis may have mustered enough of a majority to defeat it in two provinces -- but that's not enough to defeat the whole thing, because you need three provinces to do that.

However, we have to say that all of these vote predictions are, so far, speculation since we really have not got the official tally yet. But, of course, the question is: What exactly comes next? We've talked to U.S. commanders, the top U.S. commander here, and he is under no illusion. He says people shouldn't expect the insurgency to be broken overnight after this referendum, and people shouldn't expect that the American troops are going to be able to leave in any significant form anytime soon.

So there is a lot of work ahead. But political stability is one of the key pillars for a successful project here in Iraq -- as well, of course, as the growing of the Iraqi security forces, which is also quite slow according to the commanders here.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Christiane, is there a sense among the U.S. military personnel there? And I know you have spoken with some high-ranking U.S. military officers and others that, starting next year -- perhaps early next year -- a U.S. withdrawal could begin?

AMANPOUR: You know, I think there's a lot of noise in the atmosphere -- always -- about timetables and withdrawal dates. Clearly, the U.S. wants to be able to pull out at some point. But they're saying they won't be able to fully withdraw until the Iraqis are capable.

They may be able to adjust numbers when the Iraqis become more capable but, right now, they're not fully capable of standing alone.

BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour in Baghdad. Thanks, Christiane, very much.

Just a short while ago, I spoke with Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, about yesterday's vote and his country's political future.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Foreign Minister, thanks very much for joining us. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says, "It probably passed" -- the referendum.

Did it pass?

HOSHYAR ZEBARI, IRAQ'S FOREIGN MINISTER: I believe so. The draft constitution was voted yesterday by the overall majority of the Iraqi people. And all the indications we are getting, even from those provinces where the vote may swing, are encouraging and positive -- as for a yes vote for this constitution.

And this would be really a major achievement in the political process that we are undertaking at the moment.

So my guess is, yes, it will be passed.

BLITZER: In order for it to be defeated, it would have required two-thirds majority in three of Iraq's 18 provinces. Do you believe it got two-thirds majority in any of the provinces? ZEBARI: Yes, it could get the two-thirds rejection vote in Anbar, even maybe in Salaheddin. But it's impossible to get the two- thirds rejection vote in Mosul, where there is a large Kurdish community there. They will not be able to get two-thirds. And Diyala, which is a mixed province -- ethnically, religiously a mixed province.

So they may get one or two provinces, but not three provinces with two-thirds of a rejection vote, no.

BLITZER: But how frustrated will the Iraqi Sunnis be? As you know, the guess is, and no one knows for sure, that most of them voted firmly against this draft constitution.

ZEBARI: Well, they shouldn't be frustrated, because there is always another chance, and the last minute changes and amendments reached by the key political leaders was really to give the Sunnis a stronger incentive to participate in the next election, where they would have a chance.

If they are not happy about any of the articles of the constitution, there is a possibility to abandon them, to change them.

So they should not be frustrated.

And the good thing -- this is the first time they participated. And I think they have recognized the mistakes they made during the last election, and they are not repeating the same mistake -- which is a very encouraging sign. They are part of a political process. They are a partner in building this country on new, democratic basis.

So this is all encouraging, and they should not be frustrated.

BLITZER: What also, I'm sure, is encouraging for you is the fact that the insurgent attacks yesterday on this election day were a lot less than so many had feared.

What happened? What did you do right in order to prevent those attacks from marring the balloting?

ZEBARI: Well, it's true. In fact, other positive thing was there was less violence, even in comparison to last elections in January, where we had then about over 120 attacks and so on. But there was minimal violence.

The reasons were, Wolf, first, those military operations that have been ongoing in the western part of the country, from Tal Afar to Anbar province, to the Euphrates River, along the Syrian border -- where these areas are the hub of these terrorists or foreign fighters, where the multi-national forces and the Iraqi forces have done a cleaning operation and put those insurgents off-balance.

Secondly, the security measures implemented by the Interior and Defense Ministries with the multi-national force here in Baghdad, and also the mass participation of the people, when they came out yesterday, on the day, where all really have made to see that the violence was less.

And this is what we did over the last few months, I would say, of preparation for the security measures to be successful.

BLITZER: There was a letter that was purportedly written by the number-two Al Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, the number-one terrorist, the Al Qaida leader in Iraq, in which Zawahiri wrote: "Things may develop faster than we imagine. The aftermath of the collapse of the American power in Vietnam and how they ran and left their agents is noteworthy."

First of all, do you believe this letter to be authentic?

ZEBARI: I believe so. It's compatible with their religious rhetoric and (inaudible). I believe it's genuine, and it's accurate, and it's consistent with other letters or correspondence we have seen. And this is Al Qaida, actually. It has no country, it has no religion. They want to expand, they want to harm the emergence of any democratic entities in this region, and I guess the United States also. So the evil (inaudible) terrorism are here in Iraq, and we are in the forefront in fighting them.

BLITZER: Do you fear that U.S. troops will pull out of Iraq, along the lines of the way the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam a generation ago?

ZEBARI: No, definitely, there is no way you could compare Iraq to Vietnam. And here, there has been a great deal of progress, really has been made. I mean, not the last -- mention -- was yesterday's referendum.

For the first time in the country's history, the Iraqis are writing their destiny and their history by themselves, and this would not have happened without the support of the U.S. troops and forces here and the support of the overall efforts of those peaceful, democratic, federal and united Iraq in this part.

So, definitely, I don't think that the United States is in a weak position at all here. They're in a very strong position on the ground. And also, I cannot compare what happened in Vietnam and so on, what Ayman al-Zawahiri and others are saying.

But definitely at the moment when we, the Iraqis, are capable of running and managing our security, to be self-sufficient, then there would be no need definitely for U.S. forces to stay any longer here in Iraq.

BLITZER: When do you believe that will happen? When will U.S. forces be able to start leaving Iraq?

ZEBARI: I really am not a fan of giving timetables or so on, because I know this is a process, but this will depend a great deal on the Iraqi military and security capabilities. The sooner we achieve that, the sooner the U.S. troops could leave. So I really would not put any timeline on that. BLITZER: The Saddam Hussein trial starts this week in Baghdad. What do you expect? Lay out what's going to happen in the coming days.

ZEBARI: Well, we've been -- I'm a supporter of a trial of Saddam as soon as possible. And this trial is long, long overdue. And I'll say again, really, this delay has contributed to the deteriorating security situation in the country, and it has encouraged Baathist supporters, let's say, to have a hope in the future. So this trial finally will be held on the 19th, according to the latest statement we have had from the special tribunal and from the government.

The trial will start on the 19th, but it may take some time until it is finalized.

BLITZER: When do you think -- how long it will last? I mean, is this going to go on for weeks, months, years? Slobodan Milosevic's trial in The Hague has been going on for four years. What about Saddam Hussein?

ZEBARI: Well, it will continue for some time. Really, I'm unable to give you any specific time. But I think it will be several weeks. This is my own estimate and my reading of the situation.

BLITZER: And is he eligible for the death sentence?

ZEBARI: Well, the Iraqi court, actually, the Iraqi justice will definitely make the final judgment as to whatever kind of punishment. Definitely, the government will be full responsibility for that.

BLITZER: Given his track record in dealing with Kurds -- you're a Kurd, an Iraqi Kurd -- his track record in dealing with Iraqi Shia, do you hope he's executed?

ZEBARI: Well, I think he should get the severest punishment for all the crimes he has committed against the people. There is no lack of evidence to prosecute Saddam. I mean, the water, the mountains, the people, can testify against him in the court. So really, I think he will be punished, and to bring this period to a closure for all the Iraqis, to look forward to the future, to build a better future without Saddam's image hanging over their minds.

BLITZER: Hoshyar Zebari is the foreign minister of Iraq. Thanks, Mr. Minister, for joining us.

ZEBARI: You're most welcome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And still ahead: The United States view on this historic vote. We'll talk with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, about Iraq's political future. That's coming up.

But up next, U.S. Republican Senator John Warner and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein weigh in on yesterday's referendum. The ongoing insurgency and setting a timetable for U.S. Troops to come home.

And later: Is the world on the verge of a bird flu pandemic? We'll get insight from a top U.S. medical expert.

"LATE EDITION" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Joining us now to talk about where things stand in Iraq and more, two guests: the Republican chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, John Warner. He also serves on the Select Intelligence Committee. And Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. She's a member of the of the Intelligence Committee. She serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee as well.

Senators, good to have both of you back on "LATE EDITION." Let's talk about the referendum yesterday. Mr. Chairman, I'll start with you. Is this in your assessment a turning point in Iraq?

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: I think it is another strong building block towards the time when we can consider -- not now, but in the future -- some timetable for withdrawal. This...

BLITZER: Let me interrupt you for a second. When you say a timetable for withdrawal, a lot of Americans are anxious for that, as you well know. Give us a timetable.

WARNER: Not going to do it, because we're approaching a 60-day period, Wolf, where on the assumption as your previous guest said, the referendum will be voted up by the people of Iraq. Then we wait to the December 15th elections. Then they've got to form a new government.

And this is a fragile period in time. Many of the ministers who are now working on the government in Iraq are all likely to be candidates. So you're going to have a tough political situation to deal with and some disappointment by the Sunnis, and as a result, the insurgency will continue. We do not want to be talking about a timetable withdrawal, in my judgment, in the next 90 days.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that, Senator Feinstein?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I don't. I think the election on December 15th is the bellwether. I think if that election takes place, and Iraq then has its permanent leadership, that we should begin to draw down on our forces there. We have 156,000 there. We should begin a regular withdrawal. What has become very clear to me...

BLITZER: They should announce that up front to the Iraqis?

FEINSTEIN: Announce it up front. What's become very clear to me is that the American forces have become the lightning rod for the Sunni insurgency. I believe the insurgency is largely carried out by Sunni. I think the foreign fighter part of it is de minimus. And there's a Sunni problem. And the Shia has to come to grips with the Sunni problem. And the extent to which we buffer that, it enables it to continue. So I believe that we have got to make the handoff to this new administration. I would still keep the training of forces. They're now saying they need 320,000 security forces.

BLITZER: Iraqi security forces.

FEINSTEIN: Iraqi security forces. They say they're up to around 200,000 now. But I think that the time has come to begin a structured pullout.

BLITZER: Senator Warner, as you well know, there is one argument, and Senator Feinstein touched on this, that if you have the United States staying there indefinitely, there is less and less incentive for the Iraqis to really do it on their own when they can rely on Uncle Sam to get the job done for them.

WARNER: Wolf, going back to the history of all occupations, whether it's ours or other nations', people have resented, the indigenous people, the presence of foreign troops. And we made it clear as soon as their government is formed, as soon as they have the security, both police and military, then that opportunity for the coalition of forces, just not the United States, to depart.

But right now this is a very fragile future ahead of us in the next 90 days. After that, maybe some consideration should be given. But in that interim of 90 days, we should let it be known diplomatically and quietly, get your act together, because, you know, there comes a time when the people of our nation -- and I went through the Vietnam era as the secretary of the Navy, much of it in the end. I saw Congress pull back. I saw the American public pull back. We're not there now. But next year is an election year. And you've got to think of the realities.

But for the next 90 days, maybe 120, steadfast. We're there to see it through and let that government get its roots. Let them start out. Now they only have a two-week period to put it together this time as opposed to last time.

BLITZER: Two-month period.

WARNER: Two-month period.

BLITZER: You lived through Vietnam. I lived through it, too, like Senator Warner. Do you fear that this is emerging as another Vietnam?

FEINSTEIN: No. I don't think it's another Vietnam. But I do think the people of America are beginning to become very disenchanted with our position. I think they see it now for what it is. The military part of it has been won.

But if I'm correct and the insurgency is largely Sunni-driven, and I believe it is, then the problem is Shia-Sunni. And that's what has to be reconciled, and America can't do it. It's got to be between the two of them. I think if it is true...

BLITZER: And the Kurds as well.

FEINSTEIN: And the Kurds. But if it's true that two of the three Sunni provinces voted two-thirds against the constitution, then this demonstrates that the Shia has to work with the Sunni. And I think American forces in the middle are not a good thing.

BLITZER: Let me read to you, Senator Warner, what Richard Armitage, who was Colin Powell's top deputy at the State Department, a deputy secretary of state, is quoted as saying in the October issue of The Diplomat Magazine. He said: "Those who argued at the time that the acceptance of democracy in Iraq would be easy, and who drew on our experience with Japan and Germany were wrong. They were dead wrong. The United States is dealing with and Iraqi population that is unshocked and unawed."

Very critical of the way things have unfolded over these past 2 1/2 years.

WARNER: Well, I have a great deal of respect for him. But you go back in that period of history, and I lived through the end of World War II as a youngster in the Navy, and Germany was an established government. Iraq has had no government since the 1920s. They have lived under a regime of fear and oppression and killing and evil.

And you didn't have the, should we say, the ability for young men and young women, particularly, to grow up in a system of government so that they could stand up now and begin to take charge. Few and far between. So give them a chance. And we have given them the chance. And I think today's election on the referendum or the affirmation of it is a very important building block.

BLITZER: I'm going to get to you, Senator Feinstein, in a second. But as chairman of the Senate Arm Services Committee, a former secretary of the Navy, a military officer yourself, many, many years ago, how did you feel when you saw the president in that teleconference, that video conference, with U.S. soldiers the other day in Iraq and that assistant secretary of defense sort of staging the whole thing, preparing the troops, going through a rehearsal. Is that appropriate for the United States military to be used, as critics are now suggesting, as props for the president?

WARNER: You kind of answered the question the way you put it. I think all of us were somewhat disappointed. I think the president was ill-served by someone back in this area or over there who sort of staged this whole thing.

Because we've got the finest, ablest young men and women in really the contemporary history of this country in this all-volunteer force. All you have to do is to give them a chance to express their own views and you will get a magnificent response. They didn't need any coaching.

BLITZER: Let me let Senator Feinstein react to that. FEINSTEIN: Well, it certainly was staged. It certainly was prepared. And what it became was kind of eye wash. I don't think anybody took it really seriously. I was in California. Every rendition of it on television that I saw showed the staging of it. So you knew that it was a kind of staged production and not necessarily a forthright one.

BLITZER: All right, Senators, stand by. We have a lot more to discuss. I'm going to take a quick break. More ground to cover with Senators Warner and Feinstein. We'll continue our conversation with them after a short break.

But up next, we'll also have a quick check of what is in the news right now, including the latest on relief efforts involving the earthquake in Pakistan. Stay with "LATE EDITION."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Sunny day here in Washington, D.C.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're continuing our discussion with the Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.

The president's job approval ratings are at record lows, Senator Warner, right now. 39 percent, according to this NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll approve of the way he's handling his job. 54 percent disapprove.

He's got some major political problems right now.

WARNER: Wait a minute. He doesn't have them. And he has no control over them. He hasn't got any control over the examination of the ethics in the House or question of our distinguished majority leader. He has no control over so many of those things, which are contributing...

BLITZER: But he has control over U.S. policy in Iraq...

WARNER: That's correct.

BLITZER: ... over what was done with Hurricane Katrina. Those are issues that affect public attitudes.

WARNER: Agreed. Agreed. But go back in your history -- you see a number of presidents who have hit this low mark in their careers and gone on to finish a strong second term.

So this senator stands strongly with our president, and I'm confident that these figures will improve in time.

BLITZER: You're the only woman, Senator Feinstein, as a member of the Judiciary Committee. You're going to have hearings on Harriet Miers' nomination coming up to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. You voted against the new chief justice, John Roberts -- and a lot of people think she's way less qualified than he was. So is that automatically mean you're going to vote against her?

FEINSTEIN: No, it doesn't. My analysis at this state is that she's a very different candidate than John Roberts. And certainly, on the Supreme Court, there's room for more than one type.

I think what's happening to her is really rather tragic. I think the way she's being beaten up by the far right is very sexist. I do not believe they would do that to a man.

It is true: She is not John Roberts. But then, you don't want a court only of John Roberts.

And I think what's necessary is for people to hold their fire, give her an opportunity to come before the committee. There will be full and fair hearings. She will be asked a lot of questions. And a lot will depend how she answers those questions.

BLITZER: So you're open to voting for her confirmation?

FEINSTEIN: I'm open to it, yes. And the more I hear from the far right, the more it pushes me the other way.

Now to say that religion...

BLITZER: Let me interrupt...

FEINSTEIN: ... becomes a major qualification -- I think that is a huge problem. And I would certainly hope that that does not happen anymore than it already has.

BLITZER: All right, we'll get to that in a moment. But let me talk about it. It's not just the far right. There is mainstream conservatives, George Will, the columnist, Bill Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, Charles Krauthammer who are saying this nomination should be withdrawn, it should be pulled because she simply is not qualified.

WARNER: Guess what? Only 100 individuals, two of whom are right here, are going to make that decision.

Now leave it to us. Give us the opportunity to offer this very fine individual with whom I've worked -- privileged to know her; I respect her; I think she's highly qualified -- give her the opportunity to be heard before this committee.

There is no question about anybody planning to withdraw this thing before that committee has the opportunity.

BLITZER: Were you comfortable with the whole notion of her evangelical Christianity being brought into this discussion when Karl Rove spoke with Dr. Dobson -- Focus on the Family, an evangelical leader -- and mentioned the fact she was an evangelical Christian and that sort of gives her qualification to be on the Supreme Court.

Was that comfortable for you? WARNER: Wolf, a member of the Supreme Court is one of the most important persons in our whole form of government. And when they offer themselves to do this public service, they full know that all aspects of their life will be examined.

But back again, it's 100 senators. And, unfortunately, some of my colleagues -- some who used to jump up and down and chant on the floor, "Up-or-down vote, up-or-down vote" -- let's give her an up-or- down chance before you express your reservations and views before that committee.

Then draw your own conclusions. I look forward, hopefully, to casting that vote for her.

BLITZER: You were uncomfortable, though, with the introduction of the religious element into this discussion.

FEINSTEIN: Yes, absolutely. I mean, this is not government under Sharia. We have a very secular government. We have a separation of church and state. It is one of the things that the people who wrote the Constitution did for us because they had suffered inordinate religious persecution.

And what I'm more interested in is her judicial philosophy, whether she is going to be able to be independent, whether she will be able to cut the umbilical tie to the president, call them as she sees them, and whether she has the breadth of knowledge to be able to do so.

We're going to ask her questions on executive power, on separation of church and state, on the commerce clause, on the spending clause, how she interprets the ability of Congress to be able to legislate under the constitutional sections that we do legislate.

This a very pivotal appointment.

BLITZER: Right.

WARNER: That's a thoughtful answer. And I share that. We have got to probe her intellectual ability to deal with these issues. How does she prepare? What does she see for the role of the court?

But I'd like to add a personal note. I'm a generation ahead of her in the legal profession. I came up through a law clerk to a federal judge, the U.S. attorney's office and into a big law firm.

Dianne, there were no women lawyers. There were two, I think, out of 270 in my law class. I don't recall but one of them in the U.S. attorney's office; very few on the bench.

She came along in that deck generation and they had to fight like the (inaudible) to breakthrough. And she broke through all of the opportunities to become president of the bar, the head of the law firm.

This is a fine individual. And let's give her an up-or-down chance to answer those questions before the committee.

BLITZER: Already, Senator Warner, Senator Feinstein, you agree on that point. Thanks to both of you for joining us.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

WARNER: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, what are the Iraqis saying about yesterday's referendum and life in their country since the war? We'll get a view from inside Baghdad and beyond.

Joining us, the Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Anthony Shadid. He'll join us live from Baghdad.

"LATE EDITION" will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IYAD ALLAWI, FORMER IRAQI PRIME MINISTER: We have to continue being inclusive, reconciling with others, and with a determined effort to continue the movement forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The former Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi, commenting on yesterday's historic constitutional referendum. While Iraqi and U.S. officials are praising the vote as a positive sign for Iraq's future, how do Iraqi Sunnis feel specifically

Joining us now from Baghdad with special insight is Washington Post reporter Anthony Shadid. He's been covering Iraq since the start of the war in 2003. He's also the winner of last year's Pulitzer prize for international reporting and the author of the book, "Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War."

Anthony, thanks very much for joining us. Thanks for your excellent work.

What's your immediate assessment to what has happened this weekend in Iraq?

ANTHONY SHADID, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think we saw turnout pretty much where we saw it in January. There was a slightly less turnout among Shiite and Kurdish communities. but we saw far greater turnout among Sunni Arabs. That was the case in Baghdad and also in the areas known as the Sunni triangle -- these areas north and west of Baghdad.

I think the Sunni Arab turnout is going to be a very interesting thing to follow in the days and weeks ahead. It definitely introduced a new dynamic into the process. What that dynamic is, I think is going to be a difficult question to answer right now. Does it suggest there was a greater participation by Sunni Arabs in this political process, that it may lay, somehow, the groundwork for reconciliation? Or does it suggest that, you know, having probably been unable to reject the constitution, that their alienation is going to grow?

I think it's unclear at this point. It really could go either way.

BLITZER: In all your coverage of Iraq and speaking with Kurds and Shia and Sunnis and other Iraqis, do they consider themselves Iraqis first? Or do they consider themselves, shall we say, a Kurd first, a Shia first, or a Sunni first?

SHADID: You know, I think that's a good question. I think it's probably different in a lot of different places.

When we speak about the Kurds, I think we do say that there is a distinct identity there, that there is a sense among Kurds, too, to have a form of independence if not outright independence.

I think it's much more complicated when you get to Sunni and Shiite Arabs. And I think it's one thing that we have seen reinforced, perhaps over the past couple of years -- this idea of identifying somebody first by their sect. In other words, identifying someone first as a Sunni or first as a Shiite.

And I don't think it's always the case. I think people often will identify themselves first as Iraqi, first as Muslim, fist as Arab, perhaps.

But I think it is one of the main legacies of the invasion -- of the occupation; of the aftermath here -- that these lines between sect and ethnicity, these lines between Sunni and Shiite Arabs, for instance, are hardening.

And they are becoming the axis, I think, on which politics are often resolving. And it's something we saw yesterday in the election very clearly.

BLITZER: Because the fear, as you well know, is that this whole situation, this Iraqi experiment, could deteriorate into sectarian strife, civil war, and that this whole notion of the territorial integrity of Iraq could simply collapse.

How realist is that fear?

SHADID: I think it's a very legitimate fear. And I think the referendum will be celebrated in some quarters as an affirmation of the political process. I hear we saw a good turnout. We saw Sunni Arabs taking part.

But just the turnout itself doesn't mean that, necessarily, we're going to see these tensions -- these tensions that have been building for the past couple of years -- will necessarily fade away. Those tensions, in fact, could be exacerbated. You could have a situation where you have Sunni Arabs saying, "OK, we tried the ballot box. We went to vote. We turned out in overwhelming numbers in some villages and some towns and we couldn't get our views across. We were unable to stop the constitution. It is no use to try to do this through the political process. We have to turn to arms."

I think that's a very likely scenario, in fact, of what may happen in the days and weeks ahead.

Is the government, is the political process pliable enough? Does it have the flexibility to try to say, "OK, we saw Sunni Arab participation, now where do we go with it?" Or to say, "The constitution is over. We won. We're the victors. We claim the spoils."

I think it's going to be something to watch very closely, like I said, in the weeks ahead.

BLITZER: And as we hear the call to prayer behind you in Baghdad, let me read to you from a quote from today's Washington Post, a story you wrote.

An Iraqi Sunni, Wisam Ali -- you quote him as saying: "The government is Persian and the occupation is American. When the Americans withdraw from Iraq, then we'll agree on a constitution. God willing, we'll scuttle this one."

How prevalent is that view?

SHADID: Well, I think it is a prevalent view. And I think there is a deep -- and I think what we're talking about here is alienation. And we're talking about a certain sense of disenfranchisement among Sunni Arabs. There is a sense that this government is not representing them, that this government is beholden to Shiites. And I think there are often elements of chauvinism in some Sunni views, that, you know, because the government is beholden to Shiites, those Shiites are allied with Iran, neighboring Iran, which is also Shiite.

The sense of the occupation and being at the cornerstone of everything, that this occupation makes the process itself illegitimate is still very much there. That you have to end this occupation before this political process can go forward. That you can't draft a constitution when you still have American tanks in the streets. You definitely hear those sentiments voiced.

And I think often when you ask why are Sunni Arabs rejecting this constitution, I think those are the two elements that are at the heart of it, that this government doesn't represent us on the one hand, and that the American occupation illegitimizes the process in its entirety on the other. Those sentiments were very much voiced in the streets yesterday.

BLITZER: Anthony Shadid is the author of "Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War." He writes for The Washington Post. Anthony, thanks very much for your excellent work. Keep safe over there in Iraq.

Still ahead, the United States ambassador to Iraq. We'll speak with him about Iraq's next steps after yesterday's historic vote. And don't forget our Web Question of the Week: Should the United States set a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq? You can log on to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your vote. We'll be right back.

"What's His Story?" Travis County, Texas District Attorney Ronnie Earle stirred up Capitol Hill by indicting Republican House leader Tom DeLay and two associates on money laundering and conspiracy charges. This week, DeLay's attorney and Earle traded subpoenas, with DeLay's camp questioning Earle's conduct in the investigation, and Earle requesting DeLay's phone records from 2002.

In nearly 30 years on the job, the 63-year-old former Democratic state representative has brought charges against more than a dozen Texas officials. Earle even filed misdemeanor charges against himself after missing a deadline for a campaign finance report in 1983. He paid a $212 fine.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: CNN and "Headline News" teamed up with Time magazine to see how people and technology will impact us in 2006 and beyond. In today's What's Next segment, a look at how trends are being tracked globally and quickly becoming mainstream.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(UNKNOWN): The latest trend these days is to find your own trend and share it on the web.

JEREMY CAPLAN, REPORTER, TIME MAGAZINE: Trendwatching.com assembled a network of 7,000 trend spotters. These are people in Dubai, Turkey, South Africa, South Korea who are monitoring what is cool in their area, in their neighborhood.

(UNKNOWN): It's called cool hunting, a worldwide trend setting effort that's exploding online. Made possible by everything from blogs to Blackberries.

CAPLAN: One company created a product called the pizza in a cone, which allows them to serve pizza on the run, even faster than traditional pizza. And they've taken that from a European concept and made it into an American concept.

(UNKNOWN): Caplan says people ages 17 to 70 are out there spotting trends and following them, too.

CAPLAN: People want to know what's new and what's next. They want to know what people are wearing, what people are talking about, what's hot around them, and what's hot elsewhere in the world.

(UNKNOWN): But even if you're not surfing the web to find out what is hip... CAPLAN: You're going to find new flavors of Coke in your store. You're going to find new types of sneakers. You're going to find new types of music showing up, based on what's cool around the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And coming up on "LATE EDITION, " a check of what's in the news right now, including the latest on the cleanup after severe flooding in the northeastern parts of the United States. Then our conversation with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq about yesterday's historic vote, what it means for the country, and what it means for the U.S. military presence there.

And later, bird flu fears around the world. A top medical expert weighs in on what is and isn't being done to prevent a pandemic. "LATE EDITION" continues at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): The new constitution is the best insurance policy for the unity of Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A critical crossroad for Iraq: Will a historic referendum put the country on a path to stability or civil war?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE U.S.: There's been a lot of damage and we want to help in any way we can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Inside the earthquake zone: With tens of thousands dead, and displaced in South Asia, we'll get an update on relief efforts in the decimated region.

Battling bird flu: As the deadly virus spreads across continents, is the world prepared? Insight from the head of Columbia University's National Center of Disaster Preparedness, Dr. Irwin Redlener.

And voices from the U.S. homefront: CNN's chief national correspondent, John King, gauges sentiment in American communities hit hard by the war in Iraq.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is "LATE EDITION with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We'll hear directly from the United States ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad in just a moment.

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

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: We're going to go back to Iraq right now, where votes in the country's constitutional referendum are still being counted. Yesterday's vote, though, did not stop insurgent attacks.

Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, is joining us live from Baghdad.

Christiane, unfortunately, more deaths to report today. What's going on?

AMANPOUR: Well, Wolf, exactly. The U.S. military announced that five American soldiers were killed yesterday -- referendum day -- in Ramadi, the capital of the Sunni triangle, if you like, by a roadside bomb. In Ramadi, it was virtually a ghost town yesterday, according to observers there. There wasn't much voting there at all.

In general, there wasn't much violence, compared to the elections in January, and there was, in some areas, a higher turnout -- particularly amongst the Sunni population.

Many American officials -- and, indeed, some Iraqi government officials -- believe that the referendum has passed, although no official figures, no official result has been issued yet.

On the other hand, some also believe that, in at least two provinces, Sunnis may have mastered the two-thirds vote to defeat the referendum in two provinces. That would not be enough to defeat it outright. They would have had to muster two-thirds vote in three provinces to do so.

But the question, of course, is: Looking beyond the referendum, what will it mean? Will it unify this country -- which has been so fractured and fragmented and so engulfed in violence over the last two and a half years since the war, or will it further fragment the country?

Talking to one senior Iraqi official, he doesn't believe outright civil war is a possibility or has happened yet, but he does admit there is a lot of, quote, "ethnic cleansing" in certain neighborhoods that are Shia or Sunni -- with revenge militias and targeted killings going on, and people moving out, according to their ethnic and religious backgrounds.

So there is some concern about that. Beyond that, the U.S. forces here hope that there will be some proper political establishment -- a permanent political establishment -- put down so that the forces that they are trying to train as part of the U.S. exit strategy will feel some sense of national identity, some sense of permanence and want to really fight and die for a future permanent Iraqi government. BLITZER: Christiane, on Wednesday, the trial of Saddam Hussein is scheduled to begin. I know you're staying in Baghdad to help us cover that trial.

How does that play in to what is happening right now: the trial of Saddam Hussein, this referendum, which presumably has passed -- at least if you listen to the foreign minister of Iraq, Hoshyar Zebari -- and getting ready for the elections scheduled for December 15th for a new and permanent government?

AMANPOUR: Well, clearly some people don't believe enough groundwork has been put down for this trial, but others believe that it has to come sooner rather than later.

The U.S., of course, would like to see this trial and as much news of it possible broadcast because it would serve to again remind the people of what a bloody dictator Saddam Hussein was.

What effect it actually has on the ground is unknown. What effect it will have, if it will be broadcast live, if there will be a lot of news that comes out of there, what effect might it have on the Sunni population -- that's the key population that everybody's watching, because everybody wants to know how the Sunnis are going to react in the next weeks and months, whether it be after the referendum or because of the Saddam trial.

The whole process of getting some peace in this country, many observers think, is getting the Sunnis properly involved.

Wolf?

BLITZER: And stay with CNN. We'll have extensive coverage of the trial of Saddam Hussein. That's coming up this week.

Christiane, thank you very much.

Just a short while ago, I spoke with United States ambassador of Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, about the historic vote yesterday, the implications for the U.S. military presence in Iraq and more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us from Baghdad. A quick question: Did the referendum pass?

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO BAGHDAD: Well, it's too soon to tell, Wolf. We'll find out tomorrow.

Either way, yesterday was a great day for Iraq and for those who love freedom and democracy. For us to succeed here, we need a political process in which all Iraqis participate, and we need security institutions that can protect Iraqis.

And yesterday, on both scores, significant progress was demonstrated.

With regard to the political process, several months ago, in the election in January, the Sunnis did not participate.

Yesterday, they did.

Do you know, Wolf, more than 9 million Iraqis voted yesterday -- and the Sunnis were full-fledged participants.

So that was a good day, and I saw that with my own eyes when I was in Fallujah in the course of the day.

BLITZER: We...

KHALILZAD: We will have to wait and see with regard to the results tomorrow.

BLITZER: We heard earlier in the day from the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, in London, suggesting that the referendum, in her words, "probably passed." After that, they seemed to be backing off a little bit.

Did you speak with her after she made that comment?

KHALILZAD: Well, I've spoken to her a number of times in the course of the day.

I think it's too soon to tell, Wolf, with regard to the passage. But we have to focus on what happened yesterday -- and what happened was that Iraqis did participate; the security forces played a vital role in ensuring that the terrorists were not able to disrupt the referendum.

And either way, there is a path forward and we can be very pleased with the development yesterday.

BLITZER: Even if it fails? Is there a possibility it could fail?

KHALILZAD: Oh, yes. It is possible that it could fail, and it's possible that it could pass. It was in the hands of the Iraqi people.

Efforts were made to accommodate as many people as possible, but if it fails, there will be elections in December, and a new assembly will be established, and that assembly will take up the task of drafting a new constitution.

And if it succeeds, there is also a path forward.

So it's very important to focus now on the success that was achieved yesterday, with the participation of the Sunnis. Now, it is clear that the Sunnis have confidence in the process -- and that's demonstrated by their participation.

BLITZER: Even if they voted in large numbers against this constitution, does that still mean that they have confidence in the process -- even if they voted against it?

KHALILZAD: Sure, because that shows that their voice matters, that the political process provides avenues for effecting the situation, that the military option is not the right option but that's the political process is the best way for Iraqis to accommodate with each other.

Clearly, it would be better for all concerned if the constitution passes with support from all communities.

But if, based on the law that exists, the rule of law, three provinces by two-thirds reject it, that would show that the voice of those people who said "no" through political participation did matter. And I think that should further increase the confidence of people in the political process.

BLITZER: Why, in your opinion, was there less violence, less insurgent attacks yesterday than many had feared?

When we spoke on Friday, for example, you told me you feared something significant could happen. What turned out to work in terms of cutting down on the insurgency on this election day?

KHALILZAD: We don't know for sure, but we had information that the insurgents and terrorists were trying to do something significant. Part of the credit clearly go to the efforts of the security forces.

I have to tell you that the Iraqi security forces did very well yesterday. So, they need to be pleased with their efforts. Our forces also played an important role.

I think the efforts by the security forces of Iraq and ourselves played an important role in deterring and making it difficult for the terrorists to carry out their plans.

I think our information was quite good that they wanted to disrupt this. They don't believe in the constitution. They don't believe in the political process. And their efforts, fortunately, failed.

BLITZER: Does this suggest, therefore, that the United States can start planning a troop withdrawal beginning in the coming months?

KHALILZAD: I think that we've always said having the current number of forces in Iraq is not an end in itself for us. What is important is for Iraq to be secure.

And the best outcome is for Iraqis to secure Iraq. And the more capable they are to secure Iraq, the more Iraqis cooperate with each other and lessen the opportunity for terrorists, the less need there will be for the current size U.S. forces.

But we're looking at all these factors. I think, with success in terms of Iraqi security institutions and on the political track, we should be able to reduce our forces in the coming months here.

But our military planners and leaders are looking at this issue constantly and they will be making proposals and plans for the commander in chief to decide. BLITZER: But early next year, do you think the United States can begin to start this thinning down, this thinning out process of withdrawal, beginning in early 2006?

KHALILZAD: I think it could happen, but it will depend on the circumstances -- circumstances with regard to the terrorists and the insurgents.

It will also depend on the capabilities of the Iraqi forces. And we are in discussions with the Iraqis about conditions for transfer of security responsibility from the United States to the Iraqis.

This is part of our plan. Our plan has a clear political timeline and direction. It also has a clear security timeline and direction. We want Iraqis to become more capable. We want the security areas to expand. We want to isolate and kill or bring to justice terrorists.

We want to secure Iraqi borders. And that is a security plan. And of course, I have talked already about the political plan. And I think, as we make progress on both tracks, that a number of U.S. forces -- the mission of U.S. forces, the composition of U.S. forces -- can be adjusted, depending on the circumstances as we move forward.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, the Saddam Hussein trial is scheduled to begin in the coming days in Baghdad. One Shiite National Assembly member (inaudible) is quoted in the Los Angeles Times on Friday as saying: "Having this trial at this critical time is wrong. It will incite the extremists."

Are you in favor of seeing this trial of Saddam Hussein begin this week?

KHALILZAD: Well, yes. This trying Saddam for his misdeeds -- so many misdeeds -- will be an important event. It will be an historic event. It will be unprecedented for this part of the world, that a tyrant can be brought to justice in an environment of rule of law and we want this to happen.

We want it to happen as soon as possible. But we also want to make sure the process is a good process, that the court is secure, the witnesses can be protected, there is transparency and there is confidence that this is a fair trial and a fair process.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, one final question.

Khalil Dulaimi, the attorney representing Saddam Hussein, is quoted in the new issue of Newsweek magazine as saying: "All my meetings with him are being done under severe American monitoring. We're not even allowed to exchange the legal documents."

Are U.S. personnel listening in to all the conversations between Saddam Hussein and his attorneys?

KHALILZAD: I'm not aware of that. I will look into that. We want the trial to be a fair and transparent and legal process. And we want even the tyrant to be -- have the opportunity for legal defense and for a fair process.

BLITZER: Ambassador Khalilzad, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in Iraq.

KHALILZAD: Well, thank you very much, wolf. It's good to be with you again.

BLITZER: And this programming note. Tomorrow, I'll speak exclusively with President Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley. He'll join us in "The Situation Room." That starts tomorrow, 3:00 p.m. Eastern.

Up next, we'll have more on Iraq. And south Asia, struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake. Tens of thousands of people are dead. We'll talk live with Pakistan's prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, about recovery efforts and how his country is coping.

And is the world facing a short supply of drugs against the deadly bird flu? We'll talk about that with a top U.S. medical expert.

And later, voices from the U.S. home front. Our chief national correspondent, John King, joins us. He'll share his conversations with American communities affected by the war in Iraq. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUSH: We'll offer our help to help the people, to help the government, to help this great nation get back on its feet.

BLITZER: President Bush extending his condolences to Pakistan Friday at that country's embassy here in Washington. Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

It's been one week since an earthquake caused widespread death and destruction to Pakistan and other areas of South Asia. More than 38,000 people have been killed, 62,000 people injured in Pakistan alone.

Joining us by phone from Islamabad is Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

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

SHAUKAT AZIZ, PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: Thank you.

BLITZER: I wish we were speaking under different circumstances. But we are getting some very heartwrenching good news that, eight days after this earthquake, four young children, including two babies, have survived -- pulled from the rubble in one badly-hit area.

What can you tell us about these survival stories?

AZIZ: Well, miracles happen. Actually, it's been about a week now, and most experts say it's difficult to find people in the rubble who are alive. But today we've heard, as you just mentioned, that these kids have been rescued -- and that raises the hope of everybody.

As you do know, we are intensifying the relief and rescue efforts. And every day gets better.

It's, of course, a traumatic situation for those who have suffered through this very sad episode. But relief is getting there, and we are working hard to get more there. But the weather has been rough.

BLITZER: Prime minister, what else do you need right now that you don't yet have?

AZIZ: Well, we need tents, tents and tents -- and plus we need more helicopters. Helicopters -- 24 more are on their way from the United States. So we will have quite a few.

But tents, also, are in transit. And as the weather gets very severe in this part of the world -- and it has started snowing -- we need this in the next two weeks or so.

All indications are that we'll have enough to take care of most people. And those who can't get individual tents will be moved to large tents, which will service as shelters, which will be heated and so they will be able to survive.

At the same time, we have started the planning for the rehabilitation and reconstruction in parallel -- and that process is just getting off the ground.

We have created two separate agencies, one for rescue and relief, which is the Federal Relief Commissioner, and one Earthquake Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority, so we get focus on each of these functions separately.

BLITZER: We know the Indian government has offered to help Pakistan and deal with this crisis. What is the government -- your government's -- position in accepting assistance from India?

AZIZ: Our position is consistent with accepting assistance from any country, which is that: Please do help us, and just consult us on what we need. The Indian government has shipped a lot of material to us in the shape of food and tents and blankets -- and we welcome their cooperation.

I think this is a good neighborly attitude. And when India, many years ago, had an earthquake in Ahmedabad, we did the same. And I think, as the confidence-building measures between the two countries and the peace process moves ahead, all these measures become confidence-building measures themselves.

BLITZER: Prime Minister, there's a sense out there that this earthquake -- at least some analysts think it may have hurt the U.S. and Pakistani effort to try to find Osama bin Laden. Others say maybe it has helped because he may have been in some of the areas that were devastated.

What's your assessment?

AZIZ: I think it has nothing to do with where he is, or where he's supposed to be. The fact is nobody has a clue where he is or in which country or which part of the world he is in.

So I think the earthquake really has no connection with this at all, and the search for him is totally independent of what's going on.

BLITZER: Prime Minister Aziz, good luck to you -- good luck to everyone in Pakistan. Our hearts go out to you. Thanks very much for joining us -- and we'll continue to check in with you in the days to come.

AZIZ: Thank you, Wolf, and I must say that the CNN coverage has been simply, really very, very positive and very accurate and the whole world is getting a very good idea of what the trauma people are going through in the earthquake area.

Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Thank you, Prime Minister, thank you very much.

Up next, we'll get a check of what's in the news right now, including today's Palestinian attack in the West Bank.

Then: The dangers of a possible bird flu pandemic. We'll talk with the head of Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Dr. Irwin Redlener, about how best to contain this deadly avian flu.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The world should not be caught unaware by a very dangerous pandemic because countries refuse to share information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week urging all countries to be forthcoming about any outbreaks of the avian flu. Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Confirmation of cases of the deadly bird flu in Turkey and Romania are heightening concerns the virus could cause a global pandemic among humans. Joining us now from New York is Dr. Irwin Redlener. He's the director of Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness.

Dr. Redlener, thanks for joining us. Welcome to "LATE EDITION." I'm going to put up on the screen a map showing reported cases of avian flu in yellow basically, Romania, Turkey, Taiwan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, South Korea, Russia, Kazhakstan.

And then reported cases of avian flu in humans. That's more restricted. China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Vietnam. How concerned should the Americans be right now that it's beginning to pop up in Europe?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, NATIONAL CENTER FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Well, Wolf, this is a really big potential problem. There's no two ways about it. And we really do have to pay attention to this. But we need to find that kind of comfort zone between, you know, panic and complacency, and I think we're getting there.

But the fact is, I think we have to get beyond now this kind of wondering what we should have done and could have done, and now deal with the reality that we may be facing a very, very serious and potentially lethal pandemic or worldwide epidemic, and there's certain things that we need to do about it. And one of the things is to make sure that we've gotten as much international cooperation with the basic public health measures as we need to have.

BLITZER: Now, Condoleezza Rice was suggesting that also, in that clip we just had. Are you fearful that some countries are not providing enough information about what's going on in their countries?

REDLENER: I think, unfortunately, the history is that when these things happen, countries may be uncomfortable in reporting results. There may be economic effects that they're worried about. We saw some of this during the SARS epidemic a few years ago.

But the main issue is that right now, if we're going to have any chance whatsoever of early identification and containment of this before it actually spreads to become a worldwide pandemic, we'll need two things from the international community. One is a tremendous amount of global cooperation around letting the world know when, in fact, there have been outbreaks, and secondly, the sharing of scientific intelligence and new data, so that any advances in vaccines or in treatments or in detection are immediately shared with the world community. That's really our only chance of preventing this from becoming a worldwide calamity.

BLITZER; Since December 2003, there have been 117 confirmed cases of bird flu in humans, 60 deaths over these past nearly two years. People will look at those numbers and say, what's the big deal? What's everybody worried about? Explain why this is a source of such great concern?

REDLENER: Right now, the people that did get sick have virtually all gotten sick because they've gotten the virus from a chicken or a bird or some other poultry. The danger is and the concern is that the virus will change and normally what we call mutate. And when it changes, it could become something that is not just transmissible from a bird to a human but actually go among humans from person to person.

Once that happens, if the virus remains lethal, which it certainly can, then it has the potential of becoming this rapid worldwide spread that people call a pandemic. Until that final step happens -- and we already know it's a very dangerous virus, and we already know it's a virus that human beings have not been exposed to before, so the final piece in this terrible puzzle will be the ability to transmit among people, and then we're going to be in some significant trouble. The thing is, we don't know exactly when that might happen, but we're rushing to make sure we've done everything we can to prepare for such a possibility.

BLITZER: Well, normally, how long does that kind of mutation take for it to go from poultry to people to go from people to people?

REDLENER: Well, there's two ways that the virus can change. One is it can mutate, and that normally happens fairly slowly. But we don't really know when. It could happen this year. It could happen five years from now. Or the virus can combine or reassort as it's called with a regular flu virus, which of course the flu viruses, typical ones, can transmit easily among people.

If it combines with the flu virus, and that's how it becomes transmissible, then it'll very likely weaken considerably. But even if it did do that, we'd be looking at potentially tens and tens of millions of deaths around the world. So, whatever way you look at it, it's a game of chance at this point.

And we're hoping that we'll get the benefit of the doubt here from Mother Nature, and we'll have some more time to prepare both vaccines, medications, and our hospital systems to help take care of people if it does break out.

BLITZER: The president had some alarming words about a possible quarantine in the United States, on October 4th at a news conference. Listen to what he said. I'll read to you what he said. He said, "If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country, and how do you then enforce a quarantine?" One option, the president said, "is the use of military that's able to plan and move, and so that's why I would put it on the table."

All this talk of a quarantine. Is that really practical, and is it useful?

REDLENER: Well, a quarantine would be one of the things that would come to mind. Public health officials that want to contain a virus would ask people and try to get people to stay in one place and not be in crowds and not move around so to avoid some of the transmission. But I think most of us were pretty startled to hear the president bring up even the possibility of the U.S. military in American cities trying to enforce a quarantine.

First of all, the use of the U.S. military under the president's leadership to enforce domestic law is against the law right now, so we are surprised about that. Now, I should say on the other hand, there are many, many uses for the U.S. military in the aftermath of a disaster, so for example, we could have used them much earlier around the Katrina disaster. But the idea of a U.S. military, armed military, on the streets of American cities to enforce a quarantine which probably wouldn't even work that well was really, really an unusual thing for the president to say, and I think took a lot of us by surprise. BLITZER: Dr. Redlener, thanks very much for joining us. Let's hope this conversation remains hypothetical at this point and that this pandemic can be avoided. Appreciate it very much.

REDLENER: Sure. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Still ahead, U.S. families affected by the war in Iraq speaking out. We'll speak with our chief national correspondent, John King, about what he learned in his conversations with them around the country.

But first, she's the daughter of a small town grocery shop owner who became the first and only woman to lead a major Western democracy. It's part of CNN's anniversary series, "Then and Now."

Robin Oakley takes a look back at Britain's former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With the style of a warrior queen, Margaret Thatcher became Britain's first woman prime minister in 1979. The iron lady restored Britain's clout in the world with her own brand of popular capitalism, termed "Thatcherism," and some powerful friends.

Thatcher went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands -- and won. And she broke the power of Britain's trade unions. She won three elections but was ousted by her party in 1990 -- but she didn't go quietly.

MARGARET THATCHER, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: When the right honorable gentleman's windy rhetoric has blown away...

(LAUGHTER)

OAKLEY: Thatcher retired from Parliament in 1992 and was given the title Baroness. But politics remained her passion.

She retired from public speaking in 2002, and her life took a sad turn. Her husband Dennis died in 2003. And her son, Mark, has faced court proceedings in South Africa over his alleged part in an attempted coup in equatorial Guinea.

Thatcher turns 80-years old this year and still has the spirit of a battling politician whose style of negotiation made handbagging a verb.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was my only son. And, yes, he's my hero and he always will be, because he showed me a lot. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Idaho resident Tom Titus (ph) talking about the son he lost last year in Iraq.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

CNN chief national correspondent, John King, traveled across the United States, visiting communities hit hard by the war, and talking with ordinary Americans about their country's involvement in Iraq.

His report airs tonight, 8:00 P.M. Eastern on a special "CNN Presents -- The Iraq War: Voices from the Homefront" -- and John is joining us live here.

John, good work. Thanks very much. A very powerful one-hour tonight. We'll get to that in a moment.

But I want to pick your brain a little bit on some other political stuff happening in Washington. We potentially could be on the verge of indictments coming down, in the next few days, against top Bush administration officials. We don't know if that's going to happen, but there's a palpable fear -- at least among some Republicans, administration officials -- that could happen.

What's your sense?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there certainly is a fear that this grand jury will wrap up its work in the next week or two. Some think as early as this week there could be indictments. That's based on piecing together little bits of source information. So we have to wait and see.

But certainly there was a great sense of anticipation, almost a frozen atmosphere at the White House as they wait for this to happen. And the president's top political adviser, the deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove; the vice president's top man, chief of staff, Scooter Libby -- those are the two central figures.

So obviously there's a sense of -- paralysis might be overstating. But if so, only by the little. They want to know the results here. And certainly we can tell, from Judy Miller's account in The New York Times today, other source accounts, that whether they tried to influence the testimony, whether they tried to withhold information from the prosecutors -- that is now an avenue of the investigation.

How it turns out -- we need to be careful. But it is very clear the special prosecutor is trying to if not bring charges against those two gentlemen at least suggest in his final report that, early on, they were not fully forthcoming.

BLITZER: And as you and I know, having covered a lot of these investigations with special prosecutors over the years, very often it's not the initial so-called crime that becomes the issue, but it's the coverup -- whether conspiracy or perjury, things along those lines, that can get individuals in deep trouble.

KING: Almost always. That was our experience in the Clinton administration during the Ken Starr. It began with Whitewater; ended with Monica Lewinsky. Almost always, if a prosecutor can't prove the thing he set out to prove, he tries to look for something else along the way -- or, if he gets what he wants to prove, other information comes to him during that time.

Now, we know in this case, of course, the central element is who was Bob Novak's source for the initial callup. Most of the speculation in town is that we will learn that once the special prosecutor is finished with some other work.

He's been holding that card, if you will, trying to elicit other testimony. We believe now he's done with that testimony.

So the next week or two will be critical.

BLITZER: All right, we'll watch.

Let's talk a little bit about this special that you have airing on CNN tonight. You really went and spoke to Americans and got a sense of the attitudes and the attitude in this country.

I want to put some poll numbers up on the screen to show how attitudes have changed, because I think this influenced why you went ahead and decided to do this.

CBS News poll, back in February, showed that 76 percent of the American public thought the U.S. troops should stay in Iraq as long as it takes to get the job done. More recently in September, that number went down to 42 percent.

What did you discover? What has happened to cause that change?

KING: It was that change that made me start to think, "What's going on out in the country? Let's go out and try."

And we decided on purpose to only go to the states the president carried could carry in his re-election, go to red states where you have not only Republicans but conservative Democrats.

Why? Because people think, increasingly, this is not what they signed up for -- even people who support the war. And that was the most stunning thing: Even people who supported the war from the beginning now have questions.

Some of them say it's a mistake but many of them aren't willing to get there yet. They're very thoughtful about this. They're not so political as we are in Washington.

We see these polls and we go on TV and report them -- that's the nature of what have we do. We report the number; then we say, "Does it hurt the president, does it help the Democrats?"

That's not how real people out in the country think. And most of the people we interviewed have a personal stake in this war -- they have a child; some of them have lost a child. I spoke to a couple of parents shortly after burying their children. It's a very tough experience for them.

And yet they're incredibly thoughtful about this. But they have more questions. And that's why you see the president's political problem, as we process it in Washington. Many people opposed the war to begin with. When you add in more questions from others -- that's why you see a nervous Republican Party heading into '06.

BLITZER: Well, in these red states, the states that voted for Bush the last time around, when you went out there and spoke to rank and file, way outside of the beltway -- and we're sort of isolated very often, what we hear here -- what was the major sense that you got from the heartland of this country?

KING: A couple of things struck me. One was a father I met in Ohio, who was a month away from burying his 19-year-old son. He was very skeptical about the war at the beginning, but he is now firmly tied into the president's argument that finish the job or else his son would have died in vain.

A very interesting transformation. He says his son was going to vote for John Kerry in the election. So his son went to a war that he didn't think the was such a good idea either.

Another thing that was striking, in North Carolina, home of Camp Lejeune, home of all these military bases, we spoke to a number of retired military officers, some who have tough questions for the president, some who support this war and think it's a good idea -- all of them contemptuous, Wolf, in their view of the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

One of the retired Marines we spoke to called him the Robert S. McNamara for the Republican Party -- Robert McNamara, of course, the defense secretary during Vietnam.

Contemptuous across the board. When you find retired military officers from colonel and above, they just think that Donald Rumsfeld has tried to manage this war and not listened to the generals and the colonels and the majors and the captains along the way.

BLITZER: And you heard from veterans, from military personnel.

KING: The language is what was so striking. You hear it from time to time, but just the contempt, just the emotional contempt for Donald Rumsfeld among retired military officers who are incredibly proud of their service, incredibly proud of the young men and women over fighting the war now, many of whom think this is the right war that should be fought and won -- they just don't like, and the words I won't use right here, are their views of the defense secretary.

BLITZER: And this will come through in the "CNN Presents" documentary...

KING: You will see some of it. We tried more to spend time with parents and families, but we did -- there's a piece from North Carolina that I think captures that sentiment.

BLITZER: John King, thanks very much for joining us.

And this important note to our viewers: Please remember, tune in tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. CNN presents: "Progress Report II" at 7:00, an in-depth look at what's really working and what's not working in the effort to bring stability to Iraq. And it's followed at 8:00 p.m. Eastern by John King's "Special Report: Voices from the Homefront." All that starts tonight.

Up next, the results of our Web question of the week: Should the United States set a time table for withdrawing troops from Iraq?

Plus, "LATE EDITION" Sunday morning talk show roundup. If you missed the other Sunday morning talk shows, we'll give you the highlights. Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: "What's Her story?" UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman is playing a major role, moving aid into south Asia after last week's earthquake, where almost half of those affected or children.

She's also raising money to aid the youngest victims of Hurricane Katrina. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan named Veneman as head of the International Children's Fund in January.

Before joining UNICEF, the 56-year-old California native served as President Bush's agriculture secretary, the first woman to hold that position in U.S. history.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of the White House. The president has just returned from Camp David, landed on the south lawn of the White House only moments ago and spoke with reporters about Iraq's referendum, about the elections there.

We're going to play you his remarks momentarily. But first, 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 "Fox News Sunday," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, despite the outcome, the vote on Iraq's constitution is a step toward democracy for that country. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Whatever happens with the referendum, the important matter is that the Iraqis have, in large numbers, gone out to vote in this process.

You know, Chris, you can't say, well, you now have a chance to go and vote for the referendum, but if you vote no, then in fact it's not Democratic. The whole idea is that the Iraqis now get to voice their views. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And from Condoleezza Rice, let's go to the White House. Here is the president speaking moments ago to the Iraqi election.

BUSH: On behalf of the American people, I'd like to congratulate the people of Iraq for the successful completion of a vote on a draft constitution.

By all indications, the turnout was greater than the turnout from the last January election, which is good news. And by all indications, the Sunnis participated in greater numbers in this election than the last time. And that's good news.

After all, the purpose of a democracy is to make sure everybody participates in the process.

I'm also pleased, from the initial indications, that the level of violence was considerably less than the last election. That's a tribute to the Iraqi forces who we've trained, as well as coalition forces that worked hard to make sure that democracy could move forward in Iraq.

This is a very positive day for the Iraqis and, as well, for world peace. Democracies are peaceful countries.

The vote today in Iraq stands in stark contrast to the attitudes and philosophy and strategy of Al Qaida and its terrorist friends and killers. We believe and the Iraqis believe the best way forward is through the Democratic process.

Al Qaida wants to use their violent ways to stop the march of democracy because democracy is the exact opposite of what they believe is right.

We're making progress toward peace. We're making progress toward an ally that will join us the war on terror, that will prevent Al Qaida from establishing safe haven in Iraq, and a country that will serve as an example for others who aspire to live in freedom.

So, again, I congratulate the Iraqi people. I thank you for meeting this milestone. I thank you for doing what is right to set the foundation for peace for future generations to come. I appreciate it.

BLITZER: The president making a statement upon his return to the White House, moments ago, from Camp David, not answering reporters' questions, thanking the Iraqi people for that vote, praising what has just happened in Iraq.

Our "LATE EDITION" web question of the week asked: "Should the United States set a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq?" Here is how you voted: 82 percent of you said yes; 18 percent said no. Remember though, this is not a scientific poll.

And that's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, October 16. Please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. Excuse me, 11:00 a.m. Eastern, our new time every Sunday, the last word in Sunday talk, 11:00 to 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

I'm in "THE SITUATION ROOM" Monday through Friday 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't miss my exclusive interview tomorrow with the president's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley.

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

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

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