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THE SITUATION ROOM

The Pilgrim Baptist Church On Fire; Ariel Sharon Still In Medically-Induced Coma After Surgery; Sago Mine 911 Tapes Released; Extent of Randal McCloy's Injuries Still Unknown; Bush Wants More Americans To Speak Foreign Languages; More U.S. Troops Killed Yesterday Than Previously Thought; Many Are Distancing Themselves From Pat Robertson's Comments; Anna McCloy Speaking Out

Aired January 6, 2006 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting tonight from Jerusalem. And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where news and information from around the world arrive at one place at the same time.
Happening now, it's midnight here in Jerusalem where Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has undergone surgery for the third time in two days. We'll have the latest on his condition.

And it's 5:00 p.m. in Washington, where the White House is reacting to controversial comments by the Reverend Pat Robertson, who suggested Sharon's stroke may be punishment from God.

And it's also 5:00 p.m. in Upshur County, West Virginia where officials are releasing some of the emergency calls that came in only minutes after that explosion at the Sago Mine. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll have much more on what's going on with the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon momentarily. But first, let's go to Washington. CNN's John King is following a developing story -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And Wolf, back to you in just a moment. We want to bring our viewers up to date on what is a sad day, a horrible fire in Chicago at a landmark church. I believe we can show you live pictures from the scene here. You see it up here. This is the Pilgrim Baptist Church on the South Side of Chicago. It is a landmark church. You see these flames shooting high into the air.

Residents in the area say you can see these flames for blocks and blocks. One good note to report, the fire-chief Dennis Galt (ph) quoted on the wires as saying there are no reports of any injuries. Although there are several ambulances standing by just in case. Again, this is the landmark Pilgrim Baptist Church you are seeing here. Originally a synagogue built between 1890 and 1891.

It has been since 1922, the Pilgrims Baptist Church. Again, we are hopeful, initial reports suggesting no injuries. But this is a historical church known to many as one of the birthplaces of gospel music. That genre developed there in the 1930s. We want to get more on this story now. Our Jacki Schechner has been tracking it on line -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: John, I just wanted to show you photographs of what this beautiful church looked like. It was designated a national landmark in 1981. You can see a before photo there. Unfortunately that is what is on fire right now.

The city of Chicago has photographs of this, like you said, built in 1890, and changed over from a synagogue to a church in 1922. You can see the inside there. Some old photographs also from the Library of Congress. They have this memorialized from the 1940s, a beautiful church. Unfortunately the Pilgrim Baptist church on fire right now in Chicago, John.

KING: And thank you, Jacki. We'll continue to track this developing story. Obviously a tragic fire at this landmark church, again, known as one of the birthplaces of the gospel music genre. This church has had a role in the "Blues Brothers" movie. Again, the Pilgrim Baptist Church on the south side of Chicago in flames this evening, we'll continue to follow this developing story. But now back to Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem.

BLITZER: Well, what a sad story that is, John. Thanks very much. I'm here in Jerusalem where we are following the condition of the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He remains in a drug-induced coma. Doctors performed surgery on him earlier today.

That would be the third time since he suffered a massive stroke Wednesday. Surgery was designed to try to stop the bleeding in his brain and produce pressure in his skull. They say that effort was successful. But Mr. Sharon is still gravely ill. After the surgery doctors updated us on the prime minister's condition.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SHLOMO MOR-YOSEF, HADASSAH MEDICAL CENTER (through translator): By comparison with the previous cat scans performed on the prime minister since he arrived here at the hospital, there has been a significant improvement in the manner - in the appearance of the scan as interpreted by the neurologists and the experts of neurosurgery and imaging.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: CNN's John Vause is standing by for us outside the Hadassah Hospital here in Jerusalem with more on Mr. Sharon's prognosis, John?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Ariel Sharon still in that medically-induced coma hours after emergency surgery. Doctors say he will remain in that state until Sunday at the earliest. Around noon local time, 5:00 a.m. Eastern, that is when they say they will try to gradually revive the prime minister, all the time monitoring his brain activity.

And that is when they say they'll have a better idea of the full extent of the brain damage that was caused by that massive stroke on Wednesday. Israel is now observing the Jewish Sabbath. Hospital officials here say that unless there is a change in the prime minister's condition there will be no further updates on his health until the end of Shabbat at sundown tomorrow. Wolf?

BLITZER: John Vause reporting for us from the Hadassah Medical Center here in Jerusalem. John, we'll check back with you as soon as we get anymore information. We are here in Jerusalem following the condition of the Israeli prime minister. We're going to have much more on that story coming up.

But we also want to update you now on what's happening back in the United States. Specifically out in Upshur County, West Virginia. Officials there have released some of the tapes of those emergency calls that went out after the explosion that trapped 13 men in the sago men. CNN's Brian Todd is following the story. He has got details now on those compelling recordings -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, last hour we played for you the first 911 calls that came in after the explosion. Those were about an hour and a half right after the explosion occurred. Well, for nearly two days, we know of no 911 calls between that time early Monday morning until late Tuesday night.

We are going to play for you a call right now. 11:48 p.m. Tuesday night from one emergency responder to another. This is after the first erroneous reports came in that the miners were alive. Listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You might as well just stand still right where you're at Gary. They did find them and they're all OK, I guess, so I think we might be transporting them, I'm not exactly sure, but we're stuck right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 10-4, man.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TODD: Now, just one minute later an emergency response incident commander at the scene radios the 911 operator frantically looking for help to come up to the mountain. Take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. I need 10 medic units. I need you to notify health nets. Get me any available aircraft that can fly. I need you to call Webster County, find out how far the critical care truck is out.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TODD: Now just after that, yet another call came in from a sheriff's deputy saying that the miners were alive. Now the 911 supervisor tells CNN they got no official call at any time saying that the miners were dead. She says that they found that out from watching the news, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us out in West Virginia. Thank you very much.

About 80 miles way from where Brian is, the only man to survive that disaster remains at a medically-induced coma in a Pittsburgh hospital. Dr. Richard Shannon is Randal McCloy's physician. He's joining us now live from Pittsburgh. How is Randy McCloy doing, Dr. Shannon?

DR. RICHARD SHANNON, ALLEGHENY GENERAL HOSPITAL: Good evening, Wolf. Randy McCloy remains in critical condition. But he has been stable throughout the majority of the day. He underwent his second hyperbaric oxygen treatment and tolerated that very well. But he continues to be plagued by injury to multiple organ systems which is requiring a substantial amount of support in our intensive care unit.

BLITZER: The injury resulted specifically from what?

SHANNON: I think the injuries are directly a result of carbon monoxide poisoning and the sequela of that. The fact that tissues in the body such as the brain, the heart, and the muscles were not getting oxygen delivered to them as a result of carbon monoxide.

Those tissues began to break down and become dysfunctional. The breakdown of muscle has led to injury to his kidneys and has required two dialysis treatments in the last three days. And again, our major focus and attention today has been on his lung where he appears to have perhaps in the final hour or so before he was rescued, to have lost consciousness. And have inhaled a fair amount of coal dust.

So there's a lot of inflammation in his lung. And also we are obviously continuing to monitor very closely his brain where we reported this morning there was some evidence of a ischemic injury and some very small hemorrhages in the white matter of his brain.

I just want to point out though for your audience that these are tiny hemorrhages. They are not anywhere near the severity of those that have effected Prime Minister Sharon.

BLITZER: So, he's still though, Randal McCloy, he's still in a very much life-threatening situation. He survived this disaster at the coal mine. But he may not survive right now. You are still deeply worried, I assume.

SHANNON: We are concerned. We have seen some improvements in some of the bodies' functions over the course of the day. But any one of nearly a half dozen of the injuries he suffered are life threatening. And together they constitute a serious challenge. We are encouraged today that some of the functions are beginning to show signs of improvement. But we continue to be very worried about his lungs. And we certainly continue to be very worried about his brain.

BLITZER: Well, we're praying for him here in Jerusalem. People are praying for him all over the world. Let's hope he survives. Dr. Shannon, thank you very much for your good work. We appreciate you joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

SHANNON: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's go to New York now and Jack Cafferty. He is standing by with the "Cafferty File." Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf.

Time to go back to school. The federal government wants to improve our language skills. We are not talking about English here. President Bush has a plan to increase the numbers of Americans who speak foreign languages. He calls the language skills critical to winning the war on terror. The president's asking for $114 million to fund something called "the National Security Language Initiative."

It focuses on more teaching of so-called critical need foreign languages like Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Farsi in public schools and universities. One official says only 44 percent of high school students study a foreign language. And of those, 70 percent take Spanish.

Less than two percent of our high school kids study a critical need language. In explaining the value of this program, the president said this, and I quote here. "When somebody comes to me and speaks Texan, I know they appreciate the Texas culture." Unquote. He really said that.

So here's the question. How important are language skills in winning the war on terror? You can email us at caffertyfile@cnn.com. Or you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. I guess Texan is not considered one of those critical need languages, Wolf. It ain't on the list.

BLITZER: No, but Urdu and Farsi and Arabic would be important. I always wonder where the NSA that's monitoring all those thousands of phone calls and emails in all sorts of languages. Where they get all those translators. They clearly need a few good ones right now, Jack.

CAFFERTY: I think it's actually a pretty good idea. I think it probably wouldn't hurt the nation's high school kids to learn anything more than what they are learning now. And if we can get some people converse in these critical need languages they can go to work for the NSA and listen in on the phone calls of all the bad guys. I think it's a good idea.

BLITZER: Yeah, I think you're right. Good idea. Learn languages. We'll get back to you soon, Jack, thank you very much.

Up ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM we'll continue our coverage from Jerusalem. And in Iraq, a string of attacks today. The deadliest single day in almost four months. It appears there was more bloodshed involving American troops than first thought. Also, a top terrorist. An aide to Osama bin Laden delivers yet another message. This one directly to President Bush. He says admit defeat in Iraq. We'll have details.

And President Bush admonishes one of his own supporters. That would be Pat Robertson who suggested the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon brought his illness on himself. Now President Bush is calling those comments offensive. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Back to Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem in just a moment. But first an update on a developing story, a tragic fire at a landmark church in Chicago. The Pilgrim Baptist Church on the city's South Side. You see there the flames shooting so high into the sky.

The building's roof has already collapsed. A devastating fire at the pilgrim Baptist Church. This known as one of the birthplaces of gospel music in Chicago. Originally built in 1890 as a synagogue. It has been a Baptist church since 1922.

The Pilgrim Church has occupied this site, Chicago landmark, since 1922. The good news is the fire chief quoted in wire reports as saying there are no reports of injuries at least yet. There are ambulance standing by just in case. Again a tragic fire in a landmark church built by the renowned architect Louis Sullivan back in 1890.

I want to correct something I said a bit earlier. We said this was the church where -- I'm sorry, Monique Bond from the Chicago Police Department now joins us on the phone with an update on this fire. Monique, what can you tell us about the situation at the scene?

MONIQUE BOND, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT (on phone): Basically, what appears to be the fire we can actually see the fire. It's not too far from police headquarters. So I'm actually looking at the fire from my office window. It's been engulfed in flames now for the past 15 or 20 minutes. But it looks like they have been able to put most of the fire out. There are still some flames going right now. Looks like black smoke, still.

But it appears that Mount Pilgrim Church which is pretty much known here in Chicago as one of the oldest black churches on the South Side has been now engulfed in flames. It also appears that right now there were no occupants in the building. At this time at least that's the information that we're getting. And at this time we know of no serious injuries.

KING: And obviously very early on the priority of the firefighters right now is to extinguish this. Any information as to what might have caused this tragic fire?

BOND: That information is not yet known right now. Really, we have got fire equipment on the scene. Multiple pieces of equipment are on the scene. The streets are blocked to allow for the equipment to get through. So basically that's where we are right now and hopefully the fire department should have the fire under control very soon.

KING: All right, Monique, thank you very much for that update from the Chicago fire department on the scene of this tragic fire. The landmark on the city's South Side. We'll continue to track this story as it develops. For now back to Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem.

BLITZER: Quickly, John. You were about to correct something you reported earlier when you were interrupted with that interview you just did with the policewoman in Chicago. You want to just correct what you said earlier?

KING: Thanks for the opportunity. Yes we did say in one of the earlier updates we believed this church had been shown in the movie "The Blues Brothers." It is a historic church on the city's South Side but we are now told there's another church by the same name and the same denomination nearby.

We believe it was that church. Not the church on fire that was shown in that movie. Again, we will continue to track this obviously tragic landmark black church on the Chicago's South Side. Thanks for the opportunity, Wolf, now back to Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much John King in Washington. We'll have much more here in Jerusalem coming up on the prime minister's condition. I'm going to be speaking live with one of his top advisors, Ra'anan Gissin.

But first let's go to Iraq where it's been a very bloody week. A string of attacks yesterday causing the deadliest single day in Iraq in almost four months. Now there's word there were more U.S. troops killed in those attacks than first known. Our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is joining us now live with details -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in a series of releases the U.S. military said that in fact six more soldiers and some marines were killed yesterday. Bringing the total to 11. And that, as you've said, has made tight deadliest day in quite some time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): Thursday was one of the deadliest days for U.S. forces in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. With 11 American troops dying in four separate incidents. The resurgence of attacks has also claimed the lives of more than 165 Iraqis since midweek. But in an interview with CNN, the top American general in Iraq insists the two-day surge in violence is in his words, an anomaly.

GEN. GEORGE W. CASEY, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES IN IRAQ: You see these spikes periodically. But Jamie, I think what we can't let, what's happened in the last few days distract us from the progress that's been made over the last year. That's what the terrorists want.

MCINTYRE: Casey told CNN despite their ability to inflict casualties on an almost daily basis, the insurgents are losing.

CASEY: They haven't been able to hold terrain or hold ground. And they still continue to offer no positive vision for the future of Iraq. All they can do is murder. And murder's not a winning strategy.

MCINTYRE: As for Democratic Congressman John Murtha's argument that the presence of U.S. forces is helping to fuel the insurgency and troops should be pulled back, General Casey admits the congressman has a point.

CASEY: Over the long term, I think he's probably correct. But the real question is the pace at which that happens. And what we are trying to do is bring the insurgency down to levels that could be contained by increasingly capable Iraqi security forces.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: The latest deaths bring the death toll in Iraq now, the U.S. death toll since the beginning of the war to 2,193 U.S. troops who have died. General Casey in that interview said that he will begin to review in the spring U.S. troop levels with an eye toward reducing troops. Not just facing the level of violence. But on the capability of their Iraqi replacements. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. Jamie, thank you very much. And coming up, the situation here in Jerusalem. He suggested God is punishing Israel's prime minister. And now the White House is reacting angrily to the Reverend Pat Robertson's controversial comments about Ariel Sharon. We'll show you what the White House is saying. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. One day after the religious broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested Prime Minister Ariel Sharon brought his illness on himself, many people are rebuking Robertson for his comments including officials over at the White House. CNN's Mary Snow standing by in New York with details. Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the White House had sharp criticism for Pat Robertson for suggesting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke as a divine punishment. Yesterday Robertson said Sharon was dividing God's land. A White House spokesman traveling with the president to Chicago today, told reporters, quote, "I think those comments were wholly inappropriate and offensive and really don't have a place in this or any other debate."

Robertson's office declined an invitation for an interview to address the outrage that's been expressed over his comments. Many interpreted those remarks as suggesting Sharon was being punished for his decision to withdraw Israeli troops and settlers from Gaza.

In a statement, a spokeswoman says the Christian broadcaster was simply reminding his viewers what the Bible has to say about efforts to divide the land of Israel. And this spokesperson suggests Robertson's comments were taken out of context. Here is Robertson in his own words on his "700 Club" program on the Christian Broadcasting Network. We've taken this excerpt from the Internet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT ROBERTSON, RELIGIOUS BROADCASTER: Ariel Sharon who is, again, a very likable person. A delightful person to be with. I've prayed with him personally. But here he is at the point of death. He was dividing God's land. And I would say woe under any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations, or the United States of America. God says this land belongs to me. You better leave it alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Obviously that clip looked a little different because it was taken from the Internet. Also just want to mention the Anti- Defamation League is also expressing shock. It is calling on Christian leaders to distance themselves from Robertson. We'll have more on that at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Mary, thank you very much. Here in Jerusalem I'm joined by Ra'anan Gissin, he is a senior adviser to the prime minister. Thanks very much, Ra'anan, for joining us.

RA'ANAN GISSIN, ARIEL SHARON ADVISER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And our prayers are with the prime minister right now. I know you've spent a lot of time over at the hospital. What's the latest you are hearing from the doctors?

GISSIN: Well, you know, he's in stable condition. Still serious. As he's been a warrior all his life. He was able to sustain himself and win three major battles. Three strokes, really massive ones. I don't know if any other person that was doing it. At the beginning of the day, it looked bleak. At the end of the day he's back in intensive care. He's still under deep sedation. And you know, respiration.

But the doctors say that you know, it looks, I would say with some guarded optimism that the situation has stabilized. So now we have to wait for another 48 hours, the doctors say and we trust the doctors and we pray. But you can sense that what you see in the country today, you sense the prevailing spirit of Sharon. And maybe that's what lies at the offing with regard to the future of the Israeli political system.

BLITZER: It's unlikely he'll be able to emerge from this and resume a political career. Even under the best of circumstances.

GISSIN: I know, we don't know what condition he will be coming out of it. You know, if he does. Of course everybody wishes a quick recovery. And we are getting messages from all over the world. But I think in the sense and perhaps you sensed it in the past.

In Israel when you are in a crisis. A major crisis whether it's war or critical decision that has to be made. The whole tribe gathers around the bonfire. And this time maybe the leader is gone. But his spirit is alive. It's akin to the situation, I would say somewhat when the United States faced, let's say after the murder of Kennedy. Well Kennedy's spirit led Johnson to two consecutive terms.

BLITZER: So what are you suggesting, that Ehud Olmert who is the acting prime minister right now, the vice prime minister, that he's emerging with the political clout from this spirit?

GISSIN: Exactly. He's riding that wave. And I think he acts in a way that is considerate. He's not trying to make any political battles. And I think the buzzword today that everyone speaks. The whole political system, opposition as well as those who are members of Kadima, the new party, is unity and continuity.

BLITZER: So he's going to be the leader of this party.

GISSIN: Yes, I believe so. It looks like that. Because of the crisis, you see everybody uniting around the bonfire. And he's the one that is carrying on. Where the older leader who set the stage, who brought the majority of the people to where they really wanted to be.

BLITZER: I noticed that the acting prime minister Ehud Olmert spoke with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today. And she decided to cancel a visit to Indonesia and Australia to be ready, I assume, to come here in case there's a funeral. Tell us a little bit about that.

GISSIN: Well, you know, every country has the regular procedures in the event that a leader passes away. And you see with the kind of interest that there is in the world over. Of course all these steps have been taken. We all pray and hope that we won't need to use them.

But you know, you see the kind of interest that it commands in the world is not just an Israeli leader that, you know, surpassed anyone that was before him. Not just a regional leader, but a world leader. This world that has become a shrinking electronic village. Sharon is the commanding center stage.

BLITZER: Did the acting prime minister receive a call from President Mubarak of Egypt today as well?

GISSIN: I assume. I'm not sure. But the phone calls keep streaming in. It's amazing. I was on the air with Al-Jazeera. And I got from there, at the end of the interview through my, I got the, you know, we wish him good, the wishing for his recovery and good health from the prayers for Sharon. So I think it's something because he's done something to people.

BLITZER: Well, we are all in Jerusalem right now. We are praying for the prim minister. Ra'anan Gissin, thanks very much for joining us.

GISSIN: Thank you and good evening.

BLITZER: Appreciate it. We're standing by for a news conference in Pittsburgh. Family members and others are involving Randal McCloy, the sole survivor of that West Virginia coal mine explosion. We are going to be hearing from family members and others in Pittsburgh. We will go there live as soon as that news conference begins. More now on the condition of the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. My next guest says he doesn't think Prime Minister Sharon will ever be able to fully return to being politically active again.

Lawrence Eagleburger's a former secretary of state during the first Bush administration. He's joining us now from -- live from Charlottesville, Virginia.

Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for joining us.

You spent an awful lot of time during your diplomatic career worrying about the Middle East, dealing with the Middle East. You got to know Ariel Sharon.

What does his removal from the political scene here in Israel mean?

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I hesitate to use the word disastrous, but it's close.

It seems to me that, with his departure -- and I'm serious -- I don't see how he could resume political life, at least for some period of time, even if he recovers from all of this disaster himself. But it -- what it means to me is that the beginnings of the peace process, as Ariel Sharon had put it together, with the hopeful chance that he was going to be able to accomplish something -- after all, he was probably the only person -- leader in Israel at this point who could move this process forward.

I think it's very probable that that is now, at least for some period of time, going to have to be put on -- on ice. I hope I'm wrong. But I -- my suspicion is that, with his departure from political life, it is very likely that his political party, which he put together, was pretty much a personal political party. And I suspect that what this really means is that Likud will probably be the dominant party in the next election.

Again, I'm guessing, but that's my prediction.

BLITZER: Well, there were a couple polls that came out today here in Israel, which showed -- and this may be overly sympathetic, the sympathy for Ariel Sharon -- it did show that this new centrist party, the Kadima Party, even if Ehud Olmert, the acting prime minister, were atop that list, it would come out well above Likud, as well as Labor, if the elections were held today.

These are just polls. And the elections are scheduled for the end of March.

What is the U.S. interest in who should be Israel's leader? Explain to our viewers why it's as important as it is for President Bush, for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. God knows, you have spent an awful lot of time dealing with this Israeli-Arab conflict.

EAGLEBURGER: Fundamentally, Wolf, the issue here is, if there is, in the end, to be peace in the Middle East, there's going to have to be peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

You can't, in the end, have peace in that part of the world unless you have, as well -- and gotten off this terrible problem of Israel and the Palestinians, and, by and large, the Arab world feeling that it must generally support the Palestinians and oppose the Israelis.

And this, fundamentally -- it goes through every part of life in that part of the world. And you will notice people like the president of Iran now making nasty statements. The Arab world is not going to be able to be talked to peacefully until we have -- or at least unless we have settled this issue between Israel and the Palestinians.

And since that part of the world is so critical to all of us and -- and to world peace, it seems to me you have to focus in on this question, because it's right there. And it's going to stay there.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, we have to leave it right there.

But I want to thank you very much for joining us. We will continue this conversation down the road.

I want to go to Pittsburgh.

The wife of Randal McCloy is speaking out. He's that sole survivor of that coal mining disaster.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ANNA MCCLOY, WIFE OF RANDAL MCCLOY: ... and everything today.

QUESTION: Can you speak about his faith? I know we have -- we have something about things that you (INAUDIBLE) one another (INAUDIBLE) Can you talk about his faith and what role you believe it's playing in what's happened?

MCCLOY: Oh, I think it's played a big role in this.

My husband had a lot of faith, especially for God. Every morning, we would meet at the door. I would let him out, you know? And that's when he would tell me, bye, he loves me and the kids, and, you know, kiss me. And then he -- before he would go out the door, he said, God loves you. And he loves me, too.

And then he would go out the door, and I would just wait until the taillights were gone before I would shut the door and lock it. So, if -- it plays a big role.

QUESTION: And how has it sustained you now with you and your family? How is that faith helping you cope through what you have to go through now?

MCCLOY: It's helping.

Without it, we wouldn't be coping. It's given us hope. If he pulled -- if he was strong enough to pull through 41 hours in the mines, he's strong enough to pull through this.

QUESTION: And is there something in your husband's personality that would have given him the strength? Can you tell us a little bit about what he likes to do? Can you tell us about his personality, something that would have given him the strength to survive all that time down there?

MCCLOY: He loves people.

He loves our children and me. And it's -- the -- and I know 100 percent that it was our kids -- our kids that pulled him through this. He has always told me that he -- no matter what -- because, you know, he knew he was in a dangerous job. And, if something happened, he said he would survive, because he had two kids and a wife that he loved and he would take care of.

QUESTION: Anna, many people believe your husband's story is an incredible one of his survival. How do you view it?

MCCLOY: I'm coping.

QUESTION: I'm sorry.

MCCLOY: What was the question?

QUESTION: Many people, media and people around the country, around the world, see your husband's survival as an incredible story. How do you see it?

MCCLOY: Oh, yes. It's amazing. It's amazing. It's a miracle.

QUESTION: Anna, there's been some -- I guess your (INAUDIBLE) quoted as saying he believes that maybe the other miners (INAUDIBLE) use their oxygen tanks or did stuff that helped protect him. I mean, do you believe that? Or how do you believe that he became the only survivor (INAUDIBLE)

MCCLOY: I couldn't guarantee that, but it may be a possibility, because they weren't just, you know, pals working together. They were actually a family down there.

They didn't talk about -- you know, they -- they talked about their families. My husband would come home and tell me that that's what they talked about, their kids, their grandchildren, their wives. That's what they talked about.

They were family. They weren't just friends. And I figure that they thought of randy as, you know, one of their sons and wanted to take care of him.

CHRIS HUNTINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris Huntington with CNN.

You look 100 percent different, better than you did yesterday. You just look -- how do you feel?

MCCLOY: I'm coping. I still -- I don't know what to feel. I really don't know what to feel.

HUNTINGTON: (INAUDIBLE) first time I have seen you smile.

MCCLOY: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCLOY: It goes from day to day.

HUNTINGTON: Can I ask you something that you were asked earlier today on (INAUDIBLE) I wanted to ask you here again what is it like for your children when you -- when you have been in to see Randy, particularly for your children?

MCCLOY: It's hard. It's hard.

My -- my little boy, you know, he asked me what -- I told him that his daddy had worked very long hours and that he was tired, so, he had to rest. He was sick. And my little boy says, well, that's OK, because my daddy's going to get better for me.

QUESTION: And what are (INAUDIBLE)

MCCLOY: I have Randal III. He's 4 years old. And there is Isabel Hope (ph). She's 1.

QUESTION: So, Randal asked the question about his daddy?

MCCLOY: Yes. Isabel (ph), she's only 14 months old. So, she has -- she hollered "Dad, dad, dad," when she seen him.

QUESTION: Anna, there's a likelihood that publishers and production companies will want Randy to tell his story. How do you think you will react to that? And how do you think you and Randy will react to that as a couple?

MCCLOY: Well, I am going to -- I will leave that up to him. If that's something he will want to do, then we will work together and we will do that. But if it's not -- it may take some time for him to cope with everything he has been through. And then we will discuss doing something like that.

QUESTION: Anna, how (INAUDIBLE) meet?

MCCLOY: We have known each other ever since grade school.

QUESTION: Like what grade?

MCCLOY: Oh, first grade.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE).

MCCLOY: And we have been together ever since I was 13 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you started dating...

MCCLOY: Started dating when I was 13.

QUESTION: Did you like him when you were in first grade or did you...

MCCLOY: We have always liked each other, I think, practically. We were always really good friends. And then it ended up...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: This afternoon (INAUDIBLE) some encouraging news, as far as we have seen that there are improvements along the way.

For you, given everything that you have been up -- seen up to this point, what type of -- how does that news hit you? How does that impact you and your family, when you are going through this long struggle?

MCCLOY: It makes me happy to hear that there's just the littlest bit of improvement. And I'm still, you know, proud with that improvement.

QUESTION: Can you tell now about the music you bought today (INAUDIBLE).

(LAUGHTER)

MCCLOY: I bought him a Metallica CD and a new CD player.

QUESTION: Which Metallica?

MCCLOY: I think the CD is just called Metallica.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLOY: It's just a -- the -- it's just Metallica, Metallica.

QUESTION: Boom box kind of CD ...

MCCLOY: A CD boom box, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) one in the room, is it on now or...

MCCLOY: We are going to go put it in the room, yes. I just got back and come here. But, yes, we did. I got him a boom box.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Does that make him very popular with the nurses?

(LAUGHTER)

MCCLOY: What?

QUESTION: Was the Hank Williams for you, then? The doctor had said you went and bought Hank Williams.

MCCLOY: I didn't get Hank Williams. I got him -- I got him Metallica.

QUESTION: Metallica.

MCCLOY: So, he does like Hank Williams. But the Metallica is something more that he would rather listen to right now.

QUESTION: Junior or senior?

MCCLOY: Junior. He has almost got every one of his CDs.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: And is there anything else that you will have in the hospital room to kind of remind him (INAUDIBLE).

MCCLOY: Well, I just got him a little bear. It says, "Hug me today." And you put a picture of the kids in the middle of it. So, I got him that today.

And I got him some of his own deodorant and his own soap, so, that way, maybe, if he smells like himself, he may...

QUESTION: Is he a big football fan? WVU had a great win this week.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLOY: He's not really into football and stuff like that. He's -- he has never really been. And just that -- you know, the outdoorsman kind of thing is what he likes. He likes -- we like to go camping and stuff like that.

QUESTION: Anna, some of the men left notes for their families. Was there any indication that Randy left you a note?

MCCLOY: I haven't heard.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Did you know, where he wearing an oxygen mask when they found him?

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLOY: I was told that he was. But I cannot guarantee it.

QUESTION: Anna, there was a report contributed, I believe, to Randal Sr., that -- Randy's dad -- that some of the miners there might have either shared their oxygen or -- I'm sorry. Have this already been asked?

MCCLOY: Yes.

GAYLE MANCHIN, WEST VIRGINIA FIRST LADY: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Anna, what's the first thing you are going -- you are going to -- have you thought of what is the first thing you're going to say to Randy when he wakes up?

MCCLOY: I have thought about that a lot. And I will probably be speechless.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCLOY: I mean, I know that I'm going to squeeze him. I'm going to squeeze him, because, right now, it's kind of hard to hug him like you want to hug him.

And I'm going to just tell him how much I love him and how much I'm proud of him.

QUESTION: And when you're in the room with him, are you talking to him?

MCCLOY: Absolutely.

QUESTION: What do you say? Can you tell us anything...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLOY: I mean, of course. I tell him I love him. And I talk about our lives together, what we have done together, memories, good memories together, talk about our children together.

QUESTION: Anna, can you explain how you explain to your own children what's going on with dad?

MCCLOY: My little girl, she's not old enough to really understand. But my little boy, like, you know, I said, that he had just worked very long hours, and, right now, he's sick and he's wore out. And he's -- he's resting.

QUESTION: The doctors earlier talked about the importance of him being surrounded by family at this stage of his recovery. Can you tell us about your business in the room. Do you sit by him? Do you hold the children? And how do you -- how does it happen?

MCCLOY: Yes.

I -- I sit by him, hold his hand, talk to him, kiss him, just the same as my children. My little girl reaches for him, and my little boy. I sleep beside his bed. I don't leave his bedside at night.

QUESTION: And he wanted you -- he was doing his job, I guess, to -- because he wanted you to be able to stay home with the kids. And was he studying to also do something else...

(CROSSTALK) MCCLOY: He was already a certified electrician.

QUESTION: OK.

MCCLOY: And he's the type of person that, unless -- until he's happy, he won't stop. He will -- he will go into one career, and, if he doesn't like it, he will find something else. He's very determined in what he does.

No, he never agreed with me working. He want -- to him, my place was at home. I belonged home with the kids. He did not want me to work. He wanted to support us.

QUESTION: And why was he a coal miner, then? Why..

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLOY: He -- that was something that, you know, was one thing that he wanted to try.

He got into it. And, then, we had talked about it, after he had been in it for a few years and discussed it. And he decided that it was something he really didn't want to be into. So, we actually spoke not -- about a week or so ago, before this happened. And we were planning -- he was planning on taking some other courses in something, and to get out.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Did he talk about why was he worried about...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLOY: He knew it was dangerous. But it just -- he didn't -- he didn't care for it very much. He wanted to do something else.

QUESTION: What else? Do you know what he was looking at?

MCCLOY: Electronics, anything. I mean, he -- I mean, he's not really -- he wasn't that sure. But, I mean, he's an intelligent guy. I mean, he's smart.

QUESTION: Is his dad a miner?

MCCLOY: No.

QUESTION: How did he decide to be a miner?

MCCLOY: Him and my brother-in-law had -- went and took the test together., because my brother-in-law was also a miner at the same coal mines. So, they took the test together and were hired together.

QUESTION: Is his birthday coming up?

MCCLOY: His birthday is April 14.

QUESTION: How old is he now?

MCCLOY: He's 26.

QUESTION: Do you have any preferences about whether he stays here or goes back to the hospital (INAUDIBLE) I mean once he is stable? Are you just going to stay here indefinitely, but it would be nice to get him back (INAUDIBLE).

MCCLOY: It would be nice to get him back, because that's closer to my home, and my kids can come and see then, because, right now, my children haven't been here.

QUESTION: Oh, they haven't been to this...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLOY: No, it's too far.

QUESTION: Oh, OK. Are they are back with the grandparents...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLOY: They are back with my aunt. They're staying with my aunt right now.

QUESTION: Oh, OK.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Anna, who is all is here with you (INAUDIBLE) other relatives here? How many?

MCCLOY: Oh, you want to write all that?

(LAUGHTER)

MCCLOY: OK, there's my mom and dad, his mother and step-dad, his brother, my -- my sister and brother-in-law, Ms. Manchin.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCLOY: And, let me think. My brothers and their wives.

QUESTION: How impossible...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLOY: Nieces and nephews, and his brothers and sisters. It's just...

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) all staying here (INAUDIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLOY: There are so...

QUESTION: How is important is that to you to have that kind of support here?

MCCLOY: That's -- it's great, because that's what we need. We need support and prayer. And that's what helps us through this.

QUESTION: Anna, what type of -- what type of support and encouragement (INAUDIBLE) type of words has your family and friends and Mrs. Manchin and the governor been -- been giving you all?

MCCLOY: Just, you know, talking about praying and everything.

And knowing that, you know, he was strong enough to live through what he lived through, and it -- it's unbelievable. It's amazing that he done that, you know? That usually does not happen. So, you know, he should be able to pull through this. He's strong enough to.

QUESTION: Why do you think he's survived? Do (INAUDIBLE).

MCCLOY: Honestly, I think it was because of me and the kids, because you have to live with him to know, you know, the things he would say to me and the kids and how he would say them. It was me and the kids.

QUESTION: The kids have not seen him since the accident?

MCCLOY: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: They saw (INAUDIBLE) they have not seen him (INAUDIBLE).

MCCLOY: Yes. Yes. They have seen him.

QUESTION: Anna, how long have you two been married?

MCCLOY: Five years June 30.

QUESTION: Five years June 30. And how old are you?

MCCLOY: I'm 25.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... five years this past June 30?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: I'm sorry. Five years this past June 30 or next June 30?

MCCLOY: This coming, it will be five years.

QUESTION: And, so, what do you think he will say to you when he wakes up?

MCCLOY: Oh, he will probably hug and kiss me and tell me he loves me, and tell me that that's why he pulled through, was for me and the kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anna, I wanted to assure you that I think I know medicine, but I obviously don't know diddly about music.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) confusion about the songs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hope that doesn't impact Dr. Shannon's credibility.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will have to reevaluate (INAUDIBLE).

QUESTION: Does he have a favorite Metallica...

MCCLOY: Honestly, I really don't know, because he listens to it all.

I think he has got almost every one of them at home. He has got a big collection of that hard metal, you know, music, because we used to fight over who was going to listen to what in the house, you know, because I'm country and he's music -- you know, he's got the hard rock.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCLOY: We would get in the vehicle, we would fight over who's going to listen to what. So...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any other final questions?

QUESTION: What has it been like for you the last few days? I mean, at first, it just had to be this miracle that he came out. And now, you know, it's...

MCCLOY: It's been an emotional roller coaster.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) ... praying a lot?

MCCLOY: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. That's what gets me through. That's what makes me believe that he's going to be OK.

QUESTION: Anna, thank you for taking the time (INAUDIBLE).

MCCLOY: You're welcome.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLOY: I just wanted...

MANCHIN: Oh, I was just going to mention one more thing. And then -- and I want to let Anna -- to have the last word.

But I had mentioned this to -- to some of the people. But I don't know that all of you heard it. But I -- I want you to be aware that Governor Rendell was one of the first people that called Governor Manchin when this disaster happened, and immediately offered any rescue teams, trained teams from Pennsylvania, to come down to West Virginia and be a part of the rescue process.

And, certainly, my husband was very appreciative of that. The governor of Illinois then called. So, you know, there really is a camaraderie between states that share this mining industry, the good and the bad.

But it was -- it -- it was very kind and very quickly that Governor Rendell called and offered the support of the Pennsylvania rescue teams. And, so, again, West Virginia was very appreciative of that.

But now you -- you finish.

MCCLOY: Oh.

QUESTION: Have people been calling? I mean, have people reaching out to you? I mean...

MCCLOY: Absolutely. The whole world has.

And I would like to thank everybody that has prayed and supported us. And I just would love to see it keep coming, because that helps.

QUESTION: What -- what has been happening? Have you been getting letters and stuff (INAUDIBLE)

MCCLOY: Cards, letters, everything.

QUESTION: Phone calls?

MCCLOY: Yes, everything, of concerns, and just wanting to say that they -- they -- they are praying and...

QUESTION: And you -- I know you have been busy and (INAUDIBLE) contacted or any of the other miner families have contacted you?

MCCLOY: Not yet, but I am planning on doing that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everyone.

Thank you, Anna.

Thank you, first lady.

(CROSSTALK)

MANCHIN: Thank you. Thank you.

BLITZER: Anna McCloy the wife of 27-year-old Randal McCloy, speaking out in Pittsburgh.

Her husband is in an induced coma. He's the sole survivor of that West Virginia mining disaster. We also heard from Gayle Manchin, the first lady of West Virginia, at this news conference -- both of them thanking everyone for the prayers that have been going on, trying to help Randal McCloy come through this horrible, horrible disaster.

And, as I said earlier, even here in Jerusalem, lots of people praying for Randal McCloy right now.

We will stay on top of this story.

We're watching all the other news as well,. including the latest on the condition of the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. Coming up, I will speak with a neurosurgeon who knows a great deal of what's going on, will give us some insight into the Israeli leader's prognosis.

And, coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, miners prepare to go back to work at the Sago Mine, despite the disaster. We will show you what they are saying.

You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

We are reporting live from Jerusalem tonight, where we are monitoring the condition of the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. He's now undergone three operations in two days for bleeding in his brain following a massive stroke.

For more on the prime minister's condition, I'm joined here in Jerusalem by the neurosurgeon Itzak Fried.

Dr. Fried, you are not treating Prime Minister Sharon, but you know a great deal about this case. And it's, obviously, obviously, extremely critical right now.

DR. ITZAK FRIED, NEUROSURGEON: Yes, it is. It is, I think.

There has been an extensive bleeding, as the initial hemorrhage was described as a large hemorrhage. Then, there was an additional hemorrhage after that. And now he was in for a third operation. So, that is a lot for -- for brain of a 77-year-old man, that is really a lot to take.

BLITZER: Is there any evidence that all the pressure he was under over these past several weeks, including reports that one of his sons was being investigated for illegally receiving money from abroad, that that could have exacerbated his medical condition?

FRIED: Well, I think all this would be really speculative.

It's -- it will would be only speculation. Of course, somebody who is under a lot of pressure and a lot of excitement may have increases in blood pressure on a periodic basis. But, again, postulating a clear relationship between this and what happened to him, I think, would be speculative.

BLITZER: One aspect that the Israeli press has been writing a lot about is the blood thinner that he was given after that mild stroke that he endured on December 18.

And the arguments against that were, it made the situation with this massive stroke, obviously, a lot worse. But what if they wouldn't have given him that blood thinner? What would have happened?

FRIED: Well, I think that the physicians were concerned that not giving him the blood thinner would increase the probability of having a stroke.

So, when they subscribed that, when they prescribed it for him, they were obviously aware that there is some risks associated. And I assume that they probably have discussed this risk with the patient and the family, as we always do.

BLITZER: Did you -- in reviewing all the procedures that were taken between December 18 and now, did you see the doctors and -- and Sharon dealing with this issue as they would under normal circumstances? Or, because he was in the middle of a political campaign, were there political decisions made that might have exacerbated his condition?

FRIED: Well, I mean, I think that there was no indication, or at least a clear indication, that that was the case here.

I think that he was handled in the proper way and was given excellent medical care. I mean, everything else, again, I think would be speculative here.

BLITZER: All right. And we are going to have to leave it right there.

Dr. Fried, thanks very much for joining us. Dr. Fried is associated with the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, as well the Tel Aviv Medical Center here in Israel.

Appreciate it very much.

Jack Cafferty is monitoring the situation with "The Cafferty File" in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Wolf.

President Bush out today asking for $114 million to fund something called the National Security Language Initiative. Part of the program would focus on more teaching of critical languages, like Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Farsi in both public schools and universities.

The question is: How important are these critical language skills in winning the war on terror? The president allowed us (ph) how he does speak Texan. And when somebody approaches him who speaks Texan, he knows that they then understand the Texas culture. Allen in Virginia writes: "I think the initiative is a great idea. As an international businessman, I speak a smattering of languages, including Arabic. We will never be competitive in the international business environment, nor really secure, unless we have many bright young individuals with multilingual skills."

Randall in Hunt Valley, Maryland: "As a former U.S. intelligence officer, I can attest to the fact that true fluency in the key languages you listed is critical to our national security. Unfortunately, the intelligence agencies still refuse to dedicate adequate funds for comprehensive language and culture training. This is not a new problem."

Eric writes: "How about we first make sure all our high school grads speak fluent English?"

There's a thought.

Robert in the Bronx: "President Bush is not a native Texan. He was born, raised and educated in Connecticut. Imagine that. He is from the Northeast. So, does he speak Texan? Is that what this lack of articulation is called?"

And following that, Steve writes from Estes Park, Colorado: "I have always felt the same way our president does. When someone comes here and speaks Coloradoan (ph), I know they appreciate Colorado culture. But before we push our citizens to start learning Hindi, Farsi and Chinese, we should make sure that they are fluent in Montanan, Missourian, New Yorkian, and all the other 47 state languages. No state left behind. Then, and only then, should we move toward Russian, Arabic and the rest" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. thanks very much. I will see you in one hour.

CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: We will be back here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And, to our viewers, we are in THE SITUATION ROOM every weekday afternoon, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern. We are back at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Tonight, our Dr. Sanjay Gupta has an exclusive interview with a doctor who was on the scene at the Sago Mine disaster. That's coming up one hour from now.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting tonight from Jerusalem.

Lou Dobbs is in New York. He's getting ready to pick up our coverage -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you very much.

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