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THE SITUATION ROOM

Vessel With 150 on Board Sinks off Coast of Bahrain; Jill Carroll Set Free From Captors; Palestinian Suicide Bomber Strikes in West Bank; Javad Zarif Interview; Michael Bloomberg Interview

Aired March 30, 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: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information from around the world are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.

Happening now, it's 1:00 a.m. in Baghdad, where the American journalist Jill Carroll is freed almost three months after she was taken hostage. But now there's a new video that's surfacing online and it's raising some serious new questions. We are going to show it to you.

It's 4:00 p.m. in Cancun, Mexico, where President Bush gets a look at Mexico's past before talks on immigration and its impact on America's future.

New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, scoffs at the immigration debate and takes CNN on a subway ride for a look at immigration reality.

And it's 5:00 p.m. at the United Nations, where Iran is under heavy pressure to halt its nuclear activities. Will Iran back down? I'll ask its United Nations ambassador in an exclusive interview. Javad Zarif, he's standing by.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with two stories developing right now. A passenger vessel with about 150 on board, including Western tourists, sinks off the coast of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. And a Palestinian suicide bomber strikes in the West Bank.

CNN's Zain Verjee is standing by at the CNN global headquarters, but let's go to the Pentagon first. Our Barbara Starr is standing by with the latest on this ferry that went down off the coast of Bahrain -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, U.S. Navy officials have just confirmed some additional details to us. This accident happened just one mile from U.S. Navy headquarters in Bahrain.

It happened in a very narrow channel of water between Bahrain's international airport and the capital city of Manama, where this accident happened. So, just one mile from U.S. military headquarters. It allowed the U.S. military to move very quickly to assist Bahrain authorities in this situation.

These are the waters you see here. It's quite close to here. Forty-four bodies recovered, 52 rescued. The U.S. Navy confirming to us it has 16 U.S. Navy divers on scene assisting in the rescue -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's 5th fleet in the Persian Gulf, so presumably there's a lot of U.S. Navy vessels in the area.

STARR: There are Navy vessels in the area, but what they did very quickly is move these 16 divers in and, Wolf, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter that was very close by. Moved them in to assist authorities, because, of course, they want to get those people out of the water as quickly as they can, and they want to come alongside them without causing them any further danger in the water, pick them up, get them out of the water and get them to hospitals and also, of course, recover any further people who may have perished in this accident.

BLITZER: And it's dark there now. The rescue operation continuing.

Barbara, thank you very much.

And as we just heard here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Tariq Hassan, a spokesman for the Bahrain Ministry of the Interior, says that 52 bodies -- excuse me, 44 bodies have been recovered. But there have been 52 successful rescued individuals who have been picked up.

We're watching this story. We will bring you the latest as soon as we get some more information.

There's another story we're watching right now, a deadly bombing in the West Bank.

CNN's Zain Verjee joining us now from the CNN global headquarters with what we're learning -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, we are getting a few details. What we know right now is that a Palestinian suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the West Bank settlement of Kedumim. Israeli emergency medical sources say that the bomber killed himself and three Israelis who were in the vehicle with him.

Now, authorities are reporting that they're investigating the possibility that an Israeli family had given a ride to the bomber. One report had said he was dressed as an ultra Orthodox Jew. We're working on getting more information, Wolf, and we'll bring it to you when we have it.

BLITZER: All right. We'll watch this story unfold as well.

Thank you, Zain, very much.

Almost three months after she was kidnapped in Baghdad, the American journalist Jill Carroll is now free with a story to tell.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is joining us now live from Baghdad with the latest -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was right around lunchtime when we first began to get an indication that Jill Carroll was being freed. And from there, events developed very quickly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON (voice over): Less than two hours after she was released, Jill Carroll was already appearing on Baghdad TV, receiving gifts, including a Koran, from the Iraqi politician who helped get her to safety. She'd lost none of her reporter's instinct for telling the story.

JILL CARROLL, FREED HOSTAGE: I was treated very well. It's important people know that, that I was not harmed. They never said they would hit me, never threatened me in any way. And I'm just happy to be free, and I want to be with my family.

ROBERTSON: Looking surprisingly relaxed and composed, compared to her appearances in the insurgent videos taken during her captivity, she said she had no idea where she was held or why she was released.

CARROLL: I don't know. I don't know what happened. They just came to me and said, "OK, we're letting you go now."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was negotiation to make you free?

CARROLL: I don't know. I don't know what was going on. They didn't tell me what was going on.

ROBERTSON: Set free in a dangerous part of Baghdad, she'd walked into a small office belonging to a Sunni political party, clutching a letter written in Arabic, asking for help.

TARIQ AL HASHIMI, IRAQI ISLAMIC PARTY (through translator): At 12:15 this afternoon, we got a call from our office in western Baghdad telling us that the journalist Jill Carroll was with them. She was immediately transported under heavy security to the headquarters of the Islamic Party.

ROBERTSON: It seems no U.S. forces were involved in Jill's release, but the U.S. ambassador was quickly contacted by the Iraqis.

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMB. TO IRAQ: I got a call through one of my assistants, perhaps four hours ago or so, from the head of the Islamic Party, Mr. Tariq Al Hashimi, that Jill was with them and that she was -- she was not only free, but she appeared to be in good health.

ROBERTSON: Before she was taken to the U.S. Embassy, Jill was able to make the call she'd only been able to dream of. JIM CARROLL, FATHER OF JILL CARROLL: We got the call this morning, I got the call a little before 6:00. Jill called me directly. And it was quite a wakeup call, to say the least.

ROBERTSON: For Jill's family, the news they'd been praying for but had dared not expect.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: Well, right now, that's all the news that really matters to her family and friends, but there are still unanswered questions. Why was she released? And is this an indication that insurgents are going to be kinder to the people that they've kidnapped, not kill them, actually release them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Do we know if money was paid for her freedom?

ROBERTSON: Nobody has said that that is even mentioned that that was something that was going on. They've said Jill has indicated she doesn't know anything. The politicians who helped in her release have not given any indication that they were involved in any sort of negotiations like this. So, really, Wolf, at this time, there's no indication to make us believe that money was -- money did change hands -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Nic. Thank you very much for that.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's got a new video that's now online, a video of Jill Carroll prior to her release. This video has just surfaced.

Abbi, what are you finding?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, that's what it appears to show. We have to point out that CNN cannot authenticate that this is insurgent video. And also, we don't know under what circumstances it was made. But what we do know is this video appears to know Jill Carroll, and it's been circulating on Islamic Web sites this morning.

What we did was we had senior editor Octavia Nasr look at this video. It's almost nine minutes long. And we can tell what you we do know about it.

To start with, it appears to show Jill Carroll answering questions in English about her captivity, about the situation in Iraq. Later on, we hear from a man reading a statement in Arabic about Carroll's release.

Now, a couple of things to note about this video from Octavia, who has looked at it. What she points out is that in previous videos, we've seen militants posing in the videos. Different here. We don't see the person, the man seems to be disguising his voice.

Another thing that seems different is the logo here. It looks different to past videos.

So, Wolf, at this time, a lot of unanswered questions about this video that has surfaced today, the day of Jill Carroll's release.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you very much.

So, what can the U.S. government do for Americas taken hostage abroad?

Let's turn to our senior national correspondent, John Roberts. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey. Good afternoon to you, Wolf.

I just got back from the FBI training center in Quantico, Virginia, where I had the rare chance to get inside the highly- specialized unit that played a critical role in trying to win Jill Carroll's release.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS (voice over): The moment Jill Carroll went missing in Iraq, the FBI's elite crisis negotiation unit was brought in. Special agent in charge John Flood says this was a good day.

JOHN FLOOD, FBI CRISIS NEGOTIATION UNIT: We were all elated, everybody in the unit. And I think we can speak safely for the entire FBI. We were all elated.

ROBERTS: Any time an American civilian is kidnapped or held hostage overseas, the FBI takes the lead, whether it be for ransom, political or ideological reasons. Kidnappings, says negotiator Chris Voss, has become the piracy of our time, and Iraq presents new challenges.

CHRIS VOSS, FBI CRISIS NEGOTIATION UNIT: We haven't had to try to operate in what effectively is a war zone before. Law enforcement is designed to operate in a place where there's -- there's an infrastructure of other law enforcement and there's a functioning government.

ROBERTS: In cases like Jill Carroll's, where officials had no idea where she was or even who held her, FBI negotiators will often counsel victims' families on how to approach the kidnappers.

FLOOD: They'll talk to us, they'll ask us for advice in terms of what to say, what not to say, with the thought in mind that the abductors are probably going to see this.

ROBERTS: One such appeal was made in January, when Mary Beth Carroll went on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" to plead for her daughter's safety.

MARY BETH CARROLL, MOTHER OF JILL CARROLL: So, I, her father and her sister are appealing directly to her captors to release this young woman who has worked so hard to show the suffering of Iraqis to the world. ROBERTS: FBI negotiators aren't sure what led to Carroll's release. It could be, they said, that her kidnappers got spooked by last week's rescue of three other hostages, or through back channel negotiations with Iraqi officials perhaps they got what they were looking for.

VOSS: Kidnappers get something out of every kidnapping. No one gets out unless they've gotten something. Now, the idea is to diminish that or to use that against them in some way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Jill Carroll's employer, the "Christian Science Monitor," says that it did not pay for her release. In fact, it wasn't even involved in negotiations.

And we should also point out that her mother's interview was later translated into Arabic and played throughout the Middle East.

While Jill Carroll has been released now, the FBI's role in all of this isn't finished. Now its Office of Victim Assistance, Wolf, will work to reunite Jill with her family.

BLITZER: Good reporting, John. Thank you very much.

John Roberts here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's go up to New York. Jack Cafferty standing by with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The Department of Homeland Security is "hemorrhaging the front lines and higher up." That's what one expert told "USA Today" about the turnover in that department.

The war on terror is a long way from being won. Hurricane season just around the corner. The nation's capital remains unprepared for another attack almost five years after 9/11. That's according to Senate committee testimony yesterday.

Meanwhile, homeland security is losing many of its top people. Some key vacancies include leaders in the departments of cyber security, technology and disaster response.

The spokesman for the department says the stress of top-level government security jobs can be grueling. But he says he expects a lot of the top jobs will be filled soon.

The question is: What should be done about the brain drain from the Department of Homeland Security?

You can e-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com, or you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. We'll be back with you soon.

Up ahead, my exclusive interview with Iran's ambassador to the United Nations. We'll talk about the escalating tension over his country's nuclear program.

Also, a story you'll see only here on CNN. The New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, speaks out for the first time on the border battle with our own John King in New York. You might be surprised at his stand on the immigration debate.

Plus, a significant ruling on gay marriage in Massachusetts. Why it has some celebrating and others outraged.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're going to have a rare interview with Iran's ambassador to the United Nations. We're standing by for that. We'll go there momentarily.

But first, let's go to Cancun, Mexico, briefly. The president speaking out right now with his Mexican counterpart, Vicente Fox.

Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... that I am committed to having a comprehensive immigration bill on my desk. And by comprehensive, I mean not only a border security -- a bill that has border security in it, a bill that has interior enforcement in it, but a bill that has a worker permit program in it. And that's important, a part of having a border that works.

We don't want people sneaking into our country that are going to do jobs Americans want to do. We want them coming in an orderly way, will which take pressure off of both our borders.

And I explained to the president my vision of the citizenship issue. And I don't believe somebody should be allowed to come into our country and get ahead of the line, the citizenship line. And so I told President Fox that I think a program that will work is somebody working on a temporary basis with a tamper-proof ID card, and if they want to become a citizen, they can get in line, but not the head of the line. And I reminded the president -- I called for an increase of green cards the other day in Washington, D.C., as one way to help manage this issue.

At any rate, we are in the middle of a legislative process. I'm optimistic we can get a bill done. And I look forward to continuing to work with members of both parties to get a bill done.

We also talked about President Fox's vision of working together in our hemisphere, particularly in Central America. And he's proposed a very innovative set of ideas to help stabilize and help encourage growth in Central America, starting with an energy initiative.

And, of course, we appreciate your leadership on that issue. And I look forward to sending some of our experts down to listen to the ideas being talked about.

One idea, of course, we want to inject in the conversation is the idea of developing alternatives to gasoline that is coming from crude oil. That we'd like to see more use of ethanol and how we can work together to increase the crops necessary to become the feedstock for an ethanol production.

But at any rate, the point I'm making is, is that we've got a lot -- a lot to do in our relationship. President Fox is -- if people take an objective look at his record, one of the things that I'm most proud of and I think our country must be most appreciative of is the stability of the Mexican economy. It's important to have a trade partner that has got a stable economy.

And Mr. President, you've done a fine job of providing stability and increasing the net worth of your citizens. And that's important for the American economy, as well. The more net worth there is in Mexico, the more likely it is a Mexican may be wanting to buy a U.S. product, and vice versa, by the way.

And so, our trade has made a difference in the lives of our citizens, and your leadership has made a difference in the state of your economy. So it's good to be with you again, sir. Thank you for your warm hospitality.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to monitor what Vicente Fox, the president of Mexico, is saying, bring that to our viewers as news is made. We will continue to watch the president's summit in Cancun, Mexico, but you heard the president say he strongly, strongly supports some kind of guest worker program that would allow the illegal immigrants, the illegal workers right now in the United States to work their way toward legal status in the United States. A fierce debate underway in the Congress right now.

We'll take a quick break.

When we come back, our exclusive interview with Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Javad Zarif. He's standing by. We'll go to him right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, along with Germany, are demanding that Iran freeze its uranium enrichment program and cooperate fully with an investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency. It's the latest development in the ongoing and increasingly tense standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM for an exclusive interview is the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Javad Zarif.

Mr. Ambassador, welcome to THE SITUATION ROOM. Thank you very much for joining us. JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: It's good to be with you. And good evening to you.

BLITZER: The Security Council now has issued this statement saying the clock is ticking. You basically have 30 days to stop this uranium enrichment program, otherwise the next shoe will drop.

What does your government plan on doing?

ZARIF: Well, there are two points that need to be made. One is Iran -- Iran's rights are not negotiable. In fact, the authority of the nonproliferation regime rests on respect for the rights of members so that there will be incentives for being a member.

Second, I hear a lot of talk about Iran coming back to the negotiating table. I hear four propositions that came out today from the Berlin meeting. One is that they respect Iran's right. Second is that they do not believe Iran should produce nuclear weapons or should develop nuclear weapons. Third, they believe that Iran should cooperate with the IAEA, and fourth, they believe that Iran should negotiate.

And I believe you don't need any pressure or threat to do all of these. Iran is prepared to do all of them.

BLITZER: Well, listen to what Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, says. He says this, very bluntly, "My message to Iran: the international community is getting impatient and you need to respond by arming me with information."

Why won't you let him do his job since you signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty? Let the IAEA watchdogs go in and inspect as thoroughly and as robustly as Dr. ElBaradei will like?

ZARIF: Well, in fact, Dr. ElBaradei and his colleagues have been able to visit Iran to make inspections in Iran, to go beyond every commitment and obligation that Iran has had, to visit our military sites. In fact, in the last three years, they have been in Iran every single day, 1,700 person days of inspections have taken place in Iran, which is far beyond any inspection that has occurred in any other country. And no single evidence of any diversion of Iranian activity to prohibited activity has been found.

And I believe...

BLITZER: But they point out...

ZARIF: ... another 10 years will prove the same thing.

BLITZER: But they point out that there were several incidents, several examples of cheating and misleading the IAEA over the past dozen or even 18 years by the Iranian government.

ZARIF: Well, there have been some reporting failures by Iran. None of them portend to the major issues that have been portrayed as the areas of Iran's reporting failures. They have been with regard to small-scale operations, and the IAEA, the director general, if you read the reports, it's clear that Iran has taken corrective measures, that IAEA has made good progress. This is from the September report of the director general that Iran has allowed the IAEA speedy and timely access to the sites that they requested, and that they are continuing their work.

BLITZER: So -- excuse me for...

ZARIF: There is no need for pressure for continuing that. Iran is ready to cooperate with the IAEA within the terms of the NPT because we have nothing to hide.

BLITZER: Will you stop enriching uranium over the next 30 days as demanded unanimously by the U.N. Security Council?

ZARIF: Well, Iran's rights, as I said, are clear under the IAEA, under the NPT, and I believe it is important for people to think about arbitrary red lines. Red lines have been drawn by the United States and others over the years. It is important to see what is the purpose.

The purpose is nonproliferation. Iran is committed to nonproliferation. Iran is also committed to resolving this from -- through a negotiated solution. And we believe our dozens of negotiated solutions that are possible, if there is a political will to pursue negotiations.

BLITZER: All right.

ZARIF: We are certainly ready for it. And we want to resolve this issue through negotiations.

BLITZER: All right. I know there's -- our time is limited, but I want to get through some other important issues, as well, including Iraq.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, has made a very serious charge against Iran; namely, that you are providing not only funds, but serious, sophisticated technology for those improvised explosive devices that have killed so many American troops and a lot of other people in Iraq.

What is -- what is your response to that charge?

ZARIF: They're basically without any foundation. The government of Iraq, the prime minister of Iraq on this CNN program last week made it very clear that none of that is substantiated.

Another government, if you remember, a few months ago made the same allegations, then at the highest level. They had to withdraw those allegations because they are baseless.

It's not good for the stability of Iraq to simply make these kinds of callus statements by whoever that they are made. And we have heard even from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that there is no evidence that Iran is involved in that.

And we have made it very clear that Iran wants stability in Iraq, Iran wants the democratic process to reach a satisfactory conclusion in Iraq, where the Iraqi people could resume charge of their own life and can get out of this misery that has been brought to them by the situation over the past three years.

BLITZER: I'll just read for the record what Khalilzad said. He said, "Our judgment is that training and supplying direct or indirect takes place and that there is also provision of financial resources to people, to militias, and that there is presence of people associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and with the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and security."

You are denying that flatly. Is that what you are saying?

ZARIF: Yes, exactly . And I believe these types of accusations by a country that has 140,000 military troops occupying a neighbor of Iran are simply ridiculous.

BLITZER: Another serious charge against Iran is that you are harboring al Qaeda terrorist in Iran. Are you?

ZARIF: Iran has been fighting al Qaeda probably more seriously and more vehemently and probably before the United States ever started to understand what al Qaeda was all about, when the United States was funding these types of organizations, in order to pursue a short- sighted interest in the previous decades.

Iran considers al Qaeda to be its enemy. We have fought al Qaeda. On the other hand, you have terrorists operating in the territory of the United States, holding press conferences and making statements.

If some of that was happening in -- anywhere in the world, you would have been up in arms about the possibility of this type of providing safe haven for terrorists and their sympathizers.

BLITZER: Listen to what President Bush said the other day about your government, the government of Iran, and its intentions toward Israel.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The Iranian president has stated his desire to destroy our ally Israel. So, when you start listening to what he has said, to their desire to develop a nuclear weapon, then you begin to see an issue of grave national security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You understand the concern the president expresses, given the -- several recent statements made by your president that Iran would like to see Israel removed from the face of the earth? ZARIF: Let me, first of all, state with all due respect that every single word in the president's statement was erroneous.

Iran has never threatened any country. Iran is on the record that it has and will not threaten to use force against any member of the United Nations. Iran's history is clear. For the past 250 years, we have not used force against a single country.

On the other hand, Israeli threats against Iran go back a long time ago, when Israel has threatened to use military force, in violation of the U.N. charter, against Iran.

BLITZER: Let me...

ZARIF: The United States' president himself...

BLITZER: Let me interrupt, Mr. Ambassador.

ZARIF: ... has made that threat.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador...

ZARIF: And, unfortunately, nobody talks about that.

BLITZER: Let me interrupt, with all due respect, and read to you specifically what President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on October 26, 2005. He was quoting the late Ayatollah Khomeini. He said, "Israel must be wiped off the map of the world."

ZARIF: Did he threaten to take action?

On the other hand, let me read to you -- unfortunately, I don't have the exactly -- exact quote from Mr. Dan Halutz, the chief of the army staff of Israel, who said two months ago that Israel was willing to -- to go 2,000 kilometers in order to destroy Iranian nuclear -- peaceful nuclear facilities.

This is a ridiculous statement coming from a country that is not a member of the NPT, has violated every resolution of the Security Council, and is doing its utmost to agitate the international community about Iran's peaceful intentions.

Threats have been coming from Israel and from the U.S. on the use of force, in violation of the U.N. charter. And I believe, if anybody wants to take action about threats that threaten international peace and security, looking at the record of countries who have used aggression and have taken -- resort to force, it is the United Nations that has to take action against Israel and the United States.

BLITZER: Let me just read two other quotes from that speech he gave at that conference, a World Without Zionism conference.

He said, Ahmadinejad, he said, "Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nations' fury." And he said, "God willing, with a force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism." He is the president of Iran. Doesn't he speak for your government?

ZARIF: Well, the president is an elected president of the country, who has been elected by the people. And he made statements.

But, on the other hand, the government -- the state -- the position of the government on these issues are very clear. Iran has made it clear on the record, and as official document of the United Nations, and the history a clear testimony to that, that Iran has never used or threatened to use force against any other member of the United Nations.

BLITZER: We are going to have to...

ZARIF: Statements have been made by others about trying to wipe out the Islamic republic, and these types of statements have been made often and repeatedly.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, Mr. Ambassador, we have to leave it there. We could continue this conversation -- and I hope we will -- down the road. Good of you to join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ZARIF: It was good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

There's a story we have been following. A ferry has gone down off the coast of Bahrain.

Let's bring in CNN's Zain Verjee once again. She has got the latest development -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, officials in Bahrain are saying at least 44 people have been killed in that ferry accident off the coast of Bahrain. It was a passenger ferry, carrying about 150 people, including, it appears, many Westerners, when it sank.

It is unclear exactly what the count is of nationalities. But coast guards and emergency rescue services, as you see, were in full force, and they were activated immediately, according to the Interior Ministry spokesman.

Fifty-two people have been rescued. A senior official in Bahrain also says that several dozen people have been injured. Some sort of investigating committee has been established. It's not clear what the cause of this accident was -- the interior minister though, being quoted, also, as saying that most of these passengers worked for a local company, and they include Asians, Europeans, as well as Bahrainis and -- and other Gulf region nationals.

You are looking at new video that we are just receiving here at CNN, showing that emergency rescue operation. In effect, this sinking took place in fairly good weather -- the weather was described as clear -- in a narrow channel, maybe about a mile away or so from the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, that -- just outside the Bahraini capital of Manama -- Navy officials telling CNN that that service sent divers, boats and helicopters, also, to assist this rescue operation from the coast guard in Bahrain -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much. We will check back with you -- what a story coming out of Bahrain.

And coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the mayor of New York and the immigration wars -- Michael Bloomberg speaking out in detail for the first time with our own John King. What would his city look like if illegal immigrants were forced to leave?

And another milestone for the man known as the miracle miner -- we will update you on the only person to survive the Sago Mine disaster.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As we just showed you here live in THE SITUATION ROOM, President Bush wrapping up a meeting with the Mexican president, Vicente Fox, in Cancun -- the president seeking support from President Fox for his plans on immigration reform. Mr. Bush is also meeting with the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper -- he's the new Canadian prime minister -- for a summit on immigration issues. We are watching this summit in Cancun.

New York City is known as the ultimate melting pot, a city of immigrants. And now, for the first time, New York City's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is speaking out in detail about the current immigration battle underway here in Washington.

He spoke with our chief national correspondent, John King, an interview you are going to see only here on CNN.

John, how did it go?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a very interesting man, Michael Bloomberg is, very outspoken at times, too. He says he's worried about the emotional rhetoric in the immigration debate.

Some of that rhetoric, he says, can be interpreted as being anti- immigrant, something he thinks is not healthy. He also says he is frustrated by a number of proposals here in Washington that he says make absolutely no sense to anyone who has to deal with illegal immigration on a daily basis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice-over): The 7 Line winds through the diverse neighbors of Queens, immigration reality, the mayor says, compared to what he calls the farce of a debate taking place in Washington.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I wonder what world they live in. You know, it must be easy. They are playing to a constituency back home of how it would sell, and has nothing to do with what would make good long-term policy. The election year is not a good time to do this.

KING: He rolls his eyes at conservatives who want a tough crackdown on illegal immigrants.

BLOOMBERG: We not going to deport 12 million people. So, let's stop this fiction. Let's give them permanent status.

KING: But Mayor Bloomberg also challenges the president and others, who suggest a new guest-worker program would be temporary.

BLOOMBERG: Are you going to leave after six years? Come on. I -- that's just...

KING (on camera): So, how...

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOMBERG: That's just postponing the problem to the next generation, to the next Congress.

KING: How do you get somebody of the president-McCain-Kennedy persuasion at the table of somebody of the Tom Tancredo-Lou Dobbs persuasion, who says, no, that's amnesty; they came into the country illegally; any status you give them is rewarding lawbreaking?

BLOOMBERG: It may...

KING: How do you get those people...

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOMBERG: It may very well be rewarding law-breaking. But let's get real.

I mean, you know, the -- we don't live in a perfect world. And we don't -- we mayors don't have the luxury of pontificating, without any consequences for what they say.

Today...

KING (voice-over): Off the train in the Jackson Heights neighborhood, a fabric store managed by a man from Bangladesh, a jewelry store run by a man from India and a woman from Jamaica, and, over coffee at an Indian diner, one last appeal, from the mayor's perspective, for a debate more rooted in reality.

BLOOMBERG: My fundamental belief is, you're not going to deport 12 million people, guest worker programs and temporary things are ridiculous. These people are going to be here permanently. Let's recognize it and get on with it.

And, you know, I just don't have a lot of patience to listen to people that say, it shouldn't be. Maybe it shouldn't be. You have a right to that opinion. But it is. And anybody that knows anything about just how things work in this world, it is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Now, the mayor insists, he's no softy when it comes to enforcing the borders. He says, Wolf, he's all for stronger controls, both at the Mexican and the Canadian border.

He also says the country needs a much better high-tech system, so that employers can verify the documentation that job applicants give to them. But what he says is that all of those important issues, including getting more visas for doctors and engineers and others, all those, he worries, will be pushed aside or perhaps collapse under the weight of a debate that he thinks has been so distracted by the guest- worker program he says would never be temporary, by the deportation debate he says will never happen.

The mayor says, sometimes, he listens to what is going on in Washington and -- quote -- he "rolls his eyes."

BLITZER: He's pretty outspoken.

John, good work. Thank you very much, John King, reporting for us.

Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program that begins right at the top of the hour, a little bit more than 15 minutes from now.

Lou is in Cancun.

Lou, how is it going over there?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Outstanding.

The trilateral summit is under way, bilateral meetings held today.

Tonight, we will be reporting from the summit here in Cancun, where the leaders of the United States, Mexico, and Canada are meeting discus issues such as illegal immigration, border security, and free trade, so-called, and their vision of the integration of three economies and possibly countries.

Do you think you voted on that? Well, we will find out more tonight. I will talk with the Mexican ambassador to the United States on the view of the Mexican government on critical issues. We will also be live on Capitol Hill, where the Senate debate is intensifying over the president's proposed guest-worker program and the definition of amnesty.

And we will report on new efforts today by open-border advocates to pressure Congress into legalizing the entire illegal alien population of the United States.

We will have all of that and more. We hope you will join us at the top of the hour, right here on CNN -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly will.

Lou, reporting live from Cancun, Mexico -- that's coming up right at the top of the hour.

And still to come here, friends and family call him the miracle miner -- today, the first day of the rest of his life.

And he's a key figure in the debate over immigration reform and a key figure in the debate over Iraq. My interview with Republican Senator John McCain, that's coming up in the 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Zain once again at the CNN Center for a closer look at some other stories making news -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, in West Virginia, he's walking out of his car, into his home, and into his new life.

Friends and family are calling Randy McCloy the miracle miner. Today, McCloy went home, after spending most of this year in hospitals. About three months ago, he was trapped almost 41 hours in a collapsed mine filled with carbon monoxide. Twelve of his co- workers died in the Sago Mine. Today, he talked about his survival.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDAL MCCLOY, SAGO MINE EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: The carbon monoxide level was really high, and I have no explanation of how I escaped it, you know, and survived. And it's just crazy, how that ended up being like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: McCloy says it was his family's love that really pulled him through. Today, West Virginia's governor announced the McCloy's rural road has been renamed to Miracle Road.

With baseball's opening season just days away, today, the league said it would like into allegations of steroid use by Barry Bonds and other baseball stars. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig says former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell will head the effort. The probe comes after explosive details in the book titled "Game of Shadows." That books says Bonds and others extensively used steroids. Bonds has repeatedly denied using performance-enhancing drugs.

Massachusetts' highest court is limiting which same-sex couples can marry in the state. The justices upheld an obscure 1913 law that says couples who cannot legally marry in their home state are ineligible to marry in Massachusetts. Since no other state recognizes gay marriage, that basically means that all same-sex couples from outside Massachusetts are ineligible to marry there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much.

Let's check in with Ali Velshi. He has got the "Bottom Line" -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: I'm going to talk about baseball again in a second, Wolf.

But don't look now. Oil prices are slowly creeping up to some record levels. Light sweet crude closed 70 cents higher to $67.15 a barrel. That is a two-month high. Part of it -- you have been talking about it a lot -- Iran rejecting a U.N. Security Council demand to halt uranium enrichment. Another one is Venezuela, which now says ExxonMobil is no longer welcome in that country. You can add ongoing concerns in Nigeria, new ones in Norway, to that mix, and you have got oil creeping even higher.

Baseball, which is I want to talk about, the season is almost here, as Zain just said, the -- the Tribune Company, which is the parent of "The Chicago Tribune," also owns the Cubs. And it is said to be thinking about putting those lovable losers on the market. Tribune bought the Cubs back in 1981. They paid about $21 million for it.

It is said now to be worth around $500 million. As you know, Wolf, media companies have been selling their sports team. Disney dumped the Anaheim Angels. News Corporation cut its ties with the Dodgers. And Time Warner still owns the Atlanta Braves.

Now, the jump in commodity prices, including oil, has spelled bad news for stocks. The Dow dropped 65 points today, to 11150. The NASDAQ eked out a three-point gain at 2430. And that is a five-year high for the NASDAQ -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Ali, for that.

Is the Homeland Security Department suffering a brain drain? That's Jack Cafferty's question. He has your e-mail. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We will check right back with Jack Cafferty in New York. He's joining us with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thank you, Wolf.

"USA Today" reporting, the Department of Homeland Security losing a lot of its top people, as well as other employees. A spokesman says that the stress of top-level government security jobs can be grueling.

But he says that he expects many any of these jobs will be filled soon. The question we are asking is: What should be done about the brain drain at the Department of Homeland Security?

Allen writes the obvious one: "Hmmmmm. To have a brain drain, you have to have some brains to drain. Visualize Chertoff. Get the picture?"

Joy writes: "These people have done nothing to improve our chances of avoiding another attack on our country. They draw their paychecks. The investigators for the press have poked holes in everything they have done. They are a joke."

James in Palmetto, Florida: "In the past -- if past performance is any indication of the quality of brains in the DHS, we should drain the department completely of Bush people and refill it with people who actually have worked in defense, disaster relief, and emergency response."

Kim in Eminence, Missouri: "First, break up Homeland Security into manageable parts. Next, make communication a priority between the agencies. And, third, get rid of the cronyism. Finally, hire competent people and give training where needed."

Suzie in Atlanta: "They should replace all those high-up people, who are so exhausted, with low-level people who actually get sent to clean up the mess or be the first-responders."

And Charles in Bridgeton, Missouri: "Replace them with the high school kids from Los Angeles. They organized 500,000 people to march for illegal aliens in a day" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, see you back here in THE SITUATION ROOM in an hour.

Coming up next, you can test your own I.Q. -- your SITUATION ROOM I.Q., that is. We will explain.

And tonight, in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, my interview with Senator John McCain. As a senator from a border state, he has a unique perspective on this immigration debate. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check back with Zain Verjee.

She has got an update on a story we have been following the last couple hours -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, these new pictures are just coming in to CNN. As you say, we have been following this all afternoon. And we want to show it to you.

This is what the scene has been in Bahrain -- officials there saying that at least 44 people have been killed in a ferry accident off that country's coast. Coast guard and emergency plans were immediately activated. Here, you can see in this video the -- the -- the scene there, where people are being carried out on stretchers. Fifty-two people have been rescued. Several dozen have been injured. It's not clear what their nationalities are.

But many of the 150 passengers on the ferry were Westerners -- Wolf. BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much.

We leave our viewers this hour with Jacki Schechner. She has a trivia question and even a chance for some of you to win a prize -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, a little lighter note here, but there was a crossword puzzle that showed up this week in the "Roll Call" newspaper, Capitol Hill newspaper.

You can see on the back there, it's a SITUATION ROOM crossword puzzle. You can even get the chance to win a T-shirt. I wanted to show you that you could play this online. Go to CNN.com/SITUATIONROOM. And this is what the crossword puzzle looks like. You can download it.

And, Wolf, we wanted to pose this trivia question to our viewers. And I'm sure you know this. But how many hours a week is Wolf Blitzer on the air? That would be 79 down there. It is nine letters.

Wolf, can you calculate it? You got 15 hours here.

BLITZER: It's unfair. It's unfair. Don't ask me that.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Our viewers will know the answer.

Jacki, thanks very much.

SCHECHNER: Sure.

BLITZER: Let's go to Lou Dobbs in Cancun.

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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