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YOUR WORLD TODAY
U.N. Meets to Discuss Possible Draft Resolution on Iran's Uranium Enrichment; Australian Miners Walk Out After Two Weeks Underground; Palestinian Turmoil
Aired May 9, 2006 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A letter raises more questions than it answers. The Iranian president talks about his unusual dispatch to the United States.
JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Palestinians fighting Palestinians in Gaza. It's taking a toll, even as the Palestinian government struggles with a financial crunch.
GORANI: Alive and well, but remembering one who did not make it. A rescued Australian miner pays his respects to a colleague.
CLANCY: And a magical attempt. The boy in the bubble tries to set a new world record.
GORANI: Did he make it? We'll tell you a bit later.
It's noon in New York, 7:00 p.m. in Gaza.
I'm Hala Gorani.
CLANCY: I'm Jim Clancy.
Welcome to our viewers throughout the world and in the United States.
This is YOUR WORLD TODAY.
GORANI: Well, a rare missive between Tehran and Washington, something not seen in decades.
CLANCY: It's portrayed by some as a way out of the impasse over Iran's nuclear ambitions. As a meaningless gesture, though, by others.
GORANI: Well, we begin with a letter from the president of Iran to the president of the United States which is becoming public and dissected, even as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council consider how to step up the pressure on Iran.
CLANCY: Now, Iran does say it will abide by the nuclear proliferation treaty, but the letter which was handed over Monday at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran does not specifically address the nuclear issue at all. Instead, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad complains in one part that any technological and scientific achievement reached in the Middle East region is translated into and portrayed as a threat to the Zionist regime.
Now, he's talking about the letter publicly as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): What I said in my letter was the demands of the Iranian people and our nation. I discussed our views, beliefs and positions regarding international issues, as well as some ways out of problems humanity is suffering from.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLANCY: Meantime, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator is taking a more direct approach, offering a possible solution to the current standoff. Ali Larijani, while on a trip to Greece, says the proposal to enrich uranium on Russian soil is still a possibility, but he says more time is needed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALI LARIJANI, IRAN'S CHIEF NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR (through translator): Our advice is that rushed decision should not be made that will lead to dispute. We believe and agree that through constructive dialogue we can solve the problem. We categorically declare that we will not develop nuclear weapons. This is one of the lies of Mr. Bush. The atomic bomb has no place in the defense dogma of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: All right. Well, let's turn our attention now to the United States. And all of this comes, of course, as the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, meet to work on a draft resolution demanding that Iran halt uranium enrichment. So far, it doesn't seem that there's been any agreement on specifics.
Our senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth, joins us now live with details.
Is the disagreement on specifics, or even on generalities as this point, Richard?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's still on both. I mean, the German foreign minister is quoted as saying there are still five or six open questions. There's not going to be a vote today or tomorrow, despite what U.S. Ambassador Bolton was hinting at a couple of days ago, saying that he hoped a vote would happen.
There was a lot of talking last night at a nearby hotel near the U.N., where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other permanent members, foreign ministers discussed the Iran resolution. There was also a separate meeting. No progress reported.
This deadlock is still there. China and Russia have very serious concerns about this resolution that's been on the table now for more than a week. They fear that it opens the door towards sanctions on Iran which they oppose, and also maybe down the road, military force, which the U.S. says it's not contemplating. President Bush quoted in Florida today saying diplomacy is still the first option.
After the talks last night, the new British foreign secretary commented on the sanctions path.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARGARET BECKETT, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: No one wants to apply sanctions if it's not necessary. But what everybody wants is to get Iran to recognize that the international community is serious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: Here at the United Nations, there's a lot of talking going on. But they've moved on to other issues that are just as rancorous: Sudan, the Middle East, and other things -- the new human rights panel.
So the political directors of all these key nations are going to be still huddling on the resolution, trying to come up with some compromises. They're still stuck. The U.S. thinks Iran must account for its gap in cooperating with the nuclear watchdog agency, and they're still holding firm that this resolution should be backed by the language that compels Iran to cooperate -- Hala.
GORANI: Richard, every time there's a meeting like the one we saw yesterday between the five foreign minister, plus Germany, the same question pops up, what will it take for China and Russia to come closer to the position of the U.S., Britain and France?
ROTH: Well, I wish I could be a soothsayer on this one. We have seem compromises in the past. The U.S. will toss out something, they can tweak a word here or there and get China and Russia on board.
I think there's still a serious hangover from the resolutions leading up to the Iraq war. The U.S. said it had authorization by that resolution, saying serious consequences. France and the others disagreed. This time, France is on the U.S. side.
I think you're going to just see more negotiating and give and take. And Iran is now trying to placate some by sending this letter, this rapprochement. But they may have to do more.
GORANI: All right. Richard Roth at the U.N.
And we'll be analyzing that letter in great detail a bit later. So stay with us -- Jim.
CLANCY: Well, we're going to shift now not from the United Nations, but from the Iranian dispute to Sudan. The Security Council holding a closed-door meeting on the humanitarian crisis there.
The U.N.'s humanitarian aid chief held talks in Khartoum, meantime, asking the government to make it easier to provide aid to refugees in Darfur. Egeland also says he believes security should evolve from what is now an African mission into an international force.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAN EGELAND, U.N. HUMANITARIAN CHIEF: At the moment, we need to work very hard to have the African Union force strengthened, and that force be able to help us in the immediate future in the next months to really see that this peace agreement is a reality. However, longer term, we all hope that there will be a United Nations force that is bigger, stronger, more better resourced so that peace can become a reality longer term, and all of these refugees in this place who are in a terrible situation can return home in safe conditions (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLANCY: Now, Egeland tells Reuters news agency that the current humanitarian operation is unsustainable. He says Sudan must help the United Nations help its people.
GORANI: Now to South Africa. A day after he was acquitted of rape, South Africa's former deputy president, Jacob Zuma, says he is sorry. Zuma is apologizing for having unprotected sex with a woman who is HIV positive. AIDS activists have branded Zuma's testimony during the trial irresponsible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACOB ZUMA, SOUTH AFRICA FMR. DEP. PRESIDENT: I wish to state categorically and place on record that I erred in having unprotected sex. I should have known better, and I should have entered with greater caution and responsibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, politically, Zuma said he's willing to run for president in the 2009 elections in South Africa. He says he's immediately resuming his duties at the ruling African National Congress, which alone would decide whether to nominate him to succeed President Tabo Mbeki.
CLANCY: Joy tempered with sadness after the rescue of two Australian miners trapped underground for two weeks.
GORANI: The country is mourning a miner who did not survive the cave-in, even as it celebrates the freeing of the others.
Eddie Mier (ph) has more on the rescue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): A moment of triumph, a remarkable tale of survival against incredible odds. After 14 days trapped in a cage, buried in the bowels of the earth, Todd Russell and Brant Webb remove their tanks to signal the end of their shift. One can only imagine the joy these families feel, an embrace they almost certainly feared would never come.
Wives and children, parents and siblings, they dared to hope for a miracle. Here, the proof for the world to see.
These two Tasmanian miners had promised to walk out. That they could in the predawn light, simply remarkable. Watching this amazing scene, dozens of their colleagues, men as hard as rock broken by the emotion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just wanted to be there with them. And now I wanted to sit back. They just all wanted to congratulate them. And, you know, everyone was just so happy to see them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were trapped by a rock fall that killed a mate. They were given up for dead. But day after day, they defied death, and today, even had "thank you" cards printed praising their great escape and the rescuers who made it happen.
On the streets outside Beaconsfield Mine, crowds gathered as soon as they heard. Barely able to contain their joy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After two weeks, it's just fabulous to see the men. It's just fabulous to have those families all come out together. It was just so exciting. I can't believe how exciting it was.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm supposed to be at work by 7:00, but I've sent a message saying I might be a bit late. This is too important to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There have been many days of false hope. The anticipation of success dashed by another setback. Overnight, though, the best news. Rescuers were close. So close the two men began digging for themselves.
MATTHEW GILL, MINE MANAGER: The amount of rock we thought we had to break was less. We were a bit further advanced than we thought. So, for once, we actually had a bit going in our favor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mine rescuers forced themselves to take things carefully.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know they're so close and you really want to rush in, but everyone knew they had to stop and take their time and do it properly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daryn Flannigan (ph) is the explosives expert called in to blast rock too hard for drills. He had to use an amount just large enough to do the job without bringing tons of rock down on the men.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'd count down together, three, two, one, fire, so they could brace themselves for the -- for the blast. And after they got out, they told me I hit him them about three times with (INAUDIBLE), but they forgive me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says it's been his most difficult job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never, ever, ever have I done anything like this where I'm around, you know, two lives. And it was -- it was the scariest thing I have ever done in my life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For mine manager Matthew Gill, the triumph was too much to even describe.
GILL: My knees are shaking and I haven't quite worked out where I am at the minute.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Union leader Bill Shorten has lived this rescue each and every minute. He says all those who made it happen deserve a medal.
BILL SHORTEN, WORKERS UNION: It's sinking in. You don't realize how close you get to these things. And I probably -- I was probably quite effected by it. I'm really, really happy. I'm happy for the families, I'm happy for Todd and Brant. I'm terribly, terribly happy for the rescue workers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's something that my kids will remember for the rest of their lives, I reckon. It was absolutely amazing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And even though they may have wanted to walk all the way to hospital, Todd Russell and Brant Webb conceded do an ambulance ride.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you feeling? Is it good to be free?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In colorful language, he said he was very well. A bid (ph) the town could contain itself no longer.
They were driven away from the gold mine that has been their prison for more days than many thought possible. A moment worth more than any precious metal.
In Beaconsfield, Tasmania, Eddie Mier (ph), 10 News.
CLANCY: Meantime, the funeral for fellow miner Larry Knight (ph) was held in Lawnsisten (ph), Australia. One of the two men freed from the mine was this morning among those attending the services. Todd Russell signed himself out of the hospital a few hours before that funeral.
Well, today's inbox question comes to you on this story, the dangers of mining.
GORANI: All right. We're asking, is enough being done to make mining safe? Not just in Australia, of course, but all around the world where mining is a big industry.
CLANCY: Let us know what you think. E-mail us at YWT@CNN.com.
GORANI: Don't forget to include your name, where you're writing from. We'll read a selection a bit later in the program.
Now, taking you to Germany. A confessed cannibal has been sentenced to life in prison. Armin Meiwes has been convicted of killing and eating an Internet acquaintance who allegedly asked for his fate.
Miewes was originally sentenced to eight and a half years in prison, but a federal appeals court overturned the conviction so prosecutors could seek a tougher sentence. He was retried, and some hours ago, the verdict came down.
Miewes lawyers argue that he was only following the victim's wishes.
CLANCY: We're going to take a short break. After that, turmoil in the Palestinian territories.
GORANI: As the international community talks about aid for the Palestinian people, rival factions battle each other in the streets of Gaza. We take you there after this.
GORANI: Welcome back.
CLANCY: You're watching YOUR WORLD TODAY right here on CNN International.
We want to take you now to the Palestinian territories. There is new bloodshed, new appeals for calm, and there is a growing sense of desperation.
GORANI: Now, international aid groups say the situation there is dire and may soon be beyond repair if aid does not begin reaching average Palestinians. The latest sign of chaos erupted in Gaza on Tuesday with the second day of running gun battles between men from Hamas and Fatah.
At least 10 Palestinians were wounded, including several children. And three bystanders were wounded when Hamas gunmen attacked a funeral procession for a member of Fatah killed in a gunfight on Monday. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, says things will only get worse unless the international community ends a freeze on international aid to the Hamas-led government.
Our Michael Holmes has more on the growing lawlessness.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Claims and counterclaims about what sparked the sometimes fierce violence in Gaza, not between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians, but between Palestinian factions. The shootouts and tit-for-tat kidnappings have raised fears a wider conflict could erupt between the Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas, which won power in January's elections. Both sides have seen casualties in gun battles over the past couple of days. Several gunmen killed, several more wounded. Others briefly kidnapped. Civilians also falling victim. Nearly a dozen wounded in recent days, including several children.
Leaders have urged calm, but not everyone is listening.
SAMIR MASHARAWI, SR. FATAH OFFICIAL (through translator): We in the Fatah movement still remain hopeful that people will exercise self-restraint as we have restrained ourselves. I don't think it's demanded of me or others when weapons come to my house to stand back with my hands tied.
HOLMES: Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and President Abbas met over the weekend to try to defuse tensions. They agreed to foment a joint committee, but still, the bullets flew.
ISMAIL HANIYEH, PALESTINIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I take this opportunity to call on the people regarding the sad incidents which continue to happen. The Palestinians should be responsible and the factions should rise to face these challenges.
HOLMES: All of this as the international quartet meets to discuss a growing financial crisis in the Palestinian territories. The U.S., Israel and European Union continue to block the transfer of funds to the new Palestinian government because Hamas is still calling for the destruction of Israel. The result, an already crumbling economy continues to deteriorate, and the risk of a humanitarian crisis continues to grow.
Michael Holmes, CNN, Atlanta.
CLANCY: Well, as we heard there, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is joining President Abbas, calling for an end to that freeze on international aid for the Palestinian Authority, but he has some demands of his own.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANIYEH (through translator): The quartet today must take the right decisions and stop the policy of enforcing conditions and pressures ordered by the United States on this world. We are a free and generous people and we were born free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLANCY: As the Palestinians appear to be headed towards a humanitarian disaster, the United Nations and the quartet, the representatives from the U.S., Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations, are all meeting with Arab ministers to try and ease the squeeze on the Palestinian Authority.
Elise Labott is following those meetings, joins us now live.
Elise, what is the latest on these talks? What is the real goal here?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, one of the murkiest issues that the quartet is discussing today is the salaries of about 160,000 unpaid Palestinian workers. How do you keep the trains running? How do you get services delivered to the Palestinians and bypass Hamas, make sure they don't get any of their hands on the money?
What Arab leaders were discussing with the quartet today, and what the U.S. and its quartet partners will be discussing later this afternoon is a European proposal to administer the aid through the World Bank to pay those salaried workers. Because as you can see, an angry and unemployed Palestinian population is only going to make the situation worse and make the crisis even greater.
So they'll be discussing this today. The United States has not bitten on a proposal yet, but there's a growing recognition that you really can't have the salaries unpaid for any longer, especially in the health care and security fields -- Jim.
CLANCY: Well, you know, you touch on there one of the crucial areas, one where we could see the most affect on life and death first, and that is in the health care sector.
LABOTT: That's right. What the United States is trying to do is really strengthen the private and NGO sectors which administer a lot of the health care. Most of the health care does not go through the ministry of health.
Today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be announcing a $10 million medical assistance package for the Palestinians. We're having -- about $4 million will be delivered about tomorrow, and in the coming days, and $6 million to be delivered through UNICEF and NGOs in the near future.
And what they're trying to do is get those medical supplies in. But they recognize that, you know, there are going to be gaps, because we have been reporting during the day about some shortages in hospitals in Gaza. Some of the services are delivered by the ministry of health, such as dialysis, such as neonatal care.
And so they recognize that there are going to be gaps that they're just not going to be able to fill. But it's really the responsibility of Hamas to play by international rules, recognize Israel and renounce violence, and then the quartet can start to maybe do business with them.
CLANCY: Elise Labott, reporting live there from the United Nations.
GORANI: OK. Later on YOUR WORLD TODAY, we're going to get an up-close look on how that aid freeze is impacting the Palestinian health care system.
CLANCY: Authorities fear a medical emergency in Gaza if cash doesn't start flowing and start flowing now.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN Center in Atlanta. More of YOUR WORLD TODAY in just a few minutes. First, let's check on stories making headlines here in the U.S.
So you want to get the attention of older Americans? Head to Florida. That is where President Bush is today.
He's urging seniors to sign up for the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. The deadline for enrollment is Monday. Critics have called the plan confusing, but the president says it offers seniors options.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reason why we felt it was necessary to provide choices, it's because we want the system to meet the needs of the consumer. The more choices you have, the more likely it is you would be able to find a program that suits your specific needs.
In other words, one size fits all is not a consumer-friendly program. And I believe in consumers. I believe in trusting people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAGAN: As the president pushing his plan, he's facing sagging poll numbers. The latest CNN poll has Mr. Bush's approval rating is at 34 percent.
The biggest reasons why Americans say they disapprove, the ongoing war in Iraq and high gas prices.
Hayden on the Hill. President Bush's choice to head the CIA is stopping in to see lawmakers today. Democrat Dianne Feinstein has voiced support for the Air Force general, but he's facing strong opposition from both parties. Critics cite concerns over a military man running a civilian spy agency.
CNN Congressional Correspondent Andrea Koppel joins us with more.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Daryn.
That's right, General Hayden is in the midst of a flurry of meetings here on Capitol Hill, meeting with senators, both Democrat and Republican, primarily on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which will be holding hearings, presumably, in coming days.
Now, he also met with the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, earlier this morning. Frist has not made any secret of this desire for this nomination to go through. But the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, who himself has refused on repeated occasions to endorse General Hayden's nomination, has yet to set a date for these hearings.
Now, topping the list, as you mentioned, a couple of things. Concern among members on both sides of the aisle about General Hayden's role when he was heading up the NSA and developing that very controversial warrantless wiretapping program. Not just developing it, but also defending it publicly.
In addition, this four-star Air Force general's obvious ties to the military have raised red flags among some members. In fact, some have even raised the possibility that General Hayden might resign his commission, might leave the military.
Now, a few moments ago, thanks to the hard work of congressional producer Ted Barrett, General Hayden was as asked point blank about such a possibility. And here are his first exclusive comments made to CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you prepared to resign as a general in order to take this position, sir?
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: I'm up here talking to folks. I need to understand their concerns. And I've not made any decisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOPPEL: So, again, General Hayden saying he hasn't made any decisions. There's also the possibility, Daryn, that there may be yet another hearing. Senator John Warner, who's the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is meeting with members today, discussing such a possibility of having two hearings here on Capitol Hill. No decision has been made on that -- Daryn.
KAGAN: They do enjoy the hearings there on Capitol Hill.
Andrea, thank you.
On to Florida now. A state of emergency is in place today because of raging wildfires. Firefighters are tracking about 50 blazes across the state. Right now, rain is falling in some areas, but it's not expected to help much over the long term.
The situation is especially serious in central Florida, around New Smyrna Beach. At least three homes have burned. Smoke kept sections of busy I-95 shut down for several days. They have reopened for now. National Guard troops are joining firefighters on the front lines.
With more on Florida and other weather across the country, here is Jacqui Jeras.
KAGAN: He and his famous son have a story. Nick Clooney talks about the human rights crisis in Darfur. That's at the top of the hour.
Meanwhile, YOUR WORLD TODAY continues after a quick break.
I'm Daryn Kagan.
CLANCY: Welcome back to YOUR WORLD TODAY. I'm Jim Clancy.
GORANI: I'm Hala Gorani. Here are some of the top stories we're following for you this hour.
Washington says a letter from the Iranian president to the U.S. president fails to address the nuclear stand-off. Instead, a U.S. spokesman says, it talks about the failure of democracy and how hatred for the United States is growing. The letter comes as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council consider a draft resolution on Tehran's nuclear program.
CLANCY: A day after he was acquitted of rape, South Africa's former deputy president Jacob Zuma apologizing for having unprotected sex with a woman who is HIV positive. AIDS activists had branded Zuma's testimony during the trial as irresponsible. Politically, he says he's still willing to run for president in the 2009 election.
GORANI: Representatives from the U.S., Russia, the European Union and the U.N. are meeting with Arab ministers to try and ease the aid squeeze on the Palestinian Authority. Arab foreign ministers fear cutting off aid will boost violence and create a humanitarian crisis. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says leaders would discuss a plan to relieve a shortage in medicine and health supplies.
CLANCY: In the Palestinian territories, desperately ill people are not getting the medical help they need.
GORANI: And Inigo Gilmore tells us about some hospital patients in dire situations.
INIGO GILMORE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Asma Al Sayedi (ph), it's an agonizing decline. The cancer is eating through her body, unchecked. Her pain, audible in desperate whimpers.
Just a month ago, there had been some hope. She was receiving treatment in an Israeli hospital and was about to start a round of chemotherapy. But when the Hamas government was sworn in, she was bundled out and returned to Gaza to a hospital with almost no drugs. The supplies no longer reach here after Israel closed the main crossing to Gaza.
Out in the corridor, her brother prays for deliverance. Asma's (ph) hospital bed is fast becoming her death bed.
(on camera): You can't give her any chemotherapy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven't any chemotherapy to give here.
GILMORE: So what is going to happen to her?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing. Her case is deteriorated now and she's very close to death.
GILMORE: For many of these patients in this hospital, time is clearly running out. The medicines are almost finished, and it's not clear if or when any new supplies will arrive.
(voice-over): For the director of Al Shifa Hospital, Ibrahim al Habbash, this is a crisis within a crisis. He says that since Hamas took over, money channeled from the European Union to the health ministry has stopped. His hospital already had some problems with shortages. He took me to the renal unit, where they have run out of the most basic supplies. In the corridor, he stopped to talk to a 15- year-old girl who had been waiting all day for dialysis treatment.
IBRAHMI AL HABBASH, DIRECTOR, SHIFA HOSPITAL: She must wait because we have six machines which are stopped because it needs some piece which must be brought from Israel (INAUDIBLE) in West Bank.
GILMORE: Inside the children's ward, a mother tends to her daughter. She's 19, but looks like a child.
HABBASH: Critical ill.
GILMORE: There's not even plasters to tape the tubes to the patients' swollen arms, and it's not clear how much longer this girl will receive treatment. The ward is out of specialist filters and some of the most important drugs. The doctor in charge of the ward offers a grim prognosis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need drugs for the patients on the -- the patients of kidney transplantation and the patients on hemodialysis. We have a shortage of drugs, a (INAUDIBLE) of drugs for these two types of patients.
GILMORE (on camera): What happens if you don't get them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will die.
GILMORE (voice-over): As chief of hospital lurches from crisis to crisis, doctors and nurses, like other Palestinian Authority employees, are now working around the clock without pay.
Those Palestinians relying on food aid grows by the day. A few miles from Gaza City, Carney Crossing (ph), Gaza's lifeline, is closed and deserted. At the health ministry in Gaza, the new Hamas minister, refusing to heed to pressure, accusing the international community of hypocrisy.
BASIM NAYEEM, PALESTINIAN MINISTER OF HEALTH: People are dying and they don't wait. I think it is not ethical what is going on nowadays, and I think we should immediately separate at least the health file from the other files. GILMORE: Back at the hospital, the que for drugs at the dispenser is growing longer, but to no avail. Each time, the answer is the same. "Mapish" (ph) -- nothing.
Mohammed (ph) is angry. He came to get drugs for his son, who is suffering from cystic fibrosis. He takes us to his home in this sprawling Jabalia (ph) refugee camp, close to the area where Palestinians and Israelis have been trading rocket and shell fire. His son has to take eight types of drugs to survive, but their stock to now gone.
It's a terrible time to get sick in Gaza. These vulnerable people are hostages to a political standoff between the international community and Hamas. Their best hope is that the two sides start talking soon.
Inigo Gilmore, Channel 4 News, Gaza.
GORANI: Well, to help us better understand the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories, we're joined by David Shearer in Jerusalem. He's the head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the West Bank and Gaza.
Have we reached, David Shearer, crisis point in Gaza and the West Bank?
DAVID SHEARER, U.N. OFFICE HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS: We've certainly reached the crisis point, but I wouldn't say in any way that this is the end of it. I mean, I think at the moment, we're just starting to see the start of something that could become much more serious. I mean, as your -- as your reporter has shown, the medical supplies with the hospitals is starting to dry out.
But more importantly, the report showed that 150,000 employees of the Palestinian Authority are not receiving salaries. And those 150,000 people, support about a million others. Family members, friends, et cetera. Now, when they don't get -- when they are not -- when there's no salary paid for those 150,000, those people will end up without a breadwinner as well and we will see poverty rates rising dramatically, I think, in next few weeks and months.
GORANI: What some Western countries who've cut off direct aid to the Palestinian Authority say is, well, that money just isn't going to go to the Hamas-led government. It's going to go to NGOs and humanitarian organizations. Is that happening on the ground?
SHEARER: It hasn't really happened yet. I mean, for example, the United Nations launched an appeal last year, before this new crisis was on us, for $200 million. And only 25 percent has so far come in. So in a sense we are still short of funds for that appeal.
But more importantly, the U.N. and the NGOs have said very, very clearly, we cannot run a health ministry or an education ministry or social services ministry. We can provide food aid. We can some provide some medical supplies. But I think the point is we don't have the capacity, nor I don't think do we want to, take over the operations of the Palestinian Authority, that up to a few weeks ago was actually functioning extremely well.
GORANI: A question on the security situation, David Shearer, because assuming that these NGOs get the money, assuming they have food and medicine to distribute, we're seeing clashes, more and more really in the last few days we've been between FETA (ph) and Hamas, and the security situation that's deteriorating in Gaza as well. Are they able to work there?
SHEARER: So far, we've been able to work and continue to work. I've got to say, the majority of Palestinians, particularly in the Gaza Strip, have been extremely supportive.
However, as security services do not get paid and half of the civil services is made up of security services, we are expecting to see the insecurity increase. Already the internationals within the U.N. have decreases considerably from 75, down to 12. So we hope that it doesn't get any worse, because otherwise that will compromise our ability to deliver assistance.
GORANI: Now looking forward, as the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for these areas, these territories that you know well, and you're in touch with the agencies and you're in touch with the government, what do you think needs to be done to alleviate this situation, to help avert a full-blown crisis?
SHEARER: Well, we're really pushing for assistance, for funds to come to those doctors, nurses, teachers, those people that are so important to continue things. We are really pushing for that money to continue to flow. Now we understand that donors obviously have a choice in where they want to put their funds. If they want to fund a country or a government, they can, or they can't.
But what we are saying is that if you don't fund the P.A. and you don't get money to those people who desperately need of it, then we will face a real crisis. These are the consequences.
The other side of it is that most of the money that goes to the Palestinian Authority, the tax revenue, actually comes through Israeli ports, and that money is collected as customs by the Israeli government. And they're withholding that fund as well. So under an agreement, that should be paid for the Palestinian Authority, too. If we actually saw that, I think we would see a massive difference in the humanitarian situation we're seeing on the ground at the moment.
GORANI: All right, the U.N. humanitarian affairs coordinator for GAZA and the West Bank, David Shearer. Thank you very much for joining us.
SHEARER: Thank you very much, Hala.
CLANCY: We're going to take a short break here. Still ahead, what's in a letter?
GORANI: A few more clues into the contents of the Iranian president's surprise personal written message to the White House.
CLANCY: Washington dismissing a 17-page -- that's right, 17 pages. I've seen it. It's a letter from the Iranian president to the U.S. president, saying it fails to address the nuclear issue.
GORANI: Instead a spokesperson described it as a broad historical, philosophical exposition. Iranians have both praised and questioned their president for the letter in a long-running quarrel between the two nations. It is the first letter from an Iranian head of state to an American leader in almost three decades. Moderate and conservative papers on Tuesday describe the letter as quote, "an initiative in global diplomacy," end quote, a dialogue under the shadow of war. Here is a sampling of reaction from ordinary Iranians.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If this letter clarifies the remaining issues between the two countries, it can help restart relations between the two. But if it's only a letter that Iran dispatches and then government says that we did not get the expected response, then it will be a useless letter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think it is helpful to try to decrease the international tensions or pressures against Iran, with sending letters and using all over means. It can very helpful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLANCY: Now joining us to discuss the contents of President Ahmadinejad's letter to President Bush is Dr. Trita Parsi, a Middle East specialist at Johns Hopkins University. Let me just start off right here, because I've seen the letter. Is this perhaps a new phenomenon, stunt diplomacy?
DR. TRITA PARSI, JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Well, I think obviously it can have the impact of trying to delay any actions that are going to be taken in the Security Council, but we shouldn't belittle this either, because in 25 years, the two countries have not officially communicated. And at this stage, the Iranians have increasingly sent signals to the United States, saying that they want to have talks in order to be able to resolve the nuclear issues, as well as other of the problems that the United States is having with Iran.
CLANCY: All right, we want to go down -- I want to look down through some of different elements in this. But here's a quote from it: "Would not your administration's political and economic standing have been stronger, and I'm sorry to say? Would there have been an ever-increasing global hatred of the American government?"
PARSI: Well, I think, when we're taking a look at this letter, I think we should not have the expectation that the Iranians are sending a letter to capitulate. They're sending the letter because they want to negotiate. CLANCY: Have you read the letter?
PARSI: I've read parts of the letter where.
CLANCY: All right. I've read the letter, and it's a lecture.
PARSI: Oh, absolutely. I think once we start talks with Iranians, there's going to be lectures on both sides. The key thing is this, though. For the last two-and-a-half years, as we have had no negotiations and no American participation in the negotiations with Iran, have we been able to achieve our objective of nonproliferation? Have we been able to stop the Iranians from putting gas into their centrifuge? Have we been able to prevent them from enriching uranium? The problem is that during these two-and-a-half years that the United States has not participated in the talks, the Iranians have been able to proceed with their program. We need to do something to make sure that they don't get the nuclear technology and nuclear weapons capability, and the current policy that is pursued has not been able to achieve that.
CLANCY: But there's nothing in the letter that says -- it's not even an invitation to sit down and discuss things, really. I mean, here's -- toward the end of it, and I was really -- as I read through it, I was really expecting to see something, where there would be that kind of invitation. We need to sit down and talk. Instead, we're back to the lecture. And he wrote this: "Liberalism and Western-style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity. Today, these two concepts have failed."
How much longer then -- well, it goes on and he poses a lot of questions. But here, I mean, he's basically questioning the whole ideal of democracy.
PARSI: I think most of the people in the world, including most Iranians, would completely disagree with him. But here's the thing, we are facing a country right now, Iran, that is aggressively pursuing nuclear technology we believe they should not be having because it could be a threat to the international order and the international security. But are we taking the right measures to be able to prevent that?
A lot of people are saying that if the United States had joined talks with Iran and the Europeans two-and-a-half years ago, they would not be enriching uranium today.
Now does this mean we to have like this guy that we're talking to? absolutely not. In fact, we will probably not end up talking to him at all. If there is going to be any negotiations, it would be with Ali Larijani, that is the national security counsel adviser in Iran and who is the person who is conducting the nuclear negotiations.
The point is we're not reaching a solution by not talking. For 25 years, none of the objectives we have had with Iran have not been achieved, precisely because of the fact that we have not been willing to negotiate. And now we're reaching a position in which increasingly we're hearing the voices from the international community saying there should be direct negotiations, or multi-lateral negotiations with Iran and the United States.
CLANCY: I still have to go back to the original question. The letter doesn't appear to be an attempt to join in. It appears to be something he wants read by his own people, by his own conservative supporters in Iran .
PARSI: I would probably agree with that. We also have to keep in mind, the supreme leader in Iran, the highest Ayatollah, came out a couple of weeks ago and endorsed talked with the United States. And the Iranians agreed to talk to the United States about Iraq. And those talks have now been increasingly postponed by the United States. Point of the fact is talks are needed, whether this letter is a useful letter or not.
CLANCY: I want to thank you very much.
PARSI: Thank you for having me.
CLANCY: For being with us and talking about an extraordinary letter.
GORANI: Ahead, first he spent a week underwater.
CLANCY: Then magician David Blaine he tried to break the world breath holding record. We'll leave you breathless with anticipation until right after the break. Stay with us.
CLANCY: Magician David Blaine released from the hospital today. He was admitted after an underwater breath holding stunt.
GORANI: Divers rescued Blaine who was attempting to break a record of nearly nine minutes. Did he do it? Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, he didn't break the record. Seven minutes and change is how long he stayed underwater. Not almost nine. Blaine's doctors say he the magician suffered liver damage and circulatory problems in his feet and hands.
CLANCY: He also had some loss of sensation as well as some rashes.
GORANI: And Blaine's friend Uri Geller sought to explain how he was sure Blaine would feel about falling short of his goal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
URI GELLER, BLAINE'S FRIEND: Knowing David Blaine, he will be totally shattered and disappointed because he has this persona, this character that people are fascinated by. He's got that mysteriousness about him.
CLANCY: He made it. Not exactly safely. But it was an interesting stunt.
GORANI: And he stayed submerged in water for longer than any human being. We're running out of time. It's time to open the inbox. We've been asking you for your thoughts on the dangers of mining.
CLANCY: Our question, is enough being done to make mining safe?
GORANI: Sterling from Switzerland says, "Almost nothing is being done to enhance mine safety. After each disaster there is a lot of talk about the matter which is soon forgotten."
CLANCY: Robert, right here in Atlanta wrote, "It seems that the job of a miner is too dangerous. They are humans not machines. Australia has shown the world a great example of thinking of humans first."
GORANI: Finally, George writes from Florida, "Safety will never be adequate until the penalty of inadequate safety is more than the benefit of skimping."
That is it for this hour. I'm Hala Gorani.
CLANCY: I'm Jim Clancy. This has been YOUR WORLD TODAY. Stay with CNN.
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