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Hezbollah Leader Vows 'Open War' on Israel

Aired July 14, 2006 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Hezbollah's leader vows open war against Israel as Hezbollah rockets hit several Israeli towns. And, Israeli jets destroy Hezbollah headquarters in Beirut. The threat of the unthinkable puts the world on edge. Can President Bush or anybody stop the escalating violence? Or, will the United States be drawn into another all out war?
From the Mid East to Washington, we've got all the latest next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We'll begin with top journalists in the field and then we'll meet our outstanding panel. Let's go first to Nic Robertson in Beirut, our CNN Senior International Correspondent. He had an interview today, an exclusive interview, with the prime minister of Lebanon. What's the reaction there to this Hezbollah threat?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the government at the moment would like to see -- like to see Hezbollah stop the violence but they don't appear in any way able to -- any way able to tell Hezbollah to stop. That's the situation here, Larry.

The prime minister talked about wanting peace. He talks about disavowing Hezbollah's actions. He talks about not believing in kidnapping, believing that there's better ways to find solutions to the problems of the region.

But when it comes to disarming Hezbollah he seems incapable. The government seems incapable of doing it. Hezbollah is now in the driving seat, Larry, and it looks like it's driving Lebanon towards war.

KING: Nic, is it true are there about 25,000 Americans in Lebanon?

ROBERTSON: They are. The State Department is working on a plan to get them out. The State Department is asking Americans who want to leave to make contact on a couple of specially provided phone numbers and that's believed to be essentially the first step in getting them out. How it's going to happen, it won't happen all in one go. It will likely happen over a period of time but the plans are being made right now -- Larry.

KING: Anderson Cooper is in Nahariya, northern Israel, right at the border. He will anchor CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 from there tonight. You just got there. What are your first impressions?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Well, it's amazing just how deserted this town is. And, when you go into the buildings and you go into the basements you realize the people who have remained here are sort of hunkered down in bunkers underneath all the buildings.

In the building we're staying in they have room for about 300 people in this bunker. There's a lot of Israeli soldiers down there, some children down there as well in sort of a playground that they've built.

It's an eerie feeling to see a town like this, which on a Friday night would be booming with tourists and residents out strolling along, eating in cafes. There is none of that. There have been more than 100 Katyusha rockets that have hit this part of northern Israel in the last day alone.

Two rockets hit on Friday right here in this town just down the block and over in that direction as well. Two people were killed today, two people killed yesterday as well. It is very scary times here and it is a very strange feeling to be here -- Larry.

KING: And, John Vause is also there and he's been there almost from the get to. Aren't religious observances taking place, John? The Sabbath is a high holy day there.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very much so. This is the Jewish Sabbath but this town Nahariya is not a particularly religious town. It is a tourist town unlike (INAUDIBLE) which is another town which has come under attack from those Katyusha rockets.

That is a holy place for Jews. It's the center of Kabbalah mysticism. You may have heard of that. It's a religion followed by Madonna amongst other people, so that is a holy town. That will be observing the Jewish Sabbath even though these Katyusha rockets continue to fall but here in Nahariya not quite the same religious significance -- Larry.

KING: Aneesh Raman, is our CNN International Correspondent in Damascus, Syria. Syria's ruling Ba'ath Party, Aneesh, has issued a statement vowing to fully support the Lebanese people and their heroic resistance against what it calls the barbaric Israeli aggression. Syria has not backed down at all on that?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It hasn't, Larry. Syria essentially is a government trying to downplay its relationship with Hezbollah maintaining support. The city tonight saw just a few hours ago a 20-car convoy, about 80 people, going through the capital in support of Hezbollah.

But the government is aware that at issue here is that relationship and they are because of that allowing journalists in with relative ease and publicly saying that while they support Hezbollah and Hamas, both are independent groups that do not need Syria to act.

And so, they are aware that they are facing perhaps the next step in this. They are aware that Syria is the gateway through which this crisis could escalate further. And when you talk to Syrians here in the capital they are concerned. They are worried more than they've been in recent time -- Larry.

KING: And, Ben Wedeman is CNN's Cairo Bureau Chief. He's in Gaza City. What's going on there?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CAIRO BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Larry, it's been another night of Israeli airstrikes. Just a few hours ago a rocket hit the Palestinian Economy Ministry. Another rocket hit a bridge south of here.

Today we saw some fairly large demonstrations organized by Hamas in support of Hezbollah. Really sentiment is getting very emotional here. It's almost reminiscent of the days before the Gulf War when you saw this up-swelling of sentiment or support for Saddam Hussein.

But here the support, of course, is for Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah. Many people say that they appreciate what's going on and, in fact, when news spread that Hezbollah had been able to hit with some sort of unmanned aircraft that Israeli ship, warship off the coast of Beirut, many people here applauded.

We even heard celebratory gunfire in the street, so very much all eyes here in Gaza are on what's going on in Lebanon. What's going on here with the airstrikes has almost become so routine really that nobody even notices it -- Larry.

KING: Anderson, Hezbollah, they use the word, declared "open war" on Israel. How is that resonating where you are?

COOPER: You know certainly it is rhetoric at this point but it is certainly worrying rhetoric. There's no doubt about it. You know, Israel is taking this very seriously.

I was just out a couple hours ago with an artillery battery that was basically firing shells deep into Lebanon, some nine miles into Lebanon. You know, we waited around about half an hour and they fired probably about six or seven shells in the course of the time that we were there.

These are very serious times. Reserves have been called up. And there doesn't seem to be any clear solution in sight and we're certainly in this hour that you have, Larry, going to hear from a lot of experts about that.

But from the Israeli military's perspective, I mean they had decided today to continue with the military fight, to continue trying to search for these -- these two soldiers who are missing still somewhere, believed to be in Lebanon, though some Hezbollah had said that they had been taken to Iran, also one Israeli soldier still missing somewhere in Gaza, somewhere unknown. The search is still very active for all three of these troops but there's really no clear solution in sight certainly from a military perspective.

KING: As we go to break, and we'll meet our panel coming back. We'll also meet the Israeli ambassador, here's a portion of Nic Robertson's talk with the prime minister of Lebanon. Watch.


FOUAD SENIORA, LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER: Lebanon should not really be this way. Actually the retaliated -- the retaliation of Israel against the abduction of the two soldiers in -- across the blue line is in no way proportionate. It is this proportionate (INAUDIBLE) has been run and this is not the way how to deal with things.



KING: Let's meet our panel who will be with us all the way with interspersed guests as well.

In Northeast Harbor, Maine is George Mitchell, the former Senate Majority Leader, international peace negotiator.

In Norfolk, Virginia is Senator George Allen, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Republican of Virginia.

And with us in Nahariya, northern Israel, is Anderson Cooper, as well he will join the panel.

And we're going to go to Washington and talk with Ambassador Ayalon in a moment.

Here's what the leader in Hezbollah had to say today, Ambassador, watch.


NASSAN NASRALLAH, HEZBOLLAH LEADER (through translator): I will not say if you hit Beirut we will hit Haifa. I will not say if you hit the (INAUDIBLE) district we will hit Haifa. This equation you want it to fall, it will fail we together. You want an open war. We will go to the open war and we are ready for it and we are ready for it, war, war, on every level to Haifa and, believe me, to after Haifa and to after and beyond and beyond Haifa.


KING: Ambassador Daniel Ayalon, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States returns, what's your response to that?

DANIEL AYALON, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Well, we take it, of course, very seriously. I would say that Nasrallah pretty much stated the obvious about an open war. They have opened the war actually many, many years ago.

In 2000, May, 2000, when Israel pulled out of Lebanon leaving out the entire territory, we are not occupying one inch of Lebanon, we hoped that the Lebanese government would exercise their sovereignty, deploy their army on our border and maintain quiet and stability.

Hezbollah armed itself to the teeth. For the last six years they have been arming and arming. They have an arsenal of over 12,000 Katyushas and far-reaching rockets and they are using it.

So, what Nasrallah says really is what they have been doing all along. They have been preparing for this war. Now they have opened this war with the abduction of our two soldiers and killing eight others over international lines so we are really in a war but it didn't start today. It started long ago.

KING: Did your forces try to kill Nasrallah today?

AYALON: Well, I would say that Nasrallah is an arch terrorist and he should not be immune and certainly should not have any impunity. It is quite distressing that there are governments who give them shelters and we should not make distinctions between terrorists and those who give them shelter, whether they're in Damascus or Tehran or in Beirut.

KING: If you got the safe return of your soldiers, would you cease hostility?

AYALON: Well, this should be unconditional. If we do get our soldiers back safely, and this is what we demand, certainly we will consider our next moves in a very positive way.

But I think we have a much broader question right now. I mean we see that the Arab Islamist radicalist forces are moving forward and they're being directed. The masterminds there are in Damascus and in Tehran. They are moving forward and they have to be stopped.

So, what we see here is not just an Israeli war against terror. I think what we see here is an Israeli self defense in order to make sure that the war will not spread out, not just to Israel, but any and every corner of the globe.

KING: Mr. Ambassador, we'll be doing a special show Sunday night and we hope you can return with us. We'll be making arrangements with you. A special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, live on Sunday night.

Let's go to Northeast Harbor Maine and George Mitchell. Do you see any plusses today, George?

GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SENATOR MAJORITY LEADER: No, Larry, just the opposite of course continuing escalation, both in terms of activity and in rhetoric. I think what Nasrallah means by the term "open warfare" is not obviously more conventional warfare because in conventional terms Israel has overwhelming superiority and it really would not be any contest at all. I think what it means is warfare on every level, including acts of terror and anything else that they're able to do.

I also believe, Larry, that what Hezbollah is doing has a dual purpose. One is, of course, to take the fight to Israel, their sworn enemy. But the other is to destabilize the government of Lebanon in which Hezbollah is now a minority partner. The majority in the government is actually not supportive of Syria or of Hezbollah.

If that government fails, unfortunately the successor likely will be more Hezbollah and a government much closer to Syria, so it's a huge irony and one of the difficulties in this situation is that you might end up with someone that's worse than what's there now if the current government is destabilized as a result of these actions.

KING: Senator George Allen, your senior Senator from the state of Virginia, John Warner, is warning about President Bush and this total support of Israel he says urging the administration to think through very carefully how Israel's extraordinary reaction could affect operations in Iraq and elsewhere. Do you share that view?

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN, (R), VIRGINIA: Well I'm sure the administration is taking a considered approach to what we do. But here's the main point. Israel is a wellspring in the wilderness in the Middle East. Israel is an ally.

I'm going to put this on personal terms. There's a 13-year-old boy right now who is a constituent of mine who is with his 12-year-old sister in northern Iraq in a bomb shelter in a kibbutz because of the shelling and missiles coming in from Hezbollah out of Lebanon.

At my table tonight at supper was a lady, I'll not say her name, but she has friends that are over in Lebanon. She's Lebanese. They can't get out of there. So there are real live human beings who are being affected on both sides in both countries, Israel and in Lebanon.

Here are the facts. The facts are that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. It's an organization that has hit against Israel. It's abducted not just only Israelis.

They were the ones who bombed the Marine barracks, killed American and French soldiers. They have hit in Thailand. They have hit in Singapore. They have hit even the Israeli embassy back in the -- oh, about ten years ago, in Buenos Aires.


ALLEN: The reality is, and here's what we need to understand in this whole scheme, is that Hezbollah, Hezbollah is armed by Iran. They're paid for by Iran. They are protected by Iran. And they're ordered by Iran.

KING: So what are you saying the United States should do?

ALLEN: The United States right now is at the G8 Summit. All of those, all of those countries at the G8 Summit ought to be united in disarming Hezbollah. Hezbollah, this is not part of the Palestinian- Israeli fight. They have been a problem in southern Lebanon for many years, even since Arafat has passed away.

We need to recognize that this is part of or potentially or logically a part of a scheme, as Ambassador Ayalon said, emanating from Iran who is the main thunder of course. They're closer to Syria logistically.

KING: I got it. ALLEN: And so we need to look at this as something that is very important that we need to disarm Hezbollah. It is a terrorist organization. They can't be reasoned with unfortunately. And what Israel's doing is protecting their own country as they should.

KING: I got to get a break.

Anderson, do you see any light at the end of this tunnel?

COOPER: Not right now, Larry. I mean it -- there doesn't seem militarily a solution. There doesn't seem politically a clear solution. There's certainly a lot of proposals out there. It's certainly going to take, as the speaker was just talking about, you know, the major powers now meeting at the G8 Summit to really focus on this and to really try to apply some pressure. That seems to be how things in the past have been resolved. We'll see if it works this time.

KING: We'll take a break. Our panel remains. And we'll check in with Dr. Mohamad Chatah, the senior advisor to Lebanon's prime minister.

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: We're back.

Joining us from Beirut is Dr. Mohamad Chatah, the senior advisor to Lebanon's prime minister. Dr. Chatah, to your knowledge is your country talking to Israel at all?

DR. MOHAMAD CHATAH, SENIOR ADVISOR TO LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER: Larry, we are talking to the whole international community. As you know, we don't have relations with Israel but there are many ways of talking to the international community, who is of course talking to the Israelis.

We want this rampage to stop. This is a very bad situation, as I think all of you realize in Washington. This may have started with a big mistake abducting soldiers, followed by a huge mistake with the Israeli government sending its warplanes and its boats to bombard Lebanon. And we now want to stop it from becoming a disastrous mistake and we hope the whole world will help us do that.

KING: What do you make of Hezbollah's leader Mr. Nasrallah declaring open war on Israel today?

CHATAH: Look, all of us have been in situations where bombs are flying around and the rhetoric goes up. That's why we want the bombing to stop. That's why we want a ceasefire. You cannot expect people to be talking in sane language when you have these types of bombs being shelled from both sides.

We want a ceasefire and it's then that people can talk some sense and find a way, not only to solve this particular problem, but to solve the underlying issues that led to it.

KING: The Israeli ambassador said today at the U.N. that if his nation succeeds against Hezbollah you, Lebanon, will be the beneficiary, do you agree?

CHATAH: Look, we've seen Israeli governments make the same mistake over and over and over again thinking that their military power can solve their problems. We've seen it in Palestine. We've seen it in other places. And, we've seen it in Lebanon frankly before and it's happening again.

This problem will not be solved from the barrels of Israeli guns. It can be solved in a serious way with the help of the international community, with us Lebanese talking to each other in a serious way as well and that was going on.

And what has happened in the last few days certainly is a setback but it's not going to stop us from leading Lebanon out of this and helping the whole Middle East get out of the big mess it's in.

KING: Do you openly welcome Syria's support?

CHATAH: Look, Arabs, Muslims, everywhere support Lebanese. I mean we are part of the Arab nation and it's natural for the Syrian people to support us. We welcome any support. We do not want interference. We don't want complications coming from anyone within the region or outside the region and that applies to Syria as well.

KING: Thank you, Dr. Chatah, Dr. Mohamad Chatah, the senior advisor to Lebanon's prime minister.

George Mitchell, who is the villain of the peace?

MITCHELL: Oh, I think, Larry, there's plenty of blame to go around but clearly the initial action by Hezbollah crossing the border and killing a group of Israeli soldiers and kidnapping two was a reckless act which has triggered this.

I think the problem with trying to assign blame is the action proportionate, is it disproportionate, was the bigger mistake the initial action or the later, is that it deflects attention, energy and resources from trying to solve the problem and bring it to a conclusion.

I think all of the effort now should be first to halt the escalation, reverse it, bring about in effect a status quo and then to move as aggressively as possible to deal with the underlying questions which lead to this kind of continuous eruption in the region.

KING: Senator Allen, did Israel overreact?

ALLEN: Israel is protecting themselves and one can always look back from miles and miles away and say "Gosh, they didn't need to do that." But Israel is targeting Hezbollah.

The concern we all have, and I would assume and believe it is of that of the Israelis as well, is the targets are the Hezbollah terrorist organization trying not to have any collateral injury to the Lebanese, who are also the legitimately elected Lebanese government, as Senator Mitchell stated, are also being harmed by Hezbollah.

I think if you'd listen to Ambassador Ayalon, one thing that would help and I think would maybe have everyone stand down would be if these two Israeli soldiers were returned safely. Ambassador Ayalon said if that happens, it would be looked upon favorably.

Let's also look at the last time there was a big disaster in Lebanon with the assassination of Hariri. The United States was upset. Israel was upset. Our European allies, the French, led the way. They were upset.

And then also moderate or more reasonable Arab countries, such as Jordan and Egypt and others, told the Syrians to get out of Lebanon and, in fact, Syria then did get out of Lebanon without a single boot having to go on the ground.

And it seems to me a unified international community with a gesture by returning those soldiers and also more reasonable countries in the Middle East who don't really like Hezbollah, other than Syria and Iran, I think would be the way that this ultimately could come to a resolution but recognizing that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization and if they're allowed to stay armed they will strike again.

KING: When we come back, we'll check back in with our journalists, beginning with Anderson Cooper on the scene on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: Now we'll check back in with our journalist Anderson Cooper in Nahariya, northern Israel. I know, Anderson, you like to get down and dirty. So what are the people saying?

COOPER: Well, to be honest, Larry, by the time I got here, which was sort of late this afternoon, most of the people had either left this town already or were already hunkered down in bomb shelters.

I spent about an hour or two with a unit of Israeli soldiers who were shelling into southern Lebanon, and they said, look, morale is high, they're tired, they've been working round the clock for the last three days, shelling really all day, all night long, every hour, every two hours or so, lobbing more shells, tracking Katyusha rockets, which have been firing over here.

More than 400 rockets, Larry, landing in northern Israel over the last three days alone. You can imagine how people feel here. But look, those soldiers I talked to said, look, we want our troops back, we want the two soldiers who have been kidnapped in Lebanon, we want them back and the one soldier still missing in Gaza, we want them back. And they seem determined to keep going until they're told it's time to pull back. KING: John Vause is there with you, and he's been there, as we said, he's been there since this began. What are the people there saying John, not the soldiers, the people?

VAUSE: Well, Larry, I think when it comes to this campaign in Lebanon, most Israelis are united behind this action being carried out by the Israeli government.

Even if you look at some of the more left-wing groups here, the peacenik groups, there is a general consensus here that Hezbollah must be dealt with, either disarmed or destroyed, but according to some of more militant voices in Israel. And what we're seeing from the Israeli government is unity within the cabinet, speaking with one voice behind the Israeli prime minister, and for Israeli politics that is extremely rare. Larry?

KING: Nic Robertson in Beirut. Is Lebanon to quote the vernacular, are they between a rock and a hard place?

ROBERTSON: They certainly are, Larry. But I tell you what, talking to a lot of people here, you don't get the impression that's the way they're thinking.

There's almost an atmosphere, an electric atmosphere out on the streets this evening like a rock concert, especially among the young people, driving around at high speeds, screeching through the rubble in some of these -- where some of the bombs have gone off, talking in loud, excitable voices about the situation and pledging support for the Hezbollah leader and saying that the country should unify and fight against Israel. It's almost counterintuitive.

But right now they are between a rock and a very hard place because their fuel can be cut off, they can't get in and out of the country very easily, the electricity can be cut off, the airport all but -- is shut down now. So they're in a very tough situation, Larry.

KING: Aneesh Raman, CNN's international correspondent, in Damascus. What's the relationship of Syria with Iran?

RAMAN: Well, Larry, it's one that cannot be ignored. I mean, this recent crisis, today we understand a phone call took place between the Iranian president and his Syrian counterpart.

I was just in Iran a few months ago, and when you're there you get the very real sense that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is actively trying to be the leading voice for the Islamic world. He is trying to represent a people that he feels are disenfranchised. And today he voiced support for his Syrian counterpart.

The Syrian president, according to the Iranian news agency, said that Syria was not intimidated by Israel, would respond if it was attacked. Syria knows that whether or not it wants to be, it is part of this escalating crisis. Don't forget, at the end of June when Hamas abducted an Israeli soldier, Israeli planes flew over the residence of the Syrian president. That was a message, and that message was received here. So Syria is monitoring this hour by hour. But that relationship, that public bond we're seeing between Iran and Syria, is something that should not be ignored as we go forward, Larry.

KING: And Ben Wedeman in Gaza City, is Hamas merely adding salt to this wound?

WEDEMAN: Well, really the regional wound was caused by Hamas when it captured on the 25th of June, Gilad Shalit, that 19-year-old Israeli army corporal. And really it's all been downhill from there.

They've in a sense been upstaged by Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers and of course the subsequent extreme violence, far more extreme than anything we've seen here, that's going on in Lebanon, the warfare there.

So really they've gone from being center stage to being sort of junior partners or almost spectators to what is happening in Lebanon, which has far broader connotations or ramifications than what has gone on here because here really Gaza is very much within the Israeli orbit whereas Hezbollah is operating in a sovereign country Lebanon, where there are many different competing interests. Here really people have, as I said, just become spectators to what is happening to the north. Larry?

KING: Anderson Cooper, as someone who just arrived there, what if anything has surprised you?

KING: I guess just the number of rockets which has certainly landed here over the last several days, the rapidness of the escalation. I mean, this thing has really gone up in a very short order, in a very short amount of time, and it doesn't seem as if there is any attempt to deescalate at this point.

If anything, certainly the rhetoric we've been talking about tonight coming from Hezbollah only seems to be ratcheting it up. The notion of some sort of increasing linkage between Hamas and Hezbollah, whether it's ideological or organizational, is certainly a worrying trend and something also that should be watched very carefully.

That's something we really haven't seen over the last several years. And if that continues, if there is this sort of linkage under the auspices of Iran and Syria, that's a very worrying thing, not only for Israel but for the United States and for a lot of countries also in the region.

KING: We'll be back with our panel, and we'll hear from the Syrian ambassador to the United States as well. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. There will be a special Sunday night edition of this program. Don't go away.


KING: We now welcome from Washington the Syrian ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Imad Moustapha. Great to see him back with us.


KING: Your reaction to the Hezbollah chief Nasrallah's vow of open war on Israel?

MOUSTAPHA: Well, of course my reaction first goes to the innocent casualties in Lebanon. Civilians are being massacred and killed around the hour. CNN is not showing the images to the American people of the terrible ordeal the Lebanese population is suffering.

Actually, Israel today is destroying Lebanon for the second time within 20 years. And today, what the leader of Hezbollah has said was the following. Two days ago, he offered Israel an immediate exchange of prisoners.

Today he said Israel seems to want open war. Then it will have what it wants. What he is trying to say is Israel has to stop this massacre -- ongoing massacre against the Lebanese people.

KING: Mr. Ambassador, are you saying CNN is not showing this deliberately?

MOUSTAPHA: I don't know the mysterious policy of CNN. But I would say if CNN would show the American people what's happening in Lebanon, the American people would know who is really the terrorist state in the Middle East. Killing civilians, women, children, bombarding the infrastructure of Lebanon, destroying Lebanon for the second time within 20 years. How unfair.

KING: Syria left Lebanon. Did you leave too soon?

MOUSTAPHA: When we left Lebanon, Lebanon was a prosperous country. When we were there, the Lebanese were rebuilding their country and Beirut once again became the pearl of the Middle East. Look what Israel is doing today to Lebanon. At least we can say we helped the Lebanese and we left when it was time to leave.

KING: The 24 hours have passed since you were last with us. Things gotten any better?

MOUSTAPHA: No, they have worsened. More and more people are being killed. This is bad for all humanity, not only for the Lebanese.

KING: The Baath party, your Baath party, is fully supporting the Lebanese people. Are you?

MOUSTAPHA: I think any decent human being, including yourself possibly, should support the Lebanese facing this barbaric attack of the Israelis.

KING: Do you see any end?

MOUSTAPHA: There should be an end. We have been in Syria calling the past two days for the international community to interfere. What is happening today is shameful. Today the Lebanese government went to the United Nations Security Council, requesting that the Security Council should act on restraining Israel.

The United States immediately opposed this. This exactly tells the Lebanese people who their friends are. While they are being bombarded and being killed, the American administration is preventing any international effort to control and -- the situation and to ask Israel to stop its hostilities.

KING: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Ambassador Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the United States.

MOUSTAPHA: Thank you.

KING: George Mitchell, does he have a point?

MITCHELL: Well, Larry, I want to make another point that really hasn't been focused on. Understandably, you're dealing with the immediate crisis. I think over the longer term, one of the most significant developments out of this, negative developments, is that in the contest going on within Islam, the moderates lose ground and the extremists have strengthened in the context of what is now occurring.

Much has been written and said about the struggle between the west and Islam. But of equal, perhaps greater importance to the future, the long term, is the struggle that's going on within Islam. And there are many moderate, responsible, Democratically-inclined people in the Arab world, and they are losing ground in this context when of course people revert to stronger positions and the extremists are gaining ground. That I think is a very worrying thing for the long term.

KING: Senator Allen, what does George Bush do?

ALLEN: President Bush needs to make sure that the United States stands strong against terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, stand with our friend Israel, try to get the rest of the international community united as they were earlier. It was interesting to listen to Ambassador Moustapha of Syria talking about how wonderful Syria was in the international community.

I hope he remembers last year the entire international community said to Syria get out of Lebanon. Lebanon was once a wonderful country, the pearl, the Paris of the eastern Mediterranean, until the Syrians wrecked it, which is a shame for the Lebanese people.

And the thing that must be done, and it would be great if Syria would do this, is say return those two Israeli soldiers that they kidnapped. They killed other Israeli soldiers, but they abducted others. And the other -- and if that's done, I think that would be a gesture that could get everyone to step back, at least for a few days, and get the international community in it.

But again, Syria is seeming to use propaganda and ignoring the reality that they're the ones who are helping Hezbollah and mostly funded by Iran, but Syria being proximate, being the main sponsor and disruptive force.

KING: Anderson Cooper will be leaving us to host "A.C. 360" at the top of the hour. What's on your program scheduled, Anderson?

COOPER: We're going to be talking to correspondents all throughout the region. Also looking at the importance of Syria and the importance of Iran and what role they really are playing behind the scenes in all of this.

I mean, it was interesting to hear the Syrian ambassador talk about Syria leaving Lebanon. It almost made it sound like it was by their choice. I was in Beirut last year when more than a million people, young Lebanese gathered in the streets protesting, demanding, crying out Syria, get out, get out. And they left with their tail between their legs.

And the notion that they just sort of pulled out because they're part of the international community, it doesn't seem to jive with the facts on the ground. Tonight we're going to be focusing a lot on what role Syria is playing and what role Iran is playing. And as Senator Mitchell talked about, the notion of the battle within Islam going on. And if that is true, if there is a battle going on, as Senator Mitchell pointed out, it seems these days and these last several days like it is the hard-liners, it is the radical Islamists who seem to be winning at this point.

KING: Thanks, Anderson. We'll see you at the top of the hour -- Anderson Cooper. When we come back, George Mitchell, Senator Allen, and Nic Robertson, CNN's senior international correspondent, will be with us. And we'll also here from Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, the Palestinian legislator. All that ahead, don't go away.


KING: We welcome back Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, the Palestinian legislator, a former candidate for the presidency of the Palestinian National Authority. He's in Ramallah on the West Bank. What's your reaction to Nasrallah's vow of open war on Israel?

DR, MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATOR: Well, obviously, this escalation that is going in the wrong direction is going to lead to a widespread war in the region. And I think that this is not what we all need. This is not what the Lebanese people need. This is not what Palestinians need. This is not what the Israelis need.

Unfortunately, the war is totally disproportional, as you can see from the images. Israel has probably the fourth largest army in the world. It can destroy so many things. But also, I believe that the acts, the Israeli acts of collective punishment of the people do not help neither the moderates in this region nor the prospects for the future.

Additionally I would say I know now that everybody is concentrating on Lebanon, but it is very clear as Senator Mitchell said, the route of the problem is the Palestinian issue. And the root of the problem is this continuous Israeli occupation for 40 years of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and now we have a much worse situation in Gaza, with a severe, severe humanitarian crisis there affecting thousands and thousands of people.

I think there is a way out of this, and the way relates very much to the United States. There should be evenhandedness in dealing with this conflict. There should be a real effort in convening an international peace conference, a real negotiations to solve the problem. Hiding away from the problem of occupation did not help. We've seen Israel say that unilaterally they will withdraw from Lebanon, from Gaza, but actually they never withdrew from Gaza.

Gaza remained a prison. The problem remained and there is only one way out of this, which is an international peace conference, putting all the issues on the table, resolving the issue of occupation, ending this occupation, and allowing peace to prevail. Continuing with wars with more military power will help nobody. It won't help anybody.

KING: Do you think that will happen?

BARGHOUTI: I believe it all depends on the international community, but specifically on the United States. The United States -- for the United States to be able to play a useful and productive role here it has to concentrate on being evenhanded in this conflict. By being totally on the side of Israel, by the way, is not going to help Israel because it will deepen the conflict.

By being evenhanded and having an approach that respects international laws, which says that no country can occupy another country, no country can continue to oppress another people, will actually eventually help both Palestinians and Israelis because occupation is like a cancer that is dragging Israel from one war into another.

Another issue that has to be applied here is the issue of no double standard. There is a very severe issue of double standard. You know how much we struggled in Palestine to have a Democratic system, how much we struggled to build democratic movement, and I don't think that arresting or kidnapping 27 legislators in Palestine or ministers in the cabinet is an act that is correspondent to the issue of democracy.

There has to be certain principles that are respected everywhere and open the door. This is what would help Democrats. This is what would help moderates in this region. This is what would help people who have been struggling for peace.

I was a member of the Palestinian negotiating team in Madrid back in 1992, '93. And I never thought that after all these years, after 13 years we will still go from one war into another. There was an opportunity, and unfortunately, it was lost because there was no evenhanded approach, there was a possibility we would have had a Palestinian state by now, we would have had prosperity and democracy prevailing in the whole region. Palestinians under terrible occupation have managed to give one of the best examples of democratic practice. But now we are seeing it being destroyed yet by another act of war. There is a way out of this, and I don't know why many countries won't support the idea of an international peace conference. Let's put everything on the table and let's resolve the issues.

KING: Thank you, Dr. Barghouti. We'll take a break, and when we come back we'll get the thoughts of George Mitchell, Senator Allen, and Nic Robertson as we wind things up. Don't go away.


KING: Before we get some thoughts from Senator Allen and George Mitchell, who's been with us all the way, Nic Robertson, our CNN senior international correspondent in Beirut, what do you do now? Do you stay there? What's your modus operandi?

ROBERTSON: Larry, I think the situation is very dynamic and it's very fluid. I think the -- there is nothing at the moment to curtail it and stop it, and I think we're going to see it for a time escalate. This is a hard news story for some time to come, and I think we just have to follow it and follow where it goes. I think the focus is going to be Beirut at the moment and the south of Lebanon, but this is going to be a wild ride, I think. I think all bets are off on what's going to happen over the next few days.

KING: Thanks, Nic, great reporter, CNN senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson. George Mitchell, what did you make of what the Palestinian representative had to say?

MITCHELL: It confirms the reality, Larry, that it is indispensable that there be strong and effective American leadership to deal with the immediate crisis and of even more importance the long-term issues in the region.

That's a matter of fact, not of boasting or of arrogance by an American. The reality is that given our role in the world and in the region, there is no entity other than the United States government which can create the context and enforce any agreement that might be reached. It has to happen. It won't happen without us.

KING: Senator Allen, do you believe the American public supports this idea?

ALLEN: Of what, American leadership?

KING: And -- no, getting involved in the region.

ALLEN: Well, we are involved in the region, and we have been involved in the region. The reality is the United States does have to take the lead, but we can't do it alone. The United States is not going to have an impact or influence over a terrorist organization such as Hezbollah, who is not only at war with Israel and the West, including the U.S. and Europe, they're also, if you look at this brand of radical Islamism, they hit in India. That's not the west. They have hit in Indonesia. They have hit in the Philippines. That's not the West.

Senator Mitchell made the point, and Anderson Cooper apparently is going to bring it up in the next show, about the two different types of Islamism. And this radical aspect is once they can take control of a country, they're dangerous.

And we've got to make sure they don't take control over Lebanon. The way to handle this is not with appeasement. It was interesting to listen to the Palestinian gentleman, who was saying, oh, let's bring everyone to the peace table.

One thing they might do is actually recognize the right of Israel to exist. They don't recognize the right of Israel to exist. And so where this is going to, I think have the impact of change will be from other countries in the region.

Saudi Arabia has no reason to want such a -- Hezbollah to be running rampant and creating this, nor does Egypt, nor does Jordan, nor does Turkey. And so it seems to me that the more reasonable, rational Arab countries, Muslim countries, are the ones who are really at stake...

KING: Senator.

ALLEN: .., and they need to also step forward because they have the most influence.

KING: Thank you so much. And we'll be calling on you again. We appreciate you for -- you and George Mitchell for providing great insight tonight.

ALLEN: Great to be with you.

KING: And finally tonight, a very happy and healthy birthday to one of my favorite people, America's 38th president, Gerald Ford. He saw America through a very dark time when he took office after Richard Nixon's impeachment. And he and his lovely wife, Betty Ford, have been great friends of this program over the years. We always look forward to seeing them. So happy 93rd birthday, Gerald Ford. And many happy returns.

We will have a live edition of LARRY KING LIVE this Sunday night, staying on top of this issue. And Monday's night special guest, her first primetime interview since the revelation of her breast cancer, Sheryl Crow will be with us. Right now it's back to northern Israel and "A.C. 360" with Anderson Cooper. Anderson, the ballgame is in your hands.


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