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Interview With Kofi Annan

Aired July 21, 2006 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Israeli troops and tanks mass along Lebanon's border after ten days of raging conflict. Could this mean all out war?
Meanwhile, heading to the Mid East Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, can diplomacy pull the Mid East back from the brink of the unthinkable?

We'll ask U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his only United States TV interview on the crisis and the U.N.'s role in trying to stop it.

Plus, the admiral who is in charge of military efforts to help Americans evacuate, can he get them out before a full scale invasion?

And, we've got reporters all over the region.

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Good evening.

Before we check in with Kofi Annan, let's check in with Christiane Amanpour, CNN's Chief International Correspondent. She's in northern Israel. What, Christiane, are the Israeli soldiers saying about this possible invasion?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in the last few hours here on the Lebanon-Israel border we've heard quite a lot of air activity and artillery activity.

Today the Lebanese general told us -- rather the Israeli general told us that all Israeli forces, reinforcements, reserves, active duty, lots of power is being directed and moved towards the Lebanese border. They say they're preparing for a potential mass ground operation if the order comes.

Of course, already they have a ground operation underway, several battalions in and out several miles deep, special forces fighting with Hezbollah, looking for targets already.

KING: Thank you, Christiane. We'll be checking back with you, of course, later in the hour.

Now, my interview with the Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, I talked with him a little earlier and I began by asking him about Condoleezza Rice's upcoming visit to the Middle East and if he thinks she should have gone sooner.


KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: I think she's been busy discussing the possible solution with many capitals and here in New York. As you know, she came to New York and we had a working dinner and she also talked to my team that went to the region this morning.

And, obviously she would want to go to the region but go with a package and proposals that will facilitate an agreement and negotiations. And, I'm sure she will go as soon as she's ready. And, as I hear, she's going this weekend.

KING: So, you think it was a proper time to facilitate everything? In accordance with that this is a good time for her to go?

ANNAN: Yes, I think let's not forget that I, myself, have sent a team to the region, European High Representative Solana was there. The French prime minister was there. And I think you need to be able to sequence these things that you don't also overload the people on the other side that you are dealing with. And, I'm sure that when she gets there she'll be able to move the process forward.

KING: You've called for an immediate ceasefire in this conflict. Here's what the secretary of state had to say about that earlier today. Watch.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: A ceasefire would be a false promise if it simply returns us to the status quo allowing terrorists to launch attacks at the time and terms of their choosing and to threaten innocent people, Arab and Israeli, throughout the region. That would be a guarantee of future violence.

KING: How do you respond?

ANNAN: I think on ceasefire my position is clear. What I have asked for is cessation of hostilities. If you wish, you can even describe it as a humanitarian truce for us to be able to get assistance to the people and allow us to organize ourselves to move logistics and supplies around and to have access to the people.

Ceasefire normally takes quite a lot of time to negotiate and to deal with, so I made a distinction between cessation of hostilities and ceasefire and I am not suggesting that we go back to the previous situation.

In the package of proposals that I put forward I indicated that not only should we have cessation of hostilities but we should also have a longer term solution which would include deployment of international forces to the south to stabilize the south, to help the Lebanese government strengthen, rebuild its army and expand its authority throughout its own territory, including deployment of Lebanese Army to the south and give them the capacity to implement the Resolution 1559 fully.

And, 1559 does require them to deploy to the border. It does require the disarmament of militia, all militia, foreign and national. And so, we have no disagreement on the longer term goals.

Where we may differ is that I'm prepared to ask for immediate cessation of hostilities to allow us to assist the people, allow the diplomacy to take hold and it does not exclude a longer term solution and a longer term package that would ensure that we do not return to the previous situation. And so, I met her last night and I think on quite a lot of the broad issues there's very little disagreement between us.

KING: Are you surprised that there's an opposition to that proposal which, in effect, would stop killing?

ANNAN: This is -- in fact, I had lunch with the Security Council members. We have a monthly lunch and we went through this and I sense there's quite broad support amongst the council members for this and I hope as we move forward in the next day or two things will crystallize and that the parties will be prepared to do this.

Otherwise, Larry, I'm afraid of major humanitarian disaster. As we speak, about seven -- over 700,000 people have been displaced, 500,000 internally in Lebanon, about 150,000 have crossed the border to Syria.

With the destruction of the bridges and the infrastructure it's extremely difficult to even get to the ground to assess how many people need help and how we are going to get it to them. And so, even the 500,000 could be gross underestimation. And this is a very populated country, so you can imagine what is lying ahead of us.

KING: What happens if Israeli ground forces go into Lebanon?

ANNAN: I think that's going to be a very serious escalation. Obviously, there will be heightened fighting between them and Hezbollah and if they're going to southern Lebanon what will be their intention? Are they going to stay? Are they going to root out Hezbollah and withdraw?

If they stay and intend to establish what they have called in the past a security zone or security cordon, it will be security zone for them but for the others it will be occupation and that will intensify the resistance.

That is also one of the reasons why I have suggested deployment of neutral international forces to give Lebanon time and space to strengthen and prepare its own army to be deployed to the border so that you don't have the sort of situation I've just described.

KING: Since this started who, in your opinion, is at fault? Who do you blame?

ANNAN: I think there's no doubt that the provocation and the act of Hezbollah kidnapping the Israeli soldiers started off all this. It was unnecessary. It has provoked an onslaught on the people and the nation of Lebanon. It has really set back peace prospects for the region. But I still also believe that the Israeli response has been excessive and disproportionate.

KING: What is Israel supposed to do? What do you want it as this little nation amidst enemies what do you want it to do?

ANNAN: Oh, I would want to see Israel live in peace with its neighbors. The Security Council has passed many resolutions pushing for comprehensive peace in the region and we would want to see Israel live in peace side by side with the Palestinians and Israel established in the region and at peace with its neighbors, trading, and working with all the other countries in the region.

But to get there I think you have to do it through political negotiations. I don't think you can do it through force alone. As I said, there was a provocation.

But when you look at what is going on, if this continues for long you're going to see a situation where the public because of what they have seen on television tend to forget the original sin, the original sin of the kidnapping of the soldiers, the abduction of the soldiers and only focus on what they see on their television happening to the state of Lebanon and the civilians.

And I think Israel should work with the international community to get a ceasefire, send the international troops in to stabilize the situation, strengthen the Lebanese government to take full charge and full responsibility for its territory, and implement 1559 fully, which also includes disarmament of militia including Hezbollah.

KING: We have an e-mail question for you from J.C. Wauconda in Illinois -- J.C. rather of Wauconda, Illinois who has a very basic question. "Why does the U.N. pass resolutions, such as 1559, and then not enforce them?"

ANNAN: Well, let me tell my dear friend from Illinois that the U.N. is the member states. His government, the U.S. government, my government the Ghana government, where the member states have the will to follow through on resolutions a lot can get done.

When the resolutions are passed and the means are there and the will is there, we do get them implemented. On the issue of 1559, it was clear in the council that we will -- the Lebanese government will have to work in extending its authority to the border and in working on disarming Hezbollah.

And, in discussions with the Lebanese authorities they were having this discussion within the government, the disarmament of Hezbollah. They have plans of how they pull Hezbollah into the army but possibly as a national guard under the command of the national army.

And then, of course, this provocative act happened and everything exploded. But, the U.N. we have to be clear is not a glass building in New York. The U.N. is the governments, the U.S. government, my government and other governments working together.

So, we have to be careful sometimes not to take the governments off the hook by referring to the U.N. as if it's some satellite out there with no links to the governments.

KING: We're speaking exclusively with Kofi Annan, the Secretary- General of the United Nations. We'll be right back.



KING: Welcome back.

We continue now with more of my interview with U.N. Secretary- General Kofi Annan. I asked him about his recent statement that Israel has a right to defend itself but that the use of excessive force should be condemned.


ANNAN: I think Israel has made it clear that its target is Hezbollah. It has also stated that it has no quarrel with the Lebanese people or the Lebanese government.

In these circumstances, if it had focused its targeting narrowly on Hezbollah and Hezbollah targets, it would be understandable. But the extensive bombing of Lebanese civilian infrastructure, of bridges, of the airports and the blockade imposed on Lebanon, both sea and land, and the destruction of the bridges making it very difficult for people to move around and eventually going to make it difficult to move in supplies of food, medication and others, it's a punishment for the Lebanese people as a whole.

But we also have to understand that Lebanon is a democratic state. The Lebanese government did not support what Hezbollah did and the government has stated that clearly. And, therefore, to punish the people of Lebanon and press the democratic government to a point where it may collapse is a very serious situation.

And, I think we need to really reflect on the consequences of the actions that are taking place in Lebanon. I hope the international community will support the democratically elected government, the democratically elected government that has itself distanced itself and made clear that they are not supporting what Hezbollah did. I am...

KING: Have you talked -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

ANNAN: Go ahead. Go ahead.

KING: Have you talked to Prime Minister Olmert?

ANNAN: I have spoken to Prime Minister Olmert several times. We have talked about the need for proportionality. We have talked about the need to ensure that whatever action is taken civilians are spared and that civilian infrastructure is not destroyed. Any infrastructure and facilities that civilians need for their daily life and for the survival should be spared in these kinds of situations.

He has assured me that Israel will do everything they can to spare civilian population and to help with their humanitarian situation. And here we're not just talking about Lebanon. We had also spoken about Gaza.

KING: Would it be helpful, do you think, for President Bush to meet face to face with the leaders in the region?

ANNAN: I think at some point it might be helpful but the ground has to be prepared very carefully. And, as you have heard, the Secretary of State Rice will go to the region either this weekend or early next week and that will be followed by a meeting in Rome of friends of Lebanon or the contact group on Lebanon which will bring together countries from the Middle East and Europe, the U.N., and the World Bank, to discuss possible solutions to the conflict.

KING: What role, in your opinion, does Syria and Iran play in all of this?

ANNAN: There is -- Syria and Iran are two friendly countries. There's also indications that both Syria and Iran have influence with Hezbollah and have supported Hezbollah and, therefore, the two countries have to be part of the solution.

They will have to work with the international community and cooperate with the international community for us to have -- to find long term solutions; whether we like it or not, we have to engage those two governments if we are going to find a longer term solution.

KING: You've said there are serious obstacles standing in the way of diffusing violence in the Middle East. What are the main obstacles?

ANNAN: Well, I think for the moment both sides, by both sides I mean the government of Israel and Hezbollah in the discussions that my team had and also, you know, I sent a three-man team Nambiar, Terje Larsen, and Alvaro de Soto to the region. They were in Cairo attending the Arab League Ministerial Meeting where they had discussions with all the Arab ministers and then from there to Lebanon and then to Israel.

Out of these discussions they came to the judgment that it is going to be difficult to get a ceasefire immediately because Israel has made it clear that its objective goes beyond getting the release of the two abducted soldiers and that they would want to weaken or degrade or disarm Hezbollah, whether one can do it from air or through military action is another issue and that the objective -- they are nowhere near achieving the objectives.

Hezbollah has also made statements that they are also prepared to continue this action indefinitely and therefore much more work needs to be done before one can get a ceasefire and that is why I demand the cessation of hostilities first because it will be in the interest of Hezbollah to want to see the people of Lebanon and the needy in Lebanon provided with the assistance. And, I think the Israeli government also having indicated its willingness to do everything to support humanitarian effort. It is also likely hopefully will accept a cessation of hostilities or a humanitarian truce.

Failing that we have as they help us establish humanitarian corridors to be able to assess the needs, gain access to those in need and actually supply them, in some situations food warehouses in Lebanon that cannot be moved to those in need. And the longer this continues the greater the humanitarian crisis will be.

KING: Is the United States' hand weakened by the war in Iraq?

ANNAN: Well, the war in Iraq is a major -- how should I put it? It's a major responsibility of the U.S. and the international community in the region. It is all consuming. And, of course, lots of resources are tied up there.

But I think we have a very difficult situation in the broader Middle East and when you read the newspapers or look at the discussions which are going on, we are dealing with Iran, with Iraq, with Lebanon, Syria, and we have Palestine.

So, we have a region that has many flashpoints but these are also all linked and we tend to look at them individually and in isolation. We need to look at the broader Middle East situation and what we are confronted with.

KING: Do you ever feel like throwing up your arms? Do you ever feel helpless, frustrated?

ANNAN: There are moments of frustration. There are moments of sadness which -- and moments of almost despair with human nature, you know, because the way we -- we turn on each other, man's inhumanity to man and our ability to use violence and weapons that do so much damage to each other.

I'm one of those who believes that in war all are losers, including the so-called victorious because you have to do lots of things as a human being you would not want to do and even when you win, when you look back and count what you had to do to win, the destruction, the misery, the pain inflicted on your own people and on the other side, you have to wonder if that was the best way or the only way to solve a solution -- to solve a problem, not to solve a solution.

KING: Good seeing you, as always.

ANNAN: Thank you, Larry, all the best.

KING: The Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan. We'll be right back.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Let's talk now with our great array of correspondents, beginning with Anderson Cooper in Beirut, the anchor of CNN's Anderson Cooper, which will follow this program in a little over a half hour. What's your reaction to what Kofi Annan had to say?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I think one of the key points that he made is that, you know, the U.N. only works when there is political will on the part of the member states of the United Nations.

And, in this case, in order for there to be a ceasefire or cessation of hostilities, as he termed it, there need to be political will on the part of Israel or on the part of the U.S. or on the part of the players here to make that happen. And right now, it does not appear that there is that.

You're about to hear from Christiane Amanpour, who is along the border. Troops are massing there. Israeli troops are massing there for what may be a possible ground invasion, a larger scale ground invasion than has already taken place here in Lebanon.

Until Israel believes that they can achieve more through political discussions and negotiations than they can through military force this conflict is likely to continue. And right now it shows no sign of letting up -- Larry.

KING: Speaking of that, Christiane Amanpour in northern Israel, is it going to happen? Are they going in?

AMANPOUR: Excuse me? Sorry?

KING: Is the Israeli Army going into Lebanon?

AMANPOUR: You know it's not clear. Certainly they're massing. They're getting ready to do so if the order comes. They have got tanks and troops and reserves and all sorts of even active duty units from around the country re-deployed to come up here. So, there's definitely the sort of movement towards that. Whether or not and when it might happen is not clear right now.

But he had some interesting points to raise, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, about the potential practical ways that this could end. Number one, he talked about a package of proposals that Secretary Rice might bring to the region and that in itself is interesting because, you know, we've heard a lot about how Secretary Rice might ask the Arab countries to pressure Syria, to pressure Hezbollah to comply with Resolution 1559.

Of course, in the past, before the Bush administration isolated Syria as an interlocketer, the U.S. secretary of state would go to Syria, talk to Syria, and do it her or himself. We haven't heard at all, for instance, during Secretary Rice's press conference are there any incentives? Are there any disincentives to Syria to actually, you know, get in this game? So, I thought that was very interesting.

And then the issue of the international force, we don't know what countries might be prepared to put an international force and it's not just an observational force. It's a force that's going to have to be tasked with actually doing the heavy lifting of, if not fully disarming Hezbollah, then making sure it never comes to the border and threatening Israel.

KING: Thank you, Christiane.

Chris Burns is in Larnaca, Cyprus. Before we ask you about Kofi Annan, Senate Majority Leader Harry Byrd and Senator Joe Biden they want President Bush to appoint a high level special envoy to the Mid East in addition to Secretary Rice. What do you make of that?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN BERLIN BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Larry, I think that's probably a very positive thing to do. They really need to put somebody in here who can really go hands on and right into the situation on a regular and continuous basis, not just an occasional visit by a secretary of state but somebody who really -- and this has been done repeatedly before, of course, there have been special envoys. But of course at this moment it's very important and really I think the people coming out for these ships here, in fact, over my shoulder a few hundred more coming from a U.N. ship, from the southern port of Tyre.

So imagine, in south Lebanon that's where it's really hot, and these people are saying that they would like to see some kind of humanitarian truce. They're angry at every side, or at least against the Israelis. I don't hear any great vocal support of Hezbollah, but I hear a lot of anger against the Israelis for those air strikes. There's one American student who told me it's outrageous that my tax dollars are helping to pay for bombs that are falling around me. And the Lebanese Americans that we talk to, of course, are terribly terrified about their relatives who are remaining behind, Larry.

KING: And Aneesh Raman in Damascus, Syria. Speaking of what Chris just said and what the secretary-general said about the humanitarian crisis, the humanitarian crisis is major in Syria, is it not?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Larry. We heard from the secretary-general an updated number there, 150,000 estimated Lebanese that have now fled into Syria. The broader number, 700,000, he said that have been displaced. Syria at the moment is managing the influx. The border has been a steady stream of refugees coming into Syria. Today, though, there was a period of an eerie lull. Really it was empty on both sides into and out of Lebanon. Reportedly, there was an assault on the main bridge on the highway into Syria. That easily could have been the cause of that.

But it is an incredibly dangerous journey for those who are making it from within Lebanon out to Syria, an incredibly difficult decision for those there as to whether they will stay or whether they will go. And as Christiane highlighted, the secretary-general also making note that Syria and Iran have to be part of the solution. How that works out, though, is really anyone's guess. The U.S. isn't really speaking to either of them. So that could be part of what we see in the days and weeks ahead. KING: Aneesh Raman in Damascus. Don't forget to watch Anderson Cooper at the top of the hour hosting "AC 360" from Beirut. Let's check in with our lady friend, Nada Ghattas. I don't mean to laugh, but she's been with us every night. The 26-year-old restaurant manager from Los Angeles, trapped in Lebanon, trying to evacuate. What's the latest, Nada?

NADA GHATTAS, U.S. CITIZEN TRAPPED IN BEIRUT: Well, actually, as soon as I get off the phone with you I'll be heading down to the port to try to get evacuated today.


GHATTAS: It looks like they have stopped calling people and it's just kind of come at your will and they'll try to get you on a boat. Unfortunately, they haven't communicated that very well to everyone, so it's been word of mouth communication. And so we're just heading down to the port. It's about 4:30 right now in the morning. Hopefully I'll be there by 5:15, and hopefully I'll get on a boat today, and then my parents are actually going to take the journey through Syria to Jordan by car. So I'm a little concerned for them, but hopefully, you know, things will work out for both of us, you know, my parents, myself. And maybe I'll see you back in L.A.

KING: We're rooting for you, Nada. We hope to have you at this table here right in the studios of LARRY KING LIVE within two days.

GHATTAS: Thank you Larry.

KING: Nada Ghattas, we've been following her adventure all week long. We'll be back with more after this.


KING: And we now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE on the phone Narwa Sahili. He is a member of the Lebanese parliament, the Hezbollah bloc of the Lebanese parliament. The U.N. secretary-general was just on this program Narwa, and he says the entire nation of Lebanon is being held hostage by Hezbollah and that he condemned Hezbollah's reckless disregard for the wishes of the elected government of Lebanon. How do you react?

NAWAR SAHILI, HEZBOLLAH MEMBER OF LEBANESE PARLIAMENT: Oh, it's exactly the contrary. We've been taken hostage by the Israeli army. You know, the whole country has been disrupted, and it's really a criminal human terrorist attack upon Lebanon. You've heard what they said in Larnaca and what the American citizen said, they are killing women, they are killing children, they are destroying the whole country, all the bridges, all the institutions. You know, Hezbollah is a political group and it has parliament members, we have ministers. We are not taking Lebanon hostage. We are defending Lebanon, Mr. King. And you've heard, we are having more than 350 killed and more than 1,000 injured. You know, there is injustice in this world. Our children and our women and our people is being killed. And you know, the U.N. and U.S. government is ...

KING: What ...

SAHILI: see the victim as the oppressor and the oppressor as the victim.

KING: What happens if Israel invades Lebanon?

SAHILI: The resistance, the Hezbollah is a resistance group, and we are defending our country. If Israel will try to go inside Lebanon, we will defend our country until the last soldier, or the last resistance, in the south Lebanon and all Lebanon.

KING: Does Hezbollah want a cease-fire?

SAHILI: Yes. We are ready to have a cease-fire, and we said it from the first day we captured the two soldiers. We are against escalation. You know, Mr. King, when we captured these two soldiers, this is because we have a lot of captivated Lebanese in the Israeli prisons and we have still until now occupied territories. So what we did is a reaction and not an action. But hopefully, and what is sad is that all the word is against the reaction and nobody's asking for the action. Nobody's asking why there is Lebanese people in the Israeli prisons. Nobody's asking Israel why the state is killing innocent people. They are saying that they are fighting, who they are killing. They are killing innocent people. They are destroying buildings and bridges and all over the country, from the south till the north.

KING: By the way, what can you tell us? Are the two Israeli soldiers that you captured, are they OK?

SAHILI: We don't know, I think they are okay. I mean, what we are doing, these are people. And if they are in a safe place, you know, we keep all the people like our brothers and like our sons. We are not a terrorist movement like all the world says now. We are a resistance movement defending our people and our country.

KING: Are you with us by phone because you fear being on camera?

SAHILI: No, no, no. When I can go to Beirut, you can see me on the camera. But no, I cannot go to Beirut. I'm in the car. All the roads are being shelled by the Israeli fighters.

KING: Are you encouraged by Secretary Rice's visit?

SAHILI: We hope that Mrs. Rice, when she comes will be fair and be just and she will take the two countries in an equal way, not defending Israel like always, and hopefully.

KING: Thank you, Nawar Sahili.

SAHILI: It was a pleasure, Mr. King.

KING: OK, my pleasure. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE and when we come back we'll hear the Israeli response from Miri Eisin, the Israeli government spokesperson, a retired colonel herself. Don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's get you up to date on current information. Israeli troops, tanks massing along the Lebanon-Israeli border. Large-scale ground invasion could be next. The Lebanese president says that Lebanon's army is ready to defend his country. Secretary of State Rice heads to the Middle East Sunday, says a cease-fire would be a false promise if it means a return to the status quo. Democratic Senators Reid and Biden call on President Bush to appoint a special envoy to the Middle East. U.N. Secretary-General Annan fears for a major humanitarian disaster, says 700,000 people have been displaced. And thousands of Americans are being evacuated from Lebanon.

Joining us from Tel Aviv is Miri Eisin, the Israeli government spokesperson, retired colonel with the Israeli military intelligence.

Are you going to invade Lebanon?

MIRI EISIN, ISRAELI GOVT. SPOKESPERSON: Israel has no desire to enter back into Lebanon. We were there. We withdrew six years ago. And in an amusing way, we withdrew for peace.

I was listening to the Hezbollah member of parliament, and to me what he had to say, I don't know if it was amusing or if it made me angry. Israel does not want to go back in, but we will and we will because of Hezbollah, if we have to.

Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. Nasrallah is a puppet of the Iranians. They are trained by the Iranians. They are supplied by the Iranians. And they have the state-of-the-art weaponry of the Iranians. And if we would go in, that's what we would be seeing. And for us, this is a definite threat, and you can see that threat every day against us.

KING: How big an if is it?

EISIN: Kofi Annan and everybody else failed to mention the consistent rocket attacks against northern Israel. Every day in Haifa, Israel's third largest city, and a million Israelis are in bomb shelters. We cannot continue with this.

KING: How big an if is that if about going in? What will determine whether you go in or not?

EISIN: I think that for Israel, what will determine this for us is at the end of the day, how we pinpoint Hezbollah. Hezbollah, being supplied by the Iranians and being trained by them, they're not just -- you know, I think that when we think of terrorists, especially in Lebanon, we have a vision maybe of men on hilltops carrying World War II rifles. That's not what we're talking about here. They have state-of-the-art weapons. They're trained by the Iranians. They're built in military units. They certainly would like us to come in, and Nasrallah said that clearly.

We will come in if we have to. We will do it at our own time and pace if we have to. In the meantime, we're continuing to try and pinpoint them wherever they are and look at what they're doing. They're hiding within Lebanon behind the Lebanese civilians. And when you think about it, hiding behind the civilians and attacking the Israeli civilians everywhere, that's exactly what terrorist organizations do.

KING: What are you expecting from Secretary Rice's trip?

EISIN: Israel is always happy to see Secretary Rice, and for us it's very important, both the backing of the United States and of the international community. And in that sense, I think that we feel that any involvement of the United States, of the international community can help bring about the resolvement.

We've already talked very clearly, and I heard also the secretary-general say very similar things. We need the implementation, the full implementation of Security Resolution 1559. We need our captive soldiers back. They crossed the border, Hezbollah, they kidnapped two of our soldiers. We have to have them back unconditionally.

And the rocket fire. I'm here in Tel Aviv, but up in Haifa, as we speak, all along the northern border, a million Israelis. And we talk about the refugees on the Lebanese side, and it is a tragedy, but what about the Israelis? Almost a third of the northern people who live up in the north in Israel have left their homes to the south because of the rocket barrages.

KING: Thank you, Miri. Miri Eisin. We will call on her frequently. The Israeli government spokesperson, retired colonel with the Israeli military intelligence.

And we'll be right back on this jam-packed edition of LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Now, we're going to spend a brief minute or two in front of "THE SITUATION ROOM" with the map wall in Washington. Brigadier General James "Spider" Marks is with us, United States Army retired, CNN military analyst.

All right. Give us the route of the ground incursion, the strategy if it happens.

BRIG. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), U.S. ARMY, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Larry, certainly I don't know what the Israeli plan is, but let me take you to the map and show you what I think will occur.

First of all, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and then Beirut up at the top. This is where Hezbollah has been for the last 25 years. So they are very intimate with the terrain down there.

The key piece of terrain is the Litani River. That would be the advance of the Israeli forces as they come across. They would want to achieve this line. Then they would want to try to reduce the Hezbollah forces that are in there.

They'd want to come across the border into Lebanon on a very broad front, as you can see here, primarily because you can get to the Litani River very quickly.

Now, Larry, let's get in a little closer into the terrain if we can. This is very complex, very urbanized, very compartmentalized terrain. A soldier or a group of soldiers here, for example, Larry, would have very little impact on operations that are on the other side of that ridgeline.

Also, when you look at the villages that exist here, you have to assume that there's a labyrinth of tunnels connecting those buildings. So, a fight that's occurring here would probably have some type of a linkage that exists in another location, only because of Hezbollah's dominance and intimacy with that terrain.

KING: Thank you, General.

We only have a little over a minute. Should that succeed, from an Israeli standpoint, will it work?

MARKS: Well, ideally, they wouldn't be going across, Larry, if they didn't think it would work. What has to happen is they've got to move quickly, they've got to bypass Hezbollah's strong points as they go north to the Litani. They've got to do an about-face and reduce the forces that are in that buffer zone. Then they need to turn that over to some international force, or maybe even a brokered deal to get the Lebanese army down there.

KING: As developments develop, if that's the correct way to put it, we'll be calling on you a lot. Brigadier General James "Spider" Marks, United States Army retired, CNN military analyst.

And when we come back, we'll meet the admiral who's in charge of getting all those Americans out of Lebanon. He's next. Don't go away.


KING: Earlier today, I also talked with the vice admiral playing a central role in the U.S. military's evacuation of Americans from Lebanon. He is Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and the U.S. Fifth Fleet. He and his staff coordinate the United States military's evacuation of Americans from Lebanon. Watch.


KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE from Bahrain, Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh. He's commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and the U.S. Fifth Fleet. He and his staff are coordinating the U.S. military's evacuation of Americans from Lebanon.

Admiral, thanks for being with us. How many Americans have we gotten out? VICE ADM. PATRICK WALSH, U.S. NAVY: Larry, our estimates are that we had about 7,000 people in total moved as of tonight. We're still working through the night with the expectation that we can move maybe another 1,200 to 1,300 or so in the early hours of the morning.

KING: How many Americans still there?

WALSH: Great question. We continue to refine our estimates. We have expectations that we could see another 6,000 or so over the next two or three days.

KING: As an -- from an operational standpoint, what's been the toughest part of this?

WALSH: Larry, the toughest part of this is the ability of the environment to change very quickly. I have two markers that I'm watching very closely when we evaluate how much capacity we throw at this problem. First is a very dynamic security environment, and second is the humanitarian crisis that we're all concerned with. Both of those compel us to move as fast as we can to make best speed, and yet to be ready to operate as soon as we arrive in station.

So this is the reason why our crews have been working round the clock.

KING: How great is the threat level for this operation?

WALSH: Well, depending on what part of the country you're looking at, you could see something that's permissive, where you see markets open and people actually driving around. And then there's other parts of the country, where there's people isolated, out of touch with everyone, where the environment is not secure.

KING: The Lebanese military coordinating with you?

WALSH: There are Lebanese security forces that are down at the pier and working with the U.S. embassy. The extent of which I can't really comment on, simply because I don't know. But we do have coordination going on through the embassy, and it is a very important point to leave with you, that we have a single point of contact for that coordination, so that we stay connected with the embassy in support of what their needs are as well as their goals.

KING: Now, Israel has a blockade. So how do you coordinate the evacuation with that exercise?

WALSH: We have a coordination cell that talks with European command, as well as the Israeli defense attaches. If you remember, we have come from U.S. Central Command through the Suez Canal and have coordinated our actions and our activities with the European command, which really has oversight over the preponderance of forces in the Mediterranean. We exercise the relationships that they have with the Israelis. The relationships that I have in my command are predominantly Arab. It works out the best this way.

KING: How's the Marine expeditionary force being deployed? WALSH: Marines are a part of the evacuation effort right now. Even though we're calling it an authorized departure, we're moving as fast as we can, and we're using the Marines to provide that kind of capability as a hedge force, as our 911 rapid reaction, rapid response force, to be able to adapt to a changing environment very quickly.

KING: And finally, how long do you expect this to continue?

WALSH: Great question. The original estimates by the embassy for 5,000 people, we've surpassed that. We continue to refine our estimates. As I mentioned, we'll work at peak capacity here for the next several days, and then we'll take another look at it.

The metric that we'll use to evaluate is just simply people that are showing up that ask for help and ask for assistance that are American citizens. And at that point, we'll reevaluate.

Larry, we're prepared to go the distance, to stay as long as we need to, in order to respond to the needs of Americans.

KING: Yeoman-like effort. Thank you, Admiral, very much for being with us.

WALSH: Thank you, Larry.


KING: And we also want to thank all of our guests.

Before we go, great news on a guest we had on Wednesday night. Amer Issa, whose wife, son, and daughter had been trapped in Lebanon and were being evacuated as Amer was waiting nervously to hear if they actually made it to Cyprus. His wife called his cell phone right in the middle of our show from Cyprus. The whole family, along with some in-laws, arrived in Baltimore, Maryland last night. And earlier this evening, they landed in L.A. It was an emotional reunion. Adding to everyone's anxiety was Amer's son, who had a liver transplant as a baby and was in desperate need of medicine. They'll all be joining us tomorrow night. And we hope to have many more such happy reunions.

By the way, we will be working live Saturday and Sunday night, covering all of this. "LARRY KING LIVE" editions live on Saturday and Sunday night.

Right now, we go to Beirut. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" -- Anderson.


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