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CNN BREAKING NEWS

U.S. Getting Involved Diplomatically in the Middle East Fighting; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Region

Aired July 24, 2006 - 08:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news out of the Middle East this morning.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in the middle of an unannounced stop in Beirut right now. She's meeting with the Lebanese prime minister. We'll have the latest on what she expects to achieve there, and in Israel, her next stop, all ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Welcome everybody.

You're watching a special split edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

I'm Soledad O'Brien in New York today -- hey, Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Soledad, we're moving off of our spot right now. The air raid siren has blown for the first time today. We've got to head for shelter right now.

As we've told you, by this time yesterday, it had blown at least a half a dozen times. It blew nine times total. There were 14 Katusha rockets which rained down on Haifa yesterday. And, as we say, at 3:00 p.m. local time, almost on the dot, the air raid sirens just went off.

Are we safe in here? Is this a -- how far in do we have to go? we have to go in a little bit farther. I don't know if you can come in with us right now.

But in any case, we have to seek cover here right now.

You'd better come in, too, Pellen (ph). Pellen Sinki (ph) on the camera there, as we go into the shelter here at the hotel, at the Dan Panorama (ph).

As we said, the city of Haifa is virtually deserted. Yesterday, Sunday, the beginning of the work week in Israel, many people returned to their homes with the hopes that the worst was over.

Instead, they got a terrible day. Two people were killed, dozens injured, as those rockets rained down on the city.

We're going to sit it out in here for now and keep you updated on what we see as this continues. We're going to stay in shelter.

In the meantime, the other big story in the Middle East right now, if it's Monday, it's Beirut. The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, with a publicly unannounced stop in Beirut, meeting right now with the prime minister of that country. A dramatic shift in the itinerary. The shuttle diplomacy begins and John King, who got on a plane to Jerusalem, expecting to see the secretary of state there, is going to have to wait a little bit -- John, tell us what you know.

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Miles, we hope you're safe in Haifa.

And what we do know is that the Secretary, as you noted, did make this unannounced trip -- not an unscheduled trip. U.S. officials say it was planned all along, but they simply didn't put it on the public schedule because of the security concerns.

But the secretary of state is now in Beirut meeting with Lebanon's prime minister.

She landed first in Cyprus then took a helicopter ride, including quite a bit of security, across from Cyprus to the Lebanese capital.

She is meeting today and U.S. officials say her primary concern in the meetings today will be to assess the humanitarian needs in Lebanon, trying to find out what corridors need to be opened to get food, water, medical and other humanitarian supplies into Lebanon to help those who have been hurt, injured, displaced by the violence of the past 13 days.

She will, of course, also discuss a plan to eventually create some sort of a buffer zone to secure Southern Lebanon.

But U.S. officials say while this diplomacy in the first high profile trip by the secretary of state, by the United States government, to the region since the confrontation with Lebanon started 13 days ago, do not expect any agreement in the short-term on a cease- fire at all.

And U.S. officials say the reason is quite simple. They say if the hostilities stop today, Hezbollah would still be in a position to lob rockets to where Miles is in Haifa. They say first you have to have an agreement that pushes Hezbollah back. And privately, U.S. officials say, they also believe with more time, the Israelis can destroy more of those Hezbollah rockets.

So the secretary of state making a dramatic visit to Beirut, despite the security concerns there. She will get to Israel later tonight, dinner with Israel's foreign minister, then more formal meetings here tomorrow in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Olmert and other Israeli officials.

Then the Secretary moves on to Rome. And it is there in Rome where she will meet with Lebanese officials again, with other moderate Arab allies of the United States, hoping to put into works some sort of a plan for a cease-fire, some sort of a plan for an international force to go into Southern Lebanon to create a buffer zone. But U.S. officials say any agreement on such a force is probably seven, 10 days, maybe even two weeks away and they expect the confrontations, this military activity, to continue in the meantime -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: It's interesting, John, generally what you see is the diplomatic effort begins as things settle down on the military front. And what we're seeing is kind of a rising crescendo on both fronts. It's interesting to see that happen.

KING: Well, it's often said that the secretary of state only shows up when there's a deal to be made, that emissaries essentially do the work beforehand and the big guns come in, if you will, to seal the deal.

But that is not the case here. And this administration has been roundly criticized for not spending more time dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian despite, for not spending more time helping the Siniora government. She is in Beirut right now with the government that the United States should exert its influence, should have disarmed Hezbollah a long time ago.

Well, the Lebanese government would say where was the help from the United States and others? And the Lebanese government also wants a cease-fire immediately, and we know that it will not get such an agreement, not a call for such a cease-fire from Secretary Rice, not just yet -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, thank you very much.

CNN's John King.

And while we've been in this shelter, we just heard a report that there were four explosions in the vicinity of Haifa and Haifa Bay. We're trying to get some more information for you about that. And we'll, of course, bring you that as we get it.

In the meantime, the military activity I was just referring to is going on with great intensity just north of the border into Lebanon, as Israeli Defense Forces continue to target Hezbollah strongholds.

The focus today is Bint Shabeil (ph) after an effort -- and a successful effort -- to capture.

CNN's Paula Newton in the midst of all this, witnessed an Israeli helicopter that crashed, apparently not shot down, an accident. But nevertheless we have reports of injuries as a result of that -- Paula, what can you tell us?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this helicopter, it was an attack helicopter, went in, dropped a missile into Southern Lebanon, most likely in the area of Ventvel (ph). Coming back in, and it was forced to make an emergency landing on the way down. And it did crash land. It hit an electrical pole.

On top of that, Miles, you can see several explosions. That's ammo, flares, decoy flares burning up. It was quite an inferno that we saw, Miles. At least two casualties from that. Normally those attack helicopters only have a pilot and a navigator. And we believe that they are critically injured. We saw the ambulances roll up and take them to the hospital.

Where that missile was fired was Bint Jabeil (ph), as you were talking about. And now, their -- the Israeli Army says that there is fierce fighting, probably the fiercest they've seen in this conflict so far, Miles.

They are telling us that the amount of explosives flying is not to be believed, which is why they are getting all those injuries.

Earlier this morning, Miles, we showed up to the hospital where they continually get the casualties come in. By the time we had gotten there, there was one seriously wounded and the others had come in lightly wounded.

Since then, we have been told that there are more serious injuries heading to that hospital.

As we were discussing before, Miles, Bint Jabeil is the -- what the Israeli Army calls the terror capital of Hezbollah. They want to be in on the ground so they can take a look of exactly what Hezbollah had been storing there and try and eradicate it.

And as we just heard from John King, as the diplomacy continues and the acceleration on that front begins, the Israeli Army does feel like they do have a time limit on this and they have to get their work done -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Paula Newton right there in northern Israel, right near the Lebanese border. Please be safe there.

We have been just given the all clear. We're going to go back outside, back up these steps.

We're told there were four explosions. No injuries, no damage reported yet. So we're going to head back out and see what there is to be seen.

Yesterday, as we say, was a very, very difficult day for the people of Haifa. Many people decided to return. They felt it was finally safe to come home. And instead what they got were siren after siren. It happened nine times. Fourteen missiles, many of them Katusha, raining down. Two people killed, one person driving along in his car, shrapnel striking the car, killing him. Another one happened to be an Israeli Arab working as a carpenter in an industrial facility and was killed just doing his job.

In the midst of all this, we met one family, a family that has endured so much. And even while we were there, we got a taste of what it's like to run-for shelter.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

M. O'BRIEN (voice-over): Shlomo Yosefsberg was waiting for us on the sidewalk in front of his home just moments after yet another close call.

SHLOMO YOSEFSBERG, HAIFA, ISRAEL RESIDENT: The bombs, one killed. OK? And 10...

M. O'BRIEN (on camera): Ten of them?

S. YOSEFSBERG: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Ten hurt?

S. YOSEFSBERG: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED TRANSLATOR: Ten bombs.

M. O'BRIEN: Ten bombs? Ten of them?

S. YOSEFSBERG: Bomb in all, 12. Twelve bombs.

M. O'BRIEN: Really?

S. YOSEFSBERG: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Twelve bombs.

Wow!

UNIDENTIFIED TRANSLATOR: Oh, wow!

M. O'BRIEN: So lots of -- lots of noise here.

Were you inside?

S. YOSEFSBERG: Inside...

M. O'BRIEN: The whole time?

UNIDENTIFIED TRANSLATOR: Wow!

S. YOSEFSBERG: It's always...

UNIDENTIFIED TRANSLATOR: And you could hear it?

S. YOSEFSBERG: Yes.

Well, it's going...

M. O'BRIEN (voice-over): We didn't linger. And once inside, we met his wife Hava, with a fresh tale of fright.

HAVA YOSEFSBERG, HAIFA, ISRAEL RESIDENT: It's scary. You can't say it's not scary. So we sit there and we have a radio there. And we open the radio. And I'm sitting like this for luck. You can hear the boom, boom. OK? You can hear it.

This is close. It was very close. And we know it was close because the friend of his, she was working there. So we called each other and she's -- she told me exactly where it was. And then we heard everything on the news. And the other place that's the most -- really bad, a lot of casualties, you know -- we have to go. (AIR RAID SIREN SOUNDING)

M. O'BRIEN: Suddenly, we were running into their shelter, something every Israeli home must have by law. We waited and watched and listened.

(on camera): How do you know it's clear now? Well, do they...

H. YOSEFSBERG: A minute after it.

M. O'BRIEN: A minute after?

H. YOSEFSBERG: Yes. You can go out.

M. O'BRIEN: It's clear.

All right.

H. YOSEFSBERG: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: OK. So this one...

H. YOSEFSBERG: And you can (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- I can go down.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

H. YOSEFSBERG: And...

UNIDENTIFIED TRANSLATOR: She said she (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

H. YOSEFSBERG: And I have a siren again and I run-again.

M. O'BRIEN: Right.

H. YOSEFSBERG: But now we can go down. I can go.

M. O'BRIEN: You are -- could you hear it? Could you hear anything?

H. YOSEFSBERG: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: What did you hear?

H. YOSEFSBERG: Two falls but (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

M. O'BRIEN (voice-over): And just like that, it was over. We returned to the living room while Shlomo headed for the kitchen. Bombs be damned, we were guests. And here in Israel, guests get white glove treatment.

(on camera): That's what I call hospitality. That is the definition right there. The bombs are...

(CROSSTALK)

M. O'BRIEN: The bombs are hitting you and you're cooking us macaroni? What?

(voice-over): We savored the food and the remarkable hospitality and then asked them what life in Haifa is really like these days.

(on camera): What's is like being a target, living life as a target?

H. YOSEFSBERG: It's like a duck, you know?

S. YOSEFSBERG: Well, we hate it (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

H. YOSEFSBERG: And like a duck in the pool.

UNIDENTIFIED TRANSLATOR: A sitting duck?

H. YOSEFSBERG: A sitting duck. And we're waiting.

(H. YOSEFSBERG SPEAKING IN ARABIC)

H. YOSEFSBERG: For him, we are always a sitting duck because when we are at peace here, every few years we have a war. So it can start now, then. And I don't know after a year. So we're always in the middle.

M. O'BRIEN (voice-over): Here in Israel, the enemies are near and the war is really never over.

(on camera): If they could hear you now talking, what would you say to them?

H. YOSEFSBERG: That we are mothers and we have children and grandchildren, the same like them. And we want peace.

M. O'BRIEN (voice-over): Hava and Shlomo are proud grandparents now -- two little boys and a girl. Look at that red hair. Where did that come from?

They worry about them now and in the future. But they aren't hobbled by that fear. Like Londoners during World War II, they are determined not to leave the vestiges of normal life.

(on camera): So you think it's important to go back to work?

H. YOSEFSBERG: If you -- it's more for the normal life, you know, to -- not to get crazy.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

H. YOSEFSBERG: Not to get crazy because...

M. O'BRIEN: It would be easy to get crazy with bombs coming down on you, right?

H. YOSEFSBERG: Oh, yes.

Some people can't stand it. M. O'BRIEN (voice-over): And so on a day when the sirens blared a half dozen times, when some of her neighbors were killed or their homes wrecked, Hava Yosefsberg, a nurse, got in her car and reported for duty.

H. YOSEFSBERG: If everyone was getting hysterical, I don't think we can hold it. It's our war, even though the soldiers work at (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but it's the people's war.

M. O'BRIEN (on camera): Yes.

What do you mean by that, the people's war?

H. YOSEFSBERG: All the bombs are here...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, oh, I see.

H. YOSEFSBERG: ... so where is the war?

M. O'BRIEN: I see what you're saying.

H. YOSEFSBERG: It's here.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: Remarkable people.

And as I look across the panorama here of Haifa, I see no evidence of any damage. We're told there was no injuries -- were no -- is no damage that we can report as the result of what appears to be four rocket attacks just a short time ago, within the past 10 minutes, here in Haifa, the first of the day.

An entirely different story from yesterday, but a reminder once again it's by no means over -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: No, it's not. And that's some good news that we're hearing about that impact of those -- that siren and those rockets falling.

Miles, thanks.

We'll continue to check in with you, obviously.

And we also continue our coverage of the crisis in the Middle East. That's ahead in just a moment.

First, though, let's check the forecast for you.

Chad has got that.

He's at the CNN Center -- hey, Chad, good morning again.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Soledad.

(WEATHER REPORT) S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's trip to the Middle East.

Does she have enough pull in the Arab world to negotiate any kind of deal?

We're going to check in with former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson.

Also, Lebanon and Hezbollah -- we're going to take a look at how much blame Beirut deserves for letting Hezbollah operate freely.

And as Israel continues to pound Lebanon, we're going to take a look at whether they're risking an even wider conflict in the region.

Those stories all ahead as we continue with a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: The U.S. is getting involved diplomatically in the Middle East fighting now. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in the region, about to begin her peace mission.

What can exactly the U.S. do to bring an end to the fighting?

Joining us this morning from Sante Fe, New Mexico-is Governor Bill Richardson.

He's a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

It's nice to see you, Governor.

Thanks for talking with us.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Secretary Rice is in Beirut right now. One of the officials who is traveling with her was briefing the media. And one of the things he said was that by the fact that she's going to Beirut first, it sends a "dramatic message" -- that's his quote -- "dramatic message."

What exactly is the message if the other message that follows isn't a call for a cease-fire?

RICHARDSON: Well, the message is that Lebanon must expel Hezbollah, that has only caused them troubles; that Lebanon needs a boost, also; that she will do something about the humanitarian situation in Lebanon.

But the fact that she is sending a message that Hezbollah really is the culprit in this contest, in this terrible war, indicates that the next step has to be a multinational peacekeeping force, where she will -- and Israel, in my judgment -- try to get Israeli agreement to have a NATO-led force, perhaps. And I would suggest with some Arab countries like Egypt, like Morocco, like Turkey. Make it truly a multinational force.

S. O'BRIEN: Do you think it's a mistake that Syria is not on the list of the countries that she'll be engaging and visiting and having negotiations with?

RICHARDSON: Well, at this point, you don't want to go to Syria unless you have your ducks in a row. And I think it makes sense what she's doing. First to Lebanon to try to get the Lebanese government, a democratic government, to recognize that housing Hezbollah has been a mistake and do everything they can to expel them.

The next step I would do is go to the Europeans, have sanctions on Hezbollah. Cut off some of their denial of visas. Cut off some of their assets. Then the formation of a multinational force, which would be followed for -- by a framework of a potential cease-fire.

I think she has to also reassure Israel that a multinational force is very much in their interests to keep the Hezbollah forces out of their territory.

And there is also a huge humanitarian issue. There are over a million people on both sides, in Lebanon and Israel, that right now have been displaced, that need assistance. And you don't want to, at the last stage, bring in Syria and Iran -- I think that is a mistake -- bring them militarily in on the side of Hezbollah.

So I would say Syria eventually, she's going to have to go cut a deal with the Syrians to cut their support for Hezbollah or...

S. O'BRIEN: What's that...

RICHARDSON: ... or for this huge...

S. O'BRIEN: Let me interrupt you -- let me stop you there, because what does that deal look like? I mean why would Syria -- what's going to incentive Syria to cut a deal that gets rid of Hezbollah, which they support with a ton of money and a ton of support? I mean what would be the motivation for them?

RICHARDSON: Well, the motivation would be international sanctions and isolation by the Europeans, by other Middle Eastern countries, by the United States. The Saudis, for instance, France a lot of projects in Syria. Many of them oil Arab states have a lot of funds into Syria. So what you do is you sanction them.

And the way you do that, though, is by cutting off Hezbollah's supply lines that Syria provides. You find ways to also sanction Hezbollah, which has basically a strong presence in Lebanon.

S. O'BRIEN: John Bolton, who now holds a job that you used to have, has been very clear where he stands in this conflict. He said that Israel was doing essentially what the U.S. would do in similar circumstances. He also says -- he actually sort of said he was sort of confused by this whole disproportionate use of force issue. This is when he was discussing this issue with Wolf Blitzer yesterday.

Do you think he's making a mistake by being clearly on the side of Israel in what could be a negotiation down the road? I mean do we alienate our -- the Arab countries in that kind of position taking?

RICHARDSON: No. He's reflecting the administration's view. What I would have done differently than the administration is I would have had an early American presence. I would have had Secretary Rice there earlier. I would have had a Middle East envoy shuttling and trying to bring mediation and getting both sides at least to agree on a framework for a cease-fire.

I think eventually -- you can't look at this proportionality because what Israel is doing, I believe, is only going after strategic defensive areas. They have to defend themselves. We are clearly on Israel's side, but at this time, it's important for us to be the catalyst for peace.

We're the only ones with the leverage, with the power in the region, to bring both sides together. But we've got to pressure the Arab states, the Saudis and others, to stop financing Syria and Hezbollah. We've got to get Israel comfortable with the fact that a multinational force is very much in their interests. And then we've got to bring an international coalition, eventually, that says to Syria, look, you're the key here. If you continue funding Hezbollah, if you continue messing around in Lebanon, you're going on the get cut off with very, very strong sanctions.

S. O'BRIEN: New Mexico-Governor Bill Richardson.

He's the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

Nice to see you, as always, sir.

Thanks for talking with us.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Much more on the Middle East crisis in just a moment.

As Arab nations see more Lebanese civilians caught in the crossfire, is Israel potential risking an even bigger conflict?

We'll take a closer look.

DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: I'm Daniel Sieberg.

We've been monitoring the Web during the crisis in the Middle East and I'll share some people's emotional stories when AMERICAN MORNING continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: The crisis in the Middle East being captured by those who are caught up in it. Shown on the Internet, too.

Technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg live for us at the CNN Center -- Daniel, good morning.

What kinds of things are you seeing?

SIEBERG: Yes, good morning, Soledad.

We have to start this segment with our cyber caveat. We've said it before, we have to say it again, we can't verify the authenticity of any of the video or the blogs we're going to be showing you. But, you know, people are increasingly turning to the Internet and to particular video sites, like YouTube, to post some short clips of what they're experiencing and are very passionate about what they're saying, as well.

We're going to start with, on YouTube, a video posted there that apparently shows a pro-Hezbollah rally. This is apparently posted by a Danish blogger. You can see the flags being waved there, the Lebanese cedar tree appearing on some of the flags, as well.

This is a site that offers a lot of video like this, at YouTube. It's also, you can see, I think, at one point there is someone holding up their camera, likely recording some video on their cell phone camera. That's just -- there you see it right there. That's just a part of this conflict. People are so easily able to record video on either a cell phone camera or a digital camera. So you can see it's getting around very, very easily.

The next video we've got is a pretty grainy black and white image that apparently shows some bombing. This, we do not know the source of this. We cannot confirm the source of this. But the title on YouTube is "Israeli Attack On Hezbollah Targets." It sparked some very vociferous comments. That's just a part of YouTube, where people can weigh in with their opinion there on what they're seeing.

And the next video we've got is -- this is a pretty interesting video because it's a personal point of view from this 18-year-old woman, an Israeli woman who typically uses YouTube to teach Hebrew to people online. She actually had to stop because of some of the bombs that were falling in her area.

And we've got some of her words now, as she talks about what she's going through.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, the bombs like -- my -- one of my friend's house is ruined. And everybody is telling me to leave and I don't want to leave because my mom and dad don't want to leave. And I don't want to leave them here. SIEBERG: So that's just a sample, Soledad, of some of the video that's being posted on utube, an increasingly popular site. And you really get this intimate insight into what some people are going through.

S. O'BRIEN: Daniel, what I thought was really remarkable, was some of the Americans we were interviewing as they were coming off these rescue vessels, were keeping blogs all the while as well. That was sort of surprising to me. What kinds of things are you reading on the blogs?

SIEBERG: People are amazingly keeping blogs going under these conditions -- it can certainly be tough. The first one we want to show you is from a website called lebanesebloggers at a popular site called blogspot.com.

The posting here, we found in particular -- I'll just read you a sample of it. This is from someone who goes by the name Raja (ph), whose, apparently, family has been scattered throughout the world.

And he writes: "We have to deal with disrupted lives in all senses of the phrase, broken relationships, shattered livelihoods, failed investments and much, much more. All we have left is hope that we will be able to rebuild what has been destroyed and hope that the situation will not deteriorate any further."

So that is from lebanesebloggers at blogspot.com.

The second one we've got to show you is from a Web site called Beirut Under Siege. This apparently from a Swedish national getting his international relations Ph.D. And you can see there, this posting is from July 21st. And here's how it goes: "It's time for evacuation. Part of me wishes there won't be room for me on the ship, or, better yet, that a sudden cease-fire will make evacuation completely unnecessary. Beirut briefly came back to life yesterday. Restaurants were open and people were out talking and laughing, the way I've always read that Beirutis deal with war during the dark times.

But underneath it all is the constant presence of something sinister and dark. This sinister entity reminded me of its presence through two heavy explosions in the evening. Once again, my building shook and the windows rattled."

So some amazing and passionate sentiments from people there online with the blogs and with YouTube.

And, Soledad, we have to wrap this up, of course, by saying we can't verify the authenticity of any of this material, but it provides an amazing window through the Internet.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, it certainly does.

Daniel Sieberg, thanks, Daniel.

SIEBERG: You bet. More on the crisis in the Middle East just ahead this morning, including a look at how much blame Lebanon deserves for Hezbollah's attacks on Israel. A top Lebanese official will join us to talk about that.

And as more Lebanese civilians die in those Israeli air strikes, could Israel be risking an even wider conflict in the region?

You're watching a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

We're back right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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