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U.S. Resisting Calls for Immediate Cease-Fire; FBI Developing Programs to Help U.S. Stay Step Ahead of Terrorists

Aired July 25, 2006 - 07:30   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody. You're watching a special split edition of AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Soledad O'Brien in New York today.
Good morning, Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

Miles O'Brien reporting from Jerusalem today, 2:30 in the afternoon here. It's been a busy day of diplomacy as the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was here in Jerusalem. She's just over the hills a few miles behind me in the West Bank and Ramallah in the midst of her discussions with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, as she continues that shuttle diplomacy, which amounts to a tightrope walk. On the one hand, in Beirut yesterday, she received a strong statement from the prime minister there, the speaker of the parliament, saying now is the time for an immediate cease-fire. Condoleezza Rice was resisting that effort.

And we'll get back to you right now, Soledad.


S. O'BRIEN: Also this morning, the U.S. is resisting calls for an immediate cease-fire, Miles, between Israel and Hezbollah. Egypt is among those pushing for an end to the fighting.

Let's get right to Nabil Fahmy. He is Egypt's ambassador to the United States, and he joins from Washington D.C.

It's nice to see you, sir. Thank you for talking with us. We sure appreciate your time.

NABIL FAHMY, EGYPTIAN AMB. TO THE U.S.: Good morning, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's first talk about the strategy ahead. How -- what it is the plan, from Egypt's perspective, to be involved and in fact pressure Syria in some way to put the pressure on Hezbollah to bring an end to the fighting and end to the conflict?

FAHMY: Well, needless to say, we don't want the situation to go back to where it was previously, where you have violence across the Lebanese border every now and then. Now to achieve that, we have to deal with the reality on the ground today where there is tremendous loss of life on both sides, over 400 Lebanese killed and several dozen Israeli civilians killed. So we need a cease-fire. Secondly, you need to deal with the humanitarian situation because of what we face -- what we see every day and what you're covering on CNN.

And thirdly, you need to place the foundations for these things not to happen again, and that means talking to all the parties. The Egyptian foreign minister has been in touch with all the parties, including of course Syria. But all the parties.

Syria is not the only address on this issue. We've been talking to all of the parties, and we will, to solidify the Lebanese government, to enable them to exercise their sovereignty throughout the territory, and to stop cross-border skirmishes, be they from the Lebanese side or from the Israeli side. This is simply unacceptable.

S. O'BRIEN: To a large degree, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has a similar list, except she says she can't get to cease-fire until the other things are done first. There's got to be a buffer zone. You've got to have Hezbollah under some kind of control. Do you think she's wrong in that strategy?

FAHMY: Well, we agree with the secretary that the objective is to reach a situation where this doesn't reoccur. For us, the cease- fire is an issue of tremendous urgency, and we think immediacy. We don't think you can exercise Lebanese sovereignty throughout Lebanon without a cease-fire. You can't place forces in there without a cease-fire. And it is simply untenable, politically and morally, to watch Lebanon be completely destructed or to watch the civilians on both sides being killed as we put a plan together.

S. O'BRIEN: What about the argument that goes like this -- if you have a cease-fire now, you essentially leave Hezbollah intact, and so you don't at the end of the day accomplish anything, and you called for a cease-fire, both parties have retreated.

FAHMY: Well, nobody is asking for a cease-fire, period. We're talking about a cease-fire and an engagement with the Lebanese government. They represent the people of Lebanon. We will help them exercise their sovereignty. So it's not cease-fire period; it's cease-fire plus.

S. O'BRIEN: When you talk about help them exercise their sovereignty, does that mean you're going to be willing to commit troops, Egyptian troops, to actually go in and be part of the peacekeeping force?

FAHMY: We will see what is required there, what the Lebanese want and what is most useful.

I'm not sure, frankly, putting Arab troops further on Arab- Israeli borders is the best formula, but we will engage with the Lebanese government, first of all, and we hope all of this will be done through the U.N.

S. O'BRIEN: As you well know, the list of countries that are willing to pony up troops to be on that border is sort of few and far between. Everybody's all for it, but nobody seems to want to actually commit their troops.

FAHMY: And that will probably diminish even further, if we don't have a cease-fire. That's why we think it is imperative to have a clear commitment for an urgent and immediate cease-fire, but it's not -- as I said, that's not the end of the road; it's the beginning of the road.

S. O'BRIEN: There was a protest in Egypt where they were clearly supporting Hezbollah. To what degree do you think, in fact, that the act of dismantling of Hezbollah is going to put at risk of destabilizing your own nation?

FAHMY: Well, i think what you saw in Egypt was basically a demonstration against the continued bombing by Israel of Lebanon. That's really why we've been calling for the end of the -- a cease- fire. This fuels anger. It fuels extremism. It fuels Arab-Israeli hatred, and it's something that's contradictory with our foreign policy.

S. O'BRIEN: So it wasn't pro-Hezbollah as the people who were marching were chanting, it was actually pro-cease-fire?

FAHMY: I think it was, yes, pro-cease-fire, yes.

S. O'BRIEN: How do you think this ends? I mean, when do we see an end to the violence? Clearly the secretary of state could have called for a cease-fire. So far in any of the meetings she's had, there's no sense that she is or is inclined to.

FAHMY: At the risk of being redundant and just supporting our own policy, we have repeatedly said issues in the Middle East that need to be addressed on an urgent basis and they need to be addressed comprehensively. That's why we've been trying to pursue the Lebanese problem as soon as it started, and that's why we've been trying to pursue the Lebanese problem comprehensively, dealing with all of the problems between Lebanon and Israel.

And frankly, as you saw the secretary herself just today, that's why we've been doing the same thing on the Palestinian-Israeli issue. They need to be addressed. If they don't -- if it's addressed, you will see recurring violence, and that is not in the Middle East's interests, nor is it in America's interest.

S. O'BRIEN: So when you say it needs to addressed relatively quickly, it needs to be addressed comprehensively, are you saying that's not something that the Bush administration is doing right now?

FAHMY: Well, the secretary is in the region, so we're happy she's there and we're happy she's looking -- putting the U.S. diplomacy behind that. We will -- we've been trying to do that ourselves, and we will help her move things forward.

I'm not worried -- I don't want to waste my time on what hasn't been happening. People are engaged now. Let's focus on getting a cease-fire. Let's focus on not allowing this to occur in the future, and let's deal with the problems in the Middle East together. S. O'BRIEN: Nabil Fahmy is the Egyptian ambassador to the United States. Nice to see you, sir, and thanks for talking with us.

FAHMY: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: President Bush meets with Iraq's prime minister today. Among the things they are expected to discuss is a new plan to beef up security in Baghdad. Car and truck bombs continue to be a daily threat for U.S. troops, and civilians as well.

In the meantime, the FBI is developing programs to help the U.S. stay one step ahead of the terrorists.

Justice correspondent Kelli Arena has our report this morning.


KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Iraq and Afghanistan, lethal truck bombs are a constant threat. When they explode, U.S. troops are forced to become crime-scene investigators, a role few are prepared for. The FBI is trying to change that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be a record-breaker, guys. This may be the biggest crime scene we've ever had.

ARENA: At the FBI's large vehicle bomb school, Kevin Miles receives a construction of a 4,000-pound truck bomb. Another 400 pounds is loaded into this smaller vehicle to recreate a real life scenario experienced by U.S. troops in Baghdad, in which a suicide bomber attacks those who've respond to the first blast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two-four, we're going fire in the hole, shot one.

Fire in the hole, shot one!

Push it.

ARENA: The second explosion also goes off without a hitch.

The next day, students are brought in to try to figure out what happened. Debris from these explosions scattered almost 4,000 feet, creating a 374-acre crime scene.

(on camera): With only 45 students investigating the bombings, instructors hear think that maybe they gave them a little bit more than they could handle.

(voice-over): An advance team does a preliminary search for evidence, and all are keenly aware of the clock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Afghanistan and Iraq, if you get an hour you're very lucky. I've seen it where you're going in maybe 15, 20 minutes on the ground due to the area may not be secure.

ARENA: This Navy lieutenant commander expects to are redeployed soon, and for security reasons does no the wish his name to be known.

Teams photograph and flag pieces of potential evidence and swab of a vehicle caught in the crossfire for explosive residue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any indicator of any type of initiation device, you know?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They might have it up over on that end then, hopefully.

ARENA: They eventually find most of what they're looking for, including batteries and a telephone keypad they determine was used to trigger the second bomb.

Robert Pursley, a 27-year law enforcement veteran says the training is invaluable, in part because he expects terrorism to make its way back to U.S. soil.

LT. ROBERT PURSHLEY, SANTA CRUZ CO. SHERIFF'S DEPT.: We've had our incidents here already, that's an indicator and that's why we're doing this training.

ARENA: Kevin Miles says more than 400 people signed up to take the course. To keep up with the enemy, he's constantly modifying his classes, but not his message.

KEVIN MILES, FMR. BOMB TECHNICIAN: The evidence that they're looking for is out there somewhere, and if they know where to look for it, they'll find it.

ARENA: Kelli Arena, Salen (ph), Nevada.



S. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, a reality check on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's trip to the Middle East. We'll take a look at whether the U.S. has enough clout to broker a cease- fire, if they wanted to. Also, Hezbollah support in Lebanon, we'll see if it's losing any influence as the civilian death toll climbs.

And coming up next, Lebanon's humanitarian crisis, hundreds of thousands of people now homeless. Just how bad is that situation going to get? We'll check in with a relief worker in Beirut. All that is ahead on a special split edition of AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: The port of Larnaca in Cyprus has been a place where we have witnessed an exodus of thousands of foreign nationals, many of them Americans. So far, about 13,000 of them, trying to get their way out of war-torn Lebanon. It's about to change somewhat there, because it is now becoming a point, and while business sort of returns to usual on one level, it will become a transshipment point for a humanitarian effort to bring food, and medicine and supplies into Lebanon, now hobbled by this two-week-old war.

We get more on the scene in Larnaca from CNN's Alessio Vinci -- Alessio.


You can see behind me here, some activities. It is the first time in about a week or so that we're seeing some activity not connected to the evacuation. It is an indication that perhaps the port of Larnaca is somewhat returning to its normal shipment activity, rather than dealing with evacuees alone.

But as you can see behind this cargo ship, there is another one of the ferries. That's the last one that has arrived last night, about 1:30 local time here. That's the Saranade (ph), carrying about 600 Canadians. And then on the other side of the port, you can see another ship that arrived earlier last night, the Princess Marissa there, carrying several hundred people from other European nationalities.

As far as the Americans are concerned, the activity is about an hour away from here, in the port of Limaso (ph). There U.S. evacuees have arrived. We understand a ship with about 300 Americans has arrived, an indication that ship, in theory, can actually 1,000 passengers. Only 300 have arrived, an indication that the operation is winding down as far as evacuations are concerned. But it is picking up as far as the humanitarians. The Americans have delivered already some shipment now, and more is expected later today.

Miles, back to you.

Alessio Vinci in Larnaca, Cyprus.

A little bit of breaking news. Further airstrikes reported in the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, that port city. We were there just a little while ago and told you about additional strikes there, apparent Israeli air force strikes, focusing on the source for some of these Hezbollah rockets, which continue to rain down today on northern Israel.

Karl Penhaul live with us now with more -- Karl.


In fact I'm going to stand out of the way of the picture for you and see if we can get a little bit closer to where the action is taking place. About a mile or two miles from our position, south of our position, what's happening right now is that that area, where you can see possibly through the haze, some smoke rising, is coming under an intense bombardment by Israeli artillery. We can't wear warplanes in the area at this stage, but we can very clearly hear the thud of artillery as it goes out somewhere close to the Israeli border, 10 miles from where we are, and then we can see the smoke rising as those explosions hit the ground there, as I say about two miles from our position.

What's the significance of that position? Well, about 20 minutes ago, we did hear the sound of rockets, Hezbollah militia rockets, being fired from around that point, and then what routinely has been happening here, is that unmanned aerial drones carry out reconnaissance, fly over that zone, pinpoint an area, and then call in the airstrike. And once again, this is what is happening now -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: So, Karl, what you're saying is there's a combination of artillery and airstrikes focusing in on Tyre right now. It seems as if this particular location really in Israeli crosshairs right now.

PENHAUL: Exactly. I have been reading over the last couple of days an analysis in Israeli media, talking about the significance of Tyre, suggesting that Hezbollah units are concentrated in this area. And for that reason, the area around Tyre, particularly the southern and eastern suburbs, has been bearing the brunt. Not only Hezbollah fighters firing out Katyusha rockets from this area, but also according to that Israeli military analysis they're firing modified Syrian-made rockets, and also some of the local residents have told us that Hezbollah fighters in this area have (INAUDIBLE) artillery field pieces, and those shells from those artillery pieces can typically fire about 19 miles, which puts those shells across the other side of the border, as and when Hezbollah choose to open fire with those weapons -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Karl, we've talked a lot about how the Israelis, when they conduct these airstrikes, are using precision weapons supplied by the United States. But artillery fire, that's not as precise, and you have to ask about civilian casualties. Do we have any indication right now that civilians are getting caught up with this as we speak?

PENHAUL: Before I answer that question to you, Miles, just take a look at some of this smoke now that you can see rising from that position that I was telling you about. That does appear to have been a bomb that fell from a warplane, a bomb, because that occasion we didn't hear the Israeli shells going out from close to the border, but we did hear the distinct explosion from what sounded like possibly a 500-pound bomb dropped by one of the Israeli warplanes from the air. That's to say a large plume of smoke going up there now.

But to come back to your question about civilian casualties and these pinpoint bombings, we certainly, looking in the hospitals over the last five, six days since we've been in Tyre, have seen large numbers of civilian casualties. We've seen hundreds of civilians literally with their bodies pockmarked by shrapnel wounds. One hospital that I went to I saw a man come in with his leg severed by shrapnel, shrapnel in his brain. Ten minutes after he came in he died. And that's day in and day out.

Three days ago we were at a mass burial here in Tyre. There just isn't time to bury these people individually. And on that occasion, the bodies of 87 civilians were put in a long grave and covered over by bulldozers. That is still going on. City hall officials and hospital officials tell us that civilians, either in their homes or in vehicles as they try to flee the area, are still being hit by Israeli warplanes, as was indeed, Miles, two nights ago who local Red Cross ambulances, they were also hit in an Israeli airstrike -- Miles.

PENHAUL: Karl, do we have any way of knowing, first of all it's difficult, of course, to separate the Hezbollah militants from the civilians, and part of that is by design.

M. O'BRIEN: Secondly, do we have any sense that these Israeli airstrikes are having much effect on the goal, to stop these rocket firings, which after all we've been seeing all morning long in the north of Israel?

PENHAUL: There are several indications that I can glean. The first of all, as to whether -- the Israelis certainly will tell us, and have been telling us, that it's very difficult to separate the Hezbollah fighters from the civilian population, because the Israelis say that the Hezbollah fighters have been basing themselves in urban areas. But what we've seen over the last two or three days is that rocket fire, either Hezbollah rocket or missile fire, has been going up from the fields around the towns, and not directly from the towns themselves.

And also, in terms of what the Israelis are doing, in terms of degrading Hezbollah positions, we have seen these warplanes flying increasingly low, and that presumably is an indication they no longer fear ground fire against their jets from Hezbollah positions -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Karl Penhaul, and yet the rockets keep firing. Thank you very much for keeping us posted on what's going on in Tyre right now. The military escalation continuing on the part of the Israelis. The rockets raining down from Hezbollah on this day 14.

And in the middle of all this, a humanitarian crisis. We're told there may be upwards of 800,000 people in Lebanon displaced, a growing issue of health and lack of food that might be of great concern as time goes on.

All right, before we head to that, before we talk more about the humanitarian crisis, let's go to the secretary of state holding a press conference in the West Bank.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PRIME MINISTER, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: I would like to thank Dr. Rice, and thank her for the effort she's making for a cease-fire and to implement a just and sustainable peace in the area.

And I agree with President Bush and Dr. Rice that it is necessary to deal with the problems at their roots. That is find radical solutions to all aspects of the Palestinian cause under (inaudible) Mr. Bush's vision and the termination of the Israeli occupation, which started in 1967, as was stated in the road map.


ABBAS (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The attacks on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank must stop immediately. And we must reinforce that (inaudible) between both sides so that we can restart a meaningful peace process that will lead to the termination of the occupation and of the conflict.

It is also necessary to stop the attacks against Lebanon, which is being destroyed at this very moment. A cease-fire must be reached and (inaudible) with the Lebanese government in order to solve this crisis and to exit this disastrous situation which the Palestinian people is living.

Violence is the natural result of the absence of peace. Therefore, we must employ much more efforts in order to reinforce a comprehensive peace in the area away from any dictations or colonization activity and roles and all of the policies that aim to create new facts on the ground.

What is needed now is an immediate cease-fire and putting out all of the fires. And we will not save any effort to continue endeavoring to achieve a cooling down on mutual and simultaneous basis with the Israeli side, and then revive that political process.

We are also endeavoring with all of the means available to us to ensure release of the Israeli soldier, and at the same time we hope that Israel (INAUDIBLE) realize the suffering of 10,000 Palestinian families whose sons and daughters are detained in Israeli prisons. Some of them have been in such detention centers for about three decades.

On the international level, we are making tremendous efforts, especially after the agreement on the detainees...

M. O'BRIEN: The secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, along with the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, having had their meeting, now meeting with the press. We're going to continue listening to this news conference. We will bring you further details as we get them, as the secretary of state's shuttle diplomacy, this tightrope act in the Middle East continues.

The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING begins right now.


S. O'BRIEN: Back to that press conference, Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, is talking now. She's doing a joint press conference with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. We heard him talk just a moment ago.

Let's listen in over the translation to hear what she's saying.

our desires to get back on a course that will lead ultimately to the president's vision, and, indeed, the vision of President Abbas -- President Bush's vision, but, indeed, the vision of President Abbas, of two states living side by side in peace. CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECY. OF STATE: It is important that we end the Gaza crisis. And I know that the president is working hard to do that and to create the conditions on which that can end. But I also said to the president that I have speaking with the Israelis about the need to implement the November agreement on movement and access so that the Palestinian people can have a means for economic -- their economic health and that the humanitarian considerations and concerns of the Palestinian people can be taken care of.

All in all, this was a very useful and constructive discussion. We are working with the Palestinian Authority and with its duly elected president on multiple fronts: on the security front, on the economic front.

The United States continues to provide humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, and we have done all that we can to reprogram and to program even more humanitarian assistance.

But we need to be able to make progress, because the Palestinian people have lived too long in violence and in a sense of the daily humiliations that go along with the circumstances here.

And so, Mr. President, you have our pledge that our common work of bringing a two-state solution to the people of Palestine and the people of Israel -- that we will not tire in our efforts.

And I thank you again for welcoming me here, and I look forward to our continuing work.



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