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International Conference on Hezbollah-Israeli Conflict; Humanitarian Crisis in Tyre, Lebanon; Militants Fire Barrage of Rockets Into Israel; Verdict Reached in Andrea Yates Trial; Tony Snow Briefs Press

Aired July 26, 2006 - 12:00   ET


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are all agreed that we want most urgently to end the violence on a basis that this time will be sustainable.


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: An international meeting on Lebanon's crisis ends with no cease-fire.

A diplomatic furor after Israeli airstrikes kill four U.N. observers in southern Lebanon. Israel expresses regret.

And the violence rages on. New firefights along the Israeli- Lebanese border.

Hello and welcome. I'm Fionnuala Sweeney in Haifa, Israel. My colleague, Hala Gorani, is standing by in Beirut.

We are following developments this hour in CNN's extensive coverage of the crisis in the Middle East.

The Lebanese prime minister made an impassioned plea for an immediate end to the violence. He told top diplomats gathered in Rome that his country was being cut to pieces by Israeli retaliation against Hezbollah. But that meeting ended without a deal on an immediate cease-fire.

Here's what's happening.

Sources say most of the country is pressed for an immediate end to the fighting, but the U.S. wants the region's long-term problems to be addressed first. The group did agree on the need for an international force.

Meanwhile, a diplomatic firestorm erupted after the deaths of four U.N. observers in an Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed deep regret. The incident is under investigation.

There is fierce fighting between Hezbollah and Israeli forces in southern Lebanon. Israel says there are casualties after battles in and around the village of Bint Jbeil. The daily barrage of air attacks from both sides also continue.

How to implement a cease-fire, how to ensure humanitarian relief, and how to persuade countries to contribute an international force after a fatal attack on unarmed U.N. observers.

John King joins us live to report on how the Rome conference addressed these issues.

Not an unqualified success, John.


The diplomats, as diplomats tend to do, trying to put the best face on this, saying they did make some progress on humanitarian issues and on a major reconstruction package for Lebanon, but they failed to meet the fundamental goal of their session here in Rome, their emergency summit, and that was coming up with a plan for a cease-fire, a plan to not only end the hostilities, but to perhaps create quickly an international force that could go in and provide a security buffer.

The fundamental breakdown was that the United States simply refused to budge, we are told from our sources. Many in the room, almost everyone in the room, wanted simply to agree to a cessation of hostilities and then deal with the very difficult diplomatic issues and political issues like, chief among them, the future of Hezbollah, should it be forced to disarm, should it be removed from the terrorism business, if you will, and turned into a political movement within?

Most wanted a cease-fire first, then deal with that. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stubbornly refused throughout the meeting. She was described by U.S. officials as under siege after she explained her position, saying, what good is a cease-fire on paper if a week from now or a month from now it might break down?


RICE: It is also the case that we talked about how to move forward and not just to talk about it, but, indeed, to take action to move forward. We are all agreed that we want most urgently to end the violence on a basis that this time will be sustainable, because unfortunately this is a region that has had too many broken cease- fires, too many spasms of violence, followed then by other spasms of violence.


KING: Now, as the talks continue on what they call the political track, trying to come up with some way to bring about a cease-fire, the U.N. secretary-general, Kofi Annan, saying there was some progress at the Rome summit on constituting a new international peacekeeping force. So, while they try to work out a cease-fire agreement, the U.N. Security Council will be charged in the meantime with trying to put together the remaining pieces of that international force.

Here's Kofi Annan.


KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: I would hope that as we move forward, not only would we agree on the political settlement, we will take immediate action to assist on the humanitarian front. As some of you know, that I did -- I have asked the council to consider urgent action and cessation of hostilities, and this group has also endorsed the need for urgent action to stop the hostilities so that we can move into the longer-term mode and be able to deploy troops.


KING: The Italians and the French among those at the meeting who volunteered that they would have troops take part in any international force. Of course, they need to get a cease-fire agreement first. No progress on that. No substantive progress, anyway.

The talks will continue. But a great deal of tension in the session. In fact, a number of sources saying at one point the talks almost broke down completely, except for an impassioned plea from Lebanon's prime minister, saying his country desperately needed help. But the prime minister returns to Beirut without what he wanted most from the Rome summit, and, Fionnuala, that, of course, was an international agreement to have a cease-fire.

No end to the hostilities in sight -- Fionnuala.

SWEENEY: And John, it raises the question with the benefit of hindsight, how much progress was this conference ever going to make when the two protagonists here, Israel and Hezbollah, were not represented?

KING: Well, that is a very interesting question. Hezbollah was not represented in person, of course, although the conversations with Hezbollah would be done through the Lebanese government, perhaps through other envoys. Israel had observers here, but everybody knows the chief point of contact with the Israelis will be the United States.

And you mentioned, how can you not have progress without those parties in the room? Another element to this as subtext during the conversations was many believed that the United States simply would not budge because it wants to give Israel more time to carry out its military objectives. So, there is a great deal of tension.

There were difficult issues coming into the conference. They were not settled on the biggest question, the cease-fire. And you could sense as everybody left, quite sober, many of them quite tired, that the tensions perhaps between the parties trying to work out these very substantial disagreements have increased even more.

So, they need to get back to work, but they also need to probably dial (ph) back a little bit and have a little time away from each other -- Fionnuala.

SWEENEY: John King, reporting live from Rome.

Thank you.

Now let's go to Beirut, where my colleague, Hala Gorani, is standing by -- Hala.


We're going to take you from Beirut, further south in the country of Lebanon, to the coast city of Tyre. Our Ben Wedeman is standing by with more on what's going on there and what some are describing as a humanitarian crisis in that part of the country.

Ben, what's the latest on the fighting, first of all?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Hala, about 20 minutes ago right here we heard some huge explosions, and for once they're not coming to the south or to the east of Tyre. They came from inside Tyre itself.

We saw a huge plume of black smoke. We're still trying to ascertain exactly what was hit at this point. But I understand from some people who are familiar with that area it hit in an area where there is a building used for celebrations of Ashura, which is a Shia holiday here.

No word yet, however, of any injuries or casualties or damage. But certainly, it was -- it's rare that we see this sort of bombing inside the city itself. It's usually around the edge -- around the edge of this city is where oftentimes we see Katyusha rockets being fired into northern Israel. That's why they bomb that area. But it's rare -- it has happened in the past, but it's rare where they hit the heart of the city.

Meanwhile, today the U.N. brought in its first convoy of food, first food shipment. They also brought medicine with them.

The official said they only have brought in enough food to feed around 21,000 people for one week. And, in fact, Tyre and its environs have a population of about 30,000 at this point. So it will put a slight dent in the humanitarian crisis here in Tyre, but not one altogether.

Meanwhile, also today we watched as hundreds of people who hold foreign passports, Americans, Brits, Australians, Canadians, boarding a ship hired by the Canadian government to take them to Cyprus. At this point, there are very few of these foreign nationals still in Lebanon who want to leave -- excuse me, Hala.

And, of course, one of the concerns we've heard from many people here in Tyre is that as soon as the foreign -- the evacuation of foreign nationals ended, that this sort of thing, the real intensification of the bombardment, would begin. And certainly, this blast we heard a little while ago would be an indication that maybe they're right -- Hala. GORANI: Now, Ben, today two Jordanian planes with relief supplies landed in Beirut, and those relief and humanitarian supplies are earmarked for southern Lebanon. You gave us the sense there of some of the U.N. effort, but what about other supply routes? Are they able to get those relief supplies to the individuals who need it in cities like Tyre?

WEDEMAN: Well, Tyre is relatively easy, but it's still difficult, because there's only one route in, and that's the coastal road. On that coastal road there used to be a very nice highway that would get you hear very quickly, an hour, hour and 20 minutes.

It's gone. They've -- the Israeli aircraft have blasted all the roads -- or rather all the bridges. Many of the roads have been cratered. So you have to go on the old road, which is much smaller.

And there's a bottleneck at the Litani River, which is 20 miles north of the border with Israel. There, the bridge was blasted, the old bridge and the new bridge, so you basically have to go inland for a bit and drive over a very narrow sand track, essentially. And therefore, you just can't get the kind of volume of traffic through here to get to Tyre that you would normally need.

Let's not forget, Tyre is also a harbor. It's a port. Under normal conditions, you could get supplies in through the port. At the moment, there's nothing coming in.

The only ships that are docking here are these chartered ships hired by foreign governments to bring foreign nationals out. So, two planeloads of Jordanian relief supplies aren't going to make much of a difference for an area that has still a population of several hundred thousand people -- Hala.

GORANI: All right.

Ben Wedeman, live from Tyre, one of the many journalists there covering the conflict in southern Lebanon.

Fionnuala, back to you.

SWEENEY: Hala, thanks, indeed.

Now, Israel says it will conduct a full investigation of the U.N. base bombing and promises to make the results public. Israel's foreign minister emphatically denies that the attack was deliberate.


TZIPI LIVNI, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER: Firstly, we send our condolences to the families ofhe United Nations soldiers. It's a loss of life, and we want to be clear that it was not a deliberate attack, because Israel will never and never targeted and will never target United Nations forces.


SWEENEY: Well, another barrage of rocket fire, meantime, has come across the Lebanese border into northern Israeli towns.

Let's check in with John Roberts for more on the situation on the ground. He is in northern Israel -- John.


A hundred and twenty-nine rockets came into northern Israel today. There were 14 in the city of Haifa. None, though, came south of Haifa.

You'll remember yesterday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed that the fight would go south of Haifa, indicating that he might be able to hit Tel Aviv with some missiles. That did not happen today.

There were a number of injuries. Many of those injuries were shock. There was only one serious injury that the Israeli Defense Forces are reporting today. But for key is here that, for the last few days, we've seen the number of missiles somewhere around 80, 90, slightly less of 100, getting up very close to 130, indicates that Hezbollah still has a lot of rockets left and still has the ability to be able to fire them.

The big story here today, though, is what's happening in the Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil. This is the town that yesterday General Gal Hirsch (ph), the commander of the Galilee division of the Israel army, told me was under Israeli control. Here's what happened, though.

Apparently, Israeli soldiers got up this morning and were engaged in clearing operations, trying to clear out some of those neighborhoods when some Hezbollah forces who had, according to Israeli Defense Forces, been hiding in a bunker set off some booby-traps. There are a number of casualties, 22 injuries reported at this point.

This entire area around Avivim, which is where I'm standing now, was closed off all day. They have just recently reopened it, though they are restricting access to Avivim.

I managed to get in a different way, got right in hard along the border there. I think you just saw the pictures of tanks and those bulldozers going toward the border, reinforcements for the fight in Bint Jbeil.

We also managed to get eyes on U.N. outposts there to take a look at what it looks like. This is an outpost that would be very similar to the outpost that we -- that we heard from the U.N. yesterday was hit by an Israeli bombardment up in the eastern section of southern Lebanon, just across the border from Israel.

So, the town of Bint Jbeil, even though the Israeli Defense Forces say that it was under their control, now certainly not under their control, scene of fierce fighting today. And Fionnuala, it's unclear at this point just how long that fighting is going to continue. SWEENEY: All right. John Roberts reporting live from northern Israel.

Thanks indeed.

Still to come, we will take a look at the economic impact of this crisis. Lebanon's economy and trade minister joins us live.

GORANI: Also coming up, the fighting, of course, affects many civilians. But what happens when those trying to save lives are caught in the line of fire?

That story and much more here on CNN. Stay with us.


SWEENEY: Welcome back to our coverage of the conflict in the Middle East.

I'm Fionnuala Sweeney in Haifa, Israel.

GORANI: And I'm Hala Gorani in Beirut.

One of the most pressing issues here in Lebanon is the distribution of aid to those who need it most across the country, those who've had part of their villages or towns bombed in the recent conflict.

I'm joined now by the minister for economy and trade in Lebanon, Sami Haddad.

Thank you very much, Minister, for being with us.

And I'm going to start with that issue of distribution of aid. Many of the roads impassable at this point.

What's the situation in Lebanon?

SAMI HADDAD, LEBANESE ECONOMY MINISTER: The situation is pretty bleak. We are facing a human disaster, a humanitarian disaster. And the problem is that Israel is bombing any (INAUDIBLE). So, the natural thing we think of is escort, having these convoys escorted by either the U.N. or the Red Cross.

GORANI: Is that happening?

HADDAD: Well, it is happening, but yesterday the Lebanese Red Cross convoy was attacked by Israel, and today the U.N. is being attacked with four U.N. observers dead. So the big worry is that, even if we get humanitarian (INAUDIBLE) and we get basic food, essentials, and other supplies into the ports of Beirut, Tyre, et cetera, the difficulty will remain just to move them around to the most...

GORANI: Just to distribute it to those who need it.

HADDAD: ... neediest.

GORANI: You're the minister of economy and trade. Give me a sense of how much the economy of Lebanon has suffered in the last two weeks. Can you even quantify it at this point?

HADDAD: It's very difficult to quantify because the hostilities are still going on. But the economy has been really -- it's now on its knees.

GORANI: Because the tourism industry is...

HADDAD: Our infrastructure is in shambles. Roads, ports, airports, bridges have been destroyed. And rebuilding it will be extremely expensive.

We will rebuild. We have gone through this before. But we hope that this is going to be the last war of this kind.

GORANI: You're a cabinet minister. Give me your opinion on what happened in Rome today, a conference where all the participants did not come to an agreement on how to implement a cease-fire, or even when to implement a cease-fire.

HADDAD: This is a huge disappointment. We need the cease-fire immediately, because we are being told, you'll get a humanitarian (INAUDIBLE), you'll get essential food relief, yet you're being bombed and more casualties.

Half of our dead are children. Eighty percent are civilians. This is unsustainable. This is completely barbaric, and this Rome meeting is obviously a disappointment because to put together a whole diplomatic package would take time.

GORANI: All right.

HADDAD: And...

GORANI: And time is something that the Lebanese would not like to see go by without a cease-fire.

HADDAD: We need a cease-fire immediately because the suffering is just unbearable.

GORANI: Sami Haddad, the minister of economy and trade, thank you so much for joining us on CNN.

HADDAD: Thank you.

GORANI: We're going to show our viewers there the latest pictures we're getting in from Tyre, the coastal city in southern Lebanon, as I throw it back to my colleague, Fionnuala Sweeney. But before we do that, here you go, some of the latest pictures of the destruction there in the coastal city where our Ben Wedeman and, as well, our Karl Penhaul are there reporting for us on a daily basis.

Pictures of destruction. We go back to Fionnuala in Haifa -- Fionnuala.

SWEENEY: Of course suffering on both sides of this conflict. Israeli civilians have died in the barrage of Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reports on how doctors in Haifa deal with trying to save lives in a war zone.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Rambam Hospital, the largest hospital in northern Israel. Now, for the first time ever, in the target zone. Doctors under fire.

(on camera): We're in the operating room suite at Rambam Hospital. I want to show you something that has really not been seen before. Doctors who are actually operating under situations of conflict. While under attack themselves, they're responsible for saving others' lives.

(voice-over): There is a calmness here as Dr. Tony Karam operates. A few floors above, gurneys and ambulances waiting. Today they will all get used.

A loud thud and an explosion. Close. Too close. And then an increasingly familiar routine.

(on camera): You really get a sense of what's happen now here. You saw the ambulances take off after that thud, not even 100 meters away probably here. It is total pandemonium here, but everyone is getting ready.

They're getting their gloves on, they're getting their garb on. They're waiting for any traumas that might actually come into the hospital. This is where they'll come from this particular area.

(voice-over): Within minutes, patients come pouring in, all of them civilians. Hard to say how badly wounded, but bloodied, banged up and certainly terrorized. Suddenly all those sirens and thuds come to life.

(on camera): Just to give you a sense here, you get the sense that there's been a lot of shrapnel injury here, probably some glass injury as well. Obviously a lot of bleeding here from the shrapnel.

(voice-over): Many of the injuries come from these vicious ball bearings packed into the rockets. I saw them firsthand.

(on camera): Take a look at these pellets. The rockets we've been talking so much about are filled with thousands, tens of thousands of these pellets.

I want to give you an idea of how much damage they can do. Take a look at this car. This is close to the blast site. Look at these pelts have gone straight through the body of the car, shattered out all these windows, through the car seat as well. This car has been completely devastated by these ball bearings. Imagine what they do to the human body.

(voice-over): Today, no one dies from the missile strike. Quickly, breathing tubes are placed and the blood is replenished. Patients stabilized.

Rambam is one of the finest trauma centers anywhere in the world. Still, I saw it in Beirut and now here in Haifa. Hospitals are not immune in this war.

(on camera): We used to think that hospitals and ambulances and health care workers should be given some immunity from the war. But it doesn't appear the case this time around.

DR. TONY KARAM, VASCULAR SURGEON, RAMBAM HOSPITAL: Actually, it doesn't. You know, my daughter asked me some days ago when she was crying when the sirens went on, she asked me why did I continue to go to work. I told her that it was accepted usually in the whole world that no one sends rockets to hospitals. So I will be safe here, even safer than any other places. But it seems it's not the case anymore.

GUPTA: And as the operation continues, this is just another day in the life of Rambam Hospital.



DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN Center in Atlanta. More of YOUR WORLD TODAY in just a few minutes.

First, though, some breaking news out of Texas, as we look at a live picture from the courtroom in Houston, Texas. We're getting word that the jury has reached a verdict in the second trial of Andrea Yates.

Now, the left side of your screen, that's a live picture. And you can see Rusty Yates, her now former husband, in the courtroom to hear that verdict.

On the right side is Tate (ph). Andrea Yates is not in the courtroom quite yet.

The jury has been out a couple of days after listening to closing arguments. This jury has already deliberated much longer than the first jury did back in 2002, which only deliberated for about four hours.

Yates, of course, is accused of drowning her five children in the bathtub. She has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Her earlier conviction was overturned. The verdict is expected to be announced shortly.

Let's bring in our Jeff Toobin, our legal analyst, on the phone with me.

Jeff, what's different about the trial this time around? JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Daryn, it's been actually very remarkably similar. The same psychiatrist, Park Dietz, whose testimony caused the overturning of the first verdict, testified again. And the issue before the jurors is really identical, which is, is she found insane and thus not guilty, or is she convicted?

In fact, the stakes are actually rather low. By that I mean, she's going to be incarcerated for the rest of her life. The only question is, is it in state prison or in a state mental institution?

So, Andrea Yates isn't going anywhere even if she "wins this trial."

KAGAN: Well, you said the stakes are low. Now, if she's -- well, actually, I want to take a step back here and talk about really what this jury has to decide. And even beyond sane or not sane, the issue is, did Andrea Yates know what she was doing, that it was wrong?

TOOBIN: That's right. And that's -- that's the key issue in Texas' definition of the insanity defense. Most states have slightly different definitions of legal insanity. And in Texas, if you know that it's wrong, you are sane.

You really have to be completely oblivious to the circumstances to be found insane. Park Dietz, the famous forensic psychiatrist, testified that it is simply not -- that she said the devil made her do this when he interviewed her, and by that, he interpreted that she knew that since the devil made her do it, it was wrong. It's -- it's a very subtle distinction and, you know, those of us in the real world would all, of course, call her -- cause -- call her behavior crazy, but, in fact, that is the distinction that Park Dietz drew.

KAGAN: And let's not miss what everyone can agree is a huge tragedy here, and that is five innocent children lost their lives. Beyond that, one reason this has received so much national attention was the issue of postpartum depression. And even to take this a step farther, postpartum psychosis.

TOOBIN: Right. And that is -- I mean, that was the central issue in the tria and that -- she has staked her defense on that kind of insanity. But it's a very -- it's a very tough call because jurors, they see the horror of this event. They see that she took these lives. And insanity defenses, especially in Texas, are very hard to win.

KAGAN: Especially this part of Texas, this particular county that Houston sits in. Isn't this the toughest?

TOOBIN: This is certainly one of the toughest, if not the toughest. Harris County has more people on Death Row than most states have people on Death Row. It is just a very tough county. And the magnitude of this crime is enormous.

There's an interesting other factor here. If, on an off-chance, she is acquitted, one of the curiosities of this trial is that she has only been charged with three of the five murders. KAGAN: Right, now, why did they do it that way? That was -- the first trial got set up that way, too.

TOOBIN: It's because, under the double jeopardy clause of the Constitution, they could, in theory -- I don't know if they'd really do this -- but in theory, they certainly have permission to come back, charge her all over again with the two remaining deaths. Even though all the circumstances are identical, they could get essentially the same trial before another jury by charging the other two -- the other two murders.

KAGAN: The man we saw on the file video that walked in with Andrea Yates, the white hair, the bearded man, that's George Parnham, her long-time defense attorney. He really pushed, both before the first trial and especially after the second, to work out some kind of a plea agreement. To say, look, this is terrible, these five children died, that shouldn't have happened. But this is an additional tragedy that Andrea Yates did not get the kind of mental health support she needed before this happened, and she's not getting it now. She doesn't belong in prison, she belongs in a mental health facility.

TOOBIN: That's -- is what defense attorneys always do and it often works. She had two problems. One is Harris County. Harris County is one of the toughest places in the United States to be a criminal defendant. There are -- it is just a place where plea bargaining is rare. And the second is, as you pointed out earlier, the magnitude of this crime. I mean, you know, yes, she had terrible emotional problems, but she killed five people.

KAGAN: And children. I mean, not...

TOOBIN: Five children. And, yes, they're her own and, yes, it was not a rational act. But this is not the kind of case where a prosecutor is going to cut the defendant any kind of break, simply because it is just such a huge, huge crime.

KAGAN: You mentioned the death penalty. I understand that is not an option, because in the first trial, the jurors sentenced her to life in prison. No new evidence was presented between then and now. So it's not like she's going to get the death penalty.

TOOBIN: And under Supreme Court precedent, if you have been charged once, under a life in prison maximum possibility, and you are charged again after the conviction is overturned, they can't go back and ask for additional punishment.

KAGAN: I want to follow up on one of your early points. Park Dietz, the psychiatrist who testified in the first trial, who had a pretty big mistake, which is what led to the conviction -- led to the overturning of the conviction. Talk about that mistake.

TOOBIN: It was really one of the more astonishing mistakes I've ever heard about in a courtroom. What happened was, he testified, apparently told by the prosecution this, that she had modeled her behavior on an episode of "Law and Order" where a woman killed her children and then claimed insanity, and was essentially -- got some -- got off because of it.

Well, and Park Dietz has been a consultant on "Law and Order." He's based out in Los Angeles, and he's been involved in that world. And that was a plausible argument. The only problem, as came out during the appeal, is that there was no such episode of "Law and Order." So Park Dietz had been grievously misinformed, and he, in turn, had misinformed the jury. And the appeals court said this was such a huge mistake that they had to overturn the conviction and order a new trial.

KAGAN: And the prosecution brought him back again?

TOOBIN: You know what, and that was a surprise to me. But Park Dietz -- and I've seen him testify several times. He is really kind of a legendary figure in the criminal -- in the world of criminal law. He's the person who examined John Hinkley. He is sort of the go-to guy for prosecutors. He almost always finds criminal defendants fit to stand trial. I believe he also examined Jeffrey Dahmer, the cannibal from Milwaukee. I mean, this is a guy who is very tough.

But he, on the witness stand, explained how the error took place in his cool as a cucumber way. And, you know, I think explained it away satisfactorily, or we'll see in the verdict. But I was surprised they brought him back. But given his expertise, given his skill as a witness, they let him go.

TOOBIN: All right, Jeff, we're going to bring you back when this verdict is read. We were told it was happening at the bottom of the hour, Clearly, there's a little bit of delay in Houston, Texas. But we will be back live to Houston as this verdict is read.

Right now, let's go to the White House and the daily media briefing. Here's spokesman Tony Snow.


QUESTION: Are we any closer to stopping the violence?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, the violence starts with Hezbollah. And I don't -- we don't stop the violence, they do.

But I think -- I want to say this as a preface: It's pretty clear now with the G-8 statement and the Rome statement and also the actions that have been taken within the region that it is realized that Hezbollah is a threat to peace in the region. And there is also the recognition that Iran and Syria play a role in supporting and funding Hezbollah. And they now have -- it's been pretty clear that in the region and around the world, people want them to assert pressure on Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, we've said to Israel, "You need to practice restraint." We've been very clear about that as well. But the conditions for peace begin with Hezbollah's stopping the terror, returning the soldiers, stopping firing rockets. You've heard the formulation many times. That doesn't change. QUESTION: I understand that. But let me ask the question another way.

Someone's going to hear that there was a meeting this morning and say, "Oh, Secretary of State Rice was in Rome, met with members of the international community. The question would be: Are we any closer to getting this thing stopped?" And what's the answer?

SNOW: Well, the answer is, again, it's like you're watching a fight over there and you're talking about different ways to affect it -- you've got to get the people who are doing the fighting to stop. And that begins with Hezbollah -- Hezbollah being the instigator. That is the key element here.

And the answer is, I don't want to get into the position of assuming a God-like view of being able to tell you what's going to happen tomorrow, because I don't think it's a question that I can answer or anybody else can answer.

I'll tell you what is possible to answer, which is that the international community now is speaking with a pretty united voice on this, and that's the important thing. I think you're going to see coordinated efforts -- diplomatically and, at some point, militarily as well -- addressing the situation.

QUESTION: So what you think came out of there today, especially after that press availability at the end -- what you think you could take away from watching all of that is there is more of a unified voice today than there was yesterday?

SNOW: Yes. And also, everybody now realizes, "OK, we've got to start working on certain things together."

And it's not like they have a meeting, break up and don't talk anymore. Again, we're maintaining a diplomatic presence in the region and there will be continued extensive negotiations -- I'd say consultations. As I've told you each and every day, the Departments of State and Defense, plus the National Security Council, are talking with people all throughout.

So this is one where I think, within the region and within Europe, you've got a lot of people who are very aggressively trying to figure out how to do their part. It's not just the United States. And each and every ally, I think, is pitching in.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Siniora, after his talks, was clearly disappointed. He said they'd hoped to agree to an immediate cease- fire. He said his country is being brought to its knees. And he also said that every day that there's not an immediate cease-fire more Lebanese are dying.

How does that complicate the United States' position to move forward and not undermine support from the Arab allies who are looking at this policy and saying, "Look, you know, this is going to cause civilian casualties the more we wait"? SNOW: I don't think it complicates the American situation. I think it strengthens our resolve to get it solved in the right way so that we are not back here six months, a year, two years, three years from now talking about the same sort of thing.

What we're talking about is building a sustainable and durable peace, which I think is important. And, more importantly -- who cares what I think? It's what the administration thinks is important. And, therefore, it redoubles the commitment there.

And, again, you're finding -- this is moving on several tracks. On the humanitarian track, the United States announced a commitment of $30 million yesterday. That was followed by a Saudi commitment of $1.5 billion. Iraq has pitched in $35 million. You have Jordan providing -- cargo planes were moving into Beirut today.

So you see two things going on. Number one, trying to address the root cause of the violence. You don't address the root cause, it doesn't go away. And Lebanon has been the victim of violence for way too long and instability for way to long. This is a nation that deserves peace and democracy.

And that is the ultimate goal: to create the conditions where that happens, without having to worry about outside influence, without having to worry about groups working internally like Hezbollah, where the people can express their will and move on peacefully.

Going back to the comments I made about Iraq, when you have a democratically elected government, absent the kinds of situations you have in Lebanon, people do what they do here and in every other democracy, which is that they cater to the will of the people. And at this point, you've got a faction within Lebanon that is operating as an independent entity. And that's not only unacceptable in terms of the United Nations resolutions, but it makes the nation untenable.

And it's important to make sure that the Siniora government not only survives but is able to assert effective sovereignty throughout the country in all ways, and that is the goal.

Civilian casualties we hate. We deplore -- we mourn the loss of all of them. That has been clear, and it's one of the reason why the United States has pressed hard not only for humanitarian assistance; also for those who've been displaced, because that is also an ongoing tragedy.

So we are concerned about those things, but also we are concerned about a country that has been living under occupation for quite a while, has gotten a whiff of democracy, and we want to make sure that that flower has an opportunity to grow.

QUESTION: The Siniora government and other world leaders are saying, however, that the U.S. policy, the more you delay the cease- fire, that it's not immediate, that that will cause more casualties...

SNOW: No, that's argumentative. And I think, again, the calculation here -- for instance, you take a look at the statement. The statement out of Rome today is: It's urgent. There was not a call for an immediate cease-fire. This was an agreement that was signed by all parties.

But is it urgent? Yes. As I've said many times, we would love a cease-fire yesterday. But, unfortunately, the conditions for a durable and sustainable peace are not yet present.

And most importantly, the people who started the fight, Hezbollah, have given absolutely no indications, those who are involved in military activities, that they intend to cease and desist. Quite the contrary.

We are hoping that diplomatically others can persuade them to lay down arms and join civil society and choose a political rather than military course. But that simply hasn't happened yet.

QUESTION: Earlier, we touched on this subject, and my question is, does Syria have anyplace at the peace table?

SNOW: I don't think that there is an official role, but it is obvious that at this point that there are consultations with the government of Syria. And, again, the Syrian government certainly knows what the U.S. position is. But other nations have been speaking with the Syrians and we're aware of some of those conversations.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. have a new sense of urgency about a cease-fire?

SNOW: No, the U.S. has had a sense of urgency all along. Again, we dispatched diplomats to the region very shortly after this began. There is no new sense of urgency. There's been a sense of urgency all along.

What has been, I think, an important commitment on the part of this government is to build the kind of diplomatic might so that we're not simply acting alone, but in fact you've got a lot of people with a lot of interest and a lot of equity in the region who can all in different ways support the mission of creating those conditions for a sustainable peace.

QUESTION: Going back to the U.N. observers that were killed, the Israelis have said they were not deliberately targeted. Does the president accept that as...

SNOW: I haven't spoken to the president, but I think you -- I think you take the Israelis at their word, but also the Israelis are doing an investigation into it, and they're trying to figure out precisely what happened.

Clearly, something went wrong. And it's important to find out what went wrong and to try to ensure that it never happens again. And I think I'll let the Israelis speak for themselves on that.

QUESTION: Tony, understanding that terrorist groups are very unpredictable and that they obviously want to cause terror, you and others in this administration have said it's hard, if not impossible to negotiate a cease-fire with a terrorist group. Paint a picture of an end game here that does not get to eliminating Hezbollah.

SNOW: I can't do that, and I don't think it's appropriate for me to do that.

Look, I think what you've got to talk about here -- you are talking about a coordinated international effort, and I am sure people are trying to figure out what the appropriate benchmarks are. This would sort of fall into the category of my trying to negotiate from the podium or also try to dictate terms and conditions.

I think the important thing is Hezbollah has to make the decision: Does it use terror as a weapon? Does it use it as a political tool? Or does it cease using it?

Does it want to take a military path or does it want to take a political path?

And we've seen those choices posed in a number of other places, including in Iraq.

That is the choice that terrorists around the world are going to have to make. And if they choose the terror path, you have to find ways to make them cease and desist.

QUESTION: For somebody sitting at home that hears this sustainable cease-fire and hears it's tough to negotiate or impossible to negotiate a cease-fire with a terrorist group, and then they hear the Israelis saying the Americans essentially have given us 10 to 14 days to finish this up, what is that person supposed to think?

SNOW: Two things: I'm not aware that the Israelis have said that, but I'll take your word for it. The second thing is people at home probably realize that wars, again, don't operate according to calendars. They operate according to conditions on the ground.

What we are hoping to do is to get conditions that are going to be conducive. I think people also understand that if you have the presence of a destabilizing force within a nation and it is still able to weaken the government, that is a situation that cannot persist. And there are many different ways of measuring it.

I'm just not sure I have the wisdom or the ability to try to come up with a metric for that. It's something, though, that I think, in its own way becomes apparent to those involved.

QUESTION: In Iraq right now, there are (inaudible) of fatwas being issued, banning women from driving or being seen out alone, women being stoned for wearing makeup and professional women being murdered.

And in his speech this morning, al-Maliki praised the high status of women in Iraq. Would you acknowledge that in fact the status of women in Iraq is perilous right now?

SNOW: I don't know that it would be perilous, because that would assume that the things that you talk about are, in fact, universal. But I will go back to what the prime minister did say, because he acknowledges that -- he says that -- it's important to acknowledge the rights chartered in the constitution will also help consolidate the role of women in public life and help them play a greater role in public life.

It is clear that he thinks that there is still the importance of having a greater role, but I am not going to try to do a full human rights analysis. It is clear that Prime Minister Maliki is devoted to the cause of the rights of women. And I would redirect to Iraqi officials specific questions about fatwas.

A, I don't know anything about them and, B, I think it's their job to respond.

QUESTION: The perspective of many human rights group is that what's happening with women now is, in fact, worse than what was happening under the...

SNOW: Again, I redirect to them.

The prime minister also made the point that Iraq has moved to a point of elections and not mass graves. We can argue this both ways, I suppose, but I think a situation where people were being dumped into mass graves by a regime that used murder as simply a way of clearing up what it saw as political difficulties is far different than one that tries to deal with its political difficulties by appealing to the needs and desires of the people.

QUESTION: Even if it can't control the people?

SNOW: I don't think the purpose of a government is to control the people; it's to respond to their will.

QUESTION: Also, in the Maliki speech, there was no reference to Hezbollah in there and responsibility. Did the White House make any request that...

SNOW: No, no, but I think, you know, the prime minister -- I don't know why everybody here wants the prime minister to come and talk about a different set of problems. He's the prime minister of Iraq.

QUESTION: He also spoke about the global war on terror, about how fighting terror in Iraq...

SNOW: That's right, and he also understands that Iraq is the centerpiece of that and that a failure to address and combat and vanquish terror there would have catastrophic effects throughout the world.

His job is to be the prime minister of Iraq, and I would expect him to go before the United States Congress and not only talk in general terms about where they've gone but where he intends to go.

This is a chance for members of the Congress and for Americans to assess somebody who is now a head of a sovereign state. We have committed some of our finest young men and women to serve us there; 2,600 have lost their lives; we've spent billions of dollars.

This is important for many Americans. And the prime minister, I think, is making it clear that he is not somebody who takes these sacrifices lightly.

The first thing he did was to thank the American people, and also, to give a sense that he's determined to make sure -- and this gets to the point she was making -- that you get a democracy that secures the rights of all people, and also demonstrates to the region that such a thing is possible in that part of the world.

QUESTION: On this trip, he's, in effect, giving the group that the administration identified as a terrorist group a free pass?

SNOW: No, as a matter of fact, I think Senator Harry Reid was saying that he's received some word that the Iraqi foreign minister is going to come out with a statement condemning Hezbollah.

Prime Minister Maliki has never delivered a statement supporting it. And so, again, what you're trying to do is to pick a fight. And I understand it. It's colorful; it's interesting. But it's also the prime minister's job to serve as the prime minister of Iraq.

And he understands how the war on terror operates far more personally than any of us. He's living in Baghdad. He's living in the conditions. He's seen people try to destabilize his government every day.

He understands the human toll. He understands the economic toll. And I think he talked very directly about those things. And I think, again, it's a message that I'm glad people got to hear.

QUESTION: Did the president speak with Secretary Rice since the morning news conference in Rome? And, if so, did he have...

SNOW: I don't know. I don't have any read-out of the conversations.

QUESTION: He has talked to her?

SNOW: No, I don't know. I don't know. I mean, it was pretty tight because, you know, she made her way from Rome and is now in the area, I know, on her way to Malaysia.

Certainly, there have been contacts with members of the State Department. I was doing some of these. So I don't honestly know if there was a direct conversation with the president. But I guarantee you the president will have gotten a read-out and may in fact be getting calls from the plane as well.

I'll try to find out. We'll attach a footnote if we've got any context on it. Let's stick with questions on the area.

QUESTION: Tony, you said that the United States government is urging Israel to use restraint. Are they using restraint?

SNOW: I'm not going to characterize. I will you our position, but I'm not going to get in the position -- we've been through this a lot of trying to grade the activities. Because, among other things, it would require my knowing what all the conditions and considerations are, and I don't.

And I dare say even very wise and involved people in this country don't know each and every consideration that goes into specific battle plans. That is a question that I think can only be answered in hindsight, not from here.



QUESTION: Every time we sort of ask, you say, "Well, they probably know our position," et cetera.

SNOW: Yes.

QUESTION: "They have an ambassador in town." But can you tell us directly, has United States officials formally spoken to either the Syrian ambassador here, the folks in Damascus to say, "Hey, you are a sponsor of these folks; help us stop them, rein them in," whatever?

SNOW: I'm not aware of recent conversations along those lines. I am aware that they have access to electronic communications, including this. So let me be clear one more time: You need to do your part.

But the ambassador -- so I don't know, and I also don't know what would count as a contact. I honestly don't know if Ambassador Moustapha has spoken to people at State or elsewhere.

QUESTION: I mean, do you have a sense that there's -- that there would be a value to that, or we're...

SNOW: No. As a matter of fact, let me -- Secretary Rice sort of addressed this a little bit today -- and let me see if I've got the comments with me -- because she has talked about the fact that Colin Powell Richard Armitage, Bill Burns, a number of others over the years maintained pretty active contact with the Syrians.

In addition, the president, I think as recently as 2004, had dispatched a letter to President Assad. So it is clear that there have been, over the last 30 years, many, many, many attempts to deal directly with the Syrians and it has yielded no discernible fruit. So at this particular point, the Syrians know our position.

But, more importantly, a number of other countries that may in the past have been silent about it are no longer silent, both publicly and privately, and this would include people in the neighborhood.

So the more significant -- I mean, the Syrians know what our position is, but now that they know their neighbors share substantially the same concerns, that may make a difference. I don't know. We'll have to see.

QUESTION: Tony, I have one on that area and one domestic. Since Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that has killed hundreds of Americans, why is it that the president wants Israel to cut short its war to destroy its infrastructure, since that is what the president pledged to do to all international terrorist organizations after September the 11th?

SNOW: Counselor, the question is argumentative, presumptuous and makes assumptions not in evidence.


QUESTION: That was a network question, but all right.

Tony, "The Washington Post"...

SNOW: Let me just apologize personally to the network for legal jargon. Continue.


QUESTION: Well, we'll quote you.

"The Washington Post" this morning quoted Maryland's lieutenant governor and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Michael Steele as saying that being a Republican is, quote, "like wearing a scarlet letter" and that he does not want the president to campaign for him this fall.

And my question: Since Nathaniel Hawthorne's original "Scarlet Letter" was "A" for adultery...


... and Mr. Steele has, in effect, told the president to stay away from his campaign, are you just going to respond to this with an icy silence, or an irritable evasion?

QUESTION: Beautiful smile? He's got a beautiful smile?

SNOW: We have the broad sweep of literary history here.

Let's walk through a couple of things. I am told by some of the reporters who were at the scene that is was mischaracterized, but I will leave it to people who were there to characterize more fully the statements that were made.

Number two, the president, the first lady, the president's father, I believe the vice president, the vice president, Karl Rove, this administration has been in Maryland campaigning for Michael Steele. We want him to become the next U.S. senator.

QUESTION: Yes, and how grateful has he been?

SNOW: Well, you know, that's...

QUESTION: He said he doesn't want the president to campaign anymore.

SNOW: Well, again, you know, I've received characterizations but, having not been in the room, I think it's probably not up to me to say exactly what happened.

There are probably different versions, and I would refer you either to the people who are elbowing up with him or to Mr. Steele himself. I'm just not going to play.

QUESTION: Do you remember Tennyson's great statement that "ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend"?


SNOW: Once again, you're leaping ahead. I think I've made my point on this.

KAGAN: We've been listening into the White House press briefing with Tony Snow.

While we've been doing that, we've also been looking at pictures as they've rolled into us from Tyre, Lebanon. The fourth largest city in the country, it has been the target of attacks once again today. Israelis believe that this is one of the places that Hezbollah has moved itself among the civilian population. No word from our Ben Wedeman -- he says no word on casualties in this latest round of strikes.

Also, still standing by from Houston, Texas, waiting for the verdict in the second Andrea Yates murder trial. Will the jury, the second time around, find her guilty or find her innocent by reason of insanity?

We'll have more stories on all of this, and more developments, just ahead at the top of the hour with Kyra Phillips.

I'm Daryn Kagan. That completes our coverage this hour. Stay tuned to CNN, the most trusted name in news.



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