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CNN NEWSROOM

Thai Army Declares Martial Law; President Bush Delivers Address to United Nations; U.N. Meeting Protests; Muslims Demand More Specific Apology from Pope;

Aired September 19, 2006 - 14:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: And the story keeps developing. State of emergency, martial law, tanks and troops in the street. The breaking news out of Bangkok continues, where a military coup attempt is well under way while the Thai prime minister is far away in New York. And we've just learned that the military has revoked the Thai constitution.

CNN's Dan Rivers joins me now from the Thai capital.

Dan, it's not slowing down.

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, this is a serious step that the military generals have taken here. They have revoked the 1997 constitution. The entire cabinet has been sacked, apparently.

We are now under a state of martial law. And the Thai prime minister, caretaker prime minister, as he was, Thaksin Shinawatra, is in New York.

We are now right outside his office, his former office. There's a column of Humvees coming down the street right over here. There are two tanks.

I don't know if you can see them. It's pretty dark here, but let's just see if the camera can pick up these Humvees as they're coming in.

They all have yellow ribbons tied to the vehicles. Now, yellow is the color of the king. And this coup has pledged its allegiance to the king.

We drove past the royal palace earlier on, which is heavily protected by tanks and armored personnel carriers and troops. The big question is, is the army united, or is there a faction of the army that still is loyal to the prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra?

At the moment, it's calm. There are people on the streets. You can see right here, it's pretty late here. It's in the -- well after midnight here. So a lot of people in Bangkok may not even be aware of what is going on at the moment, but the constitution has been revoked, martial law has been imposed, and at the moment, the army is in control.

PHILLIPS: So it's the army that's in control, not -- not the king? RIVERS: Well, that's what it appears on the streets here. Now, the king, King Bhumibol, is a very revered figure here. He commands enormous respect among all Thais, all sections of Thai society. And the army have pledged their allegiance to him, but quite what that means and who holds the power here is not clear.

He is a constitutional monarch. He wields no power in politics. He is merely there as a -- as a figurehead for the nation, really, as a check and balance on the constitution. But now that constitution has been revoked.

The army has control of the capital. It has control of the streets. And that is flying in the face of what Prime Minister Thaksin had ordered earlier on from New York. He wanted the army to go back to its barracks and declared this an emergency situation.

Well, they are not going back to their barracks. You can see right behind me, there are tanks staying here, and they don't look like they're going to move anytime soon.

PHILLIPS: Dan, what is your sense -- and I asked Aneesh Raman this, who also has covered this -- this nation -- how bad could this get? Could we actually see members of the military open fire? Could we see locals affected? I guess that is the fear, and the question that remains, will weapons be used?

RIVERS: Well, they've done it in the past. In 1992, there was a bloody incident when pro-democracy demonstrators were gunned down by the army not far from where I'm standing. So the army has certainly got a track record of being pretty violent towards those that stand in its way.

There's no suggestion of that at the moment, but the question is, is the army united behind this coup d'etat, or is there some factions of the army and the security forces that are loyal to Thaksin, and will those factions, if they're -- if they exist, will they come into conflict with these guys parked outside the key installations in Bangkok?

PHILLIPS: Dan Rivers, live from Bangkok, Thailand.

Dan, we'll keep talking with you. Sure appreciate it.

Well, less confrontation, more conversation. That was the aim of President Bush's speech today at the U.N. General Assembly. Amid wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a standoff with Iran, and seething Arab anger at the U.S., Mr. Bush laid out a vision for peace.

Here's part of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the people of Iran, the United States respects you. We respect your country. We admire your rich history, your vibrant culture, and your many contributions to civilization. You deserve an opportunity to determine your own future, an economy that rewards your intelligence and your talents, and a society that allows you to fulfill your tremendous potential. The greatest obstacle to this future is that your rulers have chosen to deny you liberty and to use your nation's resources to fund terrorism and fuel extremism and pursue nuclear weapons.

The United Nations has passed a clear resolution requiring that the regime in Tehran meet its international obligations. Iran must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.

Despite what the regime tells you, we have no objection to Iran's pursuit of a truly peaceful nuclear power program. We're working toward a diplomatic solution to this crisis. And as we do, we look to the day when you can live in freedom and America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace.

To the people of Syria, your land is home to a great people with a proud tradition of learning and commerce. Today your rulers have allowed your country to become a crossroad for terrorism.

In your midst, Hamas and Hezbollah are working to destabilize the region. And your government is turning your country into a tool of Iran. This is increasing your country's isolation from the world. Your government must choose a better way forward by ending its support for terror and living in peace with your neighbors and opening the way to a better life for you and your families.

To the people of Darfur, you have suffered unspeakable violence. And my nation has called these atrocities what they are, genocide.

For the last two years, America joined with the international community to provide emergency food aid and support for an African Union peacekeeping force, yet your suffering continues. The world must step forward to provide additional humanitarian aid, and we must strengthen the African Union force that has done good work. But it's not strong enough to protect you.

The Security Council has approved a resolution that would transform the African Union force into a blue-helmeted force that is larger and more robust to increase its strength and effectiveness. NATO nations should provide logistics and other support.

The regime in Khartoum is stopping the deployment of this force. If the Sudanese government does not approve this peacekeeping force quickly, the United Nations must act.

Your lives and the credibility of the United Nations is at stake. So today I'm announcing that I'm naming a presidential special envoy, former USAID administrator Andrew Natsios, to lead America's efforts to resolve the outstanding disputes and help bring peace to your land.

The world must also stand up for peace in the holy land. I'm committed to two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. I'm committed to a Palestinian state that has territorial integrity and will live peacefully with the Jewish state of Israel.

This is the vision set forth in the roadmap. And helping the parties reach this goal is one of the great objectives of my presidency.

The Palestinian people have suffered from decades of corruption and violence in the daily humiliation of occupation. Israeli citizens have endured brutal acts of terrorism and constant fear of attack since the birth of their nation.

Many brave men and women have made the commitment to peace, yet extremists in the region are stirring up hatred and trying to prevent these moderate voices from prevailing. The struggle is unfolding in the Palestinian territories.

Earlier this year, the Palestinian people voted in a free election. The leaders of Hamas campaigned on the platform of ending corruption and improving the lives of the Palestinian people, and they prevailed. The world is waiting to see whether the Hamas government will follow through on its promises or pursue an extremist agenda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: For Iraqis, Afghans, Iranians, Muslims across the Middle East, President Bush had a message for all of them.

Kathleen Koch is watching from the White House. She joins us with more details -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, as you heard, this was certainly the meatiest part of President Bush's roughly 15-minute speech to the United Nations General Assembly today. He did not announce any new initiatives, but he was certainly, as you heard, sending a very clear message to these nations.

First of all, Iran, which ignored back in August, on August 31st, a United Nations deadline to abandon its nuclear program, suspend the enrichment of uranium. The president did not use the word "sanctions" in this speech, but the United States has certainly been pushing for sanctions if Iran does not eventually comply.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is at the United Nations General Assembly today. He's due to speak there later this afternoon, but he was not in the chamber for the president's speech today. Only the Iranian foreign minister was present.

Also, tough words you heard for Sudan, for the -- for the genocide that the president is occurring in the Darfur region, some 200,000 to 400,000 people left dead by that. And clear pressure applied by the president in his speech for Sudan to immediately allow U.N. peacekeepers into the region.

Also, some tough words for Syria, which the president does see as a sponsor, a haven of supporter of terrorists.

And then finally, you heard him touch on the Palestinian-Hamas government. The U.S. consistently saying, though the president not putting it exactly into his speech in these words today, but that Hamas must drop its stated goal of the elimination of Israel and find a way to live peacefully with its neighbor.

And that, indeed, was the point, the main message in this speech today, and that is peace. That the U.N., as a body, must find a way to support the world's peaceful, fledgling democracies over extremists.

Back to you -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Kathleen Koch, thanks so much.

And side by side there with Kathleen, we're looking at live pictures right now at a luncheon at the U.N. after the president's speech. He's now meeting with a number of these leaders for a little one-on- one conversation actually at his table.

Former president Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico. Also, you'll see Kofi Annan, the head of the U.N. there also by his side. In addition to the president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, we were able to see there in that picture.

Just trying to figure out who he's meeting with, talking with, as the luncheon carries out. We're following all the action, of course, from the U.N.

And, you know, after talking to the U.N. today, President Bush is going to talk to CNN tomorrow night. The president goes one on one with our Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." That's at 7:00 Eastern only on CNN.

Well, dozens of world leaders are inside U.N. headquarters, and now hundreds of Iraq war protesters are outside.

CNN's Aneesh Raman on that story, talking Thailand for us, but now back here talking about the protests there outside the building.

Aneesh, bring us up to date.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, good afternoon.

There have been a number of protests here outside the U.N. Three subjects, by our count, just beyond the camera angle where I stand.

The first was an anti-Bush -- essentially an anti-Iraq war protest. That we expected to number in the thousands, several thousand, perhaps. We don't know how many people actually showed up.

That was the protest, we understand, that some 15 people among those protesting have been arrested. The New York Police Department confirming that to us for misdemeanors, for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest. At least 15, we're being told right now.

Other protests, though. An anti-Ahmadinejad protest against Iran's president. That, we understand, numbered in about a couple of hundred people. And also, interestingly, given the news of today, a very small -- we don't know the exact number -- of anti- Shinawatra -- anti-talks and Shinawatra protesters against Thailand's prime minister who is now facing a coup attempt within his own country.

So, again, what we can tell you from the NYPD, at least 15 people have been arrested among these protesters -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: OK. Aneesh Raman outside the U.N.

We'll follow all things, of course, inside and outside as the president and a number of speakers get together throughout the day talking about Iran, what's happening in Thailand, among other issues, including even Darfur.

Well, coming up from the CNN NEWSROOM, mystery debris and a pesky delay for space shuttle Atlantis. We're live from Kennedy Space Center.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Want to take you straight now to the president. He's speaking live at the U.N.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

BUSH: ... welcome you here to our country.

I'm pleased to be with you at the 61st session of the United Nations General Assembly, this year under the president -- under the leadership of President Shaikha Haya from Bahrain, the first woman from the Middle East to serve in this position. We welcome her presence on the podium.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: Mr. Secretary-General, it is appropriate that we offer you a toast today. A toast based upon our gratitude for your 10 years of service to this important body.

We need to toast your compassion when the -- the world saw the United Nations respond to natural disasters. We need to toast your desire for peace. We need to toast the fact that you're a hard worker.

For those of you who have had the honor of taking phone calls from Kofi Annan, you know that he's not always calling from the same address. I've talked to him a lot of times during my time as president. And a lot of times my discussions with him came from when he was in faraway places, because he cares deeply about the world.

We need to toast the fact that he loves his wife, and his wife loves him. We need to toast the fact that he is a decent, honorable man.

And we need to raise our glasses to 10 years of extraordinary service and be thankful that a man such as Kofi Annan was willing to stand up and serve the cause of justice and peace.

And so now if you'll join me in a toast to a good man and a good friend.

And we ask for god's blessings on you.

PHILLIPS: The president of the United States giving the toast there at the luncheon at the U.N.

As we were focusing on what was happening here among the General Assembly, we were really looking to the president of Iran here on U.S. soil and the president of the United States. We already heard the president's speech, expecting the president of Iran also to talk, and just see the reaction between the two at such a tense environment right now between the two countries.

The United States wanting Iran to break down their nuclear facilities, the Iranian president not wanting to do that. The hope was they would somehow reach some sort of deal here with the help of the U.N. But in the Middle of all of this, a military coup in Thailand which has added a lot of flavor to the day here and the talks there at the U.N.

We are looking now at pictures coming in from Thailand. And if you are not up to date on this story, it started breaking this morning here Eastern Time. And I'll just bring you up to date for a minute.

The Thai prime minister has declared a state of emergency amid this coup attempt. That prime minister, Thaksin, is actually there at the U.N. He's scheduled to go back to Bangkok sometime today.

We're getting conflicting reports on that. He's supposed to speak. We're waiting for that.

It is unclear right now who is in charge in Bangkok as this military coup has literally divided this nation, taken it over, declared martial law. Whether it's loyalty to the king or the prime minister, still trying to figure that out.

Now, just yesterday, the Thai prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, said that he might step down after elections were set for next month. Last year, this billionaire-turned-politician became the first prime minister in Thai history to lead an elected government through a full four-year term in office.

Now, Thaksin began his career as a police officer. He later studied criminal justice in the United States. And then he returned home and built an empire in telecommunications.

Now, as prime minister, he's faced demands to step down amid allegations of corruption and abuse of power, facing huge opposition rallies earlier this year. He was forced to dissolve parliament and call snap elections in April. A lot of controversy regarding those elections.

Opposition parties, however, boycotted that vote which was later annulled by the country's top courts. And that left the country without a working legislature.

And now just to bring you up to date, Thaksin, once again, under pressure to step down. Rumors of this coup have been swirling for weeks.

So we're continuing to follow this breaking story with our correspondents from the U.N. and also there in Thailand.

By the way, the president of Iran not attending that U.N. luncheon because they were serving alcohol. Interesting, the cultural -- the culture that is weaved into that. As you know, you cannot buy alcohol in Iran, and there are religious beliefs, too, that the president of Iran obviously standing close to not going to that luncheon.

We'll follow all the developing news from there.

Also coming up straight from the NEWSROOM, mystery debris and a pesky delay for space shuttle Atlantis.

We're live from Kennedy Space Center.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Space shuttle Atlantis has some unexpected company high above Earth. That's one of the reasons it won't be landing tomorrow.

CNN Technology Correspondent Daniel Sieberg at Kennedy Space Center in Florida with all the details.

What's going on, Daniel?

DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kyra.

You could call it an unidentified flying object at this point. And the question for NASA managers, is it harmless or is it critical?

Let's talk about what we do know at this point.

NASA has delayed the landing of shuttle Atlantis. It was scheduled to land here at Kennedy Space Center tomorrow morning, just before 6:00 a.m. That's been delayed until at least Thursday morning at 6:21 Eastern Time.

To better understand what's going on, let's show you some video we've just gotten in recently. This shows the robotic arm of the shuttle, scanning, looking to try and find the source of this mysterious debris or object. And we can also show you what -- what NASA is looking at in terms of trying to assess this imagery.

Basically, about 2:45 a.m. Eastern Time today, flight controllers on the ground became aware of this mystery debris or object. It happened -- or they saw this right around the time that the shuttle crew was firing -- test-firing some of the jets on board, the engines on board. This is standard procedure prior to the landing. So they're thinking that possibly some of the vibrations from that shook loose this piece of debris, but the question is, what is it? They don't know if it possibly is some ice, if it's possibly a piece of the shuttle.

Basically, it happened near the payload bay doors on the shuttle. So they're having to go through this imagery, look closer, try and determine how big it is.

They don't really have any sort of spatial relations. They can't compare the size of it to anything, so it's tough to know how big it is or anything like that.

What they may have to do, and they're considering this now as an option tomorrow, would be to get out the orbital -- the arm, the orbital boom sensor system that's part of the shuttle. This is a longer arm that they would actually use to try and see if there's any sort of problems with the shuttle itself.

What they have to be concerned about is whether this debris, of course, hit the shuttle. You'll remember back in 2003 it was a piece of foam that pierced Columbia and caused the fatal breakup of the shuttle during the landing.

So they have to be careful that the heat shield wasn't pierced by this in any sort of way. Also, they have to determine if this is critical to any sort of -- the shuttle's landing gear and that sort of thing.

So, at this point, they just don't know enough to make a decision. They are going to use this time. They have this time to make this decision. So they're going to basically wait and try and determine more.

The mission management team is meeting later today. We hope to know something possibly about 6:00 p.m. out of that meeting. But we may not know as far as what it is until sometime tomorrow -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Got it. We'll follow up. Thanks, Daniel.

Well, we've been following the controversy at Hewlett-Packard that has already cost the company's chairman her job. But as Cheryl Casone tells us from the New York Stock Exchange, the damage may not end just there.

(BUSINESS REPORT)

PHILLIPS: Well he's out of the country, but is the Thai prime minister also out of a job? More on the breaking news out of Bangkok, where the military launched a coup attempt today while the prime minister was at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Thaksin Shinawatra declared a state of emergency and is expected to rush home tonight. If he does, he'll confront the army's top general who's backed by the opposition party of Democratic reform. Both have declared their loyalty to Thailand's king. Tanks and troops are out and about. Martial law is in effect. So far we've heard no reports of violence.

He was speaking to the world, but his message was aimed squarely at the Middle East. Amid a raging insurgency in Iraq and resurging violence in Afghanistan, President Bush laid out his vision for peace, a vision he says hinges on democracy. Here's some of what he said to the U.N. General Assembly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every nation that travels the road to freedom moves at a different pace. And the democracies they build will reflect their own culture and traditions. But the destination is the same, a free society where people live at peace with each other and at peace with the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Well after talking to the U.N. today, President Bush talks to CNN tomorrow night. The president goes one on one with our Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." That's at 7:00 Eastern only on CNN.

A firestorm over the pope's remarks on Islam. Why a controversy now a week old just refuses to die. That's coming up on the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: A theory refuses to die. More Muslim demands for an apology and more threats against Pope Benedict XVI. The controversy started a week ago when the pope quoted a 14th Century Byzantine emperor who linked Islam with violence.

Sunday, the pope said he's deeply sorry for the reaction to those comments, and he said the emperor's words don't reflect his own opinion. Media reports in Italy say that an al Qaeda group in Egypt is calling for the pope to be punished by strict Islamic law. And al Qaeda in Iraq is vowing war on worshipers of the cross.

Some Muslim extremists have called for the pope's death. Joining is in Detroit to discuss this, Imam Hassan Qazwini, of the Islamic Center of America, that's the largest mosque in the United States. And in Orange County, California, Dr. Wafa Sultan, who is a Syrian/American writer and psychiatrist. She grew up Muslim, but now considers herself a secular person after she witnessed the killing of her college professor at the hands of extremists. It's an honor to have you both, thank you.

IMAM HASSAN QAZWINI, ISLAMIC CENTER OF AMERICA: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Imam, let me ask you -- you had a chance to meet the pope. Tell me what you thought about him and your feelings about him as a person and a spiritual leader.

QAZWINI: Well, the pope seemed very open and very friendly when we met with him last March. I was a member of a U.S. delegation that met with him on the sidelines of an interfaith conference that was held in Rome. And he was very receptive, he was very respectful.

And I wanted to convince myself that this pope had relinquished some of his hard line views about Islam when he was a cardinal. So therefore I was so shocked when I heard the remarks made by the pope. I thought that the pope was moving forward to the right direction because I personally asked the pope -- I urged the pope, actually, to promote Christian/Muslim dialogue.

I told him that the number of Muslim and Christians around the world, the Muslim and Christian population around the world exceed 50 percent of the world population and there is an imminent need for having a dialogue between the two. And the pope did agree with me on that.

PHILLIPS: Now, let me ask you, because you're talking about dialogue between the two religions and having an open, frank discussion. And the pope is say that's exactly what I was trying to do. Specifically when he quoted this Byzantine emperor, and the quote is "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread the sword -- spread by the sword the faith that he preached."

So before I get you to respond to that, Imam, let me just ask Dr. Sultan, when you heard him quote the emperor, did you find that offensive? Did you think he was slamming Islam, or do you think he was trying to talk about historical pattern of dialogue about the religion?

WAFA SULTAN, SYRIAN-AMERICAN WRITER: Muslims should learn how to accept other people's opinions, even if they don't like what they hear. The pope's lecture had in it a lot more to say than a quote from the 14th century. He wanted to prove how violence is contradictive to religion. Because the will of God is to accept faith through reason only. He has nothing to apologize about. He was expressing his views without brandishing a sword or threatening anyone with bodily harm.

PHILLIPS: Imam, do you agree?

QAZWINI: No, I disagree. I may not question the good will and the good intention of the pope. Probably he meant well. But I believe once he quotes an anti-Muslim emperor, probably that is considered a major mistake. As the leader of the Catholic Church in the world, as the leader of over one billion Catholics around the world, as someone who has been speaking about interfaith dialogue and reconciliation between the three monotheistic religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, I believe that was a big mistake for the pope to quote the anti-Muslim emperor.

PHILLIPS: So you are seeing this emperor as anti-Muslim?

QAZWINI: Yes.

PHILLIPS: And you are telling that Mohammed in no way ever, and I'll quote it, "spread by the sword, the faith that he preached." QAZWINI: Absolutely. I urge the pope to read the books written by a nun, a Catholic nun, who wrote a beautiful and accurate book about the life of Prophet Mohammed. I would urge him to read what she wrote about Prophet Mohammed. He was a man of peace, he was a man of reconciliation.

Koran was the first divine religion that called for interfaith work between Christians and Jews and Muslims. And I was so shocked that instead quoting someone more reliable than the anti-Muslim emperor, the pope would quote these anti-Islamic comments.

PHILLIPS: Now, Dr. Sultan, I thought that the pope was -- well, I think it's known that he's very well educated historically, especially with regard to religion. Did he simply pick the wrong quote?

SULTAN: No, he didn't. I believe he has nothing to apologize for. And if he did, I can only see it as a sign of weakness. Years of appeasement to the Muslims have made them believe no one can dare to criticize them because they are right. And that's what emboldens the likes of, like, Osama bin Laden, al Zawahiri and others.

I believe Muslims should stop react in a herd mentality. Their reactions and their hypersensitivity have proved nothing but the fragility of their belief.

Mr. Qazwini is asking for a type of dialogue. What type of dialogue can we ask for it? Who is going to represent Islam in this dialogue? Is he a Shiite, acceptable by the Sunnis to do that? Does he expect the Sunnis to do that?

They have been calling (INAUDIBLE) the worst bad names in history. They have been killing (INAUDIBLE) 1400 years. Have they established a dialogue between them to agree on their differences in a civilized and respectful way? How can they dialogue with other faiths if they don't know how to dialogue with each other?

PHILLIPS: Imam, in a quote from Dr. Sultan, I may read it, and I'll let you wrap up and respond on to what she said. Dr. Sultan has been quoted as saying, "The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind before they demand humankind to respect them. There's obviously a major disconnect between Muslims that believe in a peaceful existence and Muslims that believe carrying out terrorism is an act of martyrdom."

It was the first divine religion that called for interfaith work between Christians and Jews and Muslims. And I was so shocked that instead of quoting someone more reliable than the anti-Muslim emperor, the pope would quote this anti-Islamic comments.

QAZWINI: Well, no doubt that there are fringe groups in the Muslim world who are fanatic and who are violent. I don't deny that. As there are Christian groups. Hitler was Catholic, also. And we should not forget that there have been, throughout the history, groups and forces that used religion for a political agenda. But many Muslims call for dialogue. When we talk about Islam, I am so disappointed at Sister Wafa that she considers people like Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri to be a representative of Islam. I don't see these people to be speakers and spokespeople for Islam. I see Ayatollah Sistani, a man of peace and vision, to be a great model of Islamic tolerance. And I see the -- and the Grand Mufti and Sheikh of Alazar (ph) as another model.

So yes, Muslims do believe in dialogue between themselves and with other faiths. And we should not take fanatics like al Zarqawi, al Zawahiri or bin Laden to be an image or a reflection of the Islamic teachings. I don't deny that there are certain flaws in the Muslim world. But to say that Muslims do not accept the other views, that's not true. There are certain groups, certain fanatical groups that do not tolerate as they exist in every other religion. So do to brandish Islam as intolerant religion, that is a big mistake.

I don't think the Catholic Church would accept any criticism or insult to Jesus. When Madonna had a disrespectful show two months ago in Rome, the Vatican was the first to protest. So I believe that Muslims do have the right to ask for an apology. They do have the right to ask for a dialogue between Christians and Muslims so they can work out their differences. But yes, they don't have the right to commit violence, and they have no right to act in a very violent way as sometimes we see.

As a matter of fact, I believe what happened a few days ago, the murder of the nun in Somalia, I believe...

PHILLIPS: Oh, we apologize. We lost our signal there. Deeply apologize. We lost Imam Hassan Qazwini and also Dr. Wafa Sultan. As you can see, an extremely hot topic, what is taking place with the quotes from the pope.

But I think that the imam made a very important point. He says he admits there are flaws in the Muslim world, and that's why we see such terrorism and extremism, and the manipulation of the Muslim religion. And that's how we move forward. How do you solve that? How do you fix that and carry out that dialogue? Obviously, that conversation will continue.

Just want to let you know, we're getting word in now out of Thailand. If you're just being brought up to date on what's happening there, and this coup attempt that has taken place, we are now being told that all foreign news stations have been taken off the air. They have gone black. CNN, BBC, and all other foreign stations off the air.

So as we cover this story, nobody in that nation will be able to watch CNN or BBC or other news stations. It has gone black. So, as you can see, this story continues to get much more serious, and it's intensifying.

I can bring you up to date on what has happened at this point. The army general is leading this coup, has declared martial law. The Thai prime minister is the leader in question. There's some type of controversy that we are trying to investigate between the royalty there, the king and the prime minister. The prime minister in New York now at the General Assembly. Being told he is trying to make his way back tonight.

Really unclear on who is in charge right now. All we can tell you is this coup is being led by the army chief. And not even sure what parts of the military are in support of the king or the prime minister. But the prime minister now being put under pressure to step down after rumors of this coup, rumors of corruption. Still trying to find out when, indeed, the parties can come together and figure out how to move forward.

But at this point, it's intensifying. Stations off the air, and no further information. So far no violence has broken out. But we're staying on top of the story, trying to bring you as much information as possible. We'll try and get our correspondent on the phone.

Well, for months, he eluded the cops, but a sex crimes subject finally faces a judge, thanks to a 14-year-old girl that he allegedly kidnapped. And she's there to watch it unfold. We've got all the details, right here from the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Crumbling ties, growing tensions, even talk of war. How did the U.S. and Iran get to this point? Some say, well, the nations' presidents share the blame. We'll take a closer look. Straight ahead, from the NEWSROOM.

Plus, our top story, a severe state of emergency declared in Thailand as tanks rumble through Bangkok in a military coup attempt. The latest on the breaking story. We're live from Bangkok.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We need to raise our glasses to ten years of extraordinary service and be thankful that a man such as Kofi Annan was willing to stand up and serve the cause of justice and peace. And so now if you'll join me in a toast to a good man and a good friend, and we ask for God's blessings on you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: President Bush toasting his colleagues at a U.N. luncheon that followed his speech to the General Assembly. One leader not in attendance, Iran's president, Ahmadinejad. He declined the invite because wine was on the menu.

They don't see eye to eye, they won't meet face to face, but they're more than willing to butt heads every chance they get. President Bush and the Iranian president together leading the world to wonder whether push will someday come to shove.

Here's CNN international correspondent John Roberts. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's a full seven inches shorter than President Bush, but at every opportunity, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad just loves to poke the president in the eye.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, PRESIDENT OF IRAN: Access to peaceful nuclear energy and power is the right of the Iranian people.

ROBERTS: Whether it's his open defiance of the White House on Iran's nuclear program or cozying up to such foes of the U.S. as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez on Sunday, Ahmadinejad has successfully ridden a tide of growing anti-Americanism in the Muslim world. Ray Takeyh is author of "Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic".

RAY TAKEYH, AUTHOR: I think he's appealing to a larger audience beyond the Western capitals and frankly, even beyond America to the Muslim capitals and Muslim streets, suggesting there's a new defiant leader that is willing to stand up to the United States.

ROBERTS: And in doing so, Ahmadinejad hopes to drive a wedge this week between the U.S. and its allies at the United Nations who might feel just a little pushed around by the White House.

AHMADINEJAD: The United States is turning the Security Council into a basis for imposing its policies.

ROBERTS: The strategy appears to be working. Just today, France back pedaled on its support for sanctions if Iran did not agree to give up its nuclear program.

But how did the mudslinging between Tehran and the White House get so bad? Certainly Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust and insistence that Israel be wiped off the map were part of it. Some people also fault President Bush for what they call increasingly Islamophobic language that alienates Muslims.

Zbigniew Brzezinski dealt with Iran as President Carter's national security adviser.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: He talks all the time about the jihadists, Islamic fanatics, Islamic terrorists, the caliphate that's going to be set up.

Suppose the president was talking about the IRA terrorists in northern Ireland, you know, the Irish terrorists, and instead was calling them all the time the Catholic terrorists, the Papist terrorists, the terrorists who were trying to set up a papacy, it would certainly offend many Catholics.

ROBERTS: There's no question among experts and analysts that Ahmadinejad wants to remake Iran into the Middle East's dominant power. Whether nuclear weapons are a part of that strategy is an open question.

But as worrying as Iran's intentions are, so for some people is what President Bush has in mind.

BRZEZINSKI: The president sometimes creates the impression that come what may, he's going to address this issue decisively in the next two years, which I suspect means only one possibility, war. Because to resolve this issue may take longer than two years to negotiate seriously.

ROBERTS: Brzezinski believes that Iran may be as much as a decade away from developing a nuclear weapon, if it goes down that road.

But one of President Bush's biggest worries, and he doesn't like to talk about this publicly, is if Iran doesn't agree in the near future to give up its nuclear program, Israel may launch a preemptive strike. And if that were to happen, everyone that I've talked to about it predicts that consequences would be disastrous.

John Roberts, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Off the air and out of control. International networks are no longer broadcasting in Thailand, where a coup is under way. We're live from Bangkok. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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