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THE SITUATION ROOM
President Bush Hosts Karzai and Musharraf; Senators Propose Funds for Paper Ballots to Back Up Voting; 7-Eleven Convenience Stores Dropping Venezuelan Gas Supplier Citgo
Aired September 27, 2006 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.
Happening now, a private dinner and a public feud; at stake the war on terror. It's 7:00 p.m. at the White House where President Bush is bringing the dueling leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan together. We'll carry his remarks live this hour and we'll set the stage with my exclusive interview with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.
Also this hour, a holy month tainted by bloodshed, it's 3:00 a.m. in Baghdad where suicide attacks have now hit a horrifying new record level. We'll have reports from the Pentagon and from the war zone.
And did the Reverend Jerry Falwell try to demonize Hillary Clinton? Tonight the religious leader explains his devilish comments about the senator and the political power she'll unleash if she runs for president.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
At the White House tonight, a high-level dinner that could shape the future of the war on terror and whether Osama bin Laden is ever captured dead or alive. President Bush hosting the feuding leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan right now. We're expecting the president of the United States to speak out this hour with Presidents Hamid Karzai and Pervez Musharraf at his side in the Rose Garden. We're going to bring you those remarks live this hour.
The disputes, the hostility and the finger pointing between Mr. Karzai and Mr. Musharraf have been playing out in a very, very public way in exclusive interviews right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You heard it here last night, Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf offering harsh criticism of Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai, even likening him to an ostrich. And only a few hours ago, I sat down here in Washington with President Karzai to get his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Yesterday at this time I spoke with President Musharraf and as you probably know, he had some rather unkind words to say about you.
PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: (INAUDIBLE)
BLITZER: For example, I want to play this excerpt from the interview we did yesterday.
PRES. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTAN: He is not oblivious. He knows everything, but he's purposely denying, turning a blind eye like an ostrich. He doesn't want to tell the world what are the facts for his own personal reasons. This is what I think.
BLITZER: All right. He says you're turning a blind eye like an ostrich. Because you don't want to confront the facts of what's happening in your country, in Afghanistan -- your response.
KARZAI: Yes. He's right to say that I know the facts. I indeed know the facts. But I also know a lot of facts in Pakistan. And that's why I'm pleading with President Musharraf, that for the sake of security for all of us, and for our allies, it is extremely important to pay serious attention, and take action, against some of the places called madrassas that are not madrassas, but are training extremists, full of hatred for the rest of the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And that's only the beginning. Much more of this interview with president Karzai, that's coming up this hour.
But first let's go to our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. I take it all three presidents are now inside the White House. Is that right, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well that's right, Wolf. And what we expect in less than an hour or so, President Bush is going to walk out to the Rose Garden with the leader of Afghanistan and Pakistan and he's going to try to reassure us that all three leaders have the stomach for this dinner, that they have the appetite for this dinner, for this three-way summit. And essentially what you heard in all of the interviews with the Pakistan leader and the Afghan leader, the commonality here is that they need more help. They want more help. They're looking for more help from the Bush administration.
White House officials say that's what President Bush is going to offer these two men is essentially you have our support. There is already a U.S. deal in the works with Pakistan for F-16s, already aid of course given to Afghanistan. But President Bush is going to try to bring these two leaders together.
And Wolf, we really can't overstate really how important this meeting is. The stakes for President Bush is really -- put his legacy and his presidency on the line with his freedom agenda, point to Afghanistan as a model of success and democracy. It has got a host of problems now. He needs to make sure that this works and he also needs these two leaders to cooperate, ultimately to go after Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The stakes are indeed enormous. Suzanne, stand by, we're going to be getting back to you and we're going to be going to the Oval Office, and the Rose Garden, as soon as the three presidents begin to go into the Rose Garden, we're going to bring you President Bush's remarks live this hour.
There is other important news we're monitoring though right now, including some very disturbing news coming from top U.S. military officials in Iraq. They're now reporting that suicide attacks in Iraq have hit an all-time high. We'll take you to Baghdad in just a moment.
First though to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr with details -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a tough week for the troops in Iraq.
STARR (voice-over): Just a few days into the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, attacks have risen in Iraq, as predicted, especially in Baghdad where most of the sectarian violence is occurring.
MAJ. GEN. BILL CALDWELL, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ: In terms of attacks, this week's suicide attacks were at their highest level in any given week with half of them targeting security forces.
STARR: In Baquba, four women were killed in a firefight. The military said it is rare to encounter Iraqi women in violent situations. No one is sure if they were involved with the insurgents. The U.S. continues to emphasize what commanders say is the ineffectiveness of the attacks. Sixty-six U.S. troops have now lost their lives in Iraq during the month of September.
CALDWELL: Almost 50 percent of the vehicle-born improvised explosive devices were suicide attacks. The clear intent of these high-magnitude attacks are to produce mass casualties. While we are seeing this increase in overall attack numbers, their effectiveness has not increased.
STARR: The threat of IEDs remains significant. It's now believed insurgents alter their tactics about every three weeks, changing how they place the bombs, and how they detonate them. Troops on foot patrol are the most vulnerable. The Pentagon is now spending $80 million to buy 4,000 jammers that troops can wear and activate to keep IEDs from exploding around them.
STARR: All of this comes the same week the Defense Department awarded millions of dollars in contracts to a private firm to monitor news organizations covering the war in Iraq. CNN will be one of those organizations monitored by the government -- Wolf.
BLITZER: For more now on the situation inside Iraq, let's go to Baghdad. Michael Ware our correspondent is standing by. First of all, Michael, on the extraordinarily high number of suicide bombings this week more than, what, ever before? I was pretty surprised to hear that.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're seeing is a regenerated al Qaeda, Wolf. I mean we saw the death of the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, in June in a U.S. air strike. What this organization is now displaying is its almost unlimited ability to replenish itself.
They lose its larger than life, charismatic leader, they replace him immediately with another hardliner, and there is a spike in suicide bombings. And this is compared to a time when Zarqawi himself was able to unleash 11 suicide car bombs in the capital, in one day. So you can tell where things are going, Wolf.
BLITZER: There is a new poll -- you might have seen it -- conducted by the University of Maryland, which says that seven out of 10 Iraqis favor a commitment by U.S.-led forces in Iraq to withdraw at least within a year. Seventy percent want the United States troops out within the next year. Is that a surprise to you?
WARE: Not really, Wolf, no. I mean there's been a long-term resentment towards the U.S. presence here. I mean it's only able to be described in one term, and that's occupation, be that Sunni, be that Shia. The only people in favor of the U.S. presence here, in any ongoing capacity, are the Kurds to the north. Otherwise, the Arab Iraqis just want the Americans to get out of the way and let them get on with business. Now that could be a very bloody and ugly affair. Nonetheless, that's what the people want, Wolf.
BLITZER: So the bottom line right now is you take a look at the immediate security situation in and around Baghdad, elsewhere in Iraq is what?
WARE: Well, to the north with the Kurds, it's relatively quiet. However, we see al Qaeda groups or al Qaeda allying groups regenerated and reformed there, particularly Ansar al-Islam. One of the groups that President Bush targeted during the invasion in 2003, he claimed that group was decimated, yet it's back with a vengeance.
In the south, the south is much more heavily controlled by the Shia militias. Now they're doing a tradeoff here and they're Iranian backers (ph). They want to destabilize the coalition Brits and Americans in the south and this is what U.S. military intelligence and British intelligence say.
They want to destabilize these forces just enough so that they're on edge and remain in a forced protection mode, and as long as they're focused on that, they don't worry about what else is going on. So by trading off a relatively stable environment, this allows the militias and their foreign backers to further entrench themselves within the roots of power in the South -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Michael thanks very much.
And let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, less than six weeks to go now until midterm elections and a lot of people are worried about the integrity of the electronic voting machines that more than half of Americans will be using. Three Senate Democrats have proposed a bill that would reimburse states for printing paper ballots as backups for polling stations in case there are problems with these machines.
There have already been widespread problems with the machines in some recent primary races in places like Maryland. The bill would not require officials to offer paper ballots but rather to print out extra ones to have on hand if there is mechanical failure or for voters who just prefer them. Barbara Boxer is one of the bill's sponsors. She says it's going to be tough to win over support from the Republican leadership.
This bill would need to make it through the House and Senate in the next two days -- ain't going to happen. But the question is this -- should the government implement emergency measures to provide paper ballots for the midterm elections? Your thoughts e-mail us, CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Jack thanks very much.
And coming up, a rift in the war on terror, the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan exchange some sharp words about each other right here on this program before a crucial White House dinner. We're going to hear from President Bush. Plus my exclusive interview with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.
Also the Reverend Jerry Falwell, he says Senator Hillary Clinton will energize the religious right more than the devil himself. Find out if he's sorry now for having said that. He's in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And messy political scandal, an attorney general candidate under investigation for snooping on her own husband.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has just gone into the White House for this critical meeting, a three-way meeting, with President Bush and the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf. We're standing by. We'll go to the Rose Garden; the three of them are going to emerge this hour, the President of the United States making some remarks. We'll see what happens over at the White House. At stake, the war on terror, the hunt for bin Laden.
Other news that we're following, politics -- specifically politics taking a devilish turn. First Venezuela's president repeatedly called President Bush the devil in the United Nations speech. Now the Reverend Jerry Falwell is coming under fire for his remarks, the remarks he made about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Lucifer. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
BLITZER: The Reverend Jerry Falwell is joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's joining us from Lynchburg, Virginia. You've caused quite a little stir out there, Reverend Falwell. I've spoken to you obviously many times over the years. First of all, I want to give some context why this is becoming a story. Listen to what Hugo Chavez himself said at the United Nations.
PRES. HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELA (through translator): The devil came here yesterday. Yesterday, the devil came here. Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today.
BLITZER: All right. And then a day or two later, you said this, Reverend Falwell. Listen to this.
REV. JERRY FALWELL, CHANCELLOR, LIBERY UNIVERSITY: I certainly hope that Hillary is the candidate. She has $300 million so far, but I hope she's the candidate because nothing will energize my (constituency) like Hillary Clinton.
FALWELL: If Lucifer ran, he wouldn't...
BLITZER: A little hard to hear. If Lucifer ran, you said, he wouldn't energize the base as party. You understand why your choice of words, the devil coming after Hugo Chavez has caused this uproar?
FALWELL: Well, totally different context. I said something that I believe with all my heart, that if the Democrats choose Hillary as their frontrunner, their presidential candidate, in '08, this will energize people of faith in this country more than any other person. And then you heard the laughter, purely tongue in cheek and in joking, I said not even Lucifer could.
Well obviously Lucifer is not going to run, and I was not calling Hillary Lucifer. I left that to Mr. Chavez who, by the way, should have been deported. He instead made his circuit in African- American churches where he got standing ovations, sadly. But neither the Democrats nor the Republicans defended our president, but on this case, the "L.A. Times" got all shook up that I said that she, Senator Clinton, would energize our people.
In fact, that is what would happen and as long as the Republicans give us a good, conservative, pro-life, pro-family candidate, and that's who is, by the way, at the conference. We had a two, three-day conference there, Republican-wannabe presidents were there like Newt Gingrich and Senators Santorum and Allen and Brownback and so forth. They were all there and we -- the idea was to get our people, a couple thousand pastors, charged up for '08.
BLITZER: And obviously, mentioning Hillary Clinton does that. Her spokesman said this in an e-mail to CNN after your remarks were publicized. "Working for someone who believes in the golden rule, we're not going to engage in such vitriolic discourse, but it seems that a new low has been reached in demonizing political opponents."
Do you want to revise or amend? Do you want to apologize to Senator Clinton for that -- making that comparison, making that reference to the devil?
FALWELL: Of course not, because I did not demonize her and I would never do that to her, or anyone else. I simply told a joke after I made the statement that I believe she would be our best candidate to oppose in '08, and I said that she'll -- most of the experts will say she'll have $300 million to do it. I think we'll have 80 million people of faith in this country, evangelicals to prevent her winning.
BLITZER: So you don't want to change anything...
FALWELL: No, I don't want to change anything.
BLITZER: You don't want...
BLITZER: And you don't want to have any special words to Mrs. Clinton?
FALWELL: Well, I think she knows in her heart of hearts that if she listened to what you just listened to there, like everyone did, that part was a joke. I would never call anyone the devil. There is only one devil, and it is not Chavez or President Bush or Hillary Clinton. He is a real devil and he's somewhere else. But on our human scene, nobody expects Lucifer to run for president in this country. But I would very much believe what I did say, and I have nothing to change.
BLITZER: The Reverend Jerry Falwell speaking with me here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A Republican who famously decided not to run against Hillary Clinton is now embroiled in a very different kind of controversy. The New York attorney general candidate, Jeanine Pirro, is under federal investigation. She's very angry about what's going on.
Let's bring in Mary Snow. She's in New York -- Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, when it comes to political messes it doesn't often get messier than this. In an unusual news conference Jeanine Pirro, the Republican candidate for New York State Attorney General dropped a bombshell, a defiant Pirro trying to beat media leaks announced that she is the target of a federal investigation stemming from suspicions her husband was having an affair. Pirro said she wanted to eavesdrop on him but insists she did nothing wrong or illegal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEANINE PIRRO (R), CANDIDATE FOR NY STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Some time last year, I came to believe that my husband was seeing another woman. In the midst of matrimonial discord, I was angry and had him followed to see if what I suspected was true. Although I spoke about taping him, there was no taping by me of anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: And then, another surprise. The private investigator she contacted was Bernard Kerik, the one-time New York City police commissioner under Rudy Giuliani. He himself became a lightning rod for scandal when he was nominated to be homeland security secretary. He later bowed out. Pirro was asked about calling Kerik.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PIRRO: I knew Bernie for years when he was police commissioner and one of the most respected people you know in New York City. I was the D.A. at the time. I mean I've known Bernie for years, as many people do. He wasn't the police commissioner at the time. He had an investigations agency. And I talked to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: Kerik's lawyers say quote, "nothing illegal was discussed and nothing illegal was done." Now Pirro claims the investigation is part of a political witch hunt saying the prosecutor investigating her is the same man who prosecuted her husband's tax evasion case in 2000 that resulted in Albert Pirro spending time in jail. The U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York confirmed the investigation, says it will discuss specifics, but did say it does not take politics into account in its probes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary Snow reporting for us. What a story. Thanks very much, Mary, for that.
Still to come, President Bush meeting with the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan right now. Two of those leaders have been very busy publicly at odds right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The three leaders expected to come out in front of the cameras shortly. We're going to go to the Rose Garden. We'll be watching to hear what they have to say.
Plus, Terrell Owens denying he tried to commit suicide. The NFL superstar explains what went so terribly wrong.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Looking at a live picture of the White House where President Bush is meeting with the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan, two leaders who have been very much at odds right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf accusing President Hamid Karzai of being like an ostrich and turning a blind eye to terrorism in his own country.
The three leaders expected to come out in front of the cameras shortly. We're going to be watching that in the Rose Garden. We'll go there live as soon as it happens, the stakes for all of us enormous in this meeting.
Meanwhile, let's check in with Zain Verjee. She's watching some other important stories making news -- Zain.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, 7-Eleven says it is dropping Venezuelan-owned Citgo as its gas supplier after more than 20 years. The convenience store company says the decision had nothing do with last week's inflammatory statements by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who called President Bush the devil. 7-Eleven will instead carry its own brand of gasoline.
A historic day in California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signs a new law that caps emissions of the gases thought to cause global warming. Utilities, refineries and manufacturing plants in California now have limits on how much of the greenhouse gases they can produce. British Prime Minister Tony Blair watched the signing by video link.
Football star Terrell Owens says it was all a mix-up. Owens says he wasn't trying to commit suicide when his publicist found him barely conscious last night. The Cowboys' receiver was rushed to a Dallas hospital but he was released this morning. At a news conference today Owens said that he may have had a reaction to some pain pills he was taking for a broken hand.
Republicans have chosen Minneapolis to host their 2008 nominating convention. Democrats have yet to announce where they'll hold their convention. Minneapolis was on their short list along with Denver and New York City, but they've dropped the Twin Cities -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Zain thanks very much.
And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.
Happening now, dinner at the White House with hot food and cold shoulders. The guests, two presidents with appetites for insulting each other and the man who hungers for them to get along. We're live for the meeting between President Bush and the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, and the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf. You see President Musharraf walking into the West Wing live right now.
Also, how should terror detainees be tried and interrogated? Congress is one step closer to answering. Today the House passed its terror legislation and the Senate appears likely to pass their version tomorrow. Lawmakers hope to then send a final bill to the White House.
And a hostage standoff over, just a few miles from Columbine, a gunman shoots and kills himself after first shooting at people at a high school in Bailey, Colorado. The gunman had held two people hostage.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We want to now go back to the White House where President Bush is hosting the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Those leaders engaged in a very public feud over the war on terror. We're waiting to hear directly from President Bush. We'll carry his remarks live once all three presidents go down into the Rose Garden.
In the meantime, let's check back with our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. When we say, Suzanne that the stakes are enormous for all of us, this is all about how to work in the war on terror and how to find Osama bin Laden.
MALVEAUX: Absolutely, Wolf. You really can't overstate it for this president and really for this country. Because what President Bush needs to do tonight is to get these two leaders to convince them to work together. We have seen they're at odds over a number of things, but the bottom line is, is President Bush needs these two leaders desperately to find Osama bin Laden, to look for al Qaeda, to simply make sure to stamp out the Taliban that is experiencing a resurgence in Afghanistan.
He needs these two leaders to cooperate. As long as they're fighting, they believe that they're undermining the ability of the United States and their international community to really wage a real war on terror.
Now, politically, the stakes are also very high. President Bush domestically making this the centerpiece of the Republican agenda, saying, look, it is the Republicans who can ensure your national security. They do a good job, vote for them in the midterm elections.
Also, on the international stage, it is about the president's legacy here. He has made this freedom agenda -- so-called freedom agenda the centerpiece of his foreign policy. He's got to point to Afghanistan as at least one place in the world where democracy is working. Right now that is not happening -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And the two leaders are now in the West Wing together with President Bush. Suzanne, thanks very much. As soon as they go into the Rose Garden, we're going to go there live and bring you their remarks.
Before Presidents Musharraf and Karzai went to the White House tonight, they had been venting their deep frustrations with one another in exclusive interviews right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I sat down with President Karzai here in Washington just a few hours ago.
BLITZER: And joining us now is the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai. Mr. President, welcome to Washington.
HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: Good to be here with you.
BLITZER: I'm glad you've come for this exclusive interview just before you go over to the White House for this big dinner tonight with President Bush and President Musharraf.
Yesterday at this time I spoke with President Musharraf and as you probably know, he had some rather unkind words to say about you.
For example, I want to play this excerpt from the interview we did yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: He is not oblivious. He knows everything but he is purposely denying -- turning a blind eye like an ostrich. He doesn't want to tell the world what is the facts for his own personal reasons. This is what I think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. He says you're "turning a blind eye like an ostrich" because you don't want to confront the facts of what is happening in your country, in Afghanistan. Your response?
KARZAI: Yes. He is right to say that I know the facts. I indeed know the facts, but I also know a lot of facts in Pakistan. And that's why I am pleading with President Musharraf that, for the sake of security for all of us and for our allies, it is extremely important to place serious attention and take action against some of the places called madrassas that are not madrassas, but are training extremists full of hatred for the rest of the world.
BLITZER: Those are religious -- madrassas are religious schools in Pakistan.
KARZAI: Religious school in Pakistan.
BLITZER: And what is your charge, that President Musharraf is what, not doing enough to stop that religious training?
KARZAI: Not doing enough at all and I want all of us to take more action. There are things that we have to do in Afghanistan. He is right. I am very much aware of what is going on in Afghanistan. We are a state that was weakened by years of destruction and war and interference. And much of those destruction and wars and interference coming from the neighbors of Afghanistan, from the Soviet Union to other neighbors of Afghanistan.
We will take time to build ourselves. That is why the international community is there with us, helping us to build our army, our schools, our hospitals, our democracy and now our police.
BLITZER: All right, but he says you are like an ostrich. That is a very, very strong assertion, "turning a blind eye like an ostrich." For your own domestic, political reasons you are refusing to deal with what he says is the root cause of this explosion of terrorism in Afghanistan and spilling over into Pakistan, your failure to do what you should be doing.
KARZAI: He has said that before as well. Afghanistan is doing all it can together with the international community. We are losing people every day. We are losing international community soldiers every day. We are losing American lives every day. We are losing Canadians, the British and Afghans every day.
Now, if on the one hand the Afghan people are asking for international help, if on the one hand Afghan people are asking for more schools, better education, more help, they cannot be ones to destroy themselves. Somebody else must be doing it and that someone else is the sanctuary in Pakistan to terrorists.
BLITZER: All right. Listen to this other assertion.
KARZAI: That sanctuary has to go.
BLITZER: Listen to this other assertion he made in the interview I did with him yesterday. Here is, once again, President Musharraf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUSHARRAF: I think at the moment there is total misunderstanding of the environment by Afghanistan and Karzai, and I know Karzai knows the environment, but he is denying these realities and putting all -- he is finding it more convenient to throw the blame on Pakistan than Mullah Omar.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's go to the White House right now. There they are, the three presidents. We are going to be hearing from President Bush right now.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's my honor to host a dinner with President Musharraf of Pakistan and President Karzai of Afghanistan. These two men are personal friends of mine. They are strong leaders who have a understanding of the world in which we live.
They understand that the forces of moderation are being challenged by extremists and radicals. And we're working closely together to help improve the lives of the people in Afghanistan and the people in Pakistan.
President Musharraf kindly greeted me to Pakistan. I had the great privilege of meeting many in his government. I met people in the civil society there. I met those who were helping the Pakistan citizens who were -- whose lives were turned upside down by the devastating earthquake. I saw the compassion of this government, and I was very proud that the American people were helping them recover.
I also had the opportunity to visit President Karzai. He's leading a young democracy. It's a democracy that was formed as a result of the Afghan people voting, having shed itself, with American help, from the Taliban regime. We've got a lot of challenges facing us. All of us must protect our countries, but at the same time, we all must work to make the world a more hopeful place.
And so today's dinner is a chance for us to strategize together, to talk about the need to cooperate, to make sure that people have got a hopeful future. It's very important for the people in Pakistan and Afghanistan to understand that America respects religion, and we respect the right for people to worship the way they see fit.
We welcome Muslim leaders here in the White House. I look forward to having dinner with friends of mine who don't happen to share the same faith I do, but nevertheless, share the same outlook for a hopeful world. As we work for a more hopeful world, we will continue to make sure that extremists such as Osama bin Laden, that wants to hurt my friend here, as well as upset the democracy in Afghanistan, is brought to justice.
The main thing I was looking forward to talking about is how the United States government and the people of the United States can help these two countries provide a foundation for hope. So I want to thank you for coming.
MUSHARRAF: Thank you.
BUSH: I'm proud to have you here, Mr. President.
MUSHARRAF: My pleasure.
BUSH: Proud to have you here, Mr. President. Let's go eat dinner. Thank you, sir.
KARZAI: Thank you very much.
MUSHARRAF: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: All right, so there they are, the three presidents: The president of the United States, the president of Afghanistan, the president of Pakistan. As President Bush just said, they're going inside to have dinner.
Let's digest what we just heard. Anderson Cooper standing by in New York. John Roberts and Peter Bergen are here in Washington.
Anderson, let me start with you. You just spent a lot of time in Afghanistan. You understand this situation unfolding. If you saw the body language there between President Musharraf and President Karzai, it was not very good. And what they've been saying against each other over the past couple days, not boding well for this dinner tonight. What are your thoughts?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's certainly does not bode well. I mean, the stakes are incredibly high. As we've seen in your interviews which have been fascinating over the last two days with President Musharraf and President Karzai, Musharraf has signed this cease-fire deal with Taliban militants inside Pakistan. He says it is a benefit for the war on terror, he says there are guarantees that it will stop cross-border operations in Afghanistan. If you ask Peter Bergen, if you ask U.S. intelligence officials who Peter and I have talked to in Afghanistan, they say, point blank, that ain't gonna happen.
In fact, in "Newsweek" this week, an intelligence official in Kabul is quoted as saying that attacks in eastern Afghanistan, across from north Waziristan, where this deal was signed, are up some 300 percent since this deal was signed." They've seen that across from south Waziristan months ago when a deal was signed.
So there's a lot of skepticism, and Hamid Karzai is very upset over this deal, and in the interview he had with you and the interview he had with me several days ago, he blames President Musharraf, no doubt about it, for signing this deal.
And there is this war of words going back and forth. But the stakes couldn't be any higher. And as you said, the body language between these two men, there is certainly no love lost between them right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, John Roberts, I was expecting, fully expecting, President Bush to do what President Clinton did when he had Rabin and Arafat on the South Lawn of the White House, sort of force them to come together and shake hands, clasp hands, do a three-way, if you will, at least symbolically that would have been so significant.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Little early for that. Don't forget that he did that at the end of the process as opposed to at the beginning of the process. So I think it might be little bit early for a handshake like that. But you heard what the president said he had to focus on, they had to get down and talk about cooperation.
And it was interesting the way -- when he talked about bin Laden, he said who wants to hurt my friend here, alluding to Musharraf and the assassination attempts that al Qaeda has made on Musharraf's life. So he's trying to say to Musharraf, you've got a dog in this fight, Karzai, you've got a dog in this fight. It is better if we all work together. That's going to be really difficult though given what they're -- not only what they're saying about each other in your interviews, but the way they feel about each other's positions.
BLITZER: We're going to show the video, Peter, of the body language of these three presidents in the Rose Garden tonight. In a nutshell, Peter, why do they dislike each other so much, these two presidents, who supposedly are critical allies in the war on terror. Why can't they just get along, as they say?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I would say it's because there's been tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan for years. This is not -- a lot of Afghans feel that Pakistan has interfered with their domestic affairs for a long period of time. This is true in the war against the Soviet Union where Pakistan funded a lot of the more militant groups. Of course the Taliban itself was funded by -- helped along by the Pakistani government when the Taliban was in power. One of the very few governments to recognize the Taliban was the Pakistani government. So I don't think this is so much personal amnesty. I think there is -- although there seems to be a little bit of that. But I think that there are -- these countries have rather different views about the Taliban and Afghans as a general proposition resent any kind of Pakistani interference perceived or real in their country.
BLITZER: When you were, Anderson -- when you were in Afghanistan, how much of a sense did you get from your briefings with intelligence sources out there that President Pervez Musharraf is part of the solution or part of the problem?
COOPER: Well, it's two fold. One, against al Qaeda, Pakistan receives high praise. U.S. intelligence officials will tell you look, they have nabbed some very high-level targets, no doubt about it. But it is against the Taliban forces and these militants in the tribal areas along the Afghan border that they receive very low marks.
A lot of people point to the fact there really have been no intercepts, no arrests or detentions of high-level Taliban leaders since 2001. In fact, intelligence officials and Hamid Karzai said it just this week again, they believe -- they say they know for a fact -- and U.S. intelligence backs him up -- that the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, that blind cleric who has a bounty on his head from the U.S. government, is living in Quetta or in the surrounding areas.
President Musharraf vigorously denies +that. He says it is more likely he is living in Afghanistan. But there is just a lot of suspicion of the Pakistanis that they just have not done enough to prosecute the war on terror in those areas, and there are a lot of Afghans who simply believe that Pervez Musharraf and that Pakistan wants a destabilized Afghanistan, they want the Taliban to be a force in the region.
The idea being that one day the coalition forces leave, one day the U.S. pulls out, and the Taliban can -- is sort of the wild card and allows Pakistan to extend its influence inside Afghanistan.
BLITZER: I suspect, John Roberts, that the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan really don't want to be at this dinner but they couldn't say no to the president of the United States given the relationships involved. How important is this dinner tonight for President Bush?
ROBERTS: Well I think it is very important for him to try to get these guys on the same page because Afghanistan is at a critical juncture right now. With the -- that the newly resurgent Taliban battling NATO forces, NATO crying out for more, and more troops.
It seems to be -- I don't want to say it is at a tipping point, because I think Peter has put this fairly well -- that it is right now a tactical problem for the Karzai government, not yet a strategic problem. But certainly if it goes on much longer and the Taliban continues to take its toll against NATO forces, if it continues to strengthen, it could one day be a strategic threat to the Karzai government.
And people have said that -- I talked to Bob Grainier, a former head of the counterterrorism center. And he said that if the U.S. were to pull out of Afghanistan now, that leaders in Afghanistan fully believe that it would go back to the Taliban literally overnight. So it really is a serious problem right now.
BLITZER: Peter, when I interviewed President Musharraf yesterday, I read him a paragraph from your article recently in the "Washington Post." I don't know if you saw his reaction, but in a nutshell, he basically said, you don't know what you're talking about when you suggested that what Pakistan is doing is part of the problem.
BERGEN: Well, that was based on multiple interviews with U.S. military officials, some rather senior in Afghanistan. They're not going to say things publicly that are critical of Pakistan because they need Pakistan. And in fact, they think on some levels Pakistan has done a good job in some areas.
But on this question of the top leaders of the Taliban living in Afghanistan, that is something you hear from top U.S. military officials in Afghanistan and also NATO officials. And it's -- there is a substantial NATO presence there, British and Canadian diplomats very concerned about Pakistan's inability, or either inability or lack of will to go after this top leadership. and that I'm sure is on the menu this evening, that has got to be item No. 1, surely.
ROBERTS: And you've made tonight's dinner a lot more interesting than it would have been.
BLITZER: I only ask the questions as I said before. They give the answers.
Anderson, I just had a chance to actually read the agreement that the Pakistani government worked out with those tribal leaders in Waziristan along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Lots of references, indirect references, to the Taliban.
What's your take on this deal? Because Musharraf says this is designed to fight the Taliban, to fight al Qaeda, but it reads, in effect, like it is a truce with the Taliban.
COOPER: Well, Pakistani military is pulling out of checkpoints, they're going back to their barracks, essentially handing over checkpoints to these tribal leaders. "Newsweek" is reporting this week, quoting one person in Pakistan that there is a secret part of the deal made directly with the Taliban to sort of check off by tribal leaders.
And then in fact one of these so-called tribal leaders who signed off on the deal was killed in fighting against a U.S. and coalition forces recently in Afghanistan. So there is a lot of questions about who the deal was actually made with. There was also freeing of prisoners in Pakistan, prisoners who had been rounded up previously.
You know, every U.S. intelligence official, every military official -- and as Peter said, a lot of them -- they won't say on camera because look, it is a very sensitive thing. Obviously there is a lot of -- Pervez Musharraf is walking on a tight rope within his own country, both these leaders are.
So there is a lot of sensitivity to saying these things publicly. But I don't think there is anyone in the U.S. military or the U.S. intelligence community who I've talked to or who I think Peter has talked to who thinks that this cease-fire deal is in any way a positive thing if what you are trying to do is stop crossing over of militants from Pakistan into Afghanistan.
And I mean they're already seen the numbers increase. Hamid Karzai said to me just last week, the trends already that they are seeing are not good. And every military official I talked to says, look, unless you can prosecute this war into Pakistan, unless you can follow these militants into the bases where these operations are being planned from inside Pakistan, not in Afghanistan, you're not going to be able to successfully prosecute this war in eastern Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Anderson Cooper is going to have a lot more on this story at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. "A.C. 360" -- Anderson, thanks very much. Peter Bergen, John Roberts, thanks to both of you as well.
Just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, e-voting. Will your ballot actually count come November?
And food police: New York City moves to ban trans fat from restaurants. Find out why some of them are getting hot over the issue. Much more of our coverage. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Thanks, Wolf.
The question this hour, should the government implement emergency measures to provide paper ballots for midterm elections? A lot of questions about the integrity of those electronic voting machines.
Rex in Deptford, New Jersey writes, "Jack, at this point, I don't trust electronic voting. We get a receipt at the store and in America we can't get a receipt for our vote? I'm voting absentee and I recommend everyone who wants their vote actually counted should do the same."
Bonnie in Omaha: "For goodness sake, we know that the electronic voting machines don't work at best, and at worst help the unscrupulous steal elections. Of course there must be an alternative, and the paper ballots are the quickest ones available"
Elena in Monticello: "Of course not. That would mean they may not get reelected. How silly would that be, actually giving the citizens control. Get real." Kayvan, San Francisco: "At this point in the American experience, we cannot take anything for granted. Local governments should take that into account and require paper ballots. Our fragile democracy cannot sustain anymore attacks or second guessing."
C. writes, "If Republicans provide voters the choice of using either electronic or paper ballots, they won't be able to steal the elections. Why would they do that?"
And Marilyn in Powell, Ohio: "Jack, given the so-called problems Ohio had in the 2004 presidential election, I think we should get paper ballots and purple ink to stick our fingers in."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and read some more of these online -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Getting back to that three-way dinner over at the White House, Jack, did you notice that the president of the United States spoke but his two guests pointedly did not speak?
CAFFERTY: You know, I'm sure that maybe all three people at that dinner had to be just a tad uncomfortable. You know, it's like putting a cobra and mongoose in a jar. I mean, they got along. It's over. Now it's, you know, grab the Tums and let's get out of dodge.
BLITZER: And literally, that's what they're going to be doing. Both President Musharraf and President Karzai, right after the dinner, you know what they're doing? They're getting out of Washington, D.C. and flying across that big Atlantic Ocean.
CAFFERTY: It may be awhile before they come and have dinner with Mr. Bush again.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens next. It would be funny if it weren't so serious. The stakes as all of us know in this war on terror are so enormous. jack, we'll see you tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much.
And just ahead, french fries threatened, doughnuts endangered. The fat police may be ready for a big crackdown in the Big Apple. We'll tell you what's going on. You're going to want to see this.
BLITZER: Here's a closer look at some of the hot shots coming in from our friends at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.
Ventura, California, a wildfire that began on Labor Day burns on.
North Carolina, a 12-foot alligator is removed from a highway after being hit by a vehicle late last month. The 475-pound reptile is believed to be 85 years old.
In Basra in Iraq, girls walk past two British soldiers painting the wall of their school. And at the Indianapolis Zoo, a 3-week-old African elephant named Zahara walks in front of her mother, Ivory.
Some of today's hot shots, pictures often worth a thousand words.
If you like doughnuts, pies and french fries, might you soon be breaking the law? Perhaps if you live in the nation's largest city. There is a new proposal from what some are calling the diet police.
Our Mary Snow reports from New York.
SNOW (voice-over): Monitor the macaroni? Curb the cupcakes? Restaurant owner Naidre Miller is questioning whether her comfort food, minus artificial transfats, should be scrutinized by the city, along with 20,000-plus over restaurants.
NAIDRE MILLER, OWNER, NAIDRE's: They want to look in everybody's kitchen and see what fat they are cooking with? It's a little unreasonable.
SNOW: The city's health commissioner says, yes, the city does aim to check what kind of margarines or oils are being used in foods from french fries to doughnuts and more. He says artificial transfats are linked to heart disease.
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, NYC HEALTH COMMISSIONER: This is an artificial, hazardous chemical. It's got no business being in our food, just as lead has no business being in our paint.
SNOW: Frieden's plan to strictly limit transfats in restaurants passed the first of several steps towards becoming law, and could mean imposing fines if restaurants don't comply. Nutritionists are praising what could be the second big curb on restaurants since the city banned smoking in 2003.
CATHY NONAS, DIETITIAN, NORTH GENERAL HOSPITAL: I think that we are coming off this high of no smoking. I think we really believe that we can make this difference in restaurants.
SNOW: But the group representing the city restaurants doesn't want the city making a difference, arguing it will cost more, and consumers, not the city, should decide what to eat.
CHARLES HUNT, NEW YORK STATE RESTAURANT ASSN.: Many restaurants, particularly in recent years, have offered considerably more healthy choices on their menus. But we feel that the consumer should have the final decision as to what they eat, not the Board of Health, or not a governmental agency.
SNOW: And in a city where food is viewed as an art form, New Yorkers definitely have an opinion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like telling an artist what colors they can paint and not paint with. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I think it is awesome. I think people have a hard enough time making choices on their own food choices and so, for them to ban, I think it is great if it's bad for your health.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fat is what makes it taste good. Don't take the fat away! For real.
SNOW: Mary Snow, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: Lots of changes in the works in New York.
We're watching what's happening at the White House, if there are additional developments, any public statements from the leaders of Pakistan, Afghanistan, we'll bring those to you right here on CNN.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's go to "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Paula standing by in New York -- Paula.
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