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CNN NEWSROOM

President Bush Meeting With Maliki; Explosion At Lebanon-Syria Crossing; Grandmother Shot; Papal Speech Angered Muslims Worldwide; Boot Camp Death Charges

Aired November 28, 2006 - 10:00   ET

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


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Pilot goes on. Is he even alive?
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And Seattle dressed up like Green Bay, Heidi. Snow all over the place. A whisker within the reach of a new record. Details in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: And we want to tell you about the very latest with President Bush and the NATO summit. As you know, we are just learning now there has been some confusion about when he will meet with the prime minister of Iraq, Maliki. We are learning now just here at CNN, it will be tomorrow and Thursday as well. There had been some discrepancies about that. We want to go ahead and give you a little bit of sound from just moments ago when the president was speaking in Riga, Latvia, about pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow I'm going to travel to Jordan where I will meet with the prime minister of Iraq. We will discuss the situation on the ground in his country. Our ongoing efforts to transfer more responsibility to the Iraqi security forces and the responsibility of other nations in the region to support the security and stability of Iraq. We'll continue to be flexible and we'll make the changes necessary to succeed. But there's one thing I'm not going to do. I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: OK. Sharing the load, President Bush is in Latvia, as you saw just a moment ago, right now for the NATO summit, looking for help from friends. The meeting expected to focus on Afghanistan and the need for more troops. But wherever the president goes, questions about Iraq follow. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux joins us live from Riga, Latvia.

And, Suzanne, we're already looking ahead -- probably a little unfair to the summit going on there -- but we're looking ahead to the meetings tomorrow and Thursday with the president and Nuri al-Maliki.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Tony.

Of course, the president here is at the NATO summit. He is trying, once again, his arm stretched out, reaching for help from European allies when it comes to the war in Afghanistan. Asking for more troops and resources.

But all eyes, of course, on the next couple of days. What is going to happen when President Bush meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Amman, Jordan. He was asked a number of questions in the press conference this morning when he was in Estonia and he made it very clear that despite the growing chaos and the carnage between these warring factions in Iraq, President Bush denied that there was a civil war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's all kinds of speculation about what may be or not happening. What you're seeing on TV has started last February. It was an attempt by people to foment sectarian violence and no question it's dangerous there and violent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And, Tony, as you know, of course, there are many different definitions for civil war. There's the political definition, the intellectual definition, as well as the military definition. But this administration not yet ready to say that this is a civil war. They also say that Iraqi's leadership denies that this is a civil war.

Now President Bush went on to say that he is not going to have discussions with the U.S. nemesis, Iran, in the situation dealing with Iraq, until they comply with those conditions. That is to stop the uranium enrichment program that the president believes is being used to build a nuclear weapon.

Tony.

HARRIS: Suzanne Malveaux for us in Riga, Latvia, with the president.

Suzanne, thank you.

COLLINS: The bloodshed in Iraq, the military says expect more in the coming days. This was the scene this morning in the city of Kirkuk. Police say a suicide bomber blew himself up near an Iraqi governor's convoy. The governor survived, but 18 people were wounded. A U.S. military spokesman says civilian casualties have spiked dramatically in Baghdad following the carnage in Sadr City on Thursday. Some 200 people were killed there.

Concerns grow and the search continues for a U.S. pilot in Iraq. The military says an F-16 went down Monday in a field outside Baghdad. Ground forces moved in to secure the scene, but the pilot was nowhere to be found.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: For now, the Air Force has officially classified the pilot as duty status and whereabouts unknown. A board of investigation has convened to determine why the plane went down and information on the pilot's status will be made available as soon as we have further knowledge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: The military says the pilot was flying in support of combat operations. It confirmed insurgents were in the vicinity of the crash site after the plane went down.

HARRIS: And we are following a developing story out of Lebanon for you this morning. An explosion heard in a main Syria-Lebanon border crossing. Our Anthony Mills is on the line with us, on the phone now with more information.

And, Anthony, the details beyond what we told folks so far are quite disturbing.

ANTHONY MILLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Tony.

Details for the moment are actually fairly murky as they often are in these situations in Syria. This is not the first time that there has been something of this nature occurring in Syria over the last year, year and a half. We've had confrontations between Syria and security services and allegedly murky groups, murky fundamentalist groups in Syria. Details are always very hard to come by. You'll recall that a few months ago there was an attack on the U.S. embassy in Damascus which the Syrian authorities said had been launched by a fundamentalist group.

Now, for the moment, Arab media are reporting that a suicide bomber blew himself up at the Syrian immigration check point, at the Syrian immigration building, which is effectively the entry point into Syria if you're traveling there by road from Lebanon. You leave Lebanon, then you go through a little bit of no man's land, effectively, and then you arrive at this immigration point where you obtain a visa, if you need one. That's where the immigration authorities are and that's where Arab media are saying this person blew himself up.

There are reports that two policemen were injured. It's not clear at this stage, not confirmed at least as to whether or not this suicide bomber was killed in the blast. We'll be giving you more details, of course, as they come in.

Tony.

HARRIS: OK. Anthony Mills for us in Beirut.

Anthony, thank you.

COLLINS: Pope Benedict XVI in Turkey and under heavy guard. The pontiff is making his first visit to a Muslim country and he's being met with high tensions. He made a controversial speech in September, one that angered Muslims worldwide. Turkey has launched massive security operations to protect the pontiff. Turkey's prime minister says the pope reassured him today he views Islam as a peaceful religion.

"When Faiths Collide." Anderson Cooper is live in Turkey with Pope Benedict's first day and Muslim reaction. A special edition of "A.C. 360" tonight live from Turkey. That's at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific, here on CNN.

HARRIS: A search for clues underway in Missouri today following a deadly fire at a group home in the small town of Anderson. The Associated Press reports a convicted felon was running the ministry that operated the home. Investigators are looking at fire code violations at a sister group home three years ago. Missouri's governor says there's still no word on what caused Monday's fire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MATT BLUNT, MISSOURI: We're not saying it's definitely a crime scene, but we're treating it as if it is and trying to determine if the fire was set by somebody that had a nefarious motive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Although officials are treating this as a crime scene, they say they're not ruling out the possibility of an accident.

COLLINS: Federal agents now on the case. The FBI taking the lead, looking at events leading to the shooting death of an elderly woman in Atlanta. Her home suspected of being a drug den. Rusty Dornin with the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Police say it was the information from this man that led them to raid the home of 88- year-old Kathryn Johnston (ph). They say he bought drugs at the house. No way says the man who claims to be the informant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never went in the house. I'm telling you, I never went in the house.

DORNIN: When police burst through Johnston's door, she opened fire and was shot and killed. The police informant says he then got a call from officers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They called me immediately after the shooting to ask me -- I mean to tell me, this is what you need to do. You need to call (INAUDIBLE).

DORNIN: Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington says the informant has told internal police investigators the same story.

CHIEF RICHARD PENNINGTON, ATLANTA POLICE: After we brought that informant in and interviewed that informant, he told us that he had no knowledge of going into that house and purchasing drugs.

DORNIN: The officers had obtained what's called a no-knock search warrant for Johnston's house. A judge granted the warrant after police said they had watched their informant buy drugs at the house from a man called Sam. They also said the informant had claimed there were surveillance cameras inside. Police refused to comment on whether those cameras were found. Seven narcotics officers and a sergeant have been placed on paid leave.

DAVID NAHMIAS, U.S. ATTORNEY: This is now an FBI investigation and anyone who lies or obstructs justice will be committing a serious felony.

DORNIN: Neighbors say Johnston was a shut-in. Nina Robinson spoke to the 88-year-old four or five times a day.

So she never let anybody into the house that she didn't know?

NINA ROBINSON, NEIGHBOR: No. Even if I went there and rang the doorbell and I didn't tell her I was coming she never let me in (ph).

DORNIN: Johnston family spokesperson, Reverend Mark AL Hutchins (ph), welcomes federal investigators.

REV. MARKEL HUTCHINS, JOHNSTON FAMILY SPOKESMAN: At best, this was poor judgment on behalf of the police officers involved. At worst, it's an egregious and gross violation of Miss Johnston's civil and human rights.

DORNIN: That question will now be up to the FBI to decide.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Fifty shots fired. Were New York police officers just caught up in the moment when they shot three unarmed men? We'll have the latest on this disturbing case in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: The pope in Turkey, looking to mend fences. Will his message get across? We will talk about that with a leader of the largest Muslim group in North America. She's in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: And 142 inches of fresh snow in a week. The lure of one ski resort. Of course, getting there might be a little bit of a problem, though. The northwest in white, ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: The pope in Turkey today with a message of reconciliation, but can he calm Christian-Muslim tensions after a speech that drew criticism from all corners of the Islamic world? Dr. Ingrid Mattson is the president of the Islamic Society of North American and she joins us from Washington.

Dr. Mattson, thanks for your time.

INGRID MATTSON, PRESIDENT, ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA: You're welcome. HARRIS: Hey, let's take you back and then let's move forward if we can. The pope quoted in September a Byzantine emperor, an obscure, 14th century, underline obscure, 14th century Byzantine emperor, talking about Islam, that Islam was violent and irrational. What was your reaction to the comments in September?

MATTSON: Well, certainly disappointment after all the progress the catholic church has made recently in interfaith relations and in engaging in dialogue with Muslims, that this speech really put us back -- set us back. Also what was disappointing is that really the first rule of interfaith dialogue is to try to seek as accurate information as possible about the other faiths and to let them characterize their faith. Doesn't mean that you can't question how their beliefs might impact you or express your anxieties about what their practices -- how they may affect your group, but to -- for the pope, who's not an Islamic theologian, to protect an image of Islamic theology as if that is the reality was problematic for me.

HARRIS: I have to ask you, Dr. Mattson, it's clear that the hostilities have died down somewhat from where they were. That's for sure. What accounts for that in the easing of the tensions, in your mind?

MATTSON: Well, certainly many people in the catholic church, including catholic theologians in the United ,States worked very hard to try to reach out to the Muslim community after that. The Vatican also did reach out to Muslims and invited Muslim scholars and theologians to come to the Vatican to speak. So the fact that we had built some good relationships and alliances before this happened helped us to talk about it afterwards and to talk about what kind of misconceptions were being conveyed and how we could move forward.

HARRIS: Which probably explains why neither side decided to cancel this trip.

MATTSON: Right. And that's really the best news.

HARRIS: Yes.

MATTSON: And the positive news that comes out of this is that despite the hurt feelings, the pope is going to Turkey and the Turkish prime minister is meeting him and it's a democratic country so there will be people who will protest, as is their right. But it seems that, as a whole, Turks want -- Turkish Muslims want to continue to engage in dialogue and to have engagement with Christians and with the catholic church.

HARRIS: And right now live pictures now of the pope meeting with a Turkish government official. My next question, I guess, here's my concern. Here's my concern. That after the comments in September, everyone is going to be so careful, the pope is going to be so careful about what he says on this trip that there won't be much forward movement in terms of crossing the bridge that is being built.

MATTSON: Well, clearly this is a visit that we could characterize mostly as diplomatic. And like other diplomatic relations, it's mostly about projecting a good image, having that personal contact and the real work, the hard work of discussing issues that are of concern to both sides will be done later, in more scholarly forums, in academic and administrative forums. But it's a good step and it's great to see the pope in Turkey engaging in this discussion with Turkish Muslims and Turkish Christians as well.

HARRIS: Yes. And Dr. Mattson, you know the purpose of the trip in a larger context. But I have to ask you, related to that, are Muslims concerned at all about what a reunified Christian community might mean politically for Muslims?

MATTSON: I've heard some statements of concern on the part of some Turkish commentators and I really don't understand that concern. I think that it is the right of Christians to have ecumenical councils and to unify on issues of their concerns. And I think it's problematic for us to consider that Turkish Christians might be some kind of fifth column, just as it would be problem for Europeans to think that Muslims are some kind of religious fifth column in Europe. So we really need to tone down those kind of fears and even paranoia, I think.

HARRIS: Let me ask this question, basically setting up the next question, if I could. How strong and determined would you say is the voice of the Islamic nationalist movement inside of Turkey?

MATTSON: Turkey is a very complex nation-state. And we see that nationalist sentiments, sometimes even from the secular side, rejects outside engagement even when it comes to religious engagement. So it's not just the religious parties or the religious organizations. It's a very complex situation. Turks are strongly nationalistic, very patriotic, and they resent any kind of suggestion of outside interference in their affairs.

HARRIS: And one final question. Delia Gallagher, our faith and values correspondent, says that the pope believes Christianity has an ally in Islam. Is the reverse true?

MATTSON: Absolutely. I know at least on the part of Muslim Americans, one of the reasons, the primary reason why Muslims feel that America is a great place to live in, is that Christian values are still strongly present in much of civic life and American society. Religion is valued and there is a vigorous public debate about the role of religion and creating a wholesome society. So I think there is room for discussion and for cooperation there in a way that can benefit all of us.

HARRIS: Dr. Ingrid Mattson is the president of the Islamic Society of North America.

Ingrid, thanks for your time. We appreciate it.

MATTSON: You're welcome. Thank you.

HARRIS: "When Faiths Collide." Anderson Cooper is live in Turkey with Pope Benedict's first day and Muslim reaction. A special edition of "A.C. 360" tonight live from Turkey. That's at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific right here on CNN.

COLLINS: A new twists in a spy mystery. Questions about the poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko. Could it be a mob hit? That's ahead coming up in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Want to take a moment to check out the big board now. About an hour after the opening bell. You see the numbers, down 11 points, resting at 12,110. Yesterday, though, down about 120 points. So we are watching this today. The Nasdaq also down eight points.

ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN, your severe weather headquarters.

HARRIS: Numb. I tell you, numb in the northwest. A storm system blanketing the region with heavy, heavy snow. About two feet of it in parts of Washington state. That's putting a crimp in travel and knocking out power to thousands. The Idaho mountains have gotten several inches of snow since the weekend. That's leading to some cleanup operations. Pretty massive, but also a lot of fun. Ski resorts are opening up. Also, stormy Utah. It is the state's first big snowfall this season. It's made for a messy commute for some, but no reports of serious accidents.

Let's get you to Rob Marciano now at the Weather Center.

Rob, sort of wrap all this up for us and let us know what's coming in the immediate future for those folks.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: This news just in to us now at CNN. You may remember back in January, a teenager died at a boot camp in Florida. Our T.J. Holmes is working this story and has some late breaking information on this.

T.J., what's happening?

T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the word we're getting now is that eight former guards at that boot camp where that teenager died are now being charged with his death. This is the video you may remember. Again, this was at Bay Boot Camp, which is in the northwest part of Florida. And this was the incident caught on tape that really just upset a lot of folks and was disturbing to watch this.

But the teenager, 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, had come to this camp. He was just starting the camp. This camp is for juvenile offenders.

He was going through an initiation exercise, is what the guards say. They put him through -- he was having to exercise, going through a routine and he couldn't finish it. He didn't finish running some laps so officers or the guards there -- and seeing in this video is what happened to him. He was hit, he was beaten, he was punched. An initial autopsy after this incident, which was in January of this year, showed or said, rather, according to the medical examiner, was that the young man died of some kind of a rare sickle cell illness of some kind. However, later, another follow-up was done, another follow-up exam ordered by the Governor Jeb Bush there which then showed that, in fact, the young man died of suffocation in this incident. He was sat on. He was beat. He was hit. He was kicked. Now we are hearing that eight former guards will be charged with manslaughter in the death of this teenager.

A lot more details to come on this. Just getting this news. But, indeed, eight former guards being charged with that teenager's death. And that incident here that was caught on tape.

Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, T.J. In fact, we are getting more detail now. CNN correspondent Susan Candiotti had been following this story as it happened in Florida. Susan is on the phone with us now.

That's right, Susan, as T.J. was mentioning, this death was first ruled by natural causes, but because of sort of an uproar, if you will, by family and friends, a new investigation was under way. This a result of that investigation.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And a special prosecutor was assigned to look into this matter. And the uproar really occurred after some lawmakers were seen -- were shown a videotape that was taken, frankly, as all new recruits came into this boot camp, Martin Anderson being one of them.

And these two lawmakers first drew attention to this incident after reviewing what happened during this young man's orientation at the camp. And from there, naturally, the family was concerned as well. That got the governor involved. And all kinds of investigations sprang out from that.

The end result, as you have just heard, is that eight former guards who were all let go and, in fact, that camp is closed, have now been charged. Their arrests, we have learned, are now underway, according to authorities. This is called a first degree aggravated manslaughter of a child. The child being Martin Anderson, a young person who died on January the 6th. This crime is punishable, if these people are found guilty, by up to 30 years in prison.

Now some of the attorneys who represented these guards have said all along they felt it was a matter of time before these people, these former guards, would be arrested. In fact, their prediction has come to fruition now. The charges were actually signed yesterday by Mark Ober, he's the state attorney in the western part of Florida who was assigned to this case. And he found that during the course of this young man's orientation at the boot camp that after 20 minutes of various uses of force, as it was called, and the boy was found then unresponsive, then paramedics were called in.

There were some other investigations also looking into whether the medical examiner in this case was correct in having the young man's body moved from Pensacola, to -- back to his jurisdiction so he could perform the autopsy. However, the special prosecutor has not found anything -- any evidence of any wrongdoing there. And as well, he is suggesting, however, some changes in the law that would make it possible or make the law clearer so that if someone dies in one jurisdiction that's where the autopsy would be performed.

So, we will effort now reaction to these arrests which many thought would be forthcoming, just a matter of time. And in fact now, as you have heard, eight former guards now charged with first degree aggravated manslaughter in the death of Martin Anderson -- Heidi.

COLLINS; All right. Susan Candiotti, thanks so much for that.

Studying the situation in Iraq, what recommendations should the president expect from the Iraq study group? Some options coming up in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And Muslims in the U.S. military. One former soldier claims they're fighting their own battle against fellow soldiers. We will take a look, in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: New twists in a spy mystery. Questions about the poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko. Could it be a mob hit? More on that story coming up right here in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS We want to get you to T.J. Holmes in the NEWSROOM now. T.J. has the latest on the investigation into that deadly bus accident in Huntsville, Alabama, November 20th, T.J.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, last week, early last week, this is a tough story everybody remembers from last week, of course, early last week. Four students ended up dying when that bus plunged off an overpass on the highway. Been looking for answers as to what might have caused this accident.

Of course, as we knew, investigators were saying that two vehicles, the bus and one other car, were involved in this accident. Well, that other car, according to some reports now from -- particularly the Huntsville police department, an officer there saying that the preliminary investigation shows there may be a faulty steering mechanism in the other car, which was a Toyota Celica that was driven by another student, may have been the cause of the accident. That car, the Toyota that was being driven by another student, actually swerved over in front of this bus, apparently, and hit the bus, causing it to go over the overpass.

But again, initial reports showing now the investigation that maybe there was a car steering mechanism problem that caused that car to swerve in front of that bus and hit that bus. Police have been interviewing the driver of that car, again, it was another high school student, a 17-year-old, interviewing the passenger in that car and both of their statements, according to police, match up in that the car did lose control. The driver was unable to control that car, trying to maneuver around the bus.

So, apparently, something may have gone wrong with that car. Also, the student, according to police, has been receiving death threats from others. Going through a tough time there. The student initially was not put under arrest, but was questioned by police, not saying that anything criminal was happening from the start of the investigation. The investigation of course will continue.

But at least right now it looks that possibly the student really, according to at least preliminary results of the investigation, no fault of this student's, just maybe an unfortunate incident, something actually went terribly wrong with this car to cause the accident - Tony.

HARRIS: And T.J., according to the information I have here, you may have some different information, but it doesn't look like even at this point there are charges to be filed yet or at least they haven't been yet.

HOLMES: Haven't been filed, and not really any real talk of that. That has been the case from the very beginning. They questioned the student. The student was let go. They made it clear it was -- no charges here we're seeking or anything like that. Let the investigation go forward. So, it looks like they may, may be getting a few answers and really maybe nothing criminal here, at least on the part of that driver.

HARRIS: All right, T.J. Appreciate it. Thank you.

HOLMES: All right, Tony.

COLLINS: A search is under way this morning for a U.S. pilot missing in Iraq. The military says his F-16 went down yesterday in a field outside Baghdad. Ground forces moved in to secure the scene but the pilot was nowhere to be found.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ SPOKESMAN: Yesterday after 1:35 p.m., Baghdad time, an F-16 conducting air operations in support of coalition ground forces crashed approximately 20 miles northwest of Baghdad. The cause of the crash is unknown, but at this time, there is no indication suggesting the plane was shot down. For now, the Air Force has officially classified the pilot as duty status and whereabouts unknown.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: The military says the pilot was flying in support of combat operations. His name has not been released.

HARRIS: President Bush meeting with NATO allies today, but an even more delicate alliance may be put to the test this week. The president heads to a meeting with Iraq's prime minister to discuss the escalating violence there. Today, Mr. Bush rejected claims Iraq has already spiraled into civil war. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bombings that took place recently was a part of a patter that has been going on for about nine months. I'm going to bring this subject up, of course, with Prime Minister Maliki when I visit with him in Jordan on Thursday. My questions to him will be, what do we need to do to succeed? What is your strategy in dealing with the sectarian violence?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Crunch time for the Iraq study group. The panel working on war strategy suggestions is expected to release its findings next month. As CNN's Jamie McIntyre reports, few people at the Pentagon are expecting a magic bullet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For the Iraq Study Group, coming up with a winning strategy is chicken or egg proposition. Which comes first? Is more stability needed to awe allow for fewer U.S. troops? Or would fewer U.S. troops force Iraq to create more stability?

GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER MIDEAST ENVOY: Every course of action has a high degree of risk and is not guaranteed to succeed. But I think that there has to be a process that will force the Iraqis to make the difficult decisions they have so far refrained from making.

MCINTYRE: The problem is, U.S. commanders, including top commander General John Abizaid, have rejected the idea of either adding a lot more American troops or any precipitous pullout. So any radical shift in strategy risks running roughshod over the best advice of the U.S. military.

LT. GEN. DANIEL CHRISTMAN, U.S. ARMY (RET.): So I think we're setting up an incredible clash between the senior uniformed military and our civilian community.

MCINTYRE: To avoid that, many observers believe the study group will advocate a gradual pullout, not linked to any firm timetable, along with increased training for Iraqi forces.

A draft proposal now being debated by the Iraq Study Group, reportedly frames the argument around the wisdom of a phased withdrawal, as well as engaging Iran and Syria in direct talks. That option is also favored by America's closest ally, Great Britain, which is anxiously eying the door.

DES BROWNE, BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY: I can tell you that by the end of next year, I expect numbers of British forces in Iraq to be significantly lower by a matter of thousands.

MCINTYRE: Like the U.S., Britain won't say how many troops might be withdrawn, but insists they would only leave if conditions are right. Still, the coalition is slowly shrinking. Poland is withdrawing its 1,000 troops next year. Italy's 1,400 will be out this year. And Ukraine, the Netherlands and Spain have already left. That will leave a total of 13,000 troops from 26 other countries, down from more than 20,000 a year ago. And most of those remaining countries have only small contingents of several hundred troops in relatively safe parts of Iraq.

(On camera): The Iraq Study Group is meeting this week in Washington. Its deliberations are secret, but whatever it comes up with will be presented to the U.S. Congress before it takes off on its holiday recess, early next month.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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COLLINS: Muslims in the U.S. military. One former soldier claims they are fighting their own battle against fellow soldiers. We take a look, in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Religious intolerance in the U.S. army. The charge from one man who served.

CNN's Chris Lawrence with a closer look at Muslims in the military.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This former Army Muslim chaplain says there's a war going on within the U.S. Army and he was a casualty.

JAMES YEE, FMR. U.S. ARMY CHAPLAIN: I was called a Chinese Taliban.

LAWRENCE: If there is a conflict between Christians and Muslims, as James Yee claims, he started out on the other side of it.

YEE: I was raised a Lutheran, which is one of the more liturgical Protestant denominations.

LAWRENCE: Yee later traded his confirmation robes for Army fatigues. Years later, he converted to Islam and was sent to work as a chaplain at America's most well-known military prison.

YEE: Down in Guantanamo you had a situation in which where perhaps there was a clash of religions.

LAWRENCE: In his book, Yee describes how Christian soldiers disrespected the Koran.

YEE: If someone uses a weapon against the prisoners to try and break them...

LAWRENCE: Yee believes there was general suspicion of Muslims service members in 2003. Early that year, at a military camp in Kuwait, an American-Muslim sergeant attacked his own men out of loyalty to Muslims worldwide. Six months later, Yee himself was arrested, accused of spying and aiding the enemy. He spent 76 days in solitary confinement but was never officially charged.

(on camera): Do Muslim service members have a tougher time of it than their Christian counterparts?

YEE: Yes, Muslims today are more challenged in the military because of their faith.

LAWRENCE (voice over): The Army says this is one person's representation of events and it has thoroughly investigated allegations of abuse at the prison.

At West Point, where Yee graduated, Muslim enrollment is up from two students to 32, and the academy just dedicated a new mosque. But Yee claims the American military as a whole still doesn't understand Islam.

YEE: And instead of winning hearts and minds, we're offending them.

LAWRENCE: The challenge now, finding ways for Muslims and Christians to fight for the same side.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Seattle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Bridging the divide between Islam and Christianity. Pope Benedict in Turkey under massive security. That story ahead in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Pulling out of Iraq, Britain has a plan, but there's a big if.

HARRIS: And soldiers in the shadows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've had to face public opinion. I've had to face disownment from my father. He told me I was dead to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: AWOL in Canada, the story in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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