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Bush Meets With Maliki

Aired November 30, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening everyone. The body language might have been a bit more strange, but the words were familiar. President Bush calling Iraq's prime minister the right man for the job. He says we're with him all the way until the end. The question is, does he really believe it?
ANNOUNCER: Critics call him out of touch.

BUSH: Killers taking innocent lives in some cases sectarian.

ANNOUNCER: He won't call it a civil war. He still believes in victory. Is President Bush living in denial when it comes to Iraq? Strong language from a gentle man.

CARTER: It's been a horrible mistake.

ANNOUNCER: Former President Carter on President Bush and plans for Iraq.

CARTER: I don't think it would help if we even had twice as many troops.

ANNOUNCER: Poisoned spy, widening nuclear terror. Will the trail of fallout lead back to Moscow and was another victim targeted, too?

Also, they go around in circles to get closer to God. A magical, mystical spin with the whirling dervishes. Across the country and around world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360, reporting tonight from Amman, Jordan, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And good evening. Want to welcome our viewers in the United States and everyone watching on CNN International around the world. What began here in Amman with a snub ended today with a show of support. A politically damaged president embracing the wounded prime minister of a dying country. In fact, the president's top national security adviser has strong doubts about whether Nouri al Maliki is up to the job and fair to say when it comes to Iraq, the focus now one way or another is on getting out. But that is not what you say at a summit and not what we heard today. The question is, what does the president really think about the situation? Something my colleague John Roberts has been trying to find out. John?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, President Bush has long been a student of stay the course in Iraq but now there are growing calls from all sides for some kind of major change. Is the president out of touch on Iraq or is he the only one who really gets it? We'll take a look at both sides of the argument, coming up. Anderson?

COOPER: John, back to you in a minute. Later, former President Jimmy Carter's advice for President Bush, find a way to declare victory and get out. But first what President Bush and Prime Minister Al Maliki said after their meeting today.


COOPER (voice-over): With support for the war falling and violence in Iraq soaring, President Bush stood side by side with Prime Minister Al Maliki today and came out swinging.

BUSH: We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done, so long as the government wants us there.

COOPER: It was tough talk from a commander in chief under fire at home and abroad. And despite reports of administration doubts over al Maliki's ability to stop the sectarian bloodshed and control his country, the president gave the prime minister a public vote of confidence.

BUSH: He's a right guy for Iraq. And we're going to help him. And it's in our interest to help him. For the sake of peace.

COOPER: Privately, however, the White House may not be so sure.

ROBIN WRIGHT, WASHINGTON POST: I think they have been disappointed in the leadership of Prime Minister Maliki and there has not been much progress when it comes to the critical issues. Amending the constitution and most importantly, reconciliation with the Sunni minority which is, of course, critical if you're going to undermine the insurgency.

COOPER: As for Maliki, he insists democracy will prevail.

NOURI AL-MALIKI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER: We have many visions and many ideas about the transformation process and we are determined to succeed in the face of all the challenges. That we believe are probably should exist in a situation such as the situation that Iraq is going through.

COOPER: The summit follows two embarrassing developments for the White House. It was Maliki's last-minute cancellation of a meeting with Mr. Bush on Wednesday. Then there are the leaked reports of the Iraq Study Group, recommending a significant reduction in troops beginning as early as January. Today, the president responded.

BUSH: I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit. In my judgment, if we were to leave before the job is done, it would only embolden terrorists.

COOPER: And once again, the president linked the war in Iraq to a much larger struggle against terror. BUSH: The prime minister and I agree that the outcome in Iraq will affect the entire region. To stop the extremists from dominating the Middle East, we must stop the extremists from achieving their goal of dominating Iraq.


COOPER: And as for that, a U.S. soldier was killed in combat today in Baghdad bringing the death toll to 2,886. Iraqi soldiers uncovered a fresh mass grave south of Baquba, supporters of the Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr continue their boycott of the Al Maliki government. Three bombs went off in Baghdad. Two firefights and one mortar attack. Things may or may not be getting worse but they don't seem to be improving. Meantime, questions are growing about how much of this is or isn't sinking in at the White House. For a closer look at that, we turn to John Roberts in New York. John?

ROBERTS: Anderson, for years, the Bush administration chastised the media for showing only the bad news about Iraq. Now, with many members of his own party screaming that Iraq is a mess, in chaos, on the verge of falling apart, has the president put aside his rose colored glasses? Well, not completely.


ROBERTS (voice-over): You could see it in the president's face as he came off the flight from Amman. The weight of responsibility, the future of an entire region and the security of the United States hinging on his ability to find a solution in Iraq.

TOM DONNELLY, CTR FOR STRATEGIC & INTL. STUDIES: Iraq is not like Vietnam in the sense that it's something that is a loss that can be easily sustained and recovered from. It's far more central to the balance of power in the region to the strategic interests of the United States in the region.

ROBERTS: At this point, the problems in Iraq appear intractable, a solution impossible. And some critics wonder if the president even realizes the complexity of what he faces. Listen to what the president said at this pre-election press conference when asked if the U.S. is winning in Iraq.

BUSH: We're winning and we will win. Unless we leave before the job is done.

ROBERTS: To the incoming Senate Armed Services Chairman, it is a stunning disconnect from reality.

SEN. CARL LEVIN, CHAIRMAN ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It ignores the realities on the ground to say that absolutely we are winning in Iraq, everybody's losing in Iraq at the moment and until there's a political settlement, they're going to continue to lose in Iraq.

ROBERTS: The president's optimistic pronouncement may have been tinged with a liberal amount of campaign spin. For the most part, his assessments of Iraq recently have been far more sober. At his press conference with Nouri Al Maliki, the word progress never even passed the president's lips.

BUSH: Good morning. Because I understand how tough it is inside of Iraq. The prime minister's dealing with sectarian violence, the prime minister's having to deal with al Qaeda. The prime minister having to deal with criminal elements. And we want to help him.

ROBERTS: Far from being out of touch, foreign affairs expert Tom Donnelly believes President Bush gets it completely.

DONNELLY: I think that he gets it in the sense that he understands what victory is and he's probably alone in having a conversation about what it would take to win. The rest of the American debate seems to be what it will take to withdraw.

ROBERTS: Yet President Bush still resists the notion that Iraq is in a civil war. Admitting that would plant the big stamp of failure on his policy. He blames most of the chaos on al Qaeda. And even down plays the extent of violence between religions.

BUSH: The killers taking innocent life is in some cases sectarian. I happen to view it as criminal as well as sectarian. I think any time you murder somebody, you're a criminal.


ROBERTS: The big test of how in touch President Bush is his critics say will come when the Pentagon and Iraq study groups release their recommendations on the way forward. If the president resists the call for big changes, he'll likely find himself in the middle of a new battle for control of Iraq, this one with Democrats on Capitol Hill. Anderson?

COOPER: Hmm. John, I want to bring in David Gergen, former presidential adviser into the conversation. David, watching that press conference today, I mean, there are a lot of critics as John was talking about, who would portray this president based on that press conference as being out of touch and kind of thumbing his nose at the idea of doing some sort of course correction. Was that just political posturing or do you think he really does plan to just stay the course?

DAVID GERGEN, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I think his answers have been very emphatic here in the last few days, Anderson. You know the big question since the American midterm elections has been whether the president would heed the call of the voters for a fundamental course change in Iraq, and the answers from the president's trip has been from the president himself, it's not only no, but hell no. No to withdrawal of troops from Iraq. He's calling it a graceful exit, unrealistic, not doing it. No to that. No to direct talks with Iran. No to direct U.S. talks with Syria. Indeed, Anderson, no to Baker Hamilton to his dad's best friend Jim Baker. The big question was, everybody thought maybe Jim Baker was coming to the rescue. Tonight it appears the president is rejecting Jim Baker's advice.

COOPER: Yeah. I mean, John, you talked in your piece about the president feeling like the U.S. is winning in Iraq. Is that the consensus among his advisers as well? ROBERTS: Well I don't think that anybody believes that things are going as well as they would have hoped Anderson. And a lot of that probably was pre-election spin. If you talk to people privately they'll acknowledge there are big problems there, in Iraq. What's really interesting is that you have got the military acknowledging that there are big problems in Iraq and that's why they have to reconfigure things on the ground. But going forward, Anderson, it's clear that something big has got to happen. It's got to happen probably politically more than militarily. And right now, none of the big political players in Iraq, none of the people who have the real power in Iraq and those are not just the ones who occupy the ministries or have the titles of president and vice president and whatnot, but down at the militia level, down at the tribal level, down at the Sunni insurgent level. None of those people have any interest in peace right now and until they do, the situation is just going to continue to escalate as far as the sectarian violence goes.

COOPER: David, you were saying, you know, the president's kind of saying not just no, but hell no. Can he continue to do that, I mean with the democratically controlled Congress, with the American people having made some sort of a statement about wanting change in Iraq with this last election and with this Iraq Study Group report coming out.

GERGEN: Well, as commander in chief, he does have unusually strong powers of resistance. But I have to tell you when he gets back here into the U.S. and he finds that if his own Republican Party rebels against this, and he's under pressure from his own, you know, pillars and the Congress like, say, Senator John Warner, then you may see the president crack. But certainly he's sending out the very defiant signals this last few days as if I'm not doing that and forget it, get off my back.

COOPER: Well, David, I mean, I guess this president sees Iraq as his legacy and he's not running for re-election and I guess this is a sign -- or is it a sign of how important the president views this what happens on the ground in Iraq as his future legacy?

GERGEN: There's no question he regards this as his legacy and indeed, it is going to be his legacy. So one can understand why he wants to play out the last card. But there also is the question now of whether the -- the question you raised in the beginning and that is, is he now so caught up in his own world of what's happening in Iraq and only sees it one way? That he's unwilling to see what's going on in Iraq in the way that many others around him and who are friendly to him, want him to succeed. You know, there are many Republicans that want the president to succeed but they just don't see Iraq in the same way he does right now.

COOPER: Certainly regional stability is not looking good right now. It's not just what's going on in Iraq. What's going on in Lebanon. What's going on in Israel, as well and elsewhere. David, appreciate it. Thanks John Roberts, as well.

GERGEN: Ok. COOPER: Our attention is on Iraq but we must not forget Americans are fighting another war at the same time. Here's the raw data, operation enduring freedom has been raging for more than five years in Afghanistan. Twenty-one thousand U.S. troops are involved. Two hundred ninety one have been killed in and around Afghanistan. And more than 1,000 service members have been wounded in action. The situation in Afghanistan is bad enough. Iraq even worse, of course. Coming up, more on the Iraq Study Group's expected recommendation. What we have learned today and why the group's plan for getting out of Iraq falls far short of what some were hoping would be a magic bullet.

Also ahead in this hour, blunt talk from former President Jimmy Carter about the current president and the war in Iraq. And talk about blunt talk. Did you see Danny DeVito on "The View"? It's not the first time a celebrity has been, well, shall we say, tipsy on a show. It's not the first time a celebrity has bashed the president. But bash the president while being tipsy? That's a double header only Danny DeVito has done. We'll show you the tape ahead.


COOPER: Details of the report from the Iraq Study Group have already leaked out, of course. As we have been reporting, the panel made up of five Democrats, five Republicans was charged with finding a way forward in Iraq. It was supposed to bring fresh eyes to the challenge, but the recommendations awaiting President Bush contain no magic bullets, they don't even include a specific timetable. More now from CNN's Elaine Quijano.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a summit in Jordan with Iraq's prime minister, President Bush returned to Washington, preparing to hear next week from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group on its recommendations for improving the situation in Iraq. The group led by former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton and former Secretary of State James Baker, a Republican, began its work nearly nine months ago. Sources close to the group say the 10 members side stepped the thorny issue of setting a definite timetable for U.S. troop withdrawals, instead, a source close to the deliberations says the consensus view is to recommend a U.S. troop reduction described as gradual but meaningful. With the reduction to begin relatively early next year. The group is also expected to advise the president to urge Maliki to meet certain goals to reduce the violence so U.S. forces can eventually come home. And the panel wants the U.S. to focus more on training Iraqi troops and less on combat. Ahead of the report, President Bush in Jordan sought to dispel the notion U.S. troops would be pulled out prematurely.

BUSH: I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq. We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job down as long as the government wants us there.

QUIJANO: The Bush administration has down played any findings by the Baker/Hamilton Commission, noting that the White House is conducting its own reviews. And analysts say any expectations that the panel will produce an Iraq panacea are mistaken.

KENNETH POLLACK, SABAN CENTER AT BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: It was never likely that the Iraq Study Group was going to come up with novel solutions to the problems of Iraq. Quite frankly, we know what the different alternatives are in Iraq and really there aren't any solutions there are just choices.

QUIJANO (on camera): As for when President Bush might make decisions on his Iraq policy, his national security adviser Stephen Hadley said aboard air force one it would likely be within weeks, not months. And said that it would happen when the president was comfortable. Elaine Quijano, CNN, the White House.


COOPER: Well, President Bush is not the only president, of course, to face a menu of bad choices especially when it comes to the Middle East. A quarter of a century ago, Jimmy Carter's presidency was bedeviled by the Iran hostage crisis. I spoke with former President Carter earlier today and asked him for his take on today's summit and the current president.


JIMMY CARTER: But my hope is that there will be some clarification of what the United States is doing now and what they will be doing in the future. And if Maliki will be strengthened to take some bold steps when he gets back home in controlling the violence. I'm very interested in a fazed withdrawal. I think that sends a clear signal to Maliki that we won't be there indefinitely and my hope is that they'll be a commitment by the world community including the controversial nations of Syria and Iran, but also, of course, Jordan and Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the moderate Arab countries. That's what I hope will happen.

COOPER: A source has told CNN that the Iraq Study Group's going to recommend a gradual but what they call meaningful reduction of U.S. troops as early as January. Do you think, first of all, that that is a good idea?

CARTER: Well, it's better than nothing. I would prefer a much more rapid withdrawal myself and I don't know what the, you know, what the recommendation will be until I see the written report. But to wait until January to start gradual redeployment with no end in sight, I think, is slower than I would prefer.

COOPER: I mean, there are some who say, look, any sort of withdrawal and the president sort of reiterated this today that any kind of withdrawal is basically endangering the future of Iraq, that it's going to embolden the terrorists and it's going to basically just weaken the future of the country.

CARTER: I don't agree with that at all. I think that a firm commitment to withdraw at sometime in the future, I don't want to put a particular date on it, will send a clear message to the Iraqi government that they have to act more firmly on their own. And I have always felt that just a mere presence of U.S. -- United States troops, you know, in Baghdad and in the troubled areas is an incentive for the terrorist acts to continue. So I think just getting U.S. troops out of the -- you might say the trouble zones will automatically reduce violence to some degree.

COOPER: Want to play some of what President Bush said about Iraq today in this press conference and then we'll talk about it. Let's listen.

BUSH: We'll be in Iraq until the job is complete. At the request of a sovereign government elected by the people. I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq. We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done so long as the government wants us there.

COOPER: If this last election was a referendum on Iraq and the American people sent a message to this administration on Iraq, does it sound from that sound bite as if the president has gotten the message?

CARTER: I don't think so. Maybe he'll change his mind when he sees the recommendation of the upcoming committee Monday morning. I think there is a possibility though, for the president to declare some kind of victory in the future and go ahead and get out of Iraq. You know, if he could say that these marshaled an international commitment to the future of Iraq and that the Iraqi government has therefore with that reassurance asked the United States to withdraw, by phases, I think he could say that they've accomplished their purpose, they had a victory in Iraq and he could come out of it with saving his reputation in Iraq and maybe the Iraqi people and everybody else would be better satisfied.

COOPER: Another thing the Iraq Study Group is expected to talk about is the notion of having open and perhaps direct communication with leaders from Iran and Syria. There are those who say, look, little has actually been accomplished in the past by U.S. presidents, including yourself in some cases, trying to talk to these regimes directly. Why would talking -- I think you support it now. Why?

CARTER: Syria and Iran are brought in. They won't be a disturbing factor if they are also in conjunction with or in harmony with Egypt and Jordan and Saudi Arabia and the United States and other countries which have already been named. They will be part of a compact of nations that are interested in the future of Iraq. And I don't think it would be likely that Iran or Syria would turn down that opportunity if it was extended. I don't think this would imply that the United States and Iran has to sit down across the table with each other and start negotiating about the future of Iraq. That is not in the cards at all.

COOPER: In the history of mistakes that administrations have made, how big do you think this Iraq operation has been?

CARTER: Well, obviously, it will be judged in retrospect after the whole thing is over which may be a few years in the future, but up until this point, it's been a horrible mistake. One of the worst mistakes we have made. I would say it would compares -- you could argue both sides with Vietnam. But, the main thing was that it's been a quagmire in Iraq. It hasn't succeed so far. The violence is escalating, Americans have lost their lives. But I think the worst thing was the abandonment of Afghanistan. We had a good chance there after the soviets withdrew and we came in to stamp out the Taliban policies and to wipe out al Qaeda. We had unanimous support around the rest of the world. All of a sudden, we could have had the whole world on our team rebuilding Afghanistan. Giving them a glimpse of a good life in the future. I think that would have contributed to the possibility of a permanent democratic state of their choice. And I think all of that was abandoned in favor of Iraq. That adds to the seriousness of the mistake of going in to Iraq.


COOPER: Former President Jimmy Carter who also of course brokered the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. He has some thoughts on the Palestinian problem today and has just written a provocative book on it, "Palestine, Peace not Apartheid." He talked about the book bringing peace to the region as well as one of his other big concerns, getting help to the survivors and the people living in the Mississippi gulf coast and New Orleans, all from hurricane Katrina. That's coming up in our second hour of "360."

Coming up next though, more on our man in Baghdad, Nouri al Maliki and his struggle for survival. Also the growing investigation into the poisoning of a former Russian spy. Nuclear murder with a suspected connection to Moscow. And is somebody trying to bump off a new victim? New developments tonight.

And tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING" beginning at 6:00 a.m. eastern, former President Bill Clinton, best selling author Rick Warren and Senator Barack Obama, they kick off a full day of special global coverage of "World AIDS Day," right here on CNN. More "360" though after this. Stay tuned.


COOPER: Well the summit here in Amman is over and the fallout already under way. President Bush and Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki arrived in Jordan keenly aware that Iraq is veering toward catastrophe. The time is running out. Now it appears their talks have actually made things worse or at least for the Iraqi leader. Here's CNN's Nic Robertson.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Arriving back in Baghdad from his meeting with President Bush, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki is walking into trouble. His government is faltering, his parliament divided. The situation is worse than when he left two days ago. His meeting with President Bush in neighboring Jordan was supposed to bolster his power. It appears to have had the reverse affect. In Maliki's absence, a parliamentary revolt led by firebrand Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr who demands a date for U.S. troop withdrawal is gathering momentum. Now, the two most powerful Sunni political blocs and others are joining what appears to be the first big Sunni/Shia political alliance. A striking development, especially given Iraq's worsening sectarian violence.

SALEH AL MUTLAQ, SUNNI POLITICIAN: It would be attacking the different parties inside the parliament in order to make it look -- to stand against many things, first of all, the withdrawal.

ROBERTSON: Mutlaq is one of the most serious Sunnis in the parliament, but he also has been a voice of dissent. He says the alliance has been in the works for months. And is now capitalizing on Maliki's unpopular meeting with Bush.

MUTLAQ: This we believe is going to be the alternative for what is going on now.

ROBERTSON: Iraqis did watch Maliki's meeting with Bush. Expectations it could hold what many here fear is a civil war were low. But it didn't stop people from hoping. Now, Sunnis and Shia are united in their disappointment.

ALI FADHIL, SUNNI MUSLIM: We don't see any solution from the Bush/Maliki meeting Sunni Ali says. Iraqis will reap nothing from such meetings.

"These are words without deeds," says Shiite Mohammed. "We want deeds. Bush and America have done nothing for us."

Maliki's first stop when he got back, a news conference. His first topic, America is changing tactics but still supports us. When questioned about the revolt, he called for Sadr to back down.

AL-MALIKI (through translator): They should be committed. We hope they reconsider.

ROBERTSON: In the six months he's been prime minister, Nouri al- Maliki has never looked so embattled. His ability to lead the country has been questioned in a White House memo, despite President Bush's assurances to the contrary.

And now, he appears to be losing his grip over the very people he needs to help run the country.


COOPER: Joining us now is CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson, along with retired Lieutenant Colonel Bob Maginnis and Michael Gordon, "New York Times" chief military correspondent and co- author of "Cobra II".

Nic, what, if anything, can Maliki do now to keep his coalition from falling apart?

ROBERTSON: Well, he clearly needs to reach out to Sadr. It's clear that Sadr's also giving himself -- Muqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand Shia cleric, it's clear that Sadr's giving himself some negotiating room here because he has been doing all this, making his statements through his deputies. So there is room for political movement.

The fact that some of these Sunni parties have now joined his bloc is an indication of how deep these undercurrents of dissatisfaction with Maliki's leadership are.

At the moment, though, the best thing that he can do is get involved in conversation with these political groupings and find a way around. Right now, though, they don't seem that they want to do that. They're really setting this very, very tough hurdle. U.S. must put a time line for when it's going to get out of Iraq -- Anderson.

COOPER: Michael, what do you make of Maliki telling ABC News that he believes that Iraqi forces will be ready to take control of security in Iraq by June 2007. Is that even remotely possible?

MICHAEL GORDON, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I guess I didn't read it as quite as expansive as that. I mean, there's an issue which is that Maliki doesn't have command over Iraqi security forces. He doesn't command his own forces. Most of the forces are really under American command.

And there's a process of transferring Iraqi units really from American command to Iraqi command. Really, what he's talking about is having the full responsibility for the command of Iraqi security forces by June.

He's not really saying that that's going to enable him to control the situation throughout the country. That's really a different proposition. That said, I still think that's a fairly ambitious target. It's really just a matter of six months or so, and I've been the Iraqi forces. And I've seen some of the problems with the American advisers. And I think it will be a stretch to accomplish that.

COOPER: Colonel Maginnis -- Maginnis, Maliki also said that he wasn't going to tolerate militias operating in Iraq, including Muqtada al-Sadr's. We've heard that before, though. And he doesn't seem able to actually rein those militias in, in particular Sadr.

LT. COL. BOB MAGINNIS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, Anderson, as you well know, the Badi (ph) Brigade has a -- is a militia. Been around since -- what? Fifteen years? You have the Mehdi army. Forty to 60,000 of Sadr's people, they're really infiltrated in the army, within the police forces, certainly in the ministry of health and other services.

Twenty-three, perhaps, different militia. And the last count I had were 17 major pieces of this that they're trying to battle. From the jihadists to the Sunnis to the Shia.

And so Maliki really doesn't have much control over anybody, much less his own people. And the few that he does have control over certainly aren't going to be able to exercise any, you know, measured power over these dissidents. So I don't know where he's coming from.

COOPER: And Nic, why should the militias disband? I mean, if you were part of a militia, I mean, if you were a Shia in Iraq today and the U.S. isn't providing security and the Iraqi security forces aren't providing security, what's the incentive for the militias to disband?

ROBERTSON: Absolutely none whatsoever. If there's no pressure on them. If nobody's cutting their funding, taking their weapons off them, telling them to stay in the houses, it's not going to happen. And there's nobody in a powerful enough position who can do that.

COOPER: Nic Robertson, Michael Gordon, Colonel Maginnis, thanks.

Well, in Britain, where a former Russian spy died last week from radiation poisoning, investigators are uncovering a radioactive trail much bigger than first imagined. More than a dozen locations now in London, and at least two jetliners are contaminated. Tens of thousands of people may have been exposed.

Coming up, the latest in the case.

Plus, a religious practice once banned in Turkey. Now a hugely popular tourist attraction. Why the whirling dervishes dance.

That and the latest on the pope's final day in Istanbul when 360 continues, live from Amman, Jordan.


COOPER: Well, we'll have more on President Bush's day here in Amman coming up.

Plus, we haven't forgotten about the Americans along Louisiana's gulf Coast, hit by two hurricanes. Tonight, here we go again. More outrage aimed at our federal government.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've got a plague on their hands.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Plague? Because the whole south is suffering.


COOPER: The victims this time, children and teachers. Their schools left in ruins. Millions were promised. So where is the money? We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.

And more from former President Jimmy Carter. Hear what he has to say about the victims left stranded by the storm and the government from Katrina.

Now back to John Roberts in New York with another story we're following tonight -- John. ROBERTS: Anderson, a story that just keep taking more twists and turns. The tale of the former KGB spy who died from radiation poisoning in London. The investigation into Alexander Litvinenko's death is now focused on jetliners and could impact thousands of people.

Here's CNN's Matthew Chance.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, two British planes remain grounded in London, contaminated with radiation. With another aircraft on the tarmac in Moscow awaiting radiological tests, links to Russia in this investigation, are firming up.

Flights between London and Moscow around the time of Alexander Litvinenko's poisoning are now falling under particular scrutiny. Experts believe the radiological material may have been carried into Britain on board.

Nothing is conclusive, but the spotlight is falling on two Russians who met with Litvinenko on the day he fell ill. One of them, Andre Legovou (ph), pictured on the left, is a former KGB officer and is known to have traveled to and from Moscow on the flights that investigators are focusing on.

Associates of Litvinenko in London who gathered at the inquest into his death say the evidence pointing to the Kremlin cannot be ignored.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because the police is looking at the planes which were flying between London and Moscow, five days prior Alexander was contaminated himself. So he couldn't be the source of this radioactivity.

CHANCE: The Kremlin denies any involvement, but whoever did it seems to have left plenty of evidence. British authorities say they're tracking of Litvinenko's last movements have revealed low level contamination in at least a dozen places across London.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To date, around 24 venues have or are being monitored, and experts have confirmed traces of contamination at around 12 of these venues. Police continue to trace possible witnesses and to examine Mr. Litvinenko's movements at relevant times. It is probable the investigation will continue to bring additional locations to our attention for screening.

CHANCE: A former Russian agent who defected to Britain in 2000, Litvinenko died a slow and painful death after being poisoned with high doses of the radioactive isotope polonium 210.

A fierce critic of the Kremlin, even from his deathbed, he accused the Russian leadership of ordering his killing.

The fallout has been dramatic. On the contaminated aircraft alone, British Airways says as many 33,000 passengers and 3,000 staff may have been exposed to radiation. Since Litvinenko fell sick, the airline says the jets have taken 221 flights between London and other European cities, including Moscow.

Adding to the intrigue, a second high profile Russian has now fallen ill after traveling to Ireland. CNN has learned that a former Russian prime minister, Yegor Gaidar, has been hospitalized with mysterious symptoms.

Doctors have told Gaidar's daughter they have yet to determine the exact cause of his illness. She told CNN, "I think it was poison, but I'm absolutely sure it was not the political authorities who carried it out."

She and many other Russians believe someone somewhere is trying to discredit or even destabilize their country, but many Londoners are suddenly deeply suspicious of Russia, a supposed ally of Britain.

Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


ROBERTS: We'll continue to follow this investigation. It seems to be right out of the pages of a spy thriller. On Monday night, don't miss a special edition of 360, "Poison Plot: The Killing of a Spy". We take a look at the life of Alexander Litvinenko and the possible theories behind his death. That's Monday at 10 p.m. Eastern.

Pope Benedict XVI spent a third day touring Turkey, where Sunni Muslims make up the vast majority of the population. Coming up, a form of Islam once banned once in Turkey, inside the mystical world of Sufism and its whirling dervishes.

Plus, he's not the first celebrity to show up tipsy on national television, and he's not the first actor to bash President Bush. Doing both at the same time, though, well, that had everyone talking today. Next, on 360.


COOPER: Pope Benedict XVI is nearing the end of his high-stakes visit to Turkey. Today in Istanbul, he visited one of Islam's most famous mosques. The pontiff has spent much of his trip trying to mend relations with Muslims after offending many with his recent remarks about Islam.

Over the last three days, he has repeatedly called for respect for all religions and tolerance of religious minorities.

Now, most Turks are Sunni Muslims, as you heard, and they haven't always been tolerant of Sufis who practice a mystical form of Islam. You've probably heard of whirling dervishes. They're a huge draw for tourists in Turkey.

CNN's Delia Gallagher takes a look.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything turns in the universe. The world turns, the sun turns, your blood under your skin turns and also the dervish turns.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are as much a part of Turkey's history as the towering spires of their mosques. The whirling dervishes perform their dance in theaters, clubs and restaurants all around this country. Tourists may find them entertaining, but for the dervishes, each dance brings them one step further on their search for spirituality.

(on camera) Dervishes come from the Sufi branch of Islam, known for its mysticism and asceticism. Dervishes take a vow of poverty and live in monastic conditions similar to Christian monks, but for dervishes, spinning is their way of worshipping God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you open your arms and you take from God and give to people, that is the meaning of it. And your head, when you are making turns like this, is like to your heart. You look to your heart. And this is the meaning of and turning around my heart.

GALLAGHER: Aktun (ph) has been a dervish since he was 13. He says everything about the dance, which is part of a music ceremony called the Sama (ph), has meaning. The robes represent shrouds. The hats, tombstones. The dance itself is divided into four parts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The meaning of the first part is who are you? You are thinking who am I?

The second part the dervish understands, OK, I am human. I am living.

And in the third part the dervish understands that there is a force. And the dervish gives his heart to God.

In the fourth part, your soul comes back to your body and you understand that, yes, I am human.

GALLAGHER: The dervishes were banned in Turkey in the 1920s, out of fear that their religious roots would lead them to revolt against the new secular government. It was nearly 30 years before the government, realizing their dancing was a draw for tourists, allowed them to perform in public again.

But Aktun (ph) says politics is the furthest thing from the dervishes' mind. He says they follow a code to love all people, serve their communities and to find joy in their dance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody every time asks the question to me. How do you feel? How do you feel? But you can't explain perfectly because it's between me and God. You can't explain.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Delia Gallagher joins us now. A fascinating look, Delia, at the whirling dervishes.

Let's talk about the pope, how the trip went, in particular the Blue Mosque today. Only the second time a pontiff has actually stepped inside a mosque.

GALLAGHER: That's right, Anderson. John Paul II was, of course, the first pope in Damascus in 2001. But I think this visit today of Pope Benedict to the mosque, which wasn't originally planned, is kind of the fitting closure to what had been several months of huge tensions between the pope and Islam.

He entered the mosque. He took off his shoes. He was given a tour by the grand mustif (ph) of Istanbul. They stood silently in prayer, bowed their heads. And the pope took the opportunity in the mosque to say that Christians and Muslim have to work together for peace.

So you saw that he kind of tried to move the discussion forward and say that what we're really trying to do here, even from the comments in Regensburg, is work together for peace. That is -- that is the important thing in all of this.

So it seemed to be a good, fitting image to close out the papal trip in one of his last visits here in Turkey -- Anderson.

COOPER: Delia, thanks very much.

More faith and spirituality in Turkey coming up. We'll have more about the pope's trip with the Vatican analyst, John Allen.

We'll also take you to one of the holiest sites for Catholics. Can you believe that Muslims pray there, too? It's believed to once have been the home of the Virgin Mary. See why it draws people of all faiths to this day.

And on a lighter note, actor Danny DeVito, tipsy on national TV. Sharing a few choice words about President Bush and, well, a whole lot of other stuff about the Lincoln Bedroom. Next on 360. Stay tuned.


ROBERTS: A bit of video going around the Internet today caught our attention. Actor Danny DeVito known for his roles on television and the big screen appearing to be slightly sloshed after a night of partying. Not surprising for a Hollywood star, you say. But it all happened on national television.

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Danny DeVito was able to walk. It was when he started to talk on "The View" that he earned his new tabloid nickname, Danny DeVino. No, vino wasn't what he admitted drinking.

DANNY DEVITO, ACTOR: I knew it was the last seven Lemon Cellos that was going to get me.

MOOS: Got him after a night of hanging out with George Clooney. Danny DeVito was, mid-morning, apparently still smashed, ranting about President Bush, likening him to "The Three Stooges".

DEVITO: The guy that...

MOOS: DeVito came to plug his new movie, "Deck the Halls". Instead, he decked the president, describing how he visited the White House when Bill Clinton was there.

DEVITO: The place was -- had that kind of Clinton feeling.



DEVITO: You know? I mean -- I didn't go after, you know numb (expletive deleted).

MOOS: ABC bleeped what DeVito called President Bush. It's a colorful phrase, a blend of numb and nuts, a phrase that basically means numbskull.

DEVITO: Trying to like, you know, figure out what to do with our country and our women and men in the military.


MOOS: DeVito is far from the first celeb to show up on TV in an altered state. There was Joe Namath threatening to kiss an ESPN reporter.

JOE NAMATH, FORMER PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYER: I want to kiss you. I couldn't care less about the team struggling.

MOOS: So was Courtney Love, barging in on an MTV interview with Madonna...

COURTNEY LOVE, MUSICIAN: Am I fully interrupting?


MOOS: ... barging on to David Letterman's desk. Poor David has had his share of out of it celebs.

For years, it's been debated whether actor Crispin Glover was on acid, which he denied, or doing a comedy act?


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": I'm going to check on the top ten. MOOS: And then there was Farrah Fawcett.

LETTERMAN: How are you doing? Are you all right?

FARRAH FAWCETT, ACTRESS: Don't I seem all right? Sort of like they -- wow. They received -- I really -- I really thought I was looking out the window.

MOOS: Sort of makes Danny seem lucid talking about spending a frisky night in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House with his wife.

DEVITO: Really wrecked the joint. I mean, every place in that bedroom was...


DEVITO: Utilized.

O'DONNELL: There you go, Danny.

MOOS: DeVito ended his appearance on Rosie O'Donnell's lap. When the next guest came on, Rosie greeted him with, "Nice to see you sober."

O'DONNELL: Nice to see you sober.

MOOS: And the morning after Danny DeBlotto's appearance, they were still talking about it.

HASSELBECK: He was a fun drunk.

O'DONNELL: He was a fun drunk.

MOOS: Tell that to President Bush. Not that he didn't used to party hardy.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


ROBERTS: Utilized every corner of the Lincoln Bedroom. Now, there's an image, Anderson, that's going to stay with me for a long time. How about you?

COOPER: Yes. I know. Now from every tour that they give the White House, they're going to have to mention -- John, straight ahead tonight, what happens now that the summit's over? President Bush's options. Prime Minister al-Maliki's chances of survival. We'll have that ahead.

And later, it might have been the Virgin Mary's last home. So why is it also revered by Muslims? We'll look at a place where two faiths are coming together.

Plus, the chilling scene as a killer whale nearly lives up to its name. By land or by sea, around the world, you're watching 360.



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