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CNN NEWSROOM

Summit Between American, Iraqi Leaders; Muqtada al-Sadr Loyalists may be Uniting With Christian Sunnis; Iraq: Blame Game; Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack Announces Presidential Run

Aired November 30, 2006 - 11:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone.
You're with CNN. You're informed.

I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Heidi Collins.

Developments keep coming into the NEWSROOM on this Thursday, November 30th. Here's what's on the rundown.

Searching for solutions. The American and Iraqi leaders hold a summit. We talk to our guest about the bloodshed and the blame game.

HARRIS: Slip-sliding into winter. A big storm brings a taste of January to a large stretch of the country. Yes, it's still November.

COLLINS: And this: A killer whale almost lives up to its name. A SeaWorld stunt comes close to tragedy for one trainer. Find out what happened in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: A no-graceful exit. President Bush vowing U.S. troops will stay in Iraq to help control escalating violence.

White House Correspondent Susan Malveaux wraps up the summit between the president and Iraq's prime minister.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Despite the serious doubts the White House has about Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's abilities to curb the violence in his country, President Bush today gave him a vote of confidence.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's the right guy for Iraq. And we're going to help him.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Bush is facing an increasingly unpopular war, with the new Congress actively seeking exit strategies. So the president is trying to push more responsibility on the Iraqi leader to govern and protect his people. Mr. Bush acknowledged the U.S. could do more to help.

BUSH: Part of the prime minister's frustration is, is that he doesn't have the tools necessary to take care of those who break the law.

MALVEAUX: The president promised more resources to speed up the training of Iraqi security forces, but he flatly refused to commit pulling out U.S. troops, even gradually, as recommended by a bipartisan commission, the Iraq Study Group.

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 done, so long as the government wants us there.

MALVEAUX: Even if that means U.S. troops would have to fight in what some consider a civil war.

BUSH: Killers taking -- taking innocent life is in some cases sectarian. I happen to view it as criminal.

MALVEAUX: Maliki also issued a thinly-veiled warning to his neighbors, Iran and Syria, for any role they may have in supporting the insurgents.

NURI AL-MALIKI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): So everybody who is trying to make Iraq their own influence here on account of the Iraqi people need to recalculate.

MALVEAUX (on camera): As billed, there were no major, bold, new initiatives coming out of this summit, but rather, a recommitment from both leaders to keep plotting ahead.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, Amman, Jordan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: He's home now, and Iraq's prime minister finds his country even more divided than when he left. Lawmakers loyal to anti- American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr walking out of the government and gaining new allies.

CNN's Arwa Damon is in Baghdad now.

Arwa, what's the latest?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, as you just mentioned, in the under 48 hours that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki was not in Iraq, the entire political landscape here changed. He returned to face a more fractured and a more fragile government than when right before he left for that meeting with President Bush in Jordan.

Muqtada al-Sadr's political bloc has made good on its threat to suspend its activities from the Iraqi government. And they are not alone. According to the head of the political bloc, the group also has the support of Sunni politicians, Sunni political leaders, as well as some Christians.

Now, according to Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc, these individuals have said that they will support them. Additionally, they are asking -- they are planning on making an appeal to the United Nations with regards to the U.N. mandate extending the mission of multinational forces here in Iraq.

But topping their list of demands is a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc is blatantly saying that if Nuri al-Maliki does not put forward a specific timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, they will not return to the government.

This really is the prime minister's main support base. Remember, he largely owes his job to the support of Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc -- crumbling -- Heidi.

COLLINS: So maybe it's a simplified question, Arwa, but is Muqtada al-Sadr actually running the country or Nuri al-Maliki?

DAMON: Well, Heidi, that's a question that many people here have been asking for quite some time. Now, in terms of these new political developments, it's quite interesting, because Muqtada al-Sadr himself is not making any public statements regarding the position of his political bloc. He is leaving that up to his deputies.

So it does give him a little bit of wiggle room should the tides start to change, should all of a sudden Sadr's bloc, Muqtada al-Sadr decide to re-align themselves with the prime minister. But when you look at the power that he has -- and it is a significant amount of power, not just politically speaking, but military speaking -- remember the Mehdi militia is loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr. That does cause many people here to really question who is running and who is controlling the streets of this country -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Arwa Damon, following the developments as they happen in Baghdad.

Arwa, thank you.

And in Washington, word that a bipartisan group of powerbrokers has reached agreement on Iraq strategy. The Iraq Study Group presents its report to President Bush next week. But we do have a preview.

CNN has learned the panel will recommend a reduction of U.S. troops that is "gradual" but meaningful. And they want that pulldown to begin relatively early in the new year. President Bush has repeatedly vowed that U.S. forces will remain in Iraq until the job is done.

HARRIS: We've heard it many times, Iraqi forces have to stand up so U.S. troops can stand down. President Bush is calling for accelerated training of security forces in Iraq. But our guest today says it's not just responsibility that's being shifted to the Iraqis, it's also blame.

Robin Wright is a diplomatic correspondent for "The Washington Post."

Robin, good to see you. Thanks for your time. ROBIN WRIGHT, DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Thank you.

HARRIS: Well, you know what? I read your piece. It's a very interesting take on what we've all been hearing lately, this blaming of the people and the government in Iraq for their problems. We heard a lot of that during the hearings before the Senate and the House Armed Services Committee.

Just frustration or something more?

WRIGHT: Oh, I think it's frustration, but I think it goes deeper. It's disappointment, the fact that the United States had hoped to be out of Iraq quite some time ago, or at least to have reduced significantly the number of troops on the ground.

And the Iraqis have not stepped up to the plate, they have not provided the kind of personnel needed to take over from U.S. forces. And so you see increasingly, voiced by very high level officials the concern, how much longer is this going to take.

HARRIS: Yes. To what extent do you think our sort of national psyche is taking a beating by the pictures that we're seeing, the death toll that we see of U.S. service personnel and, of course, the Iraqis? To what extent are we taking a bit of a psychological beating as a country as we look at a situation where we're into this war, and four years later, we find ourselves with seemingly so good options moving forward?

WRIGHT: Yes, I think this is a real moment of decision. The White House is engaged in its own policy review, besides the Iraq Study Group, because there is a sense that this is becoming a quagmire, that this is -- this is now no longer winnable and there's an attempt to try to find some kind of formula that will allow a gradual extrication of U.S. forces, but not total return of stability to Iraq. I think that's the sobering reality that Washington is now facing.

HARRIS: Robin, the people that you've talked to, are they surprised at how difficult it's been for this government to sort of plant itself on firm footing to this point?

WRIGHT: Yes. I think they've been disappointed in the leadership of Prime Minister Maliki. It took almost five months for the government just to get formed, there was such internal debate after the dramatic elections last December. And in the six months since then, 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.

HARRIS: Yes. I have to ask you -- I want to see more pictures, if we could, as I ask this question of the troops on the ground in Iraq.

And I'm wondering, Robin, are the decision makers in this country right now talking about the real possibility that we, the people, may have to do more, spend more money, send in more troops and lose more troops, to support the president's policy of preemption in this post- 9/11 world?

WRIGHT: Well, clearly, that is one of the talking points within the administration now, is the possibility of a so-called surge, which is deploying additional troops on the ground to try to particularly deal with security in Baghdad. But I think long term, no one believes that they're headed toward a major redeployment of forces, I think in part because they simply don't have them. But I don't think there's the will to do that, either.

HARRIS: Robin, I want you to listen to this -- this bite from the president during his joint meeting with the press, with the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki. And I don't know that I have a question formed for this, but it speaks to the president's belief and passion for this mission. And then let's talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: My advice is, support reasonable people and reject extremists. Understand that most people want to live in peace and harmony and security. It's very important for the American people to understand that most Muslim mothers want their children to grow up in peace and they're interested in peace.

And it's in our interest to help liberty prevail in the Middle East, starting with Iraq. And that's why this business of graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Robin, you have to love the sentiment, but it just -- to this point, is it working out that way for the president? And it may not ultimately.

WRIGHT: Well, the president talked about liberty in the Middle East. And that quote from the press conference this morning -- and that really reflects the broader ambition, the intervention in Iraq after the failure to find weapons of mass destruction was justified in trying to spread democracy throughout the region. That's what he is still trying to promote as the justification for the invasion and three-and-a-half-year occupation occupation.

This is clearly not making much headway either. The reality is that the Iraq experience has scared so many people in the Middle East and the Arab world, the Islamic world, that they're afraid that the kind of chaos that is obvious in Iraq is what comes along with the democratic process.

HARRIS: Robin Wright, diplomatic correspondent for "The Washington Post."

Robin, thanks for your time.

WRIGHT: Thank you. HARRIS: And still to come...

COLLINS: Actually, we want to go ahead and get to some pictures...

HARRIS: Oh.

COLLINS: ... that we just had in a moment ago. Right, guys, with the White House tour?

HARRIS: Oh.

COLLINS: First lady Laura Bush is showing us and -- showing the country, that is, all the beautiful decorations that have been put up now at the White House. And this, I believe is the shot of this humongous gingerbread house.

Look at that. The former White House chef came back to actually make this, the flag on top and everything. On top with Mrs. Beasley and Barney, the Bush family dogs, of course.

HARRIS: Thank you for that clarification.

COLLINS: They're driving the sleigh. I think we saw them just a moment ago.

So these are all -- just a portion of the Christmas decorations, I should say. But this year's theme, "Deck the Halls and Welcome All."

We'll take a closer look at this coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Also ahead, SeaWorld skirmish. A whale puts his foot down, letting a trainer know who's the bigger boss. Scary moments underwater to be sure in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: And the weather getting really wicked in Wichita. A lot of other cities across the Midwest, too. We'll talk about the cold blast, coming up in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: You may not know his name or his face, but this man right here wants to be your president. The Vilsack campaign kicks off, coming up in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Quickly, we want to take you to this, Governor Tom Vilsack announcing that he is throwing his hat in the ring for presidential candidate 2008.

Let's go ahead and listen to what he has to say.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. TOM VILSACK (D), IOWA: ... dropout rate in the entire nation. (APPLAUSE)

But we didn't stop there. We had the courage to change government itself by reducing the size of government (AUDIO GAP) gaining access to health care, to children, to seniors, to veterans. It allowed us to be one of only two states last year that reduced the number of uninsured. And we now rank second in the nation in insurance coverage.

That is a record I am proud of.

(APPLAUSE)

And that is why I'm here today, to help bring the same change to America. It will take leadership to create this change, but it will also take an active sense of community.

Now, you know, you don't have to live behind a white picket fence to understand the power and the force of community. Some of America's strongest communities don't even have white picket fences. They don't even have yards.

In these communities there have been countless numbers of Americans who have succeeded and have made America a success story. People from all over the world have traveled to our country to begin farming our land, to build our factories, to pursue the American dream.

America must always be that destination for those who pursue that dream, for those who want to work hard and take care of their families and provide a better life for their families. And for those who want to live in freedom.

And that is why I'm here today, because our country needs a president who builds and creates. Our country needs a president...

(APPLAUSE)

Our country needs a president who wants to make us more secure by confronting our problems. Our country today needs a president who will lead bold change and has the courage of his convictions. And I intend to be that president.

(APPLAUSE)

So today, in front of the family and friends that I love so much, in a community that I'm so proud to call home, I announce my candidacy to be the next president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

COLLINS: There you have it. Iowa governor Tom Vilsack announcing in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, today that he will join 24 other candidates or so. But he is the first Democrat to announce -- to actually establish his presidential campaign committee. What that does, as we spoke earlier with our Candy Crowley, is it gives him a chance, a little bit more time, I should say, and a chance to possibly do more fund-raising than some of these other candidates. So the last name Vilsack, you may be hearing more of it. They're already calling him a long shot because of having little name recognition.

But once again, you saw it here, live on CNN. Governor Tom Vilsack, Democrat, a two-term governor, announcing his run for 2008 president.

Meanwhile, it was a whale of a ride at San Diego SeaWorld. Moments after this home video was taken, the audience watched in horror as a killer whale strayed from the routine and dragged her trainer under water.

We want to get more details now from Kristen Cusato. She is with our affiliate KUSI in San Diego.

Kristen, what are they saying now?

KRISTEN CUSATO, REPORTER, KUSI: They're saying, Heidi -- good morning, by the way -- that he was taken to a local hospital, recovering from minor injuries this morning, that he will be OK.

You know, this trainer has been working here at SeaWorld with killer whales at the Shamu show for the last 12 years. So he was prepared when in fact the whale pulled him underneath the water. He just wasn't expecting it.

It happened yesterday during the last Shamu show of the day here at SeaWorld San Diego. A female whale, Kasatka (ph), was supposed to jump straight out of the water and the trainer could jump off the nose of the whale. But instead, the whale took the trainer's foot and pulled him down to the bottom of the 36-foot tank.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE SCARPUZZI, SEAWORLD HEAD TRAINER: The guests were completely aware, because all of the other trainers were doing their emergency communication that something wasn't correct and the animal was doing unwanted behavior.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUSATO: They saw that it wasn't part of the show. The trainer stayed calmed, the whale surfaced, but then took the trainer down below, once again, all while the audience was watching.

The trainers did manage to get a net between the whale and the trainer. He managed to swim. And once again -- swim to safety and, once again, was taken to a local hospital where he was in good condition this morning.

Now, according to SeaWorld, this female Orca has bitten two trainers in the past, but a while ago. One in '93 and one in '99. And just a few weeks ago, a different whale bit a different trainer on the foot and pulled him down to the bottom. So I guess it happens occasionally here. They do do hundreds and hundreds of shows a year.

We'll send it back to you -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, they do.

I had heard that this particular whale had sort of strayed from the routine before. But Kristen, I'm wondering a couple of things.

Any idea where these whales came from exactly? I know a lot of times they are born into captivity or they are rescued from a situation that they may be in the wild. Do we -- do we know exactly where Kasatka (ph) came from?

CUSATO: I don't know where Kasatka (ph) came from. I do not. But I do know that a number of whales have been born in captivity. So this is the only world they know, you know, is the world of the training, and brought up to do behavior, to do shows for people.

COLLINS: Will those shows go on today, Kristen?

CUSATO: That is the question. And they just had a meeting this morning. And someone from SeaWorld just ran out and told us that, yes, in fact, the shows will go on today, 1:00 and 4:30 West Coast Time. And they said they'd only do it if everyone involved was going to be safe. And so they're hoping that that will happening again today, that everything will be safe.

COLLINS: Boy, I hope so, too.

Kristen Cusato with our affiliate KUSI in San Diego.

Kristen, thank you.

HARRIS: Well, the weather getting wicked in Wichita and a lot of other cities across the Midwest. A cold blast blowing through the NEWSROOM.

The pope in Turkey, visiting one of Istanbul's most magnificent landmarks. Look at these pictures. The Blue Mosque, the history and symbolism, live in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: How about this, a double shot for winter for our friends in the nation's midsection. Brother. Part one was ice. Now a snowy sequel.

CNN's Jonathan Freed is in Kansas City.

Well, you look a little more comfortable, my friend.

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's because in the intervening period, since the last time I saw you, we were able to warm up a little bit. It's very frustrating, Tony, because just beyond the glass windows I'm looking at basically is the pool and hot tub of the hotel where we're perched on.

So, yes, it's kind of frustrating. But let us show you what's been going on here.

We've been here since before dawn today. And we're keeping an eye on this slope here in downtown Kansas City. This morning it was covered with snow and ice and cars were very carefully making their way along it. But the salt trucks have been at it today, and as you can see, it's easy going pretty well for people right now.

We've got a wind chill going here of about 7 degrees. And everybody here is wondering what is going to happen later today. You can see, there's still some ice around, though. You can look at this railing. It is just crusted over with ice.

So the key today is to remain as graceful as possible on the ice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREED (voice over): From the Southwest to the Midwest, fierce winter weather is roaring through at least a dozen states today. In New Mexico, heavy snow may have looked beautiful, but it made for treacherous conditions on Interstate 40.

ROBERTA PETERSON, STRANDED DRIVER: I went from back there where the gas station is to here, and I slid everywhere. So it's too dangerous for me to move anywhere.

FREED: Most drivers decided to pull over and wait for the plows. But there are always the adventurous ones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm headed -- I'm going out here. I'm headed to Albuquerque. I'm headed straight for the Gulf of Mexico, to the south, until this turns away from snow to rain to something else, because we're not staying tonight. I don't want to stay here and get buried in this stuff.

FREED: In the heartland, they're getting ready for the second storm in a winter double whammy. The first storm left nearly half an inch of ice in eastern Kansas, causing accidents and power outages. A second storm expected this afternoon could dump a foot and a half of snow from Oklahoma to Missouri. Folks in St. Louis are bracing for the first big storm of the season, stocking up on the essentials.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FREED: So, Tony, we're checking the sky here right now. It doesn't look that menacing now, but people here wondering whether two to four inches or perhaps more of snow could be heading this way.

HARRIS: Yes. All right. You know, that's enough for us. We've seen enough of you out there in the cold. Go and warm up a little bit, all right, Jonathan?

COLLINS: It's not that we don't love you.

FREED: Thank you very much. Thank you. I'll pry the microphone out of my hand.

HARRIS: OK. Goodbye.

COLLINS: Reynolds Wolf joining us now to give us an even more comprehensive picture of what's going on.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: Meanwhile, Air Force Major Troy Gilbert, the Pentagon says he was the pilot, his F-16 crashed Monday in Iraq's Anbar province. DNA samples taken from the crash site are now being tested. Gilbert, a father of five children was stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. No word yet on what caused his plane to go down.

HARRIS: Face to face for 150 minutes, two leaders working to get a war-wasted Iraq on a peaceful track. The Jordan summit. We'll talk about it in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: An ex-spy's death in London and now traces of radiation found on British Airways jets. Investigators trying to connect the dots, in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And once again, the Associated Press is reporting that an aide to a former Russian prime minister has been poisoned. Not the aide, but the former Russian prime minister has been poisoned. That information provided to the aide by doctors treating the former Russian prime minister. Matthew Chance is on this story for us from Moscow. A little confusing there, but can you clear it up for us, Matthew. Thanks.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Tony. In fact, this story everyday seems to get more and more confusing and more and more bizarre because this is the latest twist, it seems, in the story which is about the poisoned former Russian agent who died several -- a few weeks ago in London after being contaminated with high doses of a highly toxic radioactive substance, all follows on from that. '

Because this figure, the former prime minister of Russia, Yegor Gaidar says, his aides say, that he has also now been poisoned. We know he's been ill for several days, but this is the first that reports coming out that he's actually been the subject of poisoning.

Doctors who have been treating him say they don't see a natural reason for the poisoning and have not been able to detect any natural substance known to them. So, obviously, a very suspicious case indeed. Now, Yegor Gaidar is a former prime minister of Russia, he's not a particularly well-known figure to our viewers, but certainly he was one of the architects of Russia's transition in the 1990s from the Communist economy, the command economy to the more capitalist model that we see there now.

He's still a very prominent figure in Russia. He's an economic adviser at times to the Kremlin. Although he has also been critical of the Kremlin's economic policies. But nowhere near in the same kind of league of dissident that Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian agent was, wasn't anywhere near that critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

There is one interesting factor, which is one of the men who last met Alexander Litvinenko before he was poisoned was actually the former bodyguard of Yegor Gaidar as well. So, there is a linkage there, possibly.

HARRIS: Oh, my goodness. Matthew, any suggestion at this point as to what the poison might be? With Litvinenko, we started down the path of perhaps it was thalium, then we ended up with polonium 210.

CHANCE: That's right, initially the reports were this was a toxic substance called thalium. That was found by the doctors examining him to not be the case. They concluded in the end that it was a radioactive isotope called polonium 210, which is very, very rare indeed and of course extremely toxic.

HARRIS: OK, Matthew Chance for us in Moscow. Matthew, thank you. And once again, the poisoning death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko -- more strange twists today. Very low traces of radioactivity found on two British Airways jets. Litvinenkio believed poisoned by radiation. Those planes pulled out of service and undergoing further testing. A third British Airways plane, this one in Moscow, also being looked treated for radiation. Also being looked at -- two aircraft belonging to a private Russian airline. British officials call the risk to passengers who flew on the British Airways jets, very, very minimal.

COLLINS: A promise of support from President Bush to Iraq's prime minister. The two leaders held a summit in Ahman, Jordan today. Mr. Bush vowing to help Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki get control of his war-torn country. The discussed faster training for Iraqi security forces, but President Bush says a so-called graceful exit of U.S. troops will not bring stability to the region.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My advice is support reasonable people and reject extremists. Understand that most people want to live in peace and harmony and security. It's very important for the American people to understand that most Muslim mothers want their children to grow up in peace. And they're interested in peace. And it's in our interests to help liberty prevail in the Middle East, starting with Iraq. That's why this business of graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: The president says withdrawal of U.S. forces will happen as soon as possible but right now, he says Iraqi security forces need more training to combat the violence.

So is Iraq already in a civil war? One answer from a career politician well known for his mastery of semantics. We heard from former President Bill Clinton on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING." He appears to reject White House denials that a civil war is underway. He cites the escalating violence and sectarian divisions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are more and more people who think they can get what they want by shooting or throwing up these roadside bombs, rather than engaging in politics. And when that happens, others take up arms in defense and it gets worse and worse and worse. That's the normal definition of a civil war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: You can see the entire interview, tomorrow morning, CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" talking with the former president as part of tomorrow's coverage of World Aids Day.

The war in Iraq and the course in Iraq being charted in Washington. There is word that a bi-partisan Iraq Study group has hammered a consensus on future U.S. policies there. CNN has learned the group wants a gradual reduction of U.S. troops beginning after the first of the year.

President Bush has repeatedly vowed that U.S. forces will remain in Iraq, quote, until the job is complete. The group will present its findings to the president next week.

HARRIS: Weighing the risks. Pregnant and depressed. But taking anti-depressants may not be the answer. That's ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: "YOUR WORLD TODAY" is coming up in about 15 minutes or so. We want to check in with YOUR WORLD TODAY's Colleen McEdwards and see what is coming up on the program.

Hi, Colleen.

COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi guys. How're you doing?

Well, we're going to be spending a little bit of time on this widening story about the poisoning of this former Russian spy. This is taking some bizarre turns. British Airways now saying they found radioactive traces on at least a couple of planes. Apparently hundreds of people have called in. You can imagine how concerned travelers are about this, people calling in, wondering what to do. British authorities have also set up a help line to help people know what to do. So we'll take a close look at that.

Also, we're going to go to Iraq and look at the situation with Muqtada Al-Sadr, his threats to pull out of Iraq's governing coalition. What's his next political move going to be? Everybody's wondering. And there's a lot of concern all around the world that this could upset the whole region, not just Iraq but the whole region as well. We'll take a look at that.

And we're going to have a story about conjoined twins. These twins are from Iraq. They have been taken to Saudi Arabia for surgery. A wonderful story. We're going to update you on their case and let you know how that may turn out. So that and much more coming up on YOUR WORLD TODAY.

COLLINS: Those twins are so cute.

HARRIS: Aren't they cute? Yes. Thank you, Colleen.

Pregnant and depressed. What do you do? For some women taking antidepressant pills may not be the best answer.

CNN senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From his very first breath, Adrian Vasquez has fought to stay alive.

MATILDA VASQUEZ (PH), ADRIAN'S MOTHER: I was scared to death. I was just hearing all these machines and beeps.

GUPTA: Just before his birth, Adrian's parents Anthony and Matilda received stunning news from their doctor.

M. VASQUEZ: She says, I'm sorry, honey, she's like, but there's something wrong with your baby's heart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you ready?

GUPTA: Adrian was born with a double outlet on his right ventricle. That's a potentially deadly condition that restricts oxygen from getting through his body.

ANTHONY VASQUEZ, ADRIAN'S FATHER: You see something wrong with your child, you know, what are you going to do to fix it? When you can't fix it, you know, what are you going to do?

I know, buddy.

GUPTA: Now, two and a half, Adrian has endured three open heart surgeries. A pacemaker keeps him alive.

A. VASQUEZ: Good job.

M. VASQUEZ: Careful.

GUPTA: The family says it has no history of heart disease. Matilda says she did everything by the book during her pregnancy. Then Matilda started to wonder. Did Paxil, the pill that she took for anxiety, possibly cause Adrian's problems?

She says when she got pregnant, she asked the doctor if it was OK to keep taking it.

M. VASQUEZ: I said, so it's safe? And he said, yes. GUPTA: Then late last year, Anthony searched the Internet. In December of 2005, the Food and Drug Administration issued a public health advisory about Paxil.

The FDA said early results from two studies suggested women who took paroxetine, which is available under the brand name of Paxil, during the first three months of pregnant were one and a half to two times as likely to have a baby with a heart defect as women who received other anti-depressants or women who simply didn't take anti- depressants.

In July, the family sued GlaxoSmithKline, the makers of Paxil. The Vasquez's attorneys believe the company was aware of the drug's risk before Adrian was band didn't do enough to warn doctors or expectant mothers.

A. Vasquez: I mean, how long did they know about this? You know, did they know way before, you know, whenever the memo came out?

GUPTA: GlaxoSmithKline declined to comment on the lawsuit. But in a written statement, said it "has diligently monitored the safety of Paxil before and after its approval by the FDA in 1992."

A company internal study released in 2005 and shared with the FDA found a 1.5 fold increased risk for heart malformations for Paxil compared to other anti-depressants.

To be clear, normally the risk of giving birth to a child with a heart defect about 1 percent. That increases to between 1.5 to 2 percent for patients taking paroxetine in the first trimester.

At the urging of the FDA, GlaxoSmithKline changed Paxil's labeling in September of 2005 to warn about the risk of birth defects. For some women, getting off an anti-depressant can be excruciating. And there is a chance the mother could harm herself or her unborn child.

DR. LILLITH SHAPIRO, OB/GYN: I think patients need to know that they're taking a risk. But they need to know that they're also taking the risk by not taking the medication.

DEBORAH CLOANINGER, TOOK SSRI WHILE PREGNANT: Baby, you want to mow the lawn?

GUPTA: Deborah Cloaninger is one Dr. Shapiro's patients.

CLOANINGER: I would stay up thinking about my children's mortality and how they might die.

GUPTA: After giving birth to her second child, she went on Zoloft. Deborah continued taking it while pregnant with her third child, Lillian. She says she has no regrets about taking an anti- depressants.

CLOANINGER: The benefits have definitely outweighed the risks. I think indirectly, more harm could have happened to my unborn child had I gotten off of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoops.

GUPTA: But for Matilda Vasquez, that's a risk she would have been willing to take.

M. VASQUEZ: Good boy.

He's going to need surgeries for the rest of his life. You can never assume that it's not going to happen to you.

Hi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: And to get your daily dose of health news online, logon to our Web site. You will find the latest medical news, a health library and information on diet and fitness. The address, CNN.com/health.

COLLINS; The pope in Turkey visiting one of Istanbul's most magnificent landmarks, the Blue Mosque. The history and the symbolism, live in the NEWSROOM.

And you may not know his name or face, but this man wants to be your president. The Vilsack campaign kicks off. More about that in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

COLLINS: Wicked weather in Wichita. A lot of other cities, too, across the Midwest. Talk about the cold blast, coming up in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Don Lemon here to talk about what's coming up in an hour in the CNN NEWSROOM.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: We have a lot coming up, and of course we just can not get enough of this Russian spy story. Radioactive traces turn up on airliners in Britain. Do those passengers have reason to worry?

Plus, we'll talk with a British poisons expert for more about polonium and why it's such an efficient killer. All coming up. You can join us at 1:00.

COLLINS: All right, great. Thank you, Don.

The Midwest now bracing for the second sock of the one-two wintry punch. The storm expected to dump more than a foot of snow in some places. The snow began falling yesterday in New Mexico, and has moved into north Texas and Oklahoma. The winter storm follows another one that rolled through the region yesterday, and that one brought ice. Slick coating on roadways made driving pretty dangerous. The ice contributed to a traffic death in fact near Topeka, Kansas. The icy buildup on tree limbs, power lines, always raises concerns about power outages.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: CNN NEWSROOM continues just one hour from now.

HARRIS: YOUR WORLD TODAY" is next with news happening across the globe and here at home. I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: And I'm Heidi Collins. Have a great Thursday, everybody.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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