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AMERICAN MORNING

Bush, Iraq Study Group May Differ On Troop Withdrawals; Bush Makes Pledge To Maliki That U.S. Will Remain To Get The 'Job Done'

Aired November 30, 2006 - 07:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Mixed signals on when U.S. troops might be coming home. President Bush on his way home after that meeting in Amman, Jordan, just a few hours ago, with the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki.
The president insisting that U.S. troops will stay in Iraq until the job is done, but in Washington, that blue ribbon panel looking for solutions, is poised to recommend a gradual pullback of U.S. troops, to begin early next year.

For now, though, the Pentagon is trying to put a lid on the relentless violence; 1,600 troops on the move, into Baghdad, bolstering the 20,000 troops that are already there.

Two reports for you this morning. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux was traveling, really, with the president in Amman, Jordan. AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken is in Washington, D.C., this morning. We begin with Suzanne, who's in Amman.

Suzanne, good morning.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning, Soledad.

As you mentioned, President Bush is headed back to Washington now after a very brief summit. It was a summit that got off to a shaky start. That, because last night, Maliki abruptly canceled his meeting with President Bush, but today at a press conference he said there were no hard feelings between them.

This, of course, as both leaders try to present a united front in transferring more power to the Iraqi leadership.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (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 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 what 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 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, PRIME MINISTER OF IRAQ (through translator): So everybody who is trying to make Iraq their own influence here, on account of the Iraqi people, need to recalculate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Now, there were no major bold proclamations coming out of this announcement -- this summit, rather -- but simply a recommitment by both of these leaders to simply plod ahead -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Suzanne Malveaux in Amman, Jordan this morning. Suzanne, thanks.

M. O'BRIEN: Also, this morning, the Pentagon moving some troops in Iraq, trying to get a lid on the unceasing violence in Baghdad, about 1,600 troops headed to the capital city. They will not be coming from the volatile Anbar Province, but rather from other parts of Iraq that are relatively calm.

S. O'BRIEN: President Bush said this morning that breaking Iraq into different ethnic areas would only lead to an increase in sectarian violence. The administration has been refusing to call that ongoing violence a civil war. Had an exclusive interview this morning with former President Bill Clinton. We were talking about World AIDS Day, and I asked him if he thought Iraq was in civil war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FMR. 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 pick up arms in defense, and it just gets worse and worse and worse. That's the normal definition of a civil war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: We'll have more of my interview with the former president later in the hour. Also, of course, tomorrow we're talking about World AIDS Day. The president has a big announcement that he's making in New Delhi. First, AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken is in Washington, D.C., with a little bit more on that war of words.

Bob, good morning.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: So, there you have it. Former President Bill Clinton saying, yeah, it's a civil war to him. So was the former Secretary of State Colin Powell. And after all, NBC News did officially declare it one, the "L.A. Times" and other news organizations.

But there are others who say this whole conversation is really just a distraction.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN (voice over): With so many dying every week in the Iraq conflict, the question to many Americans may not be what to call it, but what is does the name matter?

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: They don't care that much about what terms we use, because frankly, they know it's a mess.

FRANKEN: But many experts say that designating this a civil war will undermine the U.S. support even more, which is might explain why so many Democrats are jumping on the bandwagon.

SEN. JACK REED, (D-RI): I think for months now there's been a low-level civil war going on in Iraq.

FRANKEN: Don't try to ask the president.

BUSH: There's all kinds of speculation about what may be, or not, happening.

FRANKEN: The definition of a civil war depends on who's defining it. Merriam Webster says, it's "a war between opposing groups of citizens in the same country."

But another reference specifies that each must have a "functioning government, have identifiable regular armed forces." Which is reason enough for a top U.S. general to say it's not.

GEN. PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: The Iraq government does not call it a civil war. Two, the Iraq government is functioning. Three, the Iraq security forces are responsive to the Iraqi government.

FRANKEN: But no less a gray eminence than Henry Kissinger thinks it is a civil war, with bleak hopes for the United States.

HENRY KISSINGER, FMR. U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: If you mean by clear military victory, an Iraqi government that can be established, and whose influence runs (ph) across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control, in a time period that the political process of the democracy will support, I don't believe that it's possible.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: So, what you have is a lot of people who, frankly, exasperated, say that this is much too serious a situation for so many people, as one person put it, to be dancing on the head of a pin -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Bob Franken for us this morning. Thanks, Bob.

Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: The president of Iran has released an open letter to the American people. And by the standards of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it is a relatively tame tone. No mention of wiping Israel off the map, or denying the Holocaust, but Bush administration says the letter is little more than a PR stunt. CNN's Richard Roth joining us with more on the message from Tehran.

Good morning, Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning, Miles.

No, you didn't miss this in your e-mail file, this is a direct through the media appeal to you, though it starts out as "noble Americans", but accuses the Bush administration of using policies based on force and coercion.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROTH (voice over): Who says people don't write letters anymore. A letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the American people condemns the U.S.-led war in Iraq and urges the American people to demand the pullout of U.S. Troops there.

The president writes: "Would it not be more beneficial to bring the U.S. officers and soldiers home, and to spend the astronomical U.S. military expenditures in Iraq for the welfare and prosperity of the American people."

The Iranian leader says the U.S. government could spend the money instead on victims for the Katrina Hurricane and to fight poverty.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: He really is not trying to reach out, so much, as make it sound like he's reaching out, because, of course, he is trying to play a complicated game. He wants to drive us out of Iraq. ROTH: The Iranian president also turned election analyst. He said the American people showed their discontent with President Bush by voting for a Democratic Congress.

He also issued a word to the winners, saying, "Now that you control an important branch of the U.S. government, you will also be held to account by the people and by history."

DAVID MALONE, FMR. CANADIAN AMB. TO U.N.: I think any effort by a leader to communicate with the outside world, particularly the leader of an embattled country, is interesting and potentially positive (ph), if that leader is actually interested in engaging a dialogue, and that may be the case on the Iraq, or something else.

ROTH: But a brief survey of Americans on the streets revealed little interest in a dialogue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have very little faith in what he says. No respect for it whatsoever, and give no credence to it, and won't accept a letter from him at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I might not agree with it, but I'd read it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd say it's just propaganda, that's all it is, from the Iraqian government -- Iranian -- Iranian government, and working with the Iraqian government, pretty sure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROTH: The Bush administration says Iran has no credibility, because of its support for violence in Iraq, and the Shiite militias there -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: So what is the big picture here? What do you suppose the goal is?

ROTH: I think the goal is to gain sympathy in a lot of quarters. Especially, in the Arab community, there's a lot of criticism of the Zionists. But it is also support here in America for the looming battle over that Iran nuclear program, which is not addressed in this missive.

M. O'BRIEN: Interesting that that's left out. That remains an issue that really has -- an open issue.

ROTH: It is. But the big powers in the Security Council remain stuck on what to do regarding sanctions. This has been dragging on now for months, much to Iran's delight, probably.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm sure. Richard Roth, thank you very much.

Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Here in this nation, we're facing -- across the country, really -- the threat of severe weather today. A major winter storm is taking aim on several states in the Midwest. CNN's Jonathan Freed is in Kansas City this morning.

Good morning, Jonathan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lost (AUDIO GAP)

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, it looks like Jonathan can't hear me. Hey, Jonathan, pop that IF feed back in and see if you can't hear me.

You know what, we're going to try to reestablish our audio connection with Jonathan. Here is his report that he filed just a little while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING (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 adventurous ones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm headed to Albuquerque, straight for the Gulf of Mexico, south, until this turns away, from snow to rain to something else. 'Cause 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: Now, here in Kansas City, we have been keeping an eye on road conditions so far this morning. There's a bit of an incline just off of our live position here, and as it gets closer and closer to the start of the standard work day, we're seeing some more traffic. Some salt trucks have been going up and down the road here.

We've seen buses running. So far it has been a quiet morning, but people do seem to be able to get around. In Kansas City, and we'll toss it back to you.

S. O'BRIEN: Jonathan, I'm not sure if you still have audio and you can hear me, but when we look at the shot, you can just see how slick and shiny it is. Is that just all ice, inches and inches of ice?

FREED: Well, it was all ice yesterday, Soledad. If you look at the railing here, you can see that there is definitely a thin layer of ice that's stuck on this railing here. And on the road right now, it's a little bit mix of snow and ice. We haven't had that much snow yet.

Here, we'll give you a look at this truck turning the corner. And you can see that's a big truck and it has traction. So, so far, it's more question of what might be coming later today. We're told to expect anywhere from two to four inches of snow. And here we can see this city bus pulling up now. And it has traction, too.

So far, so good. Although the schools are closed here today. And everybody taking the precautions that you might expect, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Jonathan Freed watching it for us in Kansas City. Thanks, Jonathan.

Chad Myers is going to be back with us in just a few minutes to talk about the national forecast across the country, which is icy, too -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, most people know the road to the White House begins in Iowa. Now, a governor of Iowa thinks he's ready for the big-time. The surprising path to presidential candidate-to-be, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back. Top stories this morning, President Bush is pledging to keep U.S. troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future. He made the promise during an overnight meeting with Iraq's prime minister.

Some new pictures of the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in the middle of her shuttle diplomacy this morning. She's meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. And then later with Israel's prime minister, where they're trying to jump start Mideast peace.

Plus, the 2006 hurricane season ends today. No hurricanes hit the U.S. mainland this year.

Quarter past the hour. Let's get a quick check of the "Travelers Forecast" with Chad.

That is such great news about the hurricane season, isn't it?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST, AMERICAN MORNING: It really and it all happened because El Nino. How El Nino took over from Le Nina, a shifting of the winds in the Pacific. When we started this hurricane season, it looked like it was going to be a 20/25 storm season. The winds shifted and that didn't happen. Now maybe it will be a 20/25 snowstorm season because of the way the winds are shifting now.

(WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: The race to the White House, warming up in icy Iowa today. A new contender has a home-field advantage. Outgoing Governor Tom Vilsack looking to be the first Iowan to make it to the White House since Herbert Hoover. Our Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, live in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

Good morning, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning, Miles.

You're right, this is the first Democrat, actually, to declare that he wants to go into this business here of running for the presidency. What's happened here is that we have a wide-open race, without an incumbent on either side, we are seeing a free for all essentially.

It's full of superstars. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani. But there are many others. And that brings us to Tom Vilsack.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice over): Tom Vilsack is running for president. I know what you're thinking --

(on camera): Who is Tom Vilsack?

GOV. TOM VILSACK (D-IW), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll tell you, I'm an underdog. And I've always had to work my way up. I started out life as an orphan. Adopted into a family that was troubled. Learned some very valuable lessons about the necessity of believing in yourself, and believing in others, and also what the courage to create change can actually do.

CROWLEY (voice over): I know what else you're thinking, it's November of 2006, for heaven's sakes.

VILSACK: Once you've made the decision, it's time to get started, it's time to engage people in a debate.

CROWLEY: A mayor, a state senator, and in 1998, Vilsack became the first Democrat in 30 years to be elected governor of Iowa. He boasts of an eight-year tenure that focused on, and improved, schools and health care for Iowa's children.

VILSACK: Hey, Denise. How are you? Thanks for being here.

CROWLEY: On the eve of his announcement, Vilsack reveled in Americana, at a potluck supper in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, where he used to be mayor, the kind of small town that is the heartland.

CROWD CHANTING: Go, Tom, go!

CROWLEY: Vilsack does not have the name recognition of Hillary, or the buzz of Barack Obama, or the silver tongue of John Edwards. He'll have to raise a lot of money in a crowded field, populated by headliners. But at this point, in the 2004 election cycle, nobody had heard of Howard Dean, and Jimmy Carter was Jimmy Who?, until he won the Iowa caucuses.

VILSACK: We are going to win this thing.

CROWLEY: An orphan adopted into a family with an alcoholic, abusive mother and troubled father, Vilsack is a believer in himself, in the ability of a community to change lives, in the possibilities of a country.

VILSACK: The idea that, in this country, that somebody can start out life in an orphanage and end up having an interview, as he prepares to run for president of the United States, is all you need to know about America.

CROWLEY: It is, at least, a good enough place to start.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Vilsack counts on his signature issue, energy security, to propel him into the headlines. He talks about corn-based fuel, even nuclear fuel. Even if he does not win this race, Vilsack thinks he certainly can change the debate -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Vilsack, obviously, a household name in Iowa, but what are the issues that people like him, who outside of Iowa, not such household names have to contend with?

CROWLEY: Well, the biggest one, really, is exactly what you're talking about, how to make yourself a household name; at least in Iowa, and New Hampshire and South Carolina. The way to do that, obviously, is to go there and travel. I mean, it is hand-to-hand combat when you come to this, because without the name recognition, you can't get the money, and without the money, you can't win. So it's -- the knee bone's connected to the thigh bone here.

M. O'BRIEN: Chicken and egg scenario there. All Right, thank you very much, Candy Crowley.

Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, an SUV that you power up by plugging into an electrical outlet. Does it sound far-fetched? It might not be. Ali Velshi is "Minding Your Business", straight ahead.

And then, also, those frightening moments at Sea World. A Shamu act gets out of control, leaves a trainer injured. We'll tell you just what happened when we return on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: GM is hoping to improve its position by going green, but as everyone knows, it ain't easy being green. Ali Velshi, "Minding Your Business" this morning.

ALI VELSHI, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: I've learned how to live with being green.

GM Chief Rick Wagoner was at the L.A. Auto Show unveiling, or at least announcing the GM plans to have a car, an SUV, which is a hybrid, which plugs into a standard household plug. Now they haven't got it --

M. O'BRIEN: So, you need a really long cord?

VELSHI: You need a really long cord.

But it is interesting, because as you know, these hybrid cars, what they have is they have an electric motor, and a gasoline engine. The motion of the car, the braking, all of that stuff charges the electric motor. And when you're using the electric motor, you're not using gas. But you've got to be moving and you have to be doing things and braking to charge that electric motor.

What if you just plug it in and the battery recharges off your electrical power? You're theoretically using a whole lot less gas.

So, it's a Saturn Vu, green line that they're going to try this in. A Saturn Vu, if you've got it in just a regular gas model, it gets about 22 miles per gallon in the city. The Saturn Vu, hybrid model, already gets 27 miles per gallon. This thing could get up to, and this is from GM, could get up to 70 miles per gallon for a hybrid. That's kind of interesting.

M. O'BRIEN: You know, what's interesting, too, in hybrids, the city mileage is usually better than on the highway.

VELSHI: Because you're just shifting and starting and it's giving you electrical power.

M. O'BRIEN: Right, yeah.

VELSHI: Now, you'd think with all the work that GM is doing to try and been seen as being more green, it would be a good day for CEO Rick Wagoner, but it didn't turn out to be.

Take a look at this, somebody asked him to make a bigger commitment to fuel efficiency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have with me today, a pledge for Rick to sign here, committing General Motors to become the leader of fuel economy by 2010. Rick, could you do us the honors?

RICK WAGONER, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: I think my speech spoke for itself. But I appreciate your support. Sorry, you have to leave now. Thanks very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Ouch!

M. O'BRIEN: Ooh, boy.

S. O'BRIEN: I thought he kind of handled that well.

M. O'BRIEN: Not very gracefully handled. VELSHI: Yeah.

S. O'BRIEN: You thought so?

M. O'BRIEN: You thought that was good?

S. O'BRIEN: Well, I mean, you have a heckler who is on the stage with you, right? Has taken your mic, at your own podium? I actually thought he moved that along not badly.

VELSHI: This is one of those places where it is kind of tough to be green. Because I really do deep down believe the car industry wants to survive, wants to get out of the mess that it's in. And they're trying to do the right things. But the fact is there are a lot of people who say that they're holding us hostage to the high gas prices and high oil prices. And they would like to see them as being more on side. This is -- it's tough to be green.

S. O'BRIEN: Huh, interesting.

M. O'BRIEN: It's tough to be a CEO, too.

VELSHI: It's tough to be a CEO -- and green. Yeah.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Ali, thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Going to take a look at our top stories straight ahead this morning, including those new details about the upcoming recommendations from the Iraq study group.

And new developments, too, in the mysterious death of that former Russian spy. Investigators are finding radiation onboard jetliners, could affect tens of thousands of passengers. Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks at the possible risks, straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Side by side, President Bush and Iraq's prime minister meet overnight, agreeing to keep Iraq united and U.S. troops on the ground. The question now, just how many GIs will stay there? new information for the Iraq study group this morning about when American troops might come home.

S. O'BRIEN: And November's icy exit, a massive winter storm bears down on more than a dozen states.

Plus, breaking news this morning. Poison found on passenger planes and nearly a dozen other spots in London. All the investigation into the death of the former Russian spy is taking a new twist on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Welcome back, everybody. Thursday, November 30th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm Miles O'Brien.

(NEWSBREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Here's what's new this morning in Iraq. President Bush is on his way home now after this meeting in Amman, Jordan. It happened just a few hours ago with the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri Al Maliki.

The president insisted that U.S. troops are going to stay in Iraq until the job is done. In Washington D.C., the Iraq Study Group is poised to recommend a gradual pullback of U.S. troops to begin early next year. For now, though, the Pentagon is moving 1,600 troops into Baghdad, bolstering the 20,000 that are already there, trying to get control of that city.

The question many will be asking of course, is, do the recommendations from the Iraq Study Group go far enough to help the dire situation on the ground in Iraq.

Earlier this morning, I spoke exclusively with former President Bill Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: The Iraq study group's got this panel recommending a big pullback in conjunction with no timetable, though. Do you think, when the Iraq Study Group says, we recommend a big pullback but there's no timetable, that's the kind of recommendation that lacks teeth?

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FMR. PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: I spent two hours with them. And all told, more than three hours with members of my administration, who were also there. And I talked with them, and I talked to the president briefly about what I was going to say to them. Some redeployment, I think, is going to be in order part to relief the pressures in the military, in part to make it clear that we're changing policies, and I hope in part to be beef up our military presence in Afghanistan. I'm worried about the inroads that have been made by the Taliban trying to come back and what that might mean for greater freedom of movement for al Qaeda.

We have to -- we can't separate entirely our challenges in Iraq from our challenges in Afghanistan. But I think that we probably shouldn't set a definite timetable right now, because we don't want to lose all the leverage we have to get others in the surrounding countries to work with us, and to get the Iraqi political forces to try to get more and more people to choose politics over violence. That's a fundamental problem in Iraq now, is that there are a lot of people who believe they can get what they want at the end of the gun, better than they can through deliberations in the political system. And we've got to find a way, if we can, to minimize that, to keep the whole thing from falling apart.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: Mr. Clinton is in India, where he's going to make a major announcement regarding the treatment of AIDS. All part of World AIDS Day tomorrow. We'll hear more about that straight ahead. And also have more exclusive interviews tomorrow. A special edition of AMERICAN MORNING, beginning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern, focusing on World Aids Day 2006 right here.

Well, Iraqi political involvement was a big focus of that news conference between President Bush and the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri Al Maliki. Today the two leaders holding a strategy summit in Amman, Jordan.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is live for us in Amman.

Good morning, Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

Well, no clear indication exactly what was accomplished during this summit. But the Bush administration did do its best to try to dispel the impression that it lacks confidence in the leadership of Prime Minister Maliki. That impression, of course, created by that leaked White House memo from National Security Adviser Steven Hadley.

Now President Bush told reporters at that press conference that Mr. Maliki, in his words, the right guy for the job, and he said that the U.S. will try to expand the role of the Iraqi government in establishing and maintaining security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: My plan, and his plan, is to accelerate the Iraqis' responsibility. See, here's a man who's been elected by the people, the people expect him to respond, and he doesn't have the capacity to respond. And so we want to accelerate that capacity. We want him to be in the lead in taking the fight against the enemies of his own country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WEDEMAN: Now, one of the main concerns in Iraq in the moment is the number of sectarian militias. And of course the government's either inability or unwillingness to bring them under control. Prime Minister Maliki stressed that the militias will not be tolerated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NURI AL-MALIKI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We want to emphasize that we will not allow anybody to exert their control over any part of Iraq. If there's any talk about intervention in Iraq, and all the discussion, all the talks about people or other nations exerting control over Iraq, this is not true. This is a political process in Iraq. We want good relationships with our neighbors. We want complementary relationships with our neighbors to protect the region from tensions. But the main principle underlying all these is the respect of the Iraqi borders and the internal affairs of Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WEDEMAN: Now, that's what they said in Amman. We'll see, Soledad, if that actually gets implemented in Baghdad.

S. O'BRIEN: Ben Wedeman in Amman for us this morning. Ben, thanks.

So the question is, what does it all mean for U.S. troops who are now in Iraq. Let's get right to David Sanger. He's with "The New York Times." He's the chief Washington correspondent in D.C. For us this morning.

Your in-depth reporting this morning talks about the pullback which has been approved by the 10 members of this bipartisan panel. But spell out for me exactly what this pullback potentially could look like.

DAVID SANGER, "NEW YORK TIMES": You know, the critical question, Soledad, has been, what would the timing of this pullback be. And on that, it looks like the commission in reaching this consensus had to put together a compromise that essentially meant that they didn't specify time periods. What they said is the 15 combat brigades that are there should be pulled back from active combat, but whether that means that they come back to the United States or simply go to a position of force protection around the 70,000 or 80,000 logistics, and other forces that you would keep in Iraq, rapid reaction force and others, that seems to all be left to the commanders.

So I think the big question, when this report comes out next week, is whether the military plan is specific enough, and whether or not President Bush can say that he'll accept this, and then be able to sort of shape it his own way.

S. O'BRIEN: When you look at the numbers, 15 combat brigades at approximately somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 troops per combat brigade, we're talking about 70,000 troops or so that could potentially be on the move. This is what the president said during his news conference in Amman, Jordan about U.S. troops. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: That doesn't sound like a president who's right now planning to bring 70,000 U.S. troops home.

SANGER: It doesn't. And the report doesn't say that they would come home. I think the report is sort of silent on the question of where they would go. But I think that the debate that took place, as I understand it, within the Iraq Study Group was, how do you move the country toward a path of beginning withdrawal, in part, to put more and more pressure on the Iraqi government to get their own forces in place and force a political solution.

I think there was a sense among the members that they were weaving this fine line between the president's insistence that there would be no timeline for pullout and the sense within the commission, that some of the administration also share, that it's very necessary to make it clear to the Iraqis that we won't be there forever, that this commitment is not open-ended.

S. O'BRIEN: You know, you talk about forcing a political solution, and that's been a big focus for the Iraq Study Group. When Maliki cancels this meeting at the last moment and hasn't really said publicly exactly why, does that bolster him, do you think, or do you think that complicates the whole movement toward finding a political solution?

SANGER: You know, when you read that memorandum that Steven Hadley wrote, that appeared in the "Times" yesterday, you see that there's a section in it where he says that Mr. Maliki, to assert his power has at moments been standing up to the United States and showing that he does not fully depend on Washington. And this could have been an example of that. The White House seemed to be working very hard yesterday to say that the meeting either wasn't really necessary, or it never really even was fully scheduled, but it was on the president's public schedule that was given to the press corps before they went into the Amman meeting.

S. O'BRIEN: David Sanger is "The New York Times" chief Washington correspondent. Thanks, David, for joining us this morning. Appreciate it.

SANGER: Thank you, Soledad.

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, we've got a new twist to tell you about in the poisoning death of that former Russian spy. Radiation on planes all over London. Tens of thousands of passengers are now being alerted. Is it a real threat to public health? Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us.

Wal-Mart comes under fire again. We'll look at the ad campaign that turns Wal-Mart's own workers against it, straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: A lot of fear in great Britain this morning, as investigators stay on the trail of that radioactive polonium that filled a former Russian spy. The government there now says it has found traces of polonium on a fourth passenger plane, this one, a Russian airliner. British Airways has already contacted at least 33,000 passengers who might have been exposed to polonium on some of its airliners. It has pulled two jets from services as this investigation continues.

But how concerned should those people be? Let's bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta for a little reality check here.

Sanjay, good to have you with us. If we had a piece of polonium sitting next to us right here, and you tell me the quantity I should be worried about. Let's just say it's a small trace, you know, something you put on the head of a pin kind of thing, how concerned should we be?

GUPTA: Well, it's interesting, that question really has a couple of answers. One is that you really probably don't need to be very concerned at all, because polonium is what's called a high-energy,low- penetration substance. So if it's just sitting next to you, it can't even cross your skin. On the other hand, if for some reason you inhale it, or you ingest it, you can have all sorts of problems. This is a very radioactive material, Miles, one of the rarest elements known in the world. But it gives off lots of radiation once it gets inside somebody. It can cause all sorts of different problems. But it has to actually get into the tissue first to do that. So for the average person just sitting there, probably not a big risk.

M. O'BRIEN: OK, so literally you would have to swallow it, and it doesn't give off a kind of a gas that would be radioactive that you could inhale?

GUPTA: Right. And this is a very, very small amount here that could potentially cause damage. It's smaller than a speck of dust, for example. It probably has no taste, does not give any kind of gas, obviously would be detectable. but take a look, if it does get ingested, it would actually find its way into the gastrointestinal system, the small intestine. You would personally get very nauseated, have vomiting as a result of that, and that could happen very quickly. So symptoms might occur quickly.

Then it gets into the liver, which is sort of a clearinghouse for all sorts of things, gets into the blood stream and that's where it really starts to wreak havoc. Fascinating it gets into the bone marrow, gets into all sorts of quickly reproducing cells in the body. And subsequently it's almost like causing instant mutations of several different cells all around the body, and it ultimately leads to death.

M. O'BRIEN: It's interesting, there is no way to stop radiation sickness, is there?

GUPTA: There really isn't. The only thing you can really do is what we call supportive care, make sure someone's breathing okay, their heart is functioning OK, and obviously get them away from the radiation source if at all possible.

M. O'BRIEN: OK, so what about the symptoms? It's been a little while since some of these flights occurred. Presumably the symptoms would have cropped up by now, right?

GUPTA: I think so. If you're talking about a substance, you know, they talk about the fact that they found radiation. They don't say specifically what the source of that radiation is, or if it's something as powerful as polonium, but radiation sickness have some characteristic symptoms. First of all, just seeing that stuff getting down into the intestines nausea would be one of the first symptoms, because your GI tract is being hit by that, extreme headaches, diarrhea, loss of appetite for some of the same reasons, and loss of hair. You saw the pictures of this gentleman. Obviously he had some of those symptoms, lost a lot of weight, lost his hair as well, and became sort of this emaciated man. That would be pretty classic based on what radiation poisoning does to the body.

M. O'BRIEN: And finally, just quickly here, should all those passengers who were on those planes, should they be tested?

GUPTA: Well, it's interesting. We've talked to a lot of experts about this. The answer is probably not. I think if they do get tested, it's mainly because of just being very cautious. For the reasons we just talked about, Miles, because this is such a high- energy, but low-penetration substance, the vast majority of people would be just fine. In fact, the hundreds of people who came forward initially, only about 18 of them were actually referred to the Health Protection Authority. And only three of those people got tested. I think it's very unlikely they're going to test the tens of thousands of people.

M. O'BRIEN: Sanjay Gupta, thanks for the insights.

GUPTA: Thank you.

(WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, more on that scary scene at Sea World a trainer ends up in the hospital after a killer whale turns on him, right in the middle of the Shamu show. Don't want the kids to see that, do you.

S. O'BRIEN: Plus more troops on the move to Baghdad. A recommendation to pull at least some out early in the New Year. We'll go live to the Pentagon for more on that.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, more on the meeting overnight between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki. The prime minister back in his home country right now. What he needs to do to get things moving forward.

And it's Thursday, so you know what that means, so you know what that means -- you know what mean.

CROWD: Miles-cam!

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, crew.

E-mail your questions to milescam@CNN.com.

S. O'BRIEN: I like that picture of you.

(CROSSTALK)

M. O'BRIEN: Anyway, I'll answer them live on Pipeline starting at 10:00 eastern. That's CNN.com/pipeline. Questions right now to milescam@CNN.com, whatever's on your mind -- space, anything.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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