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Bush Heads to State Department to For Iraq Strategy Meeting

Aired December 11, 2006 - 07:00:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING War in Iraq, here's what's new this morning. A political shake up could be brewing in Baghdad. Possibly moving the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, out. And it could be engineered by the Shiite leader al-Hakim.
President Bush heads to the State Department this morning. He's working to deliver his own ideas for Iraq before Christmas. And in Iraq, officials are reporting 51 bodies found in Baghdad on Sunday. Four U.S. soldiers were killed. Three were wounded by roadside bombs.

We have full coverage from Iraq this morning, the White House, and the early race for 2008. Nic Robertson is in Baghdad, Elaine Quijano is at the White House, for us, and John King is in Manchester, New Hampshire. Let's begin with those reports, out overnight, about the Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki, Nic Robertson, as we mentioned, in Baghdad.

Good morning, Nic.


Well, the prime minister's office denies that the prime minister is on his way out. What we've seen here is political maneuvering over the last couple of weeks. One of the prime minister's prime supporters, in the government, has been the firebrand Shia Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has an armed militia. He withdrew his support for the prime minister a couple of weeks ago. He was joined by some Sunni politicians. They are widely seen as the extremist block.

What we've heard from other politicians is they're trying to form a moderate block within the government at the moment, across all sectarian sections within the parliament. They say, and the prime minister's office says, that there are no plans at the moment to change the prime minister. But they can expect, and there has been talk of a reshuffle within the government.

At the moment the prime minister's office shooting these ideas down, but without a doubt, there are deeper political divisions at the moment and certainly a lot of debate about the way forward, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the way forward, that was put forward in the Iraq Study Group's report, that came out last week. What are Iraqis saying about that? We know President Talabani is rejecting it -- very angrily, actually. What do others think?

ROBERTSON: Some of the other parliamentarians here have seen it as a good thing. They think it's good to engage Iran and Syria. They think it's good to beef up and train Iraqi security forces, the army and the police here. They have questions about can the U.S. military really be effective? Are there enough translators? Are there enough people who are really skilled at training other troops?

We heard, over the weekend, from the president of Iraq, who is a Kurd, who said absolutely not. This report is bad, it's dangerous, it's unfair, it's unjust. He said it undermines the integrity of Iraq, the sovereignty of Iraq. Because he said, you can't have U.S. military trainers inside the Iraqi army, it undermines the Iraqi army. There are divisions over that issue, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Nic Robertson in Baghdad for us this morning. Thank you, Nic.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: It's clear the Baker-Hamilton report on what to do about Iraq will not be the last word. President Bush spending time this week getting more opinions. Elaine Quijano, live in Washington with more -- Elaine.


That's right. Over the next few days President Bush will be embarking on a kind of inside-the-Beltway listening tour as he weighs his various options for Iraq. This morning, he'll head to the State Department to hear from senior officials there. He's expected to make a brief statement afterwards.

Then this afternoon he'll meet with a group of historians and former generals, we're told, in the Oval Office. Now, the consultations will go on tomorrow and Wednesday, as well.

In fact, tomorrow the president will be sitting down for a video conference with his top commanders in Iraq, as well as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad. He'll also be sitting down for a meeting with an Iraqi Vice President, Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni. Now, he'll head to the Pentagon on Wednesday, to hear from officials there.

And as for a time frame, Miles, on when an announcement could be made on changes to his Iraq policy, senior Bush aids say the goal really is to have a speech before Christmas.

Right now though, Miles, the president really in a listening mode -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Elaine Quijano at the White House. Thanks.

Americans already drawing their own conclusions about the Baker- Hamilton report and the war in Iraq, in general. "Newsweek" out with a new poll. It shows 39 percent agree with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group on Iraq; 20 percent disagree; 26 percent unaware of the group.

And 62 percent believe the U.S. should set a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops. Only 21 percent think the U.S. is making progress in Iraq; 68 percent think the U.S. is losing ground.

S. O'BRIEN: It was a day of testing the presidential waters for the Illinois Senator Barack Obama. He addressed a sellout crowd on his first trip to New Hampshire, where the presidential primary race kicks off. CNN's John King is in Manchester, New Hampshire this morning. He's with us.

Hey, John, good morning.


If you're Senator Barack Obama and you're wondering how your first trip ever to New Hampshire went, this is not so bad. The "Union-Leader" this morning, saying, "Obama Fever Grips New Hampshire". He hasn't said whether he's definitely running yet, but he is testing the waters in a place where political activists say they've seen every thing. They say they've never seen anything quite like this.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL): Sorry, guys, I didn't mean to cause this fuss.

KING (voice over): Of course, he did. First impressions are important in politics. The more fuss, the better. Barack Obama, meet New Hampshire.

OBAMA: How are you? Good see you?

KING: New Hampshire, meet Barack Obama. A crowd of 1,500 at a sold out state Democratic Party fundraiser, on a Sunday afternoon.

OBAMA: I am telling you, New Hampshire, America is ready to turn the page. America is ready for a new set of challenges. This is our time, a new generation. That is preparing to lead.

KING: Earlier, 900 people at a book signing that had to be moved to a big conference room.

He is, without a doubt, the hottest commodity in American politics. Never mind that he's just 45 years old, and was elected to the Senate only two years ago.

AL BORQUE, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: We're so tired of the standard- type politicians that we've been used to for so long. It was very exciting, as far as I was concerned. Hope he runs.

KING: Whatever his decision, Democrats here and across the country are buzzing about the Obama effect.

Senator Hillary Clinton is accelerating her campaign planning. Other hopefuls, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, also in New Hampshire this weekend --

SEN. EVAN BAYH, (D-IN): Good to see you again. How have you been?

KING: -- can only hope experience matters as much as star power when it really counts a year from now.

BAYH: Would it be nice to be a celebrity and have untold millions? Of course it would. But I think we'll have enough. You know, it's a lot like the story of David and Goliath, David did OK.

KING: New Hampshire holds the first presidential primary. Senator Obama's first visit came after three trips to the kickoff caucus state, Iowa. Top aids are quietly building a campaign team. And there's encouragement galore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eventually getting active for Obama?


KING: A final decision, due early next year.

OBAMA: I am suspicious of hype. I'm still running things through the traps.


KING: So as we await Senator Obama's decision, here's one example of the impact on the race. Democratic activists at the Bayh event, many of them also at the Obama event, talked to those activists and they tell you, guess what, Soledad? Phone calls coming into the state over the past week from non-other than Senator Hillary Clinton. I talked to one activist who spoke to her and he said, she sounded fine. Her people, though, seem a little antsy-- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: OK, then. So at what point do you see things start to disintegrate, maybe? Maybe that's not the right word, between Clinton and Obama. I mean, if they're both going to go for the nomination, they've got to start engaging each other at some point, right?

KING: At some point. That would be sometime in the new year. We're about 400 plus away from the New Hampshire primary. Seems like a long time, but people are already trying to organize debates for early next year. Let's let everyone get in, officially, first. That's what the campaigns will tell you. But then early in the new year you'll start to see a little bit of this. If he runs, he still hasn't said he's going to run, but look for people to raise his experience, and look for Hillary Clinton to raise her experience in this state, campaigning with her husband. Saying remember me, I've been fighting for you for a long time. But we're still a few months away from that, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: But it goes by like that, doesn't it? John King for us this morning.

KING: It does.

S. O'BRIEN: John, thanks.

Happening this morning in Cedar Falls, Iowa, there are more suspected e. Coli cases. At least 19 people are sick after eating at Taco Johns, that's a restaurant that's not related in any way to Taco Bell. Meanwhile, they say there are no more green onions at their 5,800 restaurants. Those onions, the likely source of that e. Coli outbreak that happened last month. Taco Bell is assuring it's customers it is now safe to eat there. More than 120 people in six states were possibly infected by e. Coli linked to the food that they ate at Taco Bell.

South Florida, people sick on the Freedom of the Seas, that's the ship right there. It's the biggest in the whole world. It appears they got the norovirus. It follows 308 passengers, on that same ship, who got sick last week. Also, hit with GI illness. More than 100 people came down sick on the Sun Princess after a 10-day Caribbean voyage.

M. O'BRIEN: More details on the death of James Kim. "The San Francisco Chronicle" reporting Kim walked at least 16 miles in the Oregon wilderness, trying to get help for his stranded family. Kim's wife and daughters were found alive after 11 days in the cold. "Paula Zahn Now" goes behind the headlines of this heroic and tragic story: "Stranded, The James Kim Ordeal" airs tonight, 8 Eastern right here on CNN.

Strong reaction in Chile to the death of former dictator Augusto Pinochet, who died Sunday of heart failure, at the age of 91. Demonstrators, some who supported Pinochet, others who opposed him, clashed on Sunday. Pinochet ruled Chile for 17 years, until 1990. He'd been under house arrest charged with murdering two opponents in 1973, and accused of torturing and killing thousands while in power. A military funeral is set for tomorrow.

The widow of poisoned ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko is speaking out for the first time and placing blame for her husband's death. Marina Litvinenko says Vladimir Putin, and we quote her now, "created an atmosphere that made it possible to kill a British person on British soil."

Marina Litvinenko has also tested positive for radiation, as have two British police officers investigating this case.

Surprising new details surfacing about the death of Princess Diana. Just days ahead of the release of an official British report on her death. The BBC citing DNA evidence says that Diana's driver, Henri Paul was drunk, three times the legal limit, the night Diana and her -- Dodi Faed (ph), died in that car crash in Paris. The driver died as well.

And a surprising twist, as well, the British newspaper, "The Observer," says U.S. intelligence was eavesdropping on Diana's phone calls hours before her death. CNN is trying to verify that story.

High above us, the Shuttle Discovery links up with the International Space Station this afternoon. So far so good, for Discovery's voyage. The crew took a close look at the shuttle's heat shield yesterday, making sure there's no damage after launch Saturday night. NASA sees no reason for concern so far.

S. O'BRIEN: We're just a couple minutes away from your Monday morning forecast, and some brighter news, hopefully, for all of us. Chad is going to give us a look, coming up.

If you get sick or your child comes down with something, there are some developments now in the works, that could make you feel better this morning. We'll see who's leading the fight for more paid sick days when AMERICAN MORNING returns.


S. O'BRIEN: New this morning, President Bush is meeting with State Department officials today; they're discussing Iraq strategy following last week's release of the Iraq Study Group report.

In the Philippines, three children are dead after a typhoon roared on shore. It's the second deadly typhoon to hit that country in the past few weeks.

Fourteen minutes past the hour. If you're about to head out the door, let's get a check on the "Traveler's Forecast" for you.


M. O'BRIEN: I wonder how you feel this morning. You might wish you could just call in sick and roll over, but you can't because you'd lose a day's pay. You may be getting relief soon. Some members of Congress have the prescription for some new legislation that could give you a break.

AMERICAN MORNING's Alina Cho is feeling well, this morning, I hope.



M. O'BRIEN: Good to have you here.

CHO: Thank you.

For many Americans, taking a sick day is not a big deal. You take it for granted. But by most estimates, nearly half of Americans who work in the private sector, do not get a single day of paid sick leave -- not a single day. All of that could change now that the Democrats are about to take control of Congress. For some families, it could make all the difference.


CHO (voice over): Rachel Soble, mother of two, quit her job when she was forced to make a choice, her job or her son. Leo had broken his arm and needed her care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had to be home with him.

CHO: But she couldn't. She already used her paid time off, which included only two sick days. So she quit to care for her son. It's a dilemma lots of Americans face. Nearly half of all workers in the private sector don't get any paid sick time. Lower-wage workers are the hardest hit. With Democrats about to take control of Congress, they're vowing to fight for a change.

SEN. TED KENNEDY, (D-MA): I, quite frankly, am tired of playing defense. I think it's time that we played offense.

CHO: Next month Senator Ted Kennedy will reintroduce a bill that would require companies with 15 or more employees to provide full-time workers seven days of paid sick leave a year.

KENNEDY: If it's good enough for the members Congress, good enough for the Senate, House of Representatives, it's good enough for hard-working people.

CHO: It's already good enough for San Francisco. The city recently approved a similar measure, the first in the nation to do so. Kennedy says it should be federal policy. Business leaders say if paid sick leave is that important, Congress should raise taxes to pay for it.

RANDEL JOHNSON, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: People get sick, they need time off, why should the employer necessarily have to bear that burden?

CHO: Rachel now has a part-time job which affords her more time with her kids, but less money. What she really wants is a full-time job that allows her enough time off to take care of her kids when they're sick and get paid at the same time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really all-American workers, who deserve this.


CHO: Business leaders who are against paid sick leave say employers simply can't afford to pay for it. But people like Rachel Soble (ph) say, in the long run, and this makes sense, if a person goes into work sick, and gets everyone else sick, it will hurt businesses, especially productivity, even more.

Interesting to note, 139 countries provide paid sick leave for workers. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not. And, Miles, Senator Kennedy says next to minimum wage, paid sick leave is the most important issue facing American workers today.

M. O'BRIEN: Now, the system we have here, we don't really have sick days. We have PTO, paid time off.

CHO: Right.

M. O'BRIEN: It all gets kind of lumped in with vacation.

CHO: That's right. You might get 30 days total for the year, that includes vacation days, personal days, sick days. It's a trend. A lot more companies are doing things this way. And proponents of this policy say it's a good idea. Because, listen, if you have a family and you need to take sick days, you can take sick days. Work, if you don't. If you want to take more vacation, you can do that. They say it actually discourages people from taking sick days unless they're absolutely sick and need to take that day. And it's a trend that's caught on.

M. O'BRIEN: Course it might encourage them to come in sick and get everybody sick, which is the other --

CHO: Right, that's the other side of it.

S. O'BRIEN: But that woman, her son broke his arm.

M. O'BRIEN: That's true.

S. O'BRIEN: I mean, she wasn't going to spread germs. She just wanted to be able to help him.

CHO: That's right. And she had to quite, as a result.

S. O'BRIEN: Tough story.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Alina.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Alina.

CHO: Sure.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, Allstate, the good hands people, you know, you're in good hands with Allstate, they might be washing her hands of a couple states. A new "no new policy", policy to tell you about. Ali Velshi is "Minding Your Business".

And two pilots are accused of causing a devastating crash in the air while bringing their own plane down safely. They're back home this morning. They're not in the clear, though. We'll tell you why. When AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Developing stories we're watching this morning,

President Bush is heading to the State Department today to discuss the Iraq strategy. Iranian television is reporting students interrupted a speech that was being given by the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, just a short time ago. They were shouting "Down with the dictator".

Mel Gibson's past is not hurting his present. His new film success at the box office. "Apocalypto" is the name of the movie, and it's the number one movie in America. It made $14 million over the weekend.

S. O'BRIEN: You're in good hands unless you live in a high-risk zone, then maybe not so much. Ali Velshi is "Minding Your Business" this morning.


M. O'BRIEN: Is a change coming in Iraq? President Bush is pondering the options. He's promised to announce his plan before Christmas. We'll talk to his former chief of staff about what might be going through his mind right now.

It's beginning to look a lot like -- controversy. Find out why all the Christmas trees are coming down in Seattle. That's ahead.


S. O'BRIEN: Strategy session, President Bush looks for diplomatic answers today in the fight for Iraq, and the clock is ticking before he has to deliver his plan to the American people. We'll get an insider's view from the president's former chief of staff Andy Card, straight ahead.

M. O'BRIEN: A princess bugged: A London newspaper says America eavesdropped on Princess Diana the day she died. Part of a new report coming out this week, about her death.

S. O'BRIEN: Career comeback: Mel Gibson delivers a winner despite a rocky year. His new movie, "Apocalypto" is on top at the U.S. box office.

M. O'BRIEN: And treeless in Seattle: A rabbi complains, the Christmas trees come down, and a lot of folks see a Grinch at the airport. Details ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Good morning to you. It is Monday, December 11th. I'm Miles O'Brien.

S. O'BRIEN: I'm Soledad O'Brien. Thanks for being with us.


S. O'BRIEN: The outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld back in Washington this morning after a surprise farewell visit to the troops in Iraq. What's next for his final days at the Pentagon.

CNN's Kathleen Koch joins us. Good morning, Kathleen.


Well, presumably the defense secretary will be boxing up his things as he embarks on this, his final week as defense secretary. His trip this weekend to Iraq came as quite a surprise, this farewell tour of his. It was the first time that he left behind the reporters who normally covered him here at the Pentagon. Spokesman Brian Whitman (ph) said that the secretary wanted this trip to be private and personal. He wanted, quote, "a very small footprint," for the trip to really be about him and about the troops.

While in Baghdad on Saturday, Rumsfeld met with top U.S. commanders. He also met with about 1,200 U.S. forces in Al Anbar province, a very dangerous area, and shared with them, among other things, his thoughts on his conduct of the war and defended his strategy when it came to the sensitive issue of troop levels.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECY. OF DEFENSE: One of the big debates has been about the number of troops, for example. Should we have more? Should we have less? And the truth of the matter is, we have had, from day one, exactly the number of troops that first General Franks, and then following him, General Abizaid and General Casey, have requested.


KOCH: Rumsfeld also insisted that the consequences of failure to win the war in Iraq would be, quote, "unacceptable."

Now certainly the defense secretary will be sharing his final thoughts on Iraq with President Bush when Mr. Bush comes here to the Pentagon Wednesday afternoon to get a briefing as he tries to formulate his new strategy, new forward in Iraq -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Kathleen Koch for us this morning. Thank you, Kathleen.

KOCH: You bet.

S. O'BRIEN: President Bush is reviewing Iraq policy with his visit to the State Department. Later this week he's expected to go to the Pentagon, then hold a video-conference with U.S. military commanders in Iraq. All of it coming after last week's Iraq Study Group report.

Andrew Card served as President Bush's chief of staff for the first five years of his presidency before he left the post in April. He's in our Washington bureau this morning.

Nice to see you, Andrew. Thanks for talking with us.

ANDREW CARD, FMR. WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Good to be with you, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.

When you take a look at the report, and now everybody is walking around with these books, as we're reading them. The report says the situation is dire, it's deteriorating, it's grave, the violence is increasing, neighborhoods are falling apart, casualties are up. I mean, that's just the partial list. And yet, when you hear the president talking over the last couple of days, doesn't sound like he's fully embracing this report. He's going on sort of on a listening tour. Why is he not embracing the report?

CARD: Well, I'm sure he'll embrace parts of the report that will help him accomplish the mission. And really The primary mission is to make sure Iraq is not a place where Al Qaeda terrorists network can find a safe haven and attack the United States or our interests.

The secondary expectation is that the Iraqi government will be able to provide security for its own people, be an ally in the war on terror, and a source of hope, and freedom in that Middle East region that's so troubled. But the president will embrace those parts of the report that will help accomplish the mission and realize the expectations. And he's got a lot of other reports to look at as well.

But you know, the decisions that he has to max are very tough decisions, and they require him to keep his oath to protect us. Sometimes the decisions end up being quite lonely. But the president has great peripheral vision, and the people who worked in the Iraq Study Group were told to have tunnel vision, to look only at Iraq. The president also has to pay attention to our foreign policy needs in the region, and reality that Iran is not a good acting ally in anyone's effort, no matter what it is, whether it's in Iraq or in the effort to remove weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons from the world.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, then let's talk more about Iran then since you bring it up. We know that, clearly, as you point out, the president has mentioned over the last couple of days, his concerns about Iraq's involvement in any kind of discussions about Iraq, and also Syria as well. Listen to what he said on Thursday about engagement with Iran.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: If they would like to engage the United States, then they've got to verifiably suspend their enrichment program.


S. O'BRIEN: So he's making it conditional, which is not exactly the way the people who wrote the Iraq Study Group report put it. Are you saying then that the diplomatic efforts, which they very much emphasize and underscore in the Iraq Study Group report, that that's essentially not going to change?

CARD: Well, the Iraq Study Group was looking at Iran in the context of Iraq. The president doesn't have that luxury. He has to look at it in the context of Iraq, but he also has to look at it in the context of their relationship to North Korea, their relationship with the effort to try to get nuclear weapons, their hatred of Israel, their funding of Hezbollah terrorists in stirring the pot of hatred in Lebanon and in the Gaza. So they're are many things that...

S. O'BRIEN: So the relationship then will change...

CARD: It's a very complicated relationship with Iran.

And let's not forget that the Iranians participated in the blowing up of a building in Khobar Towers that killed a number of U.S. servicemen, and I remember the FBI working very hard on that case many years ago when we first came to office.

S. O'BRIEN: I hear your argument, but the Iraq Study Group report says there has to be an effort on diplomacy. I mean, as you well know -- I know you've read this over now -- it's so important in this report, so it sounds, with that list you're giving me, that, in fact, there's not going to be an improvement in the diplomatic relationship between the United States and Iran, and the diplomatic relations with the United States and Syria, which is very much what's called for in this report.

CARD: I'm not sure that I agree with what you just said. I think that there will probably be efforts at different kinds of diplomatic relationships, but having one-on-one discussions with Iran may not be the best way to go. We may need to look, at it in a multinational effort.

Clearly Iran has to be more responsible with the world, the same with Syria. Syria is not acting as a responsible participant in the peaceful world in their relationships with the Lebanese, for example.

So there's a lot to look at here, and the president doesn't have the luxury of just having tunnel vision. He has to have good peripheral vision as he considers all of these options.

S. O'BRIEN: Let me ask you about how tough the report is on what's already been accomplished. And you said the president can't have tunnel vision; he's got to have peripheral vision. But the report's also very tough on what's been done. I mean, they say there's only 10 analysts looking at the insurgency, and that's only been happening for the last two years. And then there's only -- in the U.S. embassy, in Baghdad, there's only six people who speak Arabic. Out of 1,000 employees, six people speak Arab fluently.

Listen to Ken Adelman, his response to that.


KEN ADELMAN, FMR. AMB. TO U.N.: In the 1,000-person U.S. embassy in Baghdad today, there are six people -- six people -- who speak fluent Arabic. How can the president hear that? How can anybody in the U.S. government hear that and not be totally ashamed by the unseriousness of this effort?


S. O'BRIEN: The "unseriousness of this effort" is how he puts it. Do you think that's a fair criticism that there's not been this real effort to try to fix things while lives are being lost, Iraqi lives and U.S. soldiers' lives are being lost, each and every day?

CARD: I don't think there's any excuse that can justify that we only have six people that speak Arabic in that embassy. So no, I agree, there's an awful lot that can be done. The president will take a look at the efforts in Iraq with fresh eyes. That's why he's bringing in a new secretary of defense. I'm sure he's asked Secretary Rice and the other members of the cabinet to take a fresh look at the situation in Iraq.

But clearly, we have to do things differently, but we have to be careful that we don't leave Iraq as a place where the terrorists can find safe haven to attack us, and that we don't leave Iraq as a cesspool of hatred that will boil over and complicate our life in that part of the region for a long time to come.

S. O'BRIEN: Andrew Card, as always, nice to talk to you. Thanks for being with us this morning -- Miles.

CARD: Thank you, Soledad.


S. O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning, a new movie about the end of Mayan civilization. You may not think that would necessarily be the one at the box office.

M. O'BRIEN: Not a word in English, no English.

S. O'BRIEN: Not one word. No big star in this movie. And yet, it is No. 1 at the box office. It is certainly not the end of Mel Gibson's career. Are moviegoers are showing forgiveness, or is he just cashing in on the controversy? We'll talk about how "Apocalypto" got where it got, straight ahead.

Plus, details on Princess Diana's final days. Was she pregnant? Was the U.S. eavesdropping on her? Was her driver drunk? The very latest from a brand new report.




M. O'BRIEN: Two U.S. pilots back on American soil. In September they were arrested in Brazil after the plane they were flying collided with an airliner, killing more than 150.

Jason Carroll has more on their return home and possible troubles ahead.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was an emotional homecoming for pilots Jan Paladino (ph) and Joseph Lapoer (ph). The two pilots arrived on New York's Long Island Saturday and were immediately embraced by family members, but did not speak to reporters. DAVID RIMMER, VICE PRES., EXCELAIRE: This is a day we've been waiting for a long time. And I can't be happier than to be here with the gentlemen that I now consider my family.

CARROLL: Brazilian authorities confiscated their passports after the September 29th accident between a legacy executive jet they were piloting and a GOL (ph) Airlines Boeing 737. The two collided over the Amazon jungle, killing all 154 people onboard. No one on the Legacy jet was hurt.

Brazilian authorities accused the pilots of negligence, saying their jet was flying 1,000 feet higher than its authorized altitude, and that their transponder, the device that signals the plane's position, was turned off.

The pilots and the vice president of Excelaire deny the transponder was turned off, and say the pilots were flying responsibly.

RIMMER: That question is whether our pilots acted appropriately on our flight, and the answer is unequivocally, yes.

CARROLL: To date, the pilots have not spoken publicly about the deadly crash.

ROBERT TORRICELLA, ATTY. FOR PILOTS: We have not yet even been given details regarding the precise accusation that has been made against them. They have not been charged with a crime. They have not been indicted.

CARROLL: The pilots are accused of exposing an aircraft to danger. If convicted, they could face 12 years in prison.

Before leaving Brazil, they had to sign a document, promising to return for trial, if necessary.

Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.



M. O'BRIEN: Was U.S. intelligence eavesdropping on princess Diana on the night of her death? And if so, why? Surprising new questions, and some answers, when we return.

And more international intrigue. The wife of a poisoned former Russian spy speaking out for the first time. Another country is now involved.

AMERICAN MORNING coming back shortly.


(NEWSBREAK) S. O'BRIEN: New details now to tell you about the death of Princess Diana, coming out just before an official British report is released this week.

Let's get right to Alphonso Van Marsh. He's in London with that this morning.

Good morning, Alfonso.


As you've mentioned, that report is due out on Thursday. It's a report commissioned by the royal coroner.

Take a look at the events before and after the that car crash that did kill Princess Diana of Wales in August 1997, but already some details, some leaks being reported to the British press.


VAN MARSH (voice-over): According to British newspaper "The Observer," a new government report found U.S. intelligence was eavesdropping on Diana's phone calls hours before her fatal accident in 1997.

CNN has not independently confirmed this report, but we continue to try to verify the story.

Meanwhile, other details of the report, led by Britain's former top cop, are leaking out to the British press, details that could end speculation on how and why one of the world's most recognized women died on August 31st almost a decade ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard to see how he will conclude the crash was anything other than an accident.

VAN MARSH: A BBC documentary looks at events before and after the car crash that killed Diana, her companion Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul. In the documentary, it is revealed that the report is expected to conclude that claims that Diana was pregnant and planning to marry Fayed are not credible, and that driver Henri Paul was three times over the French drunk driving limit when their car crashed in a Paris tunnel.

MARTINE MONTEIL, HEAD OF FRENCH INVESTIGATION (through translator): There was a horde of photographers who were following the couple, and they were very close to the Mercedes when the accident happened. Obviously, this causes annoyance and stress. But it is not the only explanation. The driver also lost control of the car, that's obvious.

VAN MARSH: Dodi Fayed's father, London businessman, Mohamed Al Fayed, has long maintained that the crash was no accident, but part of a British agent murder plot to keep Diana from marrying his son, an Egyptian Muslim. Al Fayed believes authorities likely switched the driver's blood samples with those of a probable suicide victim with alcohol and drugs in his body, something he has not been able to prove. He's indicating that the BBC has fallen for a coverup.

To a spokesman Al Fayed says the BBC documentary, quote, "has fallen into a trap deliberately laid for it." Others who knew Diana say people must accept the report results when they are officially released.

ROSA MONCKTON, DIANA'S FRIEND: I hope that now, once and for all, the line can be drawn, it was not a conspiracy; it was a tragic accident.


VAN MARSH: Now, this report is expected to be taken into evidence as part of a preliminary hearing into an inquest into Diana's death. That inquest, expected to be open to the public, is scheduled to begin early next year.

S. O'BRIEN Alphonso Van Marsh for us in London this morning. Thanks, Alphonso -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Push from power. Is Iraq's embattled prime minister about to be forced out? The details, plus, who may be ready to step in and take the reins in Iraq.

And pay to play, if you've got money, honey, they've got the toys. The growing market for hot holiday toys, when AMERICAN MORNING returns.




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