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THE SITUATION ROOM

Is North Korea Giving Up Nuclear Weapons?; Interview With John Bolton

Aired February 12, 2007 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. And it's happening now. Deal or no deal -- word that North Korea is ready to give up its nuclear weapons for a price.
The former U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, is already calling it a very bad deal as he breaks with President Bush. My interview with John Bolton, that's coming up.

Stunning secrets revealed in the CIA leak trial. We're going to hear audio of the leak as it happens, along with a string of expletives, deleted of course, as a former top official talks to journalist Bob Woodward.

And he's under attack down under. Why is Barack Obama taking heat from Australia's prime minister?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Is there a breakthrough in the making with North Korea? Just a few months after its nuclear test there's now word tonight that North Korea will give up its weapons program in exchange for help on energy. That's no bargain, says the president's former point man at the United Nations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMB. TO THE U.N.: This is a very bad deal, and I'm hoping that the president has not been fully briefed on it and he still has time to reject it. It's bad for two reasons. First, it contradicts fundamental premises of the president's policy he's been following for the past six years. And second, it makes the administration look very weak at a time in Iraq and dealing with Iran, it needs to look strong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I'll speak with the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. That's coming up ahead. You'll be surprised to hear what he has to say on this and why he's also breaking with a key issue on Iraq with the president. That's coming up.

But first, let's get the latest from CNN's John Vause in Beijing. John? JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a senior Bush administration official says there is cautious optimism. The chief U.S. negotiator here says this is quote, "an excellent draft." According to a number of diplomats, under this plan the first stage would see the North Koreans freeze plutonium production in return for energy assistance.

Stage two would deal with nuclear disarmament within a few months. The talks almost collapsed on Monday diplomats say because the North Koreans demanded a huge amount of energy assistance and there was deep suspicion that once they received that energy aid, the North Koreans would simply walk away and keep their nuclear arsenal.

The Americans, the Japanese and the South Koreans all said if there was to be a breakthrough here, then the North Koreans would have to scale back some of their demands. This deal is still pending high level government approvals from the various governments represented here at the six-party talks. If that happens, and it should happen, negotiators will make a formal announcement in the coming hours -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right John -- John Vause in Beijing for us.

America's main nuclear envoy once joked that the power produced by North Korea's atomic reactor never lit a single light bulb. Power shortages are well known in the Stalinist north. Look at these satellite photos.

The North, almost pitch black while capital of South Korea lit up almost like Times Square. South Korean analysts say the North is able to generate only about half its total energy needs -- more on this important story coming up.

Meanwhile, in Iraq today, there was a sickening slaughter of yet more innocents, dozens of them. One after the other, three bombs blew up in a Baghdad market, causing hundreds of additional casualties. We'll get a report from Baghdad. That's coming up.

Meantime, are high tech weapons from Teheran taking a toll among American troops in Iraq? The U.S. military has laid out what would seem to be damning evidence of Iranian involvement, so here is the question? What took so long?

And joining us now from Baghdad our correspondent Michael Ware -- Michael, why now? Why is the U.S. military briefing reporters about this Iranian connection to the war in Iraq right now since you yourself have reported it's been going on for at least a year or two?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you listen to the military, they say it's for two reasons. One, in the last six to eight months of 2006, there was a massive up surge in the number of attacks and casualties among coalition troops as a result of these explosive devices coming from Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. The other reason they say is it has taken them time to develop the kind of evidence that the public expects that will persuade the public. It then took even longer to declassify this information, protecting sources and methods, so that's the military's story. But none of this is happening in a vacuum. You see that there's a number of levels of competition between Washington and Teheran. One is in the ether (ph), the environment of the U.N. Security Council, where they're wrangling over Iran's nuclear program. Here on the ground, it's being fought in blood and armor with bullet and bombs. This is very much a real rivalry.

BLITZER: And some would suggest that Michael it sort of sets the stage, potentially, for another war, this one between the United States and Iran. Are there any indications you're seeing that that potentially is in the works?

WARE: Actually, Wolf, I see quite the opposite. Obviously, I'm reading a lot of speculation about that, that what the intention behind this briefing and the leaks of other information regarding Iran is really softening the ground in preparation for the next war or the last war of President Bush's administration.

Quite frankly, Wolf, I know that this is not going to happen. Why? Because not just because the American public no longer has the stomach for it. Nor is there political will for it in Washington. Simply, the American war machine cannot cope with it. It's already straining the men and machines are at breaking point, fighting the wars that are currently under way.

BLITZER: Michael Ware reporting for us from Baghdad -- Michael, thanks.

WARE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Some congressional critics worry what the Bush administration might plan to do with the evidence about Iranian weapons. The president dismissed those concerns in an interview today with C-SPAN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do think it makes sense to make it clear to the Iranians through the international community as that they're isolating themselves, and will continue to press hard to do so. I guess my reaction to all of the noise about, you know, he wants to go to war, is first of all, I don't understand the tactics, and I guess I would say it's political. And on the other hand, I hope that the members of Congress, particularly in the opposition party, understand the grave danger of Iran having a nuclear weapon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president also said the Iranian people are good, honest and decent, but said they've got a government, which in his words, is belligerent, loud, noisy and threatening.

The Russian bear, meanwhile, growling again, an Arctic blast from President Putin aimed at the United States, so what's behind the big chill?

CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us now live from Washington with more on this.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Russians set off alarm bells here in Washington. They have been complaining quietly about U.S. policy for several years now, but now that is rising to a roar.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): Even amid growing international complaints about the United States' foreign policy, the attack from Russian President Vladimir Putin was a surprise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

FOREMAN: One state, the United States, he says, has overstepped its national borders in every way, in economics, in politics, in humanitarian measures. Who would like that? Such tough Russian rhetoric hasn't been heard since the Cold War when Nikita Khrushchev pounded on the podium at the U.N. to demand respect, and U.S. officials seemed eager to warm things up.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: As an old Cold warrior, one of yesterday's speeches almost filled me with nostalgia for a less complex time, almost.

(SHOTS)

FOREMAN: Before the war in Iraq began, U.S./Russian relations were good and getting better, but the Russians oppose the coalition invasion, and the friendship has been strained ever since. Other matters have made it worse, including tough talk by American leaders about another Russian friend, Iran, who are allegedly fueling the violence in Iraq, and NATO troops hunting for suspected war criminals in Bosnia, Russia's backyard. Still, why is Russia making noise now? Simple -- Russia has oil.

HOPE HARRISON, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Russia is in a much stronger position because of the high price of oil and gas. They're feeling rather arrogant about their own power and that they don't need to be pushed around by the U.S. and that they won't be pushed around by the U.S.

FOREMAN: The U.S. has complaints, too. For example, while the U.N. has tried to deter Iran's nuclear program, Russia has resisted tough sanctions against Iran and appears to be helping that country prepare for the worst.

CLIFF KUPCHAN, THE EURASIA GROUP: Iran just took delivery from Russia of anti-air systems, RM-1s (ph), which could very much complicate a Western attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

FOREMAN: No one is calling it a new Cold War yet, but Moscow's frost is reaching all the way to Washington this winter. (END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Obviously some very serious potential implications here, but maybe the Russians are feeling a bit stung themselves. Last week, Secretary Gates was discussing countries that posed diplomatic challenges to America and he threw Russia in with China, Iran, and North Korea. The Russians don't like that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A real chill in the air right now. Thank you very much Tom for that.

Let's check in with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File". Good to be with you in New York, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to the "Big Apple" my friend.

BLITZER: Lovely place you've got.

CAFFERTY: Yes it is. Religion always tricky when it comes to politics -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says he doesn't think voters have a litmus test on religion. Here's a little of what he told The Associated Press -- quoting here.

"If your name is Barack Hussein Obama, you can expect it, some of that. I think the majority of voters know I'm a member of the United Church of Christ and that I take my faith seriously" -- unquote.

Obama did spend part of his childhood in a mostly Muslim part of Indonesia. He's not the only one in the race who could face questions about religion as the campaign rolls on. On the Republican side, Senator Sam Brownback is an evangelical Christian, who converted to Catholicism recently and Mitt Romney is a Mormon.

Romney says people have an interest early on in religion, but once they get to know a candidate better, it's not much of an issue. He told "The New York Times" he's thinking about making a public address about his faith and politics like John Kennedy did in 1960.

Kennedy of course was responding to concerns then about the fact that he was a Roman Catholic. He went on to become the only Catholic ever elected president of the United States. So the question is this.

How much does a presidential candidate's religion matter? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack thank you for that. Jack will be back in a little while.

Good deal or no deal?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I hope with a few hours yet to go, the president might yet reject it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: John Bolton splitting with the Bush administration on North Korea. The former U.N. ambassador says North Korea, the whole deal is bad and he doesn't like it.

Also, live pictures of Senator Barack Obama in New Hampshire right now. This comes as the prime minister of Australia says terrorists are praying, just praying that Senator Barack Obama becomes president. Now the prime minister is under political assault himself.

And Iraq is a boiling kettle of death. There's more bloodshed in the streets. I'll speak about it with Congressman John Murtha. We'll talk about the violence and how some Democrats hope the House of Representatives will respond to the plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's a fight for political turf. Two Democratic senators scrimmaging across the same states vying for the same support -- right now Democratic Senator Barack Obama is in New Hampshire one day after Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigned there.

Our Mary Snow is now joining us from Durham -- in New Hampshire with the latest. What's going on right now, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Senator Barack Obama, as you can see behind me, holding a town hall meeting here at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. The campaign saying about 2,000-plus people filling this auditorium -- he spoke to the crowd, taking questions as well as he has been doing. He has made it very clear that he opposed the war from day one, and here tonight, that is what got the most applause when he mentioned the Iraq war.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I think most of us also recognize that we are now in the midst of a war that never should have been authorized...

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: ... should have never been waged.

(APPLAUSE)

SNOW: And some here in this crowd were with Senator Hillary Clinton over the weekend. They say they have plenty of time to make a decision. They are going to take a good, hard look at all the candidates involved. And some, though, explaining -- kind of describing the mood here tonight as electric, as they waited for Senator Obama, but still they say they are holding out their support, they're here to listen to what he has to say, and while they may be taken with him, calling his presence electric, not ready to cast a vote for him. Wolf? BLITZER: Still a while to go before the New Hampshire primary. Over the weekend, Hillary Clinton was grilled by some of those people at the town meeting -- town hall meeting where she attended. Any tough questions so far coming up for Barack Obama?

SNOW: So far, not so many tough questions. This is a college crowd. This is a friendly crowd. He did speak about the war in Iraq, as we just played. There was certainly a lot of attention to that. He's getting a wide range of questions from health care to global warming. But we have not seen the kind of grilling that we saw over the weekend. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Mary. We'll stand by and watch it together with you. Thank you.

Meanwhile, Australia's prime minister threw a political punch at Senator Barack Obama, but is taking a bruising himself right now. The war in Iraq is certainly at the heart of this escalating war of words.

CNN's Carol Costello is joining us from here in New York with the latest details. What a fight this is proving to be, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: It's turned into quite an ugly fight, Wolf. It is transpacific war of words -- Australia' prime minister calling Barack Obama al Qaeda's dream candidate. It not only prompted Senator Obama to fire back, but the Australian parliament to take action against its own prime minister.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): A nasty debate in the Australian parliament over American politics.

KEVIN RUDD, AUSTRALIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: Prime Minister, how can you credibly say to the parliament today that your statement yesterday only referred to Senator Obama when in fact, Prime Minister, you explicitly attacked the Democratic party as a whole?

COSTELLO: Opposition leader Kevin Rudd moved to censure the Australian prime minister for his weekend criticism of Barack Obama's plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by March 2008.

JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: If I were running al Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray as many times as possible for a victory, not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats.

COSTELLO: That comment set off a transpacific war of words with Barack Obama firing back.

OBAMA: If he's ginned up to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq.

COSTELLO: It wasn't long before Rudd weighed in, saying Howard's close friendship with George Bush colored his remarks, and risked hurting Australia's relationship with the United States, since Democrats control the American Congress.

Howard, even in the face of being censured, was not backing down.

HOWARD: They seem to be running this line that I'm interfering in American domestic politics. That's absurd. What I have done is to criticize Senator Obama's views on a particular issue, and I don't retreat in any way from that criticism.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: No, he doesn't. The censure vote eventually failed, but you can bet the war of words will continue. In fact, Pennsylvania Democrat Congressman John Murtha told you, Wolf, Howard is trying to interfere in U.S. politics, and that is just not proper.

BLITZER: A lot of people unhappy with John Howard right now. Thank you for that, Carol.

Still ahead tonight here in THE SITUATION ROOM, more on this tentative deal with North Korea on its nuclear program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this deal with North Korea undercuts the sanctions resolution with respect to them and I think the Iranians have only to follow the same example.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Tough talk from John Bolton. And that's only just beginning. The former U.N. ambassador explaining why he thinks this North Korea agreement is a very, very bad deal for the United States.

Plus, revealing tape with foul language played at the Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial. We have the actual audio for you and a leak in progress. This is something you rarely hear. You're going to hear it in full tonight right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring stories coming in from around the world. Carol, what's crossing the wires right now?

COSTELLO: Got it right here, Wolf. Winter could take another punch at the northeastern United States. More than 12 feet of snow already on the ground in Redfield, New York from recently lake effect storms. The state's previous record was 10 feet seven inches set in 2002 and guess what? It's not over yet. Another storm system, a nor'easter making its way across the Midwest to the East Coast. It could bring at least another foot of snow.

The FBI says it needs to do more to stop its computer laptops and weapons from being stolen. A Justice Department investigation found the FBI has lost at least 10 laptop computers containing classified information and several more lost or stolen FBI laptops may have sensitive counterterrorism information on them. They're among more than 100 FBI laptops and weapons reported missing between 2001 and 2005.

It looks like English will not become the official language of Nashville, Tennessee. Mayor Bill Purcell vetoed the measure today. He says the ordinance is mean spirited and quote, "does not reflect who we are in Nashville." Local lawmakers passed the measure last week, but the mayor's veto is likely to stand since the measure did not get enough votes needed for an override.

That's a look at the headlines right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you Carol for that.

And just ahead, is time running out for the Iraqis to step up and to take charge of their own destiny?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is really the last chance for them. After that, we need to pursue very narrowly what our strategic interest is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, on the war in Iraq, the nuclear deal with North Korea, and a lot more. You're going to be surprised about what he has to say.

Also, a five-day workweek -- is Congress doing its job and working hard enough for the American people? We'll keeping close tabs.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, an expletive-laden audio of a leak in progress in the trial against Lewis "Scooter" Libby, for the first time we're hearing the man who leaked information about Valerie Plame actually do the leaking.

Rush Limbaugh's grandfather gets a high honor. Today both Democrats and Republicans voted to name a federal courthouse in Missouri after Rush H. Limbaugh, Sr. He was a prominent attorney and civic leader. He died in 1996 at the age of 104 and had practiced law for almost 80 years.

And a presidential prospect wants you to stay tuned. Tomorrow Republican Mitt Romney will make a major announcement in Michigan about his presidential intention. The former Massachusetts governor expected to say he's officially a candidate.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

More revealing audiotapes played in court today at the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby as defense lawyers call on some of Washington's top journalists to help bolster their case -- among those testifying today, the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Bob Woodward.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us live from outside the federal courthouse in Washington with the latest -- another pretty dramatic day, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. Very dramatic, and the defense's strategy as it opened its case today, show the jury that there were reporters in this town who knew that administration critic Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and that they did not get that information from the defendant, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

As you mentioned, the defense's star witness, Bob Woodward of "The Washington Post", they played audio tapes of Woodward's interview with the man now identified as the leaker in this case, then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BOB WOODWARD, THE "WASHINGTON POST": ... What's Scowcroft up to?

RICHARD ARMITAGE, FMR. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: (EXPLETIVE) Scowcroft is looking into the yellowcake thing.

WOODWARD: Oh, yeah?

ARMITAGE: As the PFIAB.

WOODWARD: Yeah. What happened there?

ARMITAGE: They're back together. They knew with yellowcake, the CIA is not going to be hurt by this one...

WOODWARD: I know, that's...

ARMITAGE: ... Hadley and Bob Joseph know. It's documented. We've got our documents on it. We're clean as a (EXPLETIVE) whistle. And George personally got it out of the Cincinnati speech of the president.

WOODWARD: Oh, he did?

ARMITAGE: Oh, yeah.

WOODWARD: Oh, really?

ARMITAGE: Yeah.

WOODWARD: It was taken out?

ARMITAGE: Taken out. George said you can't do this.

WOODWARD: How come it wasn't taken out of the State of the Union then?

ARMITAGE: Because I think it was overruled by the types down at the White House. Condi doesn't like being in the hot spot. But she...

WOODWARD: But it was Joe Wilson who was sent by the agency. I mean, that's just...

ARMITAGE: His wife works in the agency.

WOODWARD: Why doesn't that come out? Why does...

ARMITAGE: Everyone knows it.

WOODWARD: ... that have to be a big secret? Everyone knows.

ARMITAGE: Yeah. And I know (EXPLETIVE) Joe Wilson's been calling everybody. He's pissed off because he was designated as a low-level guy, went out to look at it. So, he's all pissed off.

WOODWARD: But why would they send him?

ARMITAGE: Because his wife's a (EXPLETIVE) analyst at the agency.

WOODWARD: It's still weird.

ARMITAGE: Yes. It -- it's perfect. This is what she does. She's a WMD analyst out there.

WOODWARD: Oh, she is.

ARMITAGE: Yeah.

WOODWARD: Oh, I see.

ARMITAGE: (EXPLETIVE) look at it.

WOODWARD: Oh, I see. I didn't see.

ARMITAGE: Yeah, see?

WOODWARD: Oh, she's the chief WMD?

ARMITAGE: No, she isn't the chief, no.

WOODWARD: But high enough up that she can say, "Oh, yeah, hubby will go."

ARMITAGE: Yeah, he knows Africa.

WOODWARD: Was she out there with him?

ARMITAGE: No.

WOODWARD: When he was ambassador?

ARMITAGE: Not to my knowledge. I don't know. I' don't know if she was out there or not. But his wife is in the agency and is a WMD analyst. How about that (EXPLETIVE)? (END AUDIO CLIP)

TODD: Bob Woodward says he never wrote about that conversation immediately after it occurred. He told the court that he met with Scooter Libby about two weeks after that conversation occurred and that Libby never mentioned Joe Wilson's wife -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What was it like inside the courtroom today when everyone heard that audiotape?

TODD: You literally could have heard a pin drop, Wolf. Bob Woodward sat there very kind of coldly looking at it. Of course, he knew that they were going to play this tape. The jury was focused. They were reading the words kind of chyroned on a screen as they listened to it. Both defense and prosecution teams sat there very coldly. It was, to say the least, a very focused moment in the court.

BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you.

Brian will continue to watch this trial for us.

Also, by the way, testifying today, the political columnist Robert Novak. He named Armitage as his source of Plame's identity as well as presidential adviser Karl Rove, but not -- repeat not -- Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Meanwhile, one of Libby's lawyers told the court no decision has been made about whether he will testify in his own defense and the decision may not be made until the trial is almost over. As for White House adviser Karl Rove, sources with knowledge of the case say he's not expected to testify.

By the way, if you would like to play back exactly what then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said about CIA operative Valerie Plame, we've made it easy for you to do so. The entire audio can be found at CNN.com/situationroomblog.

Back to our top story right now. Could North Korea really be ready to give up its nuclear weapons program? What would the United States have to give in return?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Joining us now from Washington, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. He's now senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.

As you know, there are now reports -- we just heard from our John Vause in Beijing -- of a tentative deal involving the U.S. and other countries and North Korea in which North Korea supposedly would give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for a lot energy assistance and other assistance. Is this a good deal?

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: This is a very bad deal. And I'm hoping that the president has not been fully briefed on it and he still has time to reject it.

It's bad for two reasons. First, it contradicts fundamental premises of the president's policy he's been following for the past six years. And second, it makes the administration look very weak at a time in Iraq and dealing with Iran it needs to look strong. So I hope with few hours yet to go the president might yet reject it.

BLITZER: But why do you say it contradicts his policy? He's been insisting he wanted to negotiate some sort of deal with North Korea through the so-called Six-Party Talks. Why does this contradict that approach?

BOLTON: This is in many respects simply a repetition of the agreed framework of 1994. You know, Secretary Powell in 2001 started off the administration by saying he was prepared to pick up where the Clinton administration left off. President Bush changed course and followed a different approach. This is the same thing that the State Department was prepared to do six years ago. If we going to cut this deal now, it's amazing we didn't cut it back then. So I'm hoping that this is not really what's going to happen.

BLITZER: Well, when you say that, do you suspect that the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice may have a different stance on this issue than, shall we say, the president?

BOLTON: I'm just going say I hope the president is not yet fully briefed. He has a few hours to consider this. It really -- it sends exactly the wrong signal to would-be proliferators around the world, if you hold out long enough and wear down the State Department negotiators, eventually you get rewarded, in this case with massive shipments of heavy fuel oil for doing only partially what needs to be done to complete dismantling of their nuclear program.

BLITZER: It sounds very similar to that deal that the Clinton administration made in the early '90s, '93, '94 with North Korea, a deal that the North Koreans eventually betrayed.

BOLTON: Well, exactly. And this deal says almost nothing about the North Korean program to achieve nuclear weapons through highly enriched uranium. So it's the same fallacy as the Clinton administration focusing -- looking through a soda straw at the Yongbyon nuclear facility and looking at the broader North Korean nuclear effort. I am very disturbed by this deal.

BLITZER: Well, why do you think it sends a bad message to Iraqis and to the Iranians' President Ahmadinejad in Iran? For example, the U.S. and its allies in Europe, Russia, China, they're trying to work out a deal that would stop the Iranians from going forward with a nuclear weapons program?

BOLTON: Well, in both cases the Security Council has imposed sanctions on Iran and on North Korea. I think this deal with North Korea undercuts the sanctions resolution with respect to them. And I think the Iranians have only to follow the same example. The Russians wore the Europeans down. Of course, that's not hard on the initial sanctions resolution. And then they wore us down. If the would-be proliferators can simply through persistence get the United States to compromise on its basic principles, they're going to succeed in proliferation. That's why this deal is such a bad precedent.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit about Iraq because I've read some of your recent comments, which seem to differ from the Bush administration's stance. For example, the president said back in November 28th, "I'd like to see stability and a unified Iraq. A young democracy will provide the stability we look for."

In a recent interview with "Le Monde" you said the United States has no strategic interest in the fact that there's one Iraq or three Iraqs. You don't think necessarily it would be bad if Iraq was partitioned into three separate states?

BOLTON: I think the United States has to focus on what its interests are. And our principle strategic interest in Iraq is that it not become a base for terrorist activity. Whether that can best be achieved through one Iraq in different kinds of arrangements or three Iraqs is really not that much of a matter of interest to us. It is a matter of interest to the Iraqis. But we have to look out for the United States and have to frame our policies based and our best understanding of how that strategic objective we need can be obtained.

BLITZER: You also told "Le Monde" -- you said, "This is the last effort. If the Iraqis cannot straighten the situation, that's their fault."

Are you confident that this Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki has what it takes to get the job done?

BOLTON: Certainly not. I think it's clear that the United States has met the obligation that it incurred when it overthrew Saddam Hussein. And that's to try and provide some conditions of security for the Iraqis to determine what kind of country or what kind of society they want in the future. We have met that obligation. That obligation does not need to be extended. And this is really the last chance for them. After that, we need to pursue very narrowly what our strategic interest is. And that's making sure that terrorism doesn't find root in that country.

BLITZER: He's always been blunt. And you've just seen him be blunt here in the SITUATION ROOM.

Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.

BOLTON: Glad to be here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And still ahead tonight, a congressional Democrat blasting the prime minister of Australia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN MURTHA, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: He's trying to interfere in our election, and that's something that shouldn't happen. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Congressman John Murtha defending Senator Barack Obama against the stinging criticism of Australian Prime Minister John Howard. I'll speak with Congressman Murtha. That's coming up.

Also, and promise kept or promise broken? Before they won the election, Democrats pledged to work a five-day week. But are they?

Stay with us. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The House is set to begin debate tomorrow on a nonbinding resolution that expressly disapproves of the president's plan to send more than 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq. Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania has been one of the leading critics of the Bush administration's handing of the war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

A lot of -- a lot of critics of the war are saying, is this the best that a Democratic House of Representatives can do, a nonbinding resolution? Why not something that has a little bit more teeth to it?

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think the public spoke, as you know, Wolf -- and we have talked about this before -- in the election itself.

I think this is the first step. The first step is say to the president: Mr. President, Republicans and Democrats are against the escalation.

Then, the next step is the supplemental appropriation, which means something. It's the money that goes to the people serving in Iraq. It's -- it's the money that goes to the troops.

Now, we're not going to cut off any money to the troops. But we're going to make sure the money is -- every cent is justified. We're going to make sure that -- that the troops don't get sent in without the training, without the equipment that they need. We're going to make sure they don't get extended. We're looking at closing down Guantanamo. We're looking at bulldozing Abu Ghraib.

We're looking at a number of things -- no permanent bases, no torture, those kind of things -- in the supplemental. That's a substantive vote. And that's the next thing that will come up. And we are having substantial hearings on readiness for the troops in the United States. And we're building a case to do that.

I don't think anybody wants to send the troops back into Iraq without the proper training, without the proper equipment. And that is what they will have to vote on, on March 15th or 16th. BLITZER: As you know, Democratic Senator Barack Obama, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, he says he would like all U.S. combat forces out of Iraq by March of next year. He would like to see that withdrawal start in May of this year.

Over the weekend, Australian Prime Minister John Howard really lashed out at this idea, and lashed out personally at Barack Obama.

Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: I think he is wrong.

If I were running al Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray as many times as possible for a victory, not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right.

Not only is John Howard taking on Barack Obama; he is seemingly taking on you, as well, because your attitude, your policy is not all that different than Barack Obama's.

MURTHA: No, that's exactly right.

But -- but that's easy for somebody to say that hasn't really participated heavily in the deployment. The American people are paying $8.4 billion a month. Our troops are being in harm's way every day.

Now, the Australians are -- are one of our best allies. But for him to say something like this, when this is a policy decision, a policy difference with the president of the United States, is uncalled for. He is trying to interfere in our election. And that is -- that's something that shouldn't happen.

We appreciate the help of the Australians, but they haven't done anything compared to what the United States forces have done.

Our troops are in harm's way because of the policy. We differ with the policy of the president of the United States. We want our troops to come home. We think redeployment is the first step to stability. We all want stability in the Middle East.

BLITZER: Well, what about, Congressman, when he says, this would be a bonanza; this would be a gift for al Qaeda, what you and other Democrats are recommending? What do you say to him, when he says al Qaeda should just mark the calendar and wait for that date?

MURTHA: I will tell you, they will rue the day when the United States gets out of there, because the Iraqis know who they are, and they will get rid of them. I am absolutely convinced. They know the -- the tribes. They know the geography. The -- the -- the Iraqis know who the al Qaeda are. It's just that we, obviously, provide the incentive to recruit al Qaeda. Iran wants us in there, and -- and al Qaeda wants us in there. The minute we're gone, they will take care of al Qaeda by themselves. Al Qaeda will not even be a factor in Iraq once the United States is gone.

BLITZER: All right.

John Murtha, congressman from Pennsylvania, Democrat, thanks very much for coming in.

MURTHA: Good talking to you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And still ahead tonight, you probably have to work five days a week, if not more. Shouldn't your representatives in Congress be forced to do the same thing? We'll see if Democrats are keeping a campaign promise to work five days, or are they breaking that promise?

And how much do you consider a presidential candidate's religion? Jack Cafferty is asking that question. He'll be back with your e-mail right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It was one of the Democrats' key campaign promises, to make Congress work an actual five-day week. Has the new majority been able to deliver so far?

Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash is joining us now live with more on this -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the new Democratic majority is finding out early it's not so easy to keep every campaign promise, especially when some of their own rank and file say it's just as important to be home with their constituents as back in here Capitol.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice over): 1:00 p.m., the Senate is gaveled in to session by the Democratic majority.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: There will be no roll call votes today.

BASH: Working, but no votes scheduled, meaning senators don't really have to be here. Barack Obama, for example, is free to campaign for president.

Over in the House, Democrats will hold a series of early-evening votes. On what? One praising Homeland Security Department employees; two, naming post offices; and a bill naming a Missouri courthouse after talk show host Rush Limbaugh's grandfather, who was a well-known lawyer.

REP. LYNN WESTMORELAND (R), GEORGIA: Because all 435 members in this body have to fly back up here on Mondays to vote on naming a post office.

BASH: Democrats are under intense pressure to force a five-day workweek because they campaigned against Republicans with this...

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: What we see is a drive- by Congress -- Tuesday night to Thursday morning.

BASH: But here's the reality. Democrats have controlled the House and Senate seven weeks now. Not one has been a full five-day workweek in session with votes.

Democrats insist they are working harder -- 45 votes so far in the Senate, versus just 13 at this time last year under the Republican majority. And Democrats say committees are busy even when there's no action on the House or Senate floor, pointing to 52 hearings so far scrutinizing the president's Iraq policy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are some good signs, signs of a seriousness of purpose to change the way of doing business. But so far, the signs of seriousness of purpose have not been met by action on the ground to turn this in to a model Congress.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (on camera): This week, the House floor is likely to be in high gear all five days. Tomorrow, the House begins three days of debate on a symbolic resolution opposing more troops in Iraq. And a vote on that, Wolf, is expected on Friday.

BLITZER: Dana Bash, keeping them honest on Capitol Hill. Not an easy job.

Thanks very much, Dana, for that.

So what does a typical work day look like for certain members of Congress? Let's bring in our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton for a closer look -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this Congress, there have been a couple of lawmakers that have taken the unprecedented step of posting their entire schedule on online at their websites. In the Senate Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana. His schedule for today has just gone live. You see that he was in town today, presiding on the Senate floor this afternoon.

And on the House side, Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, is also posting her schedule online. Look a couple dates last week and you'll see that Thursday's House business, a lot more busy than Friday.

Now, these online efforts have brought groups that push for greater government transparency to praise these lawmakers. But so far it's just these two that we see have been doing it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much for that, Abbi.

Let's find out what's coming up at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW". John Roberts filling in for Paula tonight -- John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Wolf.

Among the stories that we're bringing out in the open tonight, in response to literally thousands of e-mails from viewers, we're taking another look at atheists. They say they are the victims of more intolerance and discrimination than anyone else in America.

Plus, find out what happened to a college newspaper columnist who described rape as a, quote, "magical experience".

Also coming up at the top of the hour, is Senator Barack Obama too white for some black voters?

We'll see you then, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, John. Thanks very much.

John, filling in for Paula tonight.

Up ahead, Jack Cafferty wants to know this: how much does a presidential candidate's religion matter? Jack's standing by with the "Cafferty File".

And you're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack. He's got the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, I do.

The question this hour is how much does a presidential candidate's religion matter to you?

Ed in Texas: "Before President Bush, I would have said it doesn't matter at all. However, after the president said he 'consulted a higher father' for advice about whether or not to invade Iraq, I will not support a candidate who lives in a faith-based reality, because there's no personal responsibility for poor decisions. They can just be blamed on God."

Sean in Nashville: "A candidate's religious affiliation doesn't matter one whit to me. However, how a candidate's religion affects the way he or she will govern does. I don't care what religion you are, be a secular leader and you're OK with me."

Nathan in Washington: "A candidate's religion matters a lot. You'll know when it no longer matters the day an atheist is widely viewed as having a realistic shot at the White House." Maryellen, Waldwick, New Jersey: "I wouldn't care what the religion of the next president is, or even if he smokes cigarettes. I just want a president who doesn't keep breaking the law."

Bob in San Diego: "In his 2004 Democratic convention acceptance speech, John Kerry said, 'I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side.'" Unquote. "The attitude behind that statement is the crucial litmus test of the impact of any president's religion."

And Finally, John wrote this: "Jack, the questions today were not very good. Maybe tomorrow will be better."

Go to hell, John. We work very on these.

BLITZER: Is that a friend of yours?

CAFFERTY: If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and read more of them online.

BLITZER: All right, yes, we're taping the SITUATION ROOM. Today we're in New York. Friday, I'm going to be in Nevada. We're going to Vegas. We're going to Vegas because Nevada's an important state right now. You know, normally, it's Iowa, the caucuses. Then it's New Hampshire. But now the Democrats decided to put Nevada in -- you used to live in that part...

CAFFERTY: I was raised -- Reno's my home town.

BLITZER: So you know the West?

CAFFERTY: You're going to Vegas because you've got ringside seats at some floor show you want to see out there. Don't try to kid us.

BLITZER: But it's an important state, Nevada.

CAFFERTY: You know what, though? You do say the name of the state correctly. A lot of these East Coast types say Nevoduh (ph) and it ain't Nevoduh. It's Nevada.

BLITZER: You know, it's -- Las Vegas is a city now that has almost two million people. It's the fastest growing city in the United States.

CAFFERTY: When I was kid we used to the bus from Reno to Las Vegas over Easter break. My uncle was the manager of the Golden Nugget Casino in downtown Las Vegas. The town had about 50,000 people in it. Now there's over two million people in it.

BLITZER: It's amazing.

CAFFERTY: It's unbelievable.

BLITZER: The fastest growing...

CAFFERTY: Where do they keep getting the water?

Colorado River, I guess.

BLITZER: I don't know. We'll find out when we're there.

CAFFERTY: Find out, will you? Where do you keep the water?

BLITZER: Jack, I'll be back in Washington tomorrow.

Thanks very much.

That's it. we're here in the SITUATION ROOM weekday afternoons from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll be back for another hour at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Until tomorrow, thanks very much for joining us.

Tomorrow, among our guests, by the way, Democratic presidential candidate Chris Dodd. He says it's time to use the power of the purse.

Let's go to "PAULA ZAHN NOW". John Roberts, sitting in for Paula -- John.

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