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CNN NEWSROOM

'Confession' in Iran; Showdown Over Iraq; Rove's Role in Attorney Firings

Aired March 30, 2007 - 09:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Bolton says if Iran gets away with this action, it will embolden Tehran in its international defiance.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Chad Myers joining us now from the severe weather center. And we do have quite a bit of that, it looks like, across the middle section and into Texas, right?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. This is where the main threat, guys, will be today, right across West Texas, all the way into San Antonio, Austin, right into Dallas/Ft. Worth as well.

Right now, the focus is west of San Antonio really almost west of the hill country. We had a couple of storms, though, that were rotating earlier, not that far from El Dorado, also on up to about Paint Rock. The storms now, though, not rotating and no warnings on them right now.

We still have severe thunderstorms out there, but nothing that's rotating enough to make tornado warnings. Nineteen degrees right now in Denver, 66 in Dallas. Here's a live shot from Denver.

And if you've been basking in some nice sunshine and, oh, you know, 80 temperatures across the east like in Memphis today, 81, and you want some cool air, head to Denver. Nineteen, and yes that white grass is snow. They had some snow yesterday and the day before yesterday as well as the backside of the storm has pushed moisture into the mountains. Looks like Wyoming will pick up an awful lot more than even the Colorado Rockies did, but you can still be skiing in the spring and you can get weather like that.

We'll take extra snow. It will last a little longer now.

From Chicago all the way down to St. Louis, some showers, but the bigger story will be the threat of severe weather across Texas. We're going to watch it for San Antonio and also through all of the hill country and really extend all the way up to Kansas City and all of Oklahoma today with the threat of tornadoes again. We're back into that threat like we had Wednesday. More of the ingredients coming together when we had those five dozen tornadoes on Wednesday rather than just four tornadoes that we had yesterday. Back to you guys.

COLLINS: Yikes. All right, Chad. Thank you.

MYERS: You're welcome.

HARRIS: Bombings and bloodshed, the death toll is climbing this morning from a string of attacks in Iraq. The Interior Ministry says 124 people have died from a pair of bombings in marketplaces in Baghdad and Diyala province. The market bombings were the deadliest attacks in a wave of violence in Iraq yesterday.

In another incident a roadside bomb exploded along a busy street in Baghdad, killing two people and wounding six. This morning U.S. and Iraqi forces say they have arrested a suspect linked to a network bringing sophisticated bombs into Iraq. The so-called explosively formed projectiles were among the weapons found during an operation last month in Baquba.

COLLINS: Once the U.S. enemy, now an ally. Some former Iraqi insurgents are joining U.S. troops in the fight against al Qaeda. CNN's Michael Ware reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He looks like an insurgent. He's actually a U.S. ally, the new face of America's fight against al Qaeda. "Al Qaeda slaughtered our sheikhs, our children," he says, "and we will terminate them."

By "we," me he means men like these in Iraq's western Anbar Province manning this checkpoint which, though unofficial, is supported by the U.S. military. The men drawn from tribes or their umbrella network, the Anbar Salvation Council.

Police vehicles pass through without question, but the tribes have split their forces. Some to the police who intone tribal chants before operations.

While others are kept as private paramilitaries. Hit squads, assault teams sanctioned by the Iraqi government. Their loyalty remaining with their tribal sheikhs. All of which suits an America desperate to crush al Qaeda.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: Beyond Baghdad and moreover a number of tribes in Anbar province have in recent months finally said enough and begun to link arms against extremist operatives who have killed their sheikhs and sought to poison their young people's minds.

WARE: Here in Anbar Province, America cannot defeat al Qaeda with the troops it has. So it's turned to the tribes, Baathists and nationalist insurgents of the Salvation Council, virtually contracting out parts of the battle against al Qaeda to tribal fighters.

The deal is simple. America gives local leaders free reign as long as they root out and kill al Qaeda.

Iraqis like villager Abu Miriam (ph) have tired of al Qaeda. He says his people began fighting U.S. forces but foreigners infiltrated their ranks. "If you talk against them, they let you go at first, then come back and behead you later," he says.

These tensions provoke the tribes' Salvation Council to work alongside U.S. Marines and soldiers. Its members carry weapons, launch operations against targets they select, make arrests and conduct interrogations. All with American acquiescence.

In a September 2006 U.S. intelligence briefing, it appeared the tribes had been given a license to kill. "The tribes effectively sought out and killed on a repeated basis elements infiltrating from Syria as well as local elements trying to re-establish," a U.S. official said.

Asked if this was really an assassination program backed by U.S. forces, Zalmay Khalilzad answered:

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: We lose no sleep over the struggle against al Qaeda and the killing of al Qaeda people.

WARE: The Salvation Council says the U.S. has given them rifle ammunition, a claim the U.S. military does not dispute. And the Iraqi government has given them 30 vehicles.

"We are not looking for bloodshed. We minimize it," this senior council member says. "If a suspect is peaceful, we arrest and hand him to the authorities, but if he resists, there will be no other way than to shoot him."

Coordinating the tribe's operations with the Americans, says the sheikh, is discreet. "When we meet a government minister, sometimes we see an American sitting in."

Discussions Ambassador Khalilzad has listened to himself.

KHALILZAD: I have hosted here the embassy meeting between the minister of defense, minister of interior, other senior officials and Anbaris who have come.

WARE: Anbaris who represent insurgents. And in his final press conference, the ambassador goes further still.

KHALILZAD: Coalition commanders have been able to engage some insurgents to explore ways to collaborate in fighting the terrorists.

WARE: The Salvation Council doesn't hide its insurgent past. "Most of us carried weapons against the occupiers at the beginning," says the sheikh. "Then we dropped them and started a dialogue, but that doesn't mean we accept the occupation."

Al Qaeda has hit back at the tribes, hard, sending chlorine bombs, car bombs and suicide bombers in explosive chest vests against their leaders. Asked what would become of him if al Qaeda knew he was talking, Abu Miriam replied, "I will be killed. In fact, slaughtered, slaughtered with a knife."

But not if these police and tribal paramilitaries can help it. For they are America's new frontline against al Qaeda. Michael Ware, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HARRIS: Let's take you to New York now. The New York Stock Exchange, give you a look at the big board. There we go. There the bell. Getaway day, Friday. The Dow starts the day at 12,348 after closing up 48 points yesterday. Not a bad day. The NASDAQ was flat. Yeah, Heidi.

COLLINS: Do they practice the clapping? They talk about that it ...

HARRIS: No, I think it's a part of the note you get, this is the way you behave when you push the button that rings the bell, because you don't ring a bell. You push a button that rings the bell and then everybody claps. Yeah, we're so happy.

We're going to check all of the business headlines of the day with our cover girl. Did you see this, Heidi?

COLLINS: I did. Yep.

HARRIS: Susan Lisovicz. "Business Week" right there handling her business from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

COLLINS: Everybody runs in her shots.

HARRIS: We'll check in with Susan later this morning in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Check this out now. You could say that she was cough dropped.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The captain said I had to get off the plane. And I started crying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Bumped from her flight for a cough? The story straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And watch this little guy here. Yeah, yeah, the big guy's home from war. The daddy man.

A teary father and son reunion in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Want to get this information out to you now. Just in here at CNN, apparently a third letter has been released from the British sailor that is being held captive with 14 other marines and sailors. This is the female, Faye Turney. This letter is apparently to the British people. She first apologizes for entering Iranian waters, and then probably the most telling portion of the letter says this, "I believe for our countries to move forward we need to start with withdrawing forces from Iraq and leave the people of Iraq to start rebuilding their lives." This whole situation quickly turns to Iraq and the situation there. So once again, Iran has released this third letter. Of course, we cannot independently confirm whether or not Turney even wrote the letter, but we'll continue to follow this and bring you more excerpts as the day goes on here.

HARRIS: She was heading home from a class trip, but she never got off the ground. Bumped off the flight when she couldn't stop coughing. CNN's Carol Costello reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RACHEL COLLIER, CONTINENTAL PASSENGER: Every time we'd laugh we'd both start coughing.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Rachel Collier had the dreaded uncontrollable cough, a 16-year-old who wasn't feeling well seated onboard a Continental flight from New York to far-away Hawaii.

RACHEL COLLIER: I woke up coughing and I kind of panicked because I couldn't breathe.

COSTELLO: Collier, who had been enjoying the beauty of Washington, DC., and New York on a class field trip caught some kind of a bug. Her excessive coughing seemed so severe on board that plane, the pilot ordered to get off.

RACHEL COLLIER: The captain said I had to get off the plane, and I started crying.

COSTELLO: Continental said it is the pilot's decision whether to eject a passenger, and that "Continental's first priority is the health and safety of all of its passengers and crew members." Rachel's dad is not happy.

RANDY COLLIER, RACHEL COLLIER'S FATHER: I was pretty angry. When you get a call at 8:30 in the morning from a crying daughter, basically, you kind of get a little freaked out. What's going on?

COSTELLO: So, when is a cough so severe it'll get you kicked off a plane? A couple of days ago, a whole group of coughing passengers boarded another Continental flight in Hong Kong. Fifteen hours later, it landed at Newark.

SUSAN BLAIR, CONTINENTAL PASSENGER: I heard some people coughing, and thought, well, that doesn't sound good. But I don't know if they were really sick, they just, you know, it sounded like a deeper cough than a normal cough.

COSTELLO: The Centers for Disease Control says those passengers were allowed to fly even though exhibiting flu-like symptoms when they boarded in Hong Kong.

When they became sicker the air, Continental notified officials of the problem. All 272 passengers were detained on the ground in Newark until doctors decided they had nothing more serious than the flu.

As for Rachel, she made it back to Hawaii Wednesday and she is feeling just fine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: The sex law that sent him away has been changed. But he is still in prison. The case of Janarlo Wilson (ph) coming up next in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: That's kind of cool Podcast music there, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yep.

HARRIS: You already know to catch us weekday mornings, correct? 9:00 a.m. Until noon Eastern. Are we on the same page with this? Did you know you can take us anywhere with you on your iPod? Make it a part of your day-to-day life. The anchor hands there. The CNN NEWSROOM podcast. I was waving them around like I was bringing in a 747 or something. Available 24/7 on your iPod.

COLLINS: OK. Grab your tissues and we'll all try to keep it together. You will definitely need them for this next story. A U.S. sailor comes home from Iraq and heads straight to his little boy's school for a surprise reunion. Reporting from western Washington State, Elisa Hahn from CNN affiliate KING.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELISA HAHN, KING TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the last seven months, Ensign Bill Hawes has been in Iraq, an eternity for his family, especially his six-year-old son, who had no idea his dad was coming home and was surprising him in class.

JOHN HAWES, FATHER HOME FROM IRAQ: I missed you, too, daddy.

HAHN: All year the Sedro-Wooley six-year-old had written letters to his dad and his kindergarten class at Central Elementary joined in, sending the sailor care packages. A tearful John got to introduce his father to all his pen pals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's his name?

JOHN HAWES: Bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Bill.

ENSIGN BILL HAWES, U.S. NAVY: It's great to be home. Seven months over there, it's nice to see my kids and all again, my wife.

JULIE HAWES, WIFE: I am so ecstatic. I am so proud of him.

HAHN: The Hawes family was happy to share their joy with the whole class, who all took part in the welcome home party, the sweetest homecoming for a sailor gone too long and for a little boy who dreamed of this day with his dad. In Sedro-Wooley, Elisa Hahn, KING 5 News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Just love it.

HARRIS: You all right?

COLLINS: Yes, I'm good. Oh. Carry on.

HARRIS: All right. Still to come this morning in THE NEWSROOM, a British detainee on tape, Iran calls it an apology, London calls it outrageous. You can judge for yourself right here in THE NEWSROOM.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Florida, Ohio State, Georgetown, UCLA, all facing off in a battle to say who plays in a national championship game Monday. As the NCAA men's basketball Final Four kicks off in Atlanta, cnn.com has all the details you might need before that big game begins.

Looking for a spot in the final game, returning champion Florida is set to play UCLA Saturday. UCLA is looking to avenge their loss to Florida in last year's final match. Ohio State will play Georgetown for the other final spot. This is Georgetown's first Final Four appearance since 1985.

So, who do you think is going to play for the title? You can tell us by participating in this poll and answer which match-ups you would like to see.

Also, check out this gallery to see what teams a few celebrities are picking as their champions. And make sure you are on top of your game. Check out our experts' commentary and predictions on who just might win it all.

For the latest on the Final Four, you can always log on to cnn.com/sports. For the Dot Com desk, I'm Veronica De la Cruz.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Want to get you up to speed on a story that we're following here today. We had learned that a news conference will be coming regarding this next story at 10:00 Eastern from the FDA. They'll be coming to the microphones to discuss the recall here.

Let me give you some background for a moment. Animal rights activists today do plan to demand that the pet food recall, that it be expanded to include dry varieties. Meanwhile, some grieving pet owners may come together to take action. CNN's Chris Lawrence reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two months ago, butch was happy, healthy dog. Now, Butch's owner holds his cremated remains and blames his death on Menu Foods.

(on camera): Have you called the company?

JULIE MITCHELL, PET DIED DUE TO CONTAMINATION: Yes, I have. And it is so hard to get through.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Julie Mitchell said she's called a dozen times and not once has she been able to speak with the company that made Butch's dog food.

MITCHELL: You know, Eukanuba is supposed to be healthy for your animal, good for your pets. And unfortunately, it killed mine.

LAWRENCE: When scientists discovered rat poison in the same brand Butch was eating, Mitchell hired a lawyer.

(on camera): We know hundreds of pets have already been affected, but is that all?

TIMOTHY PRINCE, ATTORNEY: That the tip of the iceberg.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Attorney Timothy Prince represents pet owners in Southern California, but he believes there are thousands more victims out there.

PRINCE: The courts are kind of choosy about which cases are appropriate for a class action, but this has all the makings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The issue of the litigation we'll follow up in due course. Our principal concern is pet safety.

LAWRENCE: Menu Foods says it will pay the medical bills for owners who can prove their pets got sick from the tainted food. Some owners can't forgive themselves for feeding the pets the food that might have killed him.

MITCHELL: I know it's not my fault, but still I gave it to him.

LAWRENCE: Julie Mitchell adopted Butch when he was three months old, raised him for seven years.

MITCHELL: That there's not one day that doesn't go by where I don't sit here and tell him that I miss him.

LAWRENCE: She wants to the company to compensate pet owners for emotional distress as well, and a class action suit means she won't have to wage that fight alone.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, San Bernardino, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Once again, animal rights activist urging the pet food recall be widened to cover dry food as well. We may hear something about that when the FDA holds a live briefing at those microphones. You can see it shortly coming up.

We believe any minute now right here in THE NEWSROOM. HARRIS: Getting older in the workplace can be difficult for anyone faced with being replaced by someone younger and likely with a lower salary. And for women in the entertainment industry, it seems to happen much sooner than with men of the same age. In this week's "Life After Work," Randi Kaye brings us the story of one former actress who's taken on a much different role to combat this issue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From Broadway to Hollywood, the entertainment industry celebrates youth especially when it comes to its female performers. Outside of Meryl Streep or Judi Dench, there are thousands of other women who suddenly have to struggle to find work once they reach a certain age.

CAROL HARRIS-MANNES, FORMER ACTRESS: Women in the industry, especially after they hit their 40s, are not welcomed. They start to get less work, and many women say the same thing that I said. Now what am I going to do with the rest of my life?

KAYE: Carol Harris-Mannes knows their pain because she was once there herself.

HARRIS-MANNES: I did everything I wanted to do -- theater, film, TV, a lot of commercials. And then one day around '95 it was like my fire went out.

KAYE: So Harris-Mannes decided to go back to school at age 57 and earn a Masters in social work. That's when she received a callback from her former profession, this time offering a much different role -- social worker at the Actor's Fund, a support service for entertainment workers.

HARRIS-MANNES: It was the perfect place for me because I understand the population so well, and luckily enough, after I graduated, a job opened up here and so I've been here ever since.

KAYE: Harris-Mannes runs a support group focusing on career development for older women in the entertainment field.

HARRIS-MANNES: Thanks for catching me and helping me to land safely.

KAYE: Another important part of her work is helping entertainment workers who face serious health issues.

HARRIS-MANNES: I feel a sense of accomplishment when a woman comes in who was just diagnosed with breast cancer and she has no insurance and she doesn't know how she's going to get through this, and to find her someplace to go where she can get treated and successfully recover, that to me is tremendously satisfying.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS: Defiant Democrats, a veto threat from the president. The stage is set now for a showdown over pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq. Find out what happens next in THE NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm Tony Harris.

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

Watch events come in to the NEWSROOM live. It is Friday, March 30th. And here's what's on the rundown.

New video this morning showing three captured British troops. One of them apologizes for entering Iran's waters. Iran calls that a confession. Britain calls it a disgrace.

HARRIS: Five dozen tornadoes slamming the Plains this week, and more may strike today. Meteorologist Chad Myers with the latest alerts on this violent spring outburst.

COLLINS: Father and son reunion. A little boy gets the surprise of his life. His dad returns from Iraq unannounced. Kindergarten shock and awe in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: British military forces not ignoring the latest act of defiance from Iran. New videotape surfacing this morning of the sailors in question.

Here with the latest, CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, good morning.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, as that new video emerges, everyone both in the United Kingdom, in Britain, and here in Washington watching all military movements in the Gulf very closely. What has been announced this morning is that the Royal Marines, the Ministry of Defense in London is sending replacement forces to the Persian Gulf.

A small platoon of Royal Marines has now arrived in the northern Persian Gulf to go aboard the HMS Cornwall. Of course, the ship that the seized British troops were operating from. Royal Marines replacement platoon there now. And you can assume quite accurately that in the next several hours, if not the next day, additional military equipment will be arriving, replacement equipment, including some additional small Zodiac-type boats, the type that the troops were aboard when they were seized.

If anything, Britain, as well as the United States, sending a message that they won't be chased out of the neighborhood by these events. All of this, of course, Tony, emerging as that new video has come out of Iran showing again some of these troops, including one young man from the British military, apologizing for this incident -- Tony.

HARRIS: Hey, Barbara, what are you hearing, what are you seeing about a military response from the Pentagon to what's going on?

STARR: Well, to be very clear, everyone is hoping for a diplomatic solution. But, indeed, the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz will be setting sail from the West Coast of the United states in the next day or so and going to the Persian Gulf to replace the carrier Eisenhower.

What does all of this mean? It's a one-for-one swap, but what it does mean is that the U.S. Navy is going to keep two aircraft carriers in that region for some time to come. Really, our sources telling us, it's all part of a message being sent that at least two of the key military forces in the region who operate in the Persian Gulf, the United States and the British, will not be chased out of the neighborhood by this incident.

HARRIS: Yes.

STARR: They're going to maintaining their routine maritime patrol and security operations -- Tony.

HARRIS: OK.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, for us this morning.

Barbara, thank you.

Let's sort of recap where we are in this story.

Fast-moving developments this morning in this international standoff between Iran and Great Britain over 15 captured British sailors and marines. Iranian television this morning releasing -- we'll show it to you here in just a second -- new video of what it says is a sailor's confession. And last hour, British Prime Minister Tony Blair responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I really don't know why the Iranian regime keep doing this. I mean, all it does is enhance people's sense of disgust at captured personnel being paraded and manipulated in this way. It doesn't fool anyone.

And what the Iranians have to realize is that if they continue in this way, they will face increasing isolation. The United Nations yesterday, the European Union today -- we'll be talking to other key allies over the weekend. And we've just got to pursue this with the necessary firmness and determination, but also -- but also patience, because there is only one possible conclusion to this, and that is that our personnel are released safe and sound.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS: And we will continue to follow developments in this fast-moving story throughout the morning here in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Meanwhile, dark clouds rising in the Plains states, bracing for more severe weather today. Oklahoma and Texas back in the bull's eye for possible tornadoes and flooding.

This is Oklahoma City, where they are cleaning up from yesterday's tornado. Twisters have killed at least four people in three states since Wednesday. At least five people hurt in Oklahoma City. One Oklahoma resident describes what happened when bad weather blew in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I was just sitting watching TV, and I saw something flying through the air and got my four kids and got in the closet in the middle of the house, and we stayed safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: In Texas, flash flooding in parts of the state there. There have also been a number of high-water rescues along flooded roads. Some residents have actually had to evacuate.

And what a nasty situation there. The worst part of all of it is when it's the same area that you were just talking about, you know, within a day or two ago.

HARRIS: Yes.

COLLINS: Chad Myers joining us now to bring us up to speed on all of this.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: Bombings and bloodshed. The death toll is climbing this morning from a string of attacks in Iraq.

The Interior Ministry says 124 people have died from a pair of bombings at marketplaces in Baghdad and Diyala Province. The market bombings were the deadliest attacks in a wave of violence in Iraq yesterday.

In another incident, a roadside bomb exploded along a busy street in Baghdad, killing two people and wounding six.

This morning, U.S. and Iraqi forces say they have arrested a suspect linked to a network bringing sophisticated bombs into Iraq. The so-called explosively-formed projectiles were among the weapons found during an operation last month in Baquba.

COLLINS: Senate Democrats ignoring threats of a presidential veto and setting a deadline for pulling troops out of Iraq.

CNN's Andrea Koppel has details now on the showdown over Iraq. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Bush was all smiles as he joined congressional Democratic leaders in honoring another generation of war veterans. Only hours earlier, he was all business, repeating a threat to veto an emergency spending bill for U.S. troops.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We expect there to be no strings on our commanders.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: The ayes are 51, the nays are 47.

KOPPEL: But by the slimmest of margins, Senate Democrats passed the bill. And with the help of two Republicans, Nebraska's Chuck Hagel, and Oregon's Gordon Smith, practically dared Mr. Bush to veto it.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The ball is in the president's court. We have done what we had to do to take care of people who are fighting for us.

KOPPEL: Like the House version, the $123 billion Senate bill is chockabloc with sweeteners, pet projects to help farmers, Iraq war veterans, and victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Republicans called it a ploy to buy votes.

But even more alarming, they said, the bill's goal to remove most U.S. combat troops from Iraq by March 31, 2008. That's five months earlier than the August 31st deadline agreed to by the House. Republicans said Democrats had, in effect, set a date for defeat.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: It is the wrong message at the wrong time. Surely, this will embolden the enemy. It will not help our troops in any way. It's a big mistake.

KOPPEL: The challenge now for appointed lawmakers in the House and Senate, to bridge their differences on a date for withdrawal before the bill is sent to the president's desk. A bigger challenge, how to proceed if Mr. Bush makes good on a threat to veto it.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: We challenge the president not to veto a bill that finally takes care of those men and women who have worked so hard for us.

KOPPEL (on camera): And despite the fact that Senate Democrats and Republicans have already selected members to negotiate with the House, over in the House, Republicans and Democrats have yet to do so, which means any effort to reconcile their differences will have to wait until at least the middle of next month. That's when Congress returns from its spring break.

Andrea Koppel, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HARRIS: From fighting U.S. forces to joining them, some former insurgents now on the front lines of the war on terror.

That story in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: A teenager can't stop a coughing fit. The pilot puts her off the plane.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I woke up and I was coughing, and then I kind of panicked because I couldn't breathe. The captain said I had to get off the plane. And I started crying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Cough drop in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: That's good.

Prayer first, then play ball. A grieving team is back in black today -- in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: And watch this little guy right here.

OK. I can't talk. You go.

HARRIS: Getting a little lumpy myself here. Overjoyed. The big guy's home from war. A teary father -- well, and the son there in tears as well. The reunion in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: You're in the NEWSROOM. I'm Heidi Collins.

Coming up, a British detainee on tape. Iran calls it an apology. London calls it outrageous.

Judge for yourself coming up.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris.

Justice Department officials agree to private interviews about those eight fired federal prosecutors.

Who's talking and who's not? That's ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: The attorney general's former chief of staff gets a Senate grilling. Who knew what about the firings of eight federal prosecutors? Well, Democrats dig into White House adviser Karl Rove's role.

Here now, CNN's Brian Todd.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He joked about the U.S. attorney's story the night before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just want to ask you some questions about...

KARL ROVE, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Lots of people want to ask me questions.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD: Hours later, Senate Democrats clearly frustrated they couldn't questioned Karl Rove, grilled former justice official Kyle Sampson about him, zeroing in on e-mails, meetings, trying to discover whether Rove's fingerprints were on the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

Sampson is asked did he collaborate with Rove to get former Rove aide, Tim Griffin (ph), appointed to one of those posts

KYLE SAMPSON, FORMER GONZALES CHIEF OF STAFF: I don't remember Karl Rove ever talking to me, in person or on the phone. I don't remember anyone telling me that Mr. Rove was interested in Mr. Griffin being appointed.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Then do you know why you would mention it in your e-mail where you said that was important to Harriet and Karl if there was no reason. Do you know -- have any idea why you would write that?

SAMPSON: As I said, that was based on an assumption. I knew it was important to Sarah Taylor (ph) and to Scott Jennings (ph), both of whom reported to Mr. Rove.

TODD: Sampson pressed on an e-mail he sent last November to White House lawyers, the subject, the U.S. attorney replacement plan.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: You told Ms. Miers and Mr. Kelly that you had not informed any in Karl's shop, which you considered a quote, "pre-execution necessity", closed quote. By Karl, are you referring to Karl Rove?

SAMPSON: Yes.

TODD: Sampson says the plan was circulated to Rove. Why are the senators targeting the president's top political adviser?

BRUCE FEIN, FORMER ASSOC. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: By insinuating it's Karl Rove who has the clearance here, it's insinuating that it's a partisan process, not a non-political or politically even handed application of uniform standards of law enforcement.

TODD (on camera): Sampson was also asked if Rove put him up to his suggestion that one of America's top prosecutors, Patrick Fitzgerald, be fired. Sampson said he couldn't recall Rove saying anything to him about Fitzgerald.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: And talks behind closed doors. The House Judiciary Committee has reached an agreement with seven Department of Justice officials.

Beginning this morning, they will give private transcribed interviews about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. The committee wants to know what role politics played in the controversial firings.

One Justice Department official, Monica Goodling, has vowed to take the Fifth if subpoenaed to testify. It is not clear if Goodling would do the same for the private interviews. Committee chairman John Conyers says the private talks are just a first step and are not in place of a hearing.

COLLINS: A 6-year-old boy get a surprise visit from his dad, just back from Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's great to be home. Seven months over there. It's nice to see my kids and all again, and my wife.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: This truly unforgettable story, you are not going to want to miss this one. It is a doozy -- coming up in the NEWSROOM.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And get prepared to spend more money at the grocery store.

I'm Stephanie Elam in New York, and I'll tell you why coming up in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Leading off with prayer and a moment of silence, the Bluffton University baseball team opened its season today following that fatal bus crash. The team will wear black uniforms and is encouraging fans to also wear black.

The game comes four weeks to the day the team bus plunged over a highway overpass in Atlanta. Five players died as a result of that crash. A sixth remains hospitalized.

HARRIS: Well, corn farmers cashing in on the newfound demand for ethanol, but as the price of corn goes up, so go prices for hamburger and steak?

Stephanie Elam "Minding Your Business" this morning.

Good Friday to you, Stephanie. So, what happens here? The president mentions in the State of the Union Address, hey, we'd like to get some more ethanol going here, and it sends shock waves through corn production cycle.

ELAM: We also saw this one coming, Tony. It's not so much of a surprise, because ethanol is mainly based of corn. So that's increasing this demand all across the board. And so, therefore, we're looking at some farmers who are saying, hey, this may be a better way to go.

But keep in mind, ethanol is a $40 billion injury for the push for alternative fuels here. So, obviously, as this goes up, the effect for everything, like, from corn syrups, to just about everything we have, to corn flakes, the cost of all of that will be going up as well.

So, one group sees the price increasing -- or actually outpacing the general inflation rate in 2007 and '08. That's at your grocery stores, so you'll be spending a lot more.

HARRIS: Yes. So, OK, let me understand. I understand the price of corn going up, but I'm trying to figure out hamburger and steak.

That has to do with the feed that the cows need, huh?

ELAM: What the cows are eating.

HARRIS: That's right.

ELAM: They're eating the corn. That's mainly what they eat, and the problem here is, well, they're not eating so much of it, because the farmers are, like, that's way too expensive. So, cows are coming in about 10 to 20 pounds lighter right now.

HARRIS: Not so beefy.

ELAM: Not really that beefy, that is true. So, because of that, we're looking at this cost of beef being higher because there's less poundage there to go out to the markets.

HARRIS: OK. And it even impacts, boy, some of your favorite candies at the candy store?

ELAM: Think about it, corn syrup.

HARRIS: Yes.

ELAM: Think about candy corn. Corn syrup is in our sodas, it's, like, across the board. So, when we say, like, at the grocery store, we don't just mean beef or corn, it's going to be across the board where we see these increases here.

HARRIS: OK. And no sign -- I would imagine no sign of this sort of leveling off anytime soon.

ELAM: Well, that's the interesting thing, is that people who do track this are saying, we don't really know what to do or how this is going to level out, because ethanol is new. This idea of alternative fuel is new. So we don't know overall what will happen with this market.

HARRIS: Yes. We'll be watching it. I know you will be.

ELAM: Yes.

HARRIS: Stephanie, a great weekend to you.

ELAM: You too.

HARRIS: Stephanie Elam, "Minding Your Business" this morning.

COLLINS: From fighting U.S. forces to joining them, some former insurgents now on the front lines of the war on terror.

See it here in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: This man gets a hankering for a Junior Bacon Cheeseburger, three of them. The problem is, police say the problem is he robbed this very restaurant days earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This would probably be on my top 10 list. I'm going to put him at number one now, and that's a 25-year list, and this was something you don't see very often.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Oh, man. The craving that may solve a crime. That's coming up in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: New images out of Iran. This morning, Iran aired this video of a British service member. He is among 15 sailors and marines detained one week ago now. On the tape, he apologizes for entering Iran's waters.

A short time ago, British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the video "outrageous" and dismissed it as propaganda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLAIR: I really don't know why the Iranian regime keep doing this. I mean, all it does is enhance people's sense of disgust at captured personnel being paraded and manipulated this way. It doesn't fool anyone.

And what the Iranians have to realize is that if they continue in this way, they will face increasing isolation. The United Nations yesterday, the European Union today -- we'll be talking to other key allies over the weekend. And we've just got to pursue this with the necessary firmness and determination, but also -- but also patience, because there is only one possible conclusion to this, and that is that our personnel are released safe and sound.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Britain needs to get tougher. That advice from Washington's former ambassador to the United Nations. John Bolton says London needs to ratchet up its demands that Tehran release the service members.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, FMR. U.S. AMB. TO THE U.N.: The United Kingdom should be talking with us, talking with the rest of the European Union about making it clear that they want those sailors and marines released right now, without any further conversation, or Iran will suffer real pain, real economic sanctions.

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