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THE SITUATION ROOM

U.S. Warns Libya of Military Action; Nuclear Accident Level Raised; Disaster 'Storm Troopers'; Interview With U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice; Nuclear Dangers Here in U.S.; Three-Time Quake Survivors

Aired March 18, 2011 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thanks very much, Brooke.

Happening now, breaking news -- President Barack Obama warns Libyan troops and Moammar Gadhafi to stop attacks against civilians or face military action.

How far will the U.S. and its allies go to enforce a UN authorized no-fly zone?

Also this hour, a new level of crisis at Japan's crippled nuclear power plant. As the race goes on to hose down those reactors, officials now say this disaster is on par with the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history.

And mile after mile of destruction -- search and rescue crews barely know where to begin. We're with emergency teams risking their own lives to save others.

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

President Obama says the world has given Moammar Gadhafi ample warning that his bloody assault on rebel forces will not stand. Mr. Obama putting Gadhafi on notice just a while ago, a day after the UN Security Council approved the use of force to protect civilians in Libya.

The president says the Libyan leader would commit atrocities if left unchecked and thousands of people could die.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These terms are not subject to negotiation. If Gadhafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences. And the resolution will be enforced through military action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We just heard the Libyan deputy foreign minister in Tripoli say that Gadhafi's forces won't enter the city of Benghazi in order to comply with that UN cease-fire resolution.

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is standing by.

But let's go to CNN's Arwa Damon.

She's in Benghazi for us.

It looks like they're making noises in Tripoli about complying with the cease-fire. But I assume the rebels where you are, are totally skeptical and they're still very worried about Gadhafi's forces.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they're not skeptical, they flat out just don't believe that it's going to take place. Were, in fact, the Gadhafi regime intent on complying with that UN resolution, which says that the cease-fire should have been effective immediately, we should not have been seeing the type of fighting that we saw taking place today throughout entire country. There are dramatic images of a civilian area being shelled in Misurata. Civilians -- that is who this resolution is meant to be protecting.

We were just outside of Ajdabiya, some 30 miles at a checkpoint where opposition fighters would not let us advance any further because of the intense fighting going on there. People very worried about the fact that the implementation of this UN resolution is taking so long, because the intensity of the battlefield here is at the exact same level that it has been all along.

In Ajdabiya, one ambulance worker driving out of there told us that they weren't able to get to the wounded because the battle was raging around them. They weren't able to pick up the bodies of the dead.

People here want to see that UN resolution implemented immediately. They say that they must have a no-fly zone. They do need surgical air strikes, because if that doesn't happen, the end result is going to be simple -- more people are going to die -- Wolf.

BLITZER: There's no hard commitment, no flat commitment to arm the rebels in this UN Security Council resolution. I assume that's what they want, though. They also want weapons.

DAMON: They would -- yes, they would want weapons, because the weapons that they have, when put against what Gadhafi has at his disposal, are really the bare minimum. The opposition here is nothing more than young men who really learned how to fight in the last few weeks. The weapons that they're using, whatever they managed to get their hands on from the various -- from the various arms depots that they eventually took over.

We're talking about that being pitted against a military machine. They don't stand a chance, really. They have a lot of heart. They have a lot of courage. They've taken this just about as far as they can. But we have been seeing them regularly, slowly, being beaten back by Gadhafi's forces. And there are fears that because the discussion as to how to implement this resolution is taking so long, that is just giving Gadhafi ample time to do what he will against the population. People do not believe that he has any intention of implementing a cease-fire or adhering to any of the other requirements that are expected of him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So they -- they aren't yet convinced -- this is what I'm hearing from you, Arwa -- that the cavalry -- the US-led cavalry, I should say, is on the way to help rescue them. They heard the words out of the UN Security Council, but they're not seeing the deeds yet.

DAMON: Exactly. They do believe that the international community is now finally standing by them. They do believe that they are not in this fight alone, that the world is, in fact, watching what is happening in Libya. They do believe that people will step in at some point in time.

But issue is when in time is that going to be? And that is the fear here. People don't trust Gadhafi. They say that he is a man that has committed atrocities against his own people ever since he has -- ever since he came to power over 40 years ago. And they do feel that by delaying the implementation of this resolution, that's only giving him even more time to commit even more massacres.

So, yes, they do believe that help is on the way. But they also fear that by the time that may materializes, the death toll here is really only going to rise.

BLITZER: We're going to check back with you.

That's coming up, Arwa.

We'll check in with Nic Robertson in Tripoli, as well.

But let's get some more now on President Obama's ultimatum to Moammar Gadhafi -- how much force the United States is willing to use against him.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, Dan, the president had strong, powerful words today -- a direct message, non-negotiable terms for Gadhafi.

I assume, at the White House, they now realize that if there is military action in Libya by the outside world, this will become President Obama's war.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's true. And, you know, the bottom line here, Wolf, is that there is a lot of skepticism talk from the foreign minister there in Libya that they were imposing this cease-fire. And, in fact, that did not happen.

And so what you're hearing from this administration is that they need to see actions rather than -- than just words. And so the president very forceful today, saying that the U.S. was prepared to use military action to get Libya to abide by the UN resolutions to impose that no-fly zone. And -- and the president being very clear, laying out what Gadhafi needs to do to impose that cease-fire immediately to stop advancing toward Benghazi, pull out of other cities, to restore power and also gas and -- and water to communities that have been cut off. One other thing, too, Wolf, if you were paying attention closely to what the president was saying today, time and time again, repeating that this is not a mission for the U.S. alone, realizing that the international community is watching, may be critical of the United States invading another Arab country. And so the president pointing out that there are international partners here, the Arab League, the British, also, the French. And this is -- there's a supporting role that the United States will also play going forward.

Also, the president was making a case to the American people, who might be concerned as to why the U.S. should be concerned about Libya.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Here's why this matters to us. Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe that Gadhafi would commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and partners.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: And so, again, you heard the president talking about why it's important for the U.S. to take this tough stance in Libya if, in fact, Moammar Gadhafi does not go along with this cease-fire. And the president also saying that all of the talk from the U.S. or the international community would, quote, "be rendered hollow" if the U.S. and its partners do not deliver on these -- on what the UN has voted on yesterday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan, I couldn't help but notice that the president invited the top Congressional leadership, Democrat and Republicans, over to the White House Situation Room to be briefed on what's going on by his generals, by his diplomats and others. It's sort of consistent, at least in my mind, with the War Powers Resolution, a traditional step before the United States goes to war, a resolution that followed the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, in the Vietnam War. So they're gearing up Congress for military action right now.

LOTHIAN: That's right, Wolf. And, you know, it's interesting, because when they put out that notice, it was a late add today when the president, around 12:30, invited this bipartisan group of lawmakers to come here to the White House to meet inside The Situation Room.

I asked specifically why this unusual move, why not meet in another room, was the president, in fact, laying out any kind of intelligence that the U.S. had or laying out a time line as to when the U.S. planned to go in and perhaps start doing military action?

A White House official telling me not to read too much into the location of that meeting.

But nonetheless, Wolf, you know, that this is the -- the administration gearing up for an aggressive posture in Libya and wanting to make sure that lawmakers from Capitol Hill are on board from the very start.

BLITZER: To me, it's got a feel as it was back in March of 2003, on the eve of the US-led invasion of Iraq. But that may just be me.

Stand by, Dan.

We're going to have a lot more on this crisis in Libya coming up. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, always outspoken, she's here in THE SITUATION ROOM this hour.

But I want to get to Japan's nuclear crisis right now. The prime minister says the situation is very grave. This new photo obtained by CNN appears to show damage to the Reactor Number One building. Japan's nuclear safety agency now calling this a level five emergency, on par with the Three Mile Island accident here in the United States back in 1979.

A moment of silence in Japan to mark the week since the quake and the tsunami disaster struck. More than 17,000 people now officially listed as either dead or missing. As the Japanese worry about their radiation risk, one international nuclear group says traces of radiation have reached California from Japan. Those experts say the amount is harmless.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency says it has not seen any increase in radiation levels on the West Coast.

We're all over this story.

More frantic attempts to cool down one of the most badly damaged reactors at that Daiichi plant today.

Our Martin Savidge is in Tokyo with more on where this nuclear crisis stands right now.

Where does it stand -- Marty?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've got a new day starting. It's Saturday here, daylight returning to Tokyo. But all night long, the crews have continued to work out there at the Fukushima site.

What they've been doing is alternating between using these new fire trucks that have been brought. These are ones that are designed to fight fires in high rise buildings in Tokyo. The advantage they have is their reach, which is what you want, the ability to send a lot of water over a large distance.

That helps cool. It also helps protect the crews that operate them.

But, that said, they can only go for a limited time. Then they have to be withdrawn. Another truck moves forward, replaces the one previous. This way, there's a seven vehicle rotation. Nobody gets too much radiation at one particular time, but the water keeps flowing.

Then they stop for a while and move on to the next effort they want to do, which is hook up the electricity. And this is considered to be crucial.

They're first trying to hook up generators. If they can get those working, maybe they'll move on to trying to get the main power lines back into the plant. All was destroyed as a result of the tsunami.

get the main power on, then maybe you can get the main pumps on. Get the main pumps on, maybe you can start to stabilize things.

But the problem is, Wolf, right now, even if they get the electricity in -- and that's a tough go -- even if they do, they're not sure that the pumps survive the tsunami and then the subsequent blast that came as a result of the hydrogen explosion. So it's still very much an iffy game out there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And even as we speak, Marty, right now, the U.S. is recommending that all Americans get out of a 50 mile radius of that nuclear complex. The Japanese government still says 12 miles is safe enough.

Is that -- is that the latest information you're getting?

SAVIDGE: Right. And -- and there seems to be a bit of a -- a conflict, in the sense that if the Japanese government is raiding -- raising, that is -- this level of concern, in other words, going from the four to a five, why would they not perhaps increase the area of evacuation?

The government says right that they feel quite comfortable with where things stand, that is Japanese people moved out of an area 12 miles around that plant. They don't see a need to move them any further than that. And, in fact, there is evidence from this new surveillance aircraft that the United States has loaned Japan that, in fact, the deadliest or the worst form of contamination of radiation has not left that 12 mile exclusion zone.

So for right now, the Japanese feel comfortable where they are. When you ask them, well, why do the Americans say you need more space, they say, well, obviously, the Americans are very concerned for their own people. If the shoe were on the other foot, they would tell the Japanese people in America to get as far away as you -- as you should.

BLITZER: Yes, I --

SAVIDGE: Wolf.

BLITZER: -- I was speaking to one scientist here in Washington, a radiation specialist, who told me, you know what, if you don't have to be there right now, get out of there.

SAVIDGE: Exactly. BLITZER: If it's essential to be in that 50 mile radius, you can stay, if you're helping people, whatever. But if you don't have to, just get out and get out quickly.

All right, Marty.

We'll stay in touch with you.

We're going to stay on top of this story, the nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan right now.

And it's one of the most dangerous jobs you can imagine. We're in the disaster zone with a U.S. search and rescue crew that's famous for its bravery. Stand by to hear exactly what these heroes are going through.

And how close is your home to a nuclear power plant and the possibility of a meltdown?

We're going to show you.

Lots of news happening today in Libya, in Japan.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're seeing a huge economic impact from the disaster in Japan. Beyond the empty shelves and the closed stores, the fallout is rippling across the globe right now.

Some examples.

General Motors has suspended production at its assembly plant in Shreveport, Louisiana next week. The plant is simply short on parts it gets from Japan.

Apple may face shortages for key components of its newly released iPad 2. And many of your favorite gadgets could also be affected. Nearly every electronic item and car on the planet relies on high tech parts from Japan.

In Japan right now, emergency crews are working almost around the clock under very difficult conditions.

Our Brian Todd has been with one American search and rescue team every step of the way.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this was once a hotel in Ofunato, but it's been blasted by the earthquake and the tsunami. Look, a car has just been tossed into the front facade. And most of us, when we walk by a structure like this after an event like this, we would just gawk and take a picture and move on. We're going to go inside this place with guys who do some of the most dangerous work after events like this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: (voice-over): Tom Carver and Brad Haywood have to move fast. Someone could be waiting. They sledgehammer, kick, shoulder their way into every available opening.

(on camera): You guys look like you like to break things.

TOM CARVER, FAIRFAX COUNTY SEARCH AND RESCUE: Yes, because it's the Type A personality.

TODD: (voice-over): They're called technical rescue specialists with the Fairfax County, Virginia team. But they're more like storm troopers. These guys have to barrel into the most dangerous structures after an earthquake or tsunami and look for survivors. They lower their way into unknown danger, contort into every possible opening and ascend taller buildings that seem to be on the verge of collapse. It's one of most treacherous jobs you can imagine.

(on camera): What was your closest call?

CARVER: Down in Haiti, we -- we were tunneling through a building and there were some decent aftershocks. And, you know, you're in a small hole -- a hard way in, a hard way out. So sometimes you've just got to protect in place and hope for the best, and knowing your team is behind you to come and get you if there is something that happens.

TODD: (voice-over): On that day, Carver tunneled his way out. On this one, we're in Ofunato, Japan, where the tsunami's waters came up to the third floor of this hotel. We followed this team as they navigate blocked staircases, scale walls and squeeze through narrow cracks, knowing the floor could give way with any step or an aftershock could bring the whole building down on us.

(on camera): It's not only very dangerous, but kind of painstaking, as well. We're going through the -- the basement of this building. And they've got to check, basically, every door that's shut, that's wedged shut. Here's the door to a small bathroom just on the off chance that someone could be there, under the sink here, every crevice in a building like this, with millions of crevices, has to be checked.

(voice-over): When we emerge, a distinct mark is painted on the building -- a signal to other rescue teams who might pass.

(on camera): This signifies you didn't find any?

CARVER: No victims, no hazards. And that identifies the scene.

TODD: (voice-over): Though no one is found here, Carver thinks about what could be in the next teetering structure. And he recalls a moment in Haiti.

CARVER: We went to a university and we had -- as we entered the building, there was -- you could see a guy's face through the concrete. It took us numerous hours to get him out and then found another lady on the other side of him. It took her -- 32 hours to get her out. And just knowing, that, you know, we're making a difference in people's lives, that's -- that's what it's all about.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: As satisfying as it is to come out of a building with no casualties inside, no hazards, it's weighed against the fact that they've got to comb through others, through several days, through an entire city that's just been ruined -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.

On a personal note, by the way, here's a picture of Brian. His producer, Dugald McConnell, and their photographer, Doug Schantz. Right now, they're heading to Tokyo. They traveled with the search and rescue team, unable to shower in more than a week. They were sleeping in unheated quarters in 20 degree temperature. We appreciate their work, what they bring to all of our viewers -- the stories from Northern Japan, as well as that of hardworking journalists who risk their lives every day in the war zones. These are dangerous situations around the world.

We want to thank Brian Dugald and Doug for their excellent, excellent coverage. Appreciate it very much.

As Japan tries to avert potential nuclear catastrophe, could the U.S. now face the same dangerous scenario?

Just like Japan, it stores spent fuel rods at nuclear sites.

Is it playing with fire?

And violent unrest flaring across the Middle East. Yemen is just one flashpoint where clashes have now left dozens of people dead, even more injured. We're watching what's happening.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: I just came back from the Middle East. I can testify, turmoil is flaring there.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM. This political unrest there, it's -- it's spreading and spreading and spreading -- and to a certain degree, only just beginning. And we don't know where it's going to wind up.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's the big question, Wolf.

In Bahrain, the site of weeks of anti-government demonstrations is now just a pile of broken debris. Security forces demolished the Pearl Monument in the capital. Opposition leaders say they will not be cowed. In Yemen's capital, troops clashed violently with anti- government protesters. At least 40 people there were killed. More than 100 others are injured. Yemen's president has declared a state of emergency. The U.S. and France are urging Yemen's government to allow peaceful protests.

And Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah is announcing a multi-billion dollar package aimed at averting unrest in his kingdom. He's promising tens of billions of dollars for new housing, health care and unemployment benefits. He's also ordered 60,000 new jobs be created in the military and security forces. But opposition activists say their demands are still being ignored.

And after seven years in exile in South Africa, former Haitian president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is back in his homeland. And he arrived today just ahead of Sunday's crucial presidential runoff. That's not sitting well with the Obama administration, which had warned his return could disrupt the vote, even though he is not a candidate. Aristide was ousted as Haiti's president back in 2004.

And in Islamabad, Pakistan's foreign ministry summoned the American ambassador today to protest a deadly U.S. drone strike. Pakistani intelligence officials say the strike in the country's volatile tribal region killed at least 44 people, many of them civilians. Pakistan says it will boycott a key meeting with top U.S. and Afghan officials that is set for March 26th -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lots happening around the world.

All right, thanks very much, Lisa, for that.

President Obama lays out an ultimatum to Libya's Moammar Gadhafi -- stop the attacks or face the consequences. We're taking a closer look at what the U.S. military is doing to get ready for enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya.

Plus, one couple, two countries, three earthquakes -- they tell us their amazing story of survival and their message of hope for Japan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news this hour. President Obama warning Moammar Gadhafi to stop what he calls "the brutal repression of civilians in Libya" or face military action. He says the international community is united and the demand for a cease- fire, in his words, "not negotiable."

Just a short while ago, Libya's deputy foreign minister denied any kind of bombardment by government forces since the cease-fire was announced some 24 hours ago. And he flatly denied any civilians have been killed by pro-Gadhafi troops in the last few days or weeks.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence -- Chris, show us how U.S. troops and Libyan forces may be preparing for what's next.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Well, the -- France could send its jets directly from France. And they could fly to Libya without refueling. The Italians have already authorized the use of some American military bases there. And we're told the U.S. intelligence community is advising on key Libyan military targets.

Take a look at this graphic for just a second. And we can start to show you some of the options available to NATO.

Take a look first at what a full no-fly zone would look like. In this sort of no-fly zone, jets would cover the entire country, north to south, east to west. And that would cost probably less than or in the range of about $300 million a week.

Now let's take a look at what a limited no-fly zone would be. That would be from the area of Tripoli to Benghazi, but only in the northern, more populated areas of the country. That would come at a cost of roughly less than $10 million a week.

And finally, a standoff no-fly zone. In this case, no jets would be crossing over Libyan airspace. Instead, it would simply be ships firing missiles from ships offshore in the Mediterranean Sea. That would be the cheapest option, at about $25 million a week.

Now, we know that the U.S. has five warships out there in the Med right now, but the feeling that I'm getting here in the Pentagon is that initially -- initially, the U.S. military role may be more one of support. You know, perhaps using their ships and airplanes to work air traffic control of other jets performing missions, or using some of their signal-jamming planes to disrupt Colonel Gadhafi's ability to communicate with his forces.

BLITZER: Yes. Here's what I've been thinking about. As far as the money is concerned, keep a running tab how much this is costing the U.S., the NATO allies, some of the other Arab countries who might be participating. And then once Gadhafi is gone -- and presumably he'll be gone sooner rather than later -- you take the money from him, from his sons, the billions of dollars that they have stolen from the Libyan people -- it's an oil-rich country, as we know -- and you reimburse the treasuries of the U.S. France, Italy, Spain, the UAE, some of the other countries. That would be money well spent.

I assume that that would be welcome news for the Pentagon as well. They are looking to save some cash as well.

But what's the assessment at the Pentagon as to how effective this could all be, a no-fly zone?

LAWRENCE: Well, we know that he has between 30 and 40 launchers, Wolf, and you can take a look again at this graphic as well. It will help to sort of illustrate exactly where his defenses lie.

Some of his surface-to-air missiles may now be in areas that are now controlled by the rebels, so Colonel Gadhafi may not have control over all of his surface-to-air missile installations. But we know that he does have ballistic missiles with a range of about 200 miles offshore. In other words, they could fire up to just short of about 200 miles offshore. That is something the allies will have to take into account. Obviously, air defenses would be one of the first targets. We know that he's got a lot of -- between 100 and 200 fighter jets, but they are old. These were delivered back in the 1970s, the early '80s, Soviet-era weaponry that is really no match for modern fighter jets. The fear isn't so much overcoming his defenses, it's this idea of mission creep, that once you are involved in this situation, you may take on more and more responsibilities and get dragged deeper and deeper into the conflict -- Wolf.

BLITZER: One general told me this week that if it comes down to a war between the U.S. Air Force and the Libyan air force, it's almost like a Division 3 college basketball team taking on the Los Angeles Lakers or the Miami Heat. It's not going to be much of a match when all is said and done. But that's just one example that a general gave me this week.

Chris Lawrence is over at the Pentagon for us.

Thanks very much.

Almost 24 hours after the U.N. Security Council approved all measures necessary to stop Gadhafi from further attacks on his own people, deadly fighting is raging right now in Libya.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice.

Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.

Let's go through some of the points.

Gadhafi right now, is he in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973?

RICE: Yes, he is.

Resolution 1973 demanded an immediate cease-fire and an end to all offensive operations. It also banned any air flights on the territory of Libya.

The president just recently issued an ultimatum, this afternoon, with immediate effect, which said that Gadhafi had to cease fire, stop moving on Benghazi, protect civilians, pull back from three key cities that he has been attacking, allow electricity, water and gas to flow to all civilians and allow humanitarian assistance in.

And if Gadhafi doesn't do so with immediate effect, he will face the consequences, and the president was very clear that those consequences will be military.

BLITZER: How much time does Gadhafi have?

RICE: The cease-fire must be implemented immediately.

BLITZER: Well, does that mean that if -- if by tomorrow, he hasn't done these four things that the president laid out, the U.S. will act?

RICE: Wolf, the U.S. is ready to act, along with partners from the League of Arab States and Europe.

Gadhafi should be under no illusions that if he doesn't act immediately, he will face swift -- swift and sure consequences, including military action.

BLITZER: Well, it's now 24 hours since the U.N. Security Council passed the resolution. People are dying right now. He's still killing people based on all of our eyewitness reporting.

What's the delay? Why not act?

RICE: Wolf, I'm not going to get into the operational plan here on television.

But I can assure you that the United States and partners in Europe and, in particular, partners from the Arab world are planning and preparing and have positioned assets that are ready to act if Gadhafi does not implement the terms of this ultimatum immediately.

BLITZER: Because a lot of people are -- the rebels, the opposition, they're telling our own Arwa Damon, they're telling our reporters on the scene and they're appealing to the world, please help right away. If you wait another 24 hours, another 48 hours, a lot of people are going to die.

You appreciate the urgency of what's going on right now?

RICE: We very much appreciate the urgency, which is why the Security Council acted with unprecedented speed after the Arab League issued its appeal.

What we passed yesterday, Wolf, was a resolution with sweeping implications authorizing the use of force to protect civilians, to impose a no-fly zone and a series of sanctions that, frankly, I think will be quite severe. They include military authorization to enforce the arms embargo; a ban on any flights in and out of Libyan territory, particularly those that are, we believe, bringing in mercenaries; an asset freeze on all of Libya's principal companies, including its sovereign wealth funds and its central bank.

So these are very serious steps and they reflect the urgency that we and others in the international community see as -- as being necessary.

BLITZER: And you're -- are you still demanding that Gadhafi must go?

RICE: The president has been very clear that he has lost his legitimacy to rule, if he ever had any, and he ought to go.

BLITZER: If he -- if he does -- doesn't go or if he fights and the U.S. or its allies capture him, will he be subject to war crimes? RICE: Well, there is -- the first thing the Security Council did some three weeks ago, Wolf, was to refer the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court. And you heard the president reaffirm today that Gadhafi and those around him will be held accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

BLITZER: Does the resolution authorize military action directly aimed against Gadhafi personally?

RICE: No, Wolf. The purpose of the resolution is to protect civilians and to ensure that -- that Gadhafi and his forces are not able to continue to go after innocents.

That's the purpose and that's what we will be doing.

BLITZER: So if he complies with this resolution, windows his forces and does all the other things that they demand, will you allow him to stay in power?

RICE: Wolf, I'm not going to get into -- to next steps. The purpose of this resolution and the enforcement action that the president affirmed our readiness to undertake had a very clear purpose, and that purpose was to protect civilians, to hold Gadhafi accountable and -- and to increase the pressure on his regime.

We have a range of measures separate and apart from what is contained in the Security Council resolution at our disposal to implement other aspects of U.S. policy, but I'm describing precisely what the resolution allows.

BLITZER: Does the resolution authorize arming the rebels?

RICE: The resolution doesn't specify that, but -- and it -- and it doesn't authorize it, but I don't -- I think a careful legal reading of it would suggest that it doesn't preclude it either.

BLITZER: Is the U.S. planning on arming the rebels?

RICE: Wolf, I'm not going to get into all aspects of what may be U.S. policy, but I will say that we are focused immediately on protection of civilians, on ensuring that the march to Benghazi does not continue and that those who are most vulnerable have the rights and protections that they deserve.

BLITZER: Which Arab air forces will participate in the no-fly zone?

RICE: I will let those governments speak for themselves. We have heard indications already from countries like the United Arab Emirates and Qatar that they are interested in participating. They can make their announcements as and if they're ready.

We look forward to participation from a number of important Arab partners, as well as Europeans and others.

BLITZER: One final question, because I get -- I've been asked on -- on Twitter this by a whole bunch of followers out there, people who are following me.

Who's going to pay for all of this?

RICE: Wolf, this is a coalition effort, and it will involve the contributions of Arab countries, of Europeans and -- and others; Canada has also agreed to participate.

This is not the United States alone or even predominantly. We will be part of this coalition, and the costs and responsibilities will be shared broadly.

BLITZER: If you have questions for Ambassador Rice, you can Tweet her your questions @AmbassadorRice -- all one word.

Ambassador, thanks very much. Good luck.

RICE: Good to be with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: I just posted a few minutes ago at CNN.com my "Reporter's Notebook" on my trip with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Egypt, Tunisia and France. You might want to check it out, CNN.com.

Radiation levels around Japan's crippled nuclear power plant may be getting even worse. We're tracking the wind strength and the direction around the plant.

And if you don't know how far away you may be living from a nuclear power plant, guess what? We're going to show you how to find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A U.S. military detection plane now is in place to help measure radiation exposure in Japan. Levels in and around the Daiichi nuclear power plant may rise as the winds shift.

Our meteorologist, Chad Myers, is tracking the weather in Japan right now.

This is potentially, Chad, a life-and-death issue for folks in certain parts of Japan.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No question about it, because the entire time that we've had this disaster, the winds have been blowing out of the west. And at times, very, very hard, 15, 20, 30 miles per hour.

Those westerly winds from the west winds are about to stop. They are about to shift and blow the radiation back on to the country, back on to the countryside.

Right now the winds are fairly calm, but that means that the radiation that's attached to humidity and dust and whatever, it's not being blown out to sea anymore. It's kind of sitting right there over the reactor. As the winds shift and eventually blow out of the east, some of that radiation is going to get very close to some very big cities -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chad, thanks very much. I'm really worried about this. So are our viewers.

MYERS: Have you heard about the big tides, too, Wolf?

BLITZER: No. Tell me.

MYERS: Let me tell you about it. There's a huge tide coming in and a big full moon coming, and the gravity of the Earth and the sun really will make the biggest tides of the year.

Well, this is a picture of what the tide looked like in one of the cities very close to the ocean. Because the country now has shifted eight to 12 feet closer to the U.S., it's also sunk down three feet in some spots, and that's the tide. The tide of the ocean is now into the city because the city is lower than it was. Amazing.

BLITZER: One bad thing after another for these folks.

MYERS: I know.

BLITZER: My heart goes out to them. Chad, thank you.

Just like Japan, the U.S. maintains water pools for spent fuel rods at nuclear sites around the country. So why aren't they moved farther away?

And do you live in the radius of a nuclear power plant? How can you find out? We'll tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: If you've been following the nuclear crisis in Japan, you've probably heard a good deal about spent fuel rods and how they figure into the threat of radiation exposure.

Our Mary Snow has been looking into how those fuel rods work in Japan and here in the United States.

What are you finding out, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one thing that the United States and Japan have in common is that there is no long-term storage facility for used nuclear fuel, those spent fuel rods you just mentioned. They're stored at power plants.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): A look at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, where a big threat comes from the pools storing used nuclear fuel. They keep spent fuel rods cool, but because the water has either leaked or boiled off, utility crews and soldiers have been spraying water in a frantic effort to replenish those pools. If those spent fuel rods are not kept cool, they partially melt or burn, sending radiation into the air. This photo shows a gaping hole at reactor 4.

The pools are used in Japan because it stores used fuel at its plants. So does the United States. David Diamond is a nuclear engineer with the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Lab. He says those spent fuel rods need to be constantly cooled for months at a time.

DAVID DIAMOND, BROOKHAVEN NATIONAL LAB: Eventually, the heat in the rods subsides to the point that they can be taken out of the pool and put into a dry cask. In other words, they don't need cooling anymore, but you still need them in a structure that keeps the radiation from getting out into the environment.

SNOW: Here in the U.S., this is a spent fuel pool at the Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Illinois, where CNN's Brian Todd visited last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, in fact, where we're standing right now is very safe for walking around, for working in, whatever we need to do.

SNOW: But because its pools are full, Dresden says it's putting fuel into these dry casks. It advocates a site to permanently store nuclear waste. That was intended to happen at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but the controversy around it has blocked it from becoming a storage site. So plants rely on these storage pools.

John Lehner is a scientist at Brookhaven.

JOHN LEHNER, BROOKHAVEN NATIONAL LAB: Normally, because this is such a passive system, you wouldn't expect much to happen here. But, of course, if you're looking at something like a terrorist attack, then you would want to have some extra measures.

SNOW: Lehner says after 9/11, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told utilities they must have an emergency backup plan of getting water into those pools to keep them full.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And Wolf, one other similarity between the U.S. and Japan are the emergency power systems to plants. If there is a power failure in the U.S., emergency diesel generators will kick in. And if they don't operate, there are batteries that can provide power for four to eight hours. And that's essentially the same backup plan at the Fukushima plant in Japan -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thanks very much.

And by the way, if you want to know how close you live to a nuclear power plant, our colleagues at CNNMoney.com have created a handy Web tool. You type in your zip code or address -- we used our bureau zip code here in Washington -- and it shows the closest nuclear power plant that also outlines the 10-mile area where the air might be unsafe if there were a major accident, and the 50-mile danger zone where water and food might be contaminated.

If you're interested, CNNMoney.com.

Living through one major earthquake is bad enough. Up next, meet a couple who survived Japan and two more major earthquakes in just the last few months.

Then retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, he's is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about U.S. military options in Libya.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: An incredible story of survival to tell you about now. A young couple has lived through three powerful earthquakes. Two happened in their hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand. The latest, the quake that's caused so much misery in Japan.

CNN's Lisa Sylvester has this amazing story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRENDA SARGENT, EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR: I was on the train underground when the train suddenly stopped. And we just experienced starting very slowly some very vigorous shaking.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Brenda Sargent and her fiance were both in Tokyo when the 9.0 earthquake hit.

BRENDON BRADLEY, EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR: Over a period of about 30 or 40 seconds, the shaking level of intensity just increased and increased to the point where it became obviously really violent.

SYLVESTER: They escaped unharmed, but what's really remarkable is that this is not the first major earthquake for either of them. Brenda was also in the 7.0 earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand, September 4th. And they were both in the 6.3 earthquake last month that destroyed much of downtown Christchurch. And then came the 9.0 Japan earthquake.

How did this happen? All a coincidence. They were living in Christchurch when the first earthquake hit.

BRADLEY: The first earthquake which occurred in New Zealand on September the 4th last year --

SYLVESTER: Brendon, who ironically studies earthquakes for a living, moved with his fiancee to Japan in December for his post- doctoral work. The couple had returned to their hometown outside of Christchurch in February for what was supposed to be their wedding, a wedding that had to be put off.

BRADLEY: Because of the damage to Christchurch, and in particular the damage to our wedding venue, we just decided to postpone it until after we returned from Japan. SYLVESTER: The second Christchurch earthquake not only delayed the wedding, but Brenda's wedding dress was destroyed. But that's the least of their concerns now.

SARGENT: The wedding can wait. I mean, it was devastating that my wedding dress was trashed, but I can't imagine knowing if you were missing a person or a person you loved was trapped.

SYLVESTER: Some might say they're a magnet for earthquakes, but they consider themselves very lucky.

BRADLEY: I definitely like to think I'm lucky in the sense that I'm come through all three pretty much unharmed. So has my fiancee and also my family, so definitely from the positive side, lucky in that point of view.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks very much.

SARGENT: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: And they say that things come in threes. Well, the couple says their hearts go out to the many, many victims of the earthquakes. And they say none of their family members or friends were killed or injured in any of these three earthquakes -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, that's good, at least on that part.

Thanks very, very much, Lisa.

We're going live to Tokyo in just a moment or so. CNN's Anderson Cooper and much more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)