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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Holds News Conference at U.N.; Chavez Visits Harlem Church

Aired September 21, 2006 - 10:59   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Spend a second hour in the NEWSROOM with us. We will keep you informed.
Good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris.


President Bush with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. The president irks Pakistan's leader with comments on Osama bin Laden.

HARRIS: A radio talk show host fighting Houston's rising crime rate. He calls on citizens to arm themselves against Katrina evacuees.

COLLINS: And the F-14 ready for retirement. Hollywood's top gun flies out of the danger zone on this Thursday, the 21st of September.

You are in the NEWSROOM

HARRIS: And very quickly we want to take you to New York. There you see we're at the U.N. once again, where we're anticipating a news conference from Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And we will monitor it and find out if there is anything newsworthy to bring to you from this news conference now.

We weren't expecting a whole lot yesterday from Hugo Chavez, and that turned out to be something -- well, quite an event in the end.

COLLINS: That's right. And that's why we watch all of these things...

HARRIS: Exactly.

COLLINS: ... and monitor them for you. We certainly weren't expecting, I think, all of the press that Ahmadinejad has gotten in his visit. I believe about four days he's spent now, starting off with a visit with Chavez, and then moving forward directly to the microphones, pretty much any one that he could fine.

So we're going to be watching that for you and bring it to you if it comes up.

Meanwhile, in an exclusive interview, CNN's Anderson Cooper asked the Iranian leader about his ally and harsh U.S. critic, Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Your -- your ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez today, speaking at the General Assembly, called President Bush a devil, and said that he smelled sulfur.

I'm wondering what you think of -- of his comments, and whether you smelled any sulfur when you were speaking at the General Assembly.

PRES. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN (through translator): Do you want to interview me or Mr. Chavez, perhaps?

COOPER: You have no thoughts on his comments?

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): I think that the United Nations offers a podium for everyone. And everybody can speak of what they think. So let's keep it open.

COOPER: You said at the U.N. yesterday that your nuclear program is, quote, "transparent, peaceful and under the watchful eyes of IAEA inspectors." That's not what IAEA inspectors have said. In a recent report they have said that they, frankly, cannot verify the peaceful nature of your program and that it is not transparent.

Why not just open up the program and fulfill all the requirements that the IAEA would like?

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): They said that they did not find any evidence or sign, although they must continue inspections. And they're welcome to continue inspections at all times.

COOPER: The report that...

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): The IAEA has declared that on numerous occasions, in fact. And we know that that is not the first time they've stated that.

COOPER: The report that I read in August said Iran has not address the long outstanding verification issues or provided the necessary transparency to remove uncertainties associate with some of its activities. Mohamed ElBaradei was quoted as saying that he can't give you a clean bill of health yet.

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): Perhaps the report that you had and saw is incomplete. The IAEA has indicated that it has found no evidence that would show that Iran is developing a nuclear energy for other purposes that are other than peaceful.

So I like to ask -- I want to take the opportunity -- are you positive that the United States of America, in fact, has not diverted from its own nuclear programs to develop perhaps nuclear devices that are not for peaceful purposes? The United States, are you telling me, is not building a nuclear bomb? Are you not concerned about that?

We have -- there has been no evidence saying that we are doing any such activities. Then why should there be a furor of concern among people, among groups? But please, go on.

COOPER: But well, you say that, without a doubt, your program is for peaceful purposes. I mean, if that is true, why not -- with the IAEA report I read said that they've not had all the interviews they would like to have. They've not had all the documentation they would like to have.

Are you willing to provide them everything that they say they would like? Or do you feel it's inappropriate that they are pushing too much?

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): We're working within the framework of international laws. They might, for example, choose to interview me personally. But that would be stepping beyond the framework of international law.

So, they have to tell us exactly what provisions of the NPT that they're speaking of which they believe we have not abided by. There's no such case. They are interested in getting more information, and we're ready to cooperate with them and provide them with all information within the framework of international law.


HARRIS: OK. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on tape with Anderson Cooper from last evening. And here he is live at the U.N. holding a news conference right now. A wide shot just a moment ago showed a pretty packed room there with a lot of reporters on hand for this press conference.

Once again, we will simply monitor this press conference and bring you anything that is newsworthy. We expect, we hope, that perhaps we'll get some further clarification as to what it is precisely Iran is looking for in order to move the process forward with regard to its nuclear -- nuclear program.

Let's take a moment and listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I mentioned to you before, it is -- there is simultaneous interpretation, Farsi- English. I ask you, when I identify you for questions, that you identify yourselves and the media you represent, as well as that you only ask one question to allow more time for as many of you as we can fit in the time of this press conference.

I thank you very much for your attention. And may I now give the floor to his excellency, the Republican of Iran -- Islamic Republic of Iran.

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): In the name of god, the compassionate, the merciful, the president is reciting verses from the holy Koran.


I thank god, the almighty god, for giving me an opportunity to meet with my friends once again, and to speak about the important world affairs we face today.

At the outset, I'd like to seize the opportunity to thank the people of New York, the New York police, and the security forces here for all their efforts. I know it is not easy when world leaders arrive in New York. The regular life of New York City is disrupted.

The movement with cars around the streets and with the convoys leads people to stand behind traffic, and at times they even have to wait before being able to cross the green light on the streets. So on my part, I'd like to apologize to the people of New York and thank them for accepting us.

I was hoping that on this trip I would have an opportunity to meet with people here in New York, to talk with them, face to face, to speak with them and meet with them on the streets closely, to see them all and for them to see me and hear what we have to say. But regretfully, the pressure of our work program and the current conditions that we face when we travel here has not allowed me to do that, but I do hope in the future there will be an opportunity.

People in the United States, like all people around the world, are highly respected by us. They are good-willing people who seek justice. They care and understand the fate of humanity is important, and there are many people here who care. Many people in the United States believe in god and believe in justice.

At the U.N. General Assembly I raised a new point after covering problems facing mankind today and just sort of reviewing them, talking about some conflicts in the wars and the problems we face, and the atmosphere of threat we face. I tried to touch on some of the root causes of our problems.

Some root causes of today's problems facing humanity has to do with the international system, a system that has remained with us since World War II, emanating from the concept of a group of victors emerging from a world war and ruling the world. But that is an old system, because it leads some to believe that they have more rights to rule the affairs of the world than others, to run world affairs. And as a result, justice is hurt as long as this system prevails in the world.

It is not possible for all humanity to taste freedom in the full sense of the word, as well as justice in the full sense of the word. When we look at the Security Council, we see that some members of the council are in fact only one -- are one party to many conflicts of the world. They are involved, in fact, in many conflicts around the world. They have had a direct -- they're a direct party to many conflicts and have created them.

Nonetheless, they sit in judgment of world affairs at the Security Council when they're party to the conflict themselves. We think and feel that this system must change. We believe that all nations should enjoy equal rights. All human beings should be respected, all nations must be respected. All have the right to a dignified life and to enjoy justice and, more importantly, perhaps, to enjoy peace and tranquility. International organizations must, therefore, pave the way so that -- and lead the way so that all nations can, without any pressure or imposition of political or economic nature, to defend their rights and feel that they are able to do so. The world system must be able to absorb the confidence and the trust of all nations around the globe in order to implement and enforce justice in the best manner.

Regretfully, there is great mistrust among nations and people today because they feel they are unable to find and achieve their rights through international forum. We must find a solution.

For 60 years of past failed experience, it's perhaps enough. The world conditions have changed. Many governments and groups that had no role in World War II regretfully are impacted by the consequences of World War II. To this day, they're dominated by other groups, their rights were ignored and repressed.

We, therefore, must strive to achieve a world filled with peace and freedom and brotherhood and inhumanity and justice. And for that, again, I emphasize that we do need justice, for justice creates love, and justice guarantees viable security. And justice paves the way for permanent stability.

This is what I'd like to say to you. And I hope that all those involved will be able to respect justice, to submit to justice, and to make every effort to realize just, because it will benefit all. Those who seek justice are more -- have more followers, are loved more. Then, therefore, can guarantee their long-term interests more.

Therefore, it's clear that all humanity seeks justice throughout the world. From the most southern corners of the world, whether in South America, to the most -- the eastern corners of the world, in the Pacific, to the west and north, everyone wants justice. In Africa, over 52 countries are in search of justice, as well as in Asia and in Europe. In Northern America, too.

It is, therefore, incumbent upon world leaders to move hand-in- hand to help lead nations towards justice, a true and complete justice. And I believe the media have a very important role to play in this respect, for media upholds the rights of the people. For media supports peace and security, as well as stability. And, therefore, media must call for peace and justice, for justice will benefit everyone.

Nobody, except people who are selfish, will benefit from injustice. The vast number of human beings in the world by nature seek justice.

I hope that in the very near future, we will bear witness to the establishment of a true sense of justice in the international system, along which will be followed by peace, love and permanent peace in the world.


Thank you. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, it's common practice in this house the first question goes to the president of the U.N. Correspondents Association.

You have the floor, Massoud (ph).

QUESTION: Mr. President, allow me to welcome you on behalf of United Nations Correspondents Association.

And I want -- my question to you will be in the form that you are one of the most highest profile leaders who are here at the United States now, at this point in time, and there are concerns, as you know, about Iran's nuclear power program. And they want to -- they believe that -- Russian (ph) powers believe that you are at a threshold of creating -- creating a bomb, which you have denied time and again.

And in the fact that you are talking about justice and in fairness to everybody, what is it that you can do at one point in time to assure the international community completely and totally that this will not be the case, that you will not make a nuclear bomb, and that you will reach Iran, the country which is for justice and everything, will not seek to destroy any country, including Israel? That is what is the perception, which has to be corrected, and I think it's very important that you tell the world community that this is what it is.

Thank you.

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): Thank you very much.

In addition to being -- to speaking on behalf of the press here in the United Nations, I'm sure that you raise a question on the minds of many here.

The authorities in the United States, I believe, are aware that Iran's nuclear issue is a political one with no legal background. For 27 years, United States government officials have been hostile with the Iranian government, and by default against the development of our country. For 27 years, spare parts or even airplanes, passenger airplanes have been denied to us.

These will have no military usage. But nonetheless, we've been denied even such technology.

So it seems to us that the question is political. Let us remember, therefore, eight years, the United States supported an aggressor to attack Iran. We had just freed ourselves from a dictator who depended on the United States, who was violent towards his own people, who put down regular demonstrations and used guns to silence people.

We did not have any elections in his time. Our officials and authorities were chosen in other corners beside popular corners, and people rose to establish a republic to introduce freedom and democracy. We expected that the United States government would support the initiative taken by the Iranian people, but from day on one, hostilities arose.

There were, of course, acts of terror. There were confrontations in our country. And we have been under siege, including an economics sanction, from the first day of our revolution, almost. Almost from 1979.

Even before our government institutions were able to shape, we were in the initial stages of drafting a constitution, having parliamentary elections. We were placed under sanctions. And not only that, this has continued for 27 years under various pretexts. Today the pretext happens to be the nuclear issue.

We have been for many years a member of the IAEA. We have been a signatory -- we are a signatory to the NPT. And we've demonstrated our largest volume of cooperation with the IAEA.

Iran has provided the IAEA the largest number of documents that any country has ever given. Even in the past several years, all the works that we have done, we have also seen that the IAEA has published many reports, numerous reports saying that they do not see any violation in the treaty requirements of NPT by the Iranian government.

So, when we talk about concerns about Iran's nuclear issue, I want to say that it's not the nuclear bomb that the American government is afraid of, for there are countries in our region who are armed with a nuclear bomb and are supported by chance by the United States government. Now, how is this?

In Iran, we say, there are two skies over one ceiling, or two kinds of wind running over the same ceiling. It doesn't seem plausible. They are not concerned about the bomb, but it seems to us they like to prevent the development of our country, as they have in the past.

We were ready for a dialogue. However, some countries believe that they can speak for the entire world community.

Let us recall that in a declaration that was very transparent, 118 member states of the non-coalition movement recognized Iran's right to nuclear technology. I am at a loss in understanding what else we need to do to provide guarantees.

I have said to the dear gentleman here that there is no provision in the NPT that says that we do not have the -- that perhaps says that we need the vote other the confidence of the U.S. government to have peaceful nuclear technology. There's no such provision, especially coming from a country that not only has an immense nuclear arsenal, but is developing new nuclear bombs, a second, third generation, that are even more frightening than previous nuclear bombs, and that is even today supporting countries that produce nuclear bombs.

Now, this to us seems that it should be of more concern. It we consider and accept that there's a logic behind what we are saying, too, then we have to also ask the right questions.

Should Iran shut down every technological development in the biological field, in the medical field, in the chemical field? Because in any of these fields, there is a possibility of a dual usage or possibly a chemical bomb. So when we speak of justice, we mean that everyone is equal when we act within the framework of international law and we follow the provisions of NPT.

Now, if the U.S. government submits a report in -- as a member of an NPT, I'd like to ask, what have they done to destroy their nuclear weapons? To what extent? Where are these weapons? And who inspects their weapons program?

They, too, need to submit a report. And it's also important for the IAEA to also publicize the extent of work they've done in Iran. For example, versus what they've done elsewhere -- let's say the United States. We've acted in a very transparent...

HARRIS: And you've been listening to a news conference from Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. If you would like to continue to follow this news conference, we invite you to Pipeline -- CNN Pipeline. Just go to on your computer and you can continue to follow this news conference from the United Nations.

And still to come, the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his top deputy.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: If you have good actionable intelligence in Pakistan where they were, would you give the order to kill him or capture him?


BLITZER: And go into Pakistan?

BUSH: Absolutely.



PRES. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTAN: We will do it ourselves. We would like to do it ourselves.


HARRIS: As you can see, Pakistan's leader takes issue with President Bush over how far U.S. forces should go.

COLLINS: It's the clue investigators have been looking for, narrowing the search in the spinach scare.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The (INAUDIBLE) themselves are quoted as saying, "The crime rate is going to go up" if they don't get more free rent. Then it's time to get your concealed handgun license. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: On the air and under the gun. A Houston shock jock says arm yourself against Katrina evacuees.

That story coming up in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: Take you back now live to President Ahmadinejad. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking to a group at the United Nations called the United Nations Correspondence Association, and taking questions. Among them, about his nuclear program, uranium enrichment program there.

Want to go directly to Richard Roth, who is standing by at the U.N., to ask him a question or two about this.

So, he answered the questions in his way. He said that the United States, Richard, is not really concerned about the nuclear bomb. They just don't want Iran, of all the other countries who have nuclear capabilities, to have one.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: He's still answering that question. This is the first question at this press conference that I believe has gone on for 10 minutes. With 100 journalists in the room at this point, we would be here probably talking tomorrow when this press conference ends, but -- even by U.N. standards.

He is saying, and he has said this before, that the United States is talking about Iran dismantling any type of nuclear program, when why don't they get their own weapons program under control and start slashing their arsenals? Which has been the demand of a lot of U.N. member countries when they accused the U.S., Russia, France, the big powers of having nuclear weapons and telling the rest of the world, you can't have them. But Iran says its program is purely for peaceful purposes.

As he told the General Assembly the other night, it's transparent, it's totally peaceful. He complained that his country has given the most documents of any other nation to the International Atomic Energy Agency. However, in his last report, Heidi, the IAEA had significant questions.

Why were there traces of enriched uranium found on various containers in a storage facility? Certain devices found that could only used for the core of a nuclear bomb?

These are a lot of outstanding issues. So there's still a big debate going on also among the five permanent members of the council about what to do.

The U.S. is now pursuing much more than weeks before the diplomatic track, unable to get Russia, China, and now France and the U.K. to really be gung ho about sanctions at this time. And the president of Iran did thank, Heidi, the city of New York, the police department, and New Yorkers for putting up with all the traffic convoys that the delegates put the citizenry through.

COLLINS: He said his only regret was that he wasn't able to chat with average residents of New York and the citizens walking the streets. So, interesting comments, indeed.

Richard Roth, we thank you.

HARRIS: You may recall the surveillance photograph of a large gathering of Taliban at funeral. The controversy, whether the U.S. missed an opportunity to strike.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr joins us now. She has new details.

And Barbara, what have you learned?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, there has been a significant update now here at the Pentagon about that whole issue. As you say, you might recall this photograph was shown a few days ago, a piece of overhead photography taken by a U.S. spy plane over Afghanistan. \The picture showed what was said to be, and is now confirmed to be, a funeral gathering for what is believed to be a mid- level Taliban commander. Why didn't the U.S. military take the shot against these people, these suspected Taliban that had gathered for this funeral? Why did the U.S. pass up taking the shot? Well, today, Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, held a press conference here. He was asked the question, and he offered some very significant new details about what this photograph did not show just off frame.

Have a listen.


LT. GEN. Karl EIKENBERRY: What's not shown in the picture, just off the picture, is a village. And it also is reasonable for the commander to conclude from that village that there were probably innocents, maybe sympathetic to Taliban, but innocents, non- combatants, that had moved to participate in that funeral. There's also questionable whether there were women that were standing there. It is also questionable whether there were children that were standing there. So that commander made a decision based upon our values as a people, based upon our values as a nation, that he would not strike.


STARR: So when you look at that picture again, Tony, it showed one set of facts, but it perhaps did not show the complete set of facts. And General Eikenberry today closing the loop on that, saying just off frame there was a village, and that it was believed there were women and children nearby, so the commander decided not strike.

One other interesting quick note, Tony, General Eikenberry was asked about President Bush's comments on CNN yesterday, responding to Wolf Blitzer that, yes, absolutely, in the president's words, U.S. troops would enter Pakistan if they had intelligence about Osama bin Laden and thought that they could get him. General Eikenberry, asked about President Bush's remarks, said that U.S. troops at every level clearly understand President Bush's intent, and he wouldn't go further -- Tony.

HARRIS: Man, that's curious, OK.

Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon. Barbara, thank you.

Allies in the war on terror. Really? Are they at odds over the hunt for the world's most hunted man, President Bush in an exclusive interview with our Wolf Blitzer says U.S. troops would go after Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan, if he received good intelligence. Pakistan president says, not so fast, we will handle it. Mr. Bush made the comment ahead of his meeting tomorrow with Pakistani President Musharraf. He sits down next week with leaders of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. But first he talked with Wolf Blitzer about the war on terror and the search for al Qaeda's leader in a CNN exclusive.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR Do you think the Pakistanis could be doing more? Because there's a lot of suspicion that Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban, they're someplace in Pakistan, Waziristan, and that the Pakistanis, for whatever reason, are giving them a truce, amnesty, they're not doing what they should be?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES. OF THE UNTIED STATES: Yes. No, that's not the way I view it. I view it that Musharraf. They tried -- al Qaeda that is, tried to kill Musharraf, several times, and I view President Musharraf as somebody who would like to bring al Qaeda to justice. As a matter of fact, we'll be discussing that with him on that subject on Friday at the White House.

BLITZER: There are others in Pakistan who may not have this commitment?

BUSH: Maybe. Maybe. There's no question there is kind of a hostile territory in the remote regions of Pakistan, that makes it easier for somebody to hide. But we're on the hunt. We'll get him.

But, remember, protecting America is, no question, getting bin Laden, or Zawahiri, as you mentioned, but it's also making sure that we understand what the enemy is thinking and getting ready to do to prevent these attacks from happening in the first place.

BLITZER: If you had good, actionable intelligence in Pakistan where they were, would you give the order to kill him or capture him?

BUSH: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Go into Pakistan?

BUSH: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Even though the Pakistanis say that's their sovereign territory?

BUSH: We would take the action necessary to bring them to justice.


BLITZER: Pakistan's president took issue with President Bush's comments.

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTAN PRESIDENT: My response would be that we are able to do everything. We have been, whenever we locate anybody, and there have been many such occasions, where we have located al Qaeda or Taliban activity, we have struck, and we have struck with good force, very successfully. We will carry that on our side of the border.

QUESTION: Would you allow the U.S. to do that?

MUSHARRAF: No, we wouldn't like to allow that at all. We will do it ourselves.


HARRIS: More on the U.S./Pakistan/Afghanistan relationship now. Let's talk to our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. She is in London with us.

Christiane, good to talk to you.

I have to ask you, when thinking back, reflecting for a moment, on the comments from President Bush about being willing to go into Pakistan, on the ground there, with actionable intelligence, tell us why that is problematic in the real world on the ground for Pervez Musharraf?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pervez Musharraf has made a strategic decision, and did so after 9/11, to be with the United States in the war against terrorism, and in the intervening five years has shown his commitment. There have been persistent raids and hunts on al Qaeda, some have been successful, and some have not. Some have failed to capture those who were located and have ended up killing civilians in various airstrikes. Others have captured wanted people who are now in custody, either in Guantanamo or elsewhere.

There is a deep sensitivity amongst the Pakistani government and military letting other militaries in. Pervez Musharraf, in an off- camera meeting with some journalist and other opinion makers this week at the U.N. said that while his government and most of the people of Pakistan understand the strategic necessity for Pakistan to be against extremism, against terrorism, against al Qaeda, and to be with the United States in this war on terror, some important parts of the population in Pakistan don't feel that way. In fact, they still feel very angry. They're angered by U.S. policies and politics, and other things in the region. They're angry, for instance, still at the Israeli/Palestinian situation, and what many believe is an assault on Islam. So it's a very delicate dance for the president of Pakistan.

HARRIS: Christiane, I just want to read a quote to you and maybe get your perspective on this. This is Pervez Musharraf yesterday talking about the resurgent Taliban. "The problem lies in Afghanistan, and that is creating the problem in Pakistan. I am already doing a lot in Pakistan. They need to be doing more in Afghanistan."

What do you make of the finger pointing going back and forth between Hamid Karzai and Pervez Musharraf?

AMANPOUR: Well, you know, this has been going on several years now. Ever since it was clear that, No. 1, the international community did not put in enough soldiers in Afghanistan to back up their incredible success back in 2001, when they broke the Taliban, broke al Qaeda and sent them on the run, and brought in the forces of democracy under Hamid Karzai. This was a first big success in the war on terror. But it soon became clear that there were not enough U.S., British, other allied troops on the ground, and slowly, slowly, the Taliban have regained a foothold, to the point right now that they're mounting a credible opposition to not only the coalition forces, but to the Afghan forces, who are aligned with the forces of democracy.

Now, Afghanistan believes that many of these Taliban have for the last few years been regrouping, retraining, re-entrenching across the border in Pakistan and being given free passage back in to Afghanistan. So this has been a great source of contention. Indeed some in the U.S. military and some in the U.S. diplomatic corps have said Pakistan needs to do more to prevent the Taliban activities and Taliban coming in from Pakistan in to Afghanistan.

Now every time President Musharraf is asked about that, he gets very angry, and he says that they're doing all they can, and that, in fact, the Taliban are active and resurgent inside Afghanistan, and they point the finger at Karzai, at the president of Afghanistan. So this has been going on for a long time.

But the fact of the matter is, it's a very dangerous situation right now. There's not just the Taliban resurgence and this real credible position to the democratic forces there, but also unrivaled narco-mafia terrorism and a narco-mafia economy, with an inability to restrain this poppy field growth and the spread of these drugs.

HARRIS: Our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour joining us from London. Christiane, we appreciate it. Thank you.

COLLINS: Another bump in the polls for the president. Two out of three surveys say, yes. All were conducted within the past week. Here now, a look at the numbers: an "Los Angeles Times" Bloomberg poll puts the president's approval rating at 45 percent. It's at 37 percent in the CBS/"New York Times" poll The "USA Today"/Gallup poll shows the president's approval rating in the mid-40s. Those surveys come less than two months before the congressional elections.

Wal-Mart announcing a major health initiative for employees, and you can cash in as well. Details on that in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Heidi, live pictures from uptown New York, Harlem, New York, inside of a church there in Harlem, where we are anticipating an appearance and remarks from Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.

COLLINS: Talking about his heating oil program. We'll hear more about that in just a moment.


HARRIS: And new video into CNN of Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, arriving at Mount Olivet Baptist Church. That is in uptown New York, Harlem, New York. Just at day after calling President Bush the devil. There is Hugo Chavez. Oh, did we lose the tape?

COLLINS: There he was.

HARRIS: OK, there was Hugo Chavez in church, talking about a deal he promised about a year ago to supply oil there, kind of the Citgo Venezuela heating oil program for folks in Harlem, New York. We'll continue to follow that. It's on our radar, so it's on your radar now throughout the day.

COLLINS: Locked, loaded and politically charged. A talk radio show in Houston issues something of a call to arms. His target, Hurricane Katrina evacuees who he says are linked to crime.

CNN's Sean Callebs has the story.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Houston gun shop owner Jim Pruett is fed up with the rise in violent crime in the city.

JIM PRUETT, GUN SHOP OWNER: This is called a looter shooter.

CALLEBS: A spike in robberies, assaults and murders, Houston police blame in part on Katrina evacuees. For Pruett, the final straw was listening to a radio interview with an evacuee who he says dropped a not so veal threat.

PRUETT: He said that if he doesn't get some rent money, if the FEMA money runs out, then the level of crime is going to go up in this neighborhood because I'm going to have to get me some money.

CALLEBS: For gun enthusiast and part showman, Pruett is also a local talk radio host. He put out a commercial warning Houstonians to arm themselves.

PRUETT: When the Katricians (ph) themselves are quoted as saying, the crime rate is going to go up if they don't get more free rent, then it's time to get your concealed handgun license.

CALLEBS: It's no secret that most of the so-called Katricians are evacuees from New Orleans. People like David Turner who proudly boast a tattoo reading sixth ward. DAVID TURNER, KATRINA EVACUEE: It's my hood where, you know, where I grew up in New Orleans.

CALLEBS: It's an area near the French Quarter. Turner says when people in Houston see his dreadlocks and tattoos, they think one thing.

TURNER: It's -- they're like, dog, that's the first thing coming in line, like dog.

CALLEBS: And that's something echoed by Tanishia Nicholas, who says evacuees are being unfairly singled out.

TANISHIA NICHOLAS, KATRINA EVACUEE: But there are three guys from New Orleans and there's 100,000 people here. I mean, you can't -- you just can't have a weapon for everybody.

CALLEBS: A large majority of the 130,000 or so Katrina evacuees in Houston are unemployed, according to the city.

TURNER: See, I'm willing to work. I'm willing to get, you know, a nice job out here, but I don't have like transportation.

NICHOLAS: You can't find a job and you just really don't know what to do.

CALLEBS: And the last of the government benefits are running out.

(on camera): Is that loaded?

PRUETT: This is loaded. It's cocked and locked.

CALLEBS (voice-over): After handing out about 8,000 concealed weapons permits in both 2004 and 2005, Harris County, home to Houston, is on track to issue 11,000 so far this year. Pruett offers no apologies. Only a final salvo.

PRUETT: In Texas, we don't carry handguns because we have to, it's because we get to.

CALLEBS: Sean Callebs, CNN, Houston.


COLLINS: We want to let you know, just about an hour ago, we spoke to Houston's mayor, Bill White, about that controversial commercial and its creator. The mayor told us, quote, "Mr. Pruett has spent most of his life as a radio shock jock. Now he is playing on people's fears to advance his new business, which is the business of selling guns. We need to have a much more adult conversation about what's fueling the rise in crime in America's big cities. Most victims of the storm are hard-working people. For the few that are criminals, we have a housing program. It is called jail."

HARRIS: And let us take you back now to New York City and the Olivet -- Mount Olivet Baptist Church in Harlem, where Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is unveiling his Citgo Venezuela heating oil program in Harlem today.

Christine Romans is on the line with us right. Christine, what can you tell us about this?


Well, you know, this the man who called President Bush the devil yesterday. And (INAUDIBLE) himself the United Nations against the smell of the devil. And here he received a warm welcome. About 400 people here waiting to hear him. He's unveiling the second year now of a program to give discounted heating oil to the poor in the United States.

Now, some of the groups here say it is simply a good-hearted gesture for America's poor. Other say that it's a publicity stunt. Either way, this is a man who's getting an awful lot of press and attention, again, the day after he called the president of the United States the devil -- Tony.

HARRIS: Can you tell us, Christine, who organized this event? Was this something that was worked out between the pastor, the minister, of that church? I'm just trying to understand why that church, why this day?

ROMANS: This is something that had been planned for at least several days. We got notice about this just a few days ago. And this is a very well-organized group from all over the country. Actually, there's a native American (INAUDIBLE) here from Alaska. They're here, they're showing solidarity with Hugo Chavez. (INAUDIBLE) heating oil, and they say Chavez (INAUDIBLE) young people.

(INAUDIBLE) are school children from the neighborhood (INAUDIBLE) who were let out of school to come and hear the speech. And anti-war activists, as well. So a lot different groups are here. He's not begun speaking just yet. But, as you can imagine, a lot of people are very interested to hear what he's going to say about the president the day after he speaks at the U.N.

HARRIS: And very quickly, Christine, is there an interpreter there?

ROMANS: (INAUDIBLE) sort of U.N. head gear that we can listen in to hear the translation. But everything is in Spanish, yes.

COLLINS: A little bit difficulty hearing because of the sort of yelling and loud talking in the background. But to give some perspective, here, about 5,000 people who participated in this low- income oil program, Citgo oil program from Chavez, 40 million gallons of reduced heating oil for those families. Try to get an idea what that will do for them in the bigger picture.

HARRIS: Yes. Still to come, we'll follow that event for you, of course.

Still to come, very few people, and even fewer journalists, can claim what our own Kyra Phillips can claim.

COLLINS: There she is now, wearing the G suit. Hi, Kyra.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: I tell you what, it's the end of the era, guys. Tom Cruise in the movie "Top Gun" made this aircraft famous, but it's the men and women that flew this aircraft, from the Vietnam War to Operation Iraqi Freedom, that made it meaningful. We're going to take you inside the cockpit. We're going flying for the final time, coming up later in the hour.


HARRIS: We're sitting here watching Kyra in the monitor. Man, she looks good in that flight suit! I digress a little bit. OK. Trying to take one last quick peek. You don't get in to a jet fighter -- help me here, Heidi. You strap it on, sort of -- you strap it on, right?

COLLINS: Sure. OK. After more than 30 years or so, the F-14 Tomcat, was the biggest, baddest gun around, that's for sure. It certainly owned the skies since 1971, this thing has been flying.

Time and age, though, finally caught up with the supersonic warbird. F-14 officially retires from the Navy this week. It will be what we call "boneyarded" and CNN's Kyra Phillips knows these awesome jets. The Navy picked her as the last journalist to fly the Tomcat, or at least ride in it, right, before it's grounded for good. Kyra joining us not with this exclusive from the Oceana Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Virginia.

Sometimes, though, Kyra, they call it the turkey. Pretty hard to fly.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: I'll tell you what, you talk to the pilots, and they'll say, no problem. But then you actually see how they do it and you look at the tape and you hear the communications and you think, that is unbelievable. What they do and how they learn. You're going to hear in a little bit. And here we go. Stay with me.

I remember being on the USS Abraham Lincoln, and every time those strike fighters launched, you just heard echoes from everybody there on deck, those are sounds of freedom, sounds of freedom.

But here we are actually on top of the F-14, the aircraft that's going to retire. It's the end of an era, and I have to admit when I arrived here and saw the aircraft and saw members of the squadron, it was definitely bitter sweet, for a number of reasons. Just because I had a chance to fly in this aircraft before the war started and then just observed how crucial this plane has been within naval aviation for so many years, actually back to the Vietnam War.

Commander Paul Haas didn't fly this jet in the Vietnam War. We're not here to age you, sir, even though it is your birthday and you're 44 today. Happy birthday.

CDR. PAUL HAAS, F-14 PILOT: Thanks for telling everybody. I appreciate that.

PHILLIPS: But seriously, this is the man that was in charge of the squadron. The BF-31 on the USS Abraham Lincoln when I was embedded during the war. And for you, sir, just coming back here and seeing everybody, and seeing the aircraft, you and I stepping up on it, you felt a little lump in your throat, didn't you?

HAAS: Absolutely. It's been about a year since I have flown this model of airplane and a little more emotional than I thought would be, climbing up here thinking, this might be the last time I ever get the chance to climb on top of an operational Tomcat. It's a strange feeling.

PHILLIPS: It was designed around the Phoenix missile, to combat the Soviet threat. It's played a major part in every single war up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. What is it about the F-14 that makes it so powerful? Obviously, a very flexible aircraft, can carry up to 800 pounds of weapons. But what's it like to fly this, and what do you know about this aircraft that makes it such an intense strike fighter?

HAAS: Over 8,000 pounds of weapons. I got to correct you.

PHILLIPS: 8,000, thank you.

HAAS: Well, first of all, we're standing here in the after part of the airplane, the engines are what comes to mind. It's got two incredibly strong after-burning engines that can push all that stuff that you carry in addition to the airplane itself and push it into supersonic speeds very easily.

The wings are a very distinctive feature of the aircraft, they're swept right now very close to how they would be if you were going at top speed, which is in excess of Mach 2.

So really, really distinctive features on this airplane. And of course, when you're coming in for a landing or when you're dogfighting at slower air speeds and turning radius becomes more important to you, the wings will program out to a 20 degree wing sweep angle, giving it a great flexible capability, both in high and low speed regimes.

PHILLIPS: Let's move our way up to the front of The tomcat, actually up here. And underneath is where all the weapons are set. And I know that we've got a bunch of the various weapons set up over by this other Tomcat. Just tell us the type of load this aircraft can carry, what type of missiles.

HAAS: This airplane can carry a combination of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles. It can carry Sidewinders, which is a heat seeker; Sparrows and Phoenix, which are radar missiles; dumb bombs, iron weapons, basically that you put a radical on a target and then pickle; and then laser-guided weapons; and GPS guided weapons, JDAM (ph); and also a variety of things like air decoys, cluster munitions. Pretty much everything in the inventory.

PHILLIPS: Commander, after I, as we wrap up, just taking a look, saying we're wrapping up, we're coming to the end of the hour, just finally, most defining moment for you, flying this aircraft?

HAAS: For me it was a flight during Iraqi Freedom. I think that everybody out there has their own story like that. It may be during combat. It may be during a clear, blue sky day here back at home, where maybe things don't go quite as well as you planned, but I'm happy to say this airplane brought me back home every time I took off in it.

PHILLIPS: Including that dust storm. The major sandstorm that we'll never forget.

HAAS: Yes, exactly. We were flying during that day when everything shut down over the beach, and that dust storm blew out over the Gulf. We continued to operate off the Lincoln, so that was something else.

PHILLIPS: Commander Paul Haas, pleasure to see you again, four years later.

HAAS: Good to see you, ma'am.

PHILLIPS: Bittersweet.

Back to you guys.

HARRIS: Great stuff.

COLLINS: All right. Kyra Phillips, Norfolk, Virginia today.

Thanks, Kyra.

"YOUR WORLD TODAY" is coming up next.

I'm Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris, have a great day.