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American Morning

U.N. Mideast Resolution

Aired August 07, 2006 - 09:31   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Tony Harris in for Miles O'Brien.

We expect to hear from President Bush in the next hour. A disappointment for the Bush administration to tell you about this morning. A Security Council cease-fire resolution for the Middle East now on hold.

We have two reports. CNN chief national correspondent John King is in Washington, and senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth is in New York.

Let's start with you, John.

John, good morning.


It is a bit of a disappointment for the bush administration, but the administration is hoping with the president's remarks this morning, additional remarks by Secretary of State Rice this morning to get some momentum on the plan.

Remember, go back three weeks to the beginning of this crisis, it was the Bush administration being criticized. Many nations around the world saying it would not call for tend of hostility; it was essentially giving a green light to Israel to continue its military operations. Secretary of State Rice saying that the administration believe now that you have in place a resolution that will not only stop the fighting when it is implemented, but put in place the conditions ultimately to bring about a permanent cease-fire. She says that was critical for the United States.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECY. OF STATE: The United States has been very clear, that we did have to have some political basis to make clear that cessation of hostilities was not going to countenance a return to the status quo ante. This resolution does that. And now we're going to see who is for peace and who isn't.


KING: She says this resolution does that. There are many who think that might be an optimistic view. Lebanon says this resolution is unacceptable because the Israeli troops would not pull out immediately from Lebanon once you have a cessation of hostilities. Israel has concerns as well, saying is the United Nations force that is in Lebanon strong enough to keep Hezbollah from getting new rockets, getting resupplied.

So, Tony, the diplomacy is moving forward after weeks of being stalled, but there are still many, many questions about, a, whether the two parties, Hezbollah and Israel, will sign on to this, and then, b, whether it will actually stop the fighting on a long-term basis.

HARRIS: OK, that's John King in Washington for you. John, thank you.

Let's quickly get the view from the U.N. Richard Roth is there.

Richard, good morning.


The British Prime Minister Tony Blair making telephone calls to world leaders, urging swift adoption to the resolution. The French Foreign Ministry saying that they know that Lebanon has some problems with it. They spent Sunday, ambassador Bolton and other ambassadors. Going over the text once again on Saturday, Ambassador Bolton defended the wording, which in a way gives Israel the advantage by allowing it to keep its troop there as long as it curtails its offensive military operations.


JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMB. TO THE U.N.: The point we've made repeatedly is that the cease-fire, cessation of hostilities, has to be in the context of a fundamental transformation of the issue in the region.

Otherwise we will simply risk a repetition as we have countless times before without actually solving the problem.


ROTH: We expect a slightly new adjusted resolution to be discussed at a Security Council meeting that may start in about 30 minutes -- Tony.

HARRIS: OK, Richard Roth at the U.N. for us.

Now at the top of the hour, we will of course bring you the comments from the president. And then at that time we will bring back our Richard Roth and John King in Washington, and then bring into the mix Ben Wedeman from Tyre, Lebanon -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Right, we're covering that story for you from all angles.


O'BRIEN: We're waiting remarks from President Bush about the Middle East crisis. We're going to bring that to you live when it happens. We're expecting that right at the top of the hour.

And with a draft resolution before the U.N. Security Council looking somewhat tenuous, what should the U.S. be doing to defuse the Middle East crisis. We'll check in with former senator and U.S. envoy George Mitchell. That's up next on AMERICAN MORNING.

Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Can a U.N. draft resolution be approved to bring an end to more than three weeks of hostilities between Israel and Lebanon?

Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell was a Mideast envoy for the Clinton administration, helped broker peace in Northern Ireland. He joins us from Northeast Harbor in Maine this morning.

Always nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us.

GEORGE MITCHELL, FMR. SEN. MAJORITY LEADER: Thanks for having me, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You're most welcome. The cease-fire that's been proposed, I think it's fair to say, is tenuous at best; at least at this point. Do you think the proposal that is on the table in draft form is good or not good?

MITCHELL: I think it's a good start. No one should be surprised that the initial reaction on both sides is to have some reservation. It would have been surprising had everybody simply said great, let's do it. That doesn't happen in real life. And so I think there will now be a period of some negotiation, perhaps stretching over a few days, in which I hope an effort will be made to consider and accommodate the concerns of both sides if that's possible.

O'BRIEN: Some of the concerns, at least from the Lebanese side, are this. That Hezbollah has been asked to stop all attacks and Israel only has to stop the offensive attacks. And the conditions for peace have been set -- the buffer ground, disarming Hezbollah, et cetera, et cetera. No real resolution on the disputed lands. All of these things are not minor. They're all very big, actually.

MITCHELL: They are. They are factors which, of course, contributed to the current situation over a long period of time. And I think you -- should have been anticipated that there would be these kinds of concerns and I'm certain was anticipated. And now will come a process of trying to resolve the differences and reach a point where both sides can agree, perhaps grudgingly on some points, but nonetheless because they believe that an end to the conflict, overall, is better than the continuation of the current conflict. O'BRIEN: What about the issues where it's essentially a catch- 22? For example, Lebanon would say, well, we're not going to cease- fire until Israeli troops are out, and Israel would say, well, we're not going to get out until the peacekeepers come in. Obviously those two things are completely contradictory.

MITCHELL: That's right. If you view it as an either/or situation at any particular point in time. But there's always the prospect of phasing this, doing it over a period of time rather than it has to happen in one day. There are other ways of trying to resolve what you describe as a catch-22 situation.

It's a very difficult issue. Obviously, both sides feel very strongly about it. The Israelis wanting to protect their northern border from the rockets that have come from Hezbollah, the Lebanese wanting to have sovereignty over their own country. Nobody wants a foreign army on their soil.

So it will be difficult to resolve, but I don't think it's possible. Phasing is the likely -- one possible alternative. And I think that's clearly going to be discussed in the next couple of days.

O'BRIEN: Twenty-seven days of fighting. It seems that Hezbollah has only gained power, if you believe what local polls are saying and people on the ground are saying. There's no real border security at all. And you'd need U.N. troops, then, to keep the peace in some capacity. If you were advising this president, what would you tell him to do to solve this crisis now?

MITCHELL: Well, the administration was very slow to get involved. It has concentrated all of its effort, resources, and attention on Iraq over the past few years, and as a result, the central concern, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, really hasn't had the attention it deserves. But now after a slow start, even in the past few weeks, they're into it. And I think what they've got to do is persevere and make it clear that they're going to stay with this until it's resolved.

The problem has been that, other than Iraq, the administration's involvement, particularly in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, has been episodic, irregular -- come in one day, go out next week. I think they have to say -- the president has to make clear that they're determined to stay with this and get an ultimate resolution.

The second point is -- I simply don't agree with Secretary Rice's formulation that here's our resolution, if you're not for it, you're not for peace. That's the attitude that I think has reduced American credibility around the world. That we've presented this, we know what is best, and if you don't agree with us, you're not a good person. That's not the approach that they should be taking. It ought to be, here's an effort, let's all sit down and talk together. Let's listen to the concerns of people. Let's try to work them out. In the end, you may not be able to get everybody on board, but I think that's a better approach.

And the third thing is, this isn't going to be resolved in any final way until Syria is involved. This is on Syria's border. They're exposed to...

O'BRIEN: Direct negotiations, you mean, with the U.S.?

MITCHELL: We ought to be talking to them. And I would be amazed if there were not indirect negotiations. To say they're bad people, we won't talk to them, has the benefit of clarity and it's easily understood. But when you want someone to do something, it's hard to get them to do it if you won't talk to them.

I think we should be making an approach to Syria. They're in a different position from Iran. They're not getting as much out of this as Iran is, and yet, they're more exposed than Iran is. Their interests are not identical. Iran has a Shia regime, Syria does not. I think there's a possibility there that you could wean them away from this. And their influence will be significant because they've had a long-standing interest in Lebanon. They've never recognized existence of a separate Lebanon. They still think of it as part of Syria. And also they have the disputes with Israel on their southern border. So I would -- those three things, I think, the administration ought to consider doing.

O'BRIEN: There are critics who would say past presidents, including President Bush and President Clinton and President Carter, have all managed to walk the middle ground that you know very well, since you were going back and forth negotiating on all sides, and had a perception of being honest brokers. And that now, with this administration so clearly supporting Israel, that that kind of credibility in the region is lost. Do you agree with that assessment?

MITCHELL: I think previous administrations have handled the Middle East better than the current administration. I think there's not much doubt about that, if you look at the way things have developed. But I don't think it was based solely on our support for Israel. Every American president has supported Israel since the time of its existence.

The question is, whether you provide some degree of listening and consultation and accommodation with the other side to make sure that you can accomplish both. I don't think the answer is to say we don't support Israel. I think the answer is to make clear to the Palestinians, to the Lebanese, to other Arab states, that we are genuinely concerned about your interests, as well, and we want to do this in a way that meets, to the extent possible, the interests of both.

For example, Israel has a state. They want security. We should accommodate that. The Palestinians don't have a state. They want one -- a geographically contiguous,economically viable state. We should make clear we want that. Not just in words, but in deeds, as well.

The Arab view is that the United States is friendly to them in words, but not deeds. It's friendly to Israel in words and deeds. What we have to do is to make clear that we want to take steps that will ultimately accommodate both sides because what we want is peace, justice and permit the modernization and development of economies in the Arab world. And that's their greatest need; the modernization of their economies, economic growth and job creation. And we should and do strongly support that.

O'BRIEN: George Mitchell is a former Senate majority leader, also Mideast envoy for the Clinton administration. Nice to see you as always, sir. Thanks for talking with us.

MITCHELL: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Tony?

HARRIS: "CNN LIVE TODAY" is coming up next. Daryn Kagan is at the CNN Center. Oh, there she is in Atlanta. Daryn, what's coming up in your show?

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Tony.

O'BRIEN: Good morning.

KAGAN: It's a busy Monday morning and you'll see it unfold right here on "LIVE TODAY."


JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: It does call for a full cessation of hostilities, which, of course, is what President Bush and Secretary Rice's objective has been.


KAGAN: Of course, that's U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton. The president will be talking about a Mideast cease-fire plan in the next hour. He and his aides get a plan on the table, but not everyone is happy with it.

Nearly a month of war and the fighting is as intense as ever. Late moves from the Mideast battle front.

And Americans pack their bags. This family, they are moving to Israel right smack in the middle of a war.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why am I moving to Israel? Because I wouldn't feel -- I don't feel complete outside of Israel. I just find that it's part of what I am.


KAGAN: Those stories and all the morning's breaking news. "LIVE TODAY" at the top of the hour. For now, Tone, back to you in New York.

HARRIS: We will see you soon, Daryn. Take care.

All right. Up next, Andy is "Minding Your Business." Andy, good morning. ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" COLUMNIST: Good morning, Tony. What impact is the big Alaska oil shutdown having on the markets? And a super hero stock takes it on the chin. We'll tell you all about that, coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Mallika Khandelwal from Philadelphia is just 16 years old. Like many teenagers, she watched "Hotel Rwanda," the movie, as a school project.

But Mallika was so moved that she made up her mind to learn more about the genocide that ravaged that country in 1994. She applied for and won a grant, and then set off with her family to see firsthand Rwanda today.

Mallika joins us this morning.

Nice to see you.

You're 16 years old. You're an Indian-American. You're family's roots are from India, not Rwanda.


O'BRIEN: So why Rwanda?

KHANDELWAL: I think by seeing that movie I was just so touched by the fact that what had happened to those people was not something that was very popular. It's not something I'd ever heard of. Even in my entire lifespan I haven't even heard of such a huge and horrible event. So it really didn't matter which country it happened in. I think just the enormity of the event really shock me and made me very interested in what happened.

O'BRIEN: You won a prestigious grant that would send you to Rwanda for a month investigating, and you brought with you practically your entire family. They didn't have the passion for discovering what happened in Rwanda like you did. Were they willing to go?

KHANDELWAL: A few members were a little hesitant at first, but they were willing to go. And once they got there, I think they got into it, and they began to become very interested in what happened, and they were very moved, as well, once they began to see the images that I saw.

O'BRIEN: You did some writing for "The Philadelphia Inquirer" and you blogged a lot as well. You spoke to survivors and talked about it on the blog. What did they tell you? What did you find interesting about that?

KHANDELWAL: Well, most of the genocide survivors there weren't actually there during the genocide, because most of the Tutsis were actually killed. But most of these survivors were refugees that had left earlier and then returned to Rwanda once the fighting in '94 died down. But the general view I got from these survivors is the fact that they were upset that such divisions could harm their country so badly, because they didn't consider themselves as Hutus and Tutsis; they see each other as Rwandans killing Rwandans, and I think that really hurt them.

O'BRIEN: Has it triggered in you an interest in your future. You're going to be a senior, right?


O'BRIEN: So what do you think you do? I mean, will you have a career in international politics, or specifically in Rwanda down the road?

KHANDELWAL: I think this experience has made me want to pursue a career in international relations or politics to study more, because I think that it's important, now I can see that people need to go to other places to find out more about the world, and I realize that might be one of the most important things to learn about, is just other people and other countries around the world.

O'BRIEN: You're really lucky. I mean, Rwanda is a long, expensive, difficult trip, and yours was under written by your award. But do you think you can encourage other people to do the same thing?

KHANDELWAL: Yes, I think -- I mean, that's one of the goals I had for my trip, because I think that students my age realize that they may not be able to change the world physically, like go and stop someone from killing somebody in the genocide, but just by learning about the subject they can help inform others, and I think that's the first step to really helping countries get involved and stop huge crimes like genocide. So, yes.

O'BRIEN: I think your blog was terrific. I really enjoyed it.

KHANDELWAL: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: I really enjoyed it. We're going to have a link to it on our site.

KHANDELWAL: Thanks for talking with us. Mallika Khandelwal joining us this morning.

HARRIS: And coming up in just moments, remarks from the president on the current Middle East crisis, and also his thoughts on the work that's going on now on the U.N. resolution to bring about a cease-fire. We will have those comments for you at the top of the hour.

AMERICAN MORNING will be right back.