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CNN Saturday Morning News

Condoleezza Rice Returns to Mideast Region Today; Interview with DNC Chairman Howard Dean; Most Dangerous Rockets So Far Fired Into Israel

Aired July 29, 2006 - 08:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone.
A few hours from now, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets with the Israeli prime minister in Jerusalem. One thing already appears certain, the shooting won't stop any time soon.

Israel today rejected a U.N. request for a 72-hour cease-fire to deliver aid and to evacuate civilians in south Lebanon. Israel says Hezbollah is blocking the safe routes that have already been set up.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heads back to the Mideast today. She will discuss a U.N. resolution to end the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. We'll have a live report from Israel straight ahead.

And Seattle police are treating yesterday's deadly attack on a Jewish center as a hate crime. A gunman killed one woman and wounded five others. Witnesses say the gunman claimed to be a Muslim angry at Israel. A suspect described as a U.S. citizen and a Muslim of Pakistani descent is in jail.

Now to Iraq.

The U.S. military says four U.S. Marines were killed in combat over the past two days. The fighting occurred in western Iraq's Anbar province. And that area is a hotbed of insurgency.

To date, 2,572 American troops have died in Iraq.

HARRIS: On one hand, the House votes to hike the minimum wage. On the other, Republicans cut inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates. The legislation now goes to the Senate. There is a tough battle expected.

A doctor for Tour de France winner Floyd Landis says additional tests will show that a testosterone imbalance is normal for Landis and not evidence of illegal doping. The cyclist's spectacular win last Sunday in Paris has been under a cloud since the abnormal test results were made public four days later. Landis vehemently denies that he cheated.

Our question this morning, do you believe him? Tell us why or why not in an e-mail. Here's the address:

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news. From the CNN Center, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. It is July 29th.

NGUYEN: And despite what you're seeing, it's not a gray day.

HARRIS: Absolutely not.

NGUYEN: This was not planned, folks.

HARRIS: the 29th, all day today, 8:00 a.m. here at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, 5:00 a.m. in Seattle.

And good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris.

NGUYEN: Yes, good morning, everybody. Thanks for being with us today.

Topping our news, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives back in the region in just a few hours. We're talking about the Mideast. President Bush is sending her there to discuss a U.N. resolution to end the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

White House Correspondent Elaine Quijano joins us live with more on all of this.

Good morning to you, Elaine.


That's right. And yesterday, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that they want to see a multinational force to help the Lebanese army, to help bolster them, and to help stabilize the region.

Now, after that Oval Office meeting yesterday, the two leaders also said they were seeking a United Nations resolution aimed as bringing an end to the fighting. Both the president and the prime minister have been under intense pressure from European and Arab allies to support an immediate cease-fire. But both leaders have resisted that, again saying the root cause of the violence must be addressed first, and suggesting that the fighting taking place is part of a bigger picture.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The temptation is to say, it's too tough, let's just try to solve it quickly with something that won't last. Let's just get it off the TV screens. But that won't solve the problem. And it's certainly not going to help the Lebanese citizens have a life that is normal and peaceful.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The brutal reality of the situation is that we're only going to get violence stopped and stability introduced on the basis of clear principles. Now, as I say, we set out a way to do this, but it requires the long term as well as the short term.


QUIJANO: And as you mentioned, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is headed back to the region for continued discussions with Israeli and Lebanese officials. En route to Jerusalem this morning, she gave an initial assessment of a Lebanese peace proposal passed out last night saying it includes "some very good elements."

Interestingly, though, Betty, among those elements, the release of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails, the return of two Israeli soldiers, but also an immediate cease-fire -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Elaine Quijano at the White House for us this morning.

Thank you, Elaine.

HARRIS: Well, we'll have to wait and see how the conflict in the Middle East might impact the midterm congressional election exactly 100 days from today. It is an election highly important to Republicans and vital to Democrats.


HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: The president made a big deal about bringing the Iraqi prime minister to address Congress and met with him yesterday. The Iraqi prime minister is an anti-Semite. We don't need to spend $200 and $300 and $500 billion bringing democracy to Iraq to turn it over to people who believe that Israel doesn't have a right to defend itself.


HARRIS: Not one to split hairs. Howard Dean is chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and he joins us live from Pittsburgh.

Dr. Dean, good to see you. Good morning, sir.

DEAN: Thanks for having me on.

HARRIS: OK. So you didn't like the criticism from the prime minister of Israel and the pass he gave to Hezbollah, but...

DEAN: Well, there was worse. The speaker of the parliament in Iraq said that the bombings and the beheadings were the responsibilities of "Jews and the sons of Jews."

Now, you know, we're spending an awful lot of money in Iraq. I don't think that we want the kind of government in Iraq that is anti- Semitic.

HARRIS: He doesn't -- he doesn't speak for everyone in the parliament.

DEAN: No, that is correct. He doesn't speak for everyone.


DEAN: But he is one of the highest elected officials in Iraq. I think it's extremely disturbing what is going on in the Iraqi government. And I worry about that a lot.

And we really need peace in the Middle East, and we need a commitment to fight terrorism in the Middle East. And that didn't sound so great to me.

HARRIS: Did you -- it didn't sound great, but do you know the prime minister to be an anti-Semite, or is that what you believe?

DEAN: Well, again -- again, he refused to condemn terrorism. Excuse me, he refused to condemn Hezbollah, said that Israel was the aggressor, and his speaker of the parliament is clearly anti-Semitic. And I leave it to the American people to make this decision for themselves.

I think that we need a new direction in our foreign policy. The president has gotten us bogged down in the Middle East. He didn't pay attention to the Middle East for the first two years of his term, and I think now we're seeing what happens when you don't have a comprehensive foreign policy. We need a new direction in this country, we need a new direction at home, and we need a new direction in the foreign policy of the United States.

HARRIS: OK. Last question on this area. If you had it to do again, had the statement to make again, would you still make the same statement?

DEAN: Sure. I just -- I just said that the American people can decide for themselves what their own conclusion is. But that's the evidence that I presented.

HARRIS: Right.

DEAN: The speaker made it very clear that he literally blames Jews for beheadings and bombs, that the prime minister said that Hezbollah -- or refused to condemn Hezbollah. This is $500 trillion -- $500 billion of American taxpayers' money is going into this. We just need a new direction in this country.

We need a real change. We need a sensible, thoughtful, tough and smart foreign policy, and a sensible, sensible, tough and smart domestic policy.

HARRIS: One hundred days from the midterm election. What's the affirmative case for Americans to vote for Democrats and move at least Republicans out of one of these houses of Congress?

DEAN: Well, we've got an agenda that the House, the Senate, the governors and the mayors have agreed on. We want honesty back in our government. We want American jobs that will stay in America. And we want a healthcare system that works for everybody. We want a tough, strong, national defense policy, but one that depends on being tough and smart, not just talking tough.

HARRIS: Let me personalize this a little bit. Can Democrats bring peace to the Middle East?

DEAN: Well, I wouldn't want to say we can bring peace to the Middle East. It's been going on for almost 60 years -- we've had problems in the Middle East. However, the ability of Bill Clinton to bring peace to the Middle East was demonstrated by the agreements that he was able to get between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and I think we've seen no such progress since President Bush has been in office.

HARRIS: Can Democrats stabilize Iraq?

DEAN: I believe we can stabilize Iraq by leaving Iraq over a period of time. There may not be agreement on a timetable, or whether we should have a timetable on the Democratic side, but the vast majority of Democrats believe that we should not have been in Iraq, that the president was wrong to take us to Iraq, and that the president's statement that this is going to be left to the next president is not leadership, it's not responsible.

We need to find a way to withdraw. We cannot leave immediately. We are there now, regardless of how we got there. We need to protect our troops, who have performed extraordinarily well. But I think you will see a different approach to Iraq from the Democratic Party.

HARRIS: Can Democrats balance the budget, get us cheaper gas, improve our schools?

DEAN: Yes.


DEAN: The answer to that is all yes. We have balanced the budget in the past. The Democrats are the only people that have balanced the budget in the last 40 years in this country.

You cannot trust Republicans with your money. Borrow and spend -- the largest deficit in the history of the country only a few short years after we had the largest surplus. I mean, it's pathetic.

The Democrats have a good track record on Medicare, on Social Security, on education. And I think you're going to see a markedly different economy and a markedly different approach to balancing the budget when the Democrats take over.

HARRIS: Dr. Dean, good to see you. Thanks for your time.

DEAN: Hey, thanks very much for having me on, Tony.

HARRIS: Our pleasure. A few swings from the other side of the net ahead later this morning. The press secretary for the Republican National Committee, Tracey Schmitt, will get her chance coming up in about two hours from right now.

NGUYEN: Well, Hezbollah fires its most dangerous rockets so far into Israel. Three rockets carrying 100 kilograms of explosive hit near the city of Afula. That is south of Haifa. Hezbollah says it fired a new type of rocket in that attack.

And CNN's Matthew Chance joins us via broadband from northern Israel with details on this.

Give us the latest on that, Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest, Betty, is the Israeli authorities are still trying to determine exactly what kind of rocket this was that was fired into Israel. In fact, three of them, as you mentioned, fired into the Israeli town of Afula, which is the farthest south that any rocket has hit in northern Israel to date.

The rocket was certainly much bigger, it had a much bigger caliber than the ones, the Katyushas that we've been witnessing raining down on this part of the country for the past several weeks. It was packed with much more explosives, many, many times more than the ordinary Katyusha rockets.

And so, there's a good deal of concern amongst the Israelis that this may be the start of a new escalation by Hezbollah. For many weeks now, Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the Hezbollah militia, has been vowing to strike Tel Aviv, which is, of course, quite south from here, and Israel's biggest city, with some of the big rockets, it's believed, according to intelligence officials here in Israel, Hezbollah possesses.

This rocket that hit is not believed to be the biggest that they have, but still, it could be a major escalation. And meanwhile, of course, there have been other Katyusha rockets flying in. More than a hundred yesterday. They've been flying in today, as well.

Despite Israel's air attacks, despite its artillery strikes on Hezbollah strongholds, it seems that the militia's ability to strike at will in northern Israel is pretty much undiminished -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Well, you say this is not the biggest rocket that Hezbollah may have in its arsenal, but are there any telltale signs on this rocket that can prove where Hezbollah is getting it?

CHANCE: I think there certainly will be, although the information hasn't been given to us yet. But the general consensus amongst intelligence officers is that Hezbollah gets its weapons mainly from Iran, through Syria. Iran, of course, denies that, saying it only offers moral support to the Hezbollah movement. But I think when we get the detailed study of what this rocket was, I think we'll find that it is indeed some kind of derivative from an Iranian rocket, perhaps with North Korean connections, as well.

This is what Israeli intelligence officials say they believe is the situation. But we'll have more confirmation on that, I hope, in the next day or so.

NGUYEN: All right.

Matthew Chance joining us via broadband from northern Israel.

Matthew, thank you for that.

HARRIS: And still ahead, what is it like to treat the wounded in the Middle East crisis? Coming up at the bottom of the hour, Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes you inside a hospital on the front lines.

NGUYEN: Up next, wildfires force hundreds to flee their homes. We'll tell you if the weather is going to cooperate with fire-fighting efforts today.

HARRIS: And be sure and weigh in on our e-mail "Question of the Morning."

Do you believe Floyd Landis' story? We'll read some of your e- mails throughout the program.

We'll be right back.


NGUYEN: Take a look at this. Among the large wildfires burning in the United States is this one in Oregon near the Idaho border, the Foster Gulch Complex, it's called.

This fire has blackened almost 30,000 acres. A highway near the town of Hathaway (ph) has been closed.

Also, fires are raging in the great plains. Officials say there's been significant damage in the town of Chadron, but the full extent, well, that's not just known yet. The fires were sparked several days ago by lightning igniting dry grassland.

HARRIS: I've got to tell you something, I can't even remember the last time I can recall hearing a story of wildfires in Nebraska.

Let's turn around here. Let's get over to Reynolds Wolf there in the CNN -- that is a -- that's a nice looking...

NGUYEN: All the bells and whistles.

HARRIS: It's cool.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I know, but you guys are still so far away. I mean, I know we're closer, and my heart is with you, but still, it's a long way over.

NGUYEN: Right. WOLF: At least we're in the same neighborhood. Maybe you guys can bring over, you know...

NGUYEN: Some food?

WOLF: Some food, a casserole, that kind of thing.

NGUYEN: All right. We'll work on it.

WOLF: We'll have a potluck dinner right here in the studio. Yes, we'll do what we can.


NGUYEN: It's going to a good day. It's kind of relative. I mean, you've got to have air conditioning for it to be a good day in those areas right?

WOLF: No question. No question about it.

And the thing is, even if you don't -- just don't go out and exert yourself. You know, this is a time really just to take it easy. Baby steps and things will be OK. Plenty of water, too.

HARRIS: Let me say this to you. From the moment I heard Frank Sinatra, I haven't heard a word he's been saying.



WOLF: Sorry.

HARRIS: Oh, man.

All right, Reynolds.

NGUYEN: We'll talk to you soon.

HARRIS: I don't know why I felt like I needed to say that.

NGUYEN: And maybe Tony will be listening that time.

All right. See you.

Well, life interrupted. In the next hour, I'm going to speak -- would you stop laughing?

HARRIS: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

NGUYEN: I've got to speak. This is serious business with a college student, Tony, who is in Lebanon and has witnessed the developing refugee crisis in the Middle East.

HARRIS: And in about 10 minutes, treating the wounded in Israel. Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows you the hurdles facing doctors in Haifa. We'll be right back.


HARRIS: Updating the crisis in the Middle east. Here's what we know right now.

Israel has rejected a call from the U.N.'s relief coordinator for a 72-hour cease-fire. Israel kept up its attacks overnight. The Israeli air force says it carried out 60 airstrikes.

Hezbollah representatives agreed to a Lebanese government peace plan with reservations. The group objected to plans for a robust force of international peacekeepers but agreed to an increased international presence.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives back in the region today. She meets with the Israeli prime minister later today to discuss a U.N. resolution to end the fighting.

NGUYEN: Let's get back to our e-mail "Question of the Day."

Here it is: Do you believe Floyd Landis' story?

HARRIS: What's his story?

NGUYEN: Well, Landis is the American who won the Tour de France, and apparently one lab test -- now, this is on one -- shows high levels of testosterone. But, Landis says, "I'm innocent." And you will have...

HARRIS: OK. Another test.

NGUYEN: ... news of that -- yes, with another test. So, we'll see. Those results come out this week.

But here's what our viewers are saying so far.

Baldo says, "Congress and the media have started a witch hunt, and athletes are being convicted before all the facts are in." Referring to just one lab test so far. "Yes, of course I believe Floyd is innocent."

HARRIS: Is that his name, Baldo?

NGUYEN: Apparently so.

HARRIS: All right.

This from Shaun, from Roanoke, who writes, "There is no way Landis could have one that 17th stage without some sort of chemical backup. Of the three excuses given, I will try the Jack Daniels treatment first. To think a night with Jack will enable one person to win a race which he was, in a sense, totally out of it, will have me on my way to the liquor store this morning."

Shaun, thanks.

NGUYEN: Well, that referring to the fact that Landis says the night after he didn't do so well...

HARRIS: Right.

NGUYEN: ... they just had a few drinks. Why not, right?

Well, this is what Tod in Virginia has to say. "Of course he's dirty. The only 'pros' that aren't on steroids are the poker players. What kind of steroid policy does CNN have? Hey, Tony looks pretty buffed," says Tod in Virginia.

HARRIS: Well, thank you. Thank you. Appreciate the compliment. Thank you, Tod.

NGUYEN: Do you have high levels of testosterone?

HARRIS: You are in...


NGUYEN: I had to ask. Right?

HARRIS: Hi. Still to come at the bottom of the hour...

NGUYEN: Here we go.

HARRIS: Oh, man.

At the top of the hour, we will go live to Seattle for the latest on what police call a hate crime. Is the Middle East crisis somehow connected to the deadly shooting?

But first, in just three minutes, "House Call." Sanjay Gupta gives you a special report from Haifa, Israel. See what it's like for hospitals operating in the heat of battle.

We'll be right back.