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Your World Today
Israel Intensifies Offensive Into Lebanon; President Bush Has Strong Words of Criticism for Hezbollah
Aired July 13, 2006 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing is safe once they're operating against Israel.
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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Cut off. Israeli warplanes sever Lebanon's only air link to the world as Israel intensifies its offensive into Lebanon.
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Responding in kind. Hezbollah takes aim at Israeli citizens on the other side of the border.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The truth of the matter is, if we really want there to be -- the situation to settle down...
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HOLMES: And a pathetic situation. The U.S. president appeals for calm while laying the blame squarely on Hezbollah and Damascus.
MCEDWARDS: Hello, and welcome to our report broadcast around the globe.
I'm Colleen McEdwards.
HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes.
We are seen on this program live in more than 200 countries.
This is YOUR WORLD TODAY.
We do begin as a dramatic escalation of violence in Lebanon, as Israel inflicts punishing strikes on a country that it says is responsible for the actions of Hezbollah.
MCEDWARDS: Here are the latest developments for you a day after Hezbollah militants kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. HOLMES: Israeli warplanes are bombing airport runways, as you can see there, shutting down completely air traffic into Lebanon, while Israeli ships enforce a naval blockade. At least 45 Lebanese civilians, perhaps more, have been killed in this offensive.
MCEDWARDS: The attacks have not stopped Hezbollah rocket attacks into northern Israel. Dozens of rockets rained down Thursday. One person was killed.
HOLMES: Israel also keeping up its offensive to the south in Gaza. That's where militants belonging to Hamas are believed to be holding another Israeli soldier.
An airstrike hit the Palestinian Foreign Ministry on Thursday night. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he fears what he calls a new regional war.
MCEDWARDS: Well, the U.N. secretary-general, Kofi Anna, is calling on all sides to show some constraint here. He's sending an emergency mission to the region.
HOLMES: Right. From Beirut, to the Lebanese-Israeli border, Gaza, to the United Nations, we are covering all of the angles for you.
Colleen, let's go to you.
MCEDWARDS: That's right. We've actually got the chief advisor on the line now to the Lebanese president. Mohamed Chatah joins us now on the line.
Mr. Chatah, thanks a lot for being here.
You've heard obviously the response from Israel saying that, you know, it's your government that has failed to control Hezbollah, that has failed to do anything here.
I would like to hear your response.
MOHAMED CHATAH, LEBANESE CABINET MEMBER: Thank you, Colleen. Just for the record, I'm the advisor to the prime minister of Lebanon, Fouad Siniora.
MCEDWARDS: Thank you.
CHATAH: On what's going on in the south now, there -- there is now a tragedy taking place. And currently, civilian facilities in Lebanon, throughout Lebanon, are being hit by Israeli planes and ships, and the priority now is to stop this onslaught.
At the same time, we recognize that Lebanon is in the process of re-establishing government authority in the post-Syrian withdrawal situation. It's only over a year ago that the country of Lebanon again became an independent country, with full sovereignty, trying to establish its presence as a state, re-establishing its presence as a state. And, also, we were in the process of establishing government authority throughout our...
CHATAH: This is not a simple process. But this onslaught that's taking place is not helping at all.
MCEDWARDS: Fair enough. But to Israel's point, why isn't the government using its sway here?
CHATAH: In Lebanon, it's not a question of using sway. I think anyone, anyone who understands anything about this country will realize that while we are, as I said, re-establishing statehood and full sovereignty and government authority, we have to look at our political makeup, and our social makeup, and the fact that Hezbollah constitutes a significant minority that has weapons...
MCEDWARDS: All right.
CHATAH: ... that has strong views. And we are doing it in dialogue and persuasion (ph), and trying to reach a point where the state is the sole holder of weapons and the one with the only authority throughout our territory.
MCEDWARDS: All right. Well, let's look at it this way. What would you say right now if I asked you to respond to the tactic here, kidnapping soldiers? Would you condemn that?
CHATAH: No question that we are against this kind of violence. The government, yesterday, disavowed responsibility for this.
We understand that we -- that many people in Lebanon have very strong views against what Israel has been doing, both in south Lebanon, and in Palestine, and in other places. So, you know, there are strong feelings here.
At the same time, we want the whole world to know that the government of Lebanon, first, is not responsible for what happened yesterday, does not condone it, was not part of it. We should not be sort of, you know, thinking in unrealistic terms that the government of Lebanon can simply go to the south, disarm everyone, and establish control by force.
This is a progressive, deliberative process, and one in which the government has made major progress. And what is happening now is certainly not helping us achieve more progress.
MCEDWARDS: Mohamed Chatah, we have to leave it there. It's good to hear from you on this.
Mohamed Chatah, the chief advisor to the Lebanese prime minister -- Michael.
HOLMES: All right. Let's continue our coverage.
Alessio Vinci is live in Beirut, where the government there is calling the Israeli military moves an act of war.
Alessio, bring us up to date on the events of recent hours, the Bekaa Valley, the airport.
ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Michael.
Well, we have been able to confirm with the Lebanese army that Israeli air force has targeted two locations, one in the eastern Bekaa Valley, in the town of Rayak -- there is a runway there and a military barrack -- as well as a target in northern Lebanon, a town called Al Klayat (ph). And that is actually a military airport.
So, these are the latest attacks that Israel has carried out against Lebanon. And we're also hearing on Lebanese television that Israeli jets are flying overhead a major supply -- or the major supply route linking Syria with Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley with Beirut.
Of course, they are, perhaps, threatening more airstrikes. It is, of course, a major concern for the government, as it is meeting right now in an emergency session to try to respond to the current attack.
We only heard, before these ministers, an advisor from the information minister calling for a unconditional cease-fire, as well as a stop to what the Lebanese government here is calling an open- ended attack against Lebanese interests. But as you can -- as you heard just moments ago, it is not simple for the cabinet here to react.
The government is split. There are Hezbollah members within the government here, and those in the government have no power over those cabinet members, as well as having no power, whatsoever, yet, in the southern part of Lebanon. So it is very difficult for the cabinet to adopt legislation, to do anything that would somehow solve the situation by, for example, returning the two soldiers to Israel.
HOLMES: All right, Alessio. Thanks very much.
Alessio Vinci there in Beirut.
MCEDWARDS: All right. Let's take a look at the situation on the border.
Fighter jets, artillery shells flying north. Katyusha rockets flying south. That is the situation at the border between Israel and Lebanon.
And CNN John Vause is there and joins us with the latest -- John.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Colleen, Israel seems to escalating this military conflict by the hour with Israeli airstrikes targeting across -- targets across Lebanon. There's also been the continuing fire of Israeli artillery into southern Lebanon, targeting Hezbollah positions. There is also that Israeli naval blockade off the coast of Lebanon. The Hezbollah response to this has been to fire dozens of rockets on Israeli towns in the north of the country. The city of Nahariya, not far from here, was hit earlier this morning. One person was killed there, more than a dozen wounded.
But perhaps more troubling for Israel, for the first time Hezbollah rockets have reached the city of Safed. There were reports that one person was killed there. It now appears that person is in critical condition. Others were wounded in that attack.
And the Israeli military chief of staff is now warning there will be a severe response to these Hezbollah attacks.
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DAN HALUTZ, ISRAELI ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: If -- if rockets are launched towards Israeli cities, Beirut will be included among the targets. And yesterday, we strike the Beirut international airfield to hint (ph) to the Lebanese government that nothing is safe once they are operating against Israel. And nothing is safe. As simple as that.
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VAUSE: OK. I've lost IFB with Atlanta, Colleen.
If you can still hear me, just to finish up what the situation on the ground here -- Israel has also carried out the airstrikes on the Beirut airport. That, according to Israel, was because it was being used to transport weapons, as well as terrorists. But that also seems to be a clear message to the Lebanese that there is an economic price to be paid for supporting Hezbollah.
Many in Lebanon have been pinning their hopes on tourism to revive the economy. But obviously now that has taken a very serious blow -- Colleen.
MCEDWARDS: Yes, big issues there.
Our John Vause on the border between Israel and Lebanon.
Thanks a lot, John -- Michael.
HOLMES: Well, Colleen, of course the U.S. and Israel hold Iran and Syria also responsible for the actions of Hezbollah along the Israeli-Lebanon border. The White House saying Hezbollah's capture of two soldiers was timed to sew further violence.
Earlier, I asked Syria's ambassador to Britain what could happen if tensions escalated and Israel entered again Syrian airspace.
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SAMI KHIYAMI, SYRIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.K.: Israel is a state that faces no accountability. They feel because they have a sort of military supremacy, well, we have to say "bravo" to them and tell them, "You are always right."
This is the only state in the world today who commits terrorism without anybody telling them to stop. And basically, what we've seen today is hundreds of people getting killed. And we're talking only about the three soldiers, as you -- as you -- as you can see.
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MCEDWARDS: Well, to more reaction now. The Palestinian president is very much worried about the prospects of a wider regional war.
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MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The extension of the military actions, which have now reached Lebanon, raise our concerns and international fears that a regional war might be sparked which would affect the regional and international interests and threaten the peace, security and stability opportunities in the region and in the world. The peace we are willing and working for.
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MCEDWARDS: Mahmoud Abbas also urged world powers to intervene here -- Michael.
HOLMES: All right.
As we mentioned, Israel now fighting on two fronts, Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and Hamas militants in Gaza. An Israeli airstrike hit the Palestinian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Gaza City. You can see there some of the damage.
And in your screen there, the Palestinian foreign minister, Mahmoud Zahar, his office is in that building, of course. Zahar said Israeli is making the wrong choice by demolishing Palestinian infrastructure.
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MAHMOUD ZAHAR, PALESTINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: This is an indication of the failure of the Israeli government to reach a wise decision. This will not solve the problems. Demolishing, killing, destruction is not going to help dismantling this process, or this problem.
So, for this reason, we are advising Israel, through diplomatic way we can (ph) solve the problem. And (INAUDIBLE) of Israeli prisons, I think it will be useless, and they are going also to pay a price.
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MCEDWARDS: You know, the story has many fronts as well. A very complicated region we're in here.
So, today, we want today solicit your thoughts on what's been happening in the Middle East.
HOLMES: Yes. Are you worried that the fighting will escalate into a regional conflict?
Let us know what you think, firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll read some of the responses a little later in the program.
Well, the U.S. president weighing in on the crisis, though the U.S. not formally involved. He does call the entire situation sad.
MCEDWARDS: Yes. And what the U.S. says does matter here.
The flare-up in the Middle East is overshadowing his trip to Germany, to a certain extent. He's trying to work on an improved relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel. We will go live to her electoral district in what used to be East Germany next.
Don't go away.
HOLMES: Welcome back to YOUR WORLD TODAY, seen live in more than 200 countries across the world.
Well, the crisis in the Middle East, of course, is catching the attention of the U.S. president, George W. Bush, as he visits Germany ahead of the Group of 8 summit, although the U.S. has been criticized for not being strictly resolved in mediating this conflict as it has worsened. However, he has some strong words of criticism for Hezbollah.
Ed Henry is traveling with the president, joins us now from Rostock, Germany.
Ed, what has the president been saying and what does he plan to do?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president is lashing out at both Iran and Syria, charging that they are supporting Hezbollah, the terrorist organization, and that that's to blame for this escalating violence in the Mideast.
The list for the G-8 summit in terms of the agenda, all the global hotspots that will have to dealt with, is getting larger by the day, from North Korea to Iran, and now the Mideast as well.
President Bush, here in Germany, trying to hold some bilateral talks, first of all, with Chancellor Merkel, and trying to navigate all of these hotspots with the person who's really become his new best friend. Chancellor Merkel obviously a sharp contrast to the relationship President Bush had with her predecessor, Chancellor Schroder, because of his vehement opposition to the Iraq war.
President Bush and the first lady arrived here in what used to be East Germany last night, but the official welcome came today. He got a traditional barrel of herring. He also toured historic St. Nikolai Church.
There was a strategy session between Mr. Bush and Chancellor Merkel. And then they met the press, and that's when the president really lashed out at Iran and Syria and said they're delaying progress in the Mideast.
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BUSH: It's really sad where people are willing to take innocent life in order to stop that progress. As a matter of fact, it's pathetic.
And having said that, Israel has a right to defend herself. Every nation must defend herself against terrorist attacks and the killing of innocent life. It's a necessary part of the 21st century.
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HENRY: But the president did express concern about Israel perhaps overreacting to some of the violence. He said he was concerned about that disrupting, stunting the growth of the fledgling democracy in Lebanon.
The president also, on a related issue, said he believes Iran will be sorely mistaken if it thinks it can wait out the U.S. and its allies in terms of dealing with Iran's thirst for nuclear weapons. And just like with North Korea, the president said he wants to press sanctions before the United Nations Security Council against Iran, but also cautioned that diplomacy takes time, the same exact thing he said on North Korea just a few days ago.
A real sharp departure from what we saw in the months leading up to the war in Iraq. The president shifting now and focusing a lot harder on diplomacy -- Michael.
HOLMES: Ed, Russia, France have both said that Israel's response is out of proportion to what has occurred with nearly 50 Lebanese civilians dead already. What I'm curious about is whether the president has been asked or said what U.S. involvement is going to be.
The U.N. is sending a mission over to the region to try to broker some sort of peace. The U.S. has always been the focal point of the peace process, the main broker, and yet has been remarkably uninvolved, at least publicly, so far, in recent months.
HENRY: You're right that this administration from the very beginning, in 2001, has faced criticism that it has not been actively involved -- involved enough in trying to broker Mideast peace. What the president is doing right now, in the short term, he's already had over the last 24 to 48 hours, had his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, calling leaders in the Mideast trying to calm the situation down.
The president today at that press briefing with Chancellor Merkel said he, too, now later today will be picking up the phone himself to try to get more directly involved. But you're certainly right. Another thing the president noted was that there is a roadmap for peace, a process that has been talked about for years. But critics are looking at it and saying that roadmap has not really moved forward, just as the president keeps pointing to the six-party talks in dealing with North Korea and over the last few years there has been very little progress.
So, while the president has this mantra of diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy, his critics are looking and saying there really have not been very many results -- Michael.
HOLMES: Indeed, Ed. Absolutely. All right.
Thanks very much.
Ed Henry there traveling with the president.
MCEDWARDS: Well, Iran is warning the United States of repercussions if the U.S. creates problems for Iran. Speaking at a rally in northwestern Iran, the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told the U.S. that any problem for Iran would harm everyone. He also had words about Israel's recent action.
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MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Since Israel and its allies are stepping back from theological principles, the disgust against them in rising in the hearts of the people of the world day by day. They should know that such hatred and anger will bring them down and they will be defeated severely.
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MCEDWARDS: Ahmadinejad also said that Americans want to create disputes while everyone is trying to keep the atmosphere calm.
HOLMES: Let's turn now to Iraq. That's where British and Australian forces have handed over security duties in an area called Muthana, a relatively peaceful southern province. And they've handed it over to the Iraqi security force.
It is the first time we've seen a transfer of an entire province. Eighteen others provinces are designated for similar transitions at some point. The move was hailed by the country's security advisor, who said it was another milestone in Iraq's path to democracy.
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MOWAFFAK AL-RUBAIE, IRAQI NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: With this particular province -- and I believe this is -- this is a step forward, in Iraq taking control of the security of their country, and this is the beginning, of the -- of the 18 provinces we're going to take over in the next few months. I believe this is a huge step forward in Iraqis taking control of the fate of their country.
(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: The U.S. pulling out the checkbook. They are going to provide $10 million to the Muthana province to improve quality of life there for citizens.
MCEDWARDS: All right.
Well, with everything that is going on in the Middle East, we have not forgotten about the situation in India. Who carried out those bombings, and how?
HOLMES: Yes. We're going to take you to Mumbai when YOUR WORLD TODAY returns. There have been developments as the city tries to get back on its feet two days after those explosion hit the mass transit system.
Investigators are trying to put the pieces together. They say they're having some measure of success.
Stay with us.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go ahead and listen in. The U.S. Department of State holding its daily news briefing. Some questioning going on.
SEAN MCCORMACK, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: ... covered in the news and we see it repeatedly on cable television and in news stories.
But let's remember what the root cause of this was. It was a Hezbollah attack on Israeli territory in which they killed Israeli soldiers and then are holding hostage two more.
So we have called upon states in the region, Syria and Iran, to exercise the control that they do over Hezbollah, to have these two individuals released unharmed.
Hezbollah receives material support from Iran. That's in our annual terrorism report. Also, the Syrian government provides political as well as other kinds of support to Hezbollah.
So I think that it's really time for everybody to acknowledge the fact that these two states do have some measure of control over Hezbollah. And the international community has called upon them to exercise that control to have these two individuals released.
QUESTION: At the same time as saying Israel has a right to defend itself, the secretary of state and the president have talking about the need for some restraint -- urging some restraint.
I just wondered, in practical terms: What does that mean? Are there any red lines as far as the U.S. is concerned? For example, if Israel sent tanks and troops to Lebanon, would that be crossing a red line?
MCCORMACK: We're not in the business of telling the state of Israel what it can or can't do.
We offer, as a friend, our counsel. You've heard that from the secretary of state yesterday. You heard that from the president today.
So, you know, again, the U.S. government isn't in the business of drawing lines for the government of Israel. We, as a friend, offer them advice or perspectives.
But, you know, again, I keep coming back to it: Let's remember what happened here. The Israeli people, the Israeli government have suffered from an attack. They have a right to defend themselves.
And we have offered our advice and counsel, both in public and in private. And that advice is consistent; what you hear in public is certainly what we have been talking to them about in private regarding their actions.
But it's not for the United States to draw lines for the government of Israel.
QUESTION: Sir, can you just clarify a bit of the advice that is being given to Israel, then?
MCCORMACK: The advice, counsel, what you see in public really reflects what we say in private.
QUESTION: Sean, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said today that they have information that Hezbollah intends to transfer the two soldiers to Iran. Have you seen any such information to suggest that?
And that has prompted some people to suggest that if that happens, it might be justified for Israel to target some of the Iranian nuclear facilities. Is that something that you would advocate?
MCCORMACK: I'm not sure I see the connection between those two parts of the question.
But I will say that David and Elliott did hear from the Israeli government in their meetings that the Israeli government was concerned that these two captives would be -- they were concerned about possible movement in Lebanon away from the areas where they were captured or even outside of Lebanon.
But beyond that, I'm not going to go any further.
QUESTION: (inaudible) didn't share any intelligence information or anything...
MCCORMACK: As I said, they did convey to David and Elliott during their meetings their concern that possibly they could be moved within Lebanon and possibly outside of Lebanon. QUESTION: How do you see Israel's action of bombing Beirut airport and therefore diverting all flights to Cyprus? How do you view that? Do you see it as Israel's right to defend itself, or do you see it as an escalation, or what exactly is your position on this?
MCCORMACK: There is obviously a lot of tension in the region, and we're seeing a reaction from the Israeli government to a provocation -- to an attack. And you see the Israeli government exercising its right to defend itself.
As for anything further, commenting on what particular actions that they have taken, I'm not going to go beyond what the president has said.
QUESTION: You're talking about asking both sides to show restraint, but do you see this action as actually escalating or restraining or as still within the strategy of what you call Israel trying to defend itself?
MCCORMACK: We've said what we're going to say on it.
QUESTION: Sean, you pitched this story yesterday about waiting to hear what Prime Minister Siniora would say about this. And he basically said that his government had no advance knowledge of the Hezbollah attack, et cetera.
Do you think that his government has the political authority or power to exert control over that strip of territory in southern Lebanon?
MCCORMACK: Well, that's been an issue for sometime: Is Hezbollah, this militia, this terrorist organization, operating outside the control of the government? And that's the point of 1559.
So we, as well as others, have been encouraging the government of Lebanon to work through the political as well as the chain of command issues that they have with controlling all of their territory. Part of 1559 calls upon them to exercise control over all of Lebanese territory.
That clearly hasn't happened to date: The government of Prime Minister Siniora doesn't control Hezbollah and their military operations. Which is exactly the point that we, as well as the rest of the world, have made to them, that Hezbollah is a direct challenge to Lebanese sovereignty.
Very clearly, Hezbollah is attempting to drag Lebanon and the Lebanese people into a situation that certainly is not a positive one for Lebanon and the Lebanese people.
So we think of it as important that President Siniora did speak out. And we would call upon he and his government to do everything that they can to see that these two individuals are released and returned back to Israel.
QUESTION: But the thrust of your comments reflect what the United States has been saying to Siniora in the last 24 hours?
MCCORMACK: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: Can you just characterize then how you think the government of Lebanon has responded to this situation?
MCCORMACK: I think that statement that they made, disassociating themselves from this action and saying they didn't have any advance notice of it, was the right thing to do.
But I think the government needs to do everything that it possibly can at this point going forward.
Same -- like I said, it's the right thing to do. But we would hope that they, from this point on, do everything that they can to see that these two individuals are released.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about American citizens in Lebanon or in Israel? Have any been injured? And are you considering an authorized departure of American personnel?
MCCORMACK: Let's see. Let's go down the list.
In Lebanon, they did issue a warden message which should be publicly available.
I think there are approximately 25,000 American citizens in Lebanon. Also, part of that number is people who are traveling there on business who transit in and out.
The embassy, at the moment, is operating normally. There is not authorized departure.
On a daily basis, or multiple times per day basis, the embassy is assessing its security posture, looking at questions like authorized departure. But at this point, we don't have any announcements in that regard.
QUESTION: Back on the government's statement yesterday, they very clearly did not condemn the attack.
Were you disappointed that they didn't? And does it make a difference for you whether they just disassociate themselves or actually condemn it?
MCCORMACK: Like I said, it was the right thing to do. I think we would certainly hope for strong words and strong actions from the government.
QUESTION: And one other thing: We talked about some comments that their ambassador made yesterday that you hadn't seen at the time of the briefing. Apparently, he's been fired for those comments.
Have you received any notification from the Lebanese government that he's being withdrawn?
And do you know, in terms of timeline, is he supposed to leave soon?
MCCORMACK: I don't know if we've had any formal notification of that, but I've heard the same thing.
QUESTION: And you think that was an appropriate step to...
MCCORMACK: That's a decision for the Lebanese government to make.
QUESTION: You have stated more than once that Israel has the right to defend itself.
From your own point of view, how can this happen without targeting the civilians? Yesterday, 47 were killed; today, 91 injured.
MCCORMACK: Look, we certainly mourn the loss of innocent life. And we have from the beginning of this situation counseled that sides take every possible step to avoid the loss of innocent life. And that remains our position.
I think it is certainly the position of anybody who is watching this that you want to avoid loss of innocent life.
At the same time, these are certainly very difficult -- this is a very difficult situation that Israel faces in defending itself. So we would continue to urge restraint in the sense of taking care to avoid loss of innocent life.
QUESTION: You clearly believe that the government of Lebanon should be doing more. But how much is this the hand of Iran and how much of this is the hand of Syria?
I'm not quite clear as to -- I mean, you seem to be spreading blame here.
Who do you see the prime movers behind this?
MCCORMACK: Well, certainly, Hezbollah. They bear responsibility for their actions.
Hezbollah, essentially, you know, are terror subcontractors for Damascus and Tehran. Our terrorism report talks about the kinds of support that they receive from those two governments. They receive material support from Iran.
So as for this particular incident, I can't share with you any specific information. But I think as a matter of public record, it's very clear the close ties between Tehran and Hezbollah and Damascus and Hezbollah.
Anything else on this matter? OK.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on Assistant Secretary Hill bring good news or bad news?
MCCORMACK: Well, he's coming back to Washington. I think he'll be back here later this afternoon.
Thus far, the Chinese, I don't believe, have heard any positive reaction from the North Koreans. I think their mission is still ongoing, but they haven't heard anything to indicate that the North Koreans have come around to making a positive response to the rest of the world.
So I think that it's fair to say that the center of gravity of diplomatic efforts is moving away from the region...
KAGAN: We've been listening to the daily briefing of the State Department. Great interest today because of the rising tensions between Israel and especially Lebanon, and the State Department echoing what President Bush had to say earlier today, that U.S. believes that Israel has a right to protect itself. The U.S. will advise Israel on what it might do to protect itself and to calm things in the region, but will not tell Israel what to do. More on that story ahead.
Right now we have breaking news out of Florida where a judge has just stopped jury selection in the murder trial of John Couey, the man accused of killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.
Let's go live to John Zarrella in Miami for details on that -- John.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Daryn. Certainly a major development out of Florida. Judge Rick Howard, just before the lunch hour, telling the prospective jurors -- he started with 58 of them this morning -- telling those that remained to go home; it was over. He could not find, he said, an impartial jury in Lake County, Florida.
What that means now is that the trial of John Couey is delayed, possibly at least for up to a month. Now our viewers probably recall, what the judge had initially was done, he was going to pick a jury in Lake County. After he picked that jury, he would move the jury, bus them to Citrus County, and sequester them there for duration of the trial.
But the judge again saying too much pretrial publicity. Too many people heard John Couey's confession, which, of course, was thrown out, as our viewers probably recall, not going to be allowed to be used in court, because he had asked for an attorney during the questioning and wasn't given one.
So again now, the judge saying, because of all of that, because so many people have been hearing the confession, that he cannot find an impartial jury in Lake County.
So, Daryn, the bottom line now is, they have to go back to Citrus County and figure out what they're going to do next, where they're going to find a jury, or whether they will, in fact, change venue now completely and move the entire trial out of Citrus County -- Daryn.
KAGAN: So it moves, but we just don't know where. ZARRELLA: We don't know whether it will move. More than likely it will, but at this point we don't know where and we don't when this trial begin again -- Daryn.
KAGAN: All right, John Zarrella in Florida, thank you for that.
Also standing by. Senator, Arlen Specter saying that he's come up with a bill that's a compromise on the wiretapping issue with the National Security Agency's controversial intelligence-gathering program. The senator planning a news conference, will tell you what the White House has to say about that, just ahead.
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DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): No, it's got five powers ranged against it across the region, including the U.S. North Korea knows that these countries are split about what to do next. On the one side, the U.S. and Japan want to introduce punitive sanctions. On the other side, China and Russia think that a diplomatic settlement is the only way forward. And it seems that this stalemate is due to deepen, because North Korea knows it can exploit the divisions between those countries against it. And all the while, critics say, it can continue to develop its missile technology.
Dan Rivers, CNN, Beijing.
MCEDWARDS: There is much more from Mumbai for you when YOUR WORLD TODAY returns.
HOLMES: Minutes after those bombs exploded on the trains Tuesday, the city's downtrodden reached out to help the wounded survivors. Their story coming up.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to Capitol Hill. Here's Senator Arlen Specter talking about a compromise bill on the National Security Agency's controversial intelligence-gathering program.
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SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: ... amplification of what was said at the Judiciary Committee executive session this morning, so I thought instead of doing the roving quarter interviews we're so famous for around here, I would try to do it all at once.
After Vice President Cheney and I exchanged letters on June 7th and 8th, where the vice president in a later telephone call said that the White House was serious on negotiating on the issue involving potential review by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Corps of the Terrorist Surveillance Program. My staff and I sat down with administration lawyers on June 12th, and have had an ongoing series of negotiations which came to a conclusion, with my meeting with the president on Tuesday. There were some more details of the bill to be solidified, which were finished up last night about 10:00, and the upshot of it is that there is a bill, which the president will submit the electronic surveillance program to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Corps if the bill stays the same.
Obviously, he can't make a commitment if the bill is going to be changed. And the bill has to be pursued through the committee, and through the Senate and through the House to get to the president's desk. There could be some changes, but if there are any changes from the bill, which has been negotiated, they would have to be satisfactory to the president in order for the president to fulfill his agreement to submit the program to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Corps.
The bill provides that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Corps will have the jurisdiction to consider the program as a whole, and to make a decision on it. It specifics the considerations which the attorney general will present, such as the operational and minimalizational procedures, an explanation as how the program is reasonably designed to ensure that the communications intercepted involve a terrorist, agent of a terrorist or someone reasonably to have communicated or associated with a terrorist.
The bill gives the administration greater flexibility on emergency applications, changing the current FISA law from three days to seven days. It gives the administration greater flexibility so that the application for an emergency doesn't have to be made by the attorney general or the deputy attorney general, but can be made by a designee. It updates the wiretap law, in accordance with Title III, so that you can have a roving wiretap, that is to follow the individual, as opposed to a fixed telephone, which is existing law, as I say. But FISA was passed back in 1978, and the law has been changed to allow for roving wiretaps.
And the bill would also accommodate a significant National Security Agency requirement that if you have a telephone call which is totally overseas, both parties, but it goes through a terminal in the United States, makes it plain that that kind of a call is not subject to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. So it updates the procedures, in a number of respects.
The proposed legislation acknowledges, as we must, the president's inherent article to authority. But when the court makes a decision, the court will make a decision in the traditional context that the president does not have a blank check but it's a balancing, it's a weighing of the interest and security to fight terrorism with the privacy interests which are involved.
The president was complimentary on the work which the negotiators have done. My principle negotiator is my chief counsel and staff director, Mike O'Neal (ph). We work with people from the Justice Department and NSA in hammering out the arrangement.
We worked on exactly what I would be authorized to say the president agreed to, and I want to be precise on the language. But I'm authorized to say that if the bill is not changed, the president will submit the terrorist surveillance program to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Now, if there are any changes, the president will not have the commitment unless ...
KAGAN: We've been listening into Senator Arlen Specter. He's talking about a compromise bill that he says that he has headed up, that he says the White House will sign and improve. It's a balance of fighting terrorism balanced with privacy concerns, this in light of the controversy over what the NSA has been doing in terms of controversial intelligence gathering techniques.
Our Andrea Koppel on Capitol Hill to tell us a little bit more about what this compromise means, and the deal with the White House. Andrea, hello.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Daryn.
Look, in a nutshell what Senator Specter is announcing is that after months and months of President Bush insisting that he had the inherent authority under the War Powers Act to conduct these warrantless wiretaps, the surveillance of international phone calls and of e-mails, now what he's saying is he will allow this FISA Court, this secret federal court, to make the decision whether or not, in fact, it was constitutional what he's doing.
In addition, they have agreed that this 1978 secret court, this act, the FISA Act, it needs to be updated. Up until now, the White House had resisted going that route. Now they're saying, yes, it's the case.
Back in 1978, Daryn, there weren't e-mails, there weren't cell phones, there wasn't this wireless communication. And as a result, this secret program that has been going on now -- we've known now since just after 9/11, was able to, without warrants, go and eavesdrop on international phone calls involving Americans, suspected terrorists the administration says, and also e-mails.
Now, in fact, it will be up to -- if this bill is passed, Daryn, it will be up to the FISA Court to make that determination.
KAGAN: All right, Andrea Koppel on Capitol Hill, thank you.
We want to update you also on this story that we're following between Israel and Lebanon, this just in from the Associated Press, reports that rockets fired by Lebanese guerrillas have hit the town of Nahariya, and that there were journalists there. At least one person was injured.
An Associated Press photographer was standing with the group when the rocket hit, but was not injured. Nahariya very close to the Lebanese-Israeli border. Much more on that as our news continues here on CNN. Right now a quick break.
KAGAN: More firepower going back and forth between Israel and Lebanese guerrillas. The latest, Lebanese guerrillas firing rocket attacks into the very northern town of Nahariya. A group of journalists there part of that attack, and at least one person was injured. We're going to continue our coverage of this developing story as we go on.
Kyra Phillips will be with you on "LIVE FROM" at the top of the hour. I'm Daryn Kagan. A quick break and more news in just a moment.
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