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Crisis in the Middle East; Cardinal Law Will Not Step Down

Aired April 12, 2002 - 13:49   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Once again, back here live in Jerusalem, as our coverage continues. It's well into the evening here. Colin Powell is here. We are still awaiting word, possibly, whether or not that meeting tomorrow in Ramallah will take place. More on that throughout the night here. But in the meantime, Wolf Blitzer, my colleague, now live if Jerusalem, joins me with more Palestinian perspective on the situation here in the Middle East. Again to you, welcome to Jerusalem.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Bill. I want to bring in Sari Nusseibeh. He's an old friend, a Palestinian, longtime involved in this issue. He's in East Jerusalem. He joins us now live. Thanks so much for joining us. The key question, at least one of the key questions right now in the aftermath of this suicide bombing in Jerusalem earlier today is whether or not the Secretary of State Colin Powell will go forward and meet with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, tomorrow. First of all, do you have any insider information on whether that meeting will go forward?

SARI NUSSEIBEH, PALESTINIAN REP. TO JERUSALEM: [AUDIO GAP] ...ahead with the meeting. In any case, and we heard already earlier President Bush saying that he isn't going to allow these acts of violence to deter him from pursuing the peace process.

BLITZER: Is it your sense, though, that if the Secretary of State, for some reason, decides not to meet with Yasser Arafat, what would happen from your perspective?

NUSSEIBEH: Well, I think even assuming, hopefully, that they will meet. Still, the past is going to be extremely difficult to try and construct again a path of negotiations, a path that would take us back into negotiations and back into a peace environment. But if he doesn't meet with Mr. Arafat, then obviously, the difficulty is going to be multiplied a hundred times. Indeed, I think it to be catastrophic. So I very much hope that the meeting, indeed, will take place. I very much hope that Mr. Powell will succeed in trying and arranging for a return to the path of negotiations.

BLITZER: Is it your sense, Sari Nusseibeh, that the group that claimed responsibility for today's bombing in Jerusalem -- the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is affiliated, as you well know, with Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement -- that they are acting deliberately to torpedo this effort that Powell is undertaking to achieve a cease- fire? NUSSEIBEH: Well, it is quite possible, of course, that this is the case. Certainly this would be a good excuse for Mr. Sharon to tell Mr. Powell that is he justified in going ahead with his policy of incursions into Palestinian cities and towns. But on the other hand, you must also remember that the person apparently associated with this comes from Jenin, which is a city and a camp, as you know, that has been visited by death. I think one shouldn't really be surprised if things like this continue to happen. I think one should try to do one's best, in order to try and calm the situation, try to calm the anger on both sides. I know it is very difficult, but I think it must be done.

BLITZER: As you well know, the president of the United States and secretary of state keep saying, almost on a daily basis, that Yasser Arafat is not doing enough to calm the situation, to speak out in Arabic, to tell those people don't go forward with these kinds of terrorist suicide bombings, what the White House today labeled as homicide bombings. What else do you believe Yasser Arafat should do?

NUSSEIBEH: Well, I hope very much that the situation, the circumstances will allow Mr. Arafat, as quickly as possible, and hopefully through the good offices of the intervention of Mr. Powell and others, to be able, in fact, to begin to address the Palestinian people. As you know, he has been under siege. He hasn't got the access to the people that he should have. As you know, all our stations in Ramallah have been destroyed. The stations we have operating from Gaza, of course, do not have access -- or he doesn't have access directly to them. But I hope very much that the as soon as we start on our feet again and Mr. Arafat can have at least some breathing space, he would be able to start managing or directing the Palestinian people. But he needs to be given hope. He needs to be given -- and I think Secretary Powell's message is one of hope really, because he needs to be told, and we the Palestinian people need to be told, that there is hope further down the road.

BLITZER: All right. Sari Nusseibeh, unfortunately, we are all out of time. I want to thank you very much for joining us from East Jerusalem. And, Bill, as you can see, there is a lot of difficult issues, as you well know, representing even a minimum effort to try to go forward with even a cease-fire.

HEMMER: One has it think, if Colin Powell does not go to Ramallah tomorrow, essentially the mission that was designed to bridge the gaps between the two sides may already be considered a failed mission at this point.

BLITZER: If he can't get a cease-fire, if he goes back it Washington empty handed, that would, indeed, be a failed mission

HEMMER: We have some breaking news in Boston in a second here. Wolf, I want it continue our conversation. Hang on one second. Jason Carroll is standing by in the city of Boston. Jason, what do you have for us?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We do have some developing news here. One of the local stations is reporting that Cardinal Bernard Law will not step down, this coming to us from one of the local affiliates here in Boston. Apparently, Cardinal Law has put together some sort of letter that he put together and wrote and handed out to the priests here in the archdiocese of Boston basically saying that he feels as though he has become a lightening rod for the controversy and scandal surrounding the catholic church here in Boston.

Apparently over the past few days, Cardinal Law has been meeting with several bishops in the area. Those bishops advised him that he should not step down and that he would be the best person to lead the church through this crisis. Just to back track a little bit here of what's been happening here within the Boston archdiocese, Cardinal Law has been under fire basically since Monday when church documents came out and revealed that he had allowed a pedophile priest to continuously have access to children. He transferred a priest by the name of Father Paul Shanley from perish to perish for years under his watch. That upsets a lot of people. There were many calls for Cardinal Law to resign. Many calls coming from the community.

Calls also coming in the editorial pages of the major publications here in Boston as well. There was much speculation over the past few days, in terms of whether or not Cardinal Law will step down. There were some people saying he should step down. That would be the best thing for the church. But, again, in the end, apparently, Cardinal Law sending a letter to priests within the Boston archdiocese indicating that he will not step down at this time -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Jason, thank you. Jason Carroll reporting live from Boston with breaking news regarding the American Catholic Church. Jason, thanks to you.

Back here in Jerusalem, we were just talking with Wolf Blitzer about the current scenario here in the Middle East. A couple things, listening to your interview with the Palestinian gentleman in East Jerusalem. He said Colin Powell has to go to Yasser Arafat and say, here is hope and this is how it looks and this is what the Palestinian people need. For Colin Powell to offer that, what, indeed, could be put on the table to give people like Yasser Arafat and Palestinians living in the West Bank any sense of hope at this point?

BLITZER: That was the whole purpose of why Powell first met with several of the moderate Arab leaders in Europe or in Egypt and Jordan, in Monaco, the Saudi Crowned Prince Abdullah, to try to get them to get the message to Arafat. There is more you can be doing, you should be doing. This is the moment you should step forward. Utter the words that the United States want you to utter. Find a way. Find an avenue. Give a telephone interview on a cell phone, either in Arabic, preferably in Arabic, or in English, and explain that you don't want these young people to go out, strap themselves with bombs, and undertake these kinds of suicide operations.

HEMMER: And you heard the words from the White House, Ari Fleischer calling them homicide bombers. The wording has changed and intensified, in a manner of speaking. But given that, for Colin Powell to go to Arafat tomorrow, can he afford, in a sense, not to meet with the Palestinian leader? I mean clearly, the White House is set to come out and denounce it publicly and repeatedly. But at this point, can he afford not to sit down with him?

BLITZER: He probably can't afford it, given the stakes he put forward with the European leaders, the United Nations, the European Union, as well as the Arab world. If he comes to this part of the world and doesn't meet with Arafat, and just simply leaves and throws his hands up in the air and says, there is nothing else to do, it will probably be impossible for him to do that.

HEMMER: Thank you. We will look for you later today. Wolf Blitzer reports 5:00 Eastern and then again "Late Edition" this Sunday. Good to see you. Our coverage will continue, once again, live from Jerusalem in a moment here. Back with a whole lot more in a moment.





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