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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Iraqi Opposition Party Occupying Embassy

Aired August 20, 2002 - 09:18   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news out of Berlin. We go straight to Gaven Morris, our producer on the ground there, to learn more about this Iraqi opposition party taking over control of Iraq embassy in Berlin.
Gaven, what have you learned?

GAVEN MORRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, that's what police here are telling the local media. We haven't confirmed it for sure yet, but what the local media is reporting the police are saying is that a group calling itself the Democratic Iraqi opposition of Germany has -- a number of them, entered the embassy here in Berlin.

Now in a statement on a Web site they have issued to me they said that they are launching a peaceful and temporary protest at the embassy. And I'll quote the statement for a moment, Paula, they say the Iraqi people and its legitimate leadership declare the liberation of Iraqi soil begins today. They say this is first step in their campaign to reclaim Iraq for Iraqis, but I have to say that locally here, this group is not very well-known. Nobody one really knows who their leadership is at this point, and whether they have been that active before. Essentially what they are doing is demanding an end to the rule of Saddam Hussein.

Now I must say there is a early report that hostages have been taken within the embassy. We can't confirm this yet. We're doing what we can to confirm that as soon as we can, but there is a report that hostages have been taken. And if that is the case, then that obviously is a much more dramatic situation than if it was just them entering the building and taking up a position.

Just briefly, the Berlin embassy of Iraq just in a diplomatic area of Berlin, with many of the other embassies there. It's a leafy suburb in the old western part of the city, and essentially, that is where they have gone today. There is -- apparently reportedly gone into the embassy, occupied it, and as I said, Paula, reports of hostages taken -- Paula.

ZAHN: Gaven, if you would, gives us a broader perspective at what is at work here, as there is great debate in the United States about a potential attack in Iraq. You have the chancellor there essentially saying that is not the way to go. What is the level of security at this embassy?

MORRIS: Well, it's a good question. I don't think that has been sort of a suggestion that this embassy was at risk or in danger. But I can tell you domestically in Germany, there has been huge debate over what role Germany should play in a proposed campaign in Iraq, and the local polls, the local papers suggested that 80, 90 percent of Germans are against German involvement in any U.S.-led campaign in Iraq.

It's an elect campaign here now, and Gerhard Schroeder came out very strongly at the beginning of this campaign and said that, he did not -- he and Germany should not be involved in any -- quote -- "adventure in Iraq." And that was seen as him reaching out to particularly the left-wingers who support his coalition, but also to the -- you know, German people as a whole. It's an unpopular proposal. That's the context behind what is going on here in Germany in relation to Iraq and any campaign -- Paula.

ZAHN: And, Gaven, a final thought. I know you said that not a lot is known about this Iraqi opposition group, the Democratic Iraqi Opposition of Germany. Do we have any idea at this how hour many members make up the group or how many folks might have taken over the embassy?

MORRIS: Not at all. I mean, I think at the moment this has taken authorities by surprise. It has taken obviously the embassy by surprise. And it's taken everyone by surprise, because really, this group did not have much of a profile here. So, you know these are all questions that hopefully in the next few minutes and next hour or so, we will get answers for you.

ZAHN: All right, Gaven Morris, thanks for that live update.

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