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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

In Knoxville, Tennessee, President Rallying Republicans, Americans

Aired October 8, 2002 - 12:01   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: First, to Knoxville, Tennessee, where the president is rallying Republicans for their vote and all Americans for their support in a possible war.
Let's bring in our White House correspondent Kelly Wallace. She's traveling with the president.

Kelly, give us the latest.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm coming to you from a somewhat noisy runway here in Tennessee. I can tell you, White House officials feel very good about the reception so far to President Bush's speech. Administration officials believe the president will have overwhelming support in the Congress for that resolution, authorizing possible use of military force.

Also one senior official telling me a short time ago, the administration seeing pretty good progress up at the U.N. for a tough new resolution. President Bush is expected to call the French president, Jacques Chirac, sometime on this day.

The big question, how will the American people respond, because White House officials have been concerned looking at the polls, seeing diminishing support over the past few weeks for a possible military campaign -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kelly Wallace, at a noisy airport. She's traveling with the president. Thanks for that report. As you can imagine, Iraq is slamming President Bush's speech and turning the tables, calling America's leader -- quote -- "evil" and a terrorist. Let's get more now from inside Iraq. CNN's Baghdad bureau chief Jane Arraf. She's joining us now live from Baghdad -- Jane.

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Wolf, the official Iraqi reaction -- and that is a rare thing -- is that President Bush's speech was a set of baseless accusations without a shred of evidence. Even more, they say that it's not about disarmament, it's about Palestine and Israel, a U.S. attempt to get Iraq because of its support for the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israel.

Now, the Iraqi government is trying to take a bit of the attention away from the looming -- what could be a looming standoff over weapons inspectors and palace issue by some events that are leading up to a huge event in itself, something that's going to happen in about 10 days, a referendum. Now seven years ago, the Iraqi government got all of the people to get out and vote. So there was only one candidate, so they in fact ended up giving a huge show of support for President Saddam Hussein. They're planning the same thing again. And to do that, they're holding rallies.

Now, this one we're going to show you was a little bit unusual. There is a usual chant at these rallies that goes with our blood and our souls, we sacrifice for you, oh Saddam.

Now the people at this government organized rally were taking that literally. They actually donated their blood. That red substance that you may be seeing in that pot with the brush isn't ink, it is their blood, and it was used to paint a huge sign saying that yes to Saddam is what people say -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you for all of the late developments there as well.

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