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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Showdown: Iraq

Aired February 16, 2003 - 12:00   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:00 p.m. in Paris, and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.
We'll talk about the ripple effects of the showdown with the U.S. homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge, in just a few minutes, but first, a CNN news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: A possible war against Iraq has the United States bracing for the possibility of more terrorist attacks here in the United States.

Just a few minutes ago I spoke with the U.S. homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome to LATE EDITION in your new capacity as secretary of homeland security, as opposed to director, which was the previous occasions.

Let's get right to the immediate issue at hand, the decision to go ahead and raise the threat level from yellow to orange, from the elevated level to a high level.

Is there any indication that's about to change to either go back down or go further up?

TOM RIDGE, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Today, as we speak, because we review the information and our intelligence on a day-to-day basis, we maintain it at the orange level but that could change within 24 to 48 hours. It really is an information intelligence driven system. And the lines of plot that we saw, the communications that we say, although some may have faded in terms of accuracy or relevance, there's still enough out there for today for us to remain at an orange level.

BLITZER: What would it take to go back down to the elevated or yellow level?

RIDGE: Well, instead of us talking and responding in specifics, I would just tell you, Wolf, that several times a day the intelligence community meets both personally and video conference and to access the accumulation of information they've received from around the world.

And those determinations are simply made on a day to day basis. I suspect that at some point in time as we go back and take a look at the factors, the individuals and the information we had that led us to take it up, there will be some point in time we'll make a decision that is now appropriate to reduce it.

BLITZER: How good was the information, the specific information about terror threats in recent days that resulted in this decision to go to the Orange Level?

RIDGE: Well, we believed that the sources that were not only credible, but we were able to corroborate much of the information.

As you recall, during the press conference we raised the level of alert from sources -- multiple sources we deemed credible. It was the period around the Hajj, that sacred period in the Muslim religion when the pilgrimage is taken to Mecca, we heard from multiple sources that if the attacks were to occur, it would have been at that time.

Now of course that period has gone by. So that's one factor. Nothing has happened. We like to think that being alert and being aware will reduce the possibility that something happens. We'll be taking into consideration as we review the information.

BLITZER: There was also a lot of press reports out there that one of the sources, one of the sources was this al Qaeda detainee who came up with this information, but then when you gave him eventually a polygraph, he flunked it.

RIDGE: There was a -- there was some reporting, interesting reporting about how we went back to corroborate some of our sources, and there are some gaps in the reporting, but one of the responsibilities of the intelligence community, both domestic and foreign, after so much of that information is accumulated, is to continue to monitor. Monitor the relevance, monitor the accuracy, and from time to time, we realize that some of the information we acted upon, some of the information that was part of that aggregate, the constellation of information, from time to time does not prove to be as accurate as we thought it was. But there was not a single individual, there was not a single incident, there was not a single plot line that led us to that conclusion.

BLITZER: But did that one detainee, in fact, flunk a polygraph?

RIDGE: Well, we -- without telling you what we do and how we do it, I can tell you that not all the information that we've received later on is corroborated as being 100 percent factual. One of the problems associated with the intelligence community is you don't always have easy access to the sources of information you are acting upon. But I think it's more reassuring to know that it wasn't just an individual. An individual didn't drive this up; there were an aggregate, a number of pieces that drove us to that conclusion.

BLITZER: All right. I want you to listen to what Robert Mueller, the FBI director, said earlier. Very ominous words. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: Our greatest threat is from al Qaeda cells in the United States that we have not yet been able to identify. Finding and routing out al Qaeda members once they have entered the United States...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That sounds like there are a whole bunch of al Qaeda operatives out there that you don't know where they are, but you are convinced they are in the United States.

RIDGE: Yes, I think we're convinced there are more here than we know about because we are an open, welcoming country, and we admit 500 to 600 million people across our borders every year.

And you always should be concerned about what you don't know. And, but, frankly, the FBI, through the leadership of Bob Mueller, responding to the president's directive that the FBI's number one priority now becomes the fight against terrorism, developing analytical capacity within the FBI, completely rebuilding the technology as it relates to how the FBI operates, much more information sharing on a day-to-day, minute-by-minute basis with the CIA, and when the president's new Threat Integration Center is completed, there will be an all-source integration center, whether it's from the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, even DOD information as it relates to domestic terrorism.

That's something that Bob Mueller and Director Tenet are very much involved in the development right now.

BLITZER: You're supposedly, at least the FBI is watching, a lot of these al Qaeda suspects, or potential suspects out there. Why not simply pick them up and arrest them?

RIDGE: We operate, as we're proud to promote around the world, under a system of laws. We have a Constitution that provides liberties and freedoms and protections, and while we do get information from time to time that this individual or this group of individuals, such as those that were arrested in Lackawanna, New York, may have gone and trained in another country and the training may have something to do with supporting a terrorist organization that want to, that seeks to undermine this country, getting from the allegation to the proof, there is a burden of proof, to the arrest is a sequence that we believe we have to follow in this country and we will.

And if the circumstances were similar with anybody or any group of individuals similar to the Lackawanna group, if we were able to prove it, you could be assured that the apprehension would be immediate.

BLITZER: We know you're watching, you're monitoring the activities of a lot of people, suspected people out there, but are they in the dozens, the hundreds, the thousands? RIDGE: I think that it's really difficult at this point to put a specific number on it, but I think we should just leave it at that. I mean, there are those out there in this country that would seek to do us harm, dozens, hundreds, it's still a little bit too imprecise for us to give you a number, and besides what we know, there are some that we know and have reason to believe there are others that we don't know.

So I can't really give you a number.

BLITZER: How worried are you about this connection, as the president has said, between al Qaeda and Iraq?

RIDGE: We know Saddam Hussein, for a decade plus, has sought and developed chemical and biological weapons, concerned about his nuclear capacity. That we know.

We also know that al Qaeda, if they had access to a chemical, biological or radiological nuclear weapon, would use it. We want to make sure that that transaction never occurs.

BLITZER: Is there any evidence, though, that the Iraqi regime of President Saddam Hussein has ever handed over any of these weapons of mass destruction, biological, chemical, radiological, to al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization?

RIDGE: I think the connections that we see between Iraq and al Qaeda that Secretary Powell has enumerated for all the world to see, and I think in the back of our minds, and I think it should be, is that if you have a rogue nation with the capacity to deliver these weapons, that's why we want to disarm Saddam Hussein, and you have an international terrorist organization that would like to borrow, steal, whatever, some of those weapons, and we know would use them, that's a relationship and a transaction that we should never, never allow to exist.

BLITZER: So what you're saying you have to work under the assumption that that's very possible that the Iraqis could, in fact, hand it over?

RIDGE: When the president talks about an international terrorism network, the president is not just talking about al Qaeda. There are countries with access to these weapons that could conceivable share them, sell them, give them, and we also know that al Qaeda is not the only terrorist organization that we have to be concerned about. Take a look at what happened down in Colombia in the FARC and the plane that had engine trouble. We know have a couple of Americans down there. That's a drug-related terrorist organization, but there are plenty out there that we have to be worried about.

BLITZER: We've seen some heightened security arrangements here in the nation's capital, in Washington, D.C., these surface-to-air missile batteries, these Humvees that have been patrolling the area, armed guards up on Capitol Hill. Was there a specific threat to Washington, D.C. and New York that raised alarm bells in your mind? RIDGE: Well, I think the concern we will continue to have about Washington, D.C. and New York is predicated on our notion that terrorists have a tendency, we believe, particularly al Qaeda, to return again to where they've struck before. Remember, '93 was the first time they hit New York with the World Trade Center, and they came back in 2001.

RIDGE: So it's basically a response not necessarily to a specific threat, but to an understanding that when they return often to areas where they have committed the attacks before and used the same means occasionally. And two, if they're talking about the destruction of the American economy or the demolition of national icons, people and institutions of national governing significance, then Washington, D.C. and New York City would be on any terrorist's short list.

BLITZER: So why not have Washington and New York, for example, on a higher threat level and not burden the rest of the country where the threats may be lower? Why not just leave them on a lower level?

RIDGE: Well, there may come a time, Wolf, and I think it's a very appropriate question, because the system is -- the warning system is designed if we had a little more specificity and we could target either a sector of the economy or a particular region of the country, we would be prepared under the existing system to do just that.

Because what we are seeing, and it's still evolving around the country, but the people are now associating the level of alert with the kind of protective measures they should take. And as we get more sophisticated about that and they're all in place and we get more specific information, I think there will come a time when we're able to do precisely that.

BLITZER: We've heard your colleagues also suggest that there was specific information about this dirty bomb, this radiological bomb. Without compromising national security or anything, what was the information?

RIDGE: Well, we know that -- from documents that we have -- that the military has captured and from other sources, their interest in devices, chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear, and we know that in their conversations, there are sometimes oblique references to the use of those kinds of weapons.

And as a result of that knowledge, when we put out the general alert, we basically said chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, no specific information with regard to radiological.

But unfortunately -- and this gives me a chance to say something, if I might -- the radiological device is much more a psychological weapon that it is a mass-casualty weapon. Frankly, people flying from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles would be exposed potentially to more radiation than they would just a short distance from a radiological bomb.

But there was some noise in the system about the possible use of this kind of device, but frankly, it has more of a psychological impact and it contaminates an area rather than a human impact. Although, obviously, terrorism is to do just that, is designed to strike psychological fear as well.

BLITZER: And we've also heard that you had some information that Jewish targets in the United States, or at least perceived Jewish targets, could be at risk. What is the story behind that?

RIDGE: Well, again, I think it's -- without mentioning any specifics, we note that the last activity, the bombing of a hotel in Kenya, was aimed specifically at Israeli citizens. The bin Laden tape and other communications we've received from al Qaeda point specifically to Israel and Jewish citizens of this country and around the world.

So again, we know that that is a group of either American citizens or Israeli citizens who would conceivably be a target of the hate and the vengeance of this evil group.

BLITZER: In this most recent bin Laden tape, we not only heard him attack Jewish -- Jews, but we also heard him attack Christians.

RIDGE: Right.

BLITZER: So there may be a connection there.

RIDGE: Well, there is. Unfortunately, you get these tapes from bin Laden, but you have to distill it down -- distill it all down to the least common denominator. "Unless you believe, as I do, bin Laden, unless you believe, as we do, al Qaeda, you are an infidel. And if you don't believe as we do, then you are justifiably a subject, a target of our evil, our ruthlessness."

So all the statements, you can distill them down. If you don't believe what they believe in, you are the enemy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We have to take a short break. When we come back, I'll ask the secretary what you can do to protect yourself from terror.

LATE EDITION, "Showdown: Iraq," continues right away.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no such thing as perfect security against a hidden network of cold-blooded killers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush expressing the harsh reality of the terror threat. Welcome back to LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.

We return now to my interview with the homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about some of the measures that you're proposing now. I know you're coming out with a new campaign beginning this week.

Among other things, and we'll put it up on the screen, you want everyone to make a kit, make a plan and be informed. Tell our viewers what that means.

RIDGE: It means that as a country, we don't want to be anything other than as prepared as we could be as individual citizens. Our professionals will win this war.

Our military, our CIA, our FBI, the folks in the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, Customs, they'll help us prevail; we'll win because of them. But there are certain things individual citizens can do to answer their own question for themselves and their families, what should we do?

And this campaign that we'll launch on Wednesday is a readiness campaign, because terrorists give us a choice. We can either be afraid, or we can be ready.

America chooses to be ready, and to be ready, you have a communication plan within your family, you have an emergency supply kit, not unlike those that maybe people around here put together the past couple of days in anticipation of two feet of snow, or the people down in Florida put together in anticipation of a hurricane, and you get yourself informed. You take those three; on top of this being alert on a day to day basis. That's all we want American citizens and families to do. Professionals will win the war; this is how you can do your part.

BLITZER: We saw a lot of pictures all over the United States in recent days, people rushing out to hardware stores, getting this plastic sheeting, you're getting this duct tape.

And that's caused a lot of concern out there, and you -- not necessarily you personally -- but the administration has been hammered by a lot of Democrats on the Hill, including Senator Robert Byrd. I want you to listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: ... great homeland security plan, what will protect the American people? Will it be duct tape? Plastic sheeting? And a new federal bureaucracy? We did not create a new Department of Homeland Security just to be told to buy duct tape and plastic.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: You've got to respond to that, but there is a lot of confusion out there about the duct tape, as you well know.

RIDGE: Well, there is some confusion, and there is some -- one thing that the terrorists haven't taken away from us is how we conduct politics in this country, and they never will.

But the fact of the matter is, duct tape and plastic sheeting are on a long list of recommended items that we have available on the FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency website, and on the Red Cross website, a variety of websites, and it can be used in an unlikely but possible terrorist biological attack to help give you, give a family temporary shelter for four to six hours.

We know you can't sustain it, and that's why we say to Americans, we are not going to be alarmed about preparing, but we can't always predict, but we can always be prepared.

So be informed, assemble this little kit, put it over on the side. The worst case scenario is you use it, and the best case scenario if you've got some extra water and canned goods around, you may have to pull them out from time to time, put (ph) something else in (ph).

Go about being an American. Terrorists gave us a choice -- we can either be afraid or be prepared, be ready. America will be ready.

BLITZER: The other criticism that a lot of Democrats are putting out there is that you are not getting enough funding for local and state law enforcement, and some of the statistics they put, and I'll show -- put it up on the screen, homeland security spending for fiscal 2004, the next fiscal year, $41 billion, but the tax cuts, $100 billion. They are suggesting it's more important for you to have tax cuts than to protect the nation's homeland.

RIDGE: Oh, it's very important for the president and Congress to fund the priorities that have been set not just within the Department of Homeland Security, been in consultation with experts and people around the country.

They are finally going to get around to passing the homeland security budget that the president proposed last February. There are substantial dollars in there for first responders and a variety of other needs. My recommendation to the United States Congress, and hopefully I can work with my colleagues in public service, there are billions and billions more in this year's budget.

If we are both concerned about getting money out for the governors and the mayors and the first responders, then let's get this budget through as quickly as possible.

Let's do it differently this year than we did last year, and first responder money in and of itself, the firemen, the police, the emergency technicians, that would be $7 billion in two years. So let's work together, get it out the door. There are a lot of good uses for it. BLITZER: We are all out of time, but one final question: Did you or any member of your staff suggest to members of Congress it would be a good idea to get their families out of Washington at this particular time?

RIDGE: Never. No, I moved my family in. I wouldn't recommend anybody at this time to do anything except enjoy this extraordinary city, the history of the governing, the people, the art, the culture.

We do recommend that you take a couple of minutes and prepare in the event an attack could occur, and then go around and enjoy one of the greatest cities in the world.

BLITZER: We got a lot of extra water in my house, did you get a lot of extra water in yours?

RIDGE: Sure. We actually had it in place before we even made the announcement.

We talked about this emergency supply kit last September, but it was around the anniversary of September 11, and not a lot of folks paid attention to it back then.

Fortunately, they are paying attention to it now, and I think it's rational, responsible behavior to held prepare your family and then go about the business of doing whatever you do to make yourself and your family successful.

BLITZER: Secretary Ridge, good luck to you.

RIDGE: Thank you, Wolf, good to be with you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Thank you.

RIDGE: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And just ahead, U.N. weapons inspectors are asking for more time, but is war the only way to disarm Iraq? We'll get insight from three special guests: former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, former CIA Director James Woolsey, and the former NATO supreme allied commander, General Wesley Clark.

Our special LATE EDITION, "Showdown: Iraq," will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMMED ALDOURI, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. (through translator): An empty hand has nothing to give. You cannot give what you don't have. If we do not possess such weapons, how can we disarm ourselves of such weapons?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed AlDouri, insisting his country doesn't possess weapons of mass destruction.

Welcome to our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.

A split among key U.S. allies on the question of whether to go to war against Iraq is raising the stakes for any unilateral action by the United States.

Joining us now to assess the White House's next moves are three special guests: In Charlottesville, Virginia, the former U.S. secretary of state, Lawrence Eagleburger; here in Washington, the former CIA director, James Woolsey; and the former supreme allied commander of NATO, retired General Wesley Clark. He's now a military analyst for CNN.

Gentlemen, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

And let me begin with you, Secretary Eagleburger. Is war with Iraq inevitable right now?

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think it's 95 percent inevitable. I don't suppose anything is totally inevitable until it happens, but I don't see at this stage any real likelihood that anything else will -- that anything will avert it. I think it's very, very likely.

BLITZER: Director Woolsey, can war be avoided?

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I agree with Larry. I think the chances are very slim. You would have to believe that Saddam is going to be struck, figuratively, on the road to Damascus and change into Nelson Mandela and disclose all of his weapons programs the way the South Africans did. If that doesn't happen, I think war will probably occur.

BLITZER: General Clark?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: I agree. I don't think there is a viable option for the administration at this point. We're way too far out front in this, and containment, which I've heard a lot of people talk about, it's just not a solution to the problem, it's just a way of temporizing.

Can you wait for a month? Sure, you can wait for a month, and you can pick up the allies, and we should do that. But we're going to war unless Saddam Hussein changes. We're not going to give Saddam a victory on this.

BLITZER: Well, what about all this talk, General Clark, of exile of -- a lot of his neighbors, the Saudis, the Turks, the Jordanians, suggesting he may get sanctuary, asylum someplace. How realistic is that? CLARK: I don't think it's realistic, but if it happened, I think it's great. But we still need to go in and get the weapons of mass destruction, the capabilities, the scientists, the labs, the technology. We don't know where all of that stuff is, I don't think. I don't think any single person probably does, at this point. And that means there are still going to have to be American forces in there on the ground to police it up.

BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, the last time around, a dozen years ago, you were the number-two man at the State Department, the deputy secretary of state.

Is it your sense that the Iraqi military will rise up against Saddam Hussein if it comes down to another war?

EAGLEBURGER: I'm no expert, but I would suspect, Wolf, that if war starts, there's probably a likelihood that the generals, or at least some of them who will recognize that they're going to lose this war, might well at that point do it.

Until the war starts, I think it's doubtful, because they know that Saddam's security system is such that they will end up with their heads cut off. But I think once the war starts, the generals must know they're going to lose. And at that stage, maybe they'll take him on.

BLITZER: Let me bring in Director Woolsey.

Exile or an overthrow, assassination of Saddam Hussein might be the only way, in your opinion, to avert a war?

WOOLSEY: I think voluntary exile, the chances of that are virtually nil. Overthrow, in the context of a war getting started, is not absolutely impossible, but we want to be careful here. We don't wand to end up with his son, Qusay, or another Baathist general.

And I think that his main-line units will not be particularly loyal. After all, in '91, many of them chose between surrendering to American unmanned aerial vehicles and surrendering to Italian television film crews. The Republican Guard is key. Some of them may stay loyal to him, but even that is starting to get a bit shaky.

What will stay loyal, I think, are the Tikriti clan members who are the officers and help control his special Republican Guard and special security organization under his son. That's 10,000 to 15,000 troops, and they will probably fight for him.

BLITZER: So, General Clark, the bottom line, how formidable of a military force does the Iraqi regime have?

CLARK: Not a very formidable force. But in any war, there are always uncertainties. I would expect the attack to go very quickly. I think we'll be very successful.

But there will be things we can't predict. What's the nature of the Iraqi opposition? Will they rise up in front of the American forces and get themselves in a fight they can't win with the remnants of the Iraqi forces? Will he succeed in using chem/bioweapons? That will hurt mostly the civilians, but it will be a devastating humanitarian strike.

And who's going to be left behind to defend Saddam Hussein in Baghdad? There may be some hardheads in there, but there are also Shi'a in there who are opposed to the regime, so you could have a civil war raging inside Baghdad as the American forces race to close in on it.

BLITZER: I interviewed Mohamed ElBaradei, Secretary Eagleburger, on Friday, the chief nuclear weapons inspector, who made a case obviously before the Security Council earlier in the day suggesting that he's found no evidence the Iraqis do possess any nuclear capability right now.

I asked how much longer he needs, though, to get a definitive answer. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMED ELBARADEI, CHIEF NUCLEAR WEAPONS INSPECTOR, IAEA: We are getting some reasonable cooperation on the part of Iraq. So it is still a question of months. I would say probably around six months. And again, this is a guesstimate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He says he needs perhaps six months, Secretary Eagleburger. What's wrong with giving him another six months to see if he can get a final answer?

EAGLEBURGER: Wolf, this is all -- for some time now, this has put the cart before the horse.

Secretary Powell, the other day at the U.N., put it exactly right. This is not about inspectors. This is about disarmament. And if we have spend six months for inspectors to run around trying to find out whether he has in fact disarmed or not, it's nonsense.

The fact of the matter is we know he has weapons of mass destruction that he has given no evidence that he has in fact gotten rid of. The issue isn't putting more inspectors in there. The issue is right now, not six weeks from now or not 10 minutes from now, the issue is has he disarmed or will he disarm?

And the answer is clearly he hasn't. And we shouldn't spend six months trying to find out whether he will. To me, this is a red herring. It's the wrong question asked at the wrong time, and it fundamentally is on the part of the French and others like them, simply a question of trying to delay the inevitable.

BLITZER: Well, let me bring Director Woolsey in on that point.

The French, the Germans, the Russians, the Chinese other members of the Security Council say the U.N. inspectors did get cooperation on the U-2 surveillance overflights. They're getting more documents. They're getting access to Iraqi scientists without Iraqi officials present.

Why not give them another six months to see if the Iraqis will provide that complete, full cooperation that the U.N. Security Council demands?

WOOLSEY: Wolf, I agree with Larry. There's not a chance of this. These inspectors are supposed to be auditors. They're not supposed to be detectives. What's supposed to happen is that the country was supposed to come clean the way South Africa did, and then the auditors go in and look at what has been disclosed. They were never supposed to go sneaking around a county the size of California with an inspection force -- the size -- it's a totalitarian dictatorship -- with an inspection force the size of police force of Chico, California.

Now the French want, in their aptly named program Operation Mirage, to double or triple the number of inspectors. Well, you got two or three police forces of Chico, California. It's just not going to do it.

BLITZER: Well, it sounds to me like this -- it was doomed them from the start, this whole inspection process, according to your line of thinking -- was a probably a mistake to even go down this road.

WOOLSEY: It was not doomed. What it was an auditing process, and 1441 makes it clear, Saddam is supposed to come clean, and then the inspectors audit the results.

It's been an invention of the French and the Russians that they were ever supposed to go out there. And I think Hans Blix and ElBaradei have played along with it a little bit.

But it's been an invention really of the French and some others, that there's ever been a chance that they could discover anything by going out there and pretending to be detectives.

BLITZER: You know, General Clark, we're going to take a break but I want your thoughts on this, a lot of the Europeans, the French and the Germans of course foremost among them, think it's totally reasonable to give the inspectors months, maybe years to contain the Iraqis and avoid a war which would cause such devastation and potential strategic fallout in the region.

CLARK: That was a possibility had the French and the Germans and the others agreed to it a year or two years ago when Colin Powell started talking about smart sanctions. But at that point, the only question was when to take the sanctions off.

So we've come this far, but now we are committed. We need to follow through. We've got the momentum, and were we to agree to a year or two years containment of Saddam, unless there's some strategic rationale for that, it's hard to see how it wouldn't be portrayed as a Saddam victory. And we know he's not going to disarm. We know from the evidence that he's going to continue to get these weapons. So even if we found some of the weapons, you'd be left with the problem ultimately of regime change in Baghdad.

BLITZER: All right, let me just take a quick break. But we have a lot more to talk about including more of your phone calls -- some of your phone calls actually. Our panelists are waiting. They're standing by for your phone calls. Call us.

LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, returns in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq. We're continuing our conversation with former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, former CIA Director James Woolsey, and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander retired General Wesley Clark.

We have a phone call from Hawaii.

Hawaii, go ahead. Hawaii, are you there?

Hawaii is not there.

Let me ask Secretary Eagleburger, Secretary Eagleburger, the whole notion of the NATO alliance right now in deep trouble because France, Germany and Belgium don't want to allow NATO to take the preliminary steps, at least for the time being, to protect Turkey, a NATO ally, in the event of a war.

Is this the beginning of the end, potentially, of NATO?

EAGLEBURGER: I think potentially, I guess you have to say potentially, yes, and I'm sure General Clark would have better comments on this than I, but I think in many ways this particular issue is deserving of a great deal more attention than I think it's gotten.

The fact that three countries within NATO are not letting the alliance simply do planning on how, in fact, we might come to the defense of another NATO ally in the event of a crisis to me strikes at the very heart of what that alliance is all about.

And I can only say to you, if the issue were turned around and somebody were saying, "Let's not plan on how we would defend France or Germany in the event of a crisis, or Belgium," I would wager you that you would hear screams all over the place.

To me it is striking at the very heart of the concept of that alliance, which is how do we, how do we come to the defense of another member of that alliance?

And it's coming because of the Iraq issue, but I think it is a very fundamental question, and I think those three members of the alliance have done the alliance itself great potential damage. BLITZER: General Clark, go ahead, you're the former NATO commander.

CLARK: Well, first of all, I think it will be worked out, Wolf. I mean, these things tend to bubble up and get a lot of visibility, then they get worked out.

Secondly, you really can't see what's going on behind the scenes. My guess is that there are two sides or three sides or four sides to the story, and while we think it spells the end of NATO because it looks like, or potentially signals something bad because we won't defend, they probably would tell you, the Belgians and the French, that this is a move that is a pre-authorization, goes in front of a U.N. Security Council decision, and commits the alliance to go to war even though the U.N. hasn't made that decision yet.

Somehow, the statesmen and the diplomats, very quietly working, have to craft the language that lets this move ahead. And I think they will.

BLITZER: All right. Director Woolsey, are you that upbeat about Germany, France and Belgium eventually working out some sort of arrangement with the other NATO allies?

WOOLSEY: I think they probably will let the planning go forward. But I agree with Larry Eagleburger, I think the German and French and Belgian governments' positions on this issue are just abominable.

I think they will probably cave to some extent, because they've been under such pressure, but not to even let the planning go forward, they weren't even talking about shipping forces, they were talking about doing planning, I think is just a terrible decision for those three governments to have made for these last several weeks.

They may change today or tomorrow, but they ought to change fast.

BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, you were a career diplomat, you rose the ranks of the foreign service to become the secretary of state. You know this U.S. relationship with the European allies about as well as anyone.

Give us some perspective. How deep is this divide right now?

EAGLEBURGER: I think it's serious, Wolf, no question about that. I think the causes of it are, there are a whole host of them, and I don't think it's going to be worked out easily.

I think in the end it will be worked out for now, but I think there is a longer-term question here of the longer-term relationship with Europe, and particularly with Western Europe, and particularly, again, with Germany and France.

We are missing a point here, though, that's important, I think, as well, which is we've missed the point that a lot of the other countries within Europe, most of them in Eastern Europe, have joined with us rather quickly in terms of the Iraq issue. So it's not, all is by no means lost, but what we do see here is certainly a weakening of the ties for the moment at least. Well, France has always been a problem. There's no question about that.

I think where we've seen a real change is with regard to the Federal Republic of Germany. That is at least in part because of the political shenanigans the chancellor is playing, but to try to get this in one sentence, I think we are seeing the beginnings of some very serious, potentially very serious problems with some of our Western European allies.

I think if you have to try to project this over a five- or 10- year period, I would have to tell you I think we are seeing the beginnings of some fairly substantial changes in our relationship with some of those Western European countries, not with the British, but with France and Germany, certainly.

It will not be as close as it's been.

BLITZER: Let me let General Clark just weigh in very briefly. We only have a few seconds left.

The whole notion of the old Europe versus the new Europe, as the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has spoken about, the old Europe being Germany and France, the new Europe the new NATO allies, is that a serious concept?

CLARK: Well, look, we have to be very clear on the facts. European public opinion is against the war not just in France and Germany, but throughout Europe. It is against it. It's a question how far the governments can depart from their public opinion that determines how they can support us.

We have to give them the evidence they need, the ammunition, the analysis, the commitments, the follow through that let these governments mold their own public opinion so they can come on our side.

BLITZER: Well, that's that. We unfortunately have to leave it right there.

General Clark, always good to speak to you.

Director Woolsey, thank you very much.

Larry Eagleburger, of course we appreciate your joining us as well.

In the next hour of LATE EDITION, we'll talk about possible war scenarios with two members of the U.S. Congressional Intelligence Committees, plus we'll speak with the British, the French and the German ambassadors to the United States.

All that, much more, in the next hour of LATE EDITION.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.

How close is the United States to war? And how serious are the threats of renewed terror? We'll ask Senator Saxby Chambliss and Congresswoman Jane Harman in just a moment, but first here's CNN's Carol Lin with a CNN news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: We turn now to two key members of the United States House of Representatives and Senate. At the CNN Center in Atlanta, Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, he is a member of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, as well as the Armed Services Committee. And in our Los Angeles bureau, Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman. She is the ranking member of the House Select Intelligence Committee.

It's good to have both of you on LATE EDITION. Thanks very much for joining us.

And Congresswoman Harman, I'll begin with you. You heard our panelists say just a few moments ago, three distinguished guests, they believe war with Iraq is now inevitable, probably imminent. What's your assessment?

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Not so fast. I keep hoping that if this narrow remaining diplomatic window, as Condoleezza Rice calls it, is used effectively in the next week or so, we still could find a peaceful solution to this crisis, a peaceful solution includes full disarmament of Iraq.

BLITZER: Well, explain what that means, a peaceful solution. Does that mean that Saddam Hussein is going to come clean and cooperate fully immediately as demanded by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441?

HARMAN: And 16 other resolutions, Wolf. And it's what he agreed to in 1991 as part of his unconditional surrender. But I think there is a slim chance of that. I think there is a slightly bigger chance of either exile or an internal coup.

I think what is critical is that we get to closure, as every major editorial board is calling on us to do in the next short period, but we give the U.N. one last chance to come, to coalesce together around the words of a second resolution or action that could resolve this without the use of force.

BLITZER: Senator Chambliss, what do you say? Can the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein come clean as demanded by the Bush administration?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Well, they certainly haven't shown any indication to do that, Wolf. We have just seen in Blix's report the other day where they found a certain number of missiles that are in violation of the resolution of the U.N., and did Saddam come forward with it? No, they had to go find it.

So, you know, he certainly hasn't shown any indication that he is going to comply with any U.N. resolution, and it's really gotten to the point now to where the U.N. is becoming irrelevant if they don't seek enforcement of their own resolution.

BLITZER: Well, on those missiles, Senator Chambliss, the Iraqis say they were the ones who informed the inspectors of the Al Samoud missile, the missile in question right now. But they believe that once that missile has all of the warheads, the ammunition, if you will, it won't exceed that 150 kilometer range, about 93 miles or so that it's approved for the Iraqis to go ahead and have those kinds of ballistic missiles.

CHAMBLISS: Well, it's kind of interesting, Wolf, that we've been at this game with Saddam now for the last almost 90 days and he keeps telling the world that he's not in violation of any resolution, he doesn't have any weapons, certainly doesn't have any weapons of mass destruction.

All of a sudden now these weapons are found and he says, oh, yes, that's right, I forgot about these, but -- you know, Jane is exactly right, there is that window of opportunity as Condi Rice said. We hope we can slip through that window and we can see a peaceful resolution of this, but the only thing that Saddam Hussein understands is force.

Now, we hope we don't have to use military force to seek compliance with the resolutions of the United Nations, but we have the capability to do it. He needs to know that we not only have the capability, but we're willing to do it. That's the only way we're going to see a peaceful resolution.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, if you take a look at that whole issue involving the Al Samoud missiles, which Hans Blix say do exceed the permissible range and he says they must be destroyed, about 300 or so of them, if the Iraqis refuse, is that in and of itself a justification to go to war?

HARMAN: I think they're in material breach right now, Wolf. I think the evidence that Colin Powell presented to the Security Council was ample, even if you put aside the links to al Qaeda and some in Europe don't believe those links -- I happen to believe those links -- but the point is that there are UAVs in excess of the permitted range, there's evidence that he is still stockpiling chemical and biological weapons, he hasn't accounted for the discrepancies between what the inspectors found in 1998 and what he himself reported to the U.N. in 2002, et cetera.

Now the question is, how do we pull the U.N. together in support of 17 resolutions in 12 years to say this is it, it's over? I think once he understands -- and I still see a slim chance we can get this done in the next several weeks -- once he understands that there's no escape route, then we have the last and final chance for peace, and I want that last and final chance. That's what the world wants this outcome to be, and I hope we can get there. BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, you're privy to the most sensitive intelligence. How good is that intelligence establishing that link between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government?

HARMAN: Well, I think that there was not much of a link before 9/11, or even on 9/11. I think the worry is prospective. What will happen not just with al Qaeda but with Hezbollah and Hamas and all the other terrorist groups around the world if Iraq is permitted to continue to amass weapons of mass destruction and to develop nuclear capability. I don't think we need North Korea, too, in the world. One of them is hard enough.

BLITZER: Let's take a caller from Hawaii. Go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Hi, I was just wondering if perhaps President Bush has not already committed too many troops to this, and it would be impossible for him to walk away with that many troops?

BLITZER: What about that, Senator Chambliss?

CHAMBLISS: No, I don't think he's committed to it at all. In fact, he has repeatedly said both in public statements as well as private conversations that both Jane and I have been involved in, that he wants to see a diplomatic resolution.

The ball has been in Hussein's court for the last several weeks now, and he simply has not returned the ball, and the president wants him to know that he must disarm, that he must come forward, comply with the resolutions.

And if he does, we're obviously willing to negotiate some sort of resolution of it, but we just can't continue to let a terrorist thumb his nose at the United Nations and get away with it.

BLITZER: But, Senator Chambliss, if you're Saddam Hussein or his top leadership and you see the division among the allies, you see what happened at the Security Council on Friday, most of the member states saying give the inspectors more time, as much time as they need, and you take a look at the new issue of Time magazine that has an interview with the French President Jacques Chirac, in which he says this -- and I'll put it up on the screen -- he says: "In its current situation, does Iraq, controlled and inspected as it is, pose a clear and present danger to the region? I don't believe so." That kind of division, wouldn't you sit back, if you're Saddam Hussein, and say, what's the rush? I don't have to worry about it? The United States is not going to go to war without its closest allies?

CHAMBLISS: That's kind of puzzling when you see a statement like that coming from the leader of the French government when we know that he's privy to all the information that we have. For example, at a Senate intelligence hearing on last Tuesday, Senator Warner asked of Director George Tenet of the CIA if we have a military conflict with Iraq, do you expect us to find a cache of weapons at the end of that conflict, and Director Tenet didn't hesitate, he said, absolutely, we will find a cache of weapons of mass destruction. Well, if the French know that, I don't understand why they're not excited, and upon my asking Director Tenet about that, his comment, well, it's probably just politics, and world politics certainly is playing a part in this, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Chambliss, Congresswoman Harman, stand by. We have a lot more to talk about. We have also more phone calls standing by. We'll turn the corner, we'll talk about homeland security when our special LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: When I speak about the war on terror, I not only talk about al Qaeda, I talk about Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush pressing the theme of a link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq. We're talking with Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Congresswoman Jane Harman of California.

Congresswoman Harman, was it smart to increase that threat level from yellow to orange, from elevated to high as a result of the intelligence information of a possible terror threat in the United States?

HARMAN: I thought that was the correct decision, Wolf, but unfortunately, the advice to America following raising that threat level was totally inadequate. Everyone was running around last week buying duct tape, and there was not a smart system for informing America about what the precise risks were and what to do. I was pleased to see Tom Ridge on your show a little earlier this morning talking about a readiness campaign he's starting Wednesday. I hope that's a good campaign. That campaign should have been rolled out six months ago.

BLITZER: What about that, Senator Chambliss?

CHAMBLISS: Well, I'm sort of like Jane, I didn't go out and buy any duct tape. I think that was an overreaction to the situation. I don't think that's the way we need to prepare for whatever may be forthcoming in the way of a terrorist attack.

I think Secretary Ridge is moving in the right direction. I think he's getting things started off in the right way. I do think it was appropriate to raise the threat level the other day. We had seen more chatter coming across the network lines, networks of the terrorist community than we had seen at any time since September 11, and it was not specific, but there was reason to raise that level, and I think it was appropriate.

BLITZER: There's an item in the new issue of "U.S. News & World Report," Congresswoman Harman, and it says among other things lawmakers are being encouraged to send their families back to their home states. Have you heard anything along those lines?

HARMAN: I have not heard that, and I think that's a mistake. I also think that we learned from our mistake on 9/11 when we closed the Capitol. We should not close the Capitol, and we should all have systems, and I do in my office, to keep our offices open in the event of another terrorist attack.

Our 650,000 constituents, this is for a House member, expect us to help them in this kind of emergency.

Let me make one other comment, though, Wolf. I do think the funding for first responders is inadequate. Congress has just finally passed the 2003 budget, which has some money in it for first responders, but that money won't reach them for another couple of months, and I gather the administration is saying they don't want to accelerate additional funding and they don't even believe it's necessary. This is wrong. If we can ramp up and spend $8 billion to $12 billion to pre-position our forces and our equipment in the theater around Iraq, we can certainly move more money to police, fire and emergency services at home. Every constituent of mine is more worried about the terrorist next door than he or she is about Saddam Hussein.

BLITZER: What about that, Senator Chambliss?

CHAMBLISS: Well, we have got to establish priorities when it comes to spending money relative to homeland security. We had a long debate in the Senate over the last several days leading up to the passage of the omnibus bill about how much money we're spending on homeland security.

There are any number of priorities out there, but there's no greater priority than first responders at state and local levels. There's training that needs to be done. There's equipment that needs to be bought. I'm one of those folks who thinks that we may need to put a little more money at the state and local level quicker than what we're anticipating doing it.

But by the same token, Secretary Ridge has the benefit of a lot of planning that I don't have or that Jane doesn't have that we need to continue to dialogue with him on to make sure that we're getting that money there in time to make sure that our folks are prepared at the local level.

BLITZER: We only have a few seconds, Senator Chambliss. How worried should our viewers in the United States be right now about another terror attack?

CHAMBLISS: Well, it could come at any point in time, but it could have come at any point since September the 11th. So I don't think there's any reason to be any more concerned today than we were a week ago, for example. However, people do need to continue to be observant. They need to be aware. They need to know what to do in the event that something in the way of a terrorist attack does happen, so people need to be prepared, because there's still a lot of people out there that don't like us. BLITZER: We have to leave it, unfortunately, right there. Senator Chambliss, Congresswoman Harman, thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION.

CHAMBLISS: Sure.

BLITZER: And up next, longtime allies split over going to war against Iraq. Can the rift be healed? We'll talk with Britain's ambassador to the United States, Sir Christopher Meyer, and France's ambassador to the United States, Jean-David Levitte, and Germany's ambassador to the United States, Wolfgang Ischinger. LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: American flags here in Washington on a snowy, very snowy day. In France, meanwhile, a resounding no to the war against Iraq, possible war against Iraq, from both the public as well as the French government. Joining us now is France's ambassador to the United States, Jean-David Levitte.

Ambassador Levitte, welcome to LATE EDITION, welcome to Washington. You've only been here two months. I guess you didn't realize you were entering into a rough period in Franco/American relations.

But let's talk a little bit about what's next in the aftermath of the Security Council meeting on Friday. The president's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was on Meet the Press here in the United States earlier today. I want you to listen precisely to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The French can call for a meeting of the Security Council any time that they want, but I do believe that continuing to talk about more time and more time and more time is simply going to relieve pressure on the Iraqis to do what they must do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You've heard the complaints that by France taking a different stance from Washington you're, in effect, sending the wrong message to Baghdad.

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE, FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Well, we don't exclude the use of force, but we say it is the very last resort. As long as the inspections produce results, we should maintain the inspections. That's the rule of the game.

And let me stress that today, as we speak, the inspectors are destroying 50 liters of mustard gas, deadly gas, and they have found missiles we've arranged above the ceilings of rise, so we must destroy these missiles.

So you see, we have progress, and we should go on as long as the inspectors are making progress. BLITZER: So you're talking about the Al Samoud missile, which Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, says exceeds the 150-kilometer range authorized for the Iraqis. Those missiles, about 300 of them, must be destroyed, is that what you're saying?

LEVITTE: As long as the missiles go beyond the ceiling of rise, they must be destroyed. Yes.

BLITZER: What if the Iraqis say, no, they don't go beyond when they are unfitted with all the weapons and the warhead, they won't go beyond the 150 kilometers?

LEVITTE: Then the inspectors will report to the Security Council and the collective body, the 15 ambassadors, will have to make a decision, but I'm pretty confident that the inspectors will be in a position to destroy all these missiles.

BLITZER: Do you believe the Iraqi government of President Saddam Hussein right now is cooperating fully as envisaged by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441?

LEVITTE: No. Iraq must do more in terms of active cooperation. But there was some progress. The U-2 planes will exert surveillance together with French Mirage plane, German drones, so that's progress. The interviews now are better with private interviews without officials, so we must exact more pressure together in the Security Council to get more results from Iraq.

BLITZER: I want you to listen to what President Bush said on I guess it was Thursday at the U.S. Naval base outside of Jacksonville, Florida. He made a pointed dig at France, Germany and Belgium. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Many nations have offered to provide forces or other support to disarm the Iraqi regime. Every nation of the Gulf Cooperation Council has agreed to help defend and protect Kuwait.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The GCC agreeing to help protect Kuwait but NATO not yet agreeing to help protect Turkey, another neighbor of Iraq, because your country, Germany and Belgium say it's not necessary.

LEVITTE: Well, let me remind first that we participated fully in the first Gulf War with over 10,000 troops, and we don't exclude the use of force, we are not a pacifist country, and today you have to know that France is the No. 1 contributor of troops to NATO operations right now before the U.S. and the UK. So we don't exclude the use of force.

BLITZER: But why not take the steps to get the defensive structure in place to help Turkey if it comes down to a war?

LEVITTE: We don't exclude practical measures, but we say it's not for NATO to decide what should be done in case of war. It is for the Security Council first to discuss where we are, what we should do, and then only there should be a NATO council discussion.

BLITZER: But you realize that by refusing to do so, you've created the impression here in the United States and you've been here for a while, you understand, that France is not a reliable ally of the NATO alliance and certainly not of the United States.

LEVITTE: Well, we are a faithful ally to the United States and also to Turkey. But we simply say not -- we should not put NATO's cart before the U.N. horse.

BLITZER: I want you also to listen to what Senator John McCain, Republican senator from Arizona, very influential, said earlier today on television here in the United States, because his views are widely shared by Democrats and Republicans, many of them on Capitol Hill. Listen to the biting comments he made.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: They remind me of an aging movie actress in the 1940s who is still trying to dine out on her looks, but doesn't have the face for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's quite a slap at the French.

LEVITTE: I'm a bit distressed when I see the press on both sides of the Atlantic. We are allies and friends. We worked together with our friends in the United States when they were fighting for their independence in the very early days of your independence. You saved us twice, last century, during the two world wars. We will never forget that.

And I hope that in the coming days we will see more friendly dialogue, more cooperation and more respect on both sides of the Atlantic.

BLITZER: Let's hope that happens. Thanks very much, Ambassador, for joining us, and welcome to Washington.

LEVITTE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Up next, we'll hear from the German ambassador to the United States. The German people and their government close ranks against war with Iraq. Can the world come to a consensus on this volatile issue? We'll ask Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger when LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: U.S.-German relations strained right now as a result of the possibility of a U.S.-led war against Iraq.

Joining us now from Miami is Germany's ambassador to the United States, Wolfgang Ischinger.

Mr. Ambassador, welcome to LATE EDITION. Thanks very much for joining us.

"The Wall Street Journal," in an editorial this past week, wrote, among other things, this: "The Franco-Belgian-German decision to buck 16 other NATO members and deny Turkey the assets to defend itself against imminent threat calls into question whether NATO is still worth belonging to."

That's a view that's widely held among many influential people here in Washington and elsewhere around the country. How concerned are you right now about the future of the NATO alliance?

WOLFGANG ISCHINGER, GERMAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Well, I am more concerned about the press flare-up than about the substance. What is the truth of the matter? The truth of the matter is that my country has, with others, already promised to Turkey to provide exactly the kind of support that Turkey has requested.

So there is no substantive problem. The only...

BLITZER: So what's the difference, Mr. Ambassador, between bilaterally handing over these kinds of chemical weapon detection devices, Patriot missiles, the other equipment that the Turks say they need, what's the difference between doing that and letting NATO do it as a treaty-bound alliance?

ISCHINGER: Well, a number of governments in NATO felt that it was not going to be appropriate to prejudice the outcome of our deliberations at the United Nations about how to proceed on the Iraq issue by making formal announcements of NATO as a body, as a multilateral body.

I think it is not unfair if we request a degree of fairness from our partners. We did not want to make it appear as if our position on the Iraq issue were going to be changed by virtue of this NATO declaration.

Once again, let me say, and I can say it categorically, we are doing what we are supposed to do as good and decent allies, vis-a-vis our important Turkish alliance partner. We had a problem in making a formal NATO announcement about it, and I know that as we speak here today, our ambassadors at NATO are working hard to resolve this final problem, which is not really a substantive problem at all.

BLITZER: Will it be resolved in the coming days? Will the 19 members of NATO, the 16 who are already on board plus the three who are resisting -- your government, France and Belgium -- will they all work out an agreement in the coming days to provide this military equipment to Turkey?

ISCHINGER: I think there is a good chance, yes, that this formality can be agreed upon and that you will see, in the next few hours or coming days, that that problem is going to be a problem of the past. I think it has been blown totally out of all proportion.

BLITZER: Some of the statements, though, taken by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder during his election campaign and since have antagonized, angered many top officials here in Washington, including the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, who had these memorable words only a few weeks ago. And I want to play them so you can offer your response. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe. If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the center of gravity is shifting to the east.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, those comments generated widespread condemnation in Germany and France and elsewhere around Europe, but it's certainly a view that is widely held in this Bush administration.

ISCHINGER: Well, I happen to disagree with that. I strongly believe that my country considers itself, defines itself as part of a new Europe, of a Europe that is emerging and that is not going to be a bad alliance partner, that wishes to be an important, big partner for the United States.

But once again, I think what is being misunderstood here is whether disagreement about a specific issue is tantamount, is synonymous to opposing the United States, to being against the United States, to being a bad partner.

What we have is a serious disagreement about the best method in order to disarm Iraq. My government continues to believe that it is not wrong to explore every possible method to resolve this question through, let me put it simply, through containment, through inspections, inspections inspections, inspections. So long as the inspectors believe that they can do this job in a useful way, why should we stop them?

BLITZER: We just heard the French ambassador, your colleague here in Washington, outline certain conditions under which his government, the French government of President Jacques Chirac, would, in fact, go along with military action against Iraq together with the United States.

Under what circumstances, if any, would Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government go ahead and support military action against Iraq?

ISCHINGER: I invite you to read the declaration adopted earlier this week, a trilateral declaration between President Chirac, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and President Putin. And there is a sentence in that paper which speaks of the use of force being the weapon of last resort, so to speak. In other words, this can only be a consideration once we are satisfied that all -- I repeat, all -- efforts at resolving this dispute through other peaceful means have been fully exhausted.

And we believe up to this minute, that the process that we have gone through that we've initiated together has actually not been totally un-useful. As my French colleague has just outlined to you, we have found a number of things, and the Iraqis have started to move a little bit.

Not enough, we agree. And they must disarm, and the pressure must continue. But is there a sufficient reason to define the degree of noncompliance of Iraq as a sufficient reason to go to war? Our answer is, probably no.

BLITZER: And we only have a few seconds left, but how much time do you want to give this process -- to let this process continue before you're convinced the Iraqis are not actively cooperating with the destruction of their own weapons of mass destruction?

ISCHINGER: Well, Wolf, I have a very simple answer to that. I think we have appointed this highly professional group of inspectors under the direction of Drs. ElBaradei and Blix to do this job. I would rely on them. I would not want to make that judgment myself. I would say, let's wait and hear from them.

If they come back to the Security Council and report that they can no longer do a decent job, that, you know, it's finished, then I think we need to reconsider. But I have not heard them say that. In fact, I have heard them say that there is not enough, but there is a little progress, and that they're doing useful work. So let them do the work. Isn't that better than going to war?

BLITZER: We heard Dr. ElBaradei say on my program Friday he could use another at least six months or so. But we'll have to leave it right there. Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger of Germany, thanks very much for joining us.

ISCHINGER: Thank you. Pleasure being on your show.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And the British government is standing with the United States on Iraq. When LATE EDITION returns, we'll talk with Britain's ambassador to the U.S., Sir Christopher Meyer.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I know it is tough right now. I know it is an uncertain time for our country. But we will come through this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The British prime minister, Tony Blair, addressing members of his Labor Party yesterday, Blair supporting the United States' position on Iraq despite strong opposition to the possibility of war among the British public.

Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.

We're joined now by Britain's ambassador to the United States, Sir Christopher Meyer.

Mr. Ambassador, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

SIR CHRISTOPHER MEYER, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Good afternoon.

BLITZER: Thank you very much for joining us.

These demonstrations in London were huge. How much of a political problem does Prime Minister Blair face right now?

MEYER: Well, they were terrific demonstrations of democracy. And I hope that Saddam Hussein was watching them, because he can see what a democracy in action looks like.

BLITZER: If he was watching them, though, he was watching this message come across saying, "No war, let the inspections continue, the United States and the British government are wrong."

MEYER: Well, let him not be deceived by what he saw because Britain may be a country in which there were one million demonstrators in London yesterday, but it's a country of 60 million people. And the prime minister is one of those politicians who leads and does not follow. And I think that is what the history of the time demands.

BLITZER: So what happens now? You and the United States, the Bush administration, the Blair government working very closely together? Is there going to be a second resolution that you will introduce to try to get Security Council support?

MEYER: Well, we have a kind of diplomatic window, and it's a matter of weeks and not months, to use a phrase that we've heard a lot in the last few weeks. And we shall work to try to get a second Security Council resolution.

BLITZER: And what will that resolution in the best of all worlds, from your perspective, say?

MEYER: If it is the case that Saddam Hussein does not do what Resolution 1441 requires him to do, you've heard the phrase -- active, unconditional and immediate cooperation -- then he must face the serious consequences which have already been spelled out in that resolution.

So one way or another, the second resolution, which by the way will be something like the 18th or 19th since the Gulf War, will have to say that.

And may I just make one other comment?

BLITZER: And the world "serious consequences," which is a euphemism for war, that will be included in the resolution?

MEYER: I cannot predict what in the end will emerge in the text, because obviously there's going to be a process in the negotiation. And there are a number of formulas that could be used. But I think it's meaning will be clear.

And let me just...

BLITZER: Before we move on, but what makes you think, you and the Bush administration, the United States and Britain will have the majority support among the 15 members of the Security Council to get such a resolution through when we just heard the French ambassador, the German ambassador say, "Give these inspectors more time, months if necessary, six months if necessary, even longer. That's better than war."

MEYER: Well, let me make two points here. First of all, it seems to be it would be extremely difficult for any member of the Security Council to ask for a kind of indefinite process of inspection. If once again, Hans Blix returns to the Security Council, as he will do at the end of this month, and report that still the Iraqis despite some minor concessions, are not performing in full compliance with Security Council Resolution 1441. it would be very hard for any member state who signed on to that resolution, which was a unanimous resolution, in the face of yet another report saying that the Iraqis are not in full compliance, then to deny the Security Council its ability to take its responsibilities.

BLITZER: When do you think this new resolution will be put forward?

MEYER: Well, I don't know. I can't make a prediction. I saw that the New York Times this morning was saying Tuesday. It may be Tuesday. It may be on another day. And there are talks going on now precisely to decide how we're going to do that.

BLITZER: You also heard the German and the French ambassadors suggest NATO would work out this issue involving Turkey and providing some support for Turkey in the event of a war.

Is that what you're hearing as well, that the NATO allies are now close to a deal?

MEYER: Well, I hope so, and about time too. And to be perfectly frank, if it's possible to do a deal today, which has NATO take its responsibilities vis-a-vis Turkey, you've got to ask the question why it wasn't possible last week.

BLITZER: And why wasn't it?

MEYER: Well, it is not a question for the British ambassador to answer because we have always been in favor of helping Turkey in this way .

BLITZER: Help me understand a poll that has gotten a lot of publicity here in the United States from Channel 4 in Britain the other day that asked this question, "Who poses the biggest threat to world peace?"

Look at these answers. The United States, 32 percent, Iraq 25 percent, North Korea 26 percent. More people in your country think the United States poses the greatest threat to world peace than Iraq and North Korea?

MEYER: Well, you know, as a reporter, Wolf, you know that you have to take these polls with very great caution, know how they were asked, when they were asked and in what circumstances they were asked.

I attach more credence to polls which have consistently said that with the support of the Security Council, most people in Britain would support going to a war in Iraq if Saddam Hussein does not do his duty.

BLITZER: So when you say weeks, not months, which is what President Bush says, what Tony Blair says, specifically what does that mean? Weeks, not months, before what?

MEYER: Well, I'm not going to spell out an exact calendar, because to a degree it is a function of the talks that are going to go on in private over the next few weeks, particularly in the Security Council.

But weeks, not months, means this -- that the Resolution 1441 required immediate compliance by Saddam Hussein, this after 12 years of obfuscation and deceit.

So in answer of the question, why now, I would put another question which is, how much longer? And the progress that people have noted that the Iraqis have made in the last few weeks has been like getting blood out of a stone.

I would like to be able to say that the inspectors have been successful, but those concessions that we have seen from the Iraqis, and they have been secondary concessions dealing with the process, have in my view been a direct result of the pressure placed on Iraq militarily by the United States and the U.K.

BLITZER: On that note, I have to leave it, Sir Christopher Meyer, the British ambassador to the United States, thanks very much.

MEYER: Thank you.

BLITZER: When we return, are inspections in Iraq yielding real progress or turning into a fruitless game of cat-and-mouse? We'll get special insight from former U.N. inspectors, Terrence Taylor and Jonathan Tucker.

LATE EDITION continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: We are facing a difficult situation. More inspectors -- sorry, not the answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell, expressing frustration for calls by some to give the inspections in Iraq more time.

Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.

joining us now with insight into just how effective the inspections actually are are two guests: Terence Taylor is a former U.N. inspector and current head of the Institute for Strategic Studies in London; and Jonathan Tucker is also a former U.N. weapons inspector.

Gentlemen, good to have both of you on LATE EDITION.

Colonel Taylor, let me begin with you and play for you, first of all, what Hans Blix told the U.N. Security Council on Friday on one specific conclusion that he came up with. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLIX: How much, if any, is left of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and related proscribed items and programs? So far, UNMOVIC has not found any such weapons, only a small number of empty chemical munitions which should have been declared and destroyed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That sounds like pretty good news for the Iraqis.

TERENCE TAYLOR, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, I don't think so, when you listen to the rest of Dr. Blix's presentation, because he did list other areas. He talked about a thousand tons of chemical agents...

BLITZER: That they haven't accounted for.

TAYLOR: That they haven't accounted for.

BLITZER: But haven't actually found any weapons...

TAYLOR: No, well, that's not surprising, because we did struggle for years, during the 1990s, doing exactly the same thing. And even then, for much of that time, we had, for example, the U-2 overflights, the high-altitude surveillance aircraft, which have not yet been allowed although it may be soon. So, to me, it just seems history repeating itself.

BLITZER: To you, Jonathan Tucker? JONATHAN TUCKER, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I don't think so. I think there has been a change in Iraqi behavior. As you recall, back in the '90s, the Iraqis were routinely blocking access to key facilities, to presidential sites. So they have changed.

There is room for improvement, definitely, but I think there is enough access now and enough Iraqi cooperation for the inspectors to make significant progress.

BLITZER: All right, well, listen to this other part of his presentation, Dr. Blix's presentation, Jonathan, and I'll get your reaction to this. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLIX: The declaration submitted by Iraq on the 7th of December last year, despite its large volume, missed the opportunity to provide the fresh material and evidence needed to respond to the open questions. This is perhaps the most important problem we are facing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And that's echoed by U.S. officials and British officials, who make the point that it's not the job of the inspectors to find these weapons, it's the job of the Iraqi government to make the weapons available.

TUCKER: Yes, but I think we have to be realistic about the level of cooperation we can expect from Iraq. This is a coercive process of inspection. It's being done under the threat of war.

So I think we can expect, you know, up to a point that the Iraqis will cooperate, but it will be the role of the inspectors to investigate, to pursue leads. And they can make use of openings that the Iraqis are providing.

BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break, but I know you disagree with him on that point, sir.

TAYLOR: Very much so.

BLITZER: Go ahead. Make your point briefly, then we'll take a...

TAYLOR: Well, the onus is definitely on Iraq to deliver up the new information they're required to do. And the job of the inspectors, under the resolutions, is to actually verify credibly these declarations on the material that they do show.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, both of you, because we're just beginning. We have a lot more to talk about.

It's time to say goodbye to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.

Coming up for our North American audience, we'll continue our discussion on the weapons inspections, and we'll also be taking your phone calls. Then, three big-city mayors here in the United States talk about their cities and coping with the challenges of homeland security, and our Final Round.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq. We'll continue our conversation about the hunt for weapons in Iraq in just a moment, but first, here's CNN's Carol Lin with a CNN news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Now back to our discussion with former U.N. weapons inspectors Terrance Taylor, he's the head of the Washington office of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and Jonathan Tucker, he's now a senior fellow at the U.S. government's Institute for Peace here in Washington, D.C.

Let me begin once again with you, Colonel Taylor, and play this excerpt from Mohammed ElBaradei, his testimony, his statement delivered on Friday before the U.N. Security Council on a sensitive nuclear-related issue. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELBARADEI: We have, to date, found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq. However, as I have just indicated, a number of issues are still under investigation, and we are not yet in a position to reach a conclusion about them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And later in the day when I interviewed him he said he needs at least another six months to be able to come up with a hard and firm conclusion, also saying the Iraqis don't necessarily have to fully cooperate for him to get to the bottom of this whole nuclear- related issue.

TAYLOR: All right, well, I find that statement very surprising. I certainly think him on his own or his, their inspectors without Iraqi assistance, without a change in policy on the part of the Iraqi government of solving this problem in six months.

If you look at his statement on Friday, he said very clearly that the Iraqis hadn't handed over data on weapons design. We've never found any weapons components, electrical firing circuits, all these kinds of things, timing devices. And also he reported there were 35 tons of HMX explosive, that's the very specialized explosive specifically designed for use in nuclear weapons, and it's not something you would normally use in quarries for demolitions, and so on. So this is a very serious issue, and I don't think this can be resolved in just a few months if the Iraqi government doesn't change its policy.

BLITZER: What do you say?

TUCKER: Well, I think that as long as the inspectors are making significant progress, for example, having access to weapons scientists for interviews in private, being able to use more surveillance aircraft, they should pursue these leads until the inspectors themselves decide that they have hit a brick wall and that the inspections really have, are no longer useful.

BLITZER: But you were an inspector in Iraq.

TUCKER: Yes.

BLITZER: Could you really believe that any Iraqi scientist who's questioned by inspectors, even without the presence of Iraqi officials, inside Iraq, inside Baghdad, knowing the way the Iraqi security apparatus is so pervasive that they are still going to necessarily feel comfortble in disclosing what they know?

TUCKER: Well, even when interviews were conducted in the presence of minders, they could still be useful, because one could determine there were discrepancies among stories told by different scientists and focus in on those discrepancies to determine to basically dismantle cover stories.

So it does -- even under the worse conditions, interviews can still be effective. They will be more effective if they are conducted in private.

BLITZER: Colonel Taylor, do you agree with that?

TAYLOR: No, I don't agree with that, because I think the whole process will take far too long. I've conducted many interviews in Iraq, and some of them very successfully and we got some valuable information.

But just let me remind you that I was mostly engaged on the biological weapons program, and that took us four and a half years. I'll repeat that, four and a half years, with very intrusive inspections, not being denied access, I must stress, interviewing whoever we wanted to interview.

Now, the Iraqis have learned from their mistakes, and I think the inspectors now have a harder job than we had in the 1990s.

BLITZER: And what about the whole notion, Jonathan, of taking these scientists out of Iraq, with their families if necessary, to try to get information? What ever happened to that?

TUCKER: Well, I think the logistics of that were just too complex. And often, Iraqis have very extended families. So just getting them out of the country would have been extremely difficult. I also think Blix balked at being -- aiding and abetting defections. I think he thought that would be too politicized.

BLITZER: I noticed at one point, I'm sure you did as well, Colonel Taylor, when Hans Blix was speaking on Friday, at one particular point he referred directly to what Secretary of State Colin Powell had said. He had brought some photography, some pictures of the (inaudible) facility and he showed some trucks that are leaving, suggesting that the Iraqis basically had penetrated the UNMOVIC inspectors, knew exactly where they were going so they could clean up areas before they got there.

But listen to what Dr. Blix said in response to that suggestion. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLIX: We have noted that the two satellite images of the site were taken several weeks apart. The reported movement of munitions at the site could just as easily have been a routine activity, as a movement of proscribed munitions in anticipation of imminent inspection.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's a pretty strong slap at Colin Powell.

TAYLOR: I think Dr. Blix felt he had to say something about these allegations, about that the Iraqis knew the inspectors were coming. But on the other hand, he wasn't able to say, well, definitely this wasn't true. He didn't say, for example, one of those vehicles was identified as a chemical decontamination vehicle. He didn't say anything about that.

So I don't think it was a complete rebuttal, but I think he felt compelled to say something, to show balance, to show his neutral position in all of this.

BLITZER: You've had a chance to study those pictures. Are they as Secretary Powell suggests, or is there a more innocent explanation?

TUCKER: Well, I think the point is that they are ambiguous and that there are different possible interpretations. And that is often the case with intelligence. It can be -- intelligence can be ambiguous, and it comes down to the interpretation one decides to place on it.

BLITZER: Jonathan Tucker, Terence Taylor, thanks very much for joining us. Two very different points of view, but two points of view come from people who have actually been in Iraq and have been inspectors. Appreciate it very much.

As the U.S. enjoys a long Presidents' Day weekend, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il marks his own milestone. Here's CNN's Bruce Morton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): (UNINTELLIGIBLE) scholars say this is Kim Jong Il's 61st birthday. He was born in Siberia, where the Soviets were training his father to help overthrow the Japanese, who occupied Korea during World War II.

The official North Korean myth says he was born in Korea on a mountain with the swallows speaking in a human voice, announcing the arrival of a general who would one day rule the world. Oh, and it was April.

We think he's 5'2" and can't prove that either.

He came to power when his father, Kim Il Sung, died in 1994. He is believed to have ordered terrorist attacks on South Korean officials in Burma, to have ordered downing of a civilian airliner.

He is known to have visited Russia, to have met Russia's President Putin, to have met with South Korea's then-President Kim Dae-jung with then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2000, who said he's not a nut but is ruthless.

His country's population is more than 23 million and they're good at mass demonstrations. They may also be starving. His country makes missiles which can reach Japan and CIA says California. He has, U.S. officials say, a nuclear bomb or two and is planning to make more.

He has violated agreements with the United States about that. He has a very large army which lots of artillery just about within range of South Korea's capital, Seoul. The Korean War ended in 1953, but with a truce: there's nerve been a peace treaty. And the border between the two Koreas is heavily defend on both sides. The U.S. has had troops since the armistice was signed.

So he's a problem and a more complex one than Iraq. Fight him, heavy loss on both sides almost certainly. Talk to him, but he's broken past agreements. Leave him alone, maybe. Nobody under 50 in South Korea knows why the U.S. troops are there, and they are increasing unpopular. One poll shows the U.S. less popular in South Korea than the North.

Maybe a solution would be to say, "OK, we'll leave. He's a regional problem. Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, enjoy." That would be a big change but this president has shown that in other areas, creating a big Homeland Security agency, for instance, he sometimes likes big changes.

North Korea, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, "Is a riddle wrapped in a mystery, cloaked in an enigma." No easy fixes, that's for sure.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bruce. Let's to some letters about a possible war against Iraq. The e- mail has just been coming in.

Donna from Fenton, Missouri, writes: "How can France forget the consequence of ignoring Hitler until it was too late? We supported France militarily and financially to save them from Hitler's Germany."

Brandon from Kansas City says this: "I am profoundly disturbed by President Bush's foreign policy. Our enemies are energized, and our allies are alienated. If we back down, we'll lose credibility, but if we go to war we'll look like bullheaded unilateralists.

Bill from Williamsburg, Virginia: "We should go to war now and forget about France, Germany and Russia. We have too much at stake to wait for the U.N."

We all welcome your comments. Our e-mail address is lateedition@cnn.com. If you would like to receive our weekly e-mail previewing the program, go cnn.com/lateedition and sign up.

Up next, the challenges of keeping you safe. Are cities cross the United States shouldering too much of the burden? We'll talk to the mayors of San Francisco, Baltimore and Miami when our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

The task of keeping Americans safe is presenting a significant challenge for the nation's cities. Joining us now to talk about how their cities are dealing with homeland security are three special guests: San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.

Gentlemen -- Mayors, actually, good to have you on LATE EDITION.

Mayor Brown, let me begin with you. How ready is San Francisco?

MAYOR WILLIE BROWN, SAN FRANCISCO: We're as ready as any city could possibly be. We're ultimately a small city. We're seated, however, in a region that is far more important from the standpoint of being a potential target.

We have cooperated with the federal government, with all of the local units of government. We have had some experience at natural disasters in and about San Francisco and this region, earthquakes and fires and things of that nature.

Last night, for an example, we handled more than a half a million people at the Chinese New Year's parade without incident. Today we're handling 150,000 people protesting the war and so far without incident. We are ready.

BLITZER: And you've got some special landmarks, those bridges, out in San Francisco, for example, the Bay Bridges. Do you have special security surrounding those areas?

BROWN: Well, we are in cooperation with the state government, the Highway Patrol and with the Coast Guard and with the people who do the federal security. And between us, I think those bridges are as secure as they could possibly be.

BLITZER: Mayor Diaz, what about in Miami, how ready are you?

MAYOR MANNY DIAZ, MIAMI: Well, I echo Mayor Brown's sentiments. We're as ready as we can be. This very weekend, as a matter of fact, we have over a million people in town. We have an arts festival that's one of the biggest in the world, an international boat show. We've had to deploy additional resources this weekend, obviously. We've got funnels set up for people who enter these festivals. We're taking every precaution we can. Obviously it's costing us a lot of money and a lot of resources.

BLITZER: Well, when the government announced they were going from the yellow to orange, from the elevated to the high-level alert about a week or so ago, what specifically changed in Miami?

DIAZ: Well, there were a number of things. In particular, we had to staff a number of sensitive locations in town on a permanent basis, on a 24-hour basis, sensitive locations that have been identified by the Joint FBI Terrorism Task Force that we work with. So it's additional resources that we've had to deploy in many of our areas. Obviously our utilities, our water, sewer, phone, those kinds of facilities, our government buildings.

BLITZER: Mayor O'Malley, Baltimore, not far away from the nation's capital -- you drove here today from Baltimore -- has a huge port. And there's a lot of concern about those containers that come in and unload, and many of them never inspected. How big of an issue is this, as far as the security of Baltimore's concerned?

MAYOR MARTIN O'MALLEY, BALTIMORE: Oh, it's a huge issue. It's a huge issue for all of us who are mayors and have major ports. I mean, the fact of the matter is, while the federal government has made some great strides on airline security, we still have tons of cargo containers coming into all of America's ports. About the same percentage, roughly 2 to 3 percent, are being inspected now as were being inspected a year and a half ago.

So unfortunately, you know, I think you hear from all of my fellow mayors, we're doing the best that we can with what we have. But our federal government has yet to really join us in helping us either with funding or forcing the resources forward to protect our ports, to protect our rails, to protect all of those other pieces of critical transportation infrastructure that make our economy go, that also focus on cities.

BLITZER: So who is responsible for checking those containers, those cargo containers, that come in, local authorities or the federal government?

O'MALLEY: The federal government. Customs inspects them. But I'll tell you what, since September 11th, we regularly deploy about 40 Baltimore City police officers to help Customs agents inspect cargo. Then those are officers that can't be doing other things, but we know it's important. So if a ship comes in and Customs says, "Hey, this is one that's high on our radar screen, can you help us," we answer the call. And I suspect other mayors are doing the same thing.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask two other mayors.

Mayor Brown, what about the situation in San Francisco?

BROWN: Well, in terms of our port activities, they're similar to Mr. O'Malley's port activities. They are under the leadership of the federal government, and they call upon us whenever there is an opportunity or they perceive a need. I can tell you this though, the federal government mandates that we do certain things on the security side. For an example, they are now talking to us about checking automobiles in and out of the airports and cargo being delivered in and out of the airports. And they want us to do that at our local expense and not at their expense.

So this homeland security, while it's a great concept from a federal standpoint, we are assuming the burden and to bear the, I think, the costs of implementing it, and that's not fair.

BLITZER: Is that the case in Miami as well, Mayor Diaz?

DIAZ: Absolutely. We've got the same issues with the ports, we've got the same issues with the airport. In fact, we're now helping to patrol even the perimeter of the airport.

I think the frustration that many of the mayors are feeling is that we feel that this has been an unfunded federal mandate. People are expecting us to provide this kind of protection for our citizens, and we seem to be stuck in a political quagmire in Washington.

BLITZER: How much money do you need realistically, Mayor Diaz, let's say in the next year or two, to make you and your community secure?

DIAZ: Well, it's hard to really put a specific number on it. Obviously, we have spent tens of millions dollars already to date. But we have serious needs in terms of training.

I mean, I read some statistics recently where only 60 percent of our firefighters and police are trained on hazardous materials, a much smaller number, obviously, with biological and nuclear type of reactions.

So the amount of money, I mean, this is a war, as has been indicated by the president and others, this is a war on two fronts and we need to make sure we have resources on this front to do what we need to do.

BLITZER: Mayor O'Malley, are you as confused as a lot of average people out there what they need to do right now to prepare themselves? We've heard, you know, the stories about buying batteries and water and other things like that, and the duct tape has almost become a running joke out there, the plastic sheeting.

What are you telling your people in Baltimore that they should be doing right now?

O'MALLEY: Well, you know, our people in order to protect their lives should not drink and drive, they should not smoke. The fact of the matter is that we can't panic.

But our people should be rightly angry and demand that our federal government join their local governments in putting up as much protection as they can.

Let's face it, you know, buying duct tape and buying plastic sheeting is not what's going to prevent an attack. All of our cities need to have vulnerability assessments done, they need to have protective equipment for our first responders, and those are just the basic things that our federal government has not helped us with.

I don't want this to sound like a bunch of mayors whining for federal dollars, we know we have a responsibility. We know we have the first front line soldiers to respond to this.

But the federal government is paying next to nothing to help us with this. In Baltimore we've spent almost $12 million on homeland security. The federal government's helped to the tune of under $1 million, and most of those were dollars that were appropriated before September 11th.

BLITZER: Let me bring Mayor Brown in. Mayor Brown, I can tell you that people here in Washington, D.C., are very nervous about all of these threats out there.

But what about in San Francisco? All across the country, is it a jittery community in San Francisco, as well, right now?

BROWN: Not at all. As a matter of fact, I think Mayor Diaz and Mayor O'Malley will tell you that what we need to do at all times is assure our citizens that, in fact, everything that we can do to protect their interest is in place.

We also encourage them to continue their day-to-day activities. In San Francisco, of course, we've had the experience of the quakes, and we've lived with that experience.

And as a result of that, our neighborhood response teams, our infrastructure as it relates to communications, our hazardous people, every aspect of what we need to do we're visable in every way and we are, in fact, doing it.

That gives people the comfort level that they need. But it's coming at an enormous cost. And I'm not sure how much longer we can keep doing the federal bidding by way of implementing their recommendations without some greater assistance coming, and coming, by the way, not on specified programs, but coming on general fund replacement activities and resources we have been exhausting.

BLITZER: And that frustration, I assume Mayor Diaz, is shared by you, as well?

DIAZ: Absolutely. But I will also add, as Mayor Brown indicated, that down here in Miami we have received, first of all, we've received no credible threat of any activity down here and people down here are living their normal lives, as I indicated there's ober a million people about 10 or 15 blocks away from where I am right now, enjoying art in our area.

BLITZER: We've heard reports, and I think all three of our mayors have significant Jewish communities in your cities. Mayor Diaz, first to you, has the federal government told you to be on the lookout as far as potential Jewish targets there?

DIAZ: Yes, we have. Those are among the sensitive buildings that we are protect, or helping protect. We have an Israeli consulate in our city that is part of that list.

And, in fact, even Islamic organizations we've been told to provide security for.

BLITZER: And what about in Baltimore?

O'MALLEY: Oh, absolutely. We have done a vulnerability assessment, and some of those critical sites are clearly the mosques and the synagogues and Jewish community centers in our town.

BLITZER: Has the local community law enforcement taken steps to protect them or is that a federal responsibility?

O'MALLEY: Oh, no, no, no, no. That's something that all of us are doing locally. Homeland defense is a function of local government. The sooner our federal government wakes up to that, you know, the dollars that have been moved out of Washington so far have all gone to the states rather than the local government.

And we're doing the best we can to cover with the dollars we have. And we're doing, you know, we have much better lines of communications to leaders and other local partners, but it's a local function.

BLITZER: I'll give you the last word, Mayor Brown. Go ahead. What are you doing there? I assume you've been told to try to be a little bit more sensitive and protect some of the Jewish institution in San Francisco?

BROWN: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, they have told us, frankly, to protect those that are non-Jewish just as well, particularly those that are from the world, the Arab world. And we do so, and we don't treat it routinely, by the way.

And we, frankly, did not need 9/11 to remind us of that. We, I think, as mayors are sensitive to the needs make sure in this great melting pot of so-called diversity that we are sensitive to the cultural differences, we're sensitive to the political differences that come from the old world and may be impacted by the old world.

We make a major effort to make sure that those lines of communications are wide open and that we have the appropriate amount of attention to each one of those institutions and those potential icons.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we have to leave it right there, Mayor Brown, thanks very much for joining us. Mayor Diaz, thanks to you as well. And Mayor O'Malley, appreciate it very much.

Up next, LATE EDITION's Final Round. Our panel is ready to square off on all the big stories of the week. The "Final Round," right after a CNN news alert. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our "Final Round." Joining me, Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist, Peter Beinart of "The New Republic," Jonah Goldberg of "The National Review Online" and Robert George of "The New York Post."

With key U.S. allies withholding support for a war to disarm Iraq, the Bush administration is stepping up efforts to get their backing. Earlier today the national security adviser, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, expressed frustration with the U.N. Security Council.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICE: The U.N. Security Council is unfortunately getting a history now of being unable to react. The Security Council has to be an instrument of peace, but it has to be an instrument of peace that has teeth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Peter, is the Security Council doing its job or not?

PETER BEINART, THE NEW REPUBLIC: Well, it depends on what you think the job is. If you think it's to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions, and particularly 1441, then I think it's not, because I think it's pretty clear that Iraq is not unconditionally and actively disarming. But if you think the purpose of the U.N. Security Council is to rein in American power, which is what France and Germany think it is, then it is doing a good job; the irony being that then we'll go do it alone, which will make the Security Council really irrelevant.

BLITZER: Jonah, is the Security Council doing what it's supposed to do?

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: No, the Security Council -- well, maybe it is, maybe it isn't. I'm not entirely clear what it was supposed to do from the beginning. I'm not a big U.N. fan.

But what the U.N. Security Council has become is the world's chief and foremost conservative institution, which is there essentially to defend stability at all costs. It will countenance any horror, it will countenance any tragedy so long as stability is maintained, and that makes it something that means it's basically on the wrong side of history.

BLITZER: And you disagree.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think they're doing their job. And look, their job right now is to try to find consensus, and right now they're deeply divided over what way to go, which way to go, to continue the inspections or to go to war, and I think they are doing their job and the administration is going to have to play by the game that they set out to play last year.

BLITZER: The Security Council can only do what its 15 member at any one time want it to do, and right now there's a deep division.

ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: Yes, that's true. But then, again, you have to revert back to first principles. What are the reasons why the U.N. came into existence? Is because, as we now know, the League of Nations basically stood aside as Hitler rose and anarchy and war broke out in Europe. And the question is, does the U.N. want to allow Saddam Hussein basically to flaunt his defiance to their own resolutions? And if it doesn't, they'll ...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... 1939 right now, once again?

GEORGE: Conceivably.

BLITZER: Really? OK, let's move on. As the U.S. continues to press the case for war, resistance to that possibility is growing around the world. Yesterday huge anti-war protests. In New York an estimated 100,000 people demonstrated. In Rome, in London, as well as in many other cities, another million people marched against a possible war. Jonah, should President Bush and other political leaders be taking these protests seriously?

GOLDBERG: First of all, let's point out that there hasn't been one of these mass protests that's been on the right side of history since Martin Luther King's march in Washington. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), all those groups were on the wrong side of history. They were a hindrance to peace, not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) peace, and I think these groups are the same.

But they should be taken seriously as a political voice, to make it very difficult for allies in Europe, make it very difficult for us to get the coalition of the willing that we're supposed to be getting. But as a strategic voice, these people are essentially useless. These people are not going to be all of a sudden in favor of war if we give the inspectors another month or another year. They are reflexively opposed to war. It's a principled position, but it's the wrong position, and you can't take them seriously (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: Millions and millions of useless people out there?

BRAZILE: Oh, absolutely not. Look, in a democracy we need a way to allow people to express their opinions. This is, I believe, what separates us from Saddam Hussein. These people are able to express themselves. And I think this is a real legitimate movement that's going to grow in time.

BLITZER: These people are committed. They really hate the nation of going to war...

GEORGE: Well, they should be committed.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: They hate the notion of going to war and presumably killing a lot of innocent Iraqis.

GEORGE: Well, as Jonah said, I mean, that's a reasonable position, an honorable position to have, and, frankly, Americans don't want to be killing millions of Iraqis either. However, the one person who has to take a look at these protests very seriously, of course, is Tony Blair because Blair has actually been the real profile in courage here. He is way ahead of where his country is. And if the war does not go well, he could fall.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

BEINART: I think that's exactly right. And the Bush administration has to take care of its allies here. There are a lot of countries in Europe which are supporting us, but almost all of their populations are against it, and I think the Bush administration is actually doing that. I think that's one of the reasons they are going to keep going through the U.N., they are going to push back this war a little bit and try again. Because in Britain, for instance, you notice that public opinion will change pretty significantly if we do get a U.N. Security Council resolution. The Bush administration has to pay attention to that.

BLITZER: You were just in Europe in the past few days. Why do they see, by and large, the situation so differently than people here in the United States?

BEINART: Well, I think there are a number of reasons. You know, the central one that you can't get away from is that they were not hit on September 11. We need to remember that the idea of going to to war with Iraq would have been a marginal position in the United States without September 11. Not even many people on the right were talking about it. The Bush administration was railing back sanctions. America changed in a fundamental way on September 11. Europe hasn't. I think that's the basis of it.

BLITZER: All right, let's take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about. Up next, the run on duct tape. Is the government doing enough to keep us safe from terrorist attacks? Our "Final Round." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. A new audiotape believed to be that of Osama bin Laden surfaced this past week. On it, he urged Muslims to defend Iraq and called for new suicide attacks against the United States. Donna, would a war with Iraq be playing into Saddam Hussein's hands, in effect generating a new generation of suicide bombers?

BRAZILE: Well, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are all out there spreading lies against the United States and Western interests. And I think their job is getting a lot easier now that the administration's leaked that perhaps an American general will lead a post-war Iraq. So I think it's important that the administration sort of keeps on the same path of going after Osama bin Laden and then finding the Arab allies and others to help them with Saddam Hussein.

BLITZER: If it's General Tommy Franks, the central commander, he will be a temporary governor, if you will, military governor of Baghdad. But who else could do it?

BRAZILE: I would hope that they would find someone in the Arab world to lead the quote/unquote post-Iraqi government.

BLITZER: What about that?

GOLDBERG: Well, I think you need to have a military regency for a little while just to get the country under control, and I do think that they need to move it out of American hands as quickly as they can, but as quickly as they can means about 18 months as far as I see it.

In terms of Osama bin Laden and the Iraq stuff, the law of unintended consequences applies to terrorists too. Osama bin Laden may think it's in his interests for us to attack Iraq, but if the Iraqi people come to the streets welcoming Americans as liberators, I don't really see how that plays into his hands. Things could go wrong, things can always go wrong in a war. But it seems to me that we have every reason to think that American troops will actually be welcomed in Iraq, and if that's the case, if there's progress after that, then I think it doesn't help.

BLITZER: But if Saddam Hussein is dumped one way or another, doesn't that play into Osama bin Laden's hands in that he was a secular leader and that there would be presumably an opportunity for the Islamic fundamentalist element to gain ground?

GEORGE: The real key issue is not so much the war as in the post-war, because, I mean, again, when we came in and took out the Taliban, the people of Afghanistan were thankful. However, the question is, have we been fastidious in trying to keep Afghanistan together? I think you can arguably say no. If that same situation develops in Iraq, again, I think getting Saddam out there will be a good thing. If, however, we don't seal the deal, we will indeed be creating new bin Ladens.

BLITZER: Peter, wrap it up.

BEINART: Yes, I think in the short term this helps al Qaeda, they'll get lots of new recruits. But in the long term, al Qaeda thrives on two things: American weakness and American support for Arab tyranny. And the Iraq war could potentially run counter to both.

BLITZER: Let's move on. The government this week issued safety guidelines to the public in the event of another terrorist attack. Among them, duct tape, paper siding and bottled water. Batteries and a lot of other things as well. Democrats immediately criticized the Department of Homeland Security, saying it should be doing some more significant things. Today on this program, the Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge defended his department's advice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SECRETARY TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY: The fact of the matter is, duct tape and plastic sheeting are on a long list of recommended items that we have available on the FEMA, Federal Emergency Management Agency Web site, I think the Red Cross Web site, a variety of Web sites, and it can be used in an unlikely but possible terrorist biological attack to help give you, give a family temporary shelter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Robert, it seems like Tom Ridge is almost in a no-win situation in giving advice to the public. He's trying to deal responsibly, but worried about all contingencies.

GEORGE: Well, I think to a point. It's true, when they start coming out sort of after the orange alert has been put out and they start saying, you know, duct tape and plastic, it seems kind of foolish. But the place where I would criticize the administration is exactly what criteria are they using to determine when they want to raise the alert? It came out late in the game that the information that they were using came from somebody who had failed a lie detector test. I mean, it seems to me that if the average, say, police force isn't going to go -- isn't going to move on information from an informant that isn't credible, the federal government shouldn't be scaring the bejesus out of everybody and increasing the alert when the information isn't credible.

BLITZER: That was only one source, that informant who apparently flunked the lie detector test. But what should the government be doing right now that they're not doing?

BRAZILE: Well, I think Democrats are re-seizing the initiative on homeland security, because after all it was a Democratic idea, and they're saying, let's put money in the hands of first responders, let's make sure that the local police, firefighters and others who will respond have the tools they need, the equipment they need, and then advise people on a local level.

BLITZER: You heard the mayors that were on this program all say, they need more federal money if they want to make sure they protect their communities.

GOLDBERG: Gosh, this must be a day ending in Y. Mayors want more federal money. Look, I have been very hard on Ridge on this show and elsewhere. I think that the Department of Homeland Security has a lot of problems. But I think the general criticism of this duct tape thing has been outrageous. Tom Daschle going around saying the administration needs to offer more than duct tape in the war on terrorism is outrageous. This administration has rolled up numerous al Qaeda cells, it has done all sort of things. We live in a media culture which says you have to prepare for everything. We keep hearing, what do these alerts mean? What should the American people know? The government finally tells people what these alerts mean, and what they should know and one of these things happens to be duct tape, and the media goes into a St. Vitus' Dance over how absurd this is. You can't have it both ways.

BLITZER: Peter, explain this to me. In Israel during the Persian Gulf war they all had those sealed rooms with duct tape. They had their notion of what they need to do, because they were afraid of gas warfare. What's wrong with doing what they did in Israel?

BEINART: No, I don't think anything is wrong with that. And you know, Israel is a society that has gotten used to this over many years, so it doesn't seem as crazy and outrageous as it does here.

But I would go back to Donna's basic point, which I think fundamentally, if we do get hit, if some city gets hit, the question asked afterwards will be, did that city have the restores it needs to defend itself? The answer will probably be no. That will be a real scandal and it should be a scandal today.

BLITZER: All right, let's hold that thought, because we have a lot more to talk about. But we're going to take a quick break. Our "Lightning Round" just ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our "Lightning Round." This week, the surprise announcement from Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. The 2004 Democratic presidential hopeful underwent surgery for prostate cancer. Doctors expect him to make a full recovery. He was released, in fact, from Johns Hopkins University Hospital yesterday. Should this make the senator a less or more attractive candidate, Jonah?

GOLDBERG: I don't know if it makes him more or a less attractive candidate. Prostate cancers is eminently treatable, in all likelihood he'll be fine. And in a perverse way, it might actually help him because it keeps his name out there in such a crowded Democratic field that it may be to his advantage.

BLITZER: Donna, a lot of people think he's still the front- runner among all the Democratic candidates, including Lieberman.

BRAZILE: He is the front-runner and I think he will continue to be the front runner until the other candidates get its message together and pull the staff together. And you know, by the way, he's been working the phone all week.

BLITZER: He's been working the phone...

BRAZILE: They pulled out his prostate and he pulled out his cell phone.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: What about Kerry, how did he handle this whole issue?

GEORGE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: Move on. Move on.

GEORGE: I would say a number of public figures, including former Mayor Giuliani, had undergone -- had prostate and are leading active lives. So I think -- I don't think it's going to be a problem for him.

BEINART: He was a little bit dishonest about it, which hurt him a little bit, but basically a non-issue.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on to the next issue. A story drawing a lot of interest, in Houston, Texas, Clara Harris, who killed her husband by running him over several times with her Mercedes because he was cheating on her, was sentenced this week to 20 years in prison. Was justice served, Peter?

BEINART: Yes, I think so. Let's remember, she ran over him not one time but several times. It seems to me you run over your husband several times, that's murder...

GOLDBERG: But only the last time was on purpose.

(LAUGHTER)

BEINART: Yes, I think so.

BLITZER: You know, the 16-year-old stepdaughter, his daughter, was in the front seat while she was doing this.

GEORGE: Well, it was -- if you do it once, it can be considered an act of passion. If seemed kind of clear that it was a lot more intent to kill. And so I think it's an appropriate sentence.

BLITZER: In my totally unscientific survey of men and women, I found very different responses. The men think she should have gotten more; the women say, well, he was cheating on her and she got crazy as a result of that.

BRAZILE: Well, justice was served, and since it is Texas, by the way, she's lucky that she got that and not the electric chair.

BLITZER: She could have gotten a lot worse than 20 years, and she'll be eligible for parole, what, after 10 or 15.

GOLDBERG: Yes, look, I mean, when you roll over your husband several times with a car, you go to jail -- I mean, that's sort of the system we live under, and I'm fine with it.

BLITZER: Let's move on. Dolly the cloned sheep who caused worldwide buzz when she was born six years ago died this week. She was euthanized because of lung disease. Was Dolly an experiment that should have never happened? Jonah?

GOLDBERG: No, it's an experiment that should have happened. You know, it's important science, but what it underlines is the fact that cloning is not a safe technology yet. Most cloned animals die or are never born at a premature age, and I think that's the lesson we should be taking from it.

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I reminded Jonah that she had six little offsprings. She was rammed, I guess that's the technical term. I'm concerned about that, but let's hope that it doesn't take the human form.

BLITZER: Let's hope.

GEORGE: Exactly. Most sheep live about 12 or 13 years. She died after six. It shows what could happen if...

BLITZER: If there were human clonings, people might have a short life span.

BEINART: Yes, I agree with Robert and Jonah. I think people are not actually aware of that as they need to be that the cloning is actually deeply unsafe.

BLITZER: We're unfortunately going to have to leave it right there, but we have some important, important, very important announcements to deliver to our viewers. Congratulations to two of our "Final Round" panelists. Jonah Goldberg and his wife, Jessica, look at this, the proud parents of little Lucy Ty (ph) Goldberg, born this week, seven pounds. Exactly seven pounds?

GOLDBERG: A hair under. Just a little bit under.

BLITZER: Almost seven pounds?

GOLDBERG: Almost seven pounds.

BLITZER: How long?

GOLDBERG: I don't have it committed to memory.

BLITZER: Twenty inches, 21?

GOLDBERG: I think it's about 21 inches.

BLITZER: All right, you need to know those specifics.

GOLDBERG: Enormous feet.

BLITZER: Really?

GOLDBERG: Enormous feet.

BLITZER: Obviously a sign of a brilliant young kid. GOLDBERG: She's a genius.

BLITZER: We have another important announcement to make as well. Congratulations to Peter Beinart. He just got engaged to his fiancee, Diana Hartstein (ph). Peter, you did it very romantically, didn't you?

BEINART: We did it behind enemy lines, in Paris. But not, as I told you, not at the anti-war protest. That's right.

BLITZER: You took her to Paris. And did you get down on one knee?

BEINART: I surprised her in Paris. It's her favorite city, and that's where we went.

BLITZER: Can we hear some details, though?

BEINART: I surprised her, I set it up with her mother and sister. I met her on the Champs d'Elysees. She was very, very shocked. And then I proposed.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right. All right. Stand by. That's all the time we have for LATE EDITION this Sunday, February 16. Coming up in just a few minutes, at 3:00 p.m., CNN's "IN THE MONEY." That's followed at 4:00 p.m. Eastern by "NEXT@CNN," and 5:00 Eastern, "AMERICAN STORIES." All programs you will want to watch. Please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. I'll be here, of course, Monday through Friday, noon Eastern for "SHOWDOWN: IRAQ," 5:00 p.m. Eastern for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in a snowy Washington.

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