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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Second Wave Of U.S. Attacks Hit Baghdad; Sirens Ring Throughout The Day In Kuwait City

Aired March 20, 2003 - 16:00   ET

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: The scene in Baghdad, we're going to show you in a moment, hit by a second wave of targeted U.S. attacks. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait City, where there is an erie silence right now, a day that saw several sirens going off, alerts to people to get ready for some sort of attack by Iraq. Most of that not necessary. There has been, though, significant action in the northern part of Kuwait as U.S. troops are moving in to southern Iraq -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, Wolf, our correspondents are in position. Our coverage of this strike on Iraq does continue. We want to go first, I think, to the Iraqi capital. Do we have Nic Robertson there in Baghdad?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'm here in Baghdad. We do have new information from Iraqi television giving further clarification to some of the injuries and fatalities today, saying that 72 cruise missiles, they say, have attacked Iraq.

However, they add further clarification to that figure they gave before, saying many of these missiles failed. They also now describe the four fighters who died so far, they call them four martyrs have died. They also say one officer has also died, as well as five other people injured.

They also say that they have fired missiles into Kuwait this time. That they have fired missiles into a port area in Kuwait called Al Shuwaikh. They also say that the reports that Umm Qusr, a small port town just across the boarder from Kuwait inside Iraq, the report says that had fallen to coalition forces is mere propaganda and not true.

So, new clarifications about the day's activities coming from Iraqi officials. Very interesting that they should say of the 72 cruise missiles, they say that many of them have failed. They report four what they describe, martyrs dead and one officer.

WOODRUFF: Nic, how are they getting information to you?

ROBERTSON: We are receiving information in Iraq, in Baghdad at this time in the same way that Iraqi citizens are receiving it. We are receiving it off of Iraqi state television. We are occasionally in touch with officials from Iraq's ministry of information. We do have an official from -- associated with that ministry with us. But all the information we're receiving, apart from guidance from the ministry of information is coming from Iraq state television. The same service that Iraq's people are also hearing.

WOODRUFF: Nic, how would you describe, after -- here we are, 12- plus how many hours are we past the first attack last night. It's now 18 hours. How would you describe the posture of the Iraqi leadership and its preparation for what's coming?

ROBERTSON: They are preparing the people, clearly. They are preparing the people in the way to say that the leadership is still strong, that they're still resistant. The meeting between President Saddam Hussein, the Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, the Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, the Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, the information minister, finance minister, minister for military industrialization, a signal to the Iraqi people that they are still unified, the leadership is still unified, that they're examining, they said, the current situation.

They are making their preparations that will be based on a military and political assessment. They said they would be victorious. They appeared to be bracing the people, however, for a potentially very difficult conflict. Perhaps one interesting way to gain insight into that, on Iraqi television this afternoon, one of the movies, the main movie that played throughout the afternoon, it was only interrupted for news broadcasts, was a movie about Tito, the Yugoslav leader. It was a movie about his partisan (ph) guerilla forces during the second World War, about how Tito in these small ...

WOODRUFF: Nic, I am going to have to interrupt you because we need to go to Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait for something developing right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Judy, what has happened several times during the past 12 hours here in Kuwait is happening once again. The Kuwaiti government has issued -- has put forward these sirens, suggesting that there may be something going on, and suggesting that people go down to the basements, prepare themselves for some sort of activity. I can tell you all the earlier sirens that have gone off here in Kuwait City have proven to be not necessary.

But people, as a precaution, go forward and prepare themselves for some sort of activity. Right now, as I said earlier, there is an eerie quiet here in the Kuwait city. But I want to go back to CNN's Walter Rogers. He is in the northern part of Kuwait. And he is covering the story up there with the U.S. army southern cavalry. Go head, what are you hearing, and what are you seeing Walter? Actually, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is with us in the northern part of Kuwait.

WALTER ROGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are getting the impression that the land operation was moved forward very dramatically and very suddenly today. This, after the Iraqi forces fired four or six tactical ballistic missiles into Kuwait, in the direction of U.S. forces. The actual timing for the launch land operation was not supposed to be perhaps until tomorrow. But then when the Iraqis fired those missiles into Kuwait, again, over the heads of the U.S. forces positioned in Northern Kuwait. A decision was made to hasten the land advance.

Now, we can be reasonably about where we are. About four hours ago, the seven cavalry was ordered to mount their vehicles in the convoy and start moving west. We have moved west with the 7th Cavalry. But then about 7 1/2 hours ago, we came to a stop. We have seen very little by way of action at all. There were some flashes on the horizon when we first launched, perhaps artillery. We are not really sure. They might even have been air force bombs dropping. That's how far away they were. We just saw some light flashes.

Other than that, we've been sitting in a convoy on a desert stretch with absolutely no action that we could see at all. Again, the 7th Cavalry. Still, we believe in Northwestern Kuwait, awaiting the opportunity to cross into Iraq. That has not occurred to this point, Wolf.

BLITZER: Walter Rogers. He is in the northern part of Kuwait.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our medical correspondent, is also embedded with U.S. military forces in the northern part of the country. As the sirens go off here in Kuwait City, what are you seeing where you are. Sanjay?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was very quiet for several hours, just like you were reporting as well, for about four hours or so. Just over the last minute, the chemical sirens went on. Everyone is now back in this bunker, about 50 or so marines. We all have our gas masks on. It was eerily quiet here as well, as you were describing Wolf, for the last four hours. These chemical alerts. We're hearing plane activity overhead. Earlier, we heard some scuds.

But this is the first activity we've seen in four hours. Again, the way that this works is there are trucks a little bit north of here, when they detect a chemical or some sort of agent they will sound a siren automatically, alerting everyone to get into the bunkers, put on gas masks. That's where we are right now, Wolf. Again, you can probably hear the sirens over here as well in the background. They continue to go off. Again, all of this new, just over the last minute or so -- Wolf.

BLITZER: How many times today have you been told to put on that gas mask, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Wolf, you have to repeat that. I couldn't hear you.

BLITZER: How many times today, Sanjay, how many times today have you been -- you and your colleagues over there been told to put on that gas mask and get into that full protective gear mode?

GUPTA: This is the ninth time now, Wolf, in as many hours. Roughly, at about nine bunker calls. At times, we've had to wear this mask over an hour as we sit in this bunker behind me. It's very quiet in there, it's hard to talk and hard sometimes to even breathe. It's literally shoulder to shoulder, person to person behind me in the bunker. But about nine times now, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. I can report now that the all-clear has just sounded here in Kuwait City, Sanjay, whatever that means. We're about, I'm guessing, 50 or 60 miles or so from where you are, maybe around 100 kilometers or so. So, the all-clear siren is now sounding here in Kuwait City once again. We've gone through this drill several times today. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in the northern part of Kuwait. And Walter Rodgers as well embedded with U.S. military forces -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: That's right, Wolf. You've been through it several times, but every time, we take it seriously, as I know you do, because we don't know if this is going to be the time when it's the real thing. So we are on pins and needles for all of you.

Watching all of this, of course, at the White House, President Bush today. Anxious White House officials to indicate that they have a broad coalition of countries supporting them. Our senior White House correspondent John King is with us. John, it seems to me the messages coming from the White House today all had a consistent theme, and that is that we are not in this alone.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Judy. We have had a chorus of criticism from key capitals around the world. The French, once again, criticizing the president for launching these military strikes. Sharp criticism as well from a man called a close friend, the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Criticism up at the United Nations from senior officials and senior diplomats as well.

So, the White House trying to make the case that not only is this coalition big, but it is growing as the military attacks escalate. Mr. Bush today saying there are more than 40 countries involved in the coalition. In practice, there are only three actually putting troops on the field.

So far, the United States and Great Britain. We are told Australian forces may have a role in combat. As Mr. Bush trying to make the case and other White House officials trying to make the case that in terms of numbers, this coalition is bigger than the coalition his father assembled for the Persian Gulf War 12 years ago. In that combat, of course, you had many other nations taking part in the fighting, not only the British, but many Arab nations.

I remember being in the field with Saudi, Kuwaiti troops, and Qatari troops, and even Syrian troops and Egyptian troops were involved in that effort. But this administration says this is a growing coalition. That was one point the president tried to make today in a brief appearance. He also paid tribute to the troops who are now involved in combat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no question we've sent the finest of our citizens into harm's way. They've performed with great skill and bravery. We thank them. We thank their loved ones. We appreciate their sacrifice. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Most of the day for the president we are told in the Oval Office receiving constant updates from his National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Also had the military planners here this morning, the Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the morning session. We're told President Bush had the plans laid out for him.

And we were told by one senior official afterwards that things would, quote "escalate fairly quickly." We've seen some of that this afternoon -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: John, the consensus seems to be growing, and we are going to continue to talk about this, but the consensus seems to be growing in the intelligence community, at least the sources that our David Ensor and others are talking to, that it does appear to be Saddam Hussein in these videos that have come out of Baghdad today.

Meaning that the early strike on Baghdad, very early this morning Baghdad time or last night, our time, apparently was not successful. What are they saying about that at the White House? The fact that they made this first effort to get him and, evidently, it hasn't worked.

KING: Well, they say a number of things. One, they say, the president was well aware after he received a briefing from the CIA Director George Tenet and authorized these dramatic strikes yesterday that there was a very likelihood, good possibility you would not get Saddam Hussein. The public line here at the White House is that they simply do not know whether Saddam Hussein survived. Whether, in fact, that is the real Iraqi leader on that tape played on television.

And if it is him played on that tape, played on Iraqi television, whether that message was recorded as many as several days ago. Privately, White House officials say they're operating assumption is that Saddam Hussein is alive, but they reject any notion that these strikes were a failure.

They say they believe they've sent a strong message to Saddam Hussein, if he is alive, that they have very good intelligence information about where he is and where his senior leadership is, at least at key moments. And they also believe that if Saddam Hussein survived this attack, that many other members of his leadership team did not.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King at the White House.

We are in Washington. And we want to move across the Potomac River to the Pentagon, to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie Mcintyre. Jamie, given the fact that this war has begun or unfolded somewhat differently from what many of us expected, are they feeling good about it at this point?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are actually. They're feeling very confident here. And, as you said, this was advertised as a conflict that would start with shock and awe. Instead, it seems to be starting with pinpoint strikes and then wonder. Wondering about exactly what's happening and what may happen next.

Now, Pentagon officials say the shock-and-awe campaign that involves thousands of precision-guided munitions may yet be employed. But what they're doing now is adapting their techniques to what is actually happening. They're making an assessment of the leadership situation, they're making a judgment of whether Saddam Hussein is alive or dead, who is in control, whether some other person might step forward, whether there might be a coup, how brittle the leadership is.

And they also feel that by proceeding this way, they are inflicting a psychological toll as well on the Iraqi military. It's all part of essentially adapting the war plan to the conditions on the ground.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: A war plan is something that is a plan that's developed before things start. And the minute things start, one has to take account of the realities that you find in the world. And that is what was done last evening. That is what will be done today and tomorrow and the next day. And to not do that would be a terrible mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having intel agencies and armed forces that are flexible is key to victory. And that's what you saw.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: That's what you're seeing now too, according to the Pentagon, is intelligence combined with a flexibility of the war plan. Now, that said, we do know that there was another round of cruise missile strikes in Baghdad today against targets that were also described as leadership targets, or parts of the center of gravity of the Iraqi leadership.

We expect that there will be more strikes today. And also, we're told by Pentagon officials that although we're seeing a very narrow picture of what's going on, basically what's happening in Baghdad, there are things happening in other parts of Iraq, which, after all, is the size of California, that we're not seeing.

Some of the things we're not seeing, for instance, are the ground troops that have moved across from Kuwait into southern Iraq. We're not really getting much of a picture of what they're encountering. There are some reports they may have taken a border town there.

Both the 3rd Infantry Division and 1st Marine Division have crossed into Iraq and are taking some ground there. But at this point, the Pentagon is characterizing this as all things that are making conditions more favorable both for the leadership in Iraq to possibly crack ,and if they don't, to prepare the way for that big shock-and-awe campaign we've been promised -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Jamie McIntyre reporting from the Pentagon.

And we've been talking about the new video today from Saddam Hussein. It came in two different pieces from Baghdad television. Our own David Ensor, national security correspondent, has new information about all that -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, all day, obviously, U.S. intelligence officials have been looking closely at these tapes, having thought that it was possible that the strikes by the U.S. late last night might have actually killed Saddam Hussein. There were some initial theories that the tapes might, in fact, be of doubles, since it's known in the past that Saddam Hussein has used look-alikes in public from time to time to represent him.

So there were questions about that picture on the left at first, as to whether that really was Saddam. The one on the right, we know, is.

Now, U.S. officials say they are increasingly convinced that this is, indeed, Saddam Hussein, and not a body double as some first suggested. They say the voice analysis, inflection, appear the same as Saddam from before. The way the mouth moves, some of the other things that they have so far been able to analyze. This is just a preliminary, not by any means a definitive judgment. And there is still some disagreement. They're beginning to think Saddam is alive, just as the Iraqi government says he.

WOODRUFF: David, are they being any more specific about what they base the judgment on?

ENSOR: Well, again, as I say there's been voice analysis done, and the inflexion, the way his mouth moves, that is about it in the way of specificity. Presumably, they're also doing the triangulation process that's done with the face, but I haven't got any details on that so far -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So, David, in a situation like this do they come to a point where they say, already, that's it. This is Saddam Hussein and they stop worrying about it, or do they continue to try to refine their view here?

ENSOR: I think they will continue to work, particularly, on the visual side of these tapes to satisfy themselves that their initial judgment is correct. You may not get a definitive announcement for even maybe a matter of days. But there is an initial judgment, and fairly strong one from the officials I've spoken to, that this is probably is Saddam himself, and that he apparently has, once again, eluded an American attempt to kill him -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, David Ensor, our national security correspondent.

With me here in our Washington studio is someone whose familiar with some of these kinds of intelligence questions. He is Stansfield Turner, the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Is there ever a point in a situation like this where you can be absolutely certain, all right, this is Saddam Hussein?

STANSFIELD TURNER, FMR. CIA DIRECTOR: Probably never absolutely certain, Judy. But the evidence will get up to the 90 percent confidence level. I think from what we're hearing from David, it's probably up 70 to 75 percent right now.

WOODRUFF: When we heard David saying they're looking at how his mouth moves, the so-called triangulation of the face, where they measure the distance between his eyes and so forth. What else goes into this assessment?

TURNER: Well, I think what David also said about the voice analysis. And they will have tapes of his previous speeches, tapes that will tell how he accents certain words, the inflection, the amount of volume that goes up. And they'll compare these on machines that will give them a pretty good idea if it's the same individual. I was surprised, I didn't see one of the moles in the left hand picture that he had in the right-hand picture.

WOODRUFF: As a former CIA man, what do you make of this information the president was given by his very top people late yesterday afternoon saying, we think we know where Saddam Hussein and his very senior people is. Let's go after them. The president gives the go-ahead. And, now, it turns out, apparently, they didn't get him.

TURNER: Well, I thought it was absolutely remarkable that they felt the intelligence was good enough to do this, because there had to have been a fairly good time delay in here.

By the time you analyze the intelligence, the time you get it to the White House, you persuade the president, he sends the order. General Franks sends the order on down. It gets programmed into a missile, the missile flies. They had to have had some really good intelligence to say not only was Saddam in point "x", he was going to stay in point "x" for two or three or four hours for this whole process to work. Absolutely remarkable, if it was the case.

WOODRUFF: All, we are going to leave it there. Admiral Stansfield Turner, former director of the CIA. Thanks very much. It's good to see you again.

TURNER: Thank you Judy. Nice to be with you.

WOODRUFF: Appreciate you dropping by.

Let's go to Wolf in Kuwait City.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Judy. Very interesting stuff. We're showing our viewers now live pictures from Baghdad once again. It looks like it's pretty quiet on the scene right now. We'll be checking in, of course, subsequently with our own Nic Robertson. He's on the scene for us.

Here in Kuwait City, there was a brief scare for about five minutes. The sirens wailed. There was an all clear that came up very rapidly after that, meaning that the possibility of any danger any incoming missiles had gone away.

This was, by the way, the fifth time this had happened today with no serious consequences whatsoever here in Kuwait City. They're taking it much more seriously up in the northern part of Kuwait along the border with Iraq, where a lot of U.S. troops are stationed.

As you know, we saw our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's embedded. He's covering the U.S. military up there. He was in full gas mask, protective gear, as we just saw here on CNN over the past few minutes.

Let's go back to the CNN Center in Atlanta. That's where CNN's Miles O'Brien is standing by for some good military analysis with our military analyst, General Wesley Clark -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Wolf.

We're going to focus a little bit on the Iraqi coastline, specifically the port city of Basra. You know, the Iraqi coastline is only 19 miles in distance. Going back to the '91 war, that was a big part of the reason that Saddam Hussein went into Kuwait was to gain some coast line and some port access.

That Basra port is somewhat limited, but it's a very strategic place right now. General Clark, walk us through the strategy of Basra as we take a look at some satellite imagery from our friends at Keyhole Graphics, Digital Globe.

First of all, I want to highlight what ware talking about here. As you know, of course, U.S. forces are staged all along that border there. And right in this spot right here is Basra. Now, as we move in a little bit closer, let's talk about -- well let's give people the lay of the land, shall we?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: What you've got here is this, of course, is the border between Iraq over here and Iran.

O'BRIEN: Let me get you the right thing. Let me give you the right thing. Hang on. OK, now go.

CLARK: Iran, Iraq, fortified area in here, very key piece of ground for Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 war with Iran. He used chemical weapons down here. This is a military city, second largest city in Iraq. Has a lot of military potential there. And it's on the route to Baghdad.

O'BRIEN: Let's start moving toward Baghdad. We're going to take a -- this is essentially where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers come together. They drain out in Basra. This is, literally, we're talking about the cradle of civilization.

CLARK: Garden of Eden.

O'BRIEN: And as we take a left here and move up along the Tigris River, I want to bring in General David Grange and ask him about, you look at some of these maps, some of these political maps, General Grange, and you don't really get a sense of the terrain here. And the closer you get down, the more you realize how harsh it is right? General Grange? I think we've lost him. Let's move along.

CLARK: The answer is, yes. Because when you get right down to it, and look at this area. That was an old swamp here. This is where the marsh Arabs lived, and Saddam Hussein created an eco disaster there by draining that swamp to go after the marsh Arabs who had rebelled against him after the Gulf War.

O'BRIEN: Now , somewhere along here, some commander at some level is going to have to make a decision to cross the river.

CLARK: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: Because in order to get to Baghdad, you have got to cross the Tigris river. Let's go through a quick animation and explain one way that could work. This is not new technology. As a matter of fact, you told me a moment ago ...

CLARK: It's about 40 years old, but it's good technology.

O'BRIEN: OK, what you do here is you bring one of these things up.

CLARK: Armored vehicle launched bridge.

O'BRIEN: And it's a scissor truck like none you've ever seen. I don't even know how this thing doesn't topple over. Look how it does its work here. And, obviously, you are limited on the size of the river.

CLARK: It's about 55 feet across that bridge.

O'BRIEN: Then the truck goes off its way. And on goes the column of armor. Well, that sort of makes it look simple. It isn't that simple, is it?

CLARK: It's a tough problem. You have got to get the bridge laid right and, of course, you have got to have security on the other side when you lay that bridge.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's get back to our tour. And we'll try to bring David Grange in here one more time. General, as we move up toward Baghdad here to talk about this march toward Baghdad, what are some of the things that you think about as some of the problems that ground troops might encounter?

GEN. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALSYT: Well, you know, the river crossing you showed is a substantial one, because not all the river crossing sites are 55 feet, or the banks appropriate to lay a bridge. So you may have to use rafts.

You may have to -- like General Clark said, you definitely have to put people on the other side to secure the far side, helicopters or some means before you even start that. Then you a have a series of canals that are tied to irrigation projects, tied to the lakes that are on the west side of Baghdad that crisscross throughout the area. You have berms that have a slope gradient that is extremely tough for some types of vehicles. And then you also have power lines.

So all these things affect movement and weapons, the firing engagement of enemy forces with weaponry. It's not that it can't be accomplished. You can get through it, but it is a challenge and the U.S. and British forces train on just those obstacles on a continuous basis. And the other thing that you don't see, of course, in the geography is land mines. And land mines are very sophisticated today and some very difficult to detect.

O'BRIEN: All right. So, just to give people the orientation, here's the Tigris River out there. And here's the center of Baghdad. Somewhere along that trek, some 280 miles, I think I measured the other day, somewhere along that way, they're going to cross. We don't know where that's going to be. But that's going to be a crucial choke point. The thing that has come up as we look at the distance here, of course, this probably would not be an ideal place to do it right there in Baghdad. Probably do it before that.

GRANGE: My sense is you'd have one force that crosses somewhere north of Basra, one force that crosses maybe 100 miles north of that.

O'BRIEN: All right. And that's a choke point. And that's where you run into the risk with the column forming. I'd like you both to comment on this. With a column forming, things stalling, where it might be tempting to use chemical weapons, for example.

CLARK: There's no question that if you're fixed in a stationery position and working on something like that, you do become more vulnerable. But, of course, we know that. And so before we would do that river crossing, we would do everything in our power to make sure he wasn't able to use chemical weapons against us.

GRANGE: David Grange, do you want to add in on that?

CLARK: Well, that's a great point. The chemical weapons, the place to use them and you can use it by just, for instance, detonating a chemical supply duct near a river crossing site, as an example, along a main avenue of approach that supports 70-ton tanks, as an example. So you really don't even have to fire munitions. You can actually detonate something like that to stall the forces.

So, this is something that is critical on the reconnaissance. Reconnaissance not only looking for enemy soldiers and equipment, but reconnaissance to sniff the air for chemical agents. So you can keep everything moving. You don't want to stop in vulnerable areas where then you can be engaged by enemy artillery or rocket fire.

O'BRIEN: All right, final point. General Clark, this distance, 300 miles or so, that's a long march. It's a lot of supply and logistic concerns when you start talking about marching through the desert with armor, and support troops and all that equipment. What's the biggest concern?

CLARK: The first thing is, you've got to keep the fuel coming to the forces, because these tanks have to be refueled about every six to eight hours. O'BRIEN: Gallons per mile we're talking about.

CLARK: Right. Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: All right. Watch the tankers. That's another thing to take care of. Thank you very much, both generals, David Grange and Wesley Clark. We appreciate you both being with us. We'll be checking in with you all throughout the evening.

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Throughout The Day In Kuwait City>


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