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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Iraqi TV Knocked Off Air for Several Hours

Aired March 26, 2003 - 04:11   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: As we've been telling you for the past several hours, a U.S. Tomahawk missile hit the Iraqi television station in Baghdad. We thought it destroyed it earlier, but apparently it's back on line and running.
We want to head to Amman, Jordan right now and check in with Rula Amin to find out more about this.

It's really no surprise that coalition forces would target this TV station, is it?

RULA AMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not a surprise. In fact, it's an attack that people here in Amman and in Baghdad thought that it would happen almost on the first night of the war.

The Iraqi leader and the Iraqi government, since the war started, have been using this Iraqi TV very heavily in order to send their message. Saddam Hussein himself was on Iraqi television twice since the war started.

Last night, the Iraqi information minister, Saeed al-Sahaf, was on television reading a letter, a message from the president, Saddam Hussein, to his fighters.

And Iraq has been also using the TV in order to show pictures of what's happening in terms of their fighting and in terms of their resistance. They showed the pictures of the U.S. prisoners. They showed pictures of U.S.-downed planes, Apache helicopters that were downed. They speak -- also they put on the airwaves many Iraqis who say they are willing to fight and dedicate their loyalty to Saddam Hussein.

It's also interesting that the Iraqis were able to go back on air this fast. For them, it's a message of defiance, trying to assure Iraqis, as well as most of the Arab streets who watch Iraqi television though its satellite channel, that the Iraqis are still resisting and they intend to continue doing so -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I was just going to ask you about the sophistication of this TV station, because frankly we were surprised that it's up and running again.

AMIN: Many people have been surprised. Although the Iraqis have been experienced in wars, they have been hit before by wars so many times, whether with the U.S. or with Iran, and probably they have been preparing themselves for such a strike. At the same time, it's very important for them to make sure that their message is still there to all Iraqi people, because they know there's a counter-message coming from the United States trying to rally the Iraqi people for this war, in favor of this war. And the Iraqis are trying to counter it by saying that this attack by the United States, this invasion is not targeting Saddam Hussein only, but targeting Iraqis and Iraq as a nation.

And they're trying to appeal to every sector of the society -- the tribes, the soldiers, the families. That's why when Saddam Hussein is on the air, he always refers to the tribes' name of the Iraqis, and he sometimes mentions even names of fighters who have been able to arrest U.S. soldiers or have downed U.S. planes in order to motivate people to rally around him -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And I know that perhaps the messages coming from Iraqi television has rallied some within Iraq, but how about the rest of the Arab world?

AMIN: Well, you know, it's interesting, Carol, because the Arab world on the first night, when they saw the explosions taking place in Baghdad, their most concern was for the Iraqi civilians that this attack is actually destroying Baghdad, which is a very old Arab capital. In the minds of a lot of Arab people, it's a place that symbolizes the civilization of the Arab nations. And so many were concerned, many were sad.

Afterwards, when the Iraqi television started showing pictures of their resistance, what they call the resistance, when they started putting pictures of U.S. prisoners of war, when they started putting these pictures on the U.S.-downed planes, people in the Arab street became so focused on Iraqi's resistance, because many people did not expect the Iraqis to be able to resist such a might, the U.S. force, so many soldiers, so many sophisticated weapons.

So many of them also know that many Iraqis are not happy with the regime there, they would like to see it removed. So they were surprised at the level of resistance. And now, they're very focused on it. Every day, you'll see many Arabs just hooked on the television, watching, waiting to hear more news of how the Iraqis are handling this war -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Rula Amin reporting live from Amman, Jordan this morning -- thanks.

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