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Live From the Front Lines: What Happens Next?

Aired April 9, 2003 - 19:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening and welcome.
This is a live picture of Baghdad, essentially a city and a country without an organized government tonight, Wednesday, April 9, day 22 of the war in Iraq. From CNN's broadcast center in New York, I'm Paula Zahn.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting tonight live from Kuwait City. Coming up this hour, where's Saddam Hussein after coalition troops storm the capital's, capital that is. Citizens take to the streets. The leader of Iraq is nowhere to be seen. This story from our David Ensor.

But first, let's go back to Paula in New York -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Wolf.

The scene earlier today in Baghdad was truly historic. As a crowd cheered, U.S. Marines pulled down a larger-than-life statue of Saddam Hussein. For the record, it happened at 6:50 p.m. Baghdad time, 10:50 a.m. here in the eastern U.S. The crowd had tried for almost two hours to bring the statue down before the Marines stepped in to help.

More unforgettable images follow, particularly parts of that same crown pulling the head of the Saddam statue through Baghdad streets. Here someone is actually riding it. At other times people ran alongside, sometimes throwing shoes at it, sometimes beating it.

Now the fate of the real Saddam Hussein remains unknown. As for the situation in Baghdad right now, we check in with Craig Nelson of Cox Newspapers. He's in the Palestine Hotel, which is just across the street from where Saddam Hussein's statue used to stand.

Good evening, Craig. Thanks so much for being with us. Describe to us what is going on at this hour of the morning there.

CRAIG NELSON, COX NEWSPAPERS REPORTER: Well just after 3:00 in the morning, it's very quiet, there's a great deal of relief here. The Palestine Hotel yesterday was a scene of tank shell, which hit the hotel, and killed a couple of journalists. Today, the same lobby that had Iraqi information ministry officials in it yesterday has U.S. Marines, and behind me there are scores of American tanks and armored personnel carriers, and hundreds of Marines keeping the order at least around the hotel. Beyond it, there are many questions I think. There's, there are pockets of looting in Baghdad. There's violence in different parts of the city. It's definitely a city that's very volatile and could erupt at any time, so it's a precarious situation still, despite the very, very dramatic footage that you saw there today and we saw first-hand here.

ZAHN: Describe to us from where you were standing, what you saw earlier today when we saw that very strong symbolism of that enormous statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled to the ground.

NELSON: Well, it was very dramatic.

I think that the footage may be a little bit misleading. There were probably 200 to 300 people there. There weren't thousands. This wasn't a people-power moment I would say. This is a country I think right now, that where there are many, many Iraqis that are relieved; they were ecstatic to see the Marines come up the Sadun Avenue (ph) behind me, earlier this afternoon. But there are also Iraqis that are extremely sad and very humiliated by the situation, by the experience.

I think they oppose Saddam Hussein in many cases, but at the same time the fact that it took an outside force, a Western army to come in here and clean things up, is for them a very traumatic experience.

ZAHN: And describe to us in greater detail, the varying reactions to the statue coming down. We had one reporter as we were covering it live this morning saying that he did see some cheering in some quarters and then there were those I think that you were just talking about, who were standing back on the sidelines which a much different approach.

NELSON: Yes, the people, the people that were cheering were ecstatic and it was, was spontaneous and genuine. They ran to the Marines, they gave them flowers, they tried to embrace them. But then there were those Iraqis who were very upset about the flags, the American flags being flown, and the attempt by a Marine to put an American flag across the face of Saddam Hussein. Eventually that American flag was replaced with an Iraqi flag.

But as I said, this is authentic and genuine enthusiasm. Off on the side, there were people that are actually weeping copiously. They were very, very upset. They oppose, they said they opposed Saddam Hussein, but at the same time they said this, that it was unfortunate that it had to come to this, that it required a Western army to come in here and take care of business.

ZAHN: Craig Nelson, thank you very much for providing your insights tonight.

And Wolf, I guess I'm reminded as we watch this all happen, live earlier this morning of what we later learned from the Pentagon, as they were watching these same pictures we were, and there was an audible gasp when they saw that Marine put the American flag on Saddam, the statue of Saddam Hussein's head, and then as you remember was quickly removed, replaced then by the pre-Gulf War Iraqi flag, and then that too later came down.

But there was very great sensitivity to the fact that there would be perception that these were in fact, occupiers that came; not liberators.

BLITZER: And that's the message that they've been trying to project to the Arab and Muslim world; that they're not coming to occupy Iraq as you say, but they're coming to liberate Iraq. Just two miles away from that joyous scene by the way Paula, the accomplishment of toppling the Saddam Hussein statue, open warfare was underway at Baghdad University. CNN's Martin Savidge was with the U.S. Marines, who fought their way on to the campus.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're way beyond sniper fire. This is all-out, complete engagement here. We've got mortar fire, heavy machine guns, fires now burning on the campus.

This is Baghdad University, and it is warfare on this campus.

ZAHN: We apparently have lost that piece. And when we can re- rack (ph) it, we will bring it back to you.

Meanwhile, about 50 miles south of Baghdad, U.S. troops are gaining more ground. Soldiers from the Army's -- excuse me -- 101st Airborne Division have disclosed Saddam Hussein's loyal Fedayeen fighters from the town of Hillah. Ryan Chilcote says after encouraging fierce resistance there, U.S. troops are now getting of all things, kisses.


RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soldiers from the 101st Airborne's 3rd Brigade have taken control of the central Iraqi city of Hillah. Hillah is home to roughly one million Iraqis. It is also home as you see behind me, to the ancient ruins of Babylon. Well soldiers from the 101st Airborne taking precautions this morning, as they moved into downtown Hillah. You see them here, raiding a courthouse, moving from room to room in that courthouse, making sure there are no Iraqi fighters left inside, and there weren't. Instead, soldiers from the 101st Airborne, fighting their way through cheering crowds on the streets. One U.S. commander -- watch this -- even getting a kiss from two Iraqis.

Ryan Chilcote, CNN with the 101st Airborne in Hillah, Iraq.


ZAHN: For all the jubilation we've been seeing in Baghdad, there's also an undercurrent of anxiety when it comes to Iraq's humanitarian needs. Hospitals in the port city of Umm Qasr, for example, have been without water for four days, and the city's reportedly been the scene of widespread looting.

Today, an Iraqi opposition leader expressed his gratitude to the coalition, but also implored them to step up humanitarian efforts. The U.S. ambassador to Kuwait says the coalition is doing just that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD JONES, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO KUWAIT: I think the security situation is well under control there, and I think that life is slowly getting back to normal. I visited a warehouse where they're distributing food from, and I talked with one of our civil affairs people, and he told me that they've already sort of self-organized the people of Umm Qasr have self-organized a town council, and they're working on tackling the issues for distribution of humanitarian aid and for standing up a new volunteer police force, things like that.


ZAHN: A Spanish Flotilla hauling humanitarian aid did arrive at Umm Qasr today, carrying 20 tons of food, blankets, and supplies.

Coalition bombers are homing in on the -- or honing in that is on the Northern Front tonight, dropping loud reminders that there is still danger and more fighting ahead. Here is more from Brent Sadler, who is at the Northern Front in Kalar.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One three-three A.

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORREPSONDENT (voice-over): In the north of Iraq, a view to a kill. American Special Forces take aim at positions of Iraq's collapsing army.


SADLER: Holding a network of bunkers surrounded by palm trees, Iraqi troops blocking this road to Baghdad, 90 miles away.


SADLER: Sixty-millimeter mortars lay a barrage on those positions across the front line. The targets bid a hasty retreat. Iraqi soldiers jump in to that white pick up truck, to escape the onslaught. But Kurdish fighters wait to pounce, and seize the moment. Pouring fire at the speeding truck as it runs a gauntlet of lead. The Peshmerga follow in hot pursuit, covering American bombs.


SADLER: The Kurds charge in, shooting at the backs of fleeing soldiers and clearing bunkers. The portraits and the power of Saddam Hussein are being torn to shreds. And the secrets of his disintegrating army are being exposed hill by hill. This is as far as the Peshmerga have pushed in three weeks.


SADLER: As a result of heavy air strikes from U.S. aircraft and today for the first time, we saw that mortar fire from the U.S. Special Forces, now moving forward, these Iraqi Kurds chasing the Iraqis who were just occupying this position a few minutes ago.

And another volley of gunfire. To give you a sense of what it's like at the very edge of a front line, that's just fallen to these Iraqi Kurds. They know about the news in Baghdad; that the very grip of Saddam Hussein is being loosened by the allies, and they are ecstatic.

The war may not be over, but this battle has been fought and won. Not over, I can tell you that over the past several hours after sunset, there have been intense bombing raids against further frontline positions being held by the Iraqi Army, not just in this location, in the southeastern portion of the northern front, but in other areas around Kirkuk and Mosul, Special Forces bringing in B-52 Bombers and other strike aircraft from aircraft carriers operating in the eastern Mediterranean.

What I can also tell you today is that in the three governance (ph) of Northern Iraq, under Iraqi-Kurdish control since the end of the Gulf War 12 years ago, there have been street protests, rather street celebrations, really marking the day that they believe Saddam Hussein's regime has really doomed to collapse. Iraqi Kurds have seen the television pictures of the demise of the regime in the Iraqi capital, and they turned out in their thousands in Dohuk (ph), Sulaimaniyah, and Erbil, filling the streets; now knowing that after living in the shadow of Saddam Hussein for the past 12 years, they feel that all of Iraq now has a chance of living in freedom outside the tyrannical control of Saddam Hussein.

Back to you, Paula.

ZAHN: Nevertheless Brent, the Kurds you spoke with are expecting more fighting. Did they give you any sense of how long they think these kind of air strikes will continue in this part of the country and the fighting will go on?

SADLER: Well clearly Paula, the level of air strikes I've seen in the past few hours has been the heaviest I've seen since the beginning of the war, along this Northern Front. I think what we're going to see is a punch forward towards Baghdad. Baghdad's still about 90 miles away from the further most position. I think also you're going to see a lot of activity as Donald Rumsfeld was just talking about in his briefing.

Kirkuk, Mosul, Tikrit, still uncertain about their future. Mosul, Tikrit still apparently under government control; the old central government control. And what about Tikrit? Or more importantly, where could Saddam Hussein have run to, if he was able to bolt from the Iraqi capital in the dying hours of his regime. The North is still a very big area and very few eyes and ears of the U.S. and any strength, military strength on the ground here.

We may see an armament (ph) troops move up from the South. We may see elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which has been arming with tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles over the past few days, moving from North to South, perhaps squeezing the remaining part of the country between those two moves. It's still too early to say -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Brent. Brent Sadler reporting from the northern part of Iraq.

And still to come tonight, the U.S. flag over the face of Saddam Hussein. That image was played over and over again on Arab television. Was it the wrong message? We'll be talking with someone from Al-Jazeera network at the half hour mark. Also ahead, as Iraqis celebrate in the streets of Baghdad, do dangers remain for coalition troops in and around the Iraqi capital? There are some big challenges ahead.

But next, where is Saddam Hussein? Our David Ensor tries to answer that question, straight out of the break.


ZAHN: Welcome back.

With Iraqi citizens cheering in the streets, coalition forces pushing on with their war plan. And disarray in Baghdad. One key question tonight remains, where is Saddam Hussein? National Security Correspondent, David Ensor is standing by and explains to us how that is nagging at U.S. officials.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: As the regime appeared to up in smoke, U.S. officials said its control in Baghdad has disintegrated. As for Saddam Hussein, officials still don't know his fate.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: He's either dead or he's incapacitated, or he's healthy and cowering in some tunnel some place, trying to avoid being caught.

KEN POLLACK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: He is still important because there are people who will continue to fight as long as he is alive.

ENSOR (voice-over): Rumors flew that Saddam might be in the Russian embassy in Baghdad. False said the Russians, and U.S. officials too. It seemed clear, after meetings at the White House, that senior intelligence officials were pleased with the way things are going.

But urgent tasks remain, including finding weapons of mass destruction, keeping any of them from moving out of the country. The U.S. is offering rewards and amnesty for help. U.S. intelligence must also account for all the members of the regime; the intelligence, the police, the Fedayeen Saddam that may still be alive and figure out who Iraq can be trusted. It is a mammoth task.

POLLACK: Vet (ph) Iraqi personnel, vet (ph) Iraqi beaurocrats; determine those who really do have enough blood on their hands that they probably should be excluded from a post war administration. And those who can be brought back in and help to set up a new transitional authority to help to administer the country.

ENSOR: Then there are the neighbors to worry about. Secretary Rumsfeld complained about the role of Syria.

RUMSFELD: Senior regime people are moving out of Iraq into Syria, and Syria is continuing to send things into Iraq. We find it notably unhelpful.


ENSOR: U.S. officials say despite a lot of rumors, they have no solid information that any senior Iraqi official has entered Syria, though some of their families have. That border's being watched very closely by the U.S., and Paula just to mention one other thing on the Saddam front. There was a report tonight on one network suggesting that Saddam had, that there was information that he had been eating at the restaurant next to the site that was bombed on Monday night, on Monday rather. That he escaped; his bodyguards pulled him out of the restaurant and he went off in a car and then may have been attacked subsequently. Officials I spoke to just now said, that's just a rumor we're not sure that's true -- Paula.

ZAHN: What else are they saying though, David, about the kind of investigation will be needed to prove that that's not true, once they have access to this site where these bunker buster bombs hit?

ENSOR: Well clearly this site will need to be taken apart bit by bit, and they'll need to be forensics done; DNA analysis possibly done on the remains of those who were at the site. But in addition to that, U.S. intelligence is making no assumption that that was a successful hit. They are pursuing a number of other ways to try and keep track of Saddam Hussein and the other leaders, his sons and the other leaders in the event that they are still alive. They're making no assumption that he's dead at this point, Paula.

ZAHN: David Ensor, thanks so much.

So Wolf, there are a number of theories tonight as to what happened to Saddam Hussein. You probably just heard David just saying that one American television network reporting that he was eating at the restaurant nearby, whisked away by bodyguards, not too sure what happened after that, but I understand you had a conversation with the head of the Iraqi National Congress, and he advanced a different theory. What did he tell you today?

BLITZER: Well, Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the INC, is now in Nasiriyah in the Southern part of Iraq with few hundred of his supporters, the Free Iraqi Fighters as they're called.

When I interviewed him earlier today, he thought Saddam Hussein was definitely alive some place just north of Baghdad with at least one of his sons. He thought he had some good evidence to that, although the Pentagon and Central Command can't back that by any means, but he seems to think that there's some pretty good evidence Saddam is just outside Baghdad in one of the northern suburbs. We'll continue to watch that, see what else we get on that front. In the meantime despite the falling statue and the raucous celebrations, U.S. military planners say the war is by no means over, at least not yet.

The Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld said today -- and I'm quoting -- there's a lot of fighting that's going to be done. CNN's Miles O'Brien is joining us now with a look at what's next for the coalition forces -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, these past three weeks we've heard a lot about Basra and Nasiriya, and of course Baghdad. Perhaps in the days ahead, we're going to be hearing a little bit more about Tikrit and Kirkuk and Mosul.

Joining me to talk a little bit about what is next and in specifically what is going to be going on in the North of Iraq, is General David Grange, retired U.S. Army.

General Grange, I want to right in to a spot in the world, right where Brent Sadler was. He just filed a report a few moments ago. It's a place called Kalar. This is in that area that is disputed between the Kurds and formerly the Saddam Hussein regime. That was an interesting report in that it showed the value of Special Forces. Explain how that works as a force multiplier if you will.


Here you had two maybe more Special Forces operators working with the Kurdish fighters, trying to work out a plan of attack, supporting them with some very small weapons, but deadly weapons. But trying to coordinate how to take down this target. And it's very similar to how Special Operations worked in the first war. I can remember when a prince in Saudi Arabia, in the northern base said, what can you bring to the fight? You only have a few people, what can you do for us? You have no tanks, artillery.

I said Prince, what we can bring to this fight is I have a radio, and that radio can bring in a lot of things in my hip pocket; B-52s, attack helicopters, jets, and also I have a lot of people who know how to fight wars. And that did it, and that's what has happened here.

O'BRIEN: All right, but the radio may be powerful, but when you move toward Tikrit, and let's move our satellite imagery over there; from Kalar over to Tikrit. Tikrit of course is the hometown of Saddam Hussein; his tribe, his people, and we're going to zoom in on this compound of palaces that are maintained there, and that supposedly is defended by a special, a Republican Guard division; the Adnar (ph) Division.

Can walkie-talkies (ph) and a couple of Special Operations people take care of that?

GRANGE: No, because the Special Operations forces will not be taking Tikrit. Who will take Tikrit will be the, will be U.S. or other coalition forces, maneuver units, heavy units, supported by Special Forces and other Special Operations teams. But no, heavy forces will take down Tikrit.

O'BRIEN: All right, General David Grange, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Now we'll send it back to Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Miles. Thanks to General Grange as well.

Still to come this evening, a family separated by war in Iraq. A wife trying to make contact stateside with her husband, who's back in Iraq. Also ahead, the French and the Germans were against this war. With the statue of Saddam Hussein now in pieces, what are they saying? But next, casualties of war; hospitals completely filled; the dire situation, as CNN special coverage of the war in Iraq continues.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

Right now we want to give you the latest information on how many people have died in this war. U.S. officials say 101 Americans have been killed, 86 of them by hostile fire. Thirty-one British personnel have died, only nine of those deaths were combat related. Iraq has released no information about military deaths, but Iraqi officials reportedly told Abu Dhabi television that 1,252 civilians have been killed since the war started.

Still to come this evening, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohamed Aldouri. He's been the only Iraqi leader the world has been seeing over the past several days. Will he be their last man standing? The story tonight from our Richard Roth (ph).

But next, the killer illness SARS. More confirmed cases today. In Florida, our Elizabeth Cohen when we return.




BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): ... rolled in to central Baghdad, the cameras captured joyous Iraqis teaming up with Marines to bring down a statue of Saddam Hussein. And then this brief moment when a Marine draped the American flag over the head of Saddam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): And just such a picture might send a wrong picture to the Iraqis, to the Arabs watching now. The statue (UNINTELLIGIBLE) American statue in the symbolic way. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) dictatorship and power becomes American instead of Iraqi.

BURKHARDT: And on another network, Al-Jazeera...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is the symbolism of what's going on in Iraq, everything will become with an American face.

BURKHARDT: Almost as quickly as that symbolism was noted, another symbolic act. The U.S. flag coming down and instead the Iraqi flag. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): (UNINTELLIGIBLE) see an Iraqi flag that maybe this stood between the Americans and Iraqis. There's no way that the U.S. flag should be raised now. Even the same U.S. soldier has -- carrying the Iraqi flag that's some sort of -- correcting the mistake that he has been -- he has done.

BURKHARDT: And when the statue was finally toppled...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): ... statue falls down, the people here are expressing their relief. There are feelings of loud joy as we can see.

BURKHARDT: What about that joy that we saw today? How did Arab broadcasters react to that?

In this exchange an anchor asked a reporter in Baghdad if the jubilation is genuine. The reporter's answer, yes, it is real, but we don't know if that joy is just for Saddam leaving and not for the Americans.

One recurring theme raised in the Arab coverage, surprise over so little resistance to the Americans. What happened to the Iraqi army, they wanted to know.

Finally this telling moment. An Al-Jazeera reporter interviewing a marine. According to our translators who have been closely watching the Arab networks this, reporter's demeanor was clearly different today, happier, relieved. So much so he felt it necessary to point out that he was not with the Marines, but only a neutral observer. And then this lighter moment when the Marine tells him he's from North Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I am from North Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You don't look like one of the white or redneck.

BURKHARDT: Some weird moments out of the so-called fog of war.

Bruce Burkhardt, CNN.


BLITZER: And today the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld lashed out at the Arab news media for the coverage of the war in general.


RUMSFELD: There's no question, but that there are a number of particularly television stations as well as print in that part of the world that have carried a message that was false. They've carried a message that tried to lead people in that part of the world to believe that we were fighting Iraq and the Iraqi people as opposed to a vicious dictator. That we were anti-a religion (sic) which is totally untrue. But that's going to be counterbalanced with the faces of people who are free and the test is in the tasting.


BLITZER: So does the defense secretary have a point? Or have the Arab news media been totally unbiased? Joining us now, Hafez al- Mazari, is the Washington bureau chief for Al-Jazeera. Hafez, thanks once again for joining us. What do you say about what the secretary of defense just said?

HAFEZ AL-MIRAZI, D.C. BUREAU CHIEF, AL-JAZEERA: Well, the secretary is entitled to his opinion. I would appreciate if your people would help me with the mix-minus (ph) from earpiece.

But I'd like to say that of course, the secretary has been critical in many incidents before for the media, especially the Arab media. And we have witnessed that also after 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan when the Arab media put out the casualties and he considered that propaganda. And that's understandable as they say in bureaucratic politics. Where you sit is where you stand.

Also the secretary of defense also used before language that was not received well in the Arab world. Things like the so-called occupied territories concerning the Israeli occupied territories which is contrary to the language of the president and the U.S. institutions. So I wouldn't stop too much at what he said.

BLITZER: What about the shift, though? Is there a shift in attitudes now that there are all these Iraqis who are coming out, welcoming the U.S. Marines, the soldiers praising President Bush? do you believe that will have an impact on media coverage in the Arab world?

AL-MIRAZI: For sure, Wolf.

It would have an impact, because people reacted to images and footage in front of them in TV. When you have very friendly confrontation or engagement as you showed before between Al-Jazeera reporters and interview with the Marines and both of them working together in an unhostile environment, that would be reflected and given a real message to the viewers to go hand in hand with the U.S. rhetoric that we are there not as occupiers, we are not dealing with the Iraqi people in any way to humiliate them, but to one day before when people watch one Al-Jazeera reporter being killed by a U.S. missile that will give a different message.

Also today I had for two hours, live show from Washington, one hour was for call-in for the Arab community here in Washington, in the U.S. How do they react to what is going to? And, in general, you would find people are not happy with the war. They didn't like to see what the casualty on the Iraqi side, the casualty on the American side because they are mostly Arab-Americans. But in the meantime, they are relieved because this is the end of a dictatorship in the Arab world and most of them would say, we hope that the other --the other authoritarian regimes in the middle east will learn a lesson and do something and reconcile with their own people before they face the fate of Saddam Hussein.

BLITZER: Hafez, our condolences to you and everyone at Al- Jazeera on the death of Tariq Ayoub in Baghdad. But do you believe -- do you really believe that the United States military deliberately decided to target him and Al-Jazeera or was that an accident of war?

Al-MIRAZI: Well, thank you, Wolf and I'd like also to thank Christiane Amanpour in particular because she -- in her comments yesterday it was very brave and very objective one about that what we heard so far and what we heard yesterday of justifications from the Central Command or the Pentagon was not convincing enough for people to say that you're really avoiding schools or mosques and yet you're not avoiding dealing in a disproportionate way with some gunshots from a hotel where you know that all of the international media were there.

Whether it's deliberate or not, I would really, on my personal level and view, you cannot say that someone in a democracy would really dare to take into their hands to deliberately target a journalist. But the problem is that they dealt with the journalists the same way, unfortunately, the civilians have been dealt with. Too bad that they are in our way as along as that we would like to do our objective. Just in dealing with them as a collateral damage and it doesn't matter what would happen to them.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. Hafez Al-Mirazi, the Washington bureau chief of Al-Jazeera, who's been a frequent guest here on CNN. Thanks very much, Hafez, for your assessment.

Paula, let me throw it back to you.

ZAHN: Thanks, Wolf.

And still to come in this hour: water, a once scarce resource once flowing by the gallon even in small towns throughout Iraq. We're going to take you to one town that's beginning to taste the first drops of freedom.

But next, separated by war. One family's plight to stay together through sickness and war, when LIVE FROM THE FRONT LINES continues.


ZAHN: Welcome back.

Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed Aldouri, spoke out strongly today about the war. Our senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth, is here to tell us exactly what he said.

Good evening, Richard.


Mohammed Aldouri has been Iraq's staunchest defender inside the United States, representing his government at the United Nations. And today, watching the pictures coming in from Baghdad and certainly assessing the political terrain, he put it rather bluntly when asked to give his view of the images and the political situation back home.


MOHAMMED ALDOURI, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: The game is over. I hope the peace will prevail. And the Iraqi people, at the end of day, will have a peaceful life.

UNIDENTIFIED MAKE: What do you mean that the game is over, sir?

ALDOURI: The war, I mean.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, you are convinced the war is over?

ALDOURI: Yes, yes, yes. It's over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the situation with Saddam Hussein?

ALDOURI: Well, I don't know. Perhaps the Americans know. I have no relationship with Saddam, so I can't tell you. I am here, like you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Explain to me, sir -- what do you mean you have no relationship with Saddam? What does that mean?

ALDOURI: I have no communication with Iraq. I am here, so I don't know nothing about what is going to there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you make, sir, of the pictures you've seen of...


ROTH: The defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said it wasn't a game when asked about Aldouri's comments. He said the game was over when President Saddam Hussein didn't accept the U.N. resolutions.

I asked some of the Iraqi ambassador's diplomatic colleagues about his assessment that the game is over.


JEREMY GREENSTOCK, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I just heard that. I think it is and I pay tribute for him for acknowledging it. He's a decent man and I hope he finds a decent life representing a decent government. But he must wonder what his situation is now and I sympathize with him.



GABRIEL VALDES, CHILEAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: He defended the positions of his country with courage, I would say. But, of course, he was defending -- he was defending a very bad cause. He was defending a regime which had been condemned by the United Nations and which he expressed the worst kind of violation of human rights and brutality in the region. Therefore he has a difficult task. I hope him well.


ROTH: Mohammed Aldouri will be the last U.N. representative of the Saddam Hussein government. But his seat, and even himself if he wanted to, could stay here for days, months as Iraq's ambassador, Paula, because there's a diplomatic process that has to take hold. A new government in Iraq, when that eventually is in place, would request, through a letter, applications for new credentials for a new ambassador -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, Richard, did he have -- or has he had over the last couple of days any explanation for what happened to the much-vaunted Republican Guard?

ROTH: No, when I rode with him in his car yesterday to the U.N. he asked me that. We were analyzing the situation and he said, Where are they? Where did they go? He was hinting that the war would still continue in other parts. He said yesterday his people would never accept -- quote -- "foreigners, not for one second." That's what Aldouri said yesterday.

Today he is saying the game is over.

ZAHN: Richard Roth, thanks so much for the update.

Now many Iraqis are feeling a mixture of triumph and uncertainty right now. The taking of Baghdad by coalition forces signals a definite change in the war. And for an Iraqi woman in this country it is bringing some renewed hope for a reunion.

Siba Habib left her family in Iraq just before the war started to get medical treatment for her young son. He suffers from glaucoma.


SIBA HABIB, FAMILY MEMBERS IN IRAQ: The pressure is high for both his eyes and it's very dangerous. HE might be blind if I didn't give him treatment. It's very hard for me but my husband, he forced me. You must go for your son. I don't know. Maybe they were losing their life. I am very afraid about them.


ZAHN: Khalid El-Kaissi is Habib's cousin. He joins us from Cleveland, Ohio to tell us how the family is doing. Thank you very much for joining

Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Khalid.


ZAHN: First off tonight, what did the tearing down of that enormous statue of Saddam Hussein represent to your family?

EL-KAISSI: It represents the moment that they've been waiting for for the past 35 years. It was joy, happiness, everybody was happy and cheering. They were cheering with the Iraqi people that were over there, cheering for their freedom.

ZAHN: We heard, though that there were people in this crowd who felt quite humiliated by what they were witnessing. Do you understand those feelings?

EL-KAISSI: I -- you mean the flag?

ZAHN: The -- not so much that, but just some Iraqi citizens standing on the sidelines not sure how this is going to play out.

EL-KAISSI: Oh, no, no. I think those people are very happy. They're very excited. The only thing is nothing is 100 percent done yet and nobody has confirmed that Saddam has been taken care of. That's why they -- they -- they have some counts. That's the only reason why that they didn't participate.

ZAHN: Tell us a little bit more about Siba and how today's seminal moment might affect her and a possible reunion with her family back in Iraq.

El-KAISSI: Siba, for the past two weeks, she's been very tense, upset, agile and I -- I -- I -- I -- I understand exactly how she's feeling because she has feeling -- she has family over there -- immediate family over there. But today -- actually today is the first day that that I -- I saw the happiness in her eyes. She was smiling. She was laughing. She was very happy and hopefully the moment will be soon when her son will get the right treatment and she'll get rejoined with her husband and her other son back in Baghdad.

ZAHN: Has she had any contact with her husband or the rest of the family?

EL-KAISSI: Not -- not in the past two weeks. Before two weeks ago she called after the bombing had started and she talked to her husband, Mohammed, and every thing was fine. He was OK. But after two weeks ago communication -- there was no communication between -- communication was cut. So she doesn't really know how is he doing or anything about him.

ZAHN: Finally tonight...

EL-KAISSI: But she hopes that he's doing OK.

ZAHN: Finally tonight, Khalid, we wanted to close with a shot that has been highly inflammatory in the Arab world and that was the shot of a marine covering the head of the statue of Saddam Hussein with an American flag. Do you understand why that engendered such a strong response even from people who are happy to see Saddam Hussein go and not convinced of what the ultimate role might be of the U.S. in all of this? EL-KAISSI: Right. I think it's a spur of the moment thing that happened and I don't think it's -- it's -- it's -- it's not big of a deal. It's something that just happened sporadically and then right after that they took down the flag and they brought the Iraqi flag -- the old Iraqi and everything want -- was OK after that. It's real -- I don't -- as an Iraqi-American, I don't see it as a big deal.

ZAHN: All right, Khalid. Well, we appreciate you sharing your family's story with us tonight. And we wish Siba and her young son the best of luck and hope he gets the medical care he needs.

Good luck. And back to Wolf now.

BLITZER: I do as well, Paula, thank you very much. And one of the top priorities for coalition forces is winning the confidence of Iraqi civilians. Some -- sometimes all it takes is a friendly smile and a wave of the hand.

But in the southern iraqi town of Safwan, something more is needed. Correspondental Alistair Jackson (ph) of Britain's ITV shows us what it is.


ALISTAIR JACKSON, ITV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the streets of Safwan this is how you win people over. There's no water supply here, but the RAF Regiment has brought with it thousands of gallons.

CPL. ADRIAN JENNER, ROYAL SIR FORCE: We can only try and address the short-term need. And that's what we're doing here. We believe in the most important thing is to try to identify what that need is and clearly water around here.

JACKSON (on camera): This delivery of water happens here each day. It's vital for the people that live here, but also for the British troops. It means that they are welcomed here without question.

(voice-over): This is a poor place, but much is already being learned from it. When the military first arrived here there was some hostility. Now the helmets have come off and support appears to be growing.

MOHAMMED ALI, RETURNED IRAQI EXILE: We -- we -- we win. Everyone come here. Because we want sleep, you know?

JACKSON: The translator can also tell his own story. An Iraqi exile to America who will now never forget the day he came home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since I left my country, which was in 1991,it wasn't mean I'm going back to iraq again. I'm back. I'm here. I'm with my people right now.

JACKSON: Safwan has no electricity and its future seems uncertain. At the moment, much is being asked of the British presence here, but already they're getting ready to leave. In Safwan, the fighting has finished but the people here have many questions about what happens next.

Alistair Jackson, ITV News, in Iraq.


ZAHN: So many powerful images came out of the war today: the fall of Saddam's statue, Iraqis cheering in the streets, Iraqis beating Saddam's pictures with their shoes. You would think of all of the countries that argued against the war in iraq might be changing their tunes or are they?

Here's Robin Oakley with a look at some of the world reaction.


ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As America's closest ally in the Iraqi war, Tony Blair was said to be delighted of the pictures coming out of Baghdad.

We're all watching these images, said his Downing Street spokesman. People have seen today the scales are falling for the people of Iraq.

But as London's evening newspaper celebrated the toppling of Saddam, the UK prime minister was guarded, counseling that the war was not over yet and that victory would only come when substantial parts of Iraq were free from violence.

In parliament earlier, Conservative opposition leader Iain Duncan-Smith had been generous with his praise for bBair and the coalition forces.

IAIN DUNCAN-SMITH, CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER: This has been one of the most brilliantly-executed campaigns of recent history. I congratulate the prime minister and I would like to take this opportunity to do so for the role that he has played standing together with our American allies, liberating the Iraqi people and ousting this evil dictator.

OAKLEY: When Mr. Duncan-Smith asked who now can make a surrender on behalf of the Iraqis, Mr. Blair was again cautious.

TONY BLIAR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is extremely difficult, as we speak, to know what is left of the governing higher ranks of Saddam's regime

OAKLEY: As the Baghdad pictures flashed across the world's TV screens, Europe's politicians, many of whom opposed a war against a background of street protests didn't rush to comment.

But Germany's Chancellor Schroeder, who's fallen out badly with Washington over Iraq, welcomed the sights from Baghdad as a sign that the conflict could soon be over.

Chancellor Schroeder is due to meet with fellow war opponents President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Jacques Chirac of France in St. Petersburg at the weekend. Their discussions like those of Tony Blair and President George Bush in Belfast, Northern Ireland this week, are likely to focus on the post-conflict phase in Iraq and just how much of a role the United Nations will play.

(on camera): Bush and Blair agree the need of a vital role for the U.N. Schroder and Chirac are insisting that the U.N.'s role must be a central one. That may not prove to be the same thing.

Robin Oakley, CNN, London.


ZAHN: And coming up in our next hour, what happens next? Now that Iraq's government has symbolically fallen apart, who will fill the power vacuum? As our coverage of the war in iraq continues.

We'll be right back.


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