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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Mohamed ElBaradei; Levin, Roberts Debate U.S. Role in Post-War Iraq; King Abdullah of Jordan Talks About Middle East Peace

Aired April 27, 2003 - 12:00   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 7:00 p.m. in Jerusalem, and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for LATE EDITION.
We'll talk about the weapons hunt in Iraq with Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei in just a moment. We're also standing by to hear directly from the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Central Command commander, General Tommy Franks. They've spoken with reporters. We'll get to them shortly.

But first, let's check in with CNN reporters covering the latest developments in the new Iraq.

And let's go immediately to the Pentagon, where another Iraqi leader is reported to have been taken into custody. Let's get the latest from CNN's Patty Davis at the Pentagon -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he is the six of clubs on that U.S. deck of most wanted Iraqis. His name, Lieutenant General Husam Muhammed Amin Al-Yasin. U.S. Central Command not giving any details of his being taken into custody. And we saw General Amin on television many times prior to the war with Iraq. He was the liaison between Iraq and the United Nations weapons inspectors.

The big question, will he talk about Iraq's alleged chemical and biological weapons now that he is in custody?

Well, another big get from last week, Iraq's former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, apparently is talking. General Tommy Franks tells reporters that Aziz is cooperating, but the U.S. is not sure that Aziz is telling the truth.

Now, Franks is with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who is touring Middle Eastern countries. Rumsfeld plans to visit Iraq and Afghanistan. The visit to Iraq, he says, is not a victory tour. It is meant, he says, to thank coalition troops there, and in fact, he plans to hold a townhall meeting tomorrow in Qatar to do just that, and also thank U.S. commanders in the region. He also plans to meet with leaders in the Persian Gulf to talk about the future of U.S. troops in the region, now that Iraq is no longer a threat.

Iraq remains, though, Wolf, a very dangerous place. Today, an incident in Baghdad. U.S. Central Command saying four U.S. soldiers injured. They were part of the U.S. Army's civil affairs on a public health mission. They were driving -- actually stopped in traffic in Baghdad when an assailant opened up with small arms fire, injuring four of them. No word on the status of that assailant, or if that assailant was caught or not -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Patty Davis with the latest at the Pentagon. Patty, thanks very much. We'll be checking back with you, obviously, as news warrants.

This important note: Remember, we're standing by to hear directly from Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. defense secretary, and General Tommy Franks, the commander of Operation Iraqi Freedom. They spoke with reporters just a little while ago in Abu Dhabi. We'll be bringing you their comments as soon as they come in to CNN. That should be fairly soon.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration is rejecting calls for U.N. Inspectors to resume their search for illegal weapons in Iraq. This, even as Washington is being warned by many that any discovery will lack necessary credibility without the participation of an international inspection team.

Joining us now from Vienna, Austria, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He, of course, led the nuclear inspections in Iraq before the war.

Dr. ElBaradei, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

And let me begin right away with the question I just posed, will any discovery of weapons of mass destruction be suspect, in your mind, in your mind, if there's no international presence among the U.S. investigators?

Unfortunately, I think we're having some technical problems with Dr. ElBaradei. We're going to try to fix that problem and get back to him as soon as we can.

Once again, we are still standing by for the comments, the question-and-answer session with reporters that Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, and General Tommy Franks, the Iraqi Freedom commander, had with reporters in Abu Dhabi.

As you probably know by now, the defense secretary is on a tour of the region, heading toward Qatar, the location where the U.S. Central Command had its temporary headquarters in going forward with this war.

We'll get back to Dr. ElBaradei in just a moment.

But in the meantime, Nic Robertson, our chief international correspondent, our senior international correspondent, is standing by as well. He's got some new developments on the possibility that the U.S. may -- repeat, may -- have found some evidence of Iraqi chemical weapons. He's joining us now on the phone -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that is correct. This is still a may, but certainly members of the 1st Squadron of the 10th Cavalry who have made those initial investigations, say between 10 and 14 55-gallon drums of what they believe could be a chemical agent, believed so far the tests they have done have proved positive, positive for a blister agent and positive for the nerve agent cyclosarin. They've performed three different types of tests, a paper swab test, a sniff test and a mass spectrometer test on one of those drums, one drum of the chemical agent that was in liquid form.

This was discovered after a tip-off by Special Forces. The 10th Cavalry unit went to a field about 130 miles north of Baghdad, near the town of Baija. At that field, they discovered some sand berms. Behind those sand berms, they discovered these chemical drums.

Along with these chemical drums they discovered some missiles, some what they believe are surface-to-air missiles and also ground-to- ground missiles as well. They also discovered two mobile chemical laboratories. They're the 10th Cavalry described as being used possibly for the mixing of chemicals. They also discovered 150 -- 150 gas masks. These were very high quality gas masks, they say not like the normal quality of gas masks of which thousands have already been discovered in Iraq. And they also discovered on the same site some charts indicating dosages for chemical weapons.

Now, it should be noted that the discovery of blister agent and the discovery of the nerve agent cyclosarin in this particular liquid in these drums matches very similarly with the previous suspected chemical weapons discoveries that were made in Iraq. The site is now under investigation by the sensitive site exploitation unit. They will be doing further tests, and it will be some time, they say, before they can give positive or a negative conclusion on what's been discovered so far. But right now the 10th Cavalry in their preliminary tests discovered cyclosarin, a nerve agent, and a blister agent, blister agent H, which could be like mustard gas but not necessarily mustard gas -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We want to caution our viewers, Nic, of course, that often, very often, at least throughout the investigations in Iraq, these initial tests have eventually proven to be false positives. We don't know if that is going to be the case in this particular incident.

Nic, how much of this suspect material was found? Were trace amounts or significant quantities?

ROBERTSON: Well, so far they discovered between 10 and 14 drums, 55-gallon drums. They have only opened one of those drums. We are told that it was fairly full of liquid. One of the tests involved dipping a wire, and they dipped a short length of wire into the liquid, then did a mass spectrometry test on it. It is not clear if all those other drums are full, partially full, or empty. This particular drum chosen for the test was described as being quite full, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Nic Robertson with the latest. We'll be checking back with the potentially, potentially, obviously it could turn out to be a false positive, but potentially an important breakthrough for the U.S. investigators looking into banned Iraqi weapons materiel.

Let's go back to Vienna, Austria. That's where Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei is standing by. Dr. ElBaradei, of course, was the chief nuclear inspector. He's the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Dr. ElBaradei, if the U.S. does come up with evidence of banned weapons, will it be suspect in the minds of many in the international community if U.N. inspectors are not along?

DR. MOHAMED ELBARADEI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: Well, I believe, Wolf, that we are the one who have the most credibility in view of the public opinion, not because we are the only one who are trustworthy, but because of where we are. We are the representative of the international community, and therefore we have the independence and impartiality that create that credibility.

And I think, Wolf, we need to go back as soon as we can. Not only for credibility purpose, but we still have a mandate under the Security Council resolution, the very resolution under which the coalition forces went to war to uphold. And we need to maintain the integrity of the Security Council resolution. We need to go back under that mandate and bring that issue to closure.

From a practical point of view, Wolf, also, we are the ones who have the most field experience. We have been in Iraq for over 10 years. We know the people, we know the infrastructure, we know the documents, we know where to go. Why should we reinvent the wheel? I haven't, frankly, heard any argument articulated as why we should not go back.

So, I hope, again, on reflection, everybody should agree that we are the best one to do the job, go and bring that issue to a closure and bring sanction to be lifted, as we all hope.

BLITZER: When you and Dr. Blix, Hans Blix, make that case to the Bush administration, what's the response that you get from them?

ELBARADEI: Well, we haven't really gotten any direct response, other than what we heard and read in the newspaper as what we have heard in the Security Council, that the coalition forces is taking over that job now.

But that's understandable during the hostilities. But once there is a secure environment, once the journalists are back, once the humanitarian people are back, I do not see any reason why we should not go back as soon as practical.

We have the same objective. We share the same objective which is...

BLITZER: You had -- obviously, when you were inspecting for nuclear capabilities, you had not found any, but you had told the U.N. Security Council you needed a few more months to get the job done. What else do you need to do right now to certify that there are no nuclear capabilities in Iraq?

ELBARADEI: I think we need to go back, re-establish ourself, Wolf. We need, again, to go back and interview as many people as we can. Remember, that was one of the difficulties we were facing, interviewing people freely. We need to go back and do some more analysis, visit again the facilities.

Whether weapons exist in Iraq, Saddam Hussein or post-Saddam Hussein, it is a serious enough issue that require that we continue to go and make sure that Iraq does not have weapons.

It doesn't automatically mean that once Saddam is gone, that the new regime will give up the weapons of mass destruction. That's why it is very important that we need to go back.

But aside from the Security Council resolutions, Wolf, in the case of the nuclear, Iraq is still party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. I have responsibilities, the agency has the responsibility to go back and go there for the long haul, as we do everywhere else.

So, unless we rewrite the NPT, unless we rewrite the Security Council resolution, we need to go back sooner than later.

BLITZER: You had met, together with Dr. Blix and other inspectors, with some of the top Iraqi -- former Iraqi scientists. Today, the U.S. military says they've arrested the former chief of the so-called Iraqi Monitoring Agency, General Hussam Muhammad Amin. You had met with him. You had met with their chief science adviser, Dr. Al Saadi, who is under U.S. custody right now.

Do these individuals, as far as you know, hold the key to the secrets of Iraq's potential nuclear capability, weapons of mass destruction?

ELBARADEI: I think they ought to know. They clearly were at the top of the echelon, in addition to Mr. Ghafur, who is also in the U.S. custody, as I understand.

But them and their subordinates are the ones who hold the key to know how much is left in Iraq, whether any nuclear activities has been going on in Iraq in the last few years.

So that's why we need to go back, interview these people, interview their subordinates, do some more environmental sampling analysis -- do as much.

I mean, the problem we were facing in Iraq, Saddam Hussein, was lack of full, absolute transparency. Now with the regime is gone, I see no reason why we should not be able to complete the job in a very short period of time and go back to the Security Council, verify that Iraq does not have weapons of mass destruction, and move on with the new Iraqi regime.

BLITZER: As you probably know, the U.S. has allowed some former Iraqi civil servants, other experts -- including Dr. Qadir Hamza, once a nuclear engineer in Iraq, who defected to the United States in the mid-1990s -- to now go back. He is apparently going to be in charge of the Iraqi atomic energy agency over this interim period.

Is he someone that you trust to be able to get to the bottom of the questions that still remain there?

ELBARADEI: Well, as far as we know, Wolf, he left Iraq much before many of these activities have taken place. So he is not really fully informed of what happened in the last few years.

We have -- we would be happy to talk to him. We would be happy to talk to everybody else. We need to get to the bottom of the barrel. But for us to be able to do that we need to go back on the ground and start back at what we -- what we have been doing in the last few months.

BLITZER: Let's move on. Another area of great concern to the international community, one that you're involved in, as well, is North Korea and its nuclear weapons.

How many nuclear bombs, nuclear weapons do you believe the North Koreans already possess?

ELBARADEI: Well, it's difficult for me to estimate, Wolf. Again, the intelligence estimation that they have between one or two bombs.

What we know for sure, that they have produced plutonium that they have not declared to us, and that's where we came to a clash in 1994. We know they have material they have not declared. How much, that we do not know. And that's why we also need to go back and do intrusive inspection.

But the situation in North Korea is a very worrying situation. Here is a country who has the capability, who probably have the nuclear material to make a weapon, and we need to make sure that that situation comes under control as soon as we can.

If we are addressing the issue of weapons of mass destruction, we need to send a uniform, consistent message that there is zero tolerance to any country who is developing weapons of mass destruction, North Korea included.

BLITZER: One final question before I let you go, I know our time is short. Kim Jong Il, an agreement that might be reached with him, could the international community trust this dictator to go ahead and abide by any deal he might make?

ELBARADEI: Well, the key, Wolf, is to have a very intrusive verification. I think our work is not based on trust but based on verification. And in any new agreement, I would counsel strongly that we need to learn from our mistakes in the past.

The agreement of the Framework Agreement concluded between the U.S. and North Korea was not comprehensive enough in terms of verification. Any new agreement should give the agencies, the International Atomic Energy Agency, as much authority to make sure that we will not be cheated once more in North Korea.

BLITZER: Dr. ElBaradei, always good to speak with you. Good luck to you, good luck to your inspectors. We'll see what happens on these two hugely important issues, Iraq and North Korea. You've got a full agenda, and there's a lot of other hot spots, as well.

Dr. Mohammad ElBaradei, always good to speak with him.

Still to come this hour, Christiane Amanpour's exclusive interview with Jordan's King Abdullah.

And a reminder, I'll be speaking with Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi opposition leader. Some in Washington say he should emerge as the next interim leader of Iraq. Chalabi is now in Baghdad. I'll speak with him.

Just ahead, though, signs that the United States may already be wearing out its welcome in Iraq. We'll discuss the U.S. role in post- war Iraq and other issues with the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas, and the Armed Services Committee top Democrat, Carl Levin of Michigan.

Our LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIEUTENANT GENERAL JAY GARNER (RET.): I don't have a timetable for anything. We'll do everything as fast as we can, and we'll do it as well as we can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Retired U.S. Lieutenant General Jay Garner, the man overseeing the rebuilding of Iraq in the interim period.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

While Iraqis are expressing relief that Saddam Hussein is out of power, hostility toward the presence of coalition forces is still quite evident.

Joining us now to talk about that are two leading members of the United States Senate: In his home state of Kansas, the Republican chairman of the Select Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts. And in Detroit, Michigan, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, also a member of the Intelligence Committee, Carl Levin.

Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Let me begin with you, Senator Roberts, and get your first assessment -- as I pose this question, I want to alert our viewers, once again, we're standing by to hear directly from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the commander of Iraqi Freedom, General Tommy Franks. They'll be speaking with reporters, we'll have that for our viewers shortly.

But what is your latest assessment, Senator Roberts, about the fate of Saddam Hussein?

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: About the state of Saddam Hussein?

Well, we have the Intelligence Committee -- or not the committee, but the community that's about split 50-50 as to whether he is dead or alive.

And if, in fact, he is alive -- and we had that tape, as you know, on April 9th, or at least the alleged tape, we didn't know whether that was a stand-in or not, he was standing on a car, and having some difficulty, and I think one of his sons was next to him. But that would be post the April 7th bombing.

But the intelligence community is split about down the middle. If he is alive, he's probably somewhere in northern Iraq.

BLITZER: What's your assessment, Senator Levin?

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Well, I think Senator Roberts' assessment is right. The only thing that I would add to it is that the New York Times reported a few days ago that the head of the CIA, George Tenet, believes that Saddam is dead.

I have not reached that conclusion based on what I've seen, but he's in a better position. But I would guess he's either where Senator Roberts suggests or possibly hidden somewhere in Syria.

BLITZER: But, Senator Roberts -- well, let me just go back to Senator Levin, because you said something intriguing.

You think it's possible, Senator Levin, that Saddam Hussein is in Syria right now?

LEVIN: Possible. I don't discount that possibility. I think a number of top Iraqis are there.

BLITZER: Well, on the basis of why do you say that? Is there any evidence to suggest that?

LEVIN: Because it was a very porous border, and because I can't have total confidence that the Syrians would not provide some haven to top Iraqis. There are some relationships there which I don't think we can discount.

BLITZER: What about that, Senator Roberts? Is that credible in your mind, that Saddam Hussein and other top Iraqis may be in Syria right now being protected by the president, Bashar al-Asad?

ROBERTS: I don't think they're being protected by President Asad. In this case, maybe the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. And I think that, in some cases, you know, he was, what, an ophthalmologist only three years ago. He's a young president. I think he has turned since the administration certainly came out with a very strong statement. They have tightened up their borders.

What Carl says is certainly possible. I don't think it's probable, but I certainly think it's possible.

BLITZER: Well, do you think, Senator Roberts, the United States is getting the full cooperation from the Syrian government on this and other Iraqi-related issues that it's seeking?

ROBERTS: Yes, I do. I don't think it's full cooperation, but I think it's much better cooperation, in terms of the border, in terms of hopefully being a catalyst with the various terrorist organizations, more especially Hamas. And they're going to have to be a real catalyst in any kind of a Mideast settlement.

I think, once we sent the strong message, once he met with President Mubarak and he relayed the message, I think there's been a turnaround with Syria. Now, that's not full cooperation, but we hope, step by step, we can achieve that.

BLITZER: What about your assessment on that specific point? How much cooperation is the U.S. government, Senator Levin, getting from Syria?

LEVIN: I think we get verbal cooperation. I think we hope for cooperation, but I think we've got a long way to go before we see proof of that cooperation. And the real proof will be whether or not they end support for terrorist groups and terrorist attacks on Israel.

BLITZER: Have you seen any evidence, Senator Levin, that they've decided to clamp down on Hezbollah or Islamic Jihad or the support they give Hamas, these other groups the State Department brands as terrorist organizations?

LEVIN: I have not.

BLITZER: Have you, Senator Roberts?

ROBERTS: Well, I think it's going to be pretty difficult for President Asad to say that he is cooperating, and then, with our intelligence capability, to have us present to him that that's not the case. And so consequently, I'm hopeful.

As I've indicated, I would agree with Carl. I have no specific intelligence information that says they've made a 180-degree turn, but they've certainly improved their relationship with us, in terms of their public statements, and that's a step in the right direction.

And again I hope they can be a catalyst for peace, in terms of any Mideast solution. The president's going to roll that out here in about another two weeks, in terms of a blueprint as to what he thinks we ought to do, plus the E.U., and also plus Russia.

BLITZER: Senator Levin, is the U.S. going to be able to find, in your opinion, hard evidence, the so-called smoking gun, Iraqi weapons of mass destruction?

LEVIN: I think it's still likely, because I believe they had weapons of mass destruction, and surely a program for it. If they -- if we fail to do it, to find no smoking guns, it will create a problem for us in terms of world opinion, surely. The president acknowledged as much last week, that there will be increased skepticism in the world until there is a conclusive evidence that there was a program that was currently either close to fruition or being clearly put in place.

And I think also that it would be a significant intelligence failure unless there is findings of those weapons of mass destruction.

But I think it's still likely that those weapons will be found because I think it's likely that it existed.

BLITZER: All right, Senators, please stand by. We have a lot more to talk about, including the fate of one of the American missing in action, Captain Scott Speicher. I know both of you have a lot of concern on that particular issue.

We're also standing by to hear from Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. defense secretary, and General Tommy Franks. They've spoken with reporters. We're going to be getting that videotape in very soon.

We have a lot more to talk about with both of these senators. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. This note, we're standing by to hear from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks, the commander of Operation Iraqi Freedom. That should be coming up very soon.

In the meantime, let's continue our conversation with Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas -- he's the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- and Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan. He's a member of that committee, also the ranking Democrat, the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee.

Let's talk a little bit about a subject very close to your heart, Senator Roberts, namely Captain Scott Speicher, the U.S. Navy pilot whose plane went down a dozen years ago, January 17th, I believe, 1991, the first day of the first Persian Gulf war.

We saw some intriguing initials scratched onto a wall in an Iraqi prison this week. His initials, Scott Speicher's initials. What do you make of the latest developments?

ROBERTS: Well, I think that's part of the jigsaw puzzle that we have been trying to put together for the better part of six or seven years. We made some very egregious mistakes early in this time period, when we had him classified simply killed in action, there was no evidence for that. Patrick Miller, by the way, one of our POWs, we had 20,000 people at Kansas State University with a very emotional tribute to him. And Sergeant Jacob Butler (ph) who passed away or who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

But we're not giving up on Scott. That was MSS in a cell, the cell is called Hakmaya (ph). It is described by the Iraqis as the judgment center. And it indicates to us that he was alive, he was incarcerated in Baghdad.

I have a personal theory: If Saddam is alive, I think maybe Scott is with him, because he was sort of his personal prisoner. If Saddam is dead, or the person who was really in charge of Scott is dead, he's probably still languishing in some cell.

We have a search-and-rescue unit a big one, in country. We have an intelligence unit that is doing overtime work. We're not going to leave him behind again. We will determine the fate of Scott Speicher. That's not only for Scott; it's for every man and woman who wears the uniform.

BLITZER: Senator Levin, I want to show our viewers those initials that were on that prison wall that were scratched, "MSS" -- Michael Scott Speicher, presumably. We don't know for sure, but it was very intriguing.

Have you had a chance, Senator Levin, to look into this case, this very sad case, whether or not he might still be alive?

LEVIN: Well, Senator Roberts, Senator Bill Nelson and a number of others on the Armed Services Committee have really just led the effort here, and I tip my hats to both of them and to others who have just insisted that we find Scott Speicher and that we put every effort into it, and that we not forget him.

And it represents the best in America, that we not leave our lost ones behind, because they may very well be alive. And we follow this very, very closely, and I support Senator Roberts, Senator Nelson and others who have been really leaders in this wonderful effort.

BLITZER: Senator Roberts, do you get the sense that some of the high-profile captured Iraqis or surrendered Iraqis, like Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister, are, in fact, spilling the beans, if you will, cooperating, telling what they know to U.S. interrogators?

ROBERTS: Yes, I think that's the case. I'm not sure any of them would have any specific knowledge about Scott...

BLITZER: All right. Senator Roberts, I'm going to interrupt -- Senator Roberts, I'd like you to hold that thought for a moment, because I want our viewers to listen to Secretary Rumsfeld and General Franks.

(LIVE EVENT)

BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break. There's about 30 seconds or so of this videotape that the audio, apparently, was not good.

This was done a little while ago in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, just before the defense secretary and the commander of Operation Iraqi Freedom, General Tommy Franks, arrived in Qatar, in Doha.

They're going to be on this trip, the secretary of defense showing the flag, if you will, to U.S. troops, thanking regional partners, as well as going forward and making it clear that the U.S. is moving forward with this follow-up to the war.

Here's General Franks answering some more questions.

(LIVE EVENT)

BLITZER: And so, there he is, General Tommy Franks, the commander of Operation Iraqi Freedom, speaking with reporters in Abu Dhabi just a little while ago. He and the defense secretary are now in Qatar, the temporary headquarters for the U.S. Central Command.

Senators Pat Roberts and Carl Levin have been nice enough to stand by and listen to this briefing with us.

Senator Roberts, let me get to you and ask you a substantive question that was raised in this briefing that we just heard, Iranian involvement with the Shiites, who represent a majority of the Iraqis, some 60 percent.

How serious of a problem is this for the United States?

ROBERTS: Well, I think it's serious any time you have reports of involvement, but I really don't think over the long term that that's going to be a real problem for us, because the history of those two countries are such that that's not really a matchup that we worry about.

But basically you have 60 percent of the country who are Shiites, and they have been repressed for 30 years. And they're expressing in the purest form of democracy with their pilgrimage, and also basically just demonstrating. It's been, you know, hundreds of years since they've been repressed.

There's been some instances of some cross-border situations with Iran, once again, just like Syria. We have the statements on board now from the, oh, the government of Iran saying that they have no designs on Iraq and that they are not going to take part on that. But just like Carl pointed out, the proof's in the pudding.

BLITZER: Senator Levin, how concerned are you about Iran and the possibility there could emerge out of this some sort of Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq?

LEVIN: I'm very much concerned about that. I think there are radical clerics there, Shia clerics in Iraq that take their instruction from Shia clerics in Iran. The majority of the Iraqis are Shia, and as Pat Roberts points out, and I think this represents a significant problem. And we would be very smart to internationalize this effort so as not to play into the propaganda hands of those radical clerics who claim this is an American occupation.

This should not be an American occupation. It is not intended to be an American occupation, but it will be portrayed that way and will be believed to be that by a significant number of people unless we successfully and willingly bring in the international community to participate with us as partners so that we're not looking as though we're trying to dominate or occupy Iraq.

That cannot be and should not be and is not our purpose.

BLITZER: Senator Roberts, you heard both the defense secretary and General Tommy Franks say they're finding these Iraqis one by one, they're questioning them. He left little doubt, General Franks, that eventually they would find the weapons of mass destruction. But a lot of people are frustrated that they haven't found any yet.

ROBERTS: Well, I never expected to find any right off the bat. I thought even under UNSCOM one, the A team, their entire program was constructed, you know, under their very nose, then he had five years to hide it even to a greater degree. And then, with all due respect to the inspectors, they had to rely on American intelligence and other means to try to discover this.

I just don't think people are going to, you know, get in the mine shaft and fall between the slats and say here's a Scud missile and here's the weapon of mass destruction.

I think this discovery as of today, next to some mobile units, next to missiles, next to a munitions depot and also with mustard gas and sarin gas, we're going to have to test that at the Aberdeen grounds, and we will do that, but that certainly is the kind of thing that I think is a positive.

We're going to have to talk to people who know where this is, and we're going to plus-up the inspectors and the officials that had that expertise by a thousand. We already have 500 on the ground.

So consequently, I think over time we will find out where the weapons of mass destruction is, just like Carl has indicated.

BLITZER: And, Senator Levin, one final question to you before I let both of you go. We heard from Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei earlier saying he really wants to come back in with his U.N. inspectors, nuclear inspectors, Dr. Blix.

Should the U.S. let these inspectors back in?

LEVIN: We should welcome them to join us as partners, not as a substitute for our people, but as partners with our people. It will add greatly, immeasurably, to the credibility of any finds. The skepticism about America in this world is so deep that if we find and when we find weapons of mass destruction that many people will not believe it, they'll think, many people around the world will think we planted those weapons, unless the U.N. inspectors are there with us.

Now, I think it's a plus for us to have the U.N. I think it helps reduce the risks, reduce the burdens, and reduce some of the...

BLITZER: All right, we just unfortunately lost that satellite feed, we were wrapping up with Senator Levin and with Senator Roberts. They were kind enough to join us to assess the latest developments.

We had just heard from General Tommy Franks and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. We have much more coverage coming up, including an exclusive interview with Jordan's King Abdullah and Ahmad Chalabi.

All that coming up in the next hour of LATE EDITION, right after a quick check of the latest developments.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our second hour of LATE EDITION. Let's go straight to the Persian Gulf. The U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, is currently on a tour of the region. He's meeting with U.S. troops and leaders in that part of the world.

Secretary Rumsfeld eventually also will be visiting Afghanistan. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is traveling with the secretary. She is joining us live from Doha. That's in Qatar -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Wolf. It's evening here in Qatar. Secretary Rumsfeld arriving a short while ago, continuing a series of meetings with Gulf leaders. He kicked off earlier today in the United Arab Emirates. He's talking to Gulf leaders, he's saying this is not a post-war victory tour. He's here to thank the troops. But he's also talking to Gulf leaders what they want to hear about, is two things. One, when is the U.S. going to turn over a new government to the people of Iraq. The Gulf leaders here are very anxious about that. And they're hearing from Secretary Rumsfeld about the U.S. transition plans for Iraq.

But there is also another issue, and that's the way ahead for the U.S. military here in the region, of course, because for the first time in 12 years, Iraq, the regime of Saddam Hussein, is gone. No longer poses a threat to these countries here in the Persian Gulf, especially Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the smaller countries here in the Gulf. And so the discussion is centering to some extent around what now for the U.S. military in the region. How many military troops will be needed in the future, how long will they stay -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara, the whole purpose of this trip, I know it's not -- I guess -- appropriate to necessarily call it a victory lap or a victory tour, but in effect, it is. Is that fair? STARR: It is, Wolf. The secretary made it very clear when we asked him. He did not want to call it a victory tour. He said he wasn't that type of person. But indeed for the troops here in the Gulf, they -- for them, this is somewhat of a major thank-you from the secretary of defense. He will meet with troops all throughout the region for the next week. It's expected to be a very raucous affair. He's expected to get a very warm welcome from the troops here in the region. He will say thank you to them. But behind the scenes, there is a lot being discussed at the very highest levels. In fact, the secretary was, as we saw earlier, joined by Tommy Franks earlier today in the United Arab Emirates, some very critical discussions with top leaders about this whole question of what now in Iraq and what now for U.S. troops here in this region, can some of them eventually go home -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr, she's joining us from Qatar, Doha -- Qatar, that is. She's traveling with the secretary of defense, and will be throughout the week. We'll be hearing a lot from her and seeing a lot of her over the next several days. Barbara, thanks very much for that report.

Let's go to Baghdad right now. CNN's Jim Clancy is monitoring several rather dramatic developments in the Iraqi capital. Tell us the latest, Jim.

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right. Let's look first. My colleague, Nic Robertson, is up north of Baghdad, about 40 miles or 65 kilometers. He's looking at the possibility there that they have found nerve agents and an unknown blister agent in about a dozen 55- gallon drums. The U.S. military is on the scene there north of Tikrit, the hometown of President Saddam Hussein, and they are checking that out. They warn, these are preliminary tests. They can't say this for sure. They may prove incorrect.

They also found gas masks. They also found other paraphernalia in the area, SAND (ph) missiles, surface-to-surface missiles as well. That investigation is ongoing. But when the word cyclosarin comes up, people are sitting up and taking attention. We're going to hear more on this story from Nic Robertson in the hours ahead.

Meantime, a couple of arrests. One of them perhaps we should have expected it. Muhammad Mohsen Ali Zubaydi, the self-declared mayor of Baghdad, was taken into custody by U.S. troops just hours ago. The reason, we are told, it was for exercising authority that was not his. Now, of course, he burst onto the scene with much prominence. He was promising to pay workers 10 times when they'd been paid before. No one knew quite where he was getting the money from.

Wolf, as I've told you before, we couldn't track down exactly what his background was. He said he was a wealthy businessman who had never worked for anyone. Tonight I've talked to the Iraqi National Congress, and they tell me that he worked for them in intelligence for years. They say that he was the man who helped to smuggle out some Iraqis out of the country, one of the most notable, Saddam Hussein's mistress. She was smuggled out to Beirut, Lebanon. Another arrest, General Hosum Amin. Many or our viewers are going to know that name. He appeared at many press conferences here in Baghdad. He was the director of what was called the National Monitoring Directorate. That was really a group that interfaced between the Iraqis and the U.N. weapons inspectors that were here. It is not known how much he really knows about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. But we can bet tonight that that is the line of questioning that he is undergoing right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Clancy with the latest from Baghdad. We'll be checking back with him, of course, throughout this day. And we'll be checking in with Nic Robertson on that important story, whether or not, whether or not initial tests turn out to be positive or negative. The initial tests turned out to be positive. There could be some chemical weapons just found. We'll see if subsequent, more elaborate testing bears that out.

We're going to continue to check all of those developments.

By the way, just a few hours ago, CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, spoke with Jordan's King Abdullah about the future of Iraq and the road map for a regional peace.

She began by asking him a question that is a still very, very hot topic in the Arab world, whether the conflict in Iraq was a just war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING ABDULLAH, JORDAN: If you look at it from the Iraqi point of view, I think that the Iraqis are relieved that Saddam is no longer a shadow over -- overshadowing Iraq. But the problem on the ground now is how much of a say do they have in their future and how quickly.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And what do you think about that? You know, there's been all sorts of different ideas about how long the American troops will stay there, how long an American administration will govern that country. What is it that your country, you yourself, hope to see there?

ABDULLAH: Well, what we hope in Jordan, and I believe has been articulated by President Bush and Tony Blair, would be that the Iraqis have a substantial say as quickly as possible and a substantial presence in an interim and then leading on to a future government. And time is of the essence.

AMANPOUR: And how, realistically, is that? Two months of American presence, two years, something in between, what do you think?

ABDULLAH: Unfortunately, I think just the necessities on the ground, it's longer than everybody would like, simply because order needs to be restored. And you're going to have to find the right Iraqis to be able to move into that position as quickly as possible, as well as getting the international community involved. The international community cannot step in tomorrow.

And so I think there's some practicalities on the ground, unfortunately, that will make things take a little while longer.

AMANPOUR: You know, there's a lot of anxiety, let's say, in the Arab world about who's next. It was Iraq, and who's going to be next? Do you feel that anxiety?

ABDULLAH: No, I mean, there is anxiety definitely in the Arab street and a lot of suspicion and frustration, but I don't believe that there's going to be somebody who's next on the list.

If there's anything that's next on the list, it's the Israeli- Palestinian issue. And that would hearten all of us, because that is the core issue, as you well know, of all the problems that we have in the Middle East.

AMANPOUR: The roadmap that the Americans say they will publish, now that there has been a cabinet approved, when -- a Palestinian cabinet approved -- when have you been told that the roadmap will be published?

ABDULLAH: Well there's, we heard Wednesday as a possible date, and we want it, obviously, as soon as possible.

But then I think we have to understand that it's just more than announcing the road map, OK? When the roadmap is announced, hopefully in the next several days, what happens after that? It needs action by the United Nations, by the quartet particularly, and in specific the United States, to be able to start moving the new Palestinian government and the Israeli one toward discussions.

AMANPOUR: So there's been a lot of pressure on the Palestinians to have brought them to this position where Arafat has agreed to have a new government, a new cabinet, et cetera.

And there are many people, certainly in the Arab world, who say that there needs to be a lot of pressure brought now, specifically on the prime minister of Israel.

Is that something that you believe President Bush will do, given how it's been going over the last couple of years that Ariel Sharon has been there?

ABDULLAH: Well, the problem, obviously, was Iraq was an excuse that sort of sidetracked a lot of people away from the Israeli- Palestinian issue.

I know from my discussions with the American administration, and recently with Prime Minister Blair, that I think the president of the United States is committed to take whatever is needed to solve the problems between the Israelis and Palestinians, which would mean pressure on both sides to get their act together and move forward.

AMANPOUR: You yourself, Jordan itself, has made peace with Israel. You are a friend of the United States. You have got plenty of alliances that are strategic.

But you must feel also what exists all over the Arab world, as far as many people can gather, and that is a deep feeling of anti- Americanism these days. Do you feel that?

ABDULLAH: You feel that throughout the Middle East, and the same in Jordan, which has always been a very open-minded country toward everybody in the region and further afield.

And the problem is is that there are suspicions of why the Americans and the coalitions went into Iraq. Obviously, the coalition forces say that they're there to liberate the Iraqis and give them a new future, but people throughout the Middle East are very skeptical.

The only way that you're going to make the right impression on the Arab street and throughout the whole region is to show if there's going to be some transparency and an effort to solve the Israeli- Palestinian one.

So there's a lot riding on the roadmap and how the American administration deals with it. If we don't move quickly, then everybody in the Middle East will say, well, this is just part of an agenda and there's a list of who's next.

AMANPOUR: The whole notion of the so-called democracy domino theory, once Iraq goes then the rest of the Arab world will follow suit, democratic, pluralistic, et cetera...

ABDULLAH: If you solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Because, again, the onus on security, on having to watch out because of the instability of the area will always be used as an excuse by leaders not to be able to develop democracy or freedom in the way that we all want.

And I can see in Jordan, although we're moving in the right direction and we'd like to accelerate that pace, with the cloud of the Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Arab issue hanging over our heads, we'll never have the secure, stable atmosphere, not only in Jordan but throughout the whole Middle East, to be able to develop in the way that we want.

AMANPOUR: So let's talk about Iraq. One of the things that people were quite worried about before the war was the breakup of Iraq into the three constituent parts. First of all, do you still have that worry?

ABDULLAH: Yes.

AMANPOUR: You do still?

ABDULLAH: Yes. And in particular, what we've been seeing in the south recently, the conflict inside the Shiite community, could spill over to create more of a break-up or fragmentation of Iraqi society.

Also, as the American administrators come in, they need to give an Iraqi depth to an interim government. Because, at the moment, if you have just a north, central and a southern administrational areas, then by de facto, you're actually creating three parts of Iraq. So you need a national character as quickly as possible. AMANPOUR: Are you surprised that there hasn't been a, whatever you want to call it, a transitional or an interim governing body set up already? For instance, in Afghanistan, there was, even before the war ended.

ABDULLAH: I would have thought that there would have -- they should have moved faster. And the vacuum that's there at the moment is not helping the situation on the ground.

But again, I mean, we're not aware of the intricacies of what the coalition have been planning, so it's difficult for us to pass judgment.

But I think that we're all a bit disappointed that things have not moved as quickly as they should have. But let's see what the next week will entail.

If we don't see something in the next several weeks, then I think that the situation on the ground will start to get worse.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: King Abdullah of Jordan speaking with CNN's Christiane Amanpour in London just a little while ago.

Up next, much more coverage of the new Iraq. We'll talk with the Iraq National Congress leader, Ahmad Chalabi, about the state of Iraq's post-war government.

And has Syria gotten the message from the White House? The U.S. House International Relations Committee's top Democrat, Congressman Tom Lantos, is touring the region right now, has just met with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad. We'll talk with him live when this special LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. The Bush administration is hoping that the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq will spark democratic reforms and anti-terrorism measures throughout the region.

Congressman Tom Lantos of California is the top Democrat on the U.S. House International Relations Committee. He's in the Middle East right now for meetings with Israeli, Palestinian and Syrian leaders. He's joining us now live from Jerusalem.

Congressman Lantos, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

First of all, let's talk about your meeting over the weekend with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad. Is he taking the necessary steps to remove concerns that he may be still cooperating with elements from the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein?

REP. TOM LANTOS (D), CALIFORNIA: No, he hasn't done it yet. I had a long and cordial meeting with Mr. Asad. I made it very clear to him that we are fully aware of the atrocious and abominable behavior of Syria in the months leading up to the war and during the war.

They transferred to Saddam Hussein important weaponry. They allowed or encouraged thousands of Syrians to join Saddam Hussein in this pathetic military adventure of his in trying to resist our forces. And they now see the horrendous mistakes they have committed. The president admitted so much.

I pointed out to him that he has a choice to make. He's at the crossroads. Syria can, in fact, open a new chapter if they close down all the terrorist headquarters they now operate in Damascus; if they stop supplying Hezbollah, the terrorist organization in Lebanon; if they get out of Lebanon; if they turn over to us all of the Iraqis who are currently in Syria; and they move toward some degree of improvement in their own domestic human rights situation.

They have members of Parliament in prison. They have journalists in prison. They have academicians in prison. It's a long-standing, horrible dictatorship.

I hope that...

BLITZER: Did you get any sense, Congressman Lantos -- excuse me, Representative Lantos, did you get any sense that Syrian President Asad is going to take any of those steps that you urged him to take?

LANTOS: Well, I don't want to be overly optimistic. Secretary Powell will be in Damascus in a few days. I think my visit made his visit much easier. I laid out the American agenda. I was with him for a long time. The foreign minister was present. And he took on board all of my suggestions.

Only time will tell whether Syria will act in its own best interests.

BLITZER: Well, I want to put a map of Syria up on the screen and show it's, obviously, a neighbor of both Iraq and Lebanon.

One issue you say you raised is for Syrian troops to get out of Lebanon. Did he indicate that that was possible?

LANTOS: I think all of the items I told him are possible items. This is a dictatorship. Asad is in control. The notion that he is just a puppet of his father's old cronies I don't think is accurate. He is in full charge. He can take whatever decisions he wants to take.

He has been a very bad actor since he assumed office. And I indicated to him, he is an intelligent young man, that this is his chance to set things right. After all, we are at a crossroads in Middle East history, and the dictators of the past have an opportunity to change their behavior. There is an enormous amount of behavior that Asad will have to change if he is to be part of the new Middle East.

BLITZER: One final question, Congressman Lantos, before I let you go. Senator Levin, a member of the Intelligence Committee, was on this program in the previous hour. He raised the possibility that not only are the Syrians harboring Iraqi officials of the former regime, but may, in fact, be harboring Saddam Hussein and his two sons as well. And Senator Pat Roberts, the chairman of that committee, said that was possible, although he didn't think it was necessarily likely.

Did you get any indication whatsoever that Saddam Hussein might be in Syria?

LANTOS: Well, there are all kinds of rumors to this effect. I certainly don't have any evidence to substantiate the statement.

I think it's obvious that during recent months, Syria has moved closer to Saddam Hussein.

They have clearly provided haven to top Iraqi officials, and I think that speculation may prove out to be accurate. But we have no evidence.

There are also rumors, Wolf, that weapons of mass destruction have been transferred to Syria in recent times. We have no firm evidence. But given the behavior of this government, given the outrageous statements made by Syrian leaders, including the president, the foreign minister and others, everything is possible.

Nevertheless, I told the president I came on a mission of peace. If he recognizes the mistakes of the past and turns in a new direction, the United States is certainly prepared to look ahead and cooperate with Syria in cleaning up this horrendous cesspool that these dictatorships have left in their wake.

But Asad has to take action. Verbiage and commentary will not be enough.

BLITZER: Congressman Tom Lantos, the top Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, in Jerusalem. He'll be meeting with Abu Mazen, the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, tomorrow. Also meeting with the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

Maybe we'll speak with you during the week after those meetings as well. Congressman Tom Lantos, always good to have you on LATE EDITION. Thanks very much.

Much more coverage of the new Iraq coming up on this LATE EDITION. When we come back, we'll speak with Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi exile leader, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress. We'll speak with him from Baghdad.

That and much more. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. With Saddam Hussein out of power, Iraq faces some critical questions about its political future.

The U.S.-led coalition is adamant that Iraqis will decide who their new leader will be, and they'll decide that through democratic elections.

A little while ago I spoke with Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the exile opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress. He is also a man that some members of the Bush administration have been promoting as a possible interim leader in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Mr. Chalabi, welcome to LATE EDITION. Thanks so much for joining us.

Let's get right to the issue at hand, the stability, the effort to reorganize Iraq. Where does it stand right now?

AHMAD CHALABI, IRAQI NATIONAL CONGRESS: The security situation in Iraq in general, and in Baghdad in particular, is not too good right now. The situation of the water and the electricity is not in great shape. Also, the telecommunication situation is not good.

The water flow in the rivers is very strong because Saddam opened the floodgates on the 20th of March for the water to flow in the Tigris and the Euphrates. And while there is plenty of water now, we are concerned that when August comes and there's a dearth of water, the reservoirs will be depleted.

All these things need fixing. Also, people are short of salaries. They have no money. They haven't been paid since February. They also need some funds.

I saw Jay Garner and he said to me that he is going to give an emergency payment of $20 to every employee of the Iraqi government. People are looking, that's pretty low, but he said he's going to make another emergency payment quickly for people who return to work.

We need to move forward, and I think the faster we can have an Iraqi authority in charge of things, the better we can improve the situation.

BLITZER: When we spoke about two and a half, three weeks ago, you complained that General Garner was slow in arriving in Iraq, especially in southern Iraq. He is now in Baghdad, as you know.

Could he have done a better job, moving more quickly, immediately after the major combat was over?

CHALABI: Jay Garner came to Baghdad and he went to the north, went to the south, he came to see me here on Thursday. He came with Ambassador Margaret Tutwiler and others of his team.

We had a very good meeting. Jay Garner explained to me, and I learned earlier also that he was not, he was very willing to come to Iraq as soon as the coalition entered. It was not up to him.

But he's doing his best now to get things moving, and we are cooperating with him, and we will improve the situation pretty quickly. He encouraged us to have a meeting of the opposition leadership in Baghdad.

We were planning to do it, and he said that was a good idea, and I think we will move forward to cooperate with him. He is in favor of giving the Iraqis authority as quickly as it can be done.

BLITZER: You didn't participate in that so-called town meeting in Nasiriyah a couple of weeks ago. Are you going to participate in the next meeting in Baghdad?

CHALABI: The meeting is tomorrow. I will make up my mind after consultations with my colleagues and others who are invited tonight, but I believe the meeting is a good idea, and it will move forward the agenda of putting in an interim Iraqi authority in position in Iraq so that we can get on with reconstruction of the country and the development of democracy.

BLITZER: How long will it take to create that interim Iraqi authority?

CHALABI: We can move forward to create it quickly, I don't want to give a specific time, but things are -- the Iraqis are demanding this. Many, many Iraqis want this to start right away. They believe that this will improve the situation of security.

It's also, the authority will be more responsive to Iraqi demands, and also the Iraqi interim, Iraqi authority can get on quickly with the business of de-Baathification. Remnants of the Baath Party still exist, in terms of organization they are meeting, and people are concerned about what might happen because of the Baath.

I think the security situation will be difficult to improve unless there is de-Baathification well ahead at this time.

BLITZER: There is still a huge question mark out there, where is Saddam Hussein? What do you believe? Is he alive? Is he dead? And if he is alive, where is he?

CHALABI: I believe Saddam is still alive, and his sons are also alive. They are not in the same place, they are in separate places. And he is reported -- we get reports, credible reports of where he had been, a day or two earlier. What we need to do is work to get an idea of where he would be so that he can be apprehended.

I should tell you that Saddam, on the 1st of April, requested the head of the Mukhabarat, the intelligence service, Bahar Jalil Habush (ph), to provide him with vests of suicide bombers. He was given those vests and he took personal training, he and his secretary, Aboud Hamoud (ph), on those vests, and he has them with him now.

BLITZER: So are you suggesting that if he gets close to being captured, he would commit suicide?

CHALABI: I'm not suggesting anything of the kind, but I'm saying that he has the ability to do so, should he decide to commit suicide or blow people up with him when they come to catch him. BLITZER: So you don't believe he'd be willing to be taken alive, or that he had changed his appearance, undergone some cosmetic surgery? That he is willing to die for his cause, is that what you're saying?

CHALABI: No, I don't know that. I don't know what he has decided. All I'm saying is that he has -- this is a piece of information that came to us from intelligence officers who came to be debriefed here, and they confirmed this from two sources, that he has taken possession of those suicide belts, and that he has them in his possession, and he was trained on them, he and his secretary, Aboud Hamoud (ph).

BLITZER: What do you think of the search for weapons of mass destruction? Still no so-called smoking gun. Is the U.S. going to find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction?

CHALABI: I believe that the U.S. will find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. They said (ph) they (ph) found the software. We have been talking to many of the scientists who were involved in these programs, and they confirm the manufacture of those weapons.

Also, there should be more cooperation with Iraqis to find those sites and to find the weapons. Saddam has done a great job of hiding the weapons and disseminating false information about them.

The cooperation of Iraqis is very important, and I will give you an example of how can this work. Today was a good day for us, because we returned some of the stolen antiquities from the Iraqi museum to the new museum authorities in the presence of U.S. military personnel, who were there to witness this return of the artifacts. Those artifacts were found by one of -- by an Iraqi citizen, and he brought them to us from southern Iraq a few days ago. We displayed them, and we delivered them to -- for safety, being back into the museum officials' hands.

BLITZER: Mr. Chalabi, as you well know, you've been sharply criticized by some, both inside Iraq, as well as outside Iraq. I want to read to you from an article in today's "Washington Post."

The article says, among other things, it says this: "To many here," referring in Baghdad, "Chalabi is seen as a Pentagon puppet and an opportunist who is living large, out of touch with Iraqis who stayed in Iraq and weathered fallen President Saddam Hussein's brutality."

How serious do you take this criticism?

CHALABI: This criticism is largely uninformed. There were thousands of my countrymen came to visit me in Baghdad. There is no such feeling. People are happy. They congratulate me on helping persuade the United States come to liberate Iraq.

I think that the Iraqis are pretty happy that the United States came here to liberate them from Saddam, and also they are grateful to those who participated in persuading the United States. There is a great deal of support and understanding, and there is no daylight between me and Iraqis here who stayed throughout Saddam's regime. They are the main reason why Saddam was discredited. They opposed him. We praise them -- I praise them for that, and they also sympathize with our difficulties of being in exile. There is complete harmony in views between us.

I think this preoccupation about perceptions of being U.S. puppet is largely false. I think that correspondent is mainly quoting people with a fundamentalist agenda who equate me and my activities with the U.S. presence, mistaken as this is. And he is repeating some of the slogans that were reported over the past week that said, "No to America, and no to Chalabi."

BLITZER: What about the fact that the Shiites, at least many of them in the south, demonstrated vocally against the United States, "Death to America"? We heard in Karbala, we heard it elsewhere among the Shiites, who represent some 60 percent of the people of Iraq.

You yourself are a Shiite, albeit a secular Shiite. How concerned should the international community be, should you be, about an Iranian-like Shiite theocracy emerging out of the ashes of Saddam Hussein?

CHALABI: The majority of Iraqis are of the Shiah Islamic faith. I don't believe that the majority of them would favor a fundamentalist Islamic government in Iraq, and I don't think that, from what I hear and see from people, that they would want to be dominated by Iran.

Iraqis are a proud people. Now they don't feel vanquished. They think that they are victorious. They are very proud of their independence, and they will preserve and protect this independence.

I do not believe that there is a major danger of a Shiite fundamentalist Islamic government in Iraq. I believe that, if we cooperate properly with the international community, and especially with the United States, and we have democratic elections based on a constitution that will uphold the transfer of power by orderly means, then the election will bring about an Iraqi government that is liberal, democratic, and committed to the orderly transfer of power, which would express gratitude for the United States for liberating Iraq, would support -- would also express gratitude to President Bush for helping liberate the Iraqi people, and would cooperate with the United States, and Iraq and the United States would be friends.

I believe that this hype about Shiite fundamentalism is something that is being played up unnecessarily. The absolute majority of Iraqis are grateful to the United States, and they want the United States to help the Iraqi people establish a democratic government in Iraq.

BLITZER: Mr. Chalabi, one final question before I let you go. As you know, Egypt and Jordan have peace treaties with Israel. Do you believe the next government of Iraq should establish a peaceful relationship with Israel?

CHALABI: I would like to tell you that yesterday I sent for and received a member of the minuscule Jewish community in Baghdad. I met with him. He was a cultured man. But he was very, very scared about himself and his community. We tried to reassure him. And I believe that the United States forces should take an active part in providing protection for the 50 or so Jews left in Baghdad at this time.

The issue of establishing relations with Israel is up to the future government of Iraq. I cannot speak for the future government of Iraq. But I believe that Iraq should support the establishment of peace among the Israelis and the Palestinians, and should support any settlement that comes out from -- between the two through U.S. mediation. And I think that Iraq should not be in a position of hostility or animosity to the emerging settlement, both to the Palestinians and the Israelis.

BLITZER: Mr. Chalabi, good luck to you. Good luck to all the people of Iraq. Thanks so much for joining us on LATE EDITION.

CHALABI: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Just ahead, key members of Saddam Hussein's inner circle are in coalition custody, but will that lead to the former Iraqi leader himself? We'll get special insight from the former CIA director James Woolsey, the former U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Pat Lang, and CNN analyst Ken Pollack.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Just a few -- a little while ago in McAllen (ph), Texas, there was a homecoming rally in support of Army Specialist Edgar Hernandez, one of those former POWs from the 507th Maintenance Company. Hernandez spoke to the crowd. I want our viewers to listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARMY SPECIALIST EDGAR HERNANDEZ: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Commissioner (UNINTELLIGIBLE), on behalf of my family, my fellow returnees and those still in harm's way, I want to thank the American public for their prayer and their support of our efforts to free the Iraqi people. And let's not forget the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

I want to publicly thank my mom and dad for their prayers through my captivity. Their prayers worked. They never lost their faith in God.

I also want to extend a special thank-you to the Valley (ph) citizens and business. Your support and generosity extended to my family is appreciated beyond words. We can't thank you enough. May God bless you all.

My family and I plan to spend the next few days privately and with as few distractions as possible. I especially look forward to Mom's home cooking and beginning to get my life back to normal.

To the media, I'm aware of your many requests for interviews, and I will consider them in time. In the meantime, I ask your patience in our request for privacy.

God bless America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Army Specialist Edgar Hernandez back home in Texas after a grueling ordeal, three weeks as a POW in Iraq, from the 507th Maintenance Company.

Much more coverage coming up. Analysis, where is Saddam Hussein, and what his weapons of mass destruction? That and much more with our panel, as soon as we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD: Our policy in Iraq is simple. It is to stay as long as necessary to finish our work, and then to leave Iraq to the Iraqi people as soon as that work is done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, outlining the Bush administration's plan for a post-war Iraq.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now with some perspective on where Iraq goes from here, the search for Saddam Hussein, as well as the hunt for illegal weapons, are three special guests: James Woolsey is the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Retired U.S. Army Colonel Pat Lang is a former Middle East analyst with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. And Ken Pollack is senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution here in Washington. He's, of course, a CNN analyst, as well.

Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION.

And, Director Woolsey, let me begin with you. The arrest today, the capture of this General Hossam Muhammed Amin, who was the head of the so-called Iraqi Monitoring Commission, whatever that was, but he was the liaison between Hans Blix and Dr. ElBaradei, the U.N. inspectors and the Iraqi government.

Does he know the real substance of where weapons of mass destruction might be?

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, he probably knows a great deal. He was sort of the head of the Iraqi hide-the-ball ministry. I think that what's important is that a lot of what we were looking for and are still looking for are not big things like nuclear reactors. They're canisters of VX or sarin or the nerve gas or their small containers of anthrax or botulinum. And they could be most anywhere, could be buried.

And there was a very good story early last week by Judy Miller in the "New York Times" that stressed that there's a new, I guess he was a defector or captured, but I think he volunteered to the coalition forces, Iraqi scientist who was with the nerve gas program and talked about their orders just a day or two before the war started to destroy substantial amounts of nerve gas and to secrete even further some of the wherewithal to make nerve gas again.

So this could be quite a hunt in order to find what's left.

BLITZER: What about the capture this week of probably the most visible Iraqi, at least to an international audience, Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister under Saddam Hussein?

Is he someone who would really know not only the secrets of the weapons of mass destruction but the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein?

PAT LANG, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY ANALYST: I don't know about the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein. If he's gone underground somewhere and is still alive, there might be just a very few people from the former regime who know where he is.

But in regard to a great many other things, he has to know a lot. He was a member of the inner circle definitely, and participated in policy discussions, and was an intimate associate of Saddam's for many years, in spite of having been imprisoned by him at various times.

So I would think that he knows a lot that would be very valuable. Although I heard earlier today, to some surprise, that General Franks said that they aren't sure he's telling the truth, which I hope doesn't mean they're just not happy with what he's telling them.

BLITZER: Well, what is your assessment? Are these guys, these captured Iraqis likely to spill the beans and tell the truth, thinking that that's going to save themselves? Or will they continue to dissemble, if you will?

KEN POLLACK, CNN ANALYST: I think they'll start out dissembling. I think all of them are right now very nervous about exactly what their status is, about whether they're going to be put on trial for crimes against humanity, about whether or not Saddam is going to be able to reach out and get them in some way, shape or form.

But my expectation is that, over the course of time, their stories are going to change. I think U.S. interrogators are going to be very patient with them they're going to take a long time, and I think over the course of time the truth will come out.

BLITZER: The arrest, also, not one of the members of the 55 in the playing card, but Farouk Hijazi. This was someone who was high up in the intelligence community in Iraq.

You believe he's one of the most important captures so far.

WOOLSEY: I think that was an important capture. He headed foreign operations, we're told, for a time, for the Mukhabarat. And there is suspicion he may have been involved in the plot to assassinate former President Bush in 1993 in Kuwait.

On the public record, there's two descriptions of meetings between him and Osama bin Laden, one in 1994 in Sudan, one in 1998 in Afghanistan. And today in the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph in London, there is more material about al Qaeda, Iraqi Mukhabarat meetings in 1998.

So as things go on and we get more documents, as the Telegraph did, as we questions Hijazi and so forth, this may get very interesting.

BLITZER: But just because there's meetings, that doesn't necessarily mean that Saddam Hussein and Iraq were involved in planning 9/11.

WOOLSEY: Not necessarily. These two outfits, the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda, are sort of like two Mafia families. They hate each other. They killed each other from time to time. They insulted one another. I think they're perfectly capable of cooperating here and there on one thing and another.

It may well not have been that Saddam's forces, intelligence forces, were directly involved in 9/11, but they could well have been involved in a number of things with al Qaeda. And we'll just have to see.

BLITZER: All right, everybody hold their thoughts. We're going to pick that up. We're going to take a quick break.

We have a lot more to talk about, including Syria, Saddam Hussein -- where might he be? All that is coming up on the next hour of LATE EDITION.

But 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 with our intelligence panel: Lang, Woolsey and Pollack.

Then, the killing of Laci Peterson and her unborn son. We'll get some legal insight into the murder case against her husband, Scott. Is it strong enough to result in the death penalty?

Plus your phone calls. Our "Final Round." LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And we're also continuing our intelligence panel with three special guests. Much more on that coming up.

First let's check in to see what the latest is on the military battlefield. The defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, is currently touring the Persian Gulf. He says the primary goal is to say thanks to U.S. and coalition forces, but he's also speaking with leaders in the region, briefing senior officers.

Joining us now from the Pentagon with more is CNN's Patty Davis.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Let's continue our discussion now about post-war Iraq with former CIA Director James Woolsey, former U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency analyst retired U.S. Army Colonel Pat Lang, and CNN analyst Ken Pollack.

Let's pick up where General Franks, Director Woolsey, just left off. He said specifically, "I've seen nothing recently to convince me he's alive," referring to Saddam Hussein. So, we really don't know if he's alive, dead, hiding, changed his appearance.

What's your assessment?

WOOLSEY: I think we really don't. And it's hard to know where the burden of proof lies here. I just -- there was a Web report this morning that says he's in Belarus.

I mean, who knows? I'm sure they're continuing to look really hard for him or remains, and they're searching those two sites that we bombed for DNA that's compatible with his. All of these things are just going to have to go on for a while, while we see what happens.

BLITZER: These words are very carefully chosen by someone like Tommy Franks, when he says, "I've seen nothing recently to convince me he's alive," meaning that the intelligence that they're getting indicates there's no chatter, no communications, no photographic evidence whatsoever that he may be roaming around someplace.

LANG: Well, he may be, in fact. You know, I think General Franks is precisely correct.

But I think we have to remember that the Baath Party in Iraq was, in fact, quite a large movement, and there's still a lot of supporters. My information indicates to me a lot of them are underground.

And if he is still alive and is either being hidden by them or has gone overseas to act as a focus for resistance, he's going to surface one way or another in order to be effective. He has to, somehow, and we'll find out.

BLITZER: You spent years at the CIA studying these kinds of nuggets, these kinds of little indications, one way or another. If he were dead, though, weren't that -- wouldn't -- how could you keep something like that secret? POLLACK: Well, our assumption always was, Wolf, that if Saddam Hussein were dead, we'd know about it, for exactly that reason -- because we assume that Saddam Hussein, his death would create such a vacuum that it would cause rifts within Iraq's power structure, and we'd start to see the place coming apart at the seams.

But it may be that Saddam died earlier on in one of these attacks. And if that's the case, someone clearly did hold this regime together, which would suggest a degree of cohesion which, I think, that all of us didn't expect and, would put it this way, all of us hoped it wouldn't be the case.

BLITZER: The point also is that a lot of analysts thought that one of the reasons why there was no weapons of mass destruction used against U.S. and British troops as they moved in is because Saddam was the one that would give that order, and he wasn't around from day one to give any order.

WOOLSEY: It's possible that some of the things that we feared that might happen -- Scud attacks on Israel, weapons of mass destruction use, chemical weapons against Kuwait, the Kurds -- a number of these things could have been planned, but didn't occur because he was either killed or badly injured or he was somehow cut off and couldn't communicate. All of these things are possible.

LANG: That may well be true, but at the same time, they did do quite a job of decentralizing command authority on the eve of war in order to try to take care of the contingency in which there wouldn't be any command structure anymore.

And I thought from the second bombing against him, when everything suddenly fell to pieces, that that was a great indicator he was probably dead.

But now there's a lot of conflicting evidence. But as I say, he can't stay on the ground forever if he is alive.

BLITZER: Let me read to you a quote from President Bush he gave Tom Brokaw on an interview earlier in the week. And he said this: "The people that wonder if Saddam Hussein is dead or not -- there's some evidence that says, suggests that he might be. We would never make that declaration until we were more certain. But the person that helped direct the attacks believes that Saddam, at the very minimum, was severely wounded."

POLLACK: Right, well, this goes back to the intelligence that surrounded at least that initial attack on Saddam Hussein, where it's clear that U.S. intelligence had at least one good source who was able to pinpoint Saddam's location.

And that source is clearly reporting back that Saddam was at the location, that the bomb hit the targets and that something did happen along those lines. So there is expectation that Saddam might, in fact, be dead based on this single-source reporting.

But it's always worth keeping in mind that, you know, Saddam, he is -- he's rather foxy. He has got more lives than a cat, and there have been any number of occasions when people thought he was an absolute goner.

You know, we should remember that after the first Gulf war, there were any number of people in the Arab world, even here in Washington, who were saying there is no possible way that Saddam Hussein can survive the defeat of his army in Kuwait. And yet, he survived it.

BLITZER: Director Woolsey -- and I want to throw this out to the entire panel -- Senator Levin suggested that it's possible, he believes it's possible Saddam Hussein is in Syria right now.

WOOLSEY: It is. It's possible. I mean, I do not trust the Syrian government any further than I can throw it. And I don't care what they are saying. What they're doing could well be something quite different.

I saw the very direct statements that Congressman Tom Lantos, earlier on your show, gave to Bashar Asad, and I think those points were well taken. They need to change not just what they say but what they do. And it's not impossible that he's there. I think it's less than likely, but it's not impossible.

BLITZER: Go ahead, I'll get your thoughts on this as well.

LANG: Yeah, I think that the Syrian government is acting in such a bull-headed way and obdurate way about everything that's going on, that anything is possible, as Director Woolsey says.

Because, in fact, the hard-liners there, who seem to be in control of the situation, have convinced themselves that American electoral politics have now taken over, and that they are relatively secure until after the next presidential election. And that, on that basis, they can throw us some tidbits here and there, a few Iraqi officials, things like that, and nothing much will happen to them.

And to tell you the truth, I didn't agree with everything Mr. Gingrich said the other day, but the part about the secretary of state going to Damascus, I think, is in fact going to encourage the hard- liners to believe that they're in good shape.

BLITZER: He said that it was ludicrous for the sercretary of state to be going to Damasacus. What do you think?

POLLACK: Just to fill out the picture a little bit, I absolutely agree with everything that Jim and Pat have said, but I think we also need to look at it from Saddam's perspective. I think this just adds to the complications of the situation, where, if you look at it from Saddam's perspective, it's not clear what being in Syria buys him.

In Syria, certainly if he were someplace else, they might want to keep him like a caged animal. It's something that Saddam has always been concerned about, that he would be some kind of great attraction, if he were there he'd be kept under lock and key, he wouldn't be able to do what he wants to do. Saddam needs to get himself back into power. That is clearly his goal, he is trying to muster support. And from his own perspective, it seems a little bit tough to understand why being in Syria would be the best way to advance that goal.

BLITZER: You know the bureaucracy. And I want to play that sound bite from Newt Gingrich, when he basically said the State Department of the Bush undermining the Bush administration's policy.

I think we have a clip from what the former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, coming out this week, some suggesting he's speaking for others, especially at the Defense Department, in criticizing Colin Powell and the State Department. But listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: The last seven months have involved six months of diplomatic failure and one month of military success. The first days after military victory indicate the pattern of diplomatic failure is beginning once again, and threatens to undo the effects of military victory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you make of that? It was somewhat unusual for Newt Gingrich to be, in effect, blasting at least a big chunk of the Bush administration.

LANG: Well, that segment right there really didn't blast the administration per se, but I think it's more complicated than what Newt said.

We really had a diplomatic success in getting the initial U.N. resolution. Then the reason we went back to try to get the second one, I think, had a lot more to do with helping Tony Blair out than it did really thinking that the U.S. government needed it. We did fail in getting the second one, and we failed but I think principally through French duplicity, not through American incompetence.

I do think that there are some problems down in the State Department bureaucracy on certain aspects of the Middle East, but I wouldn't include Secretary Powell in the criticism.

BLITZER: You're a veteran of the bureaucracy, bureaucratic battle, turf warfare. What's your assessments?

WOOLSEY: Well, of course, I'm one of the Arabists they were talking about, not in the State Department but in the Defense Department.

(CROSSTALK)

WOOLSEY: Well, thank you. I appreciate that.

But Mr. Gingrich's direct attack on the Foreign Service officers of the Near East Bureau was, I found, amazing, because, as I mentioned to someone earlier, in fact, you know, people ask advice of such people but they're not determining in policy normally. And Mr. Powell is following his own course of action, and I think it's absurd to point this thing in that way.

So I really think that no matter what Gingrich said about this not being an attack on Powell as a matter of interdepartmental politics, that, in fact, I can't really see it as anything else.

BLITZER: You get the last word, Ken.

POLLACK: Yes, I think that there is some still jockeying going on. You know, what we've seen with the Bush administration, there's some deep divisions over policy. And my expectation is that Newt Gingrich is acting as a stalking horse for somebody else, and I think that what we ought to take away from this is we're going to have some pretty heavy policy debates in the days ahead.

BLITZER: Ken Pollack, Jim Woolsey, Pat Lang, thanks very much. Good discussion.

Coming up next, we'll get some legal insight into the murder case of Laci Peterson and her unborn son. Her husband Scott has been charged with the crime. How strong is the case?

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

The district attorney in Modesto, California, plans to seek the death penalty in the killing of Laci Peterson. Peterson's husband Scott is charged with two counts of murder for the deaths of his pregnant wife and their son, who was due in February.

Laci Peterson disappeared, as you all know, last Christmas Eve. Her body and that of her son's was discovered two weeks ago along San Francisco Bay.

For some legal insight, we turn to two specialists: the criminal defense attorney Roy Black -- he's joining us now live from Miami -- and the University of Southern California law professor Irwin Chemerinsky -- he's joining us live from Los Angeles.

Welcome to LATE EDITION, both.

Roy, let me begin with you. Based on what you know -- and we don't know a whole lot about the specifics of the actual evidence -- but what we do know right now, how strong of a case do they have against Scott Peterson?

ROY BLACK, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Wolf, everybody in the country has virtually opined that Scott Peterson is guilty of this case, without even really looking into the evidence.

The part that I find unique about this is, there's one crucial piece of evidence missing, and that is, what is the cause of death? Nobody has yet come to an opinion as to what caused this woman's death. Until we find that out, it's awful hard to put together a circumstantial case against Scott Peterson or anyone else.

BLITZER: Well, what about that, Irwin? Without the cause of death in these two bodies, the fetus, eight-month old fetus, as well as Laci Peterson, those bodies were badly decomposed, having spent what, a couple of months, three, four months in the waters, in the ocean, the Pacific Ocean, can they determine the cause of death based on what they have?

IRWIN CHEMERINSKY, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHER CALIFORNIA LAW PROFESSOR: We don't know, and we don't know if they can build a case without knowing the cause of death.

The reality is, we know almost none of the evidence in this case. This case had fewer police leaks to the media than almost any other. We know that apparently he bought some ankleweights that are missing. We know that there was cement at his house that he couldn't explain, cement residue in his boat, and the bodies were found near where he was fishing.

But I think that's the summary of all of the evidence at this point, and I think everyone would agree, that by itself wouldn't be enough for a conviction.

BLITZER: Well, can you convict someone of murder -- double murder in this case -- Irwin, without having a cause of death?

CHEMERINSKY: Sure, it's possible to convict somebody without a cause of death. It's possible, in some instances, to convict somebody without ever finding the dead body. The question is, how strong is the evidence that would link him?

Imagine -- and I am making all of this up -- that it could be found that her blood was in his house, it could be found that the cement was in his boat, you could tie that cement to the cement that was found on her feet -- again, I'm making all of this up. You could then convict somebody without knowing the cause of death, but it's sure a lot more difficult, as Roy said.

BLITZER: What does it say to you, Roy, that they didn't file charges, these murder charges, against Scott Peterson until after they actually found the bodies and confirmed through DNA analysis that those bodies were, in fact, Laci Peterson and her unborn son?

BLACK: Well, Wolf, I don't think they had much of a choice about that, because they're putting together a circumstantial case, and when you're doing that, you have to exclude every single hypothesis or reasonable hypothesis of innocence. If they had not found the bodies, there would always be this argument that, you know, she went missing or kidnapped or she ran off by herself.

So I don't think the police really could have arrested him and put a case together unless they either found the body or had pretty conclusive proof that she was dead. BLITZER: We heard from the father of Scott Peterson during the course of the week. Irwin, I want our viewers and I want you to listen to what the father said, and then I have a specific question. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEE PETERSON, FATHER OF SCOTT PETERSON: They made a rush to judgment, because of all the media pressure, I believe, the politics. And he's in there. He should not be. And we're going to find out who did it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Obviously, this is a loving father. He can't believe his son could commit the crime that he's alleged to have committed.

But the prosecution continues to insist they have a very, very strong case, and they're going to seek the death penalty, because it's a double murder.

Is there any question under California law that an eight-month old fetus is in fact a human being, and that they can go for a double murder, which would give them the special circumstance allowing the death penalty?

CHEMERINSKY: There's no question that under California law that the murder of a fetus of greater than eight weeks can be charged as a homicide, and there's no doubt that a double murder is special circumstance under California law.

Now, whether the prosecution can prove it, how strong their evidence is -- that we can't evaluate at this point in time.

BLITZER: Well, what do you specifically mean by that point, whether they can prove what?

CHEMERINSKY: Whether they can prove Scott Peterson is responsible for the death of these two individuals.

My only point is, under California law, if it could be proven that he killed a pregnant woman with a fetus at eight months, that is sufficient for the death penalty. It does meet the requirements of special circumstances.

BLITZER: Is that your assessment as well, Roy?

BLACK: There's no question in my mind if they can prove he killed Laci, then clearly he is responsible for the death of the fetus. I mean, she was in her eighth month of pregnancy. He knew it. If he deliberately killed her, then he is responsible for two deaths.

BLITZER: The whole circumstantial case that they're trying to build, in part, is a series of apparent lies that he told investigators, police investigators and others, including the relationship that he had with Amber Frey, his so-called mistress, a massage therapist who went public and said he never told her that he was married. He said he was unmarried.

That's going to dramatically undermine his defense, I assume, Irwin. Isn't that the case?

CHEMERINSKY: It certainly is going to be harmful to him, but they can't build a murder case against him by the fact that he lied. In order to be able to convict him, they're going to be able to tie him, circumstantially or through direct evidence, to the deaths of these individuals.

Certainly, if ever Scott Peterson wanted to take the stand at trial, then, especially, all of his lies could be used to undermine his testimony.

BLITZER: You want to weigh in on that as well, Roy?

BLACK: Sure. I find it to be an ugly circumstance, and it is certainly going to turn the jurors off, but I don't think it's evidence of an intent to kill at all. I mean, in this country, there are many married men who have affairs that don't end up killing their wives. And most of these married men don't tell their mistresses they're married or lie to them about things, and they lie to their wives routinely.

So I don't think that's particularly evidence that he killed his wife.

BLITZER: And, Roy, do you believe -- if you were the criminal defense attorney in this particular case, I assume you would try to change the venue, because you don't believe he could get a fair trial in Modesto.

BLACK: Well, I notice that the district attorney there said there's no doubt he could get a fair trial in Stanislaus County.

But I would be shocked if this case went to trial there. I mean, it's clear from polls and from discussions that almost everybody in that county has made up their mind that he's guilty. And how fair is it to try somebody in an atmosphere like that?

No matter what you may think about Scott Peterson as a person, I think we have to give him at least a fair trial.

BLITZER: What is the record in California, Irwin, on that change of venue because of the adverse publicity going into a trial?

CHEMERINSKY: It's very much in the discretion of the judge here in California.

We've got to remember, though, there have been a lot of cases with extensive pre-trial publicity where all of the pundits said the defendant couldn't avoid conviction but there were acquittals. Remember the McMartin preschool case, and everybody said the defendants, of course, would be convicted? They were acquitted. Remember O.J. Simpson? Remember the Menendez brothers? And so on. So, I'm more skeptical that publicity means that the jury is necessarily going to convict. I think juries in California and elsewhere show they really decide based on the evidence in the courtroom.

BLACK: Yes, but I'll give you a better example than that, Irwin. How about the Sam Shepard (ph) case? Almost the same type of case, a circumstantial case, a doctor charged with killing his wife. With huge publicity, he is convicted, spent 10 years in prison, and then we find out he's innocent. That was all driven by publicity.

CHEMERINSKY: No, but it was a very different case. And as the Supreme Court later pointed out, in the Sam Shepard (ph) case, the judge made no effort to screen the jurors, to see which jurors had already made up their mind. The judge made no effort to try to shield the jury during the case from publicity. I don't think this situation is like that at all.

Now, I think the safer course would be to change venue. But every study shows that pretrial publicity has far less effect on juries than we think. The juries really do decide cases based on the evidence in the courtroom.

BLITZER: Roy, I want to just show you a statistic. The last person executed in California, the last person executed, Stephen Wayne Anderson (ph), executed last year, spent 20 years, 20 years and six months, on death row. He was finally executed.

Is this the kind of case that cries out for some sort of plea agreement? The prosecution not seeking the death penalty in exchange for, perhaps, a guilty plea, and he gets life without the possibility of parole if, in fact, the evidence is as compelling as the prosecution says it is?

BLACK: I would sincerely doubt that there would ever be a plea bargain in this case. I don't think that any prosecutor prosecuting this case could, in any circumstances, offer a life plea. He's going to go for a conviction and the death penalty.

So even though, perhaps, justice might require something like that, I doubt any politician as a prosecutor is ever going to agree to a plea bargain.

BLITZER: Very briefly, Irwin, you get the last word.

CHEMERINSKY: I completely agree with Roy on this. I think the district attorney is going to go forward with the case.

But keep in mind, at this stage, we really can't assess the strength of the evidence. We don't know it.

BLITZER: Irwin Chemerinsky and Roy Black, two of the best legal minds in the country. We'll have you both back. Thanks very much for your analysis on this case that has riveted at least part, maybe a big part, of our country. We appreciate it very much.

Let's get some analysis now from Bruce Morton on the U.S. challenge of winning the peace after the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reporters in Iraq write that its people are glad to be rid of Saddam. So, the war was a good thing for Iraq.

The next question is, will it be a good thing for the United States? That may come down to, can the U.S. leave before the Iraqis start to hate it?

Leaving is difficult. The U.S. still has troops in Germany some years now after the Soviet Union, the enemy the U.S. troops were there to guard against, collapsed. And the German chancellor won re- election on an anti-American platform.

The U.S. has had troops in South Korea for 50 some years, and recent reports say they are unpopular, too, these days.

The process in Iraq is likely to be a lot quicker. Some Shiites in some cities are saying it's already time for the U.S. to leave.

We want, one local leader told reporters, a Muslim state. Will he get it? Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld has already said that rule by a few clerics isn't going to happen.

Does the U.S. want Iraq to have a Western-style parliamentary democracy, parties and so on? What if that's not what the Iraqis want?

A democracy is certainly not flowering quickly in Afghanistan, a reminder that nation-building isn't easy.

Meanwhile, it may be time to acknowledge that the theory of nuclear nonproliferation -- only a few very grown-up countries can have nuclear bombs -- has finally failed. Nine countries -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and, though they've never acknowledged it, Israel -- have the bomb now. Iran presumably will join the club. Others will follow.

North Korea can perhaps be deterred. If you bomb anybody, they'll bomb the daylights out of you.

And in the Middle East the thing that might ease tensions most is the emergence of a Palestinian state. But that's tough, too. Some of the parties in Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's coalition oppose it. He himself doesn't want it any time soon and supports the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, where the Palestinian state would be. And American presidents don't much like putting pressure on Israeli governments. So that will take time, too, probably.

And while those various clocks are all ticking, the U.S. soldiers in Iraq will -- this always happens sooner or later -- turn into occupiers, bad guys in Iraqis' eyes.

The U.S. won the war fairly easily. All this next stuff may be harder.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bruce.

Up next, our "Final Round." Our panel squares off on the big stories of the week. LATE EDITION's "Final Round," right after the hour's top headlines.

(NEWSBREAK)

(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."

We begin with the sign that the U.S. welcome in Iraq may already be wearing thin, at least among some. There are growing calls by some Iraqis for the United States to get up and leave. And that country's long-suppressed Shiite Muslims are making it clear they want a main row in the next government.

Earlier today, I spoke with Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi about the possibility of a fundamentalist government taking shape, and how Iraqis would view him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHALABI: I think this preoccupation about perceptions of being U.S. puppets is largely false. I think the correspondent is mainly quoting people with a fundamentalist agenda who equate me and my activities with the U.S. presence, as mistaken as this is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Peter, what about that? Is a fundamentalist government in Iraq, something like an Iranian-style theocracy, almost inevitable?

PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: Not inevitable, but I do think if we had an election today, that's probably what we'd get, because that's what -- the only institution left standing after 20 years of Saddam or so.

And I think the answer is that the United States can't hold an election in Iraq any time soon. What we need to do is build liberal institutions slowly and over a long period of time. It's going to be very expensive, it's going to take a long-term U.S. commitment -- I hope with the U.N. And the question is, do we have the stomach for it?

BLITZER: By all accounts, Robert, they're waiting -- they're going to wait at least two years for elections. They have to have a constitution. They have to get the process going. Is that enough time?

ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: That's probably getting close to enough time. I mean, you know, Chalabi is saying, "Well, you know, this is just a -- this is a perception issue." But, I mean, as we all know in the world of politics, perception is reality.

And right now, it would be -- the anti-American sentiment would be so strong, you would, as Peter said, you would indeed get a theocracy. So it's going to take quite a while.

BLITZER: How worried are you, Donna, about that?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, I'm tired of looking at and hearing stories from Mr. Chalabi. There are intellectuals in Iraq, there are others who have had to stare Saddam down. Some of them did not survive; others did.

Perhaps we should hear from them. They will help give democracy a legitimacy, because they stayed and fought. And I think that would help the Pentagon make its case inside Iraq. Otherwise it reminds me of the story of the 2000 campaign, the people versus the powerful.

BLITZER: I take it you don't like Chalabi.

BRAZILE: I don't think he represent the aspiration of those who are seeking liberation at this point.

BLITZER: She doesn't like Chalabi.

Go ahead.

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: I think I might like Chalabi. I haven't made up my mind yet.

I'm not sure that, if it was up for a vote tomorrow, there would be a theocracy. Yes, the country is 60 percent Shiite, but it's not 60 percent Shiite fundamentalist. Baghdad is almost 50 percent Shiite and extremely secular. And when I hear interviews...

BEINART: Although, I mean, the clerics are controlling this big Shiite area, this outer city.

GOLDBERG: Yes, I know, and Iran is wreaking mischief as well. But when I hear interviews, I hear in the south them saying, we want Shiite theocracy and all that kind of stuff, but I hear more people saying, we want jobs.

And I think the United States has one of the most powerful political tools in the world right now, pork. They're the ones who can come in and administer aid...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BEINART: Once again, your cultural insensitivity... (LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: This is halal pork.

(LAUGHTER)

And they can give out the jobs, they can give out the aid, and they can create the parallel institutions for the Shiites.

BLITZER: And they can give some paychecks as well.

Meanwhile, there are reports State Department and Pentagon officials have been at odds on key questions involving Iraq. This week, the former House Republican speaker, Newt Gingrich, offered a harsh assessment of the State Department.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: The last seven months have involved six months of diplomatic failure and one month of military success. The first days after military victory indicate the pattern of diplomatic failure is beginning once again, and threatens to undo the effects of military victory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Robert, you once worked for Speaker Gingrich. You know him well. What's he talking about?

GEORGE: That was the first thought that went through my mind, what is he talking about?

Look, the fact is, there's a lot of necessary reform that could come to the State Department, and National Review has written a whole lot of stories about some of the problems that are endemic in the State Department.

That said, Newt's comments -- the timing of it was just bad, because we're still basking in the great victory that we've had over there, and so -- and coming out with this was really inappropriate.

And the other fact is the six months of diplomatic failure were not the fault of the U.S. State Department, it was the fault of the fact that the French, the Germans, and the Russians wanted the diplomacy to fail, and I think Newt completely overlooked that.

BLITZER: It's more convenient to blame the State Department, the so-called "Arabists" at the State Department, which a lot of people have been blaming for years and years and years, than to blame the president of the United States.

BEINART: Well, and the president of the United States is where the blame should lie, because the reason we didn't get supported at the U.N. was, in every one of those countries, and in Turkey, public opinion was overwhelmingly against the war, 80, 90 percent, and because -- and I was for the war, but George W. Bush utterly failed to make a case that resonated in the world. That was not Colin Powell's fault, it was the president's fault.

BLITZER: What about that?

GOLDBERG: Well, I think we could have done better at persuading the rest of the world. I think that's true.

I also think that Newt Gingrich is probably right on a lot of the substance. The Arabists at the State Department are a problem.

We're in this incredibly transformational moment, where we have this unbelievable leverage to make the world leap forward in a big way, and the State Department seems to be acting downright French. It wants stability, it wants to maintain relationships with these tyrannical regimes and so forth. It seems to me they really could use the kick in the butt, but politically it's a bad idea.

BLITZER: You got the last word this round.

BRAZILE: Secretary Powell's State Department is George W. Bush's State Department, and people need to back off and leave Secretary Powell alone. He's done a fabulous job, and he should be allowed to continue to do the good work.

BLITZER: I'm sure Newt is going to listen directly to Donna Brazile and pay attention to you.

BRAZILE: Good-bye, Newt.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: OK, we have to take a quick break. When we return, a senator takes heat over his controversial comments. That and much more, our Final Round. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our "Final Round."

President Bush seems intent on winning another battle, this one over his proposed $550 billion tax cut proposal.

He pushed his plan in Ohio this week. That happens, of course, to be the state of Republican Senator George Voinovich, who is refusing to endorse a plan above $350 billion. Senator Voinovich defended his stance earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), OHIO: We could do a lot of things with $350 billion. And what we're saying is, that if you want to go more than 350, Mr. President, then find some ways to offset the cost of going with additional dollars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Donna Brazile, is the president on the losing end of this debate?

BRAZILE: I think so. I think two years ago, when they pushed through that $1.3 trillion irresponsible tax cut, the president at least could justify it by saying that we had the money.

We don't have the money. This economy is in the toilet. We don't have jobs, and I think Senator Voinovich -- I can't even pronounce that, I know Robert will help me -- is exactly right. Unless they can find the offsets, unless they can figure out a way to restore fiscal discipline...

BLITZER: Wait, you support $350 billion in tax cuts?

BRAZILE: Look, I support a targeted tax cut that is aimed toward helping produce jobs. I support giving aids to the states. Look, I have my own plan, but I'm not running for anything.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Right, right, let's move on. Who is going to win this battle?

GOLDBERG: Well, look, it's always a good thing when Republicans are arguing about how much we should cut taxes. But I do think Bush is in a dangerous place, where, if this thing gets whittled down, it could be too small, you lose the logic and the rationale for the tax cut, which is that it's going to be demonstrably not stimulative.

And so it has to stay above a certain threshold, and I think $350 billion is about...

BEINART: But it's not going to be stimulative at any amount, because it doesn't go into effect, almost all of it, until after 2004. It's the biggest joke, this whole thing, this idea that it's going to stimulate the economy. It doesn't go into effect until after 2004.

All it is going to do is going to, long term, keep us underfunding homeland security, which is a great threat to the United States. It's the Democrats' best possible issue.

GEORGE: I think the president will eventually just declare victory even if -- he may -- I don't know -- he may possibly get up to $400 billion. He'll just...

BLITZER: Remember, his original request was $726 billion, went down to $550 billion, and could go down lower, you're saying?

GEORGE: Well, no. I mean, I think it could go to $350 billion, $400 billion. But I think the point is, going into election year next year, they'll take a look at the cumulative tax cuts that have been passed by this Republican president over the last four years and run on that.

BRAZILE: And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) job losses.

BLITZER: Let's move on. Republican Senator Rick Santorum found himself in hot water this past week, equating homosexuality with bigamy, among other things. In an interview, the third-ranking Senate Republican said this, and I'm quoting now. Let me quote it. "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual gay sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right incest, you have the right to adultery."

Jonah, did Senator Santorum's comments hurt not only himself but the Republican Party?

GOLDBERG: Well, I think they hurt him, and I think you could argue that it hurt the Republican Party in some of the blue coastal states and that kind of thing.

I flatly reject the assertion that's made that he was equating homosexuality with these things. He was making a slippery-slope argument, it's almost word-for-word from a Supreme Court case about a slippery-slope argument.

I think Santorum may be right on the constitutional issues. On the public policy issue, he's wrong. We should get rid of the sodomy laws.

BLITZER: What about that?

BEINART: Yes, look, the constitutional argument is absurd, and that's why it cannot be taken seriously.

BLITZER: But that's the law of the land.

BEINART: No, the constitutional argument that says polygamy -- adultery is legal in a lot of places, but polygamy and bigamy are about marriage. And there's a very good reason for the state to get in and get involved with incest because it produces deformed children.

There is absolutely no reason to get involved in stigmatizing one group of people for the kind of sex that they have. And the truth is that a lot of conservatives and Republicans are very happy stigmatizing gays because they want to keep gays as a group of second- class citizens. And that is bigotry, in my view.

GEORGE: Well, I think Senator Santorum wasn't trying to stigmatize.

BEINART: That's what sodomy laws do. That's all they do.

GEORGE: He is a conservative Catholic, and he was, in a sense, articulating a particular aspect of Catholic dogma.

That aside, though, I think a number of conservatives and libertarians within the Republican Party are a little bit uncomfortable with the fact that police could come into private homes and, in a sense, say what are appropriate sexual practices and what are inappropriate.

BLITZER: You get the last word. BRAZILE: If he wants to preach Catholic morality or theology, he should go to seminary school. His remarks have no place in the United States Senate. It shouldn't come from a senator.

And it's going to cause the Republican Party a problem because they continue to have to explain themselves. They're the party of Lincoln or the party of Lott. Senator Santorum's remarks put him in the party of Lott.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to take another quick break. Our Lightning Round just ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our "Lightning Round."

Tomorrow is Saddam Hussein's 66th birthday.

Donna, do you think he is going to be celebrating?

BRAZILE: Well, if he decides to light any candles or pop any champagne, I'm sure he's a goner.

BLITZER: That would be monitoring in...

BRAZILE: Absolutely. He should lie low and pray that nobody knows he's around.

BLITZER: What do you think? Alive or dead?

GOLDBERG: I think he's probably alive. Maybe he's hiding in Paris. But we'll find him.

BLITZER: Paris?

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: I'm kidding, but...

BEINART: My guess is he's dead, and that's what explains why the Republican Guards folded so quickly around Baghdad, is there was no one leading...

BLITZER: Killed on the first night or the second strategic...

BEINART: I -- you know, it's total guesswork. I'd say the second.

GEORGE: He is alive, and I understand he's planning to get bombed.

BRAZILE: Oooh, Robert.

BLITZER: On his birthday. Robert, bad, bad, bad.

The actor and activist Charlton Heston is stepping down as president of the National Rifle Association. He is battling Alzheimer's, as all of you know.

Did Charlton Heston bolster the NRA's image? Peter?

BEINART: He gave it a higher profile, you know.

But the NRA's fundamental problem is, to me, is they're hypocrites. I mean, they claim to believe in civil liberties, but when it comes to gays and sodomy laws, when it comes to immigrants and some of the things dealing with Ashcroft, they couldn't care less.

GEORGE: Yes, he did. The membership of the NRA exploded over the last 10 years, and I think he's partly responsible for that.

BRAZILE: Well, I would hope that some other leading actor would take a role (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a campaign to remove these guns from our schools and other places where they're in the hands of illegal people. So I'm not going to celebrate his five years at all.

GOLDBERG: Some of us think the NRA didn't need bolstering and was doing just fine already.

And if liberals read the Bill of Rights the way Peter did, for the Second Amendment, then they would say that all people are required to own guns. And I find this...

BEINART: Liberals are following the Supreme Court on this, Jonah.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on. I want to talk about the Dixie Chicks. They say they're upset at the reaction to the comments made by their lead singer, Natalie Maines' anti-war comments -- all of us familiar with that.

Are they winners or losers in the aftermath of the war? Jonah?

GOLDBERG: They're winners. And all of those crying about how this is -- there's this chilling effect in America, and that this is sort of this Orwellian place -- they're making huge money. They're going on this big marketing campaign.

And they want to have this position which says, that unlike any other occupation in the world, whatever they say, they can't be punished in the marketplace for it. They're ridiculous.

BLITZER: Their concerts are still sold out.

BRAZILE: And I intend to buy their music. Robert informed me "Wide Open Spaces" and "Landslide." Anybody who can win in a landslide, I'm buying them.

BLITZER: All right. What about that?

GEORGE: They are winners in a sense, because, I mean, they've protested the president. They've gotten actually a little bit more, you know, popularity. If they try and boycott their CDs, there will be Democrats who go out and buy it. BLITZER: Very quickly, last word?

BEINART: They should say whatever they want, you know. And it just shows that there's a kind of right-wing political correctness in country music, like there is a left-wing political correctness in other music genres.

BLITZER: Free country. If they want to speak out, let them speak out. Free country. If nobody wants to buy their albums, we don't have to buy their albums.

GOLDBERG: We can criticize them too. Why should...

BEINART: No, of course you can. Of course you can.

GOLDBERG: Well, they don't think you should be able to.

BLITZER: Let's say thanks to our Lightning Round and our Final Round and the entire panel. Thank you very much.

That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, April 27.

Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS," "War Stories" -- accounts about what happened on the front lines in Iraq from the people who were there.

That's followed at 4:00 p.m. Eastern by CNN "LIVE SUNDAY," an in- depth look at the very latest news.

And at 4:30 p.m. Eastern, "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" profiles the man who orchestrated the successful battle plan in Iraq, General Tommy Franks. You'll want to watch all of that.

And please be sure to join me next Sunday, every Sunday, at noon eastern, for the last word in Sunday talk. I will be back here Monday through Friday, twice a day, noon and 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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U.S. Role in Post-War Iraq; King Abdullah of Jordan Talks About Middle East Peace>


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