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CNN BREAKING NEWS

President Bush Condemns Blast

Aired June 11, 2003 - 11:12   ET

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

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: John, in the wake of what President Bush was asking the leaders there in the Middle East to do, trying to bring them together, trying to put a lid on all of this violence, we were wondering whether or not we would see this tit for tat spates of violence in the wakes of some progress, and it appears that that is now the case. We heard just moments ago, I'm not sure if you heard the report, that the Israeli government has now dispatched helicopters to Gaza.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Leon I lost communication with you.

HARRIS: I'm sorry.

KING: I have you back now. Leon, I have you back now.

HARRIS: OK, let's go right to it. What are you hearing from the White House this morning, John in all of this?

KING: Well, Leon, President Bush is traveling. He is in Chicago. We just heard from Deputy Press Secretary Scott Mcclellan that the president has been given a briefing on what the White House knows so far. Obviously reports from this bombing just coming in from Jerusalem. So the White House has few details as we watch this unfold. But Deputy Press Secretary Scott Mcclellan saying -- quote -- the president condemns this attack in the strongest possible terms.

As the president awaits more information, Leon, as you noted at the top, this is exactly the scenario the White House feared most. This is one of the reasons the White House was so public yesterday in voicing its displeasure with the Israeli government for launching that helicopter gunship attack, the assassination attempt, if you will, on a key Hamas leader. The White House's fear was that it would undermine efforts by Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to stop the suicide bombings, to lay down their arms, to give the peace process a chance. The White House fears that Prime Minister Abbas cannot go to the militant groups now and say do not launch violence against Israel at a time those groups, and some will say who is responsible to begin with, but at a time those groups will say the Israelis have just tried to assassinate one of our leaders.

We understand there is urgent diplomacy behind the scenes. It began yesterday, and it continues today. Top administration officials at the State Department, at the National Security Council here at the White House, in touch with both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority leadership, trying to find some way to bring about a period of calm. You have this suicide bombing this morning, you have reports of an Israeli military retaliation apparently under way.

Leon, this president will be tested in his commitment to keep the peace process going when a development like this occurred. Everybody knew it would come; they didn't know when. The president had hoped for a week of two of progress before he was so sorely tested. But he is now being tested.

HARRIS: That is quite significant thing to see this activity happen so soon. John, we want to our viewers and you as well that what we have on the screen, there on the right side, are live pictures coming to us out of Gaza.

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