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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Huge Explosion at U.N. Headquarters in Baghdad

Aired August 19, 2003 - 12:03   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jane, I'm going to interrupt as we look at these live pictures of Baghdad right now and go to U.N. headquarters in New York. Fred Eckhard is briefing reporters on what's going on with the U.N. delegation in Baghdad. Let's listen in.
FRED ECKHARD, U.N. SPOKESMAN: ... strong political signals. One from the council, one from the secretary general himself, that we're going to stay the course.

QUESTION: And on my other question, do you have any -- has the U.N. formed an opinion about who may have been behind the attack?

ECKHARD: To my knowledge -- but again, this question should probably be put to our mission in Baghdad -- but to my knowledge, we have not received any threats that we could link this attack to, nor anyone phoning in to claim responsibility. Yes, Frank?

QUESTION: Did the U.N. send in a threat assessment team to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the past month?

ECKHARD: I would have to check to see whether that was done. I don't know the timing of the last threat assessment. Yes, Maggie (ph)?

QUESTION: Sergio de Mello has expressed concerns about the security situation in Iraq before he went (ph). He said, "We can't do our work because the security isn't good enough." Does the U.N. have security there protecting the people? And are there (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

ECKHARD: The security is the responsibility of the coalition partners, who are the de facto occupying power of Iraq. We depend on the host country for our security wherever we work in the world, and in the case of Iraq, we would depend on the coalition for security. So there's not a matter of our having our own security officers taking responsibility for our people or sending security officers in. That's the job of the coalition.

QUESTION: The building itself -- the compound itself was protected by whom? Was it U.N. security, as here, or U.S. soldiers?

ECKHARD: The primary responsibility for that compound is the coalition forces.

QUESTION: Would you like it to be the U.N.?

ECKHARD: No. We said from the beginning that we felt that the matter of security, first under international law, is the responsibility of the coalition. And, second, it's best handled by an international force rather than peacekeepers given the security situation in the country -- yes?

QUESTION: Yes, just to follow up, also, you said there were no threats. Were there any kind of warnings in the last month about the U.N. compound? And also, in determining security for the U.N. compound, do the U.S. forces decide on their own what's enough? Do you ask for more if you need it? Can you?

ECKHARD: On your second question, I assume that Sergio de Mello would have regular contact with Mr. Bremer and the coalition. And any security -- special security concerns he had, he would communicate to them. But I believe that it would be the call of the coalition forces as to what the requirements were around that compound or any other compound in Iraq.

I'm not aware of any threats that might have come in the last month, but I think that question should better be put to the U.N. officials in Baghdad -- yes?

QUESTION: What are you going to do with the wounded? They are going to stay in Baghdad at a hospital in Baghdad?

ECKHARD: Immediate emergency assistance will be given...

BLITZER: President Bush is about to speak right now, and let's listen in to the audio portion of what he's telling reporters.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... or injured. And to those who suffer, I extend the sympathy of the American people.

A short time ago, I spoke with Ambassador Bremer and directed him to provide all possible assistance to the rescue and recovery effort at the United Nations headquarters. I also spoke to Secretary General Kofi Annan about the personal loss the U.N. has suffered, about the assistance my country has offered, and about the vital work in Iraq that continues.

The terrorists who struck today have again shown their contempt for the innocent. They showed their fear of progress and their hatred of peace. They are the enemies of the Iraqi people. They are the enemies of every nation that seeks to help the Iraqi people. By their tactics and their targets, these murderers reveal themselves once more as enemies of the civilized world.

Every sign of progress in Iraq adds to the desperation of the terrorists and the remnants of Saddam's brutal regime. The civilized world will not be intimidated. And these killers will not determine the future of Iraq.

The Iraq I people have been liberated from a dictator. Iraq is on an irreversible course toward self government and peace. And America and our friends in the United Nations will stand with the Iraqi people as they reclaim their nation and their future.

Iraqi people face a challenge and they face a choice. The terrorists want to return to the days of torture chambers and mass graves. The Iraqis who want peace and freedom must reject them and fight terror. And the United States and many in the world will be there to help them.

All nations of the world face a challenge and a choice. By attempting to spread chaos and fear, terrorists are testing our will. Across the world, they are finding that our will cannot be shaken.

We will persevere through every hardship. We will continue this war on terror until the killers are brought to justice. And we will prevail. May god bless the souls who have been harmed in Iraq.

Thank you very much.

BLITZER: We'll listen in to see if the President is going to answer reporters' question for a second. If he doesn't, we're going to move on. Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, has been monitoring this as well.

Suzanne, it doesn't look like the President is answering the reporters' questions. Strong words, though, from the President, saying that the terrorists who struck today are enemies of the civilized world. Once again showing their contempt for the innocent. This has startled the White House, as it startled all of us -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And the Bush administration realizes it has a very difficult challenge ahead. The Bush administration has really been trying to garner support from the international community.

We know that there are 139 U.S. troops that are on the ground inside of Iraq. There are 21,000 troops from 18 different countries; half of those from the British. Also, the administration has requested about a dozen more countries to get involved, but clearly what the difficulty has been is that we have seen just within the past months and really weeks, more recently, is this escalation of sabotage.

You're talking about to the power, to the water, the attack on the Jordanian embassy, and now to the United Nations. The Bush administration realizes that it is really going to have to try to convince these countries that it is worth it to get involved in this reconstruction effort, that it's not too dangerous to do so. It was just a couple weeks ago that the United Nations had asked -- rather that some countries within the United Nations wanted to get a resolution, a mandate that at least said that they had some control over the security, the peacekeeping measures.

It was last week that the administration made it very clear it would not be under the auspices of the United Nations, but rather the auspices of the United States. That it was a military and civilian operation that would be controlled by the United States. Some countries, France, India, as well as Germany, said, well that was a condition to allow their troops inside of the country. What the Bush administration is faced with now is they have to convince their allies not to pull out. They have to convince other countries that it is worth it to get involved. The United States says yes, they welcome the United Nations in terms of reconstruction and humanitarian effort, but again it is unclear just whether or not they're going to be able to keep that kind of support.

And still other questions remain. Does this mean that the U.S. military is going to have to stay in much longer? Does it mean there will have to be more U.S. troops? These are all issues the Bush administration is dealing with at this time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And the President dealing directly with these issues, speaking on the phone with Ambassador Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq. Also speaking with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Suzanne, stand by. I want to get back to you.

Our Barbara Starr is over at the Pentagon monitoring the developments. Barbara, last reports that we're getting, 13 confirmed dead, many, many others injured, wounded. Are you getting better information over there?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Not at this time, Wolf. The military shortly after this incident happened dispatched what they call a quick reaction force to the scene in Baghdad. That included ground security, medical evacuation people, people to help search through the rubble and pull some of the victims out and get them to medical assistance as quickly as possible.

But here at the Pentagon, the main reaction is that, unfortunately, while this attack is a shock, to military officials, this attack is not a surprise. They had long believed that Iraq was increasingly seeing very sophisticated attacks by terrorist groups, people attacking the coalition, attacking the success of the coalition. The question on the table here at the Pentagon today is whether or not this very brutal attack against the United Nations by these opposition groups may actually backfire, whether the Iraqi people will perceive that the U.N. has come to Iraq again to help them and that this attack is against their own self-interests.

That's the question they're struggling with here now, because of course Mr. de Mello had only recently arrived in Iraq, appointed to be the special representative for the Iraqi assistance mission to really lead the U.N. effort broadly across Iraq, to try and have the United Nations help. And it had been just a few days ago that the Security Council had begun the process of recognizing the Iraqi governing council.

So the question is whether this was retaliation by some opposition group for the U.N. coming back into Iraq in a significant way since the war, really coming back to be at the forefront of assisting the Iraqi people, and whether now this attack against the United Nations will be seen as something the Iraqi people will not tolerate. It is a measure they believe of the opposition's desperation that they are turning to these so-called softer targets.

They're no longer able to get to the military targets in the way they were. Those are very well protected, lots of security. One of the questions clearly that will be looked at as times goes on here is what was the level of coalition security around this United Nations facility?

We know that there was some security force on the other side of the building from where this attack occurred. Was there a vulnerable spot at this compound that the attackers took advantage of? All these questions remaining to be answered -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara. Stand by. We're going to get back to you as well.

Michael Okwu is covering the United Nations for us today. He's up in New York.

Michael, we just reported, if our viewers were watching the screen, the U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Annan, deciding to cut short his vacation, return to New York tomorrow. This is a jolt to the United Nations, to the world body.

MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. It is a huge jolt here. It's a very sad day for the United Nations half a world away. There are personnel here at the U.N. who have been crying in the hallways and hugging each other.

There are some 300 personnel who worked in that building, so somebody here -- people here knew somebody in that building, it seems. It's unclear at this point, of course, Wolf, how many people were in the building when the explosion actually took place, but the hallways of the United Nations today are in fact a very, very sad place.

You heard, of course, that the secretary general, Kofi Annan, will be heading back, cutting short his vacation. He has spoken already to President Bush, as well as Secretary of State Colin Powell, and of course Ambassador Bremer, the administrator in Iraq.

Of course, the U.N. for quite some time now, Wolf, has been jockeying for a greater role in Iraq. They've been in place for some weeks after the war ended, working on human rights issues and also working on humanitarian affairs, basically trying to work on issues that would better the Iraqi people. That is why diplomats here appear to be somewhat shell-shocked; they are in fact personally hurt.

The Pakistani ambassador saying that it is regrettable. And earlier this morning, the Security Council came out with a presidential statement about the issue. Here's the deputy Syrian ambassador earlier this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They condemned in the strongest terms this terrorist attack. Such terrorist incidents cannot break the will of the international community to further intensify its efforts to help the people of Iraq. Members of the council reaffirmed that this horrible attack that aimed at undermining the vital role of the United Nations in Iraq will not affect their determination, and members of the council will stay united against such attacks and to help the Iraqi people restore peace and stability to their country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OKWU: There are reports of deaths in Iraq of U.N. personnel at this point, but the U.N. is not in a position to come forward publicly to let us know who those might be. We do know among the injured, of course, Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N. special representative for Iraq. It is not known at this point the extent of his injuries, but of course, Wolf, we understand he was and may in fact still be trapped under some of the rubble in that building.

We know that he's being attended to. He's been given some water. This is a veteran diplomat, a 55-year-old Brazilian who is highly respected at the U.N.

He essentially ran East Timor after that country got independence, got independence. And he has done some good work in other parts of the world. Of course he's also the high commissioner for human rights.

He addressed the Security Council back in July. It's very interesting to hear what he had to say about the role of the U.N. there, their presence, as well as security. Here is Mr. de Mello several months ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VIEIRA DE MELLO, U.N. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR IRAQ: The United Nations' presence in Iraq remains vulnerable to any who would seek to target our organization, as recent events in Mosul described in the secretary general's report illustrate. Our security continues to rely significantly on the reputation of the United Nations, our ability to demonstrate meaningfully that we are in Iraq to assist its people and our independence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OKWU: Fred Eckhard, the U.N. secretary general's main spokesperson read a statement just moments ago. We want to show that to you as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ECKHARD: This statement reads as follows: "All of us at the United Nations are shocked and dismayed by today's attack in which many of our colleagues have been injured and an unknown number have lost their lives. Iraqis, as well as international staff."

"Nothing can excuse this act of unprovoked and murderous violence against men and women who went to Iraq for one purpose only, to help the Iraqi people recover their independence and sovereignty and to rebuild their country as fast as possible under leaders of their own choosing."

I hope and pray that those injured, including my special representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who has been working so hard to make a success of that mission, will be swiftly brought to safety and be able to make a full recovery. I grieve deeply for those...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OKWU: One of the very big issues, of course, is was what was going to be the role of the United Nations. Mr. Eckhard making it very clear, as well as other diplomats here at the United Nations, that they expect to continue playing a prominent role in Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: "We're going to stay the course." That's the way Fred Eckhard phrased it specifically. Michael Okwu, thanks very much for that report.

We're following this huge story, a breaking story out of Baghdad. A truck bombing at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. We're reporting now 13 people inside dead, many, many others injured.

We're going to continue to follow this story. We have a team of reporters and analysts. They're standing by. We'll be continuing to cover this huge story in Baghdad right after this quick commercial break.

A truck bombing in Baghdad today at the United Nations headquarters right in downtown Baghdad. At least 13 people reported killed, perhaps more. Many others wounded in that attack, including the chief United Nations representative in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

We're getting analysis now on what was going on in Iraq today. Ken Pollack, our CNN analyst at the Brookings Institute, is joining us now live on the phone.

Ken, no one, as far as I know, has yet claimed responsibility for what looks like a suicide truck bombing at the Canal Hotel. It used to be called the Canal hotel, the U.N. headquarters in Iraq. Some 300 U.N. personnel working there. Does this have the earmarks of al Qaeda, the Ba'athist regime, the Saddam Fedayeen loyalists? Any initial indications as far as you can tell?

KEN POLLACK, CNN ANALYST: Sure. Well, the way I think about it, Wolf, is that I tend to marry this up with the car bombing that we saw at the Jordanian embassy several weeks ago. It looks broadly as if these were similar. Obviously, a truck bombing, a car bombing, both were new to Iraq when they happened.

That is certainly something that we have seen al Qaeda do in the past, and we know from many remarks by U.S. officials that there are numbers of al Qaeda personnel who are increasingly infiltrating into Iraq. And so it seems perfectly plausible to say, well, you've got al Qaeda people moving into Iraq, and now suddenly you have care and truck bombs, which is a hallmark of al Qaeda. So it's entirely possible that this is al Qaeda. On the other hand, we also know that some of the indigenous Iraqi resistance groups, former regime officials, Sunni tribesmen, some of the Islamic extremists out there, all of whom don't like the U.S. presence, we know that their operations against U.S. and other coalition forces have been getting increasingly more sophisticated. And so this may simply reflect an increase in the capabilities of those indigenous groups.

Either is possible at this point in time. And all I would say is both would be troubling.

BLITZER: And it certainly would have an enormous presumably ripple effect that everyone in Iraq right now -- that Jordanian embassy bombing of a couple weeks ago had a big impact -- this might even have a bigger impact.

POLLACK: Absolutely. I think here the really big issue is how the United Nations responds to this. The U.N. had been taking the approach that it was important for them not to be seen with a fortress mentality. They felt that the U.S. was too obsessed with force protection and that U.S. personnel were not getting out and mingling with the people and showing that they wanted to be part of the reconstruction.

They felt that the U.S. kind of locking themselves up in these bunkers was sending the wrong signal to the Iraqis. And so they very purposely were trying to get out there. My sense was that one of the reason why they did not bunker themselves in the way that the U.S. did was to send this different message to the Iraqis. And if after this attack the U.N. changes its tune, if the U.N. takes a different approach, that will probably send a very important message to the Iraqi people.

BLITZER: Ken, stand by, because we want to speak to David Marshall. He is a United Nations lawyer. He was an eyewitness to what happened in Baghdad. He's joining us now live from the Iraqi capital.

Thanks very much, Mr. Marshal. First of all, are you OK?

DAVID MARSHALL, WITNESS: Yes, I am. Yes, I'm fine.

BLITZER: Tell us where you were and what you saw.

MARSHALL: I was in a meeting on the second floor of the Canal Hotel, and there was an extraordinary explosion which blew me and those in the meeting off our seats against the wall. The roof collapsed, lights went out, and dust was everywhere. There was chaos in the building.

We ran down two flights of stairs, and it was difficult getting out of the front of the building. The front of the building was covered in rubble. There were a number of bodies in the rubble. Those bodies were carried out. And then we went to the back of the building, where the roof had caved in, where we believe Sergio is at this moment. BLITZER: And is he trapped in the rubble? We're talking about the chief U.N. representative in Iraq right now, who was in that headquarters building, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Is that the sense, that he's trapped inside but people are in communication with him?

MARSHALL: I went to the back of the building, and one person I was with made communication with him and said that he was fine. We were then asked to leave the scene. The scene where we were standing was in fact the crime scene.

There was a huge crater next to where I believe a meeting had been taking place with Sergio. We were asked to leave that scene. They wished to collect evidence, so I went to the front of the building. But that's where he's believed to be. This was about an hour ago, an hour and a half ago.

BLITZER: The reports that we're getting are that a truck may have actually driven into the front lobby of what's called the Canal Hotel, at which point it exploded. Presumably a suicide truck driver exploding himself in the process. Is that what you're hearing on the scene?

MARSHALL: That's not what I saw. The thrust of the blast appeared to come from the back of the building, not the lobby of the building, although there was substantial damage to the lobby. And that's where there were serious injuries.

It appeared that the blast came from the back, and I say that because the crater I saw, this huge crater, was at the back of the building. There was no crater in the front of the building.

BLITZER: Do you have a sense, Mr. Marshall, how many people were in that building at the time?

MARSHALL: I don't.

BLITZER: Were there other buildings nearby that were damaged as well? How big of an explosion, in other words, was this?

MARSHALL: Well, the U.N. building in the Canal Hotel is quite separate from other buildings. The area is fairly...

BLITZER: Mr. Marshall, hold on one second, because Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, is speaking right now, and I want our viewers to hear what he has to say.

AMBASSADOR PAUL BREMER, CHIEF U.S. ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: ... had more than 70 patients in it. A specialized hospital for spinal injuries, which they also destroyed. The patients there have all had to be evacuated.

This is an awful crime. What we must hope now and what I sense from talking to my friends from the U.N. who have survived, is that the U.N. will now continue with even more vigor to carry out their wonderful mission of helping the Iraqi people rebuild their country. On behalf of the coalition, I know I express the deep sympathies from all of us for friends and colleagues that we have lost today, and I can tell you we will leave no stone unturned working with the Iraqi police to find the people who did this.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, it appears their goal is to simply make it too painful for those trying to rebuild this country to stay.

BREMER: Well, if that's their goal, they have misjudged their people. I have no doubt at all that the United Nations will stand firm after this outrage. I spoke with the secretary general about an hour ago, expressed my condolences to him on behalf of all Americans. And I'm absolutely certain that the United Nations, instead of running and cutting, will stand and stay firm, as indeed the coalition will.

QUESTION: With this new kind of massive attack, how can you secure the city and this country?

BREMER: We have to work very hard with people like the chief of police here, the police in Baghdad, people from the Iraqi Civil Defense, which are here, 50 of them, working without end to try to save people. People from the new Iraqi army, and people from the coalition forces to do our best to find these people before they attack, and to deal with them. And we will.

QUESTION: Sergio Vieira de Mello was apparently also injured in this attack. Does that make you feel that everyone is (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? I mean, it seems that even the head of the United Nations to Iraq is (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BREMER: Yes, that's right. As of this time, my dear friend Sergio is somewhere back there. It may well be that he was the target of this attack. The truck was parked in such a place here in front of the building that it had to affect his office, which was on the second floor above us here.

These people are not content with having killed thousands of people before, they just want to keep killing and killing and killing. And they won't have their way.

QUESTION: Who do you think did this?

BREMER: Well, it's too early to tell at this point. But it was clearly a very large bomb.

QUESTION: Were American forces...

QUESTION: As I understand, they helped protect this building. Were they casualties in this attack?

BREMER: You'll have to ask that of General Sanchez, who is here. As far as I know, there are no American casualties, but you should check with General Sanchez.

QUESTION: What is your message to all the parents and loved ones back home who see their troops over here trying their best to protect the city, you're trying your best, and then something like this happens? They're watching their TV sets in fear. What is your message to them?

BREMER: My message is that the coalition has undertaken a noble cause here, which is to secure the peace, stabilize Iraq, and give it a growing vibrant economy and freedom. We will do that.

There will be ups and downs. There will be days like today, which are clearly tragic. But there's absolutely no question that the coalition intends to stay the course here, and that is our message. It is a very clear message and it's unwavering.

QUESTION: Is this your lowest day?

BREMER: Thank you.

QUESTION: Good luck.

BREMER: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Ambassador Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, speaking to reporters. That was videotaped speaking just a short while ago.

The United Nations now increasing, raising the death toll, confirmed death toll in that blast at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. Now 14 confirmed dead. That number could go up. Many others injured.

A huge truck bombing inside the Canal Hotel, the U.N. headquarters in Iraq. U.N. personnel on various humanitarian assignments in Iraq.

We were talking with David Marshall. He's the United Nations attorney and United Nations lawyer. He was an eyewitness on the second floor of the building at the time of the blast.

Mr. Marshall, you were just listening to Ambassador Bremer. What specifically is your job there? How long have you been there and what are your plans right now?

MARSHALL: Well, my plans were to leave tomorrow. I was here on an assessment mission with the office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Geneva to assess the legal system with a view to assisting the Iraqi legal (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with reforming the justice system in Iraq. And we were meeting a number of human rights lawyers, judges and prosecutors and defenders, canvassing their views to see how the justice system could be improved. And the idea was to leave tomorrow and issue a report for Iraqi legal actors (ph) and donors.

BLITZER: Will you be leaving tomorrow?

MARSHALL: I doubt it. I doubt it.

BLITZER: All right. Mr. Marshall, thank god you're OK. We wish or best, of course, to everyone still struggling to survive this blast at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. David Marshall, a U.N. attorney, a U.N. lawyer who was on the scene on a humanitarian mission. Let's bring in Jamie Rubin now. He's the former assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, also worked at the United Nations when Madeleine Albright was the U.N. ambassador during the first term of the Clinton administration.

Jamie, thanks very much for joining us. I assume you knew or you still know Sergio de Mello, the U.N. envoy in Iraq who's trapped apparently right now in that building.

JAMES RUBIN, FMR. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, yes, I knew him very well. First really getting to know him in Kosovo, when he was the U.N. special representative to Kosovo during the time that NATO forces were controlling the country. And he worked very, very closely with the Clinton administration and NATO to help rebuild Kosovo, and then moved on from there to East Timor.

And I just saw him a month ago on his way from Jordan into Iraq. He was a real class act in the U.N. system; one of the few people who was both effective and most people regarded as someone they could work with. And so I think it's a real tragedy that the kind of people who really are the do-gooders in the international system, the people who are going into Iraq to try to help the Iraqi people, to try to provide better human rights, to try to give them greater control over their lives, provide humanitarian aid, work with the nongovernmental organizations, those were the people who were killed today in this act of cold-blooded murder.

BLITZER: I can almost understand, of course, terrorists going after U.S. targets, related targets, British targets, of course, other coalition members, even the Jordanian embassy. Jordan is seen as an ally of the United States. But the United Nations over these many years, going back to the first Gulf War, trying to help the Iraqi people on a humanitarian basis, do you make any sense of why the U.N. may have been a target right now?

RUBIN: Well, obviously we don't know, but I think some of the comments you've already heard I have some trouble with. As you just said, Wolf, the U.N. is the one organization that the former Ba'athist regime members worked with, that they regarded as the only organization they would talk to and work with.

By contrast, the al Qaeda organization tried to blow up the United Nations headquarters in New York in 1993. Al Qaeda is the enemy of all the civilized world, and al Qaeda...

BLITZER: All right, Jamie. Hold on one second because the president is speaking on tape. I want our viewers to listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today in Baghdad, terrorists turned their violence against the United Nations. The U.N. personnel and Iraqi citizens killed in the bombing were in that country on a purely humanitarian mission. Men and women in the targeted building were working on reconstruction, medical care for Iraqis; they were there to help with the distribution of food. A number have been killed or injured. And to those who suffer, I extend the sympathy of the American people.

A short time ago, I spoke with Ambassador Bremer and directed him to provide all possible assistance to the rescue and recovery effort at the United Nations headquarters.

I also spoke to Secretary General Kofi Annan about the personal loss the U.N. has suffered, about the assistance my country has offered and about the vital work in Iraq that continues.

The terrorists who struck today have again shown their contempt for the innocent. They showed their fear of progress and their hatred of peace. They are the enemies of the Iraqi people. They are the enemies of every nation that seeks to help the Iraqi people.

BUSH: By their tactics and their targets, these murderers reveal themselves once more as enemies of the civilized world.

Every sign of progress in Iraq adds to the desperation of the terrorists and the remnants of Saddam's brutal regime. The civilized world will not be intimidated. And these killers will not determine the future of Iraq.

The Iraqi people have been liberated from a dictator. Iraq is on a irreversible course toward self-government and peace. And America and our friends in the United Nations will stand with the Iraqi people as they reclaim their nation and their future.

Iraqi people face a challenge, and they face a choice. The terrorists want to return to the days of torture chambers and mass graves. The Iraqis who want peace and freedom must reject them and fight terror. And the United States and many in the world will be there to help them.

All nations of the world face a challenge and a choice. By attempting to spread chaos and fear, terrorists are testing our will. Across the world, they are finding that our will cannot be shaken.

We will persevere through every hardship. We will continue this war on terror until the killers are brought to justice. And we will prevail.

May God bless the souls who have been harmed in Iraq.

Thank you very much.

BUSH: ... against the United Nations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The president speaking only a few moments ago. That was videotaped. The president in Crawford, Texas on vacation, clearly a working vacation, disrupting several of his planned activities today to deal with this huge crisis. This explosion, apparently a suicide truck bombing at the Canal Hotel, the U.N. headquarters in Iraq. The U.N. now saying 14 people confirmed dead, many others injured.

We were speaking with the former U.S. assistant secretary of state, Jamie Rubin. He's joining us from London.

Jamie, as you heard the president say the United States, the U.N. will not cut and run, they will deal with this issue, the terrorists presumably think that's not necessarily the case.

RUBIN: Well, right. I think it was very important that the president and the U.N. have made clear that the effort by the United States to help rebuild Iraq, to bring some stability, to end the chaos, to bring a better life to the Iraqi people is not going to end.

On the other hand, if it turns out this is the al Qaeda organization or remnants of al Qaeda who have now, because of the chaos in Iraq, have an opportunity to go in there when they couldn't go in there under Saddam Hussein, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship, al Qaeda was cut out from Iraq. It was the one non- fundamentalist regime they couldn't get access to.

So they are there now. And I think it's a bit of a rhetorical slight of hand to suggest that the al Qaeda people are working with the Saddam regime to return the Saddam regime. Al Qaeda is there because instability and chaos has made it a target-rich opportunity for these cold-blooded murderers.

They now have hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and foreigners and outsiders. And as they try to target the U.N., as they've tried to target Jordan, Yemen, the embassies of the United States in Kenya, Tanzania, they want to attack everyone. And the reason they now have an opportunity is because of the chaos and instability in Iraq, which sad to say, as happy as everyone is that Saddam is gone, the totalitarian system of Iraq wouldn't let them in there.

BLITZER: Jamie, stand by. We're going to get back to you, but our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux is down in Crawford, Texas, near the president's ranch. She's been monitoring developments there.

Suzanne, the president refused to answer reporters' questions, clearly, but he was determined to make the statement, this potentially being a critical moment in the U.S. experience, if you can call it that, in Iraq.

MALVEAUX: Well, absolutely, Wolf. President Bush was playing golf early this morning when he got the news from his national security adviser about this huge explosion. He was updated on the golf course and then decided to leave his game on the 12th hole, we are told, to go back to the Crawford ranch where he could get better updates. And also, of course, they made it very clear that it was important to address the American people, but not only the American people, but also the international community as well. There are a couple of interesting things that came out of his statement. First of all, talking about the resolve of the United States, as well as the international community. The importance, he said, terrorists who are testing our will. The fact that the United States will prevail.

But what's even more important, however, is how he is framing this. That this is not terrorists against the United States, but rather terrorists against the Iraqi people, against the international community. The importance for the Iraqis to see this as a fight of their own, that they have to confront this battle, that they have to deal with these terrorists on their soil, or otherwise the president saying just remember the days of torture, the days of Saddam Hussein.

And finally, Wolf, a real challenge for this administration, of course, is not to lose the international support here of the United Nations, as well as other countries. As you know, the administration decided instead of a U.N. mandate that would control the peacekeeping effort, that it would be the United States going from country to country seeking support.

Some of those countries have been very reluctant to get involved. And clearly seeing what has taken place this morning, with good reason. That is something the Bush administration is going to have to deal with squarely -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And as Suzanne was speaking, we've been showing you this videotape shot inside the U.N. headquarters building. A Japanese television crew was inside, they were shooting this videotape as the explosion occurred. You see people struggling to get out amidst the rubble to save their lives, get out of the building, in what used to be called the Canal Hotel, the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

Dramatic video that NHK, the Japanese television network managed to get and is distributing to us. We're showing it to you, to our viewers here in the United States, indeed around the world. Chaos clearly inside this building as this apparent suicide truck bombing occurred, a truck getting close enough to the Canal Hotel to cause this kind of devastation.

We have Pat Lang, a former Defense Department intelligence analyst standing by. Ken Robinson, our security analyst. We're going to get some deep analysis on what precisely they believe is occurring in Iraq right now, but we want to take a quick break.

Welcome back to our continuing coverage. Breaking news out of Baghdad. At least 14 people now confirmed by the United Nations to have died in a truck bombing, a huge explosion at what's called the Canal Hotel, the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is monitoring these developments. She's joining us now live with new information from the Pentagon -- Barbara.

STARR: Well, Wolf, as this situation unfolds we have learned that at this hour the U.S. military is planning to increase its medical capability at the site. Officials telling us they are going to start moving in some surgical teams, some field hospital equipment to an undisclosed location as close as they can possibly get to the site. They want to set up this emergency trauma care facility so, as survivors are potentially pulled out of the wreckage, they can immediately be taken and get immediate emergency medical treatment before they medivac'd on to other field hospitals.

Of course, the location will not be made public. A very tense situation in Baghdad. They want to keep this as low-key as possible. But as this situation continues to unfold, the military is also going to begin moving in some heavy construction equipment to try and assist in getting the wreckage pulled apart and assist in the search and rescue effort to get to the people who may still be trapped in the wreckage of the Canal Hotel.

What appears to be emerging as a major question at the Pentagon at this hour is who was exactly responsible for security at this site. We know U.N. officials have said that there were a small group of coalition soldiers, presumably U.S. military personnel on the other side of the building from where the explosion occurred. The question now: was that reasonable security for what was going on -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, we heard from Fred Eckhard, the chief U.N. spokesman a little while ago, Barbara, say the primary responsibility for security at that U.N. headquarters building, the Canal Hotel, was from the coalition forces. That the United Nations did not have their own independent security operation in place.

Barbara, stand by. We're going to be getting back to you, but we have a team of analysts monitoring these developments for us as well. Joining us now, Pat Lang, the former Pentagon defense intelligence agency analyst. Also, Ken Robinson, a CNN Security analyst, as well as our own Kelly McCann, another CNN security analyst.

First to you, Pat. When you hear about all of this, you're watching this breaking news, what's your immediate analysis of what's going on?

PAT LANG, FMR. PENTAGON DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY ANALYST: Well, I've watched this with some interest. And I think from the point of view from an intelligence man who has more or less specialized in these kinds of wars, I think that, although we inevitably are going to use the language of ordinary criminal activity in talking about this, that what we're really facing is a collection of groups who are waging what is increasingly a rather coherent resistance war effort against us. And in a struggle like that, you have a variety of methodologies.

You know you have guerrilla warfare attacks against our forces. You have black propaganda that claims that American soldiers have committed atrocities. You have political action of various kinds. You have sabotage attacks against the economy to disrupt any possibility effort to stabilize the country. And then you have terrorism, which is an instrument of war in an unconventional warfare situation. And what they're demonstrating here is, in fact, that the coalition forces are incapable of securing the country. And the target is to control the minds of the Iraqi people by proving to them that -- they're hoping to prove to them that in fact the coalition cannot protect them, cannot stabilize the country. So I think you ought to see this as a act of war, and I think you're probably going to see a lot more things like this.

BLITZER: It looks like there's a whole -- this loosely coordinated effort under way, maybe not coordinated, but clearly with a similar objective. Ken Robinson, you know a lot about security. How do you deal with a situation like this, especially when there are so many Americans, nearly 140,000 U.S. troops there, and even today a U.S. delegation from the United States Senate, including Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, John McCain, other members of the U.S. Congress there?

What do you do? Do you just tell these people to stay away from Iraq right now, it's simply too dangerous?

KEN ROBINSON, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think that what we have seen in this rapid response from the U.S. president, the ambassador on the ground, Ambassador Bremer, the quick, direct point to be made that they're there to stay, the fact that this process needs to be internationalized, I believe that Iraq right now is at a tipping point. And this is part of the success that's not seen in Iraq, in that the majority of the country is starting to stabilize and Iraq is at a tipping point.

And the enemies of stabilization and a new Iraqi government are going to try to continue with this type of an assault. As Barbara Starr mentioned in her analysis earlier, they're going to move to these soft targets, but the United Nations is simply going to have to stay the course. Everyone understands history now of what happened when we left Somalia too early, and I believe what we'll see now is we'll simply have to be eternally vigilant and force protection at each of these locations.

BLITZER: Well, what about that, Kelly McCann? What else should U.S. and coalition forces be doing for what's called force protection that they're not already doing?

KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, remember, while the country is being rebuilt like this is, Wolf, it's now being reported by some other networks and our own that potentially it could have been a cement truck that actually was allowed to pass into and near the actual window where the secretary -- his office was. Which means that there was a surveillance conducted, which means that there was confirmation from within that he was within the office.

You know, with all of that construction going on, you have to balance security and convenience. Things have to be built, people have to bring goods in, there has to be trucks and large things that could disguise a bomb. Now if that's true, that is a fairly sophisticated attack. Trying to get that kind of explosive in that country, of course, is not a problem because of all the battle material that's all over the battlefield still. But the things that you would typically do is called bomb blast mitigation. First, there's vehicle access denial, and area denial, which means that you'd slow traffic down, you'd try to keep them out, which, if it's busy, would be very, very cumbersome.

Then you've got to mitigate the blast if any blast does occur. There has to be a standoff distance; usually sheets of glass are sandwiched with mylar (ph). Normally there are some structures brought in, perhaps Jersey barriers that redirect the bomb blast in the event that one does go off.

However, it's a balancing act. The U.N. typically has not been the target here. So I think it's a very difficult situation.

BLITZER: Pat Lang, let me give you the last word in this hour's coverage of this dramatic development, the truck bombing in Baghdad today. You and I of course remember in 1983, when there was a truck bombing at the Marine barracks outside of Beirut, some 241 Marines were killed in that incident. Obviously, that terrorist attack didn't take very long for the U.S. military to pull out of Lebanon.

Is there that kind of possibility, the terrorists believing if you continue to hammer at the United States and its partners, the U.S. will simply pull out?

LANG: Well, of course they believe that. I mean, that's the goal here. Their intermediate goal is to control the Iraqi people, as I said before, because they need to be able to hide amongst them in order to do this kind of thing. But the ultimate goal is the willpower of the American people and the way it will reflect on its government.

From the point of view of the operation here, who ran this operation today, this is quite a success. Because what they have demonstrated here is in fact that the coalition forces and the emerging Iraqi forces will have to guard all these facilities all across the country everywhere. That means little detachments here, here, here and there, and that's going to make things tough.

BLITZER: Pat Lang, we're going to leave it right there. Thanks, as usual, for joining us.

I want to thank Ken Robinson, Kelly McCann, all of our analysts and reporters who have been working on this story throughout today. Thanks to all of you for joining us.

We're going to continue our coverage of this breaking news just in one minute from now. I'll be back later today, 5:00 p.m. Eastern for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."




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