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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Pentagon Reaction to Bombing of U.N. Headquarters

Aired August 19, 2003 - 13:09   ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get straight to Barbara Starr now. She's standing by at the Pentagon with the latest from there -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, officials here are still reacting to this, of course. We know now that they are going to move in additional medical personnel to the immediate area of the bombing attack to try and be on standby to provide critical trauma care to people as they may be pulled from the wreckage.

We know that there is going to be heavy construction equipment and military engineering equipment, if you will, also being sent in, trying to assist in pulling the wreckage apart, in helping the rescue effort to get any survivors out of the area.

Now, military officials here are viewing this as a direct attack, of course, on the United Nations, but they wonder if it might not backfire on the opposition forces in Iraq. What they say is they feel there is an understanding by the Iraqi people, for good or for worse, that the U.N. has been in Iraq for many years assisting in humanitarian assistance and relief, and that the Iraqi people have an understanding of this.

So, the question, after this attack, is: Will the Iraqi people side with the opposition forces, or will they decide that a U.N. attack finally is just too much?

And, of course, no one here really knows the answer to it. There have been any number of very sophisticated attacks and situations in the last few weeks that have made Pentagon officials, frankly, not surprised that this has happened. They do believe they are facing a significant terrorist threat inside Iraq. Of course, everyone will remember the bombing of the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad a few weeks ago -- a sense, no proof, but a definite sense that there was organized terrorism behind that.

Recent statements by some Shia clerics calling for armed resistance against the coalition forces. That, of course, would be a great concern if they were to join with the existing opposition forces.

So, a lot of concern that there is an increased terrorism threat, but what we're not hearing, Kyra, is any talk here about increasing the number of U.S. combat forces in Iraq, at least not at this time.

PHILLIPS: Definitely a looming question a lot of people want to know. Barbara Starr live from the Pentagon, thank you. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com.




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