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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview with Paul Bremer; Interview with South Korean Foreign Minister; Interview with Pakistani Prime Minister; North Korean Nuclear Program; Bin Laden's Latest Message Dissected

Aired January 22, 2006 - 11:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSAMA BIN LADEN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The war against America and its allies will not be confined to Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Osama bin Laden resurfaces and warns of new attacks.

Where is the man behind 9/11? And why is he so hard to capture?

We'll talk with Pakistan's prime minister Shaukat Aziz.

Plus, perspective on the war on terror and the world's hot spots from former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger and former United Nations ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL BREMER, FORMER ADMINISTRATOR, COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY IN IRAQ: We had a fundamental responsibility to law and order in Iraq above all other responsibilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: After toppling Saddam Hussein's regime, what did the United States get right and what did the United States get wrong?

Paul Bremer recounts his year as the top U.S. civilian in Iraq.

From the war in Iraq to a nuclear Iran, what moves should President Bush make next?

We'll ask Republican Senator George Allen and Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.

And South Korea's foreign minister, Ki Moon-ban speaks out about the nuclear threat from his country's neighbor, North Korea.

It's 11:00 a.m. in Washington and here in New York, 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 4:00 p.m. in London and 7:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition."

We'll get to my interview with Pakistan's prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, in just a moment.

First, though, let's get a quick check of what's in the news right now.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CENTER: Thanks, Wolf. I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

"Now in the News:" the Israeli army denies any involvement in a reported missile attack today in Gaza City, but the army says it did fire missiles at three armed Palestinians seen approaching the fence around Gaza. Witnesses to the Gaza City incident claim Israeli warplanes fired two missiles on a car. Palestinian security sources say only that an explosion killed one person and wounded three others.

The deaths of 14 miners in West Virginia: Mining accidents this month alone have sparked calls for tougher safety laws. The bodies of two miners trapped in a Melville mine since Thursday were recovered yesterday. West Virginia's governor is expected to propose new safety legislation tomorrow.

Still no word from the kidnappers of American journalist Jill Carroll. Carroll was taken hostage in Baghdad on January 7th. Her captors are demanding the release of Iraqi women held by the U.S. military.

More headlines in 30 minutes. Now back to Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fred.

After more than a year of silence, a new threat from Osama bin Laden of terrorist attacks against the United States. His audiotape message this week comes on the heels of a U.S.-ordered air strike in Pakistan targeting Al Qaeda's number two man, Ayman al- Zawahiri.

Joining us now to talk about that and much more is Pakistan's prime minister, Shaukat Aziz.

Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to the United States. Welcome back to "Late Edition."

AZIZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the New York Times story today, which I'm sure you probably saw.

It's the lead story on the front page of the New York Times suggesting that the situation along the Pakistan-Afghan border, the so-called tribal areas that are very, very remote, that the situation is worse today than it was only a few years ago; that these militants, these Taliban, Al Qaeda supporters, foreign fighters are really running the show and your government can't deal with that.

AZIZ: The tribal areas have 80,000 Pakistani troops there, and a few years ago there were none. The reason we've done that is because this is a porous border. It's a very tough terrain. And we want to restrict movement of people who are undesirable to our security. We have moved a lot of troops and intelligence people there. And as you know, 600 Al Qaeda people, including all the senior people so far captured, have been captured by these forces.

So if you look at the runs on the board, there are many runs on the board. I would respectfully disagree with the New York Times...

BLITZER: Here's a quote from the New York Times story: "The militants who call themselves Taliban now dispense their own justice, ran their own jails, robbed banks, shelled military and civilian government compounds, and attacked convoys at will."

AZIZ: Yes, there has been action by some of these elements who are not supportive of having the Pakistan security forces there, but it's much less than ever did.

And if you look at the high value or senior people from Al Qaeda who we have captured, they've all been captured from that area and around that area.

BLITZER: Well, there have been several who have been captured in major Pakistani cities, whether in Karachi or Rawalpindi. There's been several captured, some of the highest levels have been captured in the urban areas.

AZIZ: The bulk of the captures out of the 600 have been in the tribal area.

This is one of the world's worst terrains. There are no roads. There's no communications system. And we are there because -- out of conviction because we think fighting the war on terror is good for Pakistan and good for the rest of the world.

So to say that we are not doing as much as we should I think reflects lack of reality.

The other thing is, if I may, that the border has always two sides. There's a Pakistani side and there's the other side in Afghanistan where there are U.S. troops, there are NATO troops, there are ISAF troops and Afghani troops.

Let's see how many have been captured on the other side, and you will see the statistics -- virtually none.

So if they are crossing over, then both sides have to do much more. We are coordinating. We have a tripartite commission which meets between Pakistan, United States and Afghanistan. And I think it is pretty clear that all three countries want to contain this menace of terrorism.

Terrorism knows no borders. Terrorism has no friends. We believe that Pakistan, which was put in this situation because of the history of the area, and if you allow me...

BLITZER: Let me interrupt for a moment because our time is limited. You say most of the Al Qaeda operatives have been captured in this area, but the two most important have not been captured yet -- Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two, even though he apparently, the number two, was targeted a couple weeks ago by the U.S. in this air strike. I want to get to that in a moment.

But let's talk about Osama bin Laden first.

AZIZ: Sure.

BLITZER: Do you believe he is in this so-called tribal area?

AZIZ: We have -- we and the rest of the world has no clue where he or his associates are.

All we know from intelligence reports, that he doesn't stay in one place and he could be anywhere. If you see the area, he could be in the region or he could be out of the region. Because if anybody knew where he is or where he moves around, we would all go after him.

BLITZER: Is he a sick man, Osama bin Laden? As you remember, there were reports that he had kidney problems, he needed dialysis treatment. What is the latest information you have on that?

AZIZ: We have no new information on his health.

But when we did have information, clearly he had some medical problems. But that does not stop him from moving around. And I think he could be anywhere in the region or even outside the region.

BLITZER: What did you glean from this latest audiotape that was released last week? For example, when was it actually recorded?

AZIZ: Well, we have no idea when it was recorded or where it was recorded. It's an audiotape, as you know, not a videotape.

So all we can gather from the tape is that he's trying to tell the world that he's around and get his movement energized or motivated. But this is not unique.

I mean, it has taken a while for him to come out with the tape. But the fact that he's come out with the tape does not indicate when he did. There's some indication there that he did it sometime last year.

BLITZER: Because he speaks about events that occurred in the course of the past few months.

AZIZ: Yes, absolutely.

But this could have been recorded anywhere. And I think the audiotapes are there just to get people -- sometimes throw them off and sometimes get them into a debate which really doesn't help anyone.

The real purpose in Pakistan and I think for the rest of the world is to get people like these. They have done a lot of damage to the world, they could do more and all of us have to stand together.

Pakistan is committed to fighting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. And we're doing it, we're doing it because we want a safer world and we want a better world for our next generation.

BLITZER: Do you believe that he still controls this organization, Osama bin Laden, or he's sort of just the symbolic figurehead?

AZIZ: Well, it's -- the exact command and control structure is, frankly, unknown to most people.

But one thing is certain, that he is a symbol of the activities which take place.

However, we are not convinced that everything happening around the world is either directed, coordinated, or even if he's aware. So he's a symbol, but there are many independent people working in silos all over the world who need to be tackled and addressed.

BLITZER: What about Ayman al-Zawahiri?

This recent U.S. air strike against a building along the Pakistan-Afghan border that killed more than a dozen people, including, supposedly, some high-level Al Qaeda operatives, was this coordinated with the government of Pakistan?

AZIZ: No, this was not coordinated.

You know that we have all levels of cooperation with the United States and Afghanistan on this issue. But the communication level and the coordination level was not where it should be.

AZIZ: Furthermore, I think it sounds...

BLITZER: So let me just be precise. The United States did this without any advance warning, any advance information, no heads-up to your government, to President Musharraf or anyone else in the Pakistan government?

AZIZ: Yes. We had no idea that this would take place. We generally are aware that there is activity in this area. And the normal standard operating procedure is because we have the people on the ground.

You can rely on electronic intelligence up to a point, but you need human intelligence and you need people there to capture.

That is why 13 people who were apparently civilians have died and we have -- we are still investigating the whole area, combing the area. There is no evidence as of half an hour ago that there were any other people there.

The area does see movement of people from across the border. But we have not found one body or one shred of evidence that these people were there. Also... BLITZER: What about this Abu Kaba (ph), this Al Qaeda operative who was known as the bomb maker?

AZIZ: Yes. As you saw -- if you just reflect on what happened, first we heard that there was a dinner meeting where all the seniors -- I think that's a bizarre thought because these people don't get together for dinner in a terrain or environment like that.

Secondly, we heard that al-Zawahiri was there. Now, we are hearing about this person who's a chemical weapons expert.

We don't know who was there. We don't know when they came, if at all. But if they were there, we will find out because our people are investigating -- they are going through all the evidence available, and once we find out, we'll share it with the world.

BLITZER: This is an important nuance, but it's important.

If there wasn't any advance notification or coordination, consultation with the government of Pakistan, is there a basic understanding, though, between the U.S. government and the Pakistani government, between President Bush and President Musharraf that, if there is good intelligence that top Al Qaeda operatives may be at a location -- and this intelligence is very, very quickly lost if action isn't taken place quickly -- is there an understanding that the U.S. can launch these missiles?

AZIZ: No. The understanding is that we will work together. We will work in collaboration with each other. We will communicate with each other.

That is why the government of Pakistan and the cabinet, the meeting I chaired just before I left Pakistan, has regretted and condemned the incident and said that such incidents should not reoccur. We need to work together.

There is no difference in the objectives of the two countries. So there's no reason why we shouldn't communicate.

BLITZER: There is one reason.

AZIZ: Yes.

BLITZER: And this is a suspicion that top U.S. officials have, and you know it, that while President Musharraf and you and other high-ranking Pakistani officials totally support the U.S. in this war on terror, there are other elements in the military and the Pakistani intelligence community who are not necessarily as supportive and perhaps even more sympathetic to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

AZIZ: I would dismiss this totally.

If you see the number of lives we have lost chasing these terrorists, the number of people we've picked up all over the country, including the tribal areas which you just alluded to, it shows that we have a very effective security apparatus, intelligence apparatus, which has delivered results.

And if you go back in terms of the number of people captured, many have been captured with joint operations with the United States and other countries and Pakistan.

So why not now? If we have worked together, we should work together to get as many people as we can into the hands of the law- enforcing agencies because these people are no friends of anyone.

BLITZER: I want to move forward and in that context listen to what an opposition party leader in Pakistan, a man by the name of Qazi Hussain (ph), said in the aftermath of this U.S. air strike in Pakistan. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QAZI HUSSAIN (PH), PAKISTANI OPPOSITION LEADER: People will be demanding that the government of Pakistan should resign because they have failed to protect their territory and protect their citizens from the unjustified attack from the American forces.

And also, they will be demanding that the Americans should evacuate Afghanistan and Pakistan because they're a security threat to the area.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I'll give you a chance to respond to that.

AZIZ: Certainly.

BLITZER: How strongly is the anti-American attitude in Pakistan today?

AZIZ: I think listening to one of the opposition leaders shows you that we have a functioning democracy. Qazi Hussain (ph) is leader of one of the religiously-oriented parties.

His views are known. What he has said in this tape is nothing new. He keeps saying similar things every time.

The fact is that the United States and Pakistan are collectively working to ensure that terrorism is fought and terrorism is dealt with.

Also, since the earthquake, where we have had a lot of assistance from the United States, this has touched the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan. The United States today is the largest donor for earthquake victims. The Chinooks which have been flying around are angels of mercy.

And everybody has appreciated how U.S. hospitals, MASH, medical people, have taken care of the injured and the wounded, how relief has come in, how financial assistance has come in. And the people of Pakistan are rational people. They are upset...

BLITZER: Let's talk about the earthquake because...

AZIZ: But they are upset about this incident. But, if you take the overall context, the appreciation on the earthquake and the assistance received is very much there.

BLITZER: How many people were killed by the earthquake in Pakistan?

AZIZ: Seventy-three thousand.

BLITZER: And how many are homeless right now?

AZIZ: About 4 million.

BLITZER: And of those 4 million, how many are in danger of their lives being lost because of the cold weather, the lack of tents, the lack of food?

AZIZ: Well, actually, the availability of food, tents, shelter, warmth and medical care has been very well orchestrated by the government and all the friends we have around the world.

We have had not one epidemic. We have had not one major aftermath of the earthquake despite the rough conditions which -- you know, subzero temperatures -- because we have provided for lots of improvised and other arrangements to make sure the people don't fall into that.

This is a major human tragedy. Living in a tent in subzero temperatures is not fun. But we have tried to alleviate the suffering of the people.

And let me tell you, Wolf, the world community has stood by us like never before.

BLITZER: The world community did come up with a lot of money. And I'll put some numbers up on the screen.

Saudi Arabia pledged $573 million, the U.S. $510 million; China $326; U.K. $120; Germany $100 million. Those are pledges, though.

AZIZ: Yes.

BLITZER: How much cash has actually been delivered?

AZIZ: Yes. Pledges, as you know, have a process between governments. And we are negotiating. We've got several hundred million dollars. We've spent our own, too.

But we are very confident that the total pledges of $6.4 billion will materialize. As you know, our estimate for the total damage of the earthquake is $5.2 billion. Of the $6.4 billion, $4 billion is loans, soft loans; $2.4 is grants.

Of the soft loans, we are going through each offer and seeing what we will take and what we will not take. But I'm very confident that this whole effort will yield results.

And, as you may know, the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has appointed former President Bush as his personal envoy to get to the countries who have pledged and to convert them into cash. But the rate of conversion, we are very satisfied with.

BLITZER: All right.

On that note, we want to wish you the best, all the people of Pakistan. Good luck in the aftermath of this earthquake. Good luck in the war on terror.

The prime minister of Pakistan, Shaukat Aziz, welcome back to "Late Edition."

AZIZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: And coming up, does Osama bin Laden's new threat represent cracks in the U.S. policy in the war on terror?

We'll get insight from former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

Plus, Republican Senator George Allen and Democratic Senator Charles Schumer weigh in on the implications of bin Laden's new message.

Also ahead, in case you missed it: highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States.

"Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our Web question of the week asks this: Do you think it's likely that Osama bin Laden will be captured in 2006?

You can cast your vote. Go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results at the end of this program.

Straight ahead, should the U.S. consider military action against a nuclear Iran? We'll talk with the former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and the former U.N Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition."

In fighting the war on terror, is the U.S. policy on the right track? Joining us now with their special insight, two guests, both former top U.S. statesmen. In Charlottesville, Virginia, the former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, and here in New York the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Richard Holbrooke.

Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome to "Late Edition."

And Secretary Eagleburger, I'll start with you. We heard from Osama bin Laden this week. What do you make of the mere fact that he showed up and delivered this threat on audiotape against the United States?

EAGLEBURGER: I think it's more of the same, Wolf. There will be those who will say his continuing existence demonstrates that our ability to fight terror is not as good as it should be, et cetera. Osama bin Laden is only a small part of the problem. He is a very significant part because of his -- the impression he gives.

But he is not -- he could go tomorrow, and we will still have ourselves a serious terrorist problem. And it's not going to be solved simply by getting rid of Osama bin Laden. Nor the fact that he still exists, nor does that demonstrate that we have failed in our war on terror. This is a war that's going to go on for a very long time. It's very tough. And we don't even know where the targets are much of the time.

BLITZER: Ambassador Holbrooke, I want you to listen to what the White House press secretary said this week, responding to this Osama bin Laden audiotape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are winning. Clearly, Al Qaeda and the terrorists are on the run. And that is why it is important that we do not let up and that we do not stop until the job is done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is the United States winning?

HOLBROOKE: I hope he's right. We don't know. We've gone a long time without an attack on U.S. soil. They've refocused their positions. But I do want to respectfully disagree with my friend and former colleague, Larry Eagleburger, when he says Osama bin Laden is a small part of the problem.

Of course Al Qaeda and its allies will continue fighting us after he's killed or captured. But he is the face of international terror just as surely as Adolf Hitler was the face of Nazism in the 1930s and '40s. And getting him, eliminating him, would be a tremendous blow.

He's a charismatic mass murderer who outcommunicates us in some ways from a cave on the Pakistan-Afghan border. And getting him is of the highest importance. Imagine if we got Hitler...

BLITZER: But is it symbolically important or is it practically important?

HOLBROOKE: It is both. First of all, symbolism is real. Symbolism is practical. And getting bin Laden would have been like getting Hitler in 1943 or '44. It will change the course of history. BLITZER: Let me let Secretary...

HOLBROOKE: And secondly...

BLITZER: Let me let Secretary...

HOLBROOKE: ... he still gives that speech you just played, is a clear signal. He can't run operations from that cave, but what he's doing is, he's saying to people all over the world, plan your own operations. And you remove that voice and no other voice will be as loud.

BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, you want to react to that?

EAGLEBURGER: I'm not going to argue with him. I think it's true that he's important. I think it would be a great success if we get him or if he drops dead tomorrow morning.

But I'm still going to tell you that as far as I'm concerned, the war on terror involves a great deal more than Osama bin Laden, and I think we would find out if we get him that the significance of having gotten him, it will be important psychologically.

But I think within six months of having gotten him we'll be right back where we are. But I also don't think it's worth arguing about.

BLITZER: All right. Well, let me move on then, Secretary Eagleburger.

We just heard from the prime minister of Pakistan, Shaukat Aziz, make his country's, his government's case. Are you confident that the government of Pakistan is doing everything possible to coordinate, to cooperate with the U.S. in this war?

EAGLEBURGER: No, I can't be confident of it the way you asked the question. But, Wolf, let's remember -- I think it is clear that the president and the senior leadership in Pakistan are in fact totally supportive. I think what we also need to understand is that politically, that is very dangerous for them in Pakistan because there are substantial elements within Pakistan itself that probably -- that certainly don't agree with us, and certainly in some cases are in favor of Osama bin Laden and his people.

So I think the answer has to be yes, I think the senior levels of the Pakistani government are in fact totally supportive. I think the question you asked of the prime minister earlier, namely, is everybody down below you so convinced and so dedicated, I think it was the right question.

And probably the answer is that there is some leakage. And certainly in terms of the body politic in Pakistan, the president has a real problem with the public opinion of parts of his country.

BLITZER: Is this a case, Ambassador Holbrooke -- and you're familiar with the diplomacy, the nuances of speaking with other governments -- where the other government, in this case Pakistan, simply says, you know what, don't tell us what you're doing. Just go ahead, do what you've got to do, but we don't want to know.

HOLBROOKE: I don't think we could have penetrated the Pakistani air space without the Pakistani air defense system knowing about it. They're always on guard for the Indians. They knew we were in the area. The degree of coordination is unclear. Those anti-American demonstrations could have been stopped.

But Pakistan's a weird country. You've just seen one of the most sophisticated people in the world as your previous guest. He was in fact the CEO of Citibank's private banking section before he became minister of finance. He's lived in New York. At the same time, we had in New York this week this famous woman who Laura Bush will see next week who's been called the bravest woman in the world, who is standing up against the men who gang-raped her. It is a society riven by confusion.

You've been there. You know it better than I do. And it is at the same time, Wolf, the most strategic country. Imagine if Pakistan went the route that Iran went in the 1970s and we had the leadership there like the insane president of Iran today. So I think your questions highlighted his dilemma. He knows the problem. But he doesn't control that country. Nor does Musharraf.

BLITZER: Let's talk about another country, Secretary Eagleburger, namely Iraq. The election results, at least the unofficial election results, are in. The Shia, as expected, winning most of the seats in the new Iraqi parliament.

The Sunnis coming in second, the Kurds coming in third, and then a whole bunch of other smaller political parties getting a bunch of seats in the Iraqi parliament. How important is it that the Sunnis, the Shia, and the Kurds, that all three of these major factions in Iraq are part of this new Iraqi government, as opposed to, for example, a coalition that would include only the Shia and the Kurds, with the Sunnis in the opposition?

EAGLEBURGER: I think it's terribly important, Wolf. I hope it works. But the fact of the matter is, the elections have demonstrated, I think, and there will be those who will say oh, no, this is not any success in Iraq at all, but I think that election demonstrates that democracy is beginning to take in that country. Whether it will work we still have to see.

But the fact that you've got the three most significant groups, each with membership in the parliament and hopefully prepared to work together, I think is a major achievement. Now, the question is, can they in fact work together? I think we're going to have -- see some trouble, particularly with the Sunnis.

But if the Shia, particularly, are careful about how they handle issues relating to the Sunnis, I think you can begin to see the beginnings of a parliamentary democracy that may, in fact, succeed.

BLITZER: What do you think, Ambassador Holbrooke?

HOLBROOKE: I think your question put it very squarely. If the two ethnic groups, the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south and center, make a deal, they have the power to disenfranchise the Sunnis.

If they do that, the situation will get worse. If, as you suggest, and this is American policy, and I strongly approve of it, they can bring all three ethnic groups into a coalition and have adequate power sharing, adequate sharing of energy resources, then we will look back and say this was a great step forward.

The jury's out. The American ambassador in Baghdad, Khalilzad, is working very hard on that, but it's very tricky stuff.

And in the end, Wolf, as we all know, you cannot micromanage the internal tribal relationships in an ancient and complicated culture.

BLITZER: We're going to move on and talk about the Middle East, talk about Iran, North Korea.

But a quick question, before we take a break, to both of you on Jill Carroll, the American journalist who's been kidnapped in Iraq.

The U.S. government's policy, Ambassador Holbrooke, is the U.S. doesn't negotiate with terrorists, doesn't make concessions to terrorists. Is there anything the U.S. government, though, can do to try to find and free this young, 28-year-old woman?

HOLBROOKE: Well, first of all, we can't negotiate with terrorists.

Secondly, it's heartbreaking, particularly heartbreaking because of the videos of her, the apparent innocence of her and her relationship to the culture...

BLITZER: When you say "apparent innocence," what does that mean?

HOLBROOKE: Well, I don't know her. But the video that you've been showing is very compelling. It's not a surprise that she is the most publicized American hostage, because she has this effervescence, this joy of life which comes out.

And you have a lot of video and it's strong stuff. But to go back to your question, some journalists, some archaeologists, French and German and others, have been released.

The people she was going to meet with have blasted the kidnappers. We can only hope, and the fact that this show's being seen worldwide may play a minor role here, we can only hope that the people who have taken her know that if they execute her, it will backfire.

The alienation will further marginalize them in their search for what they're really trying to do, which is gain control of a Muslim society.

BLITZER: What about that, Secretary Eagleburger? And then we'll take a break. EAGLEBURGER: It may come as a total surprise, but I agree with Ambassador Holbrooke, for a change.

I think the only thing the U.S. can do is, to the degree we can search for intelligence sources that may know where she is, that sort of thing.

But, in fact, this is an issue that is fundamentally out of our hands and in the hands of the vicious, nasty, rotten people that we have seen for so long and can't seem yet to come to grips with recognizing that we have no choice but to kill them all, get them all out of there, and until we do that, we haven't won our war.

BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, Ambassador Holbrooke, please both of you stand by. We're going to take a quick break.

Much more to talk about, including what's happening in Iran and the possibility of Israel considering some sort of military action. And what about a defiant North Korea as well?

All that coming up, including a quick check of what's in the news right now, including more on the tragedy involving those West Virginia miners this month. Stay with "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Hello. I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta. "Now in the News:" Bolivia's first indigenous president is scheduled to take his oath of office about an hour from now. Evo Morales won office in a landslide election last month. He's a leftist with close ties to Cuba, and in the past he has angered the White House with attacks on what he calls "American imperialism."

An American state shaken by tragedy looks for ways to make a dangerous job safer. West Virginia's governor plans to propose new mining safety legislation tomorrow. Yesterday in Melville, rescuers found the bodies of two miners trapped underground when a fire broke out on Thursday. A dozen other miners died three weeks ago in another West Virginia mine.

Troubled American automaker Ford is getting ready to unveil a restructuring plan. The announcement is scheduled for tomorrow. Industry analysts say the plan will likely include closing some North American plants, including several in the U.S.

Next on LATE EDITION -- Richard Holbrooke and Lawrence Eagleburger discuss the nuclear situation in Iran and North Korea. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOFI ANNAN, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL: I would hope that as the discussions go on, the Iranians will see the need to come back to the table, but come back to the table in a genuine spirit of searching for a solution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan this week urging Iran to rethink its stance on the development of its nuclear program.

Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting today from New York.

We're talking with Richard Holbrooke, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and Lawrence Eagleburger, the former U.S. Secretary of State.

Secretary Eagleburger, the Israeli defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, said this over the weekend, yesterday: "Israel will not be able to accept an Iranian nuclear capability, and it must have the capability to defend itself, with all that implies, and this we are preparing."

How worried are you, if you are worried, that the Israelis might decide, when all is said and done, to take unilateral military action against Iranian nuclear facilities?

EAGLEBURGER: I'm not particularly worried about it, Wolf, for several reasons, the first of which is I'm not really certain that the Israelis could pull it off. And under those circumstances I hope they wouldn't try. I don't think we know where the targets are.

I don't think we know how deeply buried some of this stuff is. I think in the end, a military option with regard to Iran and nuclear weapons is going to be very important, but I'm not at all sure that the Israelis are the ones that can pull it off.

BLITZER: Ambassador Holbrooke, what do you think?

HOLBROOKE: The Iranians are the problem, not the Israelis. This president is a madman.

BLITZER: Which president?

HOLBROOKE: The Iranian president.

BLITZER: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

HOLBROOKE: Yes. Your pronunciation's better than mine. But whatever you call him, what he's saying has to be taken seriously. And what he's saying is extraordinarily inflammatory in regard not only to Israel but in regard to the Palestinian question and nuclear weapons. And the Iranians are now breaking the seals, literally and figuratively, on resuming their march towards nuclear weapons.

This is going to change the entire power structure in the Middle East through a chain reaction if it continues unchecked. It is a real failure of the last five years that this was allowed to happen. The United States subcontracted its policy to the British, French, and Germans, and was hands off, passive. I'll never understand that, since we are the power. And at the same time we were doing this, the president was asserting that we have a global role, and he was ignoring the greatest...

BLITZER: Well, let me let Secretary Eagleburger respond to that notion of the U.S. subcontracting or outsourcing, in the words of Senator Hillary Clinton earlier this week, the whole Iranian problem to the Europeans.

I want you to weigh in on that, Secretary Eagleburger.

EAGLEBURGER: Thank you. Thank you.

Look, I thought we might get through this program without taking a crack at the Republicans or this administration.

The fact of the matter is, this issue, not just with Iran or with North Korea but the general question of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, is an issue that no American administration, including several that I was involved in, has ever been able to deal with as they should be dealt with. We have tried.

We've done better than most of the other countries in this world, but at the same time none of us have come to grips with the fact that this is probably the most dangerous issue facing the world today. And until the countries of the world who have any sense at all come together and collectively say, it must stop and we will collectively do whatever is necessary, including the use of force, to bring it to a stop, until we do that we are facing the fact that the next generation of Americans may well find themselves faced with nuclear weapons use in the United States.

This is a terrible problem. And there's no simple answer to it. And whether the United States deals with Iran or the Germans, the French, and the British do, and we all fail unless we're prepared to be tougher than I suspect most Americans at this stage are willing to contemplate, particularly since so many of them of one political ilk, at least, are complaining about what we've done in Iraq, the fact of the matter is this probably -- there may be other solutions in the way, but I suspect in the end with this madman, as Richard said, who is the president of Iran, that I suspect that we're going to be faced with the fact that he's going to go ahead.

And unless we are prepared collectively to use force, or the United States is prepared to do so again and have everybody, both Democrats and in fact most of the rest of the western world complain of the fact that we're using force, this is going to go on. And it's going to go on in North Korea, and one day, one of these countries is going to have that nuclear weapon because we wouldn't stop them.

It's going to end up in the hands of an Osama bin Laden somewhere. And then Katie, bar the door, because we are all going to take a look at ourselves in the mirror and say, boy, did we screw this one up.

BLITZER: All right. Well, let me let Ambassador Holbrooke respond to that. Are you as concerned as Secretary Eagleburger is, and are you as ready as he apparently is to consider military action?

HOLBROOKE: First of all, I share his concern.

Secondly, I'm not as fatalistic as him.

Third, I was going to finish my comment by saying in the last five years, the administration had subcontracted but there's been a dramatic positive change. The U.S. is now beginning to get involved. It is clear that the policy of the last five years did not succeed, and Larry, this is not partisan politics.

The administration knows it, and it's shifted ground, and I don't want to politicize this for the very reasons that you just alluded to. Now, there are three countries that are dragging their feet for aggressive action: India, China, Russia. We've been through this before, particularly with the Russians in the Balkans, elsewhere. They always drag their feet at first.

But President Bush has a relationship with President Putin. He must use it. In the run-up to the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, he must use it to say to Putin, listen, Vladimir, this is the deal, you want to work with us, you join us in putting pressure on Tehran, and stop playing footsie with them, and stop coming up with schemes which are elusive and which they'll break. If the Russians come around, and the Indians are already starting to show some sign of movement, the Chinese will not be the country which blocks international action.

I've worked with all these countries, and I'm sure that it can be done. It takes coalition-building, and it needs to be done now. There are some early signs the administration's working in that direction. The Undersecretary of State Nick Burns and the secretary of state are on the phone all the time. But I stress, Wolf, President Bush must personally involve himself with Putin and the Chinese and Indian leadership. And he's going to India in the next couple of months. He's got to do it there too.

BLITZER: He's going to Pakistan as well.

HOLBROOKE: This is a big one.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to leave it right there. Ambassador Holbrooke, as usual, thanks very much for joining us. Secretary Eagleburger, always a pleasure having you on "Late Edition" as well. Thanks to you, as well.

Coming up, in case you missed it, we'll have some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. But first, this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): What's his story? Mississippi Senator Trent Lott is running for re-election. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home in Pascagoula, Lott told a Biloxi newspaper the property was his nest egg and he needed more income, fueling speculation that he'd resign from the Senate. But on Tuesday, Lott announced he'd seek a fourth term. Lott was elected in 1988 and became majority leader in '96.

He stepped down under pressure in 2002 after making controversial remarks praising the segregationist presidential campaign of the late Senator Strom Thurmond.

BLITZER: Now that he plans to stay on the Hill, Lott has hinted he'll make another run for the Senate leadership.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Democratic Senator Barack Obama suggested time is running out for the United States to have an influence on establishing democracy in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: What was clear to me is that we have a six to nine-month window in Iraq in which things can either turn out much better or turn out much worse, depending on how effectively we apply pressure to the Shia-dominated government to make sure that they're bringing everybody into the fold.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On CBS's "Face the Nation," Republican Senator Pat Roberts and Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman assessed the ongoing threat from Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R-KS) CHMN., INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This may be an effort for him to at least say, hey, I'm still around; I'm still here. But we should take that warning very seriously.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: The greatest danger is that Al Qaeda will strike at the center of power in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia and essentially take over one of those countries. And, of course, that would be disastrous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On ABC's "This Week," Democratic senator and former presidential candidate, John Kerry, blasted the Bush administration's handling of bin Laden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: ... ready to be captured or killed in the mountains of Tora Bora. And this administration, it is a fact, has misled Americans about the knowledge they had of whether or not he was there, number one, and number two, did not do everything that they could have in order to capture him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On "Fox News Sunday," Republican Senator John McCain made light of speculation about his running for the White House in 2008.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Anybody, three years before an election, who's looking at that election is only a political junkie like you and me.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: But have you insisted that your staff start calling you Mr. President?

MCCAIN: I make them sing "Hail to the Chief," but I haven't gotten to the "Mr. President."

(LAUGHTER)

Most of them, still, I allow to call me John or Your Majesty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows, here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

And don't forget our Web question of the week, do you think it's likely that Osama bin Laden will be captured in 2006?

Log on to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your vote. We're in New York. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

Let's get to your e-mail right now. Peter in Switzerland writes this: "Sanctions never did much to convince Iraqi leaders to comply. What makes Iran different? The threat of military action is the only option that seems to provide an impetus for Iran to change."

Steven in New York says: "All countries have an interest in stopping Iran's production of nuclear weapons. Wouldn't it be better to work with the U.N. to try and stop the Iranians rather than go it alone with military action?"

Remember, we always welcome your comments. Our e-mail address is lateedition@cnn.com.

Much more coming up on "Late Edition," including new questions and criticism about why Osama bin Laden is still free and issuing threats against the United States. We'll talk with two key U.S. senators. Then, will North Korea make concessions on its nuclear program? We'll talk about tensions along the Korean Peninsula with South Korea's foreign minister, Ki-moon Ban.

"Late Edition" continues at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OSAMA BIN LADEN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): In America, it's only a matter of time. They are in the planning stages, and you will see them in the heart of your land.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Osama bin Laden promises new terror attacks. Is America ready?

I'll ask two U.S. Senators whose states were struck on 9/11, Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, and George Allen, Republican of Virginia.

American diplomats call North Korea a criminal regime with nuclear ambitions. The inside story from South Korean Foreign Minister Ki-moon Ban.

And, he was the top U.S. civilian in Iraq. Now Paul Bremer talks about the early days of the American occupation in his new book, "My Year in Iraq."

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in New York, this is LATE EDITION with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Welcome back. Another lovely day in New York City.

Today, we're talking with Republican Senator George Allen and Democratic Senator Charles Schumer in just a moment. First, though, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.

WHITFIELD: Thank you, Wolf. I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Now a look at the top stories.

We have reports of what appears to be two explosions in Gaza. In one, witnesses claim Israeli war planes fired on a car in Gaza City. The Israeli army denied any involvement in that.

In the second reported explosion, the army said it fired on three armed Palestinians near the border.

Iraqi police say a car bomb in southwest Baghdad today wounded two police officers and three civilians. Also today, insurgents attacked the home of an Iraqi police officer, killing his four children and brother. Despite widespread violence, the U.S. military says attacks across Iraq fell 40 percent last week, compared to the previous week.

The deaths of fourteen miners in West Virginia mining accidents this month alone have prompted calls for stronger mine safety laws. The governor is expected to propose legislation tomorrow. The bodies of two miners trapped in a Melville mine since Thursday were found yesterday.

More headlines in 30 minutes. Now back to Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fred.

Earlier this week, a taped message from Osama bin Laden was released, threatening more terror attacks inside the United States, but also seemed to offer what's been described as a truce of sorts. With us to discuss this and much more, two guests.

In Washington, Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia. With me here in New York, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York. Gentlemen, welcome back to "Late Edition."

Let me play a couple excerpts, and I'll start with you, Senator Allen. Listen to the threat that Osama bin Laden made in this audiotape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): I would also like to say that the war against America and its allies will not be confined to Iraq. As for similar operations taking place in America, it's only a matter of time. They're in the planning stages. And you will see them in the heart of your land as soon as the planning is complete.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator Allen, how concerned should the U.S. be?

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R) VIRGINIA: Well, we ought to be concerned. There may be signaling of terror cells that may be here or eels elsewhere around the world. It shows he's still alive. At least he was from all indications a month or so ago. And it shows he still aims to disrupt and kill in this country.

And so it's important that we keep our guard up and we do everything practical and possible to disrupt them, to also, of course, not negotiate with them or have a truce with such scorpions. But in fact, we have to win this war on terror. And they are a force that cannot be reasoned with and can only be defeated.

BLITZER: What about that, Senator Schumer? New York City was attacked, as you well know, on 9/11. You heard this chilling audiotape from Osama bin Laden, and you've had a chance to digest it over the past few days. What's your assessment?

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D) NEW YORK: I agree with George completely. We cannot negotiate with terrorists. This man has the blood of over 2,700 Americans, many of them, the majority, in fact, New Yorkers and, you know, he is -- these feints and moves and all of that, they can't divert us.

We have to do two things. We have to continue to go after bin Laden and find him and capture him or kill him, and we have to on homeland security be as strong as we can to protect our homeland.

You know, terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon. Bin Laden is the one who's practiced it the most. But there are going to be others, as well. This war on terror is going to be with us for a while.

BLITZER: So, Senator Allen, when we hear him talk of a truce, some call it an olive branch or whatever. Listen to this other excerpt from the Osama bin Laden tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OSAMA BIN LADEN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We do not mind offering a long-term truce based on just conditions that we will stick to. We are a nation that God banned from lying and stabbing others in the back. Hence both parties of the truce will enjoy security and stability to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, which were destroyed by war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you see any opening there for a dialogue, if you will, with Osama bin Laden?

ALLEN: I know about 3,000 families from the United States would like to meet with him someplace and probably come out feet first from whatever building he was in, and we might want to send some drones in there. No, I don't see any opening there whatsoever, and whatever his conditions are, they're foolish.

He would want us out of the Middle East. He would want Israel exterminated. This is not something that you negotiate with. This is talking about, they don't stab people in the back. No, they commandeer airplanes and fly them into the Pentagon and into the World Trade Center. They've hit the USS Cole. They hit our embassy in Nairobi.

This is not someone you negotiate with. This is simply a ploy. And I think it should make us all here understand how long it's going to take to win this war on terror. I'm glad to see that Chuck said he agrees with me because we need to get this country unified. And recognizing the resolve and perseverance it will take for us to win this war on terror, it's going to take the same perseverance as there was to eradicate fascism in World War II. The same perseverance to win the Cold War.

And Americans, while we'll have differences on a variety of issues, there should be no question that every American, regardless of party, recognizes that this country is facing an intolerant, vile, hate-filled terror organization, and we are going to prevail.

BLITZER: Listen, Senator Schumer, to the White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan and his reacting to this audiotape. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCLELLAN: We do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business. The terrorists started this war, and the president made it clear that we will end it at a time and place of our choosing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER: I don't disagree. I agree with him.

BLITZER: Do you also agree that it's OK for the U.S. to go out and target, these targeted killings, whether it's Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, or other top Al Qaeda operatives, just go out and kill them?

SCHUMER: I do. They are planning, as bin Laden and others said, they're planning to do more damage, whether it's in Europe or the Middle East or here in the United States. And what we learned is that you can't just play defense. You need a good offense and a good defense. I have no problem with doing it. I think we should.

BLITZER: On that point, though, raises this issue, the extraordinary steps the president of the United States has taken in this war on terror to authorize these warrant-less wiretaps, part of the National Security Agency's effort to try to prevent terrorism, presumably. Listen to how the vice president, Dick Cheney, phrased it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our message to the American people is clear and straightforward. These actions are within the president's authority and responsibility under the constitution and laws, and these actions are vital to our security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you want to react to that?

SCHUMER: Well, that's the great debate. First, let me say this. We do have to be strong in the war on terror, and no one -- Democrats aren't going to take a back seat to anybody on that. But here is the fundamental beauty of America. We can be both strong and have the rule of law. And a large number of people, not just Democrats, Republicans like John McCain, Sam Brownback, Arlen Specter have said they have real doubts about whether what the president did conformed to the law.

BLITZER: But does Osama bin Laden's audiotape give the president ammunition in justifying these extraordinary measures?

SCHUMER: It gives him ammunition to go after bin Laden, to get the tools he needs, but to pursue it through the system, rule of law, and checks and balances that we've had here. Tomorrow if the president were to decide that he felt that he had to search Americans' homes without a warrant, to just go do it on his own and say, I need that power, no.

To go to Congress and say, here are the problems, here's the changes in the law that have to be made, there would be a debate, and it would usually work out. It always has in the past where the president is given the tools he needs, but with certain checks in place to prevent excesses. That's how it ought to be.

BLITZER: Why doesn't the president, Senator Allen, simply go to the Congress and say, you know what, this FISA, this Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, that was created in the '70s when everybody had sort of a single hard-line telephone before this communications revolution, this technology breakthrough that's occurred in recent years, and go to the Congress and say, I need this new authority, can you give me that authority?

Why not go that route, as opposed to unilaterally just coming up with a legal opinion and saying, I have that authority built in?

ALLEN: All right.

Several points here, Wolf: Number one, he does have the authority. An argument can be made that the president by virtue of his office and his role and responsibility is to prevent attacks on the United States. That's just, generally.

The more specific authority he has right now was the Congress authorized the use of military force. And, in that use of military force, it was to wage war against those who have declared war on us, specifically Al Qaeda.

And to do that, of course, you need military action, but also you need intelligence...

BLITZER: Senator, Senator, let me interrupt you. On that point, when you voted for that resolution, did anyone say to you that you were authorizing warrant-less wiretaps of American citizens?

ALLEN: No, nor did a lot of tactical decisions that were made in the midst of this war on terror; neither did I know what sort of intercepts or communications of financial assistance or other things that I don't know about and none of us should know about because it would tip off our opponents or our enemy.

The point of the matter is that this is what you would expect. Wouldn't you want us to know what the enemies are plotting against us? This is focused. These intercepts are focused on calls from phones that are related to Al Qaeda that may come into this country.

We have an enemy that is now possibly -- of course, it did hit on our ground here in the homeland, but they also would like to do it again. And so, in my view, Congress authorized it.

I find nothing wrong, though, with having a hearing. This maybe ought to be something that you would ratify -- yes, the president has this authority. But we had a case just recently, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld which I think was dispositive on the legal justification. But there's nothing wrong with having an investigation or understanding what's going on so long as we don't tip off our enemies, our opponents, as to what we're doing as far as our methods.

BLITZER: Senator, we're going to take a quick break, but I want to let Senator Schumer respond before we do.

SCHUMER: You know, this idea that some have that strength and the ability to defend ourselves is in contraposition against rule of law, the kinds of checks and balances we've had in America that's the hallmark of our system, is false.

You can have both. Now, the CRS, not partisan -- it's not Democrat or Republican.

BLITZER: The Congressional Research Service?

SCHUMER: The Congressional Research Service, thank you.

BLITZER: That's part of the Library of Congress?

SCHUMER: Part of the Library of Congress. These are a bunch of, you know, nonpartisan people.

They studied this and said the president didn't have the authority. Maybe George is right. Maybe they do. Maybe he's wrong. I tend to think that they didn't.

But to bring this before Congress and suggest that the law has to be changed, there is nothing wrong with that and the attacks on doing that -- you know what they do, Wolf? They divide America. And we have to be united in this war on terror to win it.

BLITZER: Well, we're going to get to that because there were some controversial remarks from Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, the deputy chief of staff.

We're going to have lots more on this, much more coming up -- "Late Edition." We'll be right back.

We'll also, by the way, discuss the confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito. Will he face a filibuster on the Senate floor? Is that still realistic?

Plus, the dangers of a nuclear-armed North Korea: The South Korean foreign minister will weigh in.

And later, the former U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer: Why is he telling a different story now about conditions in Iraq than he was telling when he was there?

"Late Edition" continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: The United States faces a ruthless enemy. And we need a commander in chief and a Congress who understand the nature of the threat and the gravity of the moment America finds itself in.

President Bush and the Republican Party do. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many Democrats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff, the president's top political adviser, speaking out earlier in the week.

Once again we're joined by our guests, Republican Senator George Allen -- he is in our Washington bureau -- and Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. He's here in New York with me.

"Unfortunately," Karl Rove says, "the same cannot be said for many Democrats" in this war on terrorism. I suspect he's referring in part to you.

SCHUMER: Well, who knows -- but, you know, it's -- no one is going to take a back seat to Democrats on fighting a tough war on terror. But what Karl Rove is doing is trying to divert attention.

Everyone is focused on, basically, the incompetence of this administration. Bin Laden was in Tora Bora. They relied on the Pakistanis to get him right after 9/11 and it failed.

The Iraq war -- we're having trouble with Iraqization. In other words, in the last reports, only about a thousand Iraqi soldiers can fight alone.

Here at home -- Katrina; everyone is talking about the prescription drug bill that was the administration's domestic centerpiece. And it's a total mess.

And so what Karl Rove is doing is trying to change the subject away from the incompetence of this administration at home and abroad.

Most Americans feel that the country's moving in the wrong direction internationally and domestically. And Democrats are strong on the war on terror.

But this is a cheap shot, trying to change the subject from the incompetence and the corruption in the Republican administration and trying to bring it back to this.

BLITZER: Well, let's let Senator Allen weigh in. A lot of people think, Senator Allen, you might be a possible Republican presidential candidate yourself.

Go ahead and react to the charge that this is simply a cheap shot by Karl Rove. ALLEN: Oh, it's Karl Rove, who I admire a great deal. And he is a good friend. And it's his view of things.

And I believe that the three things people care most about from and expect out of their federal government -- number one is security in this war on terror. It's very important.

Secondly, they want to make sure this is a land of opportunity, a more competitive country for investment and jobs and opportunities for all. And they also do care about the values, foundational values.

And in this war on terror, I think the American people recognize that President Bush has been a resolved, steady, strong leader. Can improvements be made? Of course, but Chuck seems to forget the success in Afghanistan, which I think is a success.

I actually think that Iraq is on the right track. They went through three elections last year. They're standing up a free and just society.

Hopefully, they'll be able to have one that they have a government where all people, regardless of whether they're Kurds or Sunnis or Shiites or whatever their religion or ethnicity or their gender, have an opportunity, and that's positive.

Lebanon is a positive; so is Libya.

ALLEN: And we need to get the world united, especially against Iran.

And Chuck and the Democrats are for raising taxes. We think we ought to have lower taxes for more investment.

BLITZER: Let me cut you off for a second, Senator Allen, because there's a couple other issues we have to get to before we're all out of time, including Samuel Alito, the justice nominee.

The vote is going to come up in your committee, the Judiciary Committee Tuesday. And then it'll go before the full Senate.

SCHUMER: Starting Wednesday.

BLITZER: Is it still realistic that the Democrats might filibuster?

SCHUMER: Well, I'm going to just make one other point about Rove. If Karl Rove wanted to win the war on terror he'd want to unite America. He'd want everybody, Republicans, Democrats, fighting this war together.

Comments like that, baldly political, divide us and hurt the war on terror. It shows you that Karl Rove is doing what he does as a trademark, putting politics above what's good for the country.

In answer to your Alito question, we are still weighing -- nothing is off the table. We're still weighing all of the issues. Karl Rove had to answer a whole lot of written questions. We have just gotten those back.

BLITZER: You mean Samuel Alito?

SCHUMER: Samuel Alito -- sorry -- has had to answer a whole lot of questions. We've just gotten those back. We're analyzing them.

And, look, a filibuster is a very large thing to do. It's a very -- it's not done very often. And so you've got to give it a lot of thought. And I don't think right yet, Democrats have come to a conclusion on that issue.

There is no question many are disappointed in some of the answers that Samuel Alito gave.

But to vote against him is one thing and to filibuster requires what I think is a much higher standard: Do you believe that the nominee is so far out of the mainstream that he will use the enormous power he gets on the Supreme Court to impose his views on the country?

BLITZER: I'll give you the last word, Senator Allen, on Samuel Alito. Go ahead.

ALLEN: Karl Rove is trying to unite this country in this effort, by the way.

And as far as Judge Alito, that's a values issue.

We see judges who ignore the will of the people in a variety of ways, everything from striking the Pledge of Allegiance from schools because of the words "under God;" you see them striking down parental notification bills, just last week.

Last year, you saw them amend the Bill of Rights by judicial decree, allowing commissars in New London, Connecticut to take people's homes, the American dream, not for a road or a school but because they wanted to derive more revenue off of it.

Judge Alito has an outstanding record. He had the unanimous highest recommendation from the ABA. He's 15 years as a Circuit Court judge. I think he's going to be an outstanding Supreme Court justice, respecting the will of the people in our representative democracy.

And if the Democrats want to filibuster, let them. We'll pull the constitutional trigger. And as far as I'm concerned, it's not too much to ask a senator to get off his or her cushy seat and show some backbone and spine and vote yes or vote no, but vote.

BLITZER: OK, we'll leave it right there.

Senator Allen, Senator Schumer, a good discussion. We'll continue this discussion -- see what happens in the Judiciary Committee this week, then on the Senate floor.

We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: Hello. I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

"Now in the News:" It's inauguration day for Bolivia's first indigenous president. Evo Morales is a critic of the U.S. with fiery leftist views. He's vowing to undo his nation's colonial past, increase state control of its vast natural resources and ease poverty in South America's poorest country.

Palestinian Security sources say a car explosion in Gaza City today killed one person and wounded three others. The Israeli army denies involvement in that attack. But it does admit to firing missiles at three armed Palestinians near a Gaza-Israel crossing, striking one.

The U.S. Navy says it has captured a group of suspected pirates off the Somali coast. The USS Winston Churchill fired warning shots and chased down the suspected pirate vessel after attempting ship-to- ship communications.

More headlines in 30 minutes. Next, the nuclear ambitions of North Korea. Wolf speaks with South Korea's foreign minister about its neighbor to the north. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting today from New York.

After days of rumors and reported sightings in China, the North Korean strong man, Kim Jong-Il appeared in public as he toured booming factories and met with Chinese leaders.

BLITZER: Earlier in the week, I spoke in Washington with South Korea's foreign minister, Ki-moon Ban, about what was accomplished in those meetings and what hope there is for talks aimed at eliminating North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (on camera): Foreign Minister, welcome back to Washington. Welcome back to "Late Edition."

KI-MOON BAN, SOUTH KOREAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Thank you. It's a great pleasure to see you again.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the recent visit by the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il, to China. He met with Hu Jintao, among others. What, if anything, was accomplished?

BAN: I think that basically the visit by Chairman Kim Jong-Il of North Korea to China recently, will have a very positive effect to ongoing six-party talks and other security situations on the Korean Peninsula and in northeast Asia in general.

BLITZER: Why do you say that? Why do you think it will have a positive impact?

BAN: I have several reasons to think about that positive way. First of all, North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il, said to Chinese leaders that he is committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and he also said that he would like to resolve North Korean nuclear issue peacefully through dialogue, participating in six-party talks. Therefore we believe that his visit will have a positive impact to have six-party talks move forward.

And secondly, he was accompanied by many senior government officials of North Korea, including economic advisers. And he visited several Chinese cities, the model cities of economic development like Shenyang and Guangzhou. Those are the cities known for the success stories of economic development of China.

BLITZER: But the bottom line is, do you believe Kim Jong-Il? Can anyone believe this man?

BAN: I'm not able to say whether we have trust or not on him, but at least, you know, we should know that Chinese -- North Korean government and North Korean leader himself has declared that his country is committed to opening up for economic reform.

This time, upon suggestion of Chinese President Hu Jintao, he made a tour to the areas, the same areas where a former Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping, made a very famous tour for economic reform. What is known as the Southern Round Lecture (ph).

He visited Guangzhou and Juhai and Shenyang. That visit by Chairman Kim Jong-Il will have some positive effect to reforming and opening of North Korean society.

BLITZER: Because as you know, there's deep skepticism here in Washington as far as the North Korean leader is concerned. I want you to listen to what the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney, said last year right here on CNN's "Larry King Live." Listen to this.

BAN: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD B. CHENEY, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Kim Jong-Il, who is the leader of North Korea, I would describe as one of the world's more irresponsible leaders. He runs a police state. He's got one of the most heavily militarized societies in the world. The vast bulk of his population live in abject poverty and stages of malnutrition. He doesn't take care of his people at all. And he obviously is -- wants to throw his weight around and become a nuclear power.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you agree with the vice president?

BAN: We still have to try to engage North Korea, to reform and opening up their society so that they could join as a responsible member of the international community. We are now talking to resolve North Korean nuclear issues in six-party talks. We have been going through all the exchanges and cooperative relationships between the two parts of Korea. By doing this, I think we'll be able to engage North Korea more through the international community.

BLITZER: How many nuclear bombs do you believe -- does your government believe North Korea already has?

BAN: There are some various assessments on the nuclear capabilities of North Korea. But what we know at this time through close consultations and exchanges of information and intelligence with the U.S. government and other governments is that North Korea might have manufactured one or two nuclear weapons with the nuclear materials that they have reprocessed the spent fuels.

They claim that they have reprocessed the 8,000 nuclear spent fuels, but all these kind of claims needs to be evidenced.

BLITZER: So you believe under negotiations, it's possible that North Korea under Kim Jong-Il would give up those nuclear bombs and go back to being a non-nuclear power?

BAN: In a joint statement adopted September 19 of last year where six participating countries have agreed, including North Korea. North Korea has made a firm commitment that they will abandon all nuclear weapons and all existing nuclear weapons programs and will return to NPT and abide by the safeguards of IAEA. We have to make sure that this joint statement be implemented sincerely, and on our part we have promised to provide corresponding measures.

This kind of process will be done in a coordinated manner. Next time when we meet at six-party talks, we will concentrate on drawing out implementation process.

BLITZER: There was a very disturbing poll that was done in South Korea last year and it asked this question -- you probably saw this poll -- in the event of a war between the United States and North Korea, who would you side with? Twenty-two percent of the South Koreans said the United States. Sixty-six percent said North Korea. To a lot of Americans, that's pretty shocking.

BAN: Basically, I would not agree to that kind of polls. There are many kinds of opinion polls, and the survey sometimes depends upon the purpose and the methods, how this survey polls was conducted.

Basically, all South Korean people are very much grateful for all assistance and cooperation when American young soldiers came to the aid of Koreans at the time of the Korean War. We are still working together to preserve peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. We are very much grateful for this American assistance.

And in return for this American cooperation and assistance, South Korean government and U.S. government have been working very much closely in international arenas to fight against international terrorism as we are doing in Iraq. BLITZER: I want to get to Iraq in a moment, but it seems like there's a different attitude among top U.S. officials towards North Korea than there is from top South Korean officials like yourself.

The U.S. ambassador in South Korea, Alexander Vershbow, said this in December. He said, "It's up to North Korea to end the behavior that led to those sanctions. This is a criminal regime, and we can't somehow remove our sanctions as a political gesture. North Korea has tremendous economic and social problems, none of which will be solved by the pursuit of nuclear weapons."

Do you agree that North Korea is a criminal regime?

BAN: We are now talking in six-party talks and South and North Koreans are engaged in very harmonious cooperation and exchanges. At the time when we are talking together, it would be desirable to regard the dialogue partner in a way not to provoke -- calling them as criminal regimes, et cetera.

I know that Ambassador Vershbow's remarks has made some controversy in Korea, but he was merely, I understand, responding to a question raised by reporters. And we have been very closely cooperating and consulting on all matters pertaining to North Korean, as well as the security situations on the Korean peninsula.

BLITZER: One of the reasons U.S. officials like Ambassador Vershbow regard North Korea as a criminal regime is because of the charge leveled against North Korea that they're engaging in counterfeiting U.S. currency. The deputy assistant Treasury secretary said in December, "It is simply unacceptable for a member of the international community to engage in this type of irresponsible conduct. As a matter of state policy, North Korea needs to cease its criminal financial activities. Until then," he went on and said, "the United States will take the necessary actions to protect the U.S. and international financial systems from this type of misconduct."

Do you agree with that assessment that North Korea as a state is engaging in this counterfeiting of U.S. currency?

BAN: My government is also deeply concerned about these illicit activities like counterfeiting U.S. dollars by North Koreans. We have conveyed our concerns to North Korean authorities, and on this matter we understand that the United States has been taking, as part of law enforcement.

BAN: And at the same time, we hope that this kind of counterfeiting or illicit activities by North Korea will not be standing in the way of six-party talks.

BLITZER: How much longer will South Korea keep a military troop presence in Iraq?

BAN: The National Assembly of Korea adopted the resolution including another mandate for another one year for Korean troops in South Korea -- in Iraq.

BLITZER: How many troops will be there?

BAN: At present, we have 3,300 soldiers stationed in Iraq, helping the Iraqi people rehabilitate their country. And...

BLITZER: Is that number going to stay the same or go down?

BAN: We are now considering to have some partial withdrawal of our troops, but this will be closely consulted with the other coalition forces, including the United States.

BLITZER: Foreign Minister, it's always good to have you on "Late Edition." Welcome to Washington. Thanks very much for joining us.

BAN: Thank you very much. It has been a pleasure to meet you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: What was Iraq like in the early days of the war?

Coming up next, the former top U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, gives us his account. And guess what? It's very different from what he often said while he was there.

This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition."

Paul Bremer spent 14 months as the top U.S. civilian in Iraq. Now he is recounting that time with some surprisingly strong criticism of the way the U.S. handled the occupation. His new book is entitled "My Year in Iraq." I spoke with him this week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (on camera): Congratulations, Ambassador, on the new book, which I read and I found very informative, even though I was surprised because I didn't necessarily think it was going to be as honest and as blunt as you were, but thank you for writing it. I want to go through some of the specifics.

One of the reasons I was surprised, because there were several instances where you write in the book things that you didn't say earlier. In fact, there were several inconsistencies, and I want to give you a chance to respond to those.

For example, on Page 106 in the book, you write on July 14, 2003, you write this: " 'In my view,' I'd told her" -- referring to Condoleezza Rice -- " 'the Coalition's got about half the number of soldiers we need here and we run a real risk of having this thing go south on us.' "

Around the same time, the following month, you were interviewed by me, and this is what you said. This is the exchange we had.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you need more U.S. troops, more boots on the ground, as they say at the Pentagon, in order to get the situation stabilized?

BREMER: I don't think so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You said you had enough. You didn't need more troops. Explain the inconsistencies.

BREMER: Well, wolf, a couple of things. Basically, three points. First of all, I've been in government now for about 40 years, and I've tried to be guided by two principles the entire time. One of them is that if you're working in the executive branch, you owe the president and the people who work with the president your honest views.

Secondly, you should keep those views within the government, and if you come to a point where you basically can't support a policy that you're responsible for, you have only one choice, which is to resign. You don't go out and talk to the press about policies you can't support. Now, in the case of the troop strengths, it's more complicated than simply the number of troops on the ground. What I was particularly concerned about during my time there was sustaining combat capability, of which the number of American troops is only one of three elements.

You also had to look at the number and quality of coalition forces. We had at the time of those interviews I think about 33 countries on the ground with us. And you have to look at the quality and quality of the Iraqi security forces. And my main concern, which is laid out in the book, was with the overestimation, I felt, of the quality of the Iraqi forces, because there was a real tendency, I think, to believe that those forces were more quickly going to be able to replace American forces.

BLITZER: I want to get to that in a moment, but if you read your book, which I have, you told the president, you told the secretary of defense, you told the national security adviser repeatedly -- it jumps out at all of us -- you thought maybe a half a million troops were needed in Iraq, which is the number that the U.S. used to liberate Kuwait in 1991. Yet, when you were asked repeatedly in public about more troops, you repeatedly said there were enough troops there.

BREMER: Well, look, the half-million figure, by the way, was not something I came up with. It was put to me in a draft report of the Rand Foundation, a bipartisan, non-partisan foundation that had studied previous occupations. The military commanders all along said that they thought they had enough troops. I believed otherwise.

They believed that having more troops would actually make the situation worse, that for some reason if we had more troops on the ground, it would create more difficulties for the occupation. I had a different view. My view was that we had a fundamental responsibility for law and order in Iraq above all other responsibilities, and that we needed to be able to retain the combat capability...

BLITZER: But why couldn't you tell the American...

BREMER: ... to put that forth.

BLITZER: Why couldn't you tell the American public that, if you believed that sincerely, and you know what was at stake, the lives of a lot of American soldiers.

BREMER: Wolf, look, you've been in Washington, not as long as I have, but that's not the way the government works. The way the government works is, and I try to make that clear in the book, there are disagreements in government on important matters.

That's not surprising. That's the way it should be. But those disagreements belong inside the government. They don't belong in the public domain. And as I said, if I was at a point where I thought I could not support the policy, I would have resigned.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about another issue that jumps out in the book, Chapter 1, entitled "Chaos." Let me read a couple examples of what you write.

This is when you first arrived there shortly after Saddam Hussein was overthrown: "The targets of looting were widespread." "Looters had ransacked power plants and substations." "Essential services, including trash disposal and firefighting, were spotty." "We were also getting many reports of sexual assault."

Listen to the exchange, though, you and I had shortly thereafter on June 25, 2003.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's get right to the key question at hand. Was the U.S. prepared for what seems to be an incredibly chaotic situation unfolding on the ground inside Iraq?

BREMER: I think we were, and I don't think it's incredibly chaotic, Wolf.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Well, it was pretty chaotic, wasn't it?

BREMER: Well, you're talking about -- you said June 25 if I heard you correctly.

BLITZER: June 25, 2003.

BREMER: Right. But that's six weeks after I arrived, by which time the situation had, in fact, calmed down.

You can play this "gotcha" game if you want, Wolf, but let me tell you, I spent 14 months on the ground there. And I had to deal with the situation as I found it. And what I found when I got there was that the looting was going unchecked.

And as I said in the book, I think that was a mistake, not to stop that looting, because not only did it do economic damage, which was billions of dollars, but it basically set the tone that we were not prepared to deal with law and order which was our fundamental responsibility and which was a theme throughout my 14 months.

BLITZER; This is not a "gotcha" kind of game. I'm just trying to understand what you were saying then as opposed to what you're writing now. And I think that it's just a matter of trying to clarify what was -- which part of that was true.

BREMER: Well, what I wrote in the book is the accurate reflection of what I tried to do in Iraq.

BLITZER: Here's another thing you write in the book, on page 209: "We have too many people looking for WMD (weapons of mass destruction) and not enough looking for terrorists. I've been pushing, as has Abizaid, (General John Abizaid, the central commander) to get this rebalanced and the process is finally under way."

Here's an excerpt of what you told me on June 25, 2003 in another interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BREMER: As Secretary Rumsfeld said, I'm confident, as he is, that we will find evidence of the programs or the weapons themselves as we exploit the information we have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You believed, as almost everyone else did, that the Iraqis had chemical, biological weapons, may have been working on a nuclear weapon and that was the major justification for going to war.

If, in fact, they had that, wasn't it important to find it, the chemical, the biological stockpiles to make sure they couldn't be used?

BREMER: Of course, it was important. And, in fact, what you just quoted is what we found. We did find that he had the programs. The final report of the inspectors by Charles Duelfer about a year ago said the one thing that was clear was that Saddam Hussein retained the programs, the intention, the equipment and the personnel to resume his programs as soon as the sanctions were lifted.

And as Duelfer pointed out, the sanctions were clearly eroding in the early part of 2003. In fact, several of the countries, Russia and France, were actively trying to get them lifted.

Of course, it was important to try to find them. I didn't suggest that we not look for them.

What I suggested -- you used the word in the book was that we rebalance, that we increase the number of people who were looking for the insurgents and, in fact, as that excerpt points out from the book, by the fall of 2003, we had done that.

We had basically rebalanced our intelligence assets so we were both looking for WMD and trying to find out more about the insurgency.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Ambassador Paul Bremer, speaking with me earlier in the week about his new book, "My Year in Iraq."

Up next, the results of our Web question of the week, Do you think it is likely that Osama bin Laden will be captured in 2006?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here are the results of our "Late Edition" Web question of the week, Do you think Osama bin Laden will be captured this year?

Nineteen percent say yes; 81 percent say no. Remember, this is not a scientific poll.

Let's take a closer look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines in the U.S.

Newsweek features "The Boy Crisis." Are they falling behind?

Time Magazine asks, "Would you buy a car from this man?" That would be William Ford.

And U.S. News and World Report looks at presidents at war.

That's it for our "Late Edition" this Sunday, January 22nd.

Be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York.

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