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YOUR WORLD TODAY
Al-Zarqawi Video Mocks U.S., Rallies Insurgents; Khamenei: U.S. Will Suffer if it Attacks Iran; U.S. Secretaries Visit Baghdad
Aired April 26, 2006 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rising rhetoric. Iran's supreme leader says if the U.S. attacks Iran, American interests around the world will suffer.
JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: High profile visit. Two U.S. cabinet secretaries arriving in Baghdad with a message for Iraqi politicians.
GORANI: And a somber anniversary. Solemn ceremonies mark 20 years since Chernobyl, the world's worst civilian nuclear accident.
CLANCY: Right now, it's 7:30 p.m. in Tehran, noon in Washington.
I'm Jim Clancy.
GORANI: I'm Hala Gorani.
Welcome to our viewers throughout the world and in the United States.
This is YOUR WORLD TODAY.
CLANCY: We're going to begin our report this hour in Iraq, where it was no ordinary delegation of visitors. Their message, form a unity government and make it quick.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arriving within hours of each other on unannounced visits. Rumsfeld addressed the training of Iraqi security forces.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: They have proceeded with their training and equipping. They've gained more experience. They've provided the overwhelming portion of the security for the last two elections and for the referendum on the constitution. And they are increasing their capabilities every day, just as we predicted they would.
And those naysayers and critics who constantly tried to undermine and denigrate the quality of those forces were just plain, flat wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLANCY: Rumsfeld and Rice met with Prime Minister-Designate Nuri al-Maliki to show support for the political process in what is seen by everyone as a very critical time. Al-Maliki now has 30 days to try to put together that national unity government.
GORANI: Well, the press for political stability comes as authorities consider a new Web site video posting that's a bold showing from al Qaeda's leader in Iraq mocking U.S. efforts and calling for insurgent unity.
Our Nic Robertson has our story.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): In a stunning departure from his usual super secretive ways, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is deliberately showing his face on video for the first time. Revealing not just how he looks, wearing what intelligence sources say is a suicide bomber's belt, Zarqawi also says he wants to lead Iraq's Sunni minority to victory by sharing leadership with the insurgency.
ABU MUSAB AL-ZARQAWI (through translator): I bring you the good news of establishing the Mujahedin Shura Council in Iraq. It will be the nucleus of establishing an Islamic state where the word of God is the highest.
ROBERTSON: The new video is in sharp contrast with Zarqawi's bloody atrocities in the past. Seen here on a video of two years ago wearing a mask, while beheading U.S. engineer Nick Berg. In the slickly produced new video, al Qaeda's leader in Iraq echoes his boss, Osama bin Laden, calling U.S. troops in Iraq Zionist crusaders and accusing President Bush of lying to Americans.
AL-ZARQAWI (through translator): Every time the Mujahedin strike, it makes you lie more and more, claiming that everything is under control, but your lies are exposed to everyone far and near.
ROBERTSON: But Zarqawi, seen here firing a heavy machine gun on what is almost a political campaign-type video, is aiming his message mostly at Iraq's Sunnis, threatening them not to join Iraq's new security forces and telling them victory over the U.S. is close at hand.
AL-ZARQAWI (through translator): By God, these are the last moments before the crusaders announce their defeat in the land of the two rivers.
ROBERTSON: Using images of himself, getting updates on the fighting, he is incredibly, for Jihadis, at least, projecting a more acceptable image, yet also making it clear he's still the boss. He is also seen watching a video of a crude missile being tested. Appropriately named, "Qaeda One," (ph) reasserting his goal of fermenting civil war.
AL-ZARQAWI (through translator): We believe that any government which is formed in Iraq now, whether by Shiites or the liberal Zionist Kurds or those who are just Sunnis, would only be a stooge.
ROBERTSON: Intelligence experts and tribal leaders have been saying for months Zarqawi wants to legitimize himself among Iraq's Sunnis.
(on camera): Interestingly, Zarqawi ends the 34-minute tape by saying he recorded it on Friday, the 21st of April, just four days ago. Immediately before a new Iraqi prime minister was agreed upon. Whether true or not, the fact he has come out into the open appears to indicate how comfortable he is about his own security and the importance he attaches to making a play for the leadership of Iraq's Sunnis.
Nic Robertson, CNN, London.
CLANCY: An Iraqi lawmaker we talked with this day had a comment about that videotape. She says that many people in Iraq did not believe that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi even existed. And this videotape is setting them straight, in her words.
Now, one other note from Iraq, to set the record straight. The man in charge is now Nuri al-Maliki. You may recall the designated prime ministers' name as Jawad al-Maliki, but while he goes about naming a cabinet to tackle the country's problems, he's decided to give himself, well, a new name, as well.
Actually, it's an old one. Al-Maliki says he adopted the first name "Jawad" in order to hide his identity and protect his family after he fled Iraq in Saddam Hussein's regime. That was in 1979. But now he's going to go back to Nuri. So that is what we are going to call him, as well.
Well, now, two words of warning. Iran says that if it is invaded or attacked, the United States will pay the price around the world.
GORANI: Iran's supreme leader is speaking out about the tensions between Tehran and Washington over his nation's nuclear program, saying the U.S. has been threatening Iran for more than a quarter century.
But a different discussion involving another Iranian. Its top nuclear official went to Vienna for talks with the U.N.'s nuclear experts. They left their 11th-hour talks avoiding any comments to reporters. The Security Council will get a report on Iran's nuclear program by the end of this week.
Let us go to the Iranian capital, Tehran. That is where our Aneesh Raman is standing by.
Some strong words by Iran's supreme leader, Aneesh.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hala, good afternoon.
The words have been getting stronger by the day in Tehran, warning against any military strike as a result of its civilian nuclear program. As you mentioned, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, warned that if America attacked Iran, American interests around the world would be harmed and that Iran would respond with double the strength.
It comes a day after the country's top nuclear negotiator warned that if military strikes were carried out here, the nuclear program would continue, but they would do so in secret. So, it suggests, really, Iran solidifying its position. It will not cease uranium enrichment, and preparing for what possibly could come down the line -- Hala.
GORANI: Now, what are people on the streets of Tehran saying about this standoff?
RAMAN: Well, we went out on the streets. We want to a gas station, actually, not far from here to ask specifically about oil as a weapon.
We've heard a lot of people say Iran, as the tensions rise, might curb oil production to hurt the West. The government has said they have no intention of doing that just yet. But we asked Iranians what they thought, and whether they should use oil as a weapon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Oil is our national wealth. Iran should use it in any way. I don't think that will create a problem for us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When a person or a country is in grave danger and subject to unrest pressure, you use any leverage you have. The people of the United States use guns to defend themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAMAN: Now, Hala, in Iran, a gallon of gas is just about, in U.S. dollars, 40 cents. Incredibly low because of government subsidies. But those subsidies are set to expire in the coming months.
The government wants to be self-reliant. The price (INAUDIBLE) after it is rationed off will go up fivefold, and that is causing quite a stir here.
So, oil prices as a weapon they think is good (ph), but here there's a huge crisis about what they are going to do (INAUDIBLE) -- Hala.
GORANI: Aneesh Raman in Tehran.
And we're going to be speaking to an expert there on the possibility of Iran using oil as a weapon a bit later in this program -- Jim.
CLANCY: Human rights say the Pentagon has failed to adequately investigate many allegations of detainee abuse. A new report says the problem of abuse by U.S. personnel abroad, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, is far more pervasive than the Abu Ghraib photos revealed.
Researchers say they have now tracked 330 cases of alleged detainee abuse that implicated more than 600 U.S. military and civilian personnel. But they say only about half of those cases appear to have been adequately investigated.
GORANI: President Viktor Yushchenko joined fellow Ukrainians to mark the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Memorial services were held not only in Chernobyl, but across the country.
An explosion and fire at the Chernobyl facility sent radiation billowing throughout the entire continent of Europe. It happened this day in 1986. Two decades later, the total number of victims remains widely disputed.
CLANCY: And that brings us to the "Question of the Day."
GORANI: That's right. We've been asking you this day, does nuclear power, regardless really of what it's used for, does the concept of nuclear power scare you?
CLANCY: E-mail us your thoughts to YOURWORLDTODAY@CNN.com.
GORANI: We'll read some of your responses later in the show.
Still ahead on YOUR WORLD TODAY, the U.S. is pressuring Iraq to form a new unity government right away.
CLANCY: We're going to be talking with a female member of the Iraqi parliament about the political process and what the future holds for women in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: It's not a governing council. It's a government, a government of Iraq. And that's an important thing. This is a sovereign country, and they're making impressive progress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLANCY: Welcome back to YOUR WORLD TODAY.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld there, talking about the Iraqi government during his unannounced visit to Baghdad. Hopes are high that a national government of unity can be formed in Iraq. But what about the role of women in Iraqi politics?
Well, earlier, we spoke with Maysoon al-Damluji, a member of the Iraqi parliament about that and other issues of the day.
MAYSOON AL-DAMLUJI, MEMBER OF IRAQI PARLIAMENT: I think, in the end, Iraq will end up a liberal democratic country, but I think this will take a long time, because there's a lot of anger still felt from decades of Saddam's rule. This will take time.
People will get together in the end and work out a real democracy, I think, a real share of power. People will accept others for what they are.
As far as women are concerned, I think the culture of accepting women in politics has changed in the last three years. Now even the most conservative of women, women who at the beginning, for instance, of the general assembly of the last term who are now members of the parliament I've spoken to, have changed their positions a lot, quite a lot. And I think this is very significant.
I think we will be able to work as, you know, a woman's lobby or a caucus from within the parliament. I feel very optimistic by the women who are stern conservative activists. Now they have moved quite a lot.
I think that we will be able to meet in the end and work together on quite a few things, especially the legislations within the -- as are stated in the constitution that concern women.
CLANCY: Coming full circle, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on his tape insisted he is going ahead with his war against any government in Iraq. Do you think that those forces are going to succeed?
AL-DAMLUJI: Well, actually, my view of al-Zarqawi's tape is that he feels very worried that he's losing popularity inside Iraq, which is why he came out on tape. I don't see, nor do I understand why else would he go on tape. He hadn't done so in the last three years.
This is a change of strategy. He feels that he needs to make himself visible more in order to get the support.
And I do sincerely feel that his support is dropping within the western area of Iraq. People are happy that the Sunnis, so-called Sunnis, or the western part of Iraq is joining in the political process, and one of them has now become an elected person, has become a vice president. And someone else has become the head of the assembly of the -- I mean, the parliament, which is very important, I think. And I think al-Zarqawi and the extremists will lose their grip on people slowly but surely.
CLANCY: They are there to shore up, to express confidence in the government, but the U.S. secretary of state, the U.S. defense secretary are both there. What message should they tell Iraqi lawmakers and officials?
AL-DAMLUJI: My opinion is that they should go out and say, "We did all this for Iraq to have democracy and not theocracy. Leave religion to your homes and let us have a modern, civil, civilized state in Iraq."
CLANCY: Maysoon al-Damluji, she is an Iraqi parliamentarian. That's a part of the interview that we did with her a little bit earlier today. She's an outspoken proponent of women's rights -- Hala.
GORANI: One day after a series of explosions that killed 18 people at an Egyptian Red Sea resort, terrorists strike again. Two suicide bombers blew themselves up near a multinational force vehicle and a police command post in northern Sinai.
Ben Wedeman joins us now live from Dahab, the site of Monday's bombings. Let's start with those, and the reaction, so far, Ben, a couple of days after those explosions that killed so many in Dahab -- Ben.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Hala, well, the reaction, obviously, it's just sinking in. But here in Dahab, there are still tourists still here. Many of them saying they are making a point by staying here.
Repair work is being done. The place has been essentially cleaned up.
As far as the investigation goes, the Egyptian authorities are still saying that they've detained only about a dozen of people for questioning. But our information indicates that, in fact, they have rounded up a good deal many more than that.
Much of the suspicion is being focused on Sinai Bedouin, not necessarily those from the south, but largely from the north, because in previous bombings in the Sinai in October of 2004 and July of 2005, those who were found to be involved in those bombings were largely from the northern part of the Sinai. In this area, the Bedouin are almost wholly dependent upon tourism. And I spoke to some of their local leaders today, and they insisted they would simply have nothing to do with this sort of bombing.
Now, as far as the attacks, the two bombings that took place in El Gorah, which is where one of the bases of the multinational observer force is based, those attacks apparently did involve Bedouin, according to the Egyptian police, who said that one of the bombers who was riding a bicycle, it was clearly, as far as they know, a Bedouin. But as I said, suspicion is really focusing on more the Bedouins from the north than south of the Sinai -- Hala.
GORANI: Ben Wedeman, live in Dahab -- Jim.
CLANCY: All right. We are going to take a short break here on YOUR WORLD TODAY.
GORANI: But we want to share the story of a life -- a sad story of a life lost, a little girl looking for her mother in the United States.
CLANCY: Six-year-old Dona Watts (ph) woke up with her 13-year- old cousin, realizing this house, her house was on fire. Both of the children managed to run to safety out the front door.
GORANI: But Dona (ph) ran back inside, hoping to find her mother and bring her to safety. Well, the little girl's body was recovered hours later beneath one of the beds.
CLANCY: And she didn't know it, but her mother had managed to jump out of a window that was on the other side of the house.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN Center in Atlanta. More of YOUR WORLD TODAY in just a few minutes. First, though, let's check on stories making headlines here in the U.S.
Karl Rove is back in the CIA leak spotlight. Sources tell CNN Rove is going before a grand jury for a fifth time today.
Rove met this morning with his lawyer and special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. The session may help clear up lingering questions about any role Rove may have had in the Valerie Plame leak.
The president's top political adviser has not been charged with any crime. Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff does face perjury and obstruction charges.
From occasional critic to full-time spokesman, FOX News anchor and political analyst Tony Snow will be the new White House press secretary. President Bush made the announcement this morning.
As a commentator, Snow called the president an embarrassment. Mr. Bush joked about Snow's criticism of him in the past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's not afraid to express his own opinions. For those of you who have read his columns and listened to his radio show, he sometimes has disagreed with me.
I asked him about those comments. And he said, "You should have heard what I said about the other guy." I like his perspective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAGAN: The president says that Snow's experience as a journalist gives him valuable insight.
A new outrage for drivers. Sixteen billion dollars in first quarter profits, that's what the nation's three largest oil companies are expected to announce this week. That comes as drivers are now paying an average of $2.92 a gallon of gas nationwide, up 42 cents from a month ago and 70 cents from a year ago.
Is there a place where gas prices are actually too low? Yes, according to one South Carolina gas station owner. The owner is suing the competition. Guess which side the drivers are on?
Reporter Latoya Silmon from our affiliate WYFF has the story.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It helps us.
LATOYA SILMON, REPORTER, WYFF: Drivers in Gaffney say they are all for paying less at the pump. So, none of them can believe a gas station could be sued for setting prices too low.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's like they want to penalize someone or coming down on them because they're trying to be considerate of other people.
SILMON: But the suit is real. Pantry, Inc. is suing Petro Express for low prices. It says two Gaffney stations offered gas below cost.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's an open market, you know? They shouldn't sue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they can sue if they're -- if they're willing to make it on not as much profit as they can make.
SILMON: But Pantry says the lower prices violated South Carolina's Unfair Trade Practices Act. Under the law, motor fuel retailers cannot offer prices below cost with the intent or effect of impairing competition. Pantry says it lost $160,000 and hopes a judge will help recoup its losses. And it wants Petro to stop lowering its prices permanently.
But with prices inching closer to $3 at many stations in the upstate...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Too high. Way too high.
SILMON: ... many drivers say the higher prices aren't fair.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm wondering when it's going to stop. You know, it's just going up and up and up.
KAGAN: The case will go before a judge in July.
A missing student, a body found, a family grieves. Police have confirmed the body found in Pennsylvania in a landfill is John Cyoco, Jr. (ph). They say there is no evidence of foul play, but they do call his death suspicious.
The landfill received trash from the College of New Jersey. Cyoco (ph )was a freshman there. He was last seen in his dorm on March 25th after an off-campus party. His blood was found in and around a dumpster outside the dorm.
A couple of key players in the Bush administration are getting a look at the situation in Iraq today. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Baghdad several hours ago on a surprise visit. Hours earlier, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld flew into the city. Both trips were unannounced because of security concerns. Their visits a show of support for Iraq's new prime minister-designate. Rumsfeld also was checking on Iraqi forces.
To some, it is hallowed ground, but almost five years later after 9/11, a memorial for those killed on United Flight 93 is still in limbo. Today, family members are urging a North Carolina congressman to free up federal funds.
Republican Charles Taylor has blocked attempts to buy 1,700 acres in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the plane went down. Taylor says he is working out a deal for the state to pick up more of the expense.
Five months of messy negotiations almost five years after 9/11, finally an agreement on rebuilding at Ground Zero appears within reach. The deal means construction of the Freedom Tower could begin this week.
The World Trade Center developer and government officials have agreed to most of the terms. The agreement could be finalized today. The 1,776 foot Freedom Tower will be built on the site where the World Trade Center once stood.
Coming up this afternoon on "LIVE FROM," President Bush meets with the teacher of the year, Kimberly Oliver. You can hear from her live at 3:00 p.m. Eastern.
YOUR WORLD TODAY continues after a quick break.
I'm Daryn Kagan.
CLANCY: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to YOUR WORLD TODAY. I'm Jim Clancy.
GORANI: Hello, I'm Hala Gorani. Here are some of the top stories we're following for you this hour.
And we start with Iran. Rising rhetoric in the nuclear dispute between Iran and the west. The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that if America attacked his country, U.S. interests around the world would be harmed. Tehran has sent its top nuclear official to Vienna for discussions with the U.N.'s Atomic Energy Agency, and that comes ahead of an I.A.E.A. report due this Friday.
CLANCY: Ukraine's president Victor Yushchenko said today he remembers the heroes that died at Chernobyl. Across the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, there were ceremonies marking the 20th anniversary of the nuclear disaster. Yushchenko declared Chernobyl must not be a mourning place. It must become a place of hope.
GORANI: America has two top officials in Iraq, trying to help political leaders get their government up and running. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Baghdad. They met with Iraqi leaders, including the prime minister designate Nuri Kamil al-Maliki, to show support for the new government.
Let's get more on the U.S. secretaries' visit to Iraq. Ryan Chilcote joins us now live from Baghdad with more on the surprise visit.
Ryan, what did the two officials tell the prime minister designate al-Maliki?
RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As you say, Hala, they were both here, the U.S. secretaries of defense and state, really, to show their support for the new -- Iraq's new prime minister, but also really to encourage him to form a unity government.
The new prime minister of Iraq is a Shiite politician, and both the secretary of defense and the secretary of state wanted to make it very clear that they want this to be a unity government, a government that will include not only members of the prime minister's Shiite sect, but from Iraq's other religious and ethnic groups.
They also are here to encourage him to do that very quickly. Remember, Iraq is coming after a four -- coming off of a four-month political deadlock. As this government takes shape, as this cabinet takes shape, one of the key issues will be Iranian influence. Remember that the previous prime minister here in Iraq had very warm relations with Iran. This prime minister is known to have very warm relations. He spent some time in Iranian exile during Saddam's day.
So, I just came back with an interview to the secretary of state, where I put that question to her. How concerned is she about Iranian influence in Iraq?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The Iraqis are patriots. And the Iraqis are going to do what is right for Iraq. And I would just note that the prime minister gave a very interesting statement in which he said that he really thanks the neighbors for the role that they played during Saddam Hussein's regime in sheltering people, but that now it's time for Iraq to control its own affairs. And I fully expect that that's going to be the case.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have concerns?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHILCOTE: And, of course, the United States believes that the sooner Iraq's politicians can take, as the secretary of state said there, said, control of their affairs, they can begin the process of discussing with the new Iraqi government the future reduction of U.S. troops here -- Hala.
GORANI: Ryan, briefly, we don't have much time, but in order for a unity -- a successful unity government to succeed -- and we've seen others in the Middle East -- you need at the top of that government a dealmaker, somebody who's diplomatic, who can get people together to agree on perhaps even giving some strong posts to the Sunnis. Is Nuri al-Maliki that man?
CHILCOTE: Well, he's saying that he is that man. He's been saying the right things. He's been talking about building a unity government. However, he has not revealed who will get the interior ministry, who will get the defense ministry posts, and that is really key to pit. In the past, he has been a very fierce advocate for Shiite interests. Obviously, as you say, in order to succeed, he's going to need to reach out, build a bridge to the Sunni community here, thought to really be the backbone of the insurgency.
And we'll just have to see over the coming days. He has three more weeks to set up this government, and the key to its success, as you say, will be his ability to step beyond sectarian boundaries and include other groups -- Hala.
GORANI: All right, a fascinating time. And we'll be watching. Our Ryan Chilcote, live in Baghdad.
CLANCY: Well, back to Washington now, where U.S. President George W. Bush named Tony Snow as his new White House press secretary. Snow, no stranger to the White House, and he is no stranger to the Bush family, either. He was director of speech writing for the first President Bush and has been a news anchor and political analyst in recent years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I'm confident Tony Snow will make an outstanding addition to this White House staff. I am confident he will help you do your job. My job is to make decisions, and his job is to help explain those decisions to the press corps and the American people.
TONY SNOW, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: One of the reasons I took the job is not only because I believe in the president, but because, believe it or not, I want to work with you. These are times that are going to be very challenging. We've got a lot of big issues ahead, and we've got a lot of important things that all of us are going to covering together. And I am very excited, and I can't wait.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLANCY: All right. We're going to see a lot of him. Snow just the latest face to join a changing cast at the White House, hoping to give a little bit more life to a troubled administration. John King joins me now from Washington with a bit more.
John, they've finally done it. A TV personality is going to be the press secretary at the White House. What are the correspondents saying? Is it going to be good for them or not?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, of course, they are greeting with some optimism Tony Snow's promises to try to grant more access to the president. His comments today that he thinks his job is to try to help them do their jobs. But, look, he has one of the toughest staff jobs in Washington. He has two masters, the president of the United States and the White House press corps. And the president of the United States is in quite a bit of a rut right now.
And let's be honest. The president can have a new chief of staff, he can have a new press secretary, he can make other changes in the senior White House staff. None of those changes will bring the troops home from Iraq one day sooner. None of those changes reduce the price of gasoline here in the United States, which is also driving the president's record low approval ratings.
So they are hoping here to have a -- some fresh blood, maybe some fresh perspective. Tony Snow is someone who has disagreed with this president, quite vehemently at times, made those views known on his radio show and in his column. So the White House says this is proof they're open to new ideas. Whether it leads to any significant policy shifts, though, is an open question. Most think, on that front, Jim, it will not.
But certainly, you have somebody with good communication skills, somebody who is very well-regarded among conservatives. The president's biggest problem right now is anxiety in his own party, so by bringing in somebody who is a good communicator with good standing among conservatives, among Republicans, could get a little benefit there. And a little bit in an election year could matter a lot.
CLANCY: What is the draw for a correspondent, a columnist or a pundit on television, to get involved, to take a job like this at the White House? Is it the money?
KING: Well, let's -- no, it's not money. Tony Snow is taking a pay cut. He will make about $160,000 a year, which is not chump change, but it's less money than he was making as a TV and radio personality, somebody he could give speeches around town. He can't do that now.
Let's be clear. He is not someone who has been an objective journalist. That's not a knock on Tony. Tony's a good man. He has been someone who has been a partisan, an opinionated columnist, a partisan. Clearly a conservative, clearly a Republican, clearly someone who admires and respects this president, even as he said he thinks he has gone off course many times in this administration.
So he is already identified. He worked for this president's father. He is clearly a partisan Republican. And the president of the United States calls, and says, I need your help. Pretty hard to say no.
CLANCY: How long does the honeymoon last? A week?
KING: A minute. Scott McClellan did not get a honeymoon, and he was somebody who was very highly regarded by the news media, someone who, if you were in that briefing room -- and I was there for a long time -- you knew he would never deliberately mislead you or lie to you. You knew he was trying to get answers from the president. You also know he worked in an administration that views us quite suspiciously.
Scott had no honeymoon because of the timing and circumstances in which he took the job. Tony Snow is taking the job in the middle, again, of an unpopular war in Iraq. Secretary Rice, Secretary Rumsfeld, trying to get key questions about the new Iraqi government. High prices here. An election just six months over the horizon...
KING: ... in which the Republicans might lose their grip on power. No time for a honeymoon, Jim.
CLANCY: Also, Karl Rove up in front of a grand jury again today.
KING: Just moments ago, walking into the courthouse, the federal courthouse here in Washington. CNN told by a number of sources he is going back before the grand jury, trying to resolve the final questions. Clean up some things, is the way one Rove -- one source sympathetic to Rove put it to me a short time ago.
The special prosecutor investigating, of course, that whole CIA leak investigation. One former top White House official already indicted, the vice president's former chief of staff. Karl Rove's team believes he gives this grand jury testimony today, that he answer the final lingering questions and put all this behind him. That is their perspective, that this fifth grand jury appearance will clean up and end the questions about his involvement in it, and will not lead to any charges against him.
They are hoping for a resolution soon. They hope this testimony today, a dramatic day for the White House, brings about that resolution. But we're also told, Jim, don't look for any official announcement today about this testimony. But certainly a very significant day. The president shaking up his staff a little more, and one of his most trusted aides right now being grilled before a federal grand jury.
CLANCY: John King reporting to us live from Washington. As always, John, thanks.
KING: Thank you.
GORANI: Ahead on YOUR WORLD TODAY, oil as a weapon.
CLANCY: The increase in fuel prices in the United States corresponds to the rising tensions with Iran. Analysis is next.
GORANI: Welcome back to YOUR WORLD TODAY.
As Iran's confrontation intense with the international community has intensified, officials in Tehran have alternately said oil could be, and then would not be, used as leverage, as a weapon, if you will.
Let's get insight. We turn to Charles Doran, professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University. Thanks for being with us.
What are your thoughts on the statements that have come out of Iran, that oil will not be used as a weapon?
CHARLES DORAN, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: I think that the statements themselves are not something that one can put lots of confidence in. What is, in fact, much more significant is what actually could happen and how, in fact, that situation will be managed.
GORANI: All right, let's look at what the oil minister of Iran has said. He had said, "We don't want to cause hardship for any consumers around the world. We have a commodity, and we want to sell it." Why would it be in Iran's best interest to jack up the price of oil for where it would be difficult for them to sell a commodity that brings them revenue?
DORAN: Well, I don't think there's a great deal of logic in that. Obviously, if the price is higher, more money is made, so I think they feel probably that they're in a good situation, regardless of what happens, because they'll be able to sell the oil, and higher prices are fine.
But they, too, probably want, in general, stable markets.
GORANI: But their biggest customers, right now, among them, are China and other Asian countries. Those who have a rather, more of a rigid sort of demand. I mean, they could not afford oil that would just go above and beyond what they could pay.
DORAN: It's true that all oil, as they say, comes from a single barrel. So that if there were supply disruption of some sort, everybody in the world would pay higher prices. It's impossible to focus that. So they would take those kinds of things into account. But I emphasize once again, from their perspective, they benefit one way or another. Higher prices would amount to more money for them.
GORANI: All right, moving on. So do you think Iran is going to use it as a geopolitical weapon?
DORAN: I think that very much depends on what happens in the larger international sort of setting. It seems that they're very much bent upon acquiring nuclear weapons, and that has implications, obviously, for the area.
But at the same time, the question is how does one deal with that situation. That has implications. So the real question is, how can we achieve our objectives while, at the same time, making sure that the oil continues to flow in an interrupted way.
GORANI: And what's the answer to that?
DORAN: I think that a couple of countries, the United States and Britain, are at a point in history, where they have the knowledge, the capacity the institutions, to maintain a presence in the area, and it's that presence that guarantees the stability of supply. GORANI: A military presence?
DORAN: A military presence, a naval presence is key to the certainty of supply in a very uncertain world.
GORANI: So, a deterrent presence.
DORAN: I think there's no question that that capability is a deterrent. In fact, we've learned from that experience of the earlier conflicts that when you don't have that capability in place, that sometimes surprises occur. So that capability is a guarantee that there will be continuity of supply.
GORANI: All right, thank you for your perspective, Professor Charles Doran of Johns Hopkins University.
CLANCY: Well, coming up. We look back at Chernobyl's legacy.
GORANI: We travel to France, where some of those affected feel just as deceived by Paris as those in the east felt betrayed by Moscow.
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): ... the issues. Still, at the Nuclear Energy Agency in Paris, experts are quick to point out that there's never been a nuclear accident in any of the country's 58 reactors. And they believe that here, as elsewhere, fears of another Chernobyl decline as concerns about energy independence go up.
HANS RIOTTE, NUCLEAR ENERGY AGENCY: Nuclear power, in effect, is local energy, because it doesn't need too much fuel elements, the amount of fuel is very low, so people can easily store and each nuclear power plant actually has a half year, or even more reserve.
BITTERMANN: Even so, anti-nuclear activists here are getting more traction with their protests than ever before, as France begins construction of the next generation of reactors. Surveys indicate only one Frenchman in five would accept living next to a reactor, but that's still more than the number who would accept a chemical plant or an incinerator in their neighborhood.
PASCAL HASTING, GREENPEACE FRANCE: The mood is changing. However, there's still a long way to go, compared to how the discussion is being allowed in Germany, in Sweden now, or in other European countries.
BITTERMANN: From the Mercier's (ph) backyard, there is ambivalence. After Chernobyl, they, more than most here, have reason to question nuclear safety and the government's forthrightness. And, they have a nuclear power plant just 30 miles away.
"I'd like to see France move away from nuclear energy," Eve Mercier (ph) says, "but we need energy." And as long as the reactor is managed properly, I'm not scared.
Jim Bittermann, CNN, Sevonilatompe (ph), France.
GORANI: Well, this week, we've been looking back at that 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear plant.
CLANCY: Now, our correspondents have been reporting from the region. But for the last few years -- it's interesting, Hala -- it's been possible for tourists to go to Chernobyl and see the disaster area.
GORANI: I don't know if that's a place I would like to go spend some time as tourist. In this week's "Changing Earth" segment, Femi joins us with a look at a unique ecological tour.
FEMI OKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It is amazing to believe it, but the site of the Chernobyl nuclear power accident from 20 years ago has also become one of Ukraine's most talked about tourist attractions.
On a day trip starting our from Kiev, it is possible to take a ecological guided tour around Chernobyl, take in the sites, take photographs and video, and then be back home before nightfall. The SoloEast travel company is just one of a number of companies to offer tours to the site of the nuclear disaster.
And its director, Sergei Ivanchuk, joins me on the phone. Sergei, you are actually sold out for April, so if somebody did manage to get on your tour, say, in May, where would you be taking them?
SERGEI IVANCHUK, DIRECTOR SOLOEAST TRAVEL: Actually, April was sold because it's very busy in here because of the anniversary, of course, and lots of people want to come to and see, lots of people from abroad and lots of local people who used to live in that area. So they take the chance in April to come and see it.
OKE: Now, it's called an ecological tour, and what I'm looking at now is some catfish, actually. And the wildlife through the area is really interesting. Wild boars roaming through the streets. Tell me more.
IVANCHUK: Actually, the absence of the people for more than 20 years there, it actually triggered the wildlife in the area, so there are lots of animal life and lots of boars even in the daytime walking on the street, and there are horses running around. So, unbelievably how somehow nature recuperated the situation. And when you look into it right now, it's just unbelievable how -- to manage to recover after this huge explosion.
OKE: Now, people signing up for this tour, what safety precautions are there that they won't get radiation sickness?
IVANCHUK: Actually, the tour is very safe. I mean, we don't really use any protective clothes or something. We have gauges and meters and that and that. Of course, we usually guide, and people have to follow the guide in order not to, you know, get into some dirty, radioactive spots. But otherwise, the tour is 100 percent safe.
OKE: Just out of time here, Sergei, but a quick yes or no answer. Have there been any criticisms of you making money out of tragedy?
IVANCHUK: Oh, frankly, we don't really make money. It's not money we are in there. Just when I heard about those tours, and since I was a 17-year-old boy that, you know, I experienced this explosion that happened probably 120 kilometers from my home so -- and when there was a chance to do something like that, I just decided to do it, because I wanted to go there myself first.
But then seeing what happened made me to share it with other people, so they can see what a nuclear power plant can bring to people.
OKE: Sergei Ivanchuk, thank you very much. It must be one of the most unusual ecological tours in the world. Talking there live from Kiev in Ukraine.
GORANI: Would you go, Femi?
OKE: I am so fascinated by it. As long as you have a little guide with a counter, and it beeps when you get too close to the nuclear plant, I think I'm curious enough to go and do a story. Absolutely.
CLANCY: They all glow in the dark. Got to go.
OKE: You're very tasteless.
CLANCY: That's our report for now. There's much more news ahead. I'm Jim Clancy.
GORANI: I'm Hala Gorani. Stay with us.
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