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THE SITUATION ROOM

Iran Releases Captured British Sailors; Interview With Imad Moustapha

Aired April 4, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, no money, no war. The defense secretary warning the showdown over Iraqi forces could jeopardize the entire mission and sooner than you think.

Also, Iran's president shocking the world with a surprise announcement about those captured British sailors and marines.

Is this hard-line, anti-Western leader manipulating the news media?

Also, this...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do think that people who -- who have a sexual orientation of one kind or another should not be discriminated against.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: But does Rudy Giuliani think gays should be allowed to serve ultimately in the U.S. military?

The Republican presidential candidate gets grilled on hot button issues in a one-on-one interview.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Dire warnings from the defense secretary, as Congress and President Bush face off over fundraising for the Iraq War. Robert Gates predicts very serious consequences for U.S. forces in just a matter of days if a new cash infusion doesn't come through.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joining us live -- what is the worst case scenario that Gates is predicting?

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, the defense secretary today raised the prospect that the whole war could run out of money and everybody would have to come home, but not really. (BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

STARR (voice-over): In the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, the aftermath of twin bomb attacks. Progress in Iraq is still very much a mixed picture.

CNN has obtained a copy of a letter the joint chiefs is sending to Congress outlining what will happen in the war if the military doesn't quickly get the $100 billion it wants in additional war funding. Without that money, the chiefs say there will be increasingly disruptive measures -- spending restrictions could delay sending fresh troops to Iraq to replace those completing their tour of duty.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: If there were a complete cutoff of the funds, I mean there -- there's no question that that would bring an end to the war. We would have to come home if there were no funds at all.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

STARR: But, you know, Suzanne, there's very little doubt there will be some sort of compromise between Congress and the administration, between -- with the White House and that some funds will be provided and the war will go on -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, Barbara, what are we looking at here? Is this kind of just a game, politics as usual?

STARR: Well, you know, sex, it really is. This is generally what has happened for the last several years when they don't meet the deadlines for providing the supplement funding. Everybody comes out with these extremely dire predictions.

The only real question on the table at the moment is how much pain will the troops on the front lines suffer? How much of a delay will there be before there's a deal, before the money is provided? How many disruptive spending restrictions will there be that may affect these young people out there fighting the war before the politicians cut a deal on it all -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Barbara, as we know, the president and Congress really digging in their heels on this one. So we'll just have to see how it plays out.

Barbara Starr, thank you so much.

Iran's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, stunning the world with a surprise announcement, saying those 15 British sailors and marines seized almost two weeks ago are being set free. They're scheduled to leave Teheran for home in just a few hours.

The news dropped like a bombshell at the end of a long news conference, where Mr. Ahmadinejad showed off what some say is his ability to manipulate the news media. CNN's Mary Snow is in New York with that story -- I found it fascinating and disturbing at the same time to watch that news conference.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Suzanne. And others agree, because we saw the Iranian president on the world stage. Some call him a genius of communication. But his very public event is also raising questions about his influence inside Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): With cameras rolling, a translator by his side and a microphone to capture the pleasantries, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad greeted the British sailors and marines being released and those who study him closely call it a savvy performance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

HERB LONDON, PRESIDENT, HUDSON INSTITUTE: Yes, thank you very much. Wish you success. I mean this is really somewhat absurd.

SNOW: Her London is a Middle East expert with the Hudson Institute, the think tank. From Ahmadinejad's smile to his gestures to the way he is dressed, London says the Iranian leader is skilled at manipulating the media to send a message.

LONDON: He's saying to them, you see, people have described me as disagreeable, even a fanatic, even a dangerous figure. But after all, I'm diminutive, I'm smiley.

Why would anyone worry terribly much about me?

SNOW (on camera): So the real danger in the way he's conveying this message is what?

LONDON: The real message is that we are lulled into a period of -- of some acceptance of people like this, of believing that they're not so different from us.

SNOW (voice-over): Experts on Iran say Ahmadinejad is second to none when it comes to mastering political gestures. But they say he wasn't just delivering a message for the rest of the world, but sending a message to Iranians.

JON ALTERMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Ahmadinejad's most important task today was to ensure that it didn't look like Iran was conceding, it looked like Iran was getting something. For that reason, he had to go through the whole elaborate ceremony to show that this was an example of his graciousness, of his charity to the rest of the world.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SNOW: Now, a scholar we spoke with said it isn't clear that Ahmadinejad was responsible for the decision to free the British sailors and marines. He suggests the decision may have been made by others, and Ahmadinejad just had the job of making the announcement -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Mary Snow, thanks for that report.

And now, to the ongoing storm over those fired U.S. attorneys.

There are new developments regarding a key person invoking her right to plead the fifth.

CNN Congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel on Capitol Hill -- Andrea, obviously this is either going to be good news or bad news for the White House and Justice Department officials.

What have you learned?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, we've learned that that person is Monica Goodling. She's the counsel to the attorney general, who just last week said that she would exercise her fifth amendment right against self-incrimination if she is called to testify about the firings of the eight U.S. attorneys last year.

Now, in a letter today to the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee, Goodling's lawyers revealed new details on one of the reasons originally cited for her decision.

Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty had privately told Senator Schumer that Mr. McNulty had not been entirely candid in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee and had blamed Miss. Goodling and others for failing to brief him properly.

Not, this is the first time that her lawyers have identified the senior official as Paul McNulty.

So far, there is no comment from the Justice Department -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Now, is Goodling giving any ground whatsoever in sitting down with Congressional investigators?

KOPPEL: No, she isn't. And her lawyers say that she has no plans to answer any questions from Congress on that issue and they say that is her constitutional right. In the letter today rebuffing a request for the interview with the House Judiciary Committee, her lawyers criticized previous comments from its chairmen, Representative John Conyers and Senator Patrick Leahy, in which they took exception with her plan to exercise her fifth amendment rights.

Goodling's lawyers said, "Recent suggestions are unfortunately reminiscent of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who coined the term for witnesses who use their fifth amendment rights before his committee as fifth amendment cists" -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Andrea Koppel, thank you so much.

And Jack Cafferty in New York with The Cafferty File -- Jack, what do you have for us this hour?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Airline flights will remain cell phone free, at least for now. Hurray!

The Federal Communications Commission is going to keep a rule in place that requires all cell phones be turned off during flight. The reason is a technical one. They're worried about interference with other cell phone signals on the ground. They say they don't have enough technical information to know if cell phones in the airplanes would jam the cell phone networks on the ground below.

What we do know is this. Being forced to listen to some moron on his cell phone, whether on an airplane or not, will eventually annoy the hell out of you.

There's been a big response to the ruling so far. Airline passengers writing the FCC, applauding the decision. Many people say they're glad not to have to listen to cell phone conversations in addition to listening to people snoring, little children squalling, while enduring late departures, lost luggage, late arrivals, no food on long flights.

But the issue could come up again. The FCC says it could reconsider in the future if they have the necessary technical information. Let's hope they don't get it.

The agency had been considering lifting its ban on cell phones on airplanes since 2004.

So here's the question -- should people be allowed to use cell phones on airplanes?

E-mail the caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Jack, thanks so much.

And up ahead, hot button issues and the race for the White House -- one leading Republican candidate goes on the record.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: I don't go around judging other people. That isn't my -- my role, to determine what is a sin, what isn't a sin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Rudy Giuliani talks on gays in the military, abortion and more in a one-on-one interview with CNN's Dana Bash.

Also, are Democrats divided over how to end the war in Iraq?

I'll ask Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean.

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defying the White House and meeting Syria's president. Well, that country's U.S. ambassador has a message for President Bush. He'll deliver it here, right in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Democratic presidential candidates are facing a dilemma over the war in Iraq. While most are calling for a drawdown of U.S. forces, they're finding it hard to support cutting funding for the war.

Joining us now to talk about other issues, that, as well, Party Chairman Howard Dean joins us live here from DNC headquarters here in Washington.

Chairman Dean, thanks so much for being with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on.

MALVEAUX: I want to first start off about Senator Reid's proposal here to cut off most of the fundraising for the troops by early next year.

If -- if the president vetoes the current legislation, how is that going to help your Democratic candidates? Who can possibly vote for that and win in 2008?

DEAN: Well, I think that the American people have made it very clear in the last election that they believe we should not be in Iraq. Seventy-one percent of Americans think we ought to leave Iraq.

The president has been incredibly uncooperative in doing what the American people asked us to do.

What we have proposed is a bill that will gradually remove our troops, most of our troops, from Iraq, leave some Special Operations forces in the area to combat terrorism, but get us out of the middle of the civil war.

The president said he's going to veto that bill, along with $4 billion extra to help our troops recover from the terrible wounds they have recovered over there, $2 billion for port security and some body armor.

MALVEAUX: But, clearly...

DEAN: So we are...

MALVEAUX: ... the Republicans...

DEAN: We are left...

MALVEAUX: ... are going to use this to -- to set up the Democratic candidates as being weak on national security.

How do you prevent that from happening, falling into that same political trap?

DEAN: I think it's going to be almost impossible for the Republicans to make the case that they are -- have done anything for our national security. They haven't won the war. They -- they're in the middle of a civil war. They haven't properly taken care of the troops when they've gotten home. They haven't paid attention to the areas that really need paying attention to -- Iran is about to develop nuclear weapons.

I think it's going to be very hard for the Republicans to explain why we should trust them without your defense.

You need to use your brains as well as your brawn to defend America. And what I can promise the American people is that we're going to be tough and smart, not just talk tough.

MALVEAUX: Well, President Bush also has the bully pulpit.

So let's take a quick listen to how he is framing this debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democrat leaders in Congress seem more interested in fighting political battles in Washington than providing our troops what they need to fight the battles in Iraq. Democrat leaders in Congress are bent on making a political statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So this all seems to be a P.R. battle at the moment here, a perception battle.

Ultimately, what is the winning strategy here?

There's going to be a lot of back and forth, but there's going to be a time when the U.S. troops are going to suffer and the Democrats are going to have to come up with legislation that this president is going to have to sign.

DEAN: U.S. troops are suffering right now because they have a president who hasn't taken care of them when they get home to the Walter Reed Hospital with terrible wounds, much more so than we've seen in any other previous war. You asked...

MALVEAUX: But what do the...

DEAN: You...

MALVEAUX: ... Democrats do?

DEAN: Well, we...

MALVEAUX: What do the Democrats do?

DEAN: What we do is bring the troops home. The best way we can respect our troops and support them is, one, bring them home. Two, put adequate funding in the veterans -- into the Veterans Association -- into the Veterans Administration, which this president and his Republicans have cut for five consecutive years. MALVEAUX: Chairman, how do you do that?

DEAN: We will stand up for the troops. We will stand up for our armed forces. The best way to stand up for the armed forces is to get them out of the middle of a civil war in Iraq. Our position is very, very clear. We've laid it out. It's in the bill. We want them home by 2008. We're willing to fund them until then. We need some cooperation from the Republicans. We need some respect shown by the president of the United States to the American people, who voted overwhelmingly to leave Iraq.

MALVEAUX: So that it doesn't look like there is any wiggle room here?

DEAN: We are going to -- we got elected because we said that we thought Iraq was the wrong thing to do. We have offered the president every possible compromise. We did not cut off funding from Iraq -- for the war in Iraq, contrary to what the president has said. We do not propose cutting off funding.

What we do propose is exactly what the American people want -- we want the troops home by the middle of 2008 and when the wounded troops get home, we want them taken care of and we -- they deserve much better than what the Republicans and President Bush have given them, and we intend to see that our troops get what they deserve.

MALVEAUX: Let's change topics here.

We saw a surprising announcement here from Barack Obama's campaign, some $25 million raised.

Now, this is a very exciting race, as you're seeing. You ran -- you basically ran a grassroots campaign. You were frontrunner. Ultimately that -- that eventually fizzled.

I mean how would you advise Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, at this time? Who is going to be the winner?

DEAN: Well, I wouldn't advise anybody. I'm the referee. And if they want advice, I'm happy to give it, but it'll be in private, not on CNN, much as I love you.

But, you know, there's -- we've got some fantastic people in this race, not just Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, but there are others, as well.

I do believe our field is very strong, much stronger than the Republicans. I believe we represent what the American people want in terms of our values, fairness and toughness and diversity, where everybody is included. I think whoever we nominate is most likely to win.

MALVEAUX: Do you think that a...

DEAN: But I'm not going to give individual advice to individual candidates. I'm going to try to keep the peace among them. MALVEAUX: Fair enough.

Fair enough.

The last question here.

Do you think that all this fundraising, however, really changes the nature of the campaign, that we could actually see candidates dropping out before the first primary?

DEAN: You know, that did happen -- that's already happened.

MALVEAUX: Right, it has.

DEAN: And I think it may happen again.

I -- as you know, I personally believe we ought to have public financing of campaigns. That's not going to happen in the near future, although voters have voted to do it in Arizona and Maine, and I encourage that movement elsewhere.

But for the time being with this schedule, money does matter. But it's not the only thing that matters and there are some very good candidates who have not gotten in headlines by what they've raised and I think we'll be hearing a lot from them in the future.

MALVEAUX: Chairman Howard Dean, thank you so much.

DEAN: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: And coming up, multiple marriages, strained relations -- the spotlight on one Republican presidential candidate is getting even hotter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: We've got issues. Every American family, in one way or another, I guess, has issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: But Rudy Giuliani says he has just one request. He tells CNN's Dana Bash in a one-on-one interview.

Plus, a dramatic call for action on home foreclosures from an unlikely source.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what are you keeping your eyes on now?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A couple of things, Suzanne. An early spring cold wave is moving south, led by violent weather that slammed a three state area. Overnight thunderstorms producing hail as big as softballs. They hit Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. Winds gusting up to 68 miles an hour damaged homes, flipped over trucks and knocked out power to tens of thousands of people. Weather experts blame straight line winds or possibly tornadoes.

A bit of a breather for Wall Street today, but gains nonetheless. Stocks edged up. The Dow Jones Average ending the day almost 20 points higher, to close at 12,530. This is the fifth straight day of gains for the Dow, the longest wind streak since mid-March. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 also logged modest gains.

Housing activists are calling for a temporary reprieve for people in danger of foreclosure with high risk mortgages. A coalition of civil rights groups wants leaders to impose a six month moratorium on foreclosures to give families time to work thing out. At issue is the so-called sub prime mortgages made to high risk borrowers. One group estimates 20 percent of those loans made in the past two years will go into default.

Take a look at the headlines right now -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Carol, thanks for keeping us updated to the minute.

And coming up, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani grilled on hot button issues.

Will his answers appease religious conservatives?

You'll want to see our one-on-one interview.

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's defiant trip to Syria.

Is she undermining U.S. foreign policy or practicing real politick?

I'll ask Syrian ambassador to the United States.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, he has not been seen in weeks, but an American citizen in Iran is missing. Iran's media reports officials say there is no evidence the retired FBI agent has disappeared. But the State Department says Iran is answering requests to help locate him.

Also, how did five people die in three months at a military veterans' medical center in Los Angeles?

That's the subject of a new probe now underway, according to the "Los Angeles Times." This just weeks after revelations of deplorable conditions for some outpatients at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center here in Washington.

And on that tragic shooting at the CNN Center in Atlanta, police say a man is being charged with murder. He allegedly pulled his girlfriend away from work and shot and killed her. Police then shot him. The suspect is said to be in stable condition.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says "the road to Damascus is a road to peace." And yet there is no peace over her visit to Syria, in defiance of the White House.

CNN's Brian Todd is here -- Brian, we have heard the administration's criticisms of the trip -- now it's obviously Pelosi's time.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Suzanne.

Nancy Pelosi is the highest ranking American to meet with the Syrian president in 13 years. But her visit raises a serious question -- has Pelosi upstaged another very powerful woman who happens to be America's top diplomat?

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

TODD (voice-over): She delivers a crucial message to Syria's president.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We call to the attention of the president our concerns about fighters crossing the Iraq/Syria border.

TODD: Is the House speaker more effective as a peacemaker than Condoleezza Rice?

I asked a former president who's done his own diplomatic freelancing.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I wouldn't want to compare the two women, no. But I was very pleased when I learned that the speaker would go to Syria. It's long overdue.

TODD: Jimmy Carter also cited "repeated failures of imagination and courage on the part of the U.S. government to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians."

Deputy White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said: "It's obvious President Carter has strong views. Many Americans would consider them biased views and we clearly disagree with them."

For her part, Pelosi said she gave Bashar Al-Assad a message from Israel -- it's ready for peace talks. But one analyst says despite the images, Pelosi could never be more effective then Rice. She doesn't speak for the administration, can't deliver the promise of treaties or sanctions relief.

The president has said he thinks Pelosi's overture signals Assad America speaks with two voices.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Meetings with President Assad lead the Assad government to believe they're part of the mainstream of the international community when, in fact, they're a state sponsor of terror.

TODD: Could Assad manipulate that mixed signal against the U.S.?

Analysts say with U.S.-Syrian relations nearly non-existent, that risk is minimal and manipulation carries its own risks for the Syrian.

JIM WALSH, MIT SECRETARY STUDIES PROGRAM: He should not attempt to try to play this or manipulate this. And if Assad or another leader were to do it, then he -- he essentially has ruined any opportunity to have future conversations.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: Analysts say the U.S. often speaks with more than one voice to friends and adversaries. And they say one tangible benefit of Pelosi's trip -- if nothing else, she can relate to the White House what Assad is thinking about Iraq, Iran and a host of other problems -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Brian, the White House officials that I spoke with are certainly trying to downplay this story, but as we can see, it certainly has got a lot of attention.

TODD: Absolutely, it has. Jimmy Carter also said that he emphasized that this is what the Iraq Study Group recommended. He said that Pelosi can at least exert some influence on Syria to then, in turn, show its influence on the actions of Hamas and Hezbollah. So he sees a real benefit to it.

MALVEAUX: OK.

Thanks again, Brian.

And so what practical effect might Speaker Pelosi's Syrian trip have?

A short while ago, I spoke with Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

MALVEAUX: Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

As you know, President Bush does not believe that Speaker Pelosi should be speaking with your president, al-Assad, and here's what he is saying about your country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: You know, photo opportunities and/or meetings with President Assad lead the Assad government to believe they're part of the mainstream of the international community, when, in fact, they're a state sponsor of terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: If your country is serious about engaging, why don't you just disavow terrorism?

IMAD MOUSTAPHA, SYRIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: First, those are public statements, rhetorical statements. President Bush has a habit of talking past Syria, not talking to Syria. This is the difference.

I hope he will sit with Mrs. Pelosi and ask her, was it really about a photo opportunity and drinking tea, or was it a very serious, honest, sincere attempt towards engagement (ph), to find solutions to the issues and problems -- actual issues and problems of the Middle East, some of them caused by the United States itself, in Iraq and elsewhere.

MALVEAUX: Well, what did you accomplish? What did the speaker accomplish with the president, President Assad, today? Did you make any headway? Did you break any ground?

MOUSTAPHA: We -- no, this is different. This is not the administration. This is the legislative branch. But the important thing is the following. If we go back a little bit into the past, whenever there was a problem -- and there used to be political problems between Syria and the United States -- then the U.S. administration will not withdraw its ambassador, it will do something else.

Besides its ambassador, it will send a special envoy to the Middle East. President Reagan sent Philip Habib, President Bush Senior sent Dennis Ross, the same applies to President Clinton.

MALVEAUX: But, Mr. Ambassador, here is...

MOUSTAPHA: This administration, once it has agreed with Syria on issues...

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: ... how the Bush administration sees it.

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: ... I mean, here Secretary Powell came before you, also his deputy two years ago. You had the Iraq Study Group, Republicans, as well as Speaker Pelosi.

MOUSTAPHA: Yes.

MALVEAUX: And no change, no change... MOUSTAPHA: Yes. All of them...

MALVEAUX: ... no progress.

MOUSTAPHA: All of them -- yes, because of -- no, there is a difference. All of them, without a single exception -- I hope you will host them on your program -- all of them have said, when we engage with the Syrians, the Syrians deliver, and this helped the national interests of the United States, of Syria, and of the whole region.

MALVEAUX: What is your country today delivering?

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: What is your country delivering today as an outcome of these meetings? Are you ready to recognize Israel? Are you ready to stop support for Hezbollah and Hamas?

MOUSTAPHA: What are you talking about? We have offered Israel -- what are you talking about? We have offered Israel, time after time, recognition, normalization of relations, in return for our occupied territories and for allowing the Palestinians to have their independent free state.

We have embraced the pan-Arab peace initiative. The ball is in the Israeli self (ph). It is not in ourselves (ph). The good thing today is we...

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: Mr. Ambassador, I want you to take a quick listen...

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: ... to Speaker Pelosi and how she described what came out of this meeting with President Assad.

Let's take a quick listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER: We were very pleased with the reassurances we received from the president that he was ready to resume the peace process, he was ready to engage in negotiations with peace with Israel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Specifically, what is she talking about, these reassurances that she got from the president?

MOUSTAPHA: Yes. She is talking about the things that this administration does not know. We have been saying time and again that we want to be a part of the solution. We don't want to be a part of the problem. MALVEAUX: Mr. Ambassador, I don't know whether or not the timing really is right here, because these are your words from earlier today to "Al-Baath" newspaper. You said that "Syria will not hurriedly offer concessions when it refused to offer them under much greater pressure from the United States in the past."

That sounds like to me as if your country and your government is not ready to take the next step here.

MOUSTAPHA: This is your interpretation. We know what we want. We know how...

MALVEAUX: These are your statements.

MOUSTAPHA: ... serious we are about the engagement. And I think the visiting delegation today, who sat for hours and hours with the Syrian officials, are convinced that we are sincere.

MALVEAUX: We understand that Pelosi met with the prime minister of Israel and that she was in fact delivering a message. But with all due respect, she has no official capacity to negotiate with your government here.

Why should the Americans, or even the international community see this any more as a political stunt here, a publicity stunt, a big wet kiss to President al-Assad?

MOUSTAPHA: First, she was not negotiating. Second, somebody should tell the American public opinion that what they are being told about Syria is a myth. Stop trying to portray Syria as an enemy to the United States.

We are not an enemy to the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Meanwhile, regarding those 15 freed British service members, Syria's foreign minister says it was among the nations that helped work towards their release.

Up ahead, does Rudy Giuliani think his personal life is fair game for scrutiny?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the reason that you in the press looks at my private life -- and has a right to -- is to figure out, what kind of president will he make?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And the Republican presidential candidate acknowledges his family has issues in his revealing CNN interview.

Plus, a possible presidential contender distances himself from what he called "ghetto talk". Is Newt Gingrich apologizing for his controversial remarks about bilingual education?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: He's known for tough talk. Today, he lived up to that in Florida. Rudy Giuliani said congressional Democrats' plan to pull troops from Iraq "lacks common sense". And you may be surprised what else he had to say about social issues.

CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash spoke with the Republican presidential candidate in Tallahassee.

Dana, what do you have?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, Rudy Giuliani's Republican rivals have always said once his record on abortion rights and gay rights is scrutinized by traditional conservative voters, his frontrunner status could be in jeopardy. Well, today, he went over his positions on public funding for abortion, which he supports, and also what he would do about gay rights if he were president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: One other question on a different social issue, on gay rights.

What would the commander in chief, Rudy Giuliani, what would you position be on gays in the military?

GIULIANI: Well, I don't think there should be discrimination against gays. I think I'm -- unlike what some of my opponents have said, I'm not in favor of gay marriage. I have consistently said marriage should be be between a man and a woman.

I do think that people who have a sexual orientation of one kind or another should not be discriminated against. I think the policy that we have right now we should leave alone. We are in a time of war.

When we get out of the crisis, when we get out of the situation, we can consistently review it and look at it. It should be done right now. It would be a very big mistake to re-raise that issue right now when we are dealing not just with Iraq, but this entire war on terror.

BASH: General Peter Pace said that homosexuality is immoral. What do you think?

GIULIANI: This is -- we're getting -- we're in the Easter season, and my view of Christianity -- and Christianity is very important to me, and the teachings of Jesus is very important to me. And I kind of think when he -- when Jesus drew the line and said, you know, he who hasn't sinned cast the first stone. So I don't go around judging other people. That isn't my -- my role, to determine what is a sin, what isn't a sin.

My role is, what's legal, what's illegal? I've been really clear on that role throughout my life. I've done a pretty good job of putting people in jail who did things that are illegal. And the rest -- the rest of it I leave to the priests and ministers, the rabbis, the imams, and to your personal conscience.

I think that's what -- I think that's what Thomas Jefferson had in mind. And I think it's, you know, gotten America to being the greatest country in the world.

BASH: We're talking about your record and your personal views on issues, but as you well know, your personal life and family has been scrutinized and probably will continue to be scrutinized over the next several months. One of the things that has come up is your son, and he has gone public and said that he has -- that there's a rift between you two.

Have you reached out to him?

GIULIANI: Of course I have. But my conversations with my son are very, very private. They're between my son and I.

I love him. He loves me. My wife Judith loves all of our children.

We've got -- we've got issues. Every American family in one way or another I guess has issues. I mean, a lot of people have communicated with me about it, even given me advice about it because they've gone through similar kinds of things.

Look, I would prefer that there wasn't any scrutiny of my private life. However, I was the mayor of New York. I'm used to it. I'm ready for it.

I just ask -- and you can look at anything you want. You have a right to. The only thing I ask you to do is look at my public record, because there's a way in which you can test how the issues in my private life affect my performance in office. You can look at what -- what I accomplished.

I think the reason that you look -- in the press -- looks at my private life -- and has a right to -- is to figure out, what kind of president will he make? How will this affect him? Will it distract him? Will it hurt him?

Well, I went through all these issues, took the city from the worst crime situation in the country to the safest large city in America. Took the city from the worst welfare situation in the country to the best welfare situation. Took the city from a deficit to a surplus and got us through September 11th, and all these personal things were going on at the same time.

So, I don't think it affects my job performance.

BASH: Since you brought that up, can I just ask you one thing about...

GIULIANI: Sure. BASH: ... something that a conservative leader, Richard Land, said. He said just to that very issue, that you say these are separate issues. Said about the fact that you were married three times, that "He lied to them," meaning your former wives, "what makes you think he won't lie to you?"

This is what he says to...

GIULIANI: I'll tell you what. I've been in public office since the United States attorney -- United States attorney, mayor of New York City. I've probably had more experience, more varied experience than anyone in this race. I've had a very extensive record, success, failure.

Nobody's ever questioned my honesty and integrity about the things that I do. So, look at that, look at my public record.

My personal life, I've made mistakes, I've had a rocky road. I regret them. They are between me, God, my conscience, and the people involved.

I wish I had led a perfect life. I keep striving, I keep trying to learn. I keep praying for help.

But look at my -- look at my public life. With all of those issues, which may be different than others, may be the same as others, I've also had the most extensive career of any of the people running for office.

It's had great success. It's had some failures. Go look at that. Examine that. Examine the mistakes I've made there, and then the success that I had there.

And that's the way I would do it. Everybody else has a right to do it some other way. But if I were making this choice, that's what I would look to.

BASH: One last question. You suffered several years ago from prostate cancer. There have been some high-profile political figures who have been in the news recently whose cancer has returned.

How are you feeling? How often do you get checked? And what you can say?

GIULIANI: My heart goes out to Tony Snow and Mrs. Edwards. I have tremendous admiration for them, the way that they have handled it. I know the way they've handled it, with the kind of courage and optimism, it's helping a lot of people at home who are dealing with cancer.

I'm very healthy now. I've had five, six years of PSA tests. They have all been, you know, sub anything that would be of any concern. I think they are 0005. They are considered indistinguishable.

So, I think, for all intents and purposes, the cancer is cured. But, of course, I get tested every six months, which you are supposed to do, and so far, thank God, it's all been -- it's all worked out -- it's all worked out very, very well. But every time I hear about cancer it has a special effect on me. And I counsel a lot of people who are dealing with prostate cancer to try to focus them on, you know, the treatments they can -- they can use.

And I try to remind them to get tested early and often. If you do that, you can beat this disease.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Rudy Giuliani's campaign strategy is to emphasize the areas where he and traditional Republican voters agree. Things like tax cuts and fiscal discipline. Things like security and the Iraq war.

But he is well aware of his differences on those social issues, like abortion and gay rights, with many conservative voters in early states like Iowa and South Carolina. But unlike some Republicans, he says he's not changing his stance. He seems comfortable with his position -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Dana Bash, thank you so much. Fascinating interview.

(NEWSBREAK)

MALVEAUX: Up ahead, presidential hopeful Barack Obama is gaining on Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the cash wars. Just how big a threat is Obama to Clinton's White House aspirations? That's coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour.

And next, a blogger who spent eight months in prison after invoking journalistic privilege is free and talking again. His story when we come back.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: We are just getting word of new developments regarding two American soldiers recently killed in action in Iraq.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr has an update.

Barbara, what is the latest? What are you hearing?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, the Army has just announced that they are now investigating the deaths of two young soldiers killed in Ramadi in early February as possible friendly fire incidents. Possibly, these two young soldiers killed by U.S. troops during a firefight.

It was February 2nd, in Ramadi, out in Anbar Province. There was a firefight, small arms fire exchanged. Possibly anti-tank rounds.

At that time, the deaths of the two soldiers was listed as hostile fire. But a good deal of other information -- we are not being told what it is -- came in. By the end of February, the unit had changed their cause of death from hostile fire to the very sort of unspecific term, pending, that the cause of death was pending.

Well, then, we are told, additional information came in, and within the last few days, they notified the families of these two soldiers that the Army is now investigating their deaths as possible friendly fire -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And Barbara, obviously this follows that case that was very controversial, the one military soldier who, his family was told killed in action. It ended up being friendly fire. Obviously, the Pentagon must be very careful in making this type of announcement.

STARR: Well, they are indeed, Suzanne, you're exactly right, because the key question that often comes up in these cases is, when the cause of death is changed, how soon do they let the family know? Since the death of Corporal Pat Tillman that you're referencing, there are very strict rules that families must be notified as soon as possible if there is in potential change in the cause of death of their loved one in the war in Iraq of Afghanistan.

Here, it took two months. We will begin to find out why it took so long.

MALVEAUX: Barbara Starr, thanks so much for the breaking news. I'm sure we'll get back to you if there are any more details.

And former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich is taking new steps right now to clear up the controversy over his remarks about what he says is the language of the ghetto.

Our Carol Costello here with that story.

Are we expecting some sort of apology?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, not exactly, Suzanne. Not exactly an "I'm sorry," but Newt Gingrich says it comes from the heart. He admits he made a mistake when he equated bilingual education of the language of living in the ghetto.

As you know, Latinos were not so happy with someone equating their native language to "ghetto" talk. So, in an attempt to heal the wound, Gingrich has released YouTube video in both English and Spanish to clarify just exactly what he meant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: My word choice was poor, but my point was simply this: In the United States, it is important to speak the English language well in order to advance and have success.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: And, he adds, for the good of the country. Now, in case those who do not speak fluent English didn't understand his message, he repeats it in Spanish on YouTube. Gingrich believes it's important to replace bilingual education programs with intensive English instruction. That way, legal immigrants can more easily escape poverty and live comfortably -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Carol, thanks so much.

It is a case that shocked the journalism community and made worldwide headlines. A California blogger jailed for refusing to turn over videotape to federal investigators. Now that blogger, Josh Wolf, is free and speaking out online.

Let's bring in Jacki Schechner.

Jacki, this is a very interesting case. What is the latest?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Very much so.

This right here is the video that landed blogger Josh Wolf in jail and kept him there for the last seven and a half months. Wolf recorded an anti-G8 summit protest in San Francisco in July of 2005 and posted an edited version of the video online on his blog.

Well, the FBI started investigating the protest and wanted Wolf to turn over the raw unedited version of the footage he had and testify before a grand jury as to what he witnessed. He refused to do so on both counts, and that landed him in jail for contempt of court.

Now, after a couple of mediation sessions, Wolf has now agreed to release the video to authorities, and he posted it online on his blog. He also says this isn't about the video, that there's nothing incriminating in it.

What he says is that he found that the FBI subpoena was a violation of his rights as a citizen and as a journalist. Now, there's an ongoing debate as to whether bloggers are journalists, but if you believe that Josh Wolf is, in fact, a journalist, that now makes him the longest jailed reporter in U.S. history -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Jacki Schechner, thanks again.

And up next, Jack Cafferty's "Question of the Hour". Should people be allowed to use cell phones on airplanes? Your e-mail is coming.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MALVEAUX: Time now to go back to Jack Cafferty in New York.

Jack, what do you have these next couple of minutes? JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is: Should people be allowed to use cell phones on airplanes? The FCC let stand a ruling that prohibits their use today. So we're getting a little reaction to that.

Russell in Portland, Oregon, writes, "Smoking should be allowed back on planes before cell phone conversations should be allowed. There is really not much difference, you know?"

Have you noticed that even before the plane reaches the gate, cell phones are in people's hands just like a pack of cigarettes. I'm surprised that restrooms on airplanes don't have cell phone detectors yet."

Jason in Arizona, "Yes, I do. I recently took a flight from the East Coast to the West Coast, forgot to turn off my cell phone before taking off. Well, I made it home, nothing happened during the flight, and my phone was on during the whole five-hour flight. The airlines industry are Nazis who want to control everything you do on that airplane."

Todd in Mystic, Connecticut, "If I ended up sitting next to that moron who says 'Can you hear me now?' every 10 seconds, they'd have to land the plane at the next airport and remove the body."

Danny in Toronto, "Of course. When are these agencies going to stop taking people's civil liberties away? The fact that airplanes are configured the way they are is not the fault of the consumer. What if there was an emergency? Would it not be important to receive that call?"

Chris in Naples, Florida, "Remember the Walkman? Its inventors should have gotten the Nobel Peace Prize. And the FCC should take its cue from that brilliant alternative to people carrying blaring boom boxes around on their shoulders. Inflicting cell phone conversations on fellow airline passengers will need to a lead for air marshals in every third row of seats."

And James writes, "First it was cigarettes. Now it's cell phones. Next thing you know, people won't be able to join the mile high club."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. We post more of them online. There are also clips there of this nonsense -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jack. Dangerous territory.

We're here ever weekday afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00 Eastern, and we're back at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, just one hour from now.

Until them, I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.

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