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Interview With Mohamed ElBaradei; Interview With Turkish Ambassador to U.S.

Aired October 28, 2007 - 11:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's 11 a.m. here in Washington, 8 a.m. in Los Angeles and 6 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition."
The dispute between the United States and Iran ratcheted up even higher this past week with the Bush administration's tough new sanctions against Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and three key Iranian banks. The goal, to try to deter Iran from building nuclear arms, something Iran denies it is even pursuing.

Joining us now from New York for a "Late Edition" exclusive is the man who's been monitoring Iran's moves on the nuclear front. Mohamed ElBaradei is the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Dr. ElBaradei, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "Late Edition."

MOHAMED ELBARADEI, IAEA DIRECTOR-GENERAL: Thank you very much, Wolf, for having me.

BLITZER: I want you to respond to this overall threat that the U.S. perceives comes from Iran, and listen to how President Bush the other day phrased it. Listen to this.


PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously.


BLITZER: Is Iran, Dr. ElBaradei, building a nuclear bomb?

ELBARADEI: Well, Wolf, let me say three facts to put the Iranian nuclear issue in proper perspective. We are not talking about Iran today having a nuclear weapon as Secretary Rice said recently. Second, even if Iran were to be working on nuclear weapons, according to John Negroponte and Mike McConnell, they at least few years away from having such weapon.

Thirdly, what we are doing right now is, through the IAEA and the European Union, Javier Solana, is to try to make sure that we control the nascent enrichment capability in Iraq and create the conditions for Iran and the European, particularly the U.S., to go into negotiation.

So we are not talking about Iran having today a nuclear weapon. We are trying to make sure that the future intention of Iran is peaceful, and that's really what we are talking about. Risk assessment of possible future intention by Iran, if they have the technology to develop nuclear weapon.

I say that because at this stage we need to continue to work through creative diplomacy. We have the time. Because I don't see any other solution, Wolf, except through diplomacy and inspection.

BLITZER: Well, what about the -- whether it is a few years down the road before they actually have a nuclear bomb, do you believe there is a clandestine, secret nuclear weapons program right now under way in Iran?

ELBARADEI: We haven't seen any concrete evidence to that effect, Wolf. We haven't received any information there is a parallel ongoing active nuclear weapon program.

What we have seen in the past that certain procurements that have not been reported to us, certain experiments. And that's where we are working now with Iran to clarify the past and the present, but I have not received any information that there is a complete active nuclear weapon program going on right now.

And I think what -- if you hear carefully what is being said about Iran, that Iran might -- we suspect that Iran might have the intention, but I don't think I have seen anybody saying Iran today is working actively on a weapon program. And if there are such information, I would be very happy to receive it and go for it -- after it.

BLITZER: So, what you're saying is the United States government has not provided you hard intelligence evidence that Iran is secretly working on this kind of nuclear weapons program.

ELBARADEI: We have information that there has been maybe some studies about possible weaponization. But we are looking into these alleged studies with Iran right now, and that's why we have said that we cannot give Iran a pass right now, because there is still a lot of question marks.

But have we seen Iran having the nuclear material that can readily be used into a weapon? No. Have we seen an active weaponization program? No.

So there is a concern, but there is also time to clarify these concerns. And we should remember, Wolf, that this has -- it's a question of distrust that has been going on for over -- almost half a decade. So, the earlier we go to the negotiation mode between the U.S. and Iran, the better we can resolve the issue.

Sanctions have been applied and sanctions probably will continue to be applied, but as I have said before, and I think everybody agrees that sanctions alone will not lead to a durable solution. Even the security council is saying a durable solution has to be through a comprehensive package deal with Iran, where we discuss not only the nuclear issue but regional security, trade, technology. So, the earlier we use creative diplomacy to move toward such initiation of negotiation, the best for everybody.

BLITZER: Well, let me be precise, because what U.S. officials increasingly are saying now -- and you certainly hear this from the Israelis as well -- is there is a difference between actually having a nuclear bomb or having the knowledge to build a nuclear bomb.

And they're increasingly speaking about this threshold of once they have the capability of doing it, it is almost like actually doing it. Do you differentiate between those two points?

ELBARADEI: I do, Wolf. Because having the capability -- there are at least 13, 14 countries who have the capability to enrich uranium. Because it is used also for peaceful purposes to develop fuel for power reactor.

That is, frankly, a lacunae, a loophole in the system right now, and I've been calling for a number of years, including also President Bush and others, that we need to make sure that no one country should be able to have the enrichment capability or having the capability to also produce plutonium, because you are not very far from having a nuclear weapon should you decide to do that.

However, you know, having the enrichment capability and having a weapon is the wrong way to go. Iran right now has a nascent technology. What we are trying to do right now is keep that technology capability under an inspection. It is under an inspection.

Which I urge Iran to suspend these activities to build confidence. I make sure that we have robust inspection. But until we go into the negotiating mode, until we discuss the global insecurity in a hotbed of stability which is the Middle East, I think we will continue to go into this gradually to a confrontation.

I very much concerned about confrontation, building confrontation, Wolf, because that would lead absolutely to a disaster. I see no military solution. The only durable solution is through negotiation and inspection.

BLITZER: Because the rhetoric coming from Washington, from top Bush administration officials, seems to be heating up. This is what the vice president, Dick Cheney, said last Sunday. Listen to this.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences. The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Is that kind of rhetoric helpful or hurtful to what you're trying to achieve? ELBARADEI: Wolf, it is clearly a question of distrust between Iran and most of the international community, at least the west, the U.S. in particular. And to build confidence, you will not be able to do that through just exchanging rhetoric. You need to go and create a condition to go to the negotiating table.

My fear that if we continue to escalate from both sides that we will end up into a precipice, we will end up into an abyss. As I said, the Middle East is in a total mess, to say the least. And we cannot add fuel to the fire.

Nobody wants Iran to have nuclear weapons. Nobody wants any country to have nuclear weapons. I think when you see Kissinger and Shultz and Perry and Sam Nunn saying we need to go toward abolition of nuclear weapons, I think everybody now, it should be a wakeup call. We cannot continue to rely on nuclear weapons -- anybody -- because it has become decreasingly effective and increasingly hazardous.

BLITZER: Because the U.S. position is -- you know, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterates it. The U.S. will have negotiations with Iran, direct negotiations, but first the Iranians must stop enriching uranium. Is that a mistaken policy on the part of the U.S. government?

ELBARADEI: Well, this is the U.S. policy. I can't really pass judgment on it. All I can say, Wolf, the earlier we go into negotiation, the earlier we follow the North Korean model, the better for everybody. Negotiation stopped with North Korea from five years. They ended up with nuclear weapons. They ended up with a nuclear test.

You resume negotiation, now we see a positive result. I always compare between the Korean model and the Iraq model. And I believe that these security or insecurity issues can best -- can only be resolved through negotiation.

BLITZER: Here's what you said back in May in an interview with the BBC on May 8th. You said "you do not want to give additional argument to some of the 'new crazies' who want to say let us go and bomb Iran." Who were you referring to when you spoke about the, quote, "new crazies"?

ELBARADEI: Well, I'm referring, Wolf, to anybody who is saying, "Let us use force right now," because I believe we still have ample time for diplomacy; and, B, I believe that force is in no way a solution to the problem.

This is an issue of security and trust. You can only resolve that through negotiation. Using force can usually, in most cases, exacerbate the situation rather than improve it. It could even accelerate a drive by Iran, even if they are not working on a nuclear weapon today, to go for a nuclear weapon.

So we can talk about use of force as and when we exhausted diplomacy, as and when we have no other alternative, as and when we think this is the best option. But we are far, far away from that stage.

And I would hope that we should continue to stop spinning and hyping the Iranian issue because that's an issue that could have a major conflagration, and not only regionally but globally.

BLITZER: Ahmadinejad -- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly on September 25th, he said, "All our nuclear activities have been completely peaceful and transparent. I officially announce that in our opinion, the nuclear issue of Iran is now closed."

Is that true, that all of their nuclear activities have been completely peaceful and transparent?

ELBARADEI: This is by no way the case -- in no way the case, Wolf. The file is not closed. We are still very actively trying to reconstruct the history of Iran program to make sure that the past and present activities are exclusively peaceful.

I have a team today in Iran working hard with the Iranian authorities to clarify the past. I need to make sure that the past and the present is clean, and then we need to work with them, the international community, to build confidence about their future intention. And that's why I'm saying we need diplomacy and -- but also we need an inspection and they need to work in tandem.

BLITZER: As you know, the Israelis, in early September, bombed some sort of facility in Syria that was suspected of being a nuclear reactor, maybe a nuclear reactor built on a North Korean model.

I know you've seen these pictures. You've seen the before and the after. What's your conclusion? Was this a nuclear reactor that the Syrians were building in their country based on a North Korean model?

ELBARADEI: Wolf, I'm very distressed, frankly, about this Syrian bombing because nobody -- there had been chatter for the last few years. John Bolton three years ago went to testify before Congress and said there is concern about Syria.

And yet, until today, we have not received information about any nuclear-related activities, clandestine nuclear-related activities in Syria. The bombing, again, happened, and we never, until today, received any piece of information.

That to me is very distressful because we have a system. If countries have information that the country is working on a nuclear- related program, they should come to us. We have the authority to go out and investigate.

But to bomb first and then ask questions later, I think it undermines the system and it doesn't lead to any solution to any suspicion, because we are the eyes and ears of the international community. It's only the agencies and inspectors who can go and verify the information.

If Syria were working on a nuclear program, a clandestine program, then we'd obviously be able to draw the consequences. But today I don't know where to go. I didn't get any information. I contacted the Syrians. They said this is a military facility, has nothing to do with nuclear. And I would hope if anybody has information before they take the law into their own hands, to come and pass the information on.

BLITZER: So what you're suggesting, Dr. ElBaradei, is neither the Israelis nor the U.S. government -- or for that matter, any other government -- gave you any hard evidence to back up this claim that this was a North Korean modeled nuclear reactor.

ELBARADEI: Or any evidence at all. Not only hard evidence, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you've seen some commercial satellite photos though of the before and after. Are there any conclusions you can draw based on what you've seen in those satellite photos?

ELBARADEI: These are commercial satellite photos that we procured ourselves, has not been providing to us. And we're still investigating them. We're still comparing the pre and after.

But in addition to us buying commercial photos, I would very much hope that countries will come forward if they have information so we'll do -- go through a due process.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, but based on the commercial photos that you've seen from these satellite reconnaissance, are there any conclusions that you and your team have been able to come up with?

ELBARADEI: Not at this stage, Wolf. Not at all.

BLITZER: All right, and so it would be premature to allege that North Korea was proliferating in cooperation with the Syrians? Is that what you're saying as well?

ELBARADEI: That's correct.

BLITZER: Because I want to play a little clip of what the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Peter Hoekstra, told me here on "Late Edition" last Sunday. Listen to this.


REP. PETER HOEKSTRA, R-MICH.: If North Korea or if Iran or other countries were involved in Syria, it, again, will be an indicator of what kind of agreement they will make and whether they would be willing to adhere to the agreements that they make in public.


BLITZER: Because he certainly seemed to be concerned, and he's among a handful of members of the U.S. Congress who have been briefed by the Bush administration on what the Israelis did in Syria. He seems to suggest that you can't trust the North Koreans at all because they've been cheating on their promises. I take it you're not willing to go that far by a long shot. ELBARADEI: I can't because I don't have any evidence to support that assumption, Wolf.

BLITZER: Would you like the Israelis to brief you on what they know?

ELBARADEI: Absolutely, or anybody who has information. But you can't trust anybody. We don't work on the base of trust. But we -- as President Reagan said, "trust and verify."

And what I want very much is to be able to verify whether Syria, in fact, were working on a nuclear power program in a clandestine way or not. And the only way to do that is get information and to go out and verify.

BLITZER: You have a lot of credibility in these areas, Dr. ElBaradei, because before the war starred with Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein, you were contradicting the Bush administration's insisting there was absolutely no evidence that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.

Do you feel vindicated as a result of that, as you go into this next round of fears that Iran may be developing some sort of nuclear weapons program?

ELBARADEI: Well, Wolf, I don't necessarily feel vindicated. I feel relieved that we discovered that Iraq did not have nuclear weapons. I feel also that people now should listen to us, because we have no hidden agenda. All we want to do is bring the facts out.

We should not take decisions that has to do -- that crucial to war around peace before we are able 100 percent to make sure that the information on the basis we are working are accurate and professional.

BLITZER: Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei is the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Dr. ElBaradei, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck to you and your entire team.

ELBARADEI: Thank you very much, Wolf. Keep well.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And coming up next, Senators Barbara Boxer an Trent Lott -- we'll get their reaction to what we just heard, also their take on whether the new U.S. sanctions against Iran could be a precursor to war.

And later, Turkey's ambassador to the United States weighs in on the possibility of his country invading northern Iraq. You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Coming up in our next hour, by the way, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Is he the candidate of the conservatives? We'll be speaking with him.

But right now, we're joined by two leading members of the U.S. Senate. Barbara Boxer is a Democrat of California. She serves on the Foreign Relations Committee. And Trent Lott's a Republican of Mississippi. In fact, he's the Senate's second-ranking Republican. He's the Senate Republican.

Senators, thanks very much for joining us. And Senator Lott, let me get your quick reaction to what we heard from Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He says the rhetoric -- heating up rhetoric against Iran is not useful. It's time for serious diplomacy to get the job done, not to ratchet up the rhetoric.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: Well, I thought his comments were very thoughtful. And you do need to be careful about rhetoric. But you also need to be taking some actions and applying a lot of pressure, diplomatic pressure, economic pressure. I thought what they did with regard to the accounts of this Revolutionary Army was the right thing to do. And with regard to the...

BLITZER: You're referring to the sanctions that were imposed.

LOTT: Right, the sanctions. I mean, we say we're going to do more things and we're going to apply pressure, we're going to try to encourage them to work with us, be more honest and forthcoming, allow there to be inspections. And then we're going to put pressure, and then we need to do that. So I thought that that was a correct thing to do.

BLITZER: What did you think of his comments?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: I think his comments were balanced. I think he does have a lot of credibility, and I think his point is well-taken. It doesn't help us to ratchet up the rhetoric to the point where everybody's talking about you, other stations, is war inevitable with Iran.

We haven't even finished up the Iraq war. We haven't even gotten out of Iraq. Now we're talking about Iran. I think it's bad. Because I'll tell you why. What it does is, it pulls the people of Iran together behind Ahmadinejad, which we don't want to do. There is a lot of good folks there. We want to encourage them to come forward.

So I think we should just take a deep breath. I agree with Trent, I think the sanctions -- economic sanctions are good. The more multilateral they are, the better they are. And let's ratchet down the rhetoric. It just hurts us, doesn't help us.


BLITZER: The rhetoric is also, Senator Lott, coming in from the other side, the general -- Mohammad al-Jafari, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, saying on Thursday, "The Islamic Republic has the strength and power of its people's faith. This power is joined with experience, knowledge and technology in the realms of defense. We will reply to any strike with an even more decisive strike."

LOTT: Well, I was commenting diplomatically earlier. Let me just say that the most heated rhetoric actually has been coming from the Iranian leaders and rhetoric like that. And the idea that they would move toward -- even though it may be a few years away -- having a nuclear weapon is an unacceptable situation. We all agree on that, understand all that. Now how you work to prevent that is subject to careful consideration.

BLITZER: Here's what the president said the other day. Because of the threat that he perceives comes from Iran, the U.S. has to work to build a missile defense shield in Europe. Listen to this.


BUSH: The need for missile defense in Europe is real, and I believe it's urgent. Iran is pursuing the technology that could be used to produce nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles of increasing range that could deliver them.


BLITZER: All right, what do you think about that?

BOXER: Well, just to step back from this particular comment, this is the first administration I've served with -- and I've served with four -- where it seems that the first thing this president does is hype the rhetoric. He talked about World War III. I thought that was quite irresponsible.

And what happens then is, yes, it's going to ignite rhetoric on the other side. And I've been briefed by the Pentagon that say if there were to be a conflagration with Iran, which we all hope to avoid, it would be generations of jihad right here on our shores.

We don't want to go that way, so let's calm down the rhetoric. Let's work through diplomacy. There's lots of back channels. I think ElBaradei was right when he said, look at North Korea. This is one where the administration changed course, gave it to Mr. Hill, and now it looks like we're going to resolve the problem.

BLITZER: Has she got a point? LOTT: Which one?

BLITZER: What she just said.

LOTT: Well, with regard to missile defense, clearly we should have an effort to move toward a missile defense system. You can debate where it should be. I think that the proposal to put it in the Czech Republic is a good one.

I was in Russia earlier this year, and as far as a heated response, I thought that their response was amazing. This is a defensive missile system. This is not an attack system.

And I tried to make the point to the Russians, hey, you've got a vulnerability, too. It is not just about Europe and the Middle East. You need to be careful, too. I think the Russians have been, you know, not acting or commenting in the right way. Maybe we can work out something with them. We ought to see if we can do that.

BLITZER: Because I think he is referring to what the Russian President Vladimir Putin said this past week. And he made an analogy to the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early '60s: "Analogous actions by the Soviet Union when it deployed missiles in Cuba prompted the Caribbean crisis. Such a threat is being set up on our borders."

He's referring to this missile defense shield that the U.S. and the Europeans want to build right now. And he says what the U.S. is doing now is similar to what the Soviets did in Cuba that created the Cuban Missile Crisis.

BOXER: Well, of course I don't look at it that way at all. But I will say this. President Putin and President Bush get along very well. It seems to me when the president said he could look into the soul of Putin, he ought to look into his eyes again and talk about this.

But here's the problem. When the president says we're going to put this missile shield here in case Iran attacks -- again, it is just putting forward a vision of war, instead of a vision where we work together and we can come together on a defense shield.

If everyone agrees, I think it's a good thing. But when it's used in this way, anticipating a war with Iran, it's very discomforting to the world. The world does not like what it sees when they look over here at rhetoric coming out of this...

BLITZER: Do you believe Iran is building a nuclear bomb?

BOXER: I think Iran probably would love to build a nuclear bomb. But I think that Mr. Baradei is right, they haven't gotten there yet. When I look at estimates, it says, if they continue on a certain course, it's three to ten years away.

We don't want that to happen. It doesn't have to happen. One of the ways to make it worse, it seems to me, is to keep talking about World War III, war, war, war and all the rest, when people see this country went into Iraq based on faulty intelligence, made a huge mistake, didn't listen to ElBaradei, didn't listen to our own allies. And look where the world is, not in a good place today.

BLITZER: All right, senators, I'm going to have both of you stand by, because we have a lot more to talk about. We're going to also going to get their reaction to what we heard from Dr. ElBaradei suggesting that the Israelis had no business bombing that facility, whatever it was, in Syria.

We'll also ask Senator Boxer what's going on in her home state of California in the aftermath of these horrible fires.

And later, Turkey's ambassador to the United States talks about what, if anything, can be done to avert a Turkish invasion of northern Iraq. "Late Edition" will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're continuing our conversation right now with the number two Republican in the U.S. Senate, Trent Lott of Mississippi, and Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California.

You heard Dr. ElBaradei, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, say the Israelis had no business, in his words, taking the law into their own hands and bombing this suspected facility in Syria. You agree with him on that?

BOXER: Let me just say, I have not been briefed on this, so it's really uncomfortable to talk about something I don't know about. But I will cite international law. International law says that every country has the right to defend itself. So I don't know what Israel knew. I really don't so I really can't comment.


BLITZER: And the Bush administration, the executive branch, has not briefed you on what happened?


BLITZER: Have you asked for a briefing of it?

BOXER: No. I have asked. I'm on the Foreign Relations Committee and I'm hopeful we will have such a briefing.

BLITZER: Have you been briefed? You're the number two Republican in the Senate.

LOTT: I have not. I haven't asked to be briefed, I presume, and I feel sure the Intelligence Committees have been briefed. I don't know the details but I suspect there was sufficient justification for an action, assuming one was taken in the way it was. But beyond that I couldn't comment because I don't know the details.

BLITZER: But you're willing to give the Israelis the benefit of the doubt that they were justifying in doing what they did?

LOTT: I am. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, yes.

BLITZER: Are you willing to give them the benefit of the doubt? BOXER: I said every nation has the right to defend itself. I'm assuming that Israel acted within that boundary.

BLITZER: How worried are you that Turkey and its military forces -- and there are tens of thousands, maybe 100,000 Turkish troops poised on the border with northern Iraq right now -- will move in to go after what are called these PKK terrorists, these Kurdish rebel?

LOTT: I'm very concerned about this whole area, concerned enough that I went to Turkey earlier this year, met with Prime Minister Erdogan and now President Gul. We talked about it.

Look, Turkey is a strategic partner. They have a justification to be very much disturbed by these attacks which have killed, just in recent months, 50 civilians and military personnel. And I think they've shown a lot of restraint.

Now, President Gul said last week, "Our patience has run out." But I think the meetings that may be occurring this coming week are helpful. Iraq has got to be more involved working with the Kurds to control these terrorists. This is just another form of very violent terrorists over there in that very rugged terrain in the north part of the Kurdish area.

BLITZER: The ramifications are enormous. Turkey, a major NATO ally, a good friend of the United States, about to go into northern Iraq, into Kurdistan, the separate Kurdish area, also very close to the United States, those Iraqi Kurds probably the most friendly, the most supportive of the U.S. operation in all of Iraq.

How worried are you, Senator, that this whole situation could simply explode along the border between Iraq and Turkey?

BOXER: I'm very worried about this. This is a definite hotspot. This could be an expansion of a front of a nightmare situation we're already involved in. And I would just say this.

I mean, for many of us who didn't want to go to war in Iraq -- and there were only a few at that time -- we talked about this potentiality. This isn't something that just happened. They've had these warring factions going on over time.

And Trent is right. The PKK is a terrorist organization. Iraq's job within their own country is to take care of it. The problem is they also have a good deal of support in the surrounding areas of the Kurdish area which is the only area of Iraq that has been peaceful all along.

So it's very disturbing and I don't want to see American soldiers get involved here and it turns out that the Iraqi government kind of offering up our soldiers to take care of it.

BLITZER: This was about as bad a time, I think, as you can imagine -- at least the critics are suggesting -- Senator Boxer, for Nancy Pelosi and the House and a lot of others to raise the issue of a resolution condemning the Ottoman Turks for genocide of Armenians -- what -- almost 100 years ago, knowing how that would so deeply anger the Turkish government.

BOXER: Well, as you know, they've stopped that resolution in its tracks after it passed the committee. I'm a strong supporter of the resolution. You know, the truth is the truth is the truth. The Ottoman Empire has nothing to do with the Turkish government today.

I've met with the Turks on this, I've met with the Armenians on this. And I just think you call what happened the truth. It was a genocide. I don't see what it has to do with this. BLITZER: But are you happy they've withdrawn that resolution?

LOTT: Well, I would just say it is up to Nancy Pelosi to decide the timing. But I will tell you, whenever that comes before me, I will vote for it. There's never a good time, Wolf. Every time we tried to do it before, it was another argument an another problem.

BLITZER: All right, what do you think, Senator?

LOTT: We're not going to have a direct vote on that, I don't believe, in the Senate. I've met with both sides, too. And let me just assure you, it's extremely emotional to both sides.

My answer to that is, look, history is history. Why do we have to try to determine what happened 100 years ago? Isn't there some way we can work together and let the past be the past and talk about how we're going to live together in the future? I think that's what we ought to do in this case.

BLITZER: Let me move on briefly.

BOXER: I just don't agree with that, because I think you do have to call something what it was. I mean, if the Germans could apologize for the Holocaust, OK, if the Japanese could apologize for what they did to ethnic minorities...

LOTT: I don't think those facts were...


BOXER: ... and if we could apologize for slavery, you have to look back and you have to apologize. And I don't think it is disputed that it was a genocide.

BLITZER: Let's quickly talk about -- you were out in California, these horrible wildfires in Southern California.


BLITZER: Were you satisfied the way the Bush administration, FEMA, the federal government, responded this time, the National Guard specifically also?

BOXER: I went out there and I got the reports firsthand. But everybody feels we're all cooperating. We're all in this together. I have to say, all the firefighters -- local, state, federal firefighters -- they are the heroes in all of this. And the fact is we're working across party lines.

The National Guard, I was worried, because we know 50 percent of our equipment is gone. It's either in disrepair or in Iraq. But General Blum met with me. He got that equipment from other states. So far, so good.

But I always leave the door open because you never know what could develop. BLITZER: But, generally speaking, you're satisfied that...

BOXER: But I would say except for FEMA staging its own press conference, everybody seems to be working together and doing it well at this point.

LOTT: Well, I hope they learned from our experiences in Katrina. And I think they did learn some lessons.


BLITZER: And you had some painful experiences personally, as we know, in Mississippi. Thanks, Senator Lott, very much for joining us.

LOTT: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Senator Boxer, thanks to you as well.

Up next, Jordan's Queen Rania tells us how the U.S. could help repair its reputation in the Middle East.

And later, is a war between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds on the horizon? We'll ask Turkey's ambassador to the United States. He's standing by live. "Late Edition" will continue right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington.

The war in Iraq is fueling high tensions across the Middle East. In the midst of all of this, Jordan's Queen Rania is working to try to bridge the divide between the Arab and western worlds. I spoke with her this week during her visit to Washington. I asked her what the international community can do to help in Iraq.


QUEEN RANIA: We all have to work together as hard as we can to restore safety and stability because at the end of the day, the prosperity and civility of Iraq is in the best interest of all of us.

And again I want to emphasize the humanitarian situation. Very, very important for us to really work together to ensure that Iraqis can go back to normality in their lives. And when you talk about the displaced, a lot of those who are leaving Iraq are the doctors, the scientists, the engineers, those are Iraq's best hope of rebuilding the country. So reconciliation, reconstruction needs to happen as soon as possible.

BLITZER: How damaged is the U.S. image, the U.S. reputation, in the Arab and Muslim world?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, there are some negative perceptions of the United States in the Arab world. And as you know, since 9/11 and since the war in Iraq, tensions between East and West have become very inflamed.

But nothing is not reversible. We can work on this. We can try to bridge those differences. We can try to overcome the mutual suspicion and trust. And first and foremost, we can do this by trying to resolve some core issues in the region, namely the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, as well as the situation in Iraq.

You know, over the past seven years, not much has been done with regards to finding a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. And today, we have a situation where we have a good chance of finding a final solution, a final just solution to this issue.

Hopefully, next month there will be the peace conference at the American administration is working very hard to back. And we have engagements from many different Arab countries that are backing this up as well. And I just hope that we can finally put this to rest.


BLITZER: Queen Rania of Jordan speaking with me earlier in the week.

Coming up next, is Turkey gearing up for an attack inside Iraq? My interview with the Turkish ambassador to the United States. That's coming up.

Also, the British foreign secretary, David Miliband tells us why his country feels confident about withdrawing its troops from southern Iraq. "Late Edition" will continue right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." Turkey is considering a major military campaign into northern Iraq to crack down on Kurdish rebels who killed 12 Turkish soldiers in an ambush a week ago. They took others prisoners.

Efforts are now under way to diffuse what's become a very tense situation, but so far the possibility of another war in Iraq still exists. Joining us now is Turkey's ambassador to the United States, Nabi Sensoy.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome to "Late Edition." How close is your country, Turkey, to invading northern Iraq?

NABI SENSOY, TURKEY'S AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Well, in the first place, I wouldn't like to use the term "invade" Iraq, because if there is going to be a decision to intervene militarily in the north of the country, it will have a specific target and a scope, and the target will be the PKK terrorist organizations.

BLITZER: How close are you to that?

SENSOY: Now as you know, the government has taken authorization from the parliament, if necessary, to go into Iraq militarily. Now so far the Turkish government has shown remarkable, I think, restraint to -- not to use force in order to resolve this issue. We are trying to employ and exhaust all the diplomatic possibilities and peaceful possibilities before we think of the last resort, which is use to -- of arms.

BLITZER: There have been repeated reports that Turkish aircraft have already crossed the line, have gone into northern Iraq and bombed certain facilities. Are those reports true?

SENSOY: I'm not privy to those informations. There is a lot of activity going in the south of the country, in the southeast of the country.

BLITZER: Of Turkey.

SENSOY: Of Turkey, in preparation. But I'm not really informed about any kind of activity south of the border.

BLITZER: Have the Turkish forces massed 100,000 or so troops along the border?

SENSOY: Well, there has always been activity in the south of the country because of the activities of this terrorist organization, so it is possible that they have now beefed up the forces in the south of the country.

BLITZER: As you know, the U.S. government, the Bush administration, is strongly urging you not to intervene in northern Iraq, in Kurdistan. Listen to what the secretary of state said. Just listen to this.


SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: We don't see that any effort across that border by the Turks is going to help with the situation. We have said to the Turks that a major -- some kind of incursion into Iraq is only going to cause further instability.


BLITZER: All right. What do you say in response?

SENSOY: Well, that's why we have shown so much restraint so far. But if the countries -- all the groups in the north of Iraq think that -- or do not assume their responsibilities to eliminate the PKK themselves, they cannot expect Turkey to sit idly by to see that the Turkish population is being slaughtered by the PKK.

BLITZER: Because here's what the Iraqi government says -- last Sunday here on "Late Edition," the Iraqi government spokesman, Ali Al- Dabbagh, was on this program, and he offered this explanation. Listen to this.


ALI AL-DABBAGH, IRAQI GOVT. SPOKESMAN: Even Turkey, they can't stop PKK. This is mounting. It's a rough area. Fifteen years now the struggle with Turkey. Twenty-four times Turkey had to close the border and couldn't get rid of the PKK. Now one more crossing the border won't solve the problem. It will be great problems for all of us.


BLITZER: He says you haven't been able to stop it even on your side. Why do you think you can go into northern Iraq and stop the PKK?

SENSOY: Well, I think it should be interpreted that the Turkish nation has taken enough measures so that these terrorist organizations, these terrorists, have sought to go to the north of the Iraqi territory to conduct hit-and-run attacks to Turkey.

Now, they have camped along the Turkish border in five places. They're conducting hit-and-run attacks. So we have lost more than 35,000 lives in the last 20 years. Now enough is enough.

And I saw the mood in Turkey, and within the Turkish public. It is one of outrage. And that is why no government can really remain unresponsive to the cries from the people.

BLITZER: On Tuesday, the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki said this: "The PKK is a notorious terror organization, and we have decided to shut down its offices and not allow them to operate on Iraqi soil. We will take all measures to restrict its terror activities that threaten Iraq and threaten Turkey as well."

Do you not believe him?

SENSOY: Well, in the first place, it's small comfort that they are going to close down the offices, because those offices were closed down before to see the next day that they're open next to the very place that they have closed. So this is the very least that the Iraqi government can do. But there are other things. Elimination of this requires the end to logistical support that goes to the terrorist organization from the north of the country. This is in the form of arms, food, ammunition, every kind of logistical support. So this has to be stopped in the first place in order to be able to eliminate the present.

BLITZER: Some analysts have suggested that the consideration in the House of Representatives here in Washington a few weeks ago of a resolution condemning the Ottoman Empire for the, quote, "genocide of Armenians" during World War I contributed to this tension, not only tension with the United States but tension between Turkey and Iraq.

That resolution, among other things, said, "The Armenian genocide was conceived and carried out by the Ottoman empire from 1915 to 1923, resulting in the deportation of nearly 2 million Armenians, of whom 1,500,000 men, women and children were killed, 500,000 survivors were expelled from their homes, and which succeeded in the elimination of the over 2,500-year presence of Armenians in their historic homeland."

How much of a factor was consideration in the House of Representatives of this resolution in Turkey's angry stance right now?

SENSOY: I can see no relationship between the two. With regard to the Armenian resolution, I think it was a very bad idea, because as far as the international law is concerned, the Armenians have no arguments with regard to the 1948 convention. And that's why they are taking the issue to a political...

BLITZER: Your position is that there was no genocide.

SENSOY: Well, what we are saying is the events of 1915 needs further investigation. And that is why we have proposed setting up of a committee of historians between Turkey and Armenia to look into this matter to go into the archives and to dig out the truth. Whatever the truth is, we are going to accept.

BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, we're out of time. Ambassador Sensoy, thanks very much for coming in. Let's hope that situation remains calm or calms down. Appreciate it very much.

Coming up, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is taking some heat from fellow conservatives. We'll ask him about that. He's standing by live. "Late Edition" will be right back.


BLITZER: My interview with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, that's coming up next.


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

The race to '08.


FORMER. GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE (R), ARKANSAS: We need to move the cultural norms to meet God's standards.


BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee discusses Iran, Iraq, and why he thinks he's the GOP's best chance to win the White House.


DAVID MILIBAND, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: I think there is some compelling evidence of the Iranian support for attacks against coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.


BLITZER: Britain's foreign secretary, David Miliband, weighs in on Iran's ambitions in the Middle East.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: I'm getting a lot of attention from the men in this race.


BLITZER: Senator Clinton in the crossfire. We'll assess the presidential race with three of the best political team on television. This second hour of "Late Edition" begins right now.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: And welcome back to the second hour of "Late Edition." Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is trailing his party's front-runners in the national polls, but the former Arkansas governor is still running hard and it may be paying off. He had a very strong showing in a recent straw poll of a key element of the Republican base: Christian conservatives. Mike Huckabee is joining us now live from Little Rock, Arkansas.

Governor, welcome back to "Late Edition."

HUCKABEE: Well, thank you very much, Wolf. Great to be back with you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. How far would you be willing to go, Governor, in stopping Iran from building a nuclear bomb?

HUCKABEE: Whatever it takes. We cannot allow Iran to have nuclear capacity. It's as simple as that. We can't allow it for a couple of reasons. One, they've already made clear their intentions to destroy Israel. They have not shown a level of responsibility or restraint.

And once they get started in aiming it at Israel or taking action into Iraq, the destabilization of the oil market that that would cause, the collapse of the economy, and the instability to world peace is simply a price too high to pay. So, whatever it takes to make sure they can't do it, that's what we have to be willing to do.

BLITZER: All right. Spell out whatever it takes. Give us the range of options in your mind that might be necessary.

HUCKABEE: Well, I think the president's right to start with trying to bankrupt them before we bomb them. That's a good way to start. But we have to be prepared to take, again, whatever action. And I don't want to go through every possible scenario other than to say that that would mean just what it says. Whatever it takes.

BLITZER: But if it required to destroy some sort of deep underground nuclear facility, a nuclear -- a tactical nuclear device on the part of the U.S., would you be willing to go that far?

HUCKABEE: Well, once again, Wolf, let's not try to tip the hand of what might have to be done. But let's also not be coy and not be the least bit reticent to say that it would be unacceptable -- totally unacceptable to ever allow Iran to have nuclear weaponry given the language, the tone and the direction of this regime.

BLITZER: What would do you to stop the tension mounting between Turkey and northern Iraq, specifically the Kurds, in northern Iraq? The Turks accuse them of harboring these PKK terrorists.

HUCKABEE: Well, one thing that might help would be to allow the Kurds to be armed and trained so that they could take care of the PKK before they amassed at the border. I understand Turkey's concern and I want to commend Turkey for being, I think, extraordinarily patient with that situation. The 3,500 terrorists of the Workers' Party moving in to try to create instability is unacceptable.

And the United States doesn't have to commit military action. But helping the Kurds to fight the PKK within their own territory may be the best way to avert what could be a very serious, unnecessary and costly confrontation.

BLITZER: But what if the Kurds in the north and the Iraqi government, for that matter, refuse to go after the PKK? What if the Kurds specifically refuse to go after fellow Kurds?

HUCKABEE: People I've talked to in the region have made it very clear the Kurds are most willing, because they know that their stability is at stake and their own future is at stake. So I'm confident based on conversations I've had with people who have just returned and have had conversations with the Kurds as well as people inside the Turkish government, that that would be the very best and the most effective way for us to handle this.

BLITZER: Do you believe the Bush administration made a mistake in going after Saddam Hussein, launching the invasion back in 2003, knowing everything you know right now including the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found?

HUCKABEE: You know, sometimes people say we've never found the weapons. Just because we haven't found them doesn't mean they didn't exist. We haven't found Jimmy Hoffa either but we know he exists.

That's always the way that we're going to try to frame this sometimes is that well, we didn't find them. But he was the one who said that he had them. He has used them in the past.

It's easy to second-guess what we should have done. Frankly, that's no longer a good option for us other than for us to try to make sure that in the future we have the very best intelligence before we ever commit boots on the ground.

But what we have to always remember is that if he failed to take action, weapons of mass destruction had been deployed, killing thousands if not millions of people, then the other question would have been why didn't we do something?

So, second-guessing, that's the easiest job in the world. People run for president so they make tough decisions. Sometimes they're not the best ones, but hopefully, they are decisions that are always going to put the protection and the safety of the American people first.

BLITZER: Republican Senator John McCain and other Republican presidential candidates seem to take a swipe at you and some of your colleagues, some of your other rivals, for the Republican presidential nomination, at that Republican debate last week. Listen to what McCain said.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: I am prepared, I am prepared, need no on-the-job training. I wasn't a mayor for a short period of time. I wasn't a governor for a short period of time. For 20-some years, including leading the largest squadron in the United States Navy, I led.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: He seems to be suggesting you really don't have any foreign policy experience and you would need on- the-job training if you were to become the president of the United States.

HUCKABEE: Well, I think he must be referring to somebody else because he said he wasn't a governor for a short time. Neither was I. I was a governor for 10.5 years. I've had more executive experience than anybody on the stage at the Democrat or Republican debates. Nobody's run a government longer than I have.

And people sometimes forget that while governors may not be on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, governors actually deal head- to-head with CEOs of multinational corporations, and the heads of state as we sign trade agreements and multicultural agreements. We travel extensively as governors on trade missions. And we deal with governments.

So it's not that we have no experience. And I would also remind people that Ronald Reagan came into office with a criticism, that he just didn't know enough about foreign policy. Within 10 years of his being sworn in, there wasn't a Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall was down and this was a better, safer world because he had convictions and character.

Convictions and character and the right capacity to make decisions is what it's about, and that's no criticism against Senator McCain. I have great respect for him. I'm just going to believe he was talking about some other guys on that stage and not me.

BLITZER: All right. Well, Rudy Giuliani, at least in the national polls, has consistently been the front-runner and he's trying to establish his conservative credentials. Listen to what he said the other day.


FORMER MAYOR RUDOLPH W. GIULIANI, R-NEW YORK CITY: I think that was a pretty darn good conservative record. I think in every case you can always find one exception or two to someone being you know, absolutely conservative or absolutely this or absolutely that. But I think I had a heck of a lot of conservative results.


BLITZER: Do you consider him to be a conservative?

HUCKABEE: Compared to the Democrats, absolutely. Compared to me, that's why I'm in this race. I can give folks a hardworking, consistent conservative with a strong record having run a government in a conservative way.

But let's not attack Rudy in the sense that there are some issues with which he and I disagree, particularly on the social issues. But Rudy has a good record in terms of fiscal conservativism. And I think it would be dishonest or disingenuous on my part to try to paint him as something other than that. That's a good record. BLITZER: Well, he does support, Governor -- he does support abortion rights, he supports gay rights, he supports gun control, those issues that are very important to you.

HUCKABEE: And no those issues -- yes, they are very important to me. And I think Rudy is wrong on those issues, and it's why voters get an opportunity to choose. I think the more they find out about some of those issues -- one of the reasons that I'm moving up in the polls is people understand that on issues like that, you know, I've had only one position.

And the position that I hold is more consistent and in tune with the Republican mainstream. And last week in the Rasmussen polls that came out on Friday, I actually now have edged ahead of Mitt Romney on a national level. And that's pretty stunning for where we are in this race.

BLITZER: Phyllis Schlafly is critical of you and she's a conservative -- very conservative. You are being criticized by the conservatives, by the liberals, but she said this in The Wall Street Journal on Friday: "He destroyed the conservative movement in Arkansas and left the Republican Party a shambles, yet some of the same evangelicals who sold us on George W. Bush as a compassionate conservative are now trying to sell us on Mike Huckabee."

Does she have a point as far as your record in Arkansas is concerned?

HUCKABEE: You know, I love Phyllis Schlafly. In fact, her book, "It's a Choice, Not an Echo," was a great influence on me when I read it as a teenager. And I'm not going to say anything unkind about this lady who has been such a stalwart in the conservative movement. Rather than say, hey, you know, I think Phyllis is wrong, I think Phyllis has just been misinformed. Because she's a good and decent lady who is very principled.

But here's the fact. When I came into office as governor, we had 11 House members out of 100 who were Republican. By the time I left, we had had 30. We had appointees all over the place. We had elections that were won. My PAC that I established gave more money to Republican candidates in Arkansas than did the state party. You know, I worked hard for the party. It's a tough environment. I've been against the headwinds of a very tough, Clinton-led political machine in this state.

But you know what I've done that no other Republican running for president has done? I've beat that political machine of the Clintons, the Democrat Party, not once, not twice, not three times, but four times in statewide elections, something nobody else has been able to do.

The Clintons campaigned against me every time I ran, always cordially and respectfully, but they campaigned against me, and I still won in a state that is overwhelmingly, maybe outfitted, if you will, with Clintonistas.

BLITZER: Another conservative, Pat Toomey of the group the Club for Growth, he wrote this in the National Review online, or at least he said this on Friday. He said, "A Huckabee nomination, even as vice president, will make it impossible for the Republican Party to reclaim its brand of fiscal conservatism and limited government, without which it cannot be a majority party again.

"Huckabee makes no secret of his desire to turn the GOP leftward, calling himself a 'different kind of Republican,' adopting protectionist positions, and peppering his campaign speeches with the kind of class warfare rhetoric one expects to hear from John Edwards."

Those are pretty strong words from Pat Toomey.

HUCKABEE: Well, they're not the first time he's taken a shot. You know, there's a great saying that I remind myself when I hear stuff like that, Wolf, and it's this: "As long as you're getting kicked in the rear, you're still out front."

You know, the fact is, yesterday, I went pheasant hunting in Iowa. Something I've learned about hunting, you never point your gun at the carcass of a dead animal. You only take aim at something that's alive that you want to put on the wall. So in a way, I'm kind of enjoying, as it were, in a sort of wicked kind of way, the fact that all these attacks are coming, whether from the left or from the right.

It proves that, like the pheasant being flushed out of the brush, I'm flying. And people see it. The money that is coming into our campaign in the last six days is more than we've raised in the first three months of the campaign, and that's just online.

People are resonating with this message. They're realizing that they have a genuine, authentic conservative in the race. Different kind? You bet I am. But I'm the kind that I think America is looking for, not mad at everybody. I don't want to go in and burn the place down. I want to build this country up, and that's what I think this country needs and is looking for in its leader. BLITZER: You're getting criticism, as you know, not only from the right but from the left as well. Frank Rich, writing in today's New York Times, saying this: "Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who spent 15 years as a Baptist preacher, calls abortion a 'holocaust' and believes in intelligent design rather than evolution."

First of all, is that true?

HUCKABEE: You know, if the criticisms about me are that I believe in God, believe the Bible and that I believe that human life is precious and sacred, throw those criticisms at me all day because I plead guilty. Yeah, I believe in God. Yes, I believe that life is precious. I think we ought to protect it. I think every life -- yours, mine and the life of every other individual -- has intrinsic value and worth.

And that's a view and value that was shared by those who penned the Declaration of Independence when they said that our creator has given us inalienable rights. Among these, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

BLITZER: All right. Well, is abortion a holocaust?

HUCKABEE: I think it is. When you think about millions and millions of completely innocent unborn lives that have been terminated before they ever had a chance to live, I don't know what else you can call it. It's really a horrible thing when you realize that we have allowed millions of what could have been our fellow citizens that never saw the light of day.

I think it's something that is the antithesis of what America has been historically been about, and that is believing that each life, each life, regardless, had worth and value and should be given respect and treated with dignity.

BLITZER: And what about intelligent design? Do you believe in that, or do you believe in evolution? HUCKABEE: I don't believe that you have to have a conflict between science and a belief in God. Wolf, as I told you in New Hampshire during the debate, I don't know how God created the earth. I don't know how long it took. You know, I could argue that all day long.

But without any apology, without any doubt, I believe that this is not just some incredible universe that happened all by accident. I do believe that it was the hand and the mind of God that created it. And that's a view, by the way, shared with about 90 percent of the American population, who also believe in a god, and who believes that we're ultimately responsible to it.

BLITZER: Is there one single thing you need to do in the next few weeks to break through, to get into that top tier, Governor?

HUCKABEE: Wolf, I think we're in that top tier. I mean, if the Rasmussen polls, if the surge that we're seeing in terms online support, heck, I mean, I've got the endorsement this week of Chuck Norris. Now people are going to be afraid not to support me. BLITZER: (LAUGHTER)

HUCKABEE: They're going to be afraid not to get online and contribute. So the only thing we need is you getting online today, getting out your credit card, sending that contribution in, getting us that record level of money. And we're not going to just be in the top tier, we're going to be at the top of the top tier.

BLITZER: And none of us want to mess with Chuck Norris, to be sure.

HUCKABEE: None of us do. I don't even want to mess with him.

BLITZER: Governor, thanks very much for joining us.

HUCKABEE: Thank you, Wolf. Great to be with you.

BLITZER: And coming up, would the British government support a military strike to take out Iran's nuclear program? We'll ask the British foreign secretary, David Miliband. That's next.

And later, how has Hillary Clinton built such a dominant lead in the polls? Our political panel is standing by live to weigh in on that question and a lot more.

"Late Edition" will continue right after this.


BLITZER: Britain's new foreign secretary, David Miliband, paid a visit to Washington this week. Iran certainly was a key topic of his meetings with the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and others. I had a chance to speak with the foreign secretary, and I asked him if Iran is behind some of the violence in Iraq.


MILIBAND: I think there is some compelling evidence of Iranian support for attacks against coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. There's also been interdiction of some of those elements, some of those supplies, and some pushing back against that Iranian influence. I think...

BLITZER: I was going to say, are you on the same page with the Bush administration when it comes to their deep concerns about Iran developing a nuclear bomb?

MILIBAND: Absolutely. I think that the whole world, expressed in U.N. Security Council resolutions, supported unanimously across the security council, including Russia and China, has said very clearly to Iran that there's a deal on offer, a very clear deal, which is engagement with the international community, economic, social, technological cooperation, if they're willing to abandon this very dangerous drive for a nuclear weapon.

And the last thing the Middle East needs is a nuclear arms race. And I think that the world has spoken very clearly. There are meetings this week that are important, and then by the end of next month, all of us in the international community have made clear that we'll look at whether or not Iranian engagement is leading to a positive outcome.

BLITZER: President Bush this week speaking out forcefully on the need for a European-based missile defense shield to prevent any threat coming in from Iran. Listen to what the president said. Listen to this.


PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The need for missile defense in Europe is real, and I believe it's urgent. Iran is pursuing the technology that could be used to produce nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles of increasing range that could deliver them.


BLITZER: All right, when it comes to this missile defense shield, are you on the same page with the president?

MILIBAND: I think that the president's engagement with the Russian government most recently through the visit of Secretary Gates and Secretary Rice to Moscow was absolutely right. I think they are working very closely with the Polish and other governments in terms of the citing of this.

And I think that the simple message that the president is giving, which is that European security is a concern for the United States, is absolutely right and absolutely appropriate.

BLITZER: So you support this creation of this missile defense shield?

MILIBAND: Well, I think we've certainly got to explore all options, and that's what's on the table in the way that the administration are pursuing this at the moment.

BLITZER: The Russians hate this idea.

MILIBAND: Well, that's why I mentioned the visit of Secretary Gates and Secretary Rice to Moscow, because I think that there is some realism coming into the question. Obviously, the rhetoric that you sometimes hear from Moscow can talk about this somehow being used against Russia. That's not true.

This is about a threat that actually threatens the whole of Western Europe and it's in Russia's interests to cooperate. And I think that some of the signs that have come out of the most recent meetings in Moscow are positive in that regard.

BLITZER: Because President Bush has been speaking in almost apocalyptic terms about all of this. Listen to what he said the other day of the prospects of a global war. Listen to this.


BUSH: If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. And I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously.


BLITZER: Is he going over the top when he warns of World War III?

MILIBAND: Well, I think he said that he takes the threat very seriously.

BLITZER: World War III -- is that appropriate?

MILIBAND: Well, I think that the president is making very, very clear that this is something that should concern the whole of the world community.

And I would say that you've got the United States working in step with allies like the U.K., but also with the Chinese, the Russians, the whole of the European Union in the so-called E3-plus-three process -- the European three countries plus Russia, China and America working very closely to be clear to the Iranians that we have every intention of working with them in a cooperative spirit but not in a cooperative spirit that leads towards a nuclear weapon in Iran.

And also, I would say, it's the drive to a nuclear weapon that threatens the whole of the nonproliferation regime. A nuclear arms race in the Middle East is the last thing any of us need.

BLITZER: If diplomacy fails, is Britain prepared to support military options against Iran's developing a nuclear bomb?

MILIBAND: I always say to people, we and everyone else in the international community are 100 percent focused on a diplomatic resolution to this. People always then say, but what if? And the first rule of diplomacy is that you keep the hypotheticals to yourself.

You say to people, "Look at what I'm saying, not at what I'm not saying." And what I'm saying is that Britain, along with the U.S. and other allies, are working very, very closely on a diplomatic track with teeth that works.

BLITZER: You're trying to get out of -- your troops out of Iraq as quickly as possible. You're 5,000 level going down to about 2,500 British troops in the spring. Is that right? When do you want them all out?

MILIBAND: We're determined to be driven by the circumstances on the ground. We're following exactly the strategy that's agreed across the coalition in Iraq, which is as the Iraq security forces are able to look after their own affairs, so we transfer...

BLITZER: Is that happening in Basra in the southern part?

MILIBAND: Yes, it is happening because if I had come on this program just before the British withdrawal, you would have said to me, "Are you sure that there won't be a Jaish al-Mahdi, a JAM flag flying above Basra palace when you move out"? And I would have said, "We'll only move out when we're confident that the Iraqi security forces have got the ability and the drive to secure the Basra part."


BLITZER: Because what we're seeing in Basra now is Shia on Shia violence, and some suggesting it's escalating as the British forces retreat to their barracks.

MILIBAND: Well, no, I think that what they're saying actually is that the violence are much lower since the British forces moved to the Basra Air Base. The center that we had at the heart of Basra in the old Basra palace is now being run by Iraqi security forces. It's being run in an extremely competent way.

And every single decision the British forces take in terms of redeployment in the south is cleared first through the Iraqi government, then through General Petraeus for the coalition forces.

And it's the same process of provincial Iraqi control that is applying in other parts of Iraq and that the U.S. is following. I would say that we are all there with a simple goal: We want Iraq to be run by the Iraqis and that applies in the security field as well as in the economic and political field.

BLITZER: But if it proves -- and let's hope it doesn't -- that the Iraqi forces in Basra and the southern part of Iraq, your area of responsibility, aren't up to the job, would you be willing to go back in, in big numbers?

MILIBAND: Well, the so-called overwatch capacity that we have maintained which is, first of all, about supply routes, secondly about training and mentoring and support of the Iraqi forces, is also third about reintervention capacity.

And we have 5,000 or so -- 5,500 -- troops there at the moment. As I say, they have been redeployed to the air base. But the Iraqi security force have shown themselves quite able to perform important roles right at the heart of Basra.

BLITZER: So you're not ruling out that if something horrible happens, you would reconsider that withdrawal schedule.

MILIBAND: The prime minister was absolutely clear to the House of Commons that we maintain our reintervention capacity as part of the overwatch brief.


BLITZER: David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, speaking with me in "The Situation Room" earlier in the week. Up next, we're going to find out where the presidential candidates are going on the campaign trail in the coming days.

And later, should President Bush get high marks for his response to the wildfires in California? And what about the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger? Our political panel is standing by to weigh in live. A lot more coming up on "Late Edition."


BLITZER: Our political roundtable coming up, but let's take a look at where some of the presidential candidates will be spending some time on the campaign trail over the next few days.

Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani heads to New Hampshire tomorrow to court voters in the first primary state.

Barack Obama travels to Charlottesville, Virginia tomorrow for fund-raising.

Ron Paul is going to Hollywood. He'll be in California Tuesday for an appearance on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

Dennis Kucinich is in Detroit today where he's addressing an Arab-American national leadership conference.

Tom Tancredo is in Iowa today. He's the featured guest at Iowa State University's presidential series.

And Bill Richardson heads to Philadelphia Tuesday where he and his fellow candidates will participate in a Democratic presidential debate. On the campaign trail with some of the presidential candidates.

Up next on "Late Edition," senators Clinton and Obama trading barbs over Iran. Who has the upper hand in the foreign policy fight? Our political panel straight ahead right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. A very busy week for the president as well as the presidential candidates. So let's get some insight into how it's playing out. Joining us, our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, our political editor, Mark Preston, and our White House correspondent, Ed Henry.

Barack Obama, in an interview published in today's New York Times, Mark, getting tough with Hillary Clinton, trying to distinguish himself, saying among other things, "I believe that trying to sound or vote like Republicans, when it comes to national security issues, is bad for the country and ultimately bad for the Democrats, so I have a disagreement with her on that. I think people have to see these exchanges much more clearly than they've been seen. Now's the time for us to make these distinctions clear."

He told me a week or so ago in an interview he wants to differentiate his stance from hers and now he's following up on that.

MARK PRESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. There's no question, Wolf. Look, right now, Barack Obama is down by more than 20 points in New Hampshire. Nationally, he's down by more than 30 points. He really needs to attack her and really take her on right now. There's no question about that.

BLITZER: Because if he doesn't do it now, Candy, I guess the sense is it's never going to happen.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, they've been saying since September, "we're going to take her on, we're going to describe the differences." I mean, this has been going on now for more than a month. So, he's tried it on Iran, now he's trying it on Social Security.

The fact of the matter is, they think that Hillary Clinton has done a very good job at blurring the distinctions which favor her because she has name recognition, people think she'd be a strong leader. They think she's experienced.

So Barack Obama's only chance is to say, but wait, I'm really different, and I'm more what you want than her.

BLITZER: He also says this, Ed, in the Times today. He says, "I think it is fair to say if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, then we have a repetition of 2000 and 2004. There's no change in the political map. I don't think it's realistic that she is going to get a whole bunch of Republicans to think differently about her."

Pretty tough words coming from Barack Obama, who's been relatively mild all these months.

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure. And Candy make as good point. Where has he been, essentially? I mean, everyone has been talking how this calendar is compressed, this election, the primary season's coming sooner and sooner, and now he's going to get serious taking her on?

This is what elections are about. And people in the Democratic Party also may be frustrated that 2000 and 2004, Gore and Kerry were criticized by their own people for not showing the differences between them and the Republican candidates.

Now looks like Obama's been having that same problem. And the story behind the story is that his own campaign donors have been saying for weeks or months, get serious about this, and he's finally doing it. And number two, he's worried that John Edwards is going to fill the vacuum and become the anti-Clinton candidate.

CROWLEY: But the problem here for Obama is first of all, that whole politics of hope, something that he's been running on. So he's trying to sort of walk this line, like, I'm not a negative person, I'm about the politics of hope. But she's really, you know, wrong on the following things. So that's a very hard line for him to walk.

And in fact, Democrats don't want him to go negative on Hillary Clinton. So he in some ways is stuck.

BLITZER: Here's the latest L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll, Mark. Registered Democrats, nationwide, Hillary Clinton with 48 percent, Barack Obama 17 percent, Edwards 13 percent, everybody else down in low single digits.

So, I mean, so many people already assume she's got this Democratic nomination locked up. But I guess all of the experts say, not so quickly.

PRESTON: Yeah, I mean, no question. And look, Barack Obama has less than 70 days to make his case to Iowa Democratic caucus goers.

BLITZER: That's really his only hope in Iowa. He's got to do really well. They've got to have a little stop of her in Iowa, in order to get some traction.

PRESTON: Yeah, but I think that's for any of the candidates in the field right now. I think John Edwards, too, has to stop her in Iowa. But I'll tell you, Barack Obama, you know, while he's not doing as well in New Hampshire, he's also looking past that into South Carolina. You have a primary of Democrats where 49 percent of those Democratic voters are black. But right now, Clinton's doing very well with black voters. So, you know, Obama has a twofold problem. He has to do well in Iowa, but quite frankly, he has to do well with African Americans.

BLITZER: And Iowa is not that far away, January 3rd for the Democratic caucuses, January 3rd for the Republican caucuses. These next few weeks, they're going to go by very quickly.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. And the fact of the matter is, neither John Edwards nor Bill Richardson nor Barack Obama can stop Hillary Clinton in Iowa, but they can begin to stop her in Iowa. What they need do is show that she's not invincible, that somebody can beat her.

So even if somebody other than Clinton wins in Iowa, it's still a pretty stiff road because Iowa -- New Hampshire comes so quickly behind Iowa, it's going to be tough to beat down that gap right now which is what, about 20 points.

BLITZER: There was a memo that the Clinton campaign released on Thursday. Among other things, it said this: "Stagnant in the polls and struggling to revive his once-buoyant campaign Senator Obama has abandoned the politics of hope and embarked on a journey in search of a campaign issue to use against Senator Clinton."

So the Clinton folks, they're ready for a fight.

HENRY: Sure. And as Candy made the point a moment ago, it's sort of like Obama's handcuffed somewhat because he wanted to run as the hope candidate, the person who was going to do this campaign differently. So once he starts trying to sling mud to catch up to Hillary Clinton, it sort of undermines the whole rationale for his candidacy. CROWLEY: I also want to say, what's interesting is that she did go at him, albeit from a campaign memo. It says to me that particularly the Iran difference that Barack Obama's trying to strike, has hit home with the Clinton campaign. They went to the trouble of putting out mailers in Iowa, so this idea that she somehow gave permission to the president to make a military attack into Iran certainly has stuck at the Clinton campaign and they are trying to push back on that.

BLITZER: Here on the Republican side, in the L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll, among registered Republicans nationwide, Rudy Giuliani still ahead 32 percent, Fred Thompson 15, McCain 13, Mitt Romney 11, Huckabee at 7, everybody else way down, low single digits. Is it fair to say that Rudy Giuliani's advantage among Republicans is the same as Hillary Clinton's advantage is among Democrats?

PRESTON: You know, I don't think so. I think the race is a little bit more wide open on the Republican side. And quite frankly, when we're looking at these national polls, Wolf, you know, a national poll doesn't tell you how voters in Iowa are going to cast their ballots or how voters in New Hampshire are going to cast their ballots. And those are states right now that Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and John McCain need to win.

BLITZER: Because Mitt Romney does really well in Iowa, does really well in New Hampshire, although he doesn't necessarily do all that well nationwide. Explain what's going on, Candy.

CROWLEY: Well, Romney is not a name that people know like Giuliani. Romney is not a name and is not of that part of the party that appeals to moderates. So, certainly when moderates in the Republican Party and independents look at Rudy Giuliani, they're more favorable toward him, so he does better in the national races.

But, you know, if Romney makes a name for himself in Iowa, if he makes a name for himself in New Hampshire, you change the whole national dynamic.

HENRY: And that's why there is one similarity between Clinton and Giuliani in the sense that either one of them potentially could stumble early on but come back because they have enough money, enough national name I.D. in the way that a Romney or an Edwards or someone might not be able to come back as much if they stumble early on.

BLITZER: Mere is a line from Frank Rich's column in The New York Times today: "Even leaving aside the Giuliani record in New York where his judicial appointees were mostly Democrats, the more Democratic Senate likely to emerge after 2008 is a poor bet to confirm a Scalia or Alito, even should a Republican president nominate one. No matter how you slice it, the Giuliani positions on abortion, gay rights and gun control remain indistinguishable from Hillary Clinton's."

But the point he's making is that still among the Republicans, registered Republicans, Giuliani is the front-runner. PRESTON: Well, because right now Republicans look at Giuliani as the only person that can defeat Hillary Clinton at this point. The most interesting about Giuliani and the different strategies we're seeing on the Republican side is that Giuliani has not aired one television commercial yet. He has not had to. People know who Rudy Giuliani is.

On the other hand, Mitt Romney has been spending quite a lot of money on TV ads in Iowa and New Hampshire, and that's why he's doing so well in those states.

BLITZER: Is it fair to say that even among the social conservatives, the Christian conservatives, the religious right, the fear of terrorism, another 9/11, trumps abortion or gay rights?

CROWLEY: In some parts of the party. Now, you know, he was going to have -- we heard over the past couple of weeks that some in the evangelical movement, that some conservative Christians for whom abortion is the paramount issue may bolt, may in fact try to find a third party candidate.

That clearly hurts Rudy Giuliani as a Republican nominee if he is the Republican nominee. But the fact of the matter is, yes, there are people who look -- I think the primary thing is what Mark pointed to. And that is that they look at Rudy Giuliani and say, "We think he can beat Hillary Clinton."

BLITZER: Is that a real or hollow threat, this third party if Giuliani should get the Republican nomination, third party, social conservatives? What do you think?

HENRY: For the most part probably hollow because I think even the conservatives who are upset with Giuliani realize that once you run a third party bid, it's very unlikely the Republican can win. You make it much more likely that a Hillary Clinton or a Barack Obama gets elected.

Another thing to pay attention to in that Frank Rich column, that secondary point he made about how the Senate is looking like it's going to be more and more Democratic regardless of who wins the White House. We have to keep our eye on that, the fact if a Republican president gets elected, they are very likely to have a very much stronger Democratic Senate that will be tough on their judicial nominees and others.

If a Democrat wins, they have a shot to really set the agenda. Because it's very likely the Democrats are going to pick up seats in the Senate.

BLITZER: Very likely given the nature of who's up and for re- election this time around, who is dropping out. All right. Thanks very much. Stand by, guys. We have a lot more to talk about including those California wildfires. Who did well? What about the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger? Or the president, George W. Bush? We're going to discuss that and a lot more with our political panel. Coming up next though, Laura Bush made a rare appearance on a Sunday talk show earlier today. We're going to tell you what she had to say about Hillary Clinton's run for the White House. "Late Edition" will be right back.


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 ABC, NBC, and CBS, the possibility of U.S. military action against Iran was a key target.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: You ought to be very careful about what kind of rhetoric you use and what kind of threats you make because if you make threats, you have to make sure that you carry them out.



SEN. CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, D-CONN.: What didn't we learn from October 2002 in a sense? The administration clearly is on a drumbeat here, given the Cheney speeches by the vice president -- the Vice President Cheney speeches -- the announcement the other day, even including sanctions. Clearly this administration is moving in that direction towards military action against Iran.



SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-MICH.: We ought to dial down the rhetoric, we ought to make it clear that there's always a nuclear -- excuse me. There is always a military option if Iran goes nuclear, but that we ought to just speak more softly because these hot words coming out of the administration, this hot rhetoric plays right into the hand of the fanatics in Iran.



SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: A military engagement in Iran is a very dangerous thing. And nobody wants to go down that road but the sanctions that we have in place now worldwide are not working, and they will never work until the world gets more serious about them. And if the sanctions don't work, military operations against Iran, I believe, will be inevitable.


BLITZER: On Fox, the first lady, Laura Bush, talked about the prospect of her predecessor, Senator Hillary Clinton, becoming the first woman president in the United States.


FIRST LADY LAURA BUSH: And I'm looking forward to voting for a Republican woman whenever that is, but I'll be supporting the Republican.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: So the fact that she's a woman doesn't matter?

L. BUSH: No. It doesn't matter to me. And then I hope it doesn't matter to other people. I hope that people will choose the candidate that they think really has the views that they want, you know, that they believe in, and that represent them in the way they want to be represented.


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

Up next, much more of our political panel. And remember, on November 15th, I'll be in Las Vegas to moderate a presidential debate among the Democratic candidates -- November 15 in Vegas. "Late Edition" will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're talking about the week's hot political subjects with three of the best political team on television. CNN's Ed Henry, Candy Crowley, and Mark Preston.

Candy, Governor Schwarzenegger had to deal with these horrible fires in southern California this week. I want to play a little clip of what he said yesterday. Listen to this, the suspicion being that arson could have started some of these fires.


SCHWARZENEGGER: If I were one of those people who started the fires, I would not sleep soundly right now, I'll tell you. Because we're right behind you. As a matter of fact, if I would be you, turn yourself in.


BLITZER: All right. When he talks like that, I guess whoever started these fires out there must be getting pretty nervous. But he really took charge and by almost all accounts handled the situation extremely well.

CROWLEY: Did really well. And first of all, because he was there, he showed up, he told people where they could go, where they should evacuate from. And he was ahead of the game. I think that's what -- and as I said earlier in the week, this was no Katrina. There were huge differences. Katrina was massive and unexpected. Wildfires in California are not expected (ph), despite the magnitude of this. But the fact of the matter is that Schwarzenegger was always ahead of the curve. So while fires were still going on, he would say, now listen. No scam artists, no phony contractors, we will go after you. So he was always ahead of the game, whereas in Katrina, it always felt like they were reacting.

BLITZER: And Ed, the president, he went out there very, very quickly. He clearly learned a lot of lessons from Katrina.

HENRY: He did. And I was there in San Diego with the president on Thursday. And the White House kept saying, you know, this is not about trying to exorcise the demons from Katrina.

And yet, what does the president say when he's standing next to Governor Schwarzenegger? It really makes a difference when you have strong leadership in the State House.

I went on your show, "The Situation Room," and said this is a clear shot at Governor Blanco down in Louisiana. A White House aide jumped on me right after that live shot, saying, he didn't mention Governor Blanco. Give me a break. It was obvious that the president was trying to make a clear distinction between California and Louisiana.

BLITZER: FEMA, by all accounts did a very good job, too, but they also did an idiotic thing by staging a fake news conference. How could that happen, Mark?

PRESTON: You know, no one has a correct answer for that, Wolf. We're all dumbfounded that they would actually do it. By all accounts, the federal government did a very good job of getting out to California and delivering the resources that the state needed. Governor Schwarzenegger did a great job of being a leader of the state.

And then all of a sudden, they have a fake news conference? It really is a black mark on something that turned out or was turning out to be, you know, high praise.

BLITZER: They pretended that they had reporters asking questions when they were FEMA officials asking questions. Really, really idiotic.

All right, let's talk about Tom DeFrank. His new book that's just come out, "Write it When I'm Gone." Tom DeFrank the bureau chief for the New York Daily News. He covered Gerald Ford for a long time. And he interviewed him over these many years under the condition that what Gerald Ford, the late president, said, could not be released until he passed away.

Among other things, Ford said this: "Hillary is going to be on the ticket in '04 or '08, one way or the other, and you can write that down. She has unlimited ambition. When you look at her record, she's a bona fide liberal with unlimited ambition." That's what Gerald Ford told Tom DeFrank back in 2002. He was a pretty good keen observer of the political scene.

HENRY: Fascinating off-the-record conversation. Gerald Ford also said that he believes that Hillary Clinton is stronger and tougher than her husband. And also interesting that Gerald Ford said in these off-the-record conversations that he was sort of -- he was really ambivalent about Bill Clinton. On one hand, he said he was the best pure politician. He could sell three-day ice to somebody.

But at the same time said he believed he had a sickness, a sex addiction, and he needed to get treatment. Another big thing is that Gerald Ford was basically saying in 2004 off the record, before the election, he thought Dick Cheney should be dumped from the Republican ticket because he was no longer an asset. That's really fascinating because, as you know, Dick Cheney was Gerald Ford's White House chief of staff. And that's why I'm told a lot of people around Dick Cheney have been agitating to get a copy a little early because they're concerned about what it's going to say.

BLITZER: You've got a copy right there. Here's a quote from the book, Candy: "I've had several people come to me about, are they going to make a change in the vice presidential selection, and in effect suggesting I should do something about it. Dick has not been the asset I expected on the ticket. As you know he's a great friend of mine. He did a great job for me, but he has not clicked."

That's what he told Tom DeFrank back in March of 2004.

CROWLEY: You know, just as a reporter, I wish these people would say these things you know, on the record when they matter. I guess we wouldn't have any parties then because there would be so much infighting. Nonetheless, as you know, when we were running up to that election, there was a lot of talk about dumping Dick Cheney. This was not, you know, a left-field idea here. There was some talk about that, but we all know about Bush and loyalty and it never seemed that he was anywhere close to doing that.

HENRY: Gerald Ford also was privately saying he thought Rudy Giuliani would be at the top of the list for a VP candidate in 2004, and in later conversations told Tom DeFrank he thought Rudy Giuliani was the best chance that the Republicans have to beat Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: Ed Henry, thanks very much. Candy Crowley, thanks to you. Mark Preston, all three of you part of the Emmy Award-winning best political team on television.

If you'd like a recap of today's program, by the way, you can get highlights on our new and improved "Late Edition" podcast. Simply go to

Don't forget, coming up at the top of the hour, "This Week at War," with host Tom Foreman.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: And that's your "Late Edition" for this Sunday, October 28. Please be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. Remember, we're in "The Situation Room" this week, Monday through Friday, 4 to 6 p.m. Eastern, then another hour at 7 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

For our international viewers, stand by for world news. For those of you in North America, "This Week at War" with Tom Foreman starts right now.