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President Obama's Drilling Plan; Sex Abuse Scandal Rocks Catholic Church; Iran's Nuclear Secrets Revealed?

Aired March 31, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Happening now.

President Obama's drilling plans striking some political controversy. Strong reaction this hour to lifting the ban on oil and natural gas exploration off the U.S. east coast, the Gulf Coast, and the Alaskan coast.

Also, my exclusive interview with the man likely to become Iraq's next Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, accusing Iran of interfering in Iraqi politics. He also recounts how he was almost axed to death by one of Saddam Hussein's henchmen.

Plus, a disturbing study linking multivitamins to one type of cancer. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is investigating. He has information you need to know.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

President Obama's continuing quest for bipartisanship hits a pay dirt today, but not necessarily in the way he had hoped. He's taking some heat from both the left and the right over his plan to open up vast new stretches of coastal waters to drilling. On the same day, oil prices hit a 17-month high, the president announced plans to lift the ban on oil and natural gas drilling in the Atlantic, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska's North Slope.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bottom line is this, given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth and produce jobs and keep our businesses competitive, we are going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel, even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy. So, today we're announcing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration. But in ways that balance the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America's natural resources.

There will be those who strongly disagree with this decision, including those who say we should not open any new areas to drilling. But what I want to emphasize is that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy. And the only way this transition will succeed is if it strengthens our economy in the short term and the long run. To fail to recognize this reality would be a mistake. So, the answer is not drilling everywhere all the time, but the answer is not also for us to ignore the fact that we are going to need vital energy sources to maintain our economic growth and our security.

Ultimately, we need to move beyond the tired debates of the left and the right, between business leaders and environmentalists, between those who would claim drilling is a cure-all and those who would claim it has no place, because this issue's just too important to allow our progress to languish while we fight the same old battles over and over again.


BLITZER: The president's announcement sparks some immediate outrage among environmentalists and Democratic lawmakers, at least some of them. CNN's Brian Todd is working that part of the story for us. What are you hearing, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're hearing pretty some serious warnings about the potential disruption of marine life along the east coast if this happens. And opponents say it isn't just an environmental risk, but an economic one as well.


TODD (voice-over): The prospect of oil platforms off the coast of Virginia, the White House believes it's a way to possibly expand American production of oil, while competing nations are furiously grabbing other sections of underwater shelves. Environmentalists say it's not worth the risk.

WESLEY WARREN, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: Imagine that you had a business here, small business operator, with a marina; you'd be dependent upon the source and the fishermen for your livelihood. Now imagine that there was a catastrophic oil spill. It would really wipe your business out.

TODD: Wesley Warren is with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a group that's been monitoring oil spills for decades. He's worried about the potential for spillage if any oil platforms malfunction. But he says just the operation of the platform's infrastructures poses dangers.

WARREN: You have platforms. You have pipelines. You have ships and tankers, and you have storage facilities, and they're really all at risk from hurricanes or just ongoing spills.

TODD: How close to the east coast could the platforms come? The Obama blueprint calls for exploration in waters about 50 miles from Virginia's coast, to see if any oil or gas is out there. But the government controls waters three miles from shore and out. So, if oil's discovered that close, you could see platforms that close. The waters close to Florida's Gulf Coast are still protected, but drilling could take place 125 miles off those shores or further out. Senators from several east coast states have warned about the risks to their seaside economies, the hundreds of billions of dollars in the fishery and tourism industries.

Wesley Warren says if an east coast spill occurs on the scale of the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident, the oil's leak could stretch from North Carolina to Massachusetts. Officials with the Department of Anterior tell CNN they're not putting rigs off the east coast anytime soon. The project for exploration won't even start until 2012. Then, they'll do seismic studies, environmental impact surveys, and give the public plenty of input in the process. Myron Ebell of the pro- business group the Competitive Enterprise Institute says this --

MYRON EBELL, COMPETITIVE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: The risks of oil production in terms of doing environmental damage have been greatly reduced over the last several decades. But in terms of where the risks still are, I think it's in shipping rather than in -- in the wells and then piping it somewhere.


TODD (on-camera): Ebell says the positive side of producing more oil in the U.S. is just too great to ignore here. He says platforms off the east coast would create more high-paying jobs in those regions. He says it's been a huge economic boost to the economies of Texas and Louisiana -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And a lot of people say that when you compare the oil production in the United States and the dependence on foreign oil into the United States, those are compelling reasons to increase oil drilling.

TODD: They are. And you got to look at the numbers here. They are striking when you compare the two. Check out these lists from the Energy Information Administration. You've got the United States, third, among top world oil producers. There it is. Look at the figure. We put out -- or the United States puts out, excuse me, more than $8.5 million of oil per day. That was in 2008. But look at consumption in 2008, the U.S. was number one, and it wasn't even close, consuming nearly 19.5 million barrels of oil a day, the closest to the China.

You can see there, not even half as much, Wolf, that's where everyone makes the argument for drilling. It's just the disparity between U.S. consumption and production. The consumption is staggering still.

BLITZER: Yes. But even if they start drilling off the Atlantic Coast, let's say, it's going to take years and years --

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: Before any of that has an impact on oil supplies in the United States.

TODD: That's right. And a lot of the time, the oil companies kind of sit on these tracts and these leases, and they don't do anything with them, so that's another argument, you know, kind of against this, but it's something that the administration has to take on in the years ahead.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much. Brian's going to continue to work this story for us.

As Brian leaves, let's bring in CNN's John King, he's the host of "John King, USA" that airs immediately following "THE SITUATION ROOM." That's coming up at the top of the hour, and our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, she's the host in "State of the Union" that airs every Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. eastern.

Now, the political fallout, Candy, from this decision. I was surprised to wake up this morning and hear about it, but I suspect a lot of political types were surprised.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Location, location, location. I think we're going to hear this also in other parts of the energy bill. It matters what state you represent and how you feel about offshore. If you're from the coast, if you're from Florida, you're going to have worries, if not, total opposition about this. And the president expected as much, which I think is why you do have other elements of the bill that will appeal to Republicans, because we're noticing that some of the Republicans are saying, not a bad start here, because the president cannot do this with Democrats, particularly because of location.

BLITZER: A conservative like John McCain says, good idea, Mr. President, a liberal like Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey says, horrible idea, Mr. President.

JOHN KING, HOST: The breakdown is fascinating to Candy's point. The energy debate is not like health care. Health care was here, Democrat, you're mostly for; Republican, you're against. Geography determines energy. What's in the ground underneath where you live? Call state lawmakers, Democrat, or Republican don't like where the energy debate is heading. If you have oil under your coast, it depends a little differently. But the interesting part here is, Wolf, the Republicans, the initial reaction, John McCain said, Sarah Palin tweeted out, drill, baby, drill, but then minutes later tweeted, wait a minute, are we being trapped here? Because Republicans even if they think they like some of this policy.

They think it's too timid. They would like even more, most Republicans, like more drilling. They think the president is trying to bait them, trying to get a few votes with this proposal on nuclear power, a few more votes with this proposal here on drilling to get them into a bigger debate about climate change that could include carbon taxes or cap and trade is no longer on the table but something like that the Republicans say whoa.

BLITZER: If they don't like it. Here's what he said in June of 2008 in Jacksonville, Florida. I'm going to play the clip for you -- oh, we don't have that clip, but I'll read it to you.

When I'm president, I intend to keep in place the moratorium here in Florida and around the country that prevents oil companies from drilling off Florida's coasts. That's how we can protect our coastline and still make the investments that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and bring down gas prices for good. Is there something I'm missing here?

CROWLEY: I think now, again, let's talk about the definition of this. The current law has to do with three miles. If you are now saying, hey, let's -- let's go ahead and drill 150 miles, you're not talking about the current moratorium. So, specifically, look, do the Democrats hope that this wasn't going to happen? They did. But I think the White House -- I know the White House took a look at this and realized, it's going to be some time before the U.S. can use alternative energy sources and savings in order to get rid of this huge deficit and the security problems that it causes, therefore, you're going to have to go look for oil.

BLITZER: And John's going to have a lot more on this story, I'm sure, coming up at the top of the hour, right?

KING: You can bet on that.

BLITZER: Okay. We'll be watching, guys, thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty is coming up next with "The Cafferty File."

And then we're digging deeper into reports of an Iranian defection with potentially huge implications. The top Iranian scientist is said to be bringing Tehran's nuclear secrets to the United States.

Also, my exclusive interview with Ayad Allawi, a former interim Prime Minister of Iraq and quite possibly the next Prime Minister of Iraq as this country's fragile democracy is put to the test.

Plus, millions of Americans take them every day. Now, researchers are linking -- get this -- multivitamins to one type of cancer. What is going on? Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in the middle of holy week and with Easter just a few days away now, the Catholic Church is launching a massive PR blitz to defend the pope's role in the worldwide sex abuse scandal. Instead of contrition and asking for forgiveness, get a-load of the following -- the Vatican's pushing back against the idea that Pope Benedict XVI should take personal responsibility for the child abuse scandal. It's defending his management of abuse cases. Some catholic officials suggest it was the previous Pope, John Paul II, who blocked investigations into pedophile priests.

And the Vatican's planning a legal defense against an American lawsuit that would force the pope to answer questions under oath. Gee, I wonder why they wouldn't want him to do that. The AP reports that court documents related to a case in Kentucky showed that Vatican lawyers plan to argue that the pope has immunity as a head of state and that American bishops who oversaw abusive priests in this country were not employees of the Vatican. This is pure garbage. It gets worse.

In the pope's native Germany, the church has opened a hotline for victims to report alleged crimes. Critics are outraged, saying the victims ought to tell the authorities first, not the church. They have a point. The Catholic Church has done nothing, except shuffle abusive priests around and cover up the child abuse scandal for decades, including a priest who molested 200 deaf children. The church did nothing.

Meanwhile, a new Gallup poll shows Pope Benedict's favorable rating has dropped to 40 percent in the United States, its lowest level ever, down frown 63 percent just two years ago. The pope's image has declined about equally among Catholics and non-Catholics. So, here's the question -- would the Catholic Church benefit from forcing Pope Benedict out? Go to and post a comment on my blog. It's like Kevorkian running a suicide hotline. What is that?

BLITZER: All right. Jack, stand by. You're going to get a lot of reaction on this one, I know you will. Jack Cafferty in "The Cafferty File."

It's a potential gold mine of information on Iran's nuclear program. We're following reports that the United States has convinced an Iranian scientist to defect and bring along with him secrets the Tehran government doesn't want the west or the world to know about it. Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty is here working the story. All right. Update our viewers. What do we know about this?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Okay. The man's name is Shahram Amiri. We did a report on him a few months back. And I think we have a picture that we can show. It comes from Iran's press TV. So, he is a nuclear scientist. He was working at a university that is allied with the nuclear program of Iran. He goes to Saudi Arabia to the holy site and then he disappears. And at that point, Iran says he's been kidnapped by the United States. However, this new report that came out from ABC news says that actually he defected to the CIA and that he's been given some valuable information.

As you might expect, there's no confirmation coming from the U.S. government, the state department, anybody officially. But, you know, one of the things, it's a bit murky, Wolf, because it's unclear exactly what he knew. Remember, when we were talking about Qom, the secret facility for enrichment? This man disappeared a few months before that announcement was made, and some people made that link and said, ah, they got the information from him. However, that information was much older. It's actually coming out in 2008. So, it's unclear what he knew, but it's a very interesting development.

BLITZER: It does come at a time when there's a lot of scrutiny going on as far as Iran is concerned. You heard Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, tell us here in "THE SITUATION ROOM" in the last hour that the U.S. assessment is the Iranians are working on developing a nuclear bomb, that it is not, as the Iranians say just for peaceful purposes. The U.S. believes they're working on developing a military weapon.

DOUGHERTY: Right. And the big chapter right now, of course, is the push to get sanctions, and that's what she was talking about. Because you have the president yesterday saying, surprisingly, I think we can get those sanctions in just a few weeks. And why? Because there appears to be some movement on the part of China. They were the sticking point, and now they have agreed, apparently, to at least talk about a potential package of sanctions, so that is a step in the direction that the U.S. wants.

BLITZER: We'll see if those U.N. Security Council sanctions are implemented and how tough they are.


BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Jill Dougherty.

He was nearly hacked to death by one of Saddam Hussein's henchmen.


AYAD ALLAWI, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF IRAQ: There were blood squirting out of my body. I had fractures of the skull.


BLITZER: The man likely to become Iraq's next prime minister recalls the night he was almost killed on orders from the former Iraqi dictator. My exclusive interview with Ayad Allawi in Baghdad. That's coming up.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester's monitoring some of the other top stories in "THE SITUATION ROOM" right now. What do you have, Lisa?


Russia is still reeling from a deadly twin bombing Monday as attacks again. Today, two bombs exploded in a southern republic near the rest of Republic of Chechnya. Twelve people were killed, including nine police officers. Two female suicide bombers attacked Moscow's subway system, Monday, killing at least 39 people. Today, a Chechen rebel leader claimed he personally ordered those bombings. He called the attacks revenge because for the killing of Chechen civilians by Russian security forces.

The U.S. government is guilty of wiretapping phone conversations between an Islamic charity and two American lawyers without a search warrant. That was the ruling from a federal judge today in a 2006 lawsuit challenging the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program. U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, says the lawsuit threatens ongoing intelligence work and must be thrown out.

And take a look at this, that's a spectacular sight in Iceland. Today, tourists and geologists witnessed an eye popping volcanic eruption. You see the pictures there. This volcano has actually been dormant for 200 years before it erupted 10 days ago. Officials say the eruption itself is not a threat to residents but could trigger an eruption of a more dangerous volcano nearby. And those pictures are something else, Wolf. Take a look.

BLITZER: Spectacular. Amazing. All right. Thanks, Lisa. Don't go too far away.

Creative thinking at its best in the spotlight here today in Washington. The National Inventors Hall of Fame inducted 16 new members. Among the honorees, two people who invented post-it notes. Art Ryan (ph) Spencer Silver were working at the 3M company when they came up with the adhesive and design for post-it notes which became a best-selling office product as you know.

Roger Easton developed the technology that became the foundation for a product that keeps millions of people from getting lost every day. The global positioning system, also known as GPS.

And Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagan were honored posthumously for coming up with a key component for modern day scuba gear.

The man who may become Iraq's next Prime Minister has faced a lot of foes in his lifetime including an axed wielding assassin sent by Saddam Hussein.


ALLAWI: My life then just walked out (ph) on the candle lights on and I saw a huge guy with an ax to try and cut me into pieces.


BLITZER: You're going to find out how Ayad Allawi managed to survive that horrifying attack and his current fears about Iran's influence at Iraq.

And a Lebanese TV host is fighting for his life in Saudi Arabia. He's been sentenced to death for practicing sorcery. He says he could be beheaded on Friday.

And older women who take daily vitamins might be increasing their risk of breast cancer. There's a new study that finds a link, but there are caveats about this study. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be joining us, right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."


BLITZER: Iraq is now at one of its most critical junctures since the American-led invasion seven years ago. With U.S. combat forces poised to get out within a matter of a few months, the country's fragile democracy is being put to the test with a contested election. And now there are allegations, serious ones, of Iranian interference.


BLITZER: And joining us now from Baghdad, Iraq's former interim Prime Minister, Dr. Ayad Allawi, his party has just won the elections in Iraq. He's poised, potentially, to become the next Prime Minister of Iraq. Dr. Allawi, thanks very much for joining us. Congratulations on your party's victory in these most recent elections.

ALLAWI: Thank you, Wolf, and thank you for having me on your show.

BLITZER: It's always good to have you here, in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Let's get to some of the major issues that are under way right now, because so much is at stake --


BLITZER: In Iraq. Firstly, you're accusing your neighbor, Iran, of interfering in Iraqi politics, post-election Iraqi politics. What are the Iranians doing?

ALLAWI: First, Wolf, I raised a bit of concern on the invitation of some political groups to go to Iran without inviting all the winners, including our list, which was obviously the winner in the elections. Although, we have asked to go and see them amongst other countries in the region, but we did not get any invitation. This really caused a bit of concern as far as we are concerned.

BLITZER: It's clear that you fear --


BLITZER: That Iranian influence in Iraq right now could steal this election and get -- and get you removed as a possible Prime Minister. Is that your bottom-line fear?

ALLAWI: This is the bottom line. We -- we need to have very good relation with Iran, as Iraq as a neighboring country, and I believe, unfortunately, Iran had a red line on me a few years ago. I don't know that this red line still exists, but so far the indications are not that encouraging, that Iran wants to play fair with Iraq. We need to rectify things, and we want to send a delegation to Iran to discuss these issues with our neighbor.

BLITZER: What does that mean, Dr. Allawi, that they had a red line on you? What does that mean?

ALLAWI: Well, they saw that me remaining as the prime minister of Iraq -- this was few years ago. This is why what they're indicated was not acceptable to Iran. So, I don't know what their position is really now, Wolf.

BLITZER: If the -- if this committee decides that some of your political supporters are going to be disqualified from their wins because of their alleged association with Saddam Hussein's Baathist Party, then you no longer would be in a position to form the next government in Iraq.

How worried are you right now that this could happen, in effect as your supporters say, stealing the election?

ALLAWI: Well, I'm quite worried, in fact. We believe in democracy. We believe in the constitution. We believe in the supremacy of law and the rule of law in this country.

BLITZER: You have a lot of broad-based support right now, not only Iraqi Shiites, but Iraqi Sunnis as well. And there's some fear if this happens --


BLITZER: -- if they try to take away this election win from your party, this could set the stage, potentially -- we hope it doesn't happen -- for a civil war in Iraq. How worried are you, bottom line, about a civil war?

ALLAWI: I think we're still far away from this, but in any case, if this happens, as they try to confiscate the will of the Iraqi people and change the will of the Iraqi people, then this will have a serious backlash and a serious repercussion on the overall situation of security in Iraq and on civility of this country. And as you know, the stability and security of this country will spill over into the region.

BLITZER: Do you believe -- given the volatility and this very pivotal moment in Iraq right now, the sensitivity of what's going on -- that U.S. combat forces, all 50,000 of them, can withdraw from Iraq by the end of August, within the next four or five months? Is that realistic?

ALLAWI: I think it's very important, Wolf. I think America needs to stick to the date that it has set to the withdrawal and the drawdown. I think the Iraqis would welcome this. But in the interim, there should be a real effort to beef up the institutions in Iraq and restructure them.

BLITZER: Let me just re-emphasize the question, then, Dr. Allawi. You believe all U.S. troops can be out by the end of next year, 2011, and all combat troops can be out within the next four or five months, by the end of August? That's a "yes," I believe, right?

ALLAWI: Yes. It's a "yes." Yes, absolutely.


BLITZER: There's one part of Dr. Ayad Allawi's story many people don't know about. Decades ago, Saddam Hussein ordered him killed. It's a chilling story. You'll hear it from him. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: More now with my exclusive interview with Dr. Ayad Allawi. Once a member of the Saddam Hussein political party, the Baathists, he broke with the dictator decades ago, and nearly paid -- paid with that with his life.


BLITZER: You have an amazing personal story that many of our viewers around the world are not familiar with. When you broke with Saddam Hussein and he sent henchmen to try to kill you, to ax you literally, in the middle of the night when you were living in exile in London with your wife. And I know it's a very painful moment, but if you don't mind sharing that story with our viewers, I think they would get to know you a little bit better. And this is important, given the possibility -- the very real possibility -- you'll be the next prime minister of Iraq.

ALLAWI: Well, Wolf, frankly, I joined the Baath Party when I was a teenager, and I participate in the cold war, in 1968, I was just a medical student then. Then I was disenchanted with the behavior of the regime. In 1970 and 1971, I qualified as a doctor, and I had to leave because there was real disagreement with the leadership in the party with Saddam Hussein. I left to Lebanon then went to London to do my post-graduate studies in medicine.

And there and then, of course, I left the party, the Baath Party, and I was trying to form a kind of clandestine opposition group from within the establishment in Iraq. This did not appeal, of course, to Saddam Hussein. And so, he sent me people to try and assassinate me in London.

On a very cold night in February 1978, I woke up suddenly, accidentally, to see a shadow by the bed, and then I saw a flickering -- a flicker around the shadow. I thought it was real, not a dream, so I kicked the shadow with my right leg. And the next thing I felt that I was struggling to stand on my feet. I couldn't. There were blood shooting out of my body. I had fractures of the skull.

My wife, late wife, then just woke up and turned the lights on, and I saw a huge guy wielding an ax to try to cut me into pieces. Severe fight followed between me and this person. He was strong. He pulled two teeth of my wife in his bare hands, and then he hit her with an ax.

I couldn't stand on my legs, because my right knee was almost severed, cut. I had very bad fractures, and then I managed ultimately to -- to take the ax into my hands and hit him on his legs because I couldn't stand at all. And by then, I was almost cut into pieces, and he left the room. His fellow was outside waiting for him on the door of the bedroom. This was about 3:00 in the early morning, after midnight.

And I called the -- I crawled to the -- to the telephone, called the hospital and said that we are badly injured, both myself and my wife. And to call the police and get the operating theater ready. We went -- we were taken to hospital, rushed to the theater, operating theater. I stayed for almost three nights in the intensive care unit, and then transferred to the ward.

In that period, the -- Saddam's henchmen attacked the morgue of the hospital to see whether my body was amongst the bodies who had been killed or dead in the hospital, because for three days, there was no news about me -- and this was a shocking thing for the British police, for the anti-terrorist squad in England. And this is, in a nutshell, the painful story which occurred on the 4th of February, 1978.

BLITZER: And you survived, and you went through extensive surgeries, rehabilitation, therapy, physical therapy, for a long time. And now, you are on the verge, right now, of becoming the prime minister of Iraq.

It's an amazing story, Dr. Allawi, but I have to ask you --

ALLAWI: Thank you.

BLITZER: -- how fearful are you right now, given this history, that you will be targeted? Because you have a lot of enemies, as you know. How worried are you about your own security right now?

ALLAWI: Well, I'm to be very honest, I'm quite worried, that's why I couldn't bring my family to Iraq. I leave them in London. My kids are still in university.

But this is a duty that we have to play. It's our country. We have to make it good. We have to make Iraq as worthy of their country and the country worthy of its citizens.

I think we need to make it a stable country that will contribute to the stability of the region and the world. And this is something -- it's a fate really as far as we are concerned. We have to do our best to do this. Fear is there, but hope is there at the same time.

And thanks God the world is there, and we need to continue to work until we are victorious here.

BLITZER: You're a great Iraqi patriot and a very courageous man, Dr. Allawi. Thank you so much. Good luck to you, and good luck to all the people of Iraq.

ALLAWI: Thank you, Wolf.


BLITZER: A popular Lebanese TV host is sentenced to die in Saudi Arabia. His crime? Saudi officials say he's a sorcerer.


BLITZER: We have an update now on a shocking story we've been following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. It sounds like a story from a different century. A popular Lebanese TV host is facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, accused of practicing sorcery.

Now, CNN has learned he could be beheaded as early as Friday.

CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom has the background.


MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This little girl's father went to the birthplace of Islam in an effort to cleanse his soul. He ended up in a struggle to save his life.

Two years ago, Ali Hussain Sibat was arrested while on a religious pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. The charge? Sorcery. He was put on trial, found guilty, and sentenced to death.


MAY EL KHANSA, SIBAT'S LAWYER: Because they believe what was Ali Sibat doing is something against the religion.

JAMJOOM: Sibat was hosting a popular TV call-in show in his native Lebanon. He gave his advice to viewers and occasionally predicted their futures. Some thought of him as a psychic.

But the Saudi religious police considered him a heretic, someone who used black magic and cast spells, an infidel. And in Saudi Arabia -- which practices a puritanical branch of Islam called Wahhabism -- any perceived insult to God is a crime punishable by execution.

After Sibat's death sentence, his case was taken up by an appeals court, which found the initial verdict premature. The case went back to the original court for reconsideration. But two weeks ago, the original court upheld their verdict. Sibat is once again sentenced to die.

His wife finds the whole experience brutal.

SAMIRA RAHMOOM, SIBAT'S WIFE (through translator): Death is more merciful than what we're growing through.

JAMJOOM: Rights groups are condemning the verdict and calling on Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to pardon Sibat. At least one confession from Sibat aired on Saudi television. His lawyer recorded it and provided a copy of the tape to CNN. His family was shocked to see Sibat in prison, looking frail with cuffs on both his hands and feet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): For how many years have you been using magic?

ALI HUSSAIN SIBAT, LEBANESE TV HOST (through translator): About eight years.

JAMJOOM: Sibat's lawyer thinks the confession could have been coerced and his family is preparing another appeal.

RAHMOON (through translator): I hope they let him go. He hasn't done anything. I hope that they have mercy in their hearts. They've destroyed our family. JAMJOOM: They'll have to continue to pray for clemency from a king and mercy from their god.


BLITZER: And Mohammed Jamjoom is joining us now with more on this story.

You've been working your sources, Mohammed. What are you learning?

JAMJOOM: Wolf, we heard from his lawyer earlier today. She was shocked to learn that he could be beheaded -- beheaded in a public square as early as Friday. We asked her how his family is holding up, and this is what his lawyer had to say --


EL KHANSA: His wife is crying for this all day (ph), and she's completely -- cannot control for anything. His daughter also she cannot talk to anyone. She's just crying, and she is not able to go to school. I think she is going to lose this year from her studies. She lost last year and she's going to lose this year.


JAMJOOM: Sibat's lawyer also told us that she is asking Lebanon's president, Lebanon's prime minister, and Saudi Arabia's king to stop this execution -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens, but it could come, beheading, in a public square, as early as Friday. We'll watch it with you, Mohammed. Good reporting for us. Thank you.

Jack Cafferty is next.

Then Sanjay Gupta takes a closer look at a study, linking -- get this -- vitamins and cancer.


BLITZER: One of the more colorful parts of the health care bill signing ceremony last week, the vice president, Joe Biden, leaning to President Obama, using the F-word to describe just how big a deal the moment was. Now, the president's political arm, Organizing for America, is using the now-infamous words as a fundraising tool. Donors who give at least $25 will receive the t-shirt. It says, "Health reform is a BFD."

Let's go to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: would the Catholic Church benefit from forcing Pope Benedict out? In the light of the growing global sex abuse scandal.

Jim writes, from Reno, Nevada: "John Paul II did cover up sexual abuse, but that probably won't stop the church from making him a saint. The church would benefit from the removal of the current pope only if the new pope was a kick-ass reformer determined to clean the windows and let the light shine in. As long as the church's instinctive response to scandal remains covering up, a new pope will do no good."

Olga writes, from Austin, Texas: "Who cares? Their behavior is not going to stop. My entire family was raised Catholic. As the atrocious sex crimes were reported down through the years, one by one, we all left the Catholic Church."

Charles in New, Jersey, writes, "Maybe naive people, like anyone who would use the Catholic hotline would feel vindicated, but selecting a fall guy fro decades or centuries of rape, torture and conspiracy to obstruct justice is a placebo no one should accept. Since justice is unavailable from a foreign country like the Vatican, a boycott is in order. No more tithing or sending our kids to Catholic schools or faith-based contracts. Drive them into extinction like any other evil corporation, an irony that Darwin would love. Snatch the opium from the lips of fools, they will thank you later."

Bret writes from Ohio: "The Catholic Church would do well to out the current pope and any member of the church involved in the sexual abuse of anyone. If the head of a religion and the supposed closest person to God is covering up sex crimes with children, what kind of credibility does that bring to the religion? At this rate, Catholicism is about as credible as scientology, only without the pretty celebrities."

And Harold writes from Alaska: "I don't think it will make much difference. It seems like its disintegrating from within. The Roman Catholic Church is organized much like the mafia, with omerta at the core, and the same goal, gaining and retaining power, regardless of the human cost."

If you want to read more on this, you can go to my blog,

BLITZER: People have strong views on this subject, Jack, and they're coming through.


BLITZER: See you tomorrow. Thank you.

There's another way for you to follow what's going on behind the scenes here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets @WolfBlitzerCNN. That's all one word.

A new study suggests a link between daily vitamins and cancer. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here to break it down.


BLITZER: A new study reveals a possible link between regular vitamin use and an increased risk of breast cancer in older women. Here's CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, no doubt this is scary headline, and I can tell you right off the bat that a few years ago, there was a study that came out that showed almost the opposite of this. And that, in fact, multivitamins did not seem to have an association with cancer.

What we are talking about here is an association as opposed to a cause and effect. This large study from Sweden finding a 19 percent increased likelihood of developing breast cancer in women who took multivitamins. This was over a 10-year period.

Again, no cause and effect -- and I repeat that, because when you're talking about associations, that's simply saying when they looked at all the women who developed breast cancer out of this group and compared them to women who did not, certain features began to emerge -- and one of them was that they are more likely to have taken a multivitamin.

Now, we talked to researchers about this. They say, look, there is, it's plausible -- biologically plausible -- that there is something in a multivitamin that could increase one's likelihood of developing cancer. What exactly that is, who the women that are most likely affected and if it is a true cause-and-effect sort of thing, those are questions that we still don't know the answer to.

Sort of looking at multivitamins a little bit more globally, though, there's good evidence that not everybody who takes a multivitamin probably one needs one. You have people who certainly should be taking them, seniors, women who are pregnant, for example, people who have sort of G.I/ disorder, gastrointestinal disorder, people on a restricted diet. But for the vast majority of people, simply getting a good diet is probably going to be all they need.

In fact, trying to get the good stuff, if you will, out of food, and putting it a pill form is a more daunting task that I think a lot of people realize. So, try to eat a right diet. Also, really know what your goals are as to why they're taking a multivitamin.

There have been very few studies showing that multivitamins have really ward off chronic diseases, but they can help eliminate some of the gaps that we all have from time to time in our diet.

But, again, standby on this sort of association between multivitamins and breast cancer. There's going to be a lot more work being done on this particular area in the months and years to come. We'll bring it to you.

Back to you for now.


BLITZER: Thank you, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, always excellent advice from our chief medical correspondent. I'm Wolf Blitzer, in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next: "JOHN KING, USA" starts right now.