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Interview with Egyptian President; Donald Trump Releases Tax Plan; Iran's President Talks Nuclear Deal, U.S. Prisoners. Aired 1:30- 2p ET

Aired September 28, 2015 - 13:30   ET



[13:31:30] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: In Egypt, a series of deadly attacks has the government struggling to suppress the violence. But the fear of ISIS not confined to Egypt, it is of grave concern to the entire region throughout Northern Africa and Middle East.

The Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi will speak to world leaders here at the United Nations General Assembly later today and, in his address, he is expected to speak about ways to fight extremist ideologies and the need for what he will call a coordinated international effort to resolve the problem.

This was just one of the many topics that we discussed in my wide- ranging interview with the Egyptian president.


BLITZER: How much of a threat is ISIS now to Egypt?

ABDEL FATTAH EL SISI, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT (through translation: Let me say it is not just ISIS that represents the threat to Egypt, be to the whole world. It is the idea of extremism, and very obscene thinking. This is what we need to do and what we need to confront. And we cannot focus our efforts to our fight of is, but we need to stand firm to check this ideology.

BLITZER: But does this represent a threat to Egypt in the sense that Egypt could go down?

EL SISI (through translation): Go down?

BLITZER: Go down and lose to these terrorists.

EL SISI (through translation): In Egypt, sparing no effort to defeat this effort, but it is also includes the information of the long-term confrontation. It's going to take much time.

BLITZER: This is going to be a war that is going to be going on for years and years, right?

EL SISI (through translation): I think so.

BLITZER: You think so? Because in February, you called for the Arab coalition to fight the terrorists, including Jordan and United Arab Emirates, and other countries, and have they responded the way that you want?

EL SISI (through translation): Let me say that we are all partners to the coalition again ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and Egypt is one member of the coalition, but now Egypt is focusing all of the efforts to counter the terrorism on its soil?

BLITZER: I noticed recently, you have started purchasing military equipment from France and other countries. Is that because the United States will not provide you that equipment?

EL SISI (through translation): Actually, we don't want to ease the strategic relationship of Egypt and the United States for military equipment is because our bilateral relationship is much broader than that.

BLITZER: But it sounds like to me, Mr. President, that you are frustrated that the United States is not giving you what you need. And you are a military man, what you need?

EL SISI (through translation): It is not a frustration. But it is an understanding of how things go on in the United States.

BLITZER: Do you believe that the United States is doing enough to fight ISIS right now?

EL SISI (through translation): In the war against terror, things are very complicated and very tough. If we are talk and the terrorist forces, no one Army can withstand the United States lot. But we are talking about the terrorist, and fragmented terrorists who are mingling among the civilians.

[13:35:13]BLITZER: I am confused about what Egypt's position is as far as Syria is concerned. What do you hope happens in Syria?

EL SISI (through translation): What I hope for Syria that the state does not fall completely into the hands of terrorists and extremists. I hope that the Syrian arms does not collapse, and the weapons and the ammunitions are at the free play of the terrorists. I don't want to see the country dismembered.

BLITZER: Do you want Bashar al Assad to remain in power?

EL SISI (through translation): My answer to such a question as a matter of fact has to relate to the proposition that I have been offering. I have my eye on the real danger. Bashar is an opposition, and someone that I handle, and what will happen is that it is going to be very frustrating to the country is that the whole country folds into the hands of these terrorists groups, because it is going to have the direct impact and stability of the whole region. These extremists will receive a very mortal, and very big and strong mode of drive once the government collapses, and the national army collapses without the right preparation. In that case, they will direct their compass, and I mean the terrorists, they will direct their compass to the other neighboring countries, to Jordan, Israel, and to Egypt. BLITZER: Egypt and Israel signed a piece treaty in 1979 in

Washington, and it still exists. You have relations with Israel to this day. Recently, you have called on other Arab countries to join and work towards a peaceful relationship with Israel on that. And is that possible right now, because it seem so bloom the gloomy?

EL SISI (through translation): Well, as a matter of fact what I said specifically was that. We have an experience of peace, and what we have as an experience of peace is a solid foundation, and we need the peace to expand. Let me seize the opportunity for being with you and your program to call upon the Israelis and the Palestinians to take further positive steps toward funding the two-state resolution. This is going to have its positive resonance on the peaceful environment in the whole region, and it will be the most important, one of the most important keys also to fight terrorism in the region, and perhaps onward.

BLITZER: What is Egypt's position on the Iran nuclear deal?

EL SISI (through translation): This is a very important question. I am with any action that would ease the tension and drive away the specter of war from this region. This region has enough problems, and now, and for the coming years. Most important thing about the deal is that it should not have any negative impact on the Arab national security, and Egypt is an integral part of the security.

BLITZER: There's a lot of reports that the countries like Egypt, and Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are so worry died about this deal that they may try to develop a nuclear weapons program themselves, and is Egypt thinking about that?

EL SISI (through translation): Egypt can never think of this way, and I speak clearly and straight forward.

BLITZER: And one final question. And I am a journalist, but we were all concern concerned about the fate of the "al Jazeera" journalists rescued and, in recent days, you pardoned them, and can you assure our viewers that there will be freedom of the press in Egypt?

EL SISI (through translation): I am not using cliches, but I will tell you that the freedom of the media, and the freedom of the press is quite unprecedented, and no one in the press or working in the press are held back from holding their own views freely. And throughout the time I have been in office, nothing will happen to the people of the press or the people of the media. Perhaps -- not to them or anybody else. Perhaps the perception is not what I am saying, but I am correct with this perception now with you.


[13:40:32] BLITZER: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi speaking with me. And much more of the interview that we will be showing our viewers.

In the meantime, we will have much more of what is happening here at the united nation, and much more on the race to the White House when we come back.


[13:45:10] BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm here at the United Nations, covering the opening nation of the 77th United Nations General Assembly. Much more on that coming up.

But there's politics we want to cover as well, including the race for the White House. And Donald Trump does not waste any opportunity to trump his economic success. And so with that as a backdrop, at Trump Tower, here in New York City today, he released his plan. The plan calls for a 15 percent tax cap for business, capping the highest tax bracket at 25 percent, and there are exemptions for individuals and couples that fall under a certain income level, which could eliminate taxes on more 40 percent of all American households. The plan also calls for closing loopholes on high-income taxpayer, an item, Trump says, won't sit well with some.


DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: And many of the loopholes, and many of the deductions, which are old, and been there for many years are antiquated, and put there because a lot of the people who got there to the deductions are contributing to Hillary, they're contributing to Bush, they're contributing to every candidate, but Trump.

Because it is number one in simplification. And number two, what I am doing is the big picture, because corporations will start having an insensitive to create job. They're going to have an incentive also to stay here in this country.


BLITZER: Joining us now, our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar; and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Gloria, Trump has largely avoided the specifics in the case, and now he is coming up with the specifics on what is his largest issue, the economy, and how is that going to play?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well with, it is going to be playing fine for him, and there's not a lot of surprises here. He wants to cut taxes for most Americans. That's what he's promising to do. He wants to take on Wall Street, which is what this plan does. It cuts out those loopholes for hedge manager. And he keeps referring to them. I think the big concern, whether you a Republican or a Democrat, is if it is revenue-neutral or if it ends up costing the American taxpayers money. Trump says, no it won't, and it will grow the economy.

And by the way, Wolf, this is a little bit like Jeb Bush's tax plan, and so those two guys may have a lot more in common than they once thought.

BLITZER: That's a good point. Brianna, I want to get your thoughts on the new poll. Dr. Ben Carson is one point, one percent behind Donald Trump. The "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll also shows significant gains for Carly Fiorina, and Senator Marco Rubio. But the dead heat of Carson and Trump, some suggest that Trump has peaked. What are you hearing?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Some have been suggesting that, and they have been suggesting that all along before we saw the numbers here. But the question is, is that really happening? It might be difficult to tell at this point. But you have had observers, Republican establishment-type observers, not fans of Trump, and they have looked at how he has surged in the polls recently. And they had said he is going to peak. They looked at someone like Herman Cain in the last cycle. Also, part of it comes from the hope that he is going to peak and that is support does have a ceiling. Ultimately, is it going to happen? I think we need some new numbers to see what the trend is. But you will see Ben Carson upping his game in the polls. And also, don't forget about Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina tied at 11 percent in this poll. Carly Fiorina was an asterisk just a few months ago. So that's quite a considerable jump for her.

BORGER: You know, and, Wolf, let's me just add --


BLITZER: And Jeb Bush is not doing so we well.

BORGER: Right. The person to look at also is at the other side of the spectrum which is Jeb Bush, at 7 percent now. Back in June, 22 percent, and in July, 14 percent, so you will see the trajectory of Bush heading in the opposite direction.

BLITZER: Yes, not looking good.

Quickly, the October 13th first Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Brianna, and CNN now says, and CNN is the host of the debate, but if Biden announces that he is running, the vice president, he will be allowed to participate in the debate, and anything, yea or nay, as far as the Biden run is concerned for the White House?

KEILAR: What I can say so far, having talked to sources, Wolf, it is a day-to-day decision for Joe Biden. There are a few folks in his camp who are getting the ducks in the row in case he decides to run, but he has not been able to get to yes, and that really has to do with the emotional fortitude both of him and his family as they deal with the loss of his son, Beau Biden.

[13:50:15] BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much, Gloria Borger and Brianna Keilar.

Don't miss Erin Burnett "OutFront," 7:00 p.m. eastern. She'll have a one-on-one interview with Donald Trump, the GOP front runner. He'll break down his tax plan and what it could mean for you. Much more coming up with Erin and Trump later tonight. Coming up here this hour, Iran's president said he would be willing to

release Americans jailed in Tehran, but only, only if certain conditions are met. His stipulations? We'll explain when we come back.


[12:55:11] BLITZER: Just a little while ago, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani addressed the United Nations General Assembly here in New York. His appearance this year has a different air to it. Iran has reached a nuclear agreement with the United States and five other world powers.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour sat down for an exclusive interview with the president of Iran and she asked about the lack of support for the deal coming from some Republican presidential candidates.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You must have been watching from Iran the Republican presidential campaign and seeing some of the debates in which many of the Republican candidates, if not all of them or most of them, in fact, said that if they become president they will rip up the deal, that how can you trust Iran to self-inspect, how can you be so naive to think Iran is going to keep its end of the bargain. What's your reaction to the fierce debate that continues here in the United States about this deal and the severe distrust among so many people about whether Iran will maintain its commitments?

HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translation): The first of all, what is spoken of here in the United States of America sometimes when I have time some of it was broadcast live and watch it. Some of it was quite laughable. It was very strange and things they spoke of. Some of them didn't know was Iran was geographically. Not distinguishing one is the capital of the other. What they spoke of was quite far away from the truth. Can a government become a signatory to an international agreement and the government tear it to shreds? This is something only the likes of Saddam Hussein would do. Previous to attacking Iran in 1980, did sign an agreement with Iran and then tore it to shreds himself and attacked Iran. So any government that replaces the current government must keep itself committed to the commitment given by the previous administration otherwise that entire country will lose trust internationally and no longer have the type of needed trust to operate in the international arena. So most of these are political slogans at best.

AMANPOUR: What about the specific area where people are concerned that in certain military sites there won't be international inspectors? People are concerned about that. What's your answer to that, Mr. President?

ROUHANI (through translation): if this agreement is going to be implemented, it will mean we have accepted the additional protocols and the additional protocols has its own framework. And Iran will become the 121st country on that list. So anything that is adhered to in other countries implementing the additional protocols will be adhered to in Iran. There will be no difference between Iran and the other countries.


BLITZER: Critics of the nuclear deal here in the United States point out it doesn't address the fate of prisoners in Iran. Three Americans are known to be held in Iran. A fourth American vanished in 2007. The president says the door is open under certain circumstances to their return.


AMANPOUR: Let's move on to something concerning to the people of the United States. You hold four Americans including our colleague, Jason Rezaian. I would like to know whether you, as a government, feel that this legal process is expedited so these people can be freed. I speak particularly of my own colleague, Jason Rezaian.

ROUHANI (through translation): Now, being imprisoned in Iran has nothing to do with the nuclear negotiations and subsequent agreement. But I'll ask you this. There are a number of Iranians in the United States who are imprisoned, who went to prison in result of activities related to the nuclear industry in Iran. And today, the U.N. Security Council has agreed to lift those sanctions. Once these sanctions have been lifted, why keep those folks in American prisons. So they must be freed. If the Americans take appropriate steps and set them free, certainly, the right environment will be open and circumstances will be created for us to do everything within our power and our purview to bring about a swiftest freedom for the Americans held in Iran.