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Suicide Bomber Kills Six, Injures Dozens

Aired April 12, 2002 - 14:01   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to Jerusalem. It's been another bloody day of violence here in the Middle East. About two hours before the Sabbath was to begin at sundown, a suicide bomber, a woman tied to Al Aqsa Martyr Brigade, blew herself up outside of a bus stand here in central Jerusalem.

The videotape is graphic. We've been watching it for several hours. We now know at least six people have died as a result of that bombing and at least 65 others have been wounded. We caution you, the numbers could change. Oftentimes in the past, in stories like these, they do change.

Israeli police say the woman tried to get inside a nearby market, but when she came across a few security guards and barricades, she turned away and headed for the bus stop. She was outside the bus when the explosion went off. Again, at this point, six dead on the street of Jaffa Road earlier today.

All this coming now, as Colin Powell was wrapping up a meeting with the Prime Minister Ariel Sharon -- a four-hour meeting. Afterwards they met with reporters, giving no timetable for the incursions to end. Quickly thereafter, though, Colin Powell was taken by helicopter up to the northern part of Israel, right along the southern border of Lebanon.

On his way there, we're told that the helicopter pilot circled the area where the suicide bombing had taken place. Colin Powell visited the region up there for a short time. And we do anticipate the meetings will continue. But we do not know whether or not he will meet with Yasser Arafat tomorrow in Ramallah.

More on that now, to the White House and Kelly Wallace, standing by, where the White House now has changed its wording -- much stronger now. Instead of calling them suicide bombings, the word from the White House now is "homicide" bombers. Kelly, hello again to you.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Bill. Exactly. And when asked -- Ari Fleischer was asked why the administration has changed its language, now calling these homicide bombings. Fleischer telling reporters that's because President Bush thinks that's what they are. They are acts of murder against innocent civilians.

The big headline, though, here, is just whether Secretary Powell will be meeting with Yasser Arafat on Saturday. The word now is that the secretary is reassessing his schedule, in light of the events on the ground. A senior administration official here in Washington, telling CNN -- quote -- "We are not saying the meeting is on or off. We are reconsidering the schedule based on events this morning, with an eye on seeing how the day plays out."

And if our viewers were listening to Ari Fleischer's briefing a little bit earlier, they heard Fleischer make it very clear one thing this administration would definitely like to see on this day, and that is Yasser Arafat coming out and publicly condemning this latest suicide bombing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president, as I indicated earlier, believes that Yasser Arafat needs to publicly come out and condemn today's attack. That this is terrorism, this is murder, and Yasser Arafat needs to renounce it, and renounce it soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Now, Fleischer was asked repeatedly if this is now a precondition, a requirement, something Arafat must do in order to get that face-to-face meeting with Secretary Powell on Saturday. He refused to answer it. But clearly, the administration, Secretary Powell and his aides, will be watching to see what Yasser Arafat does. And then, it appears, make a decision about whether that meeting should go forward.

We know President Bush was getting his National Security Council briefing, his daily briefing, earlier this morning, when he was handed a note and alerted to this latest bombing attack in Jerusalem. The president then, through his spokesman, Ari Fleischer, putting out a statement condemning the bombing, saying that there clearly are people in the region who want to disrupt Secretary Powell's mission. The president saying he will not be deterred from seeking peace, despite this attack.

But, Bill, clearly a complication, no doubt, for Secretary Powell's mission, No. 1. A big decision about whether to go ahead and meet with Yasser Arafat. As you know. many Israelis, as you've been talking to throughout the day, saying having such a meeting would only reward acts of terror.

There are others, though, Arab leaders, Europeans, who say that you must have such a meeting in order to engage with the Palestinians, get a political process, a dialogue going to get the two sides back to the bargaining table. So a key decision for this administration.

And then, of course, on the other side, Bill, you have the Israelis saying, in light of this latest attack, their offensive will definitely, continue. The White House saying the president is still calling for the Israelis to withdraw. Saying the military offensive now is really counterproductive and threatening long-term prospects for peace -- Bill. HEMMER: One thing the United States is going to need in all this is certainly support from the region, Arab leaders and Arab countries. Kelly, there was a question at the briefing today that went to whether or not Colin Powell had met any measure of success, meeting in Egypt an meeting in Morocco, stopover in Amman, Jordan yesterday. Does the White House believe that they made any headway in trying to fortify, in a sense, support for the U.S. mission, No. 1, and a way, the White House hopes, to put pressure on Palestinian leaders, including Yasser Arafat?

WALLACE: Well, you know, U.S. officials have said that those meetings were successful for two reasons. No. 1, publicly getting voices of support from those Arab and European leaders for Secretary Powell's mission. That was very key. Public endorsement of the mission and public voices of support.

Privately, U.S. officials feel that Secretary Powell was able to convey the urgency here, how Arab leaders need to step in as well and put pressure on the Palestinians. They felt that these Arab leaders were certainly receptive. But, clearly, Bill, the administration is looking for action. Looking for these Arab leaders as well, to come out and publicly condemn what is going on the ground and put pressure on Mr. Arafat to come out and publicly condemn, again, these latest attacks.

So again, the administration will be looking for what it calls results from those Arab leaders. They say though, some publicly and private comments they got do appear to make this visit somewhat encouraging -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, thank you, Kelly. Kelly Wallace again from the White House. We appreciate the input there. Kelly, we'll be back in touch again throughout the day here.

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