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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Arafat Agrees to Appoint Prime Minister

Aired February 14, 2003 - 05:45   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Now to that breaking news from the Middle East. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has agreed to appoint a prime minister and that is a key reform issue.
For details we take you live to Jerusalem and our Kelly Wallace.

The mystery now is when will the appointment be made and who will it be?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Those are key questions, Carol, and they could be answered in the coming days. Yasser Arafat saying he will take this announcement, his agreement to appoint a prime minister, to the Palestinian Legislative Council and there, at that time, he will name the person. But another key question, just how much power this person will have.

The timing here is no coincidence, coming just hours before the U.N. inspectors present a report to the United Nations. Yasser Arafat had been facing tremendous pressure from Western and U.N. diplomats to make this move to agree to appoint a prime minister before any U.S.- led war with Iraq.

Now as for any possible U.S. war with Iraq, well, the Israeli government is preparing, sending booklets like this one to families all around the country with instructions on what to do in case of an attack. We spent some time with two families outside Tel Aviv, two families with very different strategies about how to cope if the sirens sound again.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE (voice-over): The Shavit family, with four youngsters and another on the way, knows exactly what it will do if the sirens sound warning of a possible Iraqi attack.

OFER SHAVIT, VETERINARIAN: Each child knows which bag to -- going to grab.

WALLACE: And then the whole family, plus the two cats and two dogs, will head to the basement. Their destination, what's called a safe room, sealed off to prevent any chemical or biological gases from entering. The Shavit's say they won't need to wear gas masks because they have this, a $1,000 filter which ensures only clean air enters the room. Inside, Ofer says they have all the supplies we'll need.

SHAVIT: We've got some food, we've got sleeping bags, we've got sweets for the kids. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, choclate (ph).

SHAVIT: Chocolate and a lot of games for the kids, a lot of water.

WALLACE: Surrounded by bottles of water, a portable toilet, even food and a toilet for the pets and a poster which says why war when you can make love instead. Ofer says the family is mentally and physically ready for whatever will come.

SHAVIT: Be prepared.

WALLACE: Just a few blocks away, Vardina Schneider, carrying the youngest of her four kids, 3-year-old Daniel (ph), takes us to the neighborhood bomb shelter.

VARDINA SCHNEIDER, ARTIST: Well, here it is.

WALLACE: This is where some 50 people in the area might head if the sirens sound, but not Vardina, her husband and their kids.

SCHNEIDER: We will just take the car and go to the south to -- we have family in the south so we might go there, take our passports maybe.

WALLACE: She says she is not getting her home ready for any possible Iraqi attack because she feels it won't do any good. Still, she is torn.

SCHNEIDER: I hope I will never reach a moment that I will feel sorry that I didn't do something drastically, and I think about it quite often.

WALLACE: Two Israeli families with the weight of a possible war on their minds choosing two different ways to prepare.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Israeli military officials say security forces have completed all preparations for any possible U.S.-led war. They also say they believe there is a very low probability that Iraq will be able to launch a successful missile attack against Israel -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes, Kelly, I don't mean to be flip, but there was no mention of any duct tape or plastic coatings over the windows for Israelis and Palestinians.

WALLACE: I'm sorry, Carol, can you say that again?

COSTELLO: Well here in the United States, the government is suggesting that we buy duct tape and plastic coverings to put over our windows, but I didn't hear any of that in your report.

WALLACE: Well, no, you did see that. Certainly that one family in that safe room, they have a room that's already safe so they don't need extra plastic. But yes, that has been something that many people around the country have been doing, going to stores, getting plastic, getting duct tape. In fact, many people say this is something they're used to dealing with, this kind of fear. But I know from the reporting in the United States this is something that's very new and causing a great deal of concern in America -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Kelly Wallace, thanks so much, reporting live from Jerusalem this morning.

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