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Panel Discusses Progress in Iraq, Possible Future Conflicts; Interview With Dr. Rostom al-Zoubi

Aired April 16, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, America's seven rescued POWs are now halfway home in Germany. And back in Iraq, fierce debate over the shaping of the world's next democracy see and the lingering question, is Saddam Hussein dead or alive?
We'll go over all that and more with legendary journalist Bob Woodward. His extraordinary White House access produced the best- seller "Bush at War."

Also in Washington, "Newsday's" Matthew McAllester. He was jailed by Iraq for a week.

And Robin Wright of "The Los Angeles Times," an expert on Islamic extremism.

And then back in the Middle East, Jasim al-Azzawi, the news anchor for Abu Dhabi TV.

And back in Washington, a man on the diplomatic hot seat, Dr. Rostom al-Zoubi, Syria's ambassador to the United States.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Before we talk to Bob Woodward, let's go to Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany, where Matthew Chance, the CNN correspondent who has covered the arrival of American POWs -- what is the medical center, Matthew, and what is happening to them there?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, this is the biggest U.S. Army medical center outside of the United States. The seven rescued American prisoners of war inside the building right behind me. We understand they're resting right now, resting from that long fight from Kuwait, but preparing, as well, to have a thorough medical examination to see if there's anything that can be done here at this big medical facility, preparing also for kind of psychological tests that they'll be conducting to make sure these people are ready after their ordeal to be given the final OK, to go back to the United States, which is, of course, what they all want very, very much.

KING: And that could be when, Matthew?

CHANCE: Well, it's not clear yet. There will be these tests that have to be done. It's -- we understand that some of the people may need further medical treatment. But at the moment, it looks like they could be here for three or four days, perhaps heading back to the States by the end of the weekend. At least, that's our understanding right now. Nothing's been absolutely confirmed to us.

KING: Thank you, Matthew Chance on the scene at Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany.

Let's go to Baghdad, Nic Robertson, CNN senior international correspondent. I understand, Nice, there is anger in the streets of Baghdad. Over what?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Over electricity, over a lack of security, over a lack of water. People here are really frustrated. They say, Look, you've liberated the country. You've given us this freedom, but we've had the looting. And you promised people here -- there are many rumors. They seem to think they've been promised electricity within a few days, and even say, Look, after the last Gulf war, even Saddam Hussein was able to give us electricity for a few hours a day very soon after the war.

This time it's been different. There isn't electricity. Everywhere we go, everyone we talk to says the same thing -- We want electricity. It's almost the first words out of their mouth.

But the big news today, perhaps, for Tommy Franks, it was his opportunity to leave Qatar, where he's been directing the war, fly to Baghdad. He got to go around one of Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces just outside the airport, look at the gold fixtures in the bathroom there, get a briefing from his top commanders. So really, for him, it was a chance to get into Iraq -- he'd never been here before -- meet with some of his commanders, meet with his men and look at what they've been able to achieve, Larry.

KING: Thank you so much. Nic Robertson on the scene in Baghdad seemingly around the clock.

Let's welcome Bob Woodward, assisting managing editor of "The Washington Post", the best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. His latest "New York Times" best-seller, maybe his best- selling book ever, "Bush at War." And we have news to announce tonight. He's going to do a follow-up book called "More Bush at War."


KING: It seems obvious. It's a good -- it's a segue.

WOODWARD: Well, and it's an important war, big turning point, another one of those times when, you know, lots of people, including myself last year, thought there won't be a war. They'll find some way to avoid it. And Bush determined that it was necessary. It will be called the "three-week war," quite possibly.

KING: How, in your opinion, has it gone?

WOODWARD: It's remarkable. And what is interesting -- if you go back and look at the Gulf war, Saddam Hussein did everything wrong, made all the wrong decisions. Once again, he made all the wrong decisions. Now, there was no way he could avoid the collapse of his regime, but what is fascinating -- in no way can I tell that he ever managed any of it or did any of it right. It was just a total loss.

Now, the gap, interestingly enough, in this -- - and we've -- it happens in not too many wars, but I think it's going to happen in this war. There's going to be no loser's history. Who's going to write what Saddam was thinking, what went on, what happened, what the interaction with his people was, how he viewed this? I mean, what -- all of the unanswerable...


KING: ... have a history -- in Germany, we had a history written by the people in the -- who were left.

WOODWARD: Or the Civil War or -- there's normally a loser's history. Who's going to write the loser's history here? And so we're going to be faced with all these unanswerable questions, and maybe we won't learn some of the lessons.

KING: Are you concerned about the aftermath?

WOODWARD: Well, sure. I mean, you -- everyone in the Bush administration is concerned, and they should be. I mean, we now -- I forget which magazine had a cover story a number of months ago, "Iraq, the 51st State." Obviously, it's not literally that, but we own it. And when people say, We want electricity -- I thought -- you know, just a basic, fundamental, we've got to solve that problem rather quickly.

KING: Is that now the United States' problem?

WOODWARD: Obviously.

KING: Are they an occupier or a liberator or both?

WOODWARD: Well, you know, they say -- and I have not seen any evidence that anyone wants to occupy this country, but you can't just walk away. Then the screams and howls would even be louder. People would say, Oh, you came, took away the regime, took away the infrastructure, the government, and then you left. I mean, that is unthinkable. In the White House, they've worked for a year on, really, the question of what do you do afterwards and how do you do it and what are the timetables?

KING: Will it have to be a kind of Iraqi-run government quickly?

WOODWARD: You know, again, that depends...

KING: Wouldn't it seem logical, to do it as quick as you could?

WOODWARD: That would be the goal. But again, it -- like in all politics, because this is a political question, it depends on the leader. If you look at Karzai in Afghanistan, there was somebody no one thought was a plausible leader. It turned out, when people from our government went around and said -- the Iranians said, Oh, yes. We know him. He lived here for a while.

KING: Yes.

WOODWARD: The Russians said the same. The Europeans said exactly the same thing. Now we've got to find somebody in Iraq.

KING: Our guest is Bob Woodward. Bob remains with us. He'll be with us through most of the program. In a minute, we'll be joined by Matt McAllester, Robin Wright and Jasim al-Azzawi. And later, the Syrian ambassador to the United States. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.


KING: Remaining with us is Bob Woodward, assisting managing editor, Pulitzer Prize-winning author from "The Washington Post," the author of "Bush at War." And there'll be a sequel.

In Baghdad is Janine Di Giovanni, the senior foreign correspondent for "The Times of London," author of an upcoming book on war called "Madness Visible."

Here in Washington, Matt McAllester, the "Newsday" reporter who was jailed in Iraq for a week, hopes to go back to Baghdad soon. Has worked as "Newsday's" Middle East correspondent.

Also in Washington, Robin Wright, the chief diplomatic correspondent of "The Los Angeles Times," the author of "Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam." She was in Iraq in November and has been reporting on the regime of Saddam Hussein for more than two decades.

Robin, is Bob right? Nobody's going to write the losing side.

ROBIN WRIGHT, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Probably not. Who'd want to? I mean, what's there to say? They lost. The question is, who are the next losers? And there are a lot of books still to be written about what's next.

KING: Next losers?


KING: You have a pessimistic view as to what's next in Iraq?

WRIGHT: Oh, well, do I, actually, have a pessimistic view about what's next in Iraq. I was talking about the region in general. Yes, I do, actually. I think that, you know, we've all felt the war was the easy part and the peace is the hard part. And the United States is faced with a lot of real expectations among Iraqis about what they think's going to happen. We were a little bit naive in thinking that people were going to go out and celebrate the demise of Saddam Hussein and then they'd go back the next day to work.

And people have expectations about the role they're going to play, the -- what rights they have. There'll be claims for territory, claims for jobs, claim for territory usurped or property usurped by the regime. There's an awful lot of scores to be settled, and it's going to be a messy period.

KING: What's your big concern, Matt?

MATT MCALLESTER, "NEWSDAY": My big concern is, in a sense, the psychological damage that's been done to this people this, this nation. They've been in a virtual prison for 20, 30 years. The Ba'ath Party's been in power since 1968. Most of the people in Iraq have never known another reality. They're stumbling into the sunlight. And I think they have scars and trauma. And that's what we saw with the looting. That was an expression of rage, but just their first public expression for 20, 30 years.

KING: Janine, from the viewpoint in Baghdad, what's your biggest concern?

JANINE DI GIOVANNI, "TIMES OF LONDON" SENIOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I've been talking to a lot of Iraqi people from a wide cross-section, from different economic and social backgrounds. And the big concern here, what people are saying, is who is going to be the big the next regime? Who is going to run us? What they're afraid of most of all are people coming from outside of Iraq. They don't want people that have not been here since the '50s, people who don't know what it has been like to live inside here, who can understand their complaints, who can understand what it is that they need.

Now, interestingly enough, most people I talked to do say, We're glad the Americans are here to secure us right now because of the chaos. But I have spoken to people who actually do say, Where is Saddam? If he was here, we wouldn't be having the looting. We would have electricity. We would have water. We would have bread. So there's a real mix of feelings on the streets in Baghdad right now.

KING: Bob, no weapons of mass destruction?

WOODWARD: Yes. I mean, that was the chief reason for the war, and they haven't found it yet and...

KING: Do they have to find it?

WOODWARD: They should. And if you talk to people about it, they say, Oh, we had massive amounts of inferential evidence.

KING: What does that mean?

WOODWARD: That means that, Oh, it's some site that used to be a chemical weapons site. They were burying things, and they moved it around, and they treated it like it was sacred. So you could logically say there's -- maybe are chemical weapons there. But they've come up dry so far, haven't they?

KING: Robin?

WRIGHT: Well, there's a very important distinction, too. It's likely that they may find agents, biological and chemical agents, but will they find these things weaponized? In other words, will they have been put in a warhead, ready to fire.

KING: You mean, just as an agent, they're useless?

WRIGHT: Well, they're still dangerous, but they are not an immediate threat. And there's a big difference between the two. And it's quite likely they will find the agents.

KING: Didn't Matt -- Matt McAllester -- refresh me. Didn't Colin Powell at the U.N. almost prove that they were there?

MCALLESTER: Well, some of his evidence was a little old. I think it's there. I think the distribution systems are there. About two months ago, I spoke to an Iraqi air force engineer, who defected six or seven months previously. He described it in incredible detail, drawing diagrams of distribution systems that had been developed since the inspectors left in December, '98. He had seen them recently. He had seen the agents.

KING: So you think they will be found?

MCALLESTER: I think they will be. I think they're there, and I think they will be -- I know they're there, and I think...

WOODWARD: But it's also a question, as Robin says, what form are they in? Now, technically, having the agents -- those were banned also, if they were going to be used for chemical or biological weapons. It's also the quantity. If you find six things over in a corner...


WOODWARD: You know -- yes, that it's like something somebody left in their attic, or was there systematic effort to manufacture and conceal these things, as our intelligence people suspect?

KING: Janine, what do you think?

DI GIOVANNI: Well, I was here for two months during the run-up of the weapons inspectors here, and consistently, the Iraqis would always deny that they had any weapons of mass destruction. General Saadi, who, of course, now has gone to the Americans, who has gone over, has -- would always say, We don't have them. We don't have them. Iraqi people are still saying now, We don't have them. And they think the Americans are going to plant them.

That's the feeling here. They feel that they can't find anything, and as time goes by and they don't turn up, they say, Well, do you think they'll actually plant them? I do believe they have them, but like Robin, I don't know whether or not they're ready -- they would have been ready to be used. And I think they probably will have been old. I think the procedure for making them might have been halted some time ago.

KING: Let's take a break and come back with more. We'll also be including your phone calls for our panel. Later, the Syrian ambassador to the United States. Bob Schieffer will be here tomorrow night. Don't go away.


KING: Joining us now in Abu Dhabi's is Jasim al-Azzawi, the anchor and executive producer for Abu Dhabi TV. He's on his own very familiar set in the Middle East. Jasim has been listening to our panelists.

What do you make of post-war Iraq and the search for weapons of mass destruction?

JASIM AL-AZZAWI, ABU DHABI TV NEWS ANCHOR: As far as the first one, there is general fear in Iraq that this country might degenerate into some sort of civil war. We started to see many, many forces coming out. For the first time, they started to demonstrate. They are tasting the freedom that the Americans brought with them.

But with that freedom, there is a responsibility. And a lot of people in Iraq, they said, We are not used to it yet. And unless it's controlled in a proper way, like not to repeat the episode that happened yesterday in Mosul, where seven people were killed -- they were shot by the Americans, as a matter of fact. There is a story that they were pelting the Marines with the stones. The Americans, they say, They shot at us. But that's beside the point.

As far as the weapons of mass destruction is, it is just a conjecture. And I mean, to be honest with you, nobody can say categorically whether it's there or it's not there. And until a lot of time is passed, say, six months from now, a year from now, one way or another, we will know whether it's there or not. For the time being, we just have to wait and see.

KING: Is terrorism an aftermath of this, Bob?

WOODWARD: Is it what? Is it...

KING: An aftermath. Is it going to be -- should we expect more?

WOODWARD: Not necessarily. But of course, you go back to the causes of this war and the allegation that there are terrorist connections, maybe even al Qaeda connections between Saddam. And you know, it's not proven at all, and it's fuzzy. Now, there are people who say there are things in the pipeline that they're trying to verify, that may establish some sort of significant connection.

KING: If there were no -- Robin, if there were no 9/11, there wouldn't have been this war, would there?

WRIGHT: Probably not. I think it created the kind of catalyst...

KING: Atmosphere.

WRIGHT: ... and atmosphere, absolutely, that made it this and other kinds of pressure points we've put on other regimes and other groups.

KING: So are terrorists going to be lurking to get even?

WRIGHT: Look, an awful lot will depend, really, on what happens in Iraq and how well it goes for the United States and whether you see a mutation and a regeneration of the kind of extremism we've seen, really, over the past 20 years. It began in Lebanon with the suicide bombs and hostage-takings. And you know, this could play out in groups that are purely Iraqi. Remember, one of the groups, interestingly enough, that met with the United States yesterday in Nasiriyah was a group called al-Dawa (ph), which means "the call" in Arabic. And it was a group that 20 years ago, exactly, bombed the American embassy in Kuwait. And so there are...

WOODWARD: What was considered one of the most serious terrorist organizations...

KING: And now they're in meetings to form...

WRIGHT: That's right, and are going to be a player in the next government. It will -- it has strong support, believed to be very popular among Shi'ite Iraqis.

KING: Matt McAllester, do you expect increased terrorism in the West?

MCALLESTER: I think the danger is less now, perhaps, from al Qaeda because since the arrest of Shaikh Khalid Mohammed and some other senior al Qaeda operatives, the network seems to have been weakened. What I think is potentially more of a threat is individual young angry Arab men in various countries. There was a good story in your newspaper today about Syria and about how people there are becoming, you know, furious. They want to be mujahids. They want to kill themselves in the fashion of the Palestinian suicide bombers.

KING: So we're going to see that?

MCALLESTER: Think it's a possibility. It's a threat that didn't exist before this war.

WRIGHT: Likely to be in the region, rather than in the United States.

MCALLESTER: Yes. Maybe targeted towards low-level American diplomats, like Larry Foley in Jordan a few months ago, people -- soft targets.

KING: Janine, do you expect to see some sabotage, terrorism effects in Baghdad?

DI GIOVANNI: Well, again, people here are very angry because they -- when they look at the 9/11 connection and why this war happened, they say that there has been no proven link between al Qaeda and the Saddam Hussein regime, and the very slight link with al Ansar, the group in the north, they feel was simply not enough to launch a bombing campaign and a war and the consequent tragedy that has resulted.

I think what we will see is what we have been seeing here, is small groups of men either launching attacks against the soldiers here, or as Matt said, against low-level diplomats, small incidents. But I'm not quite sure just yet this will trigger an immediate very violent reaction. I think it will be small and sustained and probably here within the region.

KING: Jasim, what about throughout the Arab world?

AL-AZZAWI: In the Arab world, there is anger. It's needless to say the reason is quite obvious. Intellectuals and writers and authors, especially in Egypt, they are holding almost a daily meeting, and they are calling for a new way of thinking and a new way of getting out of this.

But as far as the country, Iraq, where there might be some bombing or some violence, I think it's not going to be much directed against the United States there. There is always the element -- there is always a danger that it is going to be infighting among them.

Remember, this country -- Iraq, that is -- it is very -- it's a hybrid. It's a mosaic. You have the Kurds. You have the Arabs. You have the Muslims. You have the Christians. You have the Shi'ites. And everybody is pulling in different directions. And in a very strange way, they all wish for the Americans to stay, to sort it out, before they leave. Otherwise, it's going to degenerate.

Other Arab countries -- in other countries, they might target. I think it is less likely as time goes on. If this proves right in the next six months to a year, it will be OK..

KING: What's your worst fear, Bob?

WOODWARD: That this country and the administration will not realize that they have a practical and moral obligation to fix things in Iraq, and that you can't kind of sit down and say, Gee, this is exactly how to do it. It's going to be day by day and week by week. Bush has said he has a commitment. They have guaranteed there will be no partition of the country. They're going to have to deal with the U.N. and bring the U.N. in, in a very significant and real way.

KING: Soon?

WOODWARD: Immediately. I mean, you just -- you can't do something like this without -- you have to be there at the launch, not when it's going 80 miles an hour.

KING: Not, What was that?

We'll come back with our panel. We'll include your phone calls with Bob Woodward and Janine Di Giovanni and Matt McAllester and Robin Wright and Jasim al-Azzawi, and later, Dr. Rostom al-Zoubi, who is the Syrian ambassador to the United States. We'll pause now for news headlines with Arthel Neville, and then a word or two, and we'll be right back. Don't go away. (NEWSBREAK)


KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. Let's reintroduce the panel for late tuners in.

Bob Woodward, assistant managing editor of the "Washington Post," author of the runaway best seller book, "Bush at War"

In Baghdad, Jan Di Giovanni, the senior correspondent of the "Times of London."

Washington Matt McAllester, the Newsday reporter jailed in Iraq for a week. Going to go back to Baghdad soon.

In Washington, Robin Wright, the chief diplomatic correspondent of the "L.A. Times"

And in Abu Dhabi is Jasim al-Azzawi, the anchor and executive producer for Abu Dhabi TV.

Robin, what about Syria?

WRIGHT: Well, it's very interesting. Secretary of State Powell revealed today that he plans at some point soon to go to Damascus. This is very interesting after two weeks of ratcheting up the pressure on Damascus over not only the issue of whether Iraqi officials are crossing the border, but also some long, dormant issues such as Syria's possible development of weapons of mass destruction, particularly chemical weapons. It's attachment or ties to groups -- extremist groups like Hezbollah and Lebanon and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

KING: Is Syria a threat?

WRIGHT: To the United States?

KING: Yes.


KING: To its neighbors. Well, clearly, the issue with Israel has not been settled, and it does -- has it an occupation of Lebanon, you know, for almost three decades.

KING: Matt.

MCALLESTER: It's a threat technologically. It has the missiles to attack Israel whether the political will in Damascus is there and...

KING: Do you think it might be harboring Iraqis? Might be harboring Saddam Hussein?

Capable of that? MCALLESTER: It's a relatively porous border. There are border crossings, obviously, but there are ways to get over them. It's a very, very long piece of desert and it is possible, whether the Syrian government knows it or not, and I have no idea whether they continue that some of those 53 cards that are still out there, two officials only out of the 55 have been caught, the rest are still at large have crossed over privately. There are long-established links between Syrian Ba'ath party and the Iraqi Ba'ath party even though in recent years there's been differences, enormous differences between them.

KING: Janine, what do you think about Syria in the next few weeks?

DI GIOVANNI: Well, I think it's widely believed here that most of the ministers and most of the high-level Ba'ath party officials did cross over into Syria and they've being harbored there. Whether or not it's a threat to the United States is another issue.

I think again, the thing people keep bringing up here is, is America going to go marching into Syria?

Is that going to be the next place?

And if it does happen I think it would be a big mistake. I think it would ignite a lot of anger in the Arab World. I think people would see it as a very aggressive move. I think they do have missiles that could reach Israel, but whether or not they're going to use them is another story. And I think it could be very unsettling, very destabilizing to try to take on Syria as well as Iraq.

WOODWARD: I don't think there's been any real serious suggestion that we're going to take on Syria militarily now.

KING: And we did a little (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

WOODWARD: That's diplomacy and now Powell is going. I mean there's a certain logic to that and there are certain things that we want done. And I asked the ambassador from Syria earlier.

KING: You spoke to him (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


WOODWARD: I did. And I asked him because someone I think knows said there are reports that Saddam Hussein's wife is in Damascus and he flatly denied it. But it was reported and I think it's true, there is substantial evidence that a number of people have come out of Iraq into Syria.

KING: Jasim, do you think a lot of people on those 55 cards might be in Iraq? Might be in Syria, rather?

AL-AZZAWI: Who knows, it's possible. Like Robin said it's a very porous border. It's quite possible. But the issue is not, to be honest, with you as far as Americans are concerned. It is not whether there was some of them that made it all of the way to Syria. The Iraq issue somehow, one way or another is linked to Israel. It's linked to Syria.

While the majority of the Arabs, perhaps in the heart of their hearts, deep inside they wanted Saddam to go, good riddance because he was asking for it, for three decades this guy made nothing except war and except mayhem for his country. Now they are building the pressure Syria, and I personally don't think there is a war coming up, but they just want to settle out was Israeli issue. And the only country, the only wild card remaining that is somehow is resisting the peace according to the terms of the Israelis or the Americans is Syria. And that context, one should see it as a temporary pressure and it will be relieved very, very soon.

KING: Israel's still a major player, then, Robin.

WRIGHT: Israel's a major player? .

KING: In the whole scope of this thing.

WRIGHT: Yes. And one of the things you will see in the next few weeks that Secretary Powell is going out region in part because of Syria, but even more because of the road map for Middle East Peace. That in the aftermath of the Iraq, with the appointment of a new prime minister for the Palestinian Authority, that now is the time to release this road map that has been co-sponsored by the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the European Union. And that will be the primary reason for -- but I can just say one thing about Syria?

I think there's something else that's bigger at play here and that is the United States trying to seize the moment, historic moment. That this, enormous victory, and it's using it to not only saber rattle, but to say to the region, look, other countries are going to be held to account. And Syria in many ways now that Saddam Hussein is gone, has what the United States believes, anyway, are among the most unacceptable practices.

And this is the moment to say, OK, look, we mean business, and we -- you know, to revive a lot of these issues. And it also coming at a time that a very young and comparatively inexperienced government in Damascus, President Bahsar Assad who inherited power from his father, the legendary Hafez al-Assad, three years ago, less than two and a half years ago, and is not believed to have total control over all branches of his government. Many of -- he inherited many of his father's military, and intelligence officials and they sometimes play their own games. And so I'm sure the Syrian ambassador will deny it, but.

KING: It's unsettled.

WRIGHT: And so this is a moment to say, look, if you want better relations with the United States which is clearly the big player in the region, you're going to have to take action.

KING: The Syrian ambassador will be with us in a little while and we'll be back with more of our guests. Don't go away.


KING: Let's include some calls. Hebron, Ohio, hello.

CALLER: Hi there.


CALLER: I have a question for the panel.

How -- or what their thoughts might be on how this effort that we in the United States are trying to -- the effort that's going on in Iraq how will that continue if George Bush isn't reelected? And obviously, it's going to have to be somebody with as much passion about it as he has.

KING: Will it be an election issue, Bob?

WOODWARD: Indeed it will and...


WOODWARD: Not only the war itself, but the aftermath and the sense that people have or don't have about whether this was a just war.

KING: And Janine, I know it's starting to get very cold there so we'll let you go. But what do you think the effect will on Blair's political future?

DI GIOVANNI: Well, this is a difficult question.

Certainly the lead up to the war had a tremendous effect, a negative effect on Blair. It was a crisis point. Most British people did not want this war.

Now the British troops are in the south right now. They're not in Baghdad. They're securing Basra and they're going to lead the humanitarian operation.

I think that really only time can tell. He certainly has managed to resurrect himself in some ways, but it has -- it has dealt a terrible blow to him -- even just looking at him physically it looks as though -- he looks as though he's a man who's constantly on the run and it has -- it has been a tremendous strain on him.

KING: Thank you, Janine. Thanks for being with us. We'll be calling on you again. Go in and get warm.

Winnipeg, Manitoba, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. I love your show.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: And I'd like to ask, please, anyone on the panel who knows: has Saddam Hussein's wife ever been interviewed and do we know much about her?

KING: Matt?

CALLER: Thank you.

MCALLESTER: I don't know if she's ever been interviewed. She is his first cousin. She's...

KING: First cousin?.

MCALLESTER: Yes. She's from the family. They're from this little town called al-Gerges (ph) near Tikrit, which was the last city to fall.

And -- it's -- she's -- she's -- they -- they knew each other when they were very, very young. It was an arranged marriage.

KING: He had made mistresses right?

MCALLESTER: He also had another wife.


MCALLESTER: And yes, many mistresses and has a son by the second wife, we believe, called Ali.

KING: Would you care to speculate on where she may be, Robin?

WRIGHT: I haven't the foggiest idea, but I'd love to interview her .

KING: Do you have any idea about him, Bob?

WOODWARD: Obviously, there are lots of contradictory -- contradictory reports on this, but I think the preponderance of evidence suggests that he's dead, either in the first strike or the second strike or some other way. There are just too many shadows that would indicate he was around that are not are not there.

KING: Jasim...

WOODWARD: We just don't see evidence.

KING: Jasim, what do you think?

AL-AZZAWI: I agree with Bob. I think he's dead. I don't think he made it neither to Syria nor to Russia nor anywhere else and all these reports about being sighted in al-Abamia (ph), part of a Sunni district in Baghdad is similar to the sighting of Elvis Presley.

It's quite possible once they dig out that restaurant in Al Mansour he might be among the rubbles with -- with his -- with his friends.

KING: What do you think, Robin, about the capture of Abu Abbas?

WRIGHT: I just don't think it was that big a deal. I mean, this is a guy...


WRIGHT: Well, if this is the best they get, this is not going to go down in the history books as a huge find.

This is a man, after all, who was basically allowed to travel much of the Middle East as a result of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. He was -- the only charges against him are in Italy because of the Italian cruiseliner the Achille Lauro.

KING: And where is the trial going to be, do you think?

WRIGHT: I think that the United States has actually dropped the charges against him.

WOODWARD: But that -- that 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro was a big deal at the time.


WOODWARD: You know, at least -- at least they found somebody.

MCALLESTER: Believe he's being tried, so he would just need to be extradited.

WRIGHT: That's right. In absentia.

KING: And would that be -- would we not -- the United States is not planning to do anything with them other than hold them?

WRIGHT: I think the United States is trying to figure out what to do about him and where -- where to send him.

KING: Do you agree it's not a big catch?

WOODWARD: Well, as I said, I think it's -- it's significant. Any -- look, all of this sends a message that terrorism doesn't work and we're going to track you down now. The Achille Lauro was 18 years ago and we've saying, you know, we don't give up this and I think that's an important message.

WRIGHT: But he's a Palestinian and he's not an Iraqi and this is -- you know, a moment that you want to find those connections that the United States has claimed between Baghdad and al Qaeda, Baghdad and...

WOODWARD: Another issue. That's another issue, though. But -- but the general war is on all terrorism.

KING: I've only got about 30 seconds. You going back to Baghdad?


KING: When?


KING: Monday?

MCALLESTER: Yes, you know, I can't wait to get back there. Being here is really nice, but I'd much rather be where Janine is.

KING: Robin, are you going back?

WRIGHT: Not immediately. I'd love to, though.

KING: Mr. Woodward?

WOODWARD: I should go.

KING: You should go if you're going to do a book, if you're going to do reporting on it.

WOODWARD: Yes, sir.

KING: Sooner...

WOODWARD: My assignment editor.


KING: You're your own assignment editor.

WOODWARD: No, no, I listen to you.

KING: We thank -- go! We thank our panel.

We'll take a break and when we come back, Dr. Rastom Zoubi. He is the Syrian ambassador to the United States. He's next. Don't go away.


KING: We now welcome a return visit from the Syrian ambassador to the United States, Dr. Rostom al-Zoubi.

Let's get right to it, and thank you very much, doctor, for being with us.


KING: We just received information that the United States has provided Syria with information about people associated with the deposed Iraqi regime that American officials believe have taken refuge in Syria. Any comment?

AL-ZOUBI: Indeed, Larry, I said it many times that these accusations are not true and reconfirm it again that Syria never harbor or hide or receive anybody from the Iraqi regime, from Saddam regime, neither before the war, nor after the war.

KING: So if anyone from Iraq is in Syria it is not with the knowledge of the government?


KING: I mean, someone could be there and you may not know it.

AL-ZOUBI: I can't say that even the people there, if they know that there's some people from the Iraqi regime is in Syria they will tell the authorities there that there are persons or people from Iraqi regime.

KING: So, for example, there were officials claimed that the former head of Iraqi's intelligence, Farouk Hijazi, is in Damascus. If you knew that you would tell the United States.

AL-ZOUBI: The issue is not like what you said. The issue that every day we have a new accusation. Today they said that -- said that, Mr. Hijazi in Syria. I assure you, Larry, that he's not there and that we will not accept anybody representing the former regime of Saddam Hussein.

KING: Fair enough.

If someone were there you would report it to the United States? You would say, such and such a person is here?

AL-ZOUBI: Larry, we were cooperating with the United States before. When we were together with the United States in support their fight against terrorism, there was helpful cooperation and many of the American officials declared that and recognized that. Syrian assistance in that regard was helpful and saved many American lives, when there is any chance to cooperate with the States, Syria will be ready...

KING: What then, do you make of these accusations that have been occurring in the last few weeks?

AL-ZOUBI: This is what I'm going to say that I think that these -- this campaign of accusations should be cooled down because these accusations will not serve neither the interest of the United States of America nor the stability and peace in the region.

Syria plays a very prominent factor in the region. And Syria has always, is still -- I like to say that Syria is always constructive and we look forward to see a constructive dialogue with the United States and instead of accusations and threats.

KING: You introduced a draft resolution in the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that would declare the Middle East a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. What do you mean "zone free?"

AL-ZOUBI: Zone free. Indeed we called since a long time and we are still calling to make the Middle East, the whole Middle East, a free region of all weapons of mass destruction, including Israel. And we declared before submitting the draft resolution today to the Security Council, we're ready in Syria to sign the treaty to make this region free of all weapons of mass destruction. This is now a challenge, Larry. Now the challenge. We submitted today the draft resolution to the Security Council. Now you have to see who will abide and who will not.

KING: What, Doctor, if Israel were to say, one, that it doesn't have the weapons or if it were to say we are surrounded by enemies, it's the only thing we have to protect ourselves?

AL-ZOUBI: No. It's not an excuse. The excuse -- the only solution is to bring about the comprehensive peace to the region. When we have a peace agreement, when we have the comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region, I don't think there will be any need for any kind of weapons, either of mass destruction or conventional weapons.

KING: And Syria will destroy all its weapons?

AL-ZOUBI: We said we don't. That's why we submitted this draft resolution to the Security Council. And then the specialized authority of United Nations should go to implement this resolution if it's adopted by the Security Council.

KING: What do you make of Secretary Powell's upcoming visit?

AL-ZOUBI: Oh, indeed just now I have heard about this news. It is good news and it's a good step in the right direction because direct dialogue between us and the United States is better than to accuse from a far distance, to come together and to discuss all the issues.

KING: What did you think of the coalition's victory in Iraq?

AL-ZOUBI: What do you mean by...

KING: How did you feel about it?

AL-ZOUBI: Of course, no one -- no one is fond of Saddam. No one is sorry for Saddam and his regime, even in Syria because we have a very bad history between us and Saddam's regime. We argue -- we were and we still the only country in the world who have -- who has not, who had not and who have not -- has not relations with Saddam's regime. Up until now we don't have diplomatic relations.

KING: But you're happy about this?

AL-ZOUBI: Not to say happy. We are not sorry for him. We are concerned, as I told you two weeks before, is Iraqi people to have an end to their sufferings. And to enable them, we are ready to work with international body, together with the United States also, to ensure that the Iraqi people will choose their future by themselves and they will choose their government without an interference.

KING: Dr. Rostom al-Zoubi, I thank you so much...

AL-ZOUBI: Thank you very much for having me.

KING: It's good seeing you.

AL-ZOUBI: Thank you. Thank you.

KING: Pleasure. Dr. Rostom Zoubi, the Syrian ambassador to the United States.

We'll take a break and we'll be right back and close things out, but first, don't go away.


KING: That wraps things up for tonight. Another big show planned tomorrow night. Bob Schieffer will be aboard. We hope you'll tune in for another edition of LARRY KING LIVE on CNN, of course, the most trusted name in news.

Arthel Neville is next. She'll have news headlines and then Anderson Cooper will host NEWSNIGHT.

For the whole crew here in Washington, thanks for joining us and good night.


Conflicts; Interview With Dr. Rostom al-Zoubi>

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