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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Mixed Reviews on Whether Photos of Dead Husseins Effective

Aired July 24, 2003 - 11:48   ET

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

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We've been listening right now to our reporters who are scattered out in various parts of the world. Some over in Iraq and some here stateside. Let's talk to some regular folks and see what they think about what's been happening, what's been playing out on their television screens.
Right now we're joined by Bill Pollen (ph) and Alicia Dennison (ph) who are in the Varsity restaurant just a few blocks away here from the CNN Center here in Atlanta. Folks, I want to take the time to talk with us. Alicia, let's start with you. What do you make of what you've seen so far? What does this make you think of? What's it make you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The pictures?

HARRIS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it gives me confidence that, you know, we're getting things under control overseas.

HARRIS: So these pictures are quite convincing to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, very.

HARRIS: OK. Bill, how about you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think the pictures are pretty graphic but I think it was something that was necessary for us to be able to show the people that we had, indeed, taken out these two guys which is important for our efforts I think in Iraq altogether.

You know, our credibility is not as high as we would like to think over here, so this is obviously pretty necessary. They obviously had to do a lot of thinking of putting something like this on the air.

HARRIS: All right. Thanks, Bill, Alicia, we thank you very much. Bill Pollen, Alicia Dennison. They're about to eat lunch here at a restaurant here in Atlanta. Thank you for taking time to talk with us.

Joining us right now here in the studio to talk about what we've been seeing here play out on televisions around the world here is Jihad Ballout who's with the Al Jazeera. Now, as I understand it, now you've been sitting her, you've been watching these pictures here as they have been transmitted here in our studios. Correct?

JIHAD BALLOUT, COMMUNICATIONS DIR., AL JAZEERA: Yes, I have. Yes.

HARRIS: All right. And you're not necessarily here to speak for the Al Jazeera network. However you are here to tell us what you think about what you've seen so far. What do you think?

BALLOUT: Well, I mean, although (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a lot of people are quite convinced that the people that died yesterday are actually the brothers, Saddam's sons, however the pictures today did not really add anything. There is a slight resemblance to Uday, but Qusay (UNINTELLIGIBLE) far fetched.

HARRIS: So you're still not convinced then?

BALLOUT: I'm convinced on the strength of the facts surrounding the operation yesterday. However the pictures, as I said again, it does not really reflect -- it doesn't add anything to the case that the Americans were trying to make.

HARRIS: Is there anything else you would rather, you would want to see in other pictures perhaps?

BALLOUT: Well, I mean, I don't know. I really don't know. But (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as the pictures trying to make a case, they do not really add anything to the information. If anything, they muddy the waters a little bit.

HARRIS: Did you have any skepticism going into this whether or not the two men were dead?

BALLOUT: Not necessarily, no. Based on the information we got, especially from our of Al Jazeera sources on the ground. It seems that quite sure that the two, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) were the brothers.

HARRIS: So you don't believe -- well, let me ask you then. Do you believe that these pictures now will actually convince more people in the wider Arab world that these two men are dead or is this something that will only have an effect within Iraq?

BALLOUT: Well I'm not so sure. I mean I'm really not in the position to reflect on this one, as we speak at the moment. As you said, I've been at CNN. What I can say is a few expert analysts, Iraqis who came out there has not been not slight skepticism but a sense that these pictures don't really advance. If these pictures are meant to reinforce the American case. But unfortunately, it did not.

HARRIS: Very interesting.

We're also joined here on the set by Octavia Nasr, a CNN International anchor and correspondent. You've also been trying to get a feel of the pulse out there in the Arab street, at least, to see what people out there were saying or whether or not this has been any more convincing one or another. What have you been hearing?

OCTAVIA NASR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: From watching the different Arab networks you get the feeling that showing these pictures brought a closure to the story. Now the Arab networks are reporting that OK, there was a raid yesterday, two men were killed, today we know they were Uday and Qusay Hussein. So it's over.

Now the feeling is, OK, now what's next? When is the U.S. going to get the big fish? When are they going to get Saddam Hussein himself?

HARRIS: Yes, but do you sense then a rise or a decrease in level of skepticism America now that these pictures are released?

NASR: I think it was -- from watching the Arab networks and watching the guests on these networks, you get the feeling that the U.S. did the right thing. Showing these pictures was imperative for closure of the story. Skeptics yesterday were running around saying things like this whole raid was fabricated, there were no bodies, that's why the U.S. is not going to produce any bodies.

I think this brings a closure. Here are the pictures, they were pretty convincing. Especially if you watch these Arab networks and you see how the anchors, reporters on the ground, guests are speaking. Now it's over, let's move on. What's next? When is the U.S. going to get the big head?

HARRIS: Very interesting.

Jihad Ballout still with us from Al Jazeera. Let me ask you. We've been talking this morning all about the debate that took place here particularly at the Pentagon in Washington about whether or not these pictures should be released. Al Jazeera did broadcast these. Was there never any discussion or any doubt in Al Jazeera's mind that these pictures should be broadcast and would be broadcast by Al Jazeera?

BALLOUT: Well certainly there is always a debate within the editorial team on what to show and what not to show. And I think the fact that the American government felt itself compelled to show these pictures I think (UNINTELLIGIBLE) our decision in the first place.

Whenever there is doubt, there has to be something that would squash this doubt. And I think American government found itself, perhaps, very similar dilemma that Al Jazeera found itself and they had to really show the world that what they are saying is true. And, hence, I think Al Jazeera was quite (UNINTELLIGIBLE) now with its decision (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to show.

HARRIS: Very interesting. Jihad Ballout, thank you very much. Glad to have you with us here in the building just today. Right on time to discuss this. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) always good to have you with us.

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