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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Discussion With U.N. Baghdad Spokesman

Aired August 19, 2003 - 11:45   ET

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

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to speak to one of the U.N. officials, U.N. personnel who actually has taken that high-risk assignment, of going right to the theater. Salim Lone is the spokesperson for the U.N. there in Baghdad. He's been quoted quite often this morning, giving details about what happened a little over three hours ago.
Mr. Lone, what can you tell us about the status of the casualties now? We have seen reports that as many as 13 are dead, and maybe 40 or so wounded. Do you have updated numbers for us?

SALIM LONE, U.N. BAGHDAD SPOKESMAN: Hi. You know, I am just witnessing quite unspeakable scenes. The dead who are lying here are being carried into a truck, and I must say they are some very dear friends of mine. It is hard to understand who did this and why they did this against people who came from all over the world to help them. And there are some Iraqi dead as well.

This is hard to fathom. It is -- yes, it is quite unspeakable to attack those who are unarmed. You know, we are not protected. We are easy targets. We knew that from the very beginning, but we came nevertheless, knowing there was a risk, but every one of us wanted to come and help the people of Iraq, who have suffered for so long. And what a way to pay us back.

HARRIS: What is your...

LONE: Clearly, why they are attacking the U.N., I think the real target is the Iraqi people, because the U.N., which is here under Security Council resolution to work, to make sure, as the secretary general said, to end the occupation as soon as possible. And as Sergio Vieira De Mello, our special representative here, repeatedly said, that is why we are here, we're here to help you, here to help you rebuild. And now...

HARRIS: Mr. Lone, can you give us an update on Mr. Vieira De Mello's condition right now? We have heard reports he may still be inside the building. Do you know whether or not he has been taken out? Can you give us an update on the extent of his injuries?

LONE: No, he has not yet been taken out of the building. But as you know, people did talk to him early on, right after the blast, and we gave him water. But I don't know his exact condition, except to say he is, of course, very seriously injured.

HARRIS: Has he been talking at all? Do you know if he's made statements? LONE: You know, I'm having trouble hearing you.

HARRIS: I understand. It's quite a difficult technical arrangement to have you talking with us right from the scene of this bomb blast. We'll try to continue to see if we can get the line straightened out. And I will speak more slowly and clearly.

Can you tell us whether or not Mr. Vieira De Mello had any comments at all? Was he talking?

It's possible, folks, that we may have lost the line there. We did? We lost the line. I apologize to you folks at home. And very sorry to have lost Mr. Salim Lone, who is a spokesman for the U.N. there.

And you heard him expressing quite a few sentiments there, both as a professional and as a human being there. Based on what's happened to many of his colleagues and friends, he said he has been standing by watching many of his friends being hauled out of the rubble of that building there, this Canal Hotel, which has been serving as the headquarters for the U.N. humanitarian operation there in Baghdad. He could not confirm for us the numbers of casualties. We have been saying numbers that are in the tens. We heard as many as 13 may be dead at this particular point, dozens wounded. Still no word right now on total numbers.

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