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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Air France Cancels Flights to L.A.

Aired December 24, 2003 - 14:00   ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news out of the bureau here in Atlanta, Georgia. Authorities in France have canceled three flights bound for the U.S. for security reasons.
National security correspondent David Ensor joining us from Washington with the latest.

David, what happened?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, this is not your average flight cancellation. This is a flight cancellation by Air France of its three flights from Paris to Los Angeles, announced first by the airline, and then quickly confirmed by the French interior ministry and foreign ministry.

It's clear that French officials are working closely with the United States and, in fact, a senior U.S. official has told my colleague, Alese Lavitt (ph), that this decision was made in close consultation with the United States to cancel these flights.

As you know, and as we've been reporting during the day, there's a great deal of concern about the possibility of al Qaeda terrorism against the United States during this holiday period, and Los Angeles Airport is a special area of concern, so various measures have been taken.

In addition to these flights, we're now hearing about canceled from Paris, there has been questioning of some of the flight crews that are coming in on foreign flights from overseas, sometimes questioning up to an hour in length. Curbside deliveries of passengers have been prohibited by the airport, although we gather they haven't entirely stopped, and there are a lot of security measures in place at LAX to try to deter any kind of terrorism, and, of course, Americans around the country know this is true to a lesser extent all over the country, at all the areas where people gather during this holiday period.

So this particular cancellation comes in that context and makes clear that the U.S. is very concerned about the possibility that al Qaeda personnel might somehow be trying to use flights from overseas as weapons to attack the United States. We understand that in addition to concerns about Air France flights, there have also been some pretty close discussions with the Mexican government, and there's very close monitoring of flights coming in from Mexico as well -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, David, hold on just a minute. But I'm just getting these flight numbers and the exact routes, Air France flight 68, Paris to LAX, a direct flight. This is the first one canceled. Air France Flight 70, Paris to LAX, a direct flight, has been canceled. And finally, Air France flight 382, Paris to Cincinnati to LAX. Those are the three flights canceled.

David, are you getting any word that more flights may be canceled as the minutes tick on here?

ENSOR: They're being close lipped about exactly what it is that they're up to and why. Obviously, they don't want to tip their hands to any would-be terrorists. So, no, I don't have any indication of any additional cancellations besides those, but you can't rule it entirely out -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, David Ensor, our national security correspondent. We'll continue to check in with you as this breaking news story develops.

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