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CIA Director Resigns; Interview With Mayor of Athens

Aired June 3, 2004 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Her caravan through the desert was ambushed by terrorists. When help arrived, Mary Quin and others became human shields in a shoot-out. Tonight, she tells her remarkable story of survival in our series "Held Captive."


GEORGE TENET, CIA DIRECTOR: In an organization as vital as this one, there is never a good time to leave.

ZAHN: CIA Director George Tenet and one of his top deputies are resigning. Were they pushed out?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's done a superb job on behalf of the American people.

ZAHN: Plus, Athens' mayor on her city, this summer's Olympics, terrorism, and safety.


ZAHN: Good evening. Welcome. Glad to have you with us tonight.

As we head into the summer vacation season, does the possibility of terrorism enter into your planning? Do you ever check the U.S. State Department's list of countries with travel advisories? Well, this week, we are hearing firsthand accounts of how people coped and ultimately how they survived while being held hostage in circumstances few of us could ever imagine and none of us would ever want to endure.

In this age of terrorism, a story like Mary Quin's can become suddenly real. It is tonight's focus in part three of our special series "Held Captive."


ZAHN (voice-over): Mary Quin calls herself an adventurer. In December 1998, she traveled with this tour group to Yemen to take in the history and sites of the Middle East. But during a ride in a caravan in the desert heading towards of city of Aden, the tour took an unexpected turn. She says gunmen ambushed the group, the attackers aided by Muslim cleric Abu Hamza, the same radical cleric arrested in London last month after he was indicted for supporting al Qaeda.

It was a terrifying 24 hours. Yemeni government troops located Mary Quin's group, she says, and surrounded them in the desert. A gunfight began and 10 of the 16 hostages, including Mary Quin, were used as human shields by heir captors. Miraculously, Mary managed to escape. When the gunfight was over, less than half an hour later, four of the 16 hostages were dead, two others seriously injured. Mary Quin had survived an adventure that turned into a nightmare.


ZAHN: And Mary Quin joins me now. Her book, "Kidnapped in Yemen," is about to be published overseas.



ZAHN: You're one lucky woman.

Take us back to the point where you were being used as a human shield. You felt the butt of a gun up against your back. You were being moved in the open and then you didn't feel the gun anymore.

QUIN: That's right.

After 11 of us had been standing in the crossfire for about, oh, over an hour at that point, probably closer to two hours, one of the kidnappers pushed his AK-47 against my spine and pushed me forward out into this open field towards the oncoming gunfire which we guessed was someone coming to rescue us. And as we went up and over a small dirt berm in the middle of this field, I suddenly couldn't feel the gun at my back and I turned and he had -- he was lying on the ground. And...

ZAHN: Did you know he had been shot?

QUIN: I didn't.

In fact, what I realized afterwards, that I was so focused on the fact that I would be shot that it never had occurred to me that the kidnapper himself could be shot.

ZAHN: So at what point did you realize you could make an escape, that you could run for it?

QUIN: At that moment, I heard him groan and I realized he had been shot and that I had to make a split-second decision whether to just lie on the ground right there and stay out of the crossfire or whether to make a run for it. And I decided to make a run for it.

I took a couple of steps and then suddenly I thought of all those movies where you think the bad guy is out of the action and he takes off one last shot. So I turned back and I grabbed the AK-47 barrel from him. But he grabbed the other end, the stock, and so we found ourselves in a tug of war over this Kalashnikov.

ZAHN: And how long did that last?

QUIN: It seemed a long time at the time, but it was probably just a matter of five to 10 seconds that we were pulling at the gun and each screaming at the other. And then I just -- I first tried to kick him and then I put my foot down on his head and it gave me enough leverage to get the gun out of his arms and make a run for it.

ZAHN: Did you realize you were safe within 30 seconds of having grabbed that gun out of his hands or were you still afraid of dying?

QUIN: I was still very much in danger of dying because at that point I had to run another 30 yards or more in the crossfire before I could reach shelter. And in that time it just seemed like everything was going in slow motion and that the sounds were very muted.

And you think all kinds of crazy things in a situation like that. And I was thinking about holding on to the gun and keeping it as a souvenir and then thinking, no, U.S. customs will never let me in with this.

ZAHN: You were really thinking about that?

QUIN: I actually thought about that.

ZAHN: Upon reflection, though, I guess what we're all wondering as we think about what kind of decision -- you literally made that decision in a split second to go for the gun?

QUIN: I did. I had really taken a couple of steps away and then turned back thinking, no, he might try to shoot me as I'm running. I better take the gun from him.

ZAHN: You are an adventurous woman, a woman that is drawn to expeditions that many of us would be frightened by. Has this changed your sense of adventure?

QUIN: It hasn't made me afraid to do the kind of travel I've always done. And I don't think I would want it to change that, because that would give the kidnappers some kind of ongoing power over me and I wouldn't let them have that.

And I don't really feel I'm at any more risk on trips now than I've ever been. I've probably been in about 60 countries and most of the time it has been quite safe.

ZAHN: I understand you traveled back to Yemen to the site of your rescue.

QUIN: I did go back a couple of years after this had happened.

ZAHN: How did that impact you?

QUIN: That was a really important thing for me to do. I was doing a lot of research for my book at that stage and realized I couldn't get enough of the answers just from secondhand information.

And so with the help of the then prime minister of Yemen and the ambassador to the U.S. from Yemen, I was able to go back to the site where the kidnapping had happened and also not only talk to some of the military and political figures involved, but also got into the prison in Yemen where the young British men, two of them related to Abu Hamza, were serving prison sentences.

ZAHN: Well, your strength and courage is absolutely amazing. And we're glad you're healed and you're still on the road. Going to exotic places.

QUIN: I feel very lucky to be here.

ZAHN: You should feel very lucky. Mary Quin, thanks for sharing your story with us tonight. Good luck to you.

QUIN: You're welcome.

ZAHN: Our "Held Captive" series continues tomorrow with the harrowing story of Gracia Burnham. She and her husband were kidnapped in the Philippines and held in the jungle for a year. He was killed. She survived and will tell us about her ordeal tomorrow at 8:00 p.m.

Only a few weeks remain until Iraqis take control of their government. I'll ask Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Friedman about the promise and the pitfalls. That's a little bit later on.

But first, the surprise shakeup at the CIA. CNN learns another resignation is in the works on the heels of Director George Tenet's exit. More on that, plus reaction from a former CIA director next.


ZAHN: Now we turn to today's political bombshell in Washington, the shakeup at the highest levels of the Central Intelligence Agency.

First, President Bush himself announced that CIA Director George Tenet had resigned. Late this afternoon, CNN confirmed that CIA Deputy Director of Operations James Pavitt is announcing his resignation tomorrow morning. We're told the timing is merely coincidental, that Pavitt had planned for weeks to make his announcement this Friday.

But George Tenet's decision shocked just about everyone. In his letter of resignation he wrote: "I am proud of what we have accomplished in revitalizing the Central Intelligence Agency and restoring critical capabilities to our intelligence community."

However, Tenet has many critics who say America has paid a terrible price for the times his agency missed the mark or just plain got it wrong.


TENET: I've decided to step down as director of central intelligence.

ZAHN (voice-over): Until today, George Tenet has been known as a political survivor. Under President Clinton, in 1997, he was sworn in as CIA director, making him the second longest serving intelligence chief and the only one to serve under two presidents.

Tenet had a reputation of being well liked and respected by both Democrats and Republicans, even when the CIA took significant hits. Under his watch, the weakness of the agency's human intelligence operations has been questioned, its failure to anticipate's India's nuclear test and neighboring Pakistan's own nuclear program, the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the 1999 bombing of the Chinese Embassy in the Balkans, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole.

But most damning have been the intelligence failures leading to the attacks on September 11 and the flawed prewar intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Tenet and the president have shared a close relationship, meeting almost every day for an intelligence report. But in recent weeks, their relationship has been tested by allegations that Tenet overstated threat for going to war to Iraq.

A number of politicians, mostly Democrats, have called for Tenet as resignation.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think there's been a lack of accountability at the CIA. I regret it. I know him personally. But that's the nature of responsibility.

ZAHN: Tenet himself has admitted that mistakes were made.

TENET: But, ultimately, all of us acknowledge that we did not have the data, the span of control, the redundancy, the fusion or the laws in place to give us the chance to compensate for the mistakes that will always be made in any human endeavor.

ZAHN: Testifying recently before the 9/11 Commission, Tenet said it would take another five years to fix the problems with intelligence gathering at the CIA. That commission will release a report at the end of this month on pre-9/11 intelligence failures.

Also in the wings, the Senate Intelligence Commit's report on flawed intelligence leading to the war in Iraq. Both reports are expected to be very critical of the CIA.


ZAHN: And joining me now from Washington to talk about the CIA shakeup is one of the agency's former directors. James Woolsey led the CIA from 1993 to 1995.

Always good to see you, sir. Welcome.

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Good to be with you, Paula.

ZAHN: All right, two in one day. First, the director of the CIA, George Tenet resigns. And then CNN confirmed this afternoon that the CIA's deputy director of operations will announce his resignation tomorrow. Were they pushed out? WOOLSEY: I don't think so. I think we should take George Tenet and the president at their word. Seven years is an awfully long time to stay in that job.

And then when you add to it the acting -- the time he was acting and the time he was deputy director, he has been really nine years out there I think in those senior positions. That's a long time to be in that.

ZAHN: There are others out there who suggest, though, the timing of this, while it caught people off guard, could be pretty predictable, because two scathing reports are coming out from various Senate committees on the CIA's actions leading up to 9/11, in addition to some of the problems with its intelligence leading us to war in Iraq. Do you discount that?

WOOLSEY: I had scathing reports from Senator DeConcini, one of my four oversight chairmen. And I waited until he was stepping down from the Senate before I resigned. And the scathing report was stupid. And I think any scathing report about the CIA on 9/11 is legitimately scathing if it talks about they're not having -- given the material about these two terrorists, al-Midhar and al-Hamzi, whom they were tracking in Malaysia in January of 2000, they didn't give that information to the FBI or the State Department.

And so they couldn't be kept out of the country and they became two of the bombers. But, other than that, most of the material that people might have known about 9/11 wasn't in the purview of the CIA. And the planning was taking place in Germany and in the United States, which is two places the CIA doesn't spy. And the CIA wasn't responsible for the flimsy cockpit doors on the airliners or the fact that the Air Force didn't have fighter interceptors in Washington or New York and on and on. The country was asleep.

And I think if the Senate committee comes out with a report that says Tenet or the CIA was principally responsible for 9/11, it will just be wrong.

ZAHN: And do you believe this had anything to do with political maneuvering within the Bush administration, unhappy with the way George Tenet has always been highly critical of Ahmad Chalabi?

WOOLSEY: I don't think that has anything to do with this. I think it is just a very long time. It is the seventh anniversary of George having taken the job, on the 11th of July.

He has an opportunity to get out before it would be a political issue right at the time of the election. And he wants to take son he says around to colleges in the fall. I think it is a perfectly reasonable thing.

ZAHN: Mr. Woolsey, thank you for your perspective tonight. Appreciate it.

WOOLSEY: It's good to be with you, Paula.

ZAHN: Always good to see you.

Representative Harman, why do you think George Tenet is out?

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, we don't know for sure, Paula. He says it is for personal reasons. And I'm sure the accumulated pressure and still more shoals to navigate made a big difference.

But I would surmise that his son is about to be a senior in high school, and he had had it with the toughness of the job. And I just want to say, in his -- to be positive about this as well, that there were many successes on his watch, as well as many failures.

ZAHN: Well, let's ask Senator Hagel about whether he shares your view if these are in part personal reasons, in part professional.

We have, we're told, a scathing Senate intelligence report coming out on prewar intelligence. How much you to think that had to do with his resignation?

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: Paula, I think Jane assessed it correctly.

I don't think there is any secret that Director Tenet wanted to leave at some point. He's made no secret of the fact that it would be probably unlikely that he would be around next year. I think the personal reason is exactly the main reason. There is no surprise either that people are anticipating, as you noted, a Senate Intelligence Committee report, a 9/11 Commission report that will say some things about our intelligence community that will require some answers.

But I would say this about George Tenet, almost eight years, the second longest serving CIA director. I think he's done a very effective job. He was caught, Paula, in a very difficult situation. He was trying to direct a 20th century intelligence community infrastructure operation to meet 21st century threats. We're going to have to have immense infrastructure reform in the intelligence community. And he was locked into that. And so I think he deserves some credit for doing as well as he has done.

HARMAN: If I could add to that, Paula.

ZAHN: Please.

HARMAN: He was the director of central intelligence in name only. What he really was was the director of one 15 agencies. And that job description was doomed to failure.

He did have some successes. He prevented the millennium threat with collaboration from other agencies around the world. But he had some big failures. And reports like the one that says he told the president the WMD case on Iraq was a slam dunk were dreadful. That inaccurately reflected the intelligence and it crossed the line between an honest broker, which is what he was supposed to be, to becoming an advocate. And so hopefully in a new structure, a new leader will be able to be much more successful. And intelligence is the tip of the sword in our capacity to defeat the threats of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We have to get it right.

ZAHN: Representative Harman, I wanted to share with you something a source told me this afternoon, who suggested that it is no coincidence that there was a meeting of high-ranking Republicans last week in the Bush administration and political operatives to discuss the fallout from the Chalabi case. And this source was not at all struck by the timing of this resignation. Whether the suggestion is that this resignation was engineered, you can read into it whatever you want.

How do you respond to that theory?

HARMAN: Well, for years, George Tenet made no secret of his view that Chalabi was unreliable. The CIA had a relationship with Chalabi in the early to mid-'90s and then disowned the guy. And the State Department felt the same way. So you could argue that two ways.

You could say that this Chalabi mess -- and it surely is a mess on top of all the other messes -- was the last straw. You could also say that in some ways it vindicates George Tenet and this was his rather feeble victory lap. At any rate, the challenge going forward is not just to replace George Tenet. It is to replace his job.

ZAHN: Senator Hagel, I need a quick closing thought on where this process goes from here.

HAGEL: Well, I think, as always, we tend to read too much into these kinds of resignations and these kinds of actions.

I'm satisfied with what we know now, that Tenet did what he thought was best for his family, for the country. And for that, we should be grateful for his service and respect that service.

ZAHN: Senator Chuck Hagel, Representative Jane Harman, thank you for both of your perspectives tonight.

And when we come back, the CIA and 9/11. We're going to look at why politics in the 9/11 Commission investigation could be behind the shakeup at the CIA.

Also, Iraq's interim government wants more power over foreign soldiers on its soil. Will it control American troops and will the troops come home any sooner? Some answer right after this.


ZAHN: And welcome back.

We're going to continue our look at why CIA Director George Tenet decided to step down and why another top director is following him tomorrow. Joining us from Washington, Michael Hirsh, senior editor for "Newsweek" magazine, and "New York Times" correspondent James Risen, who is writing a book about George Tenet and the CIA.

Welcome, gentlemen.


ZAHN: Michael, I'm going to start with you this evening. Do you think President Bush had anything to do with George Tenet's resignation?

MICHAEL HIRSH, "NEWSWEEK": I think it is highly unlikely that the president tried to push him out.

This president is famously loyal to senior members of his national security team. Having someone like this forced out at this stage would be tantamount to admitting error, which this administration has been very reluctant to do. By all accounts, we hear Bushes likes and admires Tenet, as he said in his statement today. I think this was more of a question of Tenet deciding this was a good time for him to go.

ZAHN: And why now, Michael?

HIRSH: Well, it may be -- we know that Tenet has not wanted to resign under fire, but at the same time has wanted to go. He's been looking for a while for the right moment to leave.

And this was almost the only window when he could leave and not be accused immediately of leaving under fire. There is a decent interval from the criticisms we heard during the 9/11 Commission hearings in April, what is likely to come down the pipeline, the reports from the 9/11 Commission and the Senate and House committees looking into Iraq and 9/11 intelligence failures. So it's almost like this is the only moment when perhaps he felt he could leave and actually be believed when he said it was just personal reasons.

ZAHN: But, James, if you read some of what Michael has written in "Newsweek," what we're expecting to come down the pipeline is pretty scathing about his leadership at the CIA. So is he getting out in advance of the next firestorm?

RISEN: Well, that's -- I think Michael is right that this is a window here of opportunity for him.

I think in addition, with the presidential campaign throughout the summer, the politics was just going get more and more bitter and this whole situation was probably just going to go downhill from here. He had always -- last December, I think, he had promised the president he would stay on and the thinking was he would stay only until November. And so it wasn't as if he was planning to stay for the second term. So this is really just a matter of a few months at this point.

ZAHN: So, Michael, you don't believe there was any pressure by any Bush administration officials to make some heads roll, particularly after the criticism of the 9/11 Commission?

HIRSH: I think there was a lot of pressure.

For example, we know in recent weeks Colin Powell, the secretary of state, has made no secret of his dissatisfaction and sense of frustration in the way he feels he was misled on the intelligence he presented to the U.N. Security Council last year. It is true that a number of Senate Republicans have been telling Bush in various ways, look, you know, we have got to do something about this. Somebody's head has got to roll. Somebody has got to take some responsibility for some of the mistakes that were made.

So I think there were clearly pressures. My belief, though, is that, you know, Tenet himself was aware of these pressures. It may be that there is something we don't know yet about some signal that was sent from the White House to Tenet. But from what we know now, this does seem to be something that Tenet decided to do. And, significantly, Bush did not try to talk him out of it. To that extent, Bush was responding.

ZAHN: James, let me ask you this. Representative Harman was just on moments ago. And she said, to be perfectly fair, you have to point to some good things that George Tenet did, particularly preventing any millennium attacks. But she said that he reached his nadir when he said the weapons of mass destruction case was a slam dunk. What do you think his legacy will be as a director of the CIA?

RISEN: I think his legacy as of now is very mixed. He started out in -- when he became director of '97, the first few years there he had -- he really generated a lot of support within the CIA for his efforts to rebuild the clandestine spy service and to rebuild the budgets and the morale and to really -- his problem has always been his inability to deliver bad news to his superiors and to really get down into political infights to protect the independence of the agency.

And I think ultimately that is -- his greatest weakness is that he did not -- when crunch time came on Iraq, that he did not really protect the independence of an agency that jealously guards it. And he got too close to policy and to the White House.

ZAHN: James Risen, Michael Hirsh, thanks for following the news with us this evening. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, dangerous days for Iraq's new leaders. On the verge of taking control, can the evolving government survive the many threats? "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman joins me to talk about that.

And after last month's bombing in Athens, can that city's mayor guarantee the safety of the summer's Olympic Games? That's coming up.


ZAHN: We are less than a month away, 27 days to be exact, from the scheduled handover of power in Iraq. The new interim government appointed earlier this week faces huge challenges in bringing security and stability to the country. And there are many questions about just how much real control it will have after June 30.

Here with me to talk about that is Pulitzer Prize-winning "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman, who has spent many years reporting on events in the Middle East. He's also made a new documentary called "The Other Side of Outsourcing," which airs a little later tonight.

Always good to see you, Thomas.


ZAHN: Welcome.


ZAHN: Let's talk a little bit about what is going on in the U.N. You got members of the U.N. Security Council pushing for Iraqi control of all the military forces right now on duty in Iraq. If they don't get that, do you really have sovereignty in Iraq?

FRIEDMAN: I think Iraqis know what they think is sovereignty and what they need vis-a-vis the United States by way of control. And let's let that Iraqi government tell the U.N. what they think they need. I think our policy should be, and I think this is where the administration seems to be leaning, is give Iraqis full sovereignty, you know, in name, and then you work out these ticklish situations. No one...

ZAHN: Ticklish situations? They would be in control of over 100,000 of our troops.

FRIEDMAN: Oh, no. No one expects that they are going to be giving orders to the U.S. military. They don't expect that. And if someone at the U.N. expects that, then they're being mischievous, OK. They're just really trying to undermine this.

ZAHN: Well, that's what some of them are saying.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, that's what some -- yes, I'm sure -- maybe we should put French troops under their control, too, OK, while we're at it, so...


ZAHN: Good idea!

FRIEDMAN: Right. Yes. But I think we and the Iraqis can work this out if other people just kind of keep their thumbs out of the pie. And that's what we have to insist on. But I think the only way to insist on that effectively is if Iraqis take the lead on it.

ZAHN: You to expect them to?

FRIEDMAN: I do. Absolutely. ZAHN: U.S. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has said by...

FRIEDMAN: U.N. envoy.

ZAHN: ... the end of the summer, he expects security to be better, although we have heard that at the turnover time, there's a prediction of spiked violence. What do you think will happen?

FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, I think what we've been up against, Paula, in Iraq are people who are desperate to make us fail. Now they've got their own government. It has been blessed by Ayatollah Sistani, the leading Shi'ite cleric in the country. I think there's a much better chance that Iraqis are going to say, Hey, that's my government, OK? You know what? I meant to tell you, Ahmed around the corner, he's up to no good, OK? We have the first chance now, I think, to really break into what's going on there.

ZAHN: And how much distance do you think this interim government will create between itself and the U.S.?

FRIEDMAN: This is...

ZAHN: For PR reasons.

FRIEDMAN: This is the key question. And what our opponents in Iraq are going try to do is the following. They're going to try to hit American troops, so we retaliate, so we accidentally kill a lot of Iraqi civilians and therefore delegitimize the new government. And how we manage that triangle is going to determine whether this government thrives, survives or falls.

ZAHN: So how do you think we'll manage that?

FRIEDMAN: I think we have to be -- do everything we can to push Iraqi security forces out front and plus up...

ZAHN: Out front? Just a fraction of them are trained right now!

FRIEDMAN: I know. And we have got to stay behind them...

ZAHN: Aren't you a little pessimistic about that...

FRIEDMAN: You know...

ZAHN: ... at this juncture?


ZAHN: You look at the numbers...

FRIEDMAN: Well, here's what...


FRIEDMAN: I'm not pessimistic, I'm questioning. And here's what I'm questioning, Paula. What happens when we hand Iraqis the keys? Now, one of two things could happen. They could totally fumble them and the place falls apart. The car falls apart. The hub caps start to come off the wheel, the axle and the whole thing collapses. Or they could say, You know what? I own this now. And now that I own it -- you know, there's an old saying in the history of the world, "No one's ever washed a rented car," all right? They ain't renting the car anymore. It's theirs. Let's see if they wash it. If they do, this will succeed. If they don't, it's going to fail. But that's the juncture we're at right now.

ZAHN: What are the consequences of failure?

FRIEDMAN: Consequences of failure would be enormous, and that's what the bad guys understand. The al Qaeda types understand, Paula, this is the big one. If they defeat America in the heart of their world, boy, the message that will send to that whole region will be devastating. And guess what? If we defeat them in the heart of that world, we defeat them with real Iraqi allies, that will be devastating for them. Those are the stakes.

ZAHN: And let's talk about your television show a little bit later tonight. You travel to India to do your take on outsourcing. Some folks in our audience might be surprised by what you found.

FRIEDMAN: Well, what we found is really what happens when you take high -- sorry -- low-wage, low-prestige jobs in America and you send them over to India and they become high-wage, high-prestige jobs.

ZAHN: Bottom line, outsourcing, bad, good?

FRIEDMAN: I think it's good. I think it's good for America as a whole. I think it's good for India as a whole. But I also am keenly aware, when you lose your job, the unemployment rate isn't 4 percent, it's 100 percent. And we need policies, as a government and a society, to take care of people in that position and transition them to other jobs. That's been the history of free trade. And the fact we've been flexible about doing that has been why we have had the best, most dominant economy in the world. We shouldn't be afraid of this.

ZAHN: Tom Friedman, great to see you.

FRIEDMAN: Thanks so much.

ZAHN: Thanks for spending some time with us tonight.

FRIEDMAN: Appreciate it.

ZAHN: As we just mentioned, "New York Times" columnist Tom Friedman. His documentary, "The Other Side of Outsourcing," airs tonight on the Discovery channel.

Iraq's new government says it will need coalition troops to survive. When we come back, I will ask an Iraqi minister why Iraq wants more control over American forces and when he wants U.S. troops out. Plus: As Athens races to wrap up construction for the Olympics, there is increasing concern about security. We'll look into that later on.


ZAHN: More now on what will happen when Iraq's new interim government starts running the country. At the United Nations this afternoon, Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari told the Security Council that his country needs coalition troops to remain, even as the interim government takes power on June 30. However, he also told the U.N. that Iraq's government must have a say about the presence of international troops.

Foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari is with me tonight. Honor to have you with us tonight, sir. Welcome.

HOSHYAR ZEBARI, IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER: I am pleased to be with you.

ZAHN: What does that mean, you want to have a say over these international troops?

ZEBARI: Well...

ZAHN: Does that mean you want to control them?

ZEBARI: No. I mean, if you have a sovereign government, definitely, one of the first requirement of a sovereign government is really to have a say in what's going on in this country. I mean, we welcome the presence -- the continued presence of the multi-national force because we think we need them. They are an Iraqi need before anything else, mainly because we are not ready. If they leave prematurely, they will leave behind a vacuum which will endanger Iraq as a country. In fact, in many ways, there will be turmoil, chaos and instability.

ZAHN: I'm still not clear, though, on what you want. Do you want authority over the use of multi-national troops? Or you just want someone to come...

ZEBARI: No, you -- you would...

ZAHN: ... to you and say, We're going to do this?

ZEBARI: You would not expect for the Iraqi government or any Iraqi institution to instruct the U.S. Army or the coalition what to do and not to do, especially when they are in harm's way. But we say that this is a partnership mission. We share the same goal, to defeat terrorism, to stabilize the country. And as a sovereign government, we want these forces, one time in the future, to leave. And this is dependent on the progress we make toward building our security, military forces. This is more a hypothetical issue, really, because now we need these forces desperately more than anybody else. At the same time...

ZAHN: Although you do have to look to the future.

ZEBARI: Of course.

ZAHN: Because Colin Powell said today...

ZEBARI: Of course.

ZAHN: ... he's not going to give you veto power over U.S. troops.

ZEBARI: No, we...

ZAHN: Why don't we listen to what he said.

ZEBARI: In fact, we never the word of "veto" at all, but we said we must have a say in the future status of these forces. Definitely, they are not going stay there indefinitely. There has time to come when, really, they will not be needed, when the Iraqi forces, the Iraqi government will be fully established and qualified and capable to control the security situation. We are not there yet. That's why we need them now.

ZAHN: In Mr. Powell's words, there could be, quote, "a situation where we have to act, and there may be a disagreement." Are you comfortable with that notion?

ZEBARI: I think we appreciate very much what the coalitions are doing, the American forces are doing, men in uniforms, and the sacrifices they are giving. I think this is a noble mission. This is how we see it, as Iraqis. But when there are major military offensive operations that will have serious political and security repercussions on a country as a whole, with the presence of a sovereign government that claims sovereignty and authority, definitely, that government needs to be consulted and its view needs to be taken into consideration.

We know our country better than American, British, Polish troops there. And we know how best to handle the security -- and in collaboration. This would be a collaborative practice. I mean, this is what we are calling for. And looking back in recent past, really, there has been some major mistakes committed.

ZAHN: By whom?

ZEBARI: By the coalition forces -- tackling Fallujah, tackling, you know, Muqtada al Sadr or the Shia militia, let's say, in certain areas, giving the impression as if this is a Shia-Sunni rebellion against the coalition, which was not. But the impression conveyed, I think, to many people gave that impression. And we have to struggle hard to prove that this is wrong.

ZAHN: How important is it for the legitimacy of this new government to separate itself from the United States? Tom Friedman of "The New York Times" said one of the problems you're going to face are these insurgents...


ZAHN: ... are going to try to create situations to force American troops to engage.

ZEBARI: Well...

ZAHN: Which could...


ZAHN: ... unravel this new government.

ZEBARI: I think...

ZAHN: Not unravel it...

ZEBARI: I think now we have...

ZAHN: But its legitimacy...

ZEBARI: ... a new beginning after the formation of this interim government with the blessing, the endorsement of the United Nations, the new government is truly representative, I can say confidently the most representative government in Iraq history. But we have many, many challenges. Security is, you know, a main challenge. Definitely, we need as much international support as we can. Iraq is no longer a local issue. It is regional, international. And we are engaged in a struggle of will between those people who want to destroy this process, and we, as Iraqis, who want to build a new, free, democratic future for our country. This is the real issue.

And terrorism that we are facing there is real. It's not American propaganda. In fact, most of the terrorist groups -- there has been an international coalition of extremists, of terrorists, who want to make the United States, to make the Iraqi people fail. And we should not allow them to do that.

ZAHN: Well, we wish you tremendous luck. We know there's a lot of work to get done. Foreign Minister Zebari, thank you for your time.

ZEBARI: Thank you.

ZAHN: We're going to take a short break here. Finally, tonight: The Olympic flame is on the way. The torch is headed for Athens and the summer games. But some athletes are worried about the prospect of terrorism. I'm going to ask the mayor of Athens what she's doing to protect them. She'll join us live in the studio.


ZAHN: Tonight the Olympic flame is in Sydney, Australia. It is the first stop on a 35-day voyage that will take it through more than two dozen countries. Sydney, as you may remember, was the host of the 2000 summer games. The flame will reach U.S. shores on June 16 and will make stops in Los Angeles, St. Louis, Atlanta and New York. But when it arrives in Athens, Greece, for this year's summer games, will the city be ready to welcome it? Some people fear it won't be safe enough.


(voice-over): Never before has security been such a concern at the Olympic games. It didn't get this much attention at the winter games in Salt Lake City, even though they were held just five months after the September 11 attacks. But Greece has had difficulties just getting ready for this summer's games. And U.S. and Olympic officials believe construction delays could make the games more vulnerable to an attack.

Last month, three small bombs went off in suburban Athens neighborhood, and a bomb was also found near the site of the games. Counterterrorism officials have privately said they're not sure Greece can handle the massive effort. The country will need to provide safety for 11,000 athletes from 202 countries and more than a million spectators. Even some of the athletes are voicing their concerns.

CHERYL HAWORTH, TEAM USA WEIGHTLIFTER: My mom and my older sister are going to be going to Athens, and I think I'm going to be worried about where they are.

ZAHN: Tennis star Serena Williams has said she, too, is anxious about going to Athens, but she still plans to participate in the games. Others say they're not worried about security.

STEPHON MARBURY, TEAM USA BASKETBALL : I feel like the Olympic committee is definitely going to make sure that everyone is safe and I don't feel harm (ph) at all.

ZAHN: Greece, meanwhile, is trying to ease any concerns about the games. It's spending an unprecedented $1.2 billion to protect athletes and visitors and will use more than 70,000 security workers, more than any previous Olympic host. It has also asked other countries to help in the effort. The U.S. alone will provide about 100 federal agents. Still, the start of the games is August 13, just over two months away and approaching fast. Will Athens be ready?


Joining us now to answer that question and more and discuss preparations for the Olympics, Athens mayor Dora Bakoyannis. Did I say that right?


ZAHN: I've been practicing that all day. Welcome to town.

DORA BAKOYANNIS, MAYOR OF ATHENS: It's a difficult name, but it was OK.

ZAHN: Let's talk a little bit about the explosions of those bombs back in May around those police stations. Can you actually guarantee not only the safety of the athletes in Athens, but the thousands of visitors that are going to stream into your beautiful city?

BAKOYANNIS: Look, "guarantee" is a very serious word. What I can guarantee is that we have made every humanly possible effort to make sure that the games will be secure. And I believe, as a mayor of this wonderful city, which you showed now on television -- I believe that Athens will be in summer, in August, the most secure place to be in an uncertain world, in a difficult world. But what we made is an extreme, big effort. And your reportage was correct. We have the biggest budget ever. We have a very close cooperation to seven countries, between them Australia, the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, et cetera. We're working together. The security for the Olympic games, it's an international question...

ZAHN: Sure.

BAKOYANNIS: ... and a very serious one.

ZAHN: And one thing we didn't mention is that NATO is actually planning on providing...

BAKOYANNIS: NATO has an umbrella...

ZAHN: ... surveillance planes.

BAKOYANNIS: Umbrella AWACS planes and the ships around...

ZAHN: So you have (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people off-shore.

BAKOYANNIS: Yes. So we are making everything which is humanly possible to do. And I believe that -- Greece, you know, was never threatened. I believe that these games will be secure games, and I can really invite everybody to come over and see it.

ZAHN: There is a lot of concern, though, about some of the construction running behind schedule, and there is some experts out there that say even if you catch up and you finish these stadiums on time and these facilities, that what you're not going have time do is test the systems.

BAKOYANNIS: That's not true because the systems are tested 15 days, maximum 20 days before Olympic security takes over. We cannot be on red alert in Olympic security a whole year. So practically, what is happening is every venue, when it is finished, when the Olympic security takes it over, they are cleaned, so-called, by the machines, the X-ray machines which come in to make sure that nothing is wrong with the venue. And then they come on Olympic security standards.

ZAHN: Sure.

BAKOYANNIS: So then the Olympic security is responsible. But we cannot do that for a year. We are doing that at about one month before the games. So that's exactly what will happen. There is no question that the delays pose a problem for security. ZAHN: Obviously, you have great pride in your city, as should be anybody who lives in that fabulous city.

BAKOYANNIS: Well, you should vote for another mayor if I would not have pride for my city!

ZAHN: Greece is the smallest country, though, to host the summer Olympics since Finland back in 1952. What do you say to those who doubt that the country will not be able to absorb the hundreds of thousands of people that are going to swarm into your country?

BAKOYANNIS: We know we are the smallest country ever to take over such a big endeavor. But we also know that we gave birth to these Olympic games, that the Olympic games came back home. We know that there is a symbolism in the Olympic games, and mainly, now that the whole world lives these difficult moments, mainly now, after September 11, it is very important to remind the world about this symbolism. And this symbolism is very concrete. It's democracy. It's human rights. It's human respect. It's solidarity. We need those messages again in the world. And I believe that you will have them in Athens all in one during the Olympic games.

ZAHN: Well, we wish you great luck. Thank you for spending time with us tonight.

BAKOYANNIS: Thank you very much.

ZAHN: I will be running in the relay once it gets to New York. Couldn't be any prouder to support the Olympics.

BAKOYANNIS: Thank you.

ZAHN: Mayor Bakoyannis, thanks for your time. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here this evening. Thanks so much for being with us tonight. Tomorrow, in our series "Held Captive," a missionary couple's dream turns into a struggle to survive, more than a year of captivity in the jungles of the Philippines. That's tomorrow. Hope you'll join us then. Thanks so much for joining us. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Until then, have a good night.


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