CNN struck a deal with the White House to block television competitors from live coverage of Wednesday's town hall meeting in which top administration officials take questions on the standoff with Iraq.

"If the administration's goal is to talk to the American people, then perhaps CNN's restrictions may slightly defeat that purpose," ABC spokeswoman Su-Lin Cheng said Tuesday.ABC is sending Ted Koppel to Columbus, Ohio, to do interviews and will air them on "Nightline" Wednesday night - or earlier, if hot news developes.

The White House, apparently noting the TV-watching habits of Iraq's Saddam Hussein, approached CNN about televising the session, in which Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Defense Secretary William Cohen and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger will field questions.

CNN agreed but insisted it be an exclusive CNN event.

That meant the other networks are limited to broadcasting two minutes of footage, credited to CNN. The White House sought to smooth things by making Albright, Cohen and Berger available for interviews afterward.

Fox also plans to air its own interviews.

CBS declined comment through a spokeswoman. Messages seeking comment from NBC were not immediately returned.

White House spokesman Mike McCurry said the White House approached CNN because of its global audience. The fact that Saddam and other Iraqi leaders are known to watch CNN "was certainly an element but not the only reason" the cable news network was chosen, McCurry said.