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YOUR WORLD TODAY
The Trial of Saddam Hussein; China Disasters
Aired November 28, 2005 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Saddam Hussein and other defendants return to court to hear a videotaped deposition from an Iraqi official who has since died. But it will be a while before there is any more testimony.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The trial centers around execution of more than 100 villagers after a visit by Iraqi dictator more than two decades ago.
HOLMES: And a one-two punch for a Chinese province dealing with two disasters at the same time.
CHURCH: And Mother Nature leaves her mark across Europe with record snowfall in Germany and flooding in Israel.
HOLMES: 8:00 p.m. right now in Baghdad, 6:00 p.m. in Germany, 12:00 noon in Washington.
Hello, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes.
CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church.
Welcome to our viewers throughout the world. This is CNN International and this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.
HOLMES: Iraqis who waited weeks for the trial of Saddam Hussein and his seven co-defendants to resume will have to wait a little longer. After less than three hours of hearings on Monday, the judge ordered a week-long adjournment. It came after several defendants voiced complaints. They ranged from court processes to death threats.
Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson was inside the courtroom, joins us now live from Baghdad.
What of significance actually did get to happen, Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there were two tapes shown in the morning of the proceedings. One was a videotape, and it had an extract of Saddam Hussein on the day, or it appeared to be on the day of the assassination attempt, the 8th of July, 1982, in Dujail. And he was talking about the people there, he seemed to be talking to his security officers and saying take them and investigate the case. Take the people and investigate the case.
The other bit of evidence that was presented in the court was a recorded testimony, an affidavit on video by Saddam Hussein's former interrogation chief from 1982 who testified about who was involved in the case. He said that he wasn't aware that Saddam Hussein had been directly involved in the -- in the people that were sent to him for interrogation.
He talked about families of people being sent to him for interrogation. He talked about -- about many people. He couldn't understand why they were coming, why they were being sent for interrogation.
He said -- he pointed the finger at Taha Yassin Ramadan, to Mr. Saddam Hussein's half brother, Barzan al-Hassan (ph), and he also said that the chief judge, Awad Bandar (ph), were all involved in this process of sending the investigation of -- in what happened in Dujail of rounding up people, of destroying orchards, and bringing the people to Baghdad for interrogation there, moving them on to another location where he didn't know what happened to the people.
However, that testimony was not something that the defense lawyers are going to be able to -- are going to be able to cross- examine. He is -- this witness' statement was recorded because he was ill, and he has subsequently died.
The court proceedings really kicked off with fireworks after the recess for lunch. The chief judge told the defendants and the defense lawyers that they could meet and talk during the lunch break. The lunch break lasted an hour and 20 minutes. And when the court came back it was almost a different court.
The former vice president stood up and said that he -- that he no longer wanted to use the court-appointed lawyers, that his lawyers -- and he had three in the last trial -- two had been shot, one killed. He said the wounded lawyer had taken his family out of the Iraq, the other surviving lawyer had also left, and he wasn't going to use the court-appointed lawyer.
Saddam Hussein's half brother said the same thing. Then Saddam Hussein's former chief judge said that there had been death threats in the court from somebody in the court against him and Saddam Hussein.
And the judge asked questions, said, "Put this in writing." Mr. Bandar (ph) said he had done that. The judge said he hadn't received it. And at that point Saddam Hussein stood up and said, "I've been writing you letters and memos." He said that to the chief judge.
The chief judge said he hadn't got them. And at that point the chief judge called for a recess.
But this trial was different from the earlier trial in that it had two international advisers for Saddam Hussein. One of them the former U.S. attorney general, Ramsey Clark.
He spent the whole period in the court today quite quiet. He didn't make any statements. But when I talked to him a few minutes ago, he said in his opinion it's very difficult to get a fair trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAMSEY CLARK, DEFENSE LAWYER: It's an extremely difficult case to assure fairness in because the passions in the country are at you know, fever pitch. And it will take effort at every turn by the court and everyone participating to be fair and to show that you're being fair for it to have any chance for a fair trial.
I don't think of a more difficult situation. And I've been in many unpopular case where's there have been high community prejudice against the defendants. But here, it's just -- everybody has been hurt and everybody's angry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: And indeed, that was borne out when I spoke to the adviser to an adviser to the prime minister here. He said that he was angry and disappointed that Mr. Clark had interjected himself into the case. And he said he believed that many other Iraqis also were upset about that -- Michael.
HOLMES: Nic, it's just interesting listening to your reporting there. The whole process, documents not getting through, finger pointing by Saddam Hussein, basically telling the judge what to do, defendants being -- resisting their lawyers, and lawyers being shot. How does the whole process look?
ROBERTSON: The whole process appears as if it's going to be very slow. If every time a lawyer here is shot, let's say, and killed, and he is replaced by a court-appointed lawyer, if every defendant is going to reject that, then the -- it's going to take time for the defendants to find new lawyers.
If every time a defendant feels he wants to stand up in the court and say something that is going to slow the proceedings, that will slow it. I mean, it does seem very likely at this stage that once the court settles down and a lot of these early issues are dealt with, that lawyers are -- lawyers have proven to be satisfactory to all the defendants, then the case can proceed.
I mean, there's an expectation in the government here that perhaps as many as 12 witnesses will be gone through each day, and that the proceedings could happen quite quickly. But I think from what we've seen today, it shows a lot of teething troubles and a lot of issues that the judge here is trying very hard to grapple with, trying very hard to move the case along. But I think the indications are that the process at this stage appears that it's going to be quite a slow one -- Michael.
HOLMES: Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson.
CHURCH: Well, now for a look at how the latest developments could affect the attorneys' strategy in the courtroom, we're joined by CNN legal analyst David Sheffer in Washington. He's a former U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues. Thanks, David, for talking with us.
DAVID SCHEFFER, CNN LEGAL ANALYSTThanks for having me.
CHURCH: We just heard just there Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general, now a part of Saddam Hussein's team, his defense team, saying it's going to be difficult to get a fair trial for Saddam.
Do you agree?
SCHEFFER: Well, there are considerable difficulties, which is one reason why even years ago we had a lot of discussion -- and months ago -- about whether the venue really should be in Iraq or should be elsewhere once custody could be obtained over Saddam Hussein and his colleagues and the Iraqi regime. So this is an old problem, whether or not you could, in fact, have a fair trial on Iraqi territory before that society stabilizes and is far more secure than it is today.
But I must say that Ramsey Clark's presence there is somewhat odd, I find, because I'm not so sure the defense team has done itself a great favor. He is known to be very sympathetic to Saddam Hussein's regime. He's written books that are very sympathetic to it during its reign of terror over Iraq. And now he is defense counsel.
And that -- I would have thought defense counsel would have looked to someone, an international lawyer who has been skeptical of the regime's performance but stands there as a guardian of international standards of due process. I think the judges would have been far more impressed with an individual of that character than they may be with Ramsey Clark.
You know, in that interview with Nic Robertson, Rosemary, if I may, last hour on the domestic channel here in the United States, Ramsey Clark also said that he doesn't intend to stay around in Iraq over the next week. He's going to fly back home, when his colleague was also arguing that they need to now really get involved with the case and study it and they need time to do so. It's a little hard to square that circle.
CHURCH: What about the timing of the announcement of him joining the team? Interesting in that?
SCHEFFER: Well, I think that's also a problem for the defense, in that, you know, Ramsey Clark has been associated with this team for a long time, and yet it doesn't appear as if there's been much prep work on his part to actually prepare for this case. It's a little difficult, I would think, from the bench for the judges to appreciate him now saying that he needs an enormous amount of time to prepare when, in fact, they have anticipated this for a long time and there could have been an enormous amount of preparation.
They could have been filing motions today to challenge the legitimacy of the court. But now they're saying they need time to figure out how to file those motions and what to say in those motions.
So I think that's going to be a little dicey for the defense in this case right now.
CHURCH: Because what we saw in the short time that the trial actually resumed was the defendants very much taking control of the courtroom situation. Is that what we should get used to seeing, and are there any dangers involved in that?
SCHEFFER: Well, as Nic Robertson reported, I think in that second half of the day after the lunch break, the defendants really did take control of the -- of the courtroom with all of their complaints, and complaints which could have been anticipated by the bench. I mean, this whole issue of why documents drafted by some of the defendants appealing for consideration by the presiding judge of certain issues, why those documents never made it to the presiding judge prior to trial is -- is odd. It's awkward, I think, for the bench, and it clearly triggered, along with other issues, this whole matter of delay of the trial.
You know, one -- one problem that I think the prosecution has in this case is that they decided to run a joint trial of eight defendants, which itself is rather unusual under Iraqi criminal procedure. That means that whenever one defendant and his lawyer, for example, is -- if the lawyer is incapacitated or eliminated or leaves the country, it can tend to bring the whole case to a grinding stop and a delay, which would not have been the case if it were not a joint trial.
CHURCH: All right. David Scheffer, thanks for talking with us. Appreciate it.
SCHEFFER: Thank you.
HOLMES: All right. The trial of Saddam Hussein is the subject of our question of the day.
CHURCH: We're asking, if convicted, should Saddam Hussein be put to death? You can e-mail us your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. And as always, don't forget to include your name and where you're writing us from. We will, of course, read them out on air.
HOLMES: We will.
CHURCH: Well, as China gets a handle on one disaster, it's now faced with another.
HOLMES: Extraordinarily unlucky. When YOUR WORLD TODAY returns, a coal mine explosion kills more than a hundred workers already struggling with that toxic chemical spill. We'll have the details when we come back.
CHURCH: Welcome back. This is YOUR WORLD TODAY.
HOLMES: An hour of world news right here on CNN International.
Well, Russian officials say that that toxic slick flowing down river from China could reach the country's eastern regions within days. Emergency officials say they are preparing to shut off tap water and begin backup water deliveries. They say the toxins could pollute the drinking water of Khabarovsk, a major city, by the second week of December.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have received official results from the Tectonics Institute. There are signs that the maximum permissible level of benzene has been exceeded, although not by a very big margin. We can conclude the water contaminated with benzene could start coming in two days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Officials say that toxic slick could affect some 70 cities and villages in Russia before it eventually dissipates.
CHURCH: Well, as Russian authorities brace for the toxic chemical spill to make its way downstream, officials in China are celebrating the return of running water to the city of Harbin. The government cut off water supplies for five days.
Meanwhile, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reports 134 miners have been killed in a coal mine explosion in a nearby city. Fifteen others are reportedly trapped underground.
Stan Grant now on China's ongoing catalog of costly industrial accidents.
STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Some do make it out alive. Thousands of others, though, have not been so lucky.
China's mines are the deadliest in the world. Nearly 3,000 miners killed in the first half of this year alone.
Now another explosion trapping workers below. The death toll spiraling. And it's happened in the same northeastern province already struggling with the toxic spill coursing through its water supply.
The governor of (INAUDIBLE) province personally vouching for water safety, drinking from the local taps.
The water supply was shut down in the provincial capital Harbin for the past five days. An explosion at a nearby chemical plant two weeks ago poured an estimated 100 tons of cancer-causing benzene into the Songhua River, the city's main water supply.
Environmental officials have given it the all clear, but some thirsty residents are still not happy.
KUY HOJUN, HARBIN RESIDENT (through translator): Newspapers said the water would come on last night at 11:00 p.m. But we still have no water supply, and we don't know when it is going to come on.
GRANT: The crisis may have passed, but long-term problems remain. China's breakneck growth comes with a big price tag.
JOHN MCALISTER, WATER TREATMENT EXPERT: China cannot sustain economic growth with the current path of water use and water pollution. Seventy percent of the rivers and surface water are polluted.
GRANT: Above ground and below, lives are put at risk every day as China continues to stoke the engine of growth. The government is struggling to improve safety in the mining industry, illegal operators have been shut down, regulations tightened. But booming demand and high-call prices are tempting mine owners to cut corners.
(on camera): State-run media in China say nearly one million people are killed each year as a result of accidents and disasters. And there's another number the safety-shy (ph) managers may be more interested in. Nearly 100 billion U.S. dollars wiped off balance sheets.
Stan Grant, CNN, Beijing.
HOLMES: Well, more now on China's coal mining industry. So far, by far, the world's deadliest. More than 5,000 people on average die in China's coal mines every year than fires, floods and other accidents. Most of the accidents blamed on disregard of safety rules or lack of required equipment for ventilation or fire control.
Officials have responded with a series of safety initiatives, including a national network of safety inspectors and stricter fire standards -- 5,000 a year.
CHURCH: Well, a check of what's topping the news in the United States is up next for our viewers in the U.S.
HOLMES: The rest of us will get a check of what is moving financial markets.
CHURCH: A pharmaceutical giant announces job cuts and plant closures. We'll tell you which one and why.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And hello, everyone. I'm Tony Harris at the CNN Center in Atlanta. More of YOUR WORLD TODAY in just a few minutes. But first, a check on stories making headlines in the United States.
Take a look at this. Traffic is a mess on the beltway that circles Washington at this hour. A cement mixer reportedly went through a highway wall and overturned near Tyson's Corner, Virginia, today. All lanes on the 495 interloop were shut for a while.
These are live pictures now. One lane is open again. It's expected to take much of the afternoon to clear the area.
Four hundred vehicles were involved in the accident. Police say at least three people are hospitalized, one with serious injuries.
And check out this scene, also in Washington. Rescue workers have now pulled an elderly woman to safety after she was trapped in her car. The vehicle ended up in a tree, that tree there after the accident. Right now there's no word on the woman's condition.
In Columbus, Ohio, authorities say a major fire at a power substation is now under control, but look at these scenes from earlier. Firefighters were able to smother the flames by dousing them with foam. The blaze broke out after an explosion at the plant earlier this morning. A few nearly by homes were evacuated and several schools were closed. And at one point, about 32,000 people in the area were without power.
Tornadoes swirled across Kansas and Arkansas overnight. Take a look at what a tornado left behind in Plumerville, Arkansas. The twister splintered a lumberyard, scattered wood across Interstate 40, and overturned a number of cars. Police say one person was killed when a car was swept into oncoming traffic.
Kansas had its share of tornadoes, too, but it was a blizzard that closed roads and left hundreds of holiday travelers stranded. Motels are full. Many people are waiting it out in shelters.
The winter storm packed roads with snow and reduced visibility to less than a quarter mile. High winds caused near whiteout conditions and closed a 150-mile stretch of Interstate 70 from Denver, Colorado, to the Kansas state line.
What a mess.
Watching it all for us is our severe weather expert, Chad Myers, in the CNN weather center.
CHAD MYERS, CNN SEVERE WEATHER EXPERT: Hi, Tony. And still closed at this point in time, although they expect it to reopen up this morning.
Here's a new look at a new watch box. I want to put this on here. This one here down in Alabama. That's already been here for a while, but Nashville now, Louisville, almost over to Frankfurt, seeing a tornado watch box for you because of the storms that have been popping up very strongly.
I mean, they've been just kind of popping up so quickly it's been hard to keep a track on them. But we do have a tornado warning here for the areas around Prattville you can see.
Now, this is Montgomery, Alabama. They are the two very large storms, and they will track to the north of Prattville. But if they decide to turn to the right -- and sometimes they can -- Prattville, you're under the gun for a tornado warning there.
Look at the storm. I mean, it goes from Canada all of the way down to Florida. This thing is making a mess of travel. Two-hour delays in Atlanta. Already now 90 minutes LaGuardia, 90 minutes in Chicago. Philadelphia even getting in on the act.
Here's the snow, I-90, I-80, even all the way down to about I-70. Highs today only going to be in the 50s and 60s across the Southeast. But where this warm area is, that's where the tornadoes will be again.
HARRIS: OK, Chad. Thank you.
This hour in Sarasota, Florida, the sentencing phase is under way for convicted child killer Joseph Smith. He could face execution for the kidnapping, rape and murder last year of 14-year-old Carlie Brucia.
Smith's attorney are expected to argue for life in prison without parole. Smith was convicted after jurors saw this video of her kidnapping from a security camera.
A big chunk of marble fell from the facade of the Supreme Court this morning and landed some 100 feet below on the steps leading to the court entrance. About three dozen visitors were lined up outside the building at the time, but no one was injured when the stone fell. The Supreme Court building is undergoing renovation, but it doesn't appear the accident was related to that work.
Later today President Bush will renew his call for immigration reform and highlight new enforcement measures at the border. Mr. Bush will visit Tucson, Arizona, today and El Paso, Texas, tomorrow. Congress has shelved a comprehensive immigration strategy, and even the president's own party has been divided.
CNN will have live coverage of President Bush's speech now scheduled at 4:45 Eastern.
Forget Black Friday. This is Cyber Monday, the day when more and more shoppers turn to their computers looking for holiday deals. For retailers, cyberspace is becoming the best place to sell. Today is one of the busiest online shopping days of the year.
First lady Laura Bush has the upcoming holiday in mind. A little more than an hour ago she accepted the official White House Christmas tree. Fresh cut from its farm in North Carolina, the 18.5 foot Frazier Fur will take its place in the White House Blue Room later today.
He is building homes for Hurricane Katrina victims and he can't even see the finished product. Meet him at the top of the hour on "LIVE FROM" with Kyra Phillips.
Meantime, YOUR WORLD TODAY continues after a quick break.
CHURCH: Welcome back to YOUR WORLD TODAY on CNN International. I'm Rosemary Church.
HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes. Let's update the top stories of the day for you.
Rescuers in northeastern China are searching for 15 miners still trapped after a coal mine explosion. The official news service, Xinhua, says 134 miners were killed. Authorities stay the blast was caused by coal dust that ignited.
Elsewhere in the very same province in China, running water has now been restored to the city of Harbin five days after it was cut off because toxic chemicals had spilled into a river. Officials warned that the water, still, however, is not safe to drink.
CHURCH: The trial of Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants is in recess until next Monday. The adjournment came after several defendants complained about court procedures, healthcare, security and legal representation. The court did hear a videotaped deposition from the first prosecution witness, a former senior intelligence official from Hussein's government who died shortly after his testimony.
HOLMES: In the Iraqi village of Dujail, protesters took to the streets to vent their anger. More than 140 people from that town were allegedly rounded up and killed in 1982 after an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hussein. This is the basis of the trial that's now underway. Demonstrators held pictures of family members whom they say were taken away, never to return. Many called for Saddam Hussein's immediate execution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We call on a special tribunal to execute him because the evidence is clear enough. So not to delay the execution of this criminal, in the name of all the people of Dujail, we call for this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Saddam's trial is like an Iraqi wedding, as the tribunal is trying the tyrant Saddam. We demand what that Saddam be hanged to death and put on gallows under the Liberty Monument.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Well, as you just heard the events in Dujail form the basis of the first case against Hussein and other co-defendants. New film has emerged of that fateful day more than two day decades ago.
Aneesh Raman visited Dujail recently and has this report.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On July 8, 1982, Saddam Hussein drove into Dujail. Crowds running alongside his convoy. Women rushing to kiss his hand, bellowing in forced joy.
It was the sort of visit Saddam often orchestrated, showing he was a man of the people. But when offered a glass of water in one home, he declined, always fearful of attempts to poison him.
Saddam then spoke to a crowd from atop the local party headquarters about the war with Iran.
He was about to find out just how courageous. On this road, six young men were preparing to ambush the dictator. Mohammed Ali drove one of the shooters to the scene.
MOHAMMED ALI, DRIVER (through translator): Hassan (ph) came to me. I took him on my motorcycle. I remember he was carrying two pistols. We drove through orchards looking for other men but we only saw two. Hassan shot with his pistol to give the group a sign to start shooting at Saddam.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When the convoy reached the orchards, three gunmen started shooting at his convoy from the left side. Saddam's guards started shooting back.
RAMAN: Saddam escaped unhurt and moments later villagers desperately tried to prove their loyalty.
But Dujail knew its fate. Immediately a dictator's vengeance descended upon the village. With icy calm, Saddam himself started interrogating terrified locals.
No one's loyalty is taken for granted. And in the ensuing weeks, thousands of innocent villagers like Ali, who was 14 at the time, were thrown in jail, tortured and many others executed. Dujail was destroyed. Villagers show us barren lands that once blossomed with orchids where the rebel gunman hid that fateful day.
Ali is lucky. He survived four years in prison. But he never knew what happened to his brothers. They were also in prison that day. And it was only after Saddam's fall that he learned the worst.
ALI (through translator): I found a document signed by Saddam in 1985 to execute some of the Dujail people with us in the prison. One hundred forty nine people, including seven of my brothers, 34 of my relatives and 118 people of my town. They are now forgot. To God they have returned.
RAMAN: Photos of his brothers proudly hang on Ali's living room wall, casualties of state terror. In sheer numbers, Dujail was not nearly the worst of Saddam's atrocities, but that is of no consequence to the villagers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Saddam should be executed immediately for this because he killed and executed to many.
RAMAN: And now justice may finally come to Dujail, 23 years too late, but sooner than anyone here could have imagined.
Aneesh Raman, CNN, Dujail, Iraq.
HOLMES: Well, the trial of Saddam Hussein has been our question of the day for you.
CHURCH: We are asking you this. If convicted, should Saddam Hussein be put to death? E-mail us your thoughts at ywt@CNN.com and we will read some of your responses at the end of this program.
HOLMES: Well, the Iraqi government is rejecting comments made by former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi to a London newspaper. He told "The Observer" newspaper that acts of brutality by elements of Iraqi security forces are comparable to crimes committed during Saddam Hussein's rule.
Allawi said, and we'll quite him here: "We are hearing about secret police, secret bunkers where people are being interrogated." He added, "A lot of Iraqis are being tortured or killed in the course of interrogations." Iraq's national security adviser says allegations of abuse have arisen from isolated cases.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOWAFFAK AL RUBAIE, IRAQI NATL. SECURITY ADVISER: I believe the violation of human rights in some of these corners of this huge country is the exception to the rule. The overwhelming majority of the procedures -- we have a very good procedures and implementation of these procedures and policies by our Iraqi security forces in place. And we vet these people very, very carefully. We teach them how to observe human rights standards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Al Rubaie also called Allawi's accusations a campaign ploy to win Sunni support in parliamentary elections next month.
Well, the United States, Britain and Canada are looking into the whereabouts of four missing aide workers reported kidnapped in Iraq. The two Canadians, one American and one Briton were kidnapped on Saturday in a violent neighborhood in western Baghdad.
The British and Canadian government said they will not negotiate with the kidnappers. The U.S. would only confirm that an American citizen was missing. There's been no claim, as yet, of responsibility or demands for their release.
HOLMES: This past week is seeing some of the most intense fighting in recent years between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas along the border. Israeli officials are questioning the effectiveness of the U.N. peacekeeping force that is deployed along the border and are calling on Lebanon to act as well.
Gay Raz has that report.
GUY RAZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Good fences don't always make good neighbors. For nine hours last week, Israeli soldiers stationed on the country's border with Lebanon exchanged fire with fighters from the Islamist militia Hezbollah, the opposite side. The United Nations peacekeeping force in the area blamed Hezbollah.
MILOS STRUGAR, UNIFIL SPOKESMAN: It was a sudden flare-up of hostilities, which was initiated from the Lebanese side by Hezbollah. And it took -- it was probably one of the heaviest exchanges of fire since the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.
RAZ: Border towns in Israel were put on high alert, residents sent to bomb shelters. In the ensuing fighting, 12 Israelis were wounded, four Hezbollah fighters killed, the bodies returned by Israel over the weekend. Hezbollah held a mass funeral for their dead fighters. The group's leader, Hassan Nashrallah, said while no Israeli prisoners were taken this time, there is always a next time.
HASSAN NASHRALLAH, HEZBOLLAH LEADER (through translator): From our experience with the Israelis, we came to the conclusion that if we want to bring back our detainees and discover the fate of the missing, we have to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
RAZ: It's not usually so active along these Levantine hills. Minor skirmishes happen frequently, but all-out attacks are rare. And Israeli military officials believe last week's Hezbollah's assault was well planned, but badly executed.
Lieutenant Idan Sandler patrols the Israeli side of the border every day. He has grudging respect for the boldness of his enemies.
LT. IDAN SANDLER, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: He is a soldier in every sense of the word. He carries out his mission with an Islamic ideology and is rewarded likewise.
RAZ: This is Israel's most militarized border. It's also Lebanon's. But the fighters on the Lebanese side are not under the control of the Lebanese government.
BRIG. GEN. GAL HIRSCH, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: You cannot see here along this border the Lebanese army, the Lebanese armed forces. You can see here terror organization and Hezbollah is unique to the organization.
RAZ: Israel, the United States and the European Union all consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization. But the group operates freely on the Lebanese side of the border, brazenly setting up its positions right next to or behind United Nations outposts. The U.N. says it's powerless to move them.
STRUGAR: Of course the situation for us is unacceptable and we raised that with the Lebanese government on a number of occasions.
RAZ: Lebanon's government claims it can't do much about the Hezbollah presence.
Officially, Hezbollah is regarded as a resistance movement by the Lebanese government. But resisting what?
Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 was certified by the United Nations. According to the U.N., Israel no longer occupies any Lebanese territory.
In the meantime, all is quiet on the border for now -- the quiet is also misleading.
Guy Raz, CNN, Jerusalem.
CHURCH: On to political developments in the Middle East.
The Palestinian Fatah party has halted primary elections in Gaza after gunmen stormed the polls, fired into the air and stole ballot boxes. They complain that thousands of eligible voters were missing from voting rolls. The primaries are to choose candidates for January elections, in which Fatah is expected to face a strong Hamas challenge. Fatah officials say Monday's vote will be nullified and rescheduled.
Meanwhile, a spokesman says Israeli statesman Shimon Peres may leave the Labor Party, which ousted him as its leader earlier this month. He's being courted by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new Kadima Party. Sharon founded Kadima after breaking with his conservative Likud Party. Likud fractured over Israel's withdrawal of settlers and troops from Gaza.
HOLMES: Coming up, some European nations coping with some pretty rough weather.
CHURCH: Very. From heavy rain to snow, we'll get the details.
And making sure the water in Venice stays where it's supposed to be. We'll look at an ambitious project to keep the streets dry and flooding at bay.
HOLMES: Welcome back, everybody. This is YOUR WORLD TODAY.
CHURCH: An hour of world news on CNN International.
Well, the first heavy snowfall is hitting the quake-ravaged zone in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. It's disrupting efforts to aid the millions of people left homeless by last month's earthquake. NATO relief workers are appealing for more funds to help them reach high altitude areas where people are suffering most from the frigid weather.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW WALTON, NATO DISASTER RESPONSE: We need to get shelter materials up here, because if we don't get people into shelter, they will die. It's as simple as that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: More than 100 quake survivors in the region have been taken to hospitals with hypothermia and respiratory diseases.
HOLMES: Plenty of bad weather in Europe as well.
HOLMES: Well, a city renowned for its winding waterways faces a growing threat from that same water.
Venice is inundated so often these days it is hurting many businesses and threatening tourism. The city, however, not surprisingly with that sort of tourism dollar on the line is fighting back with the latest in high-tech flood control measures.
Shantelle Stein tells us.
SHANTELLE STEIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like most of his fellow Venetians, Cesare Zanini has strong opinions on what should be done to save his city from flooding. As the owner of a book store, his interests are both personal and professional.
CESARE ZANINI, OWNER, LIBRERIA SANSOVINO (through translator): The problem is that we just can't work.
On average, we lose from 70 to 90 working days a year just because of the flooding. Just outside the shop on that portico, when the water level rises to 85 centimeters above sea level, it spills over. And when that happens, there's 20 centimeters of water on the ground itself and that means people don't walk by. So our business dries up.
STEIN: Every year, the city attracts up to 50 million tourists drawn to one of the world's most beautiful and astonishing places. But while it is undoubtedly the water that brings the visitors, it is also in danger of killing the city.
Every year, businesses lose millions of dollars because of the flooding -- a situation that the authorities realize is no longer financially or culturally acceptable.
To that end, the city has embarked on one of the most ambitious building projects currently under way in the world, namely the construction of set of massive underground gates designed to protect the city.
MONICA AMBROSINI, MOSE: We are in this moment looking at the worksite of the MOSE project. Here we are realizing the big locker for the crossing of the tankers, of the ships, and we are also realizing the protection of the bottom, of the inlet for the foundation of the gates. The MOSE project involves 79 hinged barriers located at that time lagoon's three inlets. They will rise from the seabed when high tides threaten the city.
Other European countries, namely England and Holland, have already completed flood-defense systems. STEIN (on camera): In London, the Thames Barrier, which spans 520 meters across the river, here at Willich (ph) Reach, took eight years and around $2 billion to build. Compact and environmentally friendly, it protects the English capital from surge tides.
(voice-over): In Rotterdam, giant swinging gates meet in the middle of the river leading into the city. Again, the plan is to save the city from storm surges. Back in Venice the $4.5 million MOSE Project is due to be completed by 2011.
As she takes a trip out to one the sites, the chief engineer appears to be pretty relaxed that deadlines will be met and the city will be saved.
MARIA TERESA BROTTO, CHIEF ENGINEER, MOSE PROJECT: We compared many different alternatives, and at the end, we proposed this one because we thought that this is the best solution.
STEIN: Over the years several concerns have been raised about the gates, ranging from environmental to economic. But what everyone seems to agree on is that come hell or high water, Venice must be saved.
HOLMES: While the flood-control project has been in the works for years, local authorities fear that if nothing is done, much of the city could eventually become permanently awash.
CHURCH: It would certainly get very soggy soy in Venice.
HOLMES: Yes, that would ruin the tourism industry.
CHURCH: All right, it's time to take a short break now.
HOLMES: When we come back, we will open the inbox and check your e-mails.
HOLMES: Time now to check the inbox.
CHURCH: Let's do that.
The trial of Saddam Hussein is the subject of our question of the day. And we asked you, if convicted, should Saddam Hussein be put to death?
HOLMES: Otto writes from Switzerland, "Saddam is an awful person. Even though I am against the death penalty, I will not cry one tear if he's executed."
CHURCH: Gabriel in Germany writes, "Former President Saddam Hussein should not be executed. I believe that if he is executed his death will make him a martyr." HOLMES: A viewer watching us from Ukraine writes, "Yes, Saddam should be put to death! He should have been killed the day they found him!"
CHURCH: Thmily in Saudi Arabia writes, "Executing Saddam would be worth approving, if that could be of any good meaning for other Saddams in many other places."
HOLMES: And finally this one from a viewer in Spain who says, simply, "Yes, twice."
CHURCH: And before we go, a quick programming note for our viewers. French Prime Minister Dominick Devillepin sits down for an interview with chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.
HOLMES: They're going to be talking about the French government's response to that recent rioting. Also the dispute over Iran's nuclear program and French-American relations. It can be seen Tuesday on this very program, Wednesday for many of our viewers in Asia.
And that is it from YOUR WORLD TODAY this hour.
CHURCH: I'm Rosemary Church. Thanks for your company.
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