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Iraqis Speak Out About Their Political Future; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Speaks to Foreign, Domestic Press; Jurors Hearing Closing Arguments in Moussaoui Trial; Anti-Monarchy Demonstrations Continue in Nepal

Aired April 24, 2006 - 12:00   ET


JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: "A nuclear country." That's what the president of Iran calls his own nation. And he says it's going to stay that way.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: New boss, same situation. As a newly-designated prime minister takes charge in Iraq, he faces some distressingly familiar problems.

CLANCY: And they were so young they had no idea about the disaster that was unfolding. But now as adults, they have lived with it most of their lives. Looking back on Chernobyl.

It is 7:30 p.m. in Tehran, 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad.

I'm Jim Clancy.

GORANI: I'm Hala Gorani.

Welcome to our viewers throughout the world and the United States.


CLANCY: We begin with the latest news coming out of Iraq, really the latest reminders about the serious and tough challenges that lie ahead for that country's designated prime minister. With a series of bombings in Baghdad, seven car bombs in all in just five hours, eight people are dead, dozens are wounded all across the city.

Two of the car bombs exploded near a university in northern Baghdad, another targeted an Iraqi police patrol. And an improvised explosive device south of Baghdad wounded six Iraqi soldiers, as well as three Iraqi citizens. One of those bombings was caught on videotape.

All of this violence takes place again the backdrop of Iraqi politicians who have been meeting, hoping to finalize their work on a new cabinet.

Now, earlier we spoke exclusively to the man at the center of this prom, the prime minister-designate, Jawad al-Maliki. We asked him about the newly-designated -- we asked the newly-designated prime minister, rather, about the prospects in his country of a full-blown civil war. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAWAD AL-MALIKI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER-DESIGNATE (through translator): There have been tragedies and significant triumphs towards civil war. Undoubtedly, some people want to instigate a civil war. But the situation is still manageable and the government is still unified.

We have a constitution. We have a parliament. And a new government will be formed soon. And they won't succeed in starting a civil war. They're not going to spark a civil war within the Iraqi community.


CLANCY: We will have more of our own exclusive interview with Iraq's prime minister-designate just a little bit later here on YOUR WORLD TODAY -- Hala.

GORANI: The Bush administration says a new government of national unity in Iraq will play a big role in stemming the ongoing violence in that country.

Arwa Damon hit the streets of Baghdad for a sample of what Iraqis think about their own future.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Frustration and hope. Ordinary Iraqis who have for months gone about their lives without a government in place, and some days without even knowing if it was safe to be out on the streets.

Lith (ph), who ventures out to buy ice cream for his kids, has hopes that the new Iraqi prime minister is a harbinger of stability ahead. "Each time we get a new guy we hope that they will bring good things," he says. "A drowning man will grab anything to stay afloat."

Hanan (ph) owns a makeup shop. She's not sure that anyone can hope.

"I have no hope," she says. "No goals. Like for all Iraqis is depression and meaningless. Even though we go through the motions, there is no happiness inside. The happiness is dead."

Shopping for makeup, Noor (ph) is try together make light of Hanan's (ph) lack of faith but worries about her safety as long as Americans have a presence in her country. "With America here," she laughs, "no. We will stay like this. I could be one of those killed in a few days."

But not everyone is that pessimistic. Imez (ph) is hoping that the government will have pure intentions and hold true to his promises. He says he wants them to erase the past and to start over.

And despite depression on the streets, Iraqis are holding on to their sense of humor.

(on camera): This cartoon printed in the paper a day after the announcement shows a journalist asking an Iraqi man what he wants from the government. The response is, "We want better ambulances, preferably ones that can hold 50 stretchers."

(voice over): Opinions about the capabilities of Iraq's new government and who is really in control here may vary. But one theme remains the same, security.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.


CLANCY: The trial of former leader Saddam Hussein resumed briefly on Monday. It focused on that evidence that prosecutors say ties Saddam Hussein to the crackdown on Shia Muslims in his country in the 1980s.

Prosecutors played an audiotape, they say, is a phone call between Saddam Hussein and one of the co-defendants in the dock with him, a phone call that discussed the destruction of farmland after an attempt on the president's life. Also, a report by handwriting experts authenticated 11 documents, including an order allegedly signed by Saddam Hussein that approved the deaths of 148 Shia Muslims.

The trial has now been adjourned until the 15th of May.

GORANI: From Iraq, we take you across the border to Iran. The president there trying to ease international concern about his country's nuclear program ahead of a key U.N. Security Council meeting. But he's also leaving no doubt that Iran will continue defying demands to abandon it.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told international reporters in Tehran that he doesn't think the U.N. will impose sanctions. He says Iran has a legal right to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful energy purposes.


MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I have officially said that we are a nuclear country. We have zero to 100 percent of the peaceful nuclear technology in our grasp, and we are going to use that for medicine and agriculture and other fields. And cameras of the agency are in place clicking away all the time.

Our activity is quite transparent. We are not like others which work in shadows. And everything is out in the open. And this in itself is a witness to the fact that we are fully peaceful in our intentions.


GORANI: Well, our Aneesh Raman was in that hall at that news conference in Tehran. He joins us now with details. A few days, Aneesh, before a U.N. Security Council deadline. Ahmadinejad there saying he doesn't think the U.N. will impossible sanctions, but also hinting that Iran might consider withdrawing from international nuclear agreements.


A number of subtle messages coming from the Iranian president. He smiled as he entered the room. He saluted the press corps as he sat down. For only the second time among the press corps were foreign journalists. He also remained defiant, saying Iran would not suspend uranium enrichment for what it says (INAUDIBLE) is a peaceful civilian nuclear program.

Now, ahead of a report from the IAEA, President Ahmadinejad (INAUDIBLE) to question the validity, the legitimacy of the U.N. Security Council, also the inspections that have been taking place in Iran. He says that Iran has been transparent in its nuclear program, that it is Iran's right to have a civilian nuclear program (INAUDIBLE) the suggestion that he is doing something. That it is in pursuit of a nuclear weapon are unfounded, and it has challenged the governments of those countries making those suggestions to put for evidence.

Now, other headlines that he made, he essentially said talks were off the table with the U.S., specifically (ph) to Iraq. In the weeks past, there have been suggestions U.S. and Iranian officials would meet in Baghdad to discuss the situation there. He said, essentially, because a government is now in place in Iraq, and as well because the statements that have come from the U.S., those talks have ended.

If terms of sanctions, you mentioned he thought they were incredibly unlikely, but he also warned that if sanctions were imposed on Iran for its refusal to (INAUDIBLE) uranium enrichment, it could be harmful (INAUDIBLE) impose the sanctions than it would be for Iran.

So, he remained defiant, but overall, his tone, I should say, was somewhat more moderate than the fiery (INAUDIBLE) we have heard before. Perhaps it's of the timing coming just ahead of that (INAUDIBLE) -- Hala.

GORANI: And he seemed in a jovial mood some of the time, laughing there.

Now, we apologize for the quality of the audio there.

A quick question on why Iran is allowing all these foreign journalists into the country. It is unusual, and it's difficult to get a visa.

What's the strategy behind that, and what's been your experience reporting from there, Aneesh?

RAMAN: Well, essentially, I think a big part of it is the timing. Iran has been keen to get its message out there that it is having a civilian nuclear program and that is its intentions, it has been all along. And in the international (INAUDIBLE) that is built towards a crisis point, Iran has been keen -- as we heard today, there is no crisis, in Iran's view, it is its right to pursue this nuclear program. Other countries are imposing that crisis.

In terms of movement, we arrived early yesterday. As you mentioned, we got a visa to come in. We travel around -- we don't have anyone with us. We have papers that document who we're with.

We're clearly Western journalists, so that impedes a number of Iranians, perhaps, from telling us exactly what they think. But we have been all over the capital yesterday and today before the press conference. And a large (INAUDIBLE) Iranians are voicing support for the president's plan, not because it's trying to (INAUDIBLE), but it's about economics.

This is a country in desperate need of economic reform. Seventy percent of the country is (INAUDIBLE), many agitated without jobs. And they are convinced the civilian nuclear program will help Iran's economy -- Hala.

GORANI: Aneesh Raman, live in Tehran.

And before we leave Iran, President Ahmadinejad is also making news for a major change involving women's rights. For the first time since 1969 Islamic revolution, women -- women will now be allowed inside stadiums to watch major supporting events. President Ahmadinejad says the presence of women and families will improve spectators' manners and promote what he calls "a healthy atmosphere" -- Jim.

CLANCY: Let's turn now to the United States.

One of top stories this day, a prosecutor urges the death penalty be imposed for admitted al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. He says it is time to put an end to Moussaoui's hatred and venom.

The closing arguments came after a six-week trial for the only person charged in the United States in connection with the 11th of -- September 11th attacks.

Jeanne Meserve in is in Alexandria, Virginia, right now.

And this has certainly been an emotional trial for many of the family members of victims, to be sure. But all of them are not in agreement that Mr. Moussaoui should face the death penalty.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. They're not in agreement, however. The prosecutors harped again and again this morning on the pain that this jury has seen laid out in front of them from the victims and their families, some of the pictures, some of the sounds, some of the words that they heard during these weeks of testimony.

The defense countered this morning in its closing argument, characterizing Moussaoui as "the terrorist who couldn't shoot straight." They said he was a minor player, so unimportant that the government didn't choose to hold him and question him at length as they have others.

They said he was a sacrificial lamb. They said that he would rot in prison, that he would have a miserable life there and not pose a danger to anyone.

They stressed over and over his mental health, saying that he was a paranoid schizophrenic. This illustrated, they said, by the fact that Moussaoui testified on the stand that he believes he's going to be freed by President Bush in some sort of hostage swap before the end of the Bush presidency.

They also talked about his difficult upbringing as Muslim in France. And they said over and over, "What Moussaoui wants is death. Death is what he wants. He is baiting you. He came here to die, and you are his last chance."

However, there was a powerful prosecution rebuttal which ended just a few moments ago. Prosecutors saying that, in fact, Moussaoui was key to the plot on 9/11. This exemplified by the fact that he had been sent $14,000, that he had bought knives, that he had gone through flight training.

They called the mental health arguments a lot of psycho hogwash. They said that it was perfectly reasonable for him to believe that he might be swapped out for other prisoners, that this has happened in the past with the U.S.

They said that it was offensive of the defense to say that the tough life Moussaoui led, led him to terrorism. They said there are many others who live in similarly difficult circumstances and they do not turn to murder.

They called Moussaoui "a mass murderer, pure evil. He is evil and he represents all that is evil in that day. He is not a sacrificial lamb. He is a cold-blooded murder."

In another quote to the jury, "You are the voice of the nation. Come back and say, 'We are the United States of America and we are not going to put up with a bunch of thugs who invoke god's name to slaughter thousands of people.'"

The jury will get the case this afternoon.

Jim, back to you.

CLANCY: Jeanne Meserve, who has been covering that trial for some time now, with some perspective on what is the final day of presentations.

Thank you, Jeanne.

GORANI: A lot more ahead here on YOUR WORLD TODAY. Osama bin Laden...

CLANCY: A new audio recording. Is the al Qaeda's message changing in any way? We'll have details ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


The voice of Osama bin Laden again echoes around the world in a new recording. Bin Laden links al Qaeda with Palestinian militants and the conflict in Sudan.

Nic Robertson reports on what bin Laden labels a crusader Zionist war against Muslims.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First broadcast on Arabic language channel Al-Jazeera, Osama bin Laden's latest audio message ratchets up his anger at Americans. Unlike recent messages, he now says he holds American and Western citizens not just their governments, responsible for conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.

OSAMA BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): Any war is the joint responsibility of the people and the government. While war continues, people renew their allegiance to the rulers and politicians, and continue to send their sons to our countries to fight us. They continue their financial and moral support while our countries are burned, our homes are bombed and our people are killed.

ROBERTSON: Just three months ago, in his last message, bin Laden directed his comments to the people of America, offering a truce if their troops got out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bin Laden's latest verbal offensive also attempts to rally Muslim support for al Qaeda's main message, that Muslims are under attack from the West. The al Qaeda leader claims U.S. opposition to the newly elected Hamas government proves his point.

After silence in 2005, the new audio tape is bin Laden's second message this year. Last year, he left all the talking to his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Now, he praises Zawahiri's analysis.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: It seem that is bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri are quoting each other, but from the media, so the implication is they may not actually be together, but they're listening to each other through the medium of these audio tapes.

ROBERTSON: Bin Laden also attempts to rally support for al Qaeda in Africa. He warns Muslims to prepare for a long fight in Sudan against what he calls crusaders and plunderers. His aim, he says, not to defend the Sudanese government, but Islam.

(on camera): While bin Laden offers no explicit threats in this message, his offer of a truce to the Europeans in April 2004 was ultimately followed up 15 months later by an attack on the London transit system in July 2005, killing 52 people. Nic Robertson, CNN London.


GORANI: All right. Well, the new audio recording by Osama bin Laden brings us to our "Question of the Day" today. And we're asking...

CLANCY: Is Osama bin Laden still a threat?

E-mail your thoughts to YOUR WORLD TODAY at

GORANI: Include your name, where you're writing from. We'll read a short selection of it later this hour.

Ahead on YOUR WORLD TODAY, Congress returns to Washington with immigration reform on the agenda.

CLANCY: And President Bush is traveling West to pursue his guest worker initiative in the state of California.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Still got the calendar on the desk.



DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN Center in Atlanta. More of YOUR WORLD TODAY in just a few minutes. First, though, a check on stories making headlines here in the U.S.

First, just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, a small plane crashes. Authorities say one person has died. As we look at these live pictures, this is Hall County, Georgia. Another person apparently being taken by helicopter to a local hospital.

This crash happened less than an hour ago involving this small plane. Again, one person dead, another person taken to the hospital. This is a Cessna single-engine plane that crashed into a tree.

More on that as the information and pictures become available.

Also live pictures -- this is southern California. Immigration reform back at the top of the president's "to do" list this morning. Right now, Mr. Bush is in Irvine, California. He plans to push a stalled bill that would allow more illegal immigrants to work legally in the U.S.

The president wants Congress to pass a guest worker program and to strengthen the Mexican border. The midterm elections are just over six months away, and Congress is still trying to come up with a compromise on the immigration issue.

Open your wallet and pay up. Look at those numbers.

The average price for a gallon of unleaded regular gas is now $2.91. And I know, I know, you already pay more than $3 and more a gallon. Analyst say it could get worst before it gets better. Prices likely to remain pumped up until well into Labor Day Weekend.

On the run and under pressure, the White House says that's the message it gets from Osama bin Laden. In an audiotape aired on the Arab TV network Al-Jazeera, a voice believed be bin Laden accuses the United States and Europe of supporting a Zionist war on Islam. The speaker points to the West's decision to cut off funds to the new Hamas-led Palestinian government. Among other things, the speaker also calls for a global Muslim boycott of American products.


BERGEN: One interesting thing is he's making less of a distinction between the American people and the American government, which could be troubling. He has in the past sometimes tried to sort of offer a -- you know, sort of directly speak to the American people and suggest that there was some separation. The fact that he's not making out separations suggests that it's OK again to attack American civilians and might be a signal to al Qaeda or its affiliates to go after American civilians again.


KAGAN: Before now, the last tape audiotape attributed to the al Qaeda leader was heard back in January.

Police say it could have been a high school blood bath. Just hours from now, five teenagers face a judge in Riverton, Kansas.

Police hauled the group in because of a Web site posting. They say the teenagers discussed the Columbine school massacre, flak jackets and trench coats. The alleged attack on their school was supposed to happen last Thursday. The suspects are being held on a $500,000 bond, and that's for each of them.

To Alaska. Another troubling case involving middle school students.

Police in the town of North Pole say half a dozen middle- schoolers hatched a plan to kill fellow students and teachers. They apparently were upset about things such as bullying and teacher decisions they didn't like. The youngsters are now at a detention facility in Fairbanks.

May 15th, it may be that long before the next move in the Duke rape investigation. The district attorney says results of a second DNA test won't be back until then. That's also the date of the next hearing.

Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty are charged in the case. Their attorneys say their clients weren't at the party at the time of the alleged attack. Human remains discovered at Ground Zero. It's nearly five years after the September 11th attacks. Now one senator says it's time for the military to get involved.

Nearly 600 bone fragments have been found at the Deutsche Bank building in recent months. Senator Charles Schumer wants the Pentagon to send in an elite military unit to search for more. The White House is on the record, though, let local authorities handle the recovery of remains.

To New Orleans now, where Ray Nagin and Mitch Landrieu are working the phones in New Orleans today. The incumbent and Louisiana's lieutenant governor finished one-two in Saturday's mayoral elections. Now both men are looking for support from some of the other candidates that they beat.

Nagin and Landrieu will meet in a May 20th runoff.

Let's check in on the weather. Chad Myers has that.


KAGAN: Those are the headlines this hour.

You heard about the movie about United Airline Flight 93. It is creating quite a stir before its release. At the top of the hour on CNN's "LIVE FROM," Betty Nguyen and Tony Harris fill in for Kyra Phillips today. Betty will talk to the man who plays the pilot in the film. There's a twist here.

YOUR WORLD TODAY continues after a quick break.

I'm Daryn Kagan.


GORANI: Welcome back to YOUR WORLD TODAY. I'm Hala Gorani.

CLANCY: I'm Jim Clancy, and these are the stories that are making headlines across the word.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he believes it's unlikely that the U.N. Security Council will impose any sanctions against his country. The council has set a Friday deadline for Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment program, something Tehran is vowing it will not do. President Ahmadinejad says his country has the legal right to a nuclear program for energy purposes.

GORANI: Prosecutors urge jurors to give admitted al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui the death penalty, while Moussaoui's lawyer urged jurors to send his client to prison for life. The closing arguments come after a six-week trial and emotional testimony from relatives of survivors of the September 11th attacks. Moussaoui is the only person charged in the United States in connection with 9/11. CLANCY: Iraq's prime minister designate Jawad al-Maliki is working on a new cabinet. He received a congratulatory call from U.S. President George W. Bush on Sunday, urging al-Maliki to make his choices quickly.

Meantime, the violence continues unabated in Baghdad. Seven car bombs in the space of five hours shaking the capital on Monday. Eight people reported killed, dozens more wounded.

GORANI: Let's take you to Nepal now. That country is still on the brink. Diplomats trying to broker a compromise between the king and political parties and weeks of massive street protests that have sometimes been deadly. Opposition parties who rejected the king's offer on Saturday vowed to stage another major rally on Tuesday, tomorrow. Meanwhile, the protests continue this day and there was a gun battle with some Maoist rebels east of the capital.

Dan Rivers has more. He's on the ground in Kathmandu.


DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The latest news here is that the Maoists have broken their ceasefire. They carried out a fierce attack overnight in the town of Chatarra (ph), which is about 75 kilometers east of Kathmandu. A six-hour firefight all night with government forces. Five of the Maoists were killed, we're told. One soldier and one civilian were also killed in that attack.

But that could be pretty significant. The timing is very interesting. Tomorrow, a huge protest is planned by the main political parties here in Nepal and the political leaders will also be marching at the front of all those protesters, trying once again to get into the city center, trying once again to convince the king to hand back more power, to reinstate parliament and to rewrite the constitution.

Now, why the Maoists have chosen to hold their ceasefire all the way through all of these protests, and then suddenly break it the day before this huge rally is pretty perplexing. It may be that they're trying to scare the king, that they're trying to scare the government forces into saying, look, we're still here, we're still a power force to be reckoned with, and if you don't start backing down, then the Maoists will start trying to fill this power vacuum by moving towards the capital.

It's difficult to see what else they're trying to achieve, but certainly, the situation today has been a lot calmer than it was over the weekend. Far fewer clashes, far fewer people on the streets. I think everyone is waiting for tomorrow to see if two million people -- that's what the organizers want, two million people -- will get off on the streets of Kathmandu and make their point that democracy must be restored.

Dan Rivers, CNN, Kathmandu, Nepal.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CLANCY: Well, the U.S., of course, has faced mounting casualties in Iraq. President George W. Bush has been trying to put the pressure on Iraq and its new prime minister, Jawad al-Maliki, to speed up the political process, to form a new government and to carry forward the training of the Iraqi troops.

And we had an exclusive interview a little bit earlier today with that prime minister designate, Mr. al-Maliki. He told us several things. He said the militias must be disarmed. He thinks that Iraq's own security forces might be ready even sooner than 18 months from now to aid in their own security, but they will still need the support of U.S. and coalition forces.

Here is a part of our interview.


JAWAD AL-MALIKI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER-DESIGNATE (through translator): The main challenge that I see is the existence of a torn relationship in the Iraqi community with all of the sectarian and ethnic backgrounds. There's also a state of misunderstanding that was spread in the last period, so I have to work first on uniting all of these elements together and work on a measure of national reconciliation on the basis of national dialogue and common interests. Because I think that if the people come together and got rid of all these problems, we will be able to form a wide front in which we can face these challenges from all these directions.

One of things that we need to prioritize is to cleanse our society from this phenomenon of terrorism and all its challenges in order to save Iraq, the Iraqi wealth and the Iraqi citizens from the administrative corruption. And in addition to all of these, we can also consider the role of the state and the role of the armed forces in rebuilding the nation and that the weapon needs to be only in the hands of the government. It must be taken out of hands of the people. And that means that there is no militia in Iraq that can share authority with the government's armed forces.

We do have decree number 91 in the constitution, which specify these militia should be dissolved into the security forces and to end their affiliation with the political parties. We'll also try to contain the situation by creating job opportunities so we can end the competitive atmosphere created by the presence of the militias.

CLANCY: Mr. Prime Minister, Muqtada al-Sadr has his own court system, he has his own prisons, and some say his militias are involved in some of the killings. He is not the only militia that is accused of that, but will he support you in integrating his militia, in shutting down those courts and prisons?

AL-MALIKI (through translator): I'm confident that the militias -- and there are more than 11 militias -- must be disarmed. There's no difference between one militia and others. Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr is a part of the political process, and he has representation in the parliament. He's a part of this government. He's ready to participate in the political process and share its responsibilities. And we will reject the argument that militias are necessary to protect themself and so on. When the government is able to exercise its control and provide security, then we will be able to work out the mechanism of how we can dissolve these militias. We already have a strategy and a vision for this process and everyone must comply with dissolving the militias and end them add, because the presence of these militias will add to the tension and to the danger of the civil war in Iraq.


CLANCY: That was Prime Minister Designate Jawad al-Maliki, speaking to us a little bit earlier. He insists that he is no different from his predecessor, but at the same time, during the interview, we get the sense that he's going to carry things through in a stronger way. He's trying to convince the Iraqis he is the man for the job.

One of the things that he says he wants to do is to ensure that there's no kind of discrimination among the sectarian groups. He says anybody that wants to be a minister in my government better be on board in order to accept that everyone is equal, that everybody is working on an equal ground without any kind of discrimination because they're a Shia, because they're a Sunni, because they are perhaps, you know, any of the other ethnic groups that make up Iraq.

We'll have more of that interview in the hours ahead.

GORANI: All right, yes, stay tuned for that and more.

When we come back from this break, though, we switch gears, and we're going to be looking back on a terrible time.

CLANCY: The very young were unaware, really, of what was going on. They still suffer the consequences and they feel them as adults today. We'll revisit the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 20 years on.



CLANCY: This is CNN International. And we are watching a so- called perfect storm that's brewing out there.

GORANI Now in the bull's eye of this perfect storm, northern Australia.

Let's go to Guillermo Arduino now.

GUILLERMO ARDUINO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hala and Jim, you know, the system made landfall, this is very important, some hours ago. It is a very strong system. But the most important thing probably is that we have the tail end of the tropical season in this part of Australia. April 30th is the end of it. So here we have it very clearly defined central part of the system, powerful storm. We're talking about Wins at 350 kilometers per hour, a category five, that we would say here in the United States.

But before we talk about this, let's see how people were getting ready for its impact. We have the city of Darwin very close by and some other towns around.

Sarah Hawke reports.


SARAH HAWKE, ABC REPORTER: The (INAUDIBLE) of the northern territory, capitol of the south (INAUDIBLE). Shop owners start early to begin preparing for Monica. At fuel stations, people cued to fill up. And in the supermarket, shoppers bought out cyclone essential, (INAUDIBLE), storage boxes and canned foods topping the list.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have another like at the -- why this (INAUDIBLE). This morning it was all. It's coming a bit close, so thought we'd just fuel the car and get the essentials, I guess.

HAWKE: The only road south was packed with holiday makers fleeing the city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) a fair thing to say that we're heading out because we don't want to get blown away.

HAWKE: At building sites, sky cranes were dismantled, while bobcats worked to clear dangerous debris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's lots of trouble around the place. If you just leave it all, you know, lots of tin and pipes lying around, so we've got to get into it and get it all done.

HAWKE: Homeowners flocked to the heap to dump loads of backyard rubbish in a last-minute cleanup. Counter-disaster authorities have been meeting throughout the day, planning for the worst.

PAUL WHITE, N. TERRITORY POLICE COMMISSIONER: We've been able to evacuate almost 350 people from Golden (ph) Island. Eight people have chosen to remain on the island.

HAWKE: The cyclone's predicted to cross the coast east of Darwin Sunice (ph) and hit the Darwin region tomorrow. The bureau says it's likely to waken to a category-three or category-four system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then destructive winds via wind gusts of 150 kilometers an hour. We expect from mid morning to late morning onwards.

HAWKE: The city that's been devastated by cyclones and World War II bombings has for the first time canceled Anzac (ph) Day services.

FRANK GEDDES, DARWIN RETURNED SERVICES LEAGUE: In the interest of public safety, we can't possibly ask people to come down into that open space at that hour of the morning.

HAWKE: (INAUDIBLE) Cyclone shelters will be open from 8:00 tonight.

Sarah Hawke, ABC News, Darwin.


ARDUINO: And that's what happened. It made landfall tonight -- because you know, it's late at night now in Australia -- in the middle of the night, and made landfall and started to weaken. That's why it is not as big and organized as we're seeing on the satellite picture. It is going to hit within 24 hours the big city of Darwin, a very important center in northern Australia. We're expecting floods. And as I said, this is in kilometers; 287 in miles is around 180 miles an hour -- Hala, Jim.

GORANI: Guillermo, just a quick question before we let you go. In the U.S., of course, many people bracing for hurricane season. But cyclone season Down Under there, has it been worse than usual? You've been reporting on some pretty severe storms?

ARDUINO: No, it's not. It's been average. We have had two very big ones that the important thing here is not in number, but in intensity, yes, it has been extremely active, but numbers, three so far, pretty normal.

GORANI: OK, Guillermo Arduino, thank you very much.

ARDUINO: Thank you.

GORANI: Well, it's been almost 20 years since a series of explosions ripped through a reactor at what was a Soviet nuclear plant near Ukraine's border with Belarus, releasing a huge radioactive cloud.

CLANCY: Now the anniversary is Wednesday. And all this week, we're really looking back at the world's worst nuclear disaster, and what has become of all those people who lived near Chernobyl.

GORANI: And the victims are many, from children who are unaware of the unfolding disaster at the time, to a photographer who saw it for himself while hanging from a helicopter.

CLANCY: Our Matthew Chance has some of their stories.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're the victims of a monster of pollution. Hundreds of thousands were contaminated across a vast region, exposed to massive doses of radiation.

From Chernobyl:

ANATOLY RASSKAZOV, CHERNOBYL DISASTER PHOTOGRAPHER (through translator): The accident occurred on a weekend, late Saturday night, when most of us workers were at home. In the morning, there were rumors, but no one could really believe something so terrible could go wrong.

CHANCE: Anatoly Rasskazov was Chernobyl's official photographer. As the Soviet authorities grappled with what happened, he was ordered to fly over the smoldering reactor with his camera.

RASSKAZOV (through translator): We couldn't see anything because of the smog. I asked the pilots to open the door of the helicopter so I could take pictures. They were reluctant, because they said the fumes and dust would be bad for us. But eventually they agreed, and I leaned out with an officer holding on to my legs so I wouldn't fall. Those photos were never made public.

CHANCE: They showed explosions had destroyed the reactive core, a nightmare that would brand Chernobyl the world's worst nuclear accident, and leave many, like Anatoly himself, dangerously contaminated.

RASSKAZOV (through translator): I had nausea and was very weak. By 11:00 in the evening, I could hardly walk. My skin had turned red and I couldn't stop vomiting. My wife was giving me all sorts of hot drinks to make it better. The next day, our entire family was evacuated.

CHANCE: Evacuated in buses to safety, or so they thought. But 20 years later, the effects of Chernobyl are still painfully felt. Yarina Kloss was a child when the disaster struck. She's lived with cancer ever since.

YARINA KLOSS, CHERNOBYL DISASTER VICTIM (through translator): There was no mention of cancer at first. Doctors just said I had an enlarged thyroid gland. After Chernobyl, all of the local kids were examined, and many of my classmates were diagnosed with enlarged thyroids, just like mine.

CHANCE: In fact, it was an epidemic of thyroid cancer caused by radioactive dust. Nearly 4,000 cases have been recorded. It's mostly treatable, but it still shatters lives.

KLOSS (through translator): I've become much less active since my operation. I get easily tired, and my husband says I can be very moody. I suppose it's the dependence of medication. As soon as I wakeup, I have to be in control of what I take. I can never forget to take the pills, even at the seaside, even on vacation.

CHANCE: The long-term health consequences of Chernobyl remain hotly disputed. Estimates range between 9,000 and 93,000 eventual deaths. Twenty years since the world's most nuclear disaster, may be just too soon to know for sure.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Ukraine.


GORANI: Well, we're going to have much more on the Chernobyl disaster on CNN in the lead-up to Wednesday's anniversary. CLANCY: And while the accident made nuclear power very unpopular for a while, it's still considered a viable alternative to offset all the higher prices for traditional energy sources, such as oil and gas.

GORANI: Now on Tuesday, we'll will look at attempts to revive Britain's nuclear power program and much more analysis and coverage.

You are with CNN. Stay with us.



GORANI: You're with YOUR WORLD TODAY and now it's time to open your inbox.

CLANCY: We have been asking you your thoughts about Osama bin Laden. Our question, what is the al Qaeda leader, is he still a threat? Here's how some of you replied.

GORANI: Adebayo from Nigeria says, "As long as breath remains in Osama bin Laden he remains a threat to the world. This is evidence of his new drive to recruit followers in Africa."

CLANCY: We got this one in from David in The Netherlands who wrote to say, "Bin Laden is not a threat. The biggest threats are those who grew up in the west and later became extremists because they know the west's weaknesses."

GORANI: Emmanuel writes from Spain, "Bin Laden's voice is even more powerful than himself, even if not commanding strikes, his voice brainwashes and stirs up thousands to perform terror."

CLANCY: And finally we got this in. This came from Mark, he says he is a U.S. citizen who now lives in Germany. He said, "No, bin Laden is not the problem. President Bush is the problem."

Not a typical response, but we had a lot of them. A lot of people weighing in here. Some look at this audiotape and think that he's threatening public.

GORANI: Absolutely, not distinguishing between citizens and their governments in the way he did in previous messages. An interesting story there. Continue to write in if you like. Now we will switch gears.

CLANCY: With oil prices near record highs, attention focussing on alternative energy sources and fuel efficient transport.

GORANI: It's nearly ten years since of the most innovative and efficient cars first rolled off the assembly line.

CLANCY: A decade, and many celebrity endorsements later the Toyota Prius showing that vehicles can be both green and popular. James MacDonald reports.


JAMES MACDONALD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Taking a test drive in the newest model of the Toyota Prius, it helps to have Dr. Hybrid himself behind the wheel, the man known in the industry as the farther of the hybrid car say tough critic of his own handiwork.

TAKEHISA YAEGASHI, FORMER SENIOR ENGINEER, TOYOTA (through translator): When I drive a hybrid or see one on the street, I always consider how I could improve it. I can't stop thinking about that.

MACDONALD: Takehisa Yaegashi headed up the team that developed the world's first mass produced environmentally friendly vehicle. The senior engineer joined Toyota soon after graduating from university, hired to develop cleaner gasoline engines. By the early 1990s, a new frontier was on his mind.

YAEGASHI (through translator): There were many discussions going on about the environment and the use of petrol. We talked about how to update the cars from the 21st century and from there, we started the hybrid project.

MACDONALD: In its simplest terms there idea was for a vehicle powered by an electric motor at low speeds with a gasoline engine kicking in when necessary. In practice the project was fraught with technical complications like how to fit all of these pars inside the frame of a Sedan.

YAEGASHI (through translator): I wondered if we could release the car on a target date. Would people even want to drive it? We had so many concerns. This was all new to us and I was worried about everything.

MACDONALD: Under intense pressure they finished in time for the scheduled Prius launch in 1997. Nearly a decade later, the popular trailblazing hybrid has plenty of company.

(on camera): This is one of the two factories where the Prius was put together. Here hybrids are assembled right next to Toyota's conventional models. The hybrid presence on the line is growing. Recently Toyota has had to double the production each year just to meet demand.

(voice-over): Hybrids are still far more expensive than standard cars. While Toyota had head start, competition is heating up from automakers like Honda.

But for Dr. Yaegashi, the Toyota hybrid is still a work in progress, even after his recent retirement, he continues to consult for the company, revered for his unique insight into the technology he pioneered. James MacDonald, CNN, Tokyo.


CLANCY: And that is our report for this hour.

GORANI: Now for our viewers in the United States, "LIVE FROM" is up next.

CLANCY: The rest of our audience is going to join us for another hour of YOUR WORLD TODAY. I'm Jim Clancy.

GORANI: And I'm Hala Gorani. This is CNN.


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