Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Pope Benedict XVI Prepares to Visit Turkey; Russian Murder Mystery

Aired November 27, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have come here to Turkey on the eve of Pope Benedict XVI's visit, a trip that Muslims and Christians around the world will be watching closely.

ANNOUNCER: A controversial visit with high stakes and high drama -- what awaits Pope Benedict XVI in Turkey? And what will the outspoken pontiff say to his critics?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: No question that Pope Benedict XVI has a slightly tougher message on Islam than his predecessor, John Paul II.

ANNOUNCER: Clash of cultures -- in democratic Turkey, radical Islam and al Qaeda take hold -- tonight, why this Muslim lawyer thinks suicide attacks are permitted by the Koran.

A former Russian spy and a sensational accusation -- is the Kremlin really behind his grisly death by radiation poisoning?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This regime is a mortal danger to the world.

ANNOUNCER: The latest in the murder mystery that sounds like a spy novel.


ANNOUNCER: Across the country and around the world, this is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "When Faiths Collide: The Pope in Turkey."

Reporting from Istanbul, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And thanks for joining us.

Just hours from now, Pope Benedict XVI will arrive here in Turkey, a country that literally sits at the crossroads of the East and West -- its population, 99 percent Muslim, its government pro- Western and democratic. But divisions here can run deep, especially those over faith. Benedict's four-day trip begins in Ankara, the capital, where he will meet briefly with Turkey's prime minister.

The pope will also visit Istanbul, where we are tonight. The papal trip almost didn't happen. And, tonight, not everyone here is happy that it's going forward. We will get to the controversial over the pope's remarks about Islam in a moment.

First, John Roberts is standing by in New York with a preview of another story we're covering tonight -- John.


It's a murder mystery that's putting a strain on British-Russian relations -- a former Russian spy with plenty of enemies now dead, killed by poison. On his deathbed, he claimed the Kremlin was behind it. Now Scotland Yard is trying to find out where he was poisoned and if other people were contaminated. Fascinating stuff, straight from a spy thriller, coming up -- Anderson.

COOPER: It is truly a remarkable story.

John, thanks very much.

Will the Pope Benedict XVI's first trip to Turkey go smoothly? And it -- it comes just two-and-a-half months after he made those controversial remarks about Islam. Anger over those remarks still runs very deep here. Yesterday, in downtown Istanbul, some 20,000 protesters rallied against the pontiff's visit.

The slogans they chanted, "Go home, Pope," and "No to the pope," left no room for misunderstanding. Many people, Muslim and Christian, are going to be watching this week to see whether Benedict can mend the damage he did with less than three dozen words.


COOPER (voice-over): It began with applause, ended in violence, ignited a firestorm that continues to burn.

While the tensions between Christianity and Islam are centuries old, it took Pope Benedict XVI just 32 words to stir them to life. It remains his most defining speech, given in his native Germany just one day after the fifth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.

In a theme he has touched on before, Benedict talked about the relationship between Christianity and Islam, saying, historically, the church has attempted to find faith through reason, while some Muslims have, at times, embraced violence to spread their faith.

To illustrate the point, the pontiff quoted from a 14th century emperor.

POPE BENEDICT XVI (through translator): Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and, there, you will find things only evil and inhumane, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

COOPER: It was undeniably provocative.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: No question that Pope Benedict XVI has a slightly tougher message on Islam than his predecessor, John Paul II. John Paul was the great bridge-builder with Muslims. He met with Muslims more than 60 times over the course of his pontificate. He was the first pope to go inside a mosque. I think Benedict believes that, now that those bridges have been built, it's time for us to walk over them.

COOPER: That may have been the pope's message, but this was the response. A wave of anger erupted across the Muslim world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The pope has dishonored our prophet. He said our prophet was a terrorist and he had used a sword.

COOPER: From Italy to Iraq, Indonesia, and beyond, effigies of the pope were burned. So, too, were churches in the West Bank.

In Kashmir, protesters hurled rocks at police. The outrage seemed to be everywhere. In Somalia, a nun and her bodyguard were murdered, shot to death. And, from Turkey, this warning from the man who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II. "Pope Ratzinger, listen to someone who knows these things very well," he wrote. "Your life is in danger. You absolutely must not come to Turkey."

There was also a threat from al Qaeda militants linked to the terror group in Iraq, warning of a holy war against -- quote -- "worshipers of the cross, and that God would help Muslims conquer Rome."

With the anger and unrest growing, the Vatican went into damage control.

FEDERICO LOMBARDI, VATICAN SPOKESPERSON: It was certainly not the intention of the holy father to undertake a comprehensive study of the jihad and of Muslim ideas of (INAUDIBLE) still less to offend the sensibilities of Muslim faithful.

COOPER: That was followed by this statement from the pope.

POPE BENEDICT XVI (through translator): I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.

COOPER: While the pope said he was sorry, Benedict only apologized for the reaction to his speech. He has not once backed down from his beliefs, never expressing remorse or regret for what he said about faith and violence.

As he arrives in Turkey, his first trip to a Muslim country, many will be listening to the pope to see if his message about Christianity and Islam is the same. Will he focus on what the two religions have in common or continue to concentrate on what drives them apart?


COOPER: Well, the pope, who arrives in Turkey tomorrow, succeeded one of the most popular pontiffs in modern times, a church leader committed to building bridges with other faiths. Pope John Paul was the first pope to visit a mosque. He met dozens of times with Muslims.

Benedict XVI, on the other hand, has clearly gotten off to a rocky start with Muslims.

CNN's Delia Gallagher has more.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nineteen months ago, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI. The announcement shocked liberals and delighted conservatives in the Catholic Church.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: I think the public perception of Joseph Ratzinger, was he was elected, is that he was going to engineer a kind of Reagan revolution inside the Catholic Church, or that there would a sharp move to the right, and that you would see very conservative appointments at the senior level.

GALLAGHER: It was believed that the new pope would not only reassert the more traditional roots of Catholicism, but might even turn back the clock to before Vatican II.

As head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, he was one of the most powerful leaders in the Vatican.

ALLEN: He was, after all, the Dr. No of the Catholic Church for 20 years. He was the top doctrinal cop, which meant it was his job to set limits. And he did that with a certain panache.

GALLAGHER: But as traditional as he was perceived to be, his tenure has been, in many ways, unexpected.

ALLEN: In fact, he has revealed himself to be a very moderate, very gradualist, in -- in Catholic parlance, a very pastoral sort of figure, that is concerned with all the sectors of opinion in the church, and not just the conservatives.

GALLAGHER: That's not to say that Pope Benedict has become more liberal in his leanings. He is still staunchly anti-abortion, against artificial birth control and homosexuality.

And his controversial remarks before an academic audience in Regensburg, Germany, in September, showed his willingness to confront head on the historically difficult relationship between Catholicism and Islam.

He's long been concerned about what he sees as Islam's commingling of religion and government and the use of terrorism in the name of God. It's unlikely he will soften his stance on his visit to this mostly Muslim country.

ALLEN: I think the effort in Turkey is going to be to maintain this strong line, especially around issues of terrorism and religious freedom, but to find a more positive and -- and a more respectful way of making those points.

GALLAGHER: Benedict is the oldest man elected pope in nearly 300 years, 78 at his inauguration. And he's had a career as a respected theologian.

Despite a much publicized preference for Prada shoes and his readiness to don the fanciest papal regalia, Vatican observers say Benedict is far less of a public persona than his predecessor.

ALLEN: John Paul was this towering, charismatic, very media- savvy figure in almost anything he did. You know, if he -- if he straightened his hat, that would be on the TV news. Benedict XVI is not, in that sense, a similarly charismatic figure.

GALLAGHER: But it's early yet in the rein of Pope Benedict XVI, and his legacy is just beginning to be written.

ALLEN: I doubt it it's going to be the capes and the Prada shoes that we remember. I think it will be the teaching documents. So, it's -- it's not just, you know, his willingness to be tenacious when he thinks the faith is threatened. That's no longer all we see of Joseph Ratzinger.

We also see his -- his real kindness. We see that -- that deep pastoral set of instincts he has about, you know, meeting the needs of real people in positive ways. And -- and, you know, we also see not just what he's against, but also what he's for.


COOPER: Delia Gallagher joins me now, along with Reza Aslan of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy and author of the book "No God But God."

Guys, thanks very much for being with us.

Delia, let's start with you.

Will the pope go further in -- in his apology? Or is that in the past, and he's trying to look forward?

GALLAGHER: Yes, I think the apology is done. I certainly don't expect him to go back over those remarks. It's a different setting, a different context here. He's...

COOPER: But he has to talk about Islam.

GALLAGHER: He has to talk about Islam. He's come to discuss other things as well, the Christian unity, religious freedom, and so on. But, of course, he will address Islam.

And I think that we will see him putting it in slightly more positive terms, less of the academic discussion that he had at Regensburg. COOPER: Reza, how do you think he's going to be received here? I mean, the demonstration on Sunday, some 20,000 people, but much smaller than organizers had hoped.


In fact, walking around Turkey the past couple of days, it's hard to find anyone who actually cares if the pope is here. I think most people here have greater concerns, issues like the E.U., and the -- and the struggling economy, and some of the more political issues that are -- that are going on here.

Very few people that I talked to are concerned that the pope is here or, for that matter, have any negative feelings about it.

COOPER: And, yet, the -- the pope has spoken out before, before he became the pope, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, against Turkey joining the European Union. That's very much on people's minds here.

GALLAGHER: Yes, absolutely.

And I think that, you know, the pope has an idea of Europe as more than just a kind of economic or even geographical location. He thinks there's kind of a cultural one as well. And that's...

COOPER: Bound -- bound by Christian faith?

GALLAGHER: Yes, with Christian roots, he says.

So, I think that he considers it a sort of cultural thing. And in -- insofar as it is, then, Turkey doesn't belong. And I think that's a stance that he will maintain. I don't necessarily think he's going to put it out there as one of the main points of his -- of his discussions, but, certainly, that's a stance that he takes.

COOPER: It's interesting, comparing this pope to -- to Pope John Paul II, I mean, who really met dozens of times, and talked often about interfaith dialogue. He had that famous meeting of many leaders of different faiths. Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, is a very different man, a very different philosophy.

GALLAGHER: Well, he's not so into the kind of peace, prayer gatherings and so on that they had in Assisi. John Paul II got on the peace train to Assisi, you know?

Cardinal Ratzinger wasn't into it then, and he's not into it now as Pope Benedict XVI. What he is into is -- is a very sort of what he calls sincere, frank dialogue. And I think that's what we saw at the Regensburg address, that he want -- he thinks the tough questions have to be addressed, that John Paul II did the work of kind of building the bridges with the Muslim community. And, yet, there are still serious questions to be addressed. I think that's...

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: He also talks about the -- the -- the role of reason in Islam, his critique, that -- that while Christianity is based on reason, his criticism, I guess, in that, in my interpretation of it, is that reason does not play a strong enough role in Islam.

Is that a fair criticism?

ASLAN: No, it's not.

In fact, you know, I think -- I think people would argue that -- that Ratzinger is probably one of the greatest living theologians of Catholicism around today. But I think he's demonstrated that he knows very little about Islam. And -- and scholars have -- have already given voice to the fact that the -- the role of reason and revelation have played a very large role within Islam.

I think the larger issue that the pope was making has less to do with whether reason fits in Islam than with whether Islam fits in Europe. I think the point that he was trying to -- to make in that speech, and that he has made, you know, since then, is that Islam, because of its history, because of its philosophy, doesn't have the same role to play within -- within the -- the union of European states.

Now, that message, I think, is -- is going to be very problematic, particularly here in Turkey, as these membership talks have stalled, and as Turks themselves are starting to turn sour on the very idea of joining the E.U.

COOPER: And that's -- go ahead.


And, particularly, let's also keep in mind this. There's also a positive message that he has to say about Muslims. I mean, even as cardinal, you know, he -- he said over and over that -- and -- and in the speech at Regensburg, his point was that, you know, people who believe are -- are people that should stick together, and they're -- they have a lot more in common, vs. people who don't believe in any God.

And, of course, Muslims find a lot of common ground with Catholics and with Christians on the family, on morality. They have a high birth rate. There are a lot of things that the pope admires about Islam. I think you will hear some of that, too.

COOPER: He's also here to talk to -- to Orthodox Christian leaders, and some of whom are critical of -- of their position in Turkey, who don't feel that there's enough reciprocity, who don't feel that there's enough ability to -- to promote their faith.

GALLAGHER: Yes. Well, he was invited by the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew. And that's one of the occasions for his visit.

COOPER: The leader of some 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world. GALLAGHER: Right. And -- and there -- there's a subtext to that, which is Christian unity, because, of course, the Orthodox have been in a schism with the Catholic Church since the year 1054. I mean, it's the great schism of the Catholic and Orthodox Church, the Christian Church, and is one that John Paul II really tried to bring back together.

And the pope is sort of continuing that. But, of course, it does have implications here in Turkey.

ASLAN: And Delia is absolutely right.

This issue of Christian unity is going to be the primary message of this pope I think throughout his papacy. His primary purpose is not so much interfaith dialogue, or, for that matter, even sociopolitical issues that John Paul was -- was mostly interested in. I think what you're going to see from this pope is this constant refrain of a Christian revival, particularly a Christian revival in Europe.

Let's not forget this is a very Eurocentric pope. Now, again, that's a perfectly valid point of view, but it's one that is going to be kind of problematic, considering where we are now, after the events of September 11 and this so-called clash of civilizations has been taking place.

COOPER: We will be talking a lot more about this with Reza and Delia throughout these next two guys.

Guys, thanks. We will talk to you soon.

Some interesting facts about Turkey in the "Raw Data" tonight.

Turkey is slightly larger than the state of Texas. The population is about 70 million. Twenty percent live below the poverty line. Ninety-nine percent of the population here are Muslim.

Another piece of data on Turkey: In recent years, dozens of people have been killed in terrorist attacks here. Al Qaeda is leaving its mark. Coming up, I will talk to a man who says Osama bin Laden is a freedom fighter, and suicide bombings are permitted by the Koran.

Plus: the centuries-old conflict between Christians and Muslims. But, amid the tension, there has been signs of harmony.

And the death of a former Russian spy -- doctors say he was poisoned. The question is, who's responsible? Is it the Kremlin?

All that and more -- when 360 continues in Turkey.

A majority of people here don't have a favorable opinion of the United States -- well, we will have a lot more from Turkey in a moment.


COOPER: And welcome back.

We're coming to you live from Istanbul, Turkey, where it's very early in the morning here. In a few hours, Pope Benedict XVI will be arriving, his first trip to a Muslim country.

A majority of people here in Turkey don't have a favorable opinion of the U.S. government right now. Because of its location at the crossroads between the West and the East, Turkey has had a lot of practice balancing competing cultural interests. It's been a secular democratic state since the 1920s, and wants to join the European Union.

But there are some Muslim extremists here who have a very different idea of where the country should be headed.


COOPER (voice-over): November 20, 2003: Two suicide blasts, minutes apart, rock Istanbul -- the targets, the British Consulate and a London-based bank headquarters.

One week earlier, suicide attacks are launched against two Istanbul synagogues. In total, 52 people are killed, more than 400 wounded. The attacks had all the hallmarks and have been attributed to al Qaeda, coordinated blasts, targeting symbols of the West and Israel, a sign to many that extremists in Turkey were on the rise. More than 50 suspects are now on trial for the bombings.

"They fight for their beliefs," he says. "And America and the West are fighting against Islam."

Osman Karahan is an attorney for some of the alleged terrorists. He himself has been suspected of aiding terrorists by the Turkish government, an accusation he denies. But he does believe suicide bombings are permitted by the Koran and insists, Osama bin Laden is a freedom fighter.

"All holy warriors are seen as freedom fighters," he says, "and they're supported all around the world."

Karahan follows a radical and undeniably extreme form of Islam. Any pictures of people in his office have post-it notes covering their faces.

When we talked, our translator, a woman, had to sit behind a screen, so as not to be seen by Karahan. Throughout the interview, he wore a pistol strapped to his waist. He condemns any Muslim who does not agree with his interpretation of the Koran.

"We believe that a Muslim who accept as secular governing system becomes an unbeliever, and stays in hell forever," he says. "It's not acceptable for us. And, also, it's not enough to deny it. It's necessary to work for the creation of an Islamic state." It's not likely Turkey will become an Islamic state, like Afghanistan under the Taliban. Support for a moderate form of Islam is strong here. And the economy is booming. But, according to author and professor Reza Aslan, there is cause for concern.

REZA ASLAN, AUTHOR, "NO GOD BUT GOD: THE ORIGINS, EVOLUTION, AND FUTURE OF ISLAM": If Turkey doesn't begin to really reconcile its relationship with Europe, and, if Europe doesn't do a better job of -- of making Turkey feel like it has a role to play in the continent, then, there is a fear that, maybe five, six, seven years from now, we may be talking about a larger number of extremists, a larger group of -- of jihadists here.


COOPER: Many hear say the rise of Muslim extremism is due in part to the war in Iraq. And, of course, there are centuries of tension between Christians and Muslims. Coming up, we are going to take a look at the complex relationship between the two religions.

Also tonight: a murder mystery -- a former Russian spy killed by poison. Was the Kremlin involved? And, if not them, who?

The latest on investigation -- when 360, from Istanbul, continues.


COOPER: Pope Benedict XVI's controversial visit to Turkey, will it heal tensions between Muslims and Christians or create more division?

360 next.


COOPER: A poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project: An overwhelming majority of Turks have a negative opinion of Christians and a more positive view of Muslims, not surprising, since nearly 99 percent of the population here are Muslims.

And now Pope Benedict XVI's visit is calling attention to the complicated relationship between Islam and Christianity, a relationship that has become more strained by events in recent history.

CNN's Randi Kaye takes a look.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Islam and Christianity, both with roots back to Abraham, have long been considered sister religions.

INGRID MATTSON, PROFESSOR OF ISLAMIC STUDIES AND CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM RELATIONS, HARTFORD SEMINARY: A sibling rivalry occurs among world religions as much as it does among individuals.

KAYE: Which may explain why, for more than 1,400 years, Muslims and Christians have been caught up in conflict. Long before 9/11 and this Iraq War, the first Gulf War, in 1991, sharpened tensions between radical Islam and the West. The presence of U.S. and other Western forces on soil holy to Muslims gave birth to al Qaeda.

REVEREND RAYMOND HELMICK, BOSTON COLLEGE DEPARTMENT OF THEOLOGY: When you come to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, the principal offense that they take with the United States and, more generally, with the West, very particularly with the United States, is that presence out there in the Saudi desert of American military.

MATTSON: The way it was perceived by Muslims throughout the world was an attempt by Western powers to take over the heartland of Islam.

KAYE (on camera): History books show, the conflict between Christianity and Islam began as early as the seventh century, when a Muslim army conquered all of North Africa, before invading Christian Spain. Muslim forces also conquered huge areas of the Middle East, including some Christian holy land. In response came the Crusades. And, in Spain, Christians eventually drove out the Muslims in the Reconquista.

MATTSON: And the Reconquista showed a very violent face of Catholicism, violent, first and foremost, against other Christians, but, then, also against Muslims and Jews as well.

KAYE (voice-over): In most every Muslim-Christian conflict, territory was inextricably tied to faith. By the year 1095, the Christian Crusades were under way. The Christians seized Jerusalem, and then Constantinople.

HELMICK: They captured Jerusalem. They killed everyone in it, killed the Muslim population, killed the Jews that were there, even killed the Christians who were there, because they were Arab. It was carried out with massacres of Muslim people anywhere they went.

KAYE: But, even in the midst of violence, there have been moments of harmony, the sharing of traditions like art and architecture.

MATTSON: We can still find hopeful stories. And we need to turn to those to try to build a better future together.

KAYE: A future where sisters, even of the religious kind, can find a way to put centuries of squabbling behind them.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Joining me more for the -- on the pope's visit are CNN's faith and values correspondent, Delia Gallagher, and Reza Aslan of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy and author of the book "No God But God."

There's a lot of skepticism, almost even paranoia, among some here about the pope's visit.


I think part of the problem of this visit to the Orthodox patriarch, certainly that I heard on Sunday at these protests, was, it -- it's seen as some kind of a Christian alliance. And we -- we were talking about that earlier.

COOPER: A Christian alliance against Islam.

GALLAGHER: Against Islam, exactly. I mean, it is a Christian alliance in some sense. At least the Vatican hopes that it will be and has hoped over the last, you know, 40 years that they can sort of come closer together.

But I think that some Turks are interpreting that as a negative thing again, a Christian alliance against Islam.

COOPER: How serious is that feeling?

REZA ASLAN, AUTHOR, "NO GOD BUT GOD": Well, I think it's a lot more widespread than you would imagine. Look, it sounds a little bit ridiculous to think that there's some sort of grand master plan between the leaders of Christianity and even the political leaders of Europe and the United States against Islam.

And you know if you think about it, it does seem ridiculous. But on the other hand, it's an -- it's an issue, it's a message that is gaining momentum the more we see what's taking place in Iraq and the aftermath of September 11.

I think even moderate, fairly rational Turks who are secularized moderate Muslims are starting to think, well, maybe there's something to this. Maybe there is something to this idea that there is some crusade taking place against the Islamic world. And you know, it really does seem to be gaining momentum.

GALLAGHER: When I was at this protest on Sunday with, you know, this sort of conservative Islamic group called the Happiness Party, by the way, they had headbands saying, "Go home pope, no to the pope." But also "no to the crusader alliance," they called it. And that was what they were referring to.

COOPER: Among extremists here, I mean, we were talking to a guy who could reasonably be called an extremist this morning, who was saying that he believed there's an alliance between the pope and the state of Israel against Islam.

ASLAN: That's right. And he believed that that alliance is actually responsible for the current government in Turkey, as well. Again, it shows this intense paranoia that some extremists have with regard to everything that's been taking place since September 11. COOPER: So what is important about this pope's visit? I mean, why is it -- it's coming at a crucial time, both for this pope and also for Turkey.

GALLAGHER: Yes, well, it wouldn't probably be as important, had it not been for the Regensburg address, frankly. I don't think it would have attracted as much attention. Because as we said, I think the Vatican's intention here was Christian unity and is to talk about religious freedom, as well. That's an important issue, this reciprocity.

COOPER: The U.S. government has been critical of Turkey about, saying that they're not granting even some Muslims the religious freedoms that they want. There's a ban on head scarves in public schools and universities, in government offices.

GALLAGHER: Yes. And non-Sunni Muslim and other non-Muslim religious organizations. So that was in a U.S. State Department report, as well. So that has been a concern of the Vatican for a long time. And I think certainly the pope will point that out. John Paul II pointed it out. And he couched it in nice language, and I think probably Benedict will do the same, but he'll make the point.

COOPER: He's going to stand to his beliefs. He's not going to suddenly become John Paul II and insert the rhetoric?

ASLAN: No question. I think this pope really as cardinal was -- was the person who stood most often in opposition to John Paul's tireless efforts to create these bridges and issues of interfaith dialogue. So we're not going to see much of a change amongst this pope.

However, I think what we will see is a softening of the way that he presents his position. He has to realize that he's no longer the church doctrinaire. He is now the spokesperson for 1/2 billion Catholics around the world. And while his agenda may not change, I think the way that he presents that agenda is going to.

COOPER: Reza, thanks. We'll talk to you again in this next two hours.

The contradictions of Turkey, a mainly Islamic nation that bans -- bans, as we just said, women from wearing head scarves in schools and government offices. We'll meet some people who say the secularism here in Turkey has gone too far.

Plus, another possible motive for the murder of a former Russian spy. Why some say it's not the Kremlin or the Russian mob who put out the hit job. Could that be possible? As 360 continues.


ROBERTS: More from Anderson in Istanbul, Turkey, coming up.

Also ahead, the clock is ticking for the Iraq Study Group, charged with finding a way to successfully end the war in Iraq. Can an effective solution be found with more U.S. allies leaving Iraq? The Coalition of the Willing is shrinking. A report from the Pentagon later on 360.

To London now, and the story that sounds like a plot from a John LeCarre novel. A former Russian spy is found dead in London, killed by poison, radioactive poison. The British are racing to find out who did it and how far the poison has traveled.

The accusations of blame, meanwhile, reach the highest levels of the Russian government. And some other places, as well.

CNN's Paula Newton reports.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Alexander Litvinenko, a top Russian spy, fled to England in 2000 and became both a valuable informant to British foreign intelligence and a fierce critic of the Russian government. Is that what got him killed?

It was November 1st in central London when Litvinenko went to the Millennium Hotel to meet a fellow ex-spy to go over evidence he believed tied the Kremlin to the 1999 apartment bombings that killed more than 300 people in Russia, an attack that the government blamed on Chechen rebels.

And there was the more recent murder of a prominent Russian journalist who accused the government of torture. And maybe most crucially, the alleged dirty money being siphoned from Russian's oil industry by government officials.

But there was another Russian man at the meeting, someone that Litvinenko didn't know and wasn't expecting. Who was he? And why had he been invited to the meeting? Litvinenko never got a chance to say.

(on camera) Litvinenko told friends he thought it was a strange meeting but really didn't give it any more thought. He was already late for an appointment at a Japanese restaurant, where he was meeting an Italian spy catcher for lunch.

At the Itsu sushi bar, that spy catcher, Mario Scaramella, desperately tried to warn Litvinenko that his name was on a hit list, circulated by a top Russian mob ring.

Litvinenko told his friend it just couldn't be true. He couldn't figure out why the Russian mob would be after him. He had always believed it was the Russian government that was after him.

And then, within hours, Litvinenko fell violently ill. At the time, they didn't know the culprit was polonium, one of the rarest radioactive elements on earth.

DR. ANDREA SELLA, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LONDON: It's highly radioactive so you really don't need very much. And spiking someone's drink or adding it to somebody's food. And that would probably be sufficient, if you got the dose exactly right, to cause an extremely painful, lingering death.

NEWTON: After days of trying to figure out the problem, Litvinenko was finally checked into this London hospital, gravely ill, still conscious and not having a clue what was wrong with him. The doctors ran through countless possibilities.

(on camera) But no matter the tests they ran here or the cures they tried, it was already too late for Litvinenko. His organs were shutting down, his body surrendering to the poison, but not his mind. To his last breath, he fingered the Kremlin for his murder.

(voice-over) Litvinenko insisted that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered him killed to silence him and named a Russian special agent, Viktor Kirov (ph), as the man who had targeted him.

Scotland Yard found Litvinenko's north London home contaminated with polonium. The Millennium Hotel, buildings close to it and the Japanese restaurant are also contaminated. And now three people are being observed for radioactive poisoning. Hundreds more have called health authorities here, worried about exposure.

Polonium is no longer just a murder weapon here. The fear on the streets of London shows that it can also be a weapon of terror. Litvinenko's friends say that's why everyone should worry about this case.

ALEX GOLDFARB, LITVINENKO'S FRIEND: The Russia is drifting over the past six years to a state when it will become a menace to the rest of the world, and this affair is a symptom of it.

NEWTON: Russian president Vladimir Putin denies his government is involved. For some people, this spy thriller has become as frightening as it is mysterious.

Paula Newton, CNN, London.


ROBERTS: And more on the murder mystery coming up. More insight on the suspected connection between the former spy and the death of that Russian journalist.

Plus, reconciling two identities in Turkey. The increasing friction between conservative Islam and the west. We'll go back to Anderson in Istanbul. This is a special edition of 360, "When Faiths Collide".


ROBERTS: As you heard before the break, Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that his government had anything to do with the death of former spy Alexander Litvinenko.

There have been allegations that his death by poison is linked to another recent high profile murder.

CNN's Matthew Chance reports on that.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Beneath the frozen tombstones of this Moscow cemetery, the grieving family of a Kremlin critic mourns their loss.

Anna Politkovsky was Russia's leading independent journalist. His son told me that for years he lived in fear for his mother's life.

"I warned her so many times about her investigative reporting," he says. "I can't say I was against them but I always begged her to be careful."

Weeks have passed since she was gunned down, but there have still been no arrests. After the killing in October we visited the crime scene.

(on camera)) Well, this is the dingy Moscow apartment building where Anna Politkovsky was murdered. She was carrying her shopping home on Saturday afternoon into this elevator.

She stepped in, but before the doors could close, a man appeared with a gun and shot her three times in the chest and once in the head. Police say he then threw his gun on the body and made his escape.

You can see there's still a bullet hole in the wall of the elevator that went straight through Anna and pierced the metal.

(voice-over) Security cameras caught a few glimpses of the probable killer, but few believe he was anything more than a hired assassin. Anna Politkovsky was a determined investigative reporter who exposed government human rights abuses in the break-away Russian Republic of Chechnya.

In London, Alexander Litvinenko was convinced hers was an officially sanctioned killing. Before he was poisoned he said he'd found evidence implicating the Kremlin. Moscow strenuously denies it was involved in either death.

But the journalist, like the former secret agent, had a record of antagonizing Moscow, and although the Kremlin may never be found responsible, the killings deliver a chilling message to those who dare criticize it.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


ROBERTS: Next hour, we'll turn our attention to crime news here in New York City. A man gunned down on his wedding day by police. He was unarmed. Join us next hour for that.

Right now, back to Anderson in Turkey -- Anderson.

COOPER: John, thanks. Here in Istanbul the crossroads between east and west. We're going to take a look at how a city which lies literally on two continents struggles to bridge two very different cultures when this special edition of 360 "When Faiths Collide: The Pope in Turkey", continues.


COOPER: The pope in Turkey. We're here in Istanbul, one of the stops of Pope Benedict XVI's controversial visit to this overwhelmingly Muslim nation.

Istanbul is Turkey's most populated city. It's a place rich in history, the country's culture and economic center. But as we're finding out Istanbul lies like the rest of Turkey, continues to struggle to find a balance between two worlds.


COOPER (voice-over): It's often said that Turkey is a country bridging east and west. Nowhere is that more clear than here in Istanbul.

(on camera) This is the only major city that sits on two continents. This waterway, the Bosphorus, actually runs right through Istanbul. That side of the city is in Asia. This side of Istanbul is in Europe.

And it's here in the west that Turkey sees its future.

(voice-over) Though 99 percent of the population is Muslim, in the 1920s the government officially adopted a policy of secularism, separating religion from politics.

Today Turkey is part of NATO and wants to become part of the European Union. On the streets of Istanbul, you can find Starbucks and McDonald's and every other western brand.

(on camera) There are tensions here in Turkey, however. Many conservative Turkish Muslims say secularism has gone too far. They say their rights to practice Islam are being infringed upon.

(voice-over) Case in point, head scarves. Here on the street you see many Muslim women wearing them but the government has outlawed them in universities, public schools and for workers in government offices.

"If we're supposed to have freedom and democracy, then these are unjust restrictions," this woman says. "If I want to dress like this, then I think my freedom is being restricted."

Reza Aslan is an author and professor of religious studies.

REZA ASLAN, USC CENTER ON PUBLIC POLICY: In many ways, Turkey represents sort of a microcosm of what's going on in this larger clash between Islam and the west. It's ideally Islamic and ideally western. It's dealing with how to reconcile those two identities. COOPER: Tolerance in Turkey, however, has its limits. In 2003, al Qaeda suicide bombers struck this synagogue and another one in Istanbul. Twenty-five people were killed. The clock is still frozen at the exact moment the explosion occurred.

DENIZ SAPORTA, JEWISH COUNCIL: Yes, there are really some -- there are really terrorists coming out of Islamic origin. But there are great people coming out of Islamic origin, too. So we should concentrate on those people and not on the others. And this is how we should continue.

COOPER: How Turkey continues may hinge on if Europe allows it to join the European Union. That's why the pope's visit comes at such a critical time. He's spoken out in the past against Turkish membership in the E.U., but now that he's coming here, many Turks will be listening closely. Not just to what he says about Islam but about Turkey and its role in the world.


ROBERTS: We'll be back from Istanbul with more from Anderson Cooper in just a moment. But first, a "360 Bulletin".

Officials in Missouri are investigating a fire that killed 10 people at a group home. Missouri's governor says 34 people, including several mental health patients, were in the house at the time. Nine people were injured. Among the dead, a caregiver. Arson has not been ruled out as a possible cause.

Atlanta's police chief says federal criminal investigation is under way into the shooting death of an elderly woman during a drug raid last week. You might remember we covered this story here on 360. Police say they obtained a search warrant based on an informant's claim that he bought drugs at the woman's home. The informant denies that claim. Police say the woman was shot after she opened fire on officers who were trying to enter the house.

The department's eight-member narcotics squad has been placed on paid leave. At the time of the shooting, relatives gave the woman's age as 92, but medical examiners now say she was 88.

In Washington, the Lincoln Memorial was briefly shut down today after suspicious bottles were found in a lady's restroom this afternoon. One bottle, which appeared to contain some sort of a liquid, was found with a note reading, quote, "Do you know what anthrax is and do you know what a bomb is?" None of the objects were found to be a threat, though.

Now to tonight's "Shot of the Day", a warm greeting between Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran. The two shared an embrace and a kiss, actually three kisses.

Their meeting is intended in part to discus Iran's role in creating a more stable Iraq. A lot more on that visit coming up in the next hour. We'll be back to Anderson and Turkey in a moment. What will Pope Benedict's message be on his first visit to a Muslim country? Will he soften his approach or continue with a hard line approach? And will Muslims listen? Some more insights straight ahead.

Plus, Turkey wants to join the European Union. Some fear that will bring more terrorism throughout Europe. Is that feedback justified?

Plus, the coalition of allies in Iraq is shrinking. What it might mean for the war and U.S. forces when this special edition of 360 continues.



ANNOUNCER: Tension in Turkey, ahead of the pope's visit. Muslims still angry at the outspoken pontiff. Will he heal old wounds on his visit or open new ones?

A shrinking coalition in Iraq, more countries withdrawing troops. And crunch time for a decision on what to do next. Tonight a look at the options, with the war in Iraq now lasting longer than World War II.

Excessive force? Fifty shots fired, an unarmed groom killed by police hours before his wedding. A community demands answers.









ANNOUNCER: The mayor also wants answers.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: There is a lot that needs to be explained.

ANNOUNCER: Across the country and around the world, this is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "When Faiths Collide: The Pope in Turkey".

Reporting from Istanbul, here is Anderson Cooper.


ROBERTS: We'll be to Anderson in just a moment. Some technical difficulties preventing us from going to Istanbul right now. We hope to get those worked out in the next couple of minutes.

Ahead this hour, a story that has been unfolding on the sidelines in Iraq. While U.S. congressmen debate how many U.S. troops should stay in Iraq, coalition forces are shrinking. Only 23 countries now remain in the U.S.-led coalition, down from a high of 42.

We're going to take a look at why this is and what it means for U.S. troops who aren't going anywhere at the moment.

First though, a word about the pope's trip to Istanbul and Turkey. Pope Benedict's recent remarks about Islam came at a time of growing concern in the west of a radical Islam and terror attacks carried out in the name of it.


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines