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YOUR WORLD TODAY

White House Plays Host to Powerful Shiite Leader; British Police Head to Moscow to Look for Leads in Former Russian Spy's Death; Disaster in the Philippines

Aired December 4, 2006 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Reaching out to other players in Iraq. The White House plays host to a powerful Shiite leader.
STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Victory for Chavez. Venezuela's triumphant president heading to another six-year term. Is his win a defeat for U.S. President Bush, as Chavez says it is?

CHURCH: Soccer hooliganism. France faces a tough debate on the issue after a football fan is shot dead in a brawl.

FRAZIER: And the phenomenon in the art world. Why are thousands queuing up to get their hands on prints made by a London graffiti artist?

It's 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad, noon in Washington now.

Hello, everyone. Welcome to our report broadcast around the world.

I'm Stephen Frazier.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church.

From Caracas, to London, wherever you're watching, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.

FRAZIER: The White House is staring at a crucial week on Iraq as pressure builds for a new course of action. In the next hour, President Bush sits down with a top Shiite leader with very, very close ties to Iran.

CHURCH: And later this week, he'll hear what the Iraq Study Group has to say about a way forward. Also, confirmation hearings begin for a new defense secretary.

FRAZIER: We'll get the latest from Nic Robertson in Baghdad, but we're going to begin with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux at the White House -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Stephen, that meeting expected to start in a couple of hours or so, President Bush with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. He is the leader, Shiite leader of the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament. He also is the head of a militia as well, and he is arguably more powerful than Iraq's Prime Minister al-Maliki, who President Bush met with last week.

Now, what is significant about this meeting, of course, the two leaders to sit down and talk about mutual interests. But also significant as well is the fact that al-Hakim is a rival to the Shiite militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American who has caused quite a bit of trouble for the Bush administration. It is really sign as a way, perhaps, getting close to Hakim to marginalize Sadr's own influence inside of the country.

Another very important aspect of this is al-Hakim's close ties to Iran. Now, he said earlier at the State Department he does not come as a spokesman for Iran, but rather as an Iraqi leader. But White House officials acknowledging that that certainly is going to be part of the discussion, the influence Iran has inside of Iraq and what can be done for both those sides to work together.

As you know, the Bush administration not very keen on talking specifically to the Iranian leadership. This is a good way to kind of feel it out, as well as figure out how to influence Iran's impact on Iraq -- Stephen.

FRAZIER: A first step, perhaps, toward engagement with Iran.

Suzanne, thank you very much.

CHURCH: All right. More now on the visiting Shiite leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. He's of particular interest since he's the chief rival of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose bloc has just suspended membership in the government.

Well, our Nic Robertson joins us now from Baghdad.

Just give us an idea, Nic, how this meeting is playing out in Baghdad.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly there's real concern among the political leaders here that the pressure that's being put on the prime minister at the moment, Nuri al-Maliki, to disarm the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr -- and, of course, Muqtada al Sadr voted and gave his support to Nuri al-Maliki to become prime minister. There are many leading politicians here who feel that is pressure too far and that could cause the prime minister to fail.

And if he fails, what other options do U.S. officials have who might become prime minister or who might be good in the prime minister's job? Well, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim has several politicians in mind, certainly who could -- who could fill that job.

Now, when he goes in to meet President Bush, is he likely to outline that, or is he likely to take a unified Shia stand? Or is President Bush likely to ask him, well, what are the other options here? That isn't clear.

But Abdul Aziz al-Hakim can certainly provide and be -- provide an alternative if this current government fails and the prime minister fails in the task ahead of him, which is disarming this radical Shia cleric.

CHURCH: Nic, what about the Iraqi people? Are they interested in this meeting at all?

ROBERTSON: Well, they certainly are. Anything at the moment that will bring a change in U.S. policy here is of keen interest to Iraqis.

They see all of what is happening at the moment as not providing them any security. They have lost faith in their own politicians. They've lost faith in their security forces to protect them. They have lost faith in the United States and the British and the other international forces here to protect them, and they're looking for a change in U.S. policy that is going to -- going to improve their security situation.

Now, if Abdul Aziz al-Hakim can get any inkling of that from President Bush, then that's something people will look for. There was a large amount of disappointment last week when the prime minister met with President Bush and really came back with nothing to show for it. So I don't think expectations are high, but they'll certainly look to see what is said at this meeting -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: But this is seen as somewhat of a turning point, the way the United States is now approaching the situation in Iraq? Is that right?

ROBERTSON: Well, there certainly is concern within the Sunni community that they have been increasingly marginalized in the political process and they may look at the -- at the leader of this large Shia party, an very influential leader, going in to have direct talks with President Bush at a time when many speculate that there may be a new government that needs to be formed in the not-too-distant future.

So there will be Sunnis that will look at this and will be concerned about what they see. They really see the United States and Iraq as playing a hand that has played into Shia power, has played into the hands of Iran. That's the view of many Sunnis here.

But Abdul Aziz al-Hakim has always played and has always talked about a centrist role for him and his party. But there will be -- there will be that level of concern, that power and influence really is shifting in a very solid and dynamic way away from the Sunnis -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Our thanks to Nic Robertson there in Baghdad. And, of course, Suzanne Malveaux, there at the White House -- Stephen.

FRAZIER: Rosemary, the United Nations secretary-general has made some scathing comments of his own about the situation in Iraq. During an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, Kofi Annan said a few years ago, when we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, "... we called that a civil war. This is much worse." He also said -- and we're quoting directly now -- "They had a dictator who was brutal, but they had their streets. They could go out. Their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying, 'Am I going to see my child again?'"

CHURCH: Well, from his death bed he pointed the finger of blame at the Kremlin. Now Blittish police are heading to Moscow to look for leads in the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

Russian authorities have denied any involvement, but as Alphonso Van Marsh reports, suspicion remains strong.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The north London home where former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko lived before dying of radiation poisoning is still under police investigation. And now Scotland Yard is poised to expand its investigation with a team of investigators traveling to Moscow, where they'll question witnesses who met with Litvinenko in London shortly before his death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): President Putin said that Russia would provide all the cooperation for the investigation.

VAN MARSH: But Russia's foreign minister is warning that continued suggestions that official Russian involvement in Litvinenko's death could damage Moscow's relations with Britain.

Sergey Lavrov was quoted as saying, there's "... the necessity to avoid any kind of politicization of this matter, this tragedy."

The developments come as the British press explores various motives behind Litvinenko's death, like whether Litvinenko allegedly had a plan to blackmail Russian politicians, businessman and journalists allegedly linked to espionage, or that rogue Russian intelligence agents were allegedly settling scores with Litvinenko, a vocal critic of the Kremlin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will see that it is an intelligence officer, a Russian intelligence officer, either former or existing.

VAN MARSH: From hid death bed, Litvinenko accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of signing off on his assassination. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied involvement in the poisoning.

Meanwhile, doctors say a second man found to have ingested a potentially lethal dose of Polonium-210 is not showing signs of illness. Mario Scaramella is now in a London hospital. He met Litvinenko on the day and place that he was thought to have been poisoned to warn Litvinenko he thought both of their lives were in danger.

(on camera): Scotland Yard's antiterrorism officers are expected to meet with numerous people in Moscow, including a former spy who also met with Litvinenko on the day he fell ill. But key to this investigation will be just how much cooperation British officials get from their Russian counterparts.

Alphonso Van Marsh, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRAZIER: Well, those investigators won't say whether they have any specific suspects in mind, but as we just head from Alphonso, they do want to talk with several Russians who met with Litvinenko the day on which he was poisoned.

And as Ryan Chilcote reports now, one of those men says they're all being framed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Nearly everything and everyone Scotland Yard's investigation turns up seems to point to Russia. The dead ex-spy himself was from Russia. The group of men he dined with at a London hotel shortly before he fell ill were from Russia.

One of the British Airways flights that tested positive for radiation travels to and from Russia. And now one of the Russian men that met with the former Russian spy in London is claiming he, too, has been contaminated by the same Polonium-210 that killed Litvinenko. Part of an elaborate plot, he says, to frame him as a carrier of the poison.

Shortly after their return to Moscow, the men said they were just as surprised as everyone else by the former spy's illness.

"We met him on November 1st and agreed to meet again on November 2nd," said businessman Andrei Lugovoi. "But at 7:30 on November 2nd, he called and said, 'You know, Andrei, I don't feel good. I have been throwing up. I don't think I can meet you.'"

Andrei Lugovoi, who owns a beverage company, and his associates say they met Litvinenko on November 1st to talk Russian-British trade. Litvinenko, they say, was introducing them to some very serious British firms, trying himself out in business.

Like Litvinenko, Lugovoi says he began his career in the KGB, working in its famed Department Number Nine, guarding government officials. Lougovoi believes someone is trying to make it look like he and his colleagues were the assassins and has indicated he's ready to talk to British police.

(on camera): Scotland Yard has said almost nothing about what its investigators will be doing here in Moscow. Meanwhile, Russia says the United Kingdom has asked for assistance from Russian coroners.

Ryan Chilcote, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FRAZIER: For an in-depth look at this story and its implications, as well, join us for a special report. Anderson Cooper reports on the "Poison Plot: The Killing of a Spy" at the times that you see there on your screen.

CHURCH: And this just in. CNN has confirmed that Egyptian police have arrested an American, 11 Europeans, and several others from Arab countries for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks in Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq.

Now, that according to the interior ministry. The group was part of an Islamic militant terror cell that had adopted extremist ideas and was living in Egypt under the disguise of studying Arabic and Islamic studies.

Now, that was in a written statement from the interior ministry. We will, of course, have more on this.

But coming up on YOUR WORLD TODAY, tragedy mounts in the Philippines.

FRAZIER: Four devastating typhoons in only the past four months. The latest spawning a mudslide that wiped out entire families. We'll hear from shell-shocked survivors.

CHURCH: And Venezuela's leftist president celebrates a resounding victory at the polls.

You're watching CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Welcome back to CNN International.

FRAZIER: You're watching YOUR WORLD TODAY, where we bring CNN's viewers around the world up to speed on the most important international stories of the day.

And our top stories this hour.

A visit to the White House. One of Iraq's top Shiite politicians is due to meet with President Bush within the hour.

The widening investigation into the death of a former Russian spy in the U.K.

And disaster in the Philippines. As many as 1,000 feared dead now in the aftermath of Typhoon Durian in the central Philippines.

CHURCH: And five days after Durian lashed the country, triggering flashfloods and mudslides, rescuers in the Philippines have all but given up hope of finding any more survivors. The Philippine president has declared a state of national calamity.

More now from John Vause.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Amid all this devastation, all that is left, it seems, is despair. This woman survived the mudslide, but her three young children, like so many others, are missing.

"I hope the government will help us find our missing relatives," she says. She finds a piece of clothing but little else. Rescue workers, some with sniffer dogs, are finding only bodies.

CARMEN ANDRES, SEARCH AND RESCUE WORKER: (INAUDIBLE) water first, and then sand. So it's very compact. There's no -- there's very little (INAUDIBLE) air bubbles.

VAUSE: So many bodies have been recovered, they're piled onto trucks and buried in mass graves. Many victims remain unidentified because authorities say entire families have been killed in the mudslides, triggered by the torrential rain and powerful winds of Typhoon Durian, which swept across the Philippines late last week.

The Red Cross fears a thousand people have been killed and says many bodies may never be recovered. An estimated 66,000 are now homeless.

Durian is the fourth devastating typhoon to hit the Philippines in as many months. Its winds are starting to ease as it heads for Vietnam, where thousands have fled to safer ground, others preparing as best they can. Durian has been downgraded to a Category 1, but there are fears it may still bring yet more destruction.

John Vause, CNN, Hong Kong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: All right. We want to check some other stories making news around the world this hour.

FRAZIER: We're going to stay in the Philippines for the first one. That's where a U.S. Marine has been sentenced to 40 years for raping a woman at a former U.S. Navy base. Three other Marines were acquitted. Their trial took seven months and it prompted lengthy protests against U.S.-Philippine military ties.

CHURCH: Lebanon's army deployed more troops in Beirut Monday, a day after gunmen killed a pro-Syrian Shiite demonstrator and wounded several others. The shooting is the most serious incident during otherwise peaceful protests aimed at toppling the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

FRAZIER: Doctors in Chile say the former dictator Augusto Pinochet is conscious now and is in serious but stable condition after his heart attack. The 91-year-old former leader has been recovering in a Santiago military hospital where these comments were made after undergoing emergency angioplasty. He's been living under house arrest on charges of human rights violations. CHURCH: All right. Still ahead here on YOUR WORLD TODAY, Venezuela's victorious president gets another six-year term, but can't resist a jab at George W. Bush.

FRAZIER: And laughing all the way to the bank, Banksy, a London graffiti artist whose prints are the hottest property in the contemporary art world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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.

Raging wildfires in California. Hundreds of homes near Los Angeles threatened by the fast-moving inferno. Some people have already lost everything.

CNN's Chris Lawrence is on the scene in Moorpark. That's about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Firefighters say at times these winds have been so ferocious that smoke and ash is blowing so much, that they can barely see what is in front of them. Other firefighters have said at times they can barely stand the winds are so high.

At times, they have said these winds have gusted up to 60 to 70 miles per hour. That is the situation that they're facing. And because of that, they're more in a defensive mode right now.

Their primary goal is just to save homes, not even so much to try to beat back the fire. The winds are that strong.

This is a heavily-populated area, 30 to 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles. And firefighters tell us that up to 3,000 homes could be in danger from this fire.

Hundreds of families have already evacuated, but hundreds more have decided to stay and try to fight this fire. We have seen them up on the hill behind their homes with the water hoses trying to help firefighters save their homes.

So far, they have been doing a pretty good job of it, but five homes have been completely destroyed by this fire. And the firefighters are telling us they can only hope that the winds at least die down at some point to allow them to perhaps get a foothold on trying to beat back this fire.

I'm Chris Lawrence, reporting from Moorpark.

Back to you. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: So let's get a look now at conditions in the West. Rob Marciano has the latest from the CNN weather center.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: A chilly warning for Missouri residents. The mayor of St. Louis says as long as there's no power, people are at risk with temperatures below freezing. An early winter storm is blamed for the deaths of 19 people right now.

Hundreds of thousands remain without electricity in areas of Missouri and Illinois. Crews are out working to restore power, but the cold temperatures are making repair work difficult.

The Bush administration loses a fiery foot soldier at the United Nations. The White House announcing U.N. Ambassador John Bolton is stepping down, a foregone conclusion since his nomination couldn't get past the Senate. Critics said Bolton's style was too blunt and confrontational for a diplomat. Bolton will step down when his temporary appointment expires within weeks.

A sailor pleads guilty to espionage in Norfolk, Virginia. Petty Officer First Class Arial Wineman (ph) admits stealing a Navy laptop and trying to sell classified information. It happened in Vienna, Austria, in October of last year.

The Navy has not said what foreign government was allegedly involved. Wineman (ph) faces a sentence of life in prison without parole.

A quick stop at a convenience store leads to an Amber Alert. This story coming form Albertville in northeast Alabama.

State troopers there looking for a blue 1994 Nissan Altima. A sleeping 5-year-old was in the back seat when his mother went into the store. Police say a man jumped into the car and drove away.

Look at this. Rockville, Maryland, now. At least six townhomes engulfed in a three-alarm fire.

More than 125 firefighters on hand. All of it triggered by an SUV that slammed into the complex. The driver and one person inside the building were injured.

Race confronting the Supreme Court. Two cases involve school systems trying to achieve balance in their classrooms.

Louisville and Seattle take race into account to determine which school a child attends. They say it's needed to counter segregated housing patterns. Parents sued, claiming the policy amounts to color- coding their children. Three years ago, the Supreme Court ruled racial quotas unconstitutional, but justices said race could be one factor in college admissions.

At the top of the hour, back in the "NEWSROOM" with Don Lemon and Betty Nguyen, sitting in for Kyra Phillips today.

What role should race play in assigning students to public schools? As we mentioned, two cases before the Supreme Court. More on today's oral arguments in the "NEWSROOM."

Meantime, YOUR WORLD TODAY continues after a quick break.

I'm Tony Harris.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

FRAZIER: More now on Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, who is arguably one of the most powerful Shiite politicians in Iraq. He's expected to reassure President Bush on the thorny question of Iranian influence inside Iraq. Al-Hakim has close links with that Shiite country. He lived there in exile for years before he was able to come back to Iraq after the death of Saddam Hussein. I mean, after the arrest. Sorry. Al-Hakim normally prefers to play a behind-the-scenes role. He wanted a close associate of his group to be prime minister, but he grudgingly accepted Nuri Al-Maliki as a compromise candidate. He is the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. That is a group formed in Tehran by the Ayatollah Ruhalla (ph) Khomeini in 1982. Al-Hakim used to be in charge also of the Badr Brigade, the group's armed wing, which has been blamed for some of the worst sectarian violence. He supports the concept of Iraqi federalism.

Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has more on this influential politician.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Abdul Aziz al- Hakim, the powerful leader of Iraq 's largest Shia party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, is friendly to the United States. How much of that warmth is political maneuvering is hard to fathom.

Hakim, a quietly spoken Shia cleric, spent decades in exile in Iran, only returning when Saddam was overthrown. He wants Iran to help out in Iraq.

ABDUL AZIZ AL-HAKIM, SCIRI LEADER (through translator): They can help Iraq and the Iraqis a lot. They can participate in solving security and economic problems.

ROBERTSON: Hakim still has strong ties with Tehran. His party has an Iranian-trained militia, the 25,000-strong Banner Brigade. Many have joined Iraq's national police service. Others pledged to disarm. But the militia, whose commanders got top jobs in the police force, have yet to shake well-founded accusations they're running death squads, killing Sunnis.

Hakim came to leadership by default. His elder brother, Mohammad Bakir Hakim (ph) was blown up by Sunni insurgents. Since then, Hakim has publicly at least preached against retaliation, and steered the Shia towards unity, maximizing their political clout.

But divisions are opening up. Hakim opposed fellow Shia Nuri al- Maliki for prime minister, preferring a candidate from his own party. Now the prime minister is on the political ropes under intense American pressure to disarm his most powerful backer, firebrand Shia Cleric Muqtada al Sadr's militia. Hakim could benefit if the prime minister fails.

(on camera): Hakim also has a deep history of rivalry with Sadr. Their respected fathers competed for followers among the Shia faithful. If Hakim could marginalize Sadr and Maliki, he could realize twin goals. But that's unlikely to be his message to President Bush. Far more likely he'll be trying to gain support for the whole Shia community.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRAZIER: U.S. president George W. Bush has called Iran part of the axis of evil, and he had, until now, refused to talk to Tehran directly. The White House says Iran is actively meddling in Iraq and is destabilizing that country.

Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr sat down with the top U.S. general in the Middle East to talk about Iran's influence in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, CNN NEWSROOM (voice over): As the Shia and Sunni killings across Baghdad reach new levels, General John Abizaid, the top commander for U.S. military forces in the Middle East, says Iraqi Shia militias are being directly trained and financed by the government of Iran, something the Iranian government has denied.

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, CMDR., U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: It's clear that money is coming in through their intelligence services, training is probably being conducted inside Iran, through various surrogates and proxies. Iranian equipment is finding its way into the hands of Shia extremist groups. It's hard to believe that that's not a matter of policy from the Iranian government.

STARR: CNN has been the only network traveling with Abizaid. In this exclusive interview, he leaves no doubt about the involvement of Iran in the Iraqi militias that U.S. troops are fighting.

ABIZAID: It's also clear to me that Iranian Revolutionary Guard, KUDS (ph) force personnel are operating within the country, and operating in a way that does not support stability or the current legitimately elected government of Iraq.

STARR: For Abizaid, this trip into the combat zone comes at a time when the Washington political wars dominate the news, but he is determined to stay out of that fray. This trip has focused on talking to commanders, trying to get a sense of whether they think Iraqi forces will remain loyal to the new government. There is continuing concern about police units in Baghdad.

ABIZAID: As you heard today, in some of the conversations with our various commanders, some of them are very concerned about certain police locations being badly infiltrated, and certain units within the national police not doing their job the way that they should be.

STARR: Abizaid avoids using the words "civil war" but his meaning is clear.

ABIZAID: Yes, I think the concerns about it spinning into a broader conflict are still there.

STARR (on camera): Military commanders here believe Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will be able to maintain control of the Iraqi army and security forces, which is critical to avoiding all-out civil war. But commanders also say this country is in a period of crucial instability and any reduction in U.S. combat forces still could be months away.

Barbara Starr, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRAZIER: Now given all we've just heard from Barbara, does this White House meeting between President Bush and Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim mean the Bush administration is softening its approach to Iran. And what about Mr. Al-Hakim himself? Is it political suicide for him to meet with President Bush?

Joining us to discuss is Ken Pollack of the Brookings Institution.

Mr. Pollack, it's always good to see you. Welcome back.

KEN POLLACK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Thank you, Stephen.

FRAZIER: What exactly should we be listening for in the public comments that we ought to hear shortly after that meeting ends?

POLLACK: I think the big thing is to look for is the extent to which President Bush has conveyed to Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim the idea that the United States has a new plan, that it wants to go forward, and it's reaching out not just to Mr. Al Maliki himself, but to all of the components of hi government. I think one of the most important lessons of Al-Maliki's visit, or the meeting with the president in Jordan, is at the end of the day Nuri Al-Maliki doesn't have a whole lot of power. He may be very well meaning, but if the power is behind the thrones of the very Shia militias, and the most important are the SCIRI, the Badr Brigades, led by Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim. Those groups need to be on board.

FRAZIER: So you mentioned reaching out to all parts of the government there. Is he also reaching beyond to Iran as well, given the close ties? Well, explain the ties. How close are they now between Al-Hakim and Iran? POLLACK: Well, they vary, but over time, obviously before the fall of Saddam Hussein, SCIRI was heavily dependent on Iran, completely dependent on Iran. Once the SCIRI moved into Iraq after the fall of Baghdad, you actually saw SCIRI, the Badr Brigades trying to distance themselves from the Iranians and the SCIRI politicians, in particular because the fact of the matter is most Iraqis don't like Iranians, and they really didn't like their politicians being beholden to Iran. So as a result, you saw SCIRI, other Shia politicians, trying very hard to prove their independence.

Now with Iraq sliding into civil war and everyone very fearful, those ties are hardening once again, because whether or not the Iraqis like the Iranians, the Shia understand that they need Iran, that if there's going to be a civil war, they're going to need Iranian support. And so those ties are hardening again.

But even there, we shouldn't assume that the Iranians are calling the tune in Iraq. They have influence, but that influence is limited. There's a lot of money in Iraq and a lot of weapons. And I think if the Iranians ever tried to get any of the Iraqi Shia groups to do something they didn't want to, I think the Shia would tell them to go fly a kite.

FRAZIER: Well, short of flying a kite, do we know if there's a relationship between the groups in Iraq right now and the kind of intelligence agents operating inside Iraq that General Abizaid just referred in Barbara Starr's report?

POLLACK: Well, there is a tremendous amount of intelligence -- American intelligence, British intelligence, other countries' intelligence, which do suggest the Iranians are backing pretty much every one of the Iraqi Shia groups. And again, I think that that suggests both Iran's influence and the limits on that influence.

The Iranians want to have a finger in every pie. I don't think that they know exactly which Iraqi Shia group could emerge on top if there is an all-out civil war. And they want to make sure they have ties to all of them.

FRAZIER: What does Mr. al-Hakim want from this meeting?

POLLACK: Well, I think that to some extent, al-Hakim has gotten a big piece of what he wanted just by having the meeting. Having the meeting demonstrates that he is one of the powers behind the throne. That he is an extremely important figure inside of Iraq that all Iraqis need to pay a great deal of respect to. By the same token, I think that Hakim is going to try to push Mr. Bush to basically see the Iraqi government as moving in a positive direction and basically get Mr. Bush to step down from the administration's various demands that Sunnis be included.

Among the Shia right now, most Iraqi Shia think that the United States is siding with the Iraqi Sunnis. And I think Abdul Aziz al- Hakim is going to push hard to get the U.S. to end that. FRAZIER: All right. Show a little bit of balance there. Always good to see you, Ken Pollack with the Brookings Institution. Thank you.

POLLACK: Thank you.

FRAZIER: Once again, that meeting between President Bush and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim set to take place to take place about 30 minutes from now. We'll be watching. Back to you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Thanks, Steven. We're getting words that NATO soldiers killed up to 80 Taliban militants during weekend clashes in Afghanistan. Now, the fighting happened outside the town of Musacalia (ph) after Afghan police tipped off NATO on the whereabouts of a Taliban hideout. British Troops had withdrawn from the town earlier in the year after an agreement with tribal elders. But a NATO official says the elders could not stop insurgents from gathering in nearby areas, and activity had increased in recent weeks.

Well, coming up, six more years for his socialist revolution. We'll get a live report on the re-election of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. And then French football tries to get a handle on hooliganism after a racial brawl turns deadly.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FRAZIER: Welcome back, everyone.

CHURCH: This is CNN International, seen live in more than 200 countries across the globe.

FRAZIER: And more now on the story we're getting from Egypt about police arresting several people. An American, a Belgian, 11 Europeans in all, and several other people from Arab nations for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks in Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq according to the interior ministry of Egypt.

The minister said that this group was part of an Islamic militant terror cell that had adopted extremist ideas and was living in Egypt under the disguise of students studying Arabic and Islamic studies. The arrests actually made a little while ago, just being made announced today and we'll bring you more information about them as we learn it, here.

CHURCH: All right. More now on the sweeping victory of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela's presidential election. Chavez won a second term with more than 60 percent of the vote.

CNN's Karl Penhaul joins us live via broadband from Caracas to talk about Venezuela's post election future. And Karl, certainly no surprises, but what about the future for Venezuela?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Few surprises Rosemary, although some have been surprised by the scale of that victory. There have been a number of elections in Venezuela since Hugo Chavez took power. He was elected to power initially, then was re-elected once he re-formed the constitution, and then 2004, he won a recall referendum, but none by this scale of difference over his main opposition rival, in this case -- Manuel Rosales.

Now of course, this did trigger massive street celebrations. Those street celebrations went on late into the night. People dancing in the streets. We saw fireworks going off into the wee hours of the morning despite the heavy rain that was coming down.

And then this morning, the papers, well, they do tell the story. More than 60 percent of the vote went to Hugo Chavez. But what has made it different here is the fact that the opposition this time have not gone out and alleged fraud. They have accepted the defeat. This is what the opposition candidate Manuel Rosales had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I invite all of you to join this great battle and invite you to continue responding to the demanding critics of the revolution, education, health, and employment, and the best quality of life for all of the Venezuelan family.

MANUEL ROSALES, DEFEATED OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): The truth is we recognize that we lost. We continue in the fight, in the work, in the street. This is no time to surrender, to hide. I am here to fight for everyone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PENHAUL: The big question now, as it really always was, what comes next for Venezuela? And as I say, the scale of Chavez's victory does appear to give him a strong mandate to press ahead with what he calls his revolution for the 21st century.

Now Chavez himself says that this will be a socialist revolution, but he hasn't spelled out exactly the exact steps. Yes, he has in general terms, promised to give more power to the people, but nevertheless, in certain key sectors of the economy, such as the oil industry, he has also made it clear and government plans make it clear that there will be a lot of space for free enterprise, including a multi-national investment in the oil industry -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Karl Penhaul bringing us up to date from Caracas. Thanks so much -- Stephen.

FRAZIER: Rosemary, let's turn now to one of Europe's most multi- cultural and secular nations, France, which this week faces a tough debate on racism and hooliganism. After a supporter of football club Paris Sangeomen (ph) was shot dead in an anti-semitic brawl following a match with a team visiting from Israel. CNN's Jim Bittermann has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The only football being played at the Paris Sangeomen (ph) Stadium Sunday was a father and son friendly. The scheduled match between PSG and Toulouse was postponed because authorities feared there could be violence if the game went ahead as planned.

Even without the match, obsessive PSG fans known as the ultras were in the streets anyway to silently march in memory and protest the shooting death of one of their own ten days ago. After a match with a team from Tel Aviv, police say that French supporters cornered and were abusively threatening a Jewish fan when a plain clothes police officer intervened.

Believing both were in grave danger, the officer fired his service revolver, killing one PSG fan and wounding another. A magazine reporter who has written extensively about soccer hooliganism, witnessed most of the incident and says those involved are well known to the police and thrive on violence.

PHILIPPE BROUSSARD, "L'EXPRESS" MAGAZINE: There is generally speaking not only in football, a kind of fascination for some of the young people to watch the violence. They live with it. They want to feel it. They call the adrenaline, to have the feeling of violence and they're happy when they do that.

BITTERMANN: The players and club have repeatedly over the years spoken out against the kind of racist behavior they've seen in the stands, but with little effect. Authorities first announced this week they were planning to close down a section of the stadium where the trouble-makers gather. But then hearing they might try to storm the stadium if they were locked out, the match was postponed. But analysts say it's time the club, regular fans and the police, have a serious discussion about how to put an end to soccer violence.

PATRICK MIGNON, SPORTS SOCIOLOGIST: Will you find the actors who will want to hinder the problems, and to want to go further?

BITTERMANN (on camera): The interior minister said he would rather see the stands empty rather than full of unwanted people. But critics say that closing a section of a section or postponing a match is just postponing dealing with the problem, something they say that has been done for two decades now.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: And just ahead, an underground artist who is truly underground.

FRAZIER: In the underground, too. His name is Banksy. He is the hottest thing on the London art scene.

CHURCH: We'll show you why after the break. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FRAZIER: In London, they're calling it the Banksy effect, and the graffiti artist there behind it has become an art world phenomenon.

CHURCH: Yes, Hollywood stars Angelina Jolie and Keanu Reeves and fellow British artist Damien Hirst have all been spotted at his shows.

FRAZIER: He though has not been. Banksy himself keeps a very low profile. Max Foster reports on the man who is bringing contemporary art to the masses.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the kind of art that resonates with many British urbanites, and they have rushed here to get a piece of the action. There's been bars on Internet blogs for weeks about this disused shop on London's Oxford Street being taken over by street artists.

Inside, they find an informal assortment of the witty, the wild, and the topical. More rock concert than royal academy, and there's definitely a headline act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I always like to see Banksy's stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a long-term Banksy fan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love street art, it really is Banksy.

FOSTER: This is a Banksy. Whoever said a picture is worth a thousand words. His pieces are so in demand, 500 copies of this print sold out in less than a minute.

(on camera): Banksy likes to remain anonymous, and neither he nor any of his associates will actually go on record. But I have gained access to his dealer's office. Let me show you some of his work.

(voice-over): A briefcase full of 10-pounds notes with the queen's head replaced by Princess Diana's. Or the corrupted classics.

(on camera): But in the auction houses, what's gaining a lot of the attention is the screen prints because they're very collective. We have got some examples of them here. And this has pretty much become Banksy's iconic work because it sold so incredibly well. And it's a tribute to Andy Warhol and it features the supermodel Kate Moss.

(voice-over): The Kate Moss print first sold just over a year ago for $3,000. This October, a set was resold at auction for $17,000 each. Today, one London dealer wants $60,000 for one. It's a phenomenon the art establishment can't afford to ignore.

CHEYENNE WESTPHAL, EUROPEAN CONTEMPORARY ART, SOTHEBYS: It's very radical and also it's very exciting. The normal way it works is that a show is in progress, you can see on Banksy's Web site where that show will be, i.e. which city it will be. But the location will be completely under wraps until the moment it opens when it's announced on the Web site. And the impact is huge. FOSTER: Banksy also uses this gallery to sell his work, and now other artists who show there all seem to sell out. The Banksy effect is spreading.

(on camera): Antony Micallef held a show here in October and already his paintings are worth twice the amount they were sold for.

(voice-over): Celebrities are noticing, too. Keanu Reeves, Angelina Jolie, and leading contemporary artists Damien Hirst have all been spotted at Banksy's shows. Contemporary art is going mass market.

Max Foster, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: And that's it for this hour, I'm Rosemary Church.

FRAZIER: And I'm Stephen Frazier and this is CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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