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YOUR WORLD TODAY

Lebanon: Country in Crisis; Developing the New Security Plan in Iraq; Surviving a Great White

Aired January 23, 2007 - 12:00   ET

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


JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Billowing flames, black smoke, clashes and gunfire. A planned peaceful protest against Lebanon's government turning violent.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Some call it the last chance to save Iraq from full-scale civil war. We'll look block by block at the new security plan for Baghdad

CLANCY: A great escape from a Great White. An Australian man cheats death after being swallowed by a shark.

GORANI: And the nominees are -- Hollywood lifts the veil on this year's Academy Awards contenders.

It's 9:00 a.m. in Beverly Hills, California, 7:00 p.m. in Beirut, Lebanon.

Welcome to our report broadcast around the globe.

I'm Hala Gorani.

CLANCY: I'm Jim Clancy.

Wherever you're watching, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.

Country in crisis. We begin our report in Lebanon, where Syrian and Iranian-backed Hezbollah is making good on its vow to ratchet up pressure on the Western-backed government.

GORANI: Pressure that is leading to all-out gun battles in some neighborhoods, with dozens reported wounded and several killed.

CLANCY: Now, the protesters want Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to step down and call early elections.

GORANI: But supporters of the government say the action amounts to a coup attempt. One Christian leader calling what's going on terrorism.

CLANCY: All right. Organizers insists that they will persevere, vowing to continue their strike in the coming days.

CNN's Anthony Mills is live with us in Beirut. He has more.

What's the situation on the ground? ANTHONY MILLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, as we speak, according to internal security forces, the main exits points from Beirut, northwards and southwards, the main highways, as well as the road to the airport, remain blocked by burning barricades. So the city is still paralyzed, other major intersections and roads in the city still paralyzed.

Also, the reports of violence that you mentioned. Internal security forces have told us that three people were killed today in gunfire and that 100 people or so were injured, most of them in gunfire as well. And the fear among many Lebanese is that with every hour that these protests continue, that the specter of a full-blown civil war, Jim, grows.

CLANCY: Prime Minister Fouad Siniora went on national television. What did we have to say to the people of Lebanon?

MILLS: That's right. Jim, he just finished, the prime minister, Fouad Siniora, a press conference here in Beirut, in which he said something that will probably not satisfy leaders of the opposition.

Let's hear what he actually had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FOUAD SINIORA, LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The attacks on the citizens and the property is an attack on democracy and the right to express oneself. This is alarming to any sane person and to any sincere person who are committed to co-existence between all...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MILLS: Jim, the words of Fouad Siniora there, unlikely to satisfy opposition leaders and protesters here who want nothing short of a new government.

CLANCY: All right. But this is a crisis where Lebanese who may have wanted to go to work today, who may have not agreed with the opposition here, literally forced to stay off the streets. They were attacked when they tried to go out?

MILLS: Certainly, it represents a major escalation of the protests that have grouped Beirut here, downtown Beirut, indeed, behind me, as you can probably see in here, since the first of December. Anyone who wanted to go out today, wanted to go to work, whether that was an act of defiance or not, would have found it very difficult. And I believe that a lot of people stayed at home, especially when they saw the pictures broadcast on Lebanese media of these burning barricades.

And, indeed, as I made the way over to the office this morning, Jim, there were at times hostile people manning those barricades. So, certainly, intimidating to anybody who wanted to try to go to work or go about their business -- Jim.

CLANCY: Prime Minister Siniora is supposed to be on his way to Paris right now for a crucial meeting with international donors. At stake, billions of dollars to help rebuild Lebanon after its disastrous war, the war between Hezbollah and Israel last summer.

What is he going to do?

MILLS: Jim, this couldn't have come at a worst time for him, in a sense. He's just two days away from that conference, as you say.

Now, a short while ago, I spoke to a senior adviser of his, and he told me that the prime minister's plans were still fluid as far as travel was concerned. He said, thought, that he obviously didn't particularly feel like leaving the county right now.

At any rate, certainly the effect of these demonstrations, coming as they do right now on any potential donors, is going to be -- they're going to be asking themselves the question, even if we do donate money, what's it going to achieve with the descent apparently into political violence here in Lebanon?

CLANCY: All right. Our thanks to Anthony Mills there, joining us live from Beirut.

We'll keep you up to date on this story -- Hala.

GORANI: Absolutely. And we will be speaking to the foreign editor of the Hezbollah-run Al-Manar television as well later this hour for more on what's going on in the Lebanese capital.

But now to China, and efforts to downplay fears that an anti- satellite missile test had any hostile motives. China now confirming that it did fire a missile at one of its old weather satellites earlier this month. A foreign ministry spokesman says the test posed no threat, and he knows of no plans for a second launch.

The U.S., Australia, and Japan led a chorus criticizing the test as an escalation as the arms race in outer space. China denies that and says it briefed the U.S., Japan and other countries after the test.

CLANCY: Turning to Iraq now, the United Nations says Iraq is sliding into the abyss of sectarianism as U.S. and Iraqi forces race against time to bring desperately needed security.

GORANI: Now, here's a look at the latest.

The U.S. military says troops are taking a "balanced approach" toward attacking Shia and Sunni militant groups. It says more than 600 members of the Mehdi army, the Shia militia, were detained over the past month and a half. The U.S. also reports dozens of arrests of Sunni extremists.

CLANCY: Now, a United Nations envoy says Iraqi leaders must do more to save their country from spiraling violence. He condemned Monday's bombings in Baghdad that killed 88 people, saying they highlight the urgent need for more security. GORANI: Al Qaeda's second in command, meantime, is ridiculing the United States plan to send more troops to Iraq. In a video message, Ayman al-Zawahiri boasts that militants could wipe out the entire U.S. Army.

CLANCY: Now, the U.S. troop increase will provide part of the backbone, at least, for Baghdad's new security plan.

GORANI: Well, it does call for the city to be divided into security districts, which each commander reporting to the -- each commander who will be an Iraqi reporting to the Iraqi prime minister.

CLANCY: Yes. And on the ground right now with a closer look, Michael Holmes, our own colleague here on YOUR WORLD TODAY, gives us a look at the strategy and tells us when or if we might see success.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The new security plan is the talk of the town. That plan to clear, hold and rebuild. So, when we will see results? The answer, not before all of those troops are here, which could be a month or more.

Even government ministers here are weary about talking success yet.

BARHAM SALEH, IRAQI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I would not want to talk about a specific date. And one should not talk about a plan as such. We have had many plans in the past, and these plans were launched with a lot of expectations and anticipation.

HOLMES: We have already seen U.S. troops carrying out increased clearing operations; the hold and rebuilds phases are yet to kick in. The theory is U.S. and Iraqi troops will clear problem areas and so- called joint security stations will be set up.

U.S. soldiers, alongside Iraqi troops and police, a unified chain of command working inside neighborhoods and not leaving. An as-yet undefined rebuilding program for those areas would then begin.

In all, Baghdad will fall into nine security zones. Each commander an Iraqi reporting to the prime minister.

Some suburbs will be walled off, one way in and out. Even parts of Baghdad's perimeter could be protected by huge earthen berms.

As the operation continues, Iraqis would take control of security. Americans playing purely support roles. It's all going to take a lot of boots on the ground -- 22,000 extra troops promised by President Bush, thousands more promised by the Iraqi government.

The joint security stations, one being set up here, are the key. Not least because of widespread allegations that Iraqi security forces are infiltrated by sectarian militia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Based on my experience in the Interior Ministry, if this force is made up, for instance, exclusively of the police, then X segment of the population may be worried. And if it was exclusively made up of the army, then a Y sect may have fears. And if it's only made up of the Americans, there are fears.

But if there is real presence by all these three forces, then one will watch over the other. This sends a comforting message to citizens.

HOLMES: Many Iraqis hope the plan will work. Others, including some Iraqis involved in it, are skeptical. One former Iraqi army general now helping plan those joint security stations told us, "It's not going to work. It'll be like all the other plans. They don't trust us, and we don't trust them."

And he added, "Having U.S. soldiers in police stations in neighborhoods isn't smart. They'll be attacked."

Others, however, disagree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think the U.S. military has proven so far that it wouldn't side with one ethnic or sectarian group against another. This has given them some minimum level of credibility in police stations and in the provinces. I don't think their presence will anger people.

HOLMES: Many questions remain. Chief among them, will the Iraqi government interfere to help its supporters, as it's done before? U.S. officials say interference will not be tolerated.

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: The military commanders will have freedom of action and an ability to do what's needed without political interference or micromanagement.

HOLMES: Will Iraqi forces be up to the job, loyal to the plan, rather than tribal or sectarian groups? Will militias like the Mehdi army of Muqtada al-Sadr be disarmed? And what will the insurgent response be to this plan?

And that's a tricky question. Some believe the concentration of especially U.S. forces in suburbs will provide an irresistible target for insurgents.

(on camera): Others believe some insurgent groups will lay low, bide their time, not confront coalition forces, especially Americans. As one Iraqi put it, "Arabs are a patient people. Five years, 10 years, they will wait."

The problem is, the Iraqi and U.S. governments don't have that kind of time.

Michael, Holmes, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GORANI: All right. Well, let's take a look at some other stories we're following for you around the world this hour.

CLANCY: And we begin with a stunning legal development in Israel. The attorney general in Israel recommending now that President Moshe Katsav be indicted on charges of rape, abuse of power, and other counts. Katsav has been implicated in a sex scandal stemming from complaints made by four women who once worked for him.

Katsav denies any wrongdoing.

GORANI: Thousands of mourners have paid public respect to Hrant Dink, the Armenian-Turkish journalist whose murder sparked questions in Turkey about the treatment of minorities and Turkey's quest to join the European Union. A teenager has confessed to killing Dink last Friday

CLANCY: Ethiopian troops beginning their withdrawal from Mogadishu. That's the word from Somalia, as well as from Ethiopian officials. Ethiopian troops backed Somali soldiers in their campaign to oust the Islamic militia that had taken control of most of the country, but many Somalis resent the presence of the Ethiopian troops. The two countries fought a brutal war back in the 1970s.

GORANI: U.S. President George Bush is likely to focus on domestic issues, like immigration, energy, education, and healthcare, as he presents his first State of the Union Address to a Democratic- controlled Congress hours from now, but much attention will be focused on what he says about Iraq, of course. There's deep bipartisan skepticism over his plan for more troops there.

CLANCY: All right. We're going to take a short break here, but we'll have a lot more on President Bush's second to the last State of the Union Address a little bit later.

GORANI: Also coming up, we'll talk with a man who had the good luck -- or is it the bad luck -- to be nearly swallowed by a shark and to live to tell the tale. I'll call it good luck.

CLANCY: I think so.

Talk about good luck, there's a lot of people hoping out there. The Academy Awards nominations have just come out. We'll tell you about some of the surprising choices and some even more surprising names left off the list.

GORANI: And later, talking about global warming in a place known for its snow, but which is unseasonably warm at the moment. We'll meet (ph) with world leaders gathered in Davos.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GORANI: Welcome back to CNN International and YOUR WORLD TODAY.

CLANCY: That's right. This is where we bring CNN's viewers around the globe an hour of news from an international perspective. GORANI: Now, would you consider it the end if you found yourself inside the jaws of a Great White shark? Well, if all that was free and outside the shark -- sorry. All that's free and out of the shark is your arm.

CLANCY: Yes, pretty scary to think head first you went into a shark. Well, this is a story of a diver who's amazed he's even able to talk about this.

Aela Callan tells us about one very lucky mate indeed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AELA CALLAN, REPORTER (voice over): This is one of the luckiest man alive, surviving a terrifying shark attack off the New South Wales south coast, with a bloodied face and puncture wounds to his back, chest and arm. Forty-one-year-old Eric Nerhus was offshore this morning, diving for abalone in waves, when he swam head on into a Great White.

SARAH CHENALL, NEWSPAPER REPORTER: Apparently, he was swallowed whole by this shark, which is yet identified. Everything but hi arm was inside the shark's mouth, and he poked the shark in the eye and was released.

CALLAN: Mr. Nerhus swam back to his boat where his son was waiting.

MARK NERHUS, SON OF SHARK ATTACK VICTIM: He had come up to surface and he was going, "Help, help! There's a shark! There's a shark."

And I went over and there, and then there was a big pool of red blood. And I pulled him out of the water. And he's going, "Just get me to shore. Get me to shore."

CALLAN: He was well enough to talk as fellow divers rushed him back to shore.

REECE WARREN, SKIPPER: He said the abs are all right down there, that he -- I just said, "What happened?" It was a shark who was swimming through the wave, and then it just grabbed him head on.

CALLAN: Ambulance officers stabilized him for the flight to Wollongong Hospital. His diving mates are sure his lead-weight vest protected him from the shark's teeth.

(on camera): Mr. Nerhus is currently in a stable condition here at Wollongong Hospital, surprising doctors that he's able to sit up and talk to them. That's something he'll no doubt be a lot of over the coming days as he'll tell his extraordinary tale of survival.

(voice over): He's having surgery and will stay in hospital overnight.

DR. MARK NEWCOMBE, WOLLONGONG HOSPITAL: Well, shock's a funny term. I mean, technically, it's a loss of blood. But what you're talking about is emotional shock, I guess. And certainly I think that that would possibly be a component here.

CALLAN: Shark experts agree this was a great escape from a Great White.

BEN CROPP, SHARK EXPERT: This guy, he was very lucky. Extremely lucky to survive.

CALLAN: Aela Callan, 7 News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CLANCY: Colombians have been paying tribute to their Spanish heritage with the running of the bulls.

GORANI: Well, hundreds gathered in one of Colombia's coastal towns Saturday to chase and be chased by the bulls. The bull-running is part of a six-day festival that has been held in San Chalejo (ph) and other towns in Colombia for well over a century, but the daredevil antics come with a price, of course. Each year at least 20 people are killed and many more are gored and run over by the bulls.

Well, you know the risks you're taking.

CLANCY: That's the not the way you're supposed to ride a bull. I'm pretty sure.

GORANI: Yes. Backwards on its back?

Anyway, it is quite a risky exercise and hobby and pastime.

Now, for the longest time, Hillary Clinton didn't want to talk about running for president.

CLANCY: But everybody knew it, Hala. Now it seems she can't stop talking about it.

GORANI: All right. When we come back, making the rounds on TV talk shows with the newly-declared U.S. presidential candidate.

CLANCY: And then a bit later, when a surprising number of offbeat movies and actors get nominated for an Academy Award, a number of famous favorites get left off the list.

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Here are some of the top stories we're following. Hezbollah-led protesters are stepping up their campaign in Lebanon to topple the country's government, with deadly results in some cases. Police report three were killed and up to one hundred people injured in Beirut when gunfire broke out. Hezbollah wants the prime minister to step down and called for early elections. Government supporters call the action an attempted coup.

China confirmed that it did fire a missile at one of its old weather satellites earlier this month. But a foreign ministry spokesman says Beijing opposes the weaponization of space, as it's called.

The U.S. and Japan were among those who criticized the firing as an escalation of the arms race in outer space.

George Bush will try to rally Americans behind his latest Iraqi plan. The American president will present first State of the Union Address to a Democratic-controlled Congress hours from now. There is deep skepticism over his troop build up strategy in some corners.

Mr. Bush will also focus on domestic issues like immigration, energy, education and healthcare, as well. This evening we'll carry that live for you on CNN.

We want to return now to our top story this hour on YOUR WORLD TODAY out of Lebanon, those protests. Ibrahim Moussaoui is on the telephone line with us from Beirut. He's the editor of "Al Manar Television" run by Hezbollah.

Ibrahim Moussaoui, thanks for being with us.

What is that strategy here? The country is paralyzed, the economy is crumbling. Why are the protesters going to such lengths in order to bring their message to the government?

IBRAHIM MOUSSAOUI, EDITOR, "AL MANAR TV": Well, it's been 63 days that the protest has been going on. And the government -- the government, according to Siniora, the de facto prime minister, has never blinked an eye so that -- I mean, the majority of the people are in the streets. They are staging sit-ins, demonstrations. A huge demonstration (INAUDIBLE)... one million, five hundred thousand people in the streets. They comprise many communities, Druzes, Christians, Shiite and some Sunnis.

And the division is along political lines, yet the government is not going to bow to the demands of the opposition to be part of the decision making, to be part of the sharing -- this is a constitutional democracy and the government is trying to hijack the decision in Lebanon. And this is not accepted by the opposition.

GORANI: But let me ask this, Ibrahim Moussaoui. I'm sorry for interrupting, we have limited time. But you're saying the government is hijacking. It seems like the opposition is hijacking here and blackmailing this democratically elected government.

Will there be a coup?

What's the end game here?

MOUSSAOUI: I want to remind you that -- I mean, it's worse when it happens in any other western country, but when it is in Lebanon, it's not accepted. And the people in France, they used to demonstrate and rally and even do whatever for minor social demands. We're thinking about decisions that are going to effect the lives of generations to come. That's why the opposition wants to part of this constitutional democracy. This is prescribed in our charter and our constitution. So the opposition for democratic -- following democratic (INAUDIBLE) and needs to see its demands happening.

GORANI: But let me ask you this last question because the fear among many observers is -- well, look, you already three people, gun battles, hundreds are wounded. You know, this is turning violent. What's going to happen?

MOUSSAOUI: This is certainly violent because -- I mean, those militias that are supporting the government, they are provoking the people. And I remind you that many of those who are wounded and those who were killed, they were from the opposition, not from the other side. So maybe the government -- the de facto government should answer that along with the Jaja (ph) militia and the others.

GORANI: All right. OK, it's really crisis time there in Lebanon.

Thank you for joining us.

The editor of foreign news at the Hezbollah-run "Al Manar Television", Ibrahim Moussaoui -- Jim.

CLANCY: We're going to turn now and take a closer look at U.S. politics. You know, it is the U.S. Constitution that requires the president to deliver a State of Union Report -- that's what it's called -- to the Congress every year.

As in years past, President Bush will once again step up to the podium before a joint session of the Congress. But this time everybody sees that he's facing a pretty tough audience.

Tonight, he will stand before a Congress led by the opposition and an American public that's growing more and more disillusioned with his government.

Senior political analyst Bill Schneider has the story.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: President Bush will be addressing a skeptical audience, not just the new Democratic Congress but also the American people. At 34 percent approval, Mr. Bush has the lowest job rating of any president on record going into his next to last year in office.

Most Americans now call the Bush presidency a failure. Remember the issue that brought down his father? This time, it's not the economy, stupid. More than 60 percent of Americans believe the nation's economy is in good shape.

But Americans are strongly opposed to President Bush's policies in Iraq. more than 60 percent oppose his troop increase and want Congress to try and stop it. Disillusionment with Iraq is having a spillover effect. Only 28 percent of Americans now believe the United States and its allies are winning the war on terror, the lowest number ever. Most Americans say neither side is winning.

President Bush's father learned that even a brilliant foreign policy success cannot save you if the economy falls apart. President Lyndon Johnson learned that a foreign policy disaster can destroy you, even if you have a strong domestic record. It's a lesson that President Bush may learn, too.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.

CLANCY: Now, sometimes these State of Union Addresses can be pretty important. It was during a previous address President Bush coined that phrase "Axis of Evil" when referring to Iraq, Iran and North Korea. He said all three were seeking weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. affairs editor Jill Dougherty give us a look at the results of President Bush's policies with that Axis of Evil.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN U.S. AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): It's one of the most famous phrases ever uttered by George W. Bush.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: States like these and their terrorists allies constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.

DOUGHERTY: President Bush first took aim at what he called the axis of evil in his State of the Union Address back in January, 2002. Three very different countries, which he argued with almost religious fervor were committing the same sin: seeking weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq, under its bellicose, leader Saddam Hussein.

BUSH: This is a regime that agreed to international inspections, then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.

DOUGHERTY: North Korea, ruled by the unpredictable Kim Jong-Il.

BUSH: North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction while starving its citizens.

DOUGHERTY: And finally Iran.

BUSH: Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom.

DOUGHERTY: The U.S. president vowed he would not wait while dangers gather. So he invaded Iraq and rid it of Saddam Hussein. But the country devolved into chaos. He squeezed North Korea diplomatically and financially. But the north defied him, testing a nuclear deice this past October.

Now the Bush administration is cranking up the pressure on Iran, beefing up its naval presence in the Persian Gulf. But Iran's defiant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defends the country's uranium enrichment program and says it will move full steam ahead.

One Iranian observer says Mr. Bush's strategy isn't working.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It backfired. It alienated a lot of reformists. At the same time it created a new surge of nationalism in Iran. And the whole nuclear issue became a rallying point for a lot of people inside of Iran.

DOUGHERTY (on camera): Five years after President Bush coined -- or his speechwriters coined that phrase axis of evil, the outcome that he was looking at seems pretty far away. On Iraq, for example, where no nuclear weapons were found, you have sectarian violence on a daily basis. North Korea, although it is talking with the United States, still has not given up its nuclear weapons. And, finally, on Iran, they are vehemently and very stridently defending their right to a nuclear program -- Jim.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CLANCY: All right. Jill Dougherty there, reporting to us live from Washington.

Thanks, Jill.

This reminder: CNN will bring you President Bush's State of the Union speech live. Our coverage begins at 01:00 hours Greenwich Mean Time Wednesday. That's 8:00 p.m. Eastern here in the United States -- Hala.

GORANI: Well, he could have been released from Guantanamo Bay in 2002. In stead, at the urging of Germany U.S. authorities kept him locked up for another four years. Now Germany's foreign minister is under fire for his role in the case of Turkish national Burak Kurnov (ph).

Frederik Pleitgen explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the first meeting of the E.U. foreign ministers since Germany assumed the presidency of the European Union. All eyes were on German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, but for a reason not connected to this meeting. Steinmeier is under fire in Germany because of this man, Burak Kurnov, a Turkish citizen living in Germany, who spent five years in U.S. custody, first in Afghanistan, then in Guantanamo Bay.

"Mr. Kurnov described how in Kandahar and in Guantanamo he was treated inhumanly and terribly tortured," says Hans Christian Stoyblay (ph), an opposition politician on a parliamentary committee investigating the allegations. Secret documents obtained by Germany's ARD Television indicate American authorities were willing to free Kurnov in 2002, but Germany delayed the process for almost four years, until August of last year, urging Washington to find links between Kurnov and international terrorism, links that apparently never existed. The man that many hold responsible, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, then chief of staff to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

SAN TECHAU, POLITICAL SCIENTIST: We've heard everything from, well, he will step get away with whatever he has done, to well, he will step back and leave office within the next couple of weeks.

PLEITGEN: Frank-Walter Steinmeier has not commented publicly on the allegations. Allegations even some of his own party members say are very, very serious.

(on camera): Steinmeier says he's willing to testify before an investigative committee. Some politicians close to him say he did nothing wrong, and that, at the time, the German government feared Kurnov could be a security risk.

Frederik Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GORANI: Well, just a short time ago, Steinmeier made his first public comments on the case, defending himself against allegations that he rejected an American officer to release Burak Kurnov in 2002. He told reporters in Brussels, quote, "I know of no such offer." We'll keep following that for you.

CLANCY: That's right. You're watching YOUR WORLD TODAY.

Now coming up, all eyes are on a sleepy Swiss ski resort this week.

CLANCY: That's right, the Davos World Economics Forum kicking off Wednesday with some big names going to be in attendance. We'll have a little bit of a preview for you.

GORANI: And, the nominations are in. This year Oscar may have a decidedly international flair.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GORANI: Welcome back to CNN International.

CLANCY: That's right, seen live in more than 200 countries across the globe, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.

GORANI: Now all this week, CNN is in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum, the biggest gathering of business leaders, political leaders you'll see all year, really all concentrated in one place. CLANCY: All together in that little snowy ski village.

GORANI: Right.

CLANCY: Participants will be tackling some pretty important issues, though. They range from global warming -- I don't think they have as much snow this year. I think they're starting to wake up to that. But they're also going to talk Middle East peace, as they do every year. How much really gets done, though? That's the question.

GORANI: Absolutely. Now, critics claim the gathering is too exclusive to foster any lasting change.

Becky Anderson takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Few events can generate a lineup like this -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair cozying up to rock start Bono, Hollywood's golden couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt listening in.

So how does a sleepy Swiss mountain resort manage to pull this crowd?

KLAUS SCHWAB, FOUNDER, WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM: Here is the place, where once a year in a multi-stakeholder platform, you come together and you reflect on the state of the world, and hopefully you are able to improve the state of the world.

ANDERSON: Well, it was in 1970 that founder Klaus Schwab had the idea to pull together the world's movers and shakers for an annual schmooze-fest. The organization likes to cite the following success story -- the 1988 Davos Declaration which, they say, helped avert war between Greece and Turkey. The 1989 meeting between the heads of the then East and West German, just months before the Berlin Wall came down.

High-level meetings like these have set the bar for what delegates at Davos can hope to achieve.

GED DAVIS, WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM: We are genuinely -- such fancy words -- but we are a world in transition. We are in fact searching for new order, new structures, and I think this is one of the places you can have, I think, intelligent discussions about that.

ANDERSON: Since the turn of the millennium, the focus has shifted toward globalization and how business can help improve the state of the world.

It was in 2002 Microsoft founder Bill Gates announced a $50 million contribution to the fights against AIDS in Africa. There may be a lot of money pledged to good causes, but this is a meeting that is synonymous with corporate might. It takes 5,000 troops and $5.5 million to protect the Davos elite, a sign to critics that this is very firmly an invitation-only jamboree. Anyone with a sniff of anti- globalization to them will be turned away at the door.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CLANCY: And Becky Anderson joins us now live from Davos. Becky, what's all the talk about there at this annual meeting.

ANDERSON: Well, let me give you some facts and figures before I start. I mean, the skiers have now gone. Global warming apart, the snow has now come, although it's been a particularly bad ski season for Europe. And the skiers have gone, and the big hotels are now gearing up for the veritable deluge of the very rich and the very famous, as you know, Jim, as they gather here for this annual talk- fest of talk-fests.

The numbers go like this -- there will be 2,500 delegates, 24 world leaders, 800 companies will be represented here. And of those companies, together, their annual turnover is something like $10 trillion. That is a quarter of the world's GDP. This is a huge networking event. It's been going on for some 30 years now. What they'll be talking about, though, a range of subjects, Jim. Ask me about them if you will.

CLANCY: Yes. Well, I mean, obviously they know. They're going to have panels. They all sit down and they talk about Middle East. They talk about freedom of the press sometimes. But you know, what is shaping it up to be this year? Is there one big issue?

ANDERSON: yes, I sense a certain skepticism in your voice. There is Lot of skepticism of what goes on here in Davos. Is it all just a lot of hot air? It is a lot of big and famous people just getting together to talk to the talk. Do they really walk the walk? Well, I think this year, you'll see some definitive action coming out of here. There's a lot of talk of globalization, a huge amount of talk about climate change, some 17 panels over the next five days or so, talking climate change.

And also a lot of buzz around the idea of information revolution. We live, as you know, in a new digital ecosystem, effectively, the world of Web 2.0, the world of bloggers, the world of social networking sites, the world of photo-sharing sites, and that's something that CNN will be covering this week.

We have one hour live special on Thursday. That's "CNN Connects: Our Networked World: The Pitfalls and the Promises of the Information Evolution.:

And if you want to get a search on just how digital and just how revolutionized this world really is with this information, I just did a Google search on Davos and bloggers, and there are over one million hits, so far as blogs are concerned, on this very meeting. Everybody's doing it, and we'll find out just why they're doing it on Thursday -- Jim.

CLANCY: All right, Becky Anderson there in Davos.

We'll hear more from you later -- Becky. Now before the envelope, before the golden statue and the tearful acceptance speech, the nominations come.

GORANI: Right And we know who might, Jim, who might win Academy Awards next month, we'll run down all the Oscar contenders when we return.

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GORANI: Well, well, well. For some in Hollywood today is just like their birthday.

CLANCY: Yes. For the rest it's like their birthday, only no one remembered.

GORANI: Well, the 2007 Academy Awards nominations have been announced.

Sibila Vargas is in Los Angeles. She joins us now with all the details, and the surprises as well.

Sibila, hi.

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and I also got some reaction. We were up early-morning hours today in Beverly Hills to hear the nominations. Meryl Streep received her 14th nomination for "The Devil Wears Prada." Now if she wins, this will be her third trophy, and once again, the actress proves that she never loses her sense of humor. This is what she had to say, "I am thrilled in the way that no one can possibly imagine. It's extraordinary that anyone in the actor's branch is speaking to me, never mind nominating me yet again I am very grateful."

Dame Judi Dench, who will be competing with Streep for the best actress in a leading role for her work in "Notes on a Scandal." Now she says, "I am pleased. I am in frighteningly good company. It is very nice of the Queen to allow me in for a minute. It was one of the harder parts I have played. At the end of the day I was quite glad to get back to the person I am. I had the power to do it because of Richard Eyre. He steered me through the rougher waters of it."

And former Vice President Al Gore may have found a new career path. "An Inconvenient Truth" received a nod in the best documentary category. He replied, "I am thrilled for our director, Davis Guggenheim, and producers Laurie David, Lawrence Bender, Scott Burns and co-producer Lesley Chilcott. The film they created has brought awareness of the climate crisis to people in the United States and all over the world, and I am so grateful to the entire team and pleased that the Academy has recognized their work. This proves that movies really can make a difference."

Well, Penelope Cruz was thrilled with her nod for leading actress in "Volver." We talked to her just this morning, just hours after she heard the news. This is what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENELOPE CRUZ, BEST ACTRESS NOMINEE: I woke up like five minutes before they announced it, and I felt like I was dreaming, because I'd dreamt about it, different versions of what could happen, because it's really difficult not to think about it when people have been talking to you about it for months now. So I feel you like you prepare yourself for it not to happen, because you never know, until the last minute. But there is so much hope talk about it and so much hope that they put in your head about it happening. And I like being honest about those things, because of course, I care. It's a huge deal for me. And it's the first time it happens to a Spanish actress, and it's...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VARGAS: She is lovely, and rising star Jennifer Hudson, who just took home the Golden Globe was nominated as best supporting actress for her film debut in "Dreamgirls." She is living a dream, and she gave this statement -- "Thank you to the Academy. I am blown away by this honor. I feel I have reached the impossible. This is proof that faith is powerful. Thank you!"

And you know, she goes in with eight nominations for "Dreamgirls," so this is quite a big thing for her, for sure. The film did not get best picture, though, and it did not get best director. I should point that out.

GORANI: All right, Sibila Vargas, thanks very much for that. We're going to have to leave it there for this hour.

I'm Hala Gorani.

CLANCY: I'm Jim Clancy. And this is CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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