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Mumbai-Style Terror Attack in Europe?; General Strike in Spain

Aired September 29, 2010 - 16:00:00   ET


MAX FOSTER, GUEST HOST: Revealed -- the source who told us to beware of terror attacks in Europe's biggest cities is a German citizen. In fact, he prayed at the same Hamburg mosque as the people who were behind the September 11th attacks. Tonight, the connection leads to Pakistan, where Europe may have been spared by increased drone attacks in the region.

Going beyond borders on the stories that matter on CNN, this is the hour we connect the world.

European capitals could be subject to a Mumbai-style terror attack. It's a story that goes from Hamburg to the mountains in Waziristan and Washington.

Connecting those dots for you, I'm Max Foster in London.

Also tonight, Spaniards come out to protest their country's first general strike in eight years. We'll connect that to Belgium, Ireland and beyond.

Iran's president is back home after his visit to New York. But the U.S. has just announced new economic sanctions against Teheran. We'll explain why.



FOSTER: You can see why he made up a third of the famous three tenors. Jose Carreras talks opera and more, as he answers your questions. He's the Connector of the Day at CNN -- on CNN in the next 60 minutes.

More than 160 people were killed in Mumbai as gunmen roamed the streets. Now there are fears that similar violence could be planned in Europe. The audacious plot was revealed by a German citizen captured in Afghanistan. But authorities say there are no signs of an imminent attack.

Senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, has more.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This recruitment video, posted on YouTube in August, shows German recruits in action in what looks like the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. German intelligence sources estimate hundreds of young Germans, some of Afghan and Arabic backgrounds, have joined jihadist groups since 9/11. One of them was detained in Kabul in July. His name, Ahmed Siddiqui.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: He was taken into American custody. Soon, he was revealing details about a plot, a Mumbai-style attack against Europe, signed off by Osama bin Laden.

ROBERTSON: Siddiqui attended this mosque in Hamburg in Northern Germany -- the same mosque attended by 9/11 lead hijacker, Mohamed Atta. Within weeks of Siddiqui's arrest, police closed it down. According to German intelligence officials, the mosque was closed because it had become a hotbed of extremist ideology.

CRUICKSHANK: Germany has a significant problem. Intelligence officials believe 200 people have traveled from Germany in order to get training in the camps along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. Many have returned.

ROBERTSON: Intelligence agencies in France, Britain and elsewhere in Europe are also concerned about Mumbai-style attacks against economic targets by al Qaeda.

DUNCAN GARDHAM, "DAILY TELEGRAPH" SECURITY EDITOR: Mumbai-style attacks are easy, in some ways, to perpetuate and can have an incredible effect by portraying terrorists on TV, running around streets, randomly killing people. But make no mistake, there will be a network that's behind those men and the intelligence agencies and security agencies in Britain and in the U.S. will currently be trying to track down exactly who those people are.

ROBERTSON: Experts fear it could show a change in al Qaeda tactics, as more ambitious plots against aviation and government targets are disrupted.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: They can achieve their aims and get the publicity for recruitment and fundraising that they need by soft targets, which are near impossible for government officials to secure them all.

ROBERTSON: U.S. intelligence officials note an up tick in drone strikes on militant compounds and other targets in Pakistan's border areas. They say precise intelligence is helping them target a variety of extremist groups, with the aim of thwarting fresh conspiracies.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates.


FOSTER: So just how strong is the link between the rise in drone attacks on Pakistan and the di -- the discovery of the terror threat against Europe?

Well, in a moment, I'll be discussing that with analyst Sajjan Gohel.

But first, let's talk to Islamabad, where Frederik Pleitgen has more on the huge surge in the number of airstrikes.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This month has seen a massive increase in American drone attacks in Northwestern Pakistan, especially in the Northern Waziristan region. Now, not all of these drone attacks are related to the terror plot. However, we have seen at least 20 of these strikes this month. And if you compare that to other months in past years and also in other months this year, there, you would normally see maybe four, five drone strikes in a month. And as I said, this time, 20 drone attacks this month alone. So certainly, a major rise in those.

Now, as I said, not all of these are related to this terror plot. What we have been hearing from American officials is that some of them, in fact, are related to the plot. But on the other hand, the U.S. says it's also getting better intelligence on the ground in North and South Waziristan and also that its technology simply has gotten better than it was before, better face recognition technology on drones; also balloons that fly very high in the air and have very high powered cameras to be able to spot al Qaeda and Taliban operatives.


FOSTER: Frederik Pleitgen there reporting from Islamabad.

Well, despite pledging its full support to tackling terrorists on its own soil, Pakistan's government has repeatedly criticized the use of drone attacks. The New America Foundation says the strikes have killed more than 1,000 people in the country since 2004, the majority of them civilians.

On Tuesday, Becky was given the opportunity to speak to Pakistan's former president, Pervez Musharraf. You can hear the full interview this Friday.

But here's what he had to say about the use of drone attacks.


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Do you support the use of drone attacks?


ANDERSON: Why not, if the Pakistan military is so stretched?

MUSHARRAF: Well, it's a...


MUSHARRAF: It's a -- it's a -- it's a dilemma, again. The dilemma is that the drone attacks do attack the militants. There is no doubt in my mind that it is the militants who do get killed.

But the negative side is why foreign forces into Pakistan?

It will be done by our own forces. The sensitivity of the people of Pakistan, that we don't want any foreign troops to come and do anything in our country.


FOSTER: Do remember, will have Becky's full interview with Pakistan's former president, Pervez Musharraf, on CONNECT THE WORLD this Friday at 9:00 p.m. London time, 10:00 p.m. Central European time.

We're going to speak to Sajjan now, because it's interesting hear -- hearing from the Pervez Musharraf, isn't it, because isn't he partly to blame for these drone strikes?

Didn't it happen on his watch?

SAJJAN GOHEL, TERROR ANALYST, ASIA PACIFIC FOUNDATION: Well, in fact, they've begun when Musharraf was president and military ruler of Pakistan. And the reason was that the U.S. had lost faith and trust in him, especially as his reluctance to clamp down on the terrorist activity in the federally administered tribal areas. Musharraf made a number of disastrous peace deals with the Pakistani Taliban that allowed al Qaeda to grow and proliferate.

And over a period of time, the U.S. realized that if it can't have ground troops in the tribal areas, the best solution is to strike from the air, which began very successfully under the Bush administration and continue under Obama's administration.

FOSTER: So away the rights and wrongs of the drone attacks, are they proving effective right now, from what we know?

GOHEL: They are controversially successful. On the other hand, they have eliminated a number of senior key members of al Qaeda, such as Midhat Mursi, Abu Hamza Rabia, Abu Laith al-Libi and also the head of the Pakistan Taliban, Baitullah Mahsud. But it's also resulted in a lot of collateral damage. A lot of innocent civilians have been caught up in the middle.

The question is, how do you deal with the solution?

Is the Pakistani military is still reluctant to carryout a grand offensive in North Waziristan, the only alternative seems to be left for the drone attacks.

FOSTER: And they are increasing at the moment, aren't they?

How rapidly have they increased in, say, the last year or so?

GOHEL: A substantial increase. There's been over 400 alone, not necessarily used to carry out an attack, but for monitoring, for observation, for strategic purposes. This month alone has been the record number, in September and we haven't even reached the end of the month. And it illustrates the fact that U.S. feels that they can successfully hem in al Qaeda. They can box them in within the tribal areas, prevent them from carrying out mass casualty plots from abroad.

FOSTER: Are they responding to intelligence they're getting from sources, for example, this latest plot, which they seem to have uncovered in relation to Europe, would they be increasing the drone attacks in response to what they found out there?

GOHEL: Very much so. On the ground, intelligence has improved significantly. The U.S. has been able to obtain information from computers and laptops that they've seized from individuals connected to terrorist outfits. That's also been very useful. And the electronic chatter has increased the focus in the tribal areas, as well as some of the cities in Pakistan where these terrorist groups operate.

And with all those pieces put together, they're forming a much wider picture of just what the terrorist groups are planning.

So it, in effect, is a preemptive strategy to foil a terrorist plot when it's at -- only at the planning stage, not even when it's, perhaps, able to be executed.

FOSTER: By earlier attacks.

Sajjan, we're going to speak to you again in just a moment.

But right now, we're going to consider what countries can do to protect their civilians against a Mumbai-style attack.

Atika Shubert has been finding out for us.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is Liverpool Street Station and it's right in the heart of London's financial district. And it is exactly the type of soft target that was hit in Mumbai.

So just how prepared are London and other European cities for this type of an attack?

(voice-over): Colonel Richard Kemp is a former counter-terror adviser to the British government.

(on camera): How vulnerable are soft targets like Liverpool Street Station, where we're at?

COL. RICHARD KEMP, FORMER U.K. COUNTER-TERRORISM ADVISER: They're -- they're extremely vulnerable, because it's possible to -- to move into an area like this undetected, cause mayhem and murder, killing people, shooting them, blowing them up with grenades. And it takes, obviously, the police are not going to be -- can't be everywhere ready to handle it immediately.

What the police do is to -- well, obviously, identify the central target areas and make sure they've got plans in place, make sure their tactics are appropriate for dealing as rapidly as they can with it. Otherwise, apart from what the -- the work of the police and the other security agencies, it has to be business as usual in the same way as other terror threats, we can't allow our cities just to grind to a halt. We can't allow ourselves to go into a siege mentality.

SHUBERT: (voice-over): Shopping areas like London's Oxford Street are also a concern. There are dozens of CT-TV cameras in the area to alert police to suspicious activity. But security experts say the human factor is most important.

MARTIN TAYLOR, BRITISH SHOPPING CENTRES COUNCIL: Absolutely, first and foremost, is the human factor issues -- ensuring that staff are fully trained in every up to date method of detecting, for example, hostile reconnaissance, detecting what's going on during an instant and ensuring that they're able to -- to move the public into a place of safety as quickly as possible.

SHUBERT: (on camera): The key, security experts say, is to stay alert and vigilant, preventing an attack before it happens and that, in turn, demands good intelligence.

Atika Shubert, CNN, London.


FOSTER: Of course, and a lot of people who don't fully understand this will be worried that an attack is imminent. And as we were hearing there, we don't want to push anyone into a siege mentality.

But can you give us your best judgment about how imminent an attack might be on a city like London, like Berlin, a European city?

GOHEL: Well, we have to keep in mind that the European intelligence services have improved considerably since 9/11, their level of cooperation, sharing of intelligence has increased. They've been able to successfully disrupt a large number of plots.

Now, the intelligence agencies can't be 100 percent successful all the time. All it requires is just that one event which allows terrorists to be able to carry out...

FOSTER: But there's no point in us worrying about it then, is there?

GOHEL: We should...

FOSTER: There's nothing we can do.

GOHEL: No, we shouldn't let our lives be affected. Everyday, there will be events that -- that could transpire. You can't predict it. But we can have faith in our security services, that they are doing the best they can to disrupt plots, to share intelligence. And that is why there's been such a high success rate in -- in foiling terrorist plots.

FOSTER: Sajjan Gohel, thank you very much, indeed for joining us.

GOHEL: Thank you.

FOSTER: I'm Max Foster.


From Poland to Portugal, Slovenia to Spain, it is a day of action across Europe. We'll see how angry workers are taking to the streets to protest against painful cuts in government spending.

And then, back from the dead -- some species once declared lost to history are resurfacing -- and they're alive and well.


FOSTER: Many of you know him as one of the three tenors, but he's also a legendary singer in his own right, not to mention a humanitarian. Jose Carreras will answer some of your questions as your Connector of the Day.


FOSTER: The scene in cities across Europe this day, as workers took to the streets by the thousands, furious their governments willing to spend billions to rescue failing banks are now forcing austerity measures onto average citizens. Some of the biggest disruptions came in Spain, where unions called their first general strike in eight years. Picketers clashed with police in some areas and commentators dealt with transportation chaos as rail and bus services were disrupted. Many taxis remained park -- parked and many flights were -- were also grounded.

Welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD.

I'm Max Foster.

European governments defend their steep cuts in public spending as necessary to stave off a debt crisis. The workers say they are the ones paying a price for problems not of their own making.

Our Phil Black was at the heart of Wednesday's protests in Brussels, headquarters of the European Union.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The unions had hoped for around 100,000 people. The Belgian police say, in the end, they got about 80,000 marching through the streets of Brussels, that come from around 30 countries to protest the programs of austerity being implemented in countries across the continent. They don't want cuts to public spending and welfare, they don't want cuts and freezes to pay and pensions. And they don't want new laws that make it easier for bosses to fire workers.

So it's a reasonably impressive crowd -- rowdy in parts, even theatrical. But can this event in itself make any difference in turning around a Europe-wide program of dramatically bringing down debt?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously, I think yes. And I hope yes. I don't know, but I hope that all the governments of the -- the -- the countries seem in -- in Europe can see this and can change their policies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time to forget the people. It's a time to forget the -- the workers. It's time to hear what's happening in the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Together with the parliament, the special -- the parliament and other pressure groups, I think it -- it could make a difference.

BLACK: This is the end of the march, duly parked in Central Brussels. And at this point, it really doesn't feel like 80,000 people. The crowd started to disperse pretty much from the moment they arrived. Union leaders are still talking up on that stage, though. Their message is that cuts for weak economies is a bad idea. They also don't think it's fair that workers are bearing the burden of a crisis they say was not of their making. They say that's what they're fighting for, that's what they're going to continue to fight for, with more demonstrations like this one.

Phil Black, CNN, Brussels.


FOSTER: Phil was pointing out, as income and opportunities shrink, that's not the only haunting picture. In some European communities, look at what many are calling ghost towns -- row after row after row of empty houses. Officials in Ireland defined ghost estates as developments of 10 homes or more where more than half are empty or unfinished.

But other countries, of course, experience the building boom and subsequent bust, as well.

Al Goodman has this report from Spain.


AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The town of Sesena, a half hour south of Madrid, used to look like this -- typical white-washed walls and buildings just a few stories tall. But the new part of town looks like this -- massive apartment blocks rising above the plans of La Mancha.

The problem -- many of these are vacant and Sesena is not alone. Across Spain, there are many so ghost towns -- the result of over building during the real estate boom, before the recession hit.

JUAN DOMINGUEZ, SESENA RESIDENT: That's what a lot of people have called this place in interviews, when there wasn't very much here.

GOODMAN: Juan Dominguez is president of the neighborhood association serving the few thousand people who bought homes here and got far less than they expected. Many of the shops that were promised have yet to materialize. Locales where stores should be are bricked up. And there are numerous "for sale" signs. The neighborhood association office is open just twice a week. It has secured a few small improvements, like the new tennis and paddle courts. Dominguez insists he and many others are pleased with their affordable housing, even as we look out on 2,300 new apartments in the same development that are vacant, without city occupancy permits.

The city and the developer have gone to court over who should provide water hookups and road access.

(on camera): Why do you think you will have neighbors there?

DOMINGUEZ: I think after local elections next year, there will be a change at the city hall and a new dialogue with the developers to finish all the construction details.

GOODMAN: There are hundreds of thousands of new homes across Spain, like these in Sesena, which not only are unoccupied, they're unsold.

(voice-over): Back at city hall, the mayor says beyond the issue of local politics, what happened in Sesena also happened across Spain during the boom years.

MANUEL FUENTES, SESENA MAYOR (through translator): Housing was built not to live in, but for speculation. Not based on the actual need, but to get rich as quickly as possible, using mortgage loans from the banks.

GOODMAN: The developer, Francisco Hernando, one of Spain's best known building tycoons, put his very name on this new neighborhood. Hernando wouldn't talk with CNN for this report, but his spokesman told us Hernando is proud of the development and the building quality and he hopes it will be completed when local politics and the market permit.

This investment firm executive in Madrid says it could take years to sell all the excess housing across Spain.

IGNACIO CANTOS, ATLAS CAPITAL (through translator): The market can take up to 200,000 new homes a year. And with a nexus stock now off about one million, it could take six to 10 years for the market to absorb all these new homes.

GOODMAN: For Sesena and similar developments near Spain's cities and along the coastline, the hangover from the boom years sits in plain view.

Al Goodman, CNN, Sesena, Spain.


FOSTER: Well, next on CONNECT THE WORLD, the spotlight turns to Nigeria. These are the faces that grace the country's social pages. We'll step out with the bold and the beautiful driving Nigeria's growing fascination with celebrity.

And two Americans hope for release from an Iranian prison cell. The U.S. imposes new sanctions on some of the country's top officials. That story is still to come.


FOSTER: Heading out in style -- Nigerian's are making their mark on the world stage, from booming -- a booming trade in wigs and weaves to the man who's turned his million local petrol station into an empire ready to take on the global oil giants.

All this week on CONNECT THE WORLD, we're turning the spotlight on Nigeria, a part of CNN's monthly I-List series -- a series that's already taken us to France, Bahrain, Georgia, Poland, Macedonia and Oman.

Tonight, we continue our look at Nigeria, though, with story that can only be described as a social revolution.

Nima Elbagir stepped out with Nigeria's elite set to find out what's behind the nation's growing fascination with celebrity.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is how Lagos' social elite live -- three gospel choirs, (INAUDIBLE) soloist and seemingly no expense spared.

But this isn't only the life for the traditional upper echelons of society. Across Nigeria, celebrity culture is taking root. The new socially elite are rich and fabulous and not at all shy about seeing and being seen. At the heart of this social revolution is Michael Effiong. He's the editor of "Ovation" magazine, Africa's answer to other successful celebrity publications, like "Hello" magazine.

MICHAEL EFFIONG, EDITOR, "OVATION" MAGAZINE: These people are to be respected. I mean no matter, of course, they are not (INAUDIBLE) as I mean the -- the entertainments have gone in America and Europe. Well, they are their own -- their own type. So we should give them all -- all the red carpet treatment that we can.

Basically, because of Nollywood, our film industry and our music, that has really dominated the country. Anywhere you go across Africa, anywhere you walk into a -- a nightclub in -- for business, you know, or reporting. And then hear these Nigerian songs booming, you know, from out of the blue. It is -- it's good. And that is the kind of celebrity (INAUDIBLE) that Nigeria is -- is building up. What we do is to try and show that there are beautiful things in Africa.

ELBAGIR: And being featured within the pages of "Ovation" means you've definitely arrived -- a distinction many of Nigeria's wealthy are willing to pay for.

EFFIONG: So I'm like hello, who paid for some of the events for exclusivity?

Because of the kind of niche that "Ovation" has and the kind of reputation it's built, people actually, sometimes, pay us to carry some events. Because "Ovation" is an aspirational magazine. Lots of people that want to aspire to great things read the interviews and the stories we carry and they want to be like that.

ELBAGIR: In a country where the average household makes around $300 U.S. a year, aspiration is a booming business.

(on camera): And how much does it cost?

EFFIONG: In Nigeria, our cost is $2,000 naira. But two editions ago, we had a special edition where we had the (INAUDIBLE) wedding with (INAUDIBLE). We sold that for $2,500 because it was something very special.

ELBAGIR: How much is $2,000 naira in dollars?

EFFIONG: That will be about $3, I think.

ELBAGIR: Which, in a country with Nigeria's average income, there's a lot of money. One of the things that we've been seeing internationally is the circulation figures for both magazines and newspapers have been suffering.

What are you seeing in terms of "Ovation's" circulation?

EFFIONG: Depending on what we have on the cover, we run between 50,000 to 150,000. And we circulate worldwide. So the market will keep expanding. Everybody wants to look good enough or big enough. Everybody wants to achieve something to be innovation.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Which means in Lagos tonight, you can be sure someone somewhere is putting on their glad rags and hoping to catch a photographer's eye.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, Lagos.


FOSTER: Stay tuned all week as we explore Nigeria's dynamic industries and diverse cultures. This is a country claiming its place on the world stage. Find out how all this week on CONNECT THE WORLD.

Tonight, though, we'll be right back with the world headlines.


FOSTER: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Max Foster in London. Coming up, as two Americans fight for release from an Iranian prison, their home country stacks more sanctions on Tehran. What will be the impact?

Then, a declared loss to the world, only to be found again. We'll take a look at the extinct species that have come back from alleged death.

And the operatic virtuoso with a career that spans the globe and the decades. We've put your questions to the great Jose Carreras. Find out who he still dreams of singing with. He's our Connector of the Day. He's coming up.

All those stories in the show for you, but first we're going to check the headlines this hour.

Warnings of a Mumbai-style terror plot against targets in Europe coming from a man captured in Afghanistan connected to the same German mosque as the September 11th attackers. Investigators believe the plot was hatched in the Afghan-Pakistan border region.

Trade unions stage their demonstrations in cities across Europe, with protesters taking to the streets to rally against austerity measures. The epicenter was Brussels, in Belgium, where some 80,000 people from 30 countries marched.

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has survived a vote of confidence in parliament. It's the first test of his leadership since dozens of lawmakers split from the ruling party. They followed a former -- a former Berlusconi ally who had been expelled.

Now, the United States has just slapped another round of sanctions on Iranian officials but, this time, it has nothing to do with the country's nuclear program. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, interestingly, appeared together today in Washington to explain why and how than sanctions are being imposed.

They target eight senior Iranian officials for alleged human rights abuses during the crackdown on opposition activists who were protesting the 2009 elections.


HILLARY CLINTON, US SECRETARY OF STATE: This is the first time the United States has imposed sanctions against Iran based on human rights abuses. We would like to be able to tell you that it might be the last, but we fear not.

We now have at our disposal a new tool that allows us to designate individual Iranians, officials responsible for or complicit in serious human rights violations, and do so in a way that does not in any way impact on the well-being of the Iranian people themselves.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, US TREASURY SECRETARY: We have found that when we single out individuals and expose their conduct, banks, businesses, and governments around the world respond by cutting off their economic and financial dealings with these individuals, these institutions, these businesses. And this strategy can be very effective.


FOSTER: Optimism there, then, that the sanctions will be effective. But have they been in the past? When CNN recently asked Iran's president about the impact of sanctions on his country, he essentially shrugged them off. Let's bring our Fawaz Gerges to our discussion. He's our big thinker on this story tonight.

It's fascinating to see the Secretary of State and the head of the financial system, effectively, in America, standing there together. What did you make of them doing it together?

FAWAZ GERGES, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, really, Max, it's a - - politically, it's a symbolic act for the opposition. For the anti- Ahmadinejad camp in Iran. It represents a sort of shift, of change, for Barack Obama. Remember, Barack Obama was criticized after the presidential elections -- the Iranian presidential elections -- for not coming out vocally and publicly supporting the opposition.

Now, the Americans are saying, "Well, look. We hear you. We want to support you. We are trying to impose sanctions because we believe in your cause." But at the same time, this is really a double-edged sword. Because the opposition in Iran doesn't actually want to be tainted by being made in America. And that's why Hillary Clinton said, "We want to take a low profile." This is not about the opposition. This is about America's values.

In reality, really, the new change -- the new sanctions don't add much to what the administration has already been doing. The administration is waging all-out war against the Irani regime. It's waging war by other means. It's an economic war against the Moulez (ph) regime.

FOSTER: So, was this just a PR exercise that we saw today? Or do those sanctions effectively have an effect on the Iranian regime?

GERGES: Well, the sanctions are having an effect, but they're not really having an effect on the regime itself. They are having an effect on the poor people. On the middle classes. The pain really is basically -- the toll has been quite very heavy, very high, on the average people.

But the reality is, the sanctions are unlikely to produce their desired effect. Why? Because the reality is the regime itself is determined to proceed with its nuclear program. The stakes are very high. Iran has made up its mind. It wants to proceed. And they're willing to take the cost, because they're not paying the cost. The poor Iranian peoples are paying the cost.

FOSTER: Let's just listen to Mah -- what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had when he was asked about the effects of sanctions on his country. Because it's interesting to see. He was speaking on Larry King.


MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translator): Sanctions really are unimportant to us, because we have been under sanctions for over 30 years. Furthermore, our economy is not based on the economy of the United States. It is a self-contained economy, an indigenous-based economy, because we are able to provide for our own needs.


FOSTER: He must care a bit, doesn't he? I know that the two economies aren't that intertwined, but it is still the world's largest economy, and it does have diplomatic weight.

GERGES: Absolutely. It's not just -- and remember, Max, it's not just the Americans that are imposing sanctions now against Iran. The European Union, every European country. And you have private sanctions against Iran. And all the indications show that the sanctions are taking their toll on the Iranian economy, in particular on the middle classes and the poor classes.

Moreover, it seems in particular, the latest round of sanctions have taken their toll on their nuclear and scientific infrastructure. So in this particular sense, even though the Moulez (ph) regime is determined to proceed with its nuclear program, that the sanctions are making a major bite -- taking a major bite.

FOSTER: So, despite he was on a big US program, he was actually speaking to his domestic audience there.

GERGES: Absolutely. Remember, even though the Americans are also speaking to a domestic audience in Iran, the opposition. Because they realize Iran is a deeply divided country, and there is a major polarization in the country. So both sides are trying to score major political victories.

FOSTER: Fawaz Gerges, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us in the program as ever.

Coming up in the -- after a short break, we're going to bring extinct animals back to life for you. This program can do anything. A new study says many species once thought to be lost forever later turn up alive and well. We'll talk with a zoologist about what that means to conservation efforts around the world, straight ahead.


FOSTER: The human population on Earth grows more than one percent each year, but the United Nations says many other species are facing an accelerated race of extinction -- rate of extinction. Now, a new report out of Australia indicates that even when animals disappear from our view, they may turn up where we least expect it.


FOSTER (voice-over): Back from the dead. A new study by the University of Queensland says that more than a third of mammal species, like this okapi, once considered extinct or missing in the wild, have eventually been rediscovered.

Though they thrive in zoos around the world, okapi are native to the Congo, where they were found in 2006 for the first time in 50 years. That's a relatively short period, though, of extinction, especially compared to this massive fish called the coelacanth. Experts thought it had died out with the dinosaurs before it was found swimming off the coast of South Africa in 1938.

From all corners of the animal kingdom, and the plant kingdom, too, these species have defied their durations of extinction. A small frog in Africa. A short-necked beetle in Britain. Rare flowers. And ancient trees. All of these were once labeled lost to history, and later turned up alive and well.

The study acknowledges a lot of effort is being wasted trying to find animals that are truly gone for ever, like the Tasmanian tiger, that died out more than 70 years ago. But perhaps the searching will pay off some day for other creatures that appear to have vanished but, perhaps, are just waiting to be found again. Max Foster, CNN, London.


FOSTER: Well, my next guest studies patterns of extinction as director of the Institute of Zoology here in London. Tim Blackburn joins me now. Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. Is it a surprise to you that these animals that we thought were extinct actually reappear?

TIM BLACKBURN, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE OF ZOOLOGY: It's not necessarily a huge surprise. To actually identify when the last individuals of a species have disappeared is a very difficult thing to do. So sometimes we do get it wrong. And obviously, it's very good news on those occasions when we do.

FOSTER: It the surprise to some because you -- imagine a habitat is wiped out. Therefore, you can't find the species in that habitat anymore, but they turn up elsewhere. But that's just a sign of survival, I guess.

BLACKBURN: And also a sign, I think, of how little we know about some parts of the world.

FOSTER: OK. And in terms of the species that we're talking about here, we do get very focused, don't we, on the big cuddly mammals. But actually, there are all sorts of animals and species going extinct.

BLACKBURN: Yes. We are basically facing an extinction crisis on the planet, and we're losing species from all taxa. If you look at patterns of threat, for example, there was a report released just today that pointed out that one in five of the world's plants are at risk of extinction. That compares with one in six of the world's birds, one in four of the world's mammal species, one in three of the world's amphibian species. So --

FOSTER: Is that humans causing that, though, or is that other circumstances that we can't control?

BLACKBURN: It is, essentially, a byproduct of human activities. There's only so much land on the planet. There is only so much food on the planet. So the more we take, the less, basically, there is for other creatures.

FOSTER: And does it matter? I know that sounds harsh, but what impact does it then have back on us?

BLACKBURN: We would like, perhaps, to think of ourselves as separate from the natural environment, but we're not. We depend on the natural environment for a whole range of goods and services that would cost trillions of dollars to provide for ourselves. Things like purification of air and water. We are not disconnected from the natural world. We fundamentally depend on it. And extinction is a sign that the environment is in bad health, and that should be a major concern for us.

FOSTER: So what can we realistically do about it? Because you have to convince an awful lot of people to change the way they live in order to stop many more species becoming extinct at this accelerated rate.

BLACKBURN: Yes. I think, unfortunately, people tend only to really understand problems when it directly affects them. So I think for the majority of people, and certainly in the developed world, we would be looking for some sort of major disaster to change people's mind.

But I think that people in the developing world, people who very much fundamentally depend on nature and its products for their day-to-day survival. Perhaps they're the people we should be talking to to really understand the problems.

FOSTER: Tim Blackburn, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

BLACKBURN: Thank you.

FOSTER: You can read more about this story on our website. Check it out at Lots of great pictures there of the animals we've been talking about.

Up next, making connections through music. Our Connector of the Day. We've put your questions to the great Jose Carreras. Stay with us. You don't want to miss it.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): A powerful trio. They've mesmerized music lovers around the world. The Three Tenors, singing "Nessun Dorma" in 1994. But Jose Carreras, one third of the famous trio, also has an impressive resume of his own.

From Carnegie Hall in New York to the NHK Hall in Tokyo, he's performed in music venues across the world. In 1987, Carreras was diagnosed with leukemia, but the opera singer made a remarkable recovery. It was, in fact, his illness that led to The Three Tenors, which formed to raised money for the Jose Carreras International Leukemia Foundation.

A truly talented singer who's received awards for both his music and his humanitarian work, Jose Carreras is your Connector of the Day.


FOSTER: Heard throughout the world and across generations, but is opera still being appreciated the way it was when Jose Carreras made his stage debut way back in 1954 at the age of just eight? Well, Becky put that very question to the maestro when she caught up with him here in London.


JOSE CARRERAS, TENOR: I think so. I want to think so. I see -- around the world, young people going to the opera performances, and I think we have to congratulate ourselves for that. And in our days, of course, media, television has a lot to do with that, and is a wonderful vehicle to bring this kind of music, this kind of part to a much more general public.

ANDERSON: Vincent asks, "If you were given the chance to re-perform The Three Tenors today, who would you choose to perform with?" We talk about making opera accessible, The Three Tenors really brought so many thousands -- hundreds of thousands of people into the fold of opera like nobody else could've done, I don't think.

CARRERAS: Well, I think that this is the most positive thing out of our concerts together, that we had the possibility with our performances to reach these people we were talking about before, people that were not, many of them, not familiar with what is the opera world, no? And so, therefore, for sure, that was a great opportunity. And we have been very privileged and happy that we have been part of it.

ANDERSON: So, if you were to re-perform, can you choose two other performers that you'd like to sort of redo The Three Tenors with in 2010?

CARRERAS: That's impossible. The Three Tenors are -- were Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and myself. And with all my admiration and respect and affection for my colleagues, nowadays that wouldn't work. That was something unique.

ANDERSON: Vincent, that's your answer to that question. Gerray Thomas has written to us. He said, "Placido made a wonderful non-classical album with John Denver." "Perhaps Love," I think it was called. "Have you been tempted to team up with anyone on a non-classical album?"

CARRERAS: Well, I did, by myself, and in different charity concerts or -- I did sing with most popular artists, just to mention one, Elton John, or Diana Ross. So I did, too, sometimes.

ANDERSON: Aiden Stewart asks, "If you could give just one piece of advice to a would-be singer, what would it be?"

CARRERAS: I think the most important thing of all is discipline. I think in our world, the world of opera -- in every field, of course, but in the world of opera, without discipline, you do not reach the -- what you would like to reach.

ANDERSON: And can you just talk us through that, so the viewers' purposes, just to get a sense of the discipline that you use, or you've used to reach where you are today.

CARRERAS: Well, the discipline we have to observe in the -- from the point of view of -- sleeping the right hours, eating the right things. Not drinking the wrong things.


CARRERAS: Doing some exercise, don't talk too much when you have to perform. These simple things, but at the end of the day, make the difference.

ANDERSON: Jurgen asks what we can expect from you in the coming years. What's next?

CARRERAS: In the next month to come, I will perform here in Europe in several cities, and then concert halls, I go to Asia, I go to China, I go to Japan, to Singapore, to Korea, and then to United States. So, the usual itinerary, like every year.


FOSTER: Well, our next Connector is probably best known for her starring role in the film "Austin Powers," but Hurley is just as comfortable behind the camera as a successful fashion designer. These days, she's also turned her hand to farming, rearing pigs and cattle for sale for her local organic market. You can send us in your questions for any of our Connectors of the Day. Remember, do head to We'll be right back.


FOSTER: Let's get you an update of our Global Connections now. Some of the links you've come up with are fantastic. Links between two countries that at first glance appear to have nothing in common. Well, this week, we're traveling from Canada, the world's leading maple syrup producer, to the Ivory Coast, which provides us with much of the cocoa needed for chocolate.

Canadian Jeff Tracey has a personal connection with West Africa. His parents were volunteers for Canadian Crossroads, which is a charity that does work in the region, including the Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. Whilst in West Africa, they met a three-year-old boy known as Sam, and became his sponsors. For many years, they didn't hear much about Sam's progress, until 2005, when a letter arrived. Here's an excerpt of that that Jeff has chosen to share with us.


JEFFREY TRACEY, CANADIAN: "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Tracey. It is me, Sam, a man that you and your wife, Marissa (ph) kindly sponsored throughout the years. I am doing well, and moved to London, England in 1999.

I feel guilty not writing you more regularly throughout the years. I want you to be one of the first people to know that I've just graduated with my doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oxford. I owe you my lifelong gratitude for making my life worth living. Without your generous assistance, this would not have been possible.

I now have a loving wife, a wonderful family, and an education. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Sam.


FOSTER: Can you believe it? Well, the connections, of course, don't have to be personal ones. Do head to our website and help us connect Africa's Ivory Coast and Canada. We've already connected Germany and India, and many more pairs. It's a lot of fun, so get involved. Go to to find out how. We'll be playing out a montage of your responses on the show on Friday.

Time now for our Parting Shots, the talking point inspired by the most poignant pictures of the day. Tonight is a series of striking images of North Korea's leadership. You don't get to see much in this secretive regime, so take a close look. Center stage is Kim Jong-il, dwarfed by the opposing statue of his father, Kim Il-Sung.

The photographs released by the country's official Korean Central News Agency show the conference of the Workers' Party in Pyongyang. They provide a rare look inside the Communist regime, its military-like orderliness, and a stark and almost cavernous hall.

The extraordinary meeting has been surrounded by speculation of a leadership change and follows the political promotions of Mr. Kim's sister, pictured here, she's third from the right, there. And his elusive younger son, Kim Jong-un, who is widely expected to inherit the leadership from his ailing father. This is one of the few images we have in the public arena of Kim Jong-un.

But CNN has managed to unearth another of him as a teenager. It's a photograph taken when he was at a private school in Switzerland about ten years ago. He spoke -- we spoke to a man who says he was Kim Jong-un's best friend at the time. He described the young North Korean as "quiet but competitive" and also commented on what sort of leader he thought his classmate would eventually make.


JOAO MICAELO, KIM JOUNG-UN'S FRIEND (via telephone): I think he would make it better. Un, when he was sixteen, he was a good guy, so I don't think he can make something bad. But now, I don't know what he makes in the last nine years.


FOSTER: One wonders. We've also received quite a response form you on the prospects of the young man assuming power from his father. A.D. Lord, or adlord has picked up on the fact that Kim Jong-un was educated in Switzerland, and he writes that "This kid will be either our best hope for peace or our worst nightmare."

Similarly, Homer10 argues, "This guy is of a different generation and may not quite cotton to the Maoist way of doing things."

But there is also a lot of cynicism out there. Vikki10 thinks he's too young and writes, "No 22-year-old is ready to run anything except, hopefully, his own life."

Even if Kim Jong-un does get the job, nineyards says, "I wouldn't be surprised after Kim Jong-il's death the military party overthrows him."

While lexvs argues "He will not hold real power. They need a symbolic figure for the dynasty."

On the potential succession, citizenn writes, "So socialism becomes monarchy. No great surprises there."

And finally, dgbenner gives us this comment. "The khaki jumpsuit is passed down." Well, wait to see if he wears it or chooses his own fashion. Who knows? So, some interesting views there. North Korea's future leadership is, of course, all speculation because, as ever, the country remains an enigma.

That is tonight's Parting Shots, our images and your thoughts. Thank you for them. I'm Max Foster. That's it for the show on the TV. Do stay connected with us online. Lots get involved there. We love to hear from you, of course. "BackStory" is next, right after this check of the headlines.