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Violence Looms in Ivory Coast; Disaster in Australia; No Water in Ireland

Aired December 30, 2010 - 16:00:00   ET



PATRICK ACHI, SPOKESMAN FOR ALASSANE OUATTARA: We are on the brink of genocide. Something should be done.


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: A strong warning from Ivory Coast's ambassador to the UN. It follows threats from supporters loyal to the country's self- declared president. The United Nations says it's deeply concerned.

Coming up, I'll ask the world body's top man on the protection of civilians why he's taking allegations of ethnic targeting so seriously.

Going beyond borders on the day's biggest stories, on CNN, this is the hour we connect the world,

I'm Becky Anderson in London with the very latest from Ivory Coast for you.

Also tonight, Australians are warned that the worst is yet to come, as floods submerge towns and put the country's coal exports at risk.

Another deadly day in Afghanistan -- so is the country any closer to peace than it was a year ago?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can assure you that if they go back to the mine, it will not be the same mine, because we have learned a lesson.


ANDERSON: A promise from Chile's president to the 33 miners who survived against the odds, as we reconnect you with the man at the center of the good news story of the year.

And do remember, as ever, you can connect with the program online via Twitter. My personal address, @beckycnn. Do log on and join the conversation.

There are warnings of multiple fronts today, as the new year's threaten of violence looms in Ivory Coast. Internationally recognized president, Alassane Ouattara, urged West African mediators to work quickly to end the political stalemate and prevent chaos. And this very strong statement from the nation's newly accredited United Nations ambassador.


ACHI: The real concern of Alassane Ouattara regarding the situation of human rights. As you know, there is massive violations of human rights between the 16 and the 21, as you call (INAUDIBLE) the Ivory Coast, 122 were killed only because they wanted to demonstrate. They wanted to speak out. They wanted to defend the -- the will of the people. We think it's not acceptable. That's one of the messages I've tried to get across during the concentration of -- I've conducted so far, to tell we are on the brink of genocide. Something should be done.


ANDERSON: Well, the situation appears to be turning increasingly dangerous for United Nations peacekeepers in Abidjan. The minister of youth, named by self-declared president, Lauren Gbagbo, urged loyalists to storm the hotel where Alassane Ouattara is staying under U.N. protection.

Well, the minister appeared at a huge pro-Gbagbo rally yesterday, telling cheering crowds the hotel will be liberated in a bare-handed assault this weekend.

Well, that rally followed Tuesday's attack on a U.N. convoy.

The spokesman for Alassane Ouattara joined me a bit earlier.

I asked Patrick Achi about this increasingly volatile situation and the Ivorian U.N. ambassador's comments on the risk of genocide.


ACHI: As you know, we started, last week, a peaceful march toward the radio and TV station, to ask for our right of information. People were treated like animals. Kids, women, men -- not only they were killed during the march, but after night, people went in their house, pulled them out, killed them in front of their house. Some of them were put -- we don't know -- in jail somewhere. We didn't see them anymore.

The United Nations themselves are talking about the 173 people were killed in just five days. Now it didn't stop there. Since then, killings have been ongoing. Now, we're hearing about young people being recruited, militiamen, mercenaries hired from Liberia. These people are going to perpetuate crimes all over the nations if we want to remove former President Gbagbo from his seat. That's what he is saying.

Now, we cannot just stand there and listen to that and not do anything, because if it ever happens, we will all be held responsible for that. We have to be aware that some time, these people, they can't stop. As long as they want to stay in power, they will do anything that you can imagine.

ANDERSON: All right.

How credi...

ACHI: Well, we're not afraid. And we are aware of that.

ANDERSON: How credible are the threats from Lauren Gbagbo's sort of right-hand man, Ble Goude, that he will, quote, "liberate" the Golf Hotel, where President Ouattara is holed up at present in the new year?

How concerned are you about those threats?

ACHI: I'm not taking that seriously, to tell you the truth. You know, I mean the United Nations forces are, you know, quite impressive around the hotel. They're well organized. They're well armed. I don't see anyone, you know, taking this hotel by any means.


ANDERSON: Patrick Achi speaking to me from Abidjan earlier, a spokesman for the internationally recognized president, Alassane Ouattara.

OK, so how did this mess happen?

For years, Ivory Coast was one of Africa's economic success stories.

Nkepile Mabuse now chronicles the events that have placed this once prosperous nation on the edge of disaster.


NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another once promising African state in anarchy. Nearly 200 people have been killed in Ivory Coast since incumbent president, Lauren Gbagbo, refused to step down after losing a runoff election to his rival, Alassane Ouattara Dramane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We said that we wanted the peace process.

MABUSE: Ouattara has the support of the international community and African leaders, while Gbagbo continues to control the army and the media. The country's new ambassador to the United Nations, appointed by Ouattara, says Ivory Coast is on the brink of genocide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think if the war breaks out now.

MABUSE: A warning analyst David Zunmanu (ph) believes should not be ignored.

DAVID ZUNMANU: If there is armed conflict in Cote d'Ivoire today, the likelihood of genocide is very high. We know, at the beginning of the crisis, the northern populations have been targeted, killed. And the relations -- the tensions between the north and the south are being heightened.

MABUSE: Independence from France in 1960 ushered in peace, stability and economic growth for the world's top cocoa producer. And Ivory Coast was, for years, seen as a beacon of hope in West Africa.

But multi-party democracy, introduced in 1990, has been characterized by ethnic tensions, with a rebel controlled Muslim north pitted against the Christian south. The peace agreement in 2005, followed by the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force, reduced hostilities.

But since then, Gbagbo, who has been at the helm since 2000, has repeatedly postponed elections and now refuses to cede power.

(on camera): Diplomatic sources here in South Africa say Lauren Gbagbo has been offered safe exile by at least six different African countries in an attempt to convince him to step down, but that he's turned them all down.

(voice-over): The reaction from African leaders to the stalemate in Ivory Coast has been swift. Regional body, ECOWAS, has even threatened military intervention.

Election disputes are commonplace in Africa. But in this case, the continent seems to be shifting away from its usual strategy of pushing for the winner and loser to govern jointly, like has happened in Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Zunmanu (ph) believes the era of leaders refusing to vacate power in Africa may be coming to an end.

ZUNMANU: I think African leaders are becoming increasingly aware of the wrong path that we are taking, keeping quiet on fraudulent elections and not saying anything.

MABUSE: With elections expected in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and a referendum in Sudan all next year, African leaders are under pressure to send out a clear message that they will no longer tolerate sham elections for those who believe they should be president for life.

Nkepile Mabuse, CNN, Johannesburg.


ANDERSON: All right, well, the United Nations says that it's especially concerned that allegations, still unproven, that homes of Gbagbo critics have been marked to identify their ethnicity.

Dr. Edward Luck is special adviser to the U.N. secretary-general, focusing on the responsibility to protect, joining us live out of New York for us this evening.

These accusations of ethnic targeting, is there hard evidence on the ground for this?

DR. EDWARD LUCK, SPECIAL ADVISER TO U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: Well, there are allegations, at this point. What we do know is there is a history in Cote d'Ivoire of conflict, which is, in part, based on ethnicity. I think it's something that's very much exploited by political leaders for their own ends.

But there certainly -- it's a bit of a tinderbox at this point in time. There's nothing inevitable about going over to the brink to these kinds of mass atrocities. But it certainly is very, very possible.

ANDERSON: Well, Ouattara's man at the UN, of course, as we heard on this show, talking genocide today.

Do you go so far as to raise the possibility of that?

LUCK: Well, there's certainly a possibility of genocide. I think other crimes, like ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity or even war crimes are probably more likely. But the possibility of genocide is there.

And our job is not to report after the fact whether it was or wasn't genocide, but to try to prevent these things. And I think we're at the hour now where we can do prevention. I think it can be effective. I think the fact that the international community is united, sub regionally, with ECOWAS, with the A.U. With the UN, is very important. This message has to get across to both leaders and to their followers.

ANDERSON: ECOWAS, of course, moving away from talking about military intervention any time soon, looking for a peaceful solution.

What do you understand to be the position of the West African bloc charged with finding this peaceful solution at this point?

LUCK: Well, I think ECOWAS is very much united on the need to respect the proper constitutional outcome of the election. I think they're united on wanting a peaceful solution to this crisis. And I think they're united in wanting to prevent any kinds of atrocity crimes from occurring there.

They recognize the history of Cote d'Ivoire. They recognize the history of the whole region, for that matter, which has had this -- a lot of this kind of violence in the past. So I think they're united on that.

Where they probably have differences is whether a military response is either sensible or feasible. And there are probably some differences on that.

But that -- you know, we're not there and I hope we don't get to that point.

ANDERSON: All right. Let's remind our viewers that there are some 8,000 troops on the ground -- U.N. troops on the ground, of course, in Ivory Coast. Eight hundred of those troops currently protecting President Ouattara at the Golf Hotel. This is what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said earlier today, and I quote: "The force is authorized to use all necessary means to protect its personnel against any attack against peacekeepers. It constitutes a crime under international law for which a perpetrators and those who instigate them will be held accountable," referring, of course, to threats from what I'm going to describe as one of Gbagbo's henchman on the Golf Hotel this weekend.

Your concerns?

LUCK: Well, we are very concerned. The talk of a mass demonstration, a march on the Golf Hotel, the idea that they want to somehow liberate that from international influences, is very worrisome.

At the very least, it could mean real killings in terms of -- of civilians pressing in there. There could be people in the -- in the march who are using weapons and other things. It's the sort of thing that could easily get out of control. So everyone has to worry about that.

Then again, one has to make a warning ahead of time to those who might try to collude or might try to inspire this kind of a march that they're really playing with fire. This is very dangerous and it's very dangerous for the future of Cote d'Ivoire, not only the individuals involved.

ANDERSON: Can I, just finally, take you back to this -- these allegations, still unproven, of course, that homes of Gbagbo critics have been marked to identify their ethnicity.

I've heard what you said. Just for our viewers' sake, can you elucidate on -- on what you are able to -- to do on the ground to confirm reports of -- of targeting and atrocities?

How difficult is it...

LUCK: Well...

ANDERSON: -- for example?

LUCK: Well, it's certainly something that the U.N. is used to doing in many different parts of the world. It's had to deal with these kinds of things. And fact finding and -- and trying to find out, really, what's going on, is a big part of what the U.N. does to try and resolve conflicts.

In this particular case, it's difficult because of all the roadblocks, the -- all the areas that are sort of sealed off. There's these allegations of mass graves, for example. Twice, the U.N. has tried to investigate and their people have been stopped.

So that there are certainly those who are trying to make life more difficult.

But I think perhaps one of the signs of wanting to find a peaceful way out would be if the authorities, in fact, would allow the U.N. personnel access to these kinds of sites, to get, really, make sure we know what's rumor, on the one hand, and what really is fact, on the other.

It's very important to get these things settled as quickly as possible. And we see some positive signs this week that the -- the amount of violence seems to have subsided a little bit. But we're very worried about all the incitement on the state radio and -- and television, not only incitement against other people of Cote d'Ivoire, but very much against the international community and against the U.N. peacekeepers that are there, who are there to protect people. And yet they're trying to make them into targets of mass violence instead.

So it's very important that the cooler heads prevail. We have a chance to get out of this, I think, in a peaceful way. But it's only if people, in fact, use their better instincts and if they listen to those in the international community who are saying, look, we've seen this happen in other places. These things get out of control...

ANDERSON: And mistakes have been made...

LUCK: -- very easily.

ANDERSON: And mistakes have been made in the past.

LUCK: Yes, mistakes can be made.

ANDERSON: Dr. Edward Luck is special adviser to the U.N. secretary- general focusing on the responsibility to protect.

Sir, we thank you for joining us this evening.

Don't go away.

CONNECT THE WORLD will be right back with a look at why Australia may be bracing for a multi-billion dollar bill. It swamped homes, mines and farmlands -- we're going to have the latest update on what is unprecedented flooding in the state of Queensland.

And it's the Operation of Hope for some of Zimbabwe's poorest and most desperate.

Stay with us for this remark story on how a team of doctors are changing these young lives in Harare.


ANDERSON: The Australian economy is about to be hit with a flood damage bill of billions of dollars. Thirteen townships have been evacuated in Queensland. Eight areas of the state now declared disaster situations.

Donna Field from the Australian Broadcasting Corporations takes us over the worst hit areas, which forecasters say could remain that way for weeks.


DONNA FIELD, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Burnett River swallowed everything in its path as it peaked at nearly eight meters. Houses in Bundaburg's low lying areas weren't just inundated, they almost disappeared. In all, 100 homes have been swamped. Three hundred more are at risk.

TONY RICCIARDI, BUNDABURG, AUSTRALIA DEPUTY MAYOR: I would be guessing at this stage, but we're looking at tens of millions of dollars here. I would say, we could be looking at a large -- a very large bill.

FIELD: Parts of the Sugar City's CBD (ph) were also awash. It's the worst floods they've seen and they had time to prepare, but it was never going to be enough to stop the torrent.

RICCIARDI: The damage is, at this stage, it's very hard to tell.

FIELD: With eight shires (ph) now declared disaster zones, the premier took stock at the state's emergency command center.

ANNA BLIGH, QUEENSLAND PREMIER: We've still got a number of communities that are facing the prospect of increased flooding over the next couple of days. So this disaster that's unfolding on an unprecedented scale is far from over.

FIELD: The Central Queensland town, Emerald, is cut off by road and authorities are concerned it may be isolated from the air, as the flood peak passes previous records.

BRUCE GRADY, QUEENSLAND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: On this occasion, we'll cut off both the road and the rail access to Emerald. For the last event, we were able to continue to supply Emerald by rail over the rail bridge. But that will be lost.

FIELD: Several towns and vast areas of farming land are affected by the ongoing crisis. But with centuries like Bundaburg and Rockhampton now in the front line of the emergency, the damage is likely to be worse than expected. Rockhampton's flood peak will probably happen early next week.

BRAD CARTER, ROCKHAMPTON, AUSTRALIA MAYOR: So there's a significant body of water coming down. It is a very serious situation that we are currently in.

FIELD: Theodore Whist (ph) of Bundaburg knows how bad it can get. It remains a ghost town and residents have been told it may be weeks before they can return.

GREG GOEBEL, RED CROSS: So the main problem, really, is to make sure that those people who have had to leave their house because of inundation, that they've got a -- a good place to live at nighttime, they're well looked after and provide the care and comfort that is so needed.

FIELD: On the Darling Downs, the water has started to recede, revealing mud and extensive damage to infrastructure like water and sewage plants.

BLIGH: People are who taking, who are moving out of their homes, will be out for some time. It will take a long time for the recovery and the rebuilding and there will be significant public health issues to manage in the meantime.

FIELD: Authorities say it's too early to put a cost on this disaster. Damage to stock, property, agriculture and infrastructure is predicted to run into the billions. The state government's contribution of $1 million to a disaster relief fund has been matched by the Commonwealth and people are being urged to dig deep.

Donna Field, ABC News.


ANDERSON: What a mess.

Well, sugar, wheat and coal contribute billions to the Australian economy. And much of it comes from Queensland.

The state government says it produces 95 percent of the country's raw sugar and approximately one million tons of wheat, which is the major winter crop, of course.

But mining is the major contributor to the Queensland economy and the economy at large. Australia is the world's largest coal explorer, with around 28 percent of the world's total.

Now, that flooding has sent coal prices to a two year high, affecting a growing number of mining companies in Queensland's coal zone, known as the Bowen Basin. Well, some of the larger operators have declared so- called force majeure, act of God, that limits their legal liability if they miscontracted deliveries of coal.

Now, this is important as the status of more than 30 billion tons of black coal reserves. So major exports could be affected. Australia supplies markets in more than 30 countries around the world.

Well, from those devastating floods in Australia, we head to another water disaster in Northern Ireland. "Shambolic" is how Prime Minister Peter Robinson describes the response to this situation. Tens of thousands have been left without running water after frozen pipes burst during the recent thaw.

Robinson's comments came following an emergency meeting of power sharing ministers, who are now looking to hold someone accountable for the ongoing crisis.

Carol Jordon has the story.


CAROL JORDAN, CNN PRODUCER (voice-over): This has become a familiar scene in many towns in Northern Ireland this week -- cues of people lining up at temporary water pumps so they can collect a container of water for the everyday basic tasks of washing, cooking and drinking.

There have been water distribution problems in the region for over a week now, after cold weather caused pipes to burst resulting in over 40,000 properties left without water.

Today, more than 30,000 properties are still without running water. Hospitals are also affected. Northern Ireland Water, the organization responsible for ensuring the water supply, has been criticized for not being able to handle the crisis effectively.

LAURENCE MCKENZIE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, NORTHERN IRELAND WATER: Of course I take responsibility. Of course I take responsibility, because my prime concern at the minute is to get through the situation and get the results. That's what I'm focusing on.

JORDAN: Families and businesses alike are making do, though millions of dollars are expected to be lost.

Adrian Marley runs the Patrisse Restaurant in Banbridge, County Down. This week should be on of his busiest of the year, but no water means no business.

ADRIAN MARLEY, PATRISSE RESTAURANT: Our water went off on Christmas Day and we're out of water now for almost a week. And the implications are we've -- this is the busiest time of the year, between Christmas and new year, for shoppers. And we've had to close our doors. So we've had no trailers at all this week.

JORDAN: Warnings have now been issued that some customers may be without running water for days yet to come -- signaling a bleak start to 2011 in Northern Ireland and an even more miserable beginning for local businesses.

Carol Jordan, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: Connecting with the world here on CNN.

We'll be right back after the break with more of what has been a week long special on this show on Zimbabwe. This time tonight, we're tracking a team of doctors who are on a mission to bring a little hope to those who need it most these days.


ANDERSON: All this week, if you've been with us on the show, you'll know that we've been taking a special look at the plight of the people of one African nation, Zimbabwe.

On Monday, we focused on employment and why so many workers are seeking jobs in South Africa, where an amnesty against deportation is about to run out.

Now, we stayed in Johannesburg for a look at the immigration debate. Many Zimbabweans choose to cross the border every year. There are around five million people illegally working in the country. Well, the competition for jobs has once again turned violent.

And on Wednesday, we put the spotlight on education, as Zimbabwe struggles through the worst economic crisis in its history, its highly skilled are quickly becoming highly valued in neighboring countries.

Well, tonight we are focusing on health. In many rural areas in Zimbabwe, congenital facial defects are thought to be associated with voodoo or witchcraft. Mothers are usually blamed and babies have been known to be killed or abandoned. And this is where Operation of Hope comes in.

CNN producer Jessica Ellis followed this all volunteer medical team last year, watching them literally transform lives with free facial reconstructive surgeries.

Here's her latest story from their eighth mission to the campaign, Harare.


JENNIFER TRUBENBACH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, OPERATION OF HOPE: Of all the missions we've done, this particular mission, we've had kids come from the furthest -- some nine, 12, 15 hour -- hours away to come to the hospital to get the surgery.

I think Zimbabwe has a -- a really big need to help with these kids only because -- because there hasn't been a team in so long doing this on a regular basis, there are quite a few number of children that are still living, in the real rural areas, where they haven't quite heard that the team does come to Harare at least once a year, if not twice, to be able to handle kids with these particular deformities.

After all the years of doing missions and you meet so many children with so many needs, it can be rather overwhelming. And yet there's always one that sort of grabs your heart. And I think Blessing is definitely one of those.

I spent a lot of time with Blessing. He was given a detonator by a friend, who found it on the ground in a rural area. And when he tested the charge, he put it in his mouth and that's when it exploded.


KEVIN ATKINSON, HEADMASTER, PRINCE EDWARD SCHOOL: Blessing came to us having certain medical problems, particularly his facial.

MAKWERA: This is the home (INAUDIBLE). They are very (INAUDIBLE).

ATKINSON: He's fitted into the school incredibly well. He had been, previously, at a rural school, came into the urban area for a very short time and has just taken to Prince Edward like a duck to water.

MAKWERA: And this is my junior and my (INAUDIBLE).

TRUBENBACH: We were able to enroll him and he's living there year round during the school year.

ATKINSON: He has indicated that he'd like to go into reconstructive surgery.

MAKWERA: I just want to help my fellow Zimbabweans like young children and older people with facial problems. I really want to keep on going and achieve my goals, be a doctor and help other people.

TRUBENBACH: So our hope is to raise the funds for him to get the surgery that he needs. And then because of the schooling we've been able to provide him with, really be a citizen here that contributes greatly in whatever capacity that he chooses.


ANDERSON: Well, the Operation of Hope hopes to perform final surgery for Blessing in the U.S. next year to give him a new jaw and a clean cleft. We wish him all the best for that.

More prison time and more outrage. Ahead, the sentence is in for former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. That and your headlines up next.


ANDERSON: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. It is 32 minutes past 9:00 in London. I'm Becky Anderson for you. Coming up, it happened in November, it's happening again. A new wave of violence in Iraq with a familiar target. Christians in the line of fire. More on that.

And then, we head to Afghanistan tonight to review the deadliest year since the war began.

Then, we'll switch gears for you in the next half hour for a look back at, perhaps, the most inspiring story of 2010, the rescue of those Chilean miners. I talked to Chile's president about the men who showed the world the triumph of the human spirit. I'm going to reconnect you with the president ahead in the next half hour.

Let's get you a check of the headlines before we do that, here on CNN.

The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the situation in Ivory Coast is deteriorating. Ban says a threatened attack on the hotel housing internationally recognized president Alassane Ouattara could reignite civil war. UN officials accuse supporters of self-proclaimed president Laurent Gbagbo of inciting hatred against UN troops.

More than a dozen townships in Australia have been evacuated after unprecedented flooding in the country's second-largest state. Eight areas of Queensland have been declared a disaster zone, with forecasters warning it may be weeks before river levels start to drop.

In Greece, a powerful bomb exploded near a main courthouse building in Athens. Police say a phone warning enabled them to clear the area before the blast. Earlier, someone firebombed the Greek embassy in Argentina. No one was hurt in either bombings.

And in Russia, former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for money laundering and embezzlement. The Kremlin denies claims that Khodorkovsky was singled out because of his criticism of the government.

All right. As promised, one of our top stories tonight, Christians in Iraq are once again the target of attacks, this time, in a wave of bombings across Baghdad. Jomana Karadsheh joins us from the capital with the details. What's the latest from there?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Becky. As we are being told by Iraq's interior ministry, at least two people were killed and 14 others wounded in these attacks. It is not clear if all of them are Christian or not.

But, according to an interior ministry official, six bombs were left outside and in the gardens of Christian homes across the capital. The bombs exploded within the span of one hour.

This is very similar to attacks that we saw back in November, targeting Christian homes, and this is the latest in a series of violence, this renewed violence, targeting Iraq's Christians that we saw start with that horrific siege of the Baghdad church back in October that killed 53 Christians. That siege was claimed by an al Qaeda-affiliated group that promised the Christians more attacks. Becky?

ANDERSON: What impact will this have on the Christian community that has already been living in fear, do you think?

KARADSHEH: Well, Becky, if we look at the previous attacks, it's forced many Christians out of their homes. According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, thousands of Christians have already left their homes as a direct result of the church siege and the bombings of the homes in November. And they describe this as a slow but steady exodus.

Now, as you remember, Iraq is estimated to have had more than a million Christians before the war, but the violence and the persecution that followed drove about half of them out. Now, there are fears that this recent violence, the inadequate protection from Iraq's government, that has been promising protection but not providing it so much, is going to drive Iraq's remaining Christians out, Becky.

ANDERSON: Jomana Karadsheh from Baghdad, we thank you for that. Well, attacks against Christians in Iraq are a story that we've been following on this show for some time, now. Back in November, as Jomana said, we spoke with Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad, who happened to be visiting England at the time. It came after a series of attacks that Jomana eluded to, there, against churches in Iraq, as well threats against him personally. Here is what he had to say.


ANDREW WHITE, VICAR OF BAGHDAD: Today, Christians are petrified. They do not know about their future, they do not know what will happen. Many of them want to leave. We have already lost more than half of all the Christians in Iraq.

And so, we are left, now, with a very serious situation where Christians are even afraid to leave their homes because they do not know that the situation is going to be safe for them. And they do not know what they will have to bear, and they're now even afraid to come to church after last week. And you have to understand, for a Christian in Iraq, church is a major part of their life.


ANDERSON: Well, Canon White added that despite the threat, Iraq's Christians refuse to deny their faith. And just as remarkable, White, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, has told us time and time again that he will continue to be there for his congregation.

Still ahead on CONNECT THE WORLD, we're looking back at how the year unfolded in Afghanistan. It was the deadliest since the war began. But even today, more deaths. Troops are due to start withdrawing next year, but can this war-torn country stand alone? That's next.


ANDERSON: Well, we've spent the week here on the show looking back at the stories that have resonated throughout the year and, tonight, we're focusing on Afghanistan. Even as we do, more people have been killed. Today, at least 14 Afghan civilians died when their minibus struck a road mine in the country's volatile south.

Even before today, 2010 was the deadliest year in Afghanistan, and July was the deadliest month. This is how Atia Abawi reported on what was a grim milestone.


ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This could have to do with President Barack Obama's troop surge that he announced late in 2009. That troop surge is not even complete yet, but we are seeing the deadliest summer here in Afghanistan. A summer that, unfortunately, was grimly predicted back in the summer of 2009 when the then top NATO commander, General Stanley McChrystal announced the new strategy and new tactical directives in order to protect civilian lives, because he knew that no war in Afghanistan had ever been won without the support of the Afghan people.

And the biggest determent to NATO was civilian casualties. Many Afghans were turning away from NATO and turning to the Taliban because of civilian casualties inflicted by NATO forces.


ANDERSON: Well, those forces launched two key attacks on Taliban strongholds this year, beginning with Operation Moshtarak in Marja. It was followed by another major offensive in Kandahar and, as Nic Robertson reported at the time, it called for a critical change in tactics.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But General McChrystal said proceeding this way, getting Afghan support, was absolutely critical before the operation began. This was the big lesson he said he'd learned from the other operation earlier this year in Marja, where results had been less than favorable, he said, because they didn't have this kind of popular support before the troops go in.

This, he said, would be a long operation, a slow and careful operation, special forces going in, targeting, capturing, killing Taliban leaders, but a slow operation around the city. But now, he has a green light for it. President Karzai has got this from the tribal leaders.


ANDERSON: It was an uneasy year for relations between Hamid Karzai and the Pentagon. The US was critical of Afghanistan over corruption and its relationship with Iran. But the Afghan leader also expressed his own concerns.


HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: Well, we defeated Communism with the Soviets, the international community supported us. But then, after their defeat, we were abandoned and forgotten immediately, including by the United States. Now, that fear lingers on in the Afghan people.


ANDERSON: Tips aside, in early December came the Afghan war review, and this was the US president's verdict.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Progress comes slowly and at a very high price in the lives of our men and women in uniform. In many places, the gains we've made are still fragile and reversible.

But there is no question, we are clearing more areas from Taliban control and more Afghan's are reclaiming their communities.


ANDERSON: But then, just before Christmas, Arwa Damon brought us details of another report on the casualties of another year of war.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: According to the most recent UN report, civilian casualties have risen by 20 percent in the first ten months of 2010, compared to the same reporting period for 2009. The majority of those casualties, 76 percent of them, caused by insurgent attacks, mainly suicide bombers and roadside bombs.

The remaining percentage caused by government-friendly forces, ISAF, and Afghan troops, most of them caused by those highly controversial aerial bombardments.


ANDERSON: All of that as the US prepares to start withdrawing troops in July next year. So, what does 2011 hold for Afghanistan. When I spoke to Arwa Damon a little earlier, I began by talking about the difficulties of measuring the success and failures of the war effort. This is what she said.


DAMON: It really is, because this is such a murky battlefield. We do hear that civilian casualties have been on the rise. This has been the deadliest year of the war across the board. And we hear all sorts of different reporting, depending on who it is that we're talking to.

The US military, by and large, trying to paint a picture whereby which the country is moving towards progress, although they do acknowledge that these security gains are both fragile and reversible.

We speak with the NGOs, they say that the areas where they can safely operate have been diminishing significantly, and we speak with the civilian population that is growing increasingly disenchanted and disheartened with the entire process. They look around, and they see that years into this conflict, Afghanistan is not becoming safer from their perspective. In fact, it's becoming even more dangerous.

ANDERSON: 2010 was a year when corruption made the headlines in Afghanistan once again. Should we expect that, going forward?

DAMON: Corruption, Becky, is one of the big challenges here. This is one of the world's most corrupt countries. And corruption exists on just about every level. It exists in the government, it exists within the judicial system, it exists within the Afghan security forces.

As one person I was talking to recently put it, he said that corruption is a cancer that is attacking the very soul of the Afghan nation. And, as we saw, the WikiLeaks cables depicting corruption's pervasive nature, its overwhelming scale, and the dispiriting challenge it poses to American officials.

Not to mention, the challenge it poses for the Afghans and the Afghan population and how it starts to discredit this entire so-called nation- building process.

ANDERSON: Arwa, as we reflect on what we've seen in Afghanistan in 2010, you're there in Kabul as we move toward 2011. What is your sense of what happens next?

DAMON: The sense, by and large, is that the future still remains very much uncertain, and in speaking to the Afghan population, they really don't see how the way and the path towards progress is actually going to materialize.

There are so many challenges that face this country. There are these great, overwhelming fears that the situation is moving down a slippery slope, the conflict is entering this new and murky phase.

The US military plans on withdrawing all of its troops by the end of 2014, and already that has become a major topic of conversation amongst Afghans themselves, who fear that the US and the international community are eventually going to abandon them.

There are very real concerns amongst Afghans that we've been talking to that, when the US and other coalition troops withdraw, this country's once again going to descend into the bloodbath, where the population is going to be either at the mercy of the Taliban or at the mercy of the various warlords, or the country is simply going to divide and be defined by these small fiefdoms.

There is not much faith, at this point, in the institutions that the US and its allies are going to be leaving behind, Becky.


ANDERSON: Arwa Damon for you, in Kabul this evening.

Next up, a man who was central to another one of the biggest stories of the year. Sebastian Pinera. We spoke with the Chilean president just days after he witnessed the rescue of those 33 miners. Do stay with us as we relive that magical day through a leader's eyes.


ANDERSON: Lest we forget, it had drama, intrigue, suspense and, most important of all, hope. As promised, here's a look back at one of the most incredible stories of the year.



CROWD: Chile!


CROWD: Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le!





SEPULVEDA AND CROWD: Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le! Viva mineros de Chile!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cries of "viva mineros," "long live the miners," have been chiming throughout the air in Copiapo, Chile.

CROWD AS JOSE OJEDA IS RESCUED: Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le! Los mineros de Chile!

CROWD AS ALEX VEGA SALAZAR IS RESCUED: Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le! Los mineros de Chile!


SEPULVEDA (through translator): I was with God, and I was with the devil, but God won. I held onto God's hand, the best hand. And at no point in time did I doubt that God would get me out of there.


ANDERSON: Well, it was certainly an emotional roller coaster ride, wasn't it? And every step of the way, we saw one man, and he vowed to do everything that he could to bring them out alive. Well, I caught up with President Sebastian Pinera after the rescue, and I began by asking him to take us back to how he felt during those initial 17 days when no contact had yet been made with the miners.


SEBASTIAN PINERA, PRESIDENT OF CHILE: Actually, we didn't know where they were. We didn't know whether they were alive or dead. We started drilling blindly. And their families had such a strong faith.

When I went to the mine immediately after the accident, they told me, "Don't give up, they are alive. Search for them and rescue them." And I told the families, "We will search for them as if they were our sons. We will do whatever is necessary to rescue them." That was a personal commitment.

And for 17 days, there was a lot of anguish and uncertainty in the families and also in our government. And then, we arrived to that magnificent Sunday, August the 22nd, which, for me, was a very special day, because that day, my father-in-law passed away. And I was where -- with my wife. We spent the whole night with him. And his last words were, "Don't give up. Keep searching. It's your responsibility. It's your duty."

So, I decided to go to the mine immediately after. My wife said, "Go there, because something will happen today." And I arrived to the mine and will receive this message -- "We are well in the shelter. The 33." It was an explosion of joy and happiness. Tears all over the country, and I think that all over the world.

ANDERSON: We've got some questions from our viewers from all over the world. Lucy Ling asks, "Was there ever a moment when you lost hope and thought this wasn't going to work?"

PINERA: Really, not. I -- I had a profound conviction from the very first moment. I think that the -- the families were so convinced that they were alive, that each time I went to visit them at the mine, during those 17 days of anguish, I was reinforced in our conviction that they were alive. I had some kind of inner voice that told me, "Keep searching, keep searching, don't give up."

ANDERSON: And then, of course, the first miner was being winched to the surface. Take me through that moment.

PINERA: That moment was so expected. It was Florencio Avalos, the first man to come out of the mine. I -- I really -- I -- I will never forget that moment. It was so -- so overwhelming. It was so breathtaking when he came out and -- and we shared a hug with him.

ANDERSON: How do you think your position, not just as a president, but as a media mogul, helped to keep this story in the spotlight?

PINERA: It was a dramatic story. It started as a tragedy. For 17 days, it was only anguish. I remember Winston Churchill, what he said, "Tears, blood and sweat." And it was similar. But we had the same motivation, faith, and commitment.

ANDERSON: Dan Adejo has written to us. He says, "Sir, what plans do you have for the miners? I hope they are not going back down to the mine."

PINERA: It will be up to them. They are miners. They come from miners' families. But I can assure you that if they go back to the mine, it will not be the same mine, because we have learned the lesson, and we will improve dramatically the security to protect the lives, the integrity, the health. And that would not be only for that mine, but for all the mining sectors in Chile, and also for other sectors.

ANDERSON: Mining makes up 40 percent of Chile's income. You've said that things need to get better. How can you ensure that an accident like this doesn't happen again?

PINERA: We've learned the lessons. And we are revising and changing our regulations, our procedures. We are trying to adopt first world standards in terms of security. And we are part of the OECD. And that will be our standard.

So, we will change our regulations and procedures. And more important than that, we will make sure that they are enforced in the field, because that's where it is important.

ANDERSON: This has been a tumultuous seven months for you -- the earthquake and, then, the mining story, the mining rescue. This story has galvanized people -- people who, until now, have been fairly polarized as - - as a nation.

How do you tear down the walls now between the have and the have-nots? And when you talk about Grand Chile going forward, what does that mean?

PINERA: I think that the lessons we can take from this accident is that when the country's united and committed with faith, with hope, using the best possible technologies and the best possible human teams, we are able to achieve goals that, for some people could seem as impossible.

And now, we have another challenge. Our new challenges are to defeat poverty before the end of this decade, to defeat under development, to create a society with more freedom, with more equality, with more opportunities. And also with more values.

ANDERSON: Some of the miners are looking for between $4,000 and $25,000 for interviews. It's perhaps understandable. What's your response to that?

PINERA: I would tell them that, as they told me, they have experienced a kind of rebirth. They have reborn. And they have to be very wise on how they will take these new opportunities.

Many people don't have a second opportunity in their lives. And I'm sure there was a kind of miracle down in the earth with the miners. They are not the same that the people that were caught 70 days ago.

But also in the -- in the whole -- in the surface, with the Chileans, we are not the same. And I think that we have to learn from this very emotional and strong experience.

Now, what they're willing to do from now on, it's up to them. But I hope that they will take the right positions and they will take good advantage of this opportunity of a new life.


ANDERSON: Sebastian Pinera, talking to me back in October. During that trip, the Chilean president gave a special gift to both the queen and British prime minister David Cameron. He presented them with the rocks from the bottom of the San Jose mine.

Well, not to be outdone, I thought I'd graciously ask if CONNECT THE WORLD could have something, too, and this is what he gave us on your behalf, I guess. It's a copy of the memo we all remember from the miners deep underground on August the 22nd, the day the world discovered that they were fine. I hold that for you all.

Well, at this time of the year, it's good to go out with a bang, isn't it? So stay with us. We've got a demolition derby.


ANDERSON: All right. Well, the team has been working really hard for you this evening to come up with a very special montage for our final Parting Shots of 2010. CONNECT THE WORLD will be on tomorrow, but we pre- recorded the problem for you, the best of. So, tonight, we bring you large-scale destruction.





ANDERSON: They're the best building implosions that we could find, from stadiums to bridges to apartment buildings, if it came down this year and made a lot of noise, we have it waiting for you in all its spectacle at







ANDERSON: Going out with a bang for you, here, at CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson, that is your world connected. "BackStory" is up next, right after a very quick check of the headlines.