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Libya Suspended from the U.N. Human Rights Council; Referendum Crisis on Libyan-Tunisian Border; Interview with Italian Foreign Minister; New Protests in Iran

Aired March 1, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: An urgent appeal for humanitarian help as Libya's refugee crisis worsens. The U.N. ramps up its response just minutes ago, ousting Libya from the Human Rights Council.

Later this hour, a message from an ousted president to Russia's leaders -- your fake democracy doesn't work.

And an anti-Semitic rant leaves designer John Galliano heading for the door at Dior.

Those stories and more tonight this hour, as we connect the world.

First up tonight, international diplomats are warning of civil war in Libya if the crisis there continues. Two weeks on, there's no end in sight to the battle between rebels and the Gadhafi regime.

We're going to begin this hour at the United Nations in New York, where the General Assembly has just voted to suspend Libya from the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Richard Roth joining us with details -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Becky, there were 47 countries on the U.N. General Assembly's Human Rights Council, sitting in Geneva. Now, Libya has been suspended -- a vote at the General Assembly, a meeting that's going on right now.

The session started with strong words from the General Assembly president, from the U.N. secretary-general, who, in effect, said Libya and Libyan leader, Gadhafi, certainly brought upon themselves this issue. And the General Assembly president said the coun -- the -- the Assembly has to act for its very credibility.


JOSEPH DEISS, PRESIDENT, U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY (through translator): The situation in Libya is deeply disturbing. A failure to consider this issue...


-- and the Human Rights Council. Today, it is up to us, the General Assembly, to do our part.


ROTH: U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the situation in Libya could definitely continue to deteriorate.

As for the military situation, well, there's still no talk about it. The U.N. Security Council members would be deeply divided on a no fly zone, even if it was to protect humanitarian deliveries.

In Washington, within the last hour, at the Pentagon, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Gates talking about the military situation. Two more Navy ships being moved to the Mediterranean. The military brass at the Pentagon, though, unable to confirm reports Gadhafi ordering his military forces to fire on civilians.

As for the no fly zone, well, it could be complicated, says the Joint Chiefs chair.


ADM. MIKE MULLEN, U.S. JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: With respect to the no fly zone specifically, that -- it's an extraordinarily complex operation to set up. It's -- it has been done. Historically, we did it in Iraq for many years, North and South. And certainly if we were to set it up, if that were something that was decided to do, we'd have to work our way through doing it in a -- in a safe manner and certainly not put ourselves in jeopardy in doing that.


ROTH: The French saying today that no fly zone would have to be approved by the United Nations Security Council. Russia and others would have concerns about that. Maybe too soon, whether the U.S. or others is going to seek an international mandate.

And, Becky, here at the UN, at the General Assembly meeting that continues right now, after Libya was suspended from the Human Rights Council, sharp words between Venezuela and the United States, Venezuela saying all of this is from one imperialist country pursuing this course.

Susan Rice of the U.S. saying such comments are shameful from a nation such as Venezuela, that is sowing hate around the world -- back to you.

ANDERSON: Yes, one of the countries, Richard, that was noted as a possible place of exile for Gadhafi, if, indeed, he were determined that he would leave.

All right, Richard Roth there at the United Nations.

Perhaps no real surprise, given what we're seeing in Libya, that the country has been expelled or certainly suspended from the Human Rights Council.

We'll do more in this show on the no fly zone, with the Italian foreign minister a little later.

Well, the United Nations, though, has called this a humanitarian catastrophe in the making. It says nearly 150,000 people have fled the violence in Libya, crossing into either Tunisia or Egypt. Well, many are carrying nothing but the clothes on their backs and they desperately need aid.

Arwa Damon joins us now from Djerbe, Tunisia, near the Libyan border.

What's the -- what's the status there at this point?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: well, Becky, where we were down at the border, it really was a scene of sheer chaos. The Tunisian authorities struggling, it appears, to try to keep the situation under control. Thousands, if not more, refugees were caught in no man's land, between Libya and Tunisia, so desperate to get across, they were literally, at some points, climbing on top of one another.

We saw military, other Tunisian security officials, trying to push them back at some points. They were trying to jump over a wall next to a blue gate that was pretty much all that stood between them and this perception of safety that they were so eager to try to reach.

Some of them have been waiting in no man's land for days. They weren't receiving water or food. So were a number of volunteers throwing loaves of bread, water, milk, biscuits up into the air, trying to provide what little relief that they could.

But everyone really underscoring the fact that this truly is, as the U.N. put it, as you just mentioned, a humanitarian crisis that, in the next few days, is going to become a humanitarian catastrophe.

Just imagine, yesterday, in the span of 12 hours, some 14,000 refugees crossed from Libya to Tunisia. The U.N. was fully expecting that same number to come across today, if not more. And they quite simply are not equipped to deal with the magnitude of the problem.

Local Tunisian NGOs -- the population here has been really rallying to try to provide whatever help they can. But they are increasingly growing angrier toward the international community. In fact, according to many people who we spoke to, because they're saying international aid has just been so slow in coming -- Becky.

ANDERSON: All right, Arwa, just briefly, when you talk to those at the border who are crossing from Libya, where do they say that they were trying to go to at this point?

DAMON: Well, right now, a lot of them just want to go home. The vast majority of them are foreign workers, a lot of people from Egypt. So were a number of people from Bangladesh, who actually were not able to cross the border. They're stuck in no man's land.

We climbed over a wall to be able to speak to them. They're holding up signs that say, "Help us, please." One man we spoke to on the verge of tears, saying we only have one request and that is that we be saved.

The problem is that when the refugees do arrive into Tunisia, there really isn't anywhere for them to go. The evacuations back to their respective countries, if, in fact, they are happening, are happening at such a slow pace, that we're only seeing the numbers increasing. There are tents that have been set up by the Tunisian military. The U.N. has just started setting up housing for these individuals, as well.

But many of them were quite simply sleeping on the sidewalk. So now we saw families coming in with small children. And they, too, were telling us they simply don't know where they're going to go -- Becky.

ANDERSON: All right, Arwa Damon there, with what is the headline out of the region this evening.

It's quite remarkable stuff -- 150,000 people, it's estimated, at the border.

Well, the Libyan regime apparently trying to reassert a military presence along part of the Tunisian border. Witnesses say forces loyal to Gadhafi have returned to a southern border post days after leaving the area.

With the situation in Libya so fluid, it's hard to pinpoint exactly which side controls what nationwide. We do know that Gadhafi's forces are in charge of the capital, Tripoli, and also reportedly are controlling his hometown of Sirt and Sabrata, shown here in gold.

Now, rebel forces are said to control many parts of Eastern Libya and several western towns -- Benghazi, Misurata and Ajdabiya, shown here in red. Those are among those in rebel hands. The city of Zawiya is said to be contested in port. And that's a big oil area.

Now, the government may be trying to change in tactics to win back some rebel areas. Today, it sent an aid convoy packed with food from Tripoli to Benghazi. The government invited the media to document that shipment and our Nic Robertson filed this report.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As we're taken to a government aide convoy traveling to the rebel- controlled east of the country, there's confusion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, please. He's ahead of this. Please (INAUDIBLE).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's supplies. That's only supplies.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Well, we've asked if we can see exactly what's on this truck. The driver told us there were tomatoes, other food goods. They're taking the tarpaulin off right now.

When I looked at the fuel gauge, the fuel meter on the truck, it was about half full. The driver told me it will take him about 10 hours to drive 1,200 kilometers, about 800 miles or so, all the way to Benghazi.

Government officials told us this morning that if we didn't come and cover this aide convoy going to Benghazi, then we wouldn't be able to go to Misurata, the town about 100 miles, 160 kilometers east of Tripoli, where we've heard that there's fighting going on.

Well, that truck has got wafer biscuits on it. The other truck we've looked at has got sugar, we've been told about tomatoes being taken there. But what seems very surprising about this is the drivers, even though they've got the green flag on, the green flag that symbolizes they support Moammar Gadhafi and they're going to an opposition area, they tell us they're going to be OK. It seems a little bit surprising, but that's what they're telling us.

Almost wherever we go now, whenever the cameras come out, you can almost guarantee there will be a crowd -- a spontaneous crowd that appears to gather, showing their support for Moammar Gadhafi. Whenever the camera appears now, the crowds do, as well.

(voice-over): So far, despite the aid convoy apparently going through the contested town of Misurata, no trip there for us.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Tripoli, Libya.


ANDERSON: All right, so Libya's largest trading partner is Italy. It's suspended a bilateral friendship treaty and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi now says that he will follow the line taken by the international community in dealing with the crisis.

But critics say he was too slow to break what has been long time fairly cozy ties with Colonel Gadhafi.

Well, earlier, I spoke with Italy's foreign minister, Franco Frattini.

I began by asking him whether Mr. Berlusconi is still hesitant to put pressure on the Libyan leader.

This is what he said.


FRANCO FRATTINI, ITALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Nobody in Italy, in the political environment in the government, is supporting Mr. Gadhafi. Perhaps you will have noted that my prime minister didn't support any kind of measure in favor of Mr. Gadhafi. On the contrary, he spoke very clearly about Italy supporting all the sanctions decided already at U.N. level, at European level, as well.

I said many times that we cannot consider Gadhafi as an interlocutor for the international community, I said also, the game is over with the regime of Gadhafi.

ANDERSON: But is he still hesitant to put pressure on the Libyan leader?

FRATTINI: I think my prime minister was clear enough, to say that we have to help the Libyan population, not the regime.

ANDERSON: So are you saying it is inevitable that he will go or are you specifically saying that he should go?

FRATTINI: Well, when a person keeping a regime in power is that gives orders to kill people, its own people, his brothers, his sisters, in the same country, do actions like that, it cannot be considered, as I said, an interlocutor. So he should leave.

But what is very clear is that all the international community is pressing the same opinion Italy does and other European countries do. So we cannot play with words.

If I -- I can say inevitable, I mean inevitable. Sooner or later, he should leave.

ANDERSON: Can you confirm you would allow NATO to use Italian air bases, and, indeed, do you support a no fly zone?

FRATTINI: I think it is a useful instrument, but we need a legal basis. And the legal basis is a political decision to be taken by Security Council.

ANDERSON: Will you follow Britain's lead, for example, and freeze the assets of the Gadhafi family?

FRATTINI: I don't know where there are, the assets in Italy, owned by the family of Mr. Gadhafi. But if, yes, they will be frozen.

ANDERSON: Foreign Minister, just how concerned are you about an influx of both refugees and, indeed, migrants from both Libya and Tunisia?

FRATTINI: I'm concerned. I believe that it is necessary to work together. But it is necessary, absolutely, to help refugees and migrants on the ground in the border areas between Libya and its borders. That's why I'm talking about humanitarian assistance to be provided for by Italy to these camps, refugees that are particularly at the borders between Tunisia and Libya.


ANDERSON: The Italian foreign minister. We don't seem to be hearing a lot from the prime minister these days. But certainly the view from Italy there.

Well, we are covering every angle of this crisis in Libya.

Coming up in the show, a look at the alternatives.

If Gadhafi's regime falls, who will fill the void?

Plus, stay tuned for the plagiarism scandal that has cost the German defense minister his job. That story just ahead.

And we put your conn -- questions to our Connector of the Day -- your Connector of the Day today, Kevin Spacey. Find out what the play the Hollywood star wants adapted to the big screen.

That's all coming up here on CONNECT THE WORLD.


ANDERSON: Well, it is a story that is shaking the fashion world, as one of its most acclaimed designers falls from grace. The door at Dior for John Galliano. That story is coming up this hour.

I'm Becky Anderson in London.

You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

A look at the other stories that we are following for you this hour.

In the capital of Iran today, protesters clashed with security forces but were largely outnumbered. Demonstrators were showing support for two opposition leaders they say have been arrested -- something Iran denies.

And as CNN's Reza Sayah reports, the amateur videos that usually appear after Iranian protests were mostly missing, too.


REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pockets of protests and clashes in Tehran on Tuesday and some other major Iranian cities, but nothing widespread. We also didn't see very many amateur video clips posted on YouTube and other social networking sites, which could be another indication that the protests on Tuesday were not very big and Iranian security forces pretty much remained in control.

This is one of the few video clips posted on YouTube. It shows protesters chanting, "Death to the Dictator!" witnesses telling us in other parts of Tehran, protesters chanted Khameini, the supreme leader, is a murderer, his authority is void.

But witnesses telling us those protesters pretty much chased away by a large number of security forces. Some others were detained.

In one neighborhood in Tehran, a witness says he saw protesters charging a cleric riding as a passenger on a motor bike and ripping off his robe. But what witnesses described on Tuesday was a scenario we've heard before, over the past few protests, and that is protesters coming out, being defiant, but being outnumbered and out muscled by a huge number of security forces.

One witness told us that Tehran looked like a military base on Tuesday.

Those protests called for by the opposition movement to protest what they call the illegal imprisonment of their leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who are facing unprecedented pressure and restrictions by the regime. All sorts of conflicting reports about their whereabouts and what's happened to them. One opposition Web site reporting they're in jail. Another Web site reporting that they're in their -- in a safe houses for their own safety.

But the government's official position is that they are not arrested, they haven't been detained, but they are facing strict restrictions when it comes to their movements and their telephone calls, which begs the question, on what legal basis have these restrictions been placed on these two men, if, indeed, they're not being charged with a crime?

Reza Sayah, CNN, Islamabad.


ANDERSON: Well, just one week after that devastating quake, aftershocks hit near the South Island city in New Zealand on Tuesday. One measured 4.0 in magnitude, the other, 4.3.

And New Zealand has paid silent tribute to victims of the devastating earthquake. Two minutes of silence began at 12:51 p.m. The death toll now stands at 155 and is expected to rise.

Germany's defense minister abruptly resigned today, in the wake of a plagiarism scandal that has cost him his doctorate and now his job. He admitted copying parts of his 2006 dissertation from the work of others.

But as CNN's Frederik Pleitgen reports, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was still reluctant to let him go.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Angela Merkel's political superstar, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Germany's secretary of defense, resigned amid allegations that he copied and pasted large parts of his doctoral dissertation.

Now, in the beginning, Guttenberg had said that he did not do any of this and that all of these were allegations: "When I become the center of attention at the expense of the soldiers who I'm responsible for, then I cannot justify remaining in office. Because the German Army, the academic community and the parties who back me are in danger of being damaged, I am taking the step that I would expect others to take."

Now, all this also comes at a time, as Guttenberg was actually also conducting a huge reform of Germany's defense ministry, and, indeed, of Germany's military. One of the things that's happening is that he got rid of conscription in the German Army and is making it into a professional army and also is trying to -- to reorganize the entire military to make it more friendly to foreign deployments like, for example, in Afghanistan.

Now, Angela Merkel went in front of the press today, as well, saying that it was with a heavy heart that she was letting Guttenberg go. And also, she said, that at this point, she's not announcing a successor yet and that, in fact, Guttenberg will remain in office until a successor is found. We believe that will be in the next couple of days.

Frederik Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


ANDERSON: Millions of European women have, well, they have to pay much more for their auto insurance going forward, even though they or we generally drive more safely than men. Controversial, I know. The European Court of Justice has ruled that insurers cannot base contracts to men and women on sex. Unisex premiums are scheduled to kick in by December next year.

The Association of British Insurers warns that costs for young female drivers could rise by an average of 25 percent.

Well, I want to get you back to the Libya story.

The U.S. ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, is speaking to reporters.

Let's listen in.


SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: -- exercise its authority to suspend a member state for gross violations of human rights. And in our view, this is progress, as was last Friday's special session in Geneva for the Human Rights Council. And we hope it's progress that will be sustained.

QUESTION: Ambassador...


QUESTION: What -- what's the importance that many Arab countries, as Lebanon, took the lead for this resolution and many Arab countries sponsored the resolution for a human rights issue in an Arab country?

RICE: I think it's very significant and an important development. And, similarly, the Africa group, which also claims Libya as a member, took strong leadership and brought this effort, both to Geneva and to New York. And so while we are proud to have co-sponsored it, we -- we certainly applaud their leadership.

QUESTION: Ambassador, don't you think that it's an outrage that Libya was elected to the Human Rights Council in the first place?

And also, this morning, lots of American officials said that all options are on the table, yet you denied forcefully that there is a -- an invasion plan.

RICE: The Venezuelan perm rep's comments were ugly and reprehensible and I think I dealt with them emphatically in the chamber and, you know, he can live in the fantasy world that he apparently does. Apparently, there's more than one delusional person speaking allowed this week.

But we'll -- we'll let his own remarks speak for themselves.

But with respect to Libya's membership in the Human Rights Council, we regretted its election last year. We thought it was an unfortunate decision. But this, unfortunately, is -- is a factor that comes into play when we have, as is sometimes customary, a clean slate out of regional groups. And we have worked successfully in other instances to generate competition such that that kind of outcome is avoided.

QUESTION: On the Security Council resolution, can I ask you a question about the Security Council resolution?

RICE: Can we have -- can we have...

QUESTION: OK. (INAUDIBLE) is pointing, yes.

RICE: Can we have one at a time?

QUESTION: I just wondered, on the Security Council resolution that passed Saturday, some have now raised a question about the U.S. asking for that Paragraph 6, which exempts Americans and I -- I guess, others, anyone that's not an ICC member, from referral and prosecution by the ICC. They say it undercuts international law. Brazil said it. Now the head of the Rome statute, you know, grouping of member states said it.

What -- why did the U.S. ask for that?

And don't you see a down side to saying there's no impunity if you're excluding people from referral?

RICE: No, I don't see a down side. As you well know, the United States is not a party and we have thought it important, if we were going to, for the first time, affirmatively support such a resolution, to make sure that it was clear the limitations as to who jurisdiction applied to.

That's why we supported that phrase. Your assertion and that of others that somehow this provides a pass for mercenaries, I think, is completely misplaced. I don't think that the International Criminal Court is going to spend its time and effort on foot soldiers that have been paid small amounts of money by Gadhafi. They're going to focus on the big fish.

So I think you -- your interest was misplaced.


QUESTION: -- discussing further action in the Security Council now?

And a non...

RICE: Are we...

QUESTION: -- a no flight zone...

RICE: Are we currently discussing other action?


RICE: No. Not yet.

QUESTION: And did you discuss with the Russians and Chinese a no fly zone in Libya?

RICE: We're constantly in discussions with our partners on the Council, in particular, the P5, about issues that threaten international peace and security. We view this as one that falls into that category. And we'll continue to -- to stay in close consultation with them and with others.

Thanks very much.

ANDERSON: Dr. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. there just with an explanation about why Libya has been ousted from the U.N. Human Rights Council. Some of you may be wondering why it was ever on. But at any rate, that's the story out of New York this evening.

We're going to take a very short break.

I'm Becky Anderson.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN.


ANDERSON: Now it's just before half past nine in London.

You are back with CONNECT THE WORLD.

I'm Becky Anderson.

Coming up, Moammar Gadhafi might not be backing down, but many experts believe his fall is inevitable. We're going to look at who the opposition is and what a post-Gadhafi Libya could or would look like.

Well, Mikhail Gorbachev is turning 80 and has passed a big day. The former statesman offers his advice to a nation he worries may be headed toward chaos.

We've got a usual suspect as your Connector of the Day, Oscar winning actor Kevin Spacey joins us on the show. Find out how he's providing the trigger for new talent to burst onto the stage and screen. Your Connector of the Day coming up this half hour.

Those stories are all ahead.

First, as ever, at this point, let's get you a quick check of the headlines this hour.

The United Nations General Assembly suspended Libya from the U.N. Human Rights Council a short time ago over the regime's brutal crackdown on opposition protesters. No country spoke on Libya's behalf during the brief debate.

Well, the U.N. refugee agency is making an urgent appeal for the mass evacuation of people fleeing Libya into Tunisia. It says more than 75,000 people have crossed the border since February the 19th and 40,000 others are waiting to cross.

Germany's defense minister abruptly quit today after accusations he plagiarized parts of his doctoral thesis. Karl-Theodor Freiherr zu Guttenberg was stripped of his duty last week, and German chancellor Angela Merkel has now accepted his resignation.

Christian Dior has announced that it is firing John Galliano after video was released of their designer making anti-Semitic remarks. The French fashion house issued a statement condemning his, quote, "deeply offensive comment." The designer's lawyer says Galliano denies that he is anti-Semitic.

And US stocks continued to slide on Thursday (sic) with all three major indexes down about one percent. Oil prices are spiking to near $100 a barrel again. Analysts say tensions in the Middle East and North Africa continue to cast their shadow on the market.

We're taking a very short break. Back after this.


ANDERSON: Let's return to our top story this hour, the United Nations General Assembly suspending Libya from the UN Human Rights Council a short time ago over the regime's brutal crackdown on opposition protesters. No country spoke on Libya's behalf during the brief debate.

Perhaps no surprise, but it shows how the international community is sort of ramping up is pressure on Gadhafi's regime, which hasn't, of course, gone as yet. But if it does fall, who could step in and lead Libya? Brian Todd takes a look at the country's opposition.



BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We've seen them celebrating on the streets in eastern Libya, jubilant after Moammar Gadhafi's forces left cities like Benghazi. They've started to take control of towns to the west, as well, and are getting closer to Tripoli.

But who are they? Who is leading these rebels, this opposition that's threatening to drive out a dictator after 42 years? Observers say there doesn't seem to be one group or person in particular. Ronald Bruce St. John has written seven books on Libya.

RONALS BRUCE ST. JOHN, LIBYA SCHOLAR: So, you've got everyone from people in the street, street vendors, people like that, to lawyers, to educators, to judges. And, of course, in the eastern part of the country, we've now seen some military units disaffect from the government and join the protesters. So, it's a wide -- a wide swath of Libyan society.

TODD (voice-over): One group in eastern Libya that's begun to fill a void, according to news reports, is the Libyan National Council. It's said to be helping liberated cities coordinate basic functions.

Observers say a respected former justice minister, Mustafa Abdul Jalil is a de facto leader of this group and could be a key transitional figure. But it's unclear if he's got widespread support outside of eastern Libya.

TODD (on camera): Why do we not see kind of a main opposition figure or an opposition group really emerging right now?

MOHAMED AL MAGARIAF, LIBYAN DISSIDENT: I'm sure that they look upon certain persons as possible leaders, potential leaders for the country. But neither these people nor our people themselves would like to rush to this situation. I think their main concern at the moment is to make sure that Gadhafi's regime is over.

TODD (voice-over): Mohamed Yousef Al Magariaf's been waiting for that moment. He resigned as Libya's ambassador to India more than 30 years ago, went into exile, and is a leader of a key opposition group, says he has survived multiple assassination attempts. He got emotional when I asked him one key question.

TODD (voice-over): Would you go back to assume a leadership role?

AL MAGARIAF: I'll go back to, first of all, to my country, to -- to meet my family, the rest of my family, and to congratulate my -- our people for the glorious job they did. And I would offer myself to -- to participate in the rebuilding of Libya.

TODD: Al Magariaf and others say whoever fills this void after Gadhafi, it likely won't be just one person. They say the country was destroyed by one-man rule and likely won't have the appetite to go back to it. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


ANDERSON: Well, Misrata is a key opposition-held city, but witnesses say the Libyan regime is using violence to try and take it back. I spoke earlier to the city's media relations spokesperson. It's not a particularly good line, but do listen up. I asked him if protesters in Misrata want crucially foreign intervention. This is what he said.


SAADOUN, MEDIA SPOKESMAN, MISRATA, LIBYA (via telephone): The people of Misrata need -- want to see external support and international support offered to Libya. We want to see a no-fly zone over Tripoli. It would be greatly helpful in dismantling and disabling the Gadhafi regime.

ANDERSON: The British prime minister, David Cameron, has said that he would consider arming the opposition, whatever he means by that. Is that something that you would support.

SAADOUN: It is definitely something that we would welcome, as well. And support is needed to help the army that -- signed up -- there is like, Misrata and the eastern parts of the country, Benghazi, Tobruk, and Al Bayda, where the majority of the army have sided with the people, and they do have the experience to run a battle-type of operation against Gadhafi's militia and Gadhafi's cadre of --

The type of machinery that would be very effective to claim -- in a march toward Tripoli, it would be very handy, indeed, if these could be supplied by the international community.


ANDERSON: All right. So, the voice, there, of just one media spokesman for what's called the opposition in Libya at the moment. Very difficult to profile that at the moment. Benghazi, of course, another opposition stronghold. CNN's Ben Wedeman joins me from there, live.

And Ben, over the past couple of days, we've been talking about just who we mean when we've been talking about the opposition. Is it becoming any clearer at this point?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not really, and that's not really surprising, because let's not forget, this is a city emerging from 41 years of, as we heard before, one-man rule.

So, you go down to the courthouse, which is really the nerve center for the opposition in Benghazi, and there are a lot of people running around having discussions, trying to figure out how to make this city run properly. Some people are thinking ahead to where the opposition is going to go. But you don't really have any particular figurehead.

We have seen that, for instance, the former justice minister, who resigned from Gadhafi's regime, coming over to here, there was talk about him leading some sort of interim government, but there is a lot of opposition among people here to the idea of somebody from the old regime joining what could be a new government. Becky?

ANDERSON: OK, Ben. Given that, and given what we are hearing from the international community -- we've seen some 49 representatives at the UN tonight sanctioning the ousting of Libya from the UN Human Rights Council.

But perhaps more importantly, there's been much rhetoric about whether other countries might arm what they call the opposition in Libya at the moment and, indeed, whether there is a necessity for a no-fly zone. What are you hearing from those who deem themselves the opposition in Libya at the moment. What do they want at this point?

WEDEMAN: Certainly, the idea of a no-fly zone is something people would welcome here, because they don't have any air force of their own, their anti-aircraft equipment is very antiquated, and they feel very exposed. There are a lot of oil facilities in this area.

In fact, we visited one of them today, and even though the oil facility is functioning, they're on high alert because they're worried of, for one thing, an air raid along the lines of one we saw yesterday, and the possibility of sabotage being conducted against that facility.

So, there is a good deal of uncertainty, unease, worry, fear, that Moammar Gadhafi's forces could reassert themselves in some way. So people, by and large, do welcome the idea of a no-fly zone.

When you start asking them about foreign military intervention, whether it be air strikes or boots on the ground, their opinions are very mixed. Many people hesitant to bring foreign troops into this country. Although one man we spoke to today said the best thing, at this point, would be a cruise missile into Moammar Gadhafi's palace. Becky?

ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman in Benghazi for you. Ben, as ever, we appreciate your reporting. We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us here on CONNECT THE WORLD.

This is CNN. It's 40 minutes past 9:00 in London. Harsh words today from a former president. What Mikhail Gorbachev thinks about Russia's so- called democratic government. We'll get that, up next.


ANDERSON: Well, as battles for political reform rage across the Middle East, the former president of the Soviet Union is looking back at its own journey towards democracy. As CNN's Paula Newton reports, Mikhail Gorbachev is not happy about what he sees in Russia today.



PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With a swaggering conviction he's grown into over the years, Mikhail Gorbachev addressed the world's media on the even of his 80th birthday. This wasn't a trip down memory lane. He set his sights on Russia's current leaders and let them have it.

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, FORMER LEADER OF THE SOVIET UNION (through translator): I don't like the way Putin and Medvedev are behaving.

NEWTON (voice-over): Gorbachev came just short of calling Russia's democracy a sham.

GORBACHEV (through translator): We have everything. We have a parliament, we have courts, the president, prime minister, as well as local authorities. But it's fake for the most part. It doesn't work.

NEWTON (voice-over): All this spirit and vigor at 80, a milestone he's marking with candor rarely heard in Russia, calling its leaders arrogant.

GORBACHEV (through translator): That conceit is just incredible. In fact, I fell victim to the same kind of conceit with perestroika. I was an active, confident person, but my confidence at some point turned into excessive self-confidence and conceit.

NEWTON (voice-over): Arguably, now, Gorbachev is Russia's most vocal rebel, and there is little the current leadership can do about it. But does what he says matter anymore? At best, most Russians can only muster grudging respect for their former leader, blaming him for the disorderly collapse of the USSR and the chaos they endured afterwards.

NEWTON (on camera): But we've now come to Gorbachev's alma mater, Moscow State University, to see what the younger generation thinks, people who weren't even born in the Soviet Union.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he was a good person, and I think he really wanted to do something good for our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, of course he was a great person in history. He did so much for our country, of course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is important in our history as a person who wrote democracy in our country.

NEWTON (voice-over): In that sentiment, Gorbachev is getting the birthday gift he says he has always coveted. Gratitude for relinquishing power with dignity and, more importantly, without bloodshed. Paula Newton, CNN, Moscow.


ANDERSON: All right, so, 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, just how democratic is Russia today? Joining me now from Moscow to talk about that is Matthew Rojansky, who's the deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment. How have these comments from Gorbachev gone down, out of interest?

MATTHEW ROJANSKY, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: Well, in general, the Russian reaction tends to be cynical. That's always a rule, and this is no exception. There are those who speculate that Gorbachev is convinced that there's going to be a revolution in Russia, and he's posturing to be the transitional head of state once again. But I think in general, your correspondent is right. It's mostly ambivalence. The process that he initiated in the late 1980s still isn't finished, in many ways.

ANDERSON: He was quite self-deprecating about his own arrogance during his time, but he certainly accused the administration, the current leaders, of arrogance as to how they are running the country at this point.

I want to talk about the significance of what's going on in the Middle East shortly, but firstly, whether people are ambivalent towards what Gorbachev has said or not, is there a sense of arrogance amongst Russians today?

ROJANSKY: Well, remember, Russia has changed dramatically in 20 years. If you compare where Russia is today to where it was, for example, 10 or 15 years ago in the 1990s, it is by far less pluralistic and less open.

That is, there is no meaningful opposition party that can challenge the one Russia party, the United Russia Party of Putin and Medvedev. There is really no independent television. But at the same time, it is a far more prosperous and stable country. So, people, I think, are of split opinion as a result of that split result.

ANDERSON: How significant is what has been going on across the Middle East and North Africa been for people in Russia who don't buy the leadership at this point?

ROJANSKY: Well, I think for those who are convinced that the leadership is a sham or a facade, as Gorbachev has described it, then the events simply reinforce what they already think, which is, there is internal instability, it's an authoritarian regime, it's dependent on natural resource extraction. Gosh, that looks an awful lot like these Arab governments that are starting to fall like dominoes.

But then, I think we have another camp, some of them are very close to the government, not surprisingly, who say, "No, what we're witnessing is much more like the so-called color revolutions that took place in the last decade across the post-Soviet states. These are being driven by insidious outsiders, the United States and Europe, through internet companies and conspiracies, and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was absolutely right to react with tough force, and that's exactly what we would do under the same circumstances."

ANDERSON: Let's just interrogate just how Russia has acted over the past couple of weeks. It's certainly been more than happy to support the UN resolution, for example, on Libya at present sanctions, freezing assets, freezing arms sales, for example.

Do Russian leaders expect that if we were to see the same sort of popular uprising across Russia today, that the rest of the world would be less -- less proactive about supporting those people's revolutions?

ROJANSKY: Well, I think in general, Russian leaders are not expecting a worldwide revolution. I think if you listen to the rhetoric coming from President Medvedev, in particular, it is very balanced, it's very conservative, it's very cautious.

His view is, this is an opportunity to align Russia with the modernization agenda that has been the hallmark of his administration, to put Russia on the side of the West and, as you noted, he supported -- Russia has supported the UN Security Council sanctions.

So, the rhetoric from Moscow in that respect doesn't seem to reflect a sense of impending doom. There is not a panic. But as I said, this is a place where conspiracy theories tend to carry a lot of currency, and so you are hearing them amongst some who are close to the ruling powers.

ANDERSON: And this is also a place which will be heading to the polls, or certainly, the people will, in 2012. Any sense that the people will -- will get a sense that there is something to fight for here?

ROJANSKY: Yes. It's interesting that, I feel like it's almost a return to the past, in the sense that, once again, it's about Kremlinology. It's about personalities and measuring who is in favor and who is not. Who is going to be chosen by the party to be its representative in 2012 in the presidential election. And then, when that man wins, who will he surround himself with?

These are the indicators that matter, and not actually what the party says about its ideologies and its positions. It's very much about personalities at this point.

ANDERSON: All right, we're going to leave it there. We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us for reaction to what Mikhail Gorbachev said today on what is his 80th birthday.

Still to come, the star who is sending the elevator back down. How Kevin Spacey is giving amateur writers and filmmakers a chance to shine. The Oscar-winner joins us as your Connector of the Day, right after this.


ANDERSON: "Bladerunner," "Clockwork Orange," "Scarface." Just some of them many films that have been given cult status over the years. Well, the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival has just added another celluloid classic to the list, "The Usual Suspects."

It was a low-budget flick by a little-known director and writer, just the type tonight's Connector of the Day not only likes, but is now dedicated to bringing to the big screen.


KEVIN SPACEY AS ROGER "VERBAL" KINT, "THE USUAL SUSPECTS": These guys were hardcore hijackers. But there I was. I knew I hadn't done anything they could --

ANDERSON (voice-over): It was the performance that turned Kevin Spacey into an A-list star.

KINT: I got to make like I was notorious.

ANDERSON (voice-over): His portrayal of criminal Verbal Kint in "The Usual Suspects" won the American-born actor his first Academy Award.

SPACEY AS LESTER BURNHAM, "AMERICAN BEAUTY": I didn't lose it. It's not like, "Oops, where did my job go?" I quit! Someone pass the asparagus.

ANDERSON (voice-over): A second would follow in the 1999 acclaimed Drama "American Beauty."

ANNETTE BENING AS CAROLYN BURNHAM, "AMERICAN BEAUTY": The added pressure of being the sole breadwinner now!

LESTER BURNHAM: I already have a job.


ANDERSON (voice-over): He's played many a dark character on the big screen, but Spacey started out as a standup comedian before making his name as a stage actor.

Spacey still dedicates much of his time to the theater and, since 2003, he's been artistic director and savior of the cash-strapped Old Vic in London.

He attributes his success to first-time writers, directors, and playwrights, and is now, in his words, "sending the elevator back down," giving others an opportunity to find their way into the spotlight.

It's a commitment he's achieving through his production company Trigger Street and support of grassroots film festivals, including the Jameson Dublin International, where "The Usual Suspects" has just been given cult status.

KINT, "THE USUAL SUSPECTS": The Greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. And like that --

ANDERSON (voice-over): I asked your Connector of the Day where he's looking to discover new talent and new great stories.

SPACEY: I absolutely think that there's many countries around the world, particularly, I think, emerging countries, where you see that either they have, in some ways, lost hold of their own culture or they have yet to create their own culture.

If you look in the Middle East, for example, I think that there are probably lots of emerging filmmakers who are wanting very much to begin, but it's a difficult place to begin, because I think there's only about six producers in sort of the whole Gulf region.

But I think that if we find ways, like what Jameson is doing, to be able to give more opportunities to emerging filmmakers around the world, I think that you will start to see, certainly in places -- I mean, goodness knows, while we're sitting here talking, there's a lot of remarkable, somewhat scary changes that are happening around the world. And out of that, there are bound to be stories.

ANDERSON (on camera): You're in Dublin, as well, for a special screening of "The Usual Suspects." It's been given, for all the right reasons, cult status. What was it about the script that attracted you way back when?

SPACEY: Well, the first thing that attracted me about the script was that Bryan Singer and Chris McQuarrie told me that they wrote it for me specifically, which had never happened to me in my life before that. So, that was a pretty good reason to read it.

And yet, when I read it, it was very -- it was very dense, it was very confusing. I remember, I finished it, and I was like, "Huh? What just happened?" So, I had to go back and read it again.

And I think that what Bryan's vision and Chris McQuarrie's remarkable script managed to do was to sort of take the kind of noir, the great -- that incredible period of time in both America and French cinema and cinema all over the world where the notion of the gangster, the notion of the mysterious character, in that particular genre of film that was so popular, and really kind of modernized it and made such a remarkable twist on it.

ANDERSON: Good stuff. Well, there was nothing confusing about Aaron Sorkin's script for "The Social Network." You, of course, are one of the producers. What made you think that a story about a geek was potentially a blockbuster?

SPACEY: It's one of those films that comes along every now and then that seems to capture its time, but also is timeless. And I think that probably the reason for that is that when we -- Dana Brunetti, who runs my company, Trigger Street, when we first started talking about doing it and we started to realize, all right, so what is this film? What could the story be?

Ultimately, it wasn't so much about a website called Facebook as it was about friendship and betrayal and power and invention, and sort of all of the key ingredients that you need to make great drama.

ANDERSON: A couple of questions from viewers. SK Khan from the West Indies says, "What is the most challenging role that you've ever had to play?"

SPACEY: Well, there's a lot of roles that I play in theater that your viewers asking questions might not have had a chance to see. There is something quite remarkable about creating a role on film, but it is a very different kind of process than the one that you do in theater.

I think that I have been lucky that I've had incredibly complex characters and scripts that have been so extraordinary to work on. "The Usual Suspects" is a pretty good example of a very complex character.

ANDERSON: Good, all right. Kevin from Maryland in the United States asks, "What play would you most like to be -- see adapted for the big screen? Or do you believe that a play can't be given its due when translated to a movie?" Good question.

SPACEY: I would say, no, I think that there are really many, many examples. I would cite "Inherit the Wind," a play that I did at The Old Vic last year. But plays are a different medium, in the sense that -- it's a three dimensional -- I actually asked someone --


SPACEY: Recently, would he ever like to work in 3D? And Sam said, "I've been working in 3D my entire life. It's called theater."

ANDERSON: Fantastic. You've played some pretty dark characters during your career, but you actually, I believe, began by doing impressions on the amateur comedy circuit. Can a comedian win an Oscar?

SPACEY: Look, I've always loved comedies. I've been doing comedies my whole life. I don't know why you end up doing, like, five movies in which you play a dark character and everybody thinks you're a twisted, sinister person. I love comedies. I just did a --


SPACEY: Warner Brothers called "Horrible Bosses." It'll be out in July, I think, with Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston. It was a lot of fun to do. I wish they'd offer me more comedies, but everyone thinks I do all these dark roles. But I'm really actually -- I'm much funnier than people think. Watch!

ANDERSON: Marianne --


SPACEY (turns webcam upside down): How's the signal now?

ANDERSON: Terrible. Oh, dear. The technology's not keeping up with you, my love. Marianne asks, "If they ever shoot a movie about you, who would you like to see playing your role?"

SPACEY: George Clooney.


ANDERSON: I asked him why, and he said, "What a stupid question." I guess it was. Kevin Spacey for you. I'm Becky Anderson, that is your world connected this hour here on CNN. Thank you for watching. The world news headlines and "BackStory" will follow this short break. Stay with us.