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Heavy Anti-Aircraft Fire in Tripoli; Coalition Pounds Libya from Air; Mullen: Goal is to Protect Civilians; Pentagon Briefing; U.S. Fires 124 Missiles at Libyan Sites; Warplanes Carry Out Strikes in Libya

Aired March 20, 2011 - 15:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Michael Holmes, we'd like to welcome viewers to our special coverage of the conflict in Libya.

Now the latest in Libya and the coalition air strikes that are still taking place, Nic Robertson has been reporting anti-aircraft fire, and other gun fire being heard in Tripoli so far yet no sign of coalition aircraft.

No idea really or no indication what they're shooting at. Those strikes, the air strikes that we have seem are aimed, of course, at stopping the Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi, from attacking his own people and abide by the United Nations-approved cease-fire. Just listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD (voice-over): All right, in one hour, the Pentagon has scheduled a briefing on this operation dubbed "Operation Odyssey Dawn."

Meantime, the coalition is growing larger. Qatar is now joining the effort, the first Arab nation to announce its participation. French officials say the Gulf nation is offering four fighter planes.

Italy, Spain, and Canada are also taking part in the military portions of this coalition, this plan. American, French and British forces launched the operation just about 24 hours ago.

HOLMES: Multiple air and missile strikes have hit Libyan military targets. U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen says most of Gadhafi's air defense systems in some air fields have now been taken out and Libyan ground forces have also been hit. And the no fly zone is in effect.

WHITFIELD: In a speech on state television, Gadhafi vowed to fight back against what he called terrorists attacking his country. He called the strikes a confrontation between the Libyan people and the quote, "new Nazis."

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: Eye witnesses in Tripoli describe what they saw and heard when the air strikes began.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via telephone): To be honest, I was asleep, I woke up because of the explosion. I tried to run and see what's happening and I could see, I saw actually one of the explosions.

I saw one of the fires, it was scary thing especially that there is an anti-craft shooting against it and I saw a couple of the -- I don't know what to call it. But it was a very bright light. And I could see -- I could see some of the events. I saw them.

WHITFIELD: All right, we want to check in with our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson who is in Tripoli.

And Nic, I'm learning through our sources that Libya's army spokesperson has just announced an immediate cease-fire in a briefing that was aired live apparently from Tripoli not long ago. What more can you tell us about that?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there were three people speaking at that press conference. One was the military spokesman here and he did call for an immediate cease-fire. We heard that from the foreign minister early yesterday.

That cease-fire turned out not to be exactly what was happening on the ground at all. There was still a military advance going on. Indeed, he said that the day before. So now we have the army again saying that there will be an immediate cease-fire.

There is also a tribal spokesman there, somebody representing the tribes. And he called to a cease-fire on both sides and said that there should be a peaceful march by the tribes, by tribal representatives between Tripoli and Benghazi.

That would be probably pretty close to about 1,000 -- a 1,000 miles to march. It takes trucks and cars about 10 hours to drive that route. So that would be a very large march. That's what he was calling for.

We heard from a spokesman at the foreign ministry saying they were calling on the African Union to weigh in and give support to Libya at this stage. Clearly, Libya very encouraged by the concerns that it's heard expressed by the Arab league.

And looking to the African Union that at several weeks ago expressed concerns and talked about the situation in Libya as being an internal issue now calling on the African Union to step in again and come to Libya's support at this time, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: So calling for it and actually honoring it are very different as you mentioned and I look at the translation and transcription of the army spokesperson saying that the armed forces issued a command to all military units to safeguard immediate cease- fire, starting from 9:00 p.m. Sunday that would be right now, Sunday your time. But it's unclear whether it would be honored, right? That's the issue. ROBERTSON: That is the issue. It was very interesting. We heard Admiral Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a little earlier on CNN today saying that really what happens next in terms of air strikes, et cetera, would very much depend on the actions of Moammar Gadhafi.

And the actions that precipitated these strikes yesterday came hard on the heels of Moammar Gadhafi's army essentially trying to go into Benghazi and as we've seen today, his army outside the city there was very heavily damaged in air strikes.

So one would imagine that the aircraft overlooking and overflying Libya right now would be looking to see exactly what is happening on the ground. Is that cease-fire that the army has called for, is it going to be honored?

And one would imagine if it isn't, there would be more of the punitive strikes against the army. If the army is going to honor it, it perhaps indicates that Moammar Gadhafi is concerned about losing more of his military muscle here. Because if he's on the offensive, we've seen it, can be targeted and can be very heavily damaged as we've seen today.

WHITFIELD: All right, Nic Robertson, thanks so much. Clearly you're feeling safe, fair all-clear as of now. We're able to see you there on the balcony in Tripoli. We'll check back with you momentarily. Thanks so much.

HOLMES: All right, let's get to CNN's Arwa Damon. She's on the other side of the country, Benghazi, the rebel stronghold. It's a lot quieter there than the noise that Nic has been hearing, but this talk of the cease-fire again. What are the rebels likely to say to that?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're not likely to believe it at all. Remember, this is not the first time that the Gadhafi regime announced a cease-fire. They did so on Friday and that obviously did not materialize because on Saturday, Benghazi was assaulted very heavily by Gadhafi's forces.

They came in from the southern portion of the city. We saw artillery rounds being fired into the city. We saw tanks firing as well and residents were telling us that Gadhafi's forces were sitting on top of vehicles manned by heavy machine guns firing indiscriminately into buildings.

So the perspective from here is very, very different. The city itself right now, calm, but still remains tense, ever since we saw that assault on Saturday. Shops have by and large remained closed. We've seen an intensity in checkpoints and how meticulously vehicles are being searched.

These are people who firmly believe without international intervention, without the air strikes that we have been seeing. They would have eventually been massacred by Gadhafi's forces. People here are very much welcoming these air strikes especially those that took place from 30 kilometers around 20 miles outside of Benghazi. We were there earlier today. We saw at least 70 military vehicles that had been burned, destroyed basically by these air strikes and people there had one simple message for the global world and that was, one of thank you. Thank you for coming to our aid. Michael --

HOLMES: Another question there is what is the rebels' next step? One presumes they're going to be having the impetus now to make a move of their own if Gadhafi has been stopped in place. Even if there's a cease-fire, will the rebels be tempted to take advantage of that? One imagines they'll not likely just want to sit there.

DAMON: No, Michael and they already are. We're hearing beginning their advance from what we understand the frontline is now back into the city of Aztabia. After we saw the air strikes launched against Gadhafi's military that happened on Friday and local eyewitnesses were telling us that opposition fighters moved forward and began launching their own attack against Gadhafi's military.

Their goal still remains the same -- and that is, in their words, to liberate all the Libya from Gadhafi's rule. Of course, they say that they do not want to do this by fighting their way through. This is not an uprising that began violently. It began peacefully and only turned violent when Gadhafi's forces began using violence against the demonstrators.

The opposition fighters only learned how to use their weapons in the last few weeks. They'll initially try to peacefully somehow bring about this liberation that they're talking of. But if they're forced to, they will continue to fight their way because they're ready to die for this cause. And having come this far, they're not going to give up at this stage, Michael.

HOLMES: You know, how willing are they to talk to the outside world about their own tactics? One imagines that if Gadhafi does have a cease-fire, if by some miracle he means it this time. That would mean that the U.S. and Britain and France and the others involved in this coalition, are then faced with a difficult prospect.

If the rebels decide to forge ahead in a military sense, what then does the no-fly zone mean, if the rebels are moving forward militarily and Gadhafi is meant to just sit there and take it it's a difficult balancing act, isn't it?

DAMON: It is, Michael. But in the hypothetical scenario where a cease-fire would in fact take place, then by that logic, you would be seeing the opposition forces advancing and not needing to fire their weapons.

You would be hypothetically seeing demonstrations against Gadhafi's regime by opposition members, by those who want to see him overthrown taking place, peacefully. You would continue to see a peaceful uprising. That's what opposition leaders tell us. If in fact Gadhafi's forces actually stop firing on them.

But the issue here also is not just whether or not Gadhafi is going to effect a cease-fire, but if he's going to stop his intimidation campaign. And that is one that is so intense, just to give you one example. There's a woman here in Benghazi who used to run a massive kitchen. She was cooking food along with number of other volunteers for opposition fighters on the frontline.

And a few days ago she received a phone call from a pro-Gadhafi individual, who threatened her, told her that she had better stop. And then he listed the names and ages of all of her children and detailed the inside of her home. So it's not just an issue of whether or not a cease-fire is going to be in place.

It is whether or not the Gadhafi regime is going to bring about an end to these tactics of intimidation. And at that stage, whether or not they're going to comply with the opposition's main request, of course, and that is for Gadhafi to step down from power, Michael.

HOLMES: And so therefore, if there is a stalemate theoretically, if there is a cease-fire and the military has got nothing to do and you have a political and social and geographical stalemate, the opposition is not going to be happy with that.

DAMON: No, because they don't want to see a stalemate because at the end of the day, they want to bring down the government that is in Tripoli. We've asked opposition leaders about this and they believe that if that sort of a scenario were to in fact materialize, we would be seeing peaceful uprising against the Gadhafi regime spreading throughout the entire country.

But for that to take place, that would mean that populations in those areas would need to feel safe enough, would need to feel as if Gadhafi's forces were not somehow retaliate against them, would not intimidate them for that to in fact take place. So it is a very complicated scenario. It's very complex.

It's been moving very quickly and it is difficult to determine exactly how these next stages are going to play out, but the opposition is ready for just about anything. Even though right now there is the no fly zone in place. Even though we have seen the air strikes around Benghazi stopping Gadhafi's military from advancing.

This is still a city on edge and one that expects just about anything from a man who they say has brutally ruled them for more than four decades.

HOLMES: Yes, and who would see a cease-fire and allowing peaceful demonstrations as you outlined to actually be surrender and he doesn't seem to be that kind of guy, going back through his history.

I want to know though you've been dealing with the opposition closely and for some time now. You've probably got a pretty good sense of how together they are. Again, you've got a very tribal country so a fracture opposition at the best. Do you think these guys can pull it off?

DAMON: Well, Michael, that's a great question. Quite frankly, it's going to be playing out in the future in the sense that right now this newly-formed national council, although they are different opinions within it, is working very hard to try to present itself as one voice because it does realize what sort of a sensitive situation it is in.

It is fully aware of the fact that especially in the eyes of the international community, when it comes to speaking with global leaders, they do have to appear to be fully united and on the surface, they are. Their one aim still does remain to remove Gadhafi from power.

When it comes to picking apart the actual cement of this unity, of course there are differing opinions. There are those who wish to take advantage of the situation to propel themselves into power. But we are seeing this concerted effort by the part of the opposition to at least when it comes to the image that they're presenting to the outside world to be one of national unity.

Because they do realize the risks that are there. They do realize that their country could faction. They do realize what the consequences of that would potentially be.

HOLMES: Good analysis, Arwa. Excellent, thank you. Arwa Damon there in Benghazi. Keeping eye on things. We'll check in with you later, Arwa.

WHITFIELD: So far, 124 U.S. Tomahawk missiles have targeted Libya's air defense system. We're going to the Pentagon when we come right back to find out what's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff says the goal of the no-fly zone is do protect Libyan civilians, not necessarily to oust Moammar Gadhafi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: The no-fly zone is effectively in place. We've got -- we've got combat air patrol or aircraft over Benghazi and we'll have them there for on a 24/7 basis. Start to move that to the west.

He hasn't flown any aircraft for the last two days and the whole goal here is to one, get it in place. Two, be in a position so he is unable to massacre his own civilians and we effect the humanitarian support. So from that standpoint, the initial operations have been very effective.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Now, the Pentagon has announced it will hold a briefing within the next hour. So let's bring in the Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence. We'll chat on that, what are we likely to hear, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think Michael, one of the things we're going to talk about or ask about is obviously what Nic Robertson was reporting earlier. What looked to be sustained anti-aircraft gun fire coming from Tripoli to try to get a gauge from the Pentagon exactly how much of Moammar Gadhafi's defenses remain intact.

In other words, how much damage were they able to do over the last 24 hours or so, to some of his defenses. In addition to what Admiral Mullen said there, he also talked about the coalition bombing some of the ground targets. Some of the ground forces of Moammar Gadhafi because they contain mobile launchers that would be able to go after aircraft.

And he said another goal going forward over the next day or so, is because of Moammar Gadhafi now has his forces stretched pretty far out from Tripoli to Benghazi, across the northern part of the country. They're going to start trying to go after some of his supply lines and start trying to cut some of his supply lines off. Michael --

HOLMES: So then, Chris, I guess we're chatting about this earlier. About the risks involved here if you like with a cease-fire. As the Libyans are starting to say a game that they're doing, calling a cease-fire. What then does the military do? Because if there is a cease-fire, then they have to stop, don't they?

LAWRENCE: Well, they wouldn't necessarily have to stop the flights. If they're not, if the bombing part of the mission is over, and at that point you're just simply doing surveillance flights and making sure that no air, aircraft got into the air, it's conceivable that you could, you know, continue that for some time for weeks, if not months.

But the key would be would the bombing runs continue. Would there still be missiles and gunfire directed at Moammar Gadhafi's forces. That's still remains to be seen. I talked to a defense official yesterday, who was talking about the last cease-fire, the original cease-fire. He said, look, Moammar Gadhafi called the cease-fire on his own. He called it.

And then he broke it by advancing on Benghazi so he said what he says is not really any concern to us. It's his actions that will you know, bear out.

HOLMES: Yes. One presumes the over flights would go on for years as they have done in other places. The other thing that must be of concern is, and I'm sure it's being discussed. What if the rebels now say, OK, thanks very much, coalition, you've stopped him. We're now going to move.

And they start moving on some of the places that they had given up ground before. Other towns and cities, well then you've got one-half of this revolution, if you like, on the move and one presumes Gadhafi is not allowed to move. It becomes a one-sided thing, doesn't it? There's a lot more involved than just protecting civilians if you've got a rebel army on the move.

LAWRENCE: It does, Michael and really that goes to a level higher than any military, the U.S., the U.K. military, the French military. That goes to more of an administration level, a presidential level. When you start to try to develop an end game to this, what is the ultimate goal? Is it to remove Moammar Gadhafi from power and allow this rebel force to sort of takeover, or establish some sort of government in the country? That's a very different goal than just tamping down the violence and allowing sort of a stalemate to take place.

So I think at a much higher level again than the military level. There would have to be some sort of clearly-defined goal before you would have, before you would make decisions like that as to what to do, if a cease-fire were to take effect.

HOLMES: All right there, Chris Lawrence, thanks so much. We'll be checking in with you when this briefing is over and get more analysis, appreciate it.

All right. Why are Tomahawks being used in "Operation Odyssey Dawn" specifically? And why start the operation at night? Yes, there are answers. A former navy captain is going to explain them after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, the U.S. has now fired 124 Tomahawk missiles at Libyan air defense sites. Captain Alec Fraser is a retired Army captain who has led Tomahawk-capable ships. He's with us now to give us kind of a 101 on what Tomahawks are, for one.

And how you decide when Tomahawks are the most appropriate you know tactic and which to use in a mission like this. So first off, what are they? They generally originate from ships.

CAPTAIN ALEC FRASER, U.S. NAVY (RETIRED): They originate from ships and submarines, but if you think of a Tomahawk, think of a goal post in a football field, it's that tall.

Sort of a big tree and it's subsonic. It's unmanned. It flies up to 500 miles per hour, somewhere in that range. But it does it very, very low. It can carry 1,000-pound warhead and it has a warhead that has little bomb droplets for hitting airplanes on a runway site.

WHITFIELD: As far as we know, the U.S. has been the only one to engage so far in these Tomahawks. We know that the British have Tomahawks as well, but we'll stick to, you know, the plan right now.

We know that they've been targeting air defense systems there in Libya. Likely to be more remote, at remote locations and less likely to be taking place right near the city of say Tripoli or other more populated cities?

FRASER: I don't think very many anti-air defenses are right in the middle of the downtown area. The defenses would generally be around air fields, around military targets. So the idea of the Tomahawk is to go in early. Take out the early warning radars.

Take out the surface-to-air missiles. Take out any airplanes that they can identify on the runways and that allows the next wave of manned aircraft to come in and not be subject to as much of a threat from the surface-to-air missiles.

WHITFIELD: And if you happen to be in any one of these target locations and you happen to see the impact of one Tomahawk. If there's another one on the way, you can't necessarily predict on the ground, if you're that eye witness to know exactly what direction that the other one may come.

FRASER: Well, that's exactly right. The neat thing about the Tomahawk missile, is it's programmable before it's launched, but it has a very unique global positioning system, GPS system that can fly from various points.

So the tactic would be to fly, you know, maybe one or two of the various tactics, one or two of these cruise missiles in one direction so the guns are swinging around if they detect it in that direction.

By the way, here comes another one from the back door and there's one coming from overhead, too. So you can take a lot of these different missiles flying in from, you know, different altitudes, different sides, it's confusing.

WHITFIELD: Can the program change while it's en route?

FRASER: Some of the Tomahawks now have the capability to change the program en route, but that would be down if the target changed. And something that was going in Libya probably, the target wasn't changing, it was a surprise. It's the first wave of an attack and so the need to change the program en route probably did not exist then.

WHITFIELD: So when you heard that the tomahawks were being used in this mission, did it seem appropriate, the use of Tomahawks with this kind of mission? Or does this seem like an unusual set of circumstances in which to use, engage Tomahawks?

FRASER: Not unusual at all. I think as you saw in the previous Gulf Wars that when we use a major air strike. That the first wave that goes in are unmanned subsonic Tomahawk missiles.

They take out the threat that goes to the manned aircraft that are coming in later and they do it at night because you can't see them. They fly so low, a horizon you can generally see say 10, 15 miles.

And so a radar picking up a low-flying Tomahawk missile, which is maybe a several 100 feet off the ground be able to pick that up. It's not much time to react so a lot of it is people see the thing coming or they saw it go by and telephone the guy down the road, but they don't have much time to react. Being able to bring it from different sides and do it at night where people can't see it, that's the tactic. Do that first and do it at night.

WHITFIELD: Does collateral damage custom airily do it with the tomahawk window?

FRASER: The answer is customarily no. If it is a tomahawk it is accurate that you choose the window you want to fly it through. So unless there's some other mechanical failure or it gets hit by a bullet that is randomly fired, that knocks it off course. The tomahawk is very accurate and very carefully targeted.

WHITFIELD: All right. Former Navy captain, or is it all-time, one time Navy captain?

FRASER: Always flying.

WHITFIELD: Always a navy captain. Alec Fraser, thank you so much.

All right. Straight ahead. Arab nations need to access the coalition strikes in Libya. We will tell you what they are saying, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: From Libya, word of an immediate cease-fire, it comes from Libya's army spokesperson; he said that it was set to take effect just about 30 minutes ago. Which was 9:00 Libya time. No idea if that word has actually reached all forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

HOLMES: And what you're hearing there, just some of the anti-aircraft fire that we heard in the last hour in Libya's capital Tripoli. You heard it right here as we were talking to Nic Robertson. Still no sign of coalition aircraft, though. No clue, really what they were shooting at. At present, about seven nations actively involved in what's now known as "Operation Odyssey Dawn." Its aim of course to force the Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, to abide by a United Nations' authorized cease-fire and no fly zone.

Multiple air and missiles strikes against Libyan targets. U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen says most of Gadhafi's air defense systems and some air fields have now been taken out. Libyan ground forces have also been hit as you can see there. A briefing expected less than half an hour from now from the Pentagon. We will of course be bringing that to you live.

WHITFIELD: Meantime, the Arab League has called an emergency meeting on the operation today. For more on that let's turn to Reza Sayah who is live in Cairo. The Arab League had supported the no-fly zone. Did not like the idea that the assaults were taking place or the air drops. So the position has changed once again?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, for several hours, Fredricka, it wasn't really clear what the Arab League's position was when it comes to this no fly zone. But they held an emergency meeting and they finally, after a long time clarified their position. Initially they came out and said, forget about what you heard in the earlier reports, we do fully support this no fly zone over Libya. So let's move forward and start protecting the citizens of Libya with the operation that's taking place.

Of course, earlier there were several news agencies that reported that the Arab League was critical of how the no fly zone was being implemented. Suggesting that it was too aggressive. Those reports quoted the secretary-general of the Arab League, Amre Moussa says that what's happening in Libya differs from the aim opposing a no fly zone, what we wanted is the protection of civilian lives, not the bombardment of more civilians lives.

Several hours later a very different statement. The Arab League saying this, that the position is not changed. We fully support the implementation of a no fly zone. Our ultimate aim is to end the bloodshed and achieve the aspiration of the Libyan people. They added we have been very disappointed with the earlier reports and the media that confused our stance. So the obvious question is why the conflicting statements by the Arab League in such a crucial juncture, this initial juncture of this no fly zone. We asked the Arab League official. And essentially they said, we don't even want to talk about these earlier statements. This is our position. We fully support it. Let's move forward.

WHITFIELD: Well, I wonder, what other support might be offered or promised by some of the Arab nations? Might there be any military support? Especially by way of maybe the UAE, which has the fighter jets that would be capable of the same kind of missions that we're seeing or at least similar missions that we're seeing right now?

SAYAH: Yes. A lot of people eager to see what role Arab nations will play in the implementation of the no fly zone. But at this point, it's not clear. Based on what we've seen over the first 24 hours or so of this operation. Based on the information we have, no Arab nation has taken part actively, militarily in this no fly zone.

This is despite U.S. officials, French officials, and the highest- ranking military officer in the U.S. armed forces, Admiral Mike Mullen coming out and saying that Qatar, its air forces are moving into the theater. We still haven't seen it. So it's not clear what role Arab nations are playing. It's very important for western powers to convey to the world that this is not just a western operation, Arab nations are ply playing a role. But still not clear if it's a symbolic role, diplomatic, financial support or military support.

WHITFIELD: Reza Sayah, thank so much from Cairo. Appreciate that.

HOLMES: All right. We're going to go to Italy now. That Sicily, home base to a NATO base and a U.S. naval air station. Right now a very strategic gathering point for countries helping to enforce the no fly zone. CNN's Diana Magnay is at the U.S. air base in Trapani joins us now. Good to see you now Diana. What have you been seeing, I saw an email from you about tornadoes taking off.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Michael. In the last 15 minutes we've just seen six tornado fighter jets from the Italian air force take off and we've been told by the air force spokesman here on base that they are bound to Libya. We obviously don't know the details of their deployment. You know, from the French earlier, the French forces did not strike any targets today that they did not open fire on loyalist's targets in Libya. So perhaps this is a reconnaissance mission enforcing the no fly zone. We don't have details on that yet.

We do know from the Italian defense minister, that Italy will make available eight tornado fighter jets for the coalition mission in Libya. He said that that would happen after midnight. It seems to have happened a little earlier. And also on this base, the Canadians have sent seven f-18s to participate in commencing the no fly zone. And they're here and we've spoken to their P.A.O., their public affairs officer who said they're also preparing for a possible deployment tonight.

Michael.

HOLMES: And something we were talking about with Reza there too, the Canadians, the French, the British, the Americans now involved. The crucial thing in a regional stance is going to be seeing some Arab planes up in the air. Are you hearing, seeing whispers of any actual action?

MAGNAY: Well there's certainly not taking part in this coalition from Italian bases or from European bases. We're hearing from the French ministry of defense earlier. That four Qatari planes were to participate alongside the French. Now we don't know where they will be launching from. So that is some Arab involvement of course. But as far as the Italian bases are concerned, we're hearing simply that the Canadians are using these seven Italian bases that the Italians have made available. Also the Danes. But as far as Arab involvement goes, not a whisper, Mike.

HOLMES: No sign yet. Yes, the west will be looking for that pretty soon. Diana thanks so much for that, Diana Magnay there in Italy.

WHITFIELD: Meantime, the U.S. President Barack Obama is in Latin America. But he is focusing on the Middle East as well as talking about trade and the future relationship between the U.S. and Brazil.

HOLMES: He didn't say much about Libya while he's in Brazil. But what he did say is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: U.S. President Barack Obama, spoke about the recent wave of democracy protests in the Middle East and the crisis in Libya during his speech today in Brazil. Shasta Darlington is traveling with the president and joins us right now from Rio de Janeiro. So he kind of had a two-pronged approach in his speaking engagement today, he talked about the common bonds between the U.S. and Brazil in the days forward. But then he had to touch on Libya.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well that's right, Fredricka. In fact, he started his day on Libya. Even though he's 5,000 more than 5,000 miles from Washington, he started his day with a National Security meeting over a secure conference call. He was briefed by the National Security adviser Tom Donnelly, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The defense secretary and others about the situation in Libya. About the military operations, the diplomatic consultations and he took some time also to thank the U.S. armed forces involved in that operation.

Then of course it was back to Brazil. And while yesterday he was working with the government, today he wanted to deliver his pitch to the people. And so he went to one of the shanty towns here in Rio de Janeiro, known as Favellas. He went to one of the most notorious, the city of god. A few years ago, no one could get in. This time he went and he met with a kid playing soccer. He and the family even got to kick around the ball for a bit. But that was short-lived. Then we were back on topic.

Back on Libya, during his speech at the municipal theater here in Rio de Janeiro. He was speaking to about 800 people. But the speech itself was broadcast live around the country. And as you mentioned, he touched on the need for boosting bilateral relations, both trade relations, talked about shared values. But eventually he came back around to Libya. He insisted that the changes there really need to be driven by the people. He also noted that Brazil's own experience, overcoming a dictatorship and achieving democracy could help serve as a model. Let's listen to a little bit of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But for our two nations, for the United States and Brazil. Two nations who have struggled over many generations to perfect our own democracies, the United States and Brazil know that the future of the Arab world will be determined by its people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DARLINGTON: Now just as a sign of how contentious an issue this is a few blocks away from that speech, there were hundreds of demonstrators, really lashing out at what they call a U.S. invasion of Libya. And while they're opposed to Moammar Gadhafi. They say that any foreign intervention will just bring more problems, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Shasta Darlington, thank you so much from Rio de Janeiro. Traveling with the president of the United States.

Michael.

HOLMES: Just ahead, we're going to bring you up to speed on the crisis in Japan. As quake survivors consider the future in their devastated land.

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WHITFIELD: We will back to our continuing coverage of all that is taking place in Libya in a moment. But first, let's bring you up to date on the crisis in Japan. Tests reportedly have found radioactive iodine in a drinking water system in a village near the crippled nuclear power plant it is three times higher than the accepted standard.

HOLMES: Yes, that's right. People being warned officially not to drink the tap water. Medical workers have also rescued an 80-year-old woman and her grandson nine days after earthquake and tsunami. Extraordinary story.

WHITFIELD: The 16-year-old boy crawled through the rubble and climbed onto the roof of their home to alert rescuers. HOLMES: The death toll from last week's quake and tsunami, of course, has climbed to more than 8400 now. More than 12,900 are still missing, so we are likely to see that go up.

WHITFIELD: Today, another strong aftershock also to report, a magnitude of 4.8. That really startled a lot of people.

HOLMES: Every day. You talk about aftershocks it is important to remember, they are.

WHITFIELD: They are.

HOLMES: Somehow people think they are less but they are still an earthquake. That's right.

You know in spite of the damage and the danger, life in the stricken areas of Japan does go on. CNN Griesby (ph) now out talking to survivors, asking a very important question, where do they go from here?

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via translator): I thought Japan disappear. I thought Japan would disappear under water. I have no what I will do next or where I will go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via translator): This is a nightmare but we are alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via translator): I have no words to express my feelings. I lost my mind. We will have to start from zero.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via translator): This is the first time during my 75 years life and I was very upset and I was very scared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via translator): The house you're seeing here wasn't here before; it was swept here by the wave. The houses that were here were completely washed away.

GRIESBY (ph), CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): What can we do, says this mother of two young children? Her husband quickly adds, at least we are all alive. You feel lucky still?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lucky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tough.

GRIESBY (ph): This man scrambled on top of his house, holding onto the roof for dear life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm lucky, very lucky.

GRIESBY (ph): We never imagined a tsunami could do this she says. The most pressing, locating the missing. The message board filled with calls for help to find relatives. I can't find them, says this man. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via translator): I'm worried about the future of my baby. If there's any fallout, it could stop me falling pregnant again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via translator): As soon as it settles down, says that father of two I want to go back and rebuild.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via translator): I have to protect my children, says this new dad. The only thing I can think, I have to protect my children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So, to find out how you can help the people of Japan, visit our "Impact your World" page that's at CNN.com/impact.

All right. The needs in Japan are so great. But why are so many donations around the world apparently down?

HOLMES: Especially from the U.S., believe it or not. We are going to have some answers for you coming up.

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WHITFIELD: Despite the devastation in Japan donations from around the globe have been slow to go to Japan. Stacy Palmer is the editor of "The Chronicle of Philanthropy" and she joins us right now from Chicago this hour. So Stacy you know the numbers are pretty extraordinary. You all write that charity donations some $47 million in the first four days for Japan verses $150 million to Haiti in the same spam of time. Why this disparity?

STACY PALMER, EDITOR, "THE CHRONICLE OF PHILANTHROPY": Right. And $105 million that has now been donated. But the pace is still much lower than after Katrina or after Haiti. It is in large part because people don't know how much the pan really needs. It is a very wealthy country it has a history of being very good at responding to disasters. So it is unclear really what these American donations will be used, they certainly will need a lot of help. But which charities you should give to is hard to tell. So I think that is why people are withholding.

WHITFIELD: Of the money that has been donated how do you suppose Japan might best use those donated funds?

PALMER: One of the things right now they are doing are very basic emergencies. Fuel oil, trying to get medicine to elderly people some of those kinds of things. So that is what some of the money donated in these early stages will use. But then what is going to happen to the people where are they going to live, how are they going to rebuild their lives. How do you deal with real trauma that these people have faced, they are going to need mental health consoling. Many, many other needs. So there are lots of different things that charities will be doing and that charities have the expertise to help with.

WHITFIELD: And I know you mentioned the perception of wealth for that nation, that might be why a lot of people have kind of held back, but as they continue to watch that progress for a lot of the Japanese people is kind of at a standstill right now and they are now also being inundated with the fears that come with the nuclear contamination, do you suppose that might make people start to open up their wallets?

PALMER: Absolutely. The more we see these very, very moving and horrifying pictures that is what propels people to want to give so I do think we are seeing increases each day the tally has gone up more and people are starting to give a lot of companies are also giving very generously because many of them in American companies have employees abroad and they want to make sure they are doing well, too. So we are seeing an outpouring not just from individual but from businesses.

WHITFIELD: So extraordinary. While you say at first, it was $47 million that was donated in the first four days, now you say they are about $105 million donated. That is some progress there I know the people of Japan need it in a very big way.

Stacy Palmer, editor of "The Chronicle of Philanthropy." Thanks much for your time, appreciate it.

PALMER: Thank you.

And everybody wishing the best for the people of Japan.