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Bombing in Jerusalem; Portugal Plan Rejected; Britain Slashes Spending

Aired March 23, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET


MAX FOSTER, HOST: Dozens are injured after a deadly bomb blast strikes Jerusalem.

A scene of devastation, but what damage has it done to the peace process?

Also tonight, Britain says Libya's air force is no longer a threat.

And the world mourns the loss of a screen legend, as Elizabeth Taylor dies at the age of 79.

These stories and more tonight, as we connect the world.

A dramatic and deadly escalation in Jerusalem today, after a week of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. One woman was killed, more than 50 people were hurt when a loud explosion rocked a busy street, just as the evening rush hour began. Police found a medium sized explosive device, which apparently caused the blast, attached to a phone booth near Jerusalem's busy central bus station. Authorities says it's the first serious bombing in Jerusalem in four years.

Late today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel will act aggressively, responsibly and wisely to preserve its security. While police didn't have any specific intelligence warning before this attack, it does come during a week of rising tensions in the region.

Well, CNN's Kevin Flower has been covering this story all day.

He joins us now live -- Kevin, what more details have you got?

KEVIN FLOWER, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Max, we don't have a lot of details about the state of the investigation. Authorities have actually put a gag order on the details of the investigation at this point.

What we do know from -- from earlier today is that the investigators were looking at an incident that happened three weeks ago, as a matter of fact, a small explosive device that was put in a garbage can and detonated when a municipal worker was emptying it. They are looking at that incident now to see if that has any possible connection to the explosion that happened at that -- the bus station today.

Now, as you mentioned, the Israeli prime minister making comments about this -- this attack before he left on a foreign trip to Moscow. He also said to those who might be planning attacks in the future that Israel has a will of iron to protect the country and its citizens.

Now, he didn't name any Palestinian specifically as being the culprits behind this -- this attack, but other Israeli officials in the government have been saying they believe it's Palestinians behind it.

And, of course, this comes against -- it's set against a backdrop of increased violence between Palestinians -- Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli military. In the last couple of days, we've seen mortar and rocket fires from Gaza into Southern Israel and we've seen retaliatory air strikes and artillery strikes from Israel that have left 10 Palestinians dead since Saturday, four of those civilians, Max, who were killed yesterday in the Gaza Strip.

So all of this activity and today's bombing has a lot of people fearing that the cycle of violence that is so familiar here to many people throughout the years, that that will be increasing going forward -- Max.

FOSTER: Yes. Can we assume that there will be an escalation in the violence when we hear the prime minister talking about acting aggressively to pervert -- preserve its security?

FLOWER: Well, the -- that's -- that's the expectation here. And, really, all eyes right now are turned on the Gaza Strip. Even though this -- this attack took place here in Jerusalem, presumably, that attacker, whoever is responsible for it, is not, probably, from the Gaza Strip or any -- but everyone is seeing Gaza as the battle line here, as -- as the place where future action could be taking place.

The security cabinet met today, the Israeli security cabinet met today, before this bombing took place, to discuss possible actions in the Gaza Strip. So it is as -- as it has been for years, it is the major fault line here in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- Max.

FOSTER: And, Kevin, what response from the Palestinian Authority?

FLOWER: Well, the Palestinian Authority prime minister, Salam Fayyad, was quick to issue a statement in which he condemned the -- the attack in no uncertain terms. In fact, he called it disgraceful and he said it set back any efforts toward peace that both sides were making.

So we haven't seen the Palestinian Authority president make a statement as of yet. But likely he will be saying something in the -- the days ahead, as well.

So from the Palestinian side, condemnation, at least from the West Bank government.

FOSTER: OK, Kevin, thank you very much, indeed, for that.

Well, as Kevin mentioned, today's attack comes after several days of heightened violence in the region. Since Saturday, 10 Palestinians, including two children, have been killed and at least 37 wounded in mortar attacks, air strikes and shellings carried out by the Israeli military. The Israeli military says it is responding to dozens of mortars and rockets fired from Hamas controlled Gaza into Southern Israel this week. And last week, five members of an Israeli family, two parents, three children, were killed by an intruder who entered their home in the West Bank. The Israeli military called the murders a terror attack.

Now, despite the recent tensions, the Palestinian Authority prime minister strongly condemned today's bombing, as Kevin was saying, calling it counter-productive for the Palestinian cause. Salam Fayyad said in that statement: "It is disgraceful and greatly damaging to the struggle that there is still a Palestinian party that insists on these actions."

Asked to respond to that statement, the Israeli deputy foreign minister told CNN earlier today that Salam Fayyad's words contradict Palestinian actions.


DANIEL AYALON, ISRAELI DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: With all due respect to his condemnations, they should not be in English on CNN or in Hebrew on Israeli television, they should be in Arabic in the Palestinian media. This is the most important.

But also, it's not consistent with the fact that Salam Fayyad is naming streets after slaughterers, after renowned terrorists in the past or that the curriculum in the Palestinian Authority is still not recognizing Israel as a legitimate country.


FOSTER: Well, the my of Jerusalem also told CNN that Israel is relatively safe recently and he hopes to keep it that way. Mayor Nir Barkat also called today's attack "cowardly" and said he hopes the security forces will find the people responsible and bring them to justice.

There's no indication that today's incident was caused by a suicide bomb, but Jerusalem has long been a target for those kinds of attacks.

The worst in the last 10 years was August the 19th, 2003. Twenty- three people were killed when a suspected Palestinian suicide bomber attacked a bus here in West Jerusalem. That was the result.

Just a few weeks later, two more bombs exploded in tandem. One was in Jerusalem, one in Tel Aviv. This is a photo from the Jerusalem bombing. Seven people were killed, dozens wounded there. The military wing of Hamas claimed responsibility.

Now, in 2004, a suicide bomber blew up a bus near the office of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. That killed 10 people.

And the most recent suicide bus bombing in Jerusalem was actually more than seven years ago now, February the 22nd, 2004. A Palestinian suicide bomber killed eight people when he blew himself up at a -- or on an Israeli bus.

Before today, the last time a terrorist attack killed people was -- in Jerusalem -- was nearly three years ago. It was July the 2nd, 2008, when a Palestinian drove a bulldozer into an Israeli bus, killing three people and injuring 20. Devastation again.

But that three year streak without a deadly attack in Jerusalem came to an end today, of course.

What will this new spate of violence due to the peace process?

Well, Robert Danin is a Middle East specialist with the Council On Foreign Relations in Washington.

He joins us now live to discuss that.

Thank you so much for joining us.

For many Israelis, of course, this brings back horrible memories -- a period without bombings like this.

So what's going to be going through their minds?

What does it mean to them, do you think?

ROBERT DANIN, MIDDLE EAST SPECIALIST: Well, in the short-term, it will mean that the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu will be under pressure to demonstrate resolve and to show that it can protect the Israeli people. The pressure will be on to -- to -- to be tough.

FOSTER: But the words coming from the prime minister were particularly tough, weren't they?

He was talking about the word "aggressive."

So what do you read into that, knowing the history of Benjamin Netanyahu and of the situation?

DANIN: Look, this comes against a backdrop of a week in which we've had a dramatic increase in the -- in mortars and rockets coming into Israel from Gaza. Today's attack shows that there are militants in the Pales -- that there are militants in the -- in -- in -- in the territories that are -- are opposed to -- to a peace process.

It comes against a backdrop, as well, of an internal Palestinian struggle over how to reconcile. And I suspect we don't know yet who has -- who's responsible. No party has claimed responsibility. But I suspect behind it are those among the Palestinian side who oppose there being reconciliation.

FOSTER: And what do you think the response is likely to be?

What does Benjamin Netanyahu need to do to assert himself and show to the Israelis that this situation can be resolved in Israel's favor?

DANIN: Well, I think in the short-term, what we'll see is some more strikes in Gaza. That would be Gaza's com -- under the control of Hamas. It is a target that is familiar to Israel. It is a -- a place that Israel is very concerned about the increased storing of -- of rockets that can strike Israel. So it's a target that can be effectively hit.

FOSTER: And the peace process isn't going anywhere for now, is it?

DANIN: No, but it, you know, wasn't exactly in full steam ahead anyway. Again, I think the biggest political ramification of -- of today's events will be on internal Palestinian politics. I think this reflects a desire among the militants to show President Abbas that they're strong and that if they think that they're just going to fall behind him in a unity government, that he'd better think twice, that they have cards at their disposal. And so he's going to have to throw more at them if he wants them to be united behind him.

FOSTER: OK, Robert Danin in the Council On Foreign Relations in Washington.

Thank you very much for that.

Now, Portugal's political crisis next. Its austerity plan has just failed a key vote.

Will it be a ripple effect across Europe?

Then, more smoke, more questions -- Japan's crippled Reactor Three sends another plume over the Fukushima nuclear plant.

What's causing it?


FOSTER: Portugal's parliament has voted against a new austerity plan. Opposition parties refused to back it and now Portugal's prime minister, Jose Socrates, may have to call it quits.

The vote against the new package of more than -- of more cuts came just a few moments ago, actually. Prime Minister Socrates pledged to resign if the measures were defeated. Lisbon is trying to bring down its budget deficit and reassure markets it can meet its debt payments.

Portugal's cost of borrowing hit new euro era highs this week. The yield on five-year government bonds rose above 8 percent for the first time.

For a look at the possible ripple effects from Portugal's crisis, I'm joined via Skype by Pedro Santos.

He is the editor-in-chief of Portugal's leading daily financial newspaper.

And thank you for joining us.

We've had the -- the vote.

It's not an expected -- unexpected result, is it?

But we were -- we now expect the prime minister to step down, don't we?

PEDRO SANTOS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "JORNAL DE NEGOCIOS": Well, yes. It was not an expected and the -- in the last days, the main opposition party has announced it wouldn't support the -- this minority government which we had for the latest 15 months.

And in the last months, actually, the (INAUDIBLE) austerity plans have been put forward by these two parties. And they are -- they have put forward a lot of difficult measures, just like cutting all the civil servants' salaries and raising all kinds of (AUDIO GAP) and cutting social benefits.

Well, today, it -- there -- there was a new austerity plan focused on the parliament. And that support from the main opposition party has ended. And so we do have this new political situation and the prime minister feels that he doesn't have the conditions to keep on governing.

So he should announce his resignation from office just in a few minutes now.

FOSTER: Yes, we're expecting a -- an announcement any moment, aren't we?

So what happens after that?

I presume he'll stay on as a caretaker prime minister, right?

SANTOS: Yes. We should have an election on just two months now and - - and probably we will have a coalition government afterwards. But meanwhile, in these two months -- well, just tomorrow we are having a European summit which is very important to Portugal. And Mr. Socrates should keep on governing in these two months.

The thing is that the markets should be more demanding now and should -- should pour -- put more pressure on Portugal. And probably the rates will get high in the next days. And if that happens -- and it will probably happen -- we may have to speed up the -- the -- the cry for help for the IMF and the European Union plans and help for forgetting this, the liquidity that we do need to pay all the debts that we have to pay in the next -- to pay back in the next weeks and months.

FOSTER: Is it your paper's view that a bailout is now inevitable?

SANTOS: Well, we expect not to -- to have to bail out the system, because the bailout model which has been happening in Greece and Ireland has been very harsh on their economies. And more than a bailout, we do need liquidity, like a short-term facilities model. And that is what is being negotiated these days in the -- in the European Union. So we should, you know, we would like to -- to gain time, to strengthen the new model of the European Union, which should be implemented in the summer. And I'm afraid that this political crisis should, like I said, speed up our -- our needs. And we may have to -- to ask for a bailout just in a -- in a few weeks for the IMF and the European Union.

FOSTER: OK, Pedro Santos, thank you very much, indeed.

Apologies for the loss in sound at the end.

But Spain may well be worried about contagion, especially after and during its deepest budget cuts in more than three decades.

Our Madrid bureau chief, Al Goodman, is watching all of this -- like many in that country, I suspect, Al, because Spain has so much invested, hasn't it, in Portugal?

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Max. Just $98 billion in exposure to Portuguese banks. Now, Spain had thought it was getting out of the woods a little bit because in recent months, the whole line was after Ireland, if Portugal goes and needs a bailout, then Spain would be next.

But even though Moody's has recently downgraded Spain's credit rating -- rating by a notch, it's still in the A range. It's certainly not down at the junk bond range.

Spain, just in the past week, Max, was able to sell about $8 billion of its debt at lower interest rates, lower yields, meaning that investors were ready to get into Spain and they weren't demanding such high yields because they had more confidence in Spain, analysts say.

But now, you have the situation in Portugal and this happening just on the eve of the E.U. summit in Brussels.

So Spain is getting nervous again because of that $98 billion in exposure to Portuguese banks.

If Portugal goes under with a bailout, it is going to ripple over here.

FOSTER: Yes, and, Al, we'd better explain why the world needs to care about Spain.

It's right to say, isn't it, that a bailout of Ireland, Portugal, Greece, they're all affordable, but Spain is on a completely different level?

GOODMAN: That's right. Spain -- Spain's economy is twice as big as Ireland, Greece and Portugal put together. So all of those are relatively small economies. The Spanish economy is the one that everyone has been looking at in the Eurozone, saying that maybe they could afford a bailout for Greece or Ireland, maybe even for Portugal, but the amount of money that would be involved, if it came to it, down the road, that Spain would have to be bailed out, that could shake the very foundation of the euro, the currency. And that's why the world, and especially Europe, has been paying such close attention.

Again, Spain had thought it bought itself a little breathing room here. Certainly with its most recent bond sales, saying that the interest rates are going down. But now we'll have to see. Clearly, the pressure is on again here in Madrid -- Max.

FOSTER: Al Goodman, thank you very much, indeed.

To Britain now, which has taken the lead in slashing spending. In Wednesday's budget speech, the U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, the finance minister, says he's sticking to his deficit cutting guns. George Osborne also announced the British economy will grow more slowly this year than forecast.

With inflation rising and growth shrinking, can the U.K. stay out of recession?

That's the question here.

Jim Boulden went looking for answers.


JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With higher inflation, more borrowing and slower economic growth than once predicted, you might be asking if Britain's conservative-led government is rethinking its tough five year austerity program, unveiled last year.

GEORGE OSBORNE, U.K. CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER: We are able now to set off on the route from rescue to reform and from reform to recovery.

BOULDEN: Not a chance, says finance minister George Osborne, as he delivered the country's budget for the year, starting in April. Though he did say the pain for households and taxpayers won't get any worse, for now, anyway.

OSBORNE: Without stability, governments have to keep coming back to their citizens for more, more taxes and more spending cuts. In Britain, we do not have to do that today.

BOULDEN: In fact, Osborne announced a tax cut for companies. And that's a wake up call for other governments. Britain will cut its corporate tax rate to 23 percent by 2014, to lure firms and jobs.

OSBORNE: Sixteen percent lower than America, 11 percent lower than France, 7 percent lower than Germany, the lowest corporation tax in the G- 7. Let it be heard clearly around the world, from Shanghai to Seattle, from Stuttgart to Sao Paulo, Britain is open for business.

BOULDEN: Though the move will cost billions of dollars of revenue in the short-term and not apply to the unpopular banking sector, Osborne says sticking to the austerity sets Britain apart from other countries, as he strives to bring down the country's highest peacetime budget deficit and the debt mountain that's worse than many other countries.

OSBORNE: This is our powerful monetary stimulus to our recovering economy -- stability, credibility, lower interest rates -- that is what we have achieved.

BOULDEN (on camera): But as this budget is released, the economy is facing inflation at more than 4 percent and an economic growth rate revised down to just 1.7 percent for this year.

The challenge for George Osborne is to keep his austerity program going without pushing the economy into a double dip recession.

Jim Boulden, CNN, London.


FOSTER: Lisbon has put the European debt crisis back at center stage, though.

Just how serious is Portugal's crisis in particular?

Richard Quest from "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" joins me now -- Richard, a bailout looks inevitable if you speak to people in Lisbon.

How damaging is that for Europe?

RICHARD QUEST, ANCHOR, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": I think you have to understand, tonight, Portugal has moved into a very, very difficult area.

On the one hand, all the opposition parties were railed against the minority government. Therefore, the prime minister unable to make international commitments about cutting deficits. But at the same time, the stability facilities, the IMF, the very people that would have to help bail out Portugal will be reluctant to provide any money until whichever government of whatever complexion comes along is able to make commitments.

So, a political crisis first, a financial crisis will follow and a bailout almost certainly down the road.

FOSTER: And it's a -- it's a country that needs to sort out its debt problems. But there's going to be an election now in two months. That is going to happen in that time.

So what's going to happen to the markets and the economy?

QUEST: The first thing we need to look at is what happens to Portuguese debt. Five-year bonds, 8 percent, that is unsustainable. Compare Portugal's long-term debt against German bunds, and you see a vast difference.

As long as that -- you know, it really is like putting your head in a vise and turning the screw. And all that's happening here is the screw is getting turned even harder.

Portugal cannot continue. Now, from the European side, Eurozone leaders will be desperate to put a lid on this fast.

FOSTER: So it doesn't go to Spain?

QUEST: Well, it's not just Spain. They don't want to -- the -- the embers of the sovereign debt crisis are still flaring up all over the place. You've got Greece, where long-term rates haven't come down. You've got Ireland, which has still got long-term rates. You've got more bank stress tests coming along. You have a new stability facility coming down the road.

The last thing they need with this fragility is Portugal deciding to go into the mire.

FOSTER: So is the inevitable thing for Angela Merkel to come out tomorrow, over the weekend, say we're going to put money into...


FOSTER: -- Portugal?

QUEST: No. Because they -- because until -- if you remember -- if you remember Greece and you remember Ireland, before they signed up to the deals, they had to make the promises of what they were going to do. And that's exactly what Portugal isn't in a position to, not least of which...

FOSTER: The bond market is going to crash tomorrow?

QUEST: Well, not least...

FOSTER: The bonds are going to go through the roof tomorrow.

QUEST: Not least of which because -- because the prime minister wasn't prepared to say he needed a bailout. What Portugal needs now is an element, a dose of sensible government in the sense of what do they need, how are they going to get it and is there political reform necessary?

Portugal has a competitiveness problem. It has a growth problem. And that's been the issues. It's not just like Ireland or Greece, with a liquidity problem.

FOSTER: Al pointing out the -- the significance of Spain. Its economy is bigger than all the others put together.


FOSTER: And what are the risks, would you say, of contagion spreading to Spain because of what's happened in Portugal?

QUEST: There is always a risk of contagion. The markets can sniff like a -- like a shark in the water, they sniff the blood and go for it.

But the prime minister of Spain, the policies of the government there, the reform that's underway, the austerity measures being taken place already, the nature of the Spanish economy, they all get -- you know, you don't attack Spain quite as easily as you attack the Portuguese economy.

And Spain has gone a long way down the road to put their own house in order before somebody -- the markets do it for them.

FOSTER: Richard, thank you very much, indeed.

Still to come, a major shift in operations for coalition forces in Libya. They say that air strikes now have new targets after the country's air force was effectively destroyed.



I'm Max Foster in London.

Coming up, applying pressure to Gadhafi's ground forces, but Libya's embattled leader remains defiant. We're on the ground in Tripoli for you.

Then to Japan, where radiation contamination is a growing worry. The crisis is threatening the country's entire food industry. We'll take you to Tokyo.

And what makes a legendary life? Well, Oscar-winning actress Elizabeth Taylor is being remembered, today, for her work against HIV and AIDS.

All those stories ahead in the show for you but, first, let's check the headlines this hour.

Israeli officials say they are looking for whoever is responsible for setting off a bomb near a busy bus station in Jerusalem today, killing one person and injuring more than 50. It was the first serious bombing in that city in four years.

Witnesses and activists in Syria say 15 people have been killed in clashes throughout the day between security forces and protesters. The violence centers in Daraa, and the counts describe authorities firing directly on the crowds.

The French foreign minister says NATO will not take political leadership of the Libyan mission, saying it will instead be handled by group -- a broader group of countries. This political contact group is expected to meet next week here in London.

Plenty of questions tonight over smoke billowing from Japan's damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. Reactor three sent up another plume. Some workers were evacuated. They've been scrambling to cool down fuel rods since a massive quake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems.

Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor died today at the age of 79 after a long battle with congestive heart failure. Taylor won two Academy Awards but was just as well known for her string of marriages, eight in total.

First, Libya's air force, now Moammar Gadhafi's ground troops are in the crosshairs. Coalition leaders reporting progress today in their effort to enforce a UN-mandated cease-fire. US and British commanders say air strikes have virtually eliminated the threat from Libya's air force, so they're shifting the focus to stopping ground attacks against civilians.


GREG BAGWELL, AIR VICE MARSHAL, BRITISH ROYAL AIR FORCE: Their air force no longer exists as a fighting force, and his integrated air defense system and command and control networks are severely disgraded -- degraded to the point that we can operate over his airspace with impunity.

As we continue to enforce the no-fly zone, we are watching over the innocent people of Libya and ensuring that we protect them from attack. We have the Libyan ground forces under constant observation, and we attack them whenever they threaten or attack civilians or population centers.


FOSTER: The coalition also says its no-fly zone now fully spans east to west along Libya's coastline, but air strikes haven't yet stopped the fighting in Misrata, Ajdabiya, and outside Benghazi. According to US military leaders, Gadhafi's regime controls much of the area, there, in green, while opposition forces mostly control the yellow-shaded area.

Some of the fiercest fighting today took place in Ajdabiya. A hospital staffer there says at least nine people were killed.

We're now hearing reports that coalition warplanes are once again on bombing runs over Tripoli. Gadhafi, though, says no amount of firepower can defeat his forces, saying, quote, "We will win this battle."

Let's get the latest, now, from Nic Robertson in the Libyan capital. Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Max, we're just hearing some rounds of gunfire, there. About five minutes ago, we also heard from heavy anti-aircraft gunfire coming up from the city.

In the last 24 hours, we've noticed a change in the way the anti- aircraft batteries operate, here. Previously, they'd fired in the air for a good ten minutes at a time after they heard missiles coming over. In the early hours of this morning, we heard what sounded like, at about 5:00 AM and 6:00 AM a couple of fighter jets fly over the city, coalition fighter jets.

We heard explosions afterwards and heard short bursts of anti-aircraft gunfire. It seems that the government, here, and the forces have changed their tactics. They're not firing the extended gun bursts in the air.

So, the short bursts of anti-aircraft gunfire we heard about five or ten minutes ago, not these bursts of heavy machine gun we're hearing now, but the heavy anti-aircraft gunfire, that the short burst of it is, perhaps, and indication that that defense anti-aircraft battery thought that it heard a coalition aircraft flying over and was firing at it.

The explosions that we heard in the early hours of the morning sounded distant from the center of Tripoli, where we are, here, and it's not been possible for us to say what was targeted, although we do understand there were some military targets in the south of the city overnight, Max.

FOSTER: Any response from Tripoli about these claims from British commanders that the Libyan air force has been, effectively, made completely redundant?

ROBERTSON: We haven't heard them address that. Perhaps the best way to read what the Libyan regime thinks at the moment was a speech by Moammar Gadhafi last night, which was A., defiant, and B., very precisely thumbing his nose at the international community saying, "Here I am. I'm not scared of your missiles, and that I'll go down fighting and the people will go down fighting with me."

So, the message coming from the leadership, here, said there is no change. But we do know from coalition commanders that Gadhafi's air force hasn't been able to fly and hasn't flown for the past five days.

And now that we're hearing, for the first time, coalition jets are what -- appear to be and sound to us like coalition jets flying over the city. It's a clear indication that the coalition feels comfortable enough for those jets to fly those missions over the city.

And I'm speaking to you, now, we're seeing heavy anti-aircraft gunfire. We're hearing that in the distance, now. I'll just be quiet to listen to that.


ROBERTSON: So, hard for us to say exactly where that is, Max, but probably -- probably at least two to three miles away. And I've seen some tracer fire breaking up into the sky. This is is what we've come to see over the past four or five nights, now.


ROBERTSON: At least two anti-aircraft batteries in operation, we can see.

But again, in keeping what we've seen over the past few nights, these trades of fire bursts have been quite short, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Nic, thank you very much, indeed. We'll let you keep watching that and come back to it if we see some more. Nic Robertson, there, in Tripoli looking at the skyline, there.

Now to the Libyan city of Misrata, though, because we're getting reports that a hospital there is reportedly under heavy attack. We have a witness on the phone for you, now. Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. What can you tell us about what you've seen there?

UNIDENTIFIED MISRATA WITNESS (via telephone): Max, in the -- since two-zero-zero local time, here, heavy tanks from Gadhafi troops started attacking the hospital. The bombs -- falling here, 20 minutes a round. That's -- they are two deaths --


UNIDENTIFIED MISRATA WITNESS: -- now. The situation is so serious, just ten minutes back or a little two zero four zero continuous for 40 minutes, but now, fortunately, no more shelling. But the situation is so serious that all the team here, the doctors, patients are paralyzed, scared, and they're attempting evacuation or escaping from this -- from this hospital.

And the situation is so serious we are calling the international community to interfere because we are a hospital, we are, in part, sheltering everybody here, so they have to protect the 1973 civilian resolution said -- talk about protection of civilians.

So -- on 400 persons here, patients, doctors, you know? The situation is so serious, so please, the international community has to interfere in the situation because nobody can work here. All the doctors here are completely paralyzed and fear the beatings all around. No ambulance can move, nobody can move from the hospital.

And I don't know, the international community has to take its responsibility in front of -- civilians here in Misrata.

FOSTER: So, just to confirm, two people have been killed in Misrata, as far as you know, and the hospital has been abandoned by --


UNIDENTIFIED MISRATA WITNESS: Two people -- two people now.

FOSTER: You have two people who've been killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MISRATA WITNESS: Yes, yes, two people now --


FOSTER: And the hospital has been abandoned by staff?

UNIDENTIFIED MISRATA WITNESS: Yes, yes, it's -- the missiles or the bombing all around the hospital, 10, 20 meters around. It's fortunately until now doesn't fall on our heads, but it will do -- our electricity gone -- gone off, and we are working generator again. And the situation's so -- so serious, please.

FOSTER: OK, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. A witness, there, in Misrata to an attack reportedly tonight, according to our witness, there, at least.

Now, Britain is bringing coalition partners together to take stock of the mission so far. It is hosting a conference next week in London. French officials helped organize the effort, wanting to ensure that NATO would not take political leadership of the Libya campaign. Jill Dougherty is monitoring developments for us from Paris.

Jill, it seems to me from reading around this that the US is one -- on one side of the debate, the French on the other. Who is going to end up controlling this mission?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, the -- I think everybody would agree that NATO is the organization that can really effectively carry out the mission. But the question always comes into political control.

And so, that is one of the things that they are going to try to work out. Apparently, it's been pretty rocky so far. But next Tuesday, when they meet in London, they already have this body that's been put together, a committee that will be the foreign ministers from all the countries involved, the Western countries and the Arab and Gulf nations.

And so, as you said, they take stock. But they also look at this command structure, because they have to make sure that that is working properly. But at this point, Max, I'm not quite sure that there really is an answer. The shorthand would be that NATO will have a key role, but what exactly that means, I think, is still kind of undefined.

And then, Max, also, here in Paris, we've been looking at some public opinion polling because, after all, that's very important. Short run, it appears both here and Paris and in some other countries, the United States included, that people are, for the most part, quite supportive.

In fact, I was looking at this poll that came out, the IFOP poll for France Soir. And they show that going back before the military action, back to March 3rd and 4th, there were 36 percent of the French supporting it, and opposing it, 63 percent. But after the military action started, that completely flipped, and you have support, now, at 66 percent and opposing the UN military action in Libya only at 34 percent.

Here's how one man on the streets of Paris explained what he -- and some other French people are thinking.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When there is a revolution somewhere, when a dictator tries to kill his people, France had to do something. It's a tradition.


DOUGHERTY: And in the United States, there's been a Gallup poll that came out just on Wednesday, 47 percent of Americans supporting and about 37 opposing. But there was a CNN poll from Monday, which when it's phrased, "Do you support the no-fly zone?" You have approximately seven out of ten, so roughly 70 percent of Americans.

And I think, Max, that the bottom line in all of this polling is, if it is defined as a humanitarian mission to help the people who could be under attack by their own leadership, Moammar Gadhafi, then people tend to support it.

The question would be later, if it turns into more of going after Gadhafi or some other type of mission, you have to look at some new polling to see where people would stand on that.

FOSTER: Jill, thank you very much, indeed. Let's take you to the front line of that mission. Live pictures coming into us from Tripoli, tracer fire being seen over -- over the city, there. And there's an image for you, just recently we saw some tracer fire, Nic Robertson was talking us through it, as well.

Just to update you, we've been speaking to a witness in Misrata who tells us the hospital there is under heavy attack and two people killed in Misrata. That's the image over Tripoli. Quiet for now but, certainly, tracer fire coming and going, clearly, fighter jets going over the top, there.

Now, when we come back, the battle to contain Japan's nuclear crisis takes another turn. We look at growing radiation fears in the country's food and water supply. Find out where high levels have been detected and in what, after this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have settled down quite a lot compared to the beginning, and we could even begin to see a bright hope that maybe it would somehow work out in a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are constantly switching over all the time, since the work cannot be stopped.


FOSTER: Well, Japan's nuclear power plant workers speaking out for the first time, there, about the situation at the crippled Fukushima Daichi plant. Some workers have now been evacuated from the plant after black smoke was seen coming from reactor number three. That's the one with fuel rods containing plutonium and uranium.

Plant operators say they're not sure what's causing the smoke. Radiation contamination remains a huge concern, and not just for workers. People in Tokyo are now being warned radioactive iodine levels in tap water are now too high for infants.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Given the current situation, in 23 wards in Tokyo and also, as I will touch upon later on, in some of the Tama area in Tokyo. For those of you that are going to use water, the tap water for infants, please do refrain from doing so.


FOSTER: Well, officials are now urging Tokyo residents not to hoard bottled water, but for many living there, it's already too late to find fresh supplies. We spoke with a young family a little earlier who say they may have to move if the situation doesn't improve.


DEREK KWOK, TOKYO RESIDENT: Our baby's name is Ethan, a little baby boy. And he's just about 11 -- 10 or 11 days old, now, and he was born one day after the big earthquake in the Fukushima area.

And -- actually, today, we found out about the water contamination problem, saying that the level of radioactive material is actually higher than the governmental standard. So, in Tokyo, we all -- we have already been having a short supply of water. It's hard to find bottled water in the supermarket even before this announcement, and it's probably going to be even tougher, now.

So, tonight, I actually went to the supermarket, checked out a few of them. There's no water. So, what I had to do was be more resourceful, and I ended up going around to any of the vending machines to see if they had any leftovers, and I was able to pick up several bottles. And that, hopefully, will last us long enough, until Tokyo manages to get its water supply back.

As to what to do if, say, we are facing shortage of water, it does mean that we will have to either, perhaps, move west to Osaka or, perhaps, fly out of the country. But as I said, because he's so young, he's really not in any shape to travel, his immune system is still very weak, so we'd really like to keep him in the apartment safe and sound for at least a month.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am always thinking about my little son. And - - yes, just -- I want to protect him.


FOSTER: Of course. Well, for more on Japan's radiation concerns, let's bring in Professor Gerry Thomas, chair of Molecular Pathology at the Imperial College here in London. Thank you so much for joining us, Professor.


FOSTER: First of all, let's just break down into basic advice, what's going on here. When we talk about spinach, water from that area, how dangerous is it?

THOMAS: Well, we're talking about very, very low levels. I know you said "high levels," but actually, that's not the case. It's higher than we would normally expect. And we're all exposed to radiation, it's all in our water and everything. But we expect normal, low levels. So, even double that very low level is not a concern for health.

It's a sensible precaution, especially for young children, who are likely to get a higher dose of radio iodine, to make sure that they don't come into contact with it, but --

FOSTER: But it's --

THOMAS: -- it's not a danger -- it's not a dangerous situation.

FOSTER: But it's worrying people who don't understand it. Officials saying it's not a high does, it's not going to cause harm, but it's a sensible precaution. If it's not going to cause harm, why is there a precaution?

THOMAS: The rule of thumb is to minimize risk, you avoid contact. And we do the same with cigarette smoke. If you don't want to be around cigarette smoke, you avoid places where you find a lot of cigarette smoke.

So, we're doing exactly the same thing. It's not going to cause a serious health concern at the moment, but it's a wise precaution just to -- to make sure that the tap water isn't given to children. But other people are not at risk.

So, buying loads of bottled water if you're an adult is actually unnecessary and will deprive other people who it would be better given to.

FOSTER: Looking at how the radioactivity levels are trending, is it getting more dangerous?

THOMAS: No. I mean, the problem is, there's been rainfall. And what's happened is the radio iodine has got into the atmosphere, it comes down with the rainfall. It's particulates that comes down with the rainfall.

So, that's why we've got higher levels at present than we have, probably, when it was initially released. And with things like green plants that contain a lot of iodines, they take up the iodine.

But the Japanese have done the right thing. They provided their population with stable iodine. If you imagine the thyroid gland's a bit like a sponge and the water is the iodine, if you soak up the sponge with normal water, when you add a contaminate to it, you don't take it up. So, that's why they give them stable iodine, it stops the uptake of the radioactivity.

FOSTER: And what -- if you're watching CNN and you're seeing something happen in that nuclear plant, at what point would you say, "Don't eat that product."

THOMAS: Well, I studied the Chernobyl accident for the last 20 years, and the only problem has been radiation to the thyroid glands of very young children, and that's developed some thyroid tumors. Now, they are treatable.

We are not look at a situation like that at all in Japan, much, much lower levels. And you'd probably actually get more of a dose flying home from Tokyo --


THOMAS: -- than you would from being in that situation.

FOSTER: So, quickly, for people living outside Japan, in the US, for example, where there's been a stop on some exports of products. What's your advice to them, and is that an overreaction?

THOMAS: I think that's an overreaction. To be honest, by the time they've actually got from Japan to wherever they're going to be sold, the radiation will have decreased, because all radiation has a half life.

I don't think there is any concern outside Japan. And in fact, even within Japan, it's only in very limited prefectures, where there's actually been a problem with the contamination.

FOSTER: So keep buying the product?

THOMAS: Absolutely.

FOSTER: Professor, thank you very much, indeed.

THOMAS: Thank you.

FOSTER: Now, coming up, remembering a legend. Looking back at the inimitable life and career of Elizabeth Taylor.



FOSTER: A memorial wreath was placed on the Hollywood walk of fame, today, just above the star belonging to Elizabeth Taylor. The legendary actress died today in a Los Angeles hospital after a long battle with congestive heart failure.

Taylor was a fixture in Hollywood for decades, often drawing attention even more for her lifestyle and her marriages than for her performances. CNN's Brooke Anderson looks back at the illustrious life on and off the screen.


BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Elizabeth Taylor was called one of the most beautiful women in the world. Her violet eyes lit up the screen in memorable roles from "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" to "Cleopatra," which made her the first actress to receive a million dollars for one part.

ELIZABETH TAYLOR, ACTRESS: So much is said with the electricity of eyes. The intensity of a whisper. Less is more.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Her highly publicized real-life sagas were punctuated by eight marriages to seven different men, Richard Burton twice.

Taylor's first union took place before she turned 18, to hotelier Nicky Hilton. She married actor Michael Wilding, producer Mike Todd, and singer Eddie Fisher. Taylor was blamed for breaking up Fisher's marriage to America's sweetheart, Debbie Reynolds. But her often tempestuous marriages to Richard Burton, the first lasting ten years, became even more sensational fodder for the press.

TAYLOR: I think he's one of the finest actors of --

RICHARD BURTON, ACTOR: One of the finest?

TAYLOR: Sorry.


ANDERSON (voice-over): Taylor's other marriages including Virginia senator John Warner and, finally, construction worker Larry Fortensky, whom she divorced in 1996.

Her personal dramas often drew attention away from an accomplished film career. The British-born Taylor rode into moviegoers' hearts as a child actress in 1944 with "National Velvet."

TAYLOR AS VELVET BROWN, "NATIONAL VELVET": Oh, you're a pretty one, Pie.

ANDERSON (voice-over): The actress downplayed her abilities.

TAYLOR: I, along with the critics, have never taken myself very seriously.


TAYLOR: My craft, yes. But as an actress, no.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Still, Taylor received five Academy Award nominations, twice winning Best Actress honors for her role of a call girl in "BUtterfield 8" in 1960, and as an ornery alcoholic wife in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" in 1966.

TAYLOR AS MARTHA, "WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?": Tut tut tut yourself, you old floozy.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Through the years, Taylor battled health a litany of health woes, from her struggle with substance abuse, to a chronic bad back, to respiratory problems, the replacement of both of her hips, and removal of a brain tumor.

Taylor was recognized for her tireless effort to educate the public about AIDS. A battle prompted, in part, by the death of close friend Rock Hudson in 1985.

TAYLOR: This is something that is a catastrophe that belongs to all of us. It isn't a thing that belongs to a minority group any longer.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Taylor helped found AMFAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, establish the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

Later, she publicly befriended Michael Jackson, appearing with the singer several times and supporting him to an often critical press. She called him wonderful, but that was before his trial and ultimate acquittal on child molestation charges.

Through all her hurt, physical and emotional, Liz Taylor will stand as one of Hollywood's most giving and glamorous superstars. Brooke Anderson, CNN, Los Angeles.


FOSTER: In a special edition of "Piers Morgan Tonight," CNN will look back at the colorful life and iconic career of this Hollywood legend. It's a full hour remember Elizabeth Taylor. That's tomorrow, 19:00 in London, 20:00 in Paris and Rome, right here on CNN.

Elizabeth Taylor died today at the age of 79. I'm Max Foster. That is your world connected. Thank you for watching. The world headlines, then "BackStory" will follow this short break.