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Turmoil in Syria; Turning Up the Heat on Gadhafi

Aired June 9, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET


MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Without its leaders, talk turns to the endgame. That story and more as we "Connect the World."

Moammar Gadhafi's days are numbered and the end might come sooner than you might think. That's according to one of the world leaders meeting today to chart a future course for Libya. (Inaudible) Contact Group agreed to give a staggering amount of cash to Libya's opposition but is it enough to turn the tide of the war.

Nic Robertson is covering the conference in Abu Dhabi and we're going to be speaking to him soon as possible. There he is.

Nic, were you surprised by what you heard after the meeting?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not terribly surprised. I mean, this has been a sort of some time coming - if you will. We've seen everyone sort of begin over the past three months, these contact meetings have sort of gather in numbers, gather in focus, and gather in the sort of general view now that they really think that Moammar Gadhafi might actually be on the way out. I mean, that was the combined message that would soon seen a coalescing of the position here.

The amount of money that's being contributed by Italy, over a $500 million cash for day-to-day use. They say the French of over $200 million. The Kuwaitis, over $180 million. The Turkish - over a $100 million. These pledges of money coming in are really an interim fix to get over the fact that Libya's - the bulk of Libya's overseas assets are still frozen - billions and billions of dollars - and so far the contact group can't seem to free up that money. But the fact that all these different countries - almost 30 countries now - coming together, coalescing in their view. Not too much of a surprise but it's taken some time to get to this point.

FOSTER: Conditions - are strings attached to the money? How is it like -

All right. Sorry, Nic. Are there any strings attached to this money? How do they expect it to be used?

ROBERTSON: Well, there's what they call "a mechanism" and this mechanism sort of seems to have two basic functions. One part is that the rebels have signed the letter, given it to the contact group saying that whatever funds they get and borrow now as loans from the international community to see them through this current transition period will be repaid by whichever Libyan government is in place in the future after Moammar Gadhafi. So that's one part. So these appear as loans rather than direct gifts of money.

The second part is that we heard Secretary-of-State Hillary Clinton saying that the money wasn't to be given before the rebels were able to sort of spend it and spend it properly with accountability and it's to be spent on sort of day-to-day costs, government salaries, or would-have-been government salaries, food, humanitarian aid - that sort of thing but a cleared demarcation given today that this is not money to be spent on weapons. So the real caveats are here at one, the rebels will pay it back and two, that this money is to - is to sort of help them out in this current period with sort of humanitarian needs that the international community will see exactly how and where the money is being spent, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Nic. Thank you.

Libya's former foreign minister and envoy to the United Nations says the Transitional National Council or TNC needs at least $3 billion over the next four months so let's take a look exactly which country's donating, how much money. And at today's meeting, Italy pledged up to $580 million to cover daily expenses, as Nic was saying, but not weapons. That money is backed by frozen Libyan assets. France says it'll give $423 million to the TNC within a week and Kuwait has promised to deliver $180 million it originally pledged in April for humanitarian needs.

Now, the United States is also kicking in additional cash, promising $26 million in humanitarian aid for Libyan war victims. Washington still hasn't formally recognized Libya's opposition so it hasn't given the rebel council any direct aid. But today, the top U.S. diplomat did move a step closer.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Our support for Libya's Transitional National Council is also deepening. The United States views the Transitional National Council as the legitimate interlocutor for the Libyan people during this interim period.


FOSTER: So Libya's opposition today received both strong diplomatic support as well as new pledges of aid. The rebels have said repeatedly what they desperately need is more weapons so are they happy with the outcome of the international conference.

Well, let's ask Guma El-Gamaty, a Libyan opposition member based here in London, senior in the group - I think it's better to say. Thank you so much for joining us.


FOSTER: First of all, those words from Hillary Clinton - you've been holding out for them, haven't you?

EL-GAMATY: Well, I think it's getting close to a full recognition but it doesn't really matter now. The main thing is that the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and many other countries are fully engaged with the National Transitional Council, with the Libyan people, with the revolution, and totally disengaged with Gadhafi and don't recognize him anymore and calling for him repeatedly to leave power. And it's not just those - Russia, Turkey, China coming very close. Senegal today, Senegal, the president of Senegal a close friend of Gadhafi has arrived in Benghazi and calling for Gadhafi to leave power. Gadhafi has no friends left and only decent, honourable - if he is honourable - the only decent thing for him to do is to leave immediately and bring an end to the bloodshed in Libya.

FOSTER: The fighting's not over yet though, is it? And you've got all of this aid that was promised when the contact group. They're saying it's not for weapons but that's what you're going to use it for, isn't it?

EL-GAMATY: No, not at all. No, not at all.

FOSTER: That's what you need more than anything right now?

EL-GAMATY: No, we also need money for food, for medical care, for salaries, to maintain law and order in the liberated areas and to give-

FOSTER: But you must defend yourselves first?

EL-GAMATY: Yes and we are getting some weapons and we are catching a lot of weapons from (inaudible).

FOSTER: How are you getting weapons? Where is that money coming from?

EL-GAMATY: Well, no - I mean, we have Arab countries who have kindly given weapons to the - to the fighters and to the revolution fighters and also our fighters are getting a lot of weapons from surrendering Gadhafi forces who have seemed to flee in many parts of Libya and leave their weapons behind. So that's also a good source for arms.

FOSTER: But the thing is if you're getting billions of dollars worth of cash and you were just using it for humanitarian efforts, your people are going to still be questioning why you're not using it to defend - if there's a - you know - incoming attack from government forces, you've got to put that first. I mean, I don't think it's realistic. You're just saying this, aren't you, just to get - you know, this is an agreement between you and the contact group that this is just for aid.

EL-GAMATY: No. What comes first for people is food and have medical care, security and safety and salaries and medicine and humanitarian aid. That's what really comes first for the children, women, men and ordinary people on the street. The fighters are - do have weapons. They are getting some from some Arab countries and they are getting a lot of weapons from Gadhafi's side once Gadhafi's forces flee and give up and surrender.

FOSTER: So you're getting arms gradually right now?

EL-GAMATY: Yes, we are. And we're getting the upper hand and the fighting on the ground getting - is going very well and we're getting very close to squeezing this mad despot out of Libya.

FOSTER: OK. People are talking about the endgame now, quite openly in diplomatic circles and it doesn't seem to involve Gadhafi but realistically, do you see him giving up power at some point when he realizes that the world's completely against him?

EL-GAMATY: Well, he said in his last recorded message about a week ago that he will contemplate committing suicide in Libya rather than give up and I think that is what really most likely is going to happen. Either he flees and runs for it now with his sons or he's going to be arrested and put on a fair trial by the Libyans or he will be killed or commit a suicide. There isn't - I think - any other option for him. My own feeling is that he's not - he's not brave enough to even commit suicide. I think when push comes to shove, you know, when it gets very, very close to him, I think he will run for it and he will try to escape.

FOSTER: Guma El-Gamaty, thank you very much indeed.

EL-GAMATY: Thank you.

FOSTER: Well, take a close look now at the fighting in Libya. The regime continues to hold on to cities including the capital of Tripoli, also Gadhafi's hometown stronghold of Sirte and the key oil ports of Al- Brega, while opposition forces control Misrata and cities east to the Egyptian border. The rebels have also captured Yafren and several other cities along the west mountains. the key oil ports of Al-Brega, while opposition forces control Misrata and cities east to the Egyptian border. The rebels have also captured Yafran and several other cities along the west mountains.

And NATO war planes are turning up the heat on Moammar Gadhafi. They've unleashed a fierce wave of attacks in the capital this week, some targeting Gadhafi's own compound. British and French helicopters have also joined the fight, used for the first time in Libya last weekend.

Early I spoke with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. I asked him about the endgame in Libya and whether the international military effort is making progress.


ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: We are conducting our operation in strict conformity with the United Nations mandate to protect civilians in Libya against attacks and take all necessary measures in that respect so we will stick to the strategy outlined from the beginning.

FOSTER: But it's going to be a disaster if you're not coordinating the ground troops, isn't it, operating?

RASMUSSEN: Well, our commanders and targeters are very careful in identifying legitimate military targets and as already said, we have been quite successful in taking out a substantial part of Gadhafi's military capabilities. And by that, we have prevented a major attacks against the civilian population in Libya. However, we still see some attacks from the government against their own population and this is the reason why we continue our operation.

FOSTER: So the international community is behind-the-scenes at least talking about an endgame in Libya, what would that constitute from your perspective? A ceasefire first of all?

RASMUSSEN: Well, no one knows exactly what will be the endgame but I think the endgame is approaching and this is the reason why we have strongly encouraged international organizations and notably the United Nations to speed up the preparation for that day. We have made clear that we do not foresee a leading NATO role in a post-Gadhafi and a post-conflict situation.

FOSTER: What happens to Gadhafi in your mind?

RASMUSSEN: We don't know. There's a strong international call for him to leave power. Recently, the G8 group called on Gadhafi to leave power. NATO and partner foreign ministers have endorsed that call. But I also have to say that our operation is a military operation and we pursue a military track in strict conformity with the U.N. mandate and we have defined three very clear military objectives to be met. Firstly, a complete end to all attacks against civilians. Secondly, withdrawal of Gadhafi forces to their barracks. And thirdly, immediate and (inaudible) humanitarian access to people in need and we will continue our operation until these objectives are met.


FOSTER: The head of NATO. A final note of optimism about Libya's future though. CIA chief Leon Panetta says he believes Moammar Gadhafi will ultimately step down and is hearing to become the next U.S. Defense Secretary. Panetta urged the world to stick to its plan on a post-Gadhafi Libya and most importantly keep up the pressure.

This here's "Connect the World." I'm Max Foster. Still ahead, more shockwaves in the U.K. A major media group fights new phone-hacking allegations. I've got some reaction in less than 20 minutes. And you'll want to get connected to Jack Black. He makes movies, music, and loves animals. He's your "Connect" of the day. That's in 40 minutes.

But first, more chaos in Yemen. The U.S. resumes air strikes whilst the ruling party insists the wounded president will be back. That's straight ahead.


FOSTER: I'm Max Foster in London. You're watching "Connect the World" and here's a look at some of the stories we're following for you this hour.

Yemenis state media report President Ali Abdullah Saleh is out of intensive care. A government official says he'll return to Yemen from Saudi Arabia within days. President Saleh suffered burns, shrapnel wounds, and a collapsed lung in an attack last week.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military has launched new air strikes targeting militants in the mountainous area of Yemen. The New York Times reports a key Al-Qaeda commander was killed.

A deadly assault on a wedding in eastern Afghanistan. At least nine people were killed when gunmen attacked a party in eastern parts of the country on Thursday. All of the victims are related to a local government official. Five other people were wounded.

French finance minister Christine Lagarde continues her whirlwind world tour. She's wrapped up a two-day visit to China (inaudible) she seeks support for her bid to lead the International Monetary Fund. She wants to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn who's stepped down after his arrest. Lagarde sounded a positive note after her meetings in Beijing.


CHRISTINE LAGARDE, FRENCH FINANCE MINISTER: They said I'm confident. I'm very positive about the meetings that I've had so far. Some countries and some governments have decided to go public early. My sense is that it's too early to count the chicken, I may say.


FOSTER: Well, Lagarde's next stop is Portugal where she'll meet African officials.

Well, the president of Argentina and Uruguay are the latest travel victims of a volcano in Chile. The two leaders were due to meet today but had to scrap their plans after flights in and out of Buenos Aires were cancelled. These astonishing images taken from space show how the giant ash cloud has spread since the eruption last Saturday blanketing cities across South America.

You are with "Connect the World." I'm Max Foster. Still ahead, the U.K. phone hacking scandal is (shutters) to Britain's corridors of powers. Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott think he's a victim. He tells me why. That interview in 15 minutes.

But first, here's in conflict. The price of the Arab spring on its children. UNICEF talks to us live next.


FOSTER: A mass exodus amidst mounting worries of a government assault. At least 2400 Syrian refugees from the northern town of Jisr al- Shughour have escaped into Turkey. Activists who stayed behind in what is being described as a ghost town are bracing themselves for what they fear will be more government violence. Syria's regime vows a military reprisal for what it claims was a deadly attack on its forces on Monday.

Now it's important to remember that Syria is a police state and generally off limits to international media and human rights monitors. My colleague Jonathan Mann brings us more now on that mass exodus from northern Syria.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Syrians are abandoning the northern city of Jisr al-Shughour. More than 1500 have crossed the border into Turkey. But activists say hundreds of thousands are on the move. Syria is off-limits to most international media and Turkey won't let us talk to the refugees on its territory. But the Syrian government says there's been a massacre at Jisr al-Shughour. It blames unidentified armed groups for killing 120 security forces. Some activists say it was a mutiny inside the Syrian army. Either way, the people of Jisr al-Shughour are fleeing, fearing the government's revenge.

This is why. Video of a youngster who apparently fell into the government's hands. His body was recovered weeks later showing signs of torture. Syrians are still unnerved by the first dead boy they saw like this on the internet last month. The two youngsters were reportedly friends arrested at a protest.

We can't confirm what happened to either of them. But outside Syria, governments agree that the crackdown has been bloody. And this week, a resolution being considered at the U.N. Security Council adds to the almost-daily denunciations.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We strongly condemn and have condemned the Syrian government's murder and mass arrest of its own people.

MANN (VOICE-OVER): Turkey rarely criticizes the government of neighbouring Syria. For now, it's simply preparing for more refugees fleeing in fear.

Jonathan Mann reporting.


FOSTER: The U.N. Human Rights Chief condemns Syria's treatments of all its people as "unacceptable" but this is the true face of conflict and not just in Syria as people risk everything for a chance at democracy, the children are the Arab spring are also paying a price.

UNICEF says reports of kids being injured, detained, displaced, even killed is rising in Syria alone. UNICEF says the use of live ammunition against protesters has left some 30 children dead. Amnesty International tells us that 77 children have been killed in Syria. Save the children says a million children (inaudible) during the Arab spring. That is one million.

UNICEF says its strongly condemns all acts of violence against children everywhere. We go live now to UNICEF's Patrick McCormick.

Thank you so much for joining us. First of all, talk about Syria because children have actually been images of this conflict in many ways. But how bad has it been for them?

PATRICK MCCORMICK, UNICEF SPOKESMAN: Well, we've all seen the images. They've been horrific on the video and circulating on the internet and UNICEF called recently and it's calling today for children and civilians to be protected from the violence that they're being subjected to, caught up in the civil conflict in Syria and elsewhere in that region.

FOSTER: Yemen?

MCCORMICK: Including in Yemen. In Yemen, in Libya. In Libya, we - not several weeks ago, we had reports of 20 children being killed in Misrata during the bombing there and I'm sure that figure has risen. Yemen, the images and the - what's going on there is also very disturbing. Children are always the most vulnerable in these situations. They get caught up in the crossfire. They're often could be with their parents. In many cases, they're not at school. They're milling around and as we've seen, they get caught up in the crossfire.

FOSTER: This is - as I understand of the situation - (inaudible) there are many homeless children. The people that - just on the streets most of the time, young kids. And they just exactly as you say get caught up in the crossfire and that's - I presume - a bigger problem in the cities.

MCCORMICK: Absolutely. I think we've seen almost exclusively these are the problems happening in the - in cities across the region although that does ask the question about what's happening elsewhere where we don't see. There are many parts of Libya, for example, where we don't know what's going on. We have reports of fighting but we have no eyes on the ground - so to speak.

FOSTER: What can be done about this then? Isn't it almost inevitable that kids are getting caught in the crossfire?

MCCORMICK: Well, they do everywhere in conflicts and it's been especially severe in these ones and when you ask what can we do, I mean, UNICEF has a very strong voice as well as our sister agencies and human rights voice just came out with a very strong report as well. Our voice is all about all we've got at the moment. Obviously, in Libya, there are other forces that are - that are trying to protect civilians also but they can get caught up in that crossfire as well. In Syria, apart from increasing the pressure on all parties to protect civilians, there's little else we can do there.

FOSTER: And what do you expect to happen when this does eventually come to a conclusion? Are you going to find yourself in a situation where you're having to handle lots of orphaned children, lost children, injured children?

MCCORMICK: You know, that adds a - it's a very good question. I think on a humanitarian scale, we're still not talking about many of the conflicts in the aftermath of conflicts in countries in Africa - for example. These were not war countries. The humanitarian needs (inaudible) have yet to be determined as well as orphans and things like that. What we really need to happen is as you say that this thing comes to an end so we can assess this - those needs.

FOSTER: Patrick McCormick, thank you very much indeed.

Coming up on "Connect the World" - a first round of hacking accusations aimed for the British tabloid. Their alleged target: the Duchess of Cambridge back when she was still Kate.

Then, European football clubs in the red. Some are paying their players more than the club earns in a year. We'll ask an agent how long that can last.

And Jack Black is back as a mean, not-so-lean fighting machine in Kung Fu Panda 2. But what made him so afraid of holding the real thing? Find out when the Hollywood star joins as your "Connect of the Day".


FOSTER: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD, and these are the headlines this hour.

World powers are planning the political future of Libya without Moammar Gadhafi. The international contact group met in Abu Dhabi pledging diplomatic support for Libya's opposition and, in some cases, cash. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the transitional National Council the legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people.

More Syrians are fleeing the violence in their country, crossing the border into Turkey. Many of the refugees are from the northern town of Jisr al-Shughou. They're terrified of further government violence. Turkey's foreign minister says some 2400 people have crossed.

Yemen's ruling party says wounded president Ali Abdullah Saleh will return, quote, "within days" as government troops continue to battle Islamic militants. Mr. Saleh is in Saudi Arabia after being injured when his presidential palace was attacked.

French finance minister Christine Lagarde has wrapped up her trip to China. She's looking for support for her bid to lead the International Monetary Fund. Lagarde called the visit "very satisfying," and says she's confident.

Britain's newlywed couple Prince William and his wife, Catherine, made their first public appearance since their wedding. Tonight, they attended a charity dinner for disadvantaged children at Kensington Palace in London.

As Britain's newest royals enjoy a night out on the town, she's also found herself a possible target of a phone hacking scandal.

A powerful British media group owned by Rupert Murdoch is fighting new allegations that it hacked into the mobile phones of celebrities, politicians, and members of the royal family. Media here in Britain are reporting the victims this time around include former prime minister Tony Blair and Kate Middleton back when she was Prince William's girlfriend.

The group, News International, has already admitted hacking into celebrities' phones before, including actress Sienna Miller. A correspondent for the newspaper "News of the World" and a private investigator even went to prison in 19 -- in 2007.

Back then, News International claimed the hacking was not a widespread practice but, if these new allegations are true, it might prove otherwise. Former deputy prime minister John Prescott spoke about this issue in the British parliament just today. He believes he's one of the victims this time around, along with his former boss, Tony Blair. I asked him about that earlier.


JOHN PRESCOTT, FORMER DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF GREAT BRITAIN: In regard to Tony, I only read that in the paper. I'm a bit surprised because I never knew Tony had a mobile. It was only when he came out of office that he started texting on mobiles. What they are, I don't know any more than what I read in the paper.

FOSTER: You, however, did use your mobile a lot. I know you've talked about having an affair. Was this all about having -- so you think the hacking was related to that or towards --

PRESCOTT: Oh, definitely. But the police kept denying for two or three years that in any way that my message had been hacked into. It was only when I went to the court and, eventually, they were forced to admit that I'd been hacked into 44 times.

And that's what's so alarming about this. It's not only the phone hacking, which Murdoch press people were doing, and they're the ones that have apologized, they owed in the -- on the "News of the World."

But its their connection with the police lack of acting, but also the crown prosecution that advises in these matters now having to do another inquiry into it, affairs in these matters. And judges were given wrong information about a judicial review in my case, which led them to refuse him for the first time, and agree in the second.

So, as I was saying in the debates in the laws today, I'm afraid this is so serious, it requires an independent public inquiry, because something is rotten in the state of England.

FOSTER: You've talked about how you think that they were tapping your phone just for information on your private life, on the affair that you were having, but there are a lot --

PRESCOTT: We don't know that. We don't know that. All we know are they had the messages. There was a connection to that, and most of the press, and particularly the Murdoch press, are really interested in sex stories and celebrities.

But we don't know what message they listened to. I got messages then as the deputy prime minister from all sorts of places.

FOSTER: But there's no evidence, really, is there, that any of the information has been used to put national security at risk? It was just tittle-tattle, basically.

PRESCOTT: Well, I wouldn't leave messages on national security matters. There would be people who would ring and leave me messages about that, but they wouldn't be high security, because I would avoid that, naturally.

But we don't -- we don't just know.

FOSTER: Where does this go from here? I know you want a full judicial review. But if the police can pile through each case --

PRESCOTT: Well, I've come further than that --

FOSTER: -- as they are saying they are --

PRESCOTT: I've gone further than that now. The judicial review is just simply to show -- to show up the police that weren't carrying out their responsibility to conduct a proper investigation.

What I've called today in the debate in the House of Lords, of course, is to make clear that I want an independent public inquiry.

Let me give you an example. The papers are really negotiating a situation where they don't have to go into the courts and tell what went on. If you look at the last agreement on Sienna Miller, what they've done is agreed that they had done it.

Murdoch press have admitted they were doing it, they shouldn't have done it, and basically, they said that they've settled, paid damages to Sienna Miller, but they've also said, as it's reported in the press today, that will not say everything in open court. We will tell you privately what was done and how it was done.

Now, this is from our press, who've had all this fuss about super injunctions saying that it should be open court, and they first thing they fix in the civil damage case is not to say it in open court, so you don't fully know what went on.

FOSTER: Yes, but you're encouraging them to expose all the information they have, which isn't publicly -- in the public domain, which is going to cause more outrage, all this personal information. You're suggesting that should be published.

PRESCOTT: Well, I think the people who've been subjected to it should know that they have had their phone hacked into, and they're all demanding that. Many come up to me and say, "How do I find out whether my phone was hacked in when they're investigating thousands of cases?"

Secondly, there's no doubt that they want to know that they want to know that. And they can come to a judgment if they want about that.

But you know, frankly, if you've committed a criminal act, you don't have a secret court so only the bits of information are told. You have to bring out the reasons why, what was revealed, and that's what we want in this country.

And that's why I went for a judicial review. Not civil damages. To a judicial review, which requires them to print everything that they know.


FOSTER: Well, British police aren't commenting on specific accusations or mentioning individuals concerned. They say they have received allegations today regarding breach of privacy, and these allegations are currently being considered. We'll stay on top of this story for you in the weeks and the days ahead.

Well, coming up, they make millions but cost fans and football clubs a fortune. Is it OK for a top-flight footballer to make such mind-boggling amounts of money? After the break, we'll talk to someone who thinks it is.


FOSTER: Think about the last time you were at a football match or watched one on TV. What did you see? Packed stadiums, cheering fans, plenty of money being spent on food, programs, and merchandise. That must mean that football clubs are rolling in cash, right?

Wrong. Here are some figures from the consulting firm Deloitte. Two years ago, the Premier League lost a staggering $452 million. Last year, its losses skyrocketed to $732 million, and that's, of course, raising the question, really, about where all this money is going.

And the answer is, actually, the players, mainly. Five years ago, clubs were spending $1.4 billion on wages. Over the next few years, that figure almost doubled. Last year, clubs spent $2.3 billion on player salaries.

But here's what's interesting. The clubs losing the most money are actually the ones winning on the pitch. Manchester City spent 107 percent on just wages. Chelsea, 82 percent, Liverpool, 66 percent, and Man United, just under half.

So, is UEFA doing anything to curb these spending sprees? Well, that's the question I put to CNN's Alex Thomas just a short time ago.


ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: They are addressing it, because they've brought in something called a financial fair play rule. But any sanctions for clubs that don't get their debt under control won't come in until the 2013-2014 season, and this Deloitte report actually applies to last season, so 2009-2010, before those fair-play rules were known.

So, we've yet to see those clubs really take advantage and say, look, we can see those fair play rules are coming in, we need to adjust our costs.

FOSTER: In this business, it does seem that there is this high correlation between money and success. So, do you have to spend this money to be successful?

THOMAS: It's a bit of a vicious circle because, yes, the profitability of any sporting club is based on how successful they are on the field. To be successful on the field, you need the best players. The best players cost the most, in terms of transfer fees and wages, and if those costs go up, then suddenly you've got that horrible wage-to-revenue ratio skyrocketing.

FOSTER: So, in perhaps an answer to create a level field across the game, as it were, is to have salary caps?

THOMAS: Yes, which would seem a sensible idea. But impossible in European football, which is the richest of all the sort of football markets.

Because simply, if you've got Wayne Rooney, you're saying "You can only have a certain salary a week, son," he would just say, "OK, I'm off to Spain, then, and Real Madrid will pay me megabucks instead." Whereas US franchises are closed market.

FOSTER: It's an unusual business in terms of Europe, isn't it, in terms of the amount of money involved? I mean, it's huge, huge business. American sports have a lot of money involved as well. Is it the same parallel, or is there something different with football?

THOMAS: No, very similar, and I guess that's reflected in the fact that England's Premier League now have 10 of the 20 clubs owned by foreigners, non-British firms or people, whereas 20 years ago, none of them would have been.

So, you're getting investors from America, especially, taking the marketing techniques in the States to make English clubs more profitable.

Of course, the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich coming over and owning Chelsea, and Sheikh Mansour, part of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, owning Manchester City. They're all coming here because there's money to be made.


FOSTER: Alex talking money. Well, there's money to be made out of England, too -- outside of England, too, though perhaps not quite as much. Here's a look at the revenue breakdown across Europe last season.

England made the most, $3.6 billion. Germany, $2.4 billion, Spain, $2.2 billion, and teams in France made $1.5 billion. As we've been showing you, even when clubs rake in huge amounts of money, they can still end up in the red by paying even bigger salaries.

But my next guest says that's actually OK. Sky Andrews is a football agent. He's with me in the studio. Sol Campbell, one of your players, of course. Just describe the sort of escalation in salaries in recent times. It has been phenomenal, hasn't it?

SKY ANDREWS, FOOTBALL AGENT: Well, prior to the famous Bosman ruling, players salaries were quite high. The Bosman ruling pushed them up.


ANDREWS: They leveled out, and now they're going up again. It's probably because there are some very rich benefactors putting money into football clubs, and at the end of the day --

FOSTER: So, fighting over the best players?

ANDREWS: Absolutely, demand and supply. Everybody wants the best players. The demand is great, the supply is very little. So when there's a major player becomes available, then the wage salaries are pushed up even higher.

FOSTER: Describe what happens if you've got a player who's in massive demand and he's becoming available. What happens? What sort of calls do you get? Who calls you?

ANDREWS: Well, I think that any player who's in demand, they're often -- becomes a sort of a bidding war.


ANDREWS: Then you've got -- and especially if the big clubs --

FOSTER: So, it's just about money, is it? We've got this much, we've got this much, we've got this much.

ANDREWS: No, do you know what's really important? And I always say to my clients, you focus on the football and you do well, the money will follow. Anyone who makes a decision on money is making a mistake.

Because you can give one man a pound, and he'll turn it into zero. You can give another man a pound, and he'll turn it into two pounds. Focus on your football, and the money will follow.

FOSTER: You're doing your job incredibly well. I'm not here just to compliment you, but with football salaries going up as they are, and you're one of the guys creating this, but when you step back as a football fan, do you look at the game and think it's all a bit weird that a business can be losing money because they're overbidding for one of their core costs?

ANDREWS: Well, it's funny, but a couple of my clients, Sol Campbell, Jermaine Pennant, they both started with nothing. And I've seen them go through the escalation amounts of money they receive, but those two have managed to keep their feet on the ground. But footballers cannot be expected to do anything other than play football, conduct themselves in the right way.

FOSTER: And good on them for earning good money, but it does mean, for example, that the fans are paying escalating ticket prices, for example, because the costs have to be covered somehow.

ANDREWS: In not all cases do fans pay escalating ticket prices. And it's only the --

FOSTER: Most cases, really, if you look at the economics. The price of the tickets are going to go up, aren't they? If the costs go up for the club?

ANDREWS: Well, not necessarily. I think that clubs are getting revenue streams from other means, from marketing, from sponsorship, etc. But footballers do tend to get it in the neck just because they earn a lot of money.

But their life isn't that great, really. A lot of people think that it's all about flashy cars and houses. They live life in a goldfish bowl. They're limited to what they can do, and why shouldn't the entertainers in a multibillion-pound industry be paid well?

Their job is to play football, conduct themselves in the right way. Other people have got the responsibility of dealing with the finances, making sure that the financial structures are in place. No one can blame a footballer for earning as much as he can.

FOSTER: And in terms of business, it's an odd business, football, isn't it?

ANDREWS: Yes. A very strange business.

FOSTER: Normally you''d focus on the profit margin, but it just is not the case, is it, in football? It's just about winning, and your customers are so wide and varied.

ANDREWS: Well, in what other industry, would -- for instance, the bank goes to the club, and the bank says, "All right, you want to borrow so much money. What's your assets?"

And then the club says, "Well, OK, then, we've got 140 million pounds worth of players."

And the bank says, "Well, who's judgment is that?" It's not like other businesses, where you say "We've got fixed assets."


ANDREWS: Players' values go up and down -- it's like the stock market. But yet, there's a major emphasis placed on the value of footballers.

FOSTER: OK, Sky, thank you very much for joining us.

ANDREWS: Thank you.

FOSTER: It's very interesting. Here's what people are saying about this on our Facebook page. It's a big debate.

Kasali believes that "the players are earning too much. Let there be a cap."

Abbie says, "Why can't we justify paying teachers what they're worth, but have no issue with sports figures making millions? Just another example of our how culture has priorities screwed up."

Keira says, "The fact remains all professional sports players are paid too much money depending on the sports and the league. Salary caps might be necessary."

Well, there's the debate. It will continue for many years to come.

Still to come, though, on the program, the loveable larrikin of Hollywood who is having trouble convincing his kids that he's a superhero.


JACK BLACK, ACTOR: I was told, there's a legend that if you hold a baby panda in your hands, that you will achieve inner peace.


FOSTER: Find out why Jack Black isn't looking so brave next to a real panda, a baby one, at that, next when he joins us as your Connector of the Day.


FOSTER: He's the -- part of the so-called Frat Pack, which includes the likes of Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell. Your Connector of the Day is the hard-rocking member of this comedic bunch, a lead singer, and an unlikely sex symbol. Let's get you connected with Jack Black.


BLACK: This is the greatest and best song in the world.

FOSTER (voice-over): He's the man that penned the song "Tribute."


FOSTER: And starred in the 2006 film "Pick of Destiny."

BLACK: Prepare yourselves for the motion picture experience of the century.

FOSTER: Satirically grandiose, Tenacious D front man Jack Black is Hollywood's lovable larrikin.

His breakthrough performance came in the 2000 John Cusack film "High Fidelity," and he's since forged a career largely out of playing flawed if not unlikely heroes.

From Gulliver in "Gulliver's Travels" --

CATHERINE TATE AS QUEEN ISABELLE, "GULLIVER'S TRAVELS": I wanted a grapefruit, not a great, big, hairy beast.


FOSTER: From Mexican wrestler Nacho Libre --


FOSTER: -- to "Kung Fu Panda." Black is the voice of Po, a mean, not-so-lean fighting machine --

BLACK AS PO: You guys, did you see that?

FOSTER: He's now back on the big screen in the film's sequel. I caught up with your Connector of the Day, Jack Black, and began by asking about the animated Dragon Warrior's latest adventure.

BLACK: It's a great continuation of Po's journey into adulthood. You know, he's matured now, a little bit. He's still clumsy and sweet and innocent, but he's dealing with some deeper issues.

BLACK AS PO: Here we go!

DUSTIN HOFFMAN AS SHIFU, "KUNG FU PANDA 2": Remember Dragon Warrior, when you follow the noble path, anything is possible.

BLACK AS PO: I'm freaking in.

BLACK: This is kind of like when a kid gets to be in his teen years and he's got some moody, like, issues he's dealing with. That's sort of where Po's at, questioning his origins and wanting to know who he really is.

FOSTER (on camera): Parallels between him and you at all?

BLACK: Definitely. Po is a passionate fan of kung fu, and he's got his heroes, and I definitely have my heroes in the comedy world and the rock and roll world, and I wish I could be them, same way as Po wishes he could be a kung fu master.

FOSTER: Questions from our viewers. Shelli Wardell (ph) Rasmussen from Denmark says, "How do you stay grounded?" Because you are -- you're well known as a guy that people can relate to.

BLACK: I guess I stay grounded through my family. Got my kids at home, that's how I keep it real.

FOSTER: Do they get the fact that you are the panda? Do they believe that you are the panda?

BLACK: No. They don't believe that I am the panda no matter how much I try to convince them, that's Da-da! You like panda! Panda's me!

FOSTER: And they don't believe you?

BLACK: Not yet, no. Someday, they will believe me. And I will command their respect.

FOSTER: One day. Midori Hobbs, "Have you ever met, encountered a real panda? If so, how was the experience?" And just to warn you, we have got some footage of you with a young panda.

BLACK: I was told, there's a legend that if you hold a baby panda in your hands, that you will achieve inner peace. And that billionaires spend millions of dollars or quid, whatever the -- or euros, or rubles -- to hold a baby panda in their hands to become one with the universe just for a moment.

And so, I was excited to meet this baby panda, I went to the zoo, and --

FOSTER: He wasn't quite as excited.

BLACK: Well, the veterinarian was there, and I said, "I want to hold the panda," and she said, "You're not going to hold the panda. Look, they don't like to be touched. They're bears."

And I said, "Well, I was planning on cuddling it and then having inner peace."

And she said, "Do you see this scar here? They have real claws. They're bears, Jack Black. You don't cuddle or hold -- you can touch them, but be careful."

And then I was scared, and she brought out the panda, and all the TV cameras were there to capture this event, Jack Black meets a real panda.


BLACK: And instead of it being a great promotional opportunity, it was just a chance for the world to see what a coward I am.

FOSTER: We're still talking about it now, though.


FOSTER: Promotional of sorts.

BLACK: Oh, good Lord.

FOSTER: Jon Regas from Switzerland, "Have you ever smashed a guitar?"

BLACK: I -- I think I have, yes. But not in a concert. It was like, we did a photo shoot one time, and I smashed it for the cameras. But it wasn't like --

FOSTER: Oh, so a posed smashing --

BLACK: It wasn't the real rage of --

FOSTER: It wasn't rock and roll.

BLACK: Yes, like the Who destroying a guitar.

FOSTER: Marie Salina, "Any chance you'll participate in a film that is not a comedy, like your performance in 'King Kong'?"

BLACK: Yes, as a matter of fact, I did a movie recently called "Bernie," reunited with my old pal -- Rink -- Rink. Rick Linklater, who directed "School of Rock," and this is a much darker film, with Shirley MacLaine.

FOSTER: So, that's coming up.

BLACK: Yes, coming soon.

FOSTER: Marie Danapolis (ph), "What books are on your bedside table?"

BLACK: Oh, there's no books there.

FOSTER: What is on your bedside table?

BLACK: On my bedside table, there's just a clock and a phone.

FOSTER: Finally, Nancy Rawson is a dancer from Washington. She writes, "I've always admired the physicality you bring to your roles. You seem such a natural mover. Have you ever had any dance training?"

BLACK: No formal dance training, but I do consider myself a dancer. I wouldn't put it on my resume, I'm not that confident. But I do like to move it. I like to move it, move it.



FOSTER: It's just the way he says things, isn't it? And next week, we've got another great lineup of Connectors for you, from iconic architects and Hollywood legends to a beauty queen. To find out more about your upcoming Connectors, do head to Don't forget, this is the part of the show where you get to ask the questions, so please ask away.

Before we leave tonight, we want to remember India's most celebrated and controversial of modern artists, known as the Indian Picasso. MF Husain died in hospital here in London on Thursday at the age of 95.

Now, five years ago, he was forced to flee India after death threats from Hindu extremists, and Husain was Muslim, and his works included some depictions of Hindi goddesses in the nude.

Outraged Hindu ultra-conservatives called his work blasphemous and an affront to national values. Husain always said that nudity symbolized purity and his supporters say he showed great respect for Hindu mythology and religion.

The controversy didn't deter his admirers outside India, though. In 2008, one of his paintings sold for $1.6 million at Christie's. India's president paid tribute to him today, saying Husain's death leaves a deep void in the world of art and of creativity.

I'm Max Foster, thank you for watching. The world headlines follow, then after that, "BackStory."