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Allawi Not Surprised by Iraqi Violence; Kerry Visits Vatican; Matt Damon Helps Communities Through; Egyptians Vote; Harsh Words for Kerry; Titanic Theme Park

Aired January 14, 2014 - 12:30   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: In Iraq today, at least four people were killed, 19 wounded in and around Baghdad as the country is slipping closer toward sectarian war.

One man who is not surprised by this spike in violence, he's the former interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi.

In an interview with CNN, he took aim at his successor Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Here's what he told my co-anchor, Michael Holmes.


AYAD ALLAWI, FORMER IRAQI INTERIM PRIME MINISTER: (Inaudible) what happened in Syria now is supporting this.

And, unfortunately, the country is moving on a sectarian route now, which was very dangerous to start with in the very beginning. And I warn all the leaders in the world and the region that's unless this is averted, then Iraq really is on the -- has started a civil war, but hasn't reached the point of no return.

Once they reach the point of no return then, unfortunately, all the whole region will burn up.


MALVEAUX: Our Michael Holmes joining us from Baghdad. Michael, good to see you as always.

A couple questions I have for you, first of all, why did Allawi want to talk to you? Why did he agree that he would come forward and speak with you now?

And does he think anything different should happen when it comes to the U.S. role and what it should play in that country?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, well, I guess he spoke to us because he's a politician, so he's -- you know, he's an opposition politician.

He actually technically won the 2010 election by two seats, but because of a lot of political maneuvering and what have you with Nouri al-Maliki, who retained power.

He is a Shia. He is a very, very much a secular man. He doesn't like all this sectarian stuff. He's highly critical of Nouri al-Maliki, calls him an authoritarian, a one-man band who is sort of consolidating power around himself.

When it comes to the U.S., we talked about that a lot. And it's not the first conversation we've had. When the U.S. first got here, there was a lot of criticism that they got here to Baghdad and I was up the day after the statue was pulled down in (inaudible) Square just behind me. And there was a sense that the U.S. didn't know what to do next.

Fast forward to now, what he is saying about the U.S. is they have backed al-Maliki, which he says is fine. They have not put enough pressure on him to rein in the sectarianism, to be more inclusive, what he'd promised.

Here's part of what he said about the U.S.


ALLAWI: They should support Maliki. It's up to them.

But they should also clarify to Maliki that their support is conditional, on inclusivity of the political process and respecting the constitution and respecting human rights.

But, unfortunately, Americans are not doing this.


HOLMES: And he's a very worried man. You know, I've had that sense since coming back this time. He's very worried this could slip down that road to all-out sectarian war.

He says at the moment it's an asymmetrical war with the car bombings and assassinations and the like.

He said it wouldn't take much for it to become a symmetrical war, that is armed rebellion, if you like, by the Sunnis in this country.

And that would be a disaster for the region and the country, of course.

MALVEAUX: And Michael, you have been there many times. You were there at the height of the violence in Iraq. You were also there when U.S. troops withdrew several years ago.

What are you seeing on the ground now when you talk to people who are Iraqis who are worried?

HOLMES: You know, I've got to say, Suz, it's been a bit depressing this time.

There is more security around. There are more road blocks, more checkpoints, and yet the violence continues. And in talking to Iraqis, I've sensed a real hardening down that sectarian line. You'll talk to Shias who will say to you that, you know, the Sunnis are behind all of these bombings. It's their fault, you know.

And then you'll talk to Sunnis who say the Shias hate us, we are being oppressed and we can't even walk down the street without the risk of being picked up and locked up because of our religion.

There really is a very worrying tension around the place, down those sectarian lines. And if it can't be reined in soon, if there can't be some sort of reconciliation, it's almost getting to the point where it might be too late.

And that's a big, big worry, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And also, Michael, you have these attacks, these bombings. Who are they going after? Who are they targeting? Do we know?

HOLMES: Well, you know, nobody knows for sure. The feeling is, of course, that it is the al Qaeda extremists, the al Qaeda-linked guys behind it.

They are trying to spark that war, because they want -- they feed off, you know, the uncertainty and insecurity. That's what they like about what they are doing.

So they're targeting a lot of Shia places. We have seen a couple Sunni places being bombed, as well.

So it is those al Qaeda-linked extremists who are likely behind a lot of those bombings.

There are also Shia militia who have not really come out in force at the moment, but when Sunni targets are attacked, you can look in that direction.

There's a lot of weaponry and a lot of munitions around this country.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, and, of course, as citizens, the Iraqis getting caught in the middle of all of that.

Michael, as always, please be safe. Look forward to your -- to coming back.

We're also following Secretary of State John Kerry on his way to Kuwait to help drum up international aid for Syrian refugees.

But first he stopped by the Vatican, and Kerry, he didn't meet with the pope, but he did speak with the Vatican secretary of state.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We talked at great length about Syria, and I was particularly appreciative for the archbishop's raising this issue, and equally grateful for the Holy Father's comments, the pope's comments yesterday, regarding his support for the Geneva II process.


MALVEAUX: Kerry also said that the president, President Obama, would be visiting the pope at a future date.

The retired police officer who allegedly shot two people at a Florida theater has a court appearance in the next hour. Chad Oulson was killed in the incident, and police say he had taken his wife, Nicole, to see a movie when 71-year-old Curtis Reeves apparently became irritated at the guy's texting.

They argued and then Reeves pulled out a gun and shoots him. His wife tried to shield her husband and the bullet went through her hand. All this happened yesterday during an afternoon showing of "Lone Survivor" at a theater in Wesley Chapel, Florida, near Tampa.

And a "do-not-use" order has been lifted today for a few thousand more people. This is in West Virginia, of course. So now about 35,000 residents, they can actually start turning on the taps. That still leaves about 200,000 folks who are waiting for the all-clear. They had to use bottled water to wash their hands, brush their teeth, cook, drink, everything, all of this since Thursday after a chemical poured out of a storage facility and into the nearby Elk River.

Today officials in neighboring Ohio are taking steps to keep that contaminated water out of their water supply. They're closing two intake valves, temporarily preventing the water from the Ohio River from entering their treatment plant. Now, they say it's strictly a precautionary measure. People in the Cincinnati tri-state area are being told that the water is safe.

The precious resource of water also is the focus of this "Impact Your World" today.

Actor Matt Damon is using his star power, of course, to help bring water to those who are most in need. Watch.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": This celebration in India has a very special guest, Matt Damon.

But the Oscar-winning actor isn't the big news of the day. The new water pump is stealing the spotlight.

And Damon's charity made it happen. helps bring water and sanitation to those in need.

MATT DAMON, ACTOR: Water really it kind of underpins everything.

Every 20 seconds, a child dies because they lack access to clean water and sanitation -- every 20 seconds.

CUOMO: This hits home for Damon, who has four daughters. DAMON: Once you have kids, it's impossible not to see, you know, their face in every child you see.

CUOMO: provides loans to help people get access to water.

DAMON: People were paying money for water already, sometimes 15 to 20 times what you or I pay for our water, right, to a local water mafia.

And if you could actually just front them the money to connect to the municipality, you'd give them their time back so they can work at their job and pay the loan off.

They are now in control of their destiny in a way that they weren't.

So it's not only about the millions of children who actually die every year. It's about the quality of life that somebody can have if they have access to clean water.


MALVEAUX: You can help.

A deadly day for Egyptians, as they head to the polls. We've got a live report on the vote and the violence, straight ahead.


MALVEAUX: Voting on a new constitution in Egypt literally began with a bang. We are talking about a bomb, exploded near a courthouse in Cairo, even before the polls opened this morning.

You're looking here at the aftermath of this. Now, there were no deaths that were reported in that attack, thankfully. But throughout the day, six people, they were killed in violence linked to the vote. Our Reza Sayah is joining us from Cairo.

And, you know, despite the violence, many people still headed to the polls six months after this coup that ousted the democratically elected president. Explain to us what is at stake, this vote we are talking about, about the constitution here.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In many ways, Suzanne, what's at stake is the future of Egypt's political institutions. This charter, if it passes, it's going to be the backbone of Egypt's system of governments. The power of the military, the president, the parliament, the judiciary, the balance of power between these institutions is going to be based on this charter if it passes.

If you look at this constitution, some of the important elements, you see that it bans religious parties. That, of course, is a huge blow to political Islam here in Egypt. Analysts say it is an improvement when it comes to human rights, equal rights. For the first time, if this constitution passes, it will be written in the charter that men and women are equal.

However, critics of this charter say it gives too much power to the military. For example, this constitution says that the military gets to approve the appointment of the defense minister by the president. It also says the budget of the military is off limits. And it also enables the military to put civilians on trial in military courts. That, of course, is something many revolutionaries back in 2011 fought to get rid. Now if this charter passes, it's going to be back, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Reza, tell us about this popular army chief who is now essentially the de facto leader of Egypt, General Abdel Fattah el- Sisi. He was the one, right, who actually spearheaded this clamp-down, this brutal crackdown on the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. So it looks like the country is not becoming more united but divided.

SAYAH: Well, if you talk to General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the military backed government, they'll tell you that the country is united. But our sense here is that there is polarization here. That this country is divided.

On one hand you have the military, General Sisi, his admirers who want to push through this transition to what they insist is a democracy. And then on the other side, you have supporters of the ousted president, Mohamed Morsy, the Muslim Brotherhood, and increasingly secular activists, the 2011 revolutionaries we talked to you about that are (INAUDIBLE) people, saying Egypt is headed back to a repressive police state dominated by the military.

Common sense says if Egypt is going to move forward and establish stability and peace, there has to be consensus and reconciliation. What's troubling is that there's no sign of that happening at this point, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Not at this point. Well, please keep us posted on what happens with the final tally, that final vote. And, obviously, it is a very dangerous situation just to cast a ballot in that country. Thank you, Reza, appreciate it. Be safe.

Just ahead, a senior Israeli official offering a blunt, undiplomatic and very public opinion of Secretary of State John Kerry. We're going to tell you what he said and the response from the State Department.


MALVEAUX: Some harsh words today in the Israeli media for Secretary of State John Kerry. Israel's defense minister slammed Kerry as, quote, "obsessive and messianic." That's right. I want to bring in our senior foreign affairs reporter, Elise Labott, who joins us from Washington to talk about this because, come on, Elise, I mean this was not very diplomatic language. It's rather unusual that you have something that's just thrown out there. What is behind this?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, you know, Suzanne, Secretary Kerry is working so hard on the peace process, really has made 10 trips in the last several months since July. I've been there several times with him. And he's pushing the parties really hard. He's really trying to get both parties to recognize the consequences if they don't have a deal. And so that's why Jennifer Psaki, the State Department spokesperson, tells CNN that the remarks, if accurate, are just offensive and inappropriate given all that the U.S. and Secretary Kerry, in particular, is doing to support his needs. And so, you know, obviously there's going to be some discussions between the U.S. and Israel over the next several days and weeks about how committed the U.S. is to -- and Israel is to the peace process.

But I have to say, a lot of Israeli officials coming to his defense, Foreign Minister Lieberman and also the justice minister, Tzipi Livni, who is the lead negotiator on the talks, saying, listen, this is not helpful. The U.S. is our best friend and you really can't be making these type of remarks.

MALVEAUX: So the remarks are out there and you can't really take them away. Maybe they can apologize. But where does it stand in the peace process itself? Does it really impact where they go forward in these talks, these negotiations?

LABOTT: Well, you know, look, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the one ultimately who's going to be the lead here in terms of making a peace deal. And so a lot of times Israeli officials or Palestinian officials, on the other, will say things that are unhelpful to the process. And the U.S. is going to try not to get bent out of shape.

But this is a real critical time right now for the peace process. Secretary Kerry has given the parties a nine-month deadline to strike a deal. The deadline is coming up in April. And now he's put this framework agreement on the table. He's really trying to get the sides to really hone in.

And, you know, comments like this really put into question how committed Israel is in terms of making the hard session -- concessions need. And when they say that Secretary Kerry is, you know, messianic. Yes, he is messianic. This is a real calling for him. He says that he's going to do whatever it takes.

MALVEAUX: It absolutely has been a calling for him. And you bring up the point that he's been there in the region so many times, more than 10 times, I guess. I mean this is really something that he has put his - he's staked his reputation on, his legacy as well.

LABOTT: Certainly has.

MALVEAUX: Elise, thank you. Appreciate it, as always.

Gay people in Nigeria now can be jailed just for gathering with each other. For partying or meeting any associates whatsoever, anyone who helps a gay person or patronizes or operates any type of gay operation can be prosecuted. It is part of a new law known as the Same-sex Marriage Prohibition Act. It was signed yesterday by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. Violators face up to 14 years in prison. Many people around the world are outraged by this. They're calling it a significant setback to gay rights in Africa where same-sex relationships are already widely prohibited. Well, first it was an epic disaster. Then it was a blockbuster movie. Well, now, it's going to become a theme park attraction. That's right. We're going to tell you where you can actually ride the Titanic, even feel what it's like to hit an iceberg. Strange. Coming up next.


MALVEAUX: Books on the Titanic, of course you've got the famed movie, as well. Well now a Chinese company is making it into an amusement park. That's right. CNN's Dave McKenzie is reporting from Beijing on this controversial proposal.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Remember those terrifying scenes in James Cameron's "Titanic" of the ship sinking? Well, soon you could be reliving that in China. An obscure company has announced plans to build a theme park where they will build a Titanic replica with U.S. designers so you can relive the sinking experience. Now, at $165 million, it might seem an idea that will sink. But this film is extremely popular in China, so perhaps it's worth floating.


MALVEAUX: And singer Katy Perry, she got emotional during her first trip to China. I want you to watch. The 29-year-old pop star, she was brought to tears, you can see there, after an orchestra performed an arrangement of her hit single "Roar" over the weekend. This happened in Beijing. Now, this orchestra is made up of more than 100 musicians. They used traditional Chinese instruments to play her song. So after the show, Perry gave the group one of her guitars, said that the show reaffirmed her love for music. That's pretty sweet.

Several stories caught our attention today. Photos, as well. I want you to take a look at this.

These are amazing pictures from Brazil. This is awesome. I've been here before, actually. This lightning bolt hitting the Christ the Redeemer statue during a flash storm in Rio de Janeiro this morning. That is awesome. The statue, it is the largest depiction of Jesus in the world, stands more than 2,000 feet above Rio. Now, this isn't even the first time that this figure has been struck. 2008, workers had to do some restoration on that statue after it was hit by lightning. That is amazing. Amazing.

In China, a tortoise beat a rabbit -- that's right -- in a skiing competition. The rabbit lost because he jumped around -- yes, as rabbits do -- didn't listen to his owners' commands there. The ducks, you see the ducks, dogs, cats also competing in this race. Forty people were allowed to place their animals on the skis or sleds and guide these pet down the slope.

Well, that's it for us, AROUND THE WORLD. Thanks for watching. And we begin with CNN NEWSROOM next.