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Massive Explosion Levels Aleppo Hotel; Pro-Russian Separatists To Move Ahead With Referendum; Explaining UEFA's Financial Fairness Rules

Aired May 8, 2014 - 11:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Defying Moscow -- separatists in Ukraine ignore President Putin's call to delay a vote on independence.

Also ahead...

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Abu Dhabi...

ANDERSON: ...goes on.

And Nigeria's president says he will put an end to Boko Haram as gruesome new details emerge about a recent massacre. We are live in Abuja.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World with Becky Anderson.

It is 7:00 in the evening here in the UAE. Separatists in eastern Ukraine are rejecting Moscow's call to postpone a referendum on independence. Here is the very latest on that crisis for you. The pro- Russian militants say residents living in the east want sovereignty from Kiev and the vote will go ahead on Sunday as scheduled.

President Putin had asked for the delay. Reuters reports the Kremlin now says it is assessing the situation.

Well, the European Union says that vote will have no democratic legitimacy and can only lead to further escalation.

Meantime Russian state run media report that Ukraine has deployed 15,000 troops near the border with Russia.

Let's get you the very latest and check in with Nick Paton Walsh who joins us live from near Slovyansk.

And ahead of this planned referendum, what is the situation on the ground, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, very much as it was before. They're going ahead. I've seen the ballot papers in the self-declared mayor's office here, going ahead with their vote on Sunday. The big difference is that now Vladimir Putin can say, well, I tried to stop them, this is some sort of home grown movement rather than, as Washington says, something that the Kremlin has tried to instigate.

Inside Slovyansk, it's deeply tense, I have to say. I think there is a fear that the Ukrainian army may move in at some point, and also a confusion, potentially, because they always I think felt that Russia had their back, that's what many of them said. And Putin's comments I think have thrown a few people off.

Despite the fact that many accuse Putin perhaps of not being 100 percent straightforward about this. He's also said that they pulled their troops back from the border with Ukraine, although the NATO chief speaking earlier today said he'd seen no signs of that.


ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: While we have noted the Russian statements that they have started to withdraw troops, so far we haven't seen any -- any indications that they are pulling back their troops. Let me assure you that if we get visible evidence that they are actually pulling back their troops I would be the very first to welcome it.


WALSH: Now in many ways inside Slovyansk, it is a little chaotic. As I say, they were trying to assess what Putin actually meant by saying they should delay. Now moving forward, and the channels of communication between Donetsk with that vote took place, but they decided to go ahead on Sunday. It isn't always entirely clear, it seems, with Slovyansk.

But Donestk itself polishing its militia up as the hours after we heard that decision to go ahead on Sunday, there were armed cars racing around the streets and more people turning up to join the militia, in fact. The security service building overtaken by the militants.

So no sign they're backing down, Becky. And the real concern now -- everyone says what does Kiev do next? And they still have thousands of troops encircling that town. And they sound pretty confident. The one fear I think analysts have that Kiev might mistake what Putin is saying as the Kremlin losing interest, really, in this and giving them a carte blanche to move in, Becky.

ANDERSON: So what is your assessment on the ground? What do you believe happens next?

WALSH: I think they go ahead with the vote on Sunday barring some last minute negotiation settlement and the self-declared mayor of Slovyansk was clear with me his three terms pretty hard for Kiev to buy, but his three terms are Ukraine pull your army out, recognize the Donetsk people's militia, that's the group of pro-Russian militants who are pretty ragtag around here (inaudible) and quite efficiently, and also begin talks on the exchange of prisoners of war.

Meet those three demands and then they can have negotiations about what next.

Hard for Kiev to buy that, given they say they won't negotiate, quote, with terrorists. So I think we're looking at a vote on Sunday that will go ahead. Very few people, I think, consider that to be a genuinely open democratic process, but I'm pretty sure it will say they'll move closer towards Russian in some way or other. The question is how fast will that then happen? The Kremlin then assent and do Kiev stay back? Or do they, as many people in Slovyansk are concerned, do they use their military to move into that town and try and assert authority.

Becky I should point out this is not an army that's seen combat much. And a counterinsurgency operation is extraordinarily complex, particularly against militants as well equipped as those guys we're seeing inside Slovyansk. So no options look good here, Becky.

ANDERSON: Nick Paton Walsh on the ground for you with the very latest.

Well, the...

Well, the horror being wrought in northern Nigeria is spreading and it is getting worse. And as the international community condemns Boko Haram's ruthlessness, the militant group is only turning up the terror. 310 people are now thought to have been slaughtered in the town of Gonbaru Ngala (ph). It's less than 200 kilometers from Chibok where more than 200 schoolgirls, you'll remember, were abducted last month. Their whereabouts still unknown.

Well, the U.S. the UK, France and China are all stepping up to help the Nigerian government search for the missing girls. And Vladimir Duthiers joins me now live from Abuja.

And President Goodluck Jonathan says that the mass abduction marks, and I quote, the beginning of the end for this terror group. But Boko Haram appears to have other ideas, Vlad.

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky that's exactly right. Boko Haram has been attacking northeastern Nigeria for several years now. The latest, this attack on Monday in a village on the border with Cameroon in Nigeria. 310 people killed during that attack, many of them shop owners, horrifying when you understand what exactly happened.

These shop owners, some of them tried to run into their shops to prevent themselves from being mowed down by these militants that arrived in armored personnel carriers, armed with rocket-propelled grenades, entering into their shops they were burned alive, Becky.

This is Boko Haram's modus operandi, seemingly able to attack northeastern Nigeria with impunity.

This morning at the world Economic Forum here in Abuja, the president of Nigeria spoke. And this is what he had to say about ending the terror threat.


GOODLUCK JONATHAN, NIGERIAN PRESIDENT: I believe that the kidnapping of these girls will be the beginning of end of terror in Nigeria.


DUTHIERS: So the president sounding confident this morning in his remarks. But a lot of people are scratching their heads, Becks, and wondering what exactly does that mean? Sure, this is a catalyst to perhaps end the threat, the reign of terror that Boko Haram has been wrecking across the northeastern part of the country, and indeed even here in Abuja. But what exactly ware you going to do, Mr. President? And that's the question on a lot of people's minds, Becks.

ANDERSON: Vladimir, the timing of these attacks could scarcely be worse, of course, for Nigeria. It's just overtaken South Africa as the continents largest economy. and the country consolidating that status by, a you suggest, hosting its first World Economic Forum on Africa in the capital Abjua.

Now officials at the summit would highlight the country's investment potential, but one business leader, have a listen to this, says events in the north are overshadowing the gathering.


SENI ADETU, CEO, GUINNESS NIGERIA: The last thing we ever wanted was to have a situation where foreign investors who we absolutely need to partner with as we set forward in those reforms, really see -- beginning to sit on the fence and watch the security challenges of the country and really questioning what is the right time to come into the country.

So on all counts it's really very disappointing.

ANDERSON: We're going to do more with you, Vlad, at the bottom of the hour, but just a question I think is on many people's lips at this point. Why has it taken Nigeria and Nigerians to a certain extent so long to come out and talk about just how delicate and sad this situation is? We're a month into these abductions and these girls still nowhere to be seen.

DUTHIERS: Becky, it's a great question.

The fact of the matter is, sad but true, in Nigeria, this has been ongoing. We've been reporting here for many years. This Boko Haram threat has been an almost weekly occurrence. This is just the latest in a long line of atrocities being perpetrated on the people of Nigeria in the northeast.

I think for the first time, though, international outrage is growing. And the microscope has turned and focused on what exactly is going on in Nigeria? What is is that the government and the military are unable to do to put this threat down?

Now clearly a war on terror, wherever it happens, it's difficult and challenging issue. It's been challenging for the United States and challenging for a lot of countries.

But I think as Nigeria seeks to put itself onto the world stage in this world economic forum here was meant to be a sort of an opportunity for them to show the world what they are all about. I think now people are looking and saying, wow, this has been happening almost on a weekly basis for so long, what are they going to do about it, Becky?

ANDERSON: Vladimir, back to you at the bottom of the hour. For the time being, we thank you very much indeed. Vladimir Duthiers is in Abuja on what is an ongoing story for you there.

Well, still to come tonight, the battle for Syria's largest city. We've got the latest, got a huge bombing in Aleppo.

And moving south, the government regains control of another flashpoint. Is the truce in Homs a victory for Bashar al Assad? That is next here on Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. Stay with us, you're watching CNN.


ANDERSON: 13 minutes past 7:00 in the UAE. You're watching CNN and Connect the World with me, Becky Anderson. Welcome back.

Now, a huge explosion hits Syria's largest city Aleppo earlier. Now you're looking at video that was posted on YouTube. Now at CNN we can't independently verify its authenticity, but this explosion it appears to hit a hotel in the old city that was being used as a base for government forces.

Now an opposition human rights group says the bombing killed at least 14 regime soldiers and left dozens wounded. The country's most powerful rebel alliance, the Islamic Front, says it is responsible.

Well, our Fred Pleitgen has covered the civil war in Syria extensively. He will be back there shortly. Reporting for you tonight from Berlin

We are looking at these pictures purportedly of an explosion in Aleppo. What more do we know at this point?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, what we have heard is that this is the Carlton Hotel, which is actually right on the front line there in the town of Aleppo. It's in the old town right near the citadel, which is thousands of years old place, that's obviously a very important cultural heritage site as well, but is now also the epicenter of the battle there in Aleppo.

As you said, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 14 people were killed. There are other organizations who claim that as many as 50 people were killed. And it's unclear weather or not all of them are members of the military.

There are also varying accounts as to what exactly happened. You were just saying the Islamic Front claims that this was part of a coordinated series of attacks, not just on the Carlton Hotel, but on other places that were being used by the military as well.

The Syrian government, for its part, is saying that its forces were conducting operations against rebels in the area. They discovered some of these tunnels and that when the rebels found out that they had been discovered, they set off these bombs in tunnels under the old town.

So it really is still very much unclear as to what happened there, but certainly it is very clear that there was a lot of carnage and that there was this gigantic explosion right in the center of Aleppo, which happened very early this morning, Becky.

ANDERSON: June the 3rd, three weeks from now a presidential election. I want to show our viewers, Fred, a photograph taken this morning in the old city of Homs. Now it is reminiscent of many victory scenes that we've seen in previous conflicts. And it shows Syrian government forces holding the national flag aloft along with a photograph of the president.

When you sit this picture taken this morning, we believe, alongside the video from Aleppo today, what does it tell you about the situation there on the ground across Syria today?

PLEITGEN: Well, across Syria it certainly seems to say that this conflict is not going to find a military solution. It can't be won militarily by anyone.

I mean, what's going on in Homs right now is that there is this truce between the rebels and the Syrian government. There's some exchanges where the rebel fighters are allowed to leave Homs. And in return, the rebels are letting some prisoners and some hostages that they have, letting them go as well.

The thing about Homs is that in the past year or so, I would say, the rebels have been bottled up there anyway. They'd been taken a lot of hits from Assad forces. Assad had been using a lot of artillery, very heavy weapons. It was a very brutal campaign. And they weren't going anywhere. They weren't making any headway there.

The town is also strategically far more important to Assad than it is to the rebels at this point. To them, the more important places are Aleppo, for instance, or also Daraa in the south of the country.

So certainly this is something that the Assad government will claim is a victory for it, but it's hard to see that there's any winners considering the amount of loss of life that happened there, and also the amount of destruction that happened there in the town of Homs.

And also, on other fronts, the Syrian government is clearly taking a lot of hits, as we've seen in Aleppo, as we've seen in the countryside of Latakia and near the Syrian coast as well. And as we are seeing in the south of the country.

So at this point, it really is a stalemated conflict where there are some territorial gains in either direction, but there is a lot of loss of life. And in the end, strategically the battle is just absolutely stalemated and no one is winning, Becky.

ANDERSON: Fred Pleitgen is in Berlin. As I said, he's spent many a week in Syria over the past couple of years and will be back in the weeks to come.

With the evacuation of rebels from Homs's old city. The government will now effectively does have control of that city. Could this be a strategic setback for the opposition and possibly a turning point for President Bashar al-Assad.

I'm joined by a man who has met President al-Assad many times. Ted Kattouf is the former U.S. ambassador to the UAE here and indeed to Syria, joining me from Washington tonight.

Let's bring up that victory photo as it were as described by many today, once again of Homs. And how -- how do you read what you see here? This is a man whose picture is being held aloft by his own troops, who will be running for, and undoubtedly will win, a presidential election, sir, in three week's time. It's difficult, really, isn't it to suggest that he is anything but winning at this point.

TED KATTOUF, FRM. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA: Well, I think the fact that Homs is finally fallen to his troops is extremely important. Homs controls the main north-south highway between Damascus and Aleppo. It's about midway there.

And secondly it also controls the road to the coast. There's an old crusader castle, quite formidable one, that overlooks a valley that leads to the coast where the cities of Tartus and Latakia are.

So in effect Assad is consolidating his hold on some of the most important areas of Syria in terms of their population and in terms of the ability of the Syrian forces to move from Damascus to their ancestral homeland in the mountains overlooking Tartus and Latakia.

ANDERSON: Mr. Kattouf, lest we forget, there are millions who are now outside of the country as refugees, millions more internally displaced in the country awaiting, one assumes, to vote if they get the opportunity to do that on June 3.

I just want our viewers and for you to get a look at President al- Assad who hasn't made many public appearances of late, but this week to mark Martyrs Day, he and his wife Asma (ph) met with children who have lost their parents during this civil war.

Now the couple exchanged handshakes and kisses with the young boys and girls and spoke of gaining victories against what they called terrorists.

When you see this vision, knowing the man as you do, how do you assess his form, his character, who he's acting?

KATTOUF: I think that he does not take responsibility for the brutality he's inflicted on his country. I think psychologically he probably doesn't feel that he's responsible. I believe that he actually has a scenario in mind where it's these terrorists, these jihadists who have turned Syria into a (inaudible) house and he sees himself as a champion, particularly of his regime, of his sect, the Alawite, but I think by and large of Syrians as whole.

ANDERSON: Briefly, what happened to the international community in all of this? They've let Syrians down, haven't they?

KATTOUF: Well, there is absolute fatigue, as you know Becky in the United States with the Middle East and its conflicts. So the American people have no stomach for our president getting us militarily involved in Syria. In fact, a lot of them don't even want the aid that is apparently going to some Syrian forces that have been vetted by the administration in terms of anti-tank weapons and communications equipment and body armor and the like, they don't even want that level of involvement.

So I think it's important that your viewers understand that there is just fatigue with these wars, and there's nobody who is coming in to settle this thing.

ANDERSON: All right, sir, and with that we're going to leave it there. We thank you very much indeed for joining us. Ted Kattouf there.

We've got the latest coverage on Syria's civil war online at and in Arabic as well as on our sister website Do read about Syria's latest allegations against al Qaeda. The Syrian ambassador to the UN is accusing the organization of smuggling chemical weapons from Libya to his country. Keep up to date with the story and all of the news out at Syria and around the Middle East and North Africa at

Right, live from Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World. It's 22 minutes past 7:00 here.

European football chief maybe about to punish Manchester City for not playing fair on the financial field. We're going to talk about what that might mean for the club up next.


ANDERSON: Two high profile football clubs are facing tough sanctions under UEFA's financial fair play rules. According to media reports, Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain are just two of the nine clubs found guilty of breaching what are these new regulations.

Well, CNN's Alex Thomas shows us how the financial rules work.


ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Football is only a game, but like Monopoly, the money and deals are crucial. If you played this, you'll know you have to slowly accumulate wealth to win.

But like doing instantly from no houses to a hotel, new rich European football club owners have taken a shortcut to success to go, if you like, part of the reason why governing body UEFA has introduced financial fair play rules.

So how does it work? Well, if going around the board is like one year, then UEFA says each team cannot spend over $62 million more than they earn this season and next. That allowable excess falls to $41 million in the following three seasons and will gradually keep coming down until clubs are never losing more than $6.9 million over a three year cycle.

UEFA is measuring things like the cash splashed on signing players and their wages, versus money gained from TV deals, commercial income and sponsorship.

The sponsorship has to be fair, though, you'd never spend $10 million on the electric company would you? And some football club owners of course are bosses of other companies as well.

Investing in stadiums, training facilities and Youth development is seen as community chest style good spending and is not included in the calculations.

For the clubs who overspend, there's a range of punishments, including something as minor as a fine through to a cap on the number of players you can use in UEFA competitions to the ultimate sanctions do not pass god, exit the tournament and go to jail -- well, hand back your trophy.

Unlike Monopoly, FFP will allow negotiation with the banker. Guilding clubs can agree and acceptable punishment or face their case going to an independent panel. And their verdict is final, except for legal action.

Go this far, and a club and its fans will feel like someone has turned on their water works.


ANDERSON: The latest world news headlines are just ahead.

Plus, the hashtag #bringbackourgirls has become a global movement. And now U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama is spreading the world about the plight in Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by an Islamic terror group. That story after this short break. Back, after this.


ANDERSON: From the outside terrace at the Abu Dhabi Bureau, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. It's just after half past 7:00 here. The top stories this hour here on CNN.

And villagers say Boko Haram militants killed at least 310 people in Gamboru Ngala near Nigeria's border with Cameroon. It's less than 200 kilometers from Chibok, where more than 200 schoolgirls were abducted last month. They still have not been found.

A massive blast in the Syrian city of Aleppo has leveled a hotel. This is all that remains after the bombing by Syrian rebels. Government forces had been using the hotel as a base. The country's most powerful rebel alliance, the Islamic Front, has claimed responsibility for the blast. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 14 people have been killed and dozens have been injured.

Prominent Chinese journalist Gao Yu has been detained for allegedly leaking state secrets. Broadcaster CCTV televised what it calls Gao's confession. It blurred the 70-year-old's face, but identified her by name. She's the latest high-profile activist detained ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square protest.

Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have declined a request by Russian president Vladimir Putin to postpone a referendum on independence. They say preparations are underway and the vote will be held on Sunday as scheduled. The Kremlin says it's assessing the situation.

Russia officially annexed the Crimea region almost two months ago. This happened after residents there overwhelming voted to join the Russian Federation. We wanted to know what life, then, has been like for Crimeans living under Russian rule since then. Phil Black with more.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Crimea's capital, you still see men in green. The local militias or self-defense units that helped tear this land from Ukraine are now policing its streets.

This commander tells me they're helping out while corrupt police officers are purged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are all self-defense units.

BLACK (on camera): So, you were surrounded?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was surrounded.

BLACK (voice-over): Abduraman Egiz recently met a group of green men who he says demanded to see his identification. He says this security video shows what happened when he refused.


BLACK (on camera): They punched you?

EGIZ: Yes. Directly, yes, of course.

BLACK (voice-over): Egiz is a leading member of the Crimean Tatar community, an indigenous ethnic group that opposes Russia's annexation of Crimea.

EGIZ: We as the community, we cannot guarantee security of our people.

BLACK: Liza Boogetz Giaz (ph) says she's a member of another unwelcome minority. She's an ethnic Russian who campaigned against the Russian takeover.

BLACK (on camera): Have you ever been threatened?

BLACK (voice-over): "I received e-mails telling me how they will deal with me," she says. Life is now also more challenging for people who wanted to join Russia. This is a part of daily life here: lining up to go to the bank or pay bills.

This man says, "It's shameful. I've been waiting four hours. It was never like this before." That's because Ukrainian banks have shut down and left Crimea. Russian banks are now just starting to open.

"The problems are only temporary," this woman says. Almost everyone here tells us they have no regrets. "I'm absolutely happy. I'm happy that I'm in Russia."

There's even more pro-Russian fervor outside this office, where Crimeans are lining up to apply for new passports. Natalia proudly shows off hers. She says she always loved Ukraine, but felt pain because she wasn't Russian.

Russian pride is always at its strongest on May 9th, the anniversary of Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. This year, Crimea is planning a big party. Popular rumor says the special guest will be the Russian president.

"We love Putin very much," this woman says. "He's the only president in the world it's impossible not to love."

Much of the world does not love Putin's actions in Crimea. A presidential visit would show just how little that concerns him.

Phil Black, CNN, Sevastopol, Crimea.


ANDERSON: Nigeria's president vows that Boko Haram's abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls will be the group's undoing. Despite more than three weeks of searching, those girls have not been found, but protesters around the world say they will keep the pressure on the government to bring them home.

Vladimir Duthiers on the ground for you in Abuja and joining me again live now. Listen, the hash tag #BringBackOurGirls resonating all over the world. It's got to be said, I had an enormous amount of Twitter traffic from Nigeria right at the beginning of what is this horrific story, some -- what? -- three and a half weeks ago now.

Now, of course, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Malala all throwing their support behind it. Some might say some weeks after the actual abductions happened. How is this support, though, now, which is international support, how is this resonating locally?


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mounting worldwide outrage at Boko Haram's vicious kidnapping of 200 schoolgirls now leading the US to offer widespread intelligence and military assistance to Nigeria.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They've accepted our help, a combination of military, law enforcement, and other agencies who are going in.

STARR: Nigeria agreed to accept US help somewhat grudgingly, and still has to agree to the specifics. A team of US military experts, along with the FBI and others, are offering help with intelligence, communications, and planning for a possible rescue. There is already talk of US commando raids.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: I think that the people on the ground have to -- are going to have to determine if special forces are necessary.

STARR: But the Pentagon says don't expect to see US troops in action. More likely, detective work.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, FORMER US AIR FORCE COLONEL: Every single thing is based on having iron-clad intelligence on the target and on exactly where the girls are and how the girls are being treated. What they'll also look at is how the guards operate, what the routine is.

STARR: And that's the kind of intelligence the US simply doesn't have at this point. And what if the girls have already been moved?

LEIGHTON: Each one is going to be in an individual house, probably in different buildings, maybe even in different cities, and that makes it really difficult to do a coordinated raid to go after them at exactly the same time.

STARR: Without all the raids at exactly the same time, Boko Haram would have advance warning the US is coming after them.

STARR (on camera): So, what could the US military offer? Well, perhaps drones flying overhead to begin to monitor Boko Haram's movements and communications, a first step to tracking them down.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


ANDERSON: All right, so you can add France and China to the list of nations helping Nigeria find the kidnapped girls, and France, as Barbara pointing out, there, saying it will send a specialized team. Beijing providing satellite and intelligence assistance.

Look, we lost Vladimir Duthiers just before we went to that report, which is why we went straight to it. Let's bring him back. I think we've reestablished him now. And we can see what the international community is now, some weeks on from these abductions doing to help the country out, the president saying that Boko Haram effectively on the run, this is the end of them.

It's not, is it, at this point? We've clearly seen another attack today, more people dead, and responsibility being taken by the terror group.

I was alluding to this hash tag #BringBackOurGirls earlier and reminding our viewers that many Nigerians themselves backed that hash tag across Twitter very early on. We're now seeing that resonating right around the world. How is this international support coming across on the ground?

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, I think that -- the fact that the president says that terror is on the run or that terror will come to an end because of these abductions, I think that what - - you're bringing up a very good point. The #BringBackOurGirls hash tag, which was launched and has gone viral around the world, has been immensely supported here in Nigeria and elsewhere.

And I think if anything, this is now a catalyst for turning the spotlight on the Nigerian government and the Nigerian military and their inability to get the job the done.

It's not necessary -- it doesn't necessarily mean that terrorism is going to end in Nigeria, because as we talked about, on Monday, there was an attack on a village near Cameroon. Some 300 people killed, many of them roasted alive in their shops.

An attack, again, by the vicious group Boko Haram. Their ability to seemingly attack at will is something that I think the Nigerian president is not able to address to the satisfaction of many people here, Becky.

ANDERSON: Vladimir Duthiers on the ground for you on a story that we will continue to broadcast until certainly those girls are found and this kind of nonsense stops. But as Vladimir says, people looking to the government and asking lots and lots of questions at this point.

The World Economic Forum, of course, in Abuja at the moment, the spotlight clearly on the wrong things, so far as those organizers are concerned.

Think of a cultural tourism destination and you might think of Florence, Vienna, or Prague, perhaps. You probably wouldn't immediately think of Libya, particularly in the light of the recent upheaval there. But as CNN producers Layla Maghribi found as she returned to discover her own heritage, there is plenty of Roman heritage to enjoy far from what are the maddening crowds.


LAYLA MAGHRIBI, CNN PRODUCER (voice-over): I went to Libya in 2004, when the country was still under the iron grip of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Ten years later, I went back to Libya for the first time after the revolution that toppled him.

The ongoing political turmoil and rampant violence have limited the country's visitors these days to those seeking headlines, money, or dangerous thrills.

I drove out two hours from the capital of Tripoli to the coast in search of something far more captivating: the ancient ruins of Leptis Magna.

Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and the hometown of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, Leptis Magna was once one of the most important cities in the Roman empire, one of the largest and most unspoiled Roman ruins in the world.

I roamed around the open-air museum with unlimited access. No guards, no guides, no tourists anywhere to be seen. The city's magnificent public baths were once the central meeting point for traders and politicians to exchange information. Today, their walls bear only the exchanges of graffiti tags.

As I walked through the city's remains, I imagined how the markets and imposing theaters must have once swarmed with residents, now completely abandoned, except for three sisters eagerly looking for a more glorious part of their Libyan history.


ANDERSON: Your Parting Shots this evening. I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you for watching.


JOHN DEFTERIOS, HOST: This week on MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST, boom or bust? An in-depth look at the most talked about economy in the region. I go to Dubai's financial hub in search of the answer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, guys. It's something really exciting --


DEFERIOS: From finance to beauty -- a look at how a growing business is part of the changing face of Dubai's economy. We meet the Kattan sisters, the women behind the success of Huda Beauty.

Welcome to MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST. This week, we're in the heart of the DIFC, the financial district of Dubai. It's a very different tone now than four years ago. Back then, financial markets were tumbling, ex-pats were leaving the country, and collectively, this sent shockwaves throughout the region. In 2014, the biggest challenge seems to be managing growth.


DEFTERIOS (voice-over): Optimism is back, and the governments says debt is under control. There are other signs of recovery. Last year, Dubai won the rights to host the 2020 Expo and was upgraded to emerging markets status by MSCI, both leading to an influx of capital.

It seems to be good times ahead for Dubai, and the numbers seem to bear out that optimism. The city is witnessing a flourishing property Market and a read-hot stock market. Over the past year, Dubai's index rose more than 120 percent, making it one of the best performing markets in the world.

And property prices rose about 22 percent in 2013. And the forecast is for growth of up to 15 percent his year.

While the numbers are still nowhere near pre-crisis levels, it's the speed in which things are moving right now that has some worried.


DEFTERIOS: Officially, the UAE is expecting growth of about 4.5 percent in 2014. But there are number of external factors at play, which is making it hard to predict, according to the economy minister, Sultan Al Mansoori.


SULTAN AL MANSOORI, UAE ECONOMY MINISTER: Mainly because of the situation that is in Europe, the US, and even the Far East, and the current situation, the political crisis in the region, all of this contributes to the slow of growth that we were hoping for.

Now, 4.5 to 4.7 is quite positive when you look at some of the negative growth that some of these countries have or also that some of the economies of the world have not really come up or performed according to the expectation for 2013.

DEFTERIOS: It seems like the biggest challenge right now is there's so much capital coming in, particularly because of the expo in 2020 and the construction boom, that you have to control inflation, whether it's airline tickets, hotels, restaurants. It's the external money coming into Dubai specifically.

MANSOORI: Absolutely. This is one issue that we have to handle, but we are known to be quite capable of really understanding how to put these kind of flow of cash into the country in the right direction, whether in the projects such as tourism, which we need, really, to invest more and more in the areas of tourism.

But also in other areas such as industries, such as infrastructure, and many other areas. Which at the end of the day, because of the stability and because of the growth that we have had, positive growth that we have had over the past few years, this is definitely another assurance for the investors here to come and invest and put their money in the UAE.

DEFTERIOS: But the rising cost of rent and the rising costs of actually house prices puts a lot of pressure on your government --


MANSOORI: Well, this --

DEFTERIOS: This is a reality, right? I'm watching it carefully.

MANSOORI: No, no, absolutely. This is something that we were asked to pay attention to. If you look at some of the local governments also, because this is where we're dealing with the levels of federal and local.

If you look at the local level, a lot of actions have been taken care of, making sure and assuring that the inflation does not increase to the level that it's going to be problematic for all of us.

And if you look at the period of time that we have, which is about almost six years before expo is going to be here in Dubai, we have the time also to make sure that the all factors affecting and influencing the increase of inflation are under control.

So, this is where local governments are coordinating with the government, which is federal, ministry of economy, as one example, to make sure that all of these are under control.

DEFTERIOS: What's the lesson you learned out of 2009-10 to make sure it doesn't happen again, where they hype goes well above expectations and it puts a lot of pressure and strains on the government to manage both a debt situation and hyper demand.

MANSOORI: Information advance, having the right data and information in advance. Coordination between the different governments, both at the level of president, and local institutions: financial, Economic Department, and many other areas.

We need to really have a connective information and data by which we could make our decisions in advance before these things happen. This is one of the best, maybe, lessons that we have learned from the crisis.


DEFTERIOS: So, the minister is suggesting vigilance when it comes to the data. Let's put those predictions to the test, here. Let's welcome Shady Sahher, he's the senior economist for the MENA region with Standard Chartered Bank here at the DIFC.

First and foremost, what is the greatest risk to Dubai? The way I see it in listening to the minister, it is the price pressures of all this capital flowing into the UAE overall.

SHADY SHAHER, MENA SENIOR ECONOMIST, STANDARD CHARTERED: One of the risks we see for the economy in 2014 is a risk of inflation, with housing being one of the biggest components of the inflation basket. At almost 40 percent, housing prices in the UAE and in Dubai in particular, rising over 2013 and 2014.

We see housing pressures potentially pushing inflation up from an estimated 2 percent in 2013 to about 4.5 percent in 2014.

DEFTERIOS: How about that debt? We haven't talked about Dubai's debt, particularly related to the government-related entities, if you will. Same as in November 2014 and into 2015, are we going to get a surprise, or is it well under control?

SHAHER: I think we're positive about Dubai, John, from that end. One aspect, the GDP of Dubai has been growing, and that's important in the long run for Dubai. Dubai needs to grow its GDP relative to its debt.

On the other, the performance of the entities over the Dubai, Inc., spectrum has been quite strong over 2013 and looks to be strong in 2014. It's important for these entities to perform well, to be able to pay off their debt.

DEFTERIOS: Shady Shaher of Standard Chartered Bank here in Dubai. Well, the financial crisis of 2009 and 2010 prompted some job shifting here in Dubai. When we come back, we profile Huda Kattan. With the help of her sister, she's taken on the beauty industry one eyelash at a time. We'll tell you how next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think the approach now is growth, but it's a mature growth. I think it's a bit slower than it was before, but I think that it's coming back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sense of Dubai being back and the Middle East being back is more palpable. People are spending a lot more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A big driver for the economy as more SMEs incorporate and hire people and rent office space and buy furniture and so on and so forth, that's a big stimulus to the economy.


DEFTERIOS: Some recognition, there, on the role of SMEs in the broader economy. Well, after the financial crisis, one family -- in fact, a group of sisters -- decided to leave the banking sector and move into the beauty business. They named their business after their middle sister. Now, they're selling products in 30 stores right across the region. Leone Lakhani has the story.


LEONE LAKHANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You've heard of the Kardashians, now meet the Kattans, three sisters originally from Iraq who are at the helm of Huda Beauty, the Dubai-based beauty brand.

This glamorous trio is used to being compared to the Hollywood reality stars. For starters, the physical resemblance is striking. And much like the Kardashians, it's hard to keep up with the Kattans. They're regulars in local fashion magazines. But that's where the comparisons end, they say.

HUDA KATTAN, FOUNDER, HUDA BEAUTY: They're beauty icons, so even to be compared to them as far as the way they look is flattering. But we're not really similar to them.

LAKHANI: These sisters say it's all about their business and building a beauty brand. Huda, the face of the brand, gave up a career in finance, trained as a makeup artist in Hollywood, and in 2010, started a beauty blog.

KATTAN: Hey, guys! So, I'm really excited today to show you guys how to use the Anastasia contour kit.

LAKHANI: It soon picked up followers from around the world, and today, she says, she gets more than a million views on her blog every month. The majority are from the United States and the UK.

KATTAN: People need to see how to use it, too.


LAKHANI: But on a visit to the shops in Dubai --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're so sweet, thank you so much.

LAKHANI: -- her fame in the Gulf Arab countries is also pretty evident. In 2013, Huda decided to use her popularity to launch her own product line at the high-profile beauty stores at Sephora. The first product was false eyelashes.

LAKHANI (on camera): So, this is where it all began. Why lashes as your first product?

KATTAN: It's something that I really know very well. And it's something that I feel can drastically change the way a woman not only looks, but feels.

LAKHANI (voice-over): After the successful launch of the lashes in Dubai, Sephora decided to sell them in all 30 of their stores in the Middle East. Still, they're up against stiff competition from other brands. But Huda insists her lash designs are different, and she's keen to show me.

KATTAN: I think we should try them on you.

LAKHANI (on camera): So, we're going to try these on me?


LAKHANI: I've never worn them before.

KATTAN: They're going to look gorgeous on you.

LAKHANI (voice-over): The lashes are just the beginning for the Kattans. Their second product, press-on nails, launches in March. Back at the office, the business appears to be a well-coordinated sister act. Older sister Alya, the social media guru --

ALYA KATTAN, MANAGING PARTNER, HUDA BEAUTY: I study the social media, and so I know what time to post things, and I pay attention to what pictures do well.

LAKHANI: Younger sister Mona is in charge of business development.

MONA KATTA, MANAGING PARTNER, HUDA BEAUTY: I used to work in investment banking, so I used to study a lot of companies, their financial statements and everything, so I think learning from a lot of people's mistakes and learning from a lot of people's success, it's helped me put plans together.

H. KATTAN: OK, turn a little bit toward me. Perfect. Close your eyes.

LAKHANI: Mona says Huda Beauty will slowly roll out other products over time.

H. KATTAN: Is it OK? Is it comfortable?

LAKHANI: But the lashes will be their first love as their first product. Time for me to reveal my new look.

H. KATTAN: There we go, perfect. Gorgeous!

LAKHANI (on camera): And we're done! The first time for me to wear lashes like this, so we've gone for a more natural look. I have to say, it feels a little bit strange still, but I'm sure I'll get used to it.

Leone Lakhani, CNN, Dubai.


DEFTERIOS: Leone Lakhani adding that little extra touch of glamour to the story. And that's all for this edition of CNN MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST this week. I'm John Defterios. Thanks for watching. We'll see you next week.