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Interview with Afghan Chief Executive Designate Dr. Abdullah Abdullah; Sebastiao Salgado Photographing Pristine Corners of the World

Aired September 22, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight from New York: at last, Afghanistan has the new president and once bitter rivals pledged to share

power in a historic new unity government. But can that really work? War or peace depend on it. And I'm speaking later exclusively to Dr. Abdullah

Abdullah who'll be the country's first ever chief executive.

Also ahead, as climate change take center stage around the world and here in New York with a major summit at the United Nations this week.

Photographer Sebastiao Salgado takes me on the tour of his breathtaking new exhibition revealing the surprisingly numerous unspoiled corners of our


Good evening, everyone. And welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York this week for the annual glat (ph) of global

presidents, prime ministers, kings and queens, otherwise known as the United National General Assembly. And all week, we'll be bringing you

interviews with leaders from today's most important crises points. And today we begin right at the top of the alphabet, with Afghanistan and its

chief executive, Dr. Abdullah who we hope we'll join us towards the end of this program.

It's a completely new position with power similar to that of prime ministers. It's a power sharing deal that was brokered by the United

States to break the deadlock in the country's presidential elections. Rival candidate Ashraf Ghani who was the former finance minister becomes



ASHRAF GHANI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT ELECT (through translator): This is a big victory for the Afghan nation, that for the first time in our bright

history, power is transformed from one elected president to another president based on the nation's votes.


AMANPOUR: Now, the United States Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the deal as a moment of extraordinary statesmanship. And it comes not a moment

too soon, of course, as Afghanistan falls over the financial abyss and a vicious onslaught is under way by the Taliban.

The United National General Assembly here in New York has come at one of the most tumultuous times in world affairs, and with the issues of ISIS and

Syria, the fate of the Iran nuclear talk, a war on the very borders of Europe between Russia and Ukraine, and of course, as we said, the global

threat of climate change all in the balance, we are going to go straight to our senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth to see what we can expect on the

talk (ph) for this week ahead.

Richard, what do you think is the single most important high profile drama that world leaders are going to be addressing?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very hard to comment. I mean if you ask someone suffering from Ebola in Sierra Leone, whether you ask Ukrainian

citizen on the border there with separatists and the Iranian nuclear (INAUDIBLE), there's a host of problems and crises for session number 69 in

the annual gabfest here at the General Assembly on the U.N. grounds here.

I think ISIS and the movement of Islamic extremism and the threat it poses is really issue number one for this General Assembly. Secretary of State

John Kerry met with his British counterpart this morning here in New York, talked to reporters and talked to the foreign secretary about how ISIS is

using rape, sexual assault in their vicious campaign, cutting a swath of territory out. He also wants to, of course, during this General Assembly

along with President Obama rally countries to join a coalition that would be able to move against ISIS. I think the U.S. would like to have deeper

commitments regarding military and other logistical forms of support, perhaps more than some of these countries, Arab neighbors are willing to

do, but certainly this will be key diplomacy this week here on that issue, along with the host of other problems for the members of the U.N. General


AMANPOUR: And Richard, we see, there is, of course, this climate summit coming up. How important is that?

ROTH: Advocates say it's the biggest summit ever. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General, for him, climate is issue number one. There's not going

to be any treaty signed here. The goal is to try to get up a new momentum to get the first ever legally binding international treaty regarding

climate change next year in Paris.

Of course, the United States has a divided Congress and the presidency. The White House saying, they want to make climate, revive it again as a top

political issue. However, the leaders of China and India will miss the one day special climate session, which is Tuesday, tomorrow, here in New York.

AMANPOUR: Richard, thank you, we are going to be checking in with you quite regularly, no doubt this week. And right now, though, we are going

to the other major country that we talked about, and that is Afghanistan. We go straight to Kabul where Dr. Abdullah Abdullah joins me on the phone

for his first interview since breaking the deadly impasse and now entering a power sharing deal.

Dr. Abdullah, welcome back to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, this is being hailed, Dr. Abdullah, all over the world, particularly here by the United States as a real act of statesmanship, and

people are congratulating you and the presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani for entering this deal. Can you tell me precisely what your role will be?

What is a chief executive's role?

ABDULLAH: This is defined in an agreement, in a linked here agreement with lots of details in it. And it's mainly implementation and execution of the

work of the cabinets of Afghanistan. Chairing the meeting of Council of Ministers and apart from the role of this (INAUDIBLE), which will later on

in two years' time in a Loya Jirga, which is like a grand assembly, it will be constitutional. Now, it's based on presidential decree, deal there's a

partiating (ph) element in the agreement which has been signed between both sides. So, it is a national unity government, by all sense of it. Senses

of it. And so it's partnership between - between two teams.

AMANPOUR: So, it's a classic sort of presidential and prime ministerial situation. Is that right?

ABDULLAH: I like to - it is - it is like that, and not in a parliamentary system, but like in the countries which have executive prime minister.

That's more similar to that.

AMANPOUR: Now, when you - when you signed this, and you went to the palace in Kabul, President Karzai obviously congratulated you, everybody said this

is a great day for the Afghan people. And he said to both of you, now I hope both of you can do what I couldn't do, what I didn't have enough time

or I simply wasn't able to do. What do you think are the most important things that he was talking about or that you feel need to be done?

ABDULLAH: A partial domain challenge is of the country, which the security situation, economic problems and also peace and reconciliation. There

issue of rule of law, the form of the system including what is most important for me, and I consider it as an achievement for our team, is the

reform of the electoral system in Afghanistan. You know, because of the - the sanctioning system and the problems in the electoral system and

electoral institutions, Afghanistan was close to a very serious crisis, especially in the parts of three man (ph), and we don't want this situation

to repeat it, to be repeated upon our people.

So, the reform of the electoral system and electoral institutions and reform as the whole rule of law. These are the main challenges that

Afghanistan is faced with. Our international relations needs to be put on the right footing, and reset with the international community, with our

neighboring countries, signing of bilateral security agreement and so far with NATO is critical. So, there is a lot to be done. And the agenda of

national unity government is challenging, one, and it's good that now there is such an arrangement that all potentials of the country and talent, which

exists and competence which exists could be used in order to make it a successful endeavor.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Abdullah, what date will the inauguration be, and what date will you sign the bilateral security agreement with NATO to keep the

residual force in Afghanistan?

ABDULLAH: At the moment, it is anticipated, it is more or less in a week's time, the inauguration is anticipated and then first week after the

inauguration during the first week, I don't see any problem of signing both agreements, so that is - that is - it was promised by both candidates, and

hopefully that will be achieved within that course of time.

AMANPOUR: OK. Now you two are very well known to the world. You were the former foreign minister, Dr. Ghani was the former finance minister. And

you've been very well known. Although many are praising this deal, there are obviously sceptics who wonder how it will work, you were a bit of

rivals during the campaign, there were these allegations of fraud. There has been a recount. How will it work? Do you think you can actually - you

know, do a whole, whole term as a power sharing government or will it fall apart?

ABDULLAH: I'm optimistic and I hope in the - in my part I can assure you that it was based on the realization of the need of partiating agreement of

national unity government. That was this on the need of the country. And that was in the best interests of the country. And there was no better

alternative than the formation of national unity government. And the realization of this need by both sides, and the challenges, which are ahead

of us as well as the opportunities which will be there. This will urge both sides towards the (INAUDIBLE) with the (INAUDIBLE) of partnership and

successes for everybody and for the people of Afghanistan, and god forbidding, failure will turn into a failure for everybody, so .

AMANPOUR: That's right.

ABDULLAH: With all the efforts campaigning and - and contest and very serious contest, with all the problems, which were there, we have reached

to a point that we signed the agreement and thanks for the facilitation by the United States, the United Nations, the international community as a

whole, which helped us facilitate, to achieve this agreement. And from no won it will be - it will be strategic failure if anybody that's not takes

responsibility for his own share to make it work, so hopefully, and Inshallah (ph), it will work in the best interests of the country.

AMANPOUR: Now in the meantime, obviously, we've been watching everybody from afar, the wrangling, the squabbling over, the final deal that you've

reached to now. And we understand there is some severe financial crisis. You have a lot of short fall in terms of the government being able to

operate. But also, very ominously, the Taliban has taken advantage of this vacuum and they are practically close to retaking Helmand as well as having

made significant advances elsewhere. What is your plan for dealing with the Taliban, either to beat them back or is there a negotiation planned


ABDULLAH: It will be for the national unity government to analyze its policy in that regard, but as far as I am concerned, that's while we have

to defend our people like (INAUDIBLE) Taliban at the same time sooner rather than later, the start - the start of serious and genuine talks with

the Taliban from our part is necessary.

What if the Taliban will sees this as an opportunity or the- still, big deal seat and the thing that they can - they can overthrow the government

by force that will be a different issue. I don't think that they will achieve their goal by force, but at the same time, the government of

national unity should - should prove its serious, sincere and genuine intentions for the people of Afghanistan as well as those who are fighting

against the people of Afghanistan. That we want to put the end to the conflict, but it's not one-sides, make the decision and that will - that

will work. It takes both sides to have a realization of such.

AMANPOUR: And very quickly, in your - in your mandate as chief executive, you also have national security responsibilities. Is that correct?

ABDULLAH: We will be part of the national security council, and our team will be - members of the national security council, and certainly while the

president will be the commander-in-chief and the head of national security council, at the same time, the - our team as members of the national

security council will have its own share of responsibility.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, new chief executive of Afghanistan. Thank you so much for joining me today.

And when it comes to the Taliban as we know, drones have been NATO, the United States main weapon of war, but drones, as we know, have also got

their peace time uses as well. Take this remarkable aerial photography of Sunday's massive climate march here in New York. It shows the scale of the

outpouring as it makes its way past the urban Eden known as Central Park.

And after a break, what if you could return to a real Garden of Eden? Before the encroachment of pollution and political expedience? It exists

over a whopping half of our planet, and the world's renowned photographer Sebastiao Salgado has been there and back with the collection of images

that will astonish and inspire. That's next.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Climate change is back on the global agenda, and people are speaking with their feet. From Tokyo to

Bogota to London and here in New York. Hundreds of thousands of people marched this weekend flooding the street and demanding action as world

leaders gather here for a climate summit at the U.N. this week.

Among the crowd in New York was the world's renowned photographer Sebastiao Salgado who spent most of the past decade traveling the world and

documenting the pristine beauty of our planet. He called his project Genesis. And he says that "in Genesis my camera allowed nature to speak to

me and it was my privilege to listen." Salgado's masterful and massive opus has attracted more than 2 million visitors, since it opened.

And now it's come to the International Center for Photography in New York where we met earlier today to discuss his passion to inspire our passion to

protect the planet.


AMANPOUR: So, here it is Sebastiao Salgado "Genesis." Why did you decide to call this "Genesis?"

SEBASTIAO SALGADO, PHOTOGRAPHER, "GENESIS": Well, for me it's the most precise word to describe (INAUDIBLE), we live yet inside of heaven (ph).

AMANPOUR: We are still living in what was biblically the Garden of Eden and Genesis?

SALGADO: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: Sebastiao, when you travel on this amazing expedition and see such beauty, it's not for your work, is it? Isn't this just a fabulous

pleasure to do this?

SALGADO: It is. It is much easier because this place, if they are protect, it's because they are or too far, or too high, or too dry or too


AMANPOUR: This is hard to get there?

SALGADO: It's harder to get there, you must real organize expedition. That is a pleasure, is a privilege, I believe that's the big (ph) gift to

the person. We can give to themselves, we give to us to go to this place.

AMANPOUR: But it's fantastic. And now here we are in the Galapagos Islands.


AMANPOUR: And this is a massive turtle. Tell me the story about taking this picture, because it looks like you are way down at his level.

SALGADO: You know, that was the first animal that they went to photograph. Before I had photograph on (INAUDIBLE) or us.

AMANPOUR: This is the first time you didn't shoot people, you shot an animal?

SALGADO: Absolutely. It was the first time. And I tried to photograph to get that (INAUDIBLE), the personality of this turtle. And she - she was

afraid. I tried (INAUDIBLE). In a month I was tired. I put myself on my knees. I saw that she start to move. I came down, (INAUDIBLE) my

shoulders, are you going to my shoulders to - she came to me.

AMANPOUR: These are the most remarkably beautiful women, their bodies are amazing, they look untouched. What is this?

SALGADO: We were away (INAUDIBLE). With not changing 10,000 years. These people lives exact like we lived 10,000 years before. They don't know very

well cameras, but they know that you are capturing their (INAUDIBLE).

AMANPOUR: It is unusual or not that they allow a stranger to come and take pictures of them, in all their vulnerability?

SALGADO: They are not naked.

AMANPOUR: They are not naked.

SALGADO: They are completely dressed with the color that they are putting on their skin, their clothes are the color that they put on themselves. If

they don't put the color, they ask you not to photograph them.

AMANPOUR: And what is the color?

SALGADO: The color is quite reddish, you can see by the grace that a special grace. And for them naked - or not naked in the sense (ph) they

were not clothed. Normal. Human being. One born - born like this. That is so natural. The clothes came left (ph).

AMANPOUR: What do you want this work to tell people? How do you wanted to touch the people who come and look at these amazing photographs?

SALGADO: And this full (INAUDIBLE) are kind of a state of a union of the planet. It's the cross-section of what we must have reserved, if you want

to survive, as a species, we must protect what these pictures represent and we must rebuild part what we destroy if we want to survive, as a species.

AMANPOUR: There's a terrible crisis of poaching. People are calling it now almost like organized crime, then using submachine guns to kill

elephants and rhinos and others. What did you find in Zambia, for instance when you were photographing the elephants?

SALGADO: Well, for the first time in Zambia we were attacked by an elephant. Elephant attacked our car. You can see .

AMANPOUR: Is this that one? That's running towards you?

SALGADO: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: I saw you had serious courage to stand in front of that and take the picture.

SALGADO: Well, you see, because these guys that killed the elephants inside of the national parks, they come by car. And elephants now know

that when they see a car, they are in danger. And they attack.

AMANPOUR: You have traveled this exhibition around, all over the world. How many people do you think have seen this?

SALGADO: I believe that for now we have a little bit more than 2 million people that saw these pictures around the world.

AMANPOUR: That's huge, 2 million people. And all of those could be motivated.

SALGADO: Absolutely. And I hope that they were. That the people - while wave (ph) that come inside the shore, they will be not the same going out

of this shore.

AMANPOUR: You said what's happening to the planet, should raise a red light in our brains, should raise an alarm in our brains, in our minds.

SALGADO: Yeah. We are a very recent species in our planet. We have species that have lived much more long than us, or the dinosaurs. They

lived for more than 150 million years. They disappeared most 100 million years ago. We are just arriving in our planet. A few hundreds of

thousands, a few millions of years. And we can disappear and disappear very quick.

AMANPOUR: We can disappear just like the dinosaurs did.

SALGADO: We can disappear much more fast than the dinosaur because we are acting in the way that our planet functions (ph) out of it.

AMANPOUR: So, what are you saying is, that we, the human species, are contributing to our own extinction.

SALGADO: Completely. We are not pay attention to this.

AMANPOUR: Through your work, you really show your connection with all your subjects, throughout all the work that you've done and here with the

planet. You are connected to it. It feels like it's speaking to us. What is it that you want us to understand about our relationship to all of this

beauty, all of this, this planet that we live in?

SALGADO: Everything around us is alive, very alive. All of these mountains, all of these rivers, all of these trees, they are as alive as we

are. We are an animal. We are part of the animal species. We are part of all this. We are nature.

AMANPOUR: Sebastiao Salgado, thank you very much indeed.

SALGADO: My pleasure. Thank you.


AMANPOUR: Our guide to the pristine corners of our world. And after a break, imagine if they gave a climate summit with over 100 heads of state

in attendance, and the leader of the most populous nation on Earth as well as the number one polluter on Earth was a no show. The sound of silence

when we come back.


AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, we've seen how half a million people marched on Sunday here in New York and in other cities from Paris to Tokyo

demanding action on climate change. Now imagine another significant rally, this one a call for political reform across the water from the world's

worst polluter. An estimated 13,000 students banded together today at the Chinese University of Hong Kong to mark a week long boycott of classes.

It's the latest salvo aimed at the mainland government, a two-years struggle for press freedom, democratic elections and autonomy for Hong

Kong. Organized and led by teenagers, some as young as 15.

Some are comparing this youth movement to the student protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square 25 years ago, incurring the scorn of China's state run

media that refers to the dissidents as extremists. While the government continues to ignore their demand. It's a deepening silence that's also

being heard here in New York where hundreds of thousands, as we said, and shown you took to the streets over the weekend. More than 120 heads of

state are expected to attend this week's climate summit, including President Obama whose United States is the world' second largest polluter

now. China, Russia and India polluters one, three and four, will be represented, but not by their heads of state.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember, we'll be here all week with top interviews. You can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for watching and good bye from New York.