Return to Transcripts main page


Boko Haram's Reign of Terror Escalates; Execution in Saudi Arabia Sparks Condemnation; Ebola Mutations May Thwart Drugs; West Must Prepare for Future Epidemics; Historic Meeting Between US and Cuba; Parting Shots: Venturing Through "No-Go Zones"

Aired January 21, 2015 - 11:00   ET



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My first duty as Commander-in-Chief is to defend the United States of America. In doing so,

the question is not -- in doing so, the question is not whether America leads in the world, but how.


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Obama laying out his vision of the U.S. abroad in his State of the Union Address. But does the rhetoric match the

reality? We'll be looking at that over the next hour on Connect the World with our reporters in the Middle East, in Russia and in Africa.

Also ahead, a key U.S. ally in the war on terror convulses in conflict. A live update on Yemen's crisis in just a moment.

And Netanyahu heads to Washington.

We'll look at the Republican speaker's challenge to Obama just hours after that State of the Union Address.

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

ANDERSON: Now just after 8:00 in the evening here in the UAE, we start this show in a country that is home to one of the deadliest branches

of al Qaeda, but wasn't mentioned once in President Obama's State of the Union even as an apparent coup unfolded.

At the very hour, Mr. Obama delivered his address Yemen's capital was in chaos. The Shiite Houthi rebels taking over the presidential palace.

These are some of the latest pictures from Sanaa. The situation there still very much in flux.

CNN's senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh has been monitoring the situation on the ground joining us now from Sanaa -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, at this stage we simply still do not know, as dusk has fallen here, who is in

charge of the country. And we know that the president is still in his residence. He's said to be safe. He's said by Yemeni official to still

consider himself president because -- and this is true -- that the Houthi movement, their top leader, have not asked for the government to be

dissolved or said that he is no longer the president.

But it's clear the Houthis are in control of the capital here on the street level. They control a key military headquarters here, it seems.

Also, the presidential palace, and outside the presidential residence, where the president is, they are the guards. We didn't see any of the

Republican guard around there, just a lot of at times young looking Houthi militiamen. And if you ask them who is the president. They said, well,

it's us. It's the people.

So, a mixed picture here. We know the prime minister has left the republican palace, a different building, where he holed up for some time

for a private residence, suggests perhaps maybe that he's keeping out of the public eye.

But it is unclear that there appear to be talks going on in the background. It's unclear quite where they are going at this stage.

Rumors, potentially, of some sort of agreement, but the key question is how much of the power do the Houthis want? They have the streets. Do they

want the presidency in name or purely to be those who pull the strings behind it and were now for President Hadi -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yeah. And where now for al Qaeda, they're the franchise in Yemen powerful as we know. And within this vacuum, how significant is the

-- the fact that they just last week or the week before taking responsibility for the attack in Paris, of course.

So what next for al Qaeda there?

WALSH: Well, I"m sure they're on the sidelines here watching this unfold. The Shia Houthi movement are often against them in the battle

lines around the country. And at times there are Sunni tribes who almost look to al Qaeda to assist them in defending themselves, what they consider

the march forwards of the Shia Houthis.

So, every time chaos befalls Yemen, it clearly benefits al Qaeda, because it weakens the institutions that are trying to track them down and

assist western agencies and the U.S. drone program here from targeting al Qaeda leadership around the country. But also, too, an increasingly

sectarian nature of the violence here as across the region in the Middle East where Sunni versus Shia becomes a rather troubling common narrative.

al Qaeda, I'm sure, are looking at that here and seeing potential room for increased -- of increased influence because of that, Becky.

ANDERSON: Nick, who knows whether the president or the prime minister of Yemen had a chance last night to listen to Obama's speech. If they had

done, will they have been disappointed to have noted that Yemen not even mentioned?

WALSH: Well, I think really to a degree Yemen was held out as a success story by Obama previously. Clearly that isn't the case now.

There's been a curtailing of drone activity here. It's not happening, but not on the scale as it was two years ago.

And I think to some degree there are those who believe that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula came off the spotlight, became less of an

intensive public focus for U.S. foreign policy in the past couple of years simply because the focus drifted towards ISIS eventually once Washington

decided they were an imminent threat towards American interests.

So, I think to a degree here there will be Yemenis who are concerned they seem to no longer be a priority. Perhaps the collapse here of

government, or imminent collapse, will alter that in the days ahead. But I think to a degree Yemen has been certainly pushed aside by the increased

focus on ISIS regardless of how many U.S. officials still consider al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to be the preeminent threat against U.S. interests

globally, Becky.

ANDERSON: Nick Paton Walsh with what is a confusing picture in Sanaa in Yemen tonight.

Well, in Obama's speech the U.S. president made just one reference to America's long-time ally Israel. That pertained to the Iran nuclear

negotiations. And in that regard, Mr. Obama fired a warning shot at congress saying the threat of more U.S. sanctions is counterproductive and

could derail those talks with Iran.

Well, congressional Republicans appear to be hitting back. A short time ago, we learned that the House Speaker John Boehner has invited

Israel's prime minister to speak about Iran before congress later this month or in February, sorry, and Mr. Netanyahu has accepted that

invitation. We believe it to be February 11.

Let's get more on this political sparring that's playing out in Washington over Israel. Our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott

joining us from Jerusalem.

And Elise, less than 24 hours after Obama reiterates his vow to veto any further sanctions on Iran, the Israeli prime minister accepts this

invitation to speak before congress.

How will that go down at the White House?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House is trying to downplay that it's a big deal, Becky, saying that you know leaders often

come to address House and the Senate kind of both parts of congress. But it is a kind of poke in the eye to the president, to the White House,

because of what happened last night and the fact that these type of visits are usually very closely coordinated with the White House, especially when

we're talking about a U.S. ally and we're talking about a sensitive subject.

So the fact that a day after the president kind of put down the gauntlet and said he would threaten this veto -- even veto this -- any

legislation imposing sanctions against Iran, for the congress to invite Prime Minister Netanyahu is really a very provocative act as we say in

international affairs.

ANDERSON: Obama failing to make any reference to a Palestinian state in his State of the Union Address on Tuesday night, but assuring Israel of

protection presumably from Iran.

It is reported that Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking an audience, as it were, with the president of the U.S. when he speaks before congress on

February 11. Will he get that?

LABOTT: I think he probably will. I mean, you know it's not the first time the prime minister has come to the U.S. and the president was

not available. But right now those sensitive negotiations are going on with the Iranians and clearly this is a very important issue to Israel and

the United States knows that.

Look, at the end of the day a lot of these negotiations are about preventing an Israeli attack against Iran. Israel has said that it will

act if the international community does not get a deal that makes Israel comfortable, that it will take matters into its own hands. And that's what

a lot of these negotiations are about, about thwarting that threat, which would really kind of open up another can of worms in this already volatile


So, I expect that the president will meet with him. I don't think he'll snub him like he has in the past, Becky.

ANDERSON: Elise Labott in Jerusalem for you this evening.

Well, Russia's involvement in Ukraine also came up in Barack Obama's State of the Union address. He says opposition to what Russia's been doing

there upholds the principal that, and I quote, bigger nations can't bully the small.

The U.S. president added that thanks to firm opposition from the U.S. and Russia -- and Europe, sorry, Russia is isolated with its economy in

tatters as he put it.

Well, CNN's Matthew Chance is in Moscow. And he joins us now. Reaction from the Kremlin fairly swift. What was it?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Well, certainly reaction from the Russian foreign ministry. Sergei Lavrov, the

foreign minister, giving a press conference which was meant to be a review of Russia's diplomatic achievements in 2014, but for much of it turned into

a rant against the United States saying that the United States' efforts to isolate Russia would fail.

He said that Mr. Obama's State of the Union speech showed that the United States still wants to dominate the world -- and I'm quoting here --

and cannot merely be first among equals.

And so very critical remarks such as that.

The foreign minister of Russia also batting off suggestions, or allegations rather that have been made by the Ukrainian government that

within the past 48 hours or so Russian troops have crossed the border into Ukraine, are engaged in fighting with the Ukrainian government forces in

eastern Ukraine alongside pro-Russian rebels. That's an allegation, of course, that's been made many times in the past. It's been made again by

the Ukrainian government, as I say in the past 36 hour or so.

The foreign minister saying that, look, you know, if there was -- if this was the case show us some evidence of this. So far, he said he hasn't

seen any evidence that indicates that's the case.

And so again denials coming from Russia that they've got anything to do materially with the fighting in eastern Ukraine. But nothing really new

came out of those remarks that Sergei Lavrov made -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Ukraine is one issue, the need for Russian support for the west with other issues, not least the civil war with Syria and the talks

with Iran.

What's the consequence of the seemingly ever deteriorating U.S.-Russia relations?

CHANCE: Well, you know, that's a really good question. And from the outset of this confrontation between Russia and the west, particularly the

confrontation between Russia and the United States, there has been that question looming over the other areas where there is cooperation.

You mentioned the nuclear talks with Iran, but also the negotiations or the attempts to bring the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition

together for a peace conference. These are objectives that the United States has. And those objectives are shared by Russia. And for the past

several years, Russia, particularly on the Iranian nuclear issue, has been cooperating with the other members of the Security Council plus Germany, of

course, to try and bring Iran to the negotiating table and to deliver a result from those negotiations.

At the moment, those different strands of cooperation are still isolated from each other, but of course if the relationship deteriorates

further I mean no one is ruling out the possibility that Russia could change tack. I mean, already it's forging a much closer relationship with

Iran than it did previously, and obviously that could turn into an alliance against the rest of the world.

ANDERSON: Matthew Chance in Moscow for you.

Still to come tonight, fighting radical Islam. I speak with a former British Prime Minister Toy Blair and ask him whether some of his decisions

contributed to the current threat of extremism. Well, that is in five minutes time.

And a video of a woman beheaded in Saudi Arabia has gone viral. We'll have that in about 30 minutes.


ANDERSON: This is CNN and Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. It is 14 minutes past 8:00 in the UAE.

France ramping up anti-terror efforts in the wake of the Paris attacks. The French prime minister has announced what he called, quote,

exceptional measures to respond to the growing threat.

Valls says some 3,000 people with jihadist ties need to be under surveillance across France. And the country will spend nearly $500 million

over the next three years to fight extremism.

Well, the attack on the kosher market in Paris brought together two men with a connection to Africa -- Amedy Coulibaly who killed four people

and Lassana Bathily who saved lives that day.

Jim Bittermann with this report.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When the guns were blazing at the kosher supermarket, few realized that the story brought

together two generations of African immigrants. The terrorist gunman was born to parents who emigrated from Mali, but raised a Frenchman. The hero

who saved six people in the baseball freezer also came from Mali, but much later, 2006. With his actions he has now been made a French citizen,

something he badly wanted.

The late arrival, desperate to become French; the native rejecting the society around him. The French prime minister thinks he has an

explanation. The immigrants and the children of immigrants face, in his words, social and territorial apartheid.

The immigrants know what they left behind and want to work their way up, their children know what they are being denied and feel left out.

Culturally lost is the way one who knows the gritty public housing projects describes it.

MAJID EL JARROUDI, ACENCY FOR ENTREPRENEURIAL DIVERSITY: You are discriminated because you come from those territories. And then

(inaudible) racism in France. And it's difficult when you are black, Arab, Chinese, because our society doesn't include everyone.

Our (inaudible) doesn't treat the youth in those territories the same way they treat every citizen.

BITTERMANN: Many say education is one way to get at the problem, but at a school filled with second and third generation immigrants, a teacher

struggles to change the minds of his students who are offended by Charlie Hebdo's drawings.

ERIC BETENCOURT, TEACHER (through translator): The students felt it was a sort of suicide by the journalists despite the fact they've received

many warnings they continued doing what they were doing in full knowledge of the risks.

BITTERMANN: Many think its cartoonist just got what they deserved.

A high school student who declined to be identified would not participate in the government ordered moment of silence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Charlie Hebdo shouldn't have done the cartoons. I didn't respect the moment of silence. In fact,

the majority of my class didn't do it.

BITTERMANN: Latifa ibn Ziaten immigrated from Morocco. Her son joined the French army and was killed in France more than two-and-a-half

years ago by a French terrorist Mohammed Mara (ph) whose parents came from Algeria.

After her loss, she established what she calls the Association for Youth and Peace, trying to bring young people into mainstream French


The family, she believes, is key.

LATIFA IBN ZIATEN, IMAD IBN ZIATEN'S MOTHER (through translator): There are many differences between my son and Mohammed Mara (ph), because

this young man was also a victim. Had he come from a family that had raised him well, that have given him desire for life, maybe he would still

be here with my child.

BITTERMANN: The French prime minister said he knew what the problem was 10 years ago when the same French suburbs exploded in flames and

violence. Billions have been spent to turn things around since. Many believe then the riots would be a wakeup call, but the discrimination,

unemployment, poverty and exclusion don't seem to have gone away both inside and outside the immigrant communities. Many hope this time things

will be different.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.


ANDERSON: Well, as current leaders try to tackle the threat of extremism, some critics are blaming past and present leaders themselves in

a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos with the former British prime minister Tony Blair.

A comment from the floor suggested that Blair's decision to join the then President George W. Bush in the U.S.-led war in Iraq was part of the

problem we now have with radical Islam.

I spoke to Blair earlier and asked him if he agreed with that.


TONY BLAIR, FRM. BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Really, I mean, you know, 9/11 happened before either Afghanistan or Iraq. And I think when you see

what's happening in France today and Belgium, in Libya, in Yemen, in Nigeria, in Mali, in Central African Republican, in central Asia, out in

the Far East, this is a global problem. Now you can debate the wisdom, or otherwise, of decisions of 12 years ago, but the fact is this has been

building up a long time in many different parts of the world. I think it's based on an abuse of religion.

And that's one of reasons why for me the single most important thing is as well as taking the security measures that are necessary in order to

combat this, that we also go directly to the root cause of this, which is an ideology that is taught and learned in school systems, formal and

informal the world over. And if we don't deal with that, we don't get to the root of the problem.

ANDERSON: Do you accept that you played any role in the current religious instability in the Middle East by going to war with Iraq.

BLAIR: Well, of course I accept responsibility for those decisions and for the removal of Saddam. I mean, that's self-evident. Although,

whether it will be a better position today if he was still trying to cling on to power in what was happening in Iraq was the same as happening next

door in Syria is another argument altogether.

But I don't think -- look, it doesn't explain what is happening. You know, as I say, this is a debate that we can have and we can carry on

having, but it doesn't explain why around the world today you've got this problem of a minority, but a significant minority, some of whom are engaged

in fanaticism and extremism, and some of whom are not engaged in the actual act of extremism but share the basic ideology.

And that's why I keep saying if you look at, for example, some of the radical clerics and you find they've got Twitter followings running into

millions of people and you see, for example, the statement of the Muslim Brotherhood on the rights of women, you know, then you start to see that

this is part of a broader and bigger problem, which we're going to have to solve.

So, in the end -- you know, you -- we can carry on thinking this is something that we have caused, or we can understand it's something we're

caught up in. It's something we're intimately engaged in. And it's something that we're going to have to be part of putting right in alliance

with other countries across the world who are helping also to fight this, including by the way, a large number of Muslim leaders in Muslim countries

who know this is a real problem that has to be dealt with.


ANDERSON: Tony Blair speaking to me earlier from Davos.

Live from Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. Coming up, Boko Haram's rein of terror in Nigeria is escalating. What the

group is now said to be claiming responsibility for is just ahead.

But first to Ghana where a startup is turning natural materials like coconut husks and coral into jewelry. That is up next here on CNN in your

African Startup.



NAA KORKOI, FOUNDER, INKA ACCESSORIES: Hello, my name is Naa Korkoi. I'm the founder of INKA Accessories in Ghana and welcome to my workshop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based in Cape Coast in the southern part of Ghana, Korkoi started INKA Accessories in 2008 after a debut in the International

Young Fashion Entrepreneur of the Year competition held by the British counsel in Ghana.

KORKOI: We do more beaded jewelry than anything else. And we collect a lot of our (inaudible) here in Ghana. Beads in the Ghanaian culture go

hand in hand. So it comes out very well, it sits very well with our traditions as well.

I started dabbling with jewelry and beads in my teens. And as I grew up my grandmother had a whole collection of them as well. So that pushed

me further.

I'll make something little, wear it, and my friends and family loved it. Then I realized I had the skills, it was a talent. I didn't have to

go to school to study these things. Gradually I've been able to build up a business via my own hardwork.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Korkoi now has six full-time employees who make her design.

KORKOI: I've been collecting beads for quite some time now, ever since I dreamed of the idea of making this into a business I collect.

So I collect from Ghana, but I tend to recycle a lot. so I have been using a lot of the things around me, for instance stones, shells, all sorts

of things. And they come out beautifully. And that's how I get a lot of my beads to work with.

So the snail shells are things I collect. Basically I use whatever I can get my hands on. I use coconut husk which are dried and shaped. I use

stones. I use the shells from the sea. You know, I can collect just about anything to use and shape to make into an art piece.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Though Korkoi now has her own shop, starting out wasn't so easy.

KOROI: You cannot easily get financed from the banks, because it's very risky for them to know how these things will turn out. And the

creative industry is always like that. But there is the way. Once you started, you're taking the first step, you just keep going and I'm sure

I'll get there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Korkoi has big dreams for her company and the Ghanaian fashion industry.

KORKOI: I'd love to own a proper fashion school, so we're training up and coming fashion entrepreneurs and we're based in Ghana. They could come

from anywhere. We train them to fine tune their talents, making them export ready. We probably would own one of the biggest shops in Ghana

where we could find just about anything authentic to buy. So that's where INKA is going and heading to.



ANDERSON: This is CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson. You're watching CNN. It is just after half past 8:00 in Abu Dhabi. The top

stories for you this hour.

A Yemeni official tells CNN that the president of the country still considers himself to be in power. Shiite Houthi rebels overran the

presidential palace in an ongoing power struggle. The government official, though, says it's clear the rebels are the dominant force in the Yemeni

capital, but no one has asked the president, he said, to step down.

The French prime minister Manuel Valls says exceptional measures are being put in place in response to what he calls a "change of scale" in the

terrorist threat there. He says some 3,000 people need to be put under surveillance across France for jihadist ties, and that nearly 2700 new jobs

will be created to counter the threat, many of them in the intelligence services.

Israeli police say a Palestinian man from the West Bank stabbed nine passengers in a bus in Tel Aviv. Four of the victims were seriously

wounded. The suspect was shot in the leg by police and is now in custody.

The president of Cameroon says troops have freed a German many who was being held captive by Boko Haram militants. No details were offered about

the operation that procured his release.

It came a day after video emerged in which Boko Haram appears to claim responsibility for a massacre in a northeast Nigerian town earlier this

month. In the video, the group's self-described leader is said to confirm that the group killed, by some estimates, as many as 2,000 people in Baga

and in neighboring villages.

Well, US president Barack Obama made no mention of Boko Haram's escalating attacks in West Africa during his State of the Union address.

The UN has condemned the terror group and asked regional powers to work together to stop the militants. CNN's Diana Magnay has more now on the

group's brutal reach.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There was little doubt who was behind the massacre at Baga, but now in a new video

message released on social media, the man purporting to be the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, claimed responsibility for the horror there,

saying he killed in the name of the Prophet.

With troops from Chad now in Cameroon to help fight Boko Haram there, and regional powers in Niger discussing plans to revive a multinational

joint task force, Shekau showed off the stockpile he says he'd seized from the military base at Doron Baga and dared African nations to take him on.

Even now, more than two weeks after the assault on Baga, the exodus continues. The calm waters of Lake Chad belying the horrors these people,

most of them Muslim, are leaving behind, 19,000 have fled Nigeria in recent days, according to the UNHCR, adding to the 130,000 who've already sought

refuge in Chad, Cameroon, and Niger. And that's not even counting the million or so internally displaced.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw many people who have stayed at that time, but I don't know how many people are dead. Some other people are saying

that 1,000 people, some are saying that 2,000 people have been killed.

MAGNAY: The young men in the villages running for their lives after they saw their army do the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After the soldiers are running, passing, all speed, they are moving in their uniforms and got in front of us. Then we

say let us get out of this town. We can't fight with this Boko Haram.

MAGNAY: In the town of Yola in Nigeria's Adamawa state, one of three under a state of emergency, thousands wait in camps for a return home that

may never come. They fled their towns along the border with Cameroon last year as Boko Haram swept through the region.

They explained how then, there was the possibility of survival under Boko Haram's watch if you pretended to support the militants.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People were about to go to town again to go and look for the medicine. When they're saying go there, they would say that

and turn their trousers like this. When you turn your trousers, you will just carry this so that you show that you are their members.

MAGNAY: But after the devastation of Baga, it seems that Boko Haram is prepared to spare no one, and with each atrocity, they simply grow more


Diana Magnay, CNN, Johannesburg.


ANDERSON: And Di joins me now from Johannesburg. Diana, we've been discussing the US president's remarks and his omissions in his State of the

Union address last night. No mention of Nigeria. What is the state of US involvement in or assistance with Boko Haram rebellion there?

MAGNAY: Well, the US is involved. For example, there was a meeting in the capital of Niger yesterday of all the regional powers discussing how

to get this sort of regional army together and under what mandate and how it could look and how it would operate.

And the assistant deputy secretary -- sorry, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, she was present on an observer status. So --

and in Nigeria itself, the US has offered training assistance, it offers intelligence-gathering assistance.

So really, what it's trying to do, and other international partners, is to be an advisory partner and to do what it can to any kind of regional

force that is established by the African countries surrounding Nigeria.

And I think that is the purpose of US involvement in this, not to take the front stance. Certainly not to put boots on the ground, but to assist

a regional force in any way that it can, Becky.

ANDERSON: What do we know of the recent release of a German there?

MAGNAY: So, this was a man who was kidnapped in the northern Adamawa state in Nigeria in July last year. He was a German teacher, kidnapped by

Boko Haram militants.

And Paul Biya, the Cameroonian president, says that it was a special forces operation -- we don't know on which side of the border -- assisted

by the security services of "friendly countries," he put it, which managed to secure his release.

It is impressive that the Cameroonians are able to do what the Nigerians clearly haven't been able to do. One German citizen released,

though, and so many other hundreds of Nigerian citizens still under Boko Haram's -- in Boko Haram captivity. Beck?

ANDERSON: Diana Magnay reporting.

The fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria was one of the many topics that President Obama raised during his State of the Union. He says the US

is working with a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and destroy ISIS.

Well, that coalition includes Saudi Arabia. But the kingdom is coming under fire for a video that has gone viral. In it, a woman is beheaded.

Now, despite international condemnation, the kingdom says it is adhering to Sharia law. And we warn you, this report has graphic subject matter.


ANDERSON (voice-over): "I did not kill! I did not kill!" the woman screams over and over in Arabic. A Saudi executioner in white garb lifts

his sword. He strikes her neck three times. A scene too graphic to show.

The beheaded woman's charges are hurriedly read over loudspeaker. The Saudi government says she was found guilty of raping her 7-year-old

stepdaughter with a broomstick and beating her to death. In a statement, the Saudi kingdom said, "A royal decree was issued to carry out the Sharia

law in accordance with what is right."

ANDERSON (on camera): What has shocked the international community is that measures perceived by many as brutal and medieval are still being

handed down by the Saudis in 2015. After all, the kingdom is a leading US ally engaged in the fight against the radical extremists of ISIS, who

employ similar measures.

ANDERSON (voice-over): In the Saudi kingdom, judges abide by scripture to punish as they see fit. But the monarchy has begun

discussions about establishing written guidelines. Not easy in such a conservative society.

To find out more, I spoke with Abdulaziz Algasim, a former Sharia law judge in the capital of Riyadh.

ANDERSON (on camera): How is that video viewed within the kingdom.

ABDULAZIZ ALGASIM, FORMER SHARIA JUDGE: According to the Holy Koran, the murder has to be punished by the same action, which is capital

punishment. And this is now in Saudi Arabia is out of the discussion.

ANDERSON: You have said that there, within the next couple of years, may be an opportunity to use lethal injection, for example, as opposed to

beheading. Do you think that's supported by the government?

ALGASIM: From a pure Sharia point of view, there is no limitation for developing -- executing this punishment. So, basically, there is no

limitation or no prohibition to develop this.

ANDERSON: But experts say the conservative kingdom may already be slowly moving away from its traditional practices. But any change will be

led by Saudis for Saudis. And with the help of the ruling monarch in question, instability on its borders, and the growing threat of ISIS, any

advances will be balanced with political stability.

Becky Anderson, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


ANDERSON: And you're watching us live from Abu Dhabi. This is CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson. Coming up, an historic meeting

taking place between the US and Cuba today In the Cuban capital. A live report from Havana in about ten minutes' time for you. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: It's been countries in West Africa that have borne the brunt of the Ebola outbreak in 2014, and as we move into 2015, the search

for drugs to fight the deadly virus may face yet another obstacle.

A new study published in the journal mBio found the virus is changing, mutating. Researchers say that that could impact the effectiveness of

experimental drugs that are now in development. While there is no cure for -- or vaccine for Ebola right now, doctors in West Africa do the best that

they can.

CNN has been closely following the latest epidemic since it began, as you'll know, if you're a regular viewer. Here's a reminder of just what

those doctors are up against.


SOLA MOSES, DOCTOR CARING FOR EBOLA PATIENTS: Life is rough and then you die. What else can we do? If we don't do it, who will do it for us?

So, we have to take the risk and cater to the patients, or else our country will be wiped away.

Working in a high-risk zone is highly dangerous. And you have so many patients in agony, patients are crying in pain. Some patients are dying,

unconscious. Some patients need help. Some patients cannot move any longer.

And you see some patients, you cannot do anything for them. They are dying, and all you do is you watch them die, sometimes you pray for them.

And do the little you do and just hope that something miraculous happens.


ANDERSON: Well, the World Health Organization counts more than 21,000 confirmed or suspected cases in West Africa, and more than 8500 have been


Health officials say they are seeing a significant decline in the number of new cases of the virus in the three hardest-hit countries, which

are Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Outbreaks in Mali, in Senegal, and in Nigeria have now officially been declared over.

A leading Ebola expert warns that the West is, and I quote, "vulnerable to epidemics and needs to take a long-term view to prepare for

future outbreaks." Professor Peter Piot co-discovered the Ebola virus in 1976. He's the head of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

and joining me now from where he is this evening in Davos.

And just how concerned should we be around the world, including in West Africa, of course, by this new study which appears to suggest that

this is a virus mutating?

PETER PIOT, LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE AND TROPICAL MEDICINE: Well, Becky, about every virus mutates, so it's quite normal that this was found.

And this may be a problem for certain experimental therapies that are trying to interact with the genetic makeup of the virus, but not for


And it's really important that we follow the evolution of the virus, because one thing is certain: the epidemic is not over, even if it has

gotten better. And we also are sure that we will have new epidemics coming up later because there is a virus in the world.

ANDERSON: There is positive news, of course. There are countries in West Africa which have now been declared free of the virus, and other

countries where we're seeing a decline --

PIOT: Right.

ANDERSON: -- in new cases. So on a scale of 1 to 10, where are we at this point?

PIOT: I think we are over the peak of the epidemic, certainly in Liberia. Probably also now in Sierra Leone. And in Guinea, it has been

simmering on for about a year.

But I think the end game is going to start now. But that doesn't mean that it will be easy, because this epidemic will only be over when the last

person with Ebola has either died or has recovered without having infected anybody.

So, that will require enormous effort in terms of surveillance, of contact tracing, finding out from village to village, from district to

village, whether there isn't any case left. Because let's not forget that this whole epidemic started with one case, with one person, in December

2013. And out of that, others became infected.

So, in other words, if one person is still there with Ebola, that can reignite the whole epidemic. So this is the effort, we have to adapt our

strategies --


ANDERSON: Peter, what -- yes.

PIOT: -- and deploy people all over the countries.

ANDERSON: Yes, Peter, what have we learned from what is the last -- what? -- 12 to 18 months? And when you warn that the West, for example, is

vulnerable to epidemics and needs to take a long-term view to prepare for future outbreaks, what do you mean exactly by that? Are we still behind

the curve here?

PIOT: I think we're still behind the curve. First of all, we've learned that in case of identification of an epidemic like Ebola, but that

may also be the next one, maybe some type of a new flu, that we have to act promptly. Because every day that passes and that more people become

infected makes it more difficult to control an epidemic.

And secondly, what I meant is that we are not totally ready is that we need a strong core of experts, epidemiologists and others, who can be

deployed immediately when there is an issue wherever in the world, and also that we build more of this infrastructure so that countries in Africa,

Asia, and in Europe can act immediately.

The US has a Centers for Disease Control, fantastic job, but they can't do it for the whole world. So we need to make sure that also in

Europe, we have that capacity.

And in addition, we need to do a second thing. And that is to invest in the development of vaccines against very rare diseases who, like Ebola,

may not have generated that kind of major epidemic up to now, but one day can turn into a major humanitarian catastrophe, as we've had now.

ANDERSON: Peter Piot for you tonight out of Davos, where he is attending the World Economic Forum. Sir, thank you for making some time

for our viewers this evening.

PIOT: Thank you.

ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, one success Obama was keen to talk about in his State of the Union address, the

changing relationship between the US and Cuba. We're going to take a look at what is a game-changing agenda. That's next.


ANDERSON: This is CNN, welcome back. At 52 minutes past 8:00 locally, we've discussed -- let me start that again. We've discussed a

raft of countries around the world that failed to make the grade in what was a near one-hour, wide-ranging speech to the US people last night.

Cuba, though, did make the grade. President Obama talking about the US-Cuba relations and how the US is ending a policy towards Cuba that is,

and I quote, "long past its expiration date" in favor of trying something new, engagement, he said.

Well, today in Havana, US and Cuban officials sat down to put those words into action. Today's meeting focuses on migration issues, while

tomorrow, they move onto plans to re-open embassies. CNN's Patrick Oppmann is in Havana for us, and he joins me now. Do we have much more detail on

specifically what was discussed?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that these are talks they hold twice a year, and they're actually scheduled

before any of these historic announcements were made.

After, of course, President Obama announced this major, major shift towards Cuban policy, it just seemed like a natural thing to tack on these

other bits of the negotiations, opening of embassies, finding more areas to cooperate on.

So, we're expecting Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson to be landing very soon in Havana. Of course, the highest-ranking US official

to come here in quite some time. So, while Cuban and US officials are talking about a way forward, about reopening embassies, it's certainly a

very positive side.

But of course, in Cuba, it's one step forward, one step back, and the more things change, the more they stay the same. And that's where this

comes in. This is a Russian spy ship that has visited Cuba before, it was here twice last year. And it surprisingly just arrived in port yesterday.

We've seen some activity on the deck this morning, some sailors going about their mission. And their mission is very interesting and probably a

little bit controversial for some officials in the United States, and that is essentially spying on the US, gathering electronic data.

So, while US officials so far haven't commented on this ship's very symbolic presence here, Cuban officials have told us that while they can't

specifically talk about the ship's mission, they said that any naval ship that comes to Cuba that has peaceful intentions is welcome, Becky.

ANDERSON: Thank you, sir.

In your Parting Shots this evening, all this week we have been hearing about so-called "no-go zones," neighborhoods where, according to Fox News

reporting, Islamic law is practiced and police are afraid to work, they said.

Well, European leaders have called the whole concept a myth. CNN producer Laura Akhoun takes us, now, on a tour of some neighborhoods in

France to see -- well, let's get behind the scenes, really, and see what they're like. Have a look at this.


LAURA AKHOUN, CNN PRODUCER: We are currently in Belleville. I grew up two blocks away from this neighborhood. This is one of the most lively

neighborhoods of Paris. This is where people go out and have fun, this is where the rent is a bit cheaper, the supermarkets are a bit cheaper.

And this is actually where immigrants tend to arrive when they first get to Paris. Belleville is a place where you can find lots of artists

living here, lots of immigrants, lots of people from Paris, lots of people from all around France. So, let's ask these fine people if they feel safe

having a drink here in Belleville.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sure, it's a safe neighborhood. So, it's not a war zone, like Fox says. You have good restaurants, and it's really

mixed. We have Chinese people, Middle Eastern people, black people, French people. It's really mixed, and that is cool.

AKHOUN: This so-called "no-go zone" includes this area. We are in Chateau Rouge just two steps away from the famous church of Sacre Coeur in

the touristy district of Montmartre. This is where the people go to buy their fabric in the famous market of Marche Saint Pierre. And people are

just enjoying their daily life. This is not a dangerous zone at all.


ANDERSON: Let us know what you think about all the stories in the news, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's your show,, have your say. You can always tweet me @BeckyCNN, that's @BeckyCNN. From the team here in the UAE, it is a very good

evening. That was CONNECT THE WORLD, thank you for watching. Do stay with CNN.