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Liberia's President Discusses Ebola Crisis; Annan Weighs in on Iran Nuclear Talks; Imagine a World
Aired March 4, 2015 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: turning the tide against Ebola. But how will it finally be eradicated? Liberia's president
joins me live as she calls for a Marshall plan to fight this war.
Plus the Israeli prime minister's speech blasting the Iran nuclear deal gets slammed by the former U.N. secretary-general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KOFI ANNAN, FORMER U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: Most people around the world will see what happens in Washington yesterday as a deliberate attempt to
sabotage the negotiations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.
For more than a year, the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola has ravaged West Africa. Tonight my guest, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of the
worst affected nation, Liberia, will talk about the positive trends that are now emerging.
But first, we take a quick look back at where the region has come since the outbreak began last March.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Celebrations at the United Nations, West African musicians mark what they've been told is the beginning of the end of the
war on Ebola that's ravaged their corner of the continent for more than a year.
Just last autumn, it seemed like the worst hit, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, faced a threat to their very existence as one doctor in Monrovia's
hot zone told my colleague, Nima Elbagir, back then.
DR. SOKA MOSES, JFK EBOLA TREATMENT UNIT: 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 take care of the patients or else our country will be wiped away.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Attaching a GoPro to his head, Dr. Soka Moses took some extraordinary footage at the terrifying height of the epidemic. The
Centers for Disease Control even predicted these patients could be among 1.4 million Africans who would die by January this year.
After a slow and slapdash start, the international community sprung into action, sending medical aid and military troops to bolster the fragile
health care infrastructure in these countries. And slowly after a steep and frightening climb, the number of new cases started to fall by the end
of last year.
The worst-case scenario, fortunately, did not come true. But nearly 10,000 people did die of the disease. And totally eradicating Ebola may still be
out of reach. The numbers of new cases still fluctuate, experts are a long way off from declaring victory and the United Nations says it is still
facing a massive funding gap.
Liberia's president has vowed to get to zero cases by April 15th this year.
AMANPOUR: But how realistic is that really? Well, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf joins me live now from Brussels. And she's been amid an
international summit on the way forward there.
AMANPOUR: President Sirleaf, thank you so much for joining us.
Tell me where it stands, the state of your --
AMANPOUR: Yes, it's nice to talk to you. We've got a bit of a delay on the satellite.
But are you pleased with where you are in Liberia?
Have you broken the back of this disease?
ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF, PRESIDENT OF LIBERIA: Christiane, we're very pleased with the progress we have made. We've come a long way from those
terrifying months when people died, when we were frightened, when we were confused and did not know what to do, when our doctors and nurses trying to
help the sick also died.
Today I can say to you that with the strong effectiveness of our communities, to whom we owe the success because they took responsibility
and ownership, we have not had a new case in Liberia for over a week.
AMANPOUR: So does that put you in the --
AMANPOUR: -- sorry, Madam President.
Does that put you in the --
SIRLEAF: No, it does not. We're not out of the woods. We know we cannot be complacent. We know we have to continue our preventive measures. More
importantly, we still have two countries affected in our neighborhood and we know that until they, too, have achieved the level of progress that we
have, we will also be at risk. And so this is why we came to Brussels to try and put original approach, so the three countries can work together to
address this disease.
AMANPOUR: And how to finally eradicate it and make sure that your health care infrastructure is better able to deal, even better able to deal next
time around, because all of the money or at least the majority of it that we are told, of the billions that have been pledged, have yet to be
disbursed. And you are calling for a kind of a Marshall plan.
What needs to happen?
SIRLEAF: Well, let me say that we need to now move very rapidly on the formulation that the original plan that we have talked about. That plan
calls for containing the virus in all countries by ensuring border monitoring, border surveillance and rapid responses to -- for common
facilities built across borders in the three countries.
It also calls for upgrading of our water and sanitation and health facilities to enable us to have the means for inspection control thereby
ensuring a non-recurrence of the virus.
Now the Marshall plan, Christiane, a journey of 1,000 miles starts with the first step. We know that's a tall order. We know it's going to take
significant resources not only to address our health care system but also our economic recovery, which will enable us not only to contain the virus,
but to make sure that our economies, which have been hard-hit by the virus, can grow again. We are going to be discussing with our partners. We are
going to call for the significant support that will enable us to restore our economy, to build our infrastructure and that will enable us to be able
to move ahead and move away from dependency to being self-sufficient in meeting our own development needs.
AMANPOUR: Madam President, obviously the continent has been slammed hard economically; billions of dollars of GDP has just gone out the window. You
yourself have seen your own country's economy grow very, very well until it sunk back to zero, you said, with the outbreak of Ebola.
How difficult is that going to be and let me ask you in context, because the head of the IRC, David Miliband, the former Foreign Secretary of Great
Britain, said there's a real danger of a lost decade if the lessons locally and internationally are not learned. We already have a lost year of
schooling, of economic growth and of lost confidence.
So we must not be rose-tinted about the challenge over the next decade.
It's going to be a long, hard slog. Do you have the commitment of the world to get you through?
SIRLEAF: Well, we do have the commitment to get us through. But it is a long road. And we know that it's going to take a while to mobilize the
resources, to build our own capacity, to restore our economic growth. However we feel comfort in that, with the success we now have, with the
plans that we have, bringing back our own development agenda, we -- on which we have made much progress before Ebola struck. We feel confident
that working together we can indeed get ourselves to the place where our systems are functioning, our economy is growing again, our infrastructure
has the capacity to be able to withstand any kind of recurrence of this virus.
AMANPOUR: You know, we said in the introduction that the worst predictions were that perhaps 1.5 million people in your region might be killed by this
The worst predictions was about 1.5 million people being killed.
How did you feel as a human being and as the president when this epidemic was at its height?
SIRLEAF: Christiane, I tell you, when we heard those predictions, that 1.4 million, 1.5 million people would die by the end of January or 20,000
people would die monthly for the same period, our first reaction was to really be terrified. Our first reaction was to say what's going to happen?
Our people are going to lose hope. They are going to be desperate.
But we also knew that our responsibility as a leader was to quickly reach out to them and tell them that it would not be.
And so I took a very strong stand and I confronted and I said I rejected that prediction and said we knew that we could do it. We knew that it was
not going to happen. And we were going to come together as a nation and do all that we could to make sure that that prediction did not come true.
Let me say today that as everyone has said to us, you were right in rejecting it. You were right in telling your people we could work together
and we could get this virus contained and therefore I believe that all BHO (ph) and CDC and others are now looking at the assumptions they made, the
calculations they did and I think it's a whole new story based on the progress that we've made.
AMANPOUR: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, you have come through it. We wish you and your region the best of luck. Thank you very much indeed for
joining me tonight.
And serving your country is often seen as its own reward. But in Africa, there is an extra incentive -- the cell phone magnate, Mo Ibrahim, offers a
$5 million prize to any leader who steps down voluntarily at the end of their term. None has qualified in the past four years. But now the
outgoing Namibian president will receive the award after two successful terms and on the issue of departing presidents the Uruguayan president,
Jose Mujica, who inspired his nation with his humility and poverty, has also stepped down at the end of his term.
No financial prize, but the joy of an adoring electorate. And after a break we turn to another legacy, the one Benjamin Netanyahu left behind in
Washington. Strong words from the former leader of the United Nations after this.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
A brazen challenge to a sitting U.S. president. That's how some are describing the Israeli prime minister's speech to the U.S. Congress
yesterday. Benjamin Netanyahu warned lawmakers that Iran needs to be totally stripped of all its nuclear capability before any deal should be
struck. It is an unachievable demand, say the experts. And as the controversial speech reverberates around the world and its media, it took
the well-known American satirist, Jon Stewart, to remind the public that Mr. Netanyahu has been issuing these same warnings for nearly 20 years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: The most dangerous of these regimes is Iran.
If this regime or its despotic neighbor, Iraq, were to acquire nuclear weapons, this could presage catastrophic consequences.
Only the United States can lead this vital international effort to stop the nuclearization of terrorist states.
Time is running out. We have to act.
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Why is he not aging?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Of course, this is no laughing matter really, especially for the former U.N. secretary-general, Kofi Annan, who joined me exclusively from
Geneva earlier with harsh words for the attempt to derail any deal.
AMANPOUR: Kofi Annan, welcome to the program.
ANNAN: Thank you. I'm happy to be with you.
AMANPOUR: You obviously have been playing close attention to what's going on around the Iran negotiations and of course to the speech by the Israeli
prime minister to Congress yesterday.
And I am going to play you a little bit of what he said.
NETANYAHU: That's why this deal is so bad. It doesn't block Iran's path to the bomb; it paves Iran's path to the bomb. Now we're being told that the
only alternative to this bad deal is war. That's just not true.
The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Kofi Annan, two things: a bad deal, he says, and the alternative is a much better deal.
From your perspective, after years of being involved in these talks, is there a much better deal to be had?
ANNAN: I really don't see it. I think the negotiators at the table, the P5+1 and the Iranians are really doing their best to get a really good
deal. I don't see what the better deal would be.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me lay out for you what the Israeli prime minister thinks would be the better course of action. Squeeze Iran more with more
sanctions; hold out more, the U.S., the P5+1, and insist on a change of Iranians' foreign policy to get a better deal.
What is wrong with that?
ANNAN: First of all, it's not going to happen. Iran has been on the sanctions for a long time and it has not changed the approach to the
nuclear issue. And they've made it quite clear, which only time will tell, that they are not out for a nuclear bomb and their intention is peaceful.
And to impose the sanctions and to continue to impose it rather than negotiate and then getting an understanding and agreement that will ease
tensions and improve relations all around, I think, is a wrong approach. I don't believe it will yield the results that is being claimed.
AMANPOUR: I want to know how it looked to you to see this world leader challenging the United States in such a brazen way. Some people, certainly
the "FT" have called it the most brazen challenge to U.S. foreign policy probably unprecedented.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in Congress, said that she practically was in tears throughout the speech because she felt it so insulted the
intelligence of the United States and its negotiating partners in the P5+1.
ANNAN: Yes. No, I think most people around the world will see what happened in Washington yesterday as a deliberate attempt to sabotage the
negotiations, particularly to do it at this critical juncture when the negotiators are trying to hammer out a deal hopefully before the end of the
month. I believe we should be firm and I hope the world will not let this happen. A deal ought to be possible and it will be positive for the world.
AMANPOUR: You've said sabotage and that is a strong word. I understand you feel obviously quite strongly about this.
What, though, do you say to the prime minister and his supporters, who say that he's just sounding the warning, that he is the moral voice of the
world, warning about a lying, cheating, untrustworthy Iran?
ANNAN: Well, he may claim that. But I'm not sure those at the table who know what is going on with these negotiations. It's never done until it's
done. And so for someone who's not at the table to give out the details and say the sort of things that were said yesterday. It's unfortunate
because I must say I was quite surprised to see what happened in the U.S. Congress yesterday.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Annan, I want to play you another sound bite from Benjamin Netanyahu. This actually from 2002 and it was Jon Stewart, the U.S.
satirist, who put this on his program last night.
It happened when you were secretary-general and it was about the effect of the U.S. invasion on Iraq. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NETANYAHU: If you take out Saddam, Saddam's regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region. The
reverberations of what happens with the collapse of Saddam's regime could very well create an implosion in a neighboring regime like Iran.
STEWART: Or the opposite.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now I see you smiling. Tell me why. Obviously, that didn't happen.
ANNAN: No, not only did that not happen, some of us were opposed to the war and we spoke clearly about it. Now we know what the results are and we
are getting another prediction about Iran and we all have to make our own judgments about it.
But I think we need to be careful and to understand that this is an issue that concerns the whole world. There are people in Washington but maybe
one would even describe them as some fundamentalists in Washington, purists in Washington, who are making an effort to block this deal.
And I hope they will not get away with it.
AMANPOUR: You feel that kind of war and peace are at stake here don't you?
ANNAN: Oh, absolutely. And I was in Iran last year with my fellow elders, where we spoke to almost everyone. We didn't see the Supreme Leader,
encouraging them to settle this issue and make a deal. And we worked our way confident that the Iranians were serious and they would want to settle
And I think the fact that the negotiations have gone on so seriously for this long with serious players at the table, I think it's a very positive
development. There is no need to push this to another war so that we -- in the region, the Middle East has seen enough wars and does not need another
AMANPOUR: Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, thank you very much for joining me from Geneva tonight.
ANNAN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now imagine that the very people who awarded both my guest tonight, Kofi Annan, and President Sirleaf the Nobel Peace Prize are
embroiled in a war of their own. There's been a coup apparently within the Nobel Committee, a first in its 114-year history. The chairman and the
former Norwegian prime minister, Thorbjorn Jagland, has been ousted. The committee won't say why but he oversaw the Nobel Peace Prize awards for the
European Union and President Barack Obama, which, at the time, were somewhat controversial.
And when we come back, imagine a world laughing its way to rapprochement after being estranged for more than half a century. Cuba meets Conan after
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where comedy is joining the front lines of diplomacy as late-night host Conan O'Brien takes his show on
the road to Cuba. That is certainly a first at least in the last 60 years. The 6'3" redhead is an iconic figure in the United States. But upon his
arrival in Cuba, a country that's been cut off from most American entertainment, he didn't appear quite as well known.
(VIDEO CLIP, "CONAN")
AMANPOUR: Perhaps they just didn't believe him or could it be that Cubans are too distracted by all the other U.S. entertainment suddenly flooding
The Broadway production of "Rent" is on in a Havana theater right now. That's another first in the last half century. And Netflix has started
serving Cuba just last month, though it's a wonder how Cubans will view it, since they have to use international credit cards, which are available to
almost no one there.
But back to Netflix, if they're just getting into "House of Cards" for the first time, the super cynical White House drama, imagine what they must
think of the big bad neighbor to the north who wants to reunite now after cutting them off at the embargo for all these decades.
And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always see the whole show online at amanpour.com, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.