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Zero Hour Approaches on Iranian Nuclear Talks; Fighting In Streets Of Yemen; Iraqi Prime Minister Announces Liberation of Tikrit. Aired 11:00- 12:00p ET

Aired March 31, 2015 - 11:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:19] BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: A long awaited victory in the fight against ISIS. Iraq's government says it has liberated the city of Tikrit

northwest of Baghdad. We're going to get the very latest from our correspondent in Iraq's capital for you this hour.

Also ahead, airstrikes and street fighting in Yemen. The violence continues there as the Red Cross condemns the mounting civilian deaths.

And as talks continue in Switzerland, we're live in the Iranian capital to hear how a nuclear deal would change the country. Analysis from Tehran

coming up.

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

ANDERSON: Just after 7:00 in the UAE. A very good evening to you.

We start with what appears to be a major victory in the fight against ISIS in Iraq after a grinding battle that's gone on for weeks, the city of

Tikrit has been liberated. That is according to Iraq's prime minister.

Well, let's get you straight to CNN's Arwa Damon who is in Baghdad -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Becky.

And the prime minister tweeting that out, and tweeted his congratulations to the Iraqi security forces and the popular mobilization units, the PMUs,

mostly made up of those Iranian-backed Shia militias and volunteers.

Now this does not necessarily mean that the Iraqi government or its forces control every single inch of the city. There are still various different

reports that there are pockets of resistance, areas where ISIS is still holding out. But at this stage, clearly the Iraqi government, the prime

minister, confident enough in their victory, that victory is imminent that he is saying that the city has been liberated.

The Iraqi flag flying on top of key buildings where it was not placed in the past.

Now this has been a fairly tough battle. This Iraqi fighting force paused on the outskirts of Tikrit for some two weeks now, that leading the Iraqi

government to request coalition air power taking place last week.

Over the weekend into Monday it seems that those precision airstrikes along with strikes by the Iraqi airforce and a fairly heavy artillery bombardment

that we witnessed a little bit over the weekend allowing this Iraqi force to push through Tikrit and then it seems advance relatively speaking fairly

quickly through some key parts of the city.

But they did come across some resistance. And, they say, they had to deal with numerous, countless, IEDs, diffusing according to various senior

officials that we spoke to, hundreds of these roadside bombs, not to mention dealing with booby-trapped buildings, Becky.

ANDERSON: Arwa, what do you think -- just how significant is this, firstly. And what do you think the consequences of this liberation of

Tikrit, if that's what it is, will be?

DAMON: Look, this is significant in that at this stage, assuming the Iraqi forces can hold the ground, is at least this country's chance to say, look,

we've had a significant victory against ISIS. This does not mean that they're going to be able to go barreling down the road and liberate Mosul

and Anbar Province and eradicate ISIS once and for all.

The actual broader battle against ISIS is much more complex.

The battle for Tikrit also has political implications as well that are perhaps just as critical as the military operation. There have been

widespread concerns that this force that has gone into Tikrit, that is mostly Shia, Tikrit is a mostly Sunni city, was going to be carrying out

perhaps revenge, retaliatory attacks against the population, against individuals who they find there who may or may not be combatants, because

when ISIS first took over Tikrit there was that horrific murder, execution of hundreds if not upwards of 1,500 Shia recruits.

And so how this force handles this city is going to be something that a lot of Iraqis are going to be looking at very closely as well.

ANDERSON: Sure.

Arwa Damon is in Baghdad with what is breaking news this hour.

We are just under seven hours now from a self-imposed deadline for Iran and six world powers to reach a framework nuclear agreement.

Russia's foreign minister sounded optimistic as he headed back to Lausanne in Switzerland where those talks are now in what is the critical home

stretch.

Sergey Lavrov says there is a good chance for success.

Well, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is being a bit more reserved in noting some tricky issues are still being sorted out.

World powers say a deal would stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapons for at least 15 years. In exchange, sanctions that have crippled Iran's

economy would be eased.

Well, our Jim Sciutto is following developments from Washington joining us now live.

And do you really think we should necessarily get so caught up in what is this self-imposed deadline? But clearly the parties gunning for that at

this stage, if only to really get everybody's negotiation stance on the table, as it were.

What are you hearing at this point?

[11:05:43] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you, Becky. It could be that Lavrov and Kerry are both right, that you reach some sort

agreement tonight, but many of the key issues still unresolved. You can call that a political framework. You might even call it an extension,

because the momentum now appears on making an announcement, on progress on significant issues, a general agreement about the outlines of this, but

with many key issues still not decided.

You're in effect punting for what has been referred to as the technical period of negotiation leading up to the June 31st (sic) deadline when you

need to have a final agreement.

But really, Becky, the trouble with that is that you know still so many of these big issues it looks like still have not been agreed to by both sides.

How quickly, for instance, do you lift sanctions on Iran? Iran wants them lifted right away at the end of agreement, the west wants to keep them and

have them lifted gradually to prove that Iran is complying with the agreement.

That's just one of several -- you know, is sounds to me like you can call that another extension to some degree, but you might say that the parties

wouldn't do that. They wouldn't have this kind of general framework agreement announcement if they didn't believe they had made enough progress

to bridge those remaining gaps over the next three months.

But I'll tell you, there will be some who are disappointed with the kind of announcement that looks like is going to come out of there, but you know,

anything can happen in seven hours.

ANDERSON: Yep. Jim, thank you for that. Jim Sciutto out of Washington for you this evening.

Well, we are still awaiting official election results from Nigeria, but the country's main opposition party says its candidate Mohammadu Buhari has

defeated incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.

Now that is according to at least two news outlets. In recent hours, officials have been waiting for returns from at least a few Nigerian states

that had not reported.

Well, let's get you to CNN's Christian Purefoy now. He's watching the election from Lagos.

Tensions running very high. It seems unlikely that either party at this point is likely to accept defeat.

When are we -- when are you expecting to get a result at this point?

CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, we're not quite sure when the result will be out, but probably in the next couple of hours.

They're really drawing to a close with the announcement of all the states. But it has to be be said that the challenge of Mohammadu Buhari really does

have an unassailable lead. It's not official yet. And the President Goodluck Jonathan, who is competing against him, has said that the

Nigerians must be patient to hear the result.

But as you said, the opposition party, the APC, Buhari's party, have said we are witnessing history.

And, Becky, if Mohammadu Buhari does get in, that really is history. It will be unprecedented in Nigeria after decades of military rule, coups,

counter coups, aborted attempts at democracy, this would be the first time that an opposition party will have unseated a ruling party in Nigeria. And

that's important, Becky, because this is Africa's largest democracy. Democracy here -- the word democracy here, Becky, will never mean the same

thing again -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yeah. If it is the case that Buhari edges -- or is edging closer to victory at this point and wins, who is he? What do we know about

him? And how will he run the country going forward?

PUREFOY: Well, now that is the big question. What happens in the next four years? Because whoever gets in, whether it's Mohammadu Buhari or

Goodluck Jonathan there's enormous challenges to try and solve in Nigeria.

You've obviously got Boko Haram, the security problem in the northeast. You've got a latent Niger Delta militancy in the oil rich Niger Delta,

sorry -- you've got an economy under huge pressure as the oil prices dropped, the local currency the naira has been devalued. So -- and poverty

is rife. All of these challenges, whoever gets in, is going to have enormous problems.

Now Mohammadu Buhari is an ex -- sorry, a retired military general. He ruled in the early 80s. And he has this reputation of being sort of anti-

corruption, if you like. And Nigerians largely come out and voted for him, because of that, because they hoped that this sort of strong man will be

able to come in and try and sort out problems of this sort, which a lot of people feel is corruption -- Becky.

[11:10:12] ANDERSON: In Lagos on the story for you viewers. Thank you.

We're going to take you just for a moment to another story that we are following. It involves the issue of gay rights in the United States and a

controversial law that has put the midwestern state of Indiana on the front line of a culture war.

I want to going to get you live pictures from what is a news conference being held by the state's Republican governor. This is one Mike Pence.

And he backs what he calls a religious freedom law, one that would allow business to refuse service to gay, lesbian and transgender people on

religious grounds.

Now the backlash has -- again, this has been huge across the U.S. Business, gay rights activists and even some of Pence's fellow Republicans

are slamming the law as a license to discriminate. Well, he has said that that was never the intention.

Now the news conference you're watching is his effort to, quote, fix the law. We're going to get you a live report a little later in the program

with an update on what is going on there there. Indiana -- Indianapolis in Indiana.

Well, still to come tonight, crews have carved a new path to the site of the Germanwings plane crash in the Alps. We're going to get you latest on

the effort to find and identify the remains of the victims.

Time running out for world powers and Iran to reach a framework agreement on Tehran's nuclear program. We've been talking that in the past 15

minutes or so. We're going to find out where our next guest thinks the talks are headed after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: This is CNN and Connect the World with me Becky Anderson out of the UAE for you at 19 minutes past the hour of 7:00

The International Committee of the Red Cross says, and I quote, there are disturbing reports of civilian casualties in Yemen after nearly a week of

Saudi-led airstrikes against Houthi Shia rebels.

These pictures posted on social media appear to show gun battles raging in the strategic port city of Aden where Reuters reporters 10 militiamen

backing embattled President Abd Rammuh Mansur Hadi were killed earlier on Tuesday.

Overnight strikes at several Houthi targets, including what appear to be ammunitions depot lighting up the skies above the capital in Sanaa.

Well, CNN's Nic Robertson has been covering events in Yemen for several years, joins us now live from Beirut in Lebanon, a country which like Yemen

is torn between Sunni and Shia factions, and like the rest of this region, very much watching the unrest very closely.

Nic, things are fairly chaotic, so assess for me the impact of the airstrikes and what is heavy ground combat isn't easy. What are you

hearing from your sources in Yemen?

[11:15: 17] NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Well, what the Saudis are saying right now is that they're intensifying their airstrikes

and this is certainly correlates with what we're hearing from inside Yemen, probably about half of the provinces, about 12 out of 22 provinces in Yemen

are being -- have seen Saudi airstrikes today. What the Saudis say they are targeting are ammunition dumps and Houthis commanders in their

headquarters.

They also say that they believe there are Scud missiles that have been taken from, you know, government arms depots. They're trying to track

those down. Those are high on the target list.

But they also say the most intense aerial bombardment and conflict, if you will, is around the town of Aden, their important key port city in the

south of the country and around Ta'izz. And this certainly correlates with what we're hearing from the International Committee for the Red Cross. They

say they're seeing a high number of casualties in and around Aden. They say that they're seeing an increased level of conflict there. The UN is

seeing that they are seeing increased fighting in the town of Aden.

It is strategically important.

Just yesterday Egyptian warships were shelling the roads upon which it is believed that Houthi rebels were trying to approach Aden.

So a lot of focus on the fight there. But the UN saying up to now 75,000 people displaced, more than 180 killed, and more than 900 injured. And it

is only escalating.

Both the UN and the Red Cross saying they are desperately trying -- and Medecins sans Frontieres, Doctors Without Borders, desperately trying to

get medical aid to the areas that need it most, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yeah, the number of casualties clearly as you rightly point out isn't the only thing worry the ICRC and these other agencies as you point

out. They are concerned about aid access to victims.

Nic, Reuters reporting the organization has called for, and I quote, the urgent removal of obstacles to the delivery of Yemen to Yemen of vital

medical supplies needed to treat casualties from a week of deadly clashes and airstrikes, and that statement from the ICRC adding we still don't have

the permission from coalition members. It doesn't specify which coalition members. Your thoughts, Nic?

ROBERTSON: Well, Becky, certainly this is going to be a growing concern.

You know, we had an eyewitness who told us about that exploding ammunition dump around the capital. He said that the percussion of it -- he sort of

heard the bang and then there was the whoosh, the sort of impact of the initial explosion. And then he said for two hours -- and you can see it in

the images -- and you know, here were rockets and missiles flying up in the sky, taking off. And of course they come down somewhere. So you have

casualties from that.

You have the impact just yesterday in a refugee displaced persons camp close to the border with Saudi Arabia. 29 people injured there. And

Saudis say they believe that Houthi militiamen are hiding among civilians and may have fired at their aircraft from there.

They're still not sure why that camp was targeted. It was hit. They say that they're very careful to avoid civilian casualties.

But all along that border area where people are trying to get away from the more intense fighting in the capital, trying to seek sanctuary, perhaps,

along the border with Saudi Arabia, that is going to become a more intensified military location as the Saudis are concerned that Houthis may

launch a raid into Saudi Arabia.

So the civilians getting caught up in the conflict, that's going to grow.

That camp that was hit yesterday, 500 families, according to aid agencies, had arrived in that camp in the previous two days. Now some of them have

been scattered. They've been forced onwards. And the aid agencies say that these families don't have the wherewithal to keep traveling and moving

to other places.

So it is the civilians that are getting caught up. And this is the major concern.

There are three hospitals, according to reports, hit by Houthi rebels backed by former government army units. Those hospitals vital in providing

medical services to the civilians of Yemen. And it is these establishment that MSF and ICRC want to get medical supplies into, but of course the

country is very hard to access. Adn that's what they're finding, to move - - to get the equipment there and then to move around. It's a double whammy if you will at the moment, Becky.

ANDERSON: All right.

And Nic, while you were speak, we are just getting more statistics and information from the ground. Let me just give you what we are getting as

you've been speaking.

Saudi-led airstrikes continue with the latest tally of 12 provinces hit. And the latest death toll at 16 Yarim (ph) province, for example, along

with six civilian deaths in Sada (ph) and four Houthis in Sabwa (ph) province, confirmed by officials.

In that area, of course -- this is coming to me care of the Yemeni health ministry. And perhaps one of the things that we should point out to our

viewers is getting impartial information is clearly our job and clearly incredibly important. But when you have got so few people working on the

ground, and as you've described these aid agencies just desperately trying to get in with safe passage, it is very, very difficult, isn't it, to raise

quality information on the ground about what is happening.

Meanwhile, of course, people are dying.

[11:21:01] ROBERTSON: Absolutely. Even at that displaced person's camp, the numbers have fluctuated and varied, we've heard, between 40 and 29. It

seems to have come back down to 29, but dozens injured. Yesterday, the number of injured was put far higher. So it is hard to get it.

But I mean, when you look at the spread and scope of the fighting, you're talking about Yarim (ph) where there were Saudi airstrikes earlier today,

12 out of 22 provinces, but Yarim (ph), that's quite in the east of the country. You look at the map and you'd think why would that be being

targeted? Well, that's an area where al Qaeda, in particular, is actually closely pitched against the Houthis. The perception is the Houthis are

trying to encroach and take territory there.

But then you have the strikes around the capital Sanaa, you have the strikes close to the border with Saudi Arabia. You have the strikes in the

south around Aden.

And the pictures -- when you look at the map, the picture on the map fills up with airstrikes and with incidents happening, with battles for control

of key roads, of key towns inside the country.

And of course, this makes it difficult for the NGOs, for any personnel to have in the country there, to get them around and get adequate and updated

information, because the infrastructure, the means of communication are also being destroyed with a lot of the other infrastructure, with a lot of

the buildings and roads in the country.

ANDERSON ; Nic is in Beirut this evening for you, watching what is going on in Yemen.

You're with me. This is Connect the World with Becky Anderson. We are in the UAE. Coming up, it's down to the wire as talks between world powers

and Iran continue over Tehran's over nuclear program. They are then to the final stretch. And we're going to get reaction from Tehran later in the

show.

Up first, recovering from turmoil, developers in Egypt's best known resort city are betting on even bigger and better plans four years after the Arab

Spring. One Square Meter is up after this break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDRESON: All right, talks in Lausanne are intensifying as Iran and world powers are negotiating a potential deal over Tehran's nuclear program, he

deadline a few hours away. This is self-imposed of course.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says some tricky issues are still being sorted out, but we will find out the outcome a little later.

World powers deal with stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon for at least 15 years. In exchange, sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy

would be eased.

Well, as diplomats try and hash out these final details on a deal in Lausanne, we're going to get you to Tehran and the view from there.

Mohammad Marandi is a Tehran University professor and political analyst joining us from there. Mohammad, thank you.

It's not clear yet what will be the outlines of this agreement or understanding that we might see later on today. Regardless of what comes

out of Lausanne, do you think it has the support of the entire Iranian political establishment?

[11:35:46] MOHAMMAD MARANDI, TEHRAN UNIVERSITY: Yes, I think that it's quite clear that the negotiating team has the clear support of the

political establishment, the supreme national security council, parliament, the president and of course Ayatollah Khamenei the leader. So the Iranians

are confident that if the Iranian side is satisfied that there won't be problem on this side.

But the Iranians are concerned about the United States. The U.S. political establishment is very fragmented, very much divided, and also the Saudi and

the Israeli regimes are both lobbying very hard, especially through France, to prevent any deal from taking place.

ANDERSON: There's clearly been a lot of political capital thrown at this by the president. I wonder how you think the Iranian negotiators, chief

among them the foreign minister Zarif are going to be viewed in Tehran, if a deal is agreed to.

MARANDI: Well, there are a couple of red lines that are very important for Iranians and according to polls they are basically Iran's right to have a

peaceful nuclear program within the framework of the NPT, and that none of Iran's rights can be taken away from it.

Iran is, of course, willing to be flexible and to show good will and for a period of time to slow down elements of the nuclear program, or perhaps

even halt some elements, but ultimately the agreement would have to accept Iran's full rights within a framework, a reasonable framework.

And the second is, of course, that all sanctions have to be lifted. Most of the sanctions are actually from the Iranian perspective illegal, because

-- by any standard, because they've been imposed by the United States on third parties, in other words the United States threatens all countries

that do trade with the Iranian central bank with sanctions and that's -- violates even the World Trade Organization regulations.

But in any case, these are the two major red lines that are important for Iran.

ANDERSON: Yeah, and chief amongst those the lifting of the sanctions is the lifting of the electronic transfer system, the SWIFT system that has

been sanctioned until now.

My sense is -- you know, if nothing else that is something that is on the table as a slam dunk so far as the Iranians are concerned. If that isn't

lifted sort of as soon as possible, you know, all bets are off. Am I correct in saying that?

MARANDI: Yes, that's very important.

Of course it's also I think important for western countries, because the more they impose sanctions on Iran and the longer they impose sanctions on

Iran and Russia, that creates the incentive for Iran, Russia, China and other countries to create alternative mechanisms for trade.

So it's not exactly the greatest thing in the world for the Europeans or the Americans continue down this particular road.

But that is one element that's very important for Iran.

There is a huge wall of mistrust for Iran at the moment, especially when Iranians see U.S. allies in the region like Saudi Arabia supporting Wahabbi

extremists in Yemen, in Syria, Iraq and the United States doing nothing about it. And then you have the sanctions being imposed on Iran.

So there's a lot of mistrust. And that's making it very difficult for the Iranian negotiators to find and to build a framework, which is foolproof so

that the Iranian people can be satisfied.

But the Iranian team I think people here feel that they are highly competent and that they will abide by those red lines. And hopefully if

the Americans have the political will, then we'll have an agreement.

ANDERSON: Mohammad, on the flip side of what you've been saying, Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia has been skeptical about a potential nuclear

deal. In a recent interview, Prince Turki al Faisal, the kingdom's former intelligence chief, told the BBC, and I quote, "I've always said whatever

comes out of these talks we will want the same. So if Iran has the ability to enrich uranium to whatever level, it's not just Saudi Arabia that's

going to ask for that, the whole world will be an open door to go that route without any inhabition, and that's my main objection to the P5+1

process."

Do you think a nuclear agreement would change the tone of Iranian rhetoric towards the west, and specifically the United States? And on the flip

side, how do you think it's going to be received by not -- this region, I guess, not least its regional rival Saudi?

[11:30:29] MARANDI: Well, I think this is a very complicated problem. On the one hand, the U.S. vice president himself awhile back admitted that

U.S. allies are the ones who actually were behind the creation of these extremists, meaning ISIL in particular. And that is -- and even now we

know that the Turks are helping ISIL and the Nusra front, which are al Qeada, and in the south of Syria, the Saudis, the Qataris through Jordan

are doing the same. And the Israelis are also helping the Nusra front alongside their border with Syria.

On the other hand, the real problem that Iran has with Saudi Arabia is not a nuclear program. Iran is fine with the Saudis having their own nuclear

program within the framework of the NPT and IAEA regulations, but for example, when the Iranians see that the Saudis are effectively attacking

the new political order in Yemen, and at the same time al Qaeda is fighting the new political order in Yemen, and they're cooperating with one another

in this country, they see a repeat of what's happened in Syria and Iraq.

And when the Americans basically close their eyes to this reality, this creates great concern in Iran.

So, for Iran, the issue with Saudi Arabia is not a nuclear program in Saudia Arabia, it's Saudi support for extremists that go from Boko Haram

through the spread of the Saudi Wahabbi ideology to the Taliban in Afghanistan to China and even more recently in France and Australia.

That's the problem from the Iranian perspective.

ANDERSON: All right. We're going to leave it there. We thank you very much indeed for joining us. Clearly there are those, particularly among

the Sunni Arabs in this region who will say that they are concerned about an expansionist Iran going forward. That is for our next guest to discuss.

But from Tehran, for the time being, we thank you very much indeed for joining us.

This is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson out of Abu Dhabi for you. At just after half past 7:00 in the evening.

We're going to get into the latest on the political firestorm in the U.S. state of Indiana. That and your headlines up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:35:10] ANDERSON: Out of the capital of the United Arab Emirates, this is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. Your top stories here on CNN.

And Iraq's prime minister says the city of Tikrit has been liberated from ISIS. That's according to Iraqi state media. The city had been under

control of the militant group since last June. Hadr al Habadi (ph) said it was a joint effort between the police, army, local militia and air cover

from an international coalition.

Well, all eyes are on Lausanne where world powers and Iran are scrambling to reach an agreement over Tehran's nuclear program.

Now there is a self-imposed deadline by the stakeholders, and that is midnight tonight in the Swiss city. World power say a deal would stop Iran

from developing a nuclear weapon for at least 15 years. Iran would get sanctions relief in return.

Well, a terrifying ordeal in Turkey where gunmen are threatening to kill a prosecutor they have taken hostage. He's been investigating the death of a

protester killed by police and the gunmen are demanding that the officers in that shooting confess on live TV.

Now that courthouse drama in Istanbul follows a massive power outage that affected roughly half the country earlier. Mass transit, traffic lights

and even flights were disrupted.

Now Turkey's information minister says 90 percent of Istanbul's power has now been put back on.

Reuters reports heavy fighting between Houthi rebels and Saudi forces along the Saudi-Yemen border. Witnesses say there say that Saudi helicopters

have unleashed some of the heaviest airstrikes that they've seen yet in the six day old air campaign.

Saudi-led forces began targeting Houthi positions, you'll remember, across Yemen after rebels took control of much of the western half of the country.

Well, French President Francois Hollande says all the victims of Germanwings flight 9525 should be identified by the end of the week. He

held a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier today.

Around the same time, French authorities addressed the families of the victims. So far, investigators say they've identified more than half of

the 150 people on board the plane when it crashed in the French Alps.

All this happening as a source reveals new details about the mental state of Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot suspected of intentionally crashing the

plane. Those details coming from Lubitz's girlfriend.

Well, CNN's Erin McLaughlin is standing by near the crash site in Le Vernet in France. And she joins us from there.

Hearing from Francois Hollande today in a press conference in Berlin, what else have we learned?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Becky.

Well, French President Francois Hollande, as well as Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel made a point to thank the residents in this area in the

French Alps, the people who have come out with a tremendous outpouring of support for these families who are grieving here in Vernet, incredible

scenes of emotion, incredible scenes of sorrow. A short while ago, families and friends of the victims arrived aboard large buses.

They were here to visit a small memorial site, a stone that's been placed just over that way inscribed in multiple languages dedicated to the victims

of flight 9525, families and friends laying flowers and poems. Some 26 families from around six different countries in the area today.

Authorities held a press conference saying some 450 people who were close to the victims of flight 9525 have visited this area, including the family

of Junichi Sato (ph). He was 48 years old. He was the acting manager of a Japanese trading business in Dusseldorf, he was on the Monday in Barcelona

for a business meeting. And then on the Tuesday, he boarded flight 9525.

His family was here. He leaves behind his wife and two children. His co- worker was here as well. He describes the families tremendous grief. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): His wife is saying she can't still believe what is happening now. She said, "I feel like my husband is still

away for a business trip and coming back soon."

Everybody was just in tears as they watched towards the mountains.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN: And this community really welcoming these families with open arms. 2,000 local residents offering up their homes, 1,000 people

volunteering to help local residents saying that by helping these families they're really helping themselves, because they, too, are struggling to

cope with this tremendous tragedy -- Becky.

[11:40:08] ANDERSON: Erin McLaughlin is in Le Vernet in France for you. Apologies for the noise behind me.

Now in the United States, the governor of Indiana promises to, and I quote, fix a controversial religious freedom law this week. State officials have

faced a barrage of criticism after some said that the new law allows for discrimination against gay ad lesbian people. Business leaders have also

condemned the law.

Well, let's cross live to the city of Indianapolis in Indiana right now. Rosa Flores is standing by for you tonight.

And Rosa, a group of corporate chief executives in Indiana I know wrote to the governor Mike Pence saying that they are concerned about the law's

impact on the state. When the governor says he will fix that law, what exactly does he mean?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORREPSONDENT: You know, the governor speaking right now to reporters letting them know and letting the entire nation know, quite

frankly, because of the attention that this law has attracted from around the country, letting people know that he is asking legislators to draft

something by the end of the week legislation, new legislation that would fix the RFRA law.

Now as you mentioned, there has been backlash, companies coming forward and saying that they are against this particular legislation. There are

people, famous people, that have come forward, politicians, governors, mayors, and so a lot of attention is focusing on Indiana right now and the

governor answering those difficult questions as we speak for the third time, Becky, quite frankly, because of the attention on Indiana.

(BEGIN VIEO CLIP)

GOV. MIKE PENCE, (R) INDIANA: Was I expecting this kind of backlash? Heaven's no. To be candid with you, you know, when I first heard about the

legislation, I heard that it was already federal law for more than 20 years, I heard that it was the law through statute and court decisions in

30 jurisdictions, in the wake of last year's Supreme Court case, the Hobby Lobby case, I just thought it was an appropriate addition to Indiana's

statutes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: Now Democrats calling for a repeal of that law. Based on what we heard from the governor today, that doesn't appear to be in the cards,

Becky.

ANDERSON: Rosa Flores is in Indiana for you this evening.

Well, the United States is standing by its support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen as the country descends deeper into chaos, one of our

top stories tonight running gun battles have been reported in the city of Aden this Tuesday after a night of airstrikes by coalition forces against

Houthi rebel targets.

On Monday, dozens of deaths were reported at the al Musarik (ph) refugee camp in Harad (ph), near the Saudi border.

And the International Committee of the Red Cross is now warning of a rapidly expanding humanitarian problem in the country.

Well, among the organizations concerned, the alleged blocking of aid to the country by an unspecified coalition member or members.

I'm joined by Yemen expert Peter Salisbury, a former consultant on the country to the leading London think thank Chatham House. He is in New York

for us as we speak.

I want to play our viewers a clip from White House press secretary Josh Earnest on MSNBC last week. He was asked how the Obama administration

could still hold Yemen up as an example of foreign policy success, which is what he did of course back in September of last year, not even six months

ago.

This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The measure of the U.S. policy should not be grated against the success or the stability of the Yemeni

government. That's a separate enterprise. And the goal of the U.S. policy toward Yemen has never been to try to build a Jeffersonian democracy there.

The goal of U.S. policy in Yemen is to make sure that Yemen cannot be a safe haven that extremists can use to attack the west and to attack the

United States.

ANDERSON: So in short, our interest in Yemen is protecting ourselves, not protecting the Yemeni people.

Is that the sum of it, do you think?

PETER SALISBURY, FRM. MEMBER CHATHAM HOUSE: Well, it's very interesting to hear a member of the Obama administration saying that given that the U.S.

government is among the many international diplomats, diplomat -- international -- the many countries that have supported Yemen's transition

to democracy since former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was force out of the presidency in 2011. That transition has now collapsed in its entirety.

The U.S. was backing it. And it seems that they're now saying that their primary concern is security.

What's odd, though, is that the current campaign is fighting the Houthis and the remnants of the Yemeni military rather than al Qaeda in the Arabia

peninsula, the local al Qaeda franchise.

So we have a situation where Washington is claiming that they're doing their best to maintain U.S. security while backing a debilitating war in

Yemen that may well provide a safe haven for al Qaeda, may provide the kind of security vacuum that al Qaeda thrives in.

[11:45:44] ANDERSON: Peter, we'll have you back. Got to take a break at this point. There's been a lot of moving elements in this show. But the

story continues. And we'll have you back here on Connect the World with me Becky Anderson live from Abu Dhabi at 45 minutes past 7:00 on a busy news

day.

It's down to the wire as talks between world powers and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program enter what is supposedly a final stretch.

We're going to get reaction from Lausanne and from Tehran up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Right now, top officials from Iran and six world powers are watching the clock. They have just over six hours to meet what is a self-

imposed deadline actually to agree on the framework for a nuclear deal.

Well, let's bring in professor Sadegh Zibakalam from the Tehran University joining us live from the Iranian capital.

I don't think we're getting too hung up on this ticking clock, sir. But you have been commenting on the nuclear talks for years. Has a day come

for Iranians to finally put this file behind them, do you think?

SADEGH ZIBAKALAM, TEHRAN UNIVERSITY: Well, there is atmosphere of excitement. Everyone is asking have you heard the latest news? What is

the latest news? And perhaps your viewers do not -- many of them do not know that it's a new year. It's just like Christmas holiday in Iran.

But everywhere that people go they simply talk about the nuclear negotiation. And what has been the latest. And I think it would be a

huge disappointment for millions of Iranians if there is no good news at the end of so much excitement and so much expectation.

ANDRESON: So what will success look like, sir? Is it the rooming of banking sanctions, for example?

[11:50:02] ZIBAKALAM: No, it -- I would have thought that people are really fed up with all these deadlock over the nuclear issue. I have been

monitoring today for many hours the -- wire and other Facebook and other comments that Iranians are exchanging with what with one another. Not many

are actually defending the right of Iranian for nuclear activity. Whereas before everyone was -- everyone felt some kind of nationalistic towards the

Iranian nuclear activity.

But it appears that people, at least some people, that is to say, have lost their enthusiasm for -- because they feel that they have suffered so much

because of the nuclear activity and because of the nuclear program -- the deadlock, et cetera, et cetera.

ANDERSON: What impact will the outcome of these talks, do you think, have on Iranian attitudes towards the United States? Will there, for example,

still be reason for anti-American foreign policy, do you think?

ZIBAKALAM: Well, hardliners in Iran are very much against agreement between Iran and the United States. And we can understand why they are so

much against any agreement because if Iran and United States after 36 years of animosity and hatred, if they can reach an understanding over the

problematic and complex nuclear issue, then many people would wonder, many people would ask Iranian president as well as the President Obama well why

can't you agree on other issues?

If you can agree over the nuclear issue, which appears that you have agreed, well, for heavy sake why not agree on other issues? Why are you

still insisting to be animosity and hatred between Tehran and Washington.

ANDERSON: With that, sir, we will leave it. We very much appreciate you joining us out of Tehran this evening.

And viewers, CNN of course committed to covering this story. We'll be across those talks as and when they wind up if indeed that is the case in

what is a self-imposed deadline, you'll remember, March 31.

Until then, I'm Becky Anderson. That was Connect the World. From the team here, it's a very good evening.

END