Return to Transcripts main page

CONNECT THE WORLD

Russian President Criticizes U.S. For Meddling in FIFA; Swiss Authorities to Question 10 In FIFA Corruption Probe; Iraqi Forces Fight to Retake Baiji; FIFA President Sepp Blatter's First Public Comments Since Indictments; U.S. Investigating Live Anthrax Samples Sent to Military Laboratories. Aired 11:00a-12:00a ET

Aired May 28, 2015 - 11:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:00:26] MICHEL PLATINI, UEFA PRESIDENT: I think we already lost -- FIFA has already lost.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: The top man of European football, Michel Platini says enough is enough.

Tonight, is time running out for FIFA boss Sepp Blatter? We're live in Zurich where we're expecting him -- see him for the first time since the

arrest of several FIFA officials on U.S. corruption charges.

And what are FIFA's sponsors saying about the latest scandal? We'll tell you which brands are speaking out.

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

ANDERSON: 7:00 in the evening here in the UAE. It is a pretty sandy evening here.

We are expecting major breaking news this hour in the corruption scandal that has tarnished the beautiful game. Any moment now, we are told

that FIFA's long running and very powerful president Sepp Blatter will indeed address the opening session of the FIFA congress in Zurich in

Switzerland.

These are live pictures coming to you from there.

Blatter, of course, has not been charged in what is this blockbuster fraud case brought by the U.S. But there are nonetheless renewed calls for

him to resign.

In just the past few hours, Europe's football chief revealed he made a direct appeal to Blatter to step down, a request Michel Platini says the

FIFA president rejected.

Well, lots of moving parts on this major story. CNN's Alex Thomas starts us off from Zurich.

And as we await that press conference from Blatter, Alex there's no secret that Platini is no fan of Sepp Blatter. He says he's disgusted,

insulted and sick of everything he's witnessed over the past days, but as you've been reporting Blatter is still very popular around the world, but

in Europe, which does seem remarkable -- why?

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Becky. And Michel Platini himself has actually got a complicated character, the UEFA

president, because he also said in that news conference just a couple of hours ago that he still considered Sepp Blatter to be a close friend of

his. And he said it was as a friend, and it's very hard to speak to a friend and ask him face-to-face to quit, but he had to do it for the good

of football.

Blatter, of course said no, he wants to face FIFA's congress, the 200 plus members of the national associations from across the world who will

vote for the next president in the building behind me tomorrow.

The opening ceremony, actually, is taking place in the building behind me and then the vote across the street tomorrow.

But you're right, Becky, outside of Europe where there's a lot of anti-Blatter feeling, Sepp Blatter is still very popular despite all the

astonishing scandal we've seen this week. And to explain why, I asked the head of Nigeria's football association, the president Amaju Pinnick why

he'd still be voting for Blatter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMAJU PINNICK, NIGERIAN FA PRESIDENT: Nigeria will vote for Blatter.

THOMAS: Why?

PINNICK: Because he has impacted hugely not just on African continent, but more developing nations. More countries now feel that --

there's more countries that have that feeling of belongingness. You know, I can give you so many examples. I'll give you one...

THOMAS: Does he look after the little guys? Is that the thinking?

PINNICK: Not looking after the little guys -- looking after the little guys in terms of making every country, no matter how small, he makes

all the countries look very important, and makes them feel equal like the big nations.

It also makes them to benefit -- equal benefits. So that is why you see most countries naturally just love this guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS: Becky, let me put it in other terms, you know when you see an odd couple, say I don't know a tall glamorous leggy blonde with some very

strange, old weird looking guy, and you think why are they together? Well, there we are, Amaju has just explained, it's because he makes me feel

special.

ANDERSON: We are waiting for the smaller, more weird looking guys perhaps you're alluding to, to speak shortly.

Sepp Blatter will be speaking, and we will take that live. What can we expect him to say?

THOMAS: We're -- it's very difficult to predict what Sepp Blatter is going to say. He's said some astonishing things down the years, and his

verbal gaffes contributing to his reputation as being scandal-ridden as much as the actual corruption that we've seen from people around him.

Sepp Blatter still himself has not had a smoking gun pointing at him.

Mr. Pinnick, the Nigerian FA president we just heard from said, you know, if it was proved that Blatter himself was directly responsible for

corruption or done something illegal himself, I would change my vote.

I don't expect, Becky Blatter to stand up and say, you know, this is too much. I'm ruining the game, I'm going to quit and leave the door open

for Prince Ali to be elected as FIFA president unopposed. I expect him to fight to the last and say don't listen to these do mongers, I'm still the

man to lead the reform process.

[11:05:27] ANDERSON: And the election, of course, the presidential election is tomorrow.

Let me just read out to you, because I'm not sure that you'll have got this information. I know that CNN have just spoken with Andre Marti (ph),

who is the spokesman for the Swiss attorney general's office. A key line coming out of that interview, which will be broadcast on CNN a little later

today, he said, be assured that the office of the attorney general of Switzerland will not hesitate to question the FIFA president if needs be.

For the time being, we decided that we are going to start today to question first people on a voluntary basis. But if we are of the opinion that we

need further information, be it from the president of FIFA or the secretary-general, we won't hesitate to ask them to come in and to provide

respective information.

That would be -- that would be some sight, wouldn't it, seeing Blatter going into the attorney general's office.

THOMAS: It would -- yeah, it certainly would be, Becky.

He says he's happy to be questioned, happy to cooperate the way FIFA as an organization are. But this is the thing that the 209 people who are

going to vote in the presidential election have to consider, do we vote for Sepp Blatter because we know as far as we're concerned he's good for us.

He spreads FIFA's riches far and wide, or are we prepared to accept all these corrupt scandal-ridden headlines year after year, because as we heard

in the U.S. Department of Justice news conference on Wednesday, Becky, the investigations are continuing.

This is not the end of it this week, this is the beginning of it.

We can see a lot more. And of course, if you've got a new man at the helm at FIFA, then at least they can't be tarnished with that brush.

Blatter on the other hand, that corruption stick will be used again and again to beat and the image of the game with.

ANDERSON: Yeah, it's remarkable.

All right, we're going to do more on this, of course. Alex, for the time being, thank you for that.

More this hour, on the football corruption case. We're going to hear from the president of the Palestinian football association and find out

what he makes of this scandal.

And we'll also look at the reaction coming now from football's biggest sponsors, corporate giants such as Visa, Coca-Cola and others, the ones

that spend the millions, multi-millions on advertising and where FIFA makes much of its money.

Right, hang on for that press conference from Sepp Blatter as and when we'll get it we will bring it to you.

I'm going to move you on now just for a couple of other news stories that we are following here on CNN. To Iraq first where officials are

uncovering what appears to be more evidence of ISIS atrocities. Forensic teams have now exhumed the bodies of 499 people from mass graves in Tikrit.

They are believed to be Iraqi military cadets executed last year in what was a massacre claimed by ISIS.

Iraqi troops, along with Shia and Sunni militiamen recaptured Tikrit two months ago and now they are on the offensive once again, this time

battle to retake territory including Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province and Baiji, home to Iraq's largest oil refinery.

Well, Nick Paton Walsh got rare access to the front lines around Baiji traveling with an elite Iraqi military unit. He's back in Baghdad and

joins us now.

What did you find, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Well, heading north of where we are here in Baghdad through where you mentioned Tikrit up

towards Baiji, you can see in Baiji, really, the preparations Iraqi special forces are putting in together there. They have the ammunition, they have

the men, they say, what they don't have is a full proof way of taking back a facility quite as complex as the Baiji oil refinery without potentially

causing an ecological disaster where ISIS refuse to destroy what they leave behind.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH (voice-over): This is just a taste of how apocalyptic it could get at the vital Baiji oil refinery, already choking on smoke. Part of this

huge complex is still head by ISIS. The months-long fight here slowed by fears of the ecological chaos ISIS could reach if they scorch and burn here

as they retreat.

Iraqi Special Forces took us to their front line, defending the ruins of a house that a coalition air strike pushed ISIS out of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WALSH: They, from the elite Golden Division. Their Ramadi colleagues, part of the troops the U.S. said lacked the will to fight.

(on camera): That line of buildings over there ISIS's closest position. And yesterday during a thick sandstorm here, they used the cover

of it to advance within 20 meters of here. When the sandstorm subsided, suddenly a fire fight began.

(GUNFIRE)

[11:10:15] WALSH (voice-over): We don't know why they start shooting this day, what they may have seen. ISIS are few in number here, they say,

but willing to die. And had a sniper nearby. Or maybe they more want to show us and even Washington they very much do want to fight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WALSH: "It's not logical and wrong," he says of the American press, "because anywhere, in Ramadi or Baiji, anywhere duty calls, we fight."

(GUNFIRE)

[08:25:18] WALSH: Their gunfire grows, and usually it's mortars that ISIS fire back.

(GUNFIRE)

WALSH: So we pull out.

(GUNFIRE)

WALSH: More ammunition, some American is arriving at their base, but the fight will be a slow encirclement, we're told. The reason we want to

surround them, he says, is because we cleaned up the area properly with engineers because it has fear of booby traps.

Plenty here of ISIS, a vital part of Baghdad's new plan for Ramadi, but a slow grind. Mindful that Iraq needs something to live off if ISIS

ever leaves.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: Now Baiji is vital, because it is about an hour's drive away from Mosul, one key ISIS stronghold and is the north of the supply route

down to the Anbar province ISIS is said to use.

There's been the first target of Shia fighters since the beginning of the announcement, certainly, of this announcement to clean them out of

Anbar. And it also gives you a window, really, onto even a situation like this when the Iraqi troops have ammunition, they say they have the numbers.

They appear to have the unity to take the operation against ISIS there.

They face the impossible task of trying to defend the refinery (inaudible) they a have to attack as well to get ISIS out of it. That is

just a window on comparatively simple operation in terms of their forces where their cohesive amount and then adds to that, taking the fight to a

city the size of Ramadi where nearly a million people live when you have to try and get unity between Sunni tribesmen who are from that area, Shia

fighters and Iraqi security forces, too.

The complexity here let's you really understand, Becky, this is going to take some time to produce results -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Nick Paton Walsh in Baghdad for you this evening.

Well, the U.S. military mistakenly sent live anthrax samples to laboratories in several U.S. states and to a U.S. air base in South Korea.

CNN's Kathy Novak went to the base where 22 people are now getting preventative treatment as a precaution.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATHY NOVAK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was supposed to be inactive anthrax, and it was shipped by commercial carrier from a lab

in Utah all the way here to an air force base in South Korea.

On Wednesday, emergency services personnel moved in to destroy the anthrax, decontaminate the facility and test the 22 people who may have

been exposed to a substance so deadly it can be used as a biological weapon.

We're told there's no threat to the public and that those 22 people are showing no signs of exposure, but they have been given antibiotics, and

in some cases vaccinations as a precaution.

In the meantime, a major investigation is underway. The CDC is working with the Pentagon to determine just how such a serious and

potentially deadly mistake could possibly been made.

Kathy Novak, CNN, Osan (ph), South Korea.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Still to come tonight, laying the trap: the FBI continues its investigation into FIFA wrongdoing. We're going to have the very

latest on that from Washington.

We are also, of course, waiting on a press conference from Sepp Blatter in Switzerland. We'll get you to that as soon as that starts.

And later in the program, how long -- low can you go? With all this bad press, what is the tipping point for FIFA's long suffering sponsors?

Well, we will ask that question a little later this hour.

You're with Connect the World. I'm Becky Anderson. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:15:07] ANDERSON: And the FIFA President Sepp Blatter hasn't made any public comments since the corruption indictments, as you know, but he

is about to address the FIFA congress getting underway in Zurich right now. Let's listen in.

(FIFA CONGRESS OPENING CEREMOMNY)

[11:24:22] ANDERSON: Well, Sepp Blatter has just opened the 65th congress of the footballing world with these words, these are unprecedented

and difficult times for FIFA. The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over football. The actions of individuals bringing shame and

humiliation on football, Blatter said, and demand change from us all. We cannot let the reputation of football be dragged through the mud.

He said it has to stop now. And went on to say, I know many hold me responsible for the actions of those in charge of world football. He said,

I cannot monitor everyone all of the time, but if that must fall to me to be ultimately responsible for our organization. And he went on.

Let's bring in Alex Thomas, because Alex is in Zurich just outside of where Sepp Blatter was just speaking.

We were considering what he might say. And I was quite surprised by how sort of deep his words were. But he went on to say we cannot let the

actions of a few affect and destroy those of the majority. He sort of stepped back, said it was good for the game that these few people were

being sort of flushed out and that things would move on.

Your thoughts.

THOMAS: This was a masterful speech, Becky, from a consummate politician. Oh, what Sepp Blatter might have achieved in the world of

politics if he'd gone that route instead of administrating football. But he got into genuinely for the love of the game.

And the way some people bemoan occasionally world political leaders or national political leaders for starting for the right reasons and then

going astray down the wrong road, I guess you could say the same about Sepp Blatter. When he got into the game back in the 1970s, the world was a very

different place, sport at the highest level was a very different place. It still had a huge amateur ethos, the kind of modern transparency in

corporate governance we expect from big business globally was not yet applied to big sporting organizations of a global nature just as FIFA is

the governing body for the world of football.

So he said all the right things to appease any doubters amongst his audience. And remember that was how crucial it was. He was speaking to

the very people that are going to vote for the next president of FIFA in the building just here tomorrow.

And they are already mostly on Blatter's side, bar the European delegates, and he just had to convince them that he was humble enough to

say I will continue to reform.

And he has done in the last four years, except he's been at FIFA for 40 years. So what was he doing the rest of the time?

ANDERSON: There can be no place for corruption of any kind. The next few months will not be easy. He said, I am sure that there will be more

bad news to follow. It is important that we restore trust. Let this be the turning point.

When he says, I am sure there will be more bad news to follow, do you think he knows that there will be more bad news?

THOMAS: I'm sure he knows. I'm absolutely positive of it. And it was promised to us, wasn't it, in that explosive U.S. Department of Justice

news conference that we heard out of the states on Wednesday when we heard a litany of charges that sounded like a Mafia movie script. We thought

surely this is a joke, this can't apply to the beautiful game.

And they said then in that news conference this is the beginning of the investigations, not the end. And we've heard much the same thing from

the other investigation, the second and other independent investigation being held here in Switzerland by the federal authorities here looking into

the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process.

There is more dirty laundry to come out yet. And the congress members, if they did have the wool pulled over their eyes by Blatter's

very, very masterful speech, just might have to consider do we want that dirty laundry aired with Sepp Blatter still as FIFA president and all the

baggage that comes with it? Or do we want to try a new man in charge?

ANDERSON: For those of our viewers who don't know Jordan's Prince Ali who is standing against Sepp Blatter, what do we know about him? What does

he know about football?

THOMAS: He's -- yeah, he's been in football most of his career. He's not yet 40, he almost is, he's the third son of he late King Hussein of

Jordan. And as Michel Platini, the UEFA president, mentioned earlier, if you're worried about corruption don't worry about Prince Ali, because he's

already phenomenally rich and always will be, because of his royal connections from the royal family in Jordan.

So, you can't tempt him with a check with lots of zeroes on it, because he doesn't need the cash, frankly.

He became head of Jordan's football association at a young age, and has been a FIFA vice president for more than a decade.

So, he certainly has plenty of football administration experience, although not as much as Sepp Blatter who is 79 years old.

My concern over how legitimate a contender, of a challenger he could be, is that he lacks a bit of charisma. He's quite an earnest man. He's

got some very interesting pledges on his manifesto that he unveiled since announcing his candidacy earlier in the year. But whether that's enough to

sway the rock bed of support that Blatter has in Africa, Asia and South America is quite another thing, Becky.

[11:29:59] ANDERSON: He may lack a little charisma, but those who support him certainly don't, one being Maradona, of course, well supported

by the former international superstar.

All right, thank you for that. Alex Thomas doing an extremely good job in what has been an extremely busy 24 hours of news that have rocked

the footballing world, and the news continues as we move towards this presidential election tomorrow. Alex, thank you.

Live from Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World. I'm Becky Anderson. Coming up, some are standing side by side while others couldn't away fast

enough. FIFA's sponsors say where they stand on FIFA's corruption claims. That is coming up for you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. Just after half past 7:00 in the UAE, which is our

broadcasting home, of course.

Back to our top story this hour as the crisis at FIFA continues in earnest. Sepp Blatter has just spoken in Zurich at the annual FIFA

congress. He said there can be no place in the corruption in the footballing body. And he says these are unprecedented times.

Well, the president of UEFA, which is the European footballing body Michel Platini said most of his member associations want Blatter to go.

Platini told the press he is aware of Blatter's tactics ahead of tomorrow's presidential election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PLATINI: I know what is his strategy. His strategy is to bring all the congress his, to have some speakers in the room to convince the people,

you know, as usual, to convince the most to vote for him and then at the end he will say look at the democracy. Democracy of the most numbers that

we've said that I have to stay and I will stay.

But I think he already lost. FIFA has already lost.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Now, whatever happens with the elections, this is an election for the president -- and Sepp Blatter would be going into his

fifth term if he were to win. The scandal could have an impact on the large sums of sponsorship dollars. And I'm talking huge.

Samuel Burke now with more on that for you from London.

And Samuel, first it seemed like the message from these major sponsors wasn't all that strong, but then once companies came out with a little bit

more, we seem to get a sort of drip feed of information. What's going on? What have we heard?

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, it was interesting yesterday, the lack of muscle from some of these companies.

The top sponsors of FIFA, companies like Hyundai and Visa their comment was, well, no comment.

You're seeing all of FIFA's top sponsors, they're on your screen right now.

Then McDonalds came out with a little more meat. They said this news is extremely concerning. But the one statement that has been the strongest

so far is from Visa. In a statement they told us the following, quote, it is important that FIFA make changes now. Should FIFA fail to do so, we

have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.

Certainly the strongest words we've heard so far.

But Becky, important to note that not a single company, not a single sponsor, has pulled their money yet.

[11:35:15] ANDERSON: All right. More on that as we get it. Samuel on the case of the sponsors for you.

You just heard FIFA president Sepp Blatter addressing the opening of the group's congress in Zurich. It is the 65th congress making his first

public comments since the arrest of several FIFA executives on charges of corruption on Wednesday.

Now, while the head of the European association has called on Blatter to step down, the FIFA president still has a number of prominent

supporters, not least that of Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): We are not concerned. But of course I have an opinion on this issue. As we know on

Friday, the FIFA presidential elections are to be held and Mr. Blatter has all the chances to be reelected. We know that pressure has been exerted on

him to ban the World Cup in 2018 in Russia. We know his position, which has nothing to do with some special relationship of FIFA and Russia. This

is his general position of principle, sport and politics should be separate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, the head of the Palestinian football association met with Mr. Blatter in the West Bank last week. Jibril Rajoub is pushing to

have Israel thrown out of the World Cup when FIFA meet on Friday.

We caught up with him a short time ago. And I began by asking where he stands on the embattled FIFA president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIBRIL RAJOUB, PALESTINIAN FA PRESIDENT: Tomorrow, we are going to discuss the issue of Palestine. He who is going to support me, who is

going to raise a red card for the racism and the humiliation that the Palestinian footballers are facing, for sure I am going to vote for him.

ANDERSON: FIFA makes big money, doesn't it? Its financial records show it has racked in over just over $2 billion last year, most of it from

the World Cup. Of that, FIFA says it invested half a billion in football development around the world, which will be important to you.

Overall, it says it spends about $550,000 on football programs every day. Is that enough?

RAJOUB: I think that there is now a case and the case is in front of the judicial system here in Switzerland. I do trust the system. I think

FIFA is more than individuals, FIFA is organization. FIFA is a system, a statue (ph), it's a principle ethics and values as I do believe that we

have to strengthen the organization. We have to strengthen the mission of the organization and individuals I think will come and pass. And he who

violated the code of conducts and the ethics of the organization, he should go to the court and for sure we -- everybody should respect and accept

that.

ANDERSON: Will you've said effectively that you are going to support Sepp Blatter. I'm interested to get your reaction, then, to the man

running against Blatter, none other than the Jordanian Prince Ali. Why is he not getting overwhelming support from Asian federations or Middle East

federations do you think?

RAJOUB: First of all -- first of all, I did not say whom I am going to support. Tomorrow, the Palestinian issue will be discussed before the

elections. He who among the two candidates going to support my case for sure that I have to support him.

But for sure, if I have any doubt that this or that candidate is part of the corruption for sure that I have -- I will reconsider and I will

study well how to vote.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Mr. Rajoub from the Palestinian footballing association.

Well, it is critical to remember that these two cases against FIFA executives that we've been reporting on now extensively for 24 hours are

separate. While Swiss authorities are targeting the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, the FBI is targeting a whole other litany of

financial crimes. Six of the seven FIFA officials facing charges in the United States say they play to fight against extradition.

Let's bring in CNN's Sunlen Serfaty in Washington for more.

They say they'll fight extradition, what's the likelihood that they will win that? Or they will have to face charges in the United States.

How does the Justice Department feel about it?

[11:40:02] SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And, Becky, you should note that the newly minted Justice Department head,

Loretta Lynch, she's only been on the job for one month. And this is one of her first big cases that she's bringing out, making that stand yesterday

with the FBI director Comey coming out strong about these charges.

And we noted previously in the segment before this about Russian president Putin's comments and about how he believes the U.S. is meddling

in FIFA and the World Cup proceedings, I should tell you that White House does not have a response back on that again, but it certainly -- this, we

can call it a spat between the U.S. and Russia. It kind of puts and exclamation point on the tensions on the rhetoric between Russia and the

United States over what's going on in Ukraine. So it certainly complicates that matter. We know that the increase -- there's been increased rhetoric

from the U.S. administration this week.

Yesterday, Vice President Biden noting that he believes that Putin is Kryptonite to democracy and noting that the United States is considering,

but not made a decision on potentially sending weapons in to helping the Ukrainian troops.

But again, it's an interesting intersection that involves the Department of Justice and of course international diplomacy between the

U.S. and Russia -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

Look, we -- you can always follow the stories that the team here is working on throughout the day, including the latest developments in what is

this unfolding FIFA corruption scandal.

Expect more even Sepp Blatter said that there could be more bad news to come.

We've got the presidential elections, or the election for president of FIFA coming up tomorrow. So this story is not going away.

I know many of you watching this show will be massive football fans. And if you're not, you'll understand why people are so passionate about the

game. Let me know your thoughts. You can tweet me, of course @BeckyCNN. That's @BeckyCNN. Or Facebook.com/CNNConnect.

I'm Becky Anderson. And that was Connect the World. From the team here in Abu Dhabi and those working with us around the world it is a very

good evening. CNN, though, of course doesn't go away. We're taking a very short break. The network back after this with your headlines.

END