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Chemical Attack in Idlib Province; France's Heartland Stronghold for Marine Le Pen's National Front; Distractions for White House Ahead of Meeting with China; Tesla Overtakes Ford Motor Company in Overall Value. 11:00a-12:00p ET

Aired April 4, 2017 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:17] LYNDA KINKADE, HOST: A suspected chemical attack in Syria, anti-government activists say dozens of people have been killed, hundreds

injured in rebel-held (inaudible).

We'll have updates in a moment from our reporters in the Middle East and at the United Nations as France calls for an emergency meeting.

Also ahead...


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are very much behind president el-Sisi.


KINKADE: Throwing his weight behind a Middle Eastern strongman, Donald Trump welcomes the Egyptian president to the White House, kicking off a

week of diplomatic meetings.

Plus, a suicide bombing in Russia's second biggest city. Authorities identify the man they say is behind the attack that left 14 people dead.

Those details coming up.

Hello, I'm Lynda Kinkade. Welcome to Connect the World.

Well, in Syria, a suspected chemical gas attack has reportedly killed dozens of people, sleaving many more gasping for air in a hospital in

Syria's Idlib Province.

Activist groups say airstrikes that hit the city of Khan Shekoun (ph) gave of a poisonous gas. Video shows emergency workers trying to wash what

could be a toxic substance from the bodies of young children.

Now, the images are graphic, but we do want to share them with you.

CNN still hasn't been able to confirm what kind of substance was used in the attack, or whether the planes the planes that launched the air strikes

were Syrian.

Idlib province is mainly controlled by a network of rebel groups and it's often the target of atacks by Syria and its Russian ally. Well, Rusisa

says it's jets did not carry out any airstrikes in the area.

Well, CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is reporting on the attack from Amman, Jordan. And our senior international UN correspondent Richard Roth has more on

France's call for that emergency meeting.

First to Jomana, the pictures we're seeing show scores of people wounded, children struggling to breathe. What can you tell us about the attack?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Horrific images, Lynda. The information we're getting, and we're trying to piece together what did

take place in Idlib Province in northwesetern Syria. And this information is coming from

several activist groups, from opposition groups and also from that monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. They say that

dozens of people were killed, and the figures are anywhere between 50-70 people who were killed and possibly hundreds who were wounded as a result

of asphyxiation after people were exposed, they say, to some sort of an unknown poisonous gas, or a chemical agent.

One activist that CNN spoke to in this town of Khan Shakhoun (ph) earlier today says that at about 6:30 a.m. there was an airstrike in the center of

the town and that was where that chemical, or that poisonous gas came from. And that was followed about five minutes later by three other airstrikes,

but that there was no poisonous gas as part of those airstrikes.

And as you mentioned, Lynda, throughout the day we have been seeing these images, these videos surfacing purportedly showing the aftermath of this

attack, really difficult to watch, extremely graphic and horrific images coming from Khan Shakhoun (ph), and it's unclear at this point who carried

out this attack, but Syrian opposition groups are blaming this on the Syrian regime. We have not yet heard from this Syrian government. We've

heard from their allies, the Russians, as you mentioned, denying any involvement or carrying out any airstrikes in that area. And the Syrian

regime in the past has repeatedly denied carrying out any sort of chemical attacks, Lynda.

KINKADE: And Jomana, we are just seeing some pictures of some children being sprayed

with what I assume is water. How are the victims receiving treatment there? Are there any concerns about further strikes?

KARADSHEH: Well, Lynda, according to medical workers, doctors there in around the different parts of Idlib province, they are really struggling to

cope with what some doctors have described as this according to one doctor. They say they've had to turn back patients because they ran

out of ventilators in this one hospital.

And another issue they're facing is that so many of the hospitals in this part of Syria, they say, have been targeted in the past. They have been

taken out of service because of air strikes that have hit them in the past.

So, they're really struggling to cope. And today we also heard following that attack that there was an air strike that hit near one of those

hospitals that was already dealing with the patients, the victims of that alleged chemical attack.

Now, neighboring Turkey has set up some sort of an emergency response center across the

border to help and assist with these patients. But it is a very slow process from what we understand, because they are washing these patients

before they're able to take them into Turkey, because no one really knows at this point what they are dealing with, what sort of possible chemical

agent or poisonous gas they're dealing with.

And about a couple hours ago we heard from Turkey that 15 patients had been transferred over. So it's a very chaotic and a very difficult situation

for those medical workers in Idlib Province today.

[11:06:11] KINKADE: Yeah, no doubt. And just while you were talking an alert just came across my desk. It's saying that two state run Syrian news

outlets are reporting that there was an explosion at a rebel poison gas factory in the countryside there. So,

there seem to be pointing the finger at rebels in the area. We'll have more on that as the show goes on.

But I want to bring up Richard now. And look at the international response. The French foreign minister calling for an emergency United

Nations meeting. What can we expect to come from that?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've been down this road before. There's no scheduled timing yet of this so-called emergency

meeting, but there is anger at the Security Council among countries who think long ago that the Syrian regime of Assad should have been held

accountable for various attacks on rebels and civilians using chemical gas and other substances. A short time ago, the UK ambassador to the UN,

Matthew Rycroft, expressed that anger.


MATTHEW RYCROFT, UK PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE TO THE UN: I'm horrified by what has happened in Idlib. We do not have all the information yet, but

the attack bears all the hallmarks of yet another deliberate campaign by the Syrian regime and their military backers to use chemical weapons.

The United Kingdom abhors the use of chemical weapons anywhere by anyone. And we demand that those who perpetrated this act are brought to justice.

The UK and France have called for an emergency meeting of the security council as soon as the U.S.

presidency can schedule it.


ROTH: As the ambassador mentioned, Nikki Haley is the president of the Security Council, representing the United States for this entire month of

April. It will be interesting to see the U.S. reaction from both Washington and here. You'll remember, nearly four years ago, the United

States, which had threatened Syria if it had crossed some red lines, well, an eventually an agreement it will be interesting to see the action

between the U.S. and here we are again.

The UN security council is very divided. And it is likely Russia would especially block any

security council action that might be targeting at the Assad regime at least at this point as far as

we know - Lynda.

KINKADE: Richard, so often we hear of the United Nations being criticized for not doing enough. Today, Turkey has come out and criticized the west

for not intervening after similar attacks like this in the past.

ROTH: Yes. And as I just explained, I mean, the United States under the previous administration no way wanted to get further involved and was able

under heavy criticism to have Assad still in power for all these years as they work towards some sort of negotiated settlement, which was

not going to happen.

The other day Nikki Haley caused a bit of a stir when she said that Assad was not really going

to be the central focus, and if he had to stay in power, in effect, OK. The priority was fighting ISIS and terrorism. They walked that back a

little bit and they have said that Assad, she said, is a war criminal, which the UK ambassador also said today.

But all of these words are not going to stop these chemical attacks. A big test, early test, perhap, for new Trump administration as the Security

Council is appalled by what's happening, China and Russia will remain in support of the Assad regime.

KINKADE: All right. Richard Roth at the UN and Jomana Karadsheh in Amman, Jordan, thank you both very much.

Well, Syria is, of course, one of the biggest foreign policy challenges facing Donald Trump. The U.S. president is focused on international

diplomacy all this week holding high stakes meetings with three world leaders.

Yesterday, he rolled out the red carpet for the Egyptian president Abdel Fatah el-Sisi. They agreed to work together to fight terror, but critics

say Mr. Trump's warm welcome wasn't fit for a strong man who seized power in a military coup.

Well, next President Trump meets with Jordan's King Abdullah tomorrow, then the Chinese

president Xi Jinping on Thursday and Friday.

Mr. Trump is also getting an update on the war in Iraq from his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. You see pictures of him there. He was

dispatched to Baghdad to meet with top officials.

Well, let's bring in our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman, who is live in Irbil, Iraq. We're also joined by senior Washington

correspondent Joe Johns at the White House.

First, I'll go to Joe. Just looking at this Syrian attack. It seems to be a chemical attack. Many Republicans, like John McCain, are saying the last

administration under President Obama didn't tackle this. So, can we expect any real action from the Trump administration.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORREPONDENT: To be quite honest with you, Lynda, there are people here in Washington, D.C. who right now are pointing the finger at

the Trump administration, specifically the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who just last week suggested while he was in Turkey that at the end of the

day it will be the Syrian people who decide the fate of Syrian Presidnet Bahar al-Assad.

So, some suggestion, including from Senator John McCain this morning that there may be some linkage between the Syrian attack that has occurred and

the administration's decision to sort of weigh in on the side of fighting ISIS instead of going after Bashar al-Assad.

An interesting position for this Trump administration to find itself in in the first 100 days - Lynda.

KINKADE: Yeah, it certainly is.

I just want to go to Ben now on Iraq. President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, meeting with military officials and the prime minister there. He

has no political or diplomatic experience. He is there before the secretary of state. It's certainly raising a lot of eyebrows.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well it's important to keep in mind that the Secretary of Defense Mattis has visited Iraq since

the beginning of the Trump presidency. But certainly the fact that the son-in-law, the special adviser to the president, 36-year-old

Jared Kushner is coming to Baghdad before the secretary of state sends a message. It sends a message to Iraqis, one they're not unfamiliar with,

that perhaps closeness in terms of family terms is more important than your diplomatic, your official status within the government.

And yes, he has no diplomatic experience, no military experience. He's never been to Iraq. And of course, Mr. Kushner also has a long list of

other responsibilities dealing with the relationship between the United States and Mexico, Canada, and China as well as the Arab-Israeli conflict

that's just to name a few.

Iraq is a conflict has has kept many American officials busy around the clock for years. How he's going to deal with this one, frankly, it's not

altogether clear. But many Iraqis are -- despite all of that -- well disposed to President Trump. They appreciate what they perceive as a

strong man, something that has some history here in this country.

We've seen for instance, Iraqis naming their children after President Trump. One Iraqi naming his fish restaurant after President Trump.

So in a sense, despite yet another departure from decades of diplomatic convention, what Mr. Kushner is doing here representing President Trump

isn't something altogether unheard of here in Iraq, Lynda.

KINKADE: It is interesting that he certainly has some fans there.

Joe, I just want to go back to you. Yesterday, we saw President Trump in the White House meeting with the Egyptians president, a man who has been

accused of carrying out human rights violations. It certainly was an unusual scene there at the White House.

JOHNS: Unusual in a lot of ways. I think you can say it is certainly true that President

Sisi had been looking to get this picture with the president of the United States meeting in the Oval Office. The seal of approval, if you will, from

the power of the United States.

And it was rare, quite frankly, because this is an invitation that was never extended to President Sisi during the time Barack Obama was in the

White House, because he didn't invite him simply because there an issue with human rights.

He got the picture that he wanted. He got the open embrace of the United States. And, really, a restart in relations between the government of

Egypt and the government of the United States, Lynda.

KINKADE: All right, Joe Johns in Washington, and Ben Wedeman in Irbil, Iraq. Great to have you both with us. Thanks so much.

Well, now to some other stories on our radar. U.S. senate Republicans are gearing up for what's known as the nuclear option, a rule change that would

allow the confirmation of Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee. Democrats have enough votes to block Neil Gorsuch, but a rule could change could end

their filibuster.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is defending relations with Saudi Arabia saying it's an important link for trade and security. Critics want her to

confront the Arab state on its human rights record and military operations in Yemen. Mrs. May is in the region to

promote post-Brexit trade deals.

Boeing says it signed an agreement to sell 30 planes to Iran's airlines. The deal is worth $3 billion. It's Boeing's second deal with Iran since

sanctions against the country were eased last year. It still, though, has to be approved by the U.S. government.

Well, Russian investigators say a suicide bomber was behind Monday's metro bombing in St.

Petersburg. Authorities have identified the suspect as Akbarzhon Jalilov. The 22-year-old, born in Kyrgyzstan was a Russian citizen. At this point

in time, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. And the bomber's motives are unclear.

Russia is mourning the victims of Monday's attack. The health minister confirms that 14 people died, four others remain in a critical condition.

Well, Oren Liebermann is covering the investigation from St. Petersburg. Oren, the Russian bomber identified as this 22-year-old man that was living

there in St. Petersburg. What are investigators saying about him?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this point, investigators first are giving us an idea about how they came to the

conclusion that it was, in fact, 22-year-old Akbarzhon Jalilov who was behind, who they say was behind the bombing. They say they found his DNA

on an unexploded bomb that authorities found and were able to disarm and defuse. And they used that DNA, combined it with closed circuit television

to come to the conclusion, they say, that it was Jalilov who both planted the bomb at the Revolutionary Square metro stop, which is one or two spots

away from where the bomb, in fact, did explode, killing 14, wounding dozens and

leaving a few still in critical condition at this point.

They do say and they do point out that we're still just 24 hours after this bomb attack happened, so this is still the very early stages of the

investigation. And they do caution that these are preliminary findings. But, it gives us some idea of the direction of where this investigation is


We heard some speculation yesterday that this might be a suicide bomb. That wasn't officially confirmed until today, but now we see a clearer

picture of what happened here. And this was the Russian foreign ministry and the Kyrgyzstan foreign ministry speaking together saying this is the

person they believe carried out this attack, a Kyrgyzstan native, a Russia citizen who had been here in St. Petersburg for a few years - Lynda.

KINKADE: Oren, Russia is a terrorist target, in part due to their actions in Syria, although the foreign minister there doesn't want that connection


Just what is the threat level there?

LIERBERMANN: Well, ISIS has made it clear in recent months and years that Russia is one of the targets as it carries out a prolonged bombing campaign

in syria. But it's not purely a Syrian threat. Russia has seen increased radicalization in Kyrgyzstan and some of the other central Asian countries

there. And that is in addition, there are thousands of Russians who have gone off to fight in Syria for ISIS. They become battle hardened and they

become more radicalized and they return. And their intent is to carry out attacks like this, or attacks similar to this.

It's certainly on Russia's radar and that is part of what we might see in terms of a crackdown, in terms of an attempt by the Kremlin to stop or

combat that sort of radicalization and those sort of attempts to carry out attacks on Russian soil here.

KINKADE: And Oren, there was, of course, that other explosive device that was found and neutralized. Does that suggest that there could be another

attacker out there or concerns of a larger network?

LIEBERMANN: It did seem to at first. And that was a very easy conclusion to come to. But the latest from the Russian investigative committee is,

again, from their DNA testing and from their closed-circuit television that they've been able to look at in the hours and now the day after the attack

here. They say that it is one person, is was Jalilov, who both planted the bomb that didn't explode and then blew himself up between this station

here, the Sennaya Square station and the next station down the line here.

So, they say it is one person, at least at this point, behind both of the bombs, the one that

exploded and the one that didn't.

KINKADE: All right. Oren Liebermann, great to have you on the scene down there. Thanks so much.

Well, still to come, we'll have the latest from reports of a chemical attack in Syria and the criticism it's fueling against a recent shift in

policy in the Trump administration.


[11:22:18] KINKADE: Live from the CNN Center, you're watching CNN. And this is Connect the World. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Welcome back.

Well, we're going to return now to our top story, a suspected chemical attack in northern Syria. Activists say dozens of people have been killed,

at least 10 of them were children.

More than 200 people were reportedly injured. And we do have some video of the aftermath, but first I need to warn you that it will be difficult to


So this is what followed after a series of air strikes. Activists say some of those strikes released a poisonous gas, but it's still unclear what kind

gas may have been used or who carried out the strikes. Syrian state media now say that there was an explosion at, quote, rebel poison gas factory in

Idlib Province.

Well, our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour has been following the developments for us from London. Christiane, activists are

blaming the Assad regime for this attack. But sadly we've seen many attacks like this in Syria before.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is the fact. And what's happened is that there is now a mounting anger again

from British capitals here, the foreign secretary, for instance, condemned it. The French have called for an emergency session of the United Nations

Security Council. Russia denies that its planes were involved at all. But this is the kind of thing that's been going on in Syria at various levels

over the last several years. And the last major sarin attack was by the Syrian regime in the summer of 2013.

And at that time, the world and the Syrians believed that there would be punishment because President Obama, if you remember, had made that famous

declaration about a red line, that if Syria, if the Assad regime, were to use chemical weapons on their own people, then that would cause U.S. and

allied intervention.

Well, of course, that happened and it passed without that threat being carried out. And that, many people believe, emboldened the Assad regime in

the intervening years. And now we're in year seven of this war. And this is a terrible attack that's taken place. And people had warned over the

last several weeks the Assad regime were stepping up air bombardments of civilian targets in Idlib, and around near Idlib like in Hamaa, hospitals,

and other such things. And it's taking the same pattern as what they did in Aleppo at the end of this past year, when finally Aleppo

fell and the regime took back Aleppo along with help from their Iranian and Russian counterparts.

But this is a very, very serious attack. It would amount to a war crime. And the question is what is the west going to do about it?

KINKADE: Of course, as I have just stated, the state media there in Syria is pointing the finger, it seems, at the rebel groups. It's not just the

government that has carried out chemical attacks, it's also been rebel groups in the past, isn't that right?

[11:25:12] AMANPOUR: Well, not completely right. Yes, there has been at least one chemical attack attributed to a rebel group, that was a few years

ago. It was known as a blister agent called sulfur, something like that.

But Sarin, to date, has only been attributed to the government. We don't actually know what this chemical was. And investigations are still going

on. All sorts of, for instance, physicians for human rights who have activists in the area and all sorts of others are trying to figure out what

it was, doctors who are sending patients across the border to Turkey for emergency help will finally, you know, get professional conclusive evidence

of what exactly it was.

They believe it was Sarin, but we're not sure at this point that it's been actually formally confirmed.

The problem, of course, is that only the Assad regime and the Russians use air power to deliver these attacks, whether it's barrel bombs, whether it's

bombardment of civilian and other targets, or whether in the past it's been some of these attacks. The last time it happened in 2013, it was rockets

which were carrying this Sarin that hit suburbs outside Damascus. And that, as I mentioned, caused a huge international ruckus, but nothing was

done to stop Assad, except for getting him to so-called agree to give up his chemical weapons, but clearly all these weapons have not been given up.

And if it's not Sarin, then they often use chemical gas, which is also illegal but doesn't create quite the same immediate deathly result as Sarin


KINKADE: As you've mentioned, Christiane, there's so much disagreement about what

to do about Assad. If he is, in fact, behind this chemical attack, clearly it seems that President Trump has no plans to force him out.

AMANPOUR: As people have told me that ship sailed a long time ago. If you remember, a few years ago, secretary of state at the time Hillary Clinton

got all of president Obama's top national security officials, cabinet secretaries, the head of the CIA, the head of CENTCOM, the military

command, the Defense Department, to back her in a plan to arm and train the moderate rebels to try

to push Assad back. That was not taken up by the Obama administration.

And now the Trump administration believes that that moment has gone and that's not what they're focusing on.

You've heard from the Trump Administration's UN Ambassador Nikki Haley who said

yeah, we might not like him, but our focus is not in getting rid of him, our focus now is ISIS.

So, what the Trump administration is doing is pretty much following what Obama and the allies did, which is to try to bomb ISIS and get rid of ISIS,

but they're going to accelerate that, they're going to move on Raqqa. They're already surrounding Raqqa. And you've heard from Ben and others

about what they've been doing in Mosul. And so that's what they are focused on right now.

So, it's a counterterrorism operation and it's not a so-called regime change or stopping the actual war. And to be frank, we all reported after

the fall of Aleppo at the end of the year that while this gives President Assad much of what he wants, he wasn't going to stop there and most people

knew that Idlib would be the next target of the Assad regime because that is where many of the rebels fled

after Aleppo fell and of course many of the civilians had to flee there as well because they couldn't go

home to Aleppo.

So, this war is not over by any means. And this kind of massive attack that would be in contravention of international law, obviously, is

presumably going to focus on minds. But it's very unclear if anything is going to be done about it at all. In fact, the likelihood is that it will


KINKADE: Yeah, it's a sad state of affairs. We will continue to follow it closely. Christian Amanpour, always great to have your analysis on this.

Thanks so much for joining us.

Well, the latest world news headlines are just ahead. Stay with us. We're going to take a short break.


[11:33:26] KINKADE: Well, staying with our top story now, the UN special envoy to Syria

says certain groups are trying to undermine the political process in Syria in the wake of a suspected chemical attack in Idlib Province. Activists

groups say the attack killed dozens of people and we do have some video to share. It's very graphic. It shows young children and adults wearing

oxygen masks struggling to breathe.

Well, CNN hasn't confirmed what kind of substance was used in the attack, but activists say the air strikes gave off a poisonous gas.

Well, meanwhile, Syrian state media says there was an explosion at a rebel poison gas factory in Idlib. Let's dig a little deeper on this attack with

David Butler. He's a chemical weapons specialist. And he joins me via Skype from Salisbury, England. Good to have you with us.


KINKADE: The pictures we are seeing are pretty shocking, many dead and those that are

surviving appear to be bleeding from the nose and mouth, suffering convulsions. What sort of chemical do you think this could be?

BUTLER: Well, again, it could be a number of different chemicals. You know, there are thousands of toxic chemicals out there. But it could be

one that's affecting the breathing passages and the -- in particular, the body's ability to control itself. And so bleeding and that sort of thing,

that involuntary action could indicate that this is some form of toxic hazard, which is causing that.

[11:35:01] KINKADE: We know Sarin gas has been used in the past, what other chemicals have beeen used there?

BUTLER: Well, again, there's the rumors are that mustard agent has been used. Chlorine gas has been used. Of course, this doesn't appear to be a

mustard type agent from what I've seen on the -- so far, in evidence. It does appear to be something which has been breathed in and is causing these

involuntary reactions by the body.

KINKADE: So how do you investigate an incident like this? We saw some pictures of some of

the wounded being sprayed down I assume with water. How do you investigate what it is?

BUTLER: Yeah, I mean, the problem is, that if it is a nerve agent attacking type chemical, then these are very very volatile agents and

therefore they disperse very quickly once they hit the atmosphere. So, if you're caught in it and you breathe it in, then you become a casualty. But

soon after that, the hazard actually dissipates into open air. And so investigating the causes afterwards can be very difficult.

I mean, the initial investigation cause is to look at the signs and systems of the people.

KINKADE: Syria was meant to have given up all its chemical stockpiles. Can Sarin be fabricated? What's that process like?

BUTLER: Yes, it can. You know, the whole difference between a chemical warfare agent, which is a recipe of chemicals, which are militarily put

together, can be replicated using ordinary industrial chemicals. I mean, I was reading there that organophosphates are -- they've had early

indications of organophosphates. Well, that is one of the ingredients of a nerve agent chemical.

KINKADE: We saw that Syrian state media are claiming that this was caused by an explosion at a poison gas factory held by rebels. Do you know of a

gas factory held by rebels there and what sort of chemicals they contain?

BUTLER: I mean, I'm not aware of any particular chemical weapons factories in that area. However, it's not unreasonable to think that, you know,

depending on which side you believe is actually using these, that the rebels may be storing chemicals together for use in some form or another.

and that could have been hit by collateral fire.

KINKADE: All right, David Butler, we'll have to leave it there for now. But great to get your

expertise on all of this. Thanks so much for joining us.

BUTLER: Thank you.

KINKADE: Well, live from the CNN Center, this is Connect the World. Coming up, a challenging week for President Trump. We'll discuss what to

expect with the person who has just interviewed him, U.S. managing editor of the Financial Times. Stay with



[11:40:10] KINKADE: Well, live from the CNN Center, you're watching CNN. This is Connect the World and I'm Lynda Kinkade. Welcome back.

Well, France is less than three weeks away from a vote to elect its next president. And we're just hours from a debate that could swing that

contest. The candidates are set to face off in a second televised debate. But the focus will bes on two front runners, independent centrist Emmanuel

Macron, and far right leader Marine Le Pen.

The latest polls show them in a statistical dead heat and they're both expected to make it through to the first round vote to a runoff next month.

Well, Marine Le Pen believes it's time for the National Front to lead. CNN's Melissa Bell visited a town considered a National Front stronghold

where Le Pen's supporters share her vision for France.


MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERANTIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nearly 700 kilometers to the south of Paris in the heart of Provence sits Carpentras, a town

protected by a gate built in medieval times when popes still called nearby Avignon home.

Today, the town's Christian heritage continues to loom large, even if the splendors of the past have long since faded in what is the poorest parts of

the country.

It's market day, and with less than a month until the election, the far right is out leafletting as is the far left.

On the whole, though, the National Front gets a warm reception.

The party has not only won mp here, but also two mayors.

GEORGES MICHEL, NATIONAL FRONT ASSISTANT SECRETARY (through translator): When you start having local representatives like mayors, you're in the

political landscape. You are recognized, and then you necessarily get a different sort of perception. As they say, victory leads to


BELL: And it is the victory of Marine Le Pen that Georges now believes will follow. He doesn't hesitate to hand his leaflets even to the town's

veiled women. There are no figures on the size of the Muslim population here, French law doesn't allow the data to be collected. But Georges

believes that it is now not far from half.

The market here in Carpentras has existed since Roman times, and much of what is sold has been sold here for centuries. What has changed, though,

is the nature of the local population. some say it's changed beyond all recognition. And what many of those intending to vote National Front here

told us today was that they're intending to do so, not so much to make France great again, as to make France

French again.

Karine Clement began campaigning for the National Front five years ago when she says she realized that the Muslim population was changing.

KARINE CLEMENT, NATIONAL FRONT CAMPAIGNER: 20 years ago, that - their parents tried to assimilate. The new generation was born in France, they

don't want to be assimilated French.

BELL: Karine she shows us into the National Front headquarters. From here, the party fought a successful campaign to get Marine Le Pen's niece Marion

Michelle Le Pen (ph) elected as a lawmaker in 2012.

Now the fight is to get Marine Le Pen into the Elysees Palace. One of the party's volunteers

explains why.

JEAN-PAUL CHAUVIN, NATIONAL FRONT CAMPAIGNER (through translator): We feel a little bit less French. We've given a lot to these migrants who have

come into France illegally and now we don't look after our homeless people. We should look after ourselves first.

BELL: Back in the market, it is a view rejected by some who fear that the National Front is scaremongering, even if there does seem to be a strong

sense of abandonment by the more traditional political elite.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The politicians are prepared to say that it's the Syrians who want to come and steal your jobs, who are

going to take your houses, that there's no money for the French, that there are homeless people in the street. It is

just dividing all the better to rule.

BELL: Even hear where support for the National Front has been strong and where the desire for change is real, there is a sense that Marine Le Pen

might just represent a change too far.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Carpentras.


KINKADE: Well, let's get back to one of our top stories, a busy week for U.S. president

Donald Trump. As we reported, it kicked off with a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart on Monday. He is set to meet with the Jordanian king

and the Chinese president later this week.

Well, Mr. Trump spoke with Vladmir Putin on the phone following the attack on the St. Petersburg metro. It was the first time the two spoke since

shortly after President Trump took office.

He's also just held a town hall for dozens of CEOs at American companies to discuss what sort of policies would help them.

Well, joining us to discuss all of this is the U.S. managing editor of the Financial Times, Gillian Tett. She was one of three journalists from the

Times who recently interviewed Mr. Trump. And Gillian joins us from New York. Great to have you with us.

GILLIAN TETT, FINANCIAL TIMES: Great to be on the show.

KINKADE: First, I just want to go to the attack in Syria. So, far, we haven't seen any response

from the Trump administration. We're not sure who is behind it at this time. President Assad, of course, has been accused of carrying out similar

attacks in the past. All indications so far seem to be that President Trump has no plans to fight against the Syrian dictator.

[11:45:16] TETT: Well, certainly at the moment HE doesn't look like he's going down that path. But to be perfectly honest, I think this is a week

when the White House is fairly distracted to be honest, because they are very much preparing on focusing on the forthcoming visit by the Chinese leadership. And there's a lot of attention on that,

and a lot of attention on North Korea. So, at the moment, I think the perception from the White House is they don't want to start creating waves

on Syria.

KINKADE: Yeah. And there is still a lot of focus on other things like wire-tapping claims. There is still no evidence that that ever happened,

yet he continues to push that narrative. Did he give you any indication as to why?

TETT: Well, as far as he's concerned he likes to blame all these stories on what he calls the fake media and distractions. And it's clear that he

has no desire or even willingness to admit that he was wrong, or to change tack in terms of his pugnacious style in dealing with people.

We asked him during the interview whether he had any tweets that he regretted, including, for example, the ones about wire-tapping. He said

no, no, no, I don't have any regrets. This is part of my style. This is who I am. This is one thing that makes me popular.

So I suspect we're going to see is a continued barrage of tweets, some of which are pretty -- you

know, explosive and surprising, some of which are quite boring. But he regards it as part of the way

he operates.

KINKADE: There's also the Russian connection. It seems a week doesn't go by without another member of Trump's campaign team seemingly trying to

create some sort of back channel meeting with Russians.

There are several investigations underway right now. Did he mention any of that and what we should make of it?

TETT: Well, there's certainly - again, he regards it simply as noise and a distraction. And he likes to blame people, other people -- mostly the

media for these stories. Certainly the Russian investigations are accelerating right now. The FBI, we had a great scope

in the FT this week saying that the FBI has now created a special department trying to coordinate all the different investigations in to the

White House.

So, the reality is that the White House right now is dealing, or grappling with numerous

attacks and crisis on many fronts.

However, in the middle of all this, they are trying to formulate a policy for dealing with the Chinese, and above all else, dealing with this

emerging North Korean threat as becoming more and more serious.

KINKADE: And just briefly, to finish off, Pew Research indicates that Americans are much more positive about the economy right now. Is this a

Trump bump? Is he proud of that?

TETT: There's something very strange going on right now. I mean, certainly Donald Trump takes enormous credit from the fact that there has

been a big boost in confidence, and he referred to it several times. His White House aides, who we all met, also kept talking about the fact that

confidence has risen, the stock market has risen as a tangible sign that his policies are working.

What's fascinating, though, is a big gap between the so-called soft data and the hard data. The soft data are the consumer confidence polls and the

business polls, all of which are rising. The hard data is the actual tangible underlying data on things like retail spending, auto spending, investment. Now, that's been lagging behind.

Some people might say, well, the fact the hard data is weaker than the soft data shows that in fact that's a time lag and eventually as confidence

rises the real economy will improve. But you can also say well maybe the hard data is what's really going on and the confidence right now is over-

inflated and sooner or later there will is going to be a nasty crash as confidence starts to dwindle again. We just don't know.

For certain, the White House is betting that they can talk their way into economic recovery.

KINKADE: Perception does not equal reality.

Gillian Tett, good to have you with us. Thanks so much.

TETT: Thank you.

KINKADE: Well, live from the CNN Center, this is Connect the World. Coming up, Tesla is just not stopping. We'll tell you which iconic

carmaker it has now overtaken in total value. Stay with us for that.


[11:51:04] KINKADE: An update now on our top story, the suspected chemical attack in Syria. Activists are reporting that the death toll has risen

dramatically. The Aleppo media center now says at least 70 people are dead, more than 500 are reportedly wounded.

We will keep updating you on this story as it unfolds.

Well, turning now to a story from the world of business. You can move over Ford, Tesla is

now the second most valuable U.S. automaker. Shares are trading at an all time high, bringing the total market value close to $49 billion. Ford

stock has been mostly traveling in the opposite direction lately. The automakers' value is over $3 billion lower than Tesla.

Well, CNN Money Paul LaMonica joins us now from New York with more on all of this. Paul, Tesla doesn't sell anywhere near as many cars as Ford. Why

is its stock soaring?

PAUL LAMONICA, CNN MONEY: Investigators are very excited, Lynda, about the possibility that Ford -- that Tesla will one day vault itself into the big

leagues of major car companies. It's got the Model 3 coming out later this year, that's the car that's supposed to be a lot cheaper than the

current Model S and Model X. And there are hopes that you could wind up having tens and hundreds of thousands of people buying those cars. And

that's why the valuation is being justified by Wall Street right now.

So, you know, whether or not, you know, Tesla can continue, that remains to be seen.

But now the stock is even not that far away from GM to become the most valuable U.S. auto company period.

KINKADE: And even though Tesla's value is rising, it is still expected to report a loss in the foreseeable future.

LAMONICA: Yeah, Tesla is spending a lot of money to invest on the giga factories to build all those lithium ion batteries for the cars. And they

have also just announced a deal they're buying Solar City, a big alternative energy company in the United States as well. So, that's likely

to add to Tesla's losses, too.

But investors are looking past that and it's still all about hope for the next few years, not necessarily this year, that Tesla could reap big

profits down the road.

KINKADE: All right. I'm sure they're looking forward to that.

Paul LaMonica, good to have you with us.

LAMONICA: Thank you.

KINKADE: Thanks.

Well, in tonight's Parting Shots, a parting of the waves with the status of a pioneer. Tesla makes very sleek cars, but sells nowhere near as many as

Ford. And unlike Ford, it's not even making money yet.

Tesla's rising market valuation represents a vote of confidence in its ability to innovate, something that Ford used to be known for.

Here you can see the founder, Henry Ford, in his first car he built in 1896.

Several years later, Ford revolutionized the auto industry with its Model T. 15 million were sold, making it one of the best selling vehicles of all


Henry Ford also dramatically changed manufacturing. His innovation reduced the time needed to assemble the frame of the Model T from over 12 hours to

just an hour and a half. It allowed the company to produce more at a lower cost.

And it wasn't just cars at Ford, the company also produced its own airplane.

Now, Tesla's charismatic chief executive Elon Musk is taking up the baton of pioneering from electric cars to space travel and even artificial

intelligence. Who knows where the road will take him and Tesla next.

Well, now if you haven't already, you'll need to pick up your phones and tap your way over to

our Facebook page. We have the latest there on what's going on in the Middle East and the unique stories you'll enjoy from the region.

From an Arab Jazz musician to a Saudi hip hop radio host, it's all there on

And of course if you want to get in touch with our team all the way in Abu Dhabi, you can tweet them @cnnconnect. You can follow us there for our in-

depth interviews, which we bring you on the show, and you can tweet me @LyndaKinkkade.

Well, thanks so much for joining us today. I'm Lynda Kinkade. That was Connect the World. From me and the team here in Atlanta, Abu Dhabi and

London, thanks so much for watching. The news continues right here on CNN, the world's news leader.