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Fight against ISIS; Police Believe Actor Jussie Smollett Orchestrated Attack; Trump's National Emergency; Tense Pause in Protests as Haitians Gather Food, Water; Munich Security Conference; Funeral Held for Footballer Emiliano Sala. Aired 4-5a ET
Aired February 17, 2019 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A final battle for territory in its final days. U.S.-backed forces say they are nearing victory against ISIS in Eastern Syria. Our correspondent on the ground near the front lines has the story.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): More aid arrives from the United States amid the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. CNN is there in Colombia as it's unloaded.
HOWELL (voice-over): And police sources say evidence suggests an American actor orchestrated a hate crime against himself and he's now reacting to that report.
ALLEN (voice-over): Many stories ahead this hour. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL (voice-over): I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
ALLEN: Welcome again. Thanks for being with us.
U.S.-backed forces say a victory against ISIS in its last Syrian enclave could be just days away. The terrorists are surrounded, clinging onto an area the size of a handful of tents near the Iraqi border.
With the victory near, U.S. president Donald Trump has sent out tweets that read like a threat.
"The United States," he writes, "is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial. The caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them.
"The U.S. does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they're expected to go. We do so much and spend so much. Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100 percent caliphate victory."
CNN's senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman has been covering this latest round of fighting on the front lines in Eastern Syria.
Ben, I'm curious to get a sense of what you're hearing. So on the heels of this final fight, President Trump threatening to release these ISIS fighters who are captured.
What more do we know about these foreign fighters and how they may be dealt with?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know these foreign fighters are in the custody of the Syrian Democratic Forces in more than one location, that they come from a variety of countries, a significant proportion of which come from various European nations.
And it's a dilemma for the Kurdish forces here.
What do they do with these people?
They can't keep them indefinitely. They'd like the various countries where they come from to repatriate them. But we've heard the United Kingdom is not interested in bringing these people back, people who did, albeit, come to join a political entity that was dedicated to the destruction of the West.
But the Kurds don't have the capacity to keep them forever. And there is a concern that if there is some sort of Turkish intervention here, a Turkish invasion, as has been suggested, that perhaps they'll not be in a position to maintain their detention and they could be on the loose yet again.
Now what's interesting is that President Trump seems to indicate that these people are under the control of the United States. And the United States is, in some capacity, some manner capable to release them.
Now I went to the chief spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces to get his reaction. He was baffled by it. I think oftentimes there is confusion when President Trump makes pronouncements on Syria. Nobody really seems to know where they're coming from, what he really means. His official reaction, however, was no comment -- George.
HOWELL: I'm sure that had to be interesting, to say the least, to raise that new bit of information and to get a response on the heels of this fight.
Look, so now the issue of separating civilians from ISIS fighters, clearly that's been a big challenge, even when this group, this terror group had its biggest footprint. Now that it's been reduced to a much smaller area, we see the same challenges that seem to be giving the terror group a little borrowed time in this final stand.
[04:05:00] WEDEMAN: Yes, what we saw in the weeks preceding the beginning of the operation last Saturday to take this last pocket of ISIS was that they were giving time for the civilians to flee.
Now they are all in a camp north of here that has as many as 40,000 people in it. It's incredibly overcrowded. As many as 50 children have died from illnesses and from the cold. But there was this window open. The window is now closed.
We understand there are a thousand people in an area of just tents. It's no longer the town proper, living in an area about 700 meters by 700 meters. Of those more than 1,000 people, there are civilians and there are ISIS fighters.
The commander of the entire operation here told us yesterday that they do believe that those civilians are being held as human shields. But the challenge in taking over this very tiny last pocket of ISIS is they're all mixed up together.
And it appears that the attitude now is simply to sit it out, wait for them to somehow decide that they have a choice, surrender or death -- George.
HOWELL: Ben Wedeman there on the front lines in Eastern Syria, following this very important story. U.S. allies close to victory in Eastern Syria.
Ben, thank you to your team as well. We'll stay in touch with you.
ALLEN: We turn now to developments in Venezuela's humanitarian crisis. A U.S. cargo plane carrying additional aid for the country has landed next door in Colombia.
HOWELL: The aid arrived on the border in the town of Cucuta. It's specifically for Venezuelans living across the border. The shipment also meant to undermine the sitting president, Nicolas Maduro, who has rejected international help.
But the opposition leader, Juan Guaido, is urging supporters and the military to bring those supplies into the country. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN GUAIDO, INTERIM PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): And, once again, the message to the Venezuelan armed forces, seven days for humanitarian aid to enter, a week for you to do the right thing, to put yourselves not only on the side of the constitution. We are authorizing the entrance not only of humanitarian aid but also humanity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Guaido says thousands of volunteers have registered to deliver that aid.
ALLEN: Nick Valencia has more from Cucuta, where the supplies are being stockpiled.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These supplies here are part of the U.S.-led humanitarian mission to help those affected by the crisis in Venezuela. These items, for the most part, arrived February 8th and are still sitting here on the border of Venezuela, prepositioned in Colombia. Nicolas Maduro is not allowing them in, not allowing his people to get help.
The U.S. is still forging on and on Saturday three more C-17s carrying basic goods, commodities that could feed up to 3,500 children, 25,000 adults, arrived on the border here, things like rice, beans, lentils, basic goods that you could find in an everyday supermarket but not right now in the current conditions of Venezuela.
These are some high-energy biscuits also intended to help the children. We're hearing terrible reports of children starving in the country. Sanitary napkins, things like that; hygiene kits to help those that are currently suffering.
This aid has been called politicized by the Maduro regime. His deputy going so far as to say that these items contain carcinogens. It was earlier that I spoke to U.S. State Department's Julie Chang, who is part of this humanitarian mission and I asked her if there is any concern that this humanitarian aid might provoke Nicolas Maduro to doing something drastic.
She says that the U.S. isn't the one politicizing the crisis. That's on the Maduro regime -- Nick Valencia, CNN, reporting on the Colombia- Venezuela border.
HOWELL: Nick, thank you.
Here in the United States there are new questions around the alleged attack of actor Jussie Smollett after two law enforcement sources tell CNN that police believe the actor paid two men to orchestrate an alleged hate crime against himself.
ALLEN: Smollett appears in the popular TV drama, "Empire," but the story he told about being attacked in Chicago last month may be unraveling. For more, here's Ryan Young.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation tell CNN that Chicago police believe Jussie Smollett paid two men to orchestrate the assault.
The men who are the brothers who were arrested Wednesday were released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited discovery of new evidence. The sources tell CNN that the two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement. Smollett told authorities he was attacked early January 29th by two
men, who were yelling out racial and homophobic slurs. He said one attacker put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him. Smollett gave his first detailed account of what he says was a hate crime against him.
YOUNG: And so in the aftermath, in an interview with "Good Morning, America" that aired Thursday. Take a listen to his account.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSSIE SMOLLETT, ACTOR: I see the attacker, masked, and he said, this MAGA country (INAUDIBLE), punches me right in the face so I punched him right back. And then we started tussling, you know, it was very icy.
I noticed the rope around my neck and I started screaming. And I said there's a (INAUDIBLE) rope around my neck. I want them to see that I fought back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YOUNG: The sources tell CNN that there are records that show the two brothers purchased the rope found around Smollett's neck at an Ace Hardware store in Chicago -- Ryan Young, CNN, Chicago.
ALLEN: Late Saturday night, Smollett's attorney released a statement saying, "As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with a police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals that he is familiar with.
"He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying."
So Smollett is standing by his story that he was attacked. I spoke with CNN legal analyst Areva Martin about that and about what jeopardy he could be in if the story is found not to be true.
AREVA MARTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yes, Jussie from the beginning has been outraged by folks who have been pretty clear about the fact they didn't believe him from the moment this story broke, back, I think, two weeks ago, January 29th or so.
There have been critics, people on social media, people in the media who have raised questions about the validity of the attack. Some pointed to the fact there wasn't any videotape that could be found by the police. Others were suspicious of the fact he said he was walking alone at 2
o'clock in the morning on what appeared to be a deserted street. For lots of reasons, people were just never -- some people at least, were never convinced that this story made a lot of sense.
But I've always questioned -- this is a young man who has what, from all accounts, is an incredibly successful career. He's on one of the top rated dramatic series on television. He has a very successful singing career.
For those who say he did this to gain sympathy because maybe the show was going to write his character off and this was a way to curry favor with the network, that just doesn't add up for me.
And I still would like to believe that this young man, who has been very active in the LGBT community as well as the African American community as a leader, would not orchestrate such a heinous event for -- all for the sake of publicity.
ALLEN: Right, absolutely. That would be so unfortunate.
If he is found to be involved in some way, what sort of legal trouble could he possibly be in?
MARTIN: Yes, Natalie, that's a great question. Obviously, when you make a report to the police of a crime, you do so with -- you should do so because a crime has been committed and you are telling the truth.
If it turns out you've made a false or misleading report to the police, you can actually be charged with a crime. It's a crime to make a false, you know, report to the police. Think about all the time, all the effort, all the investigative work, all the resources deployed by the Chicago Police Department investigating, you know, this crime.
So if it turns out that there was no crime, that this was all orchestrated as a publicity stunt for this actor to gain more publicity or to curry favor with the network or some other purpose, he could be facing jail time.
ALLEN: So I guess the next step will be that police want to talk with him again.
MARTIN: Yes, the reports are that they reached out to his attorney as well as to Jussie himself. And the goal, I suspect, at this point, for the police, is to bring him in and to question him now based on the information that they've obtained from these two men, who were, you know, brought into the police department and released on Friday night.
I suspect the police have a lot of questions for Jussie as it relates to that information that they learned from the two men, who were people of interest or persons of interest.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ALLEN: Areva Martin for us. And we'll continue to follow this story because, as we said earlier, a story seems to be unraveling.
HOWELL: We'll continue to follow it.
Still ahead here on NEWSROOM now that the U.S. president has decided a border wall is a national emergency, as he calls it, the great money shuffle has started at the Pentagon.
ALLEN: But not so fast. The U.S. Congress, a small army of public interest groups and the U.S. Supreme Court might have the last word.
ALLEN: We'll discuss all of it right after this.
ALLEN: Welcome back.
It raised eyebrows when President Trump announced Heather Nauert as his pick to be U.N. ambassador and now the State Department spokeswoman and former FOX News host is pulling herself out of the running for that high-level post.
HOWELL: There were questions about Nauert's lack of qualifications to be U.N. ambassador. And word came out she had employed a nanny who was not authorized to work in the United States. Nauert's nomination was never sent to the Senate for confirmation. The president is expected to announce a new nominee soon.
Now to a wall of opposition to Trump's declaration of an national emergency because Congress refused to fund the border wall.
ALLEN: Despite the backlash and looming court challenges, the administration is pressing ahead. The acting U.S. Defense chief must now decide which military projects to cut and divert that money to border wall construction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK SHANAHAN, ACTING SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We always anticipated that this will create a lot of attention.
SHANAHAN: And since monies potentially could be redirected, you can imagine the concern this generates.
So very deliberately we've not made any decisions. We've identified the steps we would take to make those decisions. This is the important part of that. We laid that out so we could do it quickly. We don't want to fumble through this process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: So in Congress, lawmakers won't be sitting on their hands. House Democrats could introduce a joint resolution to disavow the president's declaration. If that passes, it would go to the Senate, which must also vote on it. That could set the stage for the first presidential veto.
ALLEN: And it's not just Congress. Battle lines are being drawn in court. The advocacy group, Public Citizen, wasted no time filing its lawsuit and that is just the beginning. The American Civil Liberties Union, environmental groups and others all vow to sue.
HOWELL: Let's get the latest from Scott Lucas. Scott teaches international politics at the University of Birmingham and joins us from Birmingham, England.
It's good to have you with us, Scott.
SCOTT LUCAS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Thank you, George.
HOWELL: Without delay, this process is already started to find the money and make plans for this new wall. At the same time, lawsuits are coming to challenge the president's national emergency, which will surely bring delay.
How do you see this political tug-of-war playing out in the weeks ahead?
LUCAS: It's not just a tug of war, it's a battle royale in three rings. The first ring is over the money itself because White House officials are saying that $2.5 billion will be taken from military counternarcotics programs, which is kind of ironic since Donald Trump said that a drugs invasion was the reason for the national emergency.
And then they said they'll take $3.6 billion from military construction projects. Now the acting Defense Secretary, Patrick Shanahan, said this won't be housing on military bases but that could be gymnasiums, schools, shops, other facilities.
And given that military commanders are not exactly very happy with Donald Trump right now, taking their money, that could cause one fight within agencies. But as you mentioned, you have the fight coming from Congress. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has given Trump two weeks to make his case for a national emergency before he faces a congressional resolution, which Republicans may support, overturning the national emergency. And then the court battles.
Texas is the first one but there will be more to come. California, other border states. People saying we don't want our land taken for this 30-foot tall wall.
HOWELL: You touched on this a bit but I want to play out this process a bit more. House Democrats are expected to challenge the emergency declaration and, in doing so, it triggers an automatic vote in the Senate as well. What that means for many Republicans, many who spoke out on the record as either uneasy against the president declaring a national emergency or they were supportive of it.
Whatever the case, they will have to put their words to a vote.
If their feet are put to the fire, do you see Republicans standing firm or falling in line with President Trump?
LUCAS: Two words: watch McConnell. Mitch McConnell two weeks ago told Donald Trump, don't do this. Don't take this last resort of the national emergency. Now on Thursday, McConnell gave way because he feared, if he didn't agree to the national emergency, Trump would veto the money to keep the government opened.
And that would mean a second Trump shutdown. When McConnell agreed to the national emergency, he told Trump and the White House advisers, you've got these 14 days.
If you cannot make a compelling case why you need this emergency, I may not be able to hold Republicans back from voting against you.
So in two weeks' time, does Mitch McConnell stay true to his word and say we need to overturn this national emergency?
Or does he give way in the face yet another Trump ultimatum?
HOWELL: The question is whether Americans wanted President Trump to declare a national emergency to fund this wall. A poll says a resounding no; 66 percent of respondents disapproved compared to 31 percent who said yes. This poll taken before the declaration was announced.
But it all comes down to the president's base, doesn't it?
And within that base, does he get a win for taking this as far as he did?
Or could this come back to work against him if the wall is delayed or does not happen at all?
LUCAS: Oh, lord, George, I'm so tired about the Trump base. A minority of people don't hold America hostage to this. And there are a majority of Americans who are against the wall, let alone a national emergency.
There's a significant majority in border states against the wall. You're asking me that political question.
Do Trump and his advisers still think that, despite a majority opposing the wall --
LUCAS: -- this is their big election tactic for 2020? And I think it is because I think Donald Trump doesn't necessarily expect to get the wall but they'll say, oh, we're saving America from an invasion but we're being unjustly halted by Congress. And we're being unjustly halted by these evil judges.
They may try to play this tactic for the next 18 months all the way to the election.
But can America afford that type of politics over the next year and a half?
That's what's troubling me.
HOWELL: Scott Lucas, with perspective and context. We always appreciate your time, Scott.
LUCAS: Thank you, George.
HOWELL: So President Trump's declaration of national emergency on Friday. It was criticized for running a bit long and getting off track a bit.
ALLEN: Not surprisingly, "Saturday Night Live" took notice. The comedy show mocked the speech this weekend with a little help from Alec Baldwin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR, "DONALD TRUMP": So I'm going to sign these papers for emergency and then I'll immediately be sued and it really will not go in my favor and it will end up in the Supreme Court and then I'll call my buddy Kavanaugh and I'll say it's time to repay the Donny.
And he'll say new phone, who dis?
And then the Mueller report will be released. It'll be my "House of Cards." And I can just plead insanity and do a few months at the puzzle factory and my personal hell of playing president will finally be over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: He did capture the sing-songy nature.
ALLEN: He took license with the content But the sing-songy voice was pretty dead on.
HOWELL: Still ahead on NEWSROOM, the Munich Security Conference is wrapping up in Germany with some very different views about America's role around the world. We'll have the latest on this ahead for you.
ALLEN: Also the U.S. president proud of his tough sanctions on Iran. Meantime, Iranian hospitals struggle to keep people alive. We'll have that story.
ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: I'm George Howell.
ALLEN: Haiti's prime minister is calling for calm after more than a week of deadly protests. Speaking for the first time since the riots broke out, Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant condemned the violence.
He promised to investigate the corruption allegations plaguing him and the president. For more than a week, protesters have demanded the country's leaders resign. They blame the administration for soaring inflation, high fuel prices and corruption.
HOWELL: Haiti's president is refusing to step down. In the meantime, more than 100 Canadian citizens, who had been stranded in Haiti for days, have finally arrived home. And in their faces and in their words, the joy of getting there safely is quite evident. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was chaotic. Extremely difficult. But I would like to thank God, because God gave me a chance to be here today. It wasn't easy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was organized and exciting and stressful but we're home. We're home. So there's a lot of relief right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Just relief from being home.
Back in Haiti, though, there are still foreign missionaries, aid workers and many others still caught up in the unrest there.
ALLEN: Protesters took a pause Saturday to gather much-needed fuel, water and food. Miguel Marquez has the latest from Haiti's capital.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For nine days, Haitians took to the streets, fighting with police, lighting fires, tires on fire, creating roadblocks across the city, essentially shutting down the main city here, Port-au-Prince, for nine days.
In the last 24 hours, there has been a lull, a very tense lull at the very best, people basically looking for the very basics of life, food, gas and water, all of them in short supply throughout the city.
Large crowds of Haitians gathered looking for water. Gas stations were, for the most part, shut across the entire city. The ones that were open were just -- were heavily trafficked by both those in motorcycles and cars, people just looking for the ability to fill up their tank so they can get to work, assuming that things get back to normal here in the city in the next couple of days.
Protesters want the president to resign. They say they will not accept anything else. They say that he is implicated in a broad corruption scheme that has engulfed the country.
They say that not only must the president resign but that the country itself has it to go back to tabula rasa, as they say, erase everything, go back to the constitution and start all over again -- back to you.
HOWELL: Miguel Marquez, thank you so much.
The Munich Security Conference is wrapping up in Germany this day. We've heard from a host of national leaders, defense officials and security experts. And they're not done yet. Iran's foreign minister is speaking right now after harsh if expected criticism from the U.S. vice president Mike Pence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian --
PENCE: -- people, our allies and friends in the region.
The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region and the world, the peace, security and freedom they deserve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Mike Pence, the current vice president. But a former vice president, his predecessor, also spoke at the conference. Everywhere Joe Biden goes, he seems to fuel speculation about a presidential run. On Saturday, he took shots at the Trump administration and its future.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The America I see does not wish to turn our back on the world or our allies. The America I see values basic human decency, not snatching children from their parents or turning our back on refugees at our border.
I promise you, I promise you, as my mother would say, this, too, shall pass. We will be back. We will be back. Don't have any doubt about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: The Trump administration prides itself on its tough stance on Iran. Back in November, U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo said the goal is to starve the regime and change its ways.
HOWELL: But in Iran, the sanctions are putting major pressure on the medical sector. CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is in Tehran showing us what it's like in a hospital that is growing desperate for life-saving supplies.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When Dr. Shahryar Askari (ph) visits his patients in the intensive care unit at Gandhi Hospital in Tehran, he faces two challenges: diagnosing their illnesses and then somehow finding a way to get the medicine they need.
"Unfortunately," he says, "since the sanctions hit us, we've been having problems getting special medications, for instance, for chemotherapy and other illnesses. But since our policy is to give patients everything they need, we do our best to supply them. So this means we have to work double duty."
Hospital staff say that double duty even involves buying drugs and parts for medical devices on the black market at huge additional costs.
When President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear agreement with Iran, America also hit Tehran with crippling sanctions. The U.S. claims the medical sector is exempt from the sanctions.
A State Department spokesperson telling CNN, quote, "The United States maintains broad authorizations that allow for the sale of agricultural commodities, food, medicine and medical devices by U.S. persons or from the United States to Iran."
But doctors in Iran say the reality is different. With international medical companies unwilling to do business with Iran, afraid they might face backlash from the United States.
The head of the Gandhi Hospital says some medications have become impossible to obtain, even on the black market, with severe consequences.
HASSAN BANI ASAD, GANDHI HOTEL HOSPITAL: We have the procedures but we don't have the instruments. And it's very difficult for patients and maybe lead to death for some patients.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Back in the ICU, Dr. Askari is checking on a patient with a heart condition. Manijay Bigar (ph) doesn't speak much English but she did want to convey a message.
MANIJAY BIGAR (PH), HEART PATIENT, GANDHI HOTEL HOSPITAL: It's very bad for all the people. Why we have sanctions?
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Instead of asking why, the staff at this and other Iranian hospitals every day ask themselves how they'll be able to supply their patients with the treatment they need -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.
ALLEN: For more now, CNN's Nic Robertson is at the Munich Security Conference. The foreign minister of Iran speaking right now.
Iran has been top of mind at the conference, with European allies taking a much different take on U.S. sanctions there, Nic. We just saw that report from our Fred Pleitgen on what those sanctions are doing for some people in Iran.
What can you tell us?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: What we've heard from Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister today, is to push back strongly against some of the things Mike Pence was saying. Mike Pence before he got to that point in his speech yesterday where he told the Europeans it was time for them to pull out of the JCPOA, the international nuclear deal; it was time for them to stop undermining U.N. sanctions.
He spoke about how Iran was anti-Semitic. He said Ayatollah Khamenei has called for the erasing of Israel. He spoke about his experience recently in Warsaw, in Poland, in visiting camps there --
ROBERTSON: -- former camps there, and spoke quite passionately about the issue of anti-Semitism and attaching it to Iran. Javad Zarif today pushed back strongly against that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): (INAUDIBLE) for the accusation of (INAUDIBLE). It is (INAUDIBLE) --
ZARIF: -- described as messiah --
ZARIF: for saving the Jews is both ridiculous but at the same time very (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: So he is still speaking, so I think we can expect to hear more from him on these issues but the debate today, this morning at least, is a lot about Syria. And, of course, Mike Pence spoke about that.
And we heard Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, here questioning the U.S.' decision to pull troops out of Syria. She said that that would give Iran in particular and Russia greater leverage in Syria.
ALLEN: She has spoken about the U.S.' different world order and its different take on foreign affairs and what that means to incursions by Russia and China.
Let's take a step back and talk again a little more, Nic, about the message from the former vice president. Of course, he spoke following the current vice president of the U.S. Joe Biden may be a presidential contender in 2020. We imagine their two messages were quite different.
ROBERTSON: They were received very differently as well. There were moments of quite intense applause when Joe Biden was speaking. That was absent during Mike Pence's speech. Mike Pence seemed to -- he came, if you will, and he said very clearly, essentially to pass on President Trump's message, to channel President Trump. And his message was a very direct one. His message, for example, on NATO and for the NATO European allies to make good on their 2 percent GDP commitment.
This is something we've heard a lot about. But he rather gave the impression that it was the United States that achieved the ability to get commitments from these NATO allies sitting in front of him, to make good on that commitment but by 2024.
But of course, that was all agreed at a NATO summit in Wales in 2013. So comments like that will have felt discordant to the audience here; whereas, former Vice President Joe Biden, when he spoke about the needing to uphold existing global institutions for world order, that was met with quite some applause.
It was also noticeable as well, this very large U.S. delegation at the Munich Security Conference, the largest in its history, when Nancy Pelosi was introduced to the audience, a huge round of applause there. So I think you do get a sense of the sympathies of the audience and, you know, on their part, perhaps a hope that a Democrat may win the election, the U.S. presidential election, 2020.
ALLEN: Right. Angela Merkel got sustained applause when she spoke as well. Ivanka Trump was in the audience and reportedly not applauding that speech. Nic Robertson covering it for us there. We appreciate it. Nic, thank you.
HOWELL: Back to the issue of the former Vice President Joe Biden at the Munich Security Conference. He's been there many times before. But this time, as we've pointed out, it seemed to be more with 2020 in mind.
ALLEN: We're speaking about whether the former U.S. vice president will seek to challenge Donald Trump in the next election. He told reporters he is still thinking about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: No, I haven't reached a decision. I am in that process of doing that and I will in the near term let everyone know what that decision is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Of course, many people speculating but we'll have to see if that announcement comes with Joe Biden.
The nation of Argentina bidding farewell to a hometown hero.
ALLEN: Football star Emiliano Sala is remembered one month after his tragic death. We'll have that next.
HOWELL: Now to tell you about a powerful cyclone threatening New Caledonia and other islands in the South Pacific.
ALLEN: Argentina pays tribute to one of its own. Friends, family, teammates, fans gathered this weekend for a final goodbye to the beloved late football star, Emiliano Sala. We'll show it to you.
HOWELL: In Argentina, a sad farewell at the funeral of the late football star Emiliano Sala.
ALLEN: He died in a tragic accident plane crash. On Saturday, family, friends and teammates said goodbye. Our Patrick Snell has the story.
PATRICK SNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The world of football has bid an emotional final farewell to the young Argentine forward Emiliano Sala, who died last month in a plane crash just two days after completing his move to the English Premier League club Cardiff City. SNELL (voice-over): On Friday, the South American had been
repatriated to the small town of Progreso in Santa Fe province, where he grew up.
SNELL (voice-over): A day later, family, friends and former teammates here paying their respects. His close friend at his previous club, Frances Nonce, Nicolas Pallois, and behind him, Emiliano's brother, Davio.
Both of Emiliano's parents, Horacio, and his mother, Mercedes, who traveled to Europe in the aftermath of the crash almost a month ago now. Progreso is a town of just over 3,000 people. It's where it all began for Emiliano at the local club, San Martin, where he shone as a teenage footballer.
One message stood out quite simply, "Nunca caminaras solo," "You'll never walk alone."
The manager who had signed Emiliano for Cardiff, Neil Warnock, also making the trip to Argentina on Saturday to attend the public service. Sala's body was recovered from the plane's wreckage last week while its pilot, David Ibbotson, remains missing. This a day of high emotions for all concerned.
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NEIL WARNOCK, CARDIFF CITY MANAGER: I think it's been a very emotional morning. I think Mercedes has been an immense woman this morning. Everybody she's met have had memories of Emiliano and it's brought tears to her eyes as you'd expect a mom to be. But she's very, very proud of her son.
And met father, his father's the same and the brother and sister. And seems like they're not just a family but the whole village is like united. And they've just been amazing how they cope with it.
People say, well, he's never played for you. But he was my player, you know. And the feelings I had -- chased him, wanted him and, he said to me, I will get you the goals that keep you up in the Premier League. And I said, I know you will.
SNELL (voice-over): Emiliano Sala was 28 years of age.
ALLEN: That is one sad story.
HOWELL: It is.
ALLEN: Talk about a life cut short.
The day's top stories are just ahead. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: I'm George Howell. Stay with us. We'll be back after the break.