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Naftali Bennett in Line to be Israel's Next Prime Minister; Israeli Rivals Strike Deal Which Could Oust Netanyahu; Young Activists Seeking Change Turn to Grassroots Politics; Iran: Next Round of Talks on Nuclear Deal Could Be Final One; Final Preparations Underway Despite COVID-19 Concerns; Stricken Cargo Ship Heightens Fears of Oil Spill Emergency Off Sri Lanka. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired June 03, 2021 - 11:00   ET




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

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Tonight are we witnessing a new dawn for Israeli politics? Well, a group of Israeli political parties who agree on next to

nothing have come together to form a new government. Their aim forcing out longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu they came to an agreement just

before what was a midnight deadline on Wednesday.

Centrists Yair Lapid seen here on the phone with Israel's President was in charge of forming this new government. It didn't come together until Sunday

when right wing Yamina Party Leader Naftali Bennett joins hands for the first time ever and Israeli Arab party is in this coalition. United Arab

List's Leader explains why he signed on to the change block.


MANSOUR ABBAS, UNITED ARAB LIST PARTY LEADER: I just signed an agreement with Yair Lapid that he can form a government after we've reached a

critical mass of agreements on issues that will serve the interests of Arab society and provide solutions to urgent problems Arab society faces in

various fields.


ANDERSON: Well, don't count out Mr. Netanyahu just yet. He didn't survive decades in Israeli politics by going gentle into that good night. He's a

political fighter and can still disrupt the process. Here his war cry on Twitter, all members of the Knesset that were chosen by right wing voters

have to be against this dangerous left wing government.

Well, let's bring in Hadas Gold who has been following the story for us from Jerusalem. And of course, this isn't yet a done deal. This isn't the

end of an era yet for Benjamin Netanyahu he could still disrupt this process. What's the likelihood at this point?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, so what needs to happen next is this new coalition has to pass a vote of confidence in the Knesset, the Israeli

Parliament. And now that will take place on or before June 14th unless the new coalition manages to get a new speaker, elect a new speaker into the

Knesset who would push it up.

But any day that passes gives Netanyahu and his allies more time to try and get some defectors from this coalition. They will only need a handful to

vote against this coalition and get it to crumble. And throughout the day, Netanyahu has been tweeting and re tweeting along with what you showed.

He's been also been re tweeting tweets from his Likud Party account, trying to show that members who have sign up for this coalition have said in the

past, for example, that Yair Lapid, will never be Prime Minister, saying things about Mansour Abbas, the Head of the United Arab was trying to

pressure them and perhaps trying to rile up their base to try to pressure these members to vote against these coalitions.

And we have seen already, in the past few days, protests outside of the houses and the offices of some of these people who are part of this

coalition, all part of this pressure campaign to try to get them to vote against it and cause this coalition to crumble.

In Israeli politics things can change very quickly within a day things can change. So every day that passes before this vote is taken before this new

government and a potentially new prime minister is sworn in is the day of opportunity for Netanyahu to try and keep this coalition from actually

being sworn in as the new government.

ANDERSON: Hadas for those who are not familiar with Naftali Bennett what do us know about him?

GOLD: Well, Naftali Bennett is the head of this small right wing Yamina Party. And I think what's really notable is in the April 2019 elections,

his party didn't even cross the threshold to sit in the Knesset to sit in the Israeli Parliament. And now less than three years later, he is about to

be set to potentially become the next prime minister.


GOLD (voice over): Once a close aide to the Prime Minister, this may be the man to break Benjamin Netanyahu's 12 year run as Israel's leader. Naftali

Bennett, a right wing ambitious, self made tech millionaire, eager to stake out a personal mark in Israel's future.

NAFTALI BENNETT, YAMINA PARTY LEADER: I'm announcing today that I intend to act with all my strength to form a national unity government together with

my friend Yair Lapid so that God willing, together we will rescue the country from this tailspin, and we will get Israel back on track.

GOLD (voice over): The 49-year-old was born in Haifa, to immigrants from San Francisco, a modern Orthodox Jew Bennett served in an elite unit of the

Israel Defense Forces for six years in the 1990s. He then became an entrepreneur in the high tech sector after studying law at Jerusalem's

Hebrew University.

Bennett launched a tech startup in 1999, which he later sold for $145 million. Bennett bursts onto the political scene in 2013 leading the

Orthodox Jewish Home party to seats in the Israeli parliament.


BENNETT: We're more realistic, we think that vis-a-vis the Palestinian issue the full peace sort of or forming a Palestinian state within Israel

is suicidal and turns out the most Israelis view that, but we've put forward realistic practical plan.

GOLD (voice over): At his ideological core is a strong opposition to a Palestinian sovereign state, and his party keen to annex parts of the West

Bank. Bennett's other positions are not without controversy, saying that Palestinian terrorists should be killed rather than released.

In the April 2019 election his party did not get through the electoral threshold and were left in the political wilderness. After a merger with

another party, he rebranded the party Yamina in 2019, and holds seven seats in the Knesset.

He eventually returned to the corridors of power, becoming very close to the Prime Minister. He served in various Netanyahu governments as defense,

education and economic minister. But despite sharing a similar ideology, Bennett and Netanyahu have had a rocky relationship.

After four failed elections in two years in the recent armed conflict with Muslim militants in Gaza Bennett agreed to join forces with Centrist Yair

Lapid to push out Prime Minister Netanyahu the question is, will Bennett and Lapid have the parliamentary votes to unseat the longest serving Prime

Minister in Israeli history?


ANDERSON: Well, my next guest has just returned from the Global Investment Forum held in Dubai this week where economic opportunities between Israel

and the UAE as part of the Abraham Accords were discussed. Yaakov Katz tweeted out a photo - photo while at the event you can see him here on the

right. Katz is the Editor-in-Chief of "The Jerusalem Post", one of the sponsors of the event. And he joins me now to discuss all things Israeli

politics, and indeed, we will discuss the Abraham Accords normalization and your trip here to the City of Dubai.

Let's start with Israeli politics. It's so called change coalition government between Lapid and Bennett, hailed by many is reflecting the

breadth of contemporary Israeli society. Others consider it the embodiment of Israel's political dysfunction. How would you characterize it, sir?

YAAKOV KATZ, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, JERUSALEM POST: Well, I think Becky; you have people, it kind of ranges from hope to despair. There are those who would

like to finally see your government after two and a half years of paralysis within Israel that we've gone through four unprecedented elections, one

after the other.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, who's on trial for severe corruption, charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, while all of this is happening so there

are people who have hope and finally want stability. They want a state budget. They want to see an end to the mudslinging in that ugly rhetoric

that has unfortunately taken hold of Israeli political discourse.

The people, who have despair, are those who feel that this is a betrayal. They look at Naftali Bennett, who is the presumptive incoming Prime

Minister if this government is actually sworn in next week, as we predict it might be.

And they feel that he is portrayed his values. He's betrayed his constituent base voters. He's betrayed what he said he stood for, which was

the right wing ideology of Israel, and he's getting into bed or into government with people and parties on the left, including an Arab Islamic

Party, those people have despair.

ANDERSON: We have no idea what Naftali Bennett effectively has conceded at this point. And in fact, from the little we've heard from him, since this

so called coalition was being put together, it seems that he isn't necessarily giving up on his own right wing ideology.

KATZ: Right. Naftali Bennett, I know to be a pragmatist, right? He's very pragmatic in what he does and the way he thinks and he is often even though

he does have a right wing ideology, he believes what he says right?

When he has said over the years, that he is against the formation or the establishment of a Palestinian state he said that because he actually

genuinely believes that. He unlike Netanyahu, has not endorsed the two state solutions, like Israel has, under the current Prime Minister, right?

He's against that. But with that said, he has reached across the aisle and numerous occasions when he was Minister of Economy when he was Minister of

Education, to work with the Arab Israelis. He's been in favor of trying to promote and foster better more prosperity within the West Bank.

Even as Defense Minister he was looking at ways this was widely reported at ways to try to improve the economic situation in Gaza from an understanding

that that is connected to why terrorism could thrive in the Gaza Strip?


KATZ: So he's pragmatic. Does that mean that this government will work? Does that mean that he will give up and concede or surrender his right wing

beliefs? I don't think so. I think that, on the big contentious issues like the Palestinian conflict, we shouldn't expect to see any big moves or big

steps in this government.

It will be more of the status quo, but I'm hopeful that maybe they can find things or steps that they can do together, that can create better

conditions for the day that something greater or a bigger solution might be possible.

ANDERSON: Netanyahu blames Bennett, for this coalition, you know, potentially getting into government. But one author today, suggesting that

it is his own right wing prodigies of course, Naftali Bennett was one of those back in the day.

But it's his own right wing prodigies who have doomed him not being prepared to work with the list - the first Arab Party RAM, who are now in

this Israeli coalition. How significant is their inclusion?

KATZ: Well, I think the inclusion of the Islamist Arab party RAM is huge. It's historic, Becky, for the State of Israel, right? On paper, when you

look at this government, it has everything that I think you as a citizen of a country.

I as an Israeli would want to see it has parties on the right, it has parties on the left, it has parties in the center, and it has for the first

time in Israeli history, the participation, the active participation of an Arab Party in a coalition government.

We've always had Arabs in the Knesset in our parliament, but not in the cabinet, not in the government. That is a huge step. And that inclusion

says something about where we are going as a country that's integrating its 2 million Arab minorities?

We're a country of 9 million 7 million Jews, 2 million Arabs, we should want all Israelis should want to see greater participation of the Arabs in

the formation of this government in the way this country is run.

But to your point about the prodigies, it's almost it's sad to watch what's happening because Netanyahu all of the people who are running against him

almost are all people who served with him or worked with him.

Naftali Bennett was the Chief of Staff of - who's going to be the Finance Minister was his Director General, back when he was first Prime Minister in

the 90s. Gideon Saar, the Head of the New Hope Party used to be a member of Likud, right?

All of these people came from within his ranks. But he turns them away at some, at some point along the way, working alongside Netanyahu, something


ANDERSON: I just want our viewers to get a listen to how Israelis have reacted to this coalition government? Let's just listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a historic moment. After four years of struggle, we managed to topple the Netanyahu evil government.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We almost lost our hope. And we hope at now after these two amazing - two very hard years, we will have an amazing new era

that will finally bring our hope back to Israel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I think that Yair Lapid tends to be a real leader. And I hope the next two weeks we prove that the next government will bring

us to a new place.


ANDERSON: Just some voices, of course, from the street, as it were. It seems like what people are most happy about is seeing the back of Netanyahu

not so much the government itself. And they want to see another election, the fifth election in five years.

So the question is, if this coalition gets the vote from parliament, can they keep it together? This is going to be a fractious government. Can it

keep it together for anything more than a couple of months? Is it sustainable?

KATZ: It's a great question, Becky. I think no one knows. But here's what we do know. Naftali Bennett, who's going to serve for the first two years

has every interest of serving out those full two years, because he needs to gain back the trust of the voters, those constituents, those voters who

feel betrayed now, he needs to bring real results.

So they will have trust and faith in him again. Yair Lapid the partner of that government wants to get to 2023 when he's supposed to take office. So

he has an interest in keeping this going. But here's the most important glue for this government to stick it together.

And that's Netanyahu himself. All indications are that he is going to go to the opposition. He wants to stay at the helm of the Likud Party. He doesn't

plan to just go home and knowing that he's there. He's in the opposition and he's waiting.

He's waiting because he's heard hoping the government implodes and falls apart and then he could be there swoop in, pick up the pieces and show

Israel. You need me guys. You can't trust anyone else but me.


KATZ: So because he'll be out there and that and they know that he'll be there waiting. I think that will be the glue that at least for the

beginning will keep this government together. Will it last four or five years? That's highly skeptical, but I think it'll have a shot to stick it

together for a while.

ANDERSON: That's fascinating. Listen, you were in Dubai this week for an investment conference organized to further enhance the business

opportunities between Israel in the Emirates that the Abraham Accords afforded. Let's just have a listen to what the UAE's Economy Minister and

Ron Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress had to say, at the event.


THANI AL ZEYOUDI, UAE MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN TRADE: Just nine months after we signed the Abraham Accords, the trade exchange between the UAE and

Israel has exceeded 1.3 billion dirham. We have signed around 25 agreements and many sectors more than 15 sectors.

RON LAUDER, PRESIDENT, WORLD JEWISH CONGRESS: But the Abraham Accords changes our language and the entire terrain of the Middle East, and changes

it for the better. This was something that both Arabs and Jews could only dream of in the past. But now it's a reality.


ANDERSON: Well, that is an accord of course; we're signed nine months ago. Last month, the UAE voicing its discontent for the actions that Israel took

against Palestinians at the Al Aqsa Mosque and for the forced expansions of Arabs from homes in East Jerusalem.

I just wondered you were at this event. I'm just interested in the atmosphere. How, if at all, has this latest escalation of violence affected

the pace of normalization between Israel and the UAE?

KATZ: Well Becky, this was an event that we at "The Jerusalem Post" put together with partners in the Emirates the Khaleej Times Newspaper.


KATZ: We came together after the Abraham Accords and said what can we do together? And we came upon; we decided on doing this conference, it was a

huge success. And I have to tell you, that what happened in Gaza, I was afraid that they would want to pull out.

I was afraid that there would be some pressure on them to say we - this is not the time to come together with an Israeli newspaper and hold this

conference in Dubai. But the contrary is what happened. They stuck it out.

And I give them a lot of credit for doing this because this is a whole new world for the United Arab Emirates, right? You know, they have not been

through this before us in Israel are used to these rounds of violence but for them, this is a new thing when considering the relationship with the

Israelis and I give them credit for standing together and saying we still want to proceed with our relations.

You heard His Excellency Thani Al Zeyoudi, the Economic Trade Minister and Ron Lauder the Head of the World Jewish Congress, but everyone was talking

about in celebrating these relations. And I could tell you that as an Israeli journalist standing on a stage in Dubai, for me was moving.

A year ago, I wouldn't have imagined that it's possible. But this is the region that's realigning before us. And by the way, Becky, it shows us

what's possible. It shows us still what the future holds. And I think that's what we have to keep our eyes on, whether it's with this new

government, it's with the different government, but the future we can be optimistic about.

ANDERSON: Well, next time you are here, you are more than welcome to join me on set rather than doing what we call a remote interview it'll be a

pleasure to host you, sir.

KATZ: Thank you Becky.

ANDERSON: Thank you very much indeed. See you soon. The United Nations has some dire warnings about the growing power of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

And the outlook could become even more dangerous when U.S. troops complete their withdrawal in just three months.

Now the UN Security Council investigation shows that Taliban remains in a cozy relationship with the terrorist network Al Qaeda, and they also have a

hefty bank account from drug sales and extortion. And we've just heard from the Taliban on this UN report.

They are rejecting claims that they remain close to Al Qaeda claiming the United Nations conclusions are based on misinformation they say. Nic

Robertson takes a look at how a stronger Taliban and a weak Afghan military could spell chaos in the coming months?


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): Key points include 2020, the most violent year ever with assassinations up 28 percent.

2021 attacks up 61 percent on the same period last year, and the Taliban's intent appears to be to continue to strengthen its military position, all

the while apparently lying to the U.S.

The report saying the Taliban and Al Qaeda remain closely aligned and shows no sign of breaking ties this despite signing an agreement with the U.S.

February last year vowing to cut those connections.


ROBERTSON (voice over): Other points of concern in the report include Afghan troops' strength. Approximately 308,000 personnel well below its

target strength of 352,000, where recruitment has continued to decline. Meanwhile, the UN's member states write, the Taliban now contest or control

50 to 70 percent of Afghan territory, outside urban centers, and exert direct control over 57 percent of district administrative centers.

Taliban troop strength, estimated at approximately 58,000 to 100,000. The report cites another disturbing development, women, intellectuals,

religious scholars and journalists have become increasing targets of Islamic groups. 85 percent of those executions were assessed to be by the


The report also assesses the Taliban have significant income, estimated from 300 million to 1.6 billion from opium poppy production, extortion,

kidnapping for ransom and mineral exploitation, including control of 280 mining zones, only one less than the government.

Another detail in the report underscores how little has changed during America's longest war? The - at the Taliban's Founding Leader and Commander

during the 9/11 attacks, is rising high in its ranks, and the UN says is reported to harbor ambitions to become the group's leader Nic Robertson,

CNN, London.


ANDERSON: Well, Lebanon's winter of despair becomes a summit of reckoning - a deepening poverty and political gridlock. Lebanon's young activists are

looking to change the system they say brought the country to its knees, but can they do it? We will explore that ahead.

Plus, it's complicated getting the Iran Nuclear Deal back on track why Tehran's Top Nuclear Negotiator is hopeful about the next round of talks?


ANDERSON: Well, the ongoing COVID pandemic and - Crimean Tatars. A massive explosion that tore apart bustling port and entrenched ruling elite mired

in gridlock. Any one of these could break a country. Lebanon is dealing with all of it all at once.

Well, now some young Lebanese activists are looking to grassroots politics to change the very system they say brought the country to ruin. Let's talk

about this with Salma Abdelaziz who joins us now from Beirut, Selma?


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Becky, for months now the political class here has been in gridlock. They've been unable to form a cabinet. They've

been unable to rescue their own people from financial ruin from an economic crisis that the World Bank says is among the worst seen since the 19th


But it was a brief moment of hope Becky, you were here for that. The 2019 popular uprisings and that created momentum for change. And some young

people are trying to harness that energy. They're young, they're un- experienced, but they might be Lebanon's last hope. That's why we spent a little bit of time with one of these aspiring groups, Minteshreen, as they

registered as a political party, and started canvassing. Take a look.


ABDELAZIZ (voice over): This group of activists once scrawled their anger on the barricades around this ministry. Now they want to challenge the

government at the ballot box.

HUSSIEN EL ACHI, SECRETARY GENERAL, MINTESHREEN: In 2015 we were here. We were still kids. Most of us were kids. And today we're facing the same

wall. And we're presenting our papers to become a political party.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): They call their political party Minteshreen, which means to spread out in Arabic. It was born out of a popular uprising in the

fall of 2019. The pandemic and lack of progress brought an end to the mass demonstrations but rage against the ruling elite widely seen as corrupt

festers. Lebanon is crumbling under one of the most severe economic crises in the world.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): There is momentum here to challenge the establishment. All these small political groups are popping up some fizzle

and fade away. Others hold on and try to gain legitimacy. They're led by young people who have little experience and little resources. But activists

say that how changed begin from the grassroots up.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): That's why Minteshreen says they started canvassing outside Beirut, the center of power. We follow them on a day trip to the

tiny village of Batha in the north of the country. The proud Mayor, a rare independent politician welcomed the outsiders.

They are out of place here liberal youth from the Capitol. But the Mayor says they have something in common.

EPHRAM ELIAS SUQAIEM, BAT-HA, LEBANON MAYOR: Regardless of if these political rulers can accomplish anything, we need the youth we need fresh

faces. He told me, every Lebanese citizen must be a part of the revolution.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): Elections scheduled for May 2022 will be the first test for Minteshreen and groups like it. And there is huge mobilization

potential. Turnout was an estimated 50 percent during the last election.

EL ACHI: The first one is of course, working towards the parliamentary election, letting the people of these villages know that there are new

youth-led progressive parties that they can trust for the future.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): But this is like a David and Goliath style battle, what chance do you really stand against the ruling elite?

EL ACHI: You have militias everywhere you have armed factions, you have sectarian political parties. But this David has, you know, has started you


ABDELAZIZ (voice over): But short of myths and miracles, only time can bring down the giants that have ruled these valleys for generations.


ABDELAZIZ: Becky, you can see these are very nascent attempts. And this, of course, is not the only group there is this broad opposition, it is

decentralized. There is no key figure among it. But the test is again going to be the parliamentary elections scheduled for May of next year.

There are already been civil society groups calling for those elections to happen sooner so they can break this political gridlock. But the question

is if those elections happen sooner, are the opposition ready? Can they actually win seats in parliament? Can they mobilize people who have very

little faith in their system?

Remember, only 50 percent of people turned out to vote last time. And I think it's important when we talk about Lebanon that it's not just about

what happens here inside this country. It's also about what happens internationally.

These political elite, they are backed by the West and yes by regional allies that are quite literally propping them up as this government sort of

rots from the inside. And many are wondering for how long will they continue to back in bolster something that is simply crumbling?

Are they willing these international actors, these regional allies to take the risk of letting these elite fail and see what happens next Becky?

ANDERSON: It is remarkable where we are at with Lebanon. And you're report flushing out an opposition which is an opposition to the system not

opposition as we would normally conceive it, you know, opposing the ruling party. This is ruling elite and these small grassroots movements which are

forming these political parties are literally in opposition to these systems Selma, thank you.


ANDERSON: Salma Abdelaziz is in Beirut, your reporting has been terrific. Up next, I'll be talking to an expert on Iran, about the hopeful sounds

coming from Tehran, over reviving that nuclear deal and what we are hearing, as it were from the other side that coming up.


ANDERSON: Great progress, the words of Iran's Top Nuclear Negotiator declaring the next round of talks in Vienna could be the final one. But

he's also warning that there are still "Critical disagreements to be resolved".

Well, we'll all be watching what happens next week. That is when the delegations are set, excuse me to head back to the bargaining table is, if

you will. You'll remember the Trump White House abandoned the nuclear deal with Iran.

Well, now the U.S. is seeking to return to it but with strict limits for Tehran on uranium enrichment. Iran wants U.S. sanctions lifted. I'm

connecting you to Washington now and Ali Vaez is at the Iran Project. He's the Director - sorry, the Director at the International Crisis Group of

Prominent American think tank. Sorry I've just mold your title, sir.

You're a regular guest on this show those who people will know who you are and what you do, and it will be advertised at the bottom of our screen.

In a recent op-ed, you wrote and I quote, in the eyes of Iran's leaders Washington's reluctance to make the first move despite being largely

responsible for the current impasse signals and ulterior motive that the U.S. seeks to pocket Iranian concessions on the nuclear program without

effectively delivering on economic relief.

Iran's negotiators contend that they will settle for no less than a complete removal of Trump-era sanctions. Biden is in a bind here. In two

weeks time there will likely be a hard line president, whatever is agreed now, we'll sit with a file with a hard line Iranian President going

forward. What do you think Washington's game plan is at this point?

ALI VAEZ, IRAN PROJECT DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: It's great to be with you, Becky. Look, at the end of the day, I think Washington sees

that alternatives to restoring the nuclear deal as it was are not really attractive given the fact that Iran's nuclear program is now growing at an

exponential rate.

Iran is enriching uranium to 60 percent, which is pretty close to weapons grade. And it's engaged in research and development on advanced centrifuges

with - provides us with the knowledge that is really not reversible.

So if the Biden Administration doesn't deal with this growing crisis, in a matter of few months, it will have to make a decision of whether it has to

live with a nuclear armed Iran or it has to bomb Iran and neither of those options are attractive.


VAEZ: So I think it wants to try to restore the deal as long as President Rouhani, who advocated and negotiated the JCPOA, the nuclear deal in the

first place in 2015 is in office. He leaves office on August 3rd, so there is still time, but there are also still serious differences that remain.

ANDERSON: Yes, and I wonder, what do you make of the lineup of candidates for these presidential elections? Some people calling it a selection rather

than an election? And what does Washington face in the likely contenders?

VAEZ: Look, Iranian elections are rigged even before the elections begin; they are often unfair and free, but competitive. But in this election, it

really seems like the Iranian system had has set the stage for one person to win the election and that's the current Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi,

who's a hardliner.

But counter intuitively, I think actually his victory might not necessarily be bad news for diplomacy in the sense that a more monolithic Iranian

system where the hardliners are in control of all levers of power might be more amenable to negotiations with the U.S. and the West, because it's more


It's less bogged down by internal infighting. And so, you know, that's not necessarily bad news. But again I think given the institutional memory and

the fact that the Rouhani Administration knows this deal inside out, it's easier to revive it with the current Iranian government.

But then the Biden Administration would definitely have to negotiate a follow one deal with the next Iranian Administration. And again, the fact

that is more monolithic is not necessarily bad news for deployments.

ANDERSON: Yes, I just wonder whether that assessment might be seen as somewhat wishful thinking, sir, with respect.

VAEZ: Well, we'll see. I mean, that's definitely not good news for Iran's internal politics. Because the - you know, without any doubt, there will be

more suppression, internally as the system tries to become more monolithic in order to pave the ground for supreme leader succession. But externally,

it might not necessarily be bad news, we'll have to wait and see it as - also has to be a deal that the Iranian see interest in it for them.

But you know we saw with President Rouhani, who was a relative moderate, that there was so much infighting and so much mistrust within the system

towards Iranian negotiators, that that really created a lot of obstacles for diplomacy. And that situation might change if there is more trust

within the Iranian decision making circles. We'll see.

ANDERSON: You keep an eye on the region as a whole of course, because what goes on between the U.S. and Tehran affects this wider region of the Gulf

and Middle East? Israel could be seeing a new prime minister for the first time in 12 years.

Naftali Bennett, who may be the successor, is an extreme right-wing political leader who, like many other Israeli politicians has taken a hard

line against Iran. How do you think things will be impacted under his potential premiership in this so called coalition government?

VAEZ: I think we will see a change in style but not substance. Israel will continue to be worried about Iran's nuclear program and Iran's regional

ambitions, Iran's ballistic missile program. It will probably try to do some of the things that it has been engaged in the past few years from

diplomatic activity against deal making with Iran, sabotage of Iran's nuclear facilities, assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, and

pushback against Iran's entrenchment in Syria.

But it would not be as vociferous as Prime Minister Netanyahu has been over the years. And probably the next Prime Minister would not get engaged in

the kind of public fights that Mr. Netanyahu was involved in against the U.S. administration and especially against Iran policy.

It will be more toned down and behind the scenes pressure. But in substance, Israel will remain; I would say more or less in the same spot

that it has been over the past few years under Prime Minister Netanyahu's leadership.

ANDERSON: Ali Vaez, it's always a pleasure. Thank you, sir. We'll have you back. It's a busy time. Of course with these talks continuing next week

looks as if it may bring a solution who knows no one can never tell. And of course we have the Iranian presidential elections on June the 18th.


ANDERSON: A massive fire mostly extinguished today after it broke out at an Iranian oil refinery. That is according to state media, the Head of

Tehran's Crisis Management Office quoted as saying the cause was a leak at a liquid gas pipeline. 18 tankers caught fire but so far there are no

reports of casualties all operations of the facility have though been suspended.

You're watching "Connect the World". I'm Becky Anderson. Ahead on the show, Japan less than 50 days now away from the start of Olympic competitions

featuring a swarm of international athletes. We'll hear from members of the public about their pandemic concerns.

Plus, COVID numbers since Latin America soaring; the fact is health experts say are contributing to the spread of this potentially deadly disease.


ANDERSON: Well, less than 50 days until Japan hosts the 2020 Olympic Games as they are still known, and organizers have announced thousands of

volunteers have now pulled out. 10,000 of the 80,000 who sign up to help have quit since February.

The organizing committee doesn't think it'll have a big impact. Foreign spectators won't be allowed in and they may not need as many volunteers as

other host cities normally would. CNN's Selina Wang got a look at final preparations underway in the Japanese Capital for you.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Pressure is building for the Olympics to be canceled. But here on the ground in Tokyo final preparations

appear to be underway. With just less than two months to go until the Olympics, the organizers are pushing ahead in the phase of public

opposition with the games very much an operational mode.

So behind me here is the venue being built for BMX racing and skateboarding. This venue can hold potentially thousands of spectators. Now

we know already that foreign spectators are banned from attending the Olympics, but organizers have yet to announce how many local spectators if

any can attend the games?

Over there are the spectator stands being built for marathon swimming and the triathlon. This is all temporary just for the Olympic Games. I'm here

in New Odaiba Marine Park, which is normally open to the public, but now it's been largely boarded off in preparation for the games. I spoke to one

of the construction workers here who told me he does not think the Olympic Games should move ahead.

Infections are rising during the pandemic, he tells me. I wonder if what I'm doing is good for the people preparing for the Olympics, he says. But

it's my job to work under the assumption that the games are going ahead.

WANG (on camera): Tokyo is planning large Olympic viewing sites across the city including one here at Yoyogi Park as this sign indicates.


WANG (on camera): But amid public opposition the government now says this will be used as a vaccination site. Japan has only vaccinated less than 3

percent of its population.

ROCHELLE KOPP, MANAGING PRINCIPAL, JAPAN INTERCULTURAL CONSULTING: People here are not protected. I don't think we should have it. I think everyone I

know in Tokyo is scared to death of people from all over the world coming.

WANG (on camera): But others in Tokyo are more optimistic.

WANG (voice over): I'm really looking forward to the Olympics, she says, people are down because of the pandemic. We need something fun.

WANG (on camera): This national stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held was rebuilt at a cost of more than $1 billion for

these Olympic Games. In fact, Japan has already spent more than $6 billion on Olympic infrastructure like venues and temporary buildings.

The economic cost of canceling these games would be enormous. But at stake here is not just money and Japan's national pride, but people's lives.

Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


ANDERSON: Well, concerns may be high in Japan. But the infection numbers are tiny compared to the number of new cases tearing through Latin America,

for example. That is the Pan American Health Organization warns Central America is reporting its highest numbers of COVID-19 deaths to date, new

cases in Panama, in Belize and in El Salvador have doubled over the last week.

And in South America, Colombia is reporting the highest infection rate on the continent. Stefano Pozzebon is in the Colombian Capital, Bogota with

more. Stefano, case numbers soaring, soaring across many parts of Latin America, and in the area that you are in what factors do experts say are

contributing to this spread?

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Yes, exactly Becky. The factors that are most worrying to the Pan American Health Organization and to local authorities

are that people are not complying with the restriction orders with the lockdown measures.

Yesterday, the Pan American Health Organization issued a concerning note showing that the number of people on the move in the Americas is the

highest it has ever been since the beginning of the pandemic. And just to give you an idea of how difficult the situation is here in Bogota, where I


Well, here in Bogota, right now, the occupancy rate of intensive care units, Becky, is at 97 percent. Nevertheless, the Mayor of Bogota announced

a total reopening of the city from June the eighth from next week, saying that the priorities of the citizenry, the priorities of this community is

not just to look after COVID, but also to look after the economic effects of COVID-19.

And this is an idea Becky of these dramatic double edged swords that is hitting the whole of the continent with people who have gone through all

their savings in the last 14 months and are not respecting lockdown orders anymore. People want to go out. People want to work, but at the same time,

there are more cases than ever Becky. It's really a dramatic, double edged sword hitting the continent.

ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. And this is something that governments have had to grapple with, of course, reopening economies ensuring that people can

earn a living and ensuring that they are still protecting their health infrastructure when it exists from just getting beaten down by COVID cases.

Look, before I let you go, I just want to talk about Brazil. We now know that the Copa America the big football tournament has been moved from

Argentina to Brazil because the case numbers in Argentina the fact is, the organizers didn't think the country could cope.

It has been moved into a country that we have been reporting on a near daily basis, a country that simply does not have this COVID catastrophe

under control. How much worse might things are in Brazil, when it introduces crowds and crowds of people for this tournament?

POZZEBON: Precisely Becky we've seen just as an idea yesterday, Brazil reported more than 95,000 new cases the second highest single day increase

in new cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Brazil does not have the situation under control.

Brazil is not turning the corner in the pandemic. But President Bolsonaro is trying to make a point for himself showing that he can organize he can

handle these - these Copa America Football Tournament which is the premier football tournament in the continents pretty much like the Euro Cup is in



POZZEBON: And the risk here is that it can be yet another super spreader event with fans not only from Brazil, but from other countries like

Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Colombia, traveling to Brazil to support their teams that at a time where everybody should stay indoors and maintain

social distancing. The risk is really, really present and are huge risk, Becky.

ANDERSON: And as you've been reporting, the problem is that many people are not following these COVID rules off times, because they simply don't feel

that they can afford to do so Stefano, thank you.

This just into CNN, the Biden Administration says it will share 25 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine with the rest of the world by the end of this

month. About three quarters of the doses will go to Covax; the International Vaccination Program the rest will be shared directly with

countries in need.

Now this is part of over - let me start again, its part of an overall plan to distribute 80 million doses. Here is National Security Adviser Jake



JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Our overarching aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as

possible. It's as simple as that. We want to save lives and thwart variants that place all of us at risk. But perhaps most important, this is just the

right thing to do.


ANDERSON: Well, it's Jake Sullivan. And I can - I'm really not doing very well today. Let me start again, an ecological disaster. I'm afraid of Sri

Lanka's coast as part of a smoldering cargo ship hits the bottom of the sea. Cargo from the vessel already polluting the water and the beaches, but

it's what the ship could unleash next, that is worrying so many people? That story is up next.


ANDERSON: Sri Lanka right now is facing what could be one of the worlds the worst ecological disasters in its history. A container ship packed with

chemicals and carrying hundreds of metric tons of oil - the fire of Sri Lanka's coast two weeks ago.

Well, it's now a sinking smoldering wreck. It's feared the oil will leak into the ocean and further threatened marine life, birds and what were

pristine beaches. Well, Sri Lankan officials say they have found no changes to PH levels in the water around the sunken ship. Millions of plastic

pellets from the vessel have washed up on beaches.

Well, one Sri Lankan fishermen says he's never experienced anything like this in 35 years on the water and his livelihood, he says is now gone more

from CNN's Anna Coren.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Sri Lankan authorities are bracing themselves for an environmental disaster after the sinking of the

MV X-Press Pearl container ship off the Coast of Colombo on Wednesday.

The ship was on fire for almost two weeks after an explosion on board, which the navy believes was caused by leaking nitric acid. There are now

fears the 350 tons of oil on board could seep into the ocean, destroying the pristine marine environment home to coral reefs, an abundance of

species and is a fishing grounds for more than 5000 local fishermen.

Salvage crews tried to move the Singapore based vessel to deeper water and further offshore but had to abandon operations when the rear of the ship

broke away and sank to the seabed.


COREN (voice over): The Sri Lankan Navy and Indian Coast Guard are monitoring and preparing for any oil spill. Oil slicks can be seen from the

air, but an oil spill would take this environmental disaster to a full blown catastrophe.

Environmentalists are already describing this as the country's worst ever marine disaster. Tons of debris including billions of tiny plastic pellets,

which were in some of the 1400 containers on board, has been washing up on the shore for days.

They've been found inside fish, turtles and birds that ingested them and have since washed up dead. The ship was also carrying 25 tons of nitric

acid and other hazardous chemicals, many of those containers and now on the seabed.

The Marine Research Agency conducting tests on the coastline said initial tests showed no change in the PH levels in the ocean and nearby lagoon,

there's still waiting results on tests on the seabed and marine species.

The government has suspended fishing along an 80 kilometer stretch of coastline. Many fishermen say their livelihoods have been decimated. There

is growing anger of the Sri Lankan government as to why the ship which was leaking nitric acid was allowed into Sri Lankan waters?

The vessel which left - report India on the 15th of May, was later denied entry to another port in India and Qatar due to the leak. The ship's

captain and two engineers have been ordered by the court not to leave Sri Lanka while the investigation continues. Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.


ANDERSON: Well, after a year of lockdowns and shattered cities, these breathtaking sounds are quite literally music to your ears. Beautiful! This

is the New York Philharmonic rehearsing in the catacombs of the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn finally preparing for live music with an actual


Their death of classical series opens tonight and the concerts will be an immersive event paying tribute to New York's spirit of resilience after

such a devastating year. A poignant yet I hope you agree hopeful step forward and a hopeful way to end the show.

Thank you for joining us wherever you are watching stay safe. Stay well. Look after your friends and family it is a very good evening from Abu