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U.K. Prime Minister is Sticking Around; England Tightens COVID-19 Rules; German Police Thwart Saxony Governor Assassination Plot; French and Ukrainian Presidents Meet in Brussels; Russia Notes "Very Positive" Call between Putin and Xi; UAE Suspending Deal to Buy U.S. Fighter Jets; Interview with Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, British Conservative MP, on BoJo's Job amid Tory Rebellion; At Least 62 Killed in Haiti Tanker Blast; Malta First Country to Legalize Cannabis. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired December 15, 2021 - 10:00   ET





BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: Oh, Mr. Speaker, I am going to get on with protecting the public of this country.

MAX FOSTER, CNN HOST: He is not going anywhere. U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson ignores calls for his resignation.

Worries grow over Europe's hospital capacity as Omicron looms.

And new details emerge of the explosion of the tanker that left dozens dead in Haiti.


FOSTER: I'm Max Foster in London, in for my colleague, Becky Anderson, and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD.

A rampaging Omicron variant, there is no shortage of British drama. Like Boris Johnson, London is under pressure where the Omicron strain has

overtaken the Delta strain. The prime minister said that part of his government's plan B made it through Parliament. Mr. Johnson was quick to

answer when asked if he would consider resigning.


JOHNSON: No, Mr. Speaker, I am going to get on with protecting the public of this country and making sure that we get through this pandemic together

as one United Kingdom.


FOSTER: Boris Johnson plans to leave the COVID new conference in two hours. Salma Abdelaziz is here in London.

And so, we have two separate issues here in London and one is Boris Johnson's credibility. And I mentioned that his back bench support is near

100 but it is equally interesting that they only got the rules through with opposition support. And that is how weak he is.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Max. Boris Johnson up to the last minute speaking to conservative lawmakers to try to get them to

convince of the vote to try to persuade them to put through the votes. And he was not nearly successful with 100 and the biggest rebellion and facing

clearly opposition. And this is what the opposition leader say.


KEIR STARMER, U.K. LABOUR LEADER: We can't go on with a prime minister too weak to lead.

So will the prime minister take time this Christmas to look in the mirror and ask himself if he has the trust and the authority to lead this country?


ABDELAZIZ: What you are seeing here is a prime minister who is taking yet another hit and getting a little bit weaker and weaker, because it is not

one scandal that will take down the prime minister but it is the, over time of building crescendo. And it is this prime minister who has plenty of them

to keep his own party doubting him.

FOSTER: And so he did get the rules on through Parliament. And so on that level, he is having some success and getting what he wants.

ABDELAZIZ: Separate of politics, you have a real threat here to the pandemic's progress and the Omicron variant and cases doubling every couple

of days and real threat to the health care system.

And what most Western countries would say, mandating masks in the large venues, some say is a step too far and untraditional and un-British. And

yes, it has passed and we have the rules in place. And the prime minister said it will help slow the tide of Omicron.

What if it gets worse and we need more restrictions and what if we need more rules?

How is he going to get them through if he does not have the support of the party?

FOSTER: Lawmakers say they are going to be celebrating Christmas for now.

But when you are looking at the U.K. numbers, are you feeling confident about it?

ABDELAZIZ: Social restriction is one way to fight it the variant and the other is the booster campaign and that is what the prime minister is

promoting, boosters, boosters, boosters.


ABDELAZIZ: I got my invitation yesterday. So if you can get the third shot to enough people, maybe you can stay with the restrictions through the


But again, this is a fast-moving variant and phenomenal growth. So it just depends.

FOSTER: Salma, thank you, we are watching this very closely and we will watch it through the holiday.

Spain is extending its air travel restrictions for southern Africa and expanding limited flights to including Malawi and Zambia. Italy is

tightening restrictions to requiring a COVID test from everyone, including those coming from the E.U. nations and is extending its state of emergency

to the end of March.

Even the wealthy nations are struggling. The German health minister today said that it has not ordered enough vaccines to keep the campaign going

through the first quarter of the new year.

The European Commission chief says that the new strain fast becoming the largest strain in Europe.


URSULA VAN DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: It is important to be aware but this large increase of infections is due almost exclusively to

the Delta variant. And what I am concerned about is that we are now seeing the new variant Omicron on the horizon, which is apparently even more


If you look at the time that it takes for new cases to number, it is doubling every two to three days and that is massive. We are told, by mid-

January, we should expect Omicron to be the new dominant variant in Europe.


FOSTER: Larry Madowo is in Johannesburg and Ben Wedeman is in Rome with the state of emergency there.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that state of emergency, Max, it was due to expire at the end of December. But now it is

going to the 31st of March.

This is basically to allow the Italian government to keep in place all of these restrictions that have been introduced in the leadup to the holiday

season to try to limit the spread.

We are now -- Italy is now into its fourth wave of the pandemic. Among the restrictions is the so-called super green pass, whereby only those recently

vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19 can enter public venues. And no longer is a negative test sufficient.

Under Italian law, the state of emergency can only be extended for about two years. Beyond that, it needs to be approved by both houses of

parliament. But so far, what we have seen is, with a few exceptions across the political spectrum, Italian political parties and the Italian political

public in general support the idea of maintaining the restrictions to try to get the pandemic under control -- Max.

FOSTER: Ben, thank you.

Larry, we are checking in with Johannesburg at the moment, because you seem to be ahead of the curve on this.

And how are things developing there?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Things are still developing quite rapidly, Max. The positivity rate in South Africa, leading up to Wednesday,

was 34.9 percent. What that means is that, for every 100 tests that South Africa is doing, 35 are turning positive; 90 percent of daily infections

are now the Omicron variant. And that is a huge amount.

It has spread so quickly over the last three weeks since South Africa discovered the Omicron variant. And scientists know how severe the disease

is and how quickly it spreads. And it spreads much faster from person to person.

But it does not lead to a lot of hospitalization and does not lead to a lot of deaths. So just over 90,000 people have died in South Africa from the

pandemic. To understand how quickly this is spreading, the president of South Africa now in isolation after he himself contracted COVID-19 despite

being fully vaccinated.

And he has had to delay the booster shot until he is recovering from this bout of COVID-19. He has handed it over to his deputy, who has met with the

National Coronavirus Command Council.

So South Africa is on tenterhooks, waiting to see if there is going to be another hard lockdown or other restrictions to slow the spread of COVID and

the Omicron variant across the country.

FOSTER: Larry in Johannesburg, Ben in Roe, thank you, both, very much indeed.


FOSTER: German police in Saxony state say they have stopped plot to murder the state governor for his stance advocating COVID-19 vaccines. Fred

Pleitgen tracking developments from Berlin.

And this is taking it to a whole new level and it is a horrifying tale.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is a horrifying tale and taking it to a whole new level but it is in line with

developments in Germany, where there is a huge debate about the fact of the anti-vax conspiracy movement that is very much against the restrictive

measures taken in this country against the pandemic, that this movement is growing and is more radicalized.

It has a lot of the German politicians up in arms and the law enforcement authorities as well.

As far as this plot is concerned, the group organized on Telegram. There was a German public TV investigative magazine that already found out about

this group and had infiltrated the group and had reported on this. And that is where the police got its first lead.

But then the police continued to investigate and found out that the members of the group were plotting to kill the state governor of the state of

Saxony and possibly others in the state government as well.

Some of the messages that were posted and some of the things said as well, some of the people from group were saying that they were also armed.

Early this morning is when the raids began. And we have been in touch with the police in Dresden. And they have searched six places, against five

people and they have found parts of weapons, checking to see if they were to be assembled to be live firearms, would bring this to a whole new level.

So all of this is a cause of concern. And the state governor has already come out to demand tough measures from the law enforcement and the courts,

of course. And the German chancellor, Max, he came out today earlier and he said that biggest problem in Germany is a tiny minority of unhinged

extremists trying to divide German society.

And he said it is not going to happen and Germany will remain tough. But a lot of these incidents are coming to light. A second one coming to light

today throughout Germany, politicians and media organizations received parcels with raw meat with letters that said "toxic," threatening more

parcels to be sent if mandatory vaccinations took hold.

So this "tiny movement" is certainly becoming a cause for concern for authorities here in Germany.

FOSTER: Thank you, Fred, in Germany.

South Korea scrambling under a deluge of COVID-19 cases. The country set new daily records for coronavirus infections and critically ill patients.

The South Korean government is working on high-tech tools like artificial intelligence and facial recognition to track cases.

Travelers from South Korea are being allowed into Australia today, as they are starting to lift restrictions even as it is struggling with its own

COVID spike. More details from 9 Network's Lauren Tomasi in Australia.


LAUREN TOMASI, 9 NETWORK: Australia's COVID-19 walls are beginning to come down with fully vaccinated travelers from Japan and Korea being welcomed.

Australia's border is being reopened to more than 200,000 visa holders and international students who have been kept out of universities for almost

two years.

The reopening was slated for December 1 but put on hold for two weeks because of Omicron.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They take my home away home here (sic).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How long have you been waiting?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I change my flight ticket for four times because no one know when will be happen in the next minute.

TOMASI: Those travelers permitted to enter will need 72 hours of quarantine and be tested within 24 hours and again on day six. Despite the

Australian federal government lifting the international border restrictions, not all states are on board.

Western Australia will keep its interstate and the international border closed to vaccinated travelers until February of next year.

This is the beginning of Australia opening back up and the government has yet to give a firm date of when the international borders will be open to

travelers worldwide.


FOSTER: As the West is turning up the heat on Russia, Putin is turning to China. How those two nations are getting on.

And why the UAE is putting a fighter jet deal with the United States on hold.





FOSTER: French President Emmanuel Macron is meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Brussels. They're at a E.U. summit with

leaders of five former Soviet states. Tensions are high over the troop buildup along Ukrainians border.

The U.S. says Russia is preparing for possible invasion a day after Russian president Vladimir Putin demanded guarantees on curbing NATO expansion in


As the West turns up the heat, Putin is building ties on another front, spending 1.5 hours on a call with Chinese president Xi Jinping. The Kremlin

says their relations are at an unprecedented high. They plan to meet at the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Melissa Bell is following this from Moscow.

What did you make of the meeting?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This comes a week after the Summit for Democracy by Joe Biden to which neither of these leaders convened, calling

it counter productive, something that created divisions.

More specifically, Xi and Putin trying to show that they still have a friend, Xi Jinping coming behind Putin's view on demands and proposals

regarding Ukrainians, specifically that NATO not expand further.

Those proposals were given to the U.S. envoy, Xi Jinping backing up Vladimir Putin. Putin backing the critical view of Xi Jinping on military

activity by the West in the Asia Pacific, especially the U.S.-Australian submarine deal.

They also talked about creating an independent financial infrastructure, to allow them both to lessen their dependence on Western banks and their

vulnerability to sanctions. So showing their unity, friendship, that they're not alone in this. According to a Kremlin readout, this is the 37th

time they've spoken, mostly virtually.


BELL: But Putin became the first leader to announce he'd attend the Beijing Winter Olympics. That's when the two men will finally meet for


FOSTER: Melissa Bell in Moscow, thank you.

A battle of wills is playing out in the United Arab Emirates, suspending its multibillion deal to buy American made F-35s just after Abu Dhabi's

crown prince hosted the Israeli prime minister. America's top diplomat remains optimistic the deal will get done.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: With regard to the UAE and the F- 35s and the guns, we remain prepared to move forward with both if that is what the Emiratis are interested in doing.

We wanted to make sure, for example, that our commitment to Israel's qualitative military edge is assured. So we wanted to make sure that we

could do a full review of any technologies that are sold or transferred to other partners in the region, including the UAE.


FOSTER: CNN international correspondent Sam Kiley has more from Abu Dhabi.

Sam, we're trying to decode these statements.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the first thing is he mentioned Israel, particularly that the Emiratis are getting

something less than the Israelis. It's quite possible that it will look elsewhere for military technology, particularly drone technologies.

In terms of a diplomatic maneuver, I think this is a dropped ball from Blinken.

But the background is that the Emiratis are concerns about restrictions on how they might use the technology. There's a sense in the U.S. that they're

doing the Emiratis a favor selling them this aircraft.

The Emiratis say it's no favor at all; they just signed up for 80 fighters from France. On top of that, the Emiratis are forging their own way,

looking at engagement with Iran rather than the U.S. policy of maximum pressure.

Also the Emiratis are turning increasingly to China, rejecting the U.S.' attempts to suppress 5G supplied by Huawei. Here's the chief political

adviser to the president here.


ANWAR GARGASH, DIPLOMATIC ADVISER TO THE UAE PRESIDENT: We're very concerned because the United States is our main strategic ally. And China

and India are our main trading partners.

I think that this is going to be difficult waters that many countries will have to navigate in the coming period.


KILEY: So tricky waters for the Emirates, who trade so much with China. They're saying, don't get us caught up in your superpower squabbles. And

we're not going to get pushed around.

FOSTER: Do you think the deal could be revived?

KILEY: I think there's a great deal of cynicism about whether it's necessary in terms of modern warfare to pay so much money when the next

wave of equipment will be pilotless.

If this was a sale for drones, I suspect they'd commit to it. One senses they don't really need this equipment when they're moving away from the

foreign military adventures of the past in Yemen and Libya. They're moving toward total diplomacy, being an enemy of nobody and a friend to all.


KILEY: They want to be the Switzerland of Africa and they do not want to get involved in destabilizing operations around the world and they

therefore do not need this enormous military, Max.

FOSTER: Thank you, Sam Kiley in Abu Dhabi.

A fellow conservative is telling Boris Johnson to get a grip.

Can the British prime minister survive the latest rebellion? We will check on that.

And a cry for help in Haiti after the latest tanker blast.

Why do Haitians put their safety at risk just for getting fuel?




FOSTER: Welcome back. I'm Max Foster in London and you are watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

British prime minister Boris Johnson fending off a call in Parliament for resigning and he says he is going to get on with protecting the country

from the pandemic. He is not deterred by the defection of nearly 100 fellow Conservatives, who voted against tighter COVID restrictions Tuesday -- or

part of them, at least.

He was under fire for the controversial Christmas parties last year. My next guest warns that Mr. Johnson could face a leadership challenge next

year if he doesn't make some changes. Conservative MP Geoffrey Clifton- Brown joins me via Skype.

We should explain to the viewers that, within the Conservative Party, it is the Conservative members of Parliament who choose the leader. So it matters

what back benchers like you view this leadership.

And how weak is he right now?

GEOFFREY CLIFTON-BROWN, CONSERVATIVE MP: Well, I don't know. He may have appeared confident in Parliament but he does need to think carefully when

he comes back into the new year how he can regain the confidence of the party.

That means taking us into partnership, not just suddenly announcing a huge great change of policy but discussing it with us first. And I think that is

what needs to change in the coming year.

FOSTER: He had a meeting with you guys, didn't he, before the vote yesterday. And then nearly 100 of you voted against one of the measures.

Was that just a message for him from the back benchers?

Or was that a sign of things to come?

CLIFTON-BROWN: Well, a lot of those who already were in room or were not in the room had already made up their mind on the vote.


CLIFTON-BROWN: I think it is a sign of those in the lead in the party to take us into the partnership and discusses these matters before he

announces them so that we feel a part of the whole policy going forward.

FOSTER: So you know, you are waiting to see on this, it sounds like.

And are you aware of any of your colleagues who may have gone to the 1922 Committee with a letter, which is how leadership challenges begin?

CLIFTON-BROWN: So I am treasurer of the 1922 Committee but our chairman would never if he had received a letter. But we cannot go on as we have.

We've had a bad month and some of the things are self-inflicted mistakes. And the prime minister must clear them up do the really big issues,

governing the country.

How do we restore the health service and redo social care and how do we restore the economy and start to pay back this huge amount of money paid in

the COVID pandemic?

These are the big issues that he needs to address.

FOSTER: A lot of people making the point that he only got the measures through, of the new restrictions, because of the opposition, because his

back benchers did not support him to the point he hoped.

But is this just Westminster conversation?

The reality is that he has gotten the policies through and that is what he'd be measured on ultimately by the public.

CLIFTON-BROWN: Well, divided parties traditionally never win elections. And I think ultimately, if this kind of rebellion continues, the letters

will go in and eventually he'll be deposed or something else will happen, which is much more serious and there will be a vote of confidence in the

House of Commons.

So he has got to take his party with him and trust us more. And that is what it amounts to.

FOSTER: Talking about likely candidates if he were to be replaced, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the foreign secretary likely to be named.

What are you hearing?

CLIFTON-BROWN: Well, I think there are probably about three or four or five likely names. I don't want to indicate any particular preferences. But

you have indicated two of them; Priti Patel and others will be in the mix but I don't have any preference at this stage.

But I am not in the position at the moment of wanting him to go. I want to him to succeed, so I am desperately hoping that he will take us into his

confidence, discuss these policies with us before he makes the announcements or he will be getting letters.

FOSTER: Thank you very much indeed, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.

CLIFTON-BROWN: Thank you very much.

FOSTER: On the radar today, President Biden will be touring the storm- ravaged state of Kentucky where he will meet with the victims and deliver remarks. Last weekend, at least 88 people were killed across the U.S., 74

deaths were in Kentucky alone.

Afghanistan is at the greatest risk of any country in the world for deteriorating humanitarian conditions next year. Donors froze billions in

aid after Taliban took over and since then the IRC said most health clinics have closed and poverty is universal as the Afghans suffer through drought,

starvation and COVID.

Authorities say 13 people were injured when a fire broke out at Hong Kong's World Trade Center. Dozens were trapped on a skyscraper caught fire. Fire

officials say 770 people were evacuated. The fire was discovered near a switchboard where a renovation was in progress.

Haitian officials are pleading for blood donations after Tuesday's explosion. The blast in Haiti's second largest city killed at least 62

people. Many of the victims were trying to collect gas directly from the truck when it exploded. CNN's Matt Rivers tells us why Haitians are so

desperate for fuel.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Massive flames illuminating the night sky in Cap-Haitien, the northern port city and Haiti's second

largest. A fuel truck had exploded moments before in the middle of a dense neighborhood.

It's not clear what caused the explosion but the city's mayor said the truck had mechanical problems and had stopped began leaking fuel and people

had crowded around, hoping to collect some for themselves.

That crowd is what made the explosion catastrophic. Dozens of people dead and dozens more injured, frontline workers clearing bodies, covering them

with white cloths; the next morning, moving the dead into a waiting truck.

It was a brutal scene, in part caused by a critical fuel crisis on the island. Spot protests have gone on for months, people angry over not being

able to get fuel.


RIVERS (voice-over): "We don't have a government," this man says.

"If we don't demand change, who will?"

Tires set on fire and debris thrown into the street are desperate attempts to cause enough chaos that the government tries to fix the problem but it

won't be easy. Not only is the government so broken it can't buy enough fuel but, when some arrives, it can't get delivered.

The vast majority of fuel is imported at these two locations. But gangs in Port-au-Prince are so powerful, they have near complete control over this

crucial stretch of highway, which means they control the flow of fuel into the capital.

A gas retailer, identity hidden due to security concerns, told us what happens if you try and drive a tanker into pickup fuel.

RIVERS (on camera): So I might get kidnapped.


RIVERS (on camera): I might get shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, if you don't stop.

RIVERS (on camera): I might get killed.


RIVERS (on camera): Or at the very least I'm going to have to pay an exorbitant bribe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course.

RIVERS (voice-over): Haiti's government and law enforcement are either unwilling or unable to secure a flow of fuel from the ports.

RIVERS (on camera): But not having enough fuel doesn't just mean you can't use your motorbike. Consider this: here in Port-au-Prince, the electricity

grid is not reliable. So let's say you own a small store and you sell cold drinks.

In order to keep that refrigerator running, you need to use a generator. And if the fuel going into that generator is way more expensive than it was

before, that means you need to charge your customers more for those cold drinks.

Not having enough fuel makes all kinds of things more expensive. And that's brutal in a country already dealing with so much poverty.

RIVERS (voice-over): This is the scene from about six weeks ago, inside the empty hallways of Hospital Universitaire de la Paix, normally packed with

patients. Just a few were inside when we were there.

Ketia Estille's son almost died during an overnight asthma attack. She says, "The doctor was using the flashlight on his phone to put my son on

oxygen because there is no electricity. It's so bad, I almost lost him."

RIVERS (on camera): Normally all of those cribs would be filled with sick kids. But the hospital is turning away nearly every single patient that

comes here, because, right now, there are simply not enough doctors, nurses or electricity to take care of them. That means that one of Haiti's largest

hospitals is essentially not functioning.

RIVERS (voice-over): The doctors are trying but they cannot do anything. She says they have no help. Only God can help at this point. Her son

survived but other victims of this fuel crisis did not.

So many crowded around the leaking fuel trucks, said the mayor, in part, because they were so desperate for gasoline. What happened in Cap-Haitien a

horrific consequence of a country starving for fuel -- Matt Rivers, CNN.


FOSTER: Basketball star Steph Curry is now in the record books. We will take a look at why his 3-pointer record is especially impressive.





FOSTER: Malta is set to become the first E.U. country where recreational use of cannabis is legal. There were celebrations on Tuesday when the bill

passed through Parliament, now headed to the president, who is expected to sign it into law.

After that, anyone aged 18 or over can possess and cultivate the drug. The bill's sponsor says that drug reform like this is way overdue.


OWEN BONNICI, MALTESE MINISTER FOR EQUALITY, RESEARCH AND INNOVATION: First of all, it will stop once and for all the criminalization of people,

who, for a long time, have been criminalized when they are not criminals.

Secondly, we are going to give to curb drug trafficking by making sure that people who make use of (INAUDIBLE) harvest now have a safe and regulized

(sic) way from where to obtain cannabis.


FOSTER: Malta at the forefront of legalization around the drug in Europe. While it has been decriminalized in other E.U. countries, they've stopped

short of legalization. Germany could soon follow suit for now, Berlin's public transport operator says he has another idea to alleviate the stress

of the Christmas rush: hemp tickets. They're made of edible paper and hemp oil.


JANNES SCHWENTU, BVG SPOKESPERSON (through translator): Anyone who wants to use the ticket must have an actual ticket. Please only nibble on it or

eat it after you journey. It has a bite in it. It is no longer valid. It needs to be in its original packaging and people can then keep it as a

souvenir or eat it all up.


FOSTER: The company is known for its cheeky ad campaigns. The tickets will be on sale through the end of the week.