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Biden's Irish Tour Highlights Personal and Political Ties; Constitutional Council to Rule on Validity of Pension Legislation Friday; Bennett: Protests are Democracy in Action; Bennett: Israel Needs a Centrist Government; Saudi Arabia Hosts Syrian Foreign Minister; Crowds Fill French Streets for 12th Day of Nationwide Protest. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired April 13, 2023 - 11:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNNI HOST: Well, we're watching U.S. President Joe Biden he is expected to address silence Parliament very shortly. We'll bring you

that just as soon as it starts.

This is not only an historic visit, it could be also described as a nostalgic pilgrimage for Mr. Biden and his family like more than 30 million

of his fellow Americans, he holds a strong connection to his Irish ancestry and says that being back in Ireland feels like being back home.

This less intense leg of his trip follows a brief visit to Northern Ireland where he urged the main political parties to resume their power sharing

agreement. Let's get you live to jump in now and to CNN's Nic Robertson.

And you were there in Belfast. And as we do await Joe Biden speaking to parliamentarians there in Dublin, let's just talk about what was achieved

and perhaps not achieved in Belfast? Some critics suggesting he might have spent more time in the north and more time on trying to get this power

sharing back in business in Stormont in the assembly?

You know, more time around what is the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement a day in Belfast and three, as it were in Dublin to some feels a

little sort of un-weighted.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It is certainly been a subject of discussion here. And some people have said, look, you know, you

have to remember that the President has actually gone to Northern Ireland, that his visit there, even though the power sharing assembly wasn't

actually up and running something he'd hoped that it would be that he had still gone.

And it's important when the President does visit. And it does seem that although on the surface, it doesn't seem that he's shifted the political

mood or the political climate. On the surface, at least, that he really has coped helped bring it alive and promote the narrative that the power

sharing government is an important part of what came out of the Good Friday Agreement.

And that everyone should continue to work towards trying to build it. It was interesting that Jeffrey Donaldson, the Leader of the Democratic

Unionist Party, that is the party that has refused to join the power sharing government actually commented after about President Biden saying

that he hadn't shifted the political discourse, but actually did say that he didn't think that President Biden had really had shown partisanship to

either side that he was quite neutral.

And indeed, Jeffrey Donaldson highlighted the fact that President Biden has spoken about his English roots, highlighting that as well as his well-known

Irish ancestry. And I think that has been taken as a good political sign in Northern Ireland that the Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party didn't

come out and say, oh President Biden was just was critical of President Biden in any way.

And the indications are that perhaps over the summer, that Democratic Unionist Party could get some laws put into -- put into effect through the

British government that could get over some of their problems and get them back into power sharing government. So I think it all works towards that we

may not see it on the surface.

So a short visit? Yes, I think that spoke to the sensitivities. But I think the general assessment is that the President pulled it off, no damage done,

in fact, encouragement that was heard by those that need to hear it the most, Becky?

ANDERSON: Well, he's in Ireland now. This is an island, which is a far cry from the places ancestors left so many years ago in a very different place,

a different economy from that which the past President John F. Kennedy visited. He of course, was the last Catholic President. This is a country

which is off times on the itinerary for U.S. Presidents. What is it about Ireland, Nic that makes it such a keen stop for them?

ROBERTSON: Well, let's not forget it's a year away from a new another U.S. Presidential election. The Irish vote is always an important one for either

Democrat or Republican to try to win over.


And I think President Biden by coming -- by being here by showing that the United States strongly supports Ireland that this is something that's going

to perhaps help encourage, you know, Irish Americans, one in 10 Americans are estimated to be Irish. So that's going to be very important,

potentially going into the vote next year.

But it's important just as a major country like the United States, having friends and close allies in Europe. Let's not forget that in the European

Union, United States used to be able to look towards the UK to sort of help, you know, help with getting its voice heard at the table within the

European Union.

Now, of course, the UK has left the European Union, and in some ways some people would consider Ireland would be potentially able to give voice

around the table when important decisions are made in Brussels that it will be able to give voice or reflect at least some U.S. sentiment.

So the connection is important but a connection on how to help the Ukrainians? Ireland has committed a lot of humanitarian support. It's

opened its doors to huge numbers of Ukrainian refugees, and that's certainly something that President Biden applauds.

ANDERSON: Nic, always a pleasure thank you! And President Biden is in Ireland, and he will speak at the Irish Parliament shortly. A turbulent day

for much of France, we've been seeing some intense confrontations breaking out between police and protesters.

Crowds turning out for a 12th day of nationwide protests against pension reform, emotions running rather high. The demonstrations coming just ahead

of a key decision from the country's Constitutional Council on the validity of what is a very unpopular law, rising the retirement age.

Well, earlier protesters stormed the Headquarters of LVMH that's the company behind Louis Vuitton and other luxury brands and it's seen as a

capitalist symbol. A union activist was quoted as saying if Macron the President wants to find money to finance the pension system he should come

here to find it.

Well, this controversy has gripped the country for months. And as CNN's Saskya Vandoorne now tells us from Paris it may doom the French President's

plans for other reforms.


SASKYA VANDOORNE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Anger on the streets of France. Macron resign protesters all united against a defined President.

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: If you want the pact between generations to be fair, this reform needs to be carried out.

VANDOORNE (voice over): Pension reforms were a landmark policy of President Emmanuel Macron's reelection campaign, but upping the retirement age from

62 to 64 may have been a step too far for too many. Forcing the bill passed one of the two parliamentary chambers pouring fuel on the fire of popular

anger. Much of that -- has come Macron's way.

DOMINIQUE MOISI, POLITICAL EXPERT: Now it is really against denunciation of the President himself. I don't think in the history of the Fifth Republic

we have seen so much rage, so much hatred at our president.

VANDOORNE (voice over): With most French people polled supporting the protests. His approval ratings are nearly the lower of his two terms at

just 28 percent in March. It was only worse during the yellow vest protests.

Four years ago popularity at rock bottom hundreds of thousands in the streets weekly for Macron the yellow vests protesting what they called

economic injustices upset his first term, he now faces a similar risk.

VANDOORNE (on camera): The deficit balancing moves slammed by many as tone deaf will face its final hurdle here Friday, France is the equivalent of

the Supreme Court. It will either rubber stamp it or deem that some parts or indeed the whole thing is unconstitutional, which would be a further

embarrassment for President Macron.

VANDOORNE (voice over): For the young reformer, pensions were supposed to be the first of several policy revamps. But his crusade of government

reform now looks dead in the water, with little hope of energizing lawmakers behind yet more controversial policy rethinks and his legacy may

be even more troubled, opening the door to the far right.

MOISI: The comparison with Barack Obama applies. He is paving the way to the coming to power of a populist leader. And he will be remembered in

history as the man who allowed Marine LePen to finally come to power.

VANDOORNE (voice over): With four years remaining in his term as president, we may still not know the true cost of Macron's hunger for reform for quite

a while Saskya Vandoorne, CNN, Paris.



ANDERSON: Well, I want to bring in Fred Pleitgen live from the protests in Paris right now. Fred, just describe or tell us where you are in Paris and

what's going on there?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Becky, we're near the endpoint of the march near the -- and you can see here we

just pan over here. It's a really tense situation right now, between the police here and the protesters. We've seen the cops, charging people.

In fact, we look a little further back there's a group of police officers who's charging a bunch of people here right now. But you can see the police

officers here in the foreground also with their riot shields. They just conducted a charge; let's say a couple of seconds ago.

So certainly a lot of tension in the area, we have seen a good deal of violence, I have to say as well. We've seen some of the protesters hurled

rocks and bottles at the police officers who've seen the cops retaliate with pepper spray and also with their batons and their shields as well.

In the last couple of minutes, we've seen a couple of people be detained as well, as you can see a group of police officers now going through here you

can see these cops here still sort of holding the line. But it really is a very tense situation with a lot of people that are on the streets here.

One of the things that we do have to say, Becky is we're at one end right now of the protests, the largest part of the protest has been very

peaceful. But there certainly has been a notable amount of events like what you're seeing right now where the cops are being pelted by some of the

protesters that has been notable as well.

But again, a very, very large crowd, and certainly doesn't seem to us as though this protest movement is losing any sort of momentum. And of course,

as Saskya just noted, in her report that was on before tomorrow is such an important day for these people here on the streets for this nation, as the

Constitutional Council will then decide whether or not Macron's plans to increase the retirement age?

And in general that was horrible, whether that is constitutional, or whether the whole law or part of the law is unconstitutional. But you could

see the people here understand there is a lot at stake. And they certainly are squaring off with the police here in the center of the city Becky.

ANDRESON: Yes, number of people on social media following the march where you are towards the Plaza de la Bastille. One noting, we all know what

happened there in 1789 Fred, from those that you have spoken to what's the sense of what will happen tomorrow?

Is there are people confident that given this is the 12th day of protests, their demonstrations have been very noisy and very visible, not just in

Paris, but across the nation? Is there a sense that they will get what they want tomorrow?

PLEITGEN: Yes, I think there's a sense that they probably won't get what they want tomorrow. We just have to get out of the way to the side of the

Becky because there's a police are coming through here. But I'll keep sneaking.

There's a sense that that most people believe that by and large, this reform bill is going to get pushed through by the Constitutional Council

that they are going to at least the main part of it, the raising of the retirement age from 62 to 64.

It is obviously impossible to say whether or not that's really going to happen. But it's very rare for the Constitutional Council to then announce

something like that as being unconstitutional. So there are not a lot of people who believe that that is actually something that you know, is likely

to happen.

However, a lot of the unions here are people that we've been speaking to sorry about that. They've been saying that no matter what the

Constitutional Council says tomorrow, they're going to come back on the streets and continue to protest.

So we're in the middle of a police here right now. We're live on TV, sorry. So we're just getting pushed back by the police here. People are saying

that they want to continue to come out and you know, as I said, this is a movement really hasn't lost much, as far as its momentum is concerned.

And there are definitely tens of thousands of people that we've seen on the street here. And people are saying that they will continue to come out on

the street, no matter what the Constitutional Council decides.

Now, of course, regardless of what we're seeing here, right now, everybody tomorrow will be very, very keen to see what exactly is going to happen in

the evening. Whether or not the Constitutional Council is going to make a decision that could make you repeal parts of that law.

But, you know, right now, the political atmosphere here is so charged. And I think one of the things that we always have to keep pointing out to our

viewers, is that to a lot of the folks here on the ground, a lot of the folks here in Paris and other cities to them.

This is also a protest against the government of the Emmanuel Macron. They really detest the way that he has pushed this reform bill through the fact

that he used constitutional powers that he used executive powers to push it to essentially bypassing the legislative process and parts of the

legislative process.

That's something that doesn't sit well with a lot of people. And one of the things you know Becky that we've been talking about is the amount of young

people who are out here and who are showing their discontent with the political leadership here on this country.


And that's really, some of the things that you see on those posters, some of the things that you hear in the chants, as once again, we see the

protesters here, squaring off facing off with the police, and what has already been a march that has seen a good deal of violence. You can see

there some pushing and shoving going on here to that side, again, right now, as we speak Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, and as you've been speaking, we've also been bringing up images of protests elsewhere, across France, not least in Toulouse, not the

sort of violence that we are seeing on the streets of Paris, but certainly some very intense demonstrations going on nationwide. How have authorities

responded to these demonstrators, and to the 12 days of protests we have now seen?

PLEITGEN: Yes, I think that's a really important point and important question. You can see here once again, pushing and shoving going on here.

And that's exactly the way that the authorities have been responding.

I mean, they've got tens of thousands of cops onto the streets, thousands of extra cops here in Paris alone, to try and get the situation under

control as riot controlling, and really trying to use the authorities to dissuade people, if you will, from coming out of the streets.

Obviously, that is not something that has happened. But it is very important Becky. It's a really important question that you ask because I

think this is something that a lot of people here will say if you speak to them, a lot of people have been saying it to us.

They don't believe that there's been a real dialogue between the people and the government about this law taking place. They believe that Emmanuel

Macron and his government have been tone deaf. In fact, if you look at some of the unions they've been trying to speak to the government who've wanting

to speak to the government, the government has said yes, they'll speak to the units, but not about this topic.

They say that this pension reform is going to go through. It is a key project for an Emmanuel Macron. Furthermore, he's done a lot to get this

project through. And it's certainly seems to a lot of people here that he is just hell bent on bringing this law through an aggregate.

A lot of people feel that they just simply haven't been brought into a real dialogue, or haven't been asked or allowed to voice their opinion on it.

And so what they're doing now is obviously is voicing it out here on the streets Becky.

ANDERSON: I mean there are tens of thousands out on the streets of Paris thousands out in cities across the country, where you are, what is the

understanding as far as how long this goes on? I mean, is there a start and an end time to this? Could this go on through the night? I mean, what's the


PLEITGEN: Yes, I mean, I think that what you're seeing here right now is going to go on for quite a while. As you can see, we're still well in the

daylight hours. People here are pretty charged up. And you know, we're sort of coming towards the end and see the busty square right there right in

front of us a lot of people here, really, really angry at the authorities and a lot of people voicing that anger.

Right now the situation that we have, where I am, is that you have the police, and the protesters sort of pushing and shoving each other. We're

kind of behind the police right now. But there is certainly a lot of energy on the part of the protesters.

As I said there's a lot of anger and discontent on the part of the protesters but also at the same time, the police are taking a very firm

line on this as well. And we can see a lot of police officers that have been deployed we can see the police using the riot shield.

And as you can see right now also, with this pushing and shoving going on it really is a standoff in many cases that at some, you know, in some

cases, has certainly descended into violence as well. As you can see right now there's some projectiles sort of flying around so we have to be a

little bit careful so we don't get hit.

ANDERSON: And we've got another shot coming in to CNN, a lot of smoke canisters, tear gas has been used. We know projectiles use smoke bombs on

the streets. This is Paris for you. Folks well certainly some parts of Paris, the Place de la Bastille, there mid-afternoon towards 20 past five

in the afternoon.

In Paris today is Fred Pleitgen who is in amongst the crowds has been explaining a lot of energy and a lot of discontent and anger against

President Emmanuel Macron and his governments are pushing through these very, very unpopular reforms and as Saskya one of our staff in Paris

pointing out.

They may get this through its whether they can get other unpopular reforms through? And if these are the scenes about pension reform authorities I'm

sure will be concerned about what else happens on the streets of Paris where they to push ever unpopular reform through? Right, we're going to

take over a short break back after this.



ANDERSON: Well, today is the last day of Passover. Now at one point Israel's prime minister planned to have his judicial reform bill passed by

now. Well, it's a controversial bill of course, and he has since backed down from that promise of the protest brought his country to a standstill.

But he only kicked the can down the road agreeing to wait until after the Passover holiday to resume discussions over that legislation.

Well, now that the period is ending, Israelis are looking to see what happens next. The plans have deeply divided the country and drawn

international condemnation. Well, the former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has called on Mr. Netanyahu to suspend the judicial reform.

Naftali Bennett ousted Benjamin Netanyahu back in 2021, leading quite a diverse government that included representatives from both religious and

secular communities and an Arab party for the first time. Benjamin Netanyahu has called that government the worst in Israel's history. Last

hour, I spoke to Mr. Bennett, I asked him, given what is going on at present in Israel to respond to that criticism.

NAFTALI BENNETT, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: What we're seeing here is democracy in action. And obviously, political opponents make accusations. I

think now it's almost common knowledge that the government that I lead, it was one of the most effective governments in Israel's history.

I inherited a declining economy and brought it up to 8 percent growth, the highest in the world, gave the quietest and most secure period year in 20

years for the area of Gaza and southern Israel.

And what we really did was proved to ourselves and the world that folks who have very different opinions can actually work together well, if there's

enough good faith right now, the Israel indeed as an internal crisis regarding our constitution and the very future and soul of Israel.

ANDERSON: Many have described that current Israeli government and its right-wing policies and some describing those as the right religious

policies, as the worst thing ever to happen to Israel. I repeat both domestically and internationally, do you agree?

BENNETT: Well, I don't want to criticize my government, even if I have disagreements with them. What I would tell the public that's watching us

that what you're seeing now in Israel is democracy in action. It's one of the messiest periods in the history of Israel but also, one of the most

beautiful periods in the history of Israel because millions of Israelis are out demonstrating for freedom for democracy.


And we saw other countries around the world that declined gradually into a loss of democracy. Well, Israel is shown an example of a country that is

fighting. And I can say with full confidence here, democracy in Israel will prevail.

ANDERSON: Recently, you said the composition of your government wasn't right. Is the composition of this government a good thing for Israel or

not? I am putting you on the spot here, sir.

BENNETT: No, that's OK. That's your job. The real composition that we need in Israel is a unity government of both right and left, Jews, Arabs

religious and secular; we need a central government that will fight primarily polarization and the radicals on both sides.

I feel that and believe that the overwhelming majority of Israelis, roughly 70 percent of Israelis will agree on 70 percent of the issues. And we need

to focus on those issues, because we're not going to solve the extreme issues. And that's exactly what my government did. And I'm optimistic that

we can do that again.

ANDERSON: What do you make of this judicial reform? How much of it do you want to see past? And what part of this judicial reform which is currently

only suspended? Benjamin Netanyahu, by no means has said, he's going to, you know, rescind on, and putting in front of, in front of Parliament.

What do you want to see out this judicial reform? And what do you believe genuinely crosses the line, which would mean that that Israel no longer had

any checks and balances? Let's be quite clear about this. Where are your red lines?

BENNETT: Yes, absolutely. Well, I'd say that the overwhelming majority of Israelis agree on two things. First, that we need a judicial reform. People

agree that the Supreme Court has gradually usurped the authorities, away from the executive in a wrongful way. And also agree that the Supreme

Constitutional Court of Israel is a bit of a closed club that clones it.

And instead, it needs to pretty much, you know, reflect the diversity of opinions in Israel. Therefore, if we take those two principles, what we

would need is well, the second principle, of course, is that we need to achieve any reform in consensus; he can't shove it down the throat of the

other side.

So, we agree we need to reform, but we also agree that we need to achieve it in consensus. So, I would say, yes, a gradual change in the way we

select and appoint the Supreme Court judges also do it in a more transparent way. And secondly, set a clear barrier between the judicial

branch and the executive branch in Israel, but by no means would we allow removing checks and balances.

ANDERSON: Right. I wanted to hear what your thoughts were on the removal of checks and balances, it's, it's important that we allowed you to make that

point. You recently called Israel's government, called on Israel's government, this current government, and I quote you here "not to act power

drunk". What did you mean by that?

BENNETT: Well, what I mean is that Israel has a very diverse population. We have religious and secular ultra-orthodox, we have Arabs, Jews, we've got

it all. And while the right indeed got 64 votes out of 120 as a solid majority, what you don't want to do is to over reach.

And I think Prime Minister Netanyahu now understands that they overreached, both in the tone and in the content of their actions, which is why he

basically trimmed off 90 percent of the original reform and even diluted the 10 percent that's left.

So, what we need now in Israel is not to pull to the extremes. We don't want to pull to the extreme left or extreme right. We want to stay central,

around our security, our economy around making life work in Israel between these various populations.

ANDERSON: You dissolved your government after your coalition effectively fell apart. Do you genuinely believe that this current government which is

you know, the most right leaning in Israel's history is good for the country. I mean, Benjamin Netanyahu has always been in a position where

he's had you know some wiggle -- and some maneuverability between right and left to a certain extent.


He doesn't have that facility as far as most experts can see now. Is this a government that that should be running Israel at this point, I want your

personal perspective on this.

BENNETT: No, we need a centrist government, with the -- with lipid and guns and then the others, because the challenges that are facing Israel right

now are huge. We've got Iran, who's joining forces with other countries around the area, and is instigating terror everywhere like an octopus of

terror. We have weakening relations in the region.

We have an economy that's now in crisis, even though I left a very growing high-tech economy. We need to fix all of this, it can only be done from the

center, it can only be done in a bipartisan manner. I've become a big believer in immoderacy; in fact, I'm a radical moderate in terms of how to

do things. My opinion, still our right of center, but it's not about the actions. It's about the tone, and about bringing people together and being

able to identify common ground and get those things done.

ANDERSON: Naftali Bennett, Israel's former Prime Minister speaking to me a little earlier. Let's take a short break at this point. There's an awful

lot of news this hour. So, this will be quick, stay with us.


ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're watching "Connect the World" with me Becky Anderson. Half past seven here in Abu Dhabi we've got new details about who

might have leaked highly classified documents from the Pentagon. The Washington Post spoke to a friend of the alleged leaker. Now the person

said the documents were posted in online chat room by someone who worked at an unidentified military base.

Well, some chat group members are apparently from Russia, the Post reports. The photos included highly classified satellite images and detailed

battlefield charts from Ukraine. CNN has not independently verified the reports. But the U.S. president now says the government is close to

identifying who is behind that leak.

And as those leaked reports of inviting amongst Russian officials circulate the Kremlin brushing them off saying it doubts their reliability. Well,

meanwhile on the ground, Ukrainian officials say they are facing some of the fiercest and heaviest fighting yet in Bakhmut in the eastern part of

the country.


Senior International Correspondent, Ben Wedeman is in eastern Ukraine right now. And he joins us now live. Just describe what you have been seeing and

hearing on the ground, Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've not been in this area for almost three weeks. And what we've seen in the area of

Bakhmut is indeed, intense fighting shelling going both ways. Now, here today, we heard from the Deputy Defense Minister of Ukraine, who said that

at the moment, the Russians are throwing their best troops into the battle of Bakhmut.

At this point, by most estimates, the Russians control about 75 percent of that city. What's going on just for some context, essentially, the Russians

have the ground on the west, rather the east, the north and the south. It's a pincer movement. They're trying to cut off the only ways into Bakhmut to

resupply Ukrainian forces.

And really, they have been throwing everything into the battle. Now, let's remember that we're sort of at the tail end of the Russian winter

offensive, which didn't achieve much, but it seems that they're ending this offensive with a crescendo of violence, trying to take something to achieve

something from this offensive.

Now, according to one member of the General Staff of the Ukrainian army, within the last two weeks alone, the Russians have lost or rather have had

suffered casualties of four and a half thousand. That includes Wagner Group fighters as well as regular Russian forces. So, this really is often

described as a meat grinder that battle. And that's a fairly accurate description, Becky.

ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman is on the ground. Ben, very much appreciate your time and your reporting. Thank you. We want to take you to Paris right now back

to Paris. So, CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live from the protests. And the front of those protests now, certainly you were walking towards the Place de la

Bastille. Just describe where you are and what you are witnessing.

PLEITGEN: Hi there, Becky, I'm actually just at the edge of the Place de la Bastille, you can see it right over here. And you can see that there still

is a good deal of tension here between the police officers and the many protesters who are out here. In fact, right now we saw the protesters hurl

some bottles at the police, the police continuously or intermittently are charging.

You can see over there, there's a charge going on right now back there. Some bottles that are flying onto those police officers that are something

that we have seen a lot of, there have been a lot of this. There's another police charge going on right in front of us actually right now.

So, as you can see, the police certainly being very, very firm in their response to these protests that are taking place and you know, -- this is


ANDERSON: All right. Let's just stay on these pictures for you folks. Let me see if we can get Fred's microphone back up. This is the Place de la

Bastille. The front of the protests in Paris today, we've got correspondents across the board. And we are bringing in live pictures from

cities across France.

We are seeing these nationwide strikes 12the day of strikes ahead of the Constitutional Court, deciding on the constitutionality of the decision by

the government to push through with an executive order, a pension reform rising the age from 62 to 64. Much anger on the streets around France,

these are the images in Paris as we speak.

I want to take a very short break keeping an eye on what is going on in Paris. And we are in Dublin for you where the U.S. president is set to

address lawmakers at the Irish parliament; we'll get you to that after this.



ANDERSON: We are waiting to hear from the U.S. president who will address lawmakers in Ireland's Parliament shortly and these images coming to us

from Dublin and this small crowd waiting to greet U.S. president as he arrives there at the Irish Parliament more on that, of course, as we get

it, we'll get back there as we see Joe Biden.

Some news from around this region of the Middle East first, Saudi Arabia hosted Syria's Foreign Minister in Jeddah on Wednesday, the Saudis

supported opposition forces early in Syria's civil war. But have recently joined other Arab states that are pushing for normalization with Syrian

President Bashar al-Assad.

Qatar and Bahrain are resuming diplomatic relations after five years. It's been two years since the Arab boycott on Qatar was lifted. And the decision

comes just ahead of the Arab League Summit scheduled for May. Well, they are the blues by name and right now they are probably blue by nature, it

has to be said.

It's not the best time to be a Chelsea fan who are nursing a two nil defense defeat against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinal,

hardly the comeback Frank Lampard would have been hoping for. It also means that Chelsea have equaled a sad 30-year record in failing to score a goal

in four straight matches. All that on world sport up next, stay with us.



ANDERSON: Well, a turbulent day in much of France, we've been seeing some very intense confrontations breaking up between police and protesters on

the streets of Paris. Let's get you to CNN's Fred Pleitgen who is live from those protests. Fred, a state of calm certainly from the images that I can

see coming into CNN Center here perhaps not so much where you are, just explain what's going on.

PLEITGEN: Hi there, Becky. I want to explain exactly right now there's a big standoff that's going on between the protesters and the police. You

could see police right there lined up in that entire street down there. They've been out in full force with a very firm response. You got those

guys with the motorcycle helmets as well.

Those police officers have intermittently been charging the protesters while the protesters have been hurling rocks and other things and bottles

at the police officers. Right now, we have a standoff situation but there are a lot of cops here.

At what is the ending point, really -- that's taking place here today at the Place de la Bastille, the protest reception marching through the city.

And you know a lot of that has happened in a peaceful way. But there have been some notable outbursts of violence that have happened as well,

especially when the police officers sort of sealed places off when they charged some of the protesters and then obviously the protesters responded

many of them throwing rocks and bottles at the police officers.

So right now, you can really see that tension here on the ground in Paris as many people believe this could go on for another several hours. And then

obviously a lot of people hope that it calms down.


But a lot of people here are saying that they are in no mood to calm down simply because they are so angered by this pension reform that Emmanuel

Macron is trying to push through.

Obviously, a lot of folks here say that he is doing that in a way that undermines the democracy of this country because he used his powers to use

it to do that, instead of going through the regular legislative process, essentially bypassing that legislative process. A lot of people are very,

very angry about that, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, and what they will say is that he tried it before, through the normal process, it didn't work. And so, this time, he has used his

executive power. These demonstrations, of course, coming just ahead of a key decision by the country's Constitutional Council on the validity of

these very unpopular and very controversial laws, raising the retirement age from those that you have spoken to on the ground there in Paris, what

can we expect with regard that decision on Friday?

PLEITGEN: Well, I think a lot of people here don't believe or believe it's highly unlikely that this is going to be derailed, or at least the

fundamental part of that bill to overhaul the judiciary is going to be or the pension age is going to be, it's going to be not allowed by the

Constitutional Council.

Certainly, there might be parts and provisions of that proposed law that might not got -- being unconstitutional. But the raising of the pension age

from 62 to 64 a lot of people believes that that is something that is going to go through. And that's why a lot of people here are saying that

regardless of what the Constitutional Council announces late tomorrow, they want to continue to protest, because this has become something that is

bigger now than just the pension reform.

It's something where a lot of people are angry in general at the way that Emmanuel Macron is conducting business, especially the way that he pushed

this reform bill through a lot of them obviously saying that he undermined the democratic process here in this country.

And if you look at international some of the reactions as well, there is a good deal of concern that in general, democracy and friends may have been

damaged by this and that, for instance, the far right could gain from the fact that Emmanuel Macron and a lot of other politicians in this country

have become extremely unpopular, Becky.

ANDERSON: And earlier protesters storm the headquarters of LVMH, the company behind Louie Vuitton and other luxury brands. That scene is a

capitalist symbol, a union activist quoted this saying, if Macron wants to find money to finance the pension system, he should come here to find it.

Fred Pleitgen on the streets of Paris, very close to Place de la Bastille that is it from us for the time being. We are watching for you as President

Joe Biden is expected to address Ireland's Parliament very shortly, stick with CNN. And we'll bring you that just as soon as it starts. From me here

in Abu Dhabi, it is a very good evening.