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Jailed Iranian Activist Narges Mohammadi Awarded The Nobel Peace Prize; Death Toll Rises To 52 From Attack In Hroza, Ukraine; Syria Vows Revenge For Deadly Strike On Military College; Tensions Flare Over The Deaths Of Two Students; Qatar's Minister Of State Talks With CNN; Middle East Jumping Into Electric Vehicle Race; Inside The Qatar Grand Prix. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired October 06, 2023 - 10:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: It is 5:00 p.m. in Doha in Qatar. That is today where we are broadcasting. CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky

Anderson. And we are following two devastating stories for you this hour.

A strike yesterday in Kupiansk in Ukraine has killed 52 people. The gruesome attack hit a gathering at a cafe to mourn a fallen soldier. And in

Syria, a deadly drone attack on a military college has left at least 89 people dead and wounded hundreds more. No group has yet claimed

responsibility for Thursday's attack. And I will get you back to both of those stories with updates. Fred Pleitgen on the ground there at the site

of that attack in Ukraine will join us shortly.

First up, though, we begin with a landmark moment in the fight for women's rights in Iran. Activists Narges Mohammadi has been awarded this year's

Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel committee saying it honored her for, and I quote them here, "her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her

fight to promote human rights and freedom for all."

Mohammadi is only the second Iranian in history to receive the honor after Shirin Ebadi's win 20 years ago. But Mohammadi cannot accept the prize in

person. She is currently serving a sentence of more than 10 years in prison accused of acting against Iran's national security.

Well, Jomana Karadsheh has spoken exclusively to Mohammadi who is in Evin Prison in Tehran.

Tell us when you spoke to her and what she told you.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, you know, Narges Mohammadi is one of Iran's most prominent human rights activists. This is a

woman who has sacrificed so much. Almost everything. Her health, her freedom, her time with her children, all for this fight for human rights

and women's rights in Iran, for prisoners' rights. She has been speaking out continuously for the past more than two decades, and every time Narges

Mohammadi speaks out she is punished for that by the regime.

And as you mentioned she is currently serving more than 10 years prison sentence in Evin Prison, and she is facing many more charges as well as we

understand from Mohammadi. And, you know, this is a moment that so many Iranians have been waiting for, hoping that the Nobel Peace Prize will be

awarded to an Iranian, to someone who has been fighting for human rights in the country.

And as we heard from her husband, fellow activist and also former political prisoner Taghi Rahmani, saying that this is not just for Narges. He says

that this is for the people of Iran, for the women of his country, for the men who have been for the past year rising up for their most basic of human

rights as part of that Woman Life Freedom Movement sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police.

And as you mentioned, Becky, we got this very rare opportunity to interview Narges Mohammadi indirectly by sending her questions through

intermediaries, and we got her responses from Evin Prison and here is our report.


KARADSHEH (voice-over): Not even the darkest cells of the notorious Evin Prison have silenced this fearless fighter for freedom. Narges Mohammadi, a

name that's become synonymous with the battle for human rights in Iran. Her life has been a cycle of arrest and re-arrest. Now serving a 10-year prison

term and sentenced to 154 lashes.

Not only has the regime taken away her freedom, the last time she held her twins Ali and Kiana was eight years ago. They were only 8. A sacrifice so

painful, but life without liberty and equality she says is not worth living.

For her activism, Mohammadi has been accused of actions against national security and propaganda against the state, and she's now facing more

charges as she continues to defy and speak out from behind bars.


In an exclusive recording from inside Evin, Mohammadi reads excerpts of a letter she sent CNN.

NARGES MOHAMMADI, IRANIAN ACTIVIST (through translator): This letter is not written by a free feminist in a developed democratic society benefiting

from civil protest methods and human rights. But rather by an imprisoned woman who, like millions of Iranian women, has been living under the

authority and oppression of a military system with ideological, patriarchal, and tyrannical foundations, since the age of 6, deprived of

life, youth, femininity, and motherhood.

KARADSHEH: In her lengthy letter, Mohammadi rails against the regime's compulsory hijab. Mohammadi calls out what she says is the hypocrisy of the

religious authorities.

Female protesters and prisoners sexually assaulted. As Iranians rose up on the streets last year, she lent her powerful voice to the uprising and for

that she was recently sentenced to another year in prison.

(On-camera): But that hasn't deterred Mohammadi who with the help of intermediaries responded to CNN questions in writing, detailing incidents

of sexual assault dating back to 1999. She also mentioned her own experience but since the protest, she says, they have increased

significantly, describing them now as systematic.

(Voice-over): She writes, "In prison, I have heard the narratives of three protesting women who were sexually assaulted. One of them was a well-known

activist of the student movement, who, upon entering the prison, filed a complaint with the authorities and announced that after being arrested on

the street, her one hand and one leg were cuffed and tied. And in that position, she was sexually assaulted. I went with one of my cell mates

under the pretext of taking food for a prisoner. We saw bruises on her stomach, thighs, arms, and legs.

The Iranian regime has denied allegations including a CNN investigation of using sexual violence and rape to suppress the protests, calling them

baseless and false. For years, Mohammadi has been the voice of the voiceless, fighting for political prisoners against the death penalty and

solitary confinement. Something she and her husband, Taghi Rahmani, have both endured.

Rahmani, a former political prisoner who was jailed for 14 years, now lives in exile with the children in Paris. He's had to be both father and mother

to Kiana and Ali.

TAGHI RAHMANI, NARGES MOHAMMADI'S HUSBAND (through translator): Kiana used to always say when mommy is here, Daddy isn't, and when Daddy is here Mom

isn't. It's not good but when someone chooses a path, they must endure all the hardships.

KARADSHEH: The last time they were allowed to call her was 18 months ago. Ali still vividly remembers the day his mother was taken away from them.

ALI, MOHAMMADI'S SON: It was around 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. My mom made me eggs. She said, take care of yourself and study hard. We said goodbye, I got into

the car and went to school. When I got back, my mom wasn't there anymore.

KARADSHEH: Ali says he's proud of his mom and has accepted this life. He says it's for freedom for Iran. Rahmani shows off all the awards his wife

has won while in prison. She's an endless energy for freedom, he tells us. An unstoppable force. Her fight extending deep inside Evin where she leads

women who continue to protest.

Their chants of women, life, freedom, captured in this recording shared with CNN.

They sing Farsi rendition of "Bella Ciao," the Italian anti-fascist resistance song, now an anthem for Iran's freedom movement.


KARADSHEH: And, Becky, we don't actually know if Narges Mohammadi knows that she won the Nobel Peace Prize. We understand that political prisoners

in the women's ward in Evin Prison are banned from receiving phone calls on Thursdays and Fridays, but there was a statement, a preprepared one, that

she had sent out and it was shared with us by her family because reports have been circulating that she had been shortlisted and that she could win

the prize.

And in that preprepared statement, Becky, she said, I will never stop striving for the realization of democracy, freedom, and equality. And she

said that she will remain in Iran. She will stand alongside the brave mothers of Iran, continue to fight against the relentless discrimination,

tyranny, and gender-based oppression by the oppressive religious government until the liberation of women, and saying that she's ready to spend the

rest of her life in prison for that.

ANDERSON: Fascinating. Jomana, thank you very much indeed. And you can find out more about Mohammadi's tireless courageous fight for equality online.

Sign up for our Middle East newsletter "Meanwhile in the Middle East," by scanning the QR code at the bottom of your screen or head to the


Well, today, searchers are going through what's left of an apartment building after another gruesome missile strike by Russia in Ukraine. It

killed a 10-year-old boy and his grandmother. Nearby in a small village near Kupiansk, they are still in shock after a devastating strike that

killed 52 or nearly a third of the people who still live there.

It was one of the deadliest strikes on civilians since the war began, and CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in that village where he is getting a sense of just

how devastating this attack was -- Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Becky, and one of the interesting things about it is it actually apparently used

the same missile that you were just talking about in that attack in Kharkiv. An Iskander missile. And if you look behind me you can see that

the building that these people were in who were killed was just absolutely annihilated.

There really isn't very much left of it over here except some of the foundations. You can see behind me that there is a big pile of debris. That

is what that house used to be. That has already been cleared now by the authorities here because they say there simply is no chance of finding any

more survivors. Here is what we are learning.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Utter destruction and chaos after the massive explosion. As night fell, bodies still strewn across the area as search and

rescue crews scoured the debris. This man, weeping in front of a body bag, too shaken to talk to us, we learned his name is Sergei and the deceased

was his wife.

(On-camera): As you can see, this building was completely annihilated when it was hit by the missile. The Ukrainians are saying that this was an

Iskander missile launched by the Russians. That is a very heavy missile that is normally used to destroy large troop formations or even armored

vehicles. And as you can see, it completely devastated this building right here. The Ukrainians say more than 50 people were killed. It's very

difficult for them to identify some of the bodies because they are in such bad shape.

They also say what was going on here was an event around a funeral and they say that the people who were attending that event were all local folks.

(Voice-over): There was chaos, the chief investigator tells us. There was a fire which was extinguished by firefighters. Of course, evacuation measures

were taken to get people out of the rubble.

(On-camera): Obviously all of this is still very fresh and a lot of the search and rescue crews are still very much at work. We can see over there

that some of the first responders are still busy sort of doing the forensics on the scene here, and also still putting bodies into body bags.

There's a lot of them laying around here and a lot of them being taken away by some of these crews here.

One of the other things that we can see over there is that obviously this was some sort of recreational area. There still seems to be some sort of

playground that was also heavily damaged when the missile hit.

(Voice-over): Ukraine's president visiting Spain pinning the blame on Russia.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Tragically, because of this inhuman terrorist attack, 50 civilians were killed during a

funeral. Russia does this every day in the Kharkiv region and only air defense can help.

PLEITGEN: But that help will be too late for Sergei's wife and the others killed. The only thing he can do for her now is help the crews lift her

body to be taken away.


PLEITGEN: As you can see a pretty tough night, Becky, for the folks here in this village and I think one of the things that you've already mentioned is

that there are so many victims in this very small place that pretty much every family here has lost someone. You can see over there, there are some

more people who have come out now, who are laying flowers. Obviously, and a lot of them very emotionally distressed there, holding each other in their

arms, seemingly weeping indefinitely. A very tough moment for the people here in this very tight-knit community.

And Becky, people that we've been speaking to here they tell us that they are looking at the list of those who were killed and recognizing pretty

much every name. So it's certainly very hard on all of the folks here, very tough to deal with, and you know, a lot of them also witnessed all of this

firsthand, heard that very loud explosion and then ran here immediately to find people they know, people they loved, and in many cases people they

related to killed here on the scene -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes. A village of, what, 330 odd people and so many of them have lost their lives.

Fred, distressing -- devastating and distressing scenes. Thank you.

Was this a war crime? Well, one U.N. official weighing in on that. You can find out the very latest and what is going on in this war including the

state of the Ukrainian offensive on your CNN app or just going to


Well, just ahead, this was the scene before a deadly drone attack on a Syrian military college. Damascus is vowing to respond to what it calls --

with what it calls full force. Plus, while security personnel in India are being accused of using excessive force during a recent student progress --

protest there. We're following multiple angles for you.


ANDERSON: Well, Syria is vowing to make those who planned and carried out a deadly attack in the city of Homs paid dearly. No group has claimed

responsibility after a drone carrying a bomb exploded in a packed graduation ceremony at a military college on Thursday. We're hearing at

least 89 people were killed. Meanwhile, in northwestern Syria, the White Helmets Civil Defense group says that 12 people died when Syrian regime

forces attacked towns and villages in Idlib and in Aleppo.

Let's bring in CNN's Ben Wedeman.

Ben, what do we know at this point about what happened and who is responsible in these attacks, particularly the one in Homs?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the one in Homs was on this military academy where there was a graduation ceremony

happening. It was over and apparently the Syrian Defense minister was there, but he left and after he left this drone strike took place.

There were lots of people there, friends and relatives of the graduates, and in addition, in among the 89 people killed according to the official

Syrian Arab News Agency were 31 women and five children. And we have seen very graphic video of the immediate aftermath where you see people are

actually still on fire as a result of that attack.

Now the assumption is that the drones were launched from rebel-controlled areas, possibly Idlib Province which is nearby. That is a province in

northwestern Syria that is largely controlled by a variety of groups, opposition groups, militias. Many of them hostile to one another, but also

with an extremist ideology. Excuse me. And therefore the Syrian government has been focusing a lot of its firepower in the last 24 hours on that area


As you said, the White Helmets, that civil defense group, says 12 people were killed. We've seen new video today where the White Helmets said that

another two people were killed as well. So it does appear that the Syrian government is focusing its firepower in the aftermath of the Homs attack on

Idlib Province.


But of course there is more going on in Syria than just there. What we saw is yesterday as many as 11 people were killed in Turkish drone strikes on

Kurdish Syrian targets. Of course the Kurds are allied with the United States in the fight against ISIS, and in fact, this week U.S. officials

have acknowledged that the Americans shot down a Turkish drone and Turkey is of course a fellow NATO member with United States.

Just underscoring how complicated the situation on the ground is in Syria where you have Russian troops, American troops, Turkish troops, Iranian

advisers and probably troops as well, soldiers or fighters with Lebanese Hezbollah, Israel on a regular basis launches airstrikes against targets in

Syria. And of course let's keep in mind this is a country that has been the scene since 2011 of a horrendously bloody civil war in which more than half

a million people conservatively have been killed and where 13 million people at least have either been internally displaced or driven into exile

-- Becky.

ANDERSON: And much of that violence, that death, destruction you have reported on of course, Ben, from inside the country. It's been more than a

decade now. Thank you.

Let's get you up to speed on some of the other stories that are on our radar right now. And Typhoon Koinu is picking up strength as it moves away

from Taiwan and heads down China's southern coast. Officials in Hong Kong are warning of strong winds and heavy rain over the next few days as that

storm gets closer. So far it's not expected to make landfall.

Some 3,000 people on the Spanish island of Tenerife have been forced out of their homes and into shelters after high temperatures and strong winds

reignited a wildfire there. Officials say the fire began in August and are being brought under control, but it was never fully extinguished.

In India, the death toll has risen to 19 after heavy rain and flash floods there swamped part of the state of Sikkim this week. More than 100 people

there are missing including dozens of members of the Indian Army. Officials said a major rescue operation is now underway to find them.

Well, for months, India's remote northeastern state of Manipur has been on the edge. Clashes between two ethnic groups have killed more than 150

people there and displaced tens of thousands of others. Last week, a protest staged by students turned violent. Families of the injured leveled

serious allegations of excess by security forces, which the state government is now probing.

CNN's Vedika Sud reports.


VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This x-ray of a 20-year-old student has shocked doctors. The pin-shaped foreign objects sticking out

from the back of Soibam Uttam's head are pellet gunshot wounds. More than 60 pellets have already been extracted, his sister told CNN. Dozens more

will have to be removed surgically.

Last week, thousands of students like Uttam descended on the streets of Manipur's capital Imphal, calling for justice after the state government

confirmed the deaths of two students who had gone in missing in July. Soon, peaceful protests turned violent. Students say security forces used tear

gas, rubber bullets, and pellet firing shotguns to disperse the crowds.

After the violence escalated, we ran towards a house and hid there. Rapid Action Force personnel came looking for us with flashlights. They fired

indiscriminately at us from close proximity, says (INAUDIBLE).

Police claim students hurled metal rods and stones at them, and that they simply fought back with tear gas injuring only a few. But it was more than

just a few. Doctors say over 100 students were hospitalized, sparking further outrage. But the wounds inflicted by these pellets and Manipur's

young students are something Dr. (INAUDIBLE), a general surgeon in Imphal, has never seen before.

A senior officer in India's Central Reserve Police Force who doesn't want to be named told CNN that forces used tear gas shells ammunitions to

disperse violent crowds only if the situation calls for it. He refused to confirm the use of pellet firing shotguns on students in Manipur. The use

of these shotguns as a means of crowd control has been widely criticized.


MEENAKSHI GANGULY, ASIA DEPUTY DIRECTOR, HRW: The U.N. has already said to the authorities that the use of pellet guns is causing tremendous harm

because of the very nature of this weapon, which is indiscriminate and targets a very wide circle including by standards.

SUD: Loitongbam Kishan can no longer move his body without assistance. His family says the 17-year-old was shot at point blank with a pellet firing

shotgun as he took part in the demonstration. Left with a gaping wound and a shattered shoulder, he so far had 60 of the hundred pellets pulled out.

The state's chief minister has been quick to reassure residents in Manipur.

NONGTHOMBAM BIREN SINGH, CHIEF MINISTER, MANIPUR (through translator): If the security forces are found using live rounds that can harm students with

excessive action, then the government will not tolerate it.

SUD: But despite the attempts by political authorities to reduce tensions, the wounds inflicted by security forces have only stoked more anger.

Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.


ANDERSON: You're watching CNN, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson out of Qatar for you tonight. Shuttle diplomacy up next. Freeing

five American prisoners from Iran, ahead my interview with Qatar's minister of state heavily involved in the negotiation, the mediations for that deal.

We talk about how it got done. And let me tell you, a lot of plane hopping was involved.

And Formula 1's Qatar Grand Prix happening this weekend right here in Doha. All eyes will be on Max Verstappen, who's looking to smash records. We'll

check in with his team for a preview of the race.


ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson. Your headlines this hour.

Ukraine has sent a war crimes prosecutor to investigate the horrific attack on Thursday in a small village near Kupiansk. That's where a Russian

missile slammed into a cafe where a memorial service was taking place.


Ukraine says 52 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in this war.

Well, Syria's Defense Ministry says anyone who helped plan or carry out Thursday's drone attack on a military college will, and I quote them here,

"pay dearly." No one here has as of yet claimed responsibility for the attack in the western city of Homs which killed at least 89 people, but the

Syrian government is blaming terrorist organizations supported by what it calls well-known international parties.

Well, a CNN exclusive, the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize says she will never stop striving for democracy and equality. The Iranian activist,

Narges Mohammadi, was awarded the prize to honor her fight for women's rights in Iran. She is currently serving a sentence of more than 10 years

in jail in the notorious Evin jail accused of actions against the state.

Well, CONNECT THE WORLD broadcasting today from Doha, the seat of the Qatari government. And it was here in Doha that we saw the arrival of those

five Americans who have been wrongly detained in Iran. I was right here on the tarmac at the airport covering that just weeks ago.

Qatar not just where those ex-prisoners first touched down, it was also at the heart of what were exhausting negotiations. More than a year's worth of

mediation by Qatari officials. And this isn't the first time Qatar has acted as mediator. I talked about that a short time ago with the minister

of state, Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al-Khulaifi, at the heart of those negotiations. We discussed that and more. Have a listen.


MOHAMMED BIN ABDULAZIZ AL-KHULAIFI, QATARI MINISTER OF STATE: It wasn't easy, it wasn't easy. It was several trips and several movements from one

hotel to another and so that is always not easy but gladly with the team that we have in Doha we've managed to make sure we deliver the message

clearly to the parties and get them closer to an agreement and gladly we've managed to do that.

ANDERSON: What role might Qatar play now going forward in negotiating an agreement, some sort of agreement on the nuclear front between the U.S. and


AL-KHULAIFI: Qatar strongly believe as part of its foreign policy is to participate actively in the peacemaking process in our region and

internationally. And part of that, we've been entrusted by several states to play a role in mediating between Iran and many other countries including

European countries.

Now regarding the nuclear talks, it has been quite a long time now for the parties to discuss. It is not an easy topic but we are still committed to

play this role and trying to make sure we find a common ground with the support of course of the selected European coordinator.

ANDERSON: The U.S. has for some time now encourage this region to get its own backyard sorted out. It's asked this region to sort out its own issues

and conflict. What about on the Israel-Palestine front before we move on?

AL-KHULAIFI: It's one of the most important and core topics for us in the Middle East. Our position is very clear when it comes to Palestine's case.

The Palestinians need to be granted their rights. The rights of freedom and the rights of land, and I think those matters need to be resolved in any

way possible and any types of an agreement that will be considered. And therefore we are always saying that solving one piece of the puzzle will

help you to understand and move to the other cases as well. So one successful story within the region will most likely affect positively the

other cases that we find in the region.

ANDERSON: Why do you believe that countries around the world have the confidence in Qatar to help play this mediation role, to get at the heart

of these negotiations?

AL-KHULAIFI: Well, mediation is not a new method for Qatar. I mean, we have a very long extended experience in this field. More than 25 years ago. We

have been participating in several mediation groups and resolved it successfully between the parties moving from Somalia and Kenya, Chad,

Afghanistan, the situation of course in Palestine, and Lebanon and others. So because of that record, Qatar has become more trusted by international

countries to play a role in resolving disputes.


ANDERSON: You play this sort of bridge role in enough times positions of neutrality. On the Ukraine front, you've actually been rather outspoken

about that.


ANDERSON: What about helping to find a solution to the Ukraine-Russia conflict?

AL-KHULAIFI: I think we've been very clear and transparent since day one. Matters that touch base on united charters and international law, we cannot

stand in support of anything that's against international law. Matters when it's favoring violence and selecting methods, that is not in accordance

with the U.N. charter and international law. We cannot support that. So we've been always been transparent thankfully in terms of our opinion, but

that does not mean that this will remove the trust or the confidence in Qatar to play a bigger role in that angle.

I honestly don't think that being clear and transparent regarding your political position, regarding an issue, will prevent you from playing a

very important mediation role.


ANDERSON: Watch this space. Good to talk to Mohammad bin Abdelaziz al- Khulaifi while we were here.

Well, let's check in on the action on Wall Street. Stocks trading mostly lower after the release of a shockingly strong U.S. jobs report. Now that

may sound sort of wrong, I say, shockingly strong, but let me just explain. The U.S. adding 336,000 jobs last month, that was double expectations and

bond yields on the rise again on concerns that all of this will lead to higher for longer interest rates. And of course those high interest rates

can have a real dampener on economic activity.

Well, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. We'll be right back with a lot more from Doha after this.


ANDERSON: Well, we've been talking about the challenges in energy transition and energy security all week as the world faces a reckoning

point. So I'm here in Doha where they are putting a major focus on electric vehicles at the Geneva International Motor Show, which is held outside

Switzerland here in Doha for the first time. We're seeing Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Morocco, Turkey, all vying for a piece of the EV pie, aiming for deals

with the big new carmakers.

And one of those automakers is China. It's best-selling car brand BYD is well on its way to overtaking the world's biggest EV seller Tesla. I spoke

to the CEO of the Geneva International Motor Show here. Have a listen.



SANDRO MESQUITA, CEO, GENEVA INTERNATIONAL MOTOR SHOW: So let's be clear. There's a shift on the market, on the automotive market. So now Chinese

brands are eager to go out of China. We saw that in the last motor show in Paris, in Munich. Here it's not so big but they have a lot of new brands.

They are very -- you know, they mastered the technology of the batteries. They mastered the software technology. So there are serious competitors for

I would say the classical car manufacturers.


ANDERSON: Well, the UAE and Saudi, neighbors here, are heavily invested in Chinese EV companies, and Doha has struck a deal to host this Geneva Motor

Show for the next 10 years. It also sees a big opportunity in manufacturing here. Here is that journey of the show. This is what it looks like.


ANDERSON (voice-over): 34 days and nearly 8,000 kilometers. These electric Volkswagen vans drove through 12 countries. A symbolic journey from Geneva,

Switzerland to Doha, Qatar.

FRANK RINDERKNECHT, GIMS TOUR D'EXCELLENCE: The Tour d'Excellence is really to bring the excellency of Geneva, the Geneva Motor Show having been

established in 1905 with the first time in Doha in this travel means in a sustainable way but it's about cars. So buy a car from Geneva to Doha to

bring over all the spirit of innovation of excellency.

ANDERSON: New electric models are being featured across the event and although industry leaders Tesla and China's BYD are notably absent, this

show is making clear Persian Gulf countries see an opportunity and a fighting to become major players in the EV race.

(On-camera): How important is this region for the electric vehicle market, for its growth going forward?

MESQUITA: It's very important because it's a market that is growing. So now we know that the manufacturers are producing mainly only electric cars, but

there is still a long way to go. So the first challenge is to develop the infrastructure and obviously not only the charging infrastructure, but also

the energy production infrastructure.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Electric vehicle company Lucid is hoping to attract attention after a tough few years. Shares are down more than 60 percent in

the last 12 months alone. Saudi Arabia's public investment fund owns 60 percent of the California-based company. Lucid opened its first factory

near Jeddah in September. The Saudi government has an agreement to buy up 100,000 electric vehicles from Lucid over the next 10 years. The kingdom

wants 30 percent of new car sales to be electric by 2030.

Right now that goal appears rather farfetched. The Tour d'Excellence team had a tough run across the kingdom.

RINDERKNECHT: The KSA charter is the big, big challenge. There's no infrastructure whatever. We are the first EVs to have crossed the KSA from

west to east, 200,000 kilometers without any official charting opportunities.

ANDERSON: While Saudi Arabia stood out to the crew, the transition is hitting roadblocks all around the world. Volkswagen itself is temporarily

halting production of two EV models due to weaker demand in the European market. Some of the world's biggest legacy carmakers saw electric sales

slip from more than 55 percent to 40 percent over the last seven years, according to the International Energy Agency. It's a harsh reality check

for an industry undergoing a seismic shift.




ANDERSON: Well, there is a party atmosphere here in Doha. Guess who is in town? Well, you won't, so I'm going to tell you. Mariah Carey, Bruno Mars,

Usher. Why? Well, it's F1 Grand Prix weekend happening at the Lusail International Circuit and it could turn out to be the decisive race of the

season. Red Bull's Max Verstappen could win his third consecutive drivers' title.

Now our Amanda Davies here in Doha covering the grand prix. What can we expect this weekend? Do you think it's all going to be wrapped up before

the race even starts?

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN'S WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: Well, I don't think quite before the race, say, even starts, Becky, but yes, I don't think there's many

people if anybody in this paddock. Somewhat 15 miles or so away from where you are who expect it to be anything other than Max Verstappen claiming

that third straight drivers' championship.

Not on Sunday as you would normally expect on a race weekend, but here on Saturday because this weekend we have not one but two races, with this

being one of the new flagship sprint race weekends. And it's been a record- breaking season really, hasn't it, only for Max but for his Red Bull team. He has won 13 of 16 races so far this season, and that would be historic.

Him wrapping it up on a Saturday sprint race.

All he needs to do is finish in the top six to get one of the three points at least that he needs to win the championship. If I tell you he's won 13

of 16, he's only finished as far down as fifth, which was seen as a disastrous weekend for Red Bull in Singapore. And surprise, surprise, guess

who has just topped the time sheets in first and only practice here at the Lusail Circuit? Yes, that man once again, Max Verstappen.

I got the chance to catch up with his team principal Christian Horner just a couple of hours ago and he started by trying to come up with another

adjective to describe his championship winning driver.


CHRISTIAN HORNER, RED BULL TEAM PRINCIPAL: He's just had a stupendous year this year. He's been in sensational form. I think he's taking it to another

level. The fact that we're here already with six races to go, capable of winning the drivers' championship to top the constructors' championship, we

did at that last race, you know, it's been an amazing season for him.

DAVIES: Have you had to try quite hard to come up with another word? I haven't heard you use stupendous before.

HORNER: Well, there you go. There's not enough adjectives to describe what he has achieved this year. It's been absolutely phenomenal. This is the

very first round -- I mean, we've produced a great car. The teams hit a new level as well. And to have won all but one race this season is a record

that we could've never have dreamt about.

DAVIES: How do you think it will be talked about in years to come?

HORNER: I think it's one of those seasons that it will take time to be able to reflect on it. I mean, people talk about the McLaren season of 1988

which we finally broke that record this year. And hopefully in years to come, people will talk about 2023 in a similar fashion. The dominance as a

team we've managed to achieve.

DAVIES: Is it all about Max and getting those three points this weekend? Is that the sole focus?

HORNER: That's one of the objectives. The other objective is to try and win the race and to try and ensure that we are as high up in the race as we

can. That second position for Checo is something very, very valuable for us. Something we've never achieved before, having drivers first and second

in the drivers' world championship. And so that would be a new landmark for us if we could achieve that this year.

DAVIES: Fernando yesterday said he thinks Max is the best driver since Michael Schumacher. Is that where you would put him?


HORNER: Well, that's contentious, isn't it? I mean, it's so difficult to judge different generations and different drivers that of course you

haven't worked directly with you. And I think that Max is absolutely in the same bracket as some of the greatest the sport has ever seen, and I think

that that obviously includes Lewis, it includes Michael, it includes Senna, it includes, you know, all the other greats. You know, so Jacqui Stewart

when you go back even further. Jim Clark and so on. I think he is now -- you can talk about him in the same sentence as those kinds of icons of the


DAVIES: So you talk about the fact it's not just about the three points. It is the two race wins you want this weekend.


DAVIES: What are you expecting from here in Qatar? Because it is hot.

HORNER: It is stinking hot. And that proved some challenges for the car. It will prove challenges for the driver. We've got one session because it's a

sprint race weekend to get the car dialed into the circuit, and that can trip you up because then you are stuck with that set up for the rest of the

weekend. So it's going to have its challenges, but we're looking forward to it.

It's a good flowing track. They've invested a huge amount in the facilities as well, and hopefully it will be one that we can go run at.


DAVIES: If he does get those three points, Becky, on Saturday Max will join an incredibly elite group of just five, or he will become the fifth driver

to have won three or more championship titles, and he wants it. He wants to win. He says he doesn't mind how. He wants to do it. And just an indication

of how much he wants it, we've just seen him run from the back of the garage straight back into the team motor home or building behind us to

prepare for the qualifying session for Sunday.

ANDERSON: Amazing. You call it a motor home and then you corrected yourself because out here in the Gulf, in Abu Dhabi, and here of course they have

these fantastic facilities which perhaps they don't have elsewhere.

And I want to talk about the kind of, you know, facilities here in the wider story because, look I've just been speaking to one of the ministers

here who was heavily involved in the mediation for the release of the U.S. prisoners wrongly detained in Iran, and we were just talking about the role

that Qatar played then, and how, you know, hosting the World Cup so many people can now put a pin in the map and say they know where Qatar is and

its efforts like the sort of mediating these sort of indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran where you can really see Qatar's efforts.

But I want to, you know, just discuss with you because you and I were both here for the World Cup nearly, what, a year or so ago. And I think it's

right to say that there are many people who didn't know where Qatar was before that World Cup was hosted, and it took an awful lot of incoming

criticism ahead of that tournament.

What do you feel the legacy of that World Cup might be, and how do you think things have changed since last time that you were here?

DAVIES: Yes, I think, Becky, the feeling is, isn't it, that there are certain people who will never be won over by Qatar regardless of what they

do in their efforts, and as you and I have discussed many a time, it is a country that was widely criticized for its human rights record, for its

treatment of members of the LGBTQ Plus community. For the treatments of the migrant workers who were involved in building the stadiums, the facilities,

the infrastructure for the World Cup here. The likes of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued report after report, and still in many

ways continue to do so.

The message has changed from Qatar, though, hasn't it, over the years from denial. From that kind of closed-door approach, it became a yes, we have

made progress, but there is still a long way to go. And that has been the feeling. And I have to say, being still here in this paddock, it is

unrecognizable from the paddock and the Formula One facility we stood in in 2021, a year before the World Cup, when this MotoGP track as it was stepped

in to help Formula One out in the middle of the COVID pandemic.

They built a new pit lane structure, the new paddock structure with these buildings. And when they are very proudly declaring we have built all of

this in just seven months since December 2022, I think that raised a lot of eyebrows, but there is a sign here which says 10 million safe manhours have

been involved in building this.


You speak to the overseers of Amro Al-Hamad, he says we have checked in. We have learned lessons. Things are being done differently.


DAVIES: And that seems to be the evidence from what we have seen here. And of course in terms of the sporting picture, they see this as just the start

of the next chapter, don't they, with the Asian Cup and talk of an Olympic bid to come -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Absolutely. Good to have you here with me, Amanda. Thank you.

Well, that is it for CONNECT THE WORLD and from our time here in Doha. This is a country that is making a huge mark in the region and indeed in the

world. We've been reporting on the diplomatic endeavors that have brought about real change. We've shown you this week how the airline here is being

realistic about the world's green energy goals, and we've shared a bit of F1 fun, too.

It's been quite the week. Thanks for joining me. Back same time in Abu Dhabi on Monday. Stay with CNN. "STATE OF THE RACE" with Kasie Hunt is up