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Hala Gorani Tonight

Protests Break Out In Beirut On Port Blast Anniversary; Greece And Turkey Battle Intense Wildfires; Belarusian Sprinter Flies To Poland; Raisi Swearing-In As Iranian President Thursday; China Limits Travel In Wake Of Delta Spread. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired August 04, 2021 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello everyone. We're coming to you live from CNN in London on this Wednesday, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT.

Protests break out in Beirut as the country marks one full year of heartache and anger since the port blast. It's hard to believe it's been

that long. Then Greece and Turkey on high alert, both countries battling raging wildfires. We are live in Athens, where the air quality is so bad

that it is making people literally sick.

And later, the Olympian who feared arrest in her home country is making her way to safety. Why she felt she had to escape Belarus, in her own words.

I'll have that story for you later. And we begin in Lebanon marking the first anniversary of that horrific port explosion with a mix of sorrow and

anger and still grief very much palpable. Hard to believe it's been a year. In Beirut, clashes have erupted between security forces and demonstrators,

frustrated and angry, they want justice. They want accountability.

Many have taken to the streets frustrated with a lack of accountability in the 12 months since the tragedy, others have demanded justice for the

victims. And earlier, it was more peaceful. They held mass prayers and a moment of silence to honor the dead. This happened near the port. More than

200 people were killed and thousands were injured when the blast ripped through the city. One woman described what she and her family went through.


LYNN ZOVIGHIAN, BEIRUT BLAST SURVIVOR & PHILANTHROPIST (through translator): The world around us imploded and everything that once mattered

could matter no more. And I held my parents, and when the rumbling finally stopped and the shaking finally stopped, and we saw that our house had been

absolutely devastated.

We looked at each other and we realized we were still alive. We are alive and therefore we have to fight so that those souls that are perished, that

perished on that day, they can be the founding daughters, sons, mothers and fathers of the Lebanon that we all deserve.


GORANI: This is a sentiment echoed throughout the country. Let's get more now. Ben Wedeman is in Beirut live where earlier we saw clashes taking

place. What's happening where you are now, Ben?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The clashes seem to be over. The army and riot police have dispersed the protesters. In fact,

here's some soldiers behind me who seem to be resting after what were some fairly intense clashes just down the street from me near the main entrances

to parliament.

And this, as you said, this was how the day ended. Earlier, we saw a massive crowd, peaceful crowd just near the port where they were

commemorating the passage of one year after that blast. And what we heard from so many people was just utter disgust with the ruling class here in


That it was thought after that horrendous port blast that somehow that would be a moment where the politicians who have run this country since the

end of the civil war in 1990 would realize the gravity of Lebanon's multiplicity of crisis, a financial and economic collapse, the coronavirus

pandemic, the port blast.

It was thought that finally that would be the bottom, the absolute nader in terms of the situation here. But, what we've seen in the last year, the

economy has continued this dramatic slide into the abyss, and over that time, not only did the politicians simply squabble among themselves and not

form a government and not focus on solving this country's problems.

It also -- they did their best to obstruct an investigation into the port blast, an investigation that we've seen one judge dismissed on the absurd

statement that because his house was damaged in the blast, he was impartial. The next judge to take his place, his efforts to question key

officials in the government here stymied by parliamentary immunity, professional immunity.


And so, what we saw was this massive peaceful protest and later these violent clashes really reflecting just how disgusted people are with the

political elite here in Lebanon. Hala?

GORANI: All right, Ben Wedeman live in Beirut, thanks very much. Well, Ben has been reporting on the survivors of the port blast one year on. Here's

his report.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Pamela Zeinoun was on the phone with her mother at 8 minutes past 6:00 in the evening, Beirut's nightmare began. Pamela, in the

ward for premature babies didn't hesitate.

PAMELA ZEINOUN, NEONATAL INTENSIVE CARE UNIT NURSE: I was very focused to save the babies.

WEDEMAN: With three babies in her arm, she walked for an hour and a half to find an incubator. While Pamela was walking, the injured flocked to her

severely damaged hospital, the Saint George where the explosion had killed four nurses. On that awful evening, more than 6,000 people were wounded,

more than 200 killed. A city that over the decades has been through wars, car bombs and terrorism, had never seen anything on this scale. A year

later, and most of the rubble has been cleared, some of the damage has been repaired, yet deep scars remain.

ZEINOUN: I know a lot of my colleagues, they are still on medication. They are still having a very hard time sleeping or eating or they still are

remembering what happened. So, it's really tough.

WEDEMAN: Paul and Tracy Naggear lost their 3-year-old daughter, Alexandra in the blast. Like many here, they blamed the disaster on Lebanon's

political elite.

TRACY NAGGEAR, DAUGHTER WAS KILLED IN PORT EXPLOSION: Yes, last year after the blast, we decided to leave, which is a normal decision. You know, they

killed our daughter, they almost killed us. They destroyed our house.

WEDEMAN: They're still here. Paul was recently elected to the order of engineers and has become a vocal advocate for change and accountability,

accountability that, until now, remains elusive. Elias Malouf(ph) lost his 32-year-old son, Jorge(ph), who was in the port when the blast happened. He

regularly joins vigils with other relatives of the dead demanding justice. "Every day, his mother cries and cries", Elias(ph) tells me. "She asked,

why doesn't Jorge(ph) come over for coffee? Why doesn't he come over for the weekend?"

The port blast is just one catastrophe visited upon Lebanon, which in the last two years has seen unrest, political paralysis, financial and economic

collapse and the COVID pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of this when the explosion happened was full of rubble.

WEDEMAN: Hanny(ph) and Kiana have come back to their old flat overlooking the port.

KIANA SAIDAH, EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: Hanny(ph), most of his injuries were on his right side, and he crouched here like this. So, that's why you can

still see all of his blood.

WEDEMAN: Both were wounded by flying glass, scarred and traumatized, Hanny(ph) and Kiana are leaving Lebanon.

SAIDAH: If we would see an immediate future, then we wouldn't leave.

WEDEMAN: Lebanon's future is dark. The jarring images of a year ago seared into the memories of everyone who lived through it. The nightmare isn't



GORANI: And that was Ben Wedeman reporting one year on since that port explosion that caused so much death and so much misery that the country has

not recovered from. Let's talk now about those wildfires bearing down on one of Europe's most recognizable cities, the home of the Parthenon. And

close to 5 million people, Athens is on high alert, fighting dozens of wildfires and dealing with one of the country's worst heat waves in

decades. It has reached upward of 40 degrees there. The heat is fuelling the fires, of course, and the fires are making the air almost unbreathable.

Greece's health ministry says at least, 77 people have been hospitalized with respiratory problems in just the last 24 hours. That's how bad it is.

The authorities are telling people in Athens to stay indoors with windows and doors sealed. But hundreds have had to be evacuated because the flames

were getting too close to their homes, and now there's a new fire burning near ancient Olympia. This hour, I want to bring in journalist Elinda

Labropoulou now to find out more about what it's like on the ground in Athens with this oppressive heat.

First off, tell me, because we're looking at temperatures in the high 40s actually, right? Because flitting potentially with the 50-degree mark.

Secondly, the wildfires, the smoke, the dust. What is it like being on the ground right now in Athens?


ELINDA LABROPOULOU, JOURNALIST: Well, it's a pretty explosive mix, what you just described. I mean, it's incredibly difficult to breathe because it's

still very hot, although it is quite late at night. And you can really smell the smoke. You look up, you see the cloud everywhere.

And it's just a very oppressive and a very sad feeling because there's so much news coverage of the fires. You know, people are glued to their TV

screens as they're not really allowed to go out due to the air particles that authorities have warned them about as being quite dangerous.

So, they kind of stay at home and what they see, they watch TV and they watch more and more fires erupting. The Civil Protection minister today

said that 118 fires have broken out in the last 24 hours alone. So, just imagine that, you know, you're following something on map, then you see

something new happening, and people's houses disappearing, their property. It's really not an easy night in Athens tonight.

GORANI: And how has it impacted daily life? I mean, I imagined -- in the Summer in Athens, it's the tourist season. People should normally be able

to enjoy outdoor living, cafes and restaurants. What's going on now as a result of all these fires?

LABROPOULOU: Well, the heat wave started last week, and it's -- we knew it was going to be an extended heat wave that is going to last throughout this

week. So, people were prepared for that part, although they knew that the temperatures would probably be higher than anything they've ever

experienced before.

This is the biggest heat wave the country has experienced in more than four decades at least. So, people normally would be outdoors, a lot of people

are indoors. The tourists have also fled the capital, knowing that temperatures were going to be so high.

The problem is that of course, in many of the areas that they are now, some of the islands like the big island, every year, that's where all of the

main fires are raging right now. So, tourists had to be evacuated on boats from there. So, both locals and tourists are really facing very difficult

conditions. They have to be updated all the time as to what is going on, stay calm and try to make it really through this very difficult week as

temperatures are then expected to drop a little.

GORANI: Right. Well, let's hope that happens sooner rather than later. I know it's 33 degrees Celsius right now where you are at 9:00 p.m. So,

pretty sweltering even during the evening hours. Thanks very much, we saw even animals having to be evacuated. Neighboring Turkey, as we've been

covering is also fighting to control spreading wildfires.

Thousands of homes damaged. One town had to call for outside help as the flames got close to a thermal power plant. Syria's White Helmets rescue

group has offered to help, providing shelter for those displaced by the fires in Turkey. After a week of fighting back the flames, fatigue is

setting in for emergency workers and volunteers. Apocalyptic scenes. Arwa Damon is on the ground.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): That is the seventh pass that helicopter has done over this one area, and it was a new tiny little fire

starting point that quickly engulfed the side here. And these firefighters, these volunteers, they are so exhausted and getting understandably so


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yesterday it was amazing. Suddenly, we were kind of in the middle of the vortex. That was amazing. Like I almost called my mom and

said, OK , mom, thanks. Yesterday was amazing.

DAMON: And today you've been fighting, but it keeps like popping up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, no time too. And we just came and it started in the center and it started all over.

DAMON: And today? How has today been?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today? Worst because the fire is spreading to the direction of a city near, Erzurum.

DAMON: So there's different points now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, small but it's getting bigger.

DAMON: You're quite emotional.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, come on, look at it. Look at it.

DAMON: This fire has been moving so quickly, and they're trying to get some of the water trucks to move further down. This is devastating. And it's not

just happening here. Across southern Europe, a number of countries are fighting forest fires. And the conditions there and here as well. We have

been experiencing a significant heat wave. In Turkey, for example, there have been record high temperatures, very low humidity.


And all of these allow for the fire to move very violently and very aggressively. And that, that is our own doing. That is because of climate

change. Arwa Damon, CNN, Marmaris, Turkey.


GORANI: We're hearing so many experts blaming climate change for all these apocalyptic fires. And from the sporting world's biggest stage to apparent

safety in Europe, that is the journey of the Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya, the journey she's taken today.

The Olympian touched down in Vienna earlier where she met with Austrian government officials. It is expected she will arrive in Poland shortly.

That country quickly offered her a humanitarian visa after she refused to board a forced flight which she called, home to Belarus from the Tokyo


The sprinter had criticized Belarusian Olympic officials and later said she feared arrest if she returned home. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is closely

tracking this story. He's extensively traveled to Belarus. Nick, what's the latest on where the sprinter is right now, and what are her plans for the


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Any moment now, frankly, that plane that she's on or thought to be on, certainly, should be

touching down in Warsaw. She hasn't yet looked at her message app, so I can tell you from just looking at my phone.

But it will bring to an end an extraordinary journey for her, one which has shattered her Olympic dreams and her life frankly in Belarus. She now as

you said will be receiving humanitarian visa in Poland. Her husband joining her there as well. Fears for her family back in Belarus too.

And this brings to an end an extraordinary four days in which frankly, the clumsy overreach and repressive instincts of the Belarusian authoritarian

government called the last dictatorship in Europe had been on display not only at the Olympics, but also in the fears of Belarusian diaspora in

Belarus' neighboring countries, specifically Ukraine as well.


WALSH (voice-over): Another day, another dark episode for Belarusians. This time an opposition activist found hanging from a tree in a park outside

Kiev. Vitaly Shishov helped Belarusian dissidents escape to here, neighboring Ukraine. Friends say the authoritarian regime in Minsk likely

killed him.

But Ukrainian police said they were investigating two main theories, suicide or premeditated murder made to look like suicide. Currently, we see

abrasions on the nose, peeled skin and on the left knee and chest. The police said this can be characteristic of a one-time fall.

Were it Belarus' KGB? Yes, they still call it that there, it would be pretty much unprecedented for them to kill opponents abroad. You can see

and how riot police tackle peaceful protest, how the regime is at home. But it now seems bolder abroad, forcing the landing of a Ryanair jet in May so

they could arrest an opposition blogger.

And according to Olympic athlete Kristina Timanovskaya, ordering her home on Sunday after upsetting the president. Belarus said she was distressed

and emotional, but she denied. She told me from safety in Tokyo that two men from the Olympic team escorted her to the airport, but it was her

grandmother who made her realize she could not go home again.

KRISTINA TIMANOVSKAYA, BELARUSIAN SPRINTER: It happening after my grandmother's call because before this call, I think maybe I can come back

to home without any problem. But when she called to me and she said about this situation with our team -- so, after this situation, I decided Belarus

or me would be dangerous.

"And they would most likely grab me at the airport. I don't know. Maybe a jail or maybe to a psychological hospital."

WALSH: She still dreams of racing in the Olympics for Poland, where she'll stay for now.

(on camera): Did you ever imagine this would happen when you posted that Instagram video on Friday?

TIMANOVSKAYA (through translator): My trainer said that to send me home was not their decision, that it was just said to them to do this.

WALSH: Your message for people in Belarus who are frightened of their government? What do you say to them?

TIMANOVSKAYA: Do not be afraid. Always say your opinion. We have to have freedom of speech, and people must say what they think.

WALSH: All of this for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's counterpart and friend Vladimir Putin, either a huge headache he can do

without or a welcomed new worse dictator for the west to sanction and rail against. Last week, President Joe Biden met Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the

woman who wants to lead Belarus out of the Kremlin's grasp. And yesterday, she met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London amid growing

fears Belarus could get anyone even in exile.

SVIATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA, BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: If Russia wants, they probably could reach everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you need the west to do right now?

TSIKHANOUSKAYA: I think this is happening because the regime feels impunity. So, it's high time to show teeth.



WALSH: Now, we are obviously in an extraordinary moment in Belarus' history. More protests possibly in the months ahead over the anniversary of

the presidential election that was declared fraudulent last year, and it seems authoritarian leader, who does appear to be a little blind to how his

actions, particularly on the Olympic stage, if it was indeed him who ordered Timanovskaya home appear to the outside world, deeply isolated from

sanctions after the Ryanair flight incident, deeply reliant upon Russia. Russia either, as I said in that report embarrassed by what's happening or

maybe relieved to be -- provided a distraction for the west criticism in the interim.

But make no mistake, what's happening inside Belarus is increasingly repressive and violent, many fleeing and very little hope in the months

ahead that a soft-negotiated solution will be found. This is a regime that's digging its heels in certainly, has the backing of a powerful

neighbor, and it does appear increasingly willing, unclear as the events in Ukraine you heard about there still are, the regime increasingly willing to

exercise its muscle abroad. Hala?

GORANI: All right, Nick Paton Walsh live in London, thanks very much. A lot more to come this evening, growing anger in India over the alleged rape and

murder of a 9-year-old girl. And later, Iran's new president will be sworn in tomorrow, but how will Ebrahim Raisi interact with the world? We're live

on the ground in Tehran and we'll be right back.


GORANI: Welcome back. Still so much anger. Protests continue in the Indian capital days after the alleged rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl. Police

now have four men in custody as the girl's family and the entire country demand justice. CNN's Vedika Sud has our report from New Delhi.


VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): A grieving mother calls out to her child, come and hold me again, she says. Her 9-year-old daughter was

allegedly gang-raped and murdered Sunday evening at this crematorium in India's national capital, New Delhi. Ever since, locals and activists have

been protesting.


Placards at the protest site demand justice for India's daughter. The mother who belongs to the Dalits community, India's most oppressed caste

say she was called to the crematorium by the accused, who claimed her daughter had been electrocuted and was coerced into cremating the body

without involving the police.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My daughter was raped. The accused didn't let us call the police. The priest is lying that she was


SUD: Four men, including the crematorium's priest have been placed in custody. The formal charges have not yet been pressed. By the time people

from their village intervened, most of the child's body had been burned, which is now posing to be a problem while investigating the crime.

(on camera): Have any of the accused come forward to confess that they did rape the victim?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a negative, ma'am.

SUD: According to government data released last year, 88 rapes take place in India every year, and these are just official numbers. Activists say the

rape victims and their families hesitate to record rape crimes, fearing intimidation. But perpetrators of the crime harassment and social stigma.

(voice-over): An eerily similar case was reported in Delhi's neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh last year when a 19-year-old Dalits girl was

allegedly gang-raped and cremated without the consent of her family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The Dalits community has been facing such oppression for a very long time.

SUD: As history repeats itself, another bereaved mother begins her long wait for justice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I want justice for my daughter. I want justice for my child. Hang the rapists.

SUD: Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.


GORANI: The Taliban are threatening to target more Afghan and government officials a day after they brought the war to Kabul for the first time in

months. But after Tuesday's assassination attempt against the acting defense minister, there was a dramatic show of defiance on the streets of

the capital.

Residents of Kabul came together to voice their outrage against the Taliban and their support for Afghan security forces trying to protect the city.

CNN's Clarissa Ward is in Kabul with more.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): We actually ran up onto the roof after hearing that large blast that really

shook the capital and shook people's sense of security. It had been largely quiet here for a number of months, but this was a complex attack. There was

that one big explosion, then we heard a second explosion, a third explosion. There were sporadic gunfire. The intended target of the attack

was the acting defense minister. He was not killed, but unfortunately, eight civilians were killed. There was another attack again this morning in

a similar neighborhood, no casualties there, only two people were wounded.

But, again, this all coming at a moment where people here in the capital of Kabul feel extremely anxious about the rapid offensive that the Taliban has

made as the U.S. has been withdrawing its forces. They are now in control of countless districts' border crossings. They are currently threatening

half of the provincial capitals in this country, and they're actually laying siege to three major ones, Kandahar, Lashkar Gah and Helmand

Province and Herat.

And Afghan security forces have simply been overwhelmed by the speed and the voracity of this onslaught. The vast majority of momentum, a territory

that the Taliban has been able to take has happened since May when the U.S. began withdrawing its forces.

And the big reason people say is because the Afghan army really relied on U.S. air power. One analyst estimating that 80 percent of the Afghan

military's ability to respond to the Taliban threat was done through the U.S. Air Force. Now, the U.S. is carrying out some strikes in those key

provincial cities that are under siege.

We also heard the Afghan military urging civilians in the city of Lashkar Gah to leave the area if they were in an area and in a home that -- it was

in an area that was under the control of the Taliban. They said, you must evacuate, indicating that some kind of a counter-offensive from government

forces may be imminent.

And you know, one more thing I just want to add because it was such a unique moment. After this attack, we heard people come out across the city

and chanting, Allahu Akbar which of course, means God is the greatest.

But in this context, it really was about an affirmation of support for the Afghan security services, and a sort of cry of defiance against militancy

and against the Taliban. The people of Kabul coming together and saying essentially, we will not be cowed. We will not be afraid. Clarissa Ward,

CNN, Kabul.


GORANI: And thanks to Clarissa. We'll be right back on CNN. Stay with us.




GORANI: And thanks to Clarissa. We'll be right back. Stay with CNN.




GORANI: Well, it's the beginning of a new era. Ebrahim Raisi is to be sworn in as Iran's president tomorrow. The hardliner is expected to focus on his

country's economy and U.S. sanctions are, of course, a big part of the equation. They've very much hurt his country and its inhabitants.

Fred Pleitgen is standing by in Tehran for more.

The big questions are, how will a Raisi presidency change the equation of the Iran nuclear deal and its eventual and potential revival?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think it could change the equation a great deal. You're absolutely right, Hala.

Getting rid of the sanctions is, of course, a big part of what Ebrahim Raisi will aim to do.

And really in many cases probably has to do because the economy here is in so much trouble. But at the same time, Ebrahim Raisi himself says, not at

all costs. The Iranians certainly want the U.S. to come back to the Iran nuclear agreement. They want sanctions relief.

But Raisi himself specifically says he also wants to, in general, have the economy here become more self-reliant. And that means more Iranian

presence, as he puts it, here in the region, rather than trying to, as the Iranians put it, cater to international partners in the West or even the

United States.

So more focused on the region, less focused on trying to mend ties with Europe or with the United States, certainly something the Iranians call a

resistance economy. And that really is part of the vision Ebrahim Raisi has for Iran's foreign policy. Let's have a look.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): With hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi taking over as president, Tehran shows no signs of toning down its foreign policy.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who some believe could be the next foreign minister, recently told me that Iran will follow its own interest, even

against U.S. pressure.


"A foreign policy that is balanced with an eye towards all countries," he said, "with illogical and at the same time, strong discourse, a discourse

that will be able to secure Iranian rights on all fronts."

Iran currently has its own and various proxy forces deployed around the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. is also concerned about

advances in Iran's ballistic missile program and wants talks with Tehran about the issue.

In his first press conference, president-elect Raisi shot that notion down.

"Regional matters and missile matters are non-negotiable," he said.

After a landslide victory in the recent presidential election, which critics have called uncompetitive, because many candidates were barred from

running, analysts believe Raisi has the political backing to push through a hardline agenda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a unity within the frame (ph) branches of government and that's going to reduce tension, reduce infighting, reduce


PLEITGEN (voice-over): While Raisi said he would never speak directly with the Biden administration, indirect talks to revive the Iran nuclear

agreement are ongoing but progress has recently stalled. The U.S. warning its patience is running out.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The ball remaining in Iran's court.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Raisi will take office amid heightened tensions with Israel. The U.S., the U.K. and the Israelis blaming Iran for the attack on

the Israeli-linked tanker Mercer Street in the Persian Gulf that killed two sailors. Iran denies any involvement. Israel sending a warning.

"Regarding the ship and on the issue of Iran in general, we are working to rally the world but, at the same time, we also know to act alone," he said.

Meanwhile, other conflicts could be eased. Raisi says that he's in favor of improving relations with longtime regional rival, Saudi Arabia, a move

analysts hope could also help bolster Iran's struggling economy after years of fighting a proxy war in Yemen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when we speak of foreign trade, that means deescalation. That means decreasing -- I mean, that mean detente with Saudi

Arabia and with other countries. That's why in his first press conference after he was elected, he extended a warm welcome to resumption of ties with

Saudi Arabia.


PLEITGEN: So there you have it, Hala. The Iranians, Ebrahim Raisi himself, promising a very bold foreign policy, obviously one very much focused on

getting the economy back on track first and foremost through trade in this region.

But one that will not back down from conflict with the United States here in this region. So from what we can see so far, as far as Ebrahim Raisi has

put it, Iran could certainly be a big issue for the Biden administration going forward, Hala.

GORANI: Certainly it's going to be one of the foreign policy challenges of the Biden administration. We'll see how a Raisi president changes things

going forward. Thanks very much, Fred Pleitgen live in Tehran.

Now Iraq is calling it the largest recovery operation of looted artifacts in the country's history. More than 17,000 priceless treasures have been

returned to Iraq. Most date back 4,000 years to the Mesopotamian era.

They were smuggled out of the country after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. One of the most valuable treasures is a clay tablet bearing the epic of

Gilgamesh. That's one of the oldest pieces of literature in humanity. Those artifacts making their way back home.

China announced new restrictions as it battles its worst COVID outbreak in months. In Wuhan, where the first cases were detected all that time ago,

officials have started citywide testing for 11 million residents. David Culver reports from Beijing.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chinese state media calling it the worst outbreak since Wuhan. Officials mobilizing

across China to stop the rapid spread, linked in part to the Delta variant. A handful of confirmed COVID-19 cases surfacing from Shanghai to Beijing;

worrisome, given China's zero cases focus.

CULVER: Here in the capital city you have tens of thousands of residents under strict lockdown. This is one of those communities. The reason we're

not getting out is to not expose ourselves to what is a lockdown neighborhood.

Behind these barriers, you have folks abiding by the stay-at-home orders and who are, once again, having to undergo mass testing. The warning from

officials is eerily reminiscent of 2020.

CULVER (voice-over): A Beijing government spokesperson vowing to block the virus from spreading further within Beijing at any cost. It's leading to a

halting of travel in China's capital from affected areas, the list of which is quickly growing. Among the cities with new outbreaks, Wuhan.


CULVER (voice-over): After roughly a year of enjoying life near normal, the original epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak is now testing each of its

more than 11 million residents. Families cancelling summer travel plans, opting instead to stay home.

Several communities sealed off, thousands taken into government quarantine for observation. The lockdowns, the mass testing, strict contact tracing

through smartphones, all being enforced once again.

CULVER: It might all sound extreme but China's domestic containment efforts along with its tight border restrictions seem to have been working. Aside

from a few isolated cluster outbreaks, life here had mainly returned to the way it was pre-COVID.

CULVER (voice-over): But officials say a commercial flight from Russia changed that. The plane landing in the eastern city of Nanjing on July

10th, suspected of carrying the highly contagious Delta variant.

On July 20th, officials confirmed Nanjing airport workers subsequently tested positive.

Two days later, thousands of tourists visiting the central Chinese city of Zhangjiajie crowded together to watch live shows. It's believed some of

those attending had been infected traveling through Nanjing.

Cases then surfaced in several major cities and have since spread to dozens of others. As of Tuesday, the virus has been detected in 16 provinces

across China. It is the greatest test yet of China's post outbreak containment efforts and puts into question the effectiveness of Chinese

made vaccines against variants like Delta.

While the official number of confirmed cases is still in the hundreds, since July 20th, all of the airport staff in places like Nanjing were

reported to have been fully vaccinated with Chinese vaccines. Still, many got infected.

Even more concerning, several of those sickened are reported to be in severe condition. It has sparked uncertainty and panic buying in some

cities. Grocery store shelves quickly emptying, as folks prepare for this latest outbreak to worsen and new stay-at-home orders to take effect.

This latest outbreak coinciding with the countdown to the 2022 Winter Olympics, Beijing gearing up to host the world, the games scheduled to

start in six months. The spectator infrastructure is in place. But this new variant threatening to leave stands near empty for yet another pandemic

Olympics -- David Culver, CNN, Beijing.


GORANI: Finally, British coronavirus vaccine developer Sarah Gilbert has received many accolades but the Oxford professor called the latest one


This is Gilbert with a Barbie doll of herself. Gilbert codeveloped the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and Mattel, the toymaker, debuted the Barbie

along with dolls celebrating other female leaders in the fight against COVID.

Gilbert says she hopes it will inspire girls to pursue careers in science.

Thanks for watching tonight. I'm Hala Gorani. Stay with CNN. "WORLD SPORT" is next.