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Your World Today

Iraq's Historic Parliamentary Elections; World Trade Organization Protests; Williams Execution

Aired December 13, 2005 - 12:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Sending their ballots to Baghdad. Expatriates vote in Iraq's historic parliamentary elections.


BARBARA BECNEL, WILLIAMS SUPPORTER: The state of California just killed an innocent man.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: No clemency for a convicted murderer. Stanley "Tookie" Williams is executed in the United States.

HOLMES: And protesters clash with police as the World Trade Organization begins its talks in Hong Kong.

VERJEE: And later, a big moment for the big screen. The Golden Globes announces this year's nominees as the Hollywood award season begins.

HOLMES: Indeed. Some fascinating results, too. We'll give them to you later.

9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad.

Hello, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes.

VERJEE: And I'm Zain Verjee.

A warm welcome to our viewers throughout the world and in the United States. This is CNN International and this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.

HOLMES: More than 200 political parties, 7,000 candidates all competing for 275 seats. Some numbers there as Iraq gives up historic elections on Thursday.

Iraqis living abroad began their -- casting their ballots on Tuesday, leaving, as you can see there, with ink-stained fingers and also with hopes for the future. About 1.5 million expatriates will vote at polling centers in some 15 countries. In Iraq itself, tight security, not surprisingly, in place ahead of Thursday's vote. Fifteen million people eligible to vote at some 6,200 polling stations right across the country.

Our chief international correspondent, Christine Amanpour, talked to voters about their hopes and about their concerns.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Iraqi army is voting first. And it will be protecting the polls when the public cast ballots on Thursday. And again, the big question is, what will the Sunnis do, the minority who had supported and benefited from Saddam Hussein's regime?

The Bush administration notes Sunni turnout in October's referendum on a proposed constitution. But it doesn't say they overwhelmingly rejected it. This time the administration hopes that Sunni turnout could help turn things around.

In Baghdad, Sunnis, like Shias and Kurds, tell us that they will go to the polls.

MUNJAD AL-NAIB, IRAQI VOTER: Of course I will go to vote.

AMANPOUR: While Sunnis rejected the referendum and boycotted last January's elections for a transition government, people like Munjad al-Naib now say they must have a voice in a parliament that so far has been dominated by their rivals, the Shias.

AL-NAIB: Because I want to make some balance, actually.

AMANPOUR (on camera): Political posters are plastered all over the walls and even on the concrete security barriers. According to a new poll, three-quarters of Iraqis say they believe this election will produce a stable government, and that they expect improvement over the next year. But, by far, their biggest concern is security in the country and the growing divide between Sunni and Shiites.

(voice over): For instance, that "TIME" magazine poll of 1,700 Iraqis says only 29 percent of Sunnis think things are getting better. And many are afraid of a recent spate of sectarian killing by Shiite militias.

AL-NAIB: Not always on the TV. But we know it. We heard about it. They are killing people.

AMANPOUR: Munjad and his wife Amira despair of the Sunni insurgency, too. The Pentagon says a staggering 26,000 Iraqis have been killed and wounded in the last two years alone.

"Democracy, is this chaos and killing?" asks Amira. "Is this the democracy Bush promised us?"

And what about the promise to rebuild Iraq? Electricity remains below prewar levels. Oil production has fallen. And reconstruction money is running out.

AL-NAIB: When Saddam gone, everyone say, that's OK, this is the life, and Americans will bring us a new future. And here we are two years.

AMANPOUR: So, as they prepare to vote for the first permanent post-Saddam government, Iraqis like the Al-Naib family resort to what they know best.

AL-NAIB: It's very hard, actually, to imagine what will happen. But we hope and we pray.

AMANPOUR: Christine Amanpour, CNN, Baghdad.


HOLMES: All eyes will be on the Sunni turnout in Thursday's election. Coming up in a little bit, we are going to be talking with a U.S. negotiator who has been trying to increase Sunni participation in the political process.

Well, a Swiss senator says allegations that the CIA transported and tortured detainees around Europe are credible. Senator Dick Marty is leading a council of Europe investigations that appears to corroborate the investigation -- or the allegations. During a trip to Europe last week, the U.S. secretary of state sought to ease allies' concerns. Condoleezza Rice denying that the U.S. used European airspace or airports to transport detainees to countries where officials believed they would be tortured.

However, she refused to confirm or deny the existence of secret CIA prisons. Senator Marty says another in-depth investigation is justified.

All right. Arguments over trade and globalization taking place both inside and in the streets in Hong Kong. While protesters squared off against police outside a meeting of the World Trade Organization, delegates battled each other inside. Both delegates and protesters have come from many corners of the globe.

Now Mike Chinoy has more on the protesters and their mission.


MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In one of the world's great trading cities, globalization's losers took to the streets. Groups representing farmers, migrant laborers, the downtrodden and dispossessed all blaming the WTO for their plight.

People like Denford Chimhwanda, a cotton farmer from Zimbabwe.

DENFORD CHIMHWANDA, ZIMBABWEAN RICE FARMER: Our livelihood is just destroyed. And (INAUDIBLE) even the families. Again, I assure you, in our country every year, so many wives are committing suicide.

CHINOY: At the start of the march, South Korea's militant farmers who are bitterly opposed to WTO measures that would allow imports of foreign rice honored the memory of Lee Kyung-hei (ph). Lee killed himself on the opening day of the last WTO summit in Mexico two years ago.

Chung Jae-dong (ph) was one of Lee's closest friends.

"He sacrificed himself to bring international attention to the issue of the farmers," Chung (ph) says. "Not only in Korea, but across the globe."

This time, there was no suicide, but dozens of Korean farmers jumped into Hong Kong's famous and heavily-polluted harbor and tried to swim to the nearby convention center where the WTO meeting was under way. Police boats made sure they didn't get through.

Others attempted to rush police lines. They were forced back by repeated volleys of pepper sprays. And with the authorities penning the protesters into what is normally a cargo loading area, away for many commercial sites, fears of rioters trashing Hong Kong's glitzy shops proved unfounded.

(on camera): By the standards of previous WTO protests, the trouble here was minor. The response of the police restrained, the disruption outside this immediate area minimal. But this was only the opening day. More demonstrations are planned, and the Korean farmers are promising an escalation as the WTO meeting reaches a climax over the weekend.

Mike Chinoy, CNN, Hong Kong.


VERJEE: Stanley "Tookie" Williams, the cofounder of the violent Crips street gang, has died by lethal injection in California. He became an anti-gang crusader and admitted a violent past, but always maintained his innocence in the killings that got him the death penalty.

Kareen Wynter reports.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (SINGING): All we are saying is let Tookie live

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (SINGING): All we are saying is let Tookie live.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the gates of California's San Quentin Prison as Stanley "Tookie" Williams prepared to die. Supporters who witnessed his death expressed their outrage.

BARBARA BECNEL, WILLIAMS' FRIEND: As we left, we screamed in unison, "The state of California just killed an innocent man." WYNTER: Williams was strapped on a table, his arms and legs secured, fastened by leather straps. When asked whether he had any last words, he did not.

Just after midnight local time, he was given a lethal injection inside a barren execution chamber. A group of observers stood in another room, where they watched his final moments.

KEVIN FAGAN, "SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE": And it seemed like toward the very end, he was trying to keep his head up.

Did you see this, too?


FAGAN: He was trying to keep his head up as long as he could until the first drugs hit him.

WYNTER: Several legal maneuvers during the last 24 hours, including an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, failed. The former gang leader-turned-anti- gang-advocate was convicted of slaying four people in 1979. Williams has never admitted guilt or apologized for the murders.

LORA OWENS, STEPMOTHER OF WILLIAMS VICTIM: Apologizing, asking forgiveness, that's right in atonement. It doesn't get you out of a just punishment. He had the just punishment.

WYNTER: Governor Schwarzenegger wrote in a lengthy statement, "Without any apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption."

(on camera): Williams invited five witnesses to view the execution. One of them, his close friend Barbara Becnel. He did not ask for a spiritual adviser.

At San Quentin Prison, I'm Kareen Wynter


HOLMES: Well, at the core of the argument to spare Williams' life are claims that his message could help persuade young people from leading a life of violent crime. He had even been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel prizes in literature by college professors, a Swiss lawmaker and others.

Peter Fleming was Williams' attorney.


PETER FLEMING, WILLIAMS' ATTORNEY: The issue in this case was one man and thousands of kids. We were talking about Tookie's life since 1993. We were asking for clemency.

That has nothing to do with guilt or innocence. This was about one man and tens of thousands of kids. And I believe that the governor missed an opportunity, and it concerns me, to send a message to these children, to these disadvantaged children, that he cares as much about them as Stanley Williams cared about them.


VERJEE: While claims of his ethical conversion inspired calls for clemency, families of Williams' victims take a totally different position. Lora Owens is the stepmother of victim Albert Owens, killed as he lay face down on the floor of a convenience store in a $120 robbery.


LORA OWENS, STEPMOTHER OF VICTIM: The reason I came out and started talking was because people said it doesn't matter what he did years ago. And it does matter. It matters a lot. Not only to us and to Albert or the Yang family, but other victims, too.

There's a lot of victims out there. We need to remember them.


HOLMES: Well, despite the interest surrounding Tookie Williams' execution, Americans by a two to one margin support capital punishment when the crime involves murder. A recent Gallup poll shows 64 percent of respondents favor the death penalty in murder cases. Less than a third oppose capital punishment, which brings us to our question of the day.

VERJEE: Yes. And the question that we are asking you is this: Should convicts who try to redeem themselves through good behavior be spared from the death penalty?

HOLMES: E-mail us your thoughts, Do remember to tell us where you are writing from. Try to keep your answers brief, and we'll read some of your comments on the show.

VERJEE: Still ahead, nights of violence in Australia.

HOLMES: Authorities moving now to crack down on rioters as racial unrest spreads to areas outside Sydney. Details ahead.


HOLMES: And welcome back to our viewers right around the world for YOUR WORLD TODAY.

Returning to our top story, Iraqi expatriates have begun casting ballots in some 15 countries across the globe as Iraq gears up for those historic elections on Thursday. U.S. and Iraqi officials are hoping far large Sunni turnout, which they think could help turn things around in the country.

For more on the election, we go now to Jeff Beals, political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

And thanks very much for your time.

How are preparations, in your view?

JEFF BEALS, U.S. EMBASSY IN BAGHDAD: Preparations are well advanced, really. The election campaigns have reached a crescendo now, and every wall in Baghdad is plastered with posters. And so it's looking like turnout's going to be very large.

HOLMES: How important is the Sunni representation? They didn't show up in numbers in previous elections. That, many believe, helped foment the violence that has occurred. How likely are they to turn out this time? And what evidence do you have?

BEALS: It's very likely that Sunni Arabs are going to turn out in large numbers this time. And that represents really a 180-degree shift from their position last year.

Politicians that I've been dealing with as a negotiator here, who a year ago were giving me reasons to boycott the political process, are now appearing on TV and campaign commercials. So we see a lot of Sunni Arab parties emerging, representing every point of view, really, in the Sunni Arab community. And that's going to be a big step forward towards the building and legitimacy of the next Iraqi government.

HOLMES: Yes. It's such an important issue, I'm going to ask you another question about the Sunnis. And that is this: The U.S. hasn't until recently really fully engaged the Sunni community in terms of their leaders. That's happening more and more.

What have you learned?

BEALS: Well, what's been going on has been really right now the capstone on a year's worth of effort of engagement with Sunni Arabs. We helped immediate bringing them into the constitution drafting committee, we helped make sure that their voice was heard in the drafting of Iraq's constitution. And now we are really seeing the pay-off of that, because Sunni Arabs a year ago really didn't know what to think of the elections, or the whole political process.

Their only experience in elections were fake elections. And they didn't necessarily believe that it would be an honest process, that it wouldn't be rigged.

And what they say over the last year was a positive lesson and a bitter one. Positive in that they realized the elections were going to be free and fair, and bitter in that they realized that if they didn't participate they wouldn't have a seat at the table.

HOLMES: Do you accept that the U.S. didn't fully understand, I think -- let's just say the tribal nature of Iraqi society? I mean, one of the hardest things for you to do I would imagine, is to find out among the Sunni leaders who are the real leaders, who really carry the weight, because people say one thing but another thing is a reality.

BEALS: Well, you're right. And part of the problem was that the Sunni Arab community represented the biggest threat to Saddam Hussein.

After all, that was the only community that was -- would have ever been capable of pulling off a coup and taking over the reins of power very quickly. And it was for that reason that, in a lot of ways, while all the communities of Iraq were brutalized, that community in particular had a lot of its leadership wiped out.

And so what we saw over the past year were Sunni Arabs both trying to figure out what the new process was, and also trying to figure out each other. And what you can see now in the posters and in the campaigns that have emerged are a whole lot of voices that are crystallizing and stating new visions for what the Sunni Arab role should be in a country that it has just traditionally dominated without a nod to the other populations.

HOLMES: Iraqis certainly looking like they favor going to the polls. If previous elections are anything to go by, hopefully that will happen. And security fingers crossed, one would imagine.

Jeff, thanks very much.

Jeff Beals, political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.


And of course we are going to have complete coverage of the Iraqi elections Thursday. Live reports, updates throughout the region. Do stay with us, of course, for the latest.

VERJEE: More police are on the streets of areas in and around Sydney as authorities in Australia try to end days of unrest and simmering racial tensions. An emergency session of state parliament has been called for Thursday to deal with the situation. This as the violence spread beyond Sydney's beach suburbs on Monday night.

Ella Calan (ph) has that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): They came in dozens of cars. Many armed with baseball bats. Shop owners could only stand by helplessly as the mobs smashed plate glass windows and terrorized customers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just opened the door. They tried to kill me. I just locked the door and go in my car -- keys of my shop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A couple dining in a restaurant was hit by flying debris as young men stormed through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lebanese people jumping out of the cars, jumping on top of all cars parked from here to Krunella (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just streets away, a man was badly beaten while putting out his rubbish. He was taken to hospital with broken ribs and head injuries. His 10-year-old son managed to scramble back inside.

Elsewhere in Krunella (ph), eight people were arrested. One local and seven from the southwestern suburbs. Residents became angry when several carloads of men were questioned, then sent on their way.

This morning it was clear why. Car after car had been smashed. Youths threw a can of petrol on this man's truck and lit it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) gun shots and everything down the road.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The owners of this house had to dodge a shovel through the bedroom window.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I was just about to get into bed. So luckily I didn't, because that would have gone right through where I would have been laying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought I was dreaming. It was so scary. The scariest night of my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Scary, too for 16-year-old Brittany (ph). She was chased by men swinging baseball bats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A car pulled up. And about six guys came out with a baseball bat and chased us to our doors. And then they smashed all the cars.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Despite another rallying call for locals to defend the beach tonight, the mayor believes there won't be further unrest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sure it's not going to happen tonight. I'm sure the police will have it under control, and I'm calling on the community to have peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But that confidence could wear out by the weekend. Yet another text message is circulating. This one urging the Lions of Lebanon to retaliate here at Brighton (ph) on Sunday.

It's a message that caused further tension last night. As several suspects were questioned, locals baited them from the sidelines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lions of Lebanon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lions of Lebanon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With that kind of aggravation, this weekend's North Krunella (ph) surf carnival has been canceled. Other clubs thought it was too dangerous.

Ella Calan (ph), 7 News.


HOLMES: Disturbing scenes.

Well, still ahead on YOUR WORLD TODAY...

VERJEE: Four years after a disturbing crime, justice is served in Australia.

HOLMES: We are going to have the jury's decision in one of the country's most sensational murder cases in recent years.

Stay with us.


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And hello, everyone. I'm Tony Harris at the CNN Center in Atlanta. More of YOUR WORLD TODAY in just a few minutes. But first, a check of stories making headlines in the U.S.

Firefighters in New Jersey are battling a major fire in an apartment building. As we split the screen for you, on the left of your screen you see taped pictures from earlier this morning. And on the right side of your screen you see two boxes there. And those are live pictures of the scene as it looks right now.

The blaze broke out this morning at a three-story complex in Bergenfield. At least one person is at a local hospital with injuries from the blaze.

In the latest reports, police say the fire was probably started by an explosion touched off by construction workers who hit a gas line. Several dozen families live in the building.

More now from Tony Caputo with News 12 New Jersey.


TONY CAPUTO, REPORTER, NEWS 12: The smoke continues to billow from the apartment building here in Bergenfield as firefighters continue to work hard through these cold temperatures to bring the flames and the smoke under control. But it's certainly not an easy task.

This explosion happened just after 9:00 this morning. And as you can see, this smoke continues to pour out there, covering of much of Bergen county and this area.

Let me roll you some video from earlier as well to give you a look at the building and how much damage actually took place following that explosion. The building literally destroyed.

Now, the mayor of the town says many of the folks may have gotten out of the building in time. Unfortunately, we are going to have to wait and see what the situation is concerning that.

We spoke with a woman who ran here from work, basically telling us her mother lives in a building just next to the one that exploded. She hasn't been able to get in touch with her. That's the situation a lot of folks here are dealing with right now.

We will certainly keep you up to date on the situation here Bergenfield, New Jersey. An apartment building on fire. Much of it destroyed after an explosion this morning.

I'm Tony Caputo, reporting for CNN.


HARRIS: The U.S. Navy is reporting one of its helicopters crashed today during a counter-narcotics operation. The SH-60 Seahawk helicopter went down off the coast of Colombia in international waters. We have no word right now on the number of people aboard the craft or if there are any survivors.

Navy officials say it's too early to know about the cause of the craft. The SH-60 was operating off Colombia with the USS Stewarts (ph).

The U.S. military reports four soldiers were killed while on patrol in Iraq today. The soldiers died in a bombing northwest of Baghdad. Today's attack brings the U.S. military death toll in Iraq to 2,150.

The American Red Cross today announced its president, Marsha Evans, has resigned. Evans became the organization's 13th head in 2002. Her resignation will take effect at the end of the month. No reason was given for the move. Evans will be temporarily replaced by Jack McGuire, executive vice president of Red Cross biomedical services. The organization says the search for a permanent successor will begin as soon as possible.

President Bush shifted focus today from Iraq to one of his top domestic issues, prescription drug coverage under Medicare. Earlier today, he visited a retirement community in Springfield, Virginia. He encouraged seniors to take advantage of the new Medicare drug benefit.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to assure the seniors the following things.

One, the Medicare -- the new Medicare plan is voluntary, it's optional.

Two, that there are people around who are willing to help explain the program for you and to you. It's a -- there's a -- when you have choices to make, there is going to be some -- you do have choices to make. And somebody will be able to sit down with you and explain why this program is good.


HARRIS: Enrollment for the new benefit began last month, and coverage starts next month. As many as seven million seniors may be eligible for the program. A major American company, DirecTV, faces a hefty penalty for violating the federal "Do Not Call" law. The Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with the company a short time ago. And under the deal, the satellite TV provider will pay a penalty of more than $5.3 million. It's said to be the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the FTC in a consumer protection enforcement case.

The ladies of Wisteria Lane are having a very good day. Four of the "Desperate Housewives" actresses were nominated this morning for Golden Globe awards.

Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher and Eva Longoria are up for the best actress in a television musical or comedy category. Huffman was also nominated for her role in the movie "Transamerica."

Actor George Clooney is the man of the hour, receiving four nominations today. One was for the Edward R. Murrow biography, "Good night, and Good Luck," which he produced, directed, co-wrote, and played a supporting role in. He was also nominated for best director, best screenplay, and best supporting actor for his role in the political drama "Syriana."

And the top Golden Globe contender is "Brokeback Mountain," the story about two male cowboys who fall in love with each other. It got seven nominations, including best dramatic picture.

Online shopping fraud. How do you protect yourself and your personal information from competing -- and completing this holiday shopping season? Some answers for you at the top of the hour on "LIVE FROM."

I'm Tony Harris. Now back to international news and YOUR WORLD TODAY after a quick break.


CLANCY: Welcome back to YOUR WORLD TODAY right here on CNN International. I'm Michael Holmes.

VERJEE: And I'm Zain Verjee.


CLANCY: The political fallout is already being felt in Lebanon after the assassination of another prominent critic of Syria. Newspaper publisher and lawmaker Gebran Tueni was killed on Monday in East Beirut by a massive car bomb.

Ben Wedeman reports on what action is already being taken and what could follow.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The assassination Monday of anti-Syrian critic and member of parliament, Gebran Tueni, has sparked a political crisis here in Lebanon. On Monday evening, the cabinet met in an emergency session to discuss Tueni's assassination. After that session, the cabinet announced that it was calling for the formation of an international investigation to look into a series of high-profile assassinations of anti-Syrian political figures and journalists here in Lebanon.

However, several members of the cabinet, pro-Syrian members, have suspended their participation in the government, because they feel this represents the internationalization, or intervention in Lebanon's internal affairs.

Meanwhile, anti-Syrian personalities here are calling for a general strike in Beirut and throughout Lebanon, beginning on Wednesday. Wednesday's also when the funeral will take place for Gebran Tueni.

I'm Ben Wedeman, reporting from Martyr's Square in Beirut.


VERJEE: The latest assassination increases the political pressure on Syria, accused by many of direct involvement in the killings. It also comes as the U.N. Security Council weighs sanctions against Syria. A report from German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis says Damascus tried to hinder the u.n. investigation into assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

We are joined now by Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad, Syria's ambassador to the U.N.

Thanks for joining us.


VERJEE: What is Syria's reaction to the Mehlis Report?

MEKDAD: First of all, I Would like to reiterate the condolences of the Syrian government of the late assassination in Beirut. We think that this was a crime and all other sectors of the Syrian society have strongly condemned...

VERJEE: Many Lebanese politicians say that Syria's behind it.

MEKDAD: Some Lebanese politicians are ready to say anything against Syria. And this is, in fact, one of the major aspects behind the assassination, which is the complication of the Syrian/Lebanese relations. We condemn such actions, we do not accept them, and we have, I mean, taken measures against such attempts by...

VERJEE: So if you condemn them, do you support the suggestion of an international investigation into anti-Syrian penalties in Lebanon?

MEKDAD: This is up to the Lebanese people.

VERJEE: But do you support it? Does Syria support that?

MEKDAD: It's not a matter of support. When these comes, these are speculations. When this comes, we shall say our position. But I assure that Syria has nothing to do with this crime.

VERJEE: Let's talk about the Mehlis Report. It confirms that key Syrian officials are suspect in Rafik Hariri's murder. What's your response to that?

MEKDAD: We have cooperated fully with the commission. We established the Syrian Judicial Commission, that has carried out investigations, that has met with some of the Syrian persons being requested by Mr. Mehlis. We sent the investigation to the -- to Mr. Mehlis's commission. And we are ready even to make these investigations, I mean, put them before members of the Security Council if necessary.

VERJEE: Syria says it's been cooperating, but Mehlis is saying that Syria failed to fully cooperate with his commission, saying that Syria was reluctant, there was procrastination and cooperation was slow, and essentially Damascus tried to obstruct the probe.

MEKDAD: In fact, there was no whatsoever the truth into what is in the report in this respect. We have cooperated fully with Mr. Mehlis. But as you know, each investigation has its own rules and procedures. And the time, in fact, was exhausted by one way or another throughout consultations with Mr. Mehlis on how we can ensure the rights of Syrian individuals, rights that are protected under international conventions, human rights instruments, and so on and so forth.

And by the way, one of the major causes for some delay, I don't say that, I mean there was a real delay, for some delay, was caused by Mr. Mehlis who made different appointments.

VERJEE: Excuse me, he what?

MEKDAD: He made different appointments. Later, or more late than our proposals for meetings. And discussions of these concrete aspects. And when these concrete aspects were finalized with Mr. Mehlis, we immediately proceeded and we had interviews with our, I mean with the Syrian persons he requested.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And we will get you back to YOUR WORLD TODAY in just a couple of moments. We have some breaking news just in to CNN. We are learning that the 30th president of these United States Gerald ford has been admitted to the Eisenhower Medical Center. This is in Rancho Mirage, California.

He is undergoing tests right now is what we understand, don't know the extent of the tests and what problems may have prompted this visit to the hospital. Don't know the extent of the test and what problems may have prompted this visit to the hospital. What we do know is that Gerald Ford, in the hospital right now undergoing tests. And we're told that he will be released as soon as those tests are complete.

Just getting a statement right now from Penny Circle, who is the chief of staff for the former president. And the press release reads: "President Ford was admitted to Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California. He is undergoing medical tests and will be released when they have been completed."

Once again, news just in to CNN. Gerald Ford, 93 years old now, has been admitted to a hospital in Rancho Mirage, California, the Eisenhower Medical Center, where he is undergoing tests. And we are learning in this statement from his chief of staff that the tests are ongoing right now and that the former president will be released as soon as those tests are completed.

The former president, 93 years old right now. And we will have much more on this story at the top of the hour with Kyra Phillips and "LIVE FROM." We'll take a break and come back with more of YOUR WORLD TODAY right after this.


MEKDAD: ... to immediately proceed and to give the Syrian commission whatever information they have, so that the Syrian commission could, once again make its efforts, full efforts. And it has that decision to do with these effort and to proceed with the investigation.

It's in our interest, as I have mentioned several times. It's in the interest of the investigation to cover -- to uncover those who are behind this heinous crime and other crimes. Because we are sure Syria will come clean at the end of all these investigations.

VERJEE: Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad, Syria's ambassador to the United Nations. Thanks so much for joining us on YOUR WORLD TODAY and offering your perspective. Thank you.


HOLMES: Zain, now to Iraq, where two years ago this day, the feared dictator who lived in opulent palaces was pulled from a narrow dark hole beneath a mud shack. They called it a spider hole. Since then, Saddam Hussein has gone from being an object of ridicule to a defiant figure in court as he faces trial.

Here's Aneesh Raman.



ANEESH RAMAN, CNN BAGHDAD CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A major turning point for Iraq. The top of the deck of those wanted by U.S., Saddam Hussein, caught December 13th, 2003, by these U.S. troops, shown that night just back from the raid. The former dictator, dragged from a hole, shown to the world disheveled, being searched by medics. An image that, for Iraqis, was shocking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When I saw Saddam, saw American soldiers putting his hand on the beard, it was a surprise. We were not expecting it. After that video, Saddam became nothing. He was a leader, he was something before. But now, we just laugh at him. RAMAN: The anger of eight months earlier replaced by the ridicule of a former leader, Saddam became the butt of all jokes: altered photographs passed around by e-mail; real ones, too. Saddam, in British tabloids, in his underwear in custody, a far cry from the controlled images of strength during his time in power.

But now the image of Saddam is changing again, from his arraignment in 2004 to the start of his trial. A defiant Saddam of old is working his way back into the Iraqi psyche, challenging what he says is an illegitimate court, threatening a boycott last week because of the conditions in his detainment.

SADDAM HUSSEIN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF IRAQ (through translator): All of these days are spent with this shirt and underwear. And there's no room for us to smoke.

RAMAN: A boycott he followed through on, leaving an empty chair at the court's last session. Anger is still the overriding Iraqi emotion when you speak of Saddam Hussein. Each day of the trial, protests call for his immediate execution.

(on camera): But Saddam is less of a joke than he was two years ago. For Iraqis, he's now as he once was: defiant, confident, at times seemingly in control of his trial. A powerful reminder of their past and a powerful reason why many here want justice now.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Baghdad.


HOLMES: All right. Firefighters may be slowly winning the battle against that fuel depot fire in Britain...

VERJEE: ... but the economic and environmental battles are just beginning. We're going to look at the huge impact, next.


HOLMES: ... Watergate scandal. More details as they become available.

VERJEE: In Britain, an oil depot fire that's been blazing in North London for two days has now been put out, but its impact's expected to last a long time.

Ryan Chilcote has more on that.


RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is all that remains of the United Kingdom's fifth largest oil depot. And these are the first pictures of the adjacent industrial complex, the region's largest, where thousands worked until the explosions early Sunday morning, when almost no one was at work.

ROY WILSHER, CHIEF FIRE OFFICER: The facing of the buildings, both back and front, have been shredded. Doors have been blown off, windows blown out. If this had happened during the weekday, during working hours, we would have had significant fatalities.

CHILCOTE: Many workers now face losing their livelihood. Robert Clark had a manufacturing shop that employed 38 people.

ROBERT CLARK, LOCAL BUSINESSMAN: Obviously, any effects in this economy is very, very tight on profits and operating costs and everything on that. So, you know, we could be looking at redundancies in the short term. And in the longer term, you know, a total closure.

CHILCOTE: The police hope the 2,000 residents and workers evacuated may be able to come back within the next day or so, if only to survey the damage.

(on camera): Now the investigation into exactly how this could have happened can really get under way. Obviously, most of the depot was destroyed and with it, a lot of the evidence. But the police are confident they will determine the cause.

(voice-over): Investigators hope to find footage from the storage facilities' closed circuit cameras. They believe they can reconstruct the first oil container to explode. And there are witnesses.

WILSHER: Everything they're telling us has a consistency about it. Nothing is giving us any indication that this is anything other than an accident and certainly no suggestion of any malicious act.

CHILCOTE: Accident or not, many are saying the location of the oil facilities needs to be reconsidered.

MIKE PENNING, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: When they built the depot in the '60s, it was out actually on the periphery of the town and it was away from the homes. What's happened in the last 40, 45 years, is that they've donuted it, really, with housing development. So then, it was probably right. Now, it's clearly wrong.

CHILCOTE: Ryan Chilcote, CNN, Hemel Hempstead, England.


VERJEE: For more on the environmental impact caused by a that have fire, let's go over to Guillermo Arduino.

HOLMES: Guillermo, you can see this on satellite at some points.

GUILLERMO ARDUINO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We could. Especially yesterday with this picture behind me. Pay attention, this is England, right? Most of the winds took the smoke towards the southwestern parts of the country as we predicted.

And you know, this was immense. Because up to 270 million liters of kerosene, diesel and gasoline has been burning all contained in 20 storage tanks on the site. The kind of pollution it is producing is smoke mostly. And research aircraft is now trying to find out more about it.

Today a plane is tracking the speed and shape of the cloud. Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, of oxide of nitrogen are all pouring from the fire along flocks of soot.

The smoke is likely to effect only those with existing respiratory problems such as asthma. But once the fire is out completely local air should turn to normal levels within days. The environmental effect are not likely to be severe because there is nothing in the cloud that is not already in the environment.

The pollutants we are talking about are known as polyaromatic hydrocarbons and will not accumulate to a high concentration to cause severe damage. So as you see, the story could have been much worse there from that point of view. Guys?

VERJEE: Thanks. Guillermo.

Still ahead here on YOUR WORLD TODAY.

HOLMES: What do George Clooney and a group of desperate housewives have in common?

VERJEE: They all, well, what do they have?

HOLMES: They luck out as Hollywood's Golden Globe nominations are unveiled.

VERJEE: Stay with us for more on the chosen few.


HOLMES: Often viewed as a crystal ball or sorts for the Oscars, Hollywood's 63rd annual Golden Globe nominations have been announced. Leading the field for best movie the cowboy romance "Brokeback Mountain," which swept seven nominations in all.

Other top movie contenders is the adaptation of the best selling "Memoirs of a Geisha," the Mideast thrillers, "Syriana," and "Munich." Also in the running are the biographical films "Good Night and Good Luck," right there, as well as "Walk the Line" about singer Johnny Cash and also "Capote."

The stakes are especially high for the multi-talented George Clooney. He was Nominated for best director, screenplay, and also got the nod for best supporting actor in "Syriana."

VERJEE: As we heard, the western romance movie with a twist, "Brokeback Mountain" was singled out for multiple Globe nominations. It was directed by Ang Lee who joins us now on the phone from Los Angeles.

So good to have you with us. It's certainly not a conventional western movie. It's the story about two cowboys in love. How challenging a film was it for you to make? What was the most difficult part? ANG LEE, DIRECTOR: I think the, first of all, I'm glad to speak to you. I think balancing the macho cowboy world, what it's supposed to be, and also deliver a gay love story. The tightrope that I'm walking on was probably the most difficult thing. And technically aging them. So it's a short epic story. Aging those young actors doing subtle changes, was probably technically the hardest.

VERJEE: And very quickly, do you think straight men will like this movie? Do you think they'll go and watch it?

LEE: I think so. I think it's liberating to deal with that part of life and embrace a love story. I think most of the people who have seen the movie I met have no problem watching it, and they are loving the movie.

I cannot speak for everyone, of course. But yes, I'm thinking positively. Might touch them, yes.

VERJEE: Ang Lee. Thank so much you for joining us. Really appreciate it. Best of luck. I'm Zain Verjee.

HOLMES: I'm Michael Holmes. Can't wait to see that movie. See you later.