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Your World Today

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Sworn in as Liberia's President; Iran Nuclear Dispute; Targeting al-Zawahiri

Aired January 16, 2006 - 12:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... do hereby swear...

JOHNSON-SIRLEAF: ... do hereby swear...


JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A new day dawning in Africa. The continent's first elected female head of state begins the daunting task of rebuilding Liberia after 14 years of civil war.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Another day in the West's disagreement with Tehran. Officials meet in London's over Iran's nuclear program.

Where does the world go from here?

CLANCY: And a botched raid in Iraq gives a journalist a firsthand lesson in the very difficult struggle for hearts and minds and how costly a mistake can be.

Right now it's 5:00 p.m. in Monrovia, Liberia; 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad.

I'm Jim Clancy.

VERJEE: And I'm Zain Verjee.


CLANCY: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are watching CNN International.

It was a veritable political earthquake in West Africa, in Liberia, where new President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf facing a long, tough road laden with obstacles. She's taking control of her nation, a nation devastated by civil war, and a government that historically has been just riddled with corruption. VERJEE: And Liberia has no national electricity grid, it's got no running water. Eighty percent of Liberians are unemployed. And the former son-in-law of the ousted president, Charles Taylor, is the new speaker of parliament.

So, how will Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf rebuild Liberia in light of all these challenges? Liberians are waiting.

CLANCY: That's right. Our Jeff Koinange joining us now from Monrovia. He has details on what is on the horizon for Liberia's political future.

Jeff, a lot of promises made today.

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about it, Jim. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was, no doubt, talking the talk. And it was an event like you mentioned, an historic event. An historic event witnessed by, among others, U.S. first lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Also on hand, a whole host of African heads of state, including African Union chairman and Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and South African president, Thabo Mbeki, among others.

In a noble address, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf saying that she was going to restore electricity in a capital that's been all but dark for the last 14 years. Fourteen years of a devastating civil war that killed up to 200,000 people. She also pledged to unite warring factions and revamp an economy all but devastated in the last decade and a half.

The initial word on the street, Jim, she's talking the talk. Whether she can walk the walk will be seen in the coming weeks and months -- Jim.

CLANCY: Well, she certainly can't do it alone. Give us some more on the background of Liberia. It, after all, has been described by some people as really the grandchild of the United States.

KOINANGE: No doubt. Created in 1822, it gained independence in 1847. For the first 150 years, a very stable and peaceful country, until one April morning in 1980 when it all fell apart, Jim.

After that, the last two decades have been tumultuous in this country. And that is why Liberians for the most part see President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as almost the messiah, with very impressive credentials of a Harvard background and having worked for institutions such as The World Bank and, the Citibank, and also the United Nations Development Program.

They see her as the future. She says she's up to the task. She tells Liberians, give me a chance and I'll do it.

So far, they are rallying around her. They see her as their ticket to turning that corner and beginning a new chapter -- Jim. CLANCY: They're going to need U.S. help, though. They're going to need international help to do it. Here on Martin Luther King Day to look at a woman taking over a country that was really founded for former slaves from the United States, how much support is there for the United States -- from the United States I should say.

KOINANGE: Well, you -- right, Jim, you saw it right there today with the first lady on the ground, with the secretary of state on the ground. In fact, I spoke to Undersecretary of State for Africa Jendayi Frazier. She said, "Well, look, there's two battleships off the coast of Liberia. The Americans have showed their support here today. They will continue showing their support."

They see Liberia as a very strategic nation, they want to help Liberia as much as they can. Now they have the person they wanted in place.

They're going to work with President Johnson-Sirleaf, they say, and they're going to make sure that Liberia pulls itself up by its bootstraps. It's not going to be easy, Jim. And the expectations are high, but President Johnson-Sirleaf says she's up to the task -- Jim.

CLANCY: All right.

Jeff Koinange reporting to us there live from Monrovia.

VERJEE: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's groundbreaking inauguration takes us to our question of the day. And we want you to weigh in on it.

CLANCY: We're asking you this: Do you think that women make more effective leaders than men? And if so, why? Send us your thoughts to

VERJEE: We're going to be reading some of your responses a little bit later on YOUR WORLD TODAY.

In Afghanistan, a suicide bomber has killed 22 people and wounded more than 20 others. The attack happened in the southern border town of Spin Boldak. The provincial governor says the bomber drove a motorbike into a crowd watching a wrestling match.

What to do about Iran, that's the question on the table in London where representatives from Britain, France, Germany and the U.S. are trying to win over Russia and China. The U.S. and its European allies are pushing to refer Tehran and its nuclear program to the United Nations Security Council.

Both Russia and China are veto-wielding members of that council, and their support would be necessary to impose potential sanctions against Iran. But while noting the precedent for sanctions, British foreign secretary Jack Straw said they should not be taken as a given.


JACK STRAW, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: As to what action the Security Council takes, that's a matter for the Security Council. And I don't think we should rush our fences here. There are plenty of examples where a matter is referred to the Security Council and the Security Council takes action, and that action is followed without the need for decisions on sanctions.

VERJEE: For more on the talks currently under way and the wider dispute over Iran's nuclear program, we want to go to Robin Oakley. He joins us now live outside 10 Downing Street.

Robin, where are Russia and China on Iran?

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN EUROPEAN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, the European 3, Britain, France and Germany, who have been negotiating with Tehran are hoping that they will now be able to persuade the Russians and the Chinese to come aboard and to back the reference to the Security Council which they, the Europeans, are now happy to join the United States in pressing for. And there is certainly some optimism among some diplomats here that Russia at least will back Security Council actions.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, has said that the kind of things that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian leader, has said about Israel about his desire for it to be wiped off the map has aggravated the situation and strengthened the arguments of those who want to see this matter go to the Security Council. But both Russia and China have very strong trade and economic links with Iran. China, for example, gets 12 percent of its oil from Iran.

So, the question of whether there would be agreement after referring to the Security Council on any form of economic sanctions is a much bigger question -- Zain.

VERJEE: What is it that the Western countries, the Europeans want the Iranians to do to give them a greater sense of confidence about Iran's nuclear program?

OAKLEY: Basically, they want them to be open about their nuclear program. For 18 years, it was a clandestine program. Iran was only forced to admit that it had any kind of nuclear program when it was revealed by dissidents within the country. And really, the Western powers are saying that the Iranians have to got to, first of all, put the seals back on the work at the Natans (ph) plant, they've got to get back then to talking to the Europeans, who will, on behalf of the West, negotiate with them in terms of holding out incentives to the Iranians not to pursue a nuclear program, a nuclear energy program that could lead to a nuclear weapons program.

They have said that they and the U.S. would, for example, help the Iranians into the World Trade Organization. They would help them with much-needed aircraft spares and things like that if they will resume the diplomatic route.

And it was noticeable that at the end of last week, when the European ministers met to say this was a dead end, an impasse, they couldn't go on with the current negotiations, they all said, but this isn't the end of diplomacy, we want to get back to the diplomatic route. And Condoleezza Rice, U.S. secretary of state, also talked about a new phase in the diplomacy.

So they're not giving up yet on diplomacy -- Zain.

VERJEE: CNN's European political editor, Robin Oakley, reporting from 10 Downing Street.

Thanks, Robin -- Jim.

CLANCY: As Robin was mentioning there, Zain, this Iranian nuclear dispute really playing prominently in talks in Moscow on Monday as well. That's where the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, was speaking with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Afterwards, Mr. Putin called for what he said was prudence in dealing with Iran and said that Russia's position was very close to that of the European Union. Mrs. Merkel's -- this is her first trip to Russia, of course, as chancellor. It was not dominated by Iran, in her view. The German leader reportedly brought a broad spectrum of issues to the table, as she did in a recent visit to Washington.

Now, among the issues she wants to talk about are growing energy and trade ties with Russia. Mr. Putin, for his part, said that the recent leadership change in Germany was in no way damping Russia's enthusiasm for developing those closer ties to Berlin.

VERJEE: Wire services are reporting that CNN has been banned from reporting from Iran. But we also have to tell you that CNN has not been officially notified about this by the Iranian authorities.

It stems essentially over an incident over the weekend when CNN misquoted Iran's president because of an error by a translator hired by CNN. CNN quoted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying that Iran has the right to build nuclear weapons. In fact, he said Iran has the right to nuclear energy. He added that, "A nation that has civilization does not need nuclear weapons, and our nation does not need them."

CNN has clarified what the Iranian president said and apologized here on the air to Iranians directly, as well as on the air. Wire services say that Iran now says no CNN reporters will be allowed to come to Iran until further notice.

CLANCY: All right.

Let's shift our focus now to Iraq and get some of the latest developments in the conflict there, including the reporting downing -- reported downing of a U.S. military helicopter that was said to have taken place north of Baghdad.

A U.S. military official confirms the two-man crew aircraft was being used by the Army's Task Force Ironhorse. A two-man crew, but no word on any casualties, no confrontation -- no confirmation about how it may have been brought down.

Meantime, seven police officers killed, several wounded in a series of insurgent attacks in Baghdad and in Diyala province. An official said a child among those killed as insurgents attack Iraqi police patrols Monday in Al Muqtadiya (ph), about 15 miles southeast of Baquba.

And the Independent Electoral Commission of Iran annulling the vote counts from 227 ballot boxes in the country, a tiny minority of the total number. A commission spokesman said the serious complaints concerned results not yet announced and he would not -- he said it would not affect election results that will be announced later.

VERJEE: In Pakistan, an anti-U.S. uproar gets even louder.

CLANCY: Coming up, demonstrations erupt from Karachi to Islamabad. We'll have a closer look at the attack that has strained relations between allies when we come back.

This is CNN.



The family of Ariel Sharon has told doctors that the Israeli prime minister has moved his eyelids, but doctors say the medical significance is not clear. Mr. Sharon remains in a Jerusalem hospital in an induced coma 12 days after suffering a massive stroke. His powers as prime minister were transferred to his deputy, Ehud Olmert.

On Monday, Kadima party legislators made Olmert the interim party leader, as well. Sharon founded Kadima in November, after he left Likud amid strong opposition to his policy of forcing Jewish settlers out of Gaza.

CLANCY: There's growing anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan after a CIA air strike, one that was alleged to be backed by the CIA, missed its target. The mission intended to deal a devastating blow to al Qaeda. Instead, it has crippled relations between Washington and one of its staunchest alleys in the war on terror.

CNN International Correspondent Nic Robertson.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Rubble. When new reports in Pakistani newspapers say al Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was expected for dinner when a CIA-initiated missile attack tried to kill him. The man so often seen next to Osama bin Laden appeared for a few hours at least to have finally been cornered. But CNN intelligence sources and villagers denies Zawahiri or any outsiders were present.

QAZI HUSSAIN, OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): Foreigners and outsiders are not here, nor among the recovered or dead.

ROBERTSON: Eighteen people were killed, including women and children, angering not just this tribal region, but the whole country, threatening the war on terror.

From rain-drenched Durtalis (ph), where tribes are more powerful than government, to the wide, well-ordered affluent boulevards of the nation's capital, Islamabad, the cost of the apparent intelligence mistake is being paid. One of the U.S.' staunchest allies on the world on terror, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, is being told to step down.

FAROOQ SATTAR, PAKISTANI POL. LEADER: The government of Pakistan should resign because they have failed to protect their territory and protect their citizens from the unjustified attack from the American forces.

ROBERTSON: Outrage has been so strong, Musharraf's allies are, for the first time in years, joining forces with the opposition.

Musharraf has been through this before. Most notably, announcing his support for the U.S. after September 11, but he is politically weaker now, and that means catching Osama bin Laden and Ayman al- Zawahiri may be getting harder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time is running out for all of those who are engaged in this, and they must very seriously address the lapses and the weaknesses in the intelligence.

ROBERTSON: In the war on terror, improving intelligence is proving one of the hardest battles to win.


CLANCY: Joining us now with more on the story here in our studios is Nic Robertson.

Nic, what does this mean in terms of that intelligence in the hunt for al-Zawahiri and other members of al Qaeda?

ROBERTSON: Well, there are a number of ways. I mean, you can look at it -- certainly, it may make it harder to generate the kind of human intelligence timely that is -- that is needed in the capture of bin Laden and Zawahiri.

Why? Because innocent people have been killed. Other Pakistanis in that area say, "I'm not going to pass on any information that I have." You know, "It's made me angry."

Also, maybe Zawahiri now knows that someone in his inner circle has ratted on him. He'll be cautious. He won't trust that person anymore. It makes him harder to get.

Musharraf, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, has been telling Pakistani people, your responsibility, make sure there are no foreigners in the border area, it's up to you.

So maybe it makes it harder for Zawahiri to hide. It could make it easier to capture.

CLANCY: All right.

On another note, in the United States there's broad support for this strike. People say it is something that has to be done. As an example, let's listen to what Senator John McCain had to say.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We regret any loss of innocent life, but we have to go and -- where we believe al Qaeda may be located, particularly people at this level. Unfortunately, we have to go there.


CLANCY: "Unfortunately, we have to go there." But there's a price to be paid. Now in Pakistan, controversy swirling around this incident.

ROBERTSON: A political price obviously for President Pervez Musharraf. And the United States is probably very sensitive to that.

We haven't heard, or at least we have yet to hear a very detailed statement from the United States about what happened. Very likely that is in deference to the political tightrope that President Musharraf has to walk with his people to explain such attacks.

CLANCY: All right. Critics would say this opposition, a lot of it is based among the Islamists. Where are they when there are Muslims who carry out suicide attacks in Pakistan? We don't see the same thing that -- this is not all it appears to be.

ROBERTSON: Obviously politicians in Pakistan are using this opportunity to lambaste President Musharraf because of other political issues, too. But what is significant here, it is not just the Muslim parties. It is some of President Musharraf's political allies, the MQM party, for example. His allies in the government now joining hands with the MMA, the religious parties.

CLANCY: So broad opposition raising the temperature.


CLANCY: All right.

Nic Robertson, as always, great to have you with us.

ROBERTSON: Thank you, Jim.

VERJEE: Still ahead on YOUR WORLD TODAY, honoring an American icon.

CLANCY: The U.S. celebrating the life of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. even as fight for control of his legacy is raging.

We'll have details straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN Center in Atlanta.

More of YOUR WORLD TODAY in just a few minutes. First, though, let's check on stories making headlines across the U.S.

A dream revisited. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday celebrating what would have been the 77th birthday of the civil rights icon. One is under way at this hour at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church. That's where Dr. King preached the last eight years of his life.

This year, though, the legacy facing new challenges, including new cracks within the King family itself. The family is split on whether to sell the King Center to the federal government in order to ensure that necessary repairs will be made.

A few hours ago, President Bush also recognized the King holiday. Here is what he had to say after viewing the original Emancipation Proclamation. That, by the way, the document that proclaimed all slaves free in the confederate states.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Abraham Lincoln recognized that all men are created equal. Martin Luther King lived on that admonition to call our country to a higher calling. And today we celebrate the life of an American who called Americans to account when we didn't live up to our ideals.


KAGAN: Later today, Mr. Bush will attend Georgetown University's celebration, the Let Freedom Ring celebration honoring Martin Luther King. Our coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.

On the subject of U.S. intelligence, the Bush administration faces renewed scrutiny for electronically eavesdropping on people in the U.S. with suspected ties to terrorism. This hour in Washington, former vice president Al Gore is delivering a speech attacking that policy and what his aides call other administration threats to the Constitution.

President Bush says anti-terror laws enacted after 9/11 authorized the wiretaps without getting a special warrant. Gore wants -- Al Gore wants Congress to act. The Senate Judiciary Committee will look into the matter next month.

Police in Georgia and Alabama are searching for two accused killers this hour. Both escaped from an Alabama jail early today.

Seventeen-year-old Johnny Early Jones is charged with killing a toddler. Nineteen-year-old Lamar Benton faces murder and rape charges. Authorities say the men managed to overpower guards at the jail, wounding one with a makeshift knife. A third inmate who escaped with the men on Saturday was captured later that day. Violence mars the end of a New Orleans parade aimed at pulling the hurricane-damaged city together. Shots rang out just as the parade was winding down on Sunday. Three people were wounded and hospitalized. Thousands had gathered to show their determination to return to New Orleans from temporary housing in other states.

One person who's been living in Houston said of the violence, "This is not what I came back here to see."

In Oklahoma, wildfires are still raging across the state. More than 400,000 acres have been scorched, about 250 homes and businesses have been destroyed since November 1.

Help, though, might be on the way. Forecasters say a cold front is moving into the area. It is expected to bring scattered showers and lower temperatures.

And on that note, let's check in with Jacqui Jeras.

Jacqui, you were saying, yes, it might cool down a little bit, but not huge relief in Oklahoma.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Well, the temperature is actually coming down a lot, as much as maybe 20 degrees. But this rain, yes, it's nice too see a little bit of moisture in this area; however, it's really not going to put any kind of dent in the drought.

Rainfall amounts today may be at a quarter of an inch at best. It could be a little heavier in eastern parts of Texas, up to half of an inch of rainfall here.

So while that's all good, the other big problem we're going to have to deal with is that the winds are going to be coming in behind this front, and they will be very strong. We have got wind advisories in effect from the Dakotas, all the way down into Kansas.

No advisories into Oklahoma or into Texas here, but we think the winds will be gusting by late this afternoon, into this evening, and should subside a little bit by tomorrow.

Winds also a problem in the Pacific Northwest and into parts of the Southwest. We've got some delays at a Las Vegas airport because of that. Temperatures into Texas today, Daryn, very, very warm. But highs tomorrow in the mid 50s.

KAGAN: All right, Jacqui. Thank you.

We have breaking news out of New York. And these pictures we're watching live courtesy of our affiliate WABC.

The camera's zooming out there, but I can tell you the story we're watching here is a tanker truck that turned over and exploded. This is in the Bronx-Queens Expressway. Apparently as much as 8,000 gallons of gasoline spilled from this truck as it caught on fire. No word yet on any injuries.

We'll continue to monitor the story and bring you the latest information and pictures as they become available.

Meanwhile, YOUR WORLD TODAY continues after a quick break.

I'm Daryn Kagan. I'll see you tomorrow.


KAGAN: I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. We're watching this story develop out of New York City. A tanker truck overturning on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The accident has closed this expressway. The fire department says at this time no report of any injuries, but we hear as many as 8,000 gallons of gasoline spilling from this truck. And clearly a highly flammable situation.

We'll continue to monitor, bring you the latest pictures and information as they become available. Right now we rejoin CNN International in progress.

CLANCY: ... of the U.S. and its European allies trying to convince their counterparts from Russia and China that referral to the United Nations Security Council is the right next step in a dispute over Iran's nuclear program. Tehran restarted research at its uranium enrichment facility last week. In Moscow on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his position on Iran was very close to that of the United States and the EU.

VERJEE: A U.S. military helicopter has been shot down north of Baghdad. A U.S. military official said the two-man crew aircraft was being used by the Army's Task Force Iron Horse.

For more on this story, we're joined now by our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

Jamie, what more details are you learning about this crash?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've just gotten confirmation from a U.S. military official in Iraq that this was a U.S. army apache helicopter carrying two U.S. soldiers that went down about 18 miles north of Baghdad. They're not saying much more than that, but insurgents are claiming responsibility, saying that they shot down the helicopter with a shoulder-fired missile, as depicted in a videotape that was provided to the Al Jazeera television network and shown on Al Jazeera.

In the video, you can see what appears to be the trail of a shoulder-fired missile as it comes in contact with a target in the air. But we have no independent confirmation that this is the incident surrounding -- connected with the crash of that helicopter north of Baghdad.

This is the third U.S. helicopter to go down in Iraq in the last ten days. On Friday, a Kiowa scout helicopter was apparently shot down by ground fire. And about a week ago, a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter went down, killing 12 people, including eight soldiers. But this latest incident is still a case where it's under investigation. The U.S. military hasn't released what happened to the crew. But they are confirming that that Apache helicopter went down north of Baghdad.

And again, this shows a picture of the scene where you can see the smoke coming up from where the helicopter went down, another U.S. helicopter flying overhead. And we are awaiting a final statement from the U.S. military, telling us what they believe happened in this incident -- Zain.

VERJEE: From the Pentagon, CNN's Jamie McIntyre reporting. Thanks, Jamie.


CLANCY: You know, for a journalist covering the conflict in Iraq, the daily violence can sometimes get a little bit too close for comfort. Recently a young Iraqi journalist found himself making news instead of just reporting it.

Michael Holmes has his story, a story that has some bearing on what's at stake in Iraq.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Journalist Ali Fadhil goes through videotape of a story, his story.

ALI FADHIL, JOURNALIST: These are the scrapnels from the explosion.

HOLMES: It is dangerous working for the Western media in Iraq. You become a target for insurgents or would-be kidnappers. Ali never thought he'd become the target of U.S. forces.

FADHIL: Suddenly we hear the very, very huge explosion of the house and all the windows were broken in.

HOLMES: It was very much the forced entry. Explosives and he says guns fired into the bedroom he shared with his wife, 7-month-old son and 3-year-old daughter.

FADHIL: She was shouting, "Daddy, Daddy, what are they doing? Daddy, Americans!"

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they're in there...

HOLMES: Dozens of military raids, like this one last month in Ramadi, are carried out around Iraq every day, often the result of a tip-off. Sometimes the results spectacular success, a hostage recovered and insurgent arrested. Other times, spectacular mistakes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, where did he come from? All right. We're in the wrong place here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, where's Lieutenant?

HOLMES: This is last month's Ramadi raid. Ali, it appears, was in a similar position. Intelligence tip, massive raid using explosives and gun fire, but wrong house. After being hooded and handcuffed, he was taken to a military facility. Two men entered and one spoke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said -- he said, Mr. Fadhil, do you know where you are here? I said well to investigate me, aren't you? He said, actually, no, there was a mistake.

HOLMES: Just do it slow, do it deliberate, do it right the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. military admits mistakes are made, but defends quick action on intelligence.

BRIG. GEN. DON ALSTON, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCES, IRAQ: As we can further refine our intelligence and you know, it's difficult to score 100 percent of the time but we -- it would be irresponsible not to act when we have important intelligence that we need to follow up on.

HOLMES: Sometimes more than just property damage is done when things go wrong. Ali says he's interviewed several people whose homes were raided in error and some of them who were once opponents of the insurgency have changed their minds, including his own in-laws.

FADHIL: If you ask my family, I mean my father-in-law and my mother-in-law, they were talking about insurgents before as terrorists. They call them terrorists. Right now, they call them in resistance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I don't want you to stop breaking stuff, huh?

HOLMES: Something a soldier on this raid last month agreed with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got to do as methodically as possible but try not to destroy. Because as we do that, we destroy relations.

HOLMES: Ali's family received $1,000 compensation for damage done, but the bill will be many times that amount. The psychological damage to his extended family, he says, incalculable.

As for Ali himself, few in his neighborhood knew he worked for the Western media. Now everyone knows. And he says that it is too dangerous to live there anymore.

FADHIL: I can be abducted any time. I can be just assassinated at any time. And it is very difficult for me to live in the neighborhood.

HOLMES: Michael Holmes, CNN, Baghdad.


CLANCY: History in the making as Liberia ushers in its new president.

VERJEE: We're going to take a closer look at some of the challenges facing Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. That's next.


CLANCY: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to YOUR WORLD TODAY.

VERJEE: Thanks so much for joining us on CNN International.

Two continents, two strong women taking over very troubled countries.

CLANCY: Well, first in Liberia, we've got Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. She's assuming the presidency of a country that's really struggling after a quarter century of coups and conflicts.

VERJEE: And in Chile, socialist Michelle Bachelet promises change with continuity upon being elected president of a country with a violent right-wing past.

CLANCY: Well, first, to Liberia, more on Liberia's 23rd president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has a distinguished background. She's American educated, is an economist. She's a former member of the United Nations, a top official there.

Jeff Koinange is in Monrovia. He reports the new president is going to need all of that to summon up all of those skills in order just to run that country.


KOINANGE (voice-over): In a land where men have dominated the political landscape for centuries, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has come to be known as the Iron Lady. A tough no nonsense economists who waited tables to put herself through Harvard graduate school before going to work for such established institutions as the World Bank.

The diminutive 67-year-old widow, mother, and grandmother first surfaced on the political scene in Liberia in the late '70s, as finance minister under then-President William Tolbert. That was short lived, after this man, Staff Serggeat Samuel Doe, came to power through a bloody military coup in 1980.

Five years later, Johnson-Sirleaf tried her hand again in politics, this time running for a Senate seat. But her outspokenness against the military regime landed her a 10-year prison sentence. She was released after serving two years and soon after fled into exile.

She went on to hold a stream of international financial positions with both Citibank and the World Bank. She also served a stint as African director for the United Nation's Development Program, or UNDP. Initially supporting Charles Taylor's rebellion against Samuel Doe, she later went on to oppose him, and ran against him in the 1997 presidential elections. She managed only 10 percent of the votes, as opposed to Taylor's 75 percent. At the time, few here gave women any chance of ever leading Africa's oldest republic.

CYRIL ALLEN, NATIONAL PATRIOTIC PARTY: Liberians, it is impossible to have a female president in this country. It is like Jesse Jackson trying to be president of the United States, is for a woman to try to be president of Liberia.

KOINANGE: Johnson-Sirleaf was determined. But in criticizing Charles Taylor's regime, she was accused of treason. She fled the country again, but continued to campaign abroad for the removal of Taylor from office on charges of war crimes.

When Taylor was forced into exile in 2003, Johnson-Sirleaf returned to take over the leadership of her party. She also played an active role in the transitional government as the country prepared itself for the 2005 elections, but resigned the post to contest the presidency, criticizing the transitional government's inability to fight corruption.

The rest, as they say, is history. Johnson-Sirleaf held off a spirited attempt by former soccer superstar George Ware to win in a second-round runoff by getting 60 percent of the vote. Ware cried foul, but the Independent Electoral Commission certified Johnson- Sirleaf as the country's 23rd president since independence in 1847.

She insists she has no illusions about the road ahead.

ELLEN JOHNSON-SIRLEAF, LIBERIAN PRESIDENT: Yes, there will be no quick fix. No magic wand. It's going to be a long, hard road for recovery, but I'm confident that we can embark upon that road and that we can set a realistic development agenda. Expectation will be high. That's normal under the circumstances of some 14 years of devastation and suffering, but we're going to do it.

KOINANGE: In order to do it, she'll need all of the help she can get, and she's already getting endorsements from the male-dominated establishment.

BORMAH TAYLOR, LIBERIAN DESTINY PARTY: This event culminates into the beginning of a new era in Liberia.

DREW MASON, BUSINESSMAN: And I think with the election of the lady that is confident, that is committed, I think now we have a chance to build the Liberia that we all have always dreamed about.

KOINANGE: But Liberia remains one of the world's poorest countries. Although, the president-elect begs to differ.

JOHNSON-SIRLEAF: It's not a poor country; we've been blessed with a lot of natural resources. We have not managed those resources well, and certainly not managed them for the benefit of the people. Well, that's going to change.

KOINANGE: But experts agree the country will need a complete overhaul. The infrastructure is dilapidated. Basic services like water and electricity are nonexistent. Unemployment, too, is at an all-time high, and the country's education system has all but been destroyed by years of fighting.

And there's another potential problem: many of these former child soldiers will need to be reintegrated back into society for fear they may turn to crime, or worse still, revert back to war.

(on camera): You've heard the old saying, be careful what you wish for because you might just get it. Well, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was wishing to be president of Liberia for more than two decades. It is hard to imagine that the road ahead for her will be more difficult than the journey she's had to make to get to this point. Hard to imagine that is until you spend some time here.

Jeff Koinange, CNN, Monrovia.


VERJEE: As we mentioned some moments ago, Chile will inaugurate its female head of state several weeks from now.

Lucia Newman reports on her unusual path to the presidency.


LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michelle Bachelet's presidential victory is not only astonishing because she won in a country as male-dominated as Chile, where divorce was legalized only just last year, it's also a milestone because she's everything socially conservative and Catholic Chile has traditionally frowned on. She's an agnostic, and a single mother of two.

But then, as current socialist President Ricardo Lagos boasted, Chile is changing.

"To have a woman shows that we're a freer, more just, more diverse, more prosperous and more modern country,"he said. Bachelet, too, is a socialist.

The latest in a long list of leftist leaders elected to govern South America.

MICHELLE BACHELET (through translator): I want our government to be remembered as a government for everyone and for everyone.

NEWMAN: But in comparison to Eva Morales and neighboring Bolivia or Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Bachelet is a moderate socialist who continued to lead Chile's governing coalition of center to center-left parties.

Bachelet is soft spoken, but tough. She and her mother were tortured and sent into exile by the Pinochet dictatorship after her father was arrested and killed in 1978.

A pediatrician by profession, she vows to bridge the enormous gap between the haves and have-nots. Chile boasts the best macroeconomic performance in Latin America, yet distribution of income is one of the most unequal in the world.

Bachelet's rival, Sebastian Pinera, a billionaire entrepreneur and moderate conservative, conceded defeat shortly after polls closed.

"I want to congratulate Michelle Bachelet for her triumph, he said. Bachelet will have until March to organize her new government, which she promises will include a cabinet of at least 50 percent women.

Lucia Newman, CNN, reporting.


CLANCY: Fifty-percent women, That's going to be just like this show.

Time to check our inbox, isn't it?

VERJEE: Yes, let's check our inbox. We've been asking you this question, Do you think women make more effective anchors -- I mean, leaders than men, and if so why?

CLANCY: Sterling from Switzerland wrote this, "Yes, women are generally better leaders for a country then men because they have more compassion and less of an egoistical lust for power and money."

VERJEE: Tate from Arkansas writes, "Women experience their world from an emotional perspective. Emotionality is inherently unstable, and it would be a terrible mistake to have a female head our military."

CLANCY: And in Africa, Wanjiru feels that, "The world has been governed by men, and it is still battling underdevelopment and poverty. It is time to see what women can do. Men have obviously failed the majority.

VERJEE: Finally, Patricia in Texas writes this, "Women make better leaders than men. They have more experience with bickering children, and there not much difference between bickering children and bickering nations."

VERJEE: Thanks so much for writing in. You can always email us at

CLANCY: We'll be right back after we take this short break.


CLANCY: Aid workers estimate some 500,000 children under the age of five are living without proper shelter across the earthquake zone in Pakistan and Kashmir, a zone that was so hard hit in October.


CLANCY: When is your birthday?

VERJEE: February. What present are buying me?

CLANCY: They are making it right now as we speak. In Beijing, a team of workers has broken the world's largest ice cream cake record.

VERJEE: They have indeed. The 20-person team cooked up this cake weighing eight tons and measuring almost five meters by three meters.

HOMES: That should satisfy any sweet tooth. The record-breaking stunt, part of a publicity campaign to promote a children's play called "Ice Cream Mountain."

VERJEE: The cake will be sliced into 32,000 pieces and given to theater goers when the play debuts this week. Pretty nice, Jim.

CLANCY: Don't forget that you can log onto to watch a selection of free video on your desk top.

VERJEE: You can subscribe to our new pipeline broad band services where you can view a choice of live news events and browse our video archives. Log onto

CLANCY: I'm Jim Clancy for now.

VERJEE: And I'm Zain Verjee. Thank you for watching.