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Your World Today

Refugees in Their Own Country; Security Situation in Iraq; Kidnapped Journalists in Gaza

Aired August 24, 2006 - 12:00   ET


COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Refugees in their own homes. Sectarian violence forces hundreds of thousands of Iraqis into squalid tent cities.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A desperate wife pleads for her husband's release. He's gone from journalist to hostage in Gaza.

MCEDWARDS: Mystery solved. Austrian police find a young girl missing for years alive.

QUEST: And then there were eight. One of the plants has disappeared from the sky. Or maybe it's just a demotion.

MCEDWARDS: Hello and welcome to our report broadcast around the globe.

I'm Colleen McEdwards.

QUEST: And I'm Richard Quest.

From Baghdad to an outer galaxy, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.

MCEDWARDS: Well, a top U.S. commander is calling the situation in Iraq far from civil war and says a security crackdown in Baghdad could actually be the thing that turns the tide in this brutal conflict.

QUEST: Even as he spoke with thousands of additional troops patrolling the streets, deadly bombings shook the Iraqi capital, adding to fears that some areas have simply become too dangerous for the civilians on the wrong side of the sectarian divide.

Now, we'll get to the military assessment of Iraq in just a moment.

First, we want to take a personal look at how the Sunni versus Shiite conflict is forcing many people to abandon the only homes they've ever known. More and more families are packing into dusty tent camps and becoming refugees in their own rite.

This isn't theory. This isn't some ethereal prospect of future democracy. This is real life.

Michael Holmes got a rare glimpse inside one of these camps and joins us now from Baghdad. MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Richard, thanks very much.

Yes, that operation you mentioned, Operation Together Forward, a joint U.S.-Iraqi military operation, up to 50,000 troops going through various parts of Baghdad, essentially searching one house at a time. They've searched 28,000 buildings so far.

Their aim is to stop the sectarian violence that is plagued in this country, ad in particular the capital. And the people at the center of it are having to move out.


HOLMES (voice over): On a dusty scrap of dirt in an outer suburb of Baghdad, a temporary home is fast becoming a permanent one for hundreds of Iraqis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I used to have a house in Haswa (ph) and have a good life. And now I live like in this place like animals live in a cage.

HOLMES: They are Iraq's internally displaced refugees in their own country, forced to flee their homes and old lives by increasingly deadly sectarian violence.

Around the country there are 19 camps like this one, Chirkuk (ph). Some contain Sunnis forced to flee Shia neighborhoods. Some, this one included, contains Shias forced to escape death threats and killings in Sunni neighborhoods.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They forced us to leave our house. They told us to leave the house or "We will kill you." I moved to where my family lives, but they threatened us there, too.

HOLMES (on camera): The government here estimates nearly a quarter of a million Iraqis live in camps like Chirkuk (ph), all of them displaced since February of this year. And the number grows every day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We used to live in Al Amariyah, but then we decided to leave because it became unsafe for us. And because of the threats we decided to escape.

HOLMES: Here in Chirkuk (ph), 800 people live in an area about the size of two soccer fields. Tents still dominate the dusty landscape, but showcasing the pessimism of ever moving home, many make their own cement blocks and begin to build something more permanent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We live such a miserable life here. Now we are building a small house. One day we eat and the next day we have nothing to eat.

HOLMES: Karim al-Jasim (ph) helps build that house, collecting dirt and stones to mix with spartan supplies of low-quality cement. Everyone pitches in. There are few tools here. Cement often mixed by hand.

Nearby, a man scales an electricity pole, stealing electricity for his family. A dangerous job by an unqualified but desperate man.

Local aid agencies try to help out, building community toilets, providing water, but even that even sometimes runs out.

Under a baking summer sun, some children pitch in. Others amuse themselves as best they can. No school for these kids, although the government says it is working on that.

For now, a game of marbles. Others just wander, avoiding the pools of sewage. Some simply sit and stare ahead into an uncertain future.


HOLMES: Uncertain, indeed, Richard. A lot of those people say that they would like to go home, but given the situation here, they're not holding their breath.

QUEST: Michael Holmes in Baghdad.

Many thanks for joining us.

Now, later in this hour, we're going to be taking a closer look at the challenges of getting those refugees home. We'll be talking to the chairman of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society.

MCEDWARDS: Well, the top U.S. general in the Middle East says a major U.S.-led security clampdown in Baghdad has brought some progress. About 12,000 U.S. and Iraqi forces has been brought in to the capital as part of the security effort, but despite the influx of troops there is still violence there every single day.

Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr joins us now.

What's going on here, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Colleen, the military assessment is that the situation in Baghdad, at least for the short term, in some neighborhoods is improving because of this security operation, the one that Michael Holmes has just reported on. But General John Abizaid, who is now traveling in the region, and other top commanders warn that this improvement has yet to be proven to be long term.

General Abizaid, in Baghdad, meeting with top officials there and other commanders, spoke about that just a little while ago.


GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, U.S. ARMY: I believe that there is a danger of civil war in Iraq, but only a danger. I think Iraq is far from it. I think that there's been great progress in the security front here recently in Baghdad, and General Casey and I are discussing it today. We believe and we're very optimistic that the situation will stabilize.


STARR: But, of course, Colleen, the proof will have to come over time, because the U.S. has been down this road of course so many times before. U.S. troops move in. Security improves. U.S. troops move on to another area, and the insurgents and those promoting sectarian violence move in just behind them and fill the vacuum.

So it's clear that U.S. troops won't have this increased presence in Baghdad forever. The test will come when the U.S. troops leave, what will happen then -- Colleen.

MCEDWARDS: You know, Barbara, there's so much discussion right now over whether the situation is a success or failure. Is it civil war, isn't it? Is it time to get out? Is it not?

How concerned are Pentagon officials about this?

STARR: Well, I think there's no doubt that they are very concerned. The war has gone on for some time now. The question is whether there is some magic solution to solve all these problems, and there isn't.

Just a few days ago, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq wrote a major article in "The Wall Street Journal" newspaper in the United States talking about the urgency of solving the crisis in security, especially in Baghdad. And one of the things that they are still attempting to do is disarm the militias, get rid of the death squad, and try and train Iraqi security forces, especially the national police, to take on more of a front-line role on the streets of Iraq -- Colleen.

MCEDWARDS: Understood.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Thanks very much -- Richard.

QUEST: The Hamas-lead Palestinian government has denounced a militant group that kidnapped two journalists from an American network more than a week ago in Gaza. A spokesman says that the kidnapping of the FOX News journalists has harmed Palestinian interests and could generate more friction with the United States.

CNN Chris Lawrence joins us now from Jerusalem.

Chris, bring us up to date on this, please.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the investigation continues, Richard. And as you said, there has been widespread criticism of this kidnapping within Gaza and the Palestinian community in general.

The prime minister has condemned it. The head of Islamic Jihad has condemned it. And today we learn that even Palestinian prisoners sent a letter to the kidnappers requesting that they release the two journalists immediately and unconditionally.



LAWRENCE (voice over): After more than a week with nothing to go on, authorities now have a videotape and written statement from the kidnappers to bolster the intense search for two journalists. The Holy Jihad Brigades has promised to free them if Muslim prisoners are released from American jails by Saturday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't make concessions to kidnappers. So we don't intend to do that.

LAWRENCE: The American consul general told me they're working closely with Palestinian security forces and additional help is on the way from Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People who have experience in hostage situations, and they're going to be coming out here in the next couple of days to support what we're doing here in the consulate.

LAWRENCE: FOX News correspondent Steve Centanni and photographer Olaf Wiig were kidnapped at gunpoint August 14th. They were not seen again until this videotape was released Wednesday.

CENTANNI: ... ask you to do anything you can to try to help us get out of here.

LAWRENCE: On Thursday, Wiig's wife met with Palestinian officials in Gaza and taped a message of her own for the kidnappers.

ANITA MCNAUGHT, WIFE OF KIDNAPPED JOURNALIST: It was a source of great relief and comfort to me and to Olaf's and Steve's family and friends to see that our men are being well looked after by you, the kidnappers, and we trust that you will continue to care for them until their release.

LAWRENCE: Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah condemned the kidnapping.

ISMAIL HANIYAH, PALESTINIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): This approach contradicts all the morals and values of the Palestinian people.

LAWRENCE: Centanni and Wiig say they've been given food, showers and clean clothes, but they urged authorities to apply political pressure in Gaza to help secure their safe release.

CENTANNI: We love you all and we want to go home. Hope to see you soon.


(END VIDEOTAPE) LAWRENCE: Now, as the police and authorities pursue their leads and try to find and free the two kidnapped journalists, their families are making personal pleas to these kidnappers, trying to appeal to their morality.

The wife of Olaf Wiig released this statement just earlier today. She writes, "You also have families and wives. People should not be kept from their families. In the name of the Muslim values and traditions you so strongly uphold, these two men are your guests. We all desire a peaceful resolution of this matter, for us and for you."

She closes by saying she wants both men to come home safely, as many people here in Israel, and in Gaza, and, of course, back in the United States do as well -- Richard.

QUEST: Chris Lawrence, please come back to us when there's more to report on this story.

MCEDWARDS: All right. Well, go into any book store today, pick up a book on astronomy, take a look at the section on our solar system, and, of course, it is going to tell you that there are nine planets. You may want to hang on to that book, though, because it's going to be a collector's item pretty soon, I think.

QUEST: We're going to show you one of those books later. The book is wrong, wrong. Pluto no longer a planet.

A very august celestial body, the International Astronomical Union officially outdated every science textbook when it approved new guidelines to define what it is, what is and what is not a planet. Under the new guidelines, Pluto falls short. It joins several other small bodies in the solar system called a new category. They're known as dwarfs.

MCEDWARDS: A bit offensive, I think, but we'll hear more later.

QUEST: Discrimination.

MCEDWARDS: I think so, too.

We're going to talk about it later.

But also, just ahead on YOUR WORLD TODAY, a remarkable story to tell you about a lost child who has been found.

QUEST: This is absolutely extraordinary. You've got to stay with us for this story.

Eight years ago she disappeared, seemingly into thin air.

MCEDWARDS: And now she's been found. And no doubt she has an incredible story of survival and escape.

QUEST: Also, as we stay together for the next 60 minutes, is Iran simply stalling for time to build up those nuclear capabilities? MCEDWARDS: And later, stem cell technology without controversy, is this possible? A new advance just might make it so.

Stay with us.


MCEDWARDS: Welcome back. You're watching YOUR WORLD TODAY, where we bring CNN's viewers around the globe up to speed on the most important international stories of the day.

Officials in Austria saying this hour that a young woman found near Vienna is the girl whose kidnapping back in 1998 sparked a nationwide search. Police say the man suspected of kidnapping her then committed suicide by jumping in front of a train.

Tim Lister has more.


TIM LISTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Natascha Kampusch was 10 when she disappeared walking to school in Vienna on a March morning in 1998. A massive police search found no trace of her.

Eight years later, a young woman is found wandering in a garden. Her stunned family gets a call from police.

Natascha's father, in shock, tells a reporter, "We would still be sitting here tomorrow if I had to tell you what I did to find her, everything a man could possibly do." Then he's asked what he will do first if the young woman is confirmed as Natascha.

Austrian police are still piecing together what happened to Natascha. They believe she was abducted that March morning in 1998 by this man, Wolfgang Priklopil.

For eight years he kept her in a cell under a garage, occasionally allowing her into his garden. After she escaped on Wednesday, police launched a manhunt for 44-year-old Priklopil and found his car abandoned at a shopping mall near Vienna. Hours later, he committed suicide, jumping in front of an express train.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Natascha Kampusch.

LISTER: Police say Natascha is in good health and bears no sign of abuse. They are awaiting DNA tests, but say they are quite sure the young woman is Natascha Kampusch.

They say Natascha has so far told them little about her captivity, but that she had apparently escaped from Priklopil's garden when he was busy. She may have been deprived of the chance to grow up like any other teenager and traumatized by her captivity, but Natascha is alive and free again.

Tim Lister, CNN, Atlanta.


QUEST: Turning to the United Nations cease-fire in Lebanon now . And expect more troops to southern Lebanon from France than first thought.

President Jacques Chirac is expected to announce a substantial increase in his country's contribution later today. Alongside the U.S., France led calls for a robust international force to police the cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Last week, Paris sent some 200 extra troops to the country, but instead of plaudits, there was only criticism as France's commitment to the region was called into question.

President Chirac is expected to make the announcement at 18:00 GMT. We plan to bring that to you live. That's in roughly two hours from now.

MCEDWARDS: And we will be here for that. And because of that live coverage of the news conference from Mr. Chirac, we have an important programming change for you. CNN's Christiane Amanpour's two-hour special, "In the Footsteps of bin Laden" will now air one hour later than it was originally scheduled.

That will be at 19:00 GMT. Please don't miss that.

QUEST: Syria has a big problem with the deployment of an international force along the Lebanese-Syrian border. In a televised interview on Dubai television, President Bashar al-Assad says the presence of that force would be considered a hostile move.


BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SYRIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This means it would create a state of hostility between Lebanon and Syria. There's no country in the world that would agree to put on its borders foreign soldiers unless there is a war.


QUEST: Assad also said Beirut should not embark on a path that could sabotage relations with Syria.

MCEDWARDS: Well, the Israeli military is now publicly acknowledging some shortcomings in the military's performance in the war in Lebanon. The military's preparedness and tactics were questioned when the battle against Hezbollah ended without a -- a clear-cut victory for Israel.

In a letter to soldiers, the head of the military said, "Alongside achievements, the fighting uncovered shortcomings in various areas, operational, logistical and command. We are committed to a thorough, honest, rapid and complete investigation of all shortcomings and successes."

Now, Prime minister Ehud Olmert is expected to decide within days how the investigation into the military will be conducted.

QUEST: Not satisfactory and missing a key sentence. That's Germany's reaction to Iran's reply to a U.N. offer of economic incentives if it stops nuclear work.

Iran had offered to immediately resume talks on its nuclear program, nuclear work. But the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, says Iran failed to say whether it would stop uranium enrichment.

Among other things, and other key Security Council members, France says there will be no negotiations until Tehran suspends enrichment. The U.S. says Iran's response falls short of U.N. demands. But Russia and China are urging more patience.

Iran races the threat of sanctions if it doesn't freeze nuclear work by August the 31st.

MCEDWARDS: Well, this diplomatic dance comes as a U.S. congressional report warns of significant gaps in America's intelligence on Iran. One lawmaker says he's convinced that Iran is just playing for time for its nuclear program.

Brian Todd has more.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): From key intelligence leaders in Congress, new warnings on Iran. While the regime weighs incentive packages and a deadline for suspending nuclear enrichment, they say, Tehran is also playing a familiar and dangerous game.

REP. MICHAEL RODGERS (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's beyond a shadow of doubt for me that they are trying to stall for more time to continue their uranium enrichment and the building of their nuclear program.

TODD: Congressman Mike Rodgers says Western leaders have been duped by Iranian diplomacy for the past three years. Rodgers is a key player in House Intelligence Committee's new report on Iran's strategic threat to the U.S. and its allies.

RODGERS: These folks are absolutely up to no good. They're developing ballistic missiles, they're developing and trying to enrich uranium. They have chemical and biological weapons programs.

TODD: Information that's not new but does raise new questions about Iran's intentions at this crucial moment in diplomacy.

For instance, the report says the regime has produced enough of a compound called uranium hexafluoride to produce 12 nuclear bombs if it's enriched to weapons grade. Still, U.S. intelligence leaders and outside experts have repeatedly said Iran likely won't be able to produce a nuclear weapon for at least four years.

Ready now, a delivery system for any nuclear weapon, what the report calls the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. A capability that experts say is rapidly being developed further.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: The Shahab 3, which is currently operational, has a range of 2,000 kilometers, can get to Israel. The Shahab 4, twice the range, 4,000 kilometers, can get to much of western Europe. The Shahab 5, also under development, could get all of the way to the United States, but they're years away from having that capability.

TODD: Between four and 10 years for those two longer-range missiles, according to John Pike of

(on camera): After repeated calls and e-mails, a top Iranian official at the United Nations told us he needed more time to study the House Intelligence Committee report, but he refuted the accusation that Iran is stalling for time on the nuclear issue, and he said his government is ready to begin negotiations at any time.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


MCEDWARDS: Well, still ahead on YOUR WORLD TODAY, in the United States, stem cell research has been dogged by politics, it's been very controversial.

QUEST: It has, but scientists say they may have found a way to avoid the ethical questions that have slowed down progress.

Navigating the minefield of stem cell research.



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.

An explosion just a short time ago at a former Army post in Louisiana. Only minor injuries are reported.

Two schools in the area were evacuated. About 800 residents in the nearby town of Doyline were asked to leave. Private contractors at the facility take apart unused military bombs and recycle them into parts.

Jamy Bell of the local fire department is on the phone with the latest on the evacuation.

Jamy, hello.

JAMY BELL, DOYLINE, LOUISIANA FIRE DEPT.: Yes, hello. KAGAN: Just how many people did you have to move?

We have approximately, from the town, approximately 800. Those who did not have transportation, we moved them to about six miles out of the perimeter. And we have since -- in the last 30 minutes, they're on buses headed to the recreational center in Minden, Louisiana.

KAGAN: And how far away is that?

BELL: About -- about 17 miles away.

KAGAN: And is that to suggest the situation is not under control yet at this plant?

BELL: We haven't heard. We noticed that the smoke has subsided and -- and that it seems that they may be getting it under control. But we haven't had it confirmed at this point. We're just still following through with our emergency plans and moving our people who do not have transportation to a safe place.

KAGAN: All right. We wish you well with those evacuations.

Jamy Bell from the Doyline, Louisiana, Fire Department.

Thank you.

BELL: Thank you.

KAGAN: Other news today, a fifth day locked up in a L.A. jail cell for Ramsey murder suspect John Karr. Colorado authorities don't seem to be in a big hurry to get him to Colorado. Once there, he will presumably face charges that he killed JonBenet Ramsey.

One new detail about the murder, Karr allegedly told an officer in Thailand that he had sex with the girl before she died. In another development, Karr's relatives have offered the book and film rights to their story to Hollywood producer Larry Garrison.

Garrison says he'll help them hire a high-profile attorney to defend Karr.

A controversial contraceptive makes a big breakthrough today. The FDA will allow over-the-counter sales of the so-called morning- after pill.

Health officials say women over 18 can purchase Plan B without a prescription. Younger girls still need one.

The drug lowers the risk of pregnancy when a woman takes it within 72 hours of unprotected sex. There's been a three-year political battle over access to the drug. It should be available by the end of the year.

The crew of the Shuttle Atlantis has arrived at the Kennedy Space Center. NASA's test director says the shuttle is in excellent shape and on track for Sunday's launch.

Six astronauts will undertake a home improvement project, you might call it, while they're in orbit. They're getting back to building the International Space Station.

And you can watch the launch of the Shuttle Atlantis right here on CNN. Tune in for special coverage Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.

And, of course, that's dependent on the weather and how things will look there in Florida.

Reynolds Wolf is taking a look right now at a different part of the world, South Carolina.



KAGAN: The Reverend Jesse Jackson heads to the Middle East. He's going to negotiate the release of those two Fox network journalists. But before he leaves, he talks to Kyra Phillips on "LIVE FROM" at the top of the hour.

Meanwhile, YOUR WORLD TODAY continues after a quick break. I'm Daryn Kagan.


QUEST: Hello, welcome back. This is YOUR WORLD TODAY. I'm Richard Quest.

MCEDWARDS: And I'm Colleen McEdwards. Here are some of the top stories that we are following for you.

A young Austrian girl who vanished eight years ago on her way to school has been found and she has been found alive. Natascha Kampusch is now reunited with her parents. She was found in a neighborhood northeast of Vienna. The man accused of kidnapping her died after throwing himself in front of a train hours after she escaped. He apparently had kept her prisoner in this area you see in these pictures, essentially in a basement.

QUEST: After 70-plus years of being amongst the top, being a planet, Pluto just wasn't big enough, apparently. It's getting used to life as being a dwarf. And it's not me saying that. Hours ago, the International Astronomical Union passed new guidelines defining what is and is not a planet, and poor little Pluto didn't make the cut. The former planet joins several other small celestial bodies in the new dwarf planet category.

MCEDWARDS: Well, a top U.S. general in the Middle East says a major U.S.-lead security clampdown in Baghdad has brought great progress. General John Abizaid also played down the possibility of a civil war in Iraq. Now, his comments are coming as bombings and shootings across Iraq killed more than a dozen people, including three U.S. soldiers. QUEST: Let's stay with Iraq, where there's much dispute on whether a civil war is underway. What is not in dispute is that Sunnis and Shiites are uprooting themselves, leaving mixed neighborhoods because they fear for their safety. Tens of thousands of people have now taken refuge in tent cities that have grown up across the country.

Earlier, I spoke about this refugee situation with Said Ismail Hakki, the chairman of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society.


DR. SAID ISMAIL HAKKI, IRAQI RED CRESCENT: The situation is very complex. It's a compound, complex problem. And it's not a Shiite versus a Sunni or Christian versus a Muslim. It's an organized situation that has been going on since March this year, and it's more or less snowballing.

QUEST: What resources are needed -- more resources are needed to deal with this refugee crisis?

HAKKI: Well, the Iraqi government is trying its best, and we have complete coordination with the Ministry of Migration and Displacement to more or less organize the situation in such a manner that we will do no harm to those people by having a refugee camp that is to the standard international standard. Also, make sure that -- as we know, there are more than 50 percent of them children, and school is coming in, so we need to allocate some teaching, some recreation, for those children.

QUEST: What do you perceive is the biggest stumbling block to, if you like, their returning to their homes?

HAKKI: One word, sir, and that is security.

QUEST: Then how can we square this circle, when we hear the head U.S. military commander saying that things are getting better in Iraq, and at the same time, you are telling me that the problem with these refugees returning home is their security?

HAKKI: Well, the military are right. And I'm not right, either. So it's -- the situation -- those people, they have problem with security. And the military say the security is getting better, the refugees are not getting better.

QUEST: Do you perceive -- let me take you into deep waters, if I may, sir.

HAKKI: You have already done that.

QUEST: Well, I -- yes -- well, you know. Then let's swim together. Do you perceive the country is getting closer to civil war?

HAKKI: That's a political question I cannot answer, I'm sorry.

QUEST: But you are having -- whichever way we cut this -- you and your organization are having to deal with the very real problem of a security situation that, in many cases, is bad and possibly getting worse?

HAKKI: Yes, sir. That is correct.

QUEST: And do you perceive there being early or easier solution to this?

HAKKI: Well, I hope so. I mean, this government is trying hard, the multinational forces are trying hard. As I said, it's a complex, compound problem. It's not an easy problem. There are fingers from outside, sir, in this. It's not only Sunni versus Shiite, Muslim against Christians. There are elements who want to destabilize the situation. There are certain foreign elements.


QUEST: Said Ismail Hakki, the chairman of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society.

MCEDWARDS: Well, still ahead here on YOUR WORLD TODAY, we're actually going to stay in the region and take an in-depth look at Iran, shall we?

QUEST: What Iranians think of themselves and their country's place in the world. We'll have that story for you in just a moment.

You're watching CNN.


QUEST: Hello. Glad you're with us. CNN International.

MCEDWARDS: Seen live in more than 200 countries across the globe, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.

Well, Iran has developed a sense of national unit when it comes to defending what it sees as its right to nuclear technology, and the rhetoric certainly reveals the passion here.

QUEST: Ah, but this is getting deeper and more interesting, because the West -- you all know this, of course -- is threatening Tehran with U.N. sanctions if it doesn't sensitive nuclear activities.

MCEDWARDS: Right, but what does the average Iranian actually think about Iran's defiant stance.

Aneesh Raman found out in this exclusive report which first aired on CNN's program "INSIGHT."


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Iran, where things are headed depends on who you ask. For the government, it seems, life couldn't be better. A month-long war between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah left Hezbollah still standing, and left Iran claiming vicarious victory.

"America, and England and Zionist regime," he says, "with all of the equipment, all the army they had, they faced a group of decent, devout young people, and those young people stood against them."

The conflict was the latest issue to fuel the unbridled anger towards the United States and Israel you find on the Muslim streets, anger that erupted in demonstration in Indonesia, to Malaysia, to Pakistan, to Iran, to Iran and beyond. All with one man with as its champion voice, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has called for Israel to be wiped off the map, and is inching in some parts of the world toward rock star status.

So it is no surprise days before a U.N. deadline to stop its nuclear program, Iran is showing no inclination to do so, calling instead for new negotiations, new talks to resolve what has, to this point, been unresolvable. It is newfound defiance, as this rising regional power continues to flex its muscles.

But defiance comes with a cost. And with the threat of U.N. sanctions, that' is where opinions start to differ.

For Iran's people there is immense pride in the country's nuclear program, especially among those in blue-collar Southern Tehran. Here it is all about making your daily wage and showing no weakness to the West.

"In my view" says Amir (ph), "if the government continues with the nuclear program, it would be better. Of course our officials know better. Whatever they decide, we will stand behind them."

Down the street another shop, another shopkeeper with no doubts. "We're not afraid of economic sanctions, says Majid (ph), "because this is not the first time they want to impose them. And in the eight years of war, we fought the entire world. The whole world imposed economic sanctions on us, but we rebuilt our country."

But head to northern Tehran, home to the more affluent, more moderate, and confidence is concerned. "Ordinary people," says 29- year-old man Peshman (ph) are very worried, "in the university, and in homes and workplaces, people are very concerned. I can see that. They are very afraid."

For Peshman's generation, economic sanctions will make a difficult life even harder. There is high unemployment, where young people are the majority. The median age is 25, and inflation keeps going up. This while the hope for economic progress, which the Iranian president has promised, has really not come yet.

But still sanctions, most tell us, Iran can take. It's the prospect of a military conflict that has people on edge.

This week, Iran's government launched a massive military exercise, war games set to take place over the next five weeks in about half of the country's provinces, showcasing a new defensive doctrine. "The war games are an operation across the county in a large scale," said the chief commander of the Iranian army, "and they are aimed at encountering all sudden attacks from enemies." The reference to sudden attacks is a not-so-veiled reference to airstrikes Iran could face from the West against its nuclear facilities, something that would drag Iran into a broader military conflict.

At one of Iran's war memorials, a solemn arch recalls a brutal past, the eight-year battle between Iran and Iraq. We came here to see if people are worried that the pursuit of a nuclear program could lead to another war.

"It is useless," says Ali, "to worry about an attack when a basic need of the people like nuclear energy is being threatened. We will pursue that right against anything."

People who believe in God, says Porbani (ph), "are not afraid of sanctions or attacks by the United States."

Nobody here is eager for war -- most fear it -- but Iranians are preparing for anything, as their government seems intent on remaining defiant on pursuit of new international clout, and in doing so ignoring, it seems, other issues at home, including human rights.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi recently told CNN her nonprofit legal defense group has been deemed illegal, and Ebadi faces arrest.

"What I do is perfectly legal," Ebadi told me, "and I don't plan on stopping. I will continue my work. It's up to the government to decide if it wants to arrest me or not, but since what I'm doing is legal, I will not stop." Not stop and do her work more forcefully, she says, since the world is only intent on talking about the nuclear Iran.

"The war in Lebanon, the nuclear issue, these problems had caused Iran's human rights,": she says, "to be forgotten."

There are many reasons Iran's government is refusing to suspend its nuclear activities. It feels a civilian peaceful program is its right. It has solidified domestic support around that, and will find it hard to now go back. And it keeps the world talking about Iran's nuclear activities and nothing else. Where that leaves Iranians, they know, is waiting to see what their government does next.

Aneesh Raman, CNN for "INSIGHT" in Tehran.



QUEST: Lesser mortals on other shows might have let disgraced former planet of Pluto shrink quietly into the shadows, but not us.

MCEDWARDS: No, never us. We're going to have more for you on the newly adapted definition of a planet. It appears that size really does matter, and Pluto is now a dwarf.

More when we come back.


QUEST: Now, you will excuse me. "The International Encyclopedia of Science and Technology" needs a bit of revision. Let me just cross this out, because in this worthy tool of science -- well, it's out of date. It's load of nonsense, because we've all got a bit of catching up in the science department. There was a vote this morning that has celestial ramifications.

MCEDWARDS: Barely published and already tossed into the trash heap ...

QUEST: Where it belongs.

MCEDWARDS: ...of textbooks where it belongs, Richard. One less planet to worry about, a whole new category to figure out. We'll probably need a new chapter in that book to figure that one out.

Well, joining us to explain all of this reshuffling is Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution's department of terrestrial magnetism. That sounds like a great department. So, Pluto, not big enough to make the grade here, and I can just hear parents, teachers, all around the world saying what now?

ALAN BOSS, CARNEGIE INSTITUTION: Well, we've actually managed to solve this rather vexing problem. For several years, astronomers have been arguing among themselves about whether or not Pluto should be called a planet.

And we finally now actually have an answer, at least from the astronomers. That doesn't mean that the textbook writers might not choose to do something other, but the astronomers now have a good, scientific-based definition that most people at the meeting that voted today approves of.

MCEDWARDS: So is it wrong now? I mean, if you get a test, and you say Pluto is a planet, is it wrong?

BOSS: It depends on who's grading the test, of course. If the astronomers are grading the test, yes it would be marked wrong. But if people who haven't heard about this decision are making the test, then I think Pluto is still a planet to them, and it may still remain a planet to folks who just don't want to give up their old ideas.

QUEST: Now, look, Alan, let's be honest. Pluto was always on dodgy ground, wasn't it, about being a planet? What's wrong with poor, old Pluto?

BOSS: The problem was that Pluto was discovered back in 1930. And at the time, we thought it was a rather large planet, perhaps comparable in size to the Earth or Venus. Now, over the years, we've realized through better measurements that it's actually quite small. It's more like the size of our moon, not the size of the Earth itself. And even worse, we now realize that Pluto is surrounded by a number of other objects which orbit the sun in much the same sort of area of the neighborhood of the solar system as it does, and it's merely one of many. It's really just perhaps one of the largest members of a whole swarm of objects that we've perhaps called hypervail (ph) objects.

QUEST: But does it matter? I mean, and why does it matter? And who cares about whether Pluto is a planet or not?

BOSS: It matters, in that Caltech professor Michael Brown recently found another object which is in a similar orbit to Pluto which is slightly more massive though. It's called Xena, as a place marker. And so the question has presented itself, what do we call Xena? Should we give it a formal name and call it a planet? Or should we just sort of ignore what's going on?

MCEDWARDS: Well, and that's where it gets interesting, because we're all focusing on Pluto being out, but what is going to be added into the mix? I mean, you know, tell me the textbook 10 years from now, what's the solar system going to consist of?

BOSS: Well, 10 years from now, if this IAU resolution which was passed today is -- manages to maintain itself, there will be eight planets which are the usual planets we know of, ranking from Mercury on out to Neptune.

In addition, there will be probably maybe a hundred or so, so- called dwarf planets, which is what was talked about today, which is basically an object which is not something which is large enough to clear out its neighborhood, but is large enough to be round. Pluto certainly meets that, as well as Xena.

In addition, the asteroid Ceres, which used to be thought a planet back in the 1800s will also be called a dwarf planet and there are dozens of other objects in the outer solar system which will also be called dwarf planets.

MCEDWARDS: It's going to be interesting. Alan Boss, thank you very much for helping us sort it out. Appreciate it.

BOSS: You're welcome.

MCEDWARDS: You've got to toss that book away, darling.

QUEST: I want my money back. I'm taking this back. I want my money back.

The scientists involved are taking it very seriously. It's time for us to give you a bit of aide memoir.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, here's a question. When you were in grade school science class, how did you learn the names of the planets? One of the most popular ways was with catchy phrases. Of course, here's an example. QUEST: My very easy method, just simply uses nine planets. You know, the letters stand for individual words: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.

MCEDWARDS: And other popular one, this one: My very educated mother just served us nine pies. You're going to have to change that.

QUEST: Change it to -- I have a new solution for you. If you want to know your planets, my very educated mother just said no.

MCEDWARDS: And that sounds like the final word. Perhaps with Pluto no longer a planet, that will be the chant of tomorrow's schoolchildren. We'll see, but it certainly is a sign that everything changes as we learn more. That's it for this hour. I'm Colleen McEdwards.

QUEST: And I'm Richard Quest. Join us tomorrow, because you never know what else may have changed in YOUR WORLD TODAY.