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Pakistan Bombing: Bhutto Stands Defiant and Vows to Continue Work; Suspected Pedophile Detained by Thai Police

Aired October 19, 2007 - 12:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: After a day of celebration, mourning. Dozens of funerals follow a parade marking Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan.
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: An international manhunt is over. Thai police nab a Canadian teacher accused of sexually abusing boys as young as 6.

HOLMES: A life cut short in South Africa's crime wave. The country mourning the death of reggae legend Lucky Dube.

MCEDWARDS: And it wasn't such a bad day after all. The French president gains public support amid a transport strike and an announcement of his divorce.

HOLMES: It's 6:00 p.m. in Paris. It is 9:00 p.m. in Karachi, in Pakistan.

Hello and welcome to our report broadcast around the globe.

I'm Michael Holmes.

MCEDWARDS: And I'm Colleen McEdwards.

From Jerusalem to Johannesburg, from Bangkok to Boston, wherever you are watching, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.

Well, a defiant and determined Benazir Bhutto vowed not to abandon her campaign to restore democracy to Pakistan.

HOLMES: Yes, the former Pakistan prime minister said she is mourning, too, the deaths of 136 innocent victims killed in the suicide attack, saying that they made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of democracy.

MCEDWARDS: Bhutto said the attack was not on her, but on what she represents. She said it was the unity and integrity of a democratic Pakistan. And while she didn't blame the government directly, she did question some things. For instance, she talked about the street lights failing to turn on after sunset.

HOLMES: Yes. She also said that this attack is against the principles of Islam.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENAZIR BHUTTO, FMR. PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: This was a dastardly and cowardly attack, the first in the history of -- the first in the history of Pakistan of multiple suicide attacks on a political leader. And as I mentioned, no Muslim can do this, no real Muslim can do it, because it is against our religion to kill women. And no real Muslim can do it because it is against our religion to kill innocent people.


HOLMES: The government of Pervez Musharraf warned Benazir Bhutto that it was too dangerous to return to Pakistan, but she ignored those warnings. Still, many of her supporters are blaming the government for not providing adequate security.

Jonathan Rugman has the story.


JONATHAN RUGMAN, REPORTER (voice over): Carnage after midnight. The second of two explosions turning Benazir Bhutto's homecoming from carnival to catastrophe. Over 130 dead, well over 200 wounded. Karachi's hospitals awash with blood.

Police claim they found the head of the suspected suicide bomber who had come just within a few feet of Mrs. Bhutto's bus.

CHRISTINA LAMB, JOURNALIST, "SUNDAY TIMES": Suddenly, there was this enormous blast and a huge wall of orange flames came across (INAUDIBLE). And everybody screamed "Down! Down!" And then shortly after it, there was a second one. I'm covered in blood, but it's not mine. It's somebody else's.

RUGMAN: Benazir Bhutto was quickly evacuated from the scene of this attempt to assassinate her. This supposedly bomb-proof compartment where she was writing a speech may have kept her alive.

Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, warned her that it was unsafe to return, and now the recriminations are flying. Survivors claim security was lax, that Islamic radicals within the intelligence services may have been involved.

SARDAR SHAUKAT KHAN, PAKISTAN PEOPLES PARTY: I think that is was the responsibility of the government who were responsible to give the protection to every citizen of Pakistan under the constitution. It was the responsibility of the government. Look into it, to give us tightened security (INAUDIBLE).

RUGMAN: Yet, Mrs. Bhutto knew the risks, and knew that no westernized leader here is safe. Al Qaeda this week said it wanted Bhutto dead, and her slow-moving convoy was a sitting duck.

Those who died in her place are filling hospital corridors here, where relatives search for those they've lost. One man told me he'd seen the attack on television. Now he's crying for his son, who was simply selling ice on the street when Mrs. Bhutto passed by. "We're glad she's here," the father said, "to help the poor. The government should have protected her."

Amid scenes like this, Benazir Bhutto and her advisers must decide where her campaign to become prime minister goes from here. President Musharraf has spoken to her, sent his condolences to her supporters, but their vision of sharing power together may not survive last night.

(on camera): For President Musharraf, the whole point of Benazir Bhutto's homecoming was that it was proof to his own people and to the Americans that this country was returning to democracy, but instead, the most powerful display of people power this country has seen in many years lies in tatters. And you dread to think just where this country's heading next.

Jonathan Rugman, Channel 4 News, Karachi.


MCEDWARDS: Well, a worldwide manhunt has ended with the arrest of a suspected pedophile in Thailand. Police say Christopher Paul Neil was caught approaching underage boys in a town north of Bangkok.

Matthew Chance has more now on this arrest and the 32-year-old Canadian school teacher who was snared in an international dragnet.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the police here are calling it a triumph of cooperation between law enforcement agencies because this truly was an international manhunt that ended today with the arrest of Christopher Paul Neil, the 32- year-old Canadian national suspected of being a very prolific pedophile not just here in Thailand, but also in other Asian countries as you mentioned, like Vietnam and Cambodia as well.

The Thai police were so pleased with their work, with the progress they made in just eight days since he was photographed entering the country, that they called a press conference in the center of the Thai capital, Bangkok. They paraded Christopher Neil in front of the television cameras.

He were wearing a blue T-shirt, covering his head at first. He didn't want to show his face. But then in front of the reporters in the press conference, he took that T-shirt off. He kept on a pair of dark sunglasses throughout the whole press conference for which he was there for. He stared in front of him, he didn't say a word, refusing to answering any questions before finally he was led away by the police in handcuffs.

The Thai authorities though said that so far all they have had from him in their questioning is confirmation of his name, Christopher Paul Neil, the 32-year-old Canadian national. They have not had any admission as yet of guilt from him for the abuses that he's alleged to have carried out against a range of about a dozen underage boys. As I say, in those countries in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

Their investigations are continuing. We understand that at least three Thai people, Thai boys, underage boys, still, have stepped forward to the authorities and they have identified Christopher Neil as a man who abused them in Thailand in the past. And so what the Thai authorities are now doing is trying to build a case against this suspected pedophile so they can bring charges against him and perhaps get him to face trial in a Thai court.

Christopher Paul Neil now faces days of intense police questioning to try and establish what abuses he may have carried out. It's not clear where he will eventually face trial, whether here in Thailand, or in his home country of Canada, which has strict anti- pedophile laws. But for now, at least, one of the world's most hunted suspected sex offenders is no longer at large.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Bangkok.


All right. Let's check some of the other stories making news this hour.



MCEDWARDS: All right. You are watching YOUR WORLD TODAY.

HOLMES: Yes. Still to come this hour, making their voices heard. Thousands of young Kurds in northern Iraq tell (INAUDIBLE) government not to attack their region.

MCEDWARDS: Plus, getting ready for the big match. Our Michael Ware will preview Saturday's rugby World Cup final between England and South Africa.

HOLMES: And later, parts of the southeastern United States turn into Tornado Alley.

Stay tuned.


HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone, to CNN International and YOUR WORLD TODAY.

MCEDWARDS: We are covering the news the world wants to know and giving you some perspectives that we hope goes deeper into the stories of the day.

And we are going to begin this segment in northern Iraq.

Kurdish leaders are defiantly vowing to fight back if Turkey invades their area to stop attacks by PKK rebels, as they're own. Turkey's parliament authorized military action earlier this week. Massoud Barzani, the regional president, says, "If they attack the region under whatever pretext, we will be completely ready to defend our democratic experiment."

The Kurdish region is different from most other areas of Iraq. It is prosperous, it's relatively stable, and as Nic Robertson tells us, its leaders aren't the only ones acting defiant.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Beneath the Kurdish flag, united in one voice, schoolgirls, students march in swift reaction to Turkey's decision to allow its army into Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope that one day they will realize that what they are doing is wrong. And it really hurts us. And I can't describe it, really. A very bad situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the Turkish soldiers, please, to their government, please, we can stick by their diplomatic way.

ROBERTSON: More than 10,000 gathering in the relative safety of the Kurdish capital, Irbil.

(on camera): The mood here is almost relaxed, friendly, not very threatening. But the message is very, very clear -- the Kurds are deeply unhappy about what they fear Turkey may be planning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our history is witness. We defend Kurdistan against any enemies.

ROBERTSON (voice over): Frustration is running deep over Turkish claims that fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, launched terrorist attacks inside Turkey from hideouts in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

ARDASHER BARZANI, ADVISER TO KURDISH REGIONAL GOVT.: Kurdistan doesn't support any terrorism against any of our neighbors, and we just want to live in peace with -- and, you know, with Turkey.

ROBERTSON: Barzani lived 28 years in Florida. It's typical of middle class Kurds returning to reconstruct the region. He is conflicted. To rebuild they need Turkey.

BARZANI: The biggest, you know, project is the Irbil airport. And who's building it? The Turkish companies. Water projects, you name it, you know. Many, many projects in the Kurdistan region are being built by Turkish companies.

ROBERTSON (on camera): So this doesn't make any sense then?

BARZANI: It doesn't. It doesn't.

ROBERTSON (voice over): His rational thinking seems to have less appeal to the younger crowds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want freedom and we are free. And then, if you don't know your -- we will fight. OK?

So, thank you. You're welcome.

ROBERTSON: For this new generation, Turkey's decision is proving a political awakening -- Kurdish nationalism that won't be easily curtailed.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Irbil, Iraq.


HOLMES: United Nations envoy Ibraham Gambari says he plans to visit Myanmar again in November. He says that he hopes to meet with the opposition as well as the government.


IBRAHIM GAMBARI, U.N. ENVOY TO MYANMAR: We would like China and India and everybody else, whoever (INAUDIBLE) because the situation appears to show a window of opportunity which we must -- we must seize so that there is no return to the status quo ante, because that is totally unacceptable and not sustainable.


HOLMES: In the meantime, Myanmar's ruling junta says it is taking another step towards democracy. Myanmar's military-led government says it's going to create a committee to draft a new constitution that it says will eventually lead to free elections.

Many are calling that a sham, that they've heard it all before. And also, the party of democracy activists, Aung San Suu Kyi, which actually won the last election that was held, isn't even participating in this process.

U.S. President George W. Bush is to announce additional sanctions on Myanmar in the next hour. He is scheduled to make a statement at 17:50 Greenwich Mean Time. That's about 90 minutes or so from now. And for our international viewers during YOUR WORLD TODAY, we're going to be bringing you that live when it happens.

MCEDWARDS: And just ahead on YOUR WORLD TODAY, rugby mania.

HOLMES: England is in. So, too, South Africa's mighty Springboks. Will Saturday's World Cup final go down in history with the rest of rugby's greatest?

We'll have a preview.


And later, Republican candidates vie to see who can be the most conservative at the voter values summit. John King talks with one of them, the former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee.

It's going to be after this. (NEWSBREAK)


MCEDWARDS: Welcome back to our viewers joining us from around the globe, including the United States, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY. I'm Colleen McEdwards.

HOLMES: I'm Michael Holmes. Let's update on you the top stories to the minute.

Oil prices hitting new high in online trading, briefly passing the $90 a barrel mark. Analysts say one of the reasons spurring demand for crude is the exceptionally weak dollar. Many investors switching to oil in order to hedge their bets. Also concerns that all stocks will remain tight over the northern winter.

MCEDWARDS: An international manhunt has ended in Thailand with the arrest of suspected pedophile Christopher Paul Neil. The Canadian English teacher is accused of having six with underage boys and then posting pictures on the Internet. Police displayed Neil at a news conference on Friday and gave more details about the arrest.

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto condemning the suicide attack on her motorcade that killed 136 people and injured hundreds more. Despite the attack, Bhutto is vowing to continue her work to restore democracy in Pakistan.

MCEDWARDS: So, what does a suicide attack against a candidate say about the political process and the situation in Pakistan right now? Joining us from Washington is Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Ali Durrani.

Ambassador, thank you for being here. How concerned should the United States be about stability in Pakistan, given this attack?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI, PAKISTANI AMB. TO U.S.: Well, I think what this attack has done to my understanding has done contrary to what the terrorists wanted. I think it has galvanized the liberal forces and it has galvanized all the liberal political parties to work together.

The president of Pakistan and Benazir Bhutto have spoken to each other and they have said that we have to get together and fight this menace. So it's -- you know, some silver lining.

MCEDWARDS: Do those talks have a tone of civility, because a lot of Benazir Bhutto's people, around her, are blaming the government for failing to provide enough security?

DURRANI: I think that is a bit unfortunate, but I can understand that people who are in that carnage, they tend to blame people. But I think the government provided all the security that it could, even the president of Pakistan, with all the security he has, and he was hit. And he was moving in a fast motorcade. Here is a movement of about one mile in three hours. In fact, they covered about five, six miles in 10 hours, with crowds milling around, going up and down, and providing total security in such an environment is very, very difficult.

MCEDWARDS: Was this a bad call, though? Should Bhutto have either delayed coming back, or should she have come back in a way that was much more brief, much more low-key than this?

DURRANI: Well, I suppose she's a political person, and she was greeted by her political party. She's come back after eight years, so I can understand the sentiment of her party people, and I can understand her willingness to work the crowds. But, of course, that carries a cost.

MCEDWARDS: Mr. Durrani, or Ambassador Durrani, the suggestion is out there that this could have been an inside job, either from someone within the government or a rogue element of the government, and I would like to hear your response to that.

DURRANI: No, no, that is very unfortunate. It is totally incorrect. I'm very confident that it is neither a rogue element, nor an inside job. You know if we float around these things, we will not be able to catch the real culprits. We need to all focus on catching the culprits and you can't do that in five seconds.

There's an investigation going on. And the president of Pakistan had ordered the provincial government and the federal security forces to move on a fast basis, and leave no -- leave unturned to find out who it was done by.

But I totally disagree, and it is unfortunate, but I can understand why it is done sometimes. But it is unfortunate, blaming the government agency.

MCEDWARDS: How, though, Ambassador, is the Pakistan government going to handle the next couple of months of campaigning before this vote in January? With the security situation being so difficult, with these perpetrators potentially still out there, and with all of these allegations back and forth against the two sides?

DURRANI: Yeah. I think, one, the allegations shouldn't be there. There should be no blame game. It will only strengthen the bad guys. I think all the liberal forces have to join hands, work together. But, of course, the campaigning has to be careful. One cannot do the campaigning like one did 10 years ago. The security situation is not the same. So it has to be done carefully.

You cannot move from point A to B, which is, let's say, 10 miles in 24 hours. That you can't do. You can't do that under the present security environment. So, the government and the political parties will need to work with each other to develop a plan where, where the risk is minimized.

MCEDWARDS: Ambassador Durrani, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much for your thoughts. We appreciate it.

DURRANI: Thank you.

MCEDWARDS: Michael. HOLMES: All right. British singer Amy Winehouse was arrested in Norway overnight. Winehouse, whose best known song is ironically "Rehab" has openly battled drug addiction. She was briefly arrested for marijuana possession after the drug was allegedly found in her hotel room in Burgan, in Norway. Winehouse was last in the news when her father-in-law suggested no one buy her music until she gets help with her drug problems. Police say her husband and another person were also arrested. They were later released.

It was no illusion, FBI agents did raid magician David Copperfield's Las Vegas warehouse. And much like the mystery surrounding Copperfield's acts, it's not clear why the warehouse was searched. One report says the FBI seized more than $2 million, and some computer equipment. A Seattle police spokeswoman would only say a woman filed a police report over the summer, making an accusation against Copperfield. Police did not say what the accusation is, but referred to the woman as an alleged victim. Copperfield's attorney isn't commenting so far.

MCEDWARDS: Great Britain is home to several large immigrant groups, including almost 1 million Polish exiles. Even though they are far from home, they are still a powerful voting block that politicians would love to tap into. Robin Oakley explains.


ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN EUROPEAN POLITICAL EDITOR (voice over): British supermarkets, recognizing there are upwards of a million Poles now living in Britain and Ireland have been stacking their shelves with Polish goods to appeal to their taste buds.

But it isn't just the food industry which has recognized the need to advertise its wares to this growing community. With an election going on back home, Poland's politicians, too, have been vying to reach the exiled audience in Britain.

Yalaslav Kuchinski (ph), the prime minister from the Law and Justice Party is running for office in Warsaw. So, too, is his leading opponent, Donald Tusk of Civic Platform. The votes cast by Poles at 20 voting venues across Britain will be totaled with those cast in the Polish capitol, a prize worth having.

Journalists at the "Polish Express" newspaper in London, and Polish Radio London, have been keen to stoke the debate with contributions from party leaders.

PAWEL KAMIONKA, NEWS EDITOR, POLISH RADIO LONDON: We have all the studies about political preferences of Poles. One day there is Law and Justice winning. The other day, Civic Platform is winning so the competition is very tight. I think maybe that's why they -- they think politicians think that, that it will make a difference. That the immigrants will make a difference.

OAKLEY: Tusk flew in for a whistle-stop tour of London, Glasgow and Dublin, to speak to exiled audiences. Not everybody, though, approved of his message. Many Poles living in London are keen to vote. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Polish and I think it's very important what's going on in my country. So, of course, I will vote.

OAKLEY: But some are happy to escape the Polish political scene as well as low Polish wage levels.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm not interested in this election, because I think the politics in my country is rubbish.

Ania Heasley, who runs a recruitment agency for Poles in Britain, says many take an interest in Polish politics, but don't feel they ought to vote.

ANIA HEASLEY, ANIA'S POLAND AGENCY: Quite a few of them say that because they are hear and because they plan to stay here for a while, they don't want to vote in the Polish elections because in a way they're don't want to interfere. It has nothing to do with them, because they are here in Britain and they're quite happy.

OAKLEY: Britains have been denied the election many were expecting this autumn, but the million or so Poles living here do have the chance to vote. The evidence is that in Britain, at least, the opposition Civic Platform are in the lead. Robin Oakley, CNN, London.


HOLMES: Well, a conservative U.S. presidential hopeful with some old-fashioned ideas.

MCEDWARDS: Yeah, will it be the right message with American voters? And what are the chances that a former Arkansas governor, minister, and self-proclaimed health addict running on the faith and values ticket can add presidency to his resume?

HOLMES: A live report from Washington after the break.


HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone, to YOUR WORLD TODAY, right here on CNN International.

MCEDWARDS: We're seen live in more than 200 countries and territories across the globe.

Well, there was a bit more elbow room on the U.S. presidential campaign trail right now. Republican Senator Sam Brownback is backing out of the race. Sources familiar with the Kansas senator's campaign say that he has a small war chest, less than $100,000 in it. That is beyond small. That is minuscule. So far, Brownback is not throwing his support to any of the other hopefuls, but he is expected to endorse the eventual Republican nominee.

HOLMES: Other Republican U.S. presidential hopefuls would love to woo Brownback's supporters, of course, to their camps. Voters could be key, of course, conservatives in this campaign. Many of the GOP candidates are attending the Value Voters Summit going on in Washington. CNN's John King tells us what that is, and what's going on there.

Hi to you, John.


As the gathering of about 2,500 mostly Christian conservative activists from around the United States, 48 of the 50 states represented, here. And that Christian conservative base of the Republican Party has yet to settle on one candidate.

You mentioned Senator Sam Brownback getting out. His support was very small but what report he did have did come from this part of the party, Christian conservatives who oppose abortion, who oppose same- sex marriage. One of the candidates hoping to step into that void, if you will, and pick up support of these activists is another of the little known activist, like Senator Brownback, said to be in the second tier; he is Mike Huckabee. He is the former governor of the state of Arkansas. For 12 years he was a Baptist minister before he got involved in politics.

I asked him yesterday, well, might he have to get out of the race, too? Because like Senator Brownback he is having trouble raising money. But Governor Huckabee told us, no. He says, in fact, his poll numbers are going up and that the money continues to trickle in.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the good news for us is, yesterday, polls came out in Iowa showing we are tied for second place. So it's not about the money, it's about the message. And our message is resonating. And the more the message resonates the more the money comes in.

We're in a position where we've only seen only one direction. That is we have continued to go up. I'm confidence that that's what is going to continue to happen, particularly as we approach the Iowa caucuses, which is a perfect environment for a candidate like me, because the Iowa caucuses is all about grassroots, all about the organization.

The recent poll by "The Des Moines Register" showed that not only was I in a very strong second place position in Iowa, but among those who had really made up their minds, and were totally committed I was in first place. That was, I think, most significant for us.

KING (on camera): One of the things they have talked about, that if somebody who does not agree with them on the sanctity of life, if, say, a Rudy Giuliani wins the Republican nomination, a candidate who was pro-choice on abortion, has been, in their view, pro-gay rights. If he were the nominee they talked about splintering off and sponsoring or supporting a third party candidacy. Good idea?

HUCKABEE: Not a good idea. I mean, I think what that does is similar to what happened in 1992, when Ross Perot came in, it would ensure the election of yet another Clinton, we would potentially have 28 years of two families in the White House. I don't think that's a good idea either.

I got a better idea. Just coalesce around Mike Huckabee and you have the candidate that meets the criteria, and a candidate who can win Democrat votes and within the election. That's what we have to have in order to be competitive in 2008.

KING: And if push comes to shove on that issue, let's say Mayor Giuliani did win the nomination. And there were some saying maybe we should splinter off. Obviously, people would be looking for cues from other leaders. You are a pastor --


KING: Come out of the Southern Baptist Ministry. Would you speak up and say, no, we have an obligation to support our Republican nominee even if it were Mayor Giuliani?

HUCKABEE: We have a reality to face that a third party candidate is not going to win and I'm not sure why we would put the effort -- when the effort ultimately results in the election of somebody that we want even less than we may want Rudy Giuliani.

HUCKABEE: Do you have any unique insights into Hillary Clinton that you think Republican voters should know about, as they think about their candidate?

HUCKABEE: You know, I tell people I know her better than anybody else running for president. Here's what I know about her. She's very intelligent. She's extremely disciplined, very focused. And people will underestimate her as a political candidate at their own peril. When I hear Republicans say, oh, I hope Hillary is the nominee, she will be -- she's the one we want, I'm saying, hmm. You may want what you get. I'm not sure you're going to get what you want.

KING: You spent a dozen years as a minister, leading a congregation. In reading through the clips, there are some who have been in your congregation who use terms like God has called him to do this, or he believes God wants him to do this. Help me understand the role of God, not just in this campaign but in your daily life.

HUCKABEE: It gives me a peace and freedom and liberty that a lot of people don't have. They're so worried about what do the cartoons say about you, what do the editorials say about you, what the latest polls say?

I put my head on the pillow and I just want to make sure that the Father above is pleased. If he is, then, you know, I can't please everybody else. I know I never will be able to. I don't have to. So in essence I can say I got one client I have to please.

KING: Did you feel a calling to run, or is that an exaggeration when people say things like that?

HUCKABEE: I think it's an extension of my whole life, my ministry, my work. I'm not going to go around saying God wants me to be president because last time I checked, God is not registered to vote in any of the primary states. Now, if he shows up to vote I'm going to certainly solicit his support.

I don't think that's how it works. We don't think we try to somehow invoke God into our plans. We try to make sure we are in on his. Sometimes people pray so they can change God's mind. I think that's nonsense. You pray so that you can know his mind.

KING: Once people start voting, the money will only keep coming in if Governor Huckabee is doing well for me. Lay that out for me. How does it have to go in Iowa, New Hampshire, and beyond?

HUCKABEE: It is often said that there are three ticket out of Iowa, first class, business, and coach. We have to be on that plane coming out of there. I think that's pretty evident. We will be. I think, also, in New Hampshire we're seeing our strength and organization and grassroots grow. This is a perfect state for me because the politics of New Hampshire are very similar to the politics of Arkansas.


KING: Now, sometimes that open discussion of the role of God in politics is somewhat surprising to our viewers around the world. It is very prominent here in the United States, especially in Republican Party politics.

And, Michael, as the social activists gather over the weekend, you have the ultimate intersection, if you will, Christian conservative activists saying they want to hear more discussion of faith, of religion and of God in the public square. And they are looking at these eight Republican candidates for president right now.

It is a very unsettled field. So, the voice of these activists the choices of these activists could be critical. The first contest in deciding who will be those presidential nominees now just 10 weeks away, 11 weeks maybe, here in the United States -- Michael.

HOLMES: And counting. Thanks. John King there reporting for us.

MCEDWARDS: Well, what a difference a day makes, especially in politics.

HOLMES: You might have heard that one before. But for the president of France, it's not a cliche. We will tell you why. Stay with us.


HOLMES: Well, hasn't seen a great week for Nicolas Sarkozy.

MCEDWARDS: You could say that. But the French being the French, the divorce is actually not costing him in the polls.

HOLMES: They don't care, they really don't. The transit strike is mostly over, so things are looking up on that front for the French president as well.

MCEDWARDS: Our Jim Bittermann is in Paris.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN INTL. CORRESPONDENT (voice over): French workers were abandoning their posts -- and so was the first lady. But contrary to initial reactions it may not have been such a bad day for Nicolas Sarkozy after all.

For one thing, the protest over his pension reforms were smaller than expected. According to police estimates, 150,000 took to the streets in a country where protests sometimes number in the millions. And public opinion surveys indicate that as many as three out of five French believe the president should stand up to the strikers, not concede.

NICOLAS TENZER, CENTER FOR POLITICAL STUDY: All the polls are showing it very clearly. All of the opinion is in favor of these reforms.

BITTERMANN: At the same time as the confrontation in the streets, Sarkozy confirmed that he had a confrontation going on at home, with his wife Cecelia, and that the couple was getting a divorce. But she was not getting much sympathy because of her earlier very public cheating on her husband; and a less-than-coherent newspaper interview in which the woman who chose first to marry a TV star, then the man who would be president, now claims she wants to live her life in the shadows, the way she always wanted.

On the streets outside the presidential palace, he was getting the sympathy, not her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody knows that she's -- she's very difficult and she has always a mess.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, she is divorced with Nicolas, or maybe that is good for the president.

BITTERMANN: Public opinion pollsters say they will not be surprised if their next survey shows Sarkozy's tumultuous week has actually made him more popular, not less.

JEROME SAINTE-MARIE, BVA PUBLIC OPINION (through translator): Nicolas Sarkozy went through a test by fire, and for voters, especially, on the right, he has triumphed.

BITTERMANN (on camera): Political observers say, too, while his marriage is over, Sarkozy's honeymoon with French public opinion could go on for sometime yet, because the opposition remains disorganized and it's former presidential candidate, Segolene Royal, announced some months ago that she, too, has separated from her life partner. Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.


HOLMES: There you go, indeed. That will do it for this hour. I'm Michael Holmes. MCEDWARDS: And I'm Colleen McEdwards. You are watching CNN.

HOLMES: Have a great weekend.