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Your World Today
Global Criticism Over Saudi Arabia; International Murder Mystery; New Evidence in American Teenager's Disappearance in Aruba; Football World Turned Upside Down
Aired November 22, 2007 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: There was global criticism over Saudi Arabia's plan to lash and imprison a rape victim, but why are many governments keeping silent?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: International murder mystery, a mystery of suspect detained in the death of a British student in Italy says he's not guilty. But won't be fighting extradition from Germany.
MCEDWARDS: An old case, new evidence, more than two years after an American teenager disappeared in Aruba, three suspects re-arrested.
HOLMES: And a brave and perhaps familiar face, a tale of hope and strength from an Iraqi boy as he recovers from horrific burns.
MCEDWARDS: It is 8:00 p.m. in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It is 6:00 p.m. in Perugia, Italy. Hello and welcome to our report seen around the globe. I'm Colleen McEdwards.
HOLMES: I'm Michael Holmes. From London to Los Angeles, wherever you are watching, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.
And we begin with increasing international outrage over a controversial case of gang rape, controversial because the victim is being punished.
MCEDWARDS: Exactly. Saudi authorities say the young woman was in the wrong place with the wrong person, and their suspending her sentence of 200 lashes plus prison time. And that is triggering an outcry from human rights groups and some politicians as well. They say Saudi officials who condone barbaric practices should not be welcomed so warmly when visiting western countries. Paula Hancocks explains.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Criticism of the treatment of a rape victim in Saudi Arabia has been global. Outrage, that a 19- year-old woman was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in jail for being with a man who was not a relative when both of them were abducted. But many governments have been conspicuous in their silence. U.S. Presidential candidates slammed the verdict. Opposition politicians in Britain followed suit. But those in power have been silent.
VINCENT CABLE, ACTING OPPOSITION LEADER: The British government and the Americans are very deeply involved with the Saudi government, partly for security reasons, partly for commercial reasons, and this has led them to pull their punches on human rights.
HANCOCKS: Britain and the United States are Saudi Arabia's largest foreign investors. Saudi Arabia is Britain's largest trading partner in the Middle East, with huge defense deals pending. One member of the ruling labor party says money should not be allowed to trump human rights.
JEREMY CARBYN, BRITISH POLITICIAN: If we believe in human rights, if we believe in U.N. conventions, if we believe in the convention of torture, then it should apply to everybody, whether we like the country, like the leaders, don't like the leaders, do business with them or don't.
HANCOCKS: A few weeks ago, the red carpet was rolled out in Britain for an official visit by the Saudi king at considerable expense to the British taxpayer, Queen Elizabeth II welcomed King Abdullah, 13 members of the Saudi royal family and more than 200 royal servants and security personnel. Human rights groups are calling on the king himself to intervene and drop the charges against the rape victim. And reinstate her lawyer who had his law license revoked for talking to the media.
LAMRI CHIRO, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: We would hope that countries allied to Saudi Arabia to raise this case with the king in particular and to say that this woman is a victim of a horrible crime and should not be punished further than what has happened to her.
HANCOCKS: Saudi authorities insist the rape victim's sentence was consistent with the kingdom's law. Paula Hancocks, CNN, London.
MCEDWARDS: And coming up later this hour, we will get some insight into Islamic religious law known as Shariah, and its influence on the way some Muslims earn and spend money.
HOLMES: The latest now on the -- in the murder of that British exchange student, Meredith Kercher. Well, the latest suspect says he's not going to fight extradition from Germany where he was arrested. Prosecutors say the initial extradition process could take a week or more. That's just procedural stuff. Almost three weeks ago now, Kercher's half naked body was found at her home in Perugia with a stab wound to the neck. A report from the Italian judge says Kercher may have been sexually assaulted.
The latest suspect that we mentioned there, Hermann Guede is maintaining his innocence as are the other two suspects being held in Italy. Jennifer Eccleston has been following the story from the start, joins us now with the latest. It just gets more and more bizarre with more and more complex cast, Jennifer.
JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As each day passes, as you mentioned, more and more bizarre, more and more complicated. On the eve of her incarceration, Amanda Knox gave the statement to the police and the CNN obtained a copy of it, today where she appears fatalistic. She claims that evidence is stacked against her, despite her numerous exhortations that she did not kill Meredith Kercher. She then, in this statement contradicts herself, saying she's not sure what happened that night. She calls it like a dream and she maintains that she was at her boyfriend's apartment that night, smoking marijuana and that's the reason why her recollection is confused.
In the statement, that she asked for pen and paper to write it down before the police, she says that the stress and the pressure of the events led to her differing accounts of what happened. One of the more bizarre aspects, of this statement, Michael, she says that in flashbacks, she sees Patrick Lumumba killing her roommate. And then she asks herself, why does she think he's involved? It's a question and no answer. And this is very important because it was based on that evidence that the police detained Patrick Lumumba for two weeks. He was released earlier this week for lack of evidence. So it's a very confused picture of this woman, a very confused young woman, Michael.
HOLMES: So, what happens now? We wait for this so-called fourth suspect or I suppose now is really a third suspect to be brought back to Germany -- to Italy. Then what? Because, this can take awhile, can't it? And under Italian law, all the suspects can be locked up for quite some time.
ECCLESTON: Yes, absolutely. There are still four suspects as of now. The prosecution office here maintains that Patrick Lumumba is still a suspect. They just didn't have enough evidence, firm evidence to keep him in prison and that gets back to your point. Here in Italy, they are allowed to hold suspects during an investigation in jail for up to a year. Its subject to review, lawyers have to put in the reasons why they feel that the suspect should be detained. They couldn't do that with Lumumba so he left. It's an incredibly confused picture.
We are seeing a lot of forensic data coming out. In fact, today we learned a very important development. Forensic lab in Rome said that there was no DNA from Meredith in Raffaele Sollecito's sneakers. He's the boyfriend of Amanda Knox, also in prison. Despite that, the prosecution still maintains it was his bloody footprints that were found on a duvet in Meredith Kercher's room. They also found today that his computer was on the night of the murder, but there was no proof that he was using it. That's his main alibi. He said he's home, he was home that night surfing the net.
So, so many different pictures of this story coming out, so many different pieces of evidence. As you said, it's going to take awhile for them to put it together and then charge the people, let alone go to trial.
HOLMES: Yes, all right, Jennifer, thanks for the update. Jennifer Eccleston there in Rome.
MCEDWARDS: Well, speaking of puzzling twists and turns in a case, a major development in the case that has taken many twists and turns, puzzling investigators for years. Three men have been re- arrested, and this is in connection with the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. She's that American teen who vanished during a trip to Aruba. Susan Candiotti brings us up to date.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Whatever new evidence authorities have on Joran Van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers is being kept under wraps for now. Natalee Holloway's father tells CNN's Nancy Grace show the investigations come full circle.
DAVE HOLLOWAY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S FATHER: They have been investigated for the last two and a half years, and hopefully with what they say that they have, this new evidence, maybe we'll finally get some answers.
CANDIOTTI: Last spring, Dutch investigators returned to the island and dug up again part of the Van der Sloot property and re- visited the Kalpoe' home. They returned to Aruba last month and now say they have new incriminating evidence. Whatever police have, one defense attorneys says it must be scrutinized.
MARK EIGLARSH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's been two years since they presented evidence in front of a judge. Now they are doing it again. I, from a defense perspective, would argue that now they have a little bit more of something and they are giving it another try to see if they can get an indictment.
CANDIOTTI: It took a week for police to begin searching the small Caribbean Island after Natalee disappeared. Two days after that, authorities finally picked up the boys from the bar for questioning. Van der Sloot claimed at one point, he left Natalee drunk on the beach and walked home by himself. About two weeks later, his father, a judge, was arrested, then released. A landfill was searched. A pond was drained. Every inch of the island, it seemed, was covered. But still no Natalee.
Law enforcement sources said the boys' stories had changed repeatedly. Things didn't seem to add up. Yet in July 2005, the Kalpoe brothers were released, as was Van der Sloot two months later. All were freed for lack of evidence. Van der Sloot left to attend college in the Netherlands. The Kalpoe brothers went to their lives on the island. Last year, Van der Sloot said he's being wrongly portrayed as a suspected rapist and murderer and he seemed concerned over Natalee's welfare.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did it seem like a wrong thing to do, leaving a girl on the beach like that?
JORAN VAN DER SLOOT, SUSPECT: At that moment in time, for me it wasn't the wrong thing. I mean, it's not something a real man would do. It's not normal, it's not right at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you did it?
VAN DER SLOOT: Yes.
CANDIOTTI: A former deputy police chief in Aruba who worked the case tells CNN he suspects Natalee was not left at the beach, but went home with Van der Sloot. That she may have been weakened by alcohol and possibly drugs and may have collapsed. He suggests the boys panicked and "Got rid of her." Van der Sloot is expected to be extradited to the island in the coming days. The Kalpoe brothers will be in court Friday. Authorities say they expect to reveal some of their new evidence then. Susan Candiotti, CNN, Miami.
MCEDWARDS: As we just heard from Susan right there, Van der Sloot was picked up in the Netherlands where he is attending college and he's facing a court hearing there today, in fact. Phil Black is following this part of the story for us. He joins us now on the line. From the town of Ornum. Phil, have we learned anything more about this new evidence?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not so much on the new evidence, but what we do know now is that Joran Van der Sloot will be relocated to Aruba. That is the ruling of a district court judge here in the Netherlands just within the last hour or so. The reason, well, it's quite simple. Officials describe it as a formality really, because the Netherlands and Aruba share a common legal jurisdiction. The judge here had little choice but to approve the order issued by a judge in Aruba for Van der Sloot's return. We spoke to Van der Sloot's lawyer after the hearing. It was brief and closed. But he says, that his client is bitterly disappointed by this.
He was absolutely surprised at his arrest. He was not aware that he was under further investigation. And he very much felt that he had left the events on that island more than two years ago, well in his past. And he was on his way to creating and rebuilding a stable life. We now know that is certainly not the case. The key question, though, as you mention, is what do we know about this evidence? Well, it wasn't mentioned in the courtroom itself. So, we still do not know why the police and the investigators in Aruba have acted. What they believe they now have on these three suspects. We are not expected to find out until Van der Sloot is returned to Aruba.
MCEDWARDS: All right, Phil Black, for us. Phil, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
HOLMES: All right, in the United States, it is Thanksgiving Day. A time to give thanks for all the good things that have happened in your life.
MCEDWARDS: It is, indeed. And still ahead here on YOUR WORLD TODAY, one Iraqi boy with so much to be thankful for. He's getting a new chance at a normal life after surviving a horrible attack in Iraq.
HOLMES: Also, U.S. troops recuperating from war wounds, send messages back to their units. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MCEDWARDS: An air of festivity in New York. It's the huge, wonderful U.S. tradition.
HOLMES: Is that a turkey? It is.
MCEDWARDS: It is a big turkey.
HOLMES: That is one big turkey. We are talking about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, of course. This year featuring two dozen floats, 1900 cheerleaders, dancers and singers. I counted.
MCEDWARDS: Yes, I'm sure you did. And that turkey, don't forget. Of course, Santa Claus as well, making a traditional early appearance. The day after Thanksgiving, of course, marks the start of the big holiday shopping season in the United States.
HOLMES. Yes, they call it black Friday, don't they? But they don't mean black, just a big day for shopping. A lot of retailers is going to open their stores as early as 4:00 a.m. Gosh, are you crazy?
MCEDWARDS: That's an early bird special.
HOLMES: We get up that early because we have to go to work.
MCEDWARDS: Santa is happy about it.
HOLMES: He is.
MCEDWARDS: Get out there and spend your money.
HOLMES: And you can get those crazy things, too. There will be video tomorrow of people falling over each other.
MCEDWARDS: Yes, rushing into stores.
HOLMES: $200 big screen TVs.
MCEDWARDS: Makes you wonder what the hot toys are for this year. We should find out.
HOLMES: I'm sure we will hear about it.
MCEDWARDS: All right, we're going to update you now on a story that has -- we have been following all the way along and has captured the hearts of people all over the world.
MCEDWARDS: Yes, you may remember Youssif. And this is a great day to update it. He's the little Iraqi boy whose face was badly burned in just an appalling attack.
HOLMES: Gasoline poured over him by insurgents and was set on fire. He's now in California, has been for a little while, recovering from several surgeries, many more to come.
MCEDWARDS: And today, he is celebrating his first American Thanksgiving. Arwa Damon gives us an update.
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's eight weeks since we last saw Youssif but the changes are obvious. For now, the surgery on his burned scars make his face look worse, before it gets better. But mentally, he's a happier child. More outgoing.
It makes me happier than he is to see him like this, his father, who doesn't want to be identified, says. The family is about to experience an American Thanksgiving, an almost unimaginable contrast to the day in Baghdad in January when attackers dowsed Youssif in gasoline and set him on fire. But first, a day to build Youssif's self-confidence.
We're at canyon creek camp near Los Angeles. Keely Quinn with the Children's Burn Foundation is leading a day for kids who are burn survivors.
KEELY QUIN, CHILDREN'S BURN FOUNDATION: It is a day of fun, but we're also going to do some activities that are a little more challenging and confidence-building.
DAMON: There are three kids here with their families. Youssif's, 7-year-old Walter, burned in a car accident, and 4-year- old, Domi, who was burnt in an accidental explosion.
I'm not scared, Youssif declares, watching the others scale the wall. That is until he actually got up there. But here everyone's a hero. Something that's reinforced by Bonnie, burned when she was 18 months.
BONNIE WEATHERBEE, BURN SURVIVOR: We're not freaks. We're not contagious.
DAMON: All these families have dealt with hostility or ignorance. But not here. The families draw themselves and build homes. Safe places. This is Romi, Youssif says. There's glitter, too. Youssif has never seen it before. I lose the glitter war. Despite the laughter, the past months haven't been easy.
It's hard being a foreigner, his father says. God willing, things will go well. The doctor said the next surgery is going to be harder, and that we need to be ready for that. His mother, Zena (ph) breaks down just thinking about home. But the mood lightens when we talk about Thanksgiving. We're all going to Keely's house.
QUIN: They are making fun of my cooking.
DAMON: They don't know much about the holiday, but Youssif's family knows how lucky they are to be here.
MCEDWARDS: He is a happy little boy. Arwa Damon joins us now from Los Angeles. She's been following this, of course, from the beginning. Arwa, let's just talk about his prognosis. And you know, how much physical pain he is in these days. You can see those areas on his face where I assume doctors are trying to expand the skin for their next round of surgery.
DAMON: That's right, Colleen. That swelling that you're seeing underneath his chin and in his right cheek, that is due to the tissue expanders that were placed there some two months ago, and over the last two months, the doctors have been injecting them with saline solution. The intent is to create good skin. In his upcoming surgery, they are going to be removing that thick scar tissue and stretching the good skin over it. He is in a great amount of discomfort but when it comes to pain, as his parents put it, theirs is a child that has learned -- that has learned what extreme pain really is, so no matter what he goes through here, it's nothing compared to what he initially went through in Iraq.
MCEDWARDS: Yes, boy, that's a stark way to hear it but I'm sure it's absolutely true. Arwa, thank you so much and Happy Thanksgiving.
HOLMES: Yes, that's we were talking before. Arwa is being with that from the start. She tell you that she can be anywhere in Syria or Europe, or whatever and she'll get the occasional phone call asking her to translate. That's run in the family in (INAUDIBLE) within California.
MCEDWARDS: I'm sure, she's been really helpful. A great story.
HOLMES. Yes and having been in Baghdad with her, two things. She can't cook and she does like glitter. So, don't hear anything to the opposite.
MCEDWARDS: Oh, now we know her secret.
MCEDWARDS: Coming up here on YOUR WORLD TODAY, a black day in English football.
HOLMES: She's going to kill me.
OK, the manager of England is sacked, the country's in shock after Croatia knocks England out of the European championship.
MCEDWARDS: And later, this isn't the first time Lebanon finds itself on the brink of political chaos. That's for sure. But why should the rest of the world care what happens? We're going to tell you why after this.
HOLMES: OK, welcome back, everyone, to YOUR WORLD TODAY. A big, big story out of England. Not happy English, by the way. They're football world turned upside down, the national team's rather shocking 3-2 loss to Croatia at home.
MCEDWARDS: Exactly. And this defeat knocks England out of the running for the European championship. HOLMES: Involving reports now from London, the repercussions swift and starting at the top.
JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They say it's only a game, but in England, football is a religion. And on Wednesday night, the national team lost to Croatia on England's home ground, Wembley, known as the cathedral of football. The coach, Steve McClaren, refused to fall on his sword after the team failed to qualify for the 2008 European finals. So, the Football Association acted fast.
GEOFF THOMPSON, THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION: After meeting of the board this morning, the FA board unanimously decided to terminate the contract of the England head coach, Steve McClaren with immediate effect.
BOULDEN: McClaren only lasted 18 months.
STEVE MCCLAREN, ENGLAND HEAD COACH: I'm not making any excuses. We have 12 games. We have enough games to do it. And I could make all the excuses about conditions, about injuries, about bad luck, decisions. But ultimately, these 12 games and we failed to qualify.
BOULDEN: The English press, which happily digs into the personal lives of players and managers and questioned every move on the pitch, were never really behind McClaren anyway.
Why didn't England press give McClaren enough time?
HENRY WINTER, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: Because he wasn't good enough. We have capable in certain areas, in the media, in terms of the pressure that we puts on being a manager, certainly personalizing, so professional failings.
BRIAN WOOINOUGH, DAILY STAR: The fact of life in England is no gray areas. You are either great or you're nothing. And I think there was a problem with McClaren from the word go.
BOULDEN: The Football Association now has to find someone who is brave enough to face the press, mold millionaire players and plicate the fans. One candidate who showed up at FA Headquarters in a squirrel costume wasn't even allowed to apply for the job. Now, attention turns to who would actually take the England job. The betting has already begun. Some of the betting shops here are putting in the odds. You see the favorite there, Jose Marino. The question is, would he actually want to come and take this job? And at 500 to 1, if you really think you might be able to make some money here, David Beckham had a great second half to the match last night. You may be able to put some money on the fact that David Beckham could indeed be the next England manager. Unlikely, though. Jim Boulden, CNN, London.
MCEDWARDS: At least we can put some faces to the names now. HOLMES: Yes, exactly. I think Jim Boulden mask there.
MCEDWARDS: You can probably start some sort of betting thing going for him.
HOLMES: You could, yes. And we'll start a campaign. Jim Boulden for England Manager, couldn't be worse than the last boy.
MCEDWARDS: He may not appreciate that, actually.
HOLMES: Maybe not.
All right, moving on, the nuclear question.
MCEDWARDS: Yes, still to come here on YOUR WORLD TODAY. Iran saying it has nothing to hide from IAEA inspectors. That's the latest international nuclear conference though some are still very skeptical about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
HOLMES: And later, one man gets close to the growing humanitarian crisis in war torn Somalia. You are watching CNN.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers joining us from more than 200 countries and territories around the globe, including, this hour, the United States.
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: This is YOUR WORLD TODAY. I'm Colleen McEdwards.
HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes. Time to bring you up-to-date on the top stories to the minute.
The latest suspect in the murder of the British exchange student, Meredith Kercher, says he's not going to fight extradition from Germany. Rudy Hermann Guede is maintaining his innocence, though, as are the other two suspects being held in Italy.
MCEDWARDS: Well, the three original suspects in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway have been rearrested. She's the American teenager who vanished during a trip to Aruba back in 2005. Well, police are now saying that new material has led them to detain Joran van der Sloot and the brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe. All three still maintaining their innocence.
HOLMES: And the lawyers for a victim of a gang rape says global outrage over her punishment may help reform the Saudi judicial system. That woman was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison for being alone with a man who was not a relative. She was then seized and taken away where she was raped.
And that case is putting a spotlight on what's known as Sharia law. Its strict implementation. Sometimes its harsh penalties. Critics call it an unjust and antiquated form of justice. But that condemnation on the one hand is paired with accommodation on the other. The Saudis, of course, have a lot of oil and they have a strategic role in the Middle East. Even beyond the Saudi's borders, when it comes to Sharia law, there is money to be made from devout Muslims. Jonathan Mann with some insight.
JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Sharia literally means the path or in some translations the path to water. For a desert society, like the one founded by the Prophet Mohammed, following the right path to water was a matter of life or death. But for others, it's a matter of money, a path to profits.
What you may not realize about Sharia is that it's not some strange little system used in marginal little places. Sharia has a powerful and revered influence on the legal systems of dozens of countries around the globe, more than 30 by our count. And it's much more than just a legal code. It actually governs the way that hundreds of millions of Muslims handle things, day to day things like hygiene, personal relations and investing.
That's a lot of people with a lot of money. And more and more non-Muslims are looking for ways to capitalize on it. Under Sharia law, investing in companies that sell things like alcohol or tobacco or pornography is not allowed, not surprising. But Sharia law also forbids making money from money. In other words, you can't earn interest. That cuts into where you can put your cash. So western financial institutions are creating new ways to comply.
Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Merrill Lynch, HSBC, Morgan Stanley, all of them have entered the Islamic banking business. They don't pay interest, they share profits. They don't charge interest, they collect fees. It's a $500 billion industry in Islamic checking accounts, Islamic credit cards. Even Islamic mortgages. Islamic law is implemented a lot of different ways in different places, but count on someone to figure out how to make Sharia good to the shareholders.
Back to you.
MCEDWARDS: Jon Mann, thanks very much for that.
To Iran now where the top nuclear negotiator there says the country's nuclear program poses no threat to the international community. Saeed Jalili made his comments as he opened a one-day international conference on Iran's nuclear program. He said that the world sees Iran's positive role in Iraq and Afghanistan, that's his words, and he repeated the government's insistence that its program is simply to make electricity, not bombs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAEED JALILI, IRANIAN NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR, (through translator): All the countries that believe proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or even the availability of weapons of mass destruction would be detrimental to international peace and security can cooperate with us on this common view. Islamic republic of Iran is one of the serious opponents of weapons of mass destruction. We believe that such weapons are illegal, illegitimate and even ineffective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCEDWARDS: It sort of makes you wonder whether or not Iran can convince the world that its nuclear goals are entirely peaceful. Well, joining us on the line for more on this, Middle East correspondent Aneesh Raman who is in Tehran for us.
Aneesh, it also sort of makes you wonder why a conference like this would be happening now.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Colleen, as you just suggested, this conference was important, not for what was said, but for who was there. Jalili said nothing new. But kicking it off was him, Iran's new, chief nuclear negotiator. More hard line than his predecessor and a key ally of President Ahmadinejad. In the audience, academics from 12 countries around the world, specialists in nuclear technology who worry, Iran says, here to ask questions.
Now we don't know how provocative the debate got during the sessions, how provocative some of the answers were, but overall it was a clear attempt by Iran to not only show some level of international transparency, but also international backing.
Now, why this, why now? It is becoming more and more apparent, Colleen, we are entering in 2008 the critical year on this issue. By the end of next year, three things will have happened. Iran will have a viable nuclear program. One will have been prevented by an attack or diplomatic compromise will emerge. Now that's all been ongoing as options, but by the end of next year more and more people say the status quo of sanction after report after sanction will be exhausted. So the stakes rising, Colleen.
MCEDWARDS: What does this all mean for Ahmadinejad, though, Aneesh? I mean you point out, these guys are allies.
RAMAN: Yes, this is a critical time for him. On one side you have Ahmadinejad growing more hard line by the day. Just yesterday he said something very important, that the fight for nuclear power is more important than nuclear power in itself. That's critical because he's trying to change the debate internally and paint compromise- minded moderates of anti-patriots. Nationalism is more important now than nuclear energy.
And on the other side you have its critics who are growing. A paper close to the supreme leader recently questioned Ahmadinejad's charges, Colleen, that some of the former nuclear negotiators were traitors. So the stage overall is set for next year to be determinative.
And the next key question that we're looking for is, who wins next March's parliamentary elections? Is it Ahmadinejad's supporters or a coalition of critics? The answer to that will fundamentally affect the world. Colleen.
MCEDWARDS: Aneesh Raman in Tehran. Aneesh, thank you.
HOLMES: Well, Lebanon, meanwhile, on a collision course with political chaos. And there's no solution in sight. The Lebanese parliament is scheduled to meet Friday in Beirut to try, once again, to elect a new president or choose one. But there are indications that session is going to be canceled as well. The current president is Emile Lahud. His term expires midnight Friday.
But pro and anti-Syrian lawmakers are still at odds over who should succeed him. Failure to find a compromise, well, obviously, that could lead to a vacuum of power, perhaps even worse, two rival governments. This, of course, is not the first time Lebanon has faced a political crisis. Indeed, the country's recent history is one of almost constant factional fighting, political maneuvering, friction with Syria. What's different this time around? Let's check in with our Beirut bureau chief, Brent Sadler, for some insight into the current situation.
Of course, Brent, with politics being a numbers game in Lebanon, the numbers game could also mean assassinations to bring the numbers into a situation where we find ourselves at these loggerheads.
BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, it can, Michael. In fact, the presidential election has been overshadowed for quite some time by political assassinations. In fact, right now, members of the western-backed parliamentary majority are holed up inside a 45- Beirut hotel in emergency session right now. One of the leaders who is backed by Syria, allied with Hezbollah, is on television live at the moment, offering himself as a compromise candidate. That's General Mishal Aloon (ph), a powerful Christian leader. But that's rejected by the western-backed majority led by Saad Hariri, whose own father was assassinated back in February 2005.
These are nail-biting hours over the next day because the past several weeks, top-level mediators, particularly France, but also Saudi Arabia, Jordan and others have been piling into the Lebanese capital, trying to break this bitter deadlock. But a chasm still divides the two sides. No compromise candidate coming out, no name. And so far it seems very likely that the parliamentary session itself may yet be not canceled (ph), but not confirmed, for a fifth time.
HOLMES: Now, of course, in regional sense, what we've got there is a pro U.S. government in an increasingly anti-U.S. region. What's the broader implication of a vacuum or multi government in Lebanon?
SADLER: Well this, quite simply, is seen as a power play between Iran and the United States, with Syria very much locked into this. And, of course, Hezbollah. Hezbollah is Syria's staunch ally. Its benefactor is Iran. And it is Hezbollah, you can hear some of the noise behind me, that's been camped out in downtown Beirut for almost a year on the doorstep of the western-backed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
It's quite possible that the -- in the dying minutes of President Emile Lahud's term in office, it's been nine years now, that when he steps down, he could name -- it's been suggested by some analysts, an interim military governor. It's also being suggested by some within the parliamentary majority backed by the U.S. and the western general that there could be a simple 50-plus one majority by parliamentarians who have to meet outside parliament to push through their own choice. But the worst case scenario, Michael, as you said, two rival governments and the country bracing itself for possible violent backlash, the army and security forces on full alert right now.
HOLMES: Ah, you touched on the one last thing I was going to put to you, Brent. Of course, it's always the civilian population that seems to be on the rough end of the stick, so to speak. What is the fear among the people you go to dinner with, the people you are hanging out with? Is there a fear that chaos is possible?
SADLER: Certainly there are very many Lebanese who will not be sleeping easily this night. A lot of the Christian communities here, all the Muslim sectors of society, very serious concern that with reports of various groups arming over many months that there are now plenty of guns out in the communities, some of them rival communities in the capital itself and elsewhere.
Also in this country, the United Nations has some 13,000 soldiers in the south. Concern at the international level that if this unravels badly and violently, that Lebanon could once again be thrown into violent turmoil once again.
HOLMES: Our Beirut bureau chief Brent Sadler there reporting.
Thanks so much, Brent.
Amazingly important couple of days there.
HOLMES: And lots of potential for fallout there.
MCEDWARDS: Yes, absolutely.
Still ahead here on YOUR WORLD TODAY, we're going to take you to Somalia where an exodus of people is accelerating.
HOLMES: Yes. Nearly 20 years of anarchy, now an Islamist insurgency, concern that civil strife in Somalia is spinning out of control.
MCEDWARDS: Is the world looking the other way here? Stay with us.
HOLMES: To a tragic and sadly familiar scene in Somalia. Bombed-out houses, bodies in the streets.
MCEDWARDS: Hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes. The U.N. is calling it the forgotten emergency in Africa.
HOLMES: Yes. And as Jonathan Miller (ph) now shows us, the crisis may get worse before it gets any better.
JONATHAN MILLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): They still run for cover, but the only place left to run is away. Away from the hell hole that Mogadishu has become once again. And 600,000 now have fled, a third of them in the past two weeks alone.
The blood letting is relentless. It has been for weeks now. Probably hundreds dead, hundreds more wounded. No one really knows. Amid violent chaos and suffering, so awful that finally it's forcing the world to take notice.
Downtown, our Somali camera man happened across a spontaneous demonstration against the Ethiopian occupiers, blamed by residents for the (INAUDIBLE) engulfed their city.
"We begged Allah," she says, "to end this occupation."
This woman blames President Bush who backed the Ethiopian invasion. "He's the problem," she says. "Bush has confused Islam with terrorism."
Among these people, a masked insurgent, an Islamist.
"Worse is to come," he warns. "Long live Somalia."
But it doesn't come much worse than this, the U.N. says. That's the body of an Ethiopian soldier, one of several caught by insurgents and dragged through the streets by a mob in a scene reminiscent of 15 years ago. When the U.S. Black Hawks went down, American bodies were dragged through the streets.
The Americans pulled out, but Ethiopian troops are locked down in Somalia. Bogged down in a quagmire. Christian troops in a Muslim land.
This is the aftermath of the reprisal for the desecration of the dead Ethiopian soldiers. Their biggest humiliation so far. Ethiopian tanks shelled civilian homes. A house-to-house hunt ensued as they searched for insurgents. Many civilians killed and wounded.
SAIDI ALI OSIBILE, MOGADISHU RESIDENT, (through translator): The Ethiopian troops came in. All the men in the neighborhood ran away and we locked our doors. They were shooting all night until 9:00 in the morning. You've seen all the bodies, the wounded. They didn't spare anyone. The (INAUDIBLE) bled to death because no one could reach them. They've left us in this mess to suffer. May God drive them out.
MILLER: The reprisals triggered the latest exodus. Mogadishu residents fled in the tens of thousands. Our camera man was trapped in this building, pinned down for two days and two nights, terrified, unable to move.
Medina Hospital, the only functioning hospital in the capital, filled up with injured. They're used to gunshot wounds, shrapnel wounds here. More than 5,000 injured in Mogadishu so far this year. One hundred and ten casualties, though, from just one night.
DR. HASSAN OSMANIS, MEDINA HOSPITAL DIRECTOR: But they'll also tell you, you know, as long as (INAUDIBLE) for this kind of situation, for eight years. And it is one of the difficult days we have here so far I'd say.
MILLER: Ahdoya (ph), once a sleepy, fruit-growing town 20 miles east of the capital, 200,000 people have now sought refuge here, half of them since the beginning of November. Little huts clutching the landscape just like Darfur, but this is a humanitarian catastrophe that the U.N. now says is the worst in Africa. They call it the forgotten emergency. Telltale signs of a nation on the brink of famine.
Our camera man went back to find these two acutely malnourished children he had filled in October. They're no better. And now they have been joined by more.
These children are very ill. The head of the U.N. in Somalia says most in here are likely to die. Few aid organizations are prepaid to brave the lawlessness. There are unknown thousands unable to make it to makeshift emergency centers. Somalia's unreached and unscene. Malnutrition rates now nearing 20 percent among under five, way over the U.N.'s emergency threshold.
There are dire warnings now that as the insurgents said things will indeed get worse. The U.N. secretary-general has publicly stated that a peace-keeping mission is neither realistic nor viable. The harvests failed. Violence prevents aid getting through. And as the bloodshed relentlessly escalates, Somalis fear they have been forsaken.
MCEDWARDS: And, again, that was Jonathan Miller reporting there.
Aid groups, such as the World Food Program, are now responding to the crisis in Somalia.
HOLMES: Yes. But because the country's so dangerous, food and supplies often just sit just miles from the people who most need it.
MCEDWARDS: Yes, it's tragic.
HOLMES: Yes. OK. Ahead on YOUR WORLD TODAY, thousands of U.S. troops dealing with permanent war wounds. MCEDWARDS: Even though they're home, they're still thinking of their comrades back in the war zone.
HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone.
Americans celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday today with family, friends, food, colleagues.
MCEDWARDS: Yes, as we are right here. Not everyone gets to spend the day with their loved ones, of course. Especially if they happen to be in the military.
HOLMES: Yes. Barbara Starr spoke with several wounded U.S. servicemen who wanted to send their Thanksgiving greetings back to their comrades overseas.
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): This Thanksgiving, Specialist Joseph McLosky is recovering from having this leg amputated. But he's a soldier with a plan.
SPEC JOSEPH MCLOSKY, U.S. ARMY: And I'm to (INAUDIBLE) get a prosthetic and start walking. Walk my butt out of the hospital. So that's what I want to do.
STARR: Recovering isn't stopping these wounded troops from sending holiday greetings to buddies still on duty.
MCLOSKY: I'd like to say happy Thanksgiving to my guys who just got back from Iraq. Hope they're doing all right. And my friends that are still in Iraq. And I hope you guys are staying safe and happy Thanksgiving.
CPL. JEFFREY REFFNER, U.S. ARMY: Hi. This is Corporal Jeff Reffner at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I want to say happy Thanksgiving to all the troops in Iraq and some of my fellow soldiers back here in the states, Jeff and Para (ph). Sorry my voice is so hoarse. I was at the Springsteen concert last night.
STARR: We're showing IED fragments that put this officer in the hospital.
LT. RYAN MILLER, U.S. ARMY: Hi. My name's Lieutenant Ryan Miller. I'm from third squadron, second shocker (ph) cavalry regiment. And I just want to say happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow wolf pack soldiers still back in Iraq right now.
STARR: At the end of a hall, in a room by himself, we meet a young soldier who may not have the happiest of holidays. Mark Hodge is receiving chemotherapy for the leukemia he developed after being wounded in Iraq.
SPEC. MARK HODGE, U.S. ARMY: Hey, what's up? This is Specialist Mark Hodge from the 173rd in Italy. I want to wish everybody in the second 503, the rock, happy Thanksgiving. And I wish everybody well. Peace.
STARR: He says he doesn't expect any family holiday visits, but he doesn't want anybody to feel sorry for him.
HODGE: We're OK. We really are, you know. We'll pull through it, that's for sure.
STARR: One more year, another holiday season, America's wounded trying to recover.
Barbara Starr, CNN, Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
MCEDWARDS: And a happy Thanksgiving to everyone celebrating. That's it for this hour. I'm Colleen McEdwards.
HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN. Stick around.
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