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CONNECT THE WORLD

Clashes in Libya and Bahrain; North Korea Celebrates Birthday; U.S. Border Patrol Agent Murdered in Mexico

Aired February 16, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: The turmoil in the Middle East reaches Libya. Shocking scenes from the city of Benghazi reaching us via the Internet.

But his is what the government wants you to see -- their supporters in the capital, Tripoli, on state TV.

Later, Mexico's drug war join us in a little known town that's being called the world's most dangerous place.

And a birthday bash North Korean style.

These stories and more tonight as connect the world.

Here's now the latest from Bahrain, Egypt and Tunisia.

But we begin in Libya, where anti-government protests have now reached the doorstep of the Arab world's longest serving leader.

(VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: This video just surfaced on Wednesday on YouTube -- dramatic scenes of unrest in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city. CNN can't confirm the authenticity of the footage filmed on Tuesday. But it is supported by a hospital report in Benghazi that says dozens of people were injured in clashes with police. You won't find this video on state TV, though, but you'll see this.

(VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Libya's TV says several cities held demonstrations like this on Wednesday in support of the leader, Muammar Gadhafi. An independent source in Libya tells CNN the government is conveying the message that it is willing to address the grievances, but will not tolerate calls for regime change.

Tunisia is to its left, Egypt is to its right and Libya is sandwiched right between the two countries were revolution succeeded in toppling a president. So you can see why the regime has plenty of reason for concern.

Earlier, I talked with Libyan journalist, Ramadan Jarbou in Benghazi.

He says the streets are calm now, but Tuesday was chaos.

RAMADAN JARBOU, JOURNALIST: The clashes were really tremendous. I mean they were not your -- of -- your usual type or even the Egyptian. There has been some violence, yes.

I counted maybe 1,000 or 2,000, something like that. There were seven or eight people injured. And they got (INAUDIBLE) and then calmed down.

FOSTER: And is it your impression that this is being inspired by what happened in Egypt, in which case, can we expect to see another Egypt type scenario where you are?

JARBOU: People are aware of what's going on in the world. There were satellite stations all over. And we do have Internet, Facebook and Twitters and everything. I can't say that it doesn't have an effect, it does.

There are some demands from the poor -- from the young -- the younger generation, under 30. They have -- there's a high rate of joblessness. There is no housing combination (ph), things like that.

But linking the two on the same event in one, I mean it -- it's natural. People will link them.

FOSTER: As I understand it, the images on the TV screens there in Libya are really dominated, though, by the pro-government rallies in Tripoli.

Are you hearing anything on the state TV about anti-government rallies?

Or is it a pro-government demonstration really dominating there do you think?

JARBOU: Well, I think it's a reaction. I mean the government will defend itself by all means. The majority thinks we need reform, we need a review of what -- what we have been with, what we are doing now, what we will do tomorrow. And this is a current that's actually more or less accepted by the -- by the high po -- the high authorities in Libya.

People sometimes get, you know, not fed up, but they get (INAUDIBLE) of the pace of reform.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

FOSTER: Well, over in the Persian Gulf, protesters are digging in and setting up camp in the capital of Bahrain. Many hope Manama's Pearl Roundabout will become the next Tahrir Square. Demonstrators want political reform in the majority Shia country that's ruled by a Sunni royal family.

Jonathan Mann has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For a third straight day, thousands of people took to the streets of Bahrain demanding change. Videos are popping up on YouTube showing thousands of activists marching in the capital, Manama. They're calling for better jobs and housing and government reform.

Wednesday's protests are described as peaceful. But the president of one human rights group says that's because police are absent. Two revolutions were shot and killed in earlier clashes with security forces and the interior ministry says those involved in the shootings have been taken into custody.

Bahrain's king has promised a government investigation and the government is encouraging people to march to support the king.

NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, "NEW YORK TIMES" COLUMNIST: Earlier in the week, there was no question but that there was a concerted, deliberate effort to use a truly stunning amount of -- of force. The -- when you had very small groups of peaceful protesters, even of women just sitting unthreateningly on the ground. The riot police would charge them, fire extraordinary amounts of tear gas at them, shot rubber bullets at them. And that was what led to the first fatality.

MANN: Bahrain is a hub for banking and financial services in the Persian Gulf linked to Saudi Arabia by a causeway built across the sea. It's also a key Washington ally and home to an important U.S. Navy base.

I'm Jonathan Mann, reporting.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

FOSTER: Well, our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, just arrived in Bahrain. He saw a pro-democracy rally underway near the airport and he's now at the Pearl Roundabout in Manama.

And Nic joins us on the line -- Nic, we're going to look at live pictures from where you are right now.

Just describe who these people are and what they're doing.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a very relaxed, peaceful demonstration here. And it's very organized, as well. The are people stirring huge, huge pots of tea and handing out food. There's a place to charge your mobile phones. There are tents all up around the square. And there are pictures around the square, photographs of some of the people that have been injured and killed already in the protests here. Those are pinned up here.

There's a lot of people wearing the flag of Bahrain around their shoulders, flying it high above them on -- on -- on long poles. And it's - - it's a very relaxed atmosphere, mostly young men, but plenty of old men, plenty of families, groups of women sitting around, sharing sandwiches with their children even this late at night, even a man sitting on the back of a truck slurping a shesasho (ph) -- a shesa pipe (ph).

So it's -- it is a very relaxed atmosphere.

But -- but what people come up to you and tell you about here, in quite a relaxed manner, is that they do want to see changes, that they do want to see restrictions on what jobs the Shia community can have here in Bahrain, on what -- they're concerned about an influx of Sunnis into the country and they say the government is giving them passports too readily, breaking restrictions that are normally applied to people who need to get through, who want to get residency in the country.

So those are the sorts of things people here are talking to me about - - Max.

FOSTER: And you've been in Tahrir Square recently, in Egypt.

Are there parallels between the two, would you say?

ROBERTSON: Well, people here, when I talked to some of them and asked them that question, they say, yes, this is -- this is our Tahrir Square, this is why we have come here, this is why we have -- we've marked one place and we're going to continue to gather here. And they say that they'll be back here tomorrow or they won't leave, many of them, a camp here.

And they say they'll have a big demonstration here on Friday, as well.

So they certainly see the parallels. The organization here, in just three days, already, probably outpaces what we saw in Tahrir Square, the number of large, well organized tents here, the -- the -- the food that's already stacked and piled up.

But I must say, the cars that are driving by here, there are some -- there are really some top end cars, as you might expect in -- in a Gulf state, driving around as part of this protest -- Max.

FOSTER: OK. Nic Robertson, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us from Bahrain, at the scene of those latest demonstrations in that region.

We'll go to Egypt now, which inspired all these protests, to find out what happens post-revolution. After the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the hard work of building a democracy has only just begun there.

Today our Fionnuala Sweeney spoke with a prominent opposition leader, Ayman Nour.

And she joins us now live from Cairo -- hi, Fionnuala.

FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello there, Max.

Well, Dr. Ayman Nour is probably Egypt's best known politician, internationally. He's a liberal. He's a former political prisoner. And he's a former presidential candidate against Hosni Mubarak.

Now, he and his party have joined the opposition solidarity movement. But his primary concern is that while individuals and parties, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, have been invited for talks with the new military rulers of this country, albeit temporarily, he and his party have not.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AYMAN NOUR, EGYPTIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: We refused to negotiate with Omar Suleiman when Mubarak was present. I said I won't sit in the meeting room with a picture of Mubarak behind my back. But we are now willing to negotiate with the army, but until now, we have not received any invitation from the army for dialogue. We will take on the presidential elections. If we don't receive an invitation to participate in the reforms, we will analyze and see if the reforms align with our liberal principles. If they do, we'll accept them. And if they don't, we will refuse them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SWEENEY: Well, I think that demonstrates one of the many front lines as Egypt makes its transition to democracy.

Now, a couple of days ago the military government announced that a commission had been established to look after the constitution. They have to report back within 10 days, make amendments and proposals which will then be put forward in a popular referendum to the people.

Ayman Nour's main chief concern and that of his party is that, A, he hasn't been invited to those talks, and, B, under these constitutional amendments, he's not allowed to run for office. And that might still be the case if these reforms don't come out favorably for him -- Max.

FOSTER: So, Fionnuala, what do you expect to happen next in terms of this post-revolutionary process there in Egypt?

SWEENEY: Well, it is a process. And it's going quite smoothly, it has to be said, albeit with a few stops and starts.

The main concern for the people of Egypt seems to be poor wages, poor working conditions and extreme anger at corruption in the country.

So we've seen many demonstrations in and outside Cairo about that over the last few days.

The military government are -- are happy, it seems, for the moment, to let people vent. But their patience is not infinite and this was said to us by the new finance minister, Samir Radwan, yesterday.

I think what we have to wait and see is whether the army is leading the people into democracy or the people are leading the army. And the point has been made by many observers here that the army is a caretaker government and really should be following the people.

So the demonstrations and the protests, the cour -- the country's government is moving forward on the question of the frozen assets. Today, the foreign ministry said that a cable has been sent to all their embassies around the world asking that their ambassadors get in touch with those countries that have been out to freeze frozen -- freeze assets belonging to the former officials of the Hosni Mubarak regime.

And today, two or three more people were added to that list, a former agriculture minister and two officials.

So on that front, the finance minister telling us that the country wants to move forward on that issue to please the people, but the government saying they don't want to carry out a witch-hunt.

FOSTER: Fionnuala, we're going to leave it, in Cairo.

Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

Well, we've looked, then, at Egypt and Bahrain and Libya. But remember Tunisia's revolution started all of this.

Our Neil Curry visited Tunis to see how life has changed after a longtime dictator was forced into exile.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEIL CURRY, CNN PRODUCER (voice-over): One month on from the so- called Jasmine Revolution, this is the Rue Bogiba (ph), the main street in the center of Tunis. In the space of about half an hour, we saw people sucking coffee, chatting and going about their general business. We were moved on by the army for getting a little close with our cameras and we ran into a demonstration against the European Union and interference by the EU, as they see it.

He says: "Tunisia now, after the revolution of its population, is searching for its own independence. And now it's a sovereign state," he says, "Tunisia has its own destiny in its hands."

Just 10 meters further up the street, we met a group of break dancers who said they were disappointed because their lives hadn't really changed since the revolution.

He says: "We have some kind of freedom, but we don't know what are the limits of these freedoms and I personally don't feel that the revolution has answered all of my goals in Tunisia."

A few meters away, we see a sign of appreciation for Facebook, the social media network used by many here to organize the demonstrations which led to regime change.

Others are on the street to give thanks to the military for their role in the transition of power.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are here today because we want to support the army to -- the Tunisian Army, because they protected us since the Jasmine Revolution and we'd like to -- to show our love and our support to them.

CURRY: Tunisia has lifted its overnight curfew, but the continuing state of emergency, in theory, forbids public gatherings of more than three people. In practice, everywhere we looked along this one street, different groups gathered to discuss issues important to them. Some felt let down by the interim government, but even they were glad to be able to express their dissent without fear of arrest.

A month after the revolution, the streets of the capital are calm. But with no date yet set for elections and relatively few prominent political figures emerging so far, a key question remains hanging over Tunisia -- what happens next?

Neil Curry, CNN, Tunis.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

FOSTER: And we've actually got this just in from Tunisia's defense ministry. They say five people died when a boat carrying illegal immigrants trying to research Italy sank on Friday.

We'll stay on that story in the coming days.

And still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, what do you give a man who has everything?

Well, South Korea sends a special birthday message to Kim Jong-Il.

Two U.S. immigrant -- immigration agents attacked in Mexico. One is dead and Washington is on the hunt to find those responsible.

And turn this one up nice and loud -- a kiss from Paul Stanley. He's our Connector of the Day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Mexican police guard a U.S. vehicle after it came under attack. A U.S. immigrant official was shot and killed in the line of duty and a second was wounded.

The reaction from President Obama and his administration coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD.

I'm Max Foster in London.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

And here's a look at some other stories we're following this hour.

A defector who claimed that Iraq had biological weapons has admitted that he fabricated the story. The false information former part of America's justification for the invasion of Iraq. And former U.S. secretary of State, Colin Powell, used it in a key address to the UN.

In an interview the "The Guardian" newspaper, the Iraqi defector, code-named Curveball, said he lied to help rid his country of Saddam Hussein.

North Korea is in a festive mood as the reclusive nation celebrates its leaders birthday. Kim Jong-Il turned 69 on Wednesday. His neighbors in the South also sent a gift, as Paula Hancocks explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A military show of force for North Korea's leader. As Kim Jong-Il watches land, sea and air drills, so does his youngest son, Kim Jong-Un.

This video was shot over a year ago, a time when Kim Jong-Un was still a political unknown. Its release on his father's birthday, such a significant date in the North Korean calendar, is yet another sign that he is being groomed as his father's successor.

To be accepted as North Korean leader, the younger Kim must have the support of the military. He was promoted to general and vice chairman of the Central Military Commission last September.

North Korean television also broadcast the usual celebratory performances this time of year and extended synchronized swimming performance, a figure skating show and a flower exhibition, featuring a flower called Kimjongilia, dedicated to the so-called dear leader -- a national holiday North Koreans are compelled to celebrate -- Kim's birthday -- with fervor.

Some South Korean politicians have come up with their own birthday present for Kim Jong-Il -- thousands of flyers, which they're hoping to fly across the border. And this is what they say. On the left, you have the Kims. And it says, "Fatso Republic."

On the right, you can see starving children, and it says "The people are eating grass."

Helium filled balloons also carry DVDs to give international news to North Koreans, including the Egyptian people bringing down former president, Hosni Mubarak.

CHO JEON HYEOK, SOUTH KOREAN LAWMAKER: To make the change, we must let them know what is happening outside of North Korean.

HANCOCKS: But the only change evident from North Korean state television is that just as the father is fervently cheered by the military, so now is his son.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Paju, South Korea.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Israel is warning Iran not to test it, calling the dispatch of warships to the Mediterranean a provocation. Israeli officials say Iran is sending two ships through the Suez Canal on Wednesday evening, on their way to Syria. They say Iran hadn't had a naval presence in that area for many years.

Iran calls it part of a year long training mission.

And Prince William and Kate Middleton will go on a nine day royal tour of Canada in July. It will be the first official foreign trip for the pair after they marry in April. Canada's prime minister says the country is delighted to have them. Steven Harper invited the young couple after they announced their engagement.

Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, a campaign of terror along the US- Mexican border -- the chilling threat this man received, as towns come under siege.

Plus, speaking out -- the woman accused of providing prostitutes for the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, talks exclusively to CNN about the allegations, the parties and the girls.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Washington and Mexico are condemning a deadly attack on two immigration agents in Mexico. Gunmen opened fire on the two men on Tuesday whilst they were driving because Mexico City and Monterrey. Special Agent Jaime Zapata was killed. His colleague has arm and leg injuries but is in a stable condition in hospital.

Washington says it's working with the Mexican government to bring those responsible to justice.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had this to say a little earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well the president has been fully informed on what happened in Mexico and earlier this morning, the president called the parents of Special Agent Jaime Zapata to send his and Michelle's heartfelt condolences on the loss of their son yesterday.

The president told them that no words could express the sadness of the loss of a loved one. Their son served our country admirably, the president said, and assured his parents that the entire country...

(COUGHS)

CARNEY: Excuse me -- the entire country was grateful for his selfless service and contributions to our nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Well, CNN's Rafael Romo has just wrapped up a ride-along with the U.S. Border Patrol in Arizona.

A little earlier, I spoke with him by phone from Tucson about the attack.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As far as we know, they were surrounded by a group of 10 people. They were driving a car. It was clearly marked with diplomatic plates. It -- it happened at around 3:00 in the afternoon Mexican time. And unfortunately, one of the agents identified as Jaime Zapata died in this incident.

So far, there's no information regarding who might have been responsible for this incident. But as you know, the cartels in Mexico have been particularly brutal and violent in the last few years and the speculation in -- in both Mexico and the United States is that organized crime was behind this.

FOSTER: I understand that you've been traveling with some U.S. agents.

They expect the worst, don't they, when they go out there?

They know this is a very dangerous situation.

But what are they saying about what happened to their colleagues?

ROMO: Well, exactly. I -- I was working on a story at the U.S.- Mexican border with -- working with agents from the U.S. Border Patrol. And part of the -- the realities that have changed for them is that they used to only worry about the Mexican migrants trying to cross the border illegally to find a job -- a better job in the United States.

Now, they have to put up with the cartels and smugglers and they're constantly being attacked and the attacks range from anything from somebody across the border throwing rocks at the agents to in -- in some instances, being shot at.

So it -- it has changed dramatically the -- the -- the scope of their job and the risks that they face daily.

FOSTER: Well, the Mexican border area of Juarez Valley is vital to the drug cartels.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez met a U.S. official who says towns there are under siege, forcing many residents to flee.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We traveled an hour east of El Paso, to a desolate, dangerous place on the border called the neutral zone.

(on camera): So we're in this area where we're right between the United States and Mexico. Mexico is just a few feet away, but you'd never know it, because we're in the middle of a dust storm.

(voice-over): We can't see a thing. But Joe Sierra, the top cop in Fort Hancock, Texas, tells us they can see us.

(on camera): You were saying that we're probably being watched right now?

JOE SIERRA, POLICE OFFICER: Correct.

GUTIERREZ: By who?

SIERRA: Local law enforcement from the opposite side, cartel members, individuals that have interests in this particular area.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): This area is called Juarez Valley. It's a strategic location dotted with small towns along the Rio Grande on the Mexican side of the border -- prime real estate for the cartels, because it's close to the United States, a major highway and the railroad line.

SIERRA: It's easy access in and out.

GUTIERREZ: The battle between warring cartels for control of the Juarez Valley has been fierce. Entire towns have been targeted without mercy, as cartel gunmen try to secure trafficking routes. People here call this the valley of death.

(on camera): On the other side of these tall steel gates is a town of El Porvenir, Mexico. It's a town that's under siege. And residents say there's a war ranging there.

(voice-over): Entire families have been chased out of the Juarez Valley. Some have taken only what they can carry. Authorities say to make sure they can't come back, their houses are burned down in a campaign of terror, where people have also been kidnapped and beheaded.

We found this man in a nearby town. We're protecting his identity because he fears for his life. He says he received a chilling phone call telling him to leave Porvenir or be killed. So he gathered up his wife and children. They fled with only the clothes on their backs.

GUTIERREZ (on camera): (SPEAKING SPANISH) You couldn't have called the police or the authorities and say, you know, I'm being threatened to leave?

There is none.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are no police there.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): The police force has been decimated. The town's chief of police was murdered two years ago. He hasn't been replaced because no one wants the job. The mayor was gunned down last October. Cartel hit men were blamed, but as in most cases, no one has been captured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's one of the houses that got burnt.

GUTIERREZ: This man says these pictures tell the story of a place that has fallen to the cartels. It's a ghost town. There are no clinics, no people on the street or children in the plaza. More than half of the residents have fled. He did, too.

(on camera): Who's left?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just the people that can't -- can't go to anywhere else.

GUTIERREZ: They took your brother?

Did you find your brother?

(voice-over): This man's brother is among the missing. His home was also set ablaze. Now, having fled Porvenir, the town where he was born and raised, he says he only finds solace in his music.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Fort Hancock, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Now, as Italy's prime minister brushes off allegations that we'll see him in court, we'll hear from a woman who partied with Silvio Berlusconi and says he just has a good heart. That exclusive interview, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Max Foster in London. Coming up, we'll bring you an insight into Silvio Berlusconi's famous parties. A former guest and now Italian politician speaks exclusively to CNN.

Plus, all the excitement from the UEFA Champions League as Arsenal take on Barcelona.

And still living the dream after almost four decades.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL STANLEY, LEAD SINGER, KISS: When I was a cab driver, I remember in New York City driving somebody to Madison Square Garden to see Elvis Presley play, and I remember thinking to myself, one day, people are going to be pulling up to Madison Square Garden to see me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: And they did. One of the world's most iconic front men is your Connector of the Day.

All those stories ahead in the show for you but, first, a check of the headlines this hour.

Video clashes -- video of clashes in Libya's second-largest city has surfaced on YouTube. A hospital there reports dozens of injuries, but the government is downplaying news of unrest. It points to scenes like this instead, demonstrators chanting in support of longtime leader Muammar Gadhafi.

Protesters in Bahrain say they aren't going anywhere. They've been emboldened by support from lawmakers. The Sunni-ruled monarchy's largest Shiite block says it's boycotting parliament until there's an elected government. The protest in central Manama has remained peaceful on Wednesday.

Israel is warning Iran not to test it, calling the dispatch of warships to the Mediterranean a provocation. Israeli officials say Iran is sending two ships through the Suez Canal on Wednesday evening on their way to Syria. Iran calls it part of a training mission.

A Somali pirate will serve nearly 34 years in a US prison. He apologized, saying he was recruited by people more powerful than him. He was captured in 2009 after the hijacking of a US flag ship.

US stocks finished the day in the black thanks to some strong earnings from Dell. The Dow was up 60 points and the NASDAQ hit its highest level since November 2007. Those are your headlines.

They are some of the most serious allegations he's ever faced, but Italy's prime minister Silvio Berlusconi says he's not worried about standing trial accused of paying for sex with an underage girl. Dan Rivers has the reaction from Milan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, the sex scandal that has engulfed Silvio Berlusconi didn't have much of reaction from him today. He did hold a press conference. The world's media were waiting and watching, but he spent most of the time talking about the Italian economy. Only at the end did he address the allegations that the had paid a 17-year-old prostitute for sex and he had abused his power by trying to cover it up. Here's what he said.

SILVIO BERLUSCONI, PRIME MINISTER OF ITALY (through translator): For the love of my country, I will not talk about this. I will only say that I am not at all worried.

RIVERS: All the way through, Silvio Berlusconi has adopted this attitude of trying to brush these allegations aside. He has previously furiously denied any suggestion that he was cavorting with prostitutes in his villa outside of Milan, that there were cash bribes to keep people quiet, that some of these prostitutes were kept in apartments by people in his inner circle.

Certainly, this has dominated the media, here. Not surprisingly, here again, all the newspaper headlines were full of the news that he has now been formally indicted on these two charges.

The people on the streets of Milan, well, a mixed reaction. It must be said, though, that most of the people we spoke to were highly critical of Silvio Berlusconi.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: I don't know how Italians can tolerate Mr. Berlusconi any longer.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: It's his own business. I think I can judge Berlusconi on his working, on his business, because he's elected not for his whole life. His private life, he's not elected about his private life.

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: It's amazing that it's been going on for so long.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: This is a very important month for Italy. I think that this is the final countdown for Berlusconi.

RIVERS: This whole story centers, really, around one young prostitute called Karima El Mahroug, from Morocco. It is alleged by prosecutors that Silvio Berlusconi paid her for sex and then tried to get her out of police custody when she was arrested on suspicion of theft last May. They say that was a gross abuse of his power.

So, those are the two charges that he is facing, now. Those charges will go before judges here in Milan in April, and he is vowing to fight them all the way. Dan Rivers, CNN, Milan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Well, one of the women who was invited to Berlusconi's parties is speaking out. Nicole Minetti is a former TV showgirl turned politician who's also under investigation for allegedly finding prostitutes for the Italian prime minister. In an exclusive interview, Dan spoke to her about the woman at the center of this scandal, Karima El Mahroug, who's also known as Ruby.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TEXT: Minetti on Ruby

RIVERS: Did you introduce Ruby, this young Moroccan girl, to the prime minister?

NICOLE MINETTI, LOMBARDY REGION COUNCIL MEMBER: No, absolutely not. No.

RIVERS: At what point did you know that Ruby was a minor, was under 18?

MINETTI: The night that I went to questura the 27th of May. Yes. She had told us that she was 24 years old, and that wasn't hard to believe because she seems much older than what she is, actually, yes.

RIVERS: Did you think that the prime minister knew that she was a minor?

MINETTI: Absolutely not, he did not know her real age, no.

RIVERS: Describe to me what happened that night. How did the prime minister appear on the phone after Ruby had been arrested?

MINETTI: I remember that there was this Brazilian girl which told me that Ruby was -- had been stopped because she didn't have any documents with her, any ID. And then, it came out that she was under 18, so we stopped in questura until 2:00 in the morning because, obviously, she didn't have any ID, and the police were trying to find the ID.

RIVERS: Did the prime minister call you during this process?

MINETTI: Yes. Yes, we -- yes. A couple of times. I think I called him, as well, to let him know how things were going. And obviously, he was quite worried, as well, because we were young girls in questura, so I called him to let him know that everything was OK, that we were OK, that the girl was OK, and how things were going during the night.

TEXT: Minetti on "the wild parties" in Berlusconi's basement.

MINETTI: This was not how the evenings used to finish in any way, absolutely not. There is a music room, let's call it, in which there can be some soft music rather than more modern music, but I would not, absolutely, describe it as a nightclub in any way, no.

RIVERS: Some of the evidence suggests that you were topless at some of these parties, that you were dressed up in some sort of uniform. Is that true? Have you ever been topless in the presence of the prime minister?

MINETTI: No, I haven't.

(LAUGHTER)

RIVERS: And you're laughing --

MINETTI: I'm laughing because it seems -- it's very much -- I mean, laughable. That's all I can say.

RIVERS: So, you completely deny that you procured any women for the prime minister for prostitution.

MINETTI: Yes, I deny that. Absolutely, yes.

TEXT: Minetti on Berlusconi

MINETTI: He's a really great man. He's generous. He's good. Good in the heart. The great thing about him is that he believes a lot in young people. He's not afraid of believing and investing in young people.

RIVERS: So, you would deny ever having received any money from Silvio Berlusconi?

MINETTI: Well, he helped me in some situations. I mean, he's -- he doesn't have any problems helping people, even in an economic way.

RIVERS: How much money did he give you?

MINETTI: That's a detail which I wouldn't go into.

RIVERS: But thousands of euros?

MINETTI: It doesn't matter. That's not the -- that's not the matter.

RIVERS: Well, some people say it does matter, because it would suggest that he was either paying for your services or paying to keep you quiet.

MINETTI: Or he was helping me just because he cared for me. It could be one thing or the other.

RIVERS: How would you describe your relationship with the prime minister?

MINETTI: I had an affectionate relationship, meaning as someone that you care for and cares for you.

RIVERS: But not an improper relationship, a sexual relationship?

MINETTI: I wouldn't go in those details. Those are private details - - private details.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Nicole Minetti, and Minetti, then, speaking to Dan Rivers earlier.

Well, next up, the former cab driver who turned into a megastar. KISS front man Paul Stanley answers your questions as a Connector of the Day, your Connector of the Day today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Well, there's a lot to be said about a musician who can still thrill audiences after almost four decades in the business. Tonight's Connector of the Day is one of the few. He was born Stanley Eisen, but the world knows him as the charismatic front man of the legendary American rock band KISS. Becky gets us connected with Paul Stanley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC - "Hotter Than Hell")

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): Big hair, big makeup, and big performances. KISS is one of the world's most enduring bands. They've turned out 37 albums over 36 years and have sold 100 million albums around the world.

Their fame, spurred by over-the-top live shows, spans the globe and appeals to generation after generation.

(MUSIC - "C'mon and Love Me")

ANDERSON (voice-over): They play for the fans and for causes, amongst them, America's wounded warriors.

STANLEY: When these brave men and women come home with either broken bodies or broken spirits, somebody has to look after them.

(MUSIC - "Rock and Roll All Night")

ANDERSON (voice-over): And rather than easing up after so many uses, this glam rock band is getting ready to go back into the studio. So, will the new album be more of the KISS we know and love, or something a little different? I asked front man Paul Stanley that very question.

STANLEY: If it's not broken, you don't fix it, you know? We've been doing the same thing for about 35 years, now. At one point or another, we may have gotten off at the wrong exit, but we're firmly rooted on the right highway right now, and the next album will be much like "Sonic Boom," which came out probably about two years ago, and we toured the world on. So, millions of people saw that tour and loved the music, and we'll be doing quite the same again.

ANDERSON (on camera): Are there any tours in the pipeline?

STANLEY: We really won't tour, probably, until September, October, when we have the new album out. And at that point, we'll go out and search and destroy, which is what we do.

ANDERSON: Madeline Hansen is a 13-year-old fan of yours, and she asks the question that many of our viewers want to know, "Will you ever do a second reunion tour with the original members of KISS?"

STANLEY: I think one was enough. When we -- when we did it, we did it for the right reasons, and it was interesting, because the word that comes up is "closure." That's a big word. You get a chance to go back and revisit relationships and see if they've changed at all. And for the most part, sadly, you find that they remain as they were.

We had a good time that kind of deteriorated over time, and when we did the farewell tour, I realized that I didn't want to say farewell to KISS, I wanted to say farewell to two of the members. So, it's been quite a while and a huge success without them.

KISS is iconic at this point, and those characters are much bigger than any of the people behind them, thankfully.

ANDERSON: Richard Jones comments on the enduring appeal of KISS and basically asks, "What is the secret of being a great front man?"

STANLEY: Well, it -- I hope it has something to do with, many people are hams. I'm the whole pig.

(MUSIC - "Rock and Roll All Night")

STANLEY: I love being on stage. I'm somewhere between an evangelical preacher, a musician, a superhero, and a game show host. So, I'm out there to entertain. I think you can never lose sight of the fact that, first and foremost, when you're doing a live show, you're an entertainer. People are coming to see you. If they wanted to just hear you, they'd be staying home.

ANDERSON: You're a man of the canvas, as well. What do you prefer, painting or doing the stage stuff?

STANLEY: I think they're both incredible. I think that any time you get to express yourself, you're blessed. I tend to define myself by the challenges I take on and how well I do with them. I started painting because I needed another outlet for self-expression, and the only rule that I made for myself was that there'd be no rules.

And for me, the excitement of painting is that, for me, there's no boundaries. The edge of the canvas is the only limitation. I've been incredibly successful far beyond anything I could have ever expected. I think sales somewhere over $2.5 million.

ANDERSON: Eben asks, "Is there any stone left unturned in your life, either personally or professionally?" Anything that you are yet to accomplish?

STANLEY: It's a great question. For me, every time I climb a mountain, I seem to find a mountain next to it I want to climb. So, at this point, I'm very satisfied with what I've done, but if somebody would've told me I'd have a successful art career which, at this point, I can't imagine life without painting.

To have a band that has reached a point now where we play to millions of people every time we go on tour worldwide. I starred in "Phantom of the Opera," which is, again, stretching what some people see as the boundaries. I don't see boundaries, you know? I don't see obstacles. I always say that obstacles are what you see when you lose sight of your goals. If you have goals and you pursue them, you don't let things get in the way.

So, is there anything I could see doing at this point that I haven't done? Probably a year from today if you ask me, I'll have done something else, and we can talk about that.

ANDERSON: Good answer. Sara Mendez asks -- and it's a good question -- "Do you think that being bullied at school helped you to be the man that you are today?"

STANLEY: Well, I think that you either learn from the things that happen to you so that you don't do them, or you repeat them. I was treated a certain way, I had a birth defect, I had a -- what's called a microtia, an abnormality of the outer ear. And I'm deaf in one of my ears.

So, I had a certain amount of scrutiny and ridicule. And certainly it made me much more sensitive to other people and, whenever I can, whether it's speaking to parents of children with facial differences or just, basically, enlightening people to the fact that, really, ultimately, what's important about people is what's inside them and not what's on the outside.

ANDERSON: Joe Diehl asks, "What was the best moment you've experienced while being in KISS?"

STANLEY: Wow. There are so many, it's like saying, who's -- you go to a beauty contest, and who's the most beautiful woman there? They're all beautiful. So, this has been an incredible, incredible ride for me, and there are so many high points.

My first gold album was a milestone for me. It's something that I wanted from the time I was, literally, a little boy who was watching Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" and, then, watched the Beatles on "Ed Sullivan" and said, "I can touch that nerve."

And lo and behold, little by little, I worked towards that success. So, gold album was a huge, huge milestone for me.

The first album, the first time I heard myself on the radio. When I was a cab driver, I remember in New York City driving somebody to Madison Square Garden to see Elvis Presley play, and I remember thinking to myself, one day, people are going to be pulling up to Madison Square Garden to see me. I remember the first time that happened, too.

ANDERSON: Marvelous. Tim McCool's got a good question for you. He says, "Do you ever have to tell Gene 'No,' and if you have, why was it?"

STANLEY: Well -- Gene gets told "no" quite a bit. Probably the only place he hears "no" is from me or in this band. Outside of here, he's free to run amok. But in here, the reins get pulled.

It's a great partnership. The beauty of this relationship that's lasted so long is that you understand what you can expect and what you should not. Understanding the limitations of a relationship will keep it going indefinitely.

ANDERSON: Good stuff. Last question to you. Martin Magg has got simply this. He says, "When it is all said and done and your time on Earth is over, are you going to be buried with or without your makeup?"

STANLEY: I will be buried with a smile.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Didn't answer that one, did he? Becky talking, there, to KISS front man Paul Stanley.

Tomorrow night, a young woman taking the lead in Afghanistan. She's dubbed the Afghan Oprah, singing sensation turned talk show host Mozhdah Jamalzadah tells us why she risks her life to turn the spotlight on her country's unspoken issues. To find out more about our future Connectors, do head to cnn.com/connect.

Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, a feast for football fans. The Arsenal-Barcelona Champions League match has just concluded. The results live from Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: We have the result for you. Arsenal has beaten Barcelona 2-1 in their Champions League match in London. Pedro joins us live from the Arsenal home ground. This is historic, isn't it, for Arsenal?

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It is, indeed. The first ever victory over Barcelona for the Gunners in six meetings. You can probably still hear the home fans singing as they head home. Maybe they'll stop off in a pub or two, Max, because this is an occasion to celebrate.

It really didn't look like it would turn out this way, especially in the first half, because David Villa put the visitors ahead in the 26th minute. But two goals in the last 12 minutes from Arsenal by Robin van Persie and Andrei Arshavin really turned this game on its head.

When everybody thought that Barcelona were going to go back home with an advantage, they now have to overturn a one goal deficit in the second leg on the 8th of March, Max.

FOSTER: Yes, gutting for Barcelona, of course, and their fans. What does this mean for them? What impact will it have?

PINTO: Well, this is a reality check, because this is a team that's really not used to losing. In 38 games this year, this was their third defeat. They've won 80 percent of their matches, pretty much, so definitely maybe go back to the drawing board for Pep Guardiola and motivate his players to come out in the second leg and show that they are a better side.

But it won't be easy, and it'll be harder than I -- than they thought it would be against the team that has been criticized for being too young, not having enough maturity, and that's Arsenal. They really came of age, here, at the Emirates this evening in front of their home fans, and it'll take quite a bit of confidence for the second leg, now, in the Camp Nou.

Barcelona seemingly marching towards the La Liga title, a lot of people thought they would win the Champions League this year with relative ease. But this match has really thrown all of that up in the air, Max.

FOSTER: And who does that leave as the favorites, then, Pedro?

PINTO: I think Barcelona, if they make it through, they still have to be considered as one of the top three teams to win this competition. We can't forget about the defending champions, Inter Milan, who seem like they've found some stability ever since Leonardo took the reins from Rafa Benitez.

And Real Madrid, I would say, when you have a player like Cristiano Ronaldo and a manager like Jose Mourinho, who's already won the competition with two other teams, they have to be included in the top three, as well. That's what I would say, anyway, Max.

FOSTER: We'll leave you with the fans. Pedro, thank you very much, indeed. And in tonight's other match, Ukranian team, Shakhtar Donetsk upset Roma in their first leg match in Rome, beating them 3-2.

Now, there's fallout from last night's games, the AC Milan captain has admitted he lost his cool during an ugly exchange after Tuesday's match against Tottenham. Gennaro Gattuso took his frustrations out on the assistant Spurs' coach, Joe Jordan, pushing him in the neck and finishing the altercation off with a head-butt.

The fiery midfielder said he shouldn't have done it, particularly to an older person. He's now waiting to see what sanctions UEFA will throw at him.

Time for tonight's Parting Shots, and they say you should never work with animals. When it comes to politics, that would appear to be true. This TV reporter got more than she bargained for when she attempted to become acquainted with Downing Street's new cat, Larry, here in London.

Brought in to help rid the British prime minister -- prime minister's house of rats, it seems he's just as good at scaring off members of the media. Some quite like that.

And he's not the first pet to take a dislike to the press. Unimpressed with the idea of an interview, US president Barack Obama's dog, Bo, attempted to eat the microphone instead.

While George W. Bush's dog, Barney, went further, taking a bite out of a reporter's finger who got just a little too close for comfort.

In France, it seems, it's the owners who get the grief. Former president Jacques Chirac was bitten by his dog, Sumo. The pet was being treated for depression at the time.

And we're not sure why Barack Obama is making bunny ears at current French president Nicolas Sarkozy, but perhaps it has something to do with a WikiLeaks which described a meeting between Mr. Sarkozy and an American ambassador after a pet rabbit was let loose by his son, the then would-be president had to resort to chasing the animal out of his office. So, the moral of the story is, never work with animals or children.

I'm Max Foster, that is your world connected, thank you for watching. The world headlines and "BackStory" will follow this short break. I'll leave you with pictures from the Arsenal-Barcelona Champions League game. Arsenal won, 2-1.

END