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Coalition Forces Focus Strikes on Anti-Air Targets Throughout Libya; Pressure Building at Reactor Three at Damaged Japanese Nuclear Power Plant

Aired March 20, 2011 - 00:00   ET


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN ANCHOR: Taking action; an international military show of force against Libya, after repeated warnings accomplish nothing.

And grappling with the new reality, Japan looks for strength as the death toll climbs.

We are following two developing stories this hour on WORLD REPORT. Hello, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney, and I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

In Libya, dawn approaches this Sunday morning with Operation Odyssey Dawn well under way. French, U.S., and British coalition forces began hammering key Libyan installations late on Saturday to enforce a no- fly zone newly approved by the U.N. Security Council.

Responding to the fighter jets and cruise missiles, Moammar Gadhafi's defenses have been peppering Libya's skies with anti-aircraft fire. Here now the very latest.

The Pentagon saying that so far more than 100 U.S. and British Tomahawk Cruise Missiles have slammed into Libyan targets, aimed primarily at air defense systems. Despite the ways of attacks, Libyan Leader Gadhafi remains defiant, condemning the coalition strikes and urging people around the world to aid in Libya's defense.

The British prime minister, David Cameron, called the allied effort against Colonel Gadhafi the right thing to do.

Britain's defense secretary says British fighter jets flew 4,800 kilometers from their base in Southeastern England to their targets in Libya, the country's longest bombing run since the 1982 Falklands War. Prime Minister Cameron says the U.K.'s involvement is justified.


DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: What we are doing is necessary. It is legal. And it is right. It is necessary because, with others, we should be trying to prevent him using his military against his own people.

It is legal because we have the backing of the United Nations Security Council and also of the Arab League and many others.

And it is right because I believe we should not stand aside while this dictator murders his own people.


SWEENEY: The embattled Libyan leader is waging a war of words against what he calls the naked aggression of coalition forces. Speaking on Libyan TV, Moammar Gadhafi called on his allies to help Libya defend itself.


MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): And the Libyan people will fight against this aggression. All you people of the nations -- of the Islamic nations and Africa and the people of Latin America and Asia, stand with the Libyan people in its fight against this aggression.

That will not accept assaults on the internal front. Now all the depots are going to be opened and arm people to defend people and its unity.


SWEENEY: The Pentagon says the coalition is softening up Libyan positions before beginning enforcement of the no-fly zone. CNN's John King takes a look at what is arrayed against Gadhafi and how it's being used.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: It is called Operation Odyssey Dawn. The initial targets mostly along the northern Libyan coastline. Why? Those, of course, are the major cities, the major oil gas installations, and, of course, the political capital Tripoli. But the reason those targets were along the coast in the early days is because this is where Moammar Gadhafi has his most powerful weaponry that could be used -- could be used against coalition pilots.

The purple circles, S-200. In U.S. military lingo, S-5. NATO call them Russian-made surface to air missiles with a range of about 150 miles. Those were the biggest targets in the initial strikes. And those will continue to be targeted.

The smaller circles, other surface to air missiles, anti-aircraft batteries that Gadhafi has at his disposal. Again, those will be the top targets early on because of their ability to shoot down coalition planes.

Now, they were targeted. First, there were some firings from French fighter jets. But most of this was done -- the bulk of this was done using cruise missiles.

We can show you where they come from. They came from offshore. The USS Florida, the USS Providence, the USS Scranton, three submarines in the United States Navy that carry Tomahawk Cruise missiles. A British sub also took part. The Guided Missile Destroyers the USS Barry and the USS Stout also taking part in the operation from the Mediterranean. What do they all have in common? They fire the Tomahawk Cruise Missile.

You see this photo taking off from the USS Barry. Here's what a Tomahawk looks like. It's programmed on the sub or on the ship. It flies low to the ground.

There is a newer version that has an optics package so it can hover over a target and be programmed and then take off. We are told, in the initial wave, all of the programming was done back on the ship or in the sub. That is an option that could be used heading forward.

Again, the cruise missiles came from the Barry and the Stout. But there are other U.S. ships in the Mediterranean, an amphibious assault ship, although the president has said under no circumstances would troops, including Marines, go ashore, command control ship the Mount Whitten (ph), very important in the early days of the operation, and an amphibious transport dock the Ponce, also there to help support the operation.

Those are among the U.S. ships. There are also a number of Canadian, British ships in the area. We know in the days ahead a French carrier is also coming in from Toulon. The French Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle.

Those French jets that launched the first strikes, they came from up here in France. If you look at this map, this is the Libyan coast right down in here. This is where this operation will be run from in the days ahead. A number of NATO and U.S. installations in Italy, a U.S. Naval Air Station in Spain as well.

This is where all the assets will be coordinated in the days ahead. As we are told the operations that began in the first wave will continue, especially targeting along the coast in the early days. Then when the no-fly zone kicks in, not only will the United States, Canada, Spain, France, Italy and Great Britain take part; we're also told to look for Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to use their air force to help enforce that no-fly zone over Libya.


SWEENEY: All right, John King there. This coalition strike on Libya comes exactly eight years to the day that U.S.-led forces attacked another Arab nation, Iraq. In the years since then, Arab feelings about the Iraq War have been pretty intense.

So what is the Arab world saying now about this latest action? Reza Sayah joins me on the phone from Cairo. Reza, first of all, the view in Egypt where you are?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At this point there is public support in Egypt for a no-fly zone over Libya. But the support for the no-fly zone would be strictly to protect innocent lives only. On the Arab street, not just here in Egypt but elsewhere, many see Gadhafi as a crazed killer as well as. And they want to see an end to the bloodshed.

So support is there for a no-fly zone. But obviously there are unforeseen consequences when you implement a no-fly zone. If the coalition attacks, kills civilians, the sentiment could certainly change among the public. I don't think there's going to be any doubt that Gadhafi will make an effort to create the perception that western allies are killing civilians.

It is going to be interesting to see the Arab reaction in the coming days. At this point, Egyptian officials say they will not take part in the implementation of the no-fly zone. They have been helping with humanitarian effort at the Libyan/Egyptian border as more civilians come in.

But as far as Egypt itself goes, they say they are not going to be taking part in the implementation of the no-fly zone. We're waiting to see what specific role other Arab nations play. Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did mention the names United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Morocco, Jordan, all these countries participating in the summit in Paris.

But when asked what specific role they would play, Mrs. Clinton said (INAUDIBLE)

SWEENEY: And I suppose the question is do Arabs regard this as an international coalition? Or do they regard it as a U.S.-led or certainly a western-led coalition?

SAYAH: Well, at this point, it's very clear that the U.S., western powers like France, the U.K., do not want to create that perception that this is a western powers, old colonial powers, going after an Arab nation. That's why, over and over again, we've heard French President Nicolas Sarkozy specifically emphasize the Arab nations are involved.

Now, over the first few hours of the no-fly zone, there were no indications that Arab nations played an active operational role in implementing the no-fly zone. If this continues, and it's strictly U.S. missiles hitting Libyan targets and French fighter jets involved, that could change. That perception could change that it's just a western action on an Arab nation.

SWEENEY: And can you talk in any way about some of the individual difficulties facing other Arab nations? What distinguishes them? Or is it a precedence that's being set now if they do take part in this coalition?

SAYAH: Well, I think -- first of all, this is very rare, when you have Arab nations essentially turning on one of their own countries. For example, if you take the United Arab Emirates, they probably have the most modern and largest fleet of fighter jets that could help in this no-fly zone.

But if you look at the situation they're in, they're in a very contradictory position. Right now, they've offered -- they've offered to help with the implementation of the no-fly zone against the Gadhafi regime.

But when you look at what they're doing in Bahrain, they're supporting the government there against pro-democracy opposition forces. So if they get involved here, there's going to be some sticky questions for them to answer.

So you have some of these difficulties when it comes to Arab nations.

SWEENEY: Reza Sayah there in Cairo, thank you very much, indeed.

Of course, Libya but one of the two major, major stories we're following at the moment.

There is, of course, a rising death toll and concerns over contaminated food in Japan. Just ahead, the agony continues for people waiting for word on loved ones still missing after the disaster.

We'll have a live report with the very latest developments from Tokyo.


SWEENEY: Each new day in Japan, the effects of the March 11th monster earthquake and devastating tsunami are unfolding. The death toll now standing at 7,700. And the search continues for nearly 12,000 people still listed as missing.

On the nuclear front, Japan's nuclear safety agency says the pressure in the containment vessel of reactor number three at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant is increasing. Officials say they are planning an operation to reduce that pressure.

That comes as a super pumper tried to keep a reactor cool, and engineers struggled to restore power to cooling systems at a plant.

The prime minister says the situation there remains very grave. Many people have fled the areas surrounding the nuclear power plant in Fukushima. And that includes people who worked at the disabled facility. As Stan Grant reports, these people in particular have no idea what their future holds.


STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It looks a forbidding place, a heavy black sky and waves slapping into the rocks. Flashing lights warn planes there's a nuclear power plant here.

It isn't Fukushima. It's Kigiwazaki (ph), clear across the island on Japan's west coast. But it's here evacuated workers from the stricken Daiichi plant have found refuge, a haunting reminder of that day a little over a week ago when the ocean floor cracked open and a wave of water turned their lives upside down.

It was a moment this worker will never forget.

UNIDENTIFIFIED MALE: Earthquake. GRANT: Earthquake?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It kept going for two or three minutes. I told everyone to get out of here. I was scared.

GRANT: He doesn't want to be identified. What he has to say, he fears, could cost him his job. For 17 years, he says, he has worked for the Tokyo Electric Power Company at the now-crippled plant. He worries especially about the spent fuel rods in the stricken reactor number four, potentially in a pool drained of water.

Very, very dangerous, he says. He sees the fires and explosions and the damage and asks himself, are his bosses hiding something?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): If you watch TV, they say they are sharing the facts. But I doubt it. And right now they say they are taking readings within 20 or 30-kilometer radius. But I hope they expand that.

Personally, I have doubts about what they are telling us.

GRANT: This is just one man's opinion. And officials in Japan assure people that radiation levels are not harmful. But this worker knows intimately the Daiichi plant, its design and its people. And he fears the worst.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm aware everyone, the Japanese government, the IAEA and Self Defense Force is trying hard to get this problem fixed. But I'm not sure. I hope -- I really hope things will go better, or at least not get any worse.

GRANT: This father of two young children thought he'd lost everything when the quake struck. His eyes tear up as he tells me how, for six hours, he lost all phone contact, how he held his family tight when he finally made it home.

Now he wonders if he can ever feel safe in Fukushima again, if he is putting his children at risk.

But where will he work? The Daiichi plant is all he knows. His is an uncertain life. For now, home is a relief shelter in the shadow of another nuclear plant.

(on camera): In a place like this, how can the Fukushima workers and their families ever forget their fears, what they've been through and what may lie ahead?

(voice-over): These are dark days for japan. But if there's one light for this one man, he is alive and he has his family close.


SWEENEY: Stan joins us now live from Tokyo with an update on the situation in Japan. First of all, Stan, that view, one man's opinion as you reported. But how widespread might that view be shared? Do people generally believe in the government? Do they believe they're being transparent?

GRANT: There is certainly a trust deficit, Fionnuala. There has been throughout this. You hear the soothing words from the government, trying to say that there is no risk to people's lives from the radiation. But then you see the images.

I think that's what that gentleman there was pointing out. The images seem to speak louder than the words right now. Now we don't only have radiation at high levels, we have contamination. What happens here is that the words themselves become radioactive. People hear contamination and they fear the worst.

Now the contamination's been found in milk and spinach. The government, once again, is reassuring people it's not at levels that do you harm. When you hear that word contamination, when you hear radiation, when you look at the track records some have pointed to with the officials here of not being so forthcoming with the truth, the fact that this information seems to come after events, as a bit of a time lag, it then breeds this distrust.

And people, of course, are filling that gap with their own fears.

SWEENEY: Are the people of Japan at all becoming in any way acclimatized to the scale of the disaster and how long-term it might be?

GRANT: I think inevitably, as this goes on, you just learn to live with it to an extent. You are continually hearing the updates. You're continually seeing these images. But I think as that man pointed out there, the uncertainty; when will people be able to go back to their homes?

We're not just talking about the nuclear plant here in the immediate vicinity, but the people who are affected more widely because of the tsunami and the earthquake; 500,000 people who have been rendered homeless because of this.

The rescue operations -- the relief operation still going on. So people do tend to be able to live with this for a while, but uncertainty persists.

At the same time, they're hearing about efforts to bring it under control. We're seeing more water being pumped into the plants. Talk of the electricity being reconnected, stabilizing some of these reactors.

Yes, they seem to be taking some progress in that front. But when you see progress in the past, it doesn't take much to swing the pendulum back to crisis again. So uncertainty I think is the word.

SWEENEY: A quick final question. Tokyo on a Sunday, what's it like?

GRANT: Quiet. It's been quiet since we got here. It's not the Tokyo that I've seen in the past. I think that's been affected largely because of what we've seen over the past week or so. Also power is being conserved here. We know the metro hasn't been running at full capacity. It's been a fairly somber mood. And I really haven't seen that lift. Yes, people are starting to get back to work. They're on the streets. Things are open a little bit longer.

But certainly it isn't buoyant, that's for sure.

SWEENEY: Stan Grant, thanks very much indeed, reporting live from Tokyo.

After a brief warm-up, colder temperatures are set to return to northeastern Japan. Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera is standing by at the international weather center. Hi there.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Weather conditions played a key role there in the immediate aftermath, as we saw the snow falling there on the Sendai region.

I want to share with you, before we get to the forecast, though, what's been happening as far as the aftershocks. It has been eight days since our great 9.0 magnitude earthquake. In those eight days, we've essentially had over 600 earthquakes.

Some of them have been significant. Two of them occurring right after that 9.0 in the 7.0 to 8.0 range. Of course, that's a major earthquake. But even yesterday, we had a 6.1, which is significant. Now the total up to 600.

As you know, these aftershocks can continue for weeks and even months at a time. Although the intensity continues to diminish as that happens. Temperatures again have been relatively mild. We're in the mid teens there. So looking good.

Again, that's 40s and 50s Fahrenheit across Japan. Compared to the temperatures that we had in the snow, we are doing much better. The reason for that is we have an area of high pressure that has moved in off the southwest here. And it has brought us a southwesterly wind.

And now we are transitioning into an onshore flow. We've been paying attention to the winds, obviously, because of the radiation situation there at the nuclear plant. What we want is an offshore wind, a westerly wind.

The problem now, the winds have shifted onshore. So anything that is there -- and of course we don't know the levels and the peaks and the troughs that occur with the radiation levels. But whatever's going to be happening is going to be moving off towards the west. At least for the next 12 to 24 hours. Then we return to an offshore flow once again.

On top of that, we're also going to get some rain as this area of low pressure begins to move in across the southeastern part of Japan, and on the back side of it they'll give that offshore flow once again.

But turning unsettled, really going to start raining here through the late part of Sunday and heading into the early part of next week. The other issue we've been covering, as you know, Japan has literally sunk. It is now lower. So the normal tides that normally didn't flood them right along the coastal regions are now doing so. So every time we get a high tide, especially astronomically high tide, we see these low-lying coasts here now beginning to see some minor flooding as well.

Lots to talk about there in Japan. We'll stay on top of it for you.

SWEENEY: All right. Thanks very much indeed, Ivan.

We're continuing to watch the events in Libya as they unfold. Up next, we'll have a recap of Operation Odyssey Dawn and talk to an expert about Libya's embattled leader, Moammar Gadhafi. That's all straight ahead on WORLD REPORT.


SWEENEY: Recapping the latest from Libya; French, British and U.S. forces have begun striking Libyan military positions with fighter jets and missiles. It's the first phase of the coalition operation dubbed Odyssey Dawn to enforce the new United Nations no-fly zone.

This comes after the Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi refused to stop attacking civilians in his country's civil war. He calls the coalition strikes naked aggression. U.S. President Barack Obama says the use of force was necessary, but not the allies' first choice.

So, as those coalition air strikes target Libyan military forces, representatives of the coalition continue to explain the rationale behind the strikes. In Paris Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington is resolute in its efforts to stop Gadhafi.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: So let me just underscore the key point. This is a broad international effort. The world will not sit idly by while more innocent civilians are killed. The United States will support our allies and partners as they move to enforce Resolution 1973.

We are standing with the people of Libya. And we will not waver in our efforts to protect them.


SWEENEY: Well, despite the military pressure being put on Libya's security forces, is it naive to expect Moammar Gadhafi to simply roll over? Or will he put up a fight regardless?

Joining me live to discuss that is Ronald Bruce St. John, a Libyan scholar and the author of several books on Libya and the Middle East.

First of all, correct me if I'm wrong, but you believe Colonel Gadhafi will give the international coalition a good fight. Why? RONALD BRUCE ST. JOHN, LIBYA SCHOLAR: I think -- I think, based on past experience, he will make every effort to fight the coalition.

SWEENEY: Based on past experience meaning what tactics are available to him? What options are available to him over the coming days?

ST. JOHN: Well, he still has a reasonable military force in place, which seems to keep more or less loyal to him. The imponderables really I think are the mental state of the man himself.

He currently seems to be working off some combination of bluff and delusion. Bluffs in the sense that he continues to act as though he's in control of the whole country and has the military forces and support of the people.

Delusion in the sense that he refuses to recognize this is not an al Qaeda-based revolution or rebellion, that large groups of people are in opposition to him.

So it's the combination of the bluff and the delusion that makes it very difficult to say what he will do next.

SWEENEY: Yes. That has always been the problem since this began, predicting what he might do, calling a cease-fire, then calling it off. the U.S. role specifically, it would appear, from at least this stage of the operation so far, to have a larger U.S. involvement than initially anticipated.

ST. JOHN: Well, to a certain degree, I guess. Although the United States from the beginning said they did not want to take a lead role. And certainly, at this point, it appears, at least in terms of aircraft, that France and Great Britain have played a primary role.

The United States has (INAUDIBLE) with the surface to air missiles -- rather have fired on a couple. I think the United States (INAUDIBLE) leadership in this activity, and let some of our allies take the foremost role.

SWEENEY: All right, Bruce St. John, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

And you can stay on top of all the developments in Libya on our website. There you can find video of the military strikes, as well as a timeline of events, all at

I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. The best of "BACK STORY" is next. But first, before that, I'll be back with the headlines.


SWEENEY: Hello, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney at CNN Center. Here's what we're following right now.

It is 6:30 on Sunday morning in Libya, the second day of Operation Odyssey Dawn. And Colonel Moammar Gadhafi remains defiant. The Libyan leader saying his country is the victim of naked aggression and is calling on people around the world to come to Libya's defense.

U.S., British and French forces launched their coalition mission on Saturday to enforce a newly approved United Nations no-fly zone. So far, the fighter jets and the more than 100 U.S. and British Tomahawk Cruise Missiles have aimed primarily at Libyan air defense systems.

Japan's nuclear safety agency says the pressure is increasing in the containment vessel of reactor number three at the crippled nuclear power plant. A super pumper is trying to keep that reactor cool.

As that crisis unfolds, the search continues for nearly 12,000 people still missing since the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. The death toll has rise ton 7,700.

The polls have closed in Egypt's first free elections in decades. Forty five million Egyptians were eligible to vote on proposed constitutional amendments in the post-Mubarak era, including presidential term limits and putting elections under judicial oversight.

I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. Stay with CNN. The best of "BACK STORY" is next.