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CONNECT THE WORLD
Japan's Nuclear Concerns; Anti-Aircraft Fire in Tripoli
Aired March 21, 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 (voice-over): The skies above Tripoli light up as more explosions are heard in the Libyan capital.
Gadhafi's compound lies in ruins. But the coalition denies it's going after the Libyan leader.
Also, Yemen's president under pressure - can he survive a string of high-profile resignations?
In Japan, fears it could take the country five years to rebuild. Just where do they begin? These stories and more tonight as we "Connect the World."
FOSTER: Up first though, new explosions rock the Libyan capital as anti-aircraft fire streaks through the skies.
Those explosions were heard a short time ago near the Moammar Gadhafi compound in Tripoli. We're still not sure what the target was or what may have been hit. The U.S.-led coalition has been pounding military targets across Libya since the weekend , enforcing a U.N. mandated cease-fire.
Gadhafi himself hasn't been seen since the missile strike demolished part of his compound in Tripoli. That attack led for some to question whether the coalition is trying to kill him, going beyond its stated goal of protecting Libyan civilians. Britain's prime minister addressed that question today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We must be clear what our role is and our role is to enforce that U.N. Security Council resolution. Many people would ask questions, I'm sure, today about regime change and Gadhafi and the rest of it. I've been clear. I think Libya needs to get rid of Gadhafi. But in the end, we are responsible for trying to enforce the Security Council resolution, the Libyans must choose their own future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: In eastern Libya, the air strikes are giving rebels near Benghazi some breathing room. The U.S. military says government forces are now moving south, away from that rebel stronghold.
Despite the air bombardment, Gadhafi's forces are still on the offensive in western Libya. Rebels in Misrata say at least 40 people were killed today when pro-government troops attacked the city. Nic Robertson is following all these developments for us from Tripoli.
Nic, let's start with those explosions we heard a short time ago where you are.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, we've been told that part of a port facility here in Tripoli has been hit. Government officials say that while it was hit, civilians have also been wounded. Government officials have told us civilians have been wounded, killed even, in strikes up until now but so far, however, they've failed to show us and provide any evidence that civilians been wounded. (INAUDIBLE) on state television here, wounded soldiers.
Government officials also tell us here that the port of Hama (ph), about a hundred kilometers down the coast east of here, they would say that that was also targeted when they say that an oil - that a fuel-storage depot at the port of Hama (ph) is also in flames at this time. We have no way of independently verifying if these sites have been hit and what has been damaged at these sites but that's what we're being told by government officials at the moment, Max.
FOSTER: What do you know about Gadhafi and his compound?
ROBERTSON: Well, the building collapsed in there that we saw are a building that government officials say is somewhere that's used as a sort of a VIP-protocol building where guests of Moammar Gadhafi who would go in and wait to meet him, have a cup of tea to relax before going to meet him in his tent which is about 50 yards away, traditionally meets and greets people in a tent.
And they're saying that this building that we saw destroyed by two missiles, the heavy concrete four-story building was nothing more than really for VIP entertainment. And they're questioning why the Pentagon is going after sites in this palace compound area, a large palace compound, and they believe - at least the officials I've talked to - believe that this is an effort by the coalition to put psychological pressure on Moammar Gadhafi at this time, also by targeting his army, and they also say it's not having any impact on him, Max.
FOSTER: And what's the suggestion that you've been getting from officials about the latest military strategy on behalf of the Libyans?
ROBERTSON: Well, the government announced or re-announced the cease- fire in the last 24 hours. We're not able to verify or monitor that. Government officials say the reports that we get from Misrata that say there's a government offensive going on there are incorrect and wrong. State television here has been broadcasting a message that Misrata is now "cleansed" meaning the operations against the opposition are over and they're calling on people to come out onto the streets.
But the latest, really, that we get from government officials here is that what they want to do is to sort of challenge, if you will, the word of the international community and see how far the U.N. resolution goes to holding up will civilians be protected. They're talking about sending a large group of families representing tribes and families to walk along the highways towards Benghazi to see what will happen. They're talking about tens of thousands of people walking towards Benghazi, civilians unarmed, and what they seem to be planning and say that they want to find out is will the coalition protect these innocent, as they say they are, people walking along the roads from rebels. Will they be able to walk freely along the roads?
So this seems to be the tact that the government is launching upon now rather than sending its army towards Benghazi, sending civilians to see how they will fare as the international community has said it will protect civilians. They want to see how far that follows through, Max.
FOSTER: OK. Nic Robertson, thank you very much indeed to join us from Tripoli.
Well, coalition forces are also attacking Libyan military positions outside of Benghazi. CNN's Arwa Damon has that story.
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bright orange bursts light up the dark sky as foreign fighter jets pound Gadhafi's military mass outside Benghazi. This cell phone video was shot by (INAUDIBLE) from the roof of his farmhouse nearby.
"It was incredible. There were eight strikes" he recalls, "but it still pains me because these are Libyans, Muslims. I have relatives in the army who were forced into it. These are people who were brainwashed by the regime."
But everyone here agrees the strike had to happen.
"We thank France and all the countries that are standing with the fighters and with us," 20-year old (INAUDIBLE) says, firmly believing that foreign intervention prevented a massacre in Benghazi.
"Without this, Gadhafi would have wiped us out. We would have been dirt." One of the fighters in this car tells us.
DAMON (on camera): This here is the tip of a missile that would have been fired from this Russian anti-aircraft weapon system. There's still a fire smoldering inside. This is a radar-guided system. The force that took this out would have to have been massive. This vehicle weighs at least 15 tons.
Just in this small area, we can see at least half a dozen burning military vehicles. There's four charred bodies back there. We're hearing that there are many more. This battlefield graveyard stretches for kilometers. Gadhafi's military had been slowly advancing on the poorly- trained and ill-equipped opposition fighters but it does not stand a chance in the face of modern foreign air power.
Just to give you an example of how ancient some of the machinery the opposition fighters have been using, this here is a World War II Willys jeep that they found at one of Gadhafi's army bases. They say that they piled into it right now with the mission of chasing down pro-Gadhafi elements who managed to escape into the farmland.
DAMON (voice-over): Flashing the now-familiar victory sign, the opposition fighters take-off. But despite the jubilation exhibited here, there is also the realization that the battle for Libya is far, far from over.
Arwa Damon, CNN, outside Benghazi, Libya.
FOSTER: Well, Libyan officials in Tripoli ask the United Nations to convene an emergency meeting. Today, the Security Council is meeting right now behind closed doors. Let's get an update from senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth.
What's on the table, Richard?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can give you an update, Max. The Security Council discussion on Libya has concluded and the end result is Libya's request for an emergency meeting has been stalled in effect. The Council will discuss further on Thursday when there was already a planned meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon who is required under the Security Council resolution passed Thursday evening to brief the Council on how that resolution is being implemented.
So the Security Council - the Security Council is not going to demand - give in to Libya's request for a Security Council meeting though they already voted Thursday night, 10 in favor and five abstentions, no vetoes for this resolution so the west was not in favor of any type of negotiating this resolution again. Max?
FOSTER: Richard, thank you very much for that.
Well, some observers fear a long-protracted war in Libya if Gadhafi's forces entrench themselves in civilian areas to deter air attacks. For more now on the military operations underway in Libya, we're joined by Chris Parry. He is a former Director General of the British Ministry of Defense.
Thank you very much indeed for joining us.
What are you making of the strategy as it fits in to an overall strategy?
CHRIS PARRY, FMR. DIRECTOR GENERAL U.K. MINISTRY OF DEFENSE: Well, of the moment, I don't think there is a strategy. I think the price of getting a U.N. resolution and the ability to impose a no-fly zone and protect Libyan citizens was probably the fuzzy logic of an open-ended strategy for the future.
FOSTER: It's just a starting point, isn't it - a no-fly zone and - but the problem is there's nothing that follows that as far as we know?
PARRY: That's right. I mean, I think one could have assumed that those things were secret but I don't think they are. I don't think there is a next step planned at the moment. I think what will have to happen is that people will have to go back to United Nations and say "Look, we've imposed a no-fly zone. We're protecting Libyan citizens as far as we can. We're containing the regime. What would you like us to do now?"
FOSTER: The problem is that some voices in the Arab and African world have already expressed some concern that the current operations go beyond what's mandated by the U.N. So it's unlikely that they're going to sanction anything else, isn't it?
PARRY: Well, I think they probably didn't read the small prints which said that they - the Allies were to take all measures to contain the regime and prevent a humanitarian disaster. I think there's an element of either being disingenuous or naive about this and it's quite interesting that the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amre Moussa, has had to retract what he said earlier and he's now totally (INAUDIBLE).
FOSTER: How far can the French, the Brits, the Americans go under the current mandate in terms of a military operation, do you judge as?
PARRY: Well, I think there's quite a bit of flexibility but what I think the Allies are trying to do is maintain the spirit of the resolution. They are imposing a no-fly zone. They are taking out major elements of Gadhafi's military capability and as far as possible, they're trying to protect civilians although as we've seen on your report, it seems that the Gadhafi regime is intent on testing the limits of that resolution.
FOSTER: So when do they have to revisit things? When do they realize that this isn't going to be going anywhere further?
PARRY: Well, I think if you look back to no-fly zones in Iraq and Bosnia, there comes a point where just keeping the air clear of Gadhafi's air force and suppressing his air defenses just won't do because I believe what he will do next is put small bands of very heavily-armed irregular forces into the urban areas where it will be very difficult for Allied air power to actually deal with it.
FOSTER: So you need to send in ground troops at that point, don't you?
PARRY: Well, I think unless you can actually exclude them and, of course, what you can do - as we did in Bosnia - was create safe zones. So already, I think, we're seeing militarily the country splitting down into a couple of areas - the East and the West - and I think at some stage in the future, the Allies will have to go back to United Nations and say "Look, we fulfilled the requirements of what you told us to do originally. Now, let's sort this out because there's another phase that we're starting now and we have to ensure that this country doesn't descend into the sort of chaos we saw into Iraq and we also have to look at how it transitions to some new form of policy."
FOSTER: OK. Chris Parry, thank you very much indeed for joining us on the program.
Coming up next, we'll break down who's supporting, who's waiving, and who's downright condemning the mission in Libya. And later, efforts to avert an atomic disaster in Japan as fears about food contamination intensify.
FOSTER: Rebel forces in Libya celebrated as coalition forces pounded government military positions near Benghazi but not everyone is happy about it. On Sunday, Russia alleged that Britain, France, and the U.S. were bombing non-military targets and killing civilians. The Russian foreign ministry called for more caution in those air strikes. China, India, and Venezuela have also condemned the attacks.
Now, as the air strikes continue in the face of criticism from some world powers, at least the Arab League is clarifying its position. On Sunday, the League's Secretary General Amre Moussa told reporters that what is happening in Libya is not what the League intended when they supported a no-fly zone but now, the Arab League chief says - chief of staff says the organization has not changed its position.
Speaking today in Cairo, Moussa reiterated his support for a no-fly zone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMRE MOUSSA, ARAB LEAGUE SECRETARY-GENERAL (through translator): We respect the Security Council decision and we have no objection for that because it is - it has specified that there will be no land troops to occupy Libya.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Well, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon says support and encouragement from Arab leaders is one of the main reasons the Security Council passed a resolution authorizing a no-fly zone but how strong is that backing?
CNN's Ivan Watson is following that part of the story for us from Cairo. He joins us now.
What would you say, Ivan?
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's a very big question. We're into the third night of this no-fly zone military operation and we really have yet to hear any Arab leader come out, strongly endorsing the operation that's been taking place so far. And during his visit here to Cairo, the capital of the most populous nation in the Arab world, U.N. Security Council general - the U.N. Secretary-General rather, Ban Ki-Moon, he called on Moammar Gadhafi to call for an immediate cease-fire and to stop killing Libyan civilians but he also said it was very important for the international community to speak with one voice and that was a definite suggestion to the Arab world.
John Kerry, the U.S. chairman of the Senate house for a senate foreign relations committee, he also met with Amre Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, and it was fascinating to see how divergent their two positions were, their enthusiasm or lack thereof was for this military operation.
Take a listen to this, Max.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SENATE MEMBER: We would not be doing this if this had not been asked for by Libyan Muslims who were being slaughtered by Gadhafi. We wouldn't be there if this hadn't been asked for by the gulf states who saw their brothers and sisters being killed by Gadhafi. We wouldn't be there if the Arab League had not passed it's own statement asking us to put a fly zone in place.
AMRE MOUSSA, ARAB LEAGUE SECRETARY-GENERAL: The enforcement of a no- fly zone is going on. The participation by Arab countries or any other Arab country is left for bilateral consultations, bilateral commitments, and it depends on each and every country. There is no resolution by the Arab League. The resolution by the Arab League addressed to the issue of a no-fly zone and the request to the Security Council of the United Nations to establish this zone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: Max, thus far this military operation is exclusively led by European militaries as well as the militaries of the U.S. and Canada. The only Arab country, so far, to contribute any forces whatsoever is tiny, Qatar. Now U.S. officials have suggested that perhaps the United Arab Emirates would contribute some forces. They say they will confine their contribution to humanitarian operations and this despite the fact that both the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League both in weeks passed, both called for a no-fly zone over Libya. We have also seen criticism coming from the government's of India and Russia as well, concerned that civilians may be being hit in these cruise missile and air strikes against Libya. Max.
FOSTER: Ivan, thank you very much indeed. And despite words of support then from Arab leaders, so far Qatar, as he was saying, is the only Arab nation to join the military coalition enforcing the no-fly zone. The U.S. is commanding the mission right now with France, Britain and Canada as its main support. Italy, Spain, Denmark, Norway have all sent fighter jets to assist. Qatar has also offered to send four fighter planes but one of the strongest player in the region, the United Arab Emirates says so far its mission is strictly humanitarian, as Ivan was saying. And it does not, it's not helping to enforce the no-fly zone.
In Britain, lawmakers are debating whether to continue the country's involvement in Libya. The measures are expected to be approved easily when it comes for a vote in the coming hours. Earlier today, British Prime Minister David Cameron told members of Parliament, the mission was necessary and has already proved successful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Two aims to these strikes, the first was to suppress the Libyan air defenses and make possible the safe enforcement of a no-fly zone. The second was to protect civilians from attack by the Gadhafi regime. Good progress has been made on both fronts. I can announce to the House today that coalition forces have largely neutralized Libyan air defenses and as a result a no-fly zone has effectively been put in place over Libya.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Well, coalition air strikes coordinated by the United States just begun on Saturday but the French foreign minister says that NATO may be ready to take control in jus a matter of day.
CNN's world affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is in Paris and joins us now live with that part of the story. Jill, the control mechanism here is crucial, isn't? Not just militarily but politically?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, both sides are very much in play and one of the issues on the diplomatic side, of course, is making sure that every body is contributing was expected because after all the understanding when all of these began is that the Arab countries, namely countries that belong to the Arab League would be participating. After all, they are the ones who really initiated the call for help and they wanted a no-fly zone and military action to carry it out.
But there is, at this point, not a complete unanimity among them and what they're going to be doing. The French for two days had been saying that the Qataris are contributing four Mirage jets and that still seems to be the case but no details exactly on where they are. They could actually be in transit to participate and then the issue of the UAE. I mean, they have said that they are doing humanitarian work and they have as we understand have been doing it for at least three days but the question is would they contribute militarily. And the latest word is that they are looking at that. They are debating it and studying it.
So it's very important, Max, as everyone knows for the Arab countries to be part of this because certainly the western countries don't want it to look like an exclusively western operation. And even Hillary Clinton when she was here in Paris was saying that it really changed the political landscape to have the Arab counties on board.
FOSTER: OK. Jill, thank you very much indeed.
Let's just take you to Tripoli for some live pictures. Let's have a look at the skyline. There has been anti-aircraft fire, of course, in that area. Let's see what's going on right now. Pretty peaceful but (INAUDIBLE) but we had had some reports of anti-aircraft fire. Let's listen in.
We'll keep watching that for you.
Bernard-Henri Levy, the French philosopher who recently returned from Benghazi and met with Libyan opposition, in Paris today. I spoke with him earlier. I asked him if he thinks the rebels would be able to form a new Libyan government.
BERNARD-HENRI LEVY, FRENCH LIAISON FOR LIBYAN OPPOSITION; I think there is no real (INAUDIBLE) differences or appreciation about the nature of the mandate of the United Nations (INAUDIBLE) but (INAUDIBLE) speaking I'm sure that everybody agreed. So I think that we are on the same page, us, France, you, American and English and the Arabs of the Arab League.
FOSTER: What's the end game here? Do you see the rebels in a position to form a government in Tripoli?
LEVY: I met them in Paris this morning. I met them with President Sarkozy last week. So I have a little idea, maybe not completely clear but more or less of who they are, what they want and where they go and I think that the target, the goal is as democratic as it can be, after 42 years of tyranny and of (INAUDIBLE) so able to form a government, yes. Heal Tripoli, for sure. This idea of (INAUDIBLE) being separated from Tripoli and all that tribe conflict, I don't really buy the theory. It underestimate the real solidarity of the whole people of Libya against Gadhafi and against all that he represents. So a united government, emerging from, going out of this present situation, I think (INAUDIBLE) happen.
FOSTER: How would you get to the point where the rebels were in power in Libya? You have to get rid of Gadhafi. You have to arm the rebels. You have to up this campaign massively and the truth is as soon as that happens, it will be seen as a western attack on an African nation without international support.
LEVY: It is an allied operation, Arab and western. That is what President Sarkozy wanted, this is what Mr. Cameron and Mr. Obama wanted too and the minute when we are speaking, it is the case. The Arab League voted the resolution. They believe that what is happening is inside the resolution and you will have in the next hour some Arab planes joining the coalition.
FOSTER: As soon as you talk about regime change, for example, you're going to lose that support? Aren't you?
LEVY: If we really (INAUDIBLE) of Gadhafi, if we cut the providing lines for his troops, if we bomb his airport, he will (INAUDIBLE) ugly big fruit. He will fall itself. It has not to be a target of the war. It has not to be reason, in a resolution. It will happen.
FOSTER: As much as people may agree with you, militarily, that's a response to change things. There's not going to be international support for it. So politically, Sarkozy, Cameron, Obama aren't going to be able to do that, are they, without alienating Arab and African countries?
LEVY: The mandate asks that Gadhafi is deprived of the forces which (INAUDIBLE) and will allow him again to kill massively and to commit mass murder. Let's keep inside the mandate.
FOSTER: The world of politics continues. As you can see, the skyline in Tripoli has been lighting up during that interview. Let's listen in to see if we hear anything now.
We'll keep watching that for you. But certainly, we saw some anti- aircraft fire in the last couple of minutes. From the military showdown in Libya though, we had next in the Middle East emerging battlefront will be looking at why Yemen's president is now facing one of his greatest test yet. As protests intensify and key figure side with the anti-regime movements.
We'll have more in just a moment.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) * FOSTER: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Max Foster in London. Coming up, a wave of dissent grows in Yemen as the president clings to power even as a top aid defects to the opposition.
Then, new setbacks at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan as the World Health Organization tries to calm fears about food contamination.
And as the Japanese struggle to rebuild their lives, the basic human ritual of grieving the dead is painfully abbreviated.
All those stories ahead for you. First, though, a check of the headlines.
More anti-aircraft fire has been heard in Tripoli just moments ago. A top US commander says air strikes in Libya are generally achieving their objectives. While coalition jets have been pounding military targets enforcing a UN-mandated cease-fire, leaders' focus now is on expanding the no-fly zone.
For "New York Times" reporters have been released in Libya after going missing last week. The journalists were delivered to Turkish diplomats on Monday. The "Times" staffers were detained last Tuesday by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says the situation at the crippled Fukushima Daichi plant in Japan remains very serious. Smoke spewed from the two reactors there on Monday, but officials aren't sure what caused it.
Radiation in Japan's food supply has spread further -- excuse me -- than previously thought. Sales of raw milk and spinach from the areas near the reactors have been banned. More than three times the maximum standard of radioactive iodine was detected in tap water.
US president Barack Obama says US forces will step back in Libya when the country's air defense system is disabled, and he expects that to happen in a matter of days. Mr. Obama was speaking at a news conference with Chilean president Sebastian Pinera, part of a five-day trip through South America.
Angry protests, violent retaliations, and a defiant leader. It may sound like the battlefront in Libya, but this uprising is playing out in Yemen where, tonight, President Ali Abdullah Saleh is clinging to power even as some of his closest allies abandon him. Three top generals have now defected, including this one, who says he'll order his troops to protect demonstrators.
More than a dozen Yemeni diplomats and other top officials have also resigned. Let's get more on the situation in Yemen. Our Mohammed Jamjoom has been following this story for us from Abu Dhabi. It seems like it -- it must be getting into the final stages for him, Mohammed.
MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Max, more and more government officials that I'm speaking to who are in Yemen right now believe that President Saleh only has a few days, really, by which he can continue to cling to power. The situation has become so dire for him.
Today, every hour that passed earlier today, more and more defections. You had, first, three very high-profile, very powerful military leaders that defected from his ranks, joined the youth revolution, said they would send troops out to protect the demonstrators in the streets.
Then, you started having government officials, ruling party officials, opposition members, and also ambassadors from Yemen embassies around the world, they started resigning en masse.
It was -- it was quite incredible to witness this. President Saleh remains defiant, but the problem is, I've been speaking to Yemeni officials over the last few hours. They believe that if President Saleh doesn't figure out a way to peacefully transfer power, and in the next few days, that there could be a civil war in Yemen.
You have different military factions, now, in the streets. You have the military -- sorry, the defense minister, who has said -- who has backed President Saleh and said that the army there will do whatever it can to prevent a coup.
Then, you have these other commanders, who say they're sending their troops out to support the demonstrators. The people I'm speaking with are very worried this could lead to violent confrontations, and many officials I spoke with are now saying they believe that we're seeing the early stages of a bloodless coup. Max?
FOSTER: Mohammed, thank you very much, indeed, for that.
Well, calls for reform in more political and economic freedoms are also echoing in Syria. Demonstrations have erupted there over the past few days. The Southern town of Daraa has been the -- has seen the largest protests. Witnesses say hundreds marched there again on Monday after they buried a protester who was killed in clashes with security forces the day before.
And in Bahrain, the government has denied accusations from Human Rights Watch that it's targeting or arresting doctors. A spokesman says medical facilities have been overrun by political and sectarian activity.
This is a funeral procession in the village of Buri outside Manama two days after the deceased man went missing amid a heavy police crackdown on Shiite protests.
Now, for more on the demonstrations happening across the Middle east, we're joined by Nima Elbagir, who's with me, now. Nima, can you generalize across these different sets of protests?
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, the core issues are the same across the Arab world and North Africa. The economy, poverty, unemployment, a sense that there's an elite that is gaining while the rest of the country that's suffering.
But Syria and Bahrain, I think, should be viewed very differently to, specifically, Yemen. A few days ago, we had the Bahraini king saying that they'd foiled a foreign plot. And with a Shia majority, this was a very specific message to the other countries in the Gulf and the Gulf Corporation Council that have moved into Bahrain to support the royal family, and also to the Sunni majority in the Arab world to try and kind of undercut the sympathy that the Bahrainis are receiving.
Also, Syria. Of all the countries in the Arab world that would be facing revolt, I think most observers would put Syria very low down on the list. It's a very autocratic state, it's very much in control.
But the way that it's choosing to deal with this is very interesting, because instead of -- in addition to the clampdown, instead of saying "We will crush these people," Bashar al-Assad, the president, has actually come forward with his condolences.
So, I think you can sense that both regimes are feeling extremely vulnerable, but I definitely wouldn't put them in the same subset as Yemen quite yet.
FOSTER: When we talk about Egypt and Tunisia, it seems very much sparked by economic concerns. When you look at Bahrain, it looks like sectarian problems are at play, as well. Is there a separation there?
ELBAGIR: Well, I think with Bahrain, I -- many observers have said that it's very much a Shia uprising. But, of course, any demonstration, any pro-reform movement in Bahrain is going to be majority Shia, because the Shia are the majority of the population.
But, actually, what's been interesting is that, while the government and the rest of the Gulf Corporation Council have been seeking to paint this in sectarian terms, actually, the pro-reform movement has been coming from across the spectrum.
There are genuine concerns that the king, who until very recently was just a prince, he announced of himself that he was going to become a king, is out of touch from his people, that he's not taking seriously any of the reforms he's promised.
And that, again, as we've seen across the Arab world, that there's this really thin elite sector of society that's benefiting from the resources, from the oil wells, while everyone else is being stamped down on.
FOSTER: A lot of people saying that what we're seeing right now is truly historic across this region. Are you able to put your finger on exactly what has changed in the world?
ELBAGIR: Well, I think with Egypt and Tunisia, you've -- you have a very highly educated populace, and especially with Egypt, you just have a sheer force of numbers. When you have a population that numbers that hugely, and they decide to take to the streets and that fear barrier is gone, very little is going to stop them.
Again, that's one of the things that we don't really see in Bahrain. It's a very small country, and the military and the security forces outnumber the populace hugely. So it is incredibly brave that they're going out there. But I think most people at the moment are not quite yet putting their money on the revolt.
FOSTER: OK, Nima, thank you very much, indeed.
Now, elsewhere, a new setback for devastated Japan as it holds its nerve, how much can one nation take? You'll hear an expert's view as we come back and report on that disaster.
FOSTER: "Japan's nuclear crisis remains very serious." Those are the words of the UN's nuclear watchdog. The International Atomic Energy Agency says the crisis at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant is still not resolved. That statement came after smoke poured from reactors two and three at the stricken Daichi facility earlier on Monday.
The setbacks came despite Herculean efforts to shore up the plant, which was badly damaged in the monster earthquake and tsunami on March the 11th.
The World Health Organization, meanwhile, says there's no risk from short-term exposure to food contaminated by radiation. Yet the Japanese government has banned the sale of raw milk from the Fukushima area, and spinach can't be sold from a nearby region after officials found traces of radioactive iodine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YUKIO EDANO, JAPANESE CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY (through translator): Does not mean that people who keep on eating -- or people who eat these items will become sick right away. This is only a precautionary measure because we do not want to see very high-level readings from these products over a long period of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Well, our Anna Coren has more, now, from the Chief Cabinet Secretary and from the team at the scene of those disabled reactors. Officials have tried to avert panic, and here's her in-depth report.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Just as authorities thought they were making progress in stabilizing the volatile situation at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant, a major setback late this afternoon, with smoke rising from two of the reactors.
TEPCO, the company that owns the power plant, was unable to confirm where the smoke was coming from, whether it was emitting radioactive material into the atmosphere, or if this was a nuclear meltdown. All 420 workers from the site were evacuated to the main building, halting plans to restore power to all six reactors.
Well, this comes as high levels of radiation were found in both milk and spinach in four prefectures surrounding the plant. The government banning the sale and distribution of those food products.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano told Japan's citizens that the government was taking every precaution.
EDANO (through translator): What's already been sold in the market will not cause any health damage to consumers. For a prolonged period of time, there might be health risks so, just for a precautionary measure, we are taking these restrictive actions. Please don't panic.
COREN: Higher levels of iodine were also found in the drinking water close to the plant, the government telling residents there to refrain from drinking it while further tests were being done. Well, these health warnings only add to the fear and confusion that is gripping this country. Anna Coren, CNN, Tokyo.
FOSTER: Well, it is no easy thing, to try to keep panic at bay and reassure your fellow citizens. Senior International Correspondent Stan Grant caught up with the man the world is seeing every day to discuss compassion and almost unendurable pressure.
STAN GRANT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): How are you feeling?
EDANDO (through translator): I'm feeling great, but I wasn't --
GRANT (voice-over): It's no wonder Yukio Edano is feeling the strain. For the past ten days, he's barely slept. He admits to an hour here or there in his chair. He's only been home once. Hour after hour, day after day, the Chief Cabinet Secretary fronts the media. Each appearance by the man in the blue jacket marks another twist and turn in Japan's efforts to stave off nuclear disaster.
GRANT (on camera): Each day, each hour, do you feel like you're winning? You're winning this fight?
EDANO (through translator): We should never be an optimist. We will take nothing for granted.
GRANT (voice-over): But Edano's role as designated point man has brought him as much scorn as fame. He's asking people to trust him with their lives, reassuring the nation that rising radiation levels will pose little threat. Many in Japan say they simply don't believe him.
GRANT (on camera): Can you guarantee that you're not hiding anything? That what you are telling the people is the truth?
EDANO (through translator): Yes, we have always shared all the information with the public. But this situation is dynamic. Announcements may be delayed, and that may cause confusion, but we will do more to make sure to remove any gap.
GRANT (voice-over): Now, another scare to deal with -- contaminated food. Traces of radioactive material in milk and spinach. Not enough to cause illness, but --
GRANT (on camera): Would you eat it?
EDANO (through translator): Of course.
GRANT: And your family?
EDANO (through translator): Of course.
GRANT (voice-over): Throughout this interview, he never flinches, his hands clasped in his lap and his shoulders rigid, but sometimes a smile we haven't seen before when talking about his wife's support. And just the merest flinch only when I ask about the personal toll.
GRANT (on camera): This looks like it's upsetting you a bit.
EDANO (through translator): Very frankly, I can't afford to think of how I feel right now. I am just committed to my work and my responsibility.
GRANT (voice-over): This messenger many simply will not believe has a job to do. Stan Grant, CNN, Tokyo.
FOSTER: Well, grief is an all-too loyal companion, especially in disaster-stricken Japan. Coming up, we're in some of the hardest-hit parts of the country where not having a chance to grieve is starting to push the endurance limit of even the most dignified mourners.
FOSTER: Well, with so many people in Japan struggling to survive from day to day, the traditions for mourning the dead must now wait, as we from CNN's Kyung Lah. We must caution you, though. This is an intense story and may not be suitable for some viewers.
KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Japan's disaster, there are too many dead to have a proper funeral. Sixteen-year- old Hiroki Sugawara is underneath this blanket. His parents and two brothers drove his body to the emergency shelter, the best farewell they could offer in the wake of the tsunami.
"Don't give up hope," Hiroki's father tells his friends. "Keep living for my son."
These children have already lost two of their friends. Hiroki is the third. He wasn't at school that day, which sits high above his neighborhood. Crews pulled his body from the rubble.
Sixteen-year-old Takuma Kinno played soccer with Hiroki. "I've lost my best friend, Hiroki," he says. "Hiroki died young. He should have lived a long life."
Life has been cut short all across Rikuzentakata, one of the hardest- hit towns in the tsunami zone. Search crews find the body of a middle-aged woman. Like all the others, they can't identify her, but cover her and load her body onto a truck.
LAH (voice-over): They offer a single sign of respect, a farewell. On the ground, flowers and offerings of tea to mark the passing of another life. After a few seconds, crews return to the search.
It is tough to cope with this scale of loss as an adult. For the young, incomprehensible.
LAH (on camera): It's too early to know how many children have been impacted by this disaster, but aid organizations believe that number will be well into the thousands, and that they'll feel the psychological damage for years to come.
ANDREW WANDER, SAVE THE CHILDREN: We've already spoken to children who are having nightmares, they're unable to sleep, they're frightened of the sea, because they believe it's going to come back. They're frightened of being indoors because the building shook so violently during the earthquake.
So, it's absolutely a chance many of these children are going to have difficulties, serious difficulties coming to terms with what happened to them.
LAH (voice-over): For the friends of Hiroki Sugawara, this impromptu funeral is some closure. A thank you from the family, his father covers his son and offers a final farewell to his friends.
A few more seconds to cry, then Hiroki's friends move back inside the shelter to deal with what this disaster brings next. Kyung Lah, CNN, Rikuzentakata, Japan.
FOSTER: Hiroki was one of the thousands of people killed in the earthquake and tsunami. More than 8,800 people are now confirmed dead. The list of the missing grows daily. A few hours ago, officials said they had not counted from 13,000 people.
As survivors sift through the hospital logs looking for loved ones, the government has the grim task of adding up the economic cost of Japan's disaster. In its latest report, the World Bank says the total cost could reach $235 billion. That's almost four percent of Japan's GDP. It's more than double what it cost to clean up after the Kobe earthquake back in 1995. That quake was magnitude 7.2.
Well, someone who knows a lot about helping countries build back from disaster is Stacey White. She's a senior research consultant at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She's joining me, now, from CNN Washington, the bureau there. Stacey, we pretty much know at this point, though, that this is going to be the most expensive natural disaster ever.
STACEY WHITE, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: We certainly do. As you noted, the Kobe earthquake was, until this time, the most expensive on record at about $134 billion. To put it into context, Katrina cost about $84 billion, and the 2004 tsunami across 14 different countries in much less industrialized countries and parts of the country cost only $10 billion. So, this is above and beyond what we've ever seen before.
FOSTER: At a time when people are still searching for the missing, it's a difficult subject, reconstruction, isn't it? But we keep getting the sense from Japan that people just want to get back to normal as quickly as possible, so they want their homes rebuilt. How does that process even start? And does it start now?
WHITE: I do think it's important to put into context that 12 -- nearly 12 days into this crisis, we're still very much in an emergency response phase with certain missing persons still not identified, over 2,000 shelters up and running with 300,000 people displaced. So, this is an emergency situation still.
That said, it is time to start thinking about early recovery, and some of the most important things to do in this context is for the government to build systems and processes that can continually stabilize the situation, can begin to assess damages and needs, can also support the resumption of industrial activity as soon as possible, and also to assist populations who have been displaced to either resettle in their homes, or if not possible, to return to their communities of origin as much as they can.
FOSTER: Apart from the fact that people need somewhere to live, is it important for the government to show that it wants to give a positive sense to all of this and move on, start rebuilding, give people a sense -- of something to live for in the future despite what's happened in the past?
WHITE: I think experience shows that once victims of a disaster like this are able to identify and reunify with family members and also assess their own individual damages in terms of their homes or their businesses, they very much immediately want to start rebuilding.
And I do think that the Japanese government has done a few very good things in terms of stabilizing the situation with the injection of nearly $700 billion by the Bank of Japan into the banking system to stabilize that as well as noting that it would dedicate up to $130 billion to crisis lending for businesses.
So, indeed, they've already started to take steps in addition to the emergency response team, both at the central level as well as at local levels. They do have -- established a task force, now, that's looking to support affected populations.
FOSTER: It's a rich country, isn't it? So can it -- I presume it can afford this $235 billion, for example, that the World Bank is pointing to.
WHITE: Well, it's going to certainly be near that figure, and I think Goldman Sachs and Citigroup also came up with figures not quite at $235 billion, but in that range. And as you'll recall, Kobe is a -- a model of how to rebuild after a disaster, so rebuilding in a disaster-resilient and an earthquake-resilient way costs more money. It's just plain and simple.
FOSTER: OK, Stacey White, thank you very much, indeed, for that.
Now, CNN has launched a new, high-tech way for smartphone users around the world to take immediate action to help those disaster victims in Japan. Throughout our coverage, we are showing you a special black and white code, which you can see on your screen right now. As you scan this image with your smartphone, it loads up our Impact Your World website automatically, no typing required. There, you'll find links to charities that are helping disaster victims in Japan, including reconstruction. And we'll air this code throughout the day and evening on CNN, so do keep your smartphones handy, if you have one.
Many of Japan's young people believe their lives will never be the same. Now, all they want is to make a difference. Here's CNN's Anna Coren explaining that.
COREN (voice-over): It was an unstoppable force that swallowed up entire communities in a matter of seconds. An historic earthquake caused this monster tsunami, creating devastation and misery on an unprecedented scale.
For Japan's youth, far removed from the crisis, they've never witnessed anything of this magnitude on home soil.
YUSUKE MIZUHO, CALL TO ACTION (through translator): I was so afraid of the tsunami, I can't even put my fear into words.
COREN (voice-over): And now, the threat of a nuclear fallout has many of them on edge.
MAYA NAGASE, CALL TO ACTION (through translator): I'm afraid of radiation, because it's something I can't see. And we just can't trust the information we're getting.
COREN (voice-over): For a generation struggling with high unemployment and a depressed economy, the crisis could have easily added to their bleak prospects. But instead, they're rallying together in the hope of getting their nation back on its feet.
KIMIKO WATANABE, CALL TO ACTION (through translator): The young people can make a difference if we do what we can. If everyone takes a little step, Japan will become a better place.
COREN (on camera): Ironically, this crisis has given Japan's younger generation hope. So many of them have been spurred into action, volunteering, donating to charity, or simply raising awareness on social networking sites. It's made them realize they have something important to contribute to their country.
COREN (voice-over): Once criticized as being apathetic, this generation is now changing perceptions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think young people can make a difference, and because of that, Japan will recover.
COREN (voice-over): Anna Coren, CNN, Tokyo.
FOSTER: Well, I'm Max Foster. That is your world connected. Thank you so much for watching. The world headlines and "BackStory" will show -- will follow this short break.