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Syrian President Addresses His Nation; Reaction to Syrian President's Speech; Japan's Emperor and Empress Visit Tokyo Shelter; TEPCO President Hospitalized for Stress; Workers in Nuclear Plant Face Hellish Conditions; Japan Seeking Help From France and US to Control Nuclear Crisis; Taking Stock of China Tech

Aired March 30, 2011 - 08:00:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The Syrian president, speaking earlier. Now, that speech is still underway. We are monitoring it, and the president, as you saw just there, he looked at ease. He seemed relaxed at the podium. He addressed a room full of fervent supporters, including one who said, right before this speech, quote, "You represent not only Syria, but the entire Arab nation."

Now, Bashar al-Assad did mention the greater turmoil in the region. There was also vague mention of political reform. And again, this was the president's first speech since a series of anti-government protests broke out of the country, in which dozens of people have been killed.

Let's examine what President al-Assad said. Hala Gorani joins me, now, from CNN Center. And Hala, vague mention of reform, but not the speech many were waiting for. What's your take?

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, and he really was wildly going between two opposite poles, one blaming outside conspirators for the unrest, and then swinging back to admitting that the Syrian regime hasn't met the aspirations of its people and has promised some level of reform.

Although, it all remained extremely vague. No mention so far of lifting the emergency law that's been in effect for 48 years. It was in effect before Bashar al-Assad was even born.

And then, going back to blaming conspiracies, outside forces, organized text message campaigns to incite sectarian strife. Also blaming satellite channels for inciting some of the unrest.

So, you really have two wildly opposing messages in the same speech. It's very difficult to make any sense of it at this point, and very difficult to see, although we're continuing to monitor it, what exactly Bashar al-Assad is offering his people in the way of reforms, Kristie.

STOUT: Now, the president, we mentioned earlier, up there on the podium, he seems at ease, he seems confident, he seems relaxed. Just how strong is his mandate? Is this a situation where there is no tipping point for the government in power?

GORANI: Well, it's very strong inside that parliament building, I can tell you. Those are all very supportive members of parliament that are onboard with the president. In fact, every few minutes, one of those MPs gets up and shouts words of support and compliments toward the president. It all looks very much staged.

You saw those images of Bashar al-Assad on state television stepping out of a car, blowing kisses to crowds of supporters, there, holding a very professionally-printed color portraits of himself. So, this is what is going on inside the parliament building.

As far as outside, well, you have the support from those who benefit from the regime, but among the wider population, the regime is very much in question right now, and those demonstrations have to be worrying the government, for them to come out at this stage and try to appease protesters and their demands.

Although, after this speech, it's an open question as to whether or not the demonstrators and the opposition movement will be happy with it.

STOUT: Tell us more about the wider reaction in Syria to the president's speech. The reaction beyond what we're looking at here, just this staged support from inside the parliament building and also outside the parliament building, there's pro-government supporters, there.

In this address, he said, quote, "Our duty is to save the security of this nation." How does that go down with the people of Syria? Do they want security, or do they want reform?

GORANI: You know, I think that, as far as Syria is concerned, we've heard from opposition groups who are opposed to this regime. Some have said, "We don't want the precipitous fall of this leader overnight."

There is a certain level of fear about a power vacuum and being filled very quickly, perhaps, too quickly, leading to a situation where the country is destabilized. So, that is -- there is that level of concern in a country like Syria.

However, opposition movements have told CNN as recently as this morning before this speech that they want genuine reform. They don't want promises of reform, they don't want vague talk of reform. They want genuine constitutional reform and the lifting of these emergency laws that prevent people from gathering, that prevent people from publicly criticizing the regime, and that also allow security forces to arbitrarily detain anybody they like without real charges being brought against them.

So, right now, that is sort of the very, very initial reaction we're getting from opposition groups. But we're going to have to see over the next few days whether protesters go back out on the street and, importantly, whether Friday these calls for more important demonstrations actually materialize, Kristie.

STOUT: All right. Hala Gorani joining us live from CNN Center. Thank you very much, Hala.

Now, let's go live to Mohammed Jamjoom. He's been watching the situation from CNN Abu Dhabi. Mohammed, don't know if you heard that analysis earlier from Hala, but she was talking about almost the split personality of this speech.

On one hand, the Syrian president making reference, vague mentions of reform. On the other hand, blaming conspiracies for the unrest. What's your reaction to this address?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, that's just it, what you just mentioned. You seem to be having the president, here, talking about things that are wildly divergent.

On the one hand, saying reforms are needed, that they're going to listen to the demands of the Syrian people, that the demands -- a lot of the demands of Syrian people, or many Syrians, as the president stated, have not been met.

And yet, then, shifting the blame to outside forces or to satellite television channels, saying that there are conspiracies against Syria.

This is one of the problems that the opposition and the protesters are having there. They feel that the government -- when they speak to us, they tell us they feel that the government always shifts the blame to outside forces. The opposition members that we speak with, the protesters we talk to, say that these issues are homegrown.

The fact that there haven't been reforms that have been demanded, that those reforms haven't been implemented in a speedy manner. That's the reason there's so much discontent in Syria.

And then, the fact that because these reforms are being demanded now, because people are out in the streets, and then there's been a crackdown. That has caused more people to rally to the side of those people that were protesting.

It's interesting to see how the Syrian government is trying to deal with this. We've seen statements in the last few days saying that this emergency law will be lifted. When will it be lifted? Everybody expected that President Bashar al-Assad would address that right off the start of his speech today. We still haven't heard him address it.

Is that emergency law going to be lifted now? Has it been lifted? What does that mean? Will there be a law in its place?

And all the members of the opposition and the activists that we've spoken with since last night, they were telling us that they didn't expect that this speech would go far enough. Now, we'll have to wait for more reaction to see what they're saying, to see if they feel that they're being listened to, that the president is heeding their call.

But as of now, we're still trying to make sense of this message of the president, what exactly he's trying to say and what he is going to deliver to the Syrian people. Kristie?

STOUT: Yes, we're still waiting to hear any confirmation from the Syrian president, details on the lifting of that emergency law that's been in place since 1963, as well as additional constitutional reform.

Before the Syrian president made that speech, one of his fervent supporters in that parliament building said this, quote, "You represent not only Syria, but the entire Arab nation." Mohammed, just wanted to get your view on how the wider Arab community is viewing this speech and the events in Syria.

JAMJOOM: Well, we know that the world today and the wider community is certainly watching, especially in areas where there are protest movements.

I was speaking earlier today to contacts of mine in Yemen. Yemen has been roiled by weeks of protests, tens of thousands of people in the streets, demanding that president Ali Abdullah Saleh step down.

And some of the activists that I spoke with were saying that they expected that Bashar al-Assad would come out and promise reforms, but they didn't expect those reforms to be delivered. They were wary of this, and they were drawing a parallel between what's going on in Syria and what's going on in Yemen.

And we've spoken to other people, people in Bahrain, as well, where they've had protests going on. And they said leaders have been forced to come out in a way they were never forced to before by the demands of their people, who are out in the streets. And they're having to make concessions.

But the members of the opposition in this part of the world, the protesters, the activists that we're speaking with in various countries are saying they don't think that these leaders are getting it. They don't think they understand how dire the situation is, that they can't just continue to delay and delay and delay and promise and promise and promise.

The message that I'm hearing the last few days from many people across the Arab world, people who are supporting these protest movements, is that they believe that what's been promised or what's being promised now is coming far too little and far too late. Kristie?

STOUT: All right, Mohammed Jamjoom joining us live from Abu Dhabi. Thank you very much, indeed.

Now, we are also watching events in Japan. And the owner of that failing nuclear plant says it is scrapping four of its reactors. Workers are fighting around the clock to save the plant, but at what cost? We'll look at that and the future of TEPCO.

Also, China's tech stocks are now some of the hottest on the market. We'll tell you how much money you could've made if your magic eight ball had told you "buy buy buy."


STOUT: In Japan, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited an evacuation shelter in Tokyo on Wednesday. Most of the 300 evacuees in this shelter were from the Fukushima prefecture. It's where Japan is staving off a nuclear crisis.

The emperor and the empresses, they spoke to the victims to try to offer some encouragement. Hundreds of thousands of people in Japan were forced to live in shelters after this month's earthquake and tsunami.

As the nuclear crisis continues, TEPCO says smoke was spotted Wednesday at another nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan. Well, smoke was detected in a turbine building at a reactor in the Fukushima Daini plant.

Meanwhile, trouble continues at the Fukushima Daichi facility. Radiation in the seawater near that nuclear power plant has spiked to 3,000 times the normal level. That as TEPCO says its president has been hospitalized for fatigue and stress.

At a news conference on Wednesday, TEPCO's chairman said that he will temporarily take over crisis management at the plant and that TEPCO will have to scrap four of its nuclear reactors. He also apologized for the damage the nuclear crisis has caused.

Hundreds of workers have fought for weeks to save the nuclear plant. But as CNN's Paula Hancocks reports, that effort comes at great personal cost.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the eyes of the world, they are heroes, risking their lives. A few hundred work day and night to bring Fukushima's nuclear power plant back from the brink of disaster.

An official from Japan's nuclear watchdog has spent five days at the plant and tells CNN conditions are harsh. Food and water are rationed. Crackers for breakfast, a ready-made meal for dinner.

He says a few hundred people sleep in a building about 500 meters away from the reactors. Many sleep on the floor in the conference room. Those who can't fit sleep in the corridor or in stairwells. He says --

KAZUMA YOKOTA, NISA INSPECTOR (via telephone, through translator): Workers put down lead mats on the carpet to shield them from radiation. It's not 100 percent protection, but it's somewhat effective.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Workers are still struggling to secure power for the plant, to bring the cooling systems back on line after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Nuclear safety official Kazuma Yokota says the rooms are cold and there's no water for showers. They use wet wipes to clean themselves. They can take a bus provided by plant owners TEPCO on their day off and go 20 kilometers away to have a shower and a rest at another facility.

The mental strain is unimaginable, as workers also deal with their own personal tragedies. One e-mail leaked to the media was sent from a worker at the plant to a worker in Tokyo. A TEPCO spokesperson has verified their authenticity.

The plant worker rights, "My parents were washed away by the tsunami, and I still don't know where they are."

In another e-mail, they write, "Crying is useless. If we're in Hell, now, all we can do is crawl up towards Heaven."

The Tokyo worker e-mails back, "Everyone here pays respect to and prays for those who are facing the brunt of this and fighting on the front lines, surrounded by enemies."

The Fukushima worker says they are all working to their limit, both mentally and physically. Three workers spent time in hospital last week after standing in contaminated water. They have since been released.

TEPCO and the government say they are trying to improve conditions for the Fukushima employees.

YUKIO EDANO, JAPANESE CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY (through translator): The workers are working under very dangerous and very hard conditions, and I feel a great deal of respect to them and very apologetic.

HANCOCKS (on camera): Plans are being drawn up to improve the supply chain to those at the Fukushima nuclear plant as they work tirelessly to avert a nuclear disaster, putting their own personal pain to one side. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Tokyo.


STOUT: Some heartbreaking testimony from the plant workers, there. Now, we want to go live to Tokyo, and that's where CNN's Martin Savidge is following the latest news out of TEPCO. And Martin, walk us through what the plant operator announced today.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a couple of things. Number one, they say that they won't be using those nuclear reactors again, or that they'll actually destroy them. I don't think anybody was shocked by that news. When you've been pouring that much seawater on them for so long, they would not be in any shape where they could be reused again. So, that was rather anti-climactic.

Then, you have the news, of course, that the president of TEPCO has gone into hospital due to the stress. And then, on top of that, you have a company that, outside, there are protests that are now beginning to blossom.

There were 80 people that were outside the TEPCO headquarters today. By Japanese standards, that was a very large demonstration, and people there are increasingly growing angry over what they believe is a lack of real information coming from the company.

The credibility of the company is growing less and less in the minds of the Japanese people. They believe that this company just has not been fully truthful in everything they know. Their stock has taken a nosedive, and there are real concerns about whether TEPCO can go forward without, at least, some sort of government intervention.

And there has been discussions about that very thing, that it could be nationalized because of all the money that company is going to have to pay out eventually as it tries to, at this point, just stabilize things. Kristie?

STOUT: Discussions about national intervention, but what about international intervention? Please correct me if I'm wrong, here, but it's my understanding that the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, has offered to help, but has still not been invited inside Japan to actively be part of this crisis management underway there at that damaged facility.

At what point will they say, "We need international help?"

SAVIDGE: Well, I think that point has been reached. You're right in that, in the early few weeks of this disaster, it seemed that TEPCO especially, but the Japanese government, as well, were telling the world that they had things in hand, that they pretty much had it under control, and thanks but no thanks when it comes to outside help.

Clearly, they don't have things under control and, clearly, they could benefit from the wisdom of other nations with nuclear programs.

And now, we know that the government here in Japan has accepted the help of France. They have sent over a number of experts, more experts are on the way.

The United States is also sending technical help in the form of robots. These are special radiation-hardened robots that could go into places where humans cannot go, gather information about radiation levels, get eyes on, literally, with cameras, and also map out how the lay of the land has been changed as a result of all the destruction.

So, it appears that that hesitation against outside help is finally broken. The logjam is busted and the help is coming in. The Japanese government admit they need a helping hand.

STOUT: All right. Some good news, there. Martin Savidge joining us live from Tokyo. Thank you very much for that, Martin.

Now, right ahead here on NEWS STREAM, putting your money where your mouse is. Now, all the West Coast of America, traditionally been a happy hunting ground for tech investors. We'll tell you which firms are offering a whole lot of Eastern promise.


STOUT: Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you are back watching NEWS STREAM. And China's tech companies are some of the hottest stocks to own right now. As part of our week-long focus on the internet in China, we thought we'd pick a few of China's biggest and figure out just how rewarding they turned out to be.

CNN's Asia Business Analyst, Ramy Inocencio, has crunched the numbers for the search engine Baidu, social networking giant Tencent in the information portal. See, there, he joins us now. Ramy?

RAMY INOCENCIO, CNN ASIA BUSINESS ANALYST: Thanks a lot, Kristie. First off, I'll give you a long-term timeline for these three major tech companies. Let's go back five years from today to check out their performance.

Here, we've got Baidu in red, Tencent in blue, and Sina in green. And five years ago, one share of any of these companies was pretty affordable, between $5 and $30.

But look at the growth numbers, here, that you see on the right side of the screen, and you see where this is going. Baidu saw nearly 2300 percent over five years. Tencent saw nearly 1400 percent in growth, and Sina saw about 270 percent growth.

Now, you might be thinking, so what? We couldn't have known to put money into these stocks at that point in time, nor could we have known how high these prices would have rocketed.

But this plunge, right here, that's where things change. This marks the 2008 global financial crisis, and it was a kind of reset for most stocks. And if you were smart enough or just lucky enough to anticipate the recovery, than you could have cashed out with some amazing profits today.

Now, let me take you to our next graph here. And this shows us a two-year graph from 2009 to 2011. Now, here, in 2009 in January, that was the last time we'd see stocks at those low prices again. But again, look at the percentage growth, here, all the way to today. Investors who saw that 2008 plunge as -- saw it as a buying opportunity still really made off.

So, let's say you were one of those investors with a magical eight ball that you -- actually had worked, and had $10,000 to invest in 2009. What would you actually have today? Well, $10,000 in Tencent would get you about a little over $33,000. For Sina, $10,000 then would get you $44,500. And for Baidu, that would have gotten you a whopping $75,000.

So, anyone watching right now who invested is probably smiling and saying, "Yes, that's me." But for the rest of us, Kristie, we might be shaking our heads and saying "Oops. I missed the boat."

STOUT: So, is it effectively all over for those of us who didn't get in and invest?

INOCENCIO: Well, share prices are clearly high today for these three tech companies, and between $100 and $200 a share. But a Citibank analyst I spoke with said that if we do invest, and our timeframe should be longer than one year, so we can actually see some returns, we're talking about two to three years, here.

She also told me the safest bet of these three would be Baidu, because it's not too volatile and it's got some good earnings. Least safe, though, Tencent, because it still has to invest a lot in its e-commerce division, R&D, as well as sales and marketing.

Still, Kristie, I love Baidu's 650 percent growth, but I wouldn't say no to Tencent's 235 percent growth in just two years. I think few would.

STOUT: It's incredible, isn't it? Just a few years ago, dot-com shares in China were penny stocks. And now, they're soaring high. Ramy, thank you so much for that update. Ramy Inocencio, there in his NEWS STREAM debut.

Now, as I said, this week, as part of a week-long look at the internet and China, tomorrow we'll look at an entire village that conducts business using a website, Taobao. You can find much more, including my interview with blogger Isaac Mao on

We'll have more analysis of Syrian president al-Assad's speech in just a few minutes, but we're also following another developing story right now of a very different kind. Cricket. India and Pakistan are locked in an epic struggle to reach the cricket World Cup final.


STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching NEWS STREAM. And these are your world headlines.

Now Syria's president has just finished a much anticipated speech in the wake of anti-government protests. But Bashar al-Assad's words were not what many people expected. Now he started by expressing sadness for the lives lost in the demonstrations. Mr. al-Assad then went on to blame outsiders and a worldwide conspiracy for the recent unrest. The president also acknowledged the government has not met the people's need for reform. But he did not mention the country's emergency law which officials had said that he would lift.

Now in Japan, TEPCO says it will scrap four of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Radiation in sea water near that plant has spiked to 3,000 times the normal level. Inside the plant, nuclear safety inspectors says that workers sleep on the floor and eat just two carefully rationed meals a day.

Now state run media in Myanmar report that military rule has ended. The country, also known as Burma, has sworn in a new president. That comes after the first parliament in two decades convened last month. But critics say that the old regime is just trying to create a facade of democracy.

And India and Pakistan are playing for a place in the Cricket World Cup final. India chose to bat first and got off to a flying start before Pakistan's bowlers began to reel them in. And right now, India is on 236 for 7 with just a few (INAUDIBLE) to go.

Now let's return to our top story, the speech by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. He addressed his nation after nearly two weeks of sometimes violent demonstrations.

Now Rami Khouri is director of the Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at American University Beirut. And he joins us on the line from Dubai.

Thank you for joining us here on NEWS STREAM. In that long awaited speech, the Syrian president made no mention of lifting that emergency law and only vague mention of reform. What is your reaction to his address?

RAMI KHOURI, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY BEIRUT: Well, he certainly mentioned the demands that people -- some people in Syria have been making. And he said these are issues that the government has been studying and working on and has actually announced in 2005, he said, some reforms. But things are going slower than expected. So he mentioned all of the points that people are talking about, but he didn't say anything about new measures and decisions, lifting the emergency law, opening up the political system, and about more changes to come.

What he did say was absolutely in keeping with the Syrian political tradition of defiance, of resistance, of steadfastness, of standing up to foreign conspiracies as he called them. And Syria has done this consistently. So there is no surprise, really, I think in what he actually ended up saying. This is the way that Syria behaves. This is the way that Syria generates support for many people inside Syria and around the Arab world.

Whether it's sustainable or not is another question. And time will tell. But I think it's very much in keeping with his character and the character of the period of political system which his father created 30, 40 years ago.

STOUT: Now he's made mention of popular demands in this speech as well as the need for reform. But will there be any reform? I mean, this is a president who has been in power 10 years and he's made these promises before.

KHOURI: Well, to be fair to the system in Syria, they have made quite made significant reforms in some areas, such as finance, banking, administration, opening up some sectors to the private sector like tourism. They've made some significant reforms, but nothing in the political sphere. And this is what people are asking about.

And he said in his speech that there are various elements that shouldn't be confused. One of them is reform, another one is people's basic needs of food and jobs et cetera -- water. And a third one is sowing discord among the people, intracommunal strife. He said these are three things that shouldn't be confused. And basically what he's saying is if you make reforms under pressure from people who are trying to sow discord in your country than you are not making real reform, you're acting like a loser and you increase your vulnerability. He says Syria is strong. We don't put up with this. We resist attempts to sow discord in our country.

So he tried to separate the issue of reform from the issue of the current tensions from the issue of the regional wave of demonstrations and what I call the citizen revolt across the Arab world asking for rights and freedom and dignity.

So he tried to give a different explanation of what's going on all the time coming back to the central theme which has always been the central theme of the Syrian Ba'athist system of the last 40 years which is Syria play game with other people when they try to interfere in its internal affairs, Syria stands up for Arab honor, for dignity, et cetera, et cetera. And he has many people in Syria who go along with this line and they support him very strongly.

But there's also others who don't, which is clearly the case. And some of those who don't are -- have been out in the street. The question is how long can this theme that he has expressed continue to allow the country to be relatively stable as it has been for many, many years. And this is really an unknown question.

STOUT: Yeah, stability and security, that was another theme that he invoked in his speech. In fact, he said, quote "our duty is to save the security of this nation." So how does that resonate with the people of Syria? Is stability and security enough?

KHOURI: Well, it resonates a lot with many people, to be fair and to be accurate. There are many people around the region, and I hear this a lot as I travel around many countries in the Arab world, people say well look at Iraq, look at Lebanon, look at Palestine, look at Somalia, look at Yemen, look at Iraq -- they say, look at Iraq, is this what you want? The freedom that the Americans and the British bring you and look what happens in Iraq.

So it's a theme that resonates with a lot of people. But the theme of freedom and Democracy resonates equally strong with many people around the region. And this is a battle now that we see, a political battle, that's going on all over the Middle East. I think many people are saying, look, we will sacrifice a little bit of security in order to get more freedom, because we know that freedom and democracy in the long-run will actually bring us real security while other people say no that if you open up your systems to fast you're going to get all kinds of problems and violence and foreign interference and we need to open up the systems gradually.

I think -- I think Bashar sees himself possibly down the road as a Gorbachev type figure who can change the system from the top, who can say this is how we open up our system according to our timetable, our needs, our rules, our national character. And I will imagine he will make some decisions down the road. But he will not make decisions that will be interpreted as him acting under pressure and threats either from his own people, or as he says from foreign conspirators.

So we'll have to see -- he has to do something, he can't just keep the situation like it is, that's obvious both for practical reasons -- because of jobs, water, the well being of people -- and because political pressures will continue to build up.

STOUT: And that's right. And of course, a new cabinet will be voted in, or brought in soon. We'll see if that results into any new changes on the ground there. Rami Khouri, the American University Beirut. Thank you very much for sharing your views with us.

Now let's go next to Lybia where the rebel movement is under strain, faced with invigorated government troops. Opposition fighters are being pushed eastward, losing ground they gained only days ago. Now these pictures were shot around Ras Lanuf. It's a strategic oil city where rebels tried to regroup on Tuesday. And today their retreat has continued.

But the latest developments will only heighten pressure on the international community to decide its next move.

On Tuesday, in London, coalition leaders discussed arming the rebels. And that is a tactic U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says would be legal under the U.N. resolution on Libya.

Now, U.S. President Barack Obama says he believes continuing military and diplomatic pressure will eventually force Gadhafi from power. Now the president made his remarks in interviews with U.S. TV networks on Tuesday. Brian Todd looks at the ways in which the allies might hasten Gadhafi's departure.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The administration says this military action is not aimed at overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi, but it's open to ideas that would see the Libyan leader go into exile. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks about a U.N. envoy's upcoming mission to Libya to work different ideas for ending the fighting.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: And to look for a political resolution which could include his leaving the country.

TODD: In an interview with CNN, Italy's foreign minister takes the idea further, indicating his government is leading efforts to offer Gadhafi a way into exile.

FRANCO FRATTINI, ITALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We didn't get, not yet, a formal proposal, a formal offer. We will have to insist on finding a proper solution maybe if we will be finding states that got available to that with the help of African Union maybe. TODD: Franco Frattini says the African Union has actually taken charge of finding a solution to Gadhafi's fate, although that group was not represented at the London talks. Our efforts to get comment from African Union officials were unsuccessful.

That speaks to the delicate balance the Italians are walking here. Italy had a close longstanding relationship with Libya until this uprising began. An Italian official has reiterated to me that Italy has since cut off all diplomatic and political relations with Gadhafi's regime and is not involved in any direct contact with them.

Other dictators who fled under political pressure landed comfortable exiles. Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali found refuge in Saudi Arabia, Haiti's Bebe Doc Duvalier lived on the French Riviera. But in Gadhafi's case, it's more complicated, the international criminal court is investigating him for possible crimes against humanity. And its prosecutor says he's 100 percent certain he'll bring charges against Gadhafi and his inner circle.

David Mack, a former ambassador to the UAE, served at the U.S. embassy in Libya when Gadhafi came to power and has met with him a few times in recent years.

Realistically, would Gadhafi take a deal?

DAVID MACK, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: I am pretty certain, based upon my personal reading of Gadhafi, that this is the last thing in the world he wants. He has said that he would not ever leave Libya. He'll fight to the last bullet is what he said. And I take him at his word. I think martyrdom is an attractive alternative to Moammar Gadhafi.

TODD: But Mack says Gadhafi could be prevailed upon by his family and others close to him to take a deal, or he might at least arrange for them to get out. For their part, rebel leaders say they'll never agree to let Moammar Gadhafi go into exile.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


STOUT: You're watching NEWS STREAM. We'll be back right after the break.


STOUT: All right, welcome back.

Now there is only one story in sport today, India and Pakistan are at a standstill right now as both countries fight for a place in the Cricket World Cup final. Our Kate Giles is watching the action for us. And she joins us now -- Kate.

KATE GILES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean you're right, Kristie, the game is almost too big just to be a semifinal really. India and Pakistan at the Cricket World Cup in India as well -- of course that's where it's being played. And the rivalry between the two of them really is just unmatched. And as far as both of these teams are concerned, and course for their millions of fans as well, this is about national pride, it's about honor. It's very, very serious stuff.

Now play began about four hours ago. India won the toss and they chose to bat. Throughout the tournament, you have to say India's batting has been better than Pakistan's, but Pakistan's bowling has been better than India's. So the big question was could Pakistan's bowlers reign in India's big hitting batters?

Well, India had some big early overs, but Pakistan came back and got a good grip on this one. We're coming to the end of India's stint at bat right now. They're on 252 for 7 with about one over to go.

Now they would have been hoping to get up into the high 200s or at least to hit 300. So, it's not bad, but it's maybe not everything that they would have hoped for. What we'll have to see now, of course, is how Pakistan will fair at bat.

So, yes, it is a world cup semifinal, but as I mentioned for the two nations involved, today's showdown is so much more than just a cricket game. India and Pakistan live and breathe this sport. And the country's leaders have even put their countless differences aside to ensure that both get a box seat for this match.

Well, we've got correspondents on both sides of the border where I suspect very little work is getting done today. A few sick days being taken, I'm sure. Mallika Kapur is in Mohali in India. Of course, that's where the match is being played. And Nick Paton Walsh is in Karachi in Pakistan.

Now, Malika, let's come to you first if we can. Of course, a lot of Indian hopes were hanging on Sachin Tendulkar. He did get good enough score. He was out at 85, but he was going for his 100th international century, which would have just been huge had he managed it. What was the reaction like when he went?

MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know what, there was pin drop silence. And that's so unusual, because since the match started this morning, in fact even hours before the match started, all we heard was noise and there was such a palpable buzz in the air. We're just a few meters away from the stadium at the moment. And when we were here before the match, there was lots of noise, there were cars tooting their horns. There was music blaring. People were selling flags as you can see. There's still some people with some flags over here. People getting their faces painted.

Then once the match started, everybody moved into the stadium. But those who didn't have tickets to go in, everyone gathered at cafes around here. There was a lot of cheering every time somebody hit a boundary or a six. When Sachin Tundulkar got out you can imagine the disappointment. And yes, there was pin drop silence.

You know, he had been saved a couple of times before. Some of the fielders had dropped catches. So when he was finally out there was a lot of disappointment, but the fans here, you know, they're still holding on to hopes. India's score perhaps not as high, not as good as fans here were hoping, but the mood is still very jubilant.

We just came from the University over here and there were hundreds -- hundreds of students who were packed into an auditorium watching the match in a big screen TV.

So the game is not over yet. A lot of excitement. And people are just really enjoying the atmosphere of India playing Pakistan. And as you mentioned earlier, very few people have shown up to work today. So even the offices know that. A lot of them have declared holidays. Everybody -- the offices, the people, everyone is enjoying the atmosphere -- Kate.

GILES: That's right. I'm sure they are certainly over yet. You're right, still a good way to go, yet.

Nick, let's go over to you in Pakistan. Now Pakistan's bowlers, they did seem to have done a pretty decent job, but have they done enough? That's the big question isn't it? How do you think the fans are feeling over there? Are they still very tense? Or is confidence beginning to rise?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think people are saying this is pretty much a characteristic Pakistani performance in the field -- six pretty easy catches, one might say, dropped by the Pakistani team. Now I think there's a feeling here, really, of them doing pretty well. They came into this as the underdogs. India very much perceived as a favorite. And they seem to have held them in check fairly well. I think they're really into their last or two bowls of India's innings now.

Of course, Pakistan will be chasing India's total. And that's not a place where anybody really particularly wants to be. But there have been some good moments. Captain Shaheed Afridi catching Sachin Tendulkar, one of India's prime batsman, betting him out, preventing him from taking that 100th century. So a big psychological step for Pakistan there.

But I think in the next five minutes or so out here on one of the rooftops next to me, there's really electric kind of atmosphere across Karachi. A big crowd there watching the match. And surely this country has been pretty much shut down for six hours. People watching nothing but the cricket.

So more or less a 170 million Pakistanis on the edge of their seats now wondering if their team can beat India's total -- Kate.

GILES: I mean, it's really exciting stuff, isn't it?

Mallika, let's go back to you, because you know, we've talked about all the excitement around this match, but there are also a lot of concerns weren't there ahead of the game about security. Has everything gone smoothly so far?

KAPUR: Everything has gone smoothly so far. You're right, people are very appreciative of the fact. But you know what, as you mentioned, there is a very heavy security presence even right here where a lot of the fans have gathered we are seeing some policemen. There are policemen who are patrolling the streets. We are seeing this heavy presence throughout (inaudible).

But you know what, it hasn't put fans off. I think fans are feeling pretty good that there is such a strong security presence. They do realize that there are some very important people inside the stadium. The prime ministers of both the countries are over here. And when you have such high level political officials here, you've got to have security.

The people are quite appreciative of the very heavy security presence. We have seen the policemen also, you know, seeming to get in on the action. There are a group of people watching television on a big screen right behind us. And perhaps later we can go in and show you in the crowd amongst all the fans, you'll find the policemen -- Kate.

GILES: OK Mallika, the fans are behind you there, not looking too excited actually at the moment. But perhaps they'll be hoping to have more reason to smile later on in the day.

Let's just give you an update now. The score is right now -- it's India on 258 for 9 that we're in the final over. So of course this match really is still in the balance. A few very tense hours still to go yet. And it is going to be very, very interesting indeed to see if Pakistan can put in a strong performance at bat. And that is now going to be absolutely critical for them.

Don't bite your nails off, Kristie, it's tense isn't it?

STOUT: You know, I'm such a hardcore cricket fan and everything. Kate Giles, thank you very much indeed for keeping us well updated. Kate Giles there.

And we'll be staying in this continent next. Mari will be here after the break with an update on a very unusual phenomenon, the so-called ghost trees of Pakistan. Keep it here for more NEWS STREAM.


STOUT: Welcome back.

And you heard me right before the break, the ghost trees of Pakistan, it's a strange byproduct in the aftermath of the disastrous floods last year. And let's hear more about it with Mari Ramos. She joins us now from the world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie, this is a really interesting phenomena. Well you'll remember, of course, in who could forget the devastating flooding that happened last year in July, those massive summer flooding that brought record amounts of rain in almost, what, two-thirds of Pakistan was flooded? It was a horrible situation. There are still areas in Pakistan that are flooded. And the water still hasn't receded. There are thousands of people still living in shelters.

But what I'm going to show you -- and like I said, they call them the ghost trees, because that's what they look like, they look like ghosts. And first of all, this is what it looks like up close. Yeah, you're looking at a tree. Can you tell what that is? Well, it's basically spider webs.

What happened is the spiders have nowhere to go. When the flooding began - - you know, it's the whole thing, survival of the fittest right? Well, spiders are very efficient in staying alive. And so what they did is, since they couldn't live on the ground anymore, they began to look for places that were up. And that meant the trees. So now, millions of these little critters are living on the trees. And they have covered the trees with spider webs. And this is what it looks like.

So even though it's a little creepy when you look at it like this -- oh my gosh, it's very creepy. It looks amazing. And the trees appear ghostlike. It's not harming the trees, they say, but the really interesting thing is that the spiders, because of the spider web, are actually helping control the mosquito population which is a huge concern because of all of the standing water. And of course with mosquitoes you have disease. So it's almost a good thing, let's say, that the spiders have figured out a way to survive and of course eat some of those other creepy crawlers.

So conditions right now across Pakistan actually remain pretty dry except for areas here to the north. Looking at a little bit of moisture also across northern Afghanistan and northern parts of India, but everybody else staying hot and dry right now.

I want to take you farther to the south, an area that is suffering from significant flooding here -- peninsular parts of Thailand. Let's go ahead and take a look at some of the video that we have for this area. It looks worse than yesterday, doesn't it?

The flooding is widespread across some of these provinces in the south, some 11 of them already under some type of advisory or warning because of heavy rain, flash flooding, mudslides or even high waves. In areas where the rain has stopped it looks like this, people just kind of wading around through the water trying to save their homes, their businesses. And hey, what are you going to do, right? There you are stuck in all of this water.

There are tourists that are trapped at airports that have been already flooded. And get this, this one province here in northern Thailand, has had sixteen -- sixteen times their monthly rainfall, sixteen times their monthly rainfall in just a period of four days. That's very significant.

And unfortunately, Kristie, the rain across this region keeps coming. So this is something definitely we'll continue to monitor.

I couldn't hear the time, do I still have a little bit more time.

Oh, let's go ahead and head back to you, Kristie, but there you go right here, still expecting more rain.

STOUT: OK. Thank you, Mari, for that. And I know that in the hours ahead on CNN you and your colleagues will be giving us an update on the situation there and elsewhere. Mari Ramos there, thank you.

Now let's leave you, our viewers, with a reminder of our top story this hour -- patriotic words, patriotic images, but and you have little substance in terms of reform. The Syrian president Bashar al Assad's speech was widely anticipated. It was broadcast live across the region. You saw it here on CNN. The president decried the loss of Syrian lives during the protests.


BASHAR AL ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA (through translator): The blood that was shed are Syrian -- is Syria blood. It is our blood. The victims are our brothers and the relatives are our relatives. And we -- it is necessary that we look into the reasons and the culprits and to investigate and all the results must be employed in order to strengthen the nation and not in order to divide the nation.


STOUT: And during President Al Assad's speech, there were plenty of theatrics.

Now one by one, members of the audience stood and praised the president's policies, calling him the savior of the country. And supporters lined up outside parliament wildly cheering his every word. This echoed demonstrations earlier when tens of thousands of government supporters rallied in the streets. The images of state TV are in contrast to those coming across social media like YouTube which has been showing us clashes and conflicts.

We'll have more on this speech and the reaction coming up next on "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY."

I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And that is NEWS STREAM.