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Alleged Libyan Rape Victim Speaks Out; Japan's Nuclear Crisis

Aired April 5, 2011 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, with Libyan opposition forces retreating and blaming NATO for not bombing enough, we begin with the plight of a woman in Tripoli whose life right now is in danger.

Her name is Eman al-Obeidy. More than a week ago, she burst into a Tripoli hotel telling journalists she had been raped by more than a dozen of Gadhafi's fighters. She was dragged off, held in detention for days and is now a virtual prisoner in Tripoli. Unable to leave, she can't return to her mother and family in Eastern Libya. She can't talk to them on the phone. She's unable to walk on the streets of Tripoli without being harassed.

She says she's been rearrested multiple times already. Libyan television and radio called her a whore and an enemy of the country. Well, tonight, we have been able to connect Eman to her mother and her sister by satellite phone. It was very difficult to arrange, but tonight you will hear that reunion.

And though the language is Arabic, what you will hear is a mother and her child, the bond that transcends language.

Eman al-Obeidy says the threats against her continue today. She says a man pulled a gun on her in the last 24 hours, threatened to kill her. And the regime continues to attack her character. They have shown no facts however to support their attacks. And we're "Keeping Them Honest."

The Gadhafi regime called her a drunk, mentally unstable, a prostitute. This anchor on state TV says she's worse than a whore because even a whore feels patriotic about Libya.

Now, we have learned that supporters of the regime have been trashing Eman in a new way. "The New York Times"' David Kirkpatrick reporting they have been circulating what they claim is a pornographic video of her. Kirkpatrick asked for evidence. We will take a look at what a reporter for Libyan state media gave to him as proof.

It's a woman belly-dancing. It's not porn, and the dancer bears little resemblance to Eman. Eman al-Obeidy is a law student. Now, you might be wondering, with all that is happening in Libya, why are we focusing on this one woman?

Some people have tweeted that question to me. And I understand the question. Well, the truth is, we're going to report on the fighting in Libya tonight. We will talk to our correspondents and we will cover the Japan nuclear crisis as well.

But we're focusing tonight on Eman al-Obeidy, because unlike so many others who have died or been hurt in Libya, we know her name. She's risked her life to tell her story. Terrible things happen in war. Terrible things happen and people disappear. Their names are never even known. They die on the side of a road or in a prison cell, their struggles, their stories never told. Their families don't know what happened to them.

But we know what Eman al-Obeidy said happened to her. We can't prove it, but there's no doubt her life is now in danger. We know Eman al-Obeidy's name.

If reporters had not listened to her, had not continued to ask questions to Gadhafi's henchmen about her, she might still be under arrest, locked away. She might even be dead. We know her name and we cannot turn away from her plight.

In a moment, you're going to hear her talk to her mother in Eastern Libya for the first time. Now, we have decided to let you hear Eman's voice tonight, without covering it with the voice of a translator. You will see on the screen the translation of what she's saying.

We want you to hear her voice. She wants you to hear her voice. Everything else has been taken away from this woman. The least we can do is give her, her voice.


EMAN AL-OBEIDY, ALLEGED RAPE VICTIM (through translator): Today, I was exposed to something so brutal.

COOPER: What happened to you today?

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Today, I went to the court, so I can pursue my case. And there was an employee of the court, an administrative employee who works in the administration of the people's court, and he pulled his weapon on me and wanted to kill me today.

I was not able to pursue my case and a car took me from there and brought me back home. They don't want me to go to court at all.

COOPER: You feel your life is in danger?

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Of course. Of course. He is just a regular employee. He is a civilian and they had armed him. All the civilians are armed.

COOPER: You had tried to leave to Tunisia. What happened when you tried to get to the border?

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): When I reached the border, I did not come across customs. One of the brigades, the security force brigades of Gadhafi came to me. They took my passport. And I tried to (INAUDIBLE) the brigades surrounded me, and they kept threatening me, and they hit me, and put me in a police car and returned me to Tripoli.

COOPER: Do you still want to try to get out of Tripoli?

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): I wish I could get out of Tripoli. I wish Gadhafi could get out of Tripoli (INAUDIBLE)

COOPER: Are you still -- are you still hoping to be able to leave Tripoli somehow, to be able to leave and go back to your home?

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): How can I possibly get out of Tripoli when Tripoli is under siege? There are only two ways to get to my family, by way of Tunisia or through the (INAUDIBLE) and they're both under siege.

It is something that I find worrisome. So far, they haven't sent me anything. (INAUDIBLE)

COOPER: Have you heard anything more in the last 24 hours from the government? Have you heard at all from them?

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): The Libyan government does not address anything to me. They sent the criminals to intimidate me. I filed an application today to know why I'm banned from travel. And they haven't answered. They tell me that tomorrow, we will answer. Tomorrow, we will answer. And there's nothing so far.

COOPER: Eman, we continue to ask questions to the Gadhafi regime, to Mussa Ibrahim. We continue to press on your behalf. And we will continue do that to try to get answers for you about whether or not you can leave.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): What response have they given?

COOPER: Mussa Ibrahim yesterday said he was unaware that you had tried to leave and that you were not allowed to leave. As you know, what he says is often not the truth, though, so we're continuing to try to find some answers. But so far, we have not gotten any answers.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): God willing, I hope to get out of Tripoli, because Tripoli is a prison, a prison. It's not a city. It is only a large prison, no more, no less.

COOPER: It must feel good to know that your family is standing behind you, that your mother and father, that they all love you and support you, as do many people around the world.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Yes. I'm worried about my father. He's sick. And I'm afraid he would die.

COOPER: Eman, I know you have not been able to speak to your mother. We think we have her on the phone. Feel free to talk to her now.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Hello? Hello? Mom, can you hear me?


COOPER: In a moment, we will have that reunion with her mom.

Let us know what you think. We're Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting tonight as well.

Also tonight, the fighting. NATO has been blaming bad weather for the lack of airstrikes, and opposition fighters say they are paying the price. What's going on, on the ground? Details coming up.

First, let's also check in with Isha Sesay, who has got some new breaking news -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. government sent nuclear experts to Japan's nuclear crippled power plant. And they are pretty spooked by what they saw. We will tell you what "The New York Times" is saying they have put in a confidential assessment, new threats and some could go on indefinitely. Details ahead.


COOPER: A little more than a week ago, this woman, Eman al- Obeidy, snuck into a Tripoli hotel and stepped into the global spotlight with allegations of rape at the hands of Gadhafi troops.

Ever since, the regime has tried and failed to get her to recant her story. They have tried coercion, confinement, bribes to her family, threats against her, a televised smear campaign. But she continues to resist all of that.

And in all that time, she's been unable to speak to her parents. She could not even connect by phone because the regime had cut off landline and cell communication between east and west. Tonight, thanks to satellite phones and a lot of hard work by a lot of people, she connected with her mom.

Here's a portion of that conversation.


COOPER: Eman, I know you have not been able to speak to your mother. We think we now have her on the phone.

Feel free to talk to her now.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Hello? Hello? Mom, can you hear me?

AISHA AHMAD, MOTHER OF EMAN (through translator): Eman, where are you? Where are you?

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Mom, they attacked me today. They pulled their weapons and tried to kill me today.

AHMAD: Where are you staying? Where? Eman?

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): I am staying at my friend's house. My sister, all her neighbors are armed. And I couldn't -- hello?

AHMAD (through translator): Yes, I can hear you. Tell me. Complain to me.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Today, I went to the court. And one of the employees in the court pulled his on gun me and said he was going to kill me. The people came and started pulling him. The reports on our brigades...

AHMAD (through translator): Who is going to kill you? Who?

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): An employee in the court, an employee in the court. I can't go out to the street.

AHMAD (through translator): If you didn't leave, they would have been able to get you, Eman.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Mom, they won't let me leave to Tobruk. I can't. I can't stay here anymore.

AHMAD (through translator): Think. Think. Think. Think with your sister to find a solution and bring you back before they kill you.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Amal, Amal, Amal -- the people upstairs are Gadhafi's hands. And in the apartment building next to her there are his hands. Amal cannot move. She...

AHMAD (through translator): You have Allah with you. You have Allah with you. You have Allah with you.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Can't you talk to someone and find me a solution? I am so tired. Every time I leave, they come after me.

AHMAD (through translator): May God judge, for he is the greatest guardian. All the media is talking about you. And Friday, there will be a protest. Everyone is talking about you. Consider this something good. Do not change your statement. Do not change your statement.

Do not cry anymore. Where are you staying? Where are you staying?

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Amal put me at her friend's house.

AHMAD (through translator): OK. Then keep yourself at her friend's house and do not go out.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): How can I not go out when every day they are defaming my reputation in the Libyan media? I cannot just let them do this in the Libyan media. How can I not go out? That would mean I am confirming their words. How can I not defend myself?

AHMAD (through translator): Let them lie. Let them lie. We know they lie in the Libyan media. All the people know they lie. It's all lies. We know they lie in the Libyan media. Have they left one person they have not lied about? They all lie. They all lie.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): My father (INAUDIBLE) he don't believe what these dogs say on television?

AHMAD (through translator): No. We know it is all lies. We know it is all lies. We know. We know you and are sure of you.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): How is my dad?

AHMAD (through translator): Your father is good. And we are good. Do not worry about us. The most important thing is you take care of yourself and your health. And eat. And drink. Eat and leave the rest to God. Leave the rest to God. And pray. Pray and carry the Koran and pray. Hold the Koran and pray. Pray the fajr and pray the overnight prayers. Do you?

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Pray for me, mother, please. I pray 24 hours. I am worried that something will happen to my dad or that he will die because of this.

AHMAD (through translator): No, don't worry. Your father is good. He takes his medication. And I thank Allah. I thank Allah. The most important thing is you do your overnight prayers and pray to God that he rids you of them. Do not be scared. Do not be scared. Have patience. Patience is good. Don't cry anymore. It's done.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Mom, I am scared. I can't. Even at night, when the lights are closed, I dream all the people are screaming, all the people with him are dying. I dream of them trying to kill me.

AHMAD (through translator): No, do not be scared. Do not be scared.

COOPER: Aisha, what do you want your daughter to know?

AHMAD (through translator): I hope that she will be all right and come back home. All the time, I pray and pray for you. The whole world is praying for you. Don't be afraid.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): I'm not afraid. The one thing that really bothers me is that I'm far from you. Nobody is standing by me here in Tripoli.

AHMAD (through translator): God willing, all the states are standing with you and all the Arab states are standing with you. The whole world is standing by you. May God help you.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Put on my father. Let me talk to my father.

AHMAD (through translator): He's asleep. And he's taken his medication, and he's asleep.

COOPER: Eman, we continue to ask questions to the Gadhafi regime to, Mussa Ibrahim. We continue to press on your behalf. And we will continue to try to do that to try to get answers for you about whether or not you can leave.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): What response have they given?

COOPER: Mussa Ibrahim yesterday said he was unaware that you had tried to leave and that you were not allowed to leave. As you know, what he says is often not the truth, though, so we're continuing to try to find some answers. But so far, we have not gotten any answers.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): God willing, I hope to get out of Tripoli, because Tripoli is a prison, a prison. It's not a city. It is only a large prison, no more, no less.

COOPER: Please, please be careful. Please stay safe. We will continue to be in touch with you. And we want you to be able to say goodbye to your mother and say whatever you want.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): I thank you so much for letting me speak to my mother and my family and be reassured about them. We would like to thank the American people and every person who tried to make my voice heard.


AHMAD (through translator): Yes, Eman.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Don't be sad. Don't worry at night.

AHMAD (through translator): Don't worry about us and take care of yourself.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Try to talk to the government in Tripoli, so I can come back home. This liar Mussa, who is on television, every time he makes up a lie. Every word is a lie. (INAUDIBLE) When I go out, they beat me up and bring me back. Once, they said I am insane. I don't know how to deal with them. I am totally powerless. (INAUDIBLE)

They draw guns on me and beat me up.

AHMAD (through translator): If they had blood, if they had a soul, if they had a heart -- they are afraid of a woman. All of this is because of a woman. You are just a weak human being, and they are afraid of you.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): They punished me because I got out and spoke up. They don't want anybody to speak up. AHMAD (through translator): May God support you. Be strong. Don't be afraid. Keep your faith in God strong and in the Koran and pray at night, just as you did when you were with me in the past, God willing.

Pray, my daughter. Pray. Don't leave the Koran and pray at night. Even at night, read the Koran. Read the Sura of Yaseen.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): May God defeat you, Gadhafi. You are an oppressor and may God not let you live.

COOPER: Eman, I'm sorry. We're going to have to go.


AL-OBEIDY: OK, OK, OK. Thank you. Thank you very much.

COOPER: Thank you very much. Stay strong.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Goodbye.


COOPER: Just so you know, the actual conversation went on a lot longer and obviously we let them discuss as they wanted.

Nic Robertson has spent several days trying to get the Gadhafi regime to account for its treatment of Eman or even provide a consistent explanation of it. He joins us now, along with "The New York Times"' David Kirkpatrick, who profiled her story in today's "New York Times."

Nic, it seems like there is this official campaign against this woman that continues on state television and on the radio. Do officials, though, really have any idea what to do here?


They just seem to be relentless in this smear campaign to degrade her, to debase her, to negate her message. It's all part of the government. In everything they do here, they have their own sort of set course narrative for something, and they won't deviate from it.

And it seems to be a default position that they can't get out of, yet they know that this is an issue that is causing huge consternation and anger around the rest of the world. Yet, they leave them. It's an open sore for them.

COOPER: David, do you think media attention here and reporters like yourself and Nic and others who have been asking questions about her and asking the regime, has that kept her -- has that helped her? Has that in fact saved her? Because as you write in "The Times" a lot of women just kind of disappear into Libyan institutions.

DAVID KIRKPATRICK, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, she said that she believes that the publicity around her case and the media attention has saved her.

I know for myself I felt pretty powerless when she was here at the hotel struggling to stay and find help. I don't think any of us could do anything for her. It sounds like, after she left, she endured 72 hours of pretty grueling questioning.

So, I wouldn't necessarily say this is a victory for the media, but she certainly said, with some justification, I think, that if there hadn't been this kind of attention around her case, she might have been sent to one of these homes that the Libyans refer to as rehabilitation facilities, where women who raise allegations of rape are detained without their consent, sometimes for years, until someone comes along to marry them.

COOPER: So, wait a minute. Explain that. There are these rehabilitation facilities, so-called, where women who have made allegations against rape, they're sent? What happens to them there? They're held there?

KIRKPATRICK: They're confined there. Yes, they're held there against their will. They're not allowed to leave. And I think their lives are pretty bleak.

The only way they can get out is if a male member of their family comes and takes them away or some stranger shows up looking for a wife and marries one of them off. That's the most common way to leave one of these institutions, I'm told, because women usually end up there because their families shun them after they have raised allegations of a sexual crime.

COOPER: Nic, she's saying that she continues to be harassed when she goes out on the street, that at checkpoints, she's stopped. She said she was at the courts today trying to press her case and that an employee there pulled a gun on her.

Would the government like to arrest her again? Because it seems like they have arrested her several times without any real result.

ROBERTSON: And she was describing as well yesterday to us that whenever she goes out, she gets either harassed or eventually pulled into a police car. And when they get her to the police station, they have no idea what to do with her, because there are no charges outstanding against her.

She's just in this sort of eternal limbo, this utterly painful demoralizing situation that she can't break free from. Again, it just seems like the government is on this crash course to harass, intimidate, degrade her, but they have no other sort of position, because whenever they get her to the police station, they realize they have to release her because there are no charges, there's nothing to actually charge her with.

COOPER: Nic, what do you think is going to happen to her?

ROBERTSON: I think it's not impossible to imagine that at some point the penny is going to drop here, if you will, with the government and they're going to realize that the best thing they can do is actually let her go, let her leave the country, let her get back to her family, let her do what she's been trying to do. She know that she got to the border with Tunisia last week, she got right to the position of customs and passport checking, and then officials grabbed her and drove her all the way back several hours.

It must have been incredibly painful, demoralizing, just, again, for her almost at the end again to be so close to freedom, to be taken back to Tripoli, where she can't even leave the city, get even to the suburbs. Perhaps the penny is going to drop here with the regime and it's going to be less painful for the regime and for her if they just let her go.

Of course we don't know if that's the case, but at some point one would imagine maybe they're going to realize that, Anderson.

COOPER: And, David, I understand you just encountered some fresh evidence of what happens to those who defy the regime.

KIRKPATRICK: I'm not -- What do you have in mind?

COOPER: I don't know. Somebody just told me that you had something -- that in tomorrow's paper -- I think that you were in Zawiyah?


KIRKPATRICK: Yes. Yes. That's right. Today -- yes, there's so much different evidence of that.


COOPER: OK. Sorry, yes.


COOPER: I should have been more specific.


KIRKPATRICK: Today, we were on an official tour of the town of Zawiyah about 30 miles from here, and our photographer actually ventured into (INAUDIBLE) ventured a burned-out police building.

And on the second floor, in an office, strewn around the floor, he found what appeared to be evidence of torture, photographs of torture victims, bodies with torture marks, a man naked and bound under a sheet, most chilling of all, a picture of a saw.

And there were -- some burned-out records were being cleared up and carted away. One of the workers cleaning the place up led him to a darkened room in the basement and made a gesture with his hands signaling a shooting gun and said Gadhafi, apparently trying to suggest that this was an execution chamber.

COOPER: It will be in tomorrow's "New York Times," Wednesday's "New York Times."

David Kirkpatrick, Nic Robertson, stay safe. Thank you.

Coming up, as Gadhafi forces regain control of Brega, the opposition is complaining about a lack of support from NATO with airstrikes dwindling. NATO is partly blaming the weather, but CNN's Ben Wedeman says the weather is just fine, at least in the area that he's been there. We will get the latest from the front lines next.

And later, Japan's nuclear crisis, the Tokyo Electric Power Company offering money to some people who live near the crippled nuclear power plant, about $12 each. That's the money they're offering. Some residents just say no thanks. And a new report in "The New York Times" just breaking tonight talks about lingering threats and new threats that may go on for a long, long time -- details ahead.


COOPER: An amateur video of an explosion in Libya. We can't independently confirm where it was or when it was. But there are conflicting reports about whether it was a NATO strike or an attack by Gadhafi forces in Brega. We simply don't know.

It's the latest example of the confusion that seems to be going on as the days go by, trying to figure out what's really going on, losing control of what cities and what NATO is doing to protect living civilians.

One thing is clear: the opposition says the coalition needs to step it up. An opposition fighter.

Opposition fighters say when they put their faith in God, they were winning, and now that they put their faith in NATO, they're losing.

More new video today from Brega, where Gadhafi forces have once again gained the upper hand. Opposition forces high-tailed it out of town during a tense artillery bombardment. The opposition has been criticizing NATO for not going most to NATO says it flew 58 strike missions yesterday, but efforts have been tripped up because the regime is using human shields and the weather is bad.

CNN's Ben Wedeman says the weather is fine where he is. Here's some of what he saw today near Brega.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When not withdrawing, the rebels do fire back. It's just not clear at what. While an artillery barrage is enough to send them packing, their return fire doesn't seem to be making a dent on their enemy. Missing in the equation are the NATO airplanes they thought would provide cover and their absence, despite the clear weather, has sparked talk of defeat.

The French, British and American forces were seriously striking before, said this commander. Now it seems as if NATO has entered into a secret deal with the regime and the revolutionaries are the victims.

Ben Wedeman now joins us live from Ajdabiya. The state department correspondent Jill Dougherty and on the phone retired general George Kimmitt. Ben, you say it's painfully obvious that you haven't seen NATO air strikes in your area. Why is NATO not firing in that area, do you know? Have you heard anything?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we've heard from NATO itself is that they destroyed 30 percent of Muammar Gadhafi's military capabilities, that maybe one of the reasons is the weather. As we pointed out, the weather has been so good, there have been days of days being out there on the front.

One possibility, of course, is that they are using civilians as human shields. We know that inside Brega, they had a group of civilians who were being held at the university there by Gadhafi's forces. So they aren't clearly using people as some sort of cover. But by and large, you know, you have to look beyond a town like Brega. There are supply lines that go back hundreds of kilometers. And of course, businesses in this very large country are quite big. Those supply lines are not being hit. But certainly, the excuses we've heard from NATO is...

COOPER: So if they fled from Brega, are you -- are you safe in Ajdabiya? I mean, are they still firmly in control of Ajdabiya?

WEDEMAN: They are firmly in control of Ajdabiya. But in a sense, much of the press corps and many of the residents have voted with their feet, in a sense, a vote of no confidence for NATO. Because we've seen that essentially basically the opposition controlled all the way up to Brega yesterday. At this point, they control only half of the territory between Brega and Ajdabiya.

We did hear airplanes overhead. That was reassuring. But by and large, this possibility of an air strike I think the Gadhafi forces are beginning to understand that, just because you hear an airplane in the sky doesn't mean there's going to be an air strike.

That might explain why they've become increasingly bold, moving on this open road between Ajdabiya and Brega. Because they know that, even though they may fly overhead, the chances of an air strike don't seem to be very high. So I think we're safe. But we shall see -- Anderson.

COOPER: General Kimmitt, you heard Ben's description of the situation on the ground. Is NATO delivering on its mission, or is it falling short? Now, today they said, "Well, look, we've eliminated 30 percent of Gadhafi's forces." But the opposition forces, certainly, around Brega say they're not working there.

KIMMITT: Well, I think Ben is exactly right on a couple of points. It may be partially due to the weather. It may be part of the fact that NATO is getting its feet on the ground, so to speak, and is just starting to get familiar with the area of operations. We sort of have to ask NATO the specific question, have there been any changes to the targeting guidance that has been given to the aircraft so that they're restricted from attacking those supply lines or restricted from attacking targets that the Americans were asked to fire at first?

If in fact, there has been change to the targeting guidance, there's a substantial change on the part of the NATO guidance versus what the Americans were flying after. I haven't heard of that. I don't think that's -- that's been announced. But it would be a significant difference if, in fact, NATO's targeting guidance was different from what Americans were firing on last week.

COOPER: Opposition forces say NATO is being much more or it takes much more time than it did the U.S. And we heard that the U.S. are the only ones who have A-10s and, I think, A-130s, which are used to fly low and take out tanks and ground forces. So does NATO have the equipment and the know-how?

KIMMITT: Yes. It's true that the United States have those that are able to go and do gun runs against the targets on the ground. Most of the other aircraft are going to have to use missiles. They don't have the guns that the A-10s and AC-130s. Again, I think we've got to take a hard look at the targeting guidance that's being given in the operations.

Quite frankly, they're using the same combined air operations that the Americans were using when they were running these at unilateral operations. So unless there's been a change in the guidance, unless there's been a change in the rules of engagement, there really should be no reason other than external factors such as weather that would cause the NATO aircraft to be less effective than the American aircraft of a week ago.

COOPER: Right. And yet Ben is saying the weather in the area, certainly around Brega, has been fine the last couple of days.

Jill, do we know anything about targeting? Has any targeting changed by NATO? What are you hearing about NATO?

DOUGHERTY: You know, I can't speak specifically about the targeting, Anderson. But, you know, there really is the perception, and it seems to be correct, that the United States really is the leader in NATO, and that the other countries, the U.K. and France, now taking over a lot of the operations, are really struggling to do what the United States is doing.

And so that's a real dilemma for President Obama. I mean, he doesn't want to lead. He doesn't want the United States to be out there and running every mission. But on the other hand, he doesn't want it to fail. So he's kind of caught between two things right now.

The inability of NATO, without the United States, to do what they're supposed to be doing. It's not that it's without the United States, of course, because as we've been saying, those A-10s and AC- 130s are on standby. They can be brought in. But the whole idea was to shift responsibility to NATO.

COOPER: Ben, just one quick question. If most of the press corps has already left Ajdabiya -- you are in Ajdabiya tonight -- you say it's still in opposition controlled hands, how do you know when it's no longer safe? How do you know when the Gadhafi forces are moving toward you? Can you say?

WEDEMAN: Well, we can't really know, because for one thing, cell phones don't work in this area any more. They've been shut down.

What we did is just a few hours ago, before -- having a quick nap before the show, I went with another of my colleagues to the main checkpoint outside of Ajdabiya to speak to a senior army commander, a rebel army commander, to find out the situation. What he told us was fairly reassuring, that they do have firm control, this halfway point between Ajdabiya and Brega.

But I have to tell you, you listen to what's going on outside, and fortunately this evening, all I've heard is stray dogs barking. But if we heard anything else, gunfire, a lot of gunfire, as opposed to the occasional gunfire we hear here, we probably would not be participating in your show tonight.

COOPER: Ben Wedeman, you are a cool customer. Thank you for being with us tonight. Please stay safe. To your team, as well. Jill, as well. And General Mark Kimmitt, I appreciate the phone call. Thank you.

Still ahead, breaking news. "The New York Times" reporting that U.S. government engineers who have been helping Japan deal with the nuclear crisis are now sending a major alarm, warning that the plant could be facing serious new threats. The measures to stabilize the plant may be causing other problems, as well. This is a breaking report. We're gathering all the details. We're going to bring it to you just momentarily.

Isha Sesay is following other stories, as well -- Isha.

COOPER: Anderson, the death toll in Yemen now tops 100. Today, more violence as security forces opened fire on protesters. At least two people died, dozens were injured. More details just ahead.


COOPER: Breaking news about Japan. "The New York Times" reporting tonight that U.S. government engineers sent to help with Japan's nuclear crisis are now warning that the troubled Fukushima Daiichi plant is facing new threats, long-term threats as a result of the measures being taken to keep the plant stable.

The "Times" got a hold of a report outlining potential problems, and in a moment we're going to run them by Michael Friedlander. But first, some other developments today with this plant, TEPCO. The owner of the plant says it has stopped a serious lake at the No. 2 reactor.

TEPCO released this photo earlier, saying its latest attempt to repair a crack had reduced -- that had reduced the flow of highly radioactive water into the ocean. You can see the difference here. The picture on the left was taken Saturday, shows much more water gushing from that crack. A short time ago, TEPCO released this photo showing the leak has stopped, and that is very, very good news indeed. Just today, tests showed that water pouring from the No. 2 reactor contained radiation five million times the legal limit. Days ago, it was actually higher.

Apart from that leak, though, the plant is still dumping tons of -- thousands of tons of radioactive water into the ocean to free up its storage tanks for water that's even more radioactive.

Now high levels of radiation have been found in fish. Today for the first time authorities issued radiation safety standards for fish.

Meantime, TEPCO facing a growing backlash, has offered payments to residents in ten communities near the plant. It's calling the money a token offer and says more compensation will come.

But one city has already flat-out rejected the money, saying it amounts to about $12 a person.

CNN's Kyung Lah joins me from Tokyo, and in Hong Kong, Michael Friedlander, who works as a senior nuclear power plant operator for more than a decade.

So Michael, U.S. government engineers helping the plant are warning that the plant faces new threats, one that could persist indefinitely, mounting stresses on the containment structures, the possibility of explosions due to the release of hydrogen and oxygen. What do you make of these new reports the "New York Times" has reported?

MICHAEL FRIEDLANDER, SENIOR NUCLEAR POWER PLANT OPERATOR: Well, you know, Anderson, let's put it into a little bit of context. We are so far outside the original design basis of this power plant. I think it's prudent (ph) when people said that to look at the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the questions.

You know, it's important to know that they created a laundry list of these different things that are absolutely just -- they need to be considered. But at the end of the day, and I've said this before, we simply cannot put ourselves in the situation where we stop injecting water. That is the only means of cooling the cores.

But more importantly, what it does is it illustrates better than I could have ever articulated the absolute sense of urgency that TEPCO needs to take in terms of getting on the long-term method of core cooling, which is the residual heat. It's something that we need to consider, and it's something that people need to be standing back and asking the "what if" questions. But quite honestly, other than that, there's really nothing more that can be done.

COOPER: You talked about the heat removal system. What do you mean?

FRIEDLANDER: Nuclear power plants are designed so that, when they shut down, we have systems -- it's a two-loop system. It's sort of like the radiator in your car, where we circulate water through the reactor. It picks up the heat and then it flows through a heat exchanger and that exchanges the heat with another loop that sends hot water into the ocean, not radioactivity but hot water that. Is the long-term method we have to get on.

That equipment is normally powered by emergency diesel generators, which we know were knocked out during the tsunami. And in fact, they found when they were trying to restore these systems, that that is getting on that long-term stable core cooling method.

COOPER: When I heard TEPCO is offering what amounts to a token payment, I didn't realize how much of a token this was, $12 per person. That's kind of stunning, isn't it?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's very stunning to the town of Namie (ph). This is one of the towns that was evacuated from the shadow of the nuclear plant. The town basically said, TEPCO, take your token money and you can just keep it.

The city manager of Namie (ph) says, put yourself in his shoes. His people have been evacuated. They haven't been given a timeline that they can go home. They've lost their jobs, their loved ones, their bodies still lying around after the tsunami. They haven't been able to bury them. How is he, as a city manager, supposed to go to these evacuees and say, "Here. Here's $12. Hope you feel better." Basically, Namie (ph) saying they're just not going to do that.

COOPER: Michael, in terms of the international help that -- that Japan has asked for, has received, have they asked for enough? You'd like to see more international involvement, right?

FRIEDLANDER: Absolutely, Anderson. It's difficult for me to -- to understand if it's simply a matter of logistics or if it's an issue of communications, or if this is simply a cultural issue of trying to save face and demonstrating that they can do it themselves. There is capacity and certainly capability external to Japan that can be brought to bear on this.

I sit here astonished looking at just how the government and how TEPCO is flailing around dealing with this issue. We are now three weeks into a major international crisis, and I've seen almost no external help brought in.

COOPER: And in terms of the water going -- the radiated water going into the ocean, they've stopped that leak. And we showed those pictures before. But they're still dumping tons of water, radioactive water into the Pacific, right?

FRIEDLANDER: You know, you are absolutely correct. On one hand, we can declare a bit of victory for the extremely highly radioactive water that was being dumped in some form. But we're still in the process of dumping more than 3 million gallons of water that has more than 100 times the allotted limit of radiation into the ocean.

Furthermore, they have not provided any isotopic analysis of exactly what's in that water. And furthermore, because of where that water is coming from, we have reason to believe that there are long- lived radio isotopes in that water.

Again, the issue being for several weeks now, we simply need to keep our eye on the food chain, because this is where this is going to come home to roost.

COOPER: Michael Friedlander and Kyung Lah thank you.

Still ahead, tough talk from President Obama but still no budget deal. We have new information behind the scenes talks to avoid a government shut-down on Friday.

Plus, what executives at the company that own the rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico now say they plan to do with their huge safety bonuses. That's right, they got safety bonuses.


COOPER: All right. Let's check in with Isha Sesay with a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

What are you following, Isha?

SESAY: Anderson, a partial government shutdown could happen Friday after a White House meeting with congressional leaders came and went with no 2011 budget agreement. President Obama says he'll keep scheduling meetings until there's a deal.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we are this close simply because of politics, and we are prepared to put whatever resources are required in terms of time and energy to get this done, but that's what the American people expect. They don't like these games. And we don't have time for them.

There are some things that we can't control. We can't control earthquakes. We can't control tsunamis. We can't control uprisings on the other side of the world. What we can control is our capacity to have a reasoned, fair conversation between the parties and get the business of the American people done.


SESAY: More deaths in Yemen. At least six people were killed and hundreds injured in the latest clashes, which have been going on for weeks now. Eyewitnesses in the capital say security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters today and attacked them with batons.

A turning point in the disputed election in the Ivory Coast. Laurent Gbagbo's generals are negotiating his surrender, and forces loyal to him have stopped fighting. This after violence killed hundreds in Ivory Coast in a struggle with forces loyal to the internationally recognized president, Alassane Ouattara.

And Anderson, a 360 follow. Transocean's senior executives are donating their safety bonuses to the Deepwater Horizon memorial fund. Last night we told you that the company, which owns the rig that exploded last year, killing 11 workers, called 2010 its best year in safety.

Today, the CEO announced executives are donating their bonuses because, quote, "It is the right thing to do." Yes, it is.

COOPER: Remarkable. Isha, appreciate it.

A lot more ahead at the top of the hour, starting with Eman al Obeidy, connecting with her mom. We were able to connect them on the phone. She hadn't been able to speak to her after a day she says began with her staring into the barrel of a gun as she tried to get justice in Tripoli.