CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

CONNECT THE WORLD

Dominique-Strauss Kahn Granted Bail; President Obama Gives Speech on Arab Spring; Reaction from Syria and Libya; Israel Pleased With Obama's Speech; Tony Blair's Reaction; Have We Heard It All Before?; Reaction to Pledge of Economic Support for Egypt and Tunisia; Are the Numbers Big Enough or Too Big?; An Egyptian Revolutionary's Thoughts

Aired May 19, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET

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


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: A week ago, he was one of the most powerful people in the world. Now, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique-Strauss Kahn, has been indicted on several criminal charges, ranging from sexual abuse to attempt rape.

Well, the indictment was handed down today after a jury in Manhattan heard evidence in the case earlier this week. And in that same courtroom just 10 minutes ago, Strauss-Kahn was, indeed, granted bail. His attorneys had lobbied hard for him to be released with specific conditions and the judge agreed.

Well, the hearing comes hours after Strauss-Kahn resigned his position Strauss-Kahn as head of the IMF, the latest development in what's been, I'm sure you'll agree, a stunning fall from grace that began on Saturday in New York, when he allegedly tried to rape a hotel maid.

Well, CNN, of course, covering this story for you from every angle. In just a moment, we're going to speak with CNN's senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, who is standing by to give us his expert opinion on everything we've seen so far today.

Our own Richard Quest spoke with the man who's currently running the IMF about how a new leader will be chosen. We'll have that interview for you in just a few minutes.

And Richard Roth is following the legal proceedings as they happen out of New York, where Strauss-Kahn was indicted just an hour ago. And that is where we're going to begin tonight -- Richard, outside the courthouse, it's been a busy day there.

Let's sort of go back with, first of all, just the last few minutes. Of course, he's been granted bail -- not a massive surprise, but certainly one that he will be absolutely relieved by, one would think.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Look, since this case started for me, anything is a potential surprise. No one can predict anything. I think there's some surprise, when you read the arguments to the judge about why he should or shouldn't get out. This was not -- not a done deal.

And now he's going to be set free on bail, a package of bail, a million dollars cash, $5 million bond, surrender of travel documents, passports, U.N. travel passes and other actions, including electronic monitoring and other means the defense says will certainly keep their client, Dominique-Strauss Kahn, here in New York and not pose a flight risk.

The prosecution very strong on arguing that Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a man of money and of power and influence and could go somewhere beyond the bounds of U.S. jurisdiction, could find a place where he could live, quote, "a life of ease."

They have lost in their arguments so far. The indictments, though, seven criminal counts, including sex assault charges, imprisonment, against Dominique-Strauss Kahn. Hard to believe just until a day ago, the head of the International Monetary Fund.

His wife was in court along with a daughter. He first acknowledged them with a smile when he walked in and then during a recess with a kiss in the air.

The defense attorney for the alleged sex crimes victim said if Dominique Strauss-Kahn is, indeed, set free on bail, it would be not good and scary for her client, who is already traumatized by what he says occurred.

The defense says Dominique Strauss-Kahn is not guilty and in his statement of resignation on Wednesday evening, the former International Monetary Fund chief said he wants to clear his name and said he is not guilty of these charges -- Becky.

ANDERSON: All right, Richard.

Well, that's the story today, quite phenomenal stuff. Of course, we haven't heard from Dominique Strauss-Kahn since the weekend. We have, though, heard from his defense attorney, William Taylor. This on the bail hearing just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM TAYLOR, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR STRAUSS-KAHN: It's undisputed that the reason that the police knew his whereabouts is because he called the hotel, which was the scene of this incident, from JFK Airport to inquire if the hotel had located his cell phone. The hotel advised that it had and asked him his whereabouts, which he promptly told them. Indeed, he called the hotel a second time, called security a second time to advise that the plane was boarding and to urge the hotel delivery people to please promptly bring him his cell phone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: All right, there one of the defense lawyers for Dominique- Strauss Kahn.

So what's next for the former head of the IMF?

A senior so -- CNN's senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, joins us now on the phone from New York.

I'm just holding here for details of the grand jury. Seven counts he's been indicted on.

Your reaction, first and foremost, to just what's happened toda -- Jeffrey?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this was obviously a very close call about whether he should -- he should get bail. You know, one judge earlier in the week denied bail. This judge granted it. And I - - I can see how the judge reached this conclusion, because he will be under such tight reign (AUDIO GAP).

The larger point is (AUDIO GAP) is that he is looking at a long, long prison sentence if convicted. So it's good for (AUDIO GAP) that he got out for the time being (AUDIO GAP).

ANDERSON: Yes, all right. We're having slight technical issues with Jeffrey's phone, as you can hear.

If we can get him back, we'll certainly bring him back. There's a lot of analysis needed on what is quite the most remarkable story.

So how will the next chief of the global financial system be chosen?

Well, the current acting director, John Lipsky, spoke with CNN's Richard Quest about that a short time ago.

Have a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN LIPSKY, ACTING DIRECTOR, IMF: The board of directors, it will meet shortly, in the next day or so, on to agree on the process -- let's call it the technical process of -- and details of how the search will be made and how the selection will be made. Once the process is agreed and -- and transmitted, then it will be put in place and the selection process will begin.

RICHARD QUEST, HOST, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": But that's -- that's the formal, if you like, nuts and bolts of it. But you know as well as I do that the jockeying for position around a consensus candidate gets underway pretty much while you and I are talking now.

LIPSKY: It's important to note that the -- the members recognize the role of the fund and the importance of having talented and effective leadership and leadership that can create consensus around decisions and action.

So this process is likely to be underway soon. The formal process will be underway soon and hopefully a consensus will emerge in a -- a very expeditious and effective way.

QUEST: I need to ask you bluntly, do you want the job?

LIPSKY: Richard, my term ends on August 31st and it's -- I had already -- had already announced, prior to these events, my intention to -- to retire from -- at that time.

But the important thing is not personalities. The important thing is that the work of the Fund needs to carry on. It's important work. And let me just note, Richard, that I'm the third first deputy managing director. All three of us have pent -- spent periods as acting managing director in a hiatus between periods of managing director. So this is perfectly normal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: John Lipsky there.

Well, Dominique Strauss-Kahn only resigned as head of the IMF today. But the competition for his job is heating up, let me tell you.

Here are some of the people -- some of the people who are interested, it seems, at least, in the running -- although perhaps I should say are in the running for the job.

John is currently acting as the managing director until a permanent replacement is chosen.

Gordon Brown is, of course, the former British prime minister, another possible candidate. He certainly, I believe, wants the job.

Kemal Dervis would be Turkey's first ever leader and it would be the first ever non-European leader of the IMF. He's the former finance minister for Turkey and also the former head of the U.N. Development Programme.

And Christine Lagarde, well, perhaps the frontrunner, to be honest, for the job. French finance minister and certainly well respected across the financial spectrum.

Well, our other big story tonight is the Dominique-Strauss Kahn story, of course.

Our other one here on CNN, the U.S. president's speech to the Middle East and the Arab world. We're going to talk to America's ambassador to the U.N. about plans to bolster Egypt and Tunisia, two countries struggling with the aftermath of revolution.

And we'll be hearing from Fareed Zakaria on this so-called, a new chapter in American diplomacy.

Has there really been a shift?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN.

Well, a delicate task, months of deliberation and today, delivery. The big focus right now, the U.S. president's high stakes, high profile speech to the Arab world -- a world that's undergone dramatic change in recent months.

The address was timed so that viewers in Arab nations could watch after work.

A lot of big messages in this speech, Barack Obama stressing that America's interests are not hostile to Arab hopes. He criticized Syria for what he called "choosing the path of murder and mass arrests" and told U.S. ally Bahrain that the use of force will not make calls for reforms go away.

Mr. Obama said shouts of human dignity have been heard across the region, especially in Tunisia and in Egypt and he urged people there to be patient, saying: "Transformation takes years, not weeks." And he told them: "If you do it right, then the U.S. will be there to help you."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Drawing from what we've learned around the world, we think it's important to focus on trade, not just aid; on investment, not just assistance. The goal must be a model in which protectionism gives way to openness and the reigns of commerce pass from the few to the many and the economy generates jobs for the young.

America's support for democracy will, therefore, be based on ensuring financial stability, promoting reform and integrating competitive markets with each other and the global economy. And we're going to start with Tunisia and Egypt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: President Obama earlier on. We're going to get more detail on what that will involve later in the show when we speak to America's ambassador to the United Nations.

Another cornerstone of Mr. Obama's speech, the pursuit of Palestinian- Israeli peace. He argued for both sides to resume talks, saying endless delays won't make the problem go away.

Well, our correspondents, as you would imagine, in the Middle East and North Africa, are gauging reaction to Mr. Obama's speech and taking on all of his points, not just what he called the right of people to choose their own leaders, but also issues of faith and trust, the treatment of women and even the death of Osama bin Laden.

Well, Mr. Obama talks about the pros and cons of the Arab spring and tried to present America's interests as in line with the uprisings.

Wolf Blitzer was, of course, heading up CNN's coverage, listening into the speech.

He's in Washington at the CNN bureau.

I'm off -- the sort of umbrella of all of this, my sense was, that Mr. Obama wanted to stress that things will take time, but America is certainly on your side.

Is that correct?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Yes. He basically told the people in North Africa and the Middle East that the United States would be there. Yes, there will be moments that will appear to be inconsistent, policy moments, that the United States, taking one stance, for example, in -- in Libya or Tunisia or Egypt and maybe a nuanced, different stance in Bahrain, for example, or even in Syria, for that matter.

But he said the United States is determined to try to promote human rights, democracy throughout the region. And he -- and he made this point, and I'll play a little clip, Becky, why this is so important for U.S. national security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Square by square, town by town, country by country, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security, by history and by faith.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And he -- and to back that up, he -- he made the point of saying the United States was committed to about $2 billion in various forms of economic assistance for Tunisia and Egypt right away, loan guarantees, forgiveness of Egyptian debt, more money on the way -- significant at a time when the U.S. is trying to cut its own dome -- domestic spending, given all the budget deficit problems here, Becky.

So the president is going out, making that point, that the U.S. is going to be there, it's going to be a partner and a friend, although it's not going to be easy, by any means.

ANDERSON: Yes, he took a lot of boxes and made it very clear, Wolf, that Washington is fully supportive of the wave of democracy across the region, something that they were, perhaps, slow to pick up on at the beginning of what we are now calling the Arab spring.

He didn't, though, mention Saudi Arabia. And I was slightly surprised by that, given that he ticked off so many other countries.

Were you?

BLITZER: Yes, I was -- I was not surprised for the simple reason that there's so much at stake in this U.S.-Saudi relationship right now. The relationship with King Abdullah is already strained, to be sure, because of the U.S. stance toward Bahrain. The -- the Saudis were not happy with the way the United States, the Obama administration, dealt with President Mubarak in Egypt. There's a lot of oil, obviously, at stake right now.

I was sort of waiting, when the president made that long pitch, there was a -- a full paragraph about how important women are, and you can't neglect women, you can't abuse women, women are so important to democracy and to -- and they should be allowed to vote.

I was sort of waiting for him to say something about Saudi Arabia, where women can't even drive a car still right now.

So it -- but -- but he didn't say that. So -- but that's consistent with this effort to try to improve relationships with the monarchy in Saudi Arabia right now.

So it was a thunderous silence, if you will, without mentioning Saudi Arabia by name.

ANDERSON: Yes, perhaps the elephant in the room.

Wolf Blitzer, as ever, always a pleasure.

And we thank you very much, indeed, for joining us out of Washington this evening.

Well, some of the harshest words we did hear from Obama were directed at the Syrian regime for its brutal crackdown on anti-government protests - - a crackdown that the United Nations has estimated last week caused up to 850 deaths and thousands of arrests across the period of unrest there.

Here's what Mr. Obama had to say about the Syrian president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: President Assad now has a choice. He can lead that transition or get out of the way. The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests. It must release political prisoners and stop unjust arrests. It must allow human rights monitors to have access to cities like Daraa and start a serious dialogue to advance a democratic transition.

Otherwise, President Assad and his regime will continue to be challenged from within and will continue to be isolated abroad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: President Obama in his speech today.

Another major focus of that speech, the Arab-Israeli conflict. He said the negotiations must focus on a viable Palestine and a secure Israel with secure borders for both.

He also said a choice needs to be made between hate and hope across the entire region.

Have a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel.

How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?

In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: All right. I want to pull out of this for what has been breaking news this hour, the bail hearing and indictment of Dominique- Strauss Kahn.

Have a listen to one of the district attorneys speaking outside the courthouse.

CYRUS R. VANCE, JR. MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: -- which is an independent body under American law that is compromised of impartial citizen jurors considered the evidence presented by my office and found it sufficient to file an indictment and bring the accused to trial.

Under American law, these are extremely serious charges, based on the grand jury's determination that the evidence supports the commission of non-consensual, force sexual acts. The defendant was indicted on all of the charges presented to the grand jury, including criminal sexual act in the first degree, a Class B violent felony, and attempted rape in the first degree, a Class C violent felony.

During the course of this criminal process, this defendant, under the supervision of an independent and experienced judge, will receive all of the protections available in our justice system to ensure a fair trial. These protections are guaranteed to everyone charged with crimes in these courts, whether or not they are residents or visitors. And that includes each of the more than 100,000 defendants who come before my office each year.

Fairness and impartiality in our American criminal justice system has been the bedrock of our democracy for more than 200 years. It has been rigorously upheld by New York courts and by our office. The work of the Manhattan district attorney's office will be guided in this case, as it is in every case, by one principle -- to do what is right without fear or favor, wherever that leads.

Thank you.

ANDERSON: Well, let's find out what Richard Roth thinks of what we just heard from the district attorney working the Dominique-Strauss Kahn case in Manhattan -- Richard, just now getting information on -- on these court hearings today.

What do you think?

ROTH: Well, it was a little hard to hear the prosecution there. But I think in the comments about -- about how many cases they consider and they conduct -- and I think they were intimating that he shouldn't have gotten out on bail. And so we've heard, in the last 30 minutes, that Dominique-Strauss Kahn will be freed after a defense attorney team presented a package of bail and bond and various other things -- keep him under home detention in Manhattan.

But the prosecution had said that the idea of an electronic ankle bracelet was ludicrous and that he could flee easily. He's a man of power and wealth.

He was in court. His wife was there. His daughter was there. No reaction, I think, earlier, on some of the arguments from the prosecution. And it's a long legal road, as my court colleague, Susan Candiotti says, who was in the courtroom, describing the atmosphere to me just a few moments ago there.

The next court date is June 6th. But as the prosecution says, their accusations are that Dominique-Strauss Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund at the time, is now accused of non-consensual forced sexual acts. And he's going to have to respond to that -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes. All right. I'm holding the papers here in my hand, certainly, a copy of them. Seven counts he's been indicted on. And, of course, as Richard suggested, he is -- he has been granted bail.

And let me just bring you up to date on exactly what Judge Michael Obus granted bail on today.

These are the conditions -- a million in cash, a $5 million bond. He's had to surrender his travel documents and submit to home detention.

The news coming thick and fast on Dominique-Strauss Kahn today.

All right, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

I'm Becky Anderson.

Coming up, supporting change in a country whose people ended three decades of rule by one man -- we hear from the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, about America's latest overture to Egypt.

And what does President Obama's vision of a future Middle East really mean for the troubled region, as we explore his speech, given just hours ago, on the Middle East.

That is next here on CONNECT THE WORLD.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: At just after half past nine in London, I'm Becky Anderson with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. Let's get you a check of the headlines this hour.

Barack Obama's Arab Spring speech pledged US support for reform efforts across the Middle East and North Africa. The US president also offered additional economic aid for Egypt and Tunisia and expanded trade for the region. More on that this half hour.

Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been granted bail by a judge in New York. Earlier, he was indicted by a grand jury on seven charges ranging from sexual assault to imprisonment. He resigned his IMF position on Wednesday evening.

I just want to go to some pictures we just had out of the area around the courthouse. Dominique Strauss-Kahn's daughter and wife, I believe we can show you, just leaving the courthouse. These pictures just coming into CNN Center.

No, not rolling on them. We'll bring those pictures as and when we get them.

All right, I'm going to stay with these pictures. Here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(WOMAN SPEAKING FRENCH)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Dominique Strauss-Kahn's wife, his daughter, who's 26, she's a Columbia graduate, she's studying, certainly, at Columbia University at present. Both of them in the courthouse earlier on today. And the media melee quite something. Big story. You'll get all the details here on CNN, of course.

Well, shares in Linkedin took off on the social network site's first day on the New York Stock Exchange. Linkedin was priced at $45 a share ahead of its IPO, but after the open, shares doubled in value, topping $100 a share at one point.

The FBI is looking into whether the infamous Unabomber had anything to do with the 1982 Tylenol poisoning case. The agency is seeking a DNA sample from Ted Kaczynski, who's serving life in prison for mail bombings that killed three people and wounded 23.

Let's go back to the courthouse. William Taylor, Strauss-Kahn's lawyer, talking now.

(BACKGROND SOUND)

ANDERSON: OK, this is what happens when you do live events, isn't it? And I'm sure you will bear with us as we try and bring you bang up to date as and when things happen outside that courthouse, but it's thick and fast as we speak.

Let me remind you what we've had today, of course. The bail hearing. And of course, he's been bailed, now. What we just heard from his lawyer is that he will be leaving Rikers Island tonight. So a number of conditions -- I'm sorry, tomorrow.

A number of conditions on that bail decision. It's a million pounds in cash, $5 million bond, and he'll be electronically tagged. He's going to spend the night in Rikers Island and will be released tomorrow.

That's the very latest as we have it and, therefore, as you have it, here on CNN.

All right. More on that as we get it.

Returning to Barack Obama's speech on the Arab Spring made earlier today. Now the revolutionary movement that continues to sweep the Middle East and North Africa was the focus of a speech earlier in Washington.

The American president praised those in Egypt and Tunisia who have successfully brought down dictatorships, pledging US support as they make the transition to democracy.

He also criticized the leaders of Syria and Bahrain for choosing a path of brutal suppression, warning the use of force will not silence calls for change.

And he reiterated the need for Israelis and Palestinians to find a two-state solution as a matter of urgency to ensure peace across the region.

Well, as you would expect, our reporters in the region watched the speech and then listened for reaction. Our Sara Sidner, who's in rebel- held Libya. First, let's go to Arwa Damon, who's covering Syria's take on the speech. A reminder, of course, Syria will not let CNN and most other foreign journalists into the country, however.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Arwa Damon in Beirut. President Obama may have used the harshest rhetoric yet when directly addressing the Syrian president, saying that Bashar al-Assad has a choice to either lead a transition or simply get out of the way.

But this fell far short of the expectations of most Syrian activists, who wanted to hear the US president directly tell Bashar al-Assad that he had lost his legitimacy to lead.

At the same time, there is a realization amongst activists that it is not the US nor the American president that is going to bring about change in Syria. It is quite simply going to be the Syrians themselves. And they reiterated the fact that they are willing to take this to the end no matter what.

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Sara Sidner in Benghazi, Libya, we're inside a hotel cafe where people are usually glued to a Free Libya TV, a television station that backs the opposition.

However, that station's channel was changed to a station where they could hear President Obama speaking with Arabic translation.

The reaction to the speech from the opposition so far has been pretty positive, saying it's good enough. They were happy to hear that he mentioned Libya, first of all, and that he mentioned Moammar Gadhafi, saying that his time is running out.

But they were particularly interested that he mentioned the council, calling it a legitimate interim council, the council hoping that that will mean that the United States will eventually recognize the entire National Transitional Council as legitimate and thereby opening the doors to more funds, perhaps guns and training for the rebels.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: OK, that's the view there. Let's get to Jerusalem, now, and our bureau chief there, Kevin Flower. Reaction from the Israelis for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEVIN FLOWER, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: By and large, I think they'll be fairly pleased with what they heard.

They heard an unshakable commitment by the White House to Israel's security.

They heard an outline of the -- a peace process, a peace plan, that is basically very familiar to them and one that they support.

And they're also going to like the words they heard -- the words directed towards the Palestinian side, the American president telling the Palestinians that their bid for recognition of an independent state at the UN in September was something that he did not support.

He raised questions. He said the Palestinians are going to have to answer questions about how a Hamas-Fatah unity government going forward, how that could actually work. So, I think on balance, a lot more that the Israelis took out of this positively than the Palestinians. Not much good news, there, for the Palestinians.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: All right, Kevin Flower for you out of Jerusalem.

A key player, of course, in getting the Palestinians and the Israelis back to the negotiating table is the Middle East Quartet, and I asked one of its representatives, the former British prime minister Tony Blair what substance he thought was in this specific speech. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TONY BLAIR, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: There were three points of substance, actually.

First, in relation to a very strong support for pro-democracy, pro- reform movements and what he said on Syria, in that regard was very interesting.

Secondly, and really crucially in my view, he put alongside the case for political reform the case for economic change and said how America would support it. That is vital in order to make this region fulfill its potential.

And the third thing is, he gave shape and direction, a framework, for the Middle East peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians whenever we can put it back together.

Now, in terms of speeches and substance, I think those are three pretty important points.

ANDERSON: What do you think we learned out of what he said today, and is this a new start for America in the region?

BLAIR: Well, I think it's an attempt to make sense of events that have been revolutionary. I mean, these last few months have seen -- in five months, we've had more change than in probably 50 years.

So, what he's trying to do is to lay out some principles to say, "We're going to support pro-democracy, pro-reform movements. We're going to support the economy." Because the great danger in this region is that you get this momentum for political change that's not matched by economic reform and economic change.

And then, obviously, also, he's trying to give some guidance and shape to, at the moment, a blocked political process between the Israelis and Palestinians.

So, he's trying to step back in a way and say, "OK. What is it -- what does this now look like, and how do we help this go in the direction we want it to go in?"

ANDERSON: Do you think he progressed at all vis-a-vis the Middle East peace progress -- process in his speech today?

BLAIR: Yes. The thing that he was trying to do with the Middle East peace process is to say, "OK, at the moment, we don't have a negotiation. And we're at an impasse. But nonetheless, this is the shape and direction that the only sensible solution can take."

And that is where the Palestinians are given the chance to have a state that is territorially viable. So it's a real state in which they can be sovereign. And the Israelis get their security properly and adequately protected in circumstances where there are those that threaten Israel --

(CROSSTALK)

ANDERSON: But Tony Blair, there's nothing new in that, is there?

BLAIR: -- and threaten its existence.

ANDERSON: There's nothing new in that.

BLAIR: Well, there is something new, actually, in the sense that he laid out the basis for that negotiation about territory. He laid out what the tests would be in respect to security. And he also said something very important about, essentially, two states for two peoples.

Now, this may seem to us very common currency, but the president of the United States setting that out in that way is actually new. What we need, of course, is the two parties to come back and now negotiate on that basis.

ANDERSON: Some people will say this speech is too little, too late for Obama in the region. Do you agree?

BLAIR: No, I don't. I think -- look. I hear the phrase "too little, too late" constantly and have over the past years. Actually, I think they've said that about the previous two administrations as well.

The fact is, this is difficult, here. Look, I was in the West Bank earlier. It's very frustrating at one level. The West Bank economy as done well recently. The Palestinian Authority has done, actually, an excellent job on security. There's been a lot of change there. But we've got a blocked political process.

You've just got to keep going. And it's never in one sense too little, too late. It's always a case of however great the obstacles, you've just got to push on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Tony Blair, a member of the Middle East Peace Quartet, of course, talking about President Obama's speech just earlier on today.

Coming up on the show, Obama's financial pledge to help Tunisia and Egypt. There is talk of billions in aid, but is it enough? We're going to ask a key player out of the United States, up after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back. Now, in his speech earlier today, President Obama had an overriding message to the Arab world. If you want democratic change, America stands by you.

But he said transitions are never easy. Take a listen to what he had to say specifically.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESDIENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no straight line to progress, and hardship always accompanies a season of hope.

But the United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves.

And now, we cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: America is behind you. Have we heard all of this before? Joining me now is Fareed Zakaria, the host of CNN's GPS. Fareed, how does what we heard today compare with what we heard in Cairo when President Barack Obama spoke there about the Middle East in 2009?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN'S "GPS": Well, Becky, in 2009, he was trying to gently nudge the regimes of the Middle East toward reform, towards democracy. And it was done in -- very much in the spirit of a gentle nudge, because remember, the backdrop was George W. Bush and his warrior-like foreign policy.

This is a whole new ballgame. The Arab world is in revolution. It is -- there's an ongoing uprising, and the United States is trying to catch up.

I thought it was a good speech. It was intelligent, it laid out the patterns that we had seen, it interpreted them for us. And it placed the United States squarely behind the democratic wave.

But I have to say that for many people on the ground in Egypt, I'm overlooking Tahrir Square right now, there is a sense of America having come here too late and having offered too little.

One speech isn't going to change that, but I think President Obama made an important beginning in trying to create a new relationship between the United States and the West and a new Arab world.

ANDERSON: OK, let's talk about Egypt just for a moment, Fareed. Despite his new pledges of financial help, and they certainly were there in his speech, Egypt is a country run by the military still. The military owns the assets and, until now, at least, has been the beneficiary of US aid.

So how, for example, does the military's influence play into the White House's plans going forward for the country?

ZAKARIA: Well, Becky, you hit the nail on the head. This is the -- this is the issue in Egypt right now. The way the Egyptian activists, the student movement feel, they went through this extraordinary revolution to rid the country of a military dictatorship.

And four months later, guess who's running Egypt? A military dictatorship, complete with arbitrary arrests, military tribunals, teargas. It's all still in place, state-controlled media, censorship.

So, what they would hope for, I think, is that the Obama administration would make clear to the military that all this help that Egypt is going to get is going to be absolutely conditional on a very systematic path towards genuine democracy.

I imagine this is the plan for the Obama administration, but I don't think they recognize how deep the suspicion in Egypt is that the military are actually not going to leave power, or will simply step behind the curtain and try to create some kind of civilian facade.

So, this is why I say it's -- the speech is great. But the real action here is in consolidating these revolutions, which are still very much incomplete, especially here in Egypt.

ANDERSON: Humor me, here, just for a moment. As I listened to the speech, I thought, my goodness, we could be talking about the League of Nations. We heard a lot of talk of self-determination, of mutual interests, mutual help.

A lot of rhetoric, but I know many will say, what was it that he didn't say? What did he leave out?

And one of the things, certainly, that we didn't hear, although we heard a lot about Washington being fully supportive of a wave of democracy in the region, what we didn't hear talk of, and he certainly didn't mention, was Saudi Arabia. Why do you think that is?

ZAKARIA: Well, it's absolutely obvious why. He did mention -- he said, look, there are places where our interests and our values will collide in the short term. He didn't specify the 800-pound gorilla at that intersection. And that is, of course, Saudi Arabia.

Look, I understand that he didn't do it, I recognize it as you did. I also understand why he didn't do it. He isn't just the professor of a constitution civics class, he is the president of the United States.

Were there to be serious instability in Saudi Arabia, protests of the kind that there were in Egypt, you would probably be looking at oil at $250 a barrel, which would mean for the average consumer in the Western world a tripling of oil prices. It could easily send the Western world, indeed, the entire world, into another recession.

So, yes. Saudi Arabia is the hardest case of all these because our interests really are -- move us in the direction of stability in that kingdom. But our values really move us in the direction of change. He hasn't been able to square that circle. Honestly, I don't know anybody else who has been able to, either.

ANDERSON: I know, you make a very good point. Fareed, before you go, then, just in sum, we heard a lot of talk about what was good in the region, what had happened in the region, and where the region needed to go and, specifically, we heard talk, of course, of Syria.

You talk about the sort of elephant in the room being Saudi, where do you see the US's focus, its influence, as being asserted next? Is it Syria? Is that in the crosshairs at this point for the White House administration?

Well, you correctly point out, Becky, that he seemed to move policy on Syria slightly. I have to confess, this is one area where I'm puzzled by Obama's stance and puzzled by the administration's foreign policy.

It does appear that they are moving inexorably toward asking for the removal of Bashar al-Assad and his regime. Today, he went one step further, saying Assad needs to make himself part of the democratic transition or step aside.

Well, there's no prospect that Assad and his family are going to make themselves part of a democratic transition. They rule a highly repressive minority regime of Alawites that make up not even 10 percent of Syria. They know there's no future for them in a democratic Syria. They're going to fight to the end.

So, since we know that, logically, this means we're going to call for -- we the United States are going to call for Assad to step down, presumably in a few weeks, why not do it now?

There seems to be a kind of slow motion aspect to the form -- the policy towards Syria that I don't understand. This would have been an occasion to have drawn a sharper line and to have just unequivocally said President Assad needs to step down.

ANDERSON: Sharp analysis, as ever, from my colleague Fareed Zakaria, there in Cairo for you tonight on the speech, which was well-watched across Europe, the States and, indeed, the Arab region, the Middle East, and North Africa as a whole.

All right, we're going to take a very short break. More on this after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Becky Anderson. Today's speech, Obama's speech, of course, on the Middle East, the US president asked for patience from the people of Egypt and Tunisia as the US maps out a plan to support the democratic reforms.

Let's take a listen to the four key initiatives that he outlined. This is Obama on Tunisia and Egypt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: First, we've asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next week's G-8 summit for what needs to be done to stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt.

Second, we do not want a democratic Egypt to be saddled by the debts of its past. So, we will relieve a democratic Egypt of up to $1 billion in debt.

Third, we're working with Congress to create enterprise funds to invest in Tunisia and Egypt.

Fourth, the United States will launch a comprehensive trade and investment partnership initiative in the Middle East and North Africa.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: All right. Well, the financial package is designed to promote growth and prosterity -- prosperity, sorry -- where there has been until now a severe lack of opportunity. See how this pledge of aid is being received in the region. Fred Pleitgen reporting for you from Egypt this evening.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen in Cairo, Egypt, where many people watching the president's speech in cafes like this one.

Now, the results were a little bit mixed, I would say. A lot of people were very happy at the fact that the president announced economic incentive programs to try and give aid to this country, but also to try and help stop unemployment, which is a real problem, and many people believe is also a danger to the democratic transitional process that, of course, is going on here.

On the other hand, people also had mixed opinions about the US's role politically. Some people believe America should do more to foster transition, but others say America should just sit back and let Egyptians take care of this themselves.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, the financial package talked about writing off about a billion dollars worth of Egyptian debt and looking to help support a billion-dollar loan, for example. The numbers sound big, but are they really big enough?

I put that question a short time ago to the US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. This is what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The biggest message is that the United States stands foursquare behind the aspirations of the people of the region, for democracy, for economic opportunity, and for reform.

And we will support them every step of the way, not as an afterthought, but as a top priority of US foreign policy.

ANDERSON: But if the region was hoping for the equivalent of a sort of Marshall Plan post-1945, there wasn't that sort of cash involved, is there at this point? Why?

RICE: This was not a Marshall Plan speech, Becky. This was a speech in which the president outlined in very historic terms that this is, from the United States' point of view, a moment of opportunity for the Middle East and North Africa, and that the United States will make a top priority and stand foursquare behind supporting reform, economic and political and democratic transitions in the entirety of the region.

It was broad, it was historic. It outlined, also, the United States' core principles for the establishment of lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It was a very broad, very comprehensive, and very detailed approach to the entire region.

ANDERSON: The president made the point for his domestic audience that "these countries may be a great distance," he said, "from our shores." There will be those in the States who say, "Can we really afford this?"

RICE: Well, we will afford it, we must afford it. Even at a time when we are reducing our deficit and cutting our budget, we have to be part of the world, and we can't be immune from the transformations going on in the world.

The Middle East and North Africa is a vitally important region of strategic significance to the United States. It matters enormously to our national security that the transitions in Egypt and Tunisia and elsewhere proceed peacefully, democratically, and sustainably.

And that is why the investments that the president announced today are necessary and important and serve our national interests.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Dr. Susan Rice talking about President Obama's speech today and specifically talking about Egypt. I want to get there, now, to a face that you won't recognize, but a voice that you will.

Gigi Ibrahim was a regular guest by phone with us during the revolution there in Egypt. We can see your face, I think, for the first time tonight.

Gigi, as I say, you know, you were very much blogging in behind the sort of mass uprisings around Tahrir Square in January, February of this year. You've listened to what Barack Obama has said today. What are your thoughts?

GIGI IBRAHIM, EGYPTIAN BLOGGER: I wasn't impressed, and I didn't expect much of it anyway, so to be honest, I only watched it to give interviews about it, because I knew I would be asked.

But the sense is that Egypt, we're trying to end this cycle of being a client state, and this aid puts us right back in it. And the sense is that people don't want this aid. We are building democracy from the bottom up and we want to build our economy aside from any foreign aid.

And right now we're more concerned about the military staying in power or when they're going to actually leave, civilians being tried in military courts, and the -- building parties that represent the people to be -- to prepare for the parliamentary elections in September.

So, we have a lot on our plate to deal with that we're not really concerned about what --

ANDERSON: Yes --

IBRAHIM: -- President Obama has to say.

ANDERSON: Very briefly, what would you have liked to have heard from him?

IBRAHIM: That America will for the first time step aside and not intervene in anything that has to do with the Arab world, whether politically or economically.

This is the time for the Arab world to take charge with their own -- for their own destiny. Change came from within for the first time, and no foreign intervention had to do with these uprisings. So, it's our time to build our own future aside from any other country or superpower.

ANDERSON: Gigi, it's always a pleasure, I'm so pleased now that things have changed enough for you to be able to make a decent Skype telephone call to us here on CONNECT THE WORLD. Do come up -- back and talk to us on a regular basis. Gigi Ibrahim out of Cairo for you.

I'm Becky Anderson, that is your world connected. Thanks for watching. The world news headlines and "BACKSTORY" will follow this short break. I'll leave you with images of the Arab Spring.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END