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Battle for Tripoli Continues to Rage; Interview With Libyan Ambassador to the UAE, Aref Ali Nayed; Americans React to Rare and Unsettling Rumble

Aired August 24, 2011 - 08:00:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: Welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet.

I'm Kristie Lu Stout, in Hong Kong.

Gadhafi's compound comes under fire for a second day. Rebels took control of it on Tuesday, but forces loyal to the Libyan leader are now on the offensive.

An earthquake shook the eastern United States on Tuesday, and we'll be live in Virginia, where residents are reacting to this rare event.

And the charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn are dismissed, but the former IMF chief remains enigmatic about his future.

The battle for Tripoli continues to rage. The day after Libyan rebels took over Moammar Gadhafi's compound, CNN teams witnessed inbound fire peppering the facility from pro-Gadhafi forces. Several rockets have also landed near Tripoli's international airport. Rebel fighters are telling us that it could be in an attempt to clear a possible escape route for Gadhafi.

Meanwhile, journalists remain penned it at the Rixos Hotel in the heart of the city as pro-Gadhafi forces prevent them leaving, and battles continue outside.

Now, there is a lot going on in Libya's capital right now, and over the next hour we will take you inside Gadhafi's compound.

Our Sara Sidner was there when rebels swept the complex, but the colonel's whereabouts, they are still not known. An audio message said to be from Gadhafi called the withdrawal a tactical move. And even as the celebrations break out, even as far as Benghazi, the fighting is not over yet. There's heavy fighting around several key sites in Tripoli, including the airport.

And the clashes continue here, at the Rixos Hotel. Dozens of international journalists are essentially trapped inside.

It is a war of few certainties, but one thing is clear. The location of Moammar Gadhafi remains unknown, except perhaps to his closest aides. And despite that, he is apparently continuing his rhetoric against the West and the "criminals, traitors and rats" who are fighting against him.

As rebels claim control of 90 percent of the country, a purported audio message from Gadhafi was broadcast on two Arabic networks.


MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): I call to all Libyans, tribesmen, youth, seniors, women, and loyal fighters to clear the city of Tripoli and eliminate the criminals, traitors and rats. We could let the tanks and cannons shell the city of Tripoli and demolish it on their heads, but this is not right. The military cannot shell the buildings and the houses.

The rebels are hiding between the families and inside the civilian houses. It's your duty to enter these houses and take them out.


STOUT: It was another historic day in what has been an historic year of change in the Middle East. Rebel troops claimed Moammar Gadhafi's compound on Tuesday, and CNN's Sara Sidner entered the former stronghold only moments after it fell.


SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are walking into Gadhafi's compound of Bab al-Aziziya. The rebels have taken the compound.

We're going in to see what we can see. We can see some of the blasts, all of these men armed to the teeth. They're yelling "God is great!"

But this is Bab al-Aziziya. They now have people standing at security.

OK. They're telling us, OK, OK. We can go inside to the compound.



SIDNER: Celebratory gunfire going off. You can tell they feel very, very excited, very excited. We're going to go now a little bit further. If you look over here to the right, you are seeing the fire inside of Gadhafi's compound.

We are trying to go in to see. We are told that the whole place has been secured by rebels, and there are cars driving in and out easily, but there is still quite a bit of gunfire. That gunfire, celebratory gunfire. We're seeing another large fire burning right now inside of the compound.

But this is -- this is a historic day. Psychologically speaking, this is an important day, especially for the rebels, who Gadhafi said would never be able to break his spirit, would never be able to take the city. But they have taken, Bab al-Aziziya, Gadhafi's compound.

So, clearly, they have it. Clearly, they have taken this over. And clearly, there is extreme excitement here in Tripoli.


STOUT: Incredible reporting from our Sara Sidner there.


SIDNER: We're having to run out of the compound now. We see gunfire coming from outside the compound, in. And it's getting too close. So we're leaving. We're not going to go all the way into the compound.

There's definitely, now from the outside of the compound, firing towards us.


STOUT: Now, Sara did get out of there, but unfortunately the security situation is not much better.

She joins us now live from the newly named Martyrs' Square in Tripoli.

And Sara, we need an update on what's happening in Tripoli. But also, if you can tell us more about that symbolic moment when the compound fell.

SIDNER: Well, when the compound fell, really it was a history-making moment. When you talk to people in the streets here, when you talk to the rebels, that was really the symbol of Gadhafi and his power, this large complex, really, that's almost a neighborhood in itself, with these huge walls keeping people out unless you were very close friends or very close allies of Gadhafi. This is a place that many people would have never been able to see before, and obviously it was paid for with state money. People feeling like Gadhafi's regime has really fallen.

Now, what we experienced today when we went back to the compound, we went in. And as we were going in, it was much more quiet. There weren't very many people around, except for some of the rebels on the outside. But as we got closer, we saw three mortars coming towards the area, falling towards where we were.

And again, we were told that the Guslim (ph) neighborhood, which is known to be a Gadhafi support base, there was some firing coming from there, some mortars coming from there into the compound, Bab al-Aziziya. So we decided that, only for safety's sake, we had to get out of that area.

Now we are in Green Square, renamed Martyrs' Square, by the rebels who have taken it over. There is still sporadic gunfire. It's celebratory gunfire, though, in this area.

One thing I should note, a lot of people are asking about, how prepared are they to deal with this city, and to really take the entire city and have no more firefights? One of the things we're noticing is that one of the cities -- we know that one part of the city, there still are Gadhafi forces that are fighting. And yet, you have folks in other parts of the city that are celebrating and blasting guns off in the air, instead of making all their concentration on the areas of the city that are not secured by the rebels. And that's a bit disconcerting.

You would think that at some point, they would say, all right, let us get together, let us concentrate and try to do the job we came here to do. And what's happening is you've got different rebels in different parts of the city doing their own thing -- Kristie.

STOUT: It's incredible, what you described, celebrations in some corners of the city, street battles elsewhere.

Now, after Gadhafi's compound fell to the rebels, Gadhafi and his family were not found there. Sara, where is Moammar Gadhafi? I know it's anyone's guess, but what are people saying in Libya?

SIDNER: Most people in this city, the people of Tripoli, believe that he has gone underground, quite literally. They believe that there are tunnels underground in this city, that the family has figured out a very safe place for them to be, that they're in hiding. But nobody really knows.

And I can tell you that security-wise, as you come in and out of the city, now they're looking through -- they started this just 24 hours ago, looking through cars. Before, they would just wave you through. They'd try to figure out who you are, and you were allowed to go.

Now they want to see in your trunk, they want to see inside the cabin of your car. They are looking for anyone or anything that is suspicious. No one knows where the Gadhafi family is or Colonel Moammar Gadhafi at this point in time, but they suspect that he is here and that he is somewhere underground.

STOUT: Sara Sidner, joining us live from Martyrs' Square.

Incredible reporting throughout. Thank you very much indeed, Sara.

Now, ahead here on NEWS STREAM, we consider the places that toppled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi may have fled to.

The international community considers urgent funding for humanitarian relief in Libya.

And a rare earthquake on the U.S. East Coast rattles nerves. And we will tell you what else it did.


STOUT: Welcome back.

The whereabouts of Moammar Gadhafi are still unknown. And when rebel fighters took his compound in Tripoli, they found plenty of weapons, but no sign of the man who has ruled the country for 42 years.

CNN's Sara Sidner talked to a rebel who has not completely eliminated the possibility that Gadhafi could be hiding nearby.


SIDNER: So you were told that Gadhafi and his close special forces, the people that protect him, were inside this compound, but you did not ever see him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe they're under the ground.

SIDNER: You think that they might be in tunnels under the ground?


STOUT: Again, the belief is out there that he is hiding underground.

And the sound of celebratory gunfire has rung out since Gadhafi's compound was captured. And while it is a significant victory for the rebels, some citizens won't be satisfied until he is found.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our happiness is not complete. We're still very conscious. And, you know, I mean, we are not going to say, like, everything is finished until we capture him or kill him, or we find him dead or something. Him or his sons or all of them.


STOUT: Speculation about Gadhafi's whereabouts has ranged from hidden bunkers in the heart of Tripoli to a possible escape to another country. But a former aide tells CNN he believes Gadhafi could be in his hometown of Sirte. It's just 400 kilometers southeast of the capital.

Now, the city where Gadhafi was born has been a center of support throughout the conflict, but look at Sirte in relation to Tripoli. Right in between is the city of Misrata, which is currently held by rebel forces. And you'd think it would be difficult for Gadhafi to escape from Tripoli and pass through Misrata.

Now, another city that some say could offer the leader shelter is about 600 kilometers south of Tripoli, Sabha. It is another traditional center of support for him. A rebel spokesman has said his forces are fighting foreign mercenaries there who could be protecting Gadhafi as he makes a final stand.

Now, we might not know where he is, but we do know that if he is still in Libya, his options for escape appear to be disappearing fast. But some rebels suspect that Gadhafi is hiding on a farm near the airport and may be trying to leave Libya.

Now, these countries in yellow have been mentioned as possible destinations, and some, like Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, are considered highly unlikely. South Africa has denied the rumors that it sent a plane for Gadhafi. Its foreign minister said, "I'm quite amazed that there's even an insinuation that we are facilitating the exit of anyone."

Gadhafi could be looking for exits a bit further away from home. His ties to the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, are well known. Mr. Chavez says Caracas will only recognize a Libyan government led by Gadhafi.

On the other hand, dozens of countries back the Transitional National Council. You can see Libya here in the green. And these 41 countries formally recognize the TNC as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

Now, South Korea is the latest edition to the group. As you can see, it includes the United States and Canada, much of Europe, plus Japan and Australia.

Among Arab countries, we have Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar. And notably, Tunisia and Egypt gave their backing in the last few days.

Now, these countries in blue are not quite there yet. And some like Ireland and Switzerland have given informal recognition.

Russia's president says Moscow would consider ties with the TNC if it is able to unite the country on a democratic footing. China says it respects the choice of the Libyan people, but has yet to officially recognize the country's new regime.

Intense efforts are under way outside Libya to ready the country for a new government. The rebel National Transitional Council has a group. It's called the Libyan Stabilization Team based in Dubai. And the head of the team is Libya's ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. His name is Aref Ali Nayed.

He joins me now on the line.

Ambassador, thank you very much for joining us here on CNN.

I understand that you were there in Dubai for talks with your Gulf ally. You will later go on to talks in Doha.

What kind of critical aid and support do you hope to secure?

AREF ALI NAYED, LIBYAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UAE: Well, thank you very much for this opportunity.

I would like to say that I am the operational head of the team, which is chaired by Dr. Ahmanjani (ph), minister for reconstruction, and the (INAUDIBLE) committee of nine people from different parts of Libya. And I am working with a team of young Libyans, women and men, of around 70, who are coordinating with other teams at the local levels. So it really is a network of networks of teams who are in the hundreds and who come from different backgrounds, and with different expertise in various sectors.

So we are coordinating the stabilization effort in multiple sectors. And part of the stabilization effort is making sure that we get the resources and the supplies that are needed to fulfill the urgent needs of the Libyan people.

These range from urgent fuel supplies to food and medicine, and also emergency medical care, as well as liquidity, Libyan dinar, so we can pay the Libyan population, the Libyan people, their salaries so that they can go to the shops and buy what they need. We're encouraging the shops to reopen, bakeries. We're encouraging everyone to go back to their work, including the police and the security personnel.

STOUT: Mr. Ali Nayed, are you still there on the line? Continue, please.

NAYED: Yes, I'm sorry. I had a little bit of problem with the line.

And we are trying to do so in a manner that achieves normality and harmony and synchronization of life as soon as possible. We are very, very happy with the achievements so far.

GSM services are back. The Internet is back for the first time in many, many months.

STOUT: Right.

NAYED: And also, the electrical grid is being restored. The blackouts that Tripoli was suffering from have been largely fixed and are continuing to be fixed.

STOUT: Right.

NAYED: Also, the food and medicine have already started to arrive from local sources like Benghazi, which has set up a special committee for supporting Tripoli, and also Misrata, the local council of Misrata. And from Zintan and Zawiya and other places, as well as from Malta and Tunisia and Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, of course, and Qatar and Turkey.

So we feel that it's -- you know, with the great support that we're getting from our international partners and neighbors, we will be able to have stability and tranquility and peace very, very soon.

STOUT: Well, for the sake of the people of your country, I hope that is the case.

Mr. Ali Nayed, we're going to have to leave it at that, but thank you very much for joining us here on NEWS STREAM.

And we will be keeping an eye on Libya throughout the hour. But just ahead, creating a stir along the eastern United States. Americans react to a rare and unsettling rumble. We'll have a full update on Tuesday's earthquake with a live report from near the epicenter.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Their racks started just -- all the clothes rocking back and forth, and the floors and the carts all moving everywhere. It was pretty intense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the house was shaking. It just started rocking. And like I said, it didn't stop.


STOUT: A rare 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook the eastern United States on Tuesday, triggering an automatic shutdown of a nuclear power plant in Virginia near the quake's epicenter and prompting evacuations around the nation's capital, and as far north as New York. Now, so far, there haven't been reports of any serious injuries, but the tremor still took many by surprise. It has been more than a century since the eastern U.S. felt a quake this size.

Our Brian Todd has been following the aftermath, and he joins us now from near the quake's epicenter, in the town of Mineral, Virginia.

And Brian, what is the extent of the damage?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, some pretty extensive damage in some places near the epicenter in the small town of Mineral. The high school was damaged. The middle school was damaged. Two houses collapsed. One of them had been abandoned, one of them, there was no one home.

But that is the extent of the damage here. People would not necessarily call that significant, but it is some marked damage in this town.

Also, some real concern here in the nuclear power plant behind me. This is the North Anna nuclear power plant. Both reactors at this power plant are now shut down.

They were shut down yesterday, right after the earthquake. And for a while yesterday, on Tuesday, they ran on generator power to power the cooling systems that called down the nuclear reactor and the spent fuel pools. But we were told that overnight Tuesday, into Wednesday, the power from the main grid to this facility was restored. So they've got their main power system on that's fueling those cooling systems. But the two reactors here remain shut down, and they will probably be shut down, at least through the remainder of Wednesdays.

As you mentioned, there's damage all over the region. There was some damage to the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., damage to the National Cathedral. Three of the spires in the central tower were cracked. One of the finials actually just fell right off of the National Cathedral's central tower.

So there is damage in those two buildings. The monument and the National Cathedral are closed today while officials assess the damage and figure out how to do the repairs.

So that's kind of the overall situation at the epicenter here in the small town of Mineral, about 80-some miles from Washington, and in Washington, D.C., itself -- Kristie.

STOUT: Brian, the damage, extensive, widespread. This earthquake was one of the most powerful to hit the area in more than 100 years.

How are residents there on the East Coast reacting?

TODD: Well, they're pretty much shocked by it. I mean, you really just don't expect that kind of thing in this region of the United States.

When we felt this in our bureau yesterday, I mean, I had been through the earthquake in Japan, the aftershocks there, and covering that earthquake and tsunami. So I knew what to expect and I knew kind of how that felt. But a lot of people who I work with were kind of looking around like, what is going on here?

People on the East Coast of the U.S. just don't experience this. And there is still kind of this -- almost a shellshock that you get in Washington and in small towns like this. They just have never really experienced anything like this in their lifetimes.

STOUT: Yes. I can only imagine. A very frightening event.

Brian Todd, joining us live from Virginia.

Thank you.


STOUT: Now, the earthquake was also felt on Twitter. In fact, within a minute of the earthquake, there were more than 40,000 earthquake-related tweets. And the very first person to tweet about the quake was recognized.

Now, Twitter says this person who goes by the handle "JordanJnkieJuice" broke the news just 24 seconds after the quake hit. And here is what that tweet said: "Earthquake!!!" Lots of exclamation points there.

A CNN staff had to evacuate the Washington bureau. Wolf Blitzer, he called it a frightening day in D.C., and "THE SITUATION ROOM" instagrammed this photo of him reporting outside.

Now, one CNN photojournalist captured this striking image of the Washington Monument, closed off after the earthquake. And a CNN producer, he shot this photo of a damaged home in Mineral, Virginia. This house was 220 years old.

Now, still to come on NEWS STREAM, we'll be going back to Libya, hearing from our correspondents on the ground in the thick of the action as fighting rages around them.

And after sitting on the fence, China has made its move, and it is not looking good for Gadhafi. We'll have that in just a moment.


STOUT: Now rebels say that they are days away from a new Libya, but the battle for Tripoli is ongoing and the hunt is on for Moammar Gadhafi.

Now rockets have been fired at the city's international airport. Rebel commanders tell CNN that Gadhafi forces could be trying to clear the way for a dramatic escape by their leader. According to Reuters News Agency, districts of central Tripoli, including Gadhafi's former compound are under bombardment from pro-Gadhafi forces.

Now meanwhile, journalists remain penned in at the Ricksus (ph) Hotel as fierce battles rage outside and pro-Gadhafi forces prevent them from leaving.

Welcome back to NEWS STREAM. And here are some of the other stories we're following this hour.

Now the United States and European allies on the UN Security Council are pushing for sanctions against Syria in response to the government's violent crackdown on protesters. They drafted a resolution that calls for an arms embargo, a travel ban, and an asset freeze on companies and individuals in Syria who have violated human rights.

Now India's government and anti-corruption activists are negotiating to end the deadlock over an anti-graft bill. Activist Anna Hazare is in the ninth day of a hunger strike. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has written to Hazare expressing concerns over the 74 year old's health.

And North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is in Russia meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev. They are discussing the possible resumption of nuclear talks. It has been three years since the last round of six party talks to place United States and South Korea have insisted North Korea must demonstrate that it is serious about abandoning its nuclear program.

Back now to our top story: the battle for Libya. Arwa Damon is at the airport in Tripoli where heavy gunfire has broken out. And Arwa, what's the situation there?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the fighting around here is just quite intense. And all morning we were hearing on a couple of occasions a (inaudible) fire (inaudible) this airport complex. The big question, of course, now has been where is Colonel Gadhafi, where is his family. And the commander here at the airport, he was in charge of the assault on the airport and the takeover of this vital location.

(inaudible) link the whereabouts of Gadhafi.


MUKHTAR AL-AKHDAR, LIBYAN REBEL SENIOR COMMANDER (through translator): The clashes here are fierce because we think that they are trying to secure a route for Gadhafi to escape from Tripoli to other places. There were clashes all day. And then they took advantage when sunset when people were breaking their fast. And we spotted an official convoy. It is possible that he may have been inside it. This is my analysis as a military man.

There has been intense fighting from all directions for the last three days. There has been a focus on this airport complex more than other locations even Tripoli. This is evidence that Gadhafi is in the area or wants to escape from Tripoli through here.


DAMON: Kristie, the (inaudible) are also telling us that they did pass that information onto (inaudible).

STOUT: OK, I'm sorry Arwa, I'm going to have to cut you off there, because just the quality of that connection was just really eroded at the end there, but we were able to get the gist of your message. Arwa Damon reporting there live from the airport. Reporting of intense fighting there at the airport as well as other sites in Tripoli including Gadhafi's compound as the hunt is on to find the Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.

Now news of the rebels' success in seizing Gadhafi's compound it spread quickly sparking mass celebrations like this one across the opposition stronghold of Benghazi on Tuesday more than 600 kilometers east of the capital of Tripoli. And despite the uncertainty of Gadhafi's whereabouts, the head of Libya's Transitional National Council is already planning to bring the country together under a new government.

First on the agenda, moving the NTC's base to Tripoli.

Now world leaders are urging the NTC to pursue a peaceful evolution to democracy, but that is easier said than done. The council is far from united. It's made up of a mix of former regime officials, nationalists, secularists, and Islamists. And then you have to factor in the challenge of uniting the countries nearly 140 different tribal groups.

Now the majority of them are located in this orange territory here on the map around Libya's north and east. And some of them played a powerful role in bringing down Gadhafi's regime.

Near Benghazi, the Misrata tribe is proved to be one of the biggest and most influential tribes. And you'll remember that Benghazi is where the uprisings first kicked off.

And closer to Tripoli is the Warfalla tribe. It consists of more than 1 million people, or about one-sixths of the country's population. Warfalla used to be strong supporters of Gadhafi, but ended up being some of the first to defect to the opposition.

Now the international diplomacy surrounding a possible transition of power in Libya continues. Now French President Nicholas Sarcozy is set to meet the chief of the rebels' Transitional National Council Mahmoud Jibril in Paris. Now France was the first country to formally support the rebels and spearheaded the west's military intervention in Libya.

Now political power in Libya means control over oil, the source of the country's wealth. And rebels say that they have overrun the oil town of Ras Lanuf in eastern Libya. And a rebel spokesman tells Reuters there was no damage to oil facilities there.

Now rebels took over the oil hub of Brega earlier this week where three large storage tanks have been burning. And meanwhile damage at the Zawiyah refinery is thought to be minimal.

Now the prospect to an end to the war and some stability is sending the price of oil down. And a short time ago, Brent crude was down about four- tenths of one percent at a fraction over $109 a barrel.

And during the six months that this conflict has played out, China has been on the sidelines, and that is due in part to its interests in protecting its many investments in Libya. And now Beijing has jumped off the fence.

Eunice Yoon is at CNN Beijing to explain China's choice. And Eunice, first just how heavily invested is China in Libya?

EUNICE YOON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, China is very heavily invested in Libya. China has been a very important player in the economic development of the country. And in fact, the commerce ministry said that 75 companies have invested in 50 large-scale projects that are worth an estimated $19 billion. And these projects range from railway to construction to telecom.

And then of course there's oil. Beijing imported 3 percent of its crude from Libya last year. So it kind of gives you a scale of how important this relationship is.

Now because of that, Chinese officials have been voicing their hope that foreign assets will be protected. And have also been saying that they hope that future decisions about rebuilding will be based on market demand and economic interest. So there have been quite a few concerns here that because of China's close relationship with Gadhafi China could lose out in a post-Gadhafi Libya -- Kristie.

STOUT: And at one point did China turn and start to recognize the opposition instead of the government of Moammar Gadhafi?

YOON: Well, you know the Chinese officials still have not officially recognized the rebel forces as the next leaders of Libya. However, we have been seeing Beijing moving in that direction in the past couple of days.

In its strongest statement yet, this Chinese foreign ministry had praised the opposition, saying that it hoped that what it called the future new government would bring stability to the war torn region. Now -- the war torn nation. So now what a lot of experts here have been saying is that those words future new government are really critical because they indicate Beijing's shifting allegiance.

China's foreign minister also called the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon today. He had indicated that China hoped that the United Nations would be taking a leading role in the international post-war efforts. And so a lot of analysts here have been reading those comments to mean that China wants to have a greater say in the reconstruction of Libya even though it's been so highly critical of the military campaign that was led by western powers -- Kristie.

STOUT: All right. Eunice Yoon joining us live from Beijing. Thank you very much indeed.

You're watching NEWS STREAM. More to come after the break.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now there has been fighting in the past few hours between rebels and Gadhafi loyalist forces outside the Ricksus (ph) Hotel in Tripoli, that's where some 35 international reporters are virtual prisoners, forbidden to leave by armed guards loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. They include CNN's own Matthew Chance and his team.

Now there is sporadic electricity, no air conditioning. And supplies of food and water are running low. And to remind both sides of the conflict that they are impartial observers, journalists have hung sheets with the letters TV on them from the top floor balconies where they are hunkered down.

Now journalist Fung Yoon Xian from CCTV takes us on a grim, but fascinating tour of the hotel.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can see this room's window is about 100 meters from the street. You can even hear the sound of heavy gunfire outside. We have already moved the mattress to this position to provide some protection.

This is virtually all the food we have left. I don't know how much longer it will last.

You can see in the refrigerator that there are only a few bottles of water and drinks left.

In the hallway, the power is completely out. There's only a small light flickering. Because the water system is dependent on the electricity, we may experience a water shortage in the near future.

Now let's go into the main hall.

Usually there is a 24-hour security guard here, but now his post is empty. You can see over there a painting of Gadhafi.

In the last 24 hours, all of the government officials and the hotel employees have left.

This area was once full and now it is very empty.

We can see there is no power in this wing of the hotel.

On the second floor, there is a banner that says TV. That's where the international journalists gather.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the second floor where the international journalists gather. This used to be the hotel's temple. You can see some journalists now and over here they are figuring out what to do about the power outage.


STOUT: Wow, the scene in that lobby there, absolutely eerie. Now it is a frustrating and scary situation used to getting out and covering the action.

And CNN's Matthew Chance is, quote, "hunkered down at the Ricksus (ph) right now with clashes outside." But he spoke to our Colleen McEdwards a little earlier.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We saw that the guards, you know, the Gadhafi loyalists who had been in the lobby at the hotel, armed with assault rifles have, you know, largely disappeared from the lobby. So we're kind of alone in the hotel we feel virtually.

Outside of the hotel along its perimeter, we understand there are a number of Gadhafi forces, not quite sure of the exact number, but we're still not in a situation where we are able to leave the hotel.

We've got electricity here. The lights are on, the air conditioning is on, so it's all right in that sense.

But we've kind of been bracing ourselves given the developments in other parts of Tripoli, particularly around the compound of Colonel Gadhafi. There's some kind of confrontation here at the Ricksus (ph) Hotel. So far that hasn't happened.

I can tell you, we're all kind of hoping that this crisis, and we've been here for what -- under these conditions for about five days now unable to leave. Sort of corralled on the top floor of the hotel about 35 journalists together, not knowing what's happening. We've been in that situation for about five days now. And we're all kind of hoping that, you know, this episode in this conflict will come to an end with a kind of fizzle and everyone will just drift away rather than with a bang, which is what we're all sort of fearing.

COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tell me, do you have any communication with these loyalist guards there? I mean, what's that like? Is there any interaction at all when you do see them?

CHANCE: Well, not much. We try to avoid them, because in the past -- in the past few days, you know, we've had some hostile interaction with them. They largely blame -- I mean, they say -- first of all in fairness they say they're here for one reason and that's to protect us. They won't let us leave the hotel, but they've got a sort of generally sort of pretty hostile attitude towards the international media. They blame the international media for whatever reason for what's happening in Libya.

I think there's a perception that the media, you know, took a side in this conflict and it was decided the rebels. I personally don't think that's true. We came here to report on the government's side of this conflict. We obviously had teams on the other side as well. But nevertheless that's the -- that's the perception here.

Yesterday, I was just leaning over the balcony, which is like an internal balcony looking over the sort of atrium of the hotel. And one of the gunman sort of up and chanted (ph) up at me "so I think you're happy now. I suppose you're happy now, you journalists now that Libyans are killing Libyans."


STOUT: Matthew Chance reporting. We were not able to bring him up live for you, but we are following him on Twitter. In fact, about 20 minutes ago he posted this, quote, "all puzzled as to why we are being kept inside the Ricksus (ph) Hotel. Any ideas?"

You can follow him. You can respond to him on Twitter @Mchancecnn.

Now coming up next on NEWS STREAM, since the sexual assault allegations first surfaced against Dominique Strauss Kahn in May he has lost his job and his reputation has been tarnished. But now the charged have been dropped. We'll have that.

And we'll bring you an update on Hurricane Irene as it batters the Bahamas and prepares ahead towards the eastern U.S.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is free, though not entirely in the clear yet. New York prosecutors have dismissed all sexual assault charges against the former IMF chief. But Strauss-Kahn still faces a civil lawsuit, plus an investigation back in France.

Richard Roth has more.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dominique Strauss Kahn knew what was potentially coming, but was still obviously relieved when a New York judge agreed to a prosecutor's request that the criminal case against him for attempted rape and sex assault charges be dismissed. He walked out of the Manhattan courthouse with his wife in hand.

In a statement and then in comments at his rented townhouse, he described his experience as a nightmare, but thanked everyone who assisted him.

DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN (through translator): I'm relieved for my wife, my children, my friends, and all those who supported us during this period. I can hardly wait to return to my country, but first I still have a few things to do before being able to leave. And I will explain myself more fully once I return.

ROTH: It still doesn't explain exactly what happened in room 2806 of the Hotel Sofitel in Times Square.

The prosecution says they just felt they couldn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt the guilt of Dominique Strauss-Kahn based upon lies and inconsistencies in the story told by Nafissatou Diallo, the woman from Guinea, the hotel maid who alleged that Strauss-Kahn attacked her in his room.

After the hearing ended, the attorney for Strauss-Kahn tried to explain what they feel happened in that room.

BEN BRAFMAN, DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN'S ATTORNEY: This was not a forcible encounter. You can engage in inappropriate behavior, perhaps, but that is much different than a crime.

KENNETH THOMPSON, NAFISSALOU DIALLO'S ATTORNEY: District Attorney Vance has abandoned an innocent woman and has denied an innocent woman a right to get justice in a rape case.

ROTH: Strauss-Kahn may still face civil charges brought by Diallo and her lawyers. However, he is free of those serious criminal charges.

Now he's lost his job as the head of the International Monetary Fund, though his political career is still not dead yet in France.

Richard Roth, CNN, New York.


STOUT: Now Hurricane Irene got stronger today as it pummels the Bahamas and heads toward the eastern U.S. Let's go back to Mari Ramos at the world weather center for the latest. Mari.

RAMOS: Hey, Kristie, this is a storm that has intensified rather quickly. And we were expecting this to happen, remember? Now it is a major hurricane, a category three on the Saffir-Simpson scale which is the scale that we use in this part of the world.

Now here's the latest information. Winds close to 185 kilometers per hour, gusting to more than 200 kilometers per hour. You can see that an eye has formed as it moves across the Turks and Caicos and also through the Bahamas. It is a very large storm system. It measures across some 600 kilometers. So it's almost 700 kilometers, I should say, so it is a very large weather system.

The other thing is that notice that it's still bringing some rain, a little bit of that offshore flow kind of still affecting parts of Puerto Rico that has torrential downpours. Haiti and also parts of the Dominican Republic. The bulk of the action, though, is going to happen -- even parts of Cuba as you can see -- but the bulk of the action will continue to happen here across the Turks and Caicos and also back over toward the Bahamas. That is where the hurricane warnings are posted now, as you can see, stretching all across this entire region.

There are different hazards here compared to what we saw in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. The geography is completely different here. We're talking about smaller islands. And relatively flat areas as well, which is different. So the dangers from Hurricane Irene here are going to be of course the wind, which is going to be much, much stronger than what they experienced in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and even Hispanola. But here's very flat, so the risk comes with the storm surge and the flooding that could happen with that. That's that wall of water that comes in near where the center of the storm actually makes landfall.

They're saying that the storm surge in this case could actually be maybe 3 to 4 meters is some cases. So very large, indeed, and that could cause some significant damage. And let's hope not a large loss of life.

The track itself, the forecast moving it parallel to the coast of Florida and Georgia. And possibly we could see a landfall as a major hurricane maybe somewhere near the Carolinas in the next couple of days.

So we will keep you posted on this one as well.

Kristie, back to you.

STOUT: Mari, thank you very much indeed. Take care there.

Now it will be raining money for one football star as a little known Russian club is making him the highest earning footballer in the world. Don Riddell is in London. He joins us now with all the details -- Don.

DON RIDDELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Thanks very much, Kristie. This is just incredible. As one of the most successful footballers in the world Samuel Eto'o was never really short of a few bucks, but you'll soon be wondering how he's going to spend his new fortune, because he's about to become the highest paid footballer ever. And incredibly, his new employer is a team that you've probably never heard of.

The Cameroon striker is the most decorated player in African football history having won the Champion's League three times, twice with Barcelona and then with Inter Milan. Today he's having a medical with Anzhi Makhachkala, a relatively unknown, but suddenly cash rich side from the Dagestan region of Russia.

If he signs as expected, the transfer fee is reported to be around $43 million. But his salary will be in the region of a whopping $30 million for each of the next three seasons.

Meanwhile, another club with seemingly bottomless pockets, Manchester City has completed the signing of Arsenal's exciting French midfielder Samir Nasri, City's fifth acquisition of the summer is moving north after the two sides wrapped up a deal with around $41 million.

It had been a transfer saga that had been running for weeks. And Nasri even trained with the Gunners on Tuesday morning as the London side are preparing for a crucial Champion's League qualifier against Odenese.

City is concerned that Nasri could have played in that game and therefore would have been cup tied in Europe perhaps prompted them to hurry up and complete the deal following the sale of their captain Cesc Fabregas last week.

Arsenal's fans are bemoaning the loss of their two best players. But the club's manager is trying to be positive.


ARSENE WENGER, ARSENAL MANAGER: There is, of course, I believe that life is made of that. When a big player leaves, there's an opportunity for somebody else to come in and show how good he is. I'm long enough to know in the game to know that. And I'm long enough in the game to know that my players are strong enough to deal with that. And when the players are strong, it increases even more their determination and their solidarity. And that's what I expect from my players.


RIDDELL: Not sure Arsenal's fans would agree with him, but that's the view from the manager.

Kristie, back to you.

STOUT: All right Don, many thanks indeed. Take care. Don Riddell there.

And as we consider what could happen next in Libya, let's take a moment to step back and look at Moammar Gadhafi's 42 years of rule. Now most of the country's population has known no other ruler. He came to power following a revolution back in September of 1969. For perspective on how long ago that was, take a look at other events that happened that very same year. In January, U.S. President Richard Nixon began his first term in office.

In Southeast Asia the Vietnam War raged. And America began withdrawing its troops.

And perhaps most striking is this, just two months before Gadhafi rose to power, the astronauts of Apollo 11 landed on the moon for the first time.

And that is NEWS STREAM, but the news continues at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is next.