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CONNECT THE WORLD

Iran Frees American Hikers; Fed Has New Plan; U.S. to Upgrade Taiwan's Aging Fighter Jet Fleet; 35 Bodies Found in Mexican Roadway; Afghan Protests Over Rabbani Assassination

Aired September 21, 2011 - 16:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I could not feel better for their families and those moms who we've been in close contact with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Joy and relief as Iran frees two American men, but what does Tehran stand to gain?

Live from London, I'm Becky Anderson for you. Also tonight, avoiding a showdown. Palestinians say they'll give the UN more time to consider their bid for statehood.

And just hours away from his execution in the United States, growing calls around the world for this man to be spared.

First up tonight, a joyous reunion on the tarmac in Oman. Two Americans are getting their first taste of freedom after spending more than two years behind bars in Iran.

Just moments ago, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal landed in Muscat, the first stop on their journey home, where the families were waiting to greet them.

Now, the men always maintained they were innocent hikers, but Iran convicted them of espionage. Now, though, it's commuted their sentences and freed them on bail.

Well, US president Barack Obama spoke briefly about their release from the United Nations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Wonderful news about the hikers. We are thrilled, and I could not feel better for their families and those moms who we've been in close contact with. It's a wonderful day for them. And for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, the men's families are also understandably thrilled, calling this quote, "the best day of our lives." Sarah Shourd is also with them in Oman. She was arrested, remember, along with the men in 2009, but Iran released her last year on humanitarian grounds.

I'm going to get you to the airport in Muscat and our reporter, there, Mohammed Jamjoom in just a moment.

I want to remind you, though, of exactly where these three Americans were arrested in 2009. Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal, and Sarah Shourd set out in a taxi from Iraq.

They say they camped overnight near the Ahmed Awa waterfall and went for a hike the next morning up the mountains towards the Iranian border. Well, Hala Gorani picks up the story from there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The story begins on July 31st, 2009. Three Americans, Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Joshua Fattal, are arrested while hiking near the Ahmed Awa waterfall in the mountains near the Iran-Iraq border.

Iranian officials claim the three crossed into Iran. The Americans say they didn't knowingly cross the border. All three are held at Evin Prison, but Shourd is held separately from the two men.

In November of that year, Iran's government charged the three with espionage, accusing them of being CIA operatives attempting to spy on the country.

In May of 2010, an emotional meeting in Tehran. The mothers of the three Americans are finally allowed to see their children.

LAURA FATTAL, JOSHUA FATTAL'S MOTHER: We are hoping that the Iranian authorities will show compassion and release our children as soon as possible.

GORANI: September 14th of last year, Iran frees Sarah Shourd on humanitarian grounds. She's released on a half-million-dollar bail.

SARAH SHOURD, RELEASED FROM IRAN: All of my efforts starting today are going to go into helping procure the same freedom for my fiance, Shane Bauer, and for my friend, Josh Fattal, because I can't enjoy my freedom without them.

GORANI: Fattal and Bauer were tried before Iran's revolutionary court in July. They were both convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for spying and three years for illegal entry into the country. Both Americans appealed their conviction.

Hala Gorani, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, they are free, they are at the airport in Muscat in Oman, and that is where our Mohammed Jamjoom joins us from tonight. Relief, I'm sure, for the hikers and their families tonight, Mohammed.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Becky, the family members and Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, along with Sarah Shourd, are all in the royal terminal here at the Royal Airport in Muscat, Oman.

It was a very, very emotional reunion that we witnessed just a few moments ago. We saw Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer literally running down the steps of the plane to greet their family members and loved ones on the tarmac.

And one thing that made this even more emotional was the fact that Sarah Shourd is, of course, Shane Bauer's fiancee. They got engaged while they were imprisoned at Tehran's Evin Prison.

Now, the family members as well as Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer not speaking to the press at this time. We're waiting to see if they will have some sort of press conference.

Right now, they're with US embassy officials as well as Omani government officials inside this royal terminal. A lot of press, here, a lot of people wanting to speak to the hikers now that they've finally been released.

But the families of the hikers said in statement just a few hours ago this was the best day of their lives. It's a long, 26-month ordeal that is finally over.

They're so happy, you could see it on their faces. The tears of joy that were streaming down the faces of these family members and loved ones as they saw them -- as they saw them coming off the plane, as they were hugging them, it was very, very powerful.

And right now, we're just waiting to find out if we'll be able to speak to them, if they will be made available at all to the press, and if we can ask them a few questions. Becky?

ANDERSON: Yes, of course, and if we get that, of course, we'll bring it to our viewers here on CNN.

Mohammed, is it clear why the sultanate of Oman has paid their million-dollar bail?

JAMJOOM: Well, Becky, the Omani government officials here have not confirmed that they've paid the bail. Last year, after Sarah Shourd was released, it was revealed by an Obama administration official that the Omanis had paid the bail for her, that was $500,000.

There's been a lot of speculation the last few days that the Omanis have paid the bail for Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer. Again, the Omanis not commenting, although their lawyer in Iran, the lawyer for Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, earlier in the day said that the Omanis had posted the bail.

The Omanis, they are a diplomatic rarity here in the region. They're really raising their profile right now on the world stage.

They're seen as a go-to country here among Gulf countries, because they're a country that has warm relations with both Iran and the US. So, they're seen as a country that can mediate disputes.

And at a time when there's so much strife due to the Arab Spring, there's so much strife in the region, so many regimes under fire, the Omanis' analysts are telling us, realize that it's good for them and good for the region to try to dissipate any kind of tension here, to try to lessen the tension between Iran and the US can only be a good thing.

Also, Oman has an economic incentive. There's a free trade agreement with the US, so the more -- the closer allied they are with the US, the more it benefits them, as well, raises their profile on the geopolitical stage, and raises their economic profile, as well. Becky?

ANDERSON: You're listening to the voice of Mohammed Jamjoom at Muscat Airport in Oman as you look at pictures coming to us just about 25 minutes ago of the two American hikers who've been freed by the Iranians, landing in Oman.

Well, news of their release came about the same time as the Iranian Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived at the United Nations in New York. Now, his speech to the UN General Assembly is on Thursday, and interesting to point out, the release of Sarah Shourd came just before his visit to the UN last year.

Well, joining me now is Vali Nasr, former senior advisor to the Obama administration, expert on Middle East and international relations.

There seems no doubt their release is timed to bolster Ahmadinejad's diplomatic standing with the international community. The question is, will it?

VALI NASR, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Well, to some extent, it will, largely because the international community would like to know that after the conflict that he had with the supreme leader earlier this year, he's still able to deliver on certain policy issues.

And even though there was a lot of resistance to his announcement that these hikers would be released, in the end, they were released today before his speech before the General Assembly.

ANDERSON: What's the consequence of an increasingly weakened Ahmadinejad to the West and its allies? You're alluding to the fact that he's struggling at home with the supreme leaders. What is the consequence of that for us? For the West?

NASR: Well, generally, he's a lame duck president. In other words, in the best of circumstances, he's at the end of his two terms of presidency and, therefore, within Iran, the bureaucracy and other branches of the government are already looking past him.

But it underscores a more fundamental problem we have with Iran, which is that the division of power in Iran at the top means that there is no one person that we can think is the key decision-maker that we can have an interaction with, that could take the issues to the supreme leader and get solid results from them.

Ahmadinejad for a while looked like that he could step up into that position, that he was grabbing a lot of power, amassing a lot of power, but a lot of it slipped from his hands during the past year.

ANDERSON: Vali Nasr, while we're speaking, I just want to bring up some pictures of the two hikers, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, who have landed in Muscat, the first stop, of course, on their journey home, where their families were waiting to greet them.

What can we expect to hear from Ahmadinejad in his speech to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, and who's listening?

NASR: Well, he's hoping that the international community, and particularly the United States, is listening, but he's also hoping that the Arab street and people in the Arab world are listening. He's hoping that he would have two messages for the United Nations -- the United States and the international community.

One is the release of the hikers, which he hopes to be the positive message. The other one is that he's likely to be quite hard-hitting in his speech because he cannot afford to be seen as being soft by the Iranian conservatives while he's in the United States.

And also, he likes to continue to play this card in the Arab street that he's the chief champion of the Palestinian cause and he's the one who's going to stand up to the United States and Israel.

So, he's hoping that we will separate what might be very hard rhetoric tomorrow from the release today.

ANDERSON: And Vali, very briefly, what is your advice to anybody thinking of hiking on the Iranian border tonight?

NASR: You shouldn't do that largely because there's, as we can see, this can be quite complicated if you get ensnared. The Iranians are quite paranoid about people coming inside, sabotaging their various facilities.

And also, they're going to try to make an example of anybody who tries to come inside Iran. It's -- first of all, it's very risky, secondly, it costs an enormous amount diplomatically and otherwise for releasing people who get caught in the system like this.

ANDERSON: Vali Nasr your expert on the subject tonight. It was a pleasure, thank you for joining us.

Well, on the same day that Tehran released the American men, Iran went through with the public hanging of a teenage boy despite international calls for a stay of execution. Now, state media report a large crowd of people turned out to witness the hanging in the city of Karaj.

The 17-year-old was convicted of stabbing a popular athlete to death during a dispute. He claimed it was self-defense. The authorities say he was eligible for the death penalty because he had reached, quote, "religious maturity."

Meanwhile, a man convicted of drug trafficking was also hanged in a prison in the southern part of the city.

Capital punishment is a contentious issue, and in 25 minutes, we'll bring a case that's causing quite a stir of emotions in the US, indeed around the world. He's facing death row, but some say they are sending an innocent man to die.

And in ten minutes time, after a disastrous run, the ax falls once again at Inter-Milan.

Next up, though, Typhoon Roke is downgraded to a tropical storm, but that didn't stop it from slamming into Japan with plenty of fury.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: I'm Becky Anderson in London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD at 15 minutes past 9:00 in London. Let's get you a brief look at what else is making news this hour.

The US Federal Reserve is trying once again to jump-start the stagnant economy with another plan to stimulate growth. Now, the plan is worth $400 billion and aims to reduce the costs of borrowing money for both businesses and consumers.

Let's get you more on that, shall we? CNN's Felicia Taylor is in New York with the details for us. Felicia?

FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely right. This is what we launched, was Operation Twist, where they're going to put together -- the longer end of the yield curve to work.

And what they're going to do is spend about $400 billion over the next year, approximately, through June of 2012, buying the longer end of the yield curve from the 6 to the 30-year treasury and selling the equal amount of the shorter end of the yield curve in order to bring that yield curve a little bit further down.

The reaction was very swift, both in the equity and in the bond market. As for the yield, now, on the 10-year, it is 1.8 percent. That's a low we haven't seen since the 1940s. And on the 30-year, it's at 3 percent, 3.01 percent.

And as for equities, the reaction was swift. Once investors and traders were able to sort of digest a little bit about what was actually in the meat of the FOMC meetings, the -- in the last hour of trading, we saw stocks down fractionally, and then down about 2.5 percent on the Dow, more than 2 percent on the S&P, and almost 3 percent on the NASDAQ.

And the problem, what traders actually began to understand is what the Federal Reserve is really worried about, and that is a possible downside to the global economy.

And that was part of what actually caused the sell-off, because that means the Federal Reserve sees things out there that it may not have been necessarily seeing before.

It did say that inflation was beginning to stabilize a little bit, but however, unemployment rate in the United States will decline only gradually. That's something that we definitely don't want to hear. I mean, we've been hoping that this was going to stimulate the economy and create jobs at some point.

But the other problem with this is the Federal Reserve has said that it is going to step in and reinvest maturing mortgage debt into mortgage- backed securities in an effort to prop up the housing market.

Now, most of the traders that I spoke to didn't think that this was actually going to work, because if you think about it, is a bank going to want to lend a mortgage to somebody for 30 years at a rate of 3 percent? The answer is probably no, because at some point, interest rates are going to go higher.

So the fear of the marketplace is that this Operation Twist isn't going to work.

ANDERSON: There is no confidence in those markets, is there? Felicia, thank you for that.

Well, the US government has signaled that it will go ahead with plans to upgrade Taiwan's aging fleets of fighter jets, despite warnings from China.

Now, this deal, worth more than $5 billion, will retrofit the F-16 planes and equip them with an advanced radar system. China's condemned the proposed arms sale and says it'll damage China-US military cooperation.

A shocking discovery in the Mexican coastal state of Veracruz. At least 35 human bodies were found in a roadway during rush hour traffic. Police found two trucks carrying the bodies near a shopping mall.

The trucks were abandoned in the middle of the road with their gates left open, allowing corpses to fall out. Officials say those identified so far have criminal backgrounds that include extortion, homicide, and drug trafficking.

There have been protests in Afghanistan over the assassination of the country's former leader. Hundreds gathered in Kabul to mourn the death of the chief peace negotiator, who was killed in his home by a Taliban suicide bomber. Burhanuddin Rabbani was holding talks with an insurgent when the killer detonated a bomb hidden inside his turban.

A powerful typhoon has weakened to a tropical storm after making landfall in Japan. Four people, though, have been killed as heavy rains and strong winds batter a country already exhausted by natural disasters.

Now, the real concern is how Roke might affect the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which went into a nuclear crisis, remember, after the earthquake and tsunami hit in March.

Well, these are live pictures of the site. Right now, it's early morning in Japan, 5:20 or so AM. All outdoor construction halted at the plant on Wednesday. The fear is that a big downpour could wash radiation- contaminated water out of that plant.

I'm going to get you a check of the latest forecast, then, for the day ahead in Japan. Guillermo is at the CNN Weather Center. Guillermo?

GUILLERMO ARDUINO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's much better. I must say that the weather has improved gradually but very much so.

So, we see how the system is basically in Hokkaido here in the north, near Sapporo, so around Tokyo and in Fukushima, we don't have anything now.

We have to look back, now. The system moved very quickly. Look at the accumulations that we have, and we anticipate that the reading coming from Fukushima will be 150 millimeters or so, which is right in the middle of -- believe it or not, it's a big system.

I mean, around -- you see the statistics here and all the rain, despite the fact that the system was moving fast, it took some time to dump 150 millimeters in Fukushima. We will not know if there is any impact or not yet. We will find out later.

But remember, this year, this is the seventh tropical system in Japan in 2011. That's quite significant. But we see it every year. Now, we pay much more attention this year because of what happened in Fukushima.

Here are the tracks of all the cyclones that we had, significant cyclones, in the area. You see typhoon, tropical storm, tropical depression, so it's quite significant the activity that we have, it's always the same thing.

And also, Becky, we always see that the systems start to pick up speed as they approach Japan, so they move out quickly. That provides less rain. But the number that we have, 150 or so, is quite important. Back to you.

ANDERSON: Keep an eye on these forecasts for us. Guillermo, thank you.

ARDUINO: Thank you.

ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN, of course. After the break, how the mighty have fallen. Just nine months since Inter- Milan won FIFA's Club World Cup, they are now looking for answers and searching for yet another new coach.

And from a colorful catwalk to a force in fashion, we're going to speak with the daughter and designer of Missoni. That all coming up here at CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, football may not be a high-scoring game, but some numbers do count, especially when you're the man in charge. After less than three months on the job, and with four losses on his clipboard, Inter- Milan has sacked their third head coach this year.

Gian Piero Gasperini was given a two-year contract back in June. Club officials, though, have decided that Tuesday's defeat by the newly-promoted team Novara was the last straw in what had been a disastrous start to the season.

As ever at this point in the show, Mr. Pedro Pinto is in the house with more.

He only got five games.

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but expectations -- yes, expectations, they are very high, Becky, I have to tell you.

And the problem is here, he never won over the players. He never won over the fans. He came in and revolutionized the system that they had been playing very successfully, may I add, over the last few seasons.

He was playing only with three defenders, most of the guys on the squad are veterans. They've been very successful, and they just didn't react in the way that they were supposed to.

He's also been criticized for not having the leadership skills and the charisma necessary to show the players what needs to be done.

ANDERSON: But he's not the only one, is he? What's going wrong with the coaches?

PINTO: No, it's happened quite a lot. Ever since Massimo Moratti took over, the president, there's been 16 coaches in 16 years.

Let me show you what's happened over the last 16 months. Of course, the last man who was very successful there was the so-called "special one," Jose Mourinho. He was there two years, and he won it all, really, there, including the Champions' League.

After that, Rafa Benitez came in when Mourinho went off to Real Madrid. Benitez, not successful at all. Only six months in charge, he did win the club World Cup against lower opposition, you could argue. But he really never got it going in the Serie A.

When Benitez left, Leonardo was brought in as a stop-gap measure initially, but he did quite well. The problem is that in the summer, when he was expected to stay, the millions of dollars from the United Arab Emirates came calling, and they had taken over Paris Saint-Germain, and he went over there as a sporting director.

And that leads us to Gian Piero Gasperini, who had been a Genoa with some success, but as you said, less than three months in charge, five official games in charge, he lost four, for the Inter guys, not good enough.

ANDERSON: Let me put this to you. If Arsenal were to let Wenger go, is this a job he'd want, do you think?

PINTO: Yes, I think so.

ANDERSON: Yes?

PINTO: I think so. He hasn't managed in Italy before, but I don't think that will happen now. It depends who, really, they pick. And they're talking about Claudio Ranieri, the former Juventus, Roma and, of course, Chelsea boss, here in England, as well. They're talking about him as a replacement right now.

ANDERSON: All right. This isn't the only football story around.

PINTO: No.

ANDERSON: What happened in Turkey on Tuesday night? It's a good story.

PINTO: This is one of "World Sport's" favorite stories of the year, I have to tell you.

ANDERSON: Yes.

PINTO: Fenerbache had a fan ban for a home game because of unruly behavior of their supporters. Normally, you have to play behind closed doors, and it's horrible for the players, it's horrible for the fans. And it's a bad situation.

And just check out what Fenerbache decided to do in their game against Manisaspor in the Turkish league on Tuesday night. They decided to make the game open to women and children under the age of 12.

Now, the rule is, according to the Turkish Football Federation, that kids can go in under the age of 18. Many of them went with parents anyway.

So they said, wait a minute. Let's ban the men, they're the ones who've been behaving badly, so to speak, and the women and children really gave us men a lesson of how to support, because they were singing, they were chanting, and there was no violence and no misbehaving whatsoever.

ANDERSON: They behaved themselves. I think they really enjoyed themselves.

PINTO: It's a good story, though, isn't it?

ANDERSON: Fantastic!

PINTO: Forty-three thousand --

ANDERSON: You are joking!

PINTO: Forty-three thousand.

ANDERSON: Forty-three thousand?

PINTO: Yes.

ANDERSON: Good on them!

PINTO: It's great.

ANDERSON: Excellent. Thank you for that.

PINTO: Yes.

ANDERSON: "World Sport" with Pedro, of course, in a half an hour's time. We're moving on. We're going to have to take a very short break, pay for this show.

Latest world news headlines will follow this break, and then the bid will go forward on Friday, but don't expect an immediate result. The latest developments at the UN General Assembly on the issue of Palestinian statehood.

And coming up in just about ten minutes time, set to die by lethal injection in two and a half hours from now, why some people say executing Troy Davis could be one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in US history.

And then, just before we close out tonight's show, they say color is in. As London Fashion Week wraps up, we talk to a luxury brand that's been bright from the start.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: At just before half past nine in London, you're back with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN, the world's news leader. Let's get you a check of the headlines this hour, shall we?

Scenes of joy in Oman. Two US men arrived there just a short time ago after their release from Iranian prison. Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were convicted of spying, but released today on a million dollars bail. A third member of their group, Sarah Shourd, you may remember, was freed last year on medical grounds.

Well, the US Federal Reserve announced a new plan to jump-start the economy. The central bank plans to buy $400 billion in longer-term bonds through next summer and sell an equal amount of short-term debt. The idea is to push down long-term interest rates. I'm afraid the markets didn't like the idea particularly.

Time is running out for US death row inmate Troy Davis. It's just two and a half hours, now, before his scheduled execution in the US state of Georgia. He's set to die for killing a police officer in 1989, although most witnesses against him have since recanted or changed their stories. We're going to do more on this in about ten minutes time.

And a gruesome scene in Mexico. Some three dozen corpses were dumped onto a busy road during rush hour. Law enforcement officials say nearly all the victims have been identified, and most of them had criminal records.

And Typhoon Roke is losing strength and is now a tropical storm, but it slammed into the southern Honshu island in Japan with a fury, killing at least four people earlier today.

Those are your headlines this hour.

Let's move you on, then, to a big development at the United Nations, where frantic backroom dealings may have helped avoid a bruising showdown over a Palestinian state, at least for a few weeks, we believe.

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas will still deliver his request to the Security Council on Friday as planned, but he won't press for immediate action. Instead, he'll leave New York, giving US Mideast Quartet members and others time to respond.

Well, that is good news for the United States, which desperately wants to avoid using its veto. It's been scrambling to convince Palestinians to drop their UN bid and resume peace talks with Israel.

President Barack Obama himself made that case today to the UN General Assembly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I am convinced that there is no shortcut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations. If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.

Each side has legitimate aspirations. And that's part of what makes peace so hard. And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in the other's shoes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: OK, the voice out of the States, of course. President Obama is supposed to meet with the Palestinian Authority president in less than two hours on the sidelines of the United Nations. So, let's get more, now, on all of this from Isha Sesay, who is there at UN headquarters. Isha, fill us in. What's going on here?

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, as you heard, there from the US president, unequivocal in his remarks, there, that the only way to solve this long-running conflict is through negotiations.

His position is shared by the Israelis, who basically strongly object to the Palestinians seeking membership, full membership, here, at the United Nations.

Here's what the Israeli leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, had to say about it all earlier on today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: The Palestinians deserve a state, but it's a state that has to make that peace with Israel, and therefore, their attempt to shortcut this process, not negotiate a peace, that attempt to get a membership -- state membership in the United Nations, will not succeed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Well, the Palestinians have been very, very clear, saying that it is their legitimate right to seek full UN membership for a Palestinian state, here.

But Becky, none the while, people have -- or nonetheless, I should say, people have been questioning their true motivation for this move. I want you to take a listen to what Palestinian negotiator Nabeel Shaath had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NABEEL SHAATH, PALENSTINIAN AUTHORITY NEGOTIATOR: We do not think of this as a tactic or as a bluff. We seek international support, and that is what brought us to the United Nations.

We are not seeking to join the Mafia, nor al Qaeda, nor an NGO. We are seeking the United Nations that Mr. Obama talked about today so eloquently and so grandly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Nabeel Shaath, there, speaking about their desire to join this body that President Obama spoke about in quite lofty terms in his speech at 10:00 AM local time here in New York.

I want to bring in Elise Labott, who has been working the phones for us. Elise, obviously, as you say, with the State Department. You've been closely following all these efforts to avert this diplomatic showdown on Friday. It's our understanding that that has been achieved.

But still, we're not clear on the situation in regard to the Mideast Quartet statement. Where do things stand now?

ELISE LABOTT, SENIOR PRODUCER, US STATE DEPARTMENT: Well, what President Abbas, our understanding is, is going to do is he's going to leave that letter with the UN Security Council in a lock box, if you will. He's going to give his speech to the United Nations, he's going to go back home.

And he can really claim victory in the sense that he made good on his promise to take the Palestinians' case to the UN Security Council. But at the same time, he's also avoiding a showdown with the United States and the international community.

This week, he's going to give this Quartet time to come up with the best possible terms for him, and he's leaving with a sword hanging over the neck of the international Security Council.

And so, he wants to go back, see what they can come up with, the best framework for negotiations, and then he'll come back.

Maybe he'll go to the UN General Assembly, that's what Palestinians expect he might do. And they think he'll have a very strong case for strong support for Palestine to upgrade its status at the UN.

SESAY: The Quartet statement, how close is it to completion, though? What are you hearing?

LABOTT: Well, there are some core elements that we know that have been agreed to, and we're talking about that 67 -- negotiations on the 1967 line, with agreed upon swaps, some of those settlement blocks are obviously going to stay with Israel, they're going to have to be some swaps of territory to make up for that.

Also, recognition of a Jewish state was a very controversial item. We understand there's a formula, two states for two people, a timeline, and now we have to see what they're going to do about settlements.

SESAY: All right. Still some big issues to be resolved, so we're not home yet, as it were --

(CROSSTALK)

LABOTT: A lot of work.

SESAY: -- just a diplomatic showdown --

LABOTT: Looks good, though.

SESAY: -- averted. It does look good. Elise Labott from the State Department. So, you hear, Becky, what Elise has to say? The diplomatic showdown averted, but we're -- this situation, far from resolved. A lot of big issues, border settlements, and the recognition of a Jewish state, all of that still outstanding, Becky.

ANDERSON: Stick with it, Isha. Thank you for that. UN Headquarters and your expert on the subject this evening.

Remember, we'll later hear both Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu make their case to the world on Friday. Do join us right here on CNN as we bring you their speeches from the UN General Assembly.

Well, up next, a controversial death sentence is set to be carried out in the US in less than three hours from now. Troy Davis has come this close to death before, and he's gotten a delay. Could it happen again? We've got a report for you in 90 seconds time. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back, you're with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN, I'm Becky Anderson for you, 38 minutes past 9:00 in London.

Well, less than three hours before he is scheduled to die, pleas for mercy on behalf of Troy Davis continue in the United States, and some say the state of Georgia is about to execute an innocent man.

We're going to bring you up to speed on this case from the crime Troy Davis was convicted of committing to where things stand now, and finally, whether capital punishment should really be used at all. First, though, how he got to this point. A dramatic story more than two decades in the making.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON (voice-over): Awaiting execution for 20 years. Troy Davis was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer in the US state of Georgia.

Three times, Davis was scheduled for execution. Three times, delayed.

The jury in the case convicted Davis based largely on eyewitness testimony, but seven of the nine eyewitness have since recanted, changed their stories. Some of those witnesses say they were originally pressured by police.

But the former prosecutor says the courts got it right, and the wavering witnesses are reacting to unrelenting pressure from Davis's supporters.

SPENCER LAWTON, FORMER DISTRICT ATTORNEY, GEORGIA'S EASTERN JUDICIAL CIRCUIT: It has been a game of delay throughout. The longer the delay, the more time they have to create not doubt, not honest doubt, not real doubt, but the appearance of doubt.

ANDERSON: In Georgia, only the parole board can grant clemency, and on Tuesday, the board denied Davis's final request.

With all ordinary avenues of appeal exhausted, Davis's supporters continue to look for a way to stop the execution.

CROWD (chanting): Testify! We won't let Troy Davis die! Say what?

ANDERSON: Hundreds marched at the Georgia state capitol building this week. An online petition gathered more than 200,000 signatures in just five days.

Support for Davis has garnered worldwide attention, from the pope, South African bishop Desmond Tutu, and former US president Jimmy Carter, have all joined groups like Amnesty International pleading for Davis's execution to be delayed once again.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We believe that in this particular case, there's enough evidence to the contrary to prevent this execution taking place.

ANDERSON: Families of Davis and Officer MacPhail both prepare for the end.

MARTINA CORREIA, TROY DAVIS'S SISTER: It's like reliving a nightmare over and over, but the thing about it is, we have to stay strong in our faith.

JOAN MACPHAIL, WIFE OF SLAIN OFFICER MARK MACPHAIL: We have lived this for 22 years. We know what the truth is, and for someone to ludicrously say that he is a victim, we are victims.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: All right. Well, the end is scheduled for Troy Davis in less than three hours. Two hours 20 minutes or so. He's come this close to execution before. He has gotten a delay. Could that happen again?

CNN's David Mattingly is outside the prison where Davis is being held in Jackson, Georgia, and I believe we have had an update. David?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Becky. There's a last-minute, 11th hour appeal in the works. It was -- this appeal was submitted to the Superior Court here in the state of Georgia this morning.

We just found out a short time ago that the judge there has denied that appeal. Attorneys for Davis are now taking it to the Georgia Supreme Court, and they tell us if they're unsuccessful there, then they will try the US Supreme Court again once more.

Their goal here, is to either delay or stop this execution with this 11th hour appeal, but this case has been through dozens of courts over the last 20 years, and Troy Davis so far has lost at every single legal turn, Becky.

ANDERSON: All right, David Mattingly reporting for you from right outside the prison, there.

This story is resonating around the world. Take a look at this trends map, you can see just here. It's tracking all the tweets about Troy Davis and, as you can see, it is dominating conversations, particularly, as you would probably imagine, in the United States.

And it's also trending right across the world, from Asia going backwards through the States, and into Africa, for you this evening.

And just some of the tweets that we've seen published today. From Simon Evans, "This case is a travesty of justice and brings shame on the US legal system."

In -- out of South Africa for you today, KD tweeted, "I don't agree with playing the hand of God, so I can't justify the death penalty in any circumstance."

Australia for you, today, Avin D, "How can you take a life without solid evidence? The system has once again let ordinary people down."

Not everybody, though, is speaking out in favor of Troy Davis. In the US -- it was difficult, I've got to say, to find some antis here, but a guy by the name of Harish simply wrote, "Cop killer should die." Well, we did, as I say, had to search pretty hard to find tweets in favor of executing Troy Davis.

There is no doubt, though, that the issue of capital punishment is a divisive one. My next two guests prove that. Sophie Walker is an attorney and a death penalty investigator. She opposes the practice and she joins me in the studio this evening.

And Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer and former US Justice Department official who is in favor of the death penalty, joining us now from Washington.

You're in favor in principle of the death penalty. Bruce, should Troy Davis be executed?

BRUCE FEIN, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY: Well, I can't tell, since I haven't mastered all of the facts. If I were drafting the laws, I would raise the standard of proof in death penalty cases from beyond a reasonable doubt to beyond any doubt whatsoever.

I'm someone who believes in principle the death penalty's appropriate in certain circumstances, but it ought to be relatively rare.

I don't believe the death penalty, in fact, is a deterrent, but in cases like the holocaust, Timothy McVeigh, Mr. Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty to complicity in the thousands of murders in 9/11.

It does seem to me that, just as a matter of symbols, civilization is vindicated when such heinous, atrocious conduct is punished with the death penalty.

ANDERSON: Sophie, I remind you that Harish tweeted today, "Cop killer should die."

SOPHIE WALKER, ATTORNEY: The question that we have to ask ourselves here is instead of asking does someone deserve to die, which I believe is the angle that Bruce is talking about, I think instead we should focus on what has the system done to prove that its worthy to kill someone?

I think this is why it's interesting to look at Georgia, look at Georgia's colorful history going back to slavery through the civil rights movement, and here we have a case involving an African-American man accused of killing a white woman -- I'm sorry, accused of killing a white cop.

Now, I think that's the sort of case where actually the criminal justice system isn't quite capable of dealing with that, dealing with the political and legal ramifications due to its history of racism.

ANDERSON: Do you buy that, Bruce?

FEIN: Well, no, I don't believe that even if that were true in that instance, it's not justifying an across-the-board prohibition upon the death penalty because it may be misused in a couple of cases, it just militates in favor of making the standards for --

(CROSSTALK)

WALKER: It's not just a couple --

FEIN: -- application of the death penalty a little more exacting.

ANDERSON: Go on.

WALKER: A couple of cases, there has been over 100 exoneration of innocent people who have been -- who are no longer on death row because they were found to be innocent.

Now, these are the sorts -- these aren't a few cases. There's a systemic problem with the US criminal justice system that actually is -- stigmatizes people who are poor.

ANDERSON: Bruce, "This case is a travesty of justice and brings shame on the US legal system," said Simon Evans out of Manchester tonight. The US legal system, isn't a person innocent until proven guilty?

The Georgia Supreme Court, it seems, has decided his appeal would require, as far as I understand, his legal team to establish no doubt that he is innocent. Isn't that the wrong way around here?

FEIN: No, because what you've done is excluded all of the preamble to this whole exercise, that is at the trial court, the burden of proof was on the prosecutor, and it was only after you had the full trial and the jury finding beyond a reasonable doubt that there was guilt.

And then up appeal, that at this late date, when you're trying, in the words of lawyers to collaterally attack a judgment that has been examined over 20 years, the burden on you, then, was to establish some plausible claim of innocence.

But that wasn't the standard at the outset. The outset, the defendant didn't have to produce any evidence at all. It was all on the prosecution's burden.

ANDERSON: Sophie.

WALKER: Bruce, were you practicing law in the 1980s in Georgia?

FEIN: Was I practicing law in the 1980s in Georgia? No.

WALKER: That's right. Right. Because if you were, and if you were trying on a death penalty case, you would have been paid $1,000 for the entire case.

And this is one of the problems. Again, the systemic problems we have with death penalty cases is the lawyers are underpaid --

(CROSSTALK)

FEIN: Yes, but that's not the only one --

ANDERSON: Hold on! Hold on, Bruce. Hold on.

FEIN: Meanwhile, Timothy McVeigh was --

WALKER: They're underpaid, they're underqualified, and they don't take part in the sort of zealous advocacy that's required. And part of the reason they end up on death row is the cases of clients who don't have the money to fight it.

ANDERSON: Bruce.

FEIN: Well, I think you're throwing out the baby with the bath water. In some cases, that's not true. Oftentimes, you have legal defense funds just focused on capital punishment, and those are, on occasions, the best- argued cases.

Moreover, that simply is not true with regard to all death penalty cases. Timothy McVeigh wasn't very impoverished. Mr. Moussaoui was able to defend himself. Those in the Nuremberg Trials, who also got the death penalty --

I mean, you're suggesting that even those who have perpetrated genocide -- Adolph Hitler should have not gotten the death penalty if he didn't commit suicide, or Hermann Goering --

ANDERSON: Let me stop you both --

FEIN: -- he would have gotten the death penalty, but he -- he took a poison pill.

ANDERSON: Let me stop you both, there for one --

FEIN: And I -- that just seems to me --

ANDERSON: Hang on, Bruce, hang on, Bruce. I want to remind our viewers that dozens of countries regularly, of course, use the death penalty as a form of punishment.

According to Amnesty International, China leads the world in death by execution. In 2010, for example, thousands were reportedly executed there.

Iran killed more than 252 last year, actually just today hanged a teenager, of course, who was convicted of murder.

North Korea at 60 plus, Yemen at more than 53.

The US last year executed, I think I'm right in saying, Sophie, 46 people. Most of those were in the state of Texas.

Troy Davis has, as we speak, two hours and 11 minutes. He's got two more appeals, as far as I understand from our reporter tonight. Have his lawyers got time at this point?

WALKER: Well, let me start by telling you a story, because I work in a death penalty case --

ANDERSON: Briefly.

WALKER: Very brief story, I promise. I worked on a death penalty case in Texas in July, a guy called Mark Stroman. We got a stay of execution for Mark at 6:02, and his execution was due to start at 6:00. I called up the prison to make sure he was still alive when we went and got that final stay.

So, things happen at the last minute in death penalty cases. Law -- and Troy Davis does have fantastic, fantastic lawyers. They're going to be working hard for him. But what I do have to say, to be honest with everyone, is he has an uphill battle.

ANDERSON: Bruce?

FEIN: Yes, well, the fact is, this is the culmination of over 20 years of appeals, so it may look at the last minute it gets frantic, but there's been a long, long time with numerous judges examining everything that has happened from the outset of the trial.

And 20 years is a reasonably thorough period to examine something to determine whether the jury got it wrong in finding beyond a reasonable doubt that there was guilt here.

And it seems to me, unlike China and Yemen, we do have due process in the United States, and to suggest that those countries that are all like ours when it comes to due process, I think, is quite absurd.

ANDERSON: Two hours and ten minutes. Stick with CNN. Of course, we will update you as and when we hear more. Sophie, Bruce, thanks so very much, indeed, for joining us this evening.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. As I say, ten minutes to 10:00, we're going to be back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, while Fashion Week has wrapped up in London, next stop, Milan and Paris. This is the month when the trends are set for the new year, and if these runway shows are anything to go by, 2012 will be full of color, whether pastels or bold, at least for us girls.

One of the hottest catwalk tickets of the London event was the Beyonce and her mother, Tina Knowles, launching their family fashion label, House of Dereon in the United Kingdom. I interviewed them at the beginning of the week.

Well, Beyonce's hit couture label is not alone in keeping it in the family. In tonight's Big Interview, we bring you one of the most recognizable fashion empires. From humble beginnings, it thrived from one generation to the next and remains a force, let me tell you, on the catwalk.

Monita, my colleague, Monita Rajpal, caught up with the woman who arguably was always destined to take charge of Missoni.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MONITA RAJPAL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bold colors, striking patterns, and knit wear, there is little mistaking a Missoni.

The Italian fashion label is favored by some of Hollywood's best- dressed, Cate Blanchett and Nicole Richie among its famous fans.

Developed by Ottavio and Rosita Missoni in 1953, the brand is now being evolved by their children, including daughter Angela.

ANGELA MISSONI, FASHION DESIGNER: I can show you, this was the first campaign I followed, personally, with the --

RAJPAL (on camera): I remember this, even I remember this.

MISSONI: It premiered in Tuscany, it was the first time the family was involved.

RAJPAL: Missoni has this very identifiable look, does it not? I mean, when someone looks at something --

MISSONI: Yes, I'd say --

RAJPAL: -- they can instantly see it's Missoni.

MISSONI: -- I think that my parents really did an invention early in the 70s. They -- they invented a style which is very rare in fashion. It's a big luck for me that I can work on this, because it's something -- they really invented a language, which has rich vocabulary, and I can update this vocabulary every season, right? So --

RAJPAL: Where do those bold colors and those bold patterns come from?

MISSONI: But do you know, it might be season with bold color and season with soft color, because that's fashion. But it comes from whatever you see for whatever image.

When you're a fashion designer, I think you just -- the good -- when they say, when they ask me "What is your quality?" I say, I don't know if I have any quality. I know I have good eyes, so I see and I translate in my job, everything I see.

RAJPAL (voice-over): Diversity has been key to Missoni's success. The fashion house also venturing into homewares and luxury real estate, including hotels. And right now, it's creating a buzz online over a new budget line launched through Target this month, Angela's daughter, Margherita, to be the face of the campaign, which is designed to tap into a whole new market.

RAJPAL (on camera): You've seen, also, the customers bursting -- there's obviously the strong European base of your customers. Then there was the North American. And now we're seeing Middle East --

MISSONI: Yes.

RAJPAL: -- Asia, those, the emerging markets have really taken to the Italian brands.

MISSONI: Yes.

RAJPAL: Tell me about how Missoni's involved in that kind of evolution.

MISSONI: You become an iconic label, so you become a status. So, maybe there are people that approach you for that.

But my best preferred customer is the one who really feels the Missoni clothes and the one who wear the clothes. Don't let her -- it's not the reverse, right? Not the clothes that wear the person.

RAJPAL: How would you describe the Missoni person? Men and women.

MISSONI: Oh, I think -- you know, to wear color, it's not the easiest thing. I realize that many people are scared and if they are in a community that wears all black, it's very scary to wear color sometimes.

But as soon as you -- you need training, you need -- and you need self-confidence. You need to -- but we also can help you in your self- confidence.

RAJPAL (voice-over): Angela Missoni herself epitomizes the boldness of the label. With confidence, she has been at the forefront of the company's expansion, ensuring it remains an iconic brand season after season.

RAJPAL (on camera): Well, this is a company and a brand that was founded by your mother and father, Rosita and Ottavio.

MISSONI: Yes.

RAJPAL: It's a -- you never think, now, "What would my mother do?" You think this is your company, so it's been -- it's evolved in such a way.

MISSONI: Yes, I feel it's my company, I feel first of all, my mother was always very supportive of what I'm doing, so she -- I never had a conflict with her. She gave me her job, she lend me her job in my hands, and she was always supporting.

So I -- when I -- the first collection when she asked me to do -- the first line I was doing my collection, and she said to me, "Have you ever thought of doing the Missoni line?" And I said, the first line, I said, "Not really, you're doing it."

"But I think you should, because what you're doing today, it's what I would like Missoni to be today."

RAJPAL: Do you ever argue with the family, do you ever have conflict?

MISSONI: Oh, yes, of course, but it's a normal thing. But that's also why my dad, when I -- I had a moment when I said, "I'm not going to work anymore in this company," I was like in my late 20s.

And my father said, "Why? What would you like to do?"

I said, "I want to do this, but I don't want to do clothes, I want to do jewelry."

And my father said, "But no problem, you can do it under this company, this label. But you don't need to work with your mom every single day, right?"

(LAUGHTER)

MISSONI: He knew that she had very strong character.

RAJPAL: Well, the Italians are like Indians, where we're very passionate, very loud.

MISSONI: Exactly.

RAJPAL: So we fight.

MISSONI: That's exactly it.

RAJPAL: I call that creative.

MISSONI: Exactly.

RAJPAL: It's good energy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Monita Rajpal with Madame Missoni for you.

Now, our Parting Shots tonight, the fall and rise of Charlie Sheen. What a difference half a year makes. It's been just six months since the actor's antics got him fired from his hit sitcom "Two and a Half Men." Now suddenly, he's back.

More than six million people watched Sheen's Comedy Central roast Monday, the highest-rated ever on the network, and it looks like Charlie Sheen might just be winning after all.

And Ashton Kutcher's debut on "Two and a Half Men," well, that wasn't too shabby, either, 28 million people tuning in for that. That's a serious high. And the best for scripted TV shows is -- can you guess? "Desperate Housewives" in 2005.

I'm Becky Anderson, that is your world connected. Thank you for watching. The world news headlines and "BackStory" will follow this short break. Don't go away.

END