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New Details of Plot to Assassinate Saudi Ambassador; Mass Amnesty in Myanmar; Flooding in Thailand; Hamas to Release Gilad Shalit in Prisoner Swap

Aired October 12, 2011 - 08:00:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: We are learning unnerving details of an alleged murder for hire plot involving Iran, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. The alleged conspiracy is so outrageous that even the head of the FBI says it's like something out of a Hollywood screenplay.

U.S. officials say that Iranian agents with ties to once-feared Revolutionary Guard plotted to hire a Mexican drug cartel to blow up Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. on American soil.

Now let's take a closer look at the alleged key players and one suspect, Manssor Arbabsiar, is behind bars in New York. A naturalized U.S. citizen, he holds an Iranian passport, and he was arrested last month.

And his purported targets? This guy, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Adel Al-Jubeir. Al-Jubeir is a close confidant and foreign affairs adviser to Saudi King Abdullah and a familiar face in Washington. And here is a courtroom sketch of the suspect, Arbabsiar, who appeared in U.S. federal court in New York on Tuesday.

But his alleged coconspirator and recruiter, Gholam Shakuri, who was believed to be a member of Iran's elite Quds Force, he is still at large. And U.S. authorities say three other Iranian recruits for senior officers are also implicated.

And according to the indictments, Arbabsiar, he allegedly sought to hire a Mexican drug cartel known for carrying out numerous assassinations. The thwarted plan was to give cartel members 11/2 million to kill Ambassador Al-Jubeir, possibly by blowing up a crowded restaurant in Washington when Al-Jubeir dined there.

Authorities say that they were tipped off because Arbabsiar had no idea he was actually talking to an undercover informant. They say that the Saudi ambassador was never in any danger. A furious Iran is calling these allegations "fabricated and evil."

Let's get more from Reza Sayah in Islamabad. Now he has covered Iran extensively for us. He joins us now live. And, Reza, you've been working your sources in Iran. What are they telling you about the people behind this plot?

REZA SAYAH, CNN REPORTER: Well, Kristie, as far as the two men who've been charged, the office of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is telling us they don't know who these two individuals are, but they're working to find out more information. And they say if the Iranian government does verify that they're Iranian citizens, they will offer to help them.

What that help is going to be, it's not clear. As far as these allegations go, the office of the president is dismissing them almost mockingly at times, describing them as fabrications designed to distract the American public from problems at home like unemployment and a faltering economy. Here's the president's spokesperson talking to CNN from Tehran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think the U.S. government is basically fabricating a news scenario. And history has shown both the U.S. government and the CIA have a lot of experience in fabricating these scenarios. And this is just the latest one.

I think their goal is to reach the American public. They want to take the public's mind off the serious domestic problems they're facing these days, and scare them with fabricated problems outside the country.

SAYAH: That was Ali Akbar Javanfekr, the spokesperson for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, denying the allegations. Earlier today, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke at a large gathering in western Iran.

As usual he condemned the West, including the U.S., rhetoric that you hear him often say in his speeches. But he didn't directly address these allegations from the Justice Department, Kristie, but plenty of other Iranian officials have denied the allegations.

STOUT: Reza, Iran's al Quds Force is believed to be behind this plot. Who are they, and why would they be out to target a Saudi ambassador?

SAYAH: Yes, these are all important questions. The Quds Force is a special unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, probably the most elite military branch in Iran. They were established in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war. It is believed they lead covert military plot outside of Iran.

Washington, on plenty of occasions, have accused them of fueling the insurgency and going after U.S. soldiers in places like Iran and Afghanistan. But it's really important to understand that this alleged plot doesn't fit their M.O. They have never been accused of being linked to a plot on U.S. soil.

And when you look at this plot, by any measure, it's a bizarre and drastic one, involving a used car salesman, the Mexican drug cartel. And the important question is what would Iran have to gain by going to these lengths to target a Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil?

Many experts would argue they have a lot to lose, more to lose than to gain, not the least of which is inviting the U.S. to retaliate. And another important thing to remember is if Iran wants to go after U.S. and Saudi targets, there's plenty of targets available in their back yard, in places like Bahrain, places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

These are all important questions. We haven't had a lot of answers and I think until we get these answers, it's going to be very difficult to determine and conclude what this plot was exactly.

STOUT: All right, Reza Sayah, very close Iran watcher. Thank you very much for that.

Now let's take a look at Iran's power structure.

The Supreme Leader, he sits at the top of the hierarchy, and only two men have held this position since the Islamic Republic's founding in 1979. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he has final say over all matters of state and faith. He controls the media and appoints the head of the judiciary. And he also appoints six of the 12 members of the Guardian Council.

The powerful body approves all of the candidates that stand for election. And the president is the second highest ranking official in the country. And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he won reelection in 2009. But the ballot was extremely controversial.

And he has since fallen out with the Supreme Leader, losing power struggles to Khamenei. And both men have ties to the Revolutionary Guard. But Khamenei is commander of the corps. The Quds Force is a branch of the guard.

Now the U.S. State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert for American citizens. And the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, says Washington will consult with its allies about its response to Tehran.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: And we will be consulting with our friends and partners around the world about how we can send a very strong message that this kind of action, which violates international norms, must be ended.

And other areas where we can cooperate more closely in order to send a strong message to Iran and further isolate it from the international community will also be considered.

STOUT: Now Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us now from Washington with more of the reaction there.

And Barbara, this case reads like a spy novel. Tell us how the plot unfolded.

BARBARA STARR, CNN REPORTER: Well, you know, this is this document that is -- that was released by the U.S. Justice Department yesterday, lays out an extraordinary case of where these two perpetrators began working to try and link up with Mexican drug cartel officials and pay them money and have this plot enacted to bomb a restaurant perhaps here in Washington, D.C., where the Saudi ambassador to the United States might be.

And what's extraordinary, because it just showed how -- the lengths that they would go to. It showed that they had no regard for the potential of civilian casualties, of bombing a restaurant in a major city. Of course, it turned out that Mexican authorities worked very closely with the United States to track these guys and to make sure that an eye was kept on them.

They were able to finally arrest this one man, a naturalized citizen here in the United States. But what this has very quickly turned into now, Kristie, is a discussion of how far did this go in the Quds Force that you were talking about.

There's no question in the mind of the Justice Department, if you read their complaint against they person they arrested that they believe the Quds Force was behind this, that this goes to very high levels in the Iranian government.

But they do stop short of linking it to the Supreme Leader or the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, not saying that those two directly ordered it. They said they weren't ready to make that connection yet. Kristie?

STOUT: OK, so those are the details to the plot. But how will the U.S. react? How will the U.S. retaliate against Iran and is military action off the table?

STARR: Well, you know, the Pentagon will tell you nothing is ever off the table. If the President of the United States makes a decision and orders it, so be it. It will happen. But right now, there's no indication of U.S. military forces on the move.

There is a Navy aircraft carrier in the region that is regularly scheduled to enter the Gulf in the next few days. You should expect to see that. That is a routine scheduled deployment. The other two things on the table right now, you saw yesterday a number of financial sanctions, again, levied against members of the al Quds Force and discussion of taking all of this to the Security Council at the United Nations. So we're still in the phase of reprimand and sanctions at this point.

Nobody is looking for another war to break out. And I think the U.S. wants to make sure that it isn't getting sort of into something at the behest of the Iranians. It wants to find out what the Iranians are up to, what their motivation is and what really went on here. Kristie?

STOUT: So a diplomatic response, first and foremost. Barbara Starr joining us, live from the Pentagon, thank you very much for that.

Now you are watching News Stream. And still ahead, amnesty in Myanmar: a U.S. officials calls it a dramatic development as the country begins releasing thousands of prisoners, including political detainees.

And Gaza City celebrates after Israeli Hamas leaders announce a deal to swap more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners in exchange for one high profile Israeli soldier. And sober scenes in Thailand: Bangkok hopes for the best, but prepares for the worst.


STOUT: Celebrations erupted in the streets of Gaza City Tuesday night after Israeli Hamas leaders said that they had reached a deal to swap roughly 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit.

He is the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas five years ago, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that negotiations leading up to this point have been difficult, but that his cabinet made the right decision, and they voted 26-3 in favor of the swap.


ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU (through translator): I spoke on the phone with the mother, Aviva, and the grandfather, Zvi. I told them I'm keeping my promise and I'm bringing their son and grandson home.

I told them, "I'm bringing your boy back." I'm happy that I succeeding in fulfilling the Jewish decree of redeeming captives. And if all goes as planned, Gilad will be back in Israel in the next few days with his family and his people.

STOUT: And a bit later in the program, we'll be going live to Israel for the reaction there. And we'll also hear from Hamas.

Now, in Myanmar, the prison gates have opened under a mass amnesty, and the first of as many as some 6,000 people, including political prisoners, are now walking free. Information about the status of specific individuals is just emerging with some 150 political prisoners who are said to be among those freed.

Now spokesman for pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD party says the state has freed at least some of its 200 jailed members. Now western governments have long tied the issue of Myanmar's political detainees to the sanctions they imposed against the country. And CNN's Paula Hancocks has been looking into the story and gauging reactions. She joins us now live from Bangkok.

And Paula, can you tell us about the more prominent political prisoners being released?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN REPORTER: Well, Kristie, the first prisoner that was released this Wednesday morning was actually one of the most prominent. He was called Zar Gana. He's an activist and a comedian, very prominent figure here in Myanmar, and also a very close aide of the democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

So that was our first clue that there were going to be political prisoners released. Now it's very difficult to get the exact numbers of how many of the prisoners were prisoners of conscience. We heard from Aung San Suu Kyi's party, the NLD, that about 150 were released.

Amnesty says 120 were released. And they say that this is the minimum first step to try and reform the government. And then other reports say as many as 300. So it's really very difficult to know how many of those prisoners were prisoners of conscience, 6,359 there was the number of all those released.

And so a CNN sources in Myanmar itself say that as every prisoner left the prison, there were hundreds of people waiting outside, cheering and applauding, obviously hundreds of relatives as well, hoping that their loved one would be one of those freed. Kristie?

STOUT: Now how significant is this development? Is this prisoner release more than a token gesture? Is this a major breakthrough for Myanmar?

HANCOCKS: As far as Amnesty International is concerned, they say that it is the minimum first step, and say that, unless the figures of the number of political prisoners released actually rises significantly, then, quote, "It will constitute a relaxation of reform rather than a bold step forward."

Now, of course, the United States is just waking up to this news now. It will be very interesting to hear what U.S. officials have to say on it. But we have seen some relaxation since this nominal civilian government took control back in March.

Of course, they are very closely tied to the military junta. Obviously they wouldn't be in control if the military leadership did not want them to be in control. So we've seen a limit, restrictions being lifted somewhat on use of the Internet, on media freedom.

We've actually seen newspapers carrying photographs and stories about the democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, which, just a year ago, would have been absolutely unthinkable. So we have seen slight moves towards reform. And we've also had a statement from the President Thein Sein today, saying that he wants to move towards a clean government.

STOUT: And, as you said, we are still waiting for reaction from the U.S. But on Monday this week, the U.S. said if Myanmar showed progress and released political prisoners, it would respond. A general amnesty is underway there. So what are Myanmar's expectations of the U.S.? What does it want in return?

HANCOCKS: Well, it's likely that what Myanmar wants is to end the international isolation. Now we heard from the U.S. President Obama two years ago, saying that he was opening the door to dialogue with Myanmar.

But the U.S., Australia, Europe have all said that they have to release all of their political prisoners, all of the prisoners of conscience. Now they released somewhere in the realm of 150 today. But Amnesty International says there something like 2,200 political prisoners still in prison, including those 150.

So it's unlikely that this will make any big change to the way that the U.S. deals with Myanmar at this point. The sanctions are likely to stay in place, because I don't think the U.S. will see this as a big enough move to actually warrant a significant change. But, of course, it is a first step.

STOUT: All right, Paula Hancocks, thank you very much for that.

One documentary photographer has spent years taking images like this. Now this man on the Thai-Myanmar border has the name of a political prisoner written on his hand. Now the photographer behind this image, his name is James Mackay. And he shares their stories in his new book. It's called "Burma's Fearlessness."

For example, this man, he spent 11 years in prison. And he now lives in Norway. And earlier today, I asked Mackay to tell us more about his project and the people he met. He could not appear on camera for security reasons.


JAMES MACKAY, PHOTOGRAPHER: It's something we've been working on for the past three years. It was a slightly different climate in there before the election, when it was a military regime. It isn't really any different today, even though cosmetically it does appear to be slightly more relaxed for people to go there.

The pressures are still there, and the risks are still very much there. We had to work very, very carefully with underground networks inside the country. And, you know, they take huge, huge risks, both the people who agreed to be in the photographs, and the people that I worked with in the country.

The man in the photograph is Ludu U Sein Win, who is really one of Burma's most famous and respected journalists. The name on his hand is a guy called Zar Gana, who is Burma's most famous comedian, played a huge important role in Burmese society, much liked and much respected by people, and also much feared by the regime.

But he was arrested for delivering aid to survivors of the Cyclone Nargis, that wreaked havoc across the Irrawaddy Delta in May, 2008. His release today is (inaudible). But like he said himself, already today, as he was being released, that, you know, he will only feel happy when all of his colleagues are freed as well.

This is the photograph of Aung San Suu Kyi. It was photographed earlier this year. And we shot this photograph in one of her front rooms downstairs. And of course, it -- I mean, it's beautiful because the fact that we have her father in the background kind of just looking on to her, the hero of -- the hero of Burma himself, General Aung San, looking down on her, on his daughter.

Now you have a democracy icon of the modern Burma, so to speak. The name on her hand is a young member of the National Democracy. His name is Soe Min Min, and the thing is for many, many political prisoners, obviously the world tends to know about some of the student leaders and the well- known people.

And it was quite nice that she was able to choose a name of somebody who isn't so well-known, but still has to suffer (inaudible) in prison.


STOUT: That was photographer James Mackay and his powerful pictures there. And he says as far as he knows, the prisoner whose name appears on Aung San Suu Kyi's hand is still serving an eight-year sentence.

And still ahead here on News Stream, there is catastrophic flooding in Thailand. It has killed hundred of people, flooded out millions of acres of farmland. And now the capital of Bangkok teeters on the edge.


STOUT: Broadcasting live from Hong Kong, you're back watching News Stream.

A flooding on a scale not seen for decades has authorities in Thailand scrambling over what can be saved. Where there was once farmland, there are now just floodwaters, and this aerial picture gives you an idea of the scale of the disaster in the ancient Thai capital of Ayutthaya. That temple, it was under construction.

Now Ed White, who lives there in Ayutthaya, he posted this image to CNN iReport. Now it's a bit hard to make out, but he says the water is at least chest-high. And Honda has shut down its operations at this regional car plant.

The workers have been evacuated from the premises, but just take a look at these cars. The monsoon rains that brought on these floods have also caused extensive damage in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and The Philippines in recent weeks. Mari Ramos is at the World Weather Center, and she joins us now.

Mari, is there any relief in sight?

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER: Hey, Kristie. Unfortunately, none, not for now. And any amount of rain that falls in these areas is going to be a problem. But you -- I'm going to give you the forecast in just a moment, but, you know, you were mentioning those plants there in Ayutthaya. And I want to show you something pretty interesting here. So let me go ahead and start there.

Look at this. This is that Honda plant that you were referring to in Thailand. And this is just one -- get this -- of over 150 manufacturing areas that are actually -- or factories, different companies that are located in this one industrial park called Rojana. So this is -- this is widespread.

The entire region here, just that one industrial park employed over 90,000 people. So you can see why the effects of this flooding are not just immediate, they're going to be long-term, unfortunately. You mentioned Ayutthaya, that historical area, is just not too far from this region also.

When you look at the big picture, you mentioned all of the countries that have been affected. You have Vietnam, you have Cambodia, you have Laos. This area here of the Mekong Delta here in the south, there's an estimated 5 million people, according to the U.N., that are at risk now of massive flooding.

There's also significant flooding across Myanmar, but we don't have information to really back that up. We can only tell that from satellite image and satellite estimates as to what extent the rain has been there as well. So let's leave Myanmar out of this.

We're looking at an area that is about 40 percent of the -- of these countries that have already been affected by flooding. If you combine an area, it's about the size of the country of Spain. That's how widespread this flooding is.

It doesn't mean that all of those areas are underwater, mind you. It just means that those are the areas that have been affected by this serious flooding. And that really put it in perspective, I think, and you realize how serious the situation is.

Notice that slow continuing from east to west here, a lot of heavy rain expected again. You know, these monsoonal rains have been, in some cases, for example, for Bangkok, in excess of 40 percent of the average for this time of year. So that's very significant as well.

Scattered rain showers are expected to continue. Some of them will be locally heavy. And it's not just the rain that's falling right now that's the problem, it's all of that rain that has been falling for the last few months.

Very quickly, across The Philippines, Tropical Depression Banyan -- or Ramon as you call it locally -- it has weakened somewhat, but the rain will continue to be one of the largest problems that we have with this storm, as it continues to move into the South China Sea. Looks like the heaviest rain is over for now. But keep an eye out for that.

And very quickly, an update on what's happening in Mexico, Hurricane Jova did make landfall earlier. It's a category 1 now with 140 kilometers per hour, it is inland, but there's another storm to worry about. Jova will move inland, and there's Tropical Depression 12 right here in the south, that one also bringing some very heavy rain. Kristie, back to you.

STOUT: OK, Mari, thank you very much for that. And coming up, we head to the front line in Libya, as anti-Gadhafi forces continue their final push for the former leader's hometown. And, on the move, "Occupy Wall Street" protesters have continued to gain momentum in the U.S., but not everyone is a fan. And we'll weigh reaction from both sides.


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

Now Britain is reacting to Iran's alleged murder for hire plot. The UK says it is consulting with the U.S. on possible action against Tehran. It's part, Iran says, alleged scheme is all lies. U.S. officials accuse Iran -- Iran linked agents rather, or engineering a failed plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S.

Conrad Murray's involuntary manslaughter trial continues in Los Angeles later to day. Prosecutors say they will call only three more witnesses as they attempt to prove that Murray is criminally responsible for Michael Jackson's death. Just three days of defense testimony are expected before closing arguments. And if convicted, Murray could spend four years in prison.

Now Israel's prime minister says Gilad Shalit will soon be heading home after being held captive by Hamas for five years. And these images from two years ago are the last any of his family and colleagues have seen of him. In exchange for his release, Israel has agreed to free roughly 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Now Israel has been trying to arrange for Shalit's release for years now, but it apparently took the government's agreement to free 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in order to secure it. And leaders for Hamas call it a historic moment.


ISMAIL HANIYA, SENIOR POLITICAL LEADER OF HAMAS (through translator): We should start preparations to welcome the brave free men and women who are returning to their land and to their families and to start taking all the necessary steps that are suitable for this historical moment.


STOUT: But why have Israel and Hamas agreed to this prisoner swap? For more, Kevin Flower joins us now live from Jerusalem.

And Kevin, Gilad Shalit, he's been held captive for five years, so why is he finally being released now?

KEVIN FLOWER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there are a number of reasons. First and foremost, the Israeli government itself, the prime minister here Benjamin Netanyahu said in a cabinet meeting yesterday that essentially now is the time to make the deal with so much uncertainty and so much change in the region that this was perhaps the best deal Israel could get for his release. So it seemed to be in the interest of the Israelis, at least, in their calculation to make this deal now.

And the same applies for Hamas as well. They were under a lot of pressure to make this deal. They have been increasingly feeling less popular in the Palestinian public eye -- the Palestinian Authority government of Mahmoud Abbas has been gaining positive attention for its Palestinian statehood bid at the UN. This was a way for Hamas to get back into the press with some positive attention for getting the ultimate release of these thousand prisoners. Good press for them, a political coup for them.

So ultimately in the interest of both sides to make the deal now, Kristie.

STOUT: Now Gilad Shalit is released, will it be a boost for Netanyahu, or are there some in Israel thinking that he has given too much to reach this deal with Hamas?

FLOWER: Well, this is a perennial issue here. And this is not the first time that the question of releasing Palestinian prisoners or people who are convicted of terrorist attacks in Israel has come up. And this debate took place around this deal for Gilad Shalit as well. So within the cabinet there was no unanimity within the cabinet. Three cabinet ministers out of 29 voted against this deal saying simply the price was too high.

But ultimately there's a lot of popular -- you know, popular support for getting Gilad Shalit freed here. It had been five years. He was becoming sort of a public cause. And the political price for any government not going everything it could to get him released was becoming increasingly high. But among security experts here, they are saying this is not a good deal for Israel.

STOUT: Kevin Flower joining us live from Jerusalem. Thank you very much for that.

Now after weeks of bloody street battles, anti-Gadhafi forces say they are ready for a final push into Sirte. Now the revolutionaries have earlier said that once Moammar Gadhafi's hometown fell they would declare Libya liberated and announce a new government.

Now Dan Rivers, he's there. He is inside Sirte. And he joins us now live. And Dan, as you make your way through the city, what have you seen?

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is still a very fierce firefight going on here, Kristie, behind me. There's a plume of smoke in one district, the only remaining district now where pro-Gadhafi forces are holed up. But I think it's not a question of if they're defeated, but when they are massively out numbered and out gunned by the sounds of things totally surrounded with their backs to the sea and they're being pushed back towards that coast, you know, each hour really. And it's -- the momentum is definitely with the NTC forces who have been edging forward, encountering some resistance, but not huge amounts.

We're told by one commander today they've suffered five fatalities and 20 (inaudible) injuries.

But you can hear the heavy artillery that's been firing all day here, laying down fire as they sort of edge their way forward. And we've seen tanks rolling through as well as lots of these sort of jeeps with anti- aircraft guns mounted on them. And as I say, it seems like the pro-Gadhafi forces are slowly being cornered in this district 2, they're calling it, down by the coast. That's looks like it's going to be their last -- their last stand at the moment, Kristie.

STOUT: Yeah, we are clearly hearing the heavy artillery behind you. Can you give us more detail about the pro-Gadhafi presence in the city? How many pro-Gadhafi troops have you encountered there?

RIVERS: We haven't been able to see them ourselves, but the rebel commanders here, you know, have been giving a sort of figures of a few hundred. I think they're just guessing, to be honest. No one really knows for sure.

But there hasn't, from what we've seen, been much in the way of return artillery from the pro-Gadhafi side. It seems to have been just sort of snipers (inaudible) fire and small arms fire. So they appear to be heavily out-gunned by the NTC forces. And as I say we're not clear how many are there. But as you can hear, it is a relentless barrage that they're facing. And I can't really see how they can hold out for much longer.

We keep hearing rebel commanders saying this will be over by tonight, it will be over by tomorrow. That's difficult to call. But this can't last much longer I don't think.

STOUT: Yeah, as we're hearing live the battle underway behind you, and you also mentioned that the pro-Gadhafi forces are out-gunned by the revolutionary fighters. So why has it taken so long to reach this point. It was six weeks ago when Tripoli fell.

RIVERS: Well, yeah -- I mean, they did encounter some very stiff resistance when they first arrived in Sirte and were losing sort of hundreds of people each day. And I think that kind of forced them to sort of pause and (inaudible) and kind of marshal their troops here.

Now they're going in very methodically street by street.

But, you know, this is urban warfare here. You know, it's very densely sort of populated. (inaudible) is down there. Lots of narrow streets and lots of buildings for them to clear. It's really building by building. So you can imagine how long that's going to take in a city of sort 70,000 or 80,000 people. You know, it's clearly quite an operation.

We haven't seen much in the way of civilians here. Yesterday we saw quite a few streaming out. Today we haven't seen any at all to be frank. But we've been right up to the sort of front line and seen the -- these big, heavy artillery guns in action.

And, you know, they're deafeningly loud being near to them. Goodness knows what it's like on the receiving end over in district 2 over there. I can't imagine there is any one can hang out there for much longer. It's been 24 hours of non-stop fighting really. You know, through the night they've been losing off these heavy artillery guns. And then there will be kind of an intense burst of fighting and then they'll lull again. And now as you can hear we're going through it all again very intense fighting this afternoon.

STOUT: Incredible. And you're there witnessing it all. Dan Rivers joining us live from inside Sirte as he reports on the final push into Gadhafi's hometown. Incredible report there.

Now in New York, some opening statements in the federal trial of accused arms dealing Viktor Bout. And it's said to begin just a couple of hours from now. And the jurors, they were seated for the case on Tuesday. And the Russian is charged with a number of offenses, including trying to sell arms to undercover agents and conspiracy to kill Americans.

Now Bout was arrested in Thailand three years ago. And in court, the judge made it clear to the jury that she did not want them using Google or social media to do their own research on Bout. And they had to sign a pledge to that affect.

Now some normally well-heeled streets of New York and more colorful than usual of late. And ahead, we have a look at the Occupy Wall Street protest. And why some Americans are demanding change.


STOUT: Now U.S. President Barack Obama's $447 billion job creation package is hitting its first hurdle, the bill has been blocked in a test vote in the Senate. Now Mr. Obama has called repeatedly for congress to adopt the measure, but an unofficial tally indicates that some of the president's fellow Democrats joined the filibuster against it.

Now a stalled U.S. jobs bill, it won't be welcome news to the thousands of Americans taking part in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Now high U.S. unemployment is just one of the issues fueling the mass protests that have swept the nation in recent weeks. And here's a quick recap of some of Tuesday's marches.

Now in Atlanta, Georgia, protesters waved homemade signs decrying corporate greed as they march from Woodruff Park to Bank of America's downtown offices. And as they marched, they chanted banks got bailed out, we got sold out.

And moving north to Cleveland, Ohio. Peaceful protests entered their sixth day on Tuesday as protesters continued to camp out in the city's public square.

And meanwhile in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Occupy Wall Street supporters took to the streets chanting in unison and carrying a large American flag.

And in New York where the movement has really taken off, protests follow through with plans to take their message to the homes of Manhattan's wealthiest.

The Wall Street movement says its supporters are the 99 percent of Americans who work long hours for little pay. And a blog called We Are The 99 percent is showcasing some of their messages. And people share their stories of suffering through the economic crisis having to chose between buying groceries and paying rent.

And now counter-protests have also sprung up. And this blog, it's called We Are The 53 percent. They are said to be the portion of Americans who pay income tax. And this response was started by Erik Erikson, editor- in-chief of and a CNN contributor.


ERIK ERIKSON, REDSTATE.COM: Life isn't fair. And what I hear from these guys on the Occupy Wall Street movement and where they do agree, and they're very different on what they agree on, but where they do agree seems to be that greed is bad and somehow or another we should legislate fairness. Well, you can't legislate fairness. I pay my taxes. I don't like to pay my taxes, but I do. But I'm not asking government to punish someone to help me out.


STOUT: And then there is the satirical movement. It's called Occupy Occupy Wall Street. And the two comedians behind it in this ireport.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to out-occupy the occupiers. Ready?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Occupy Occupy Wall Street.

Come on, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Occupy Occupy Wall Street.

You give them an inch, they'll take a square mile of one of your mountains in the Hamptons. That's actually true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's big (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's keep the money where it is. Let's keep the status quo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Status quo. Status quo.

1 percent. 1 percent.


STOUT: And you can find out more about the Occupy protests on our web site. We have a page called open story where you can see images and read personal accounts from these protests across the country. It's your one stop to follow the story and to contribute. Just go to story.

And ahead here on News Stream, the South African biker's close encounter with a charging antelope. It knocked more than just the wind out of him. The bicycle race that ended abruptly is next.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now only four teams remain in the rugby world cup. And the excitement among fans is building. The semi-finals will see tournament hosts and favorites New Zealand battle Australia in a south hemisphere clash, and France face Wales in a North Hemisphere encounter. But who will win?

Alex Thomas got a unique take on the tournament from someone who has won it: England legend Lawrence Dallaglio.


ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: In his playing days, there were few better on dry land. However, Lawrence Dallaglio was out of his comfort zone when one of the rugby world cup sponsors took him sailing this week. Not completely uncharted waters, but a challenge like the one facing Wales and France, the first of this weekend's semi-finalists.

LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO, FORMER RUGBY PLAYER: I don't think anyone would have necessarily predicted that those two teams would have been in the semi-finals, but they both deserved to be. Wales have been playing spectacular rugby, an unbelievable performance against Ireland.

France, maybe not quite so, but have shown that sort of spirit that perhaps people were suggesting was lacking in their team. And they knocked out England. And what a disastrous campaign it's been for England, really.

THOMAS: Australia, for one, had a real, sort of gritty attritional victory.

DALLAGLIO: Well, it may not -- you know, in my opinion, it was a phenomenal victory, really -- 73 percent, something like that possession for South Africa, and yet they couldn't get over that Australian line. And the rear guard effort from Australia was magnificent. I mean, every single person -- and you know, James O'Connor stepped up and stopped that winning penalty. So fantastic.

But it will be a very different battle against the All Blacks this weekend. They've obviously got to contend with, you know, playing the hosts in -- at the mighty Eden Park, the fortress that is Eden Park. But obviously it's the host with Dan Carter and one or two sort of selection and injuries worries at half-back.

So again, Australia have got every chance of going through. And, you know, if New Zealand were to win, then you'd have to say that the momentum that they would gather from that victory would be very difficult to stop in the final.

THOMAS: As a rugby fan as well as a former player, which of those two semis grip you the most.

DALLAGLIO: Well, I think for me, I'm obviously a little bit biased, but Wales are a side that are coached by two people I know very well. And Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards, obviously two former Wasp colleagues, so I've got a little bit of personal interest in that particular battle, but...

THOMAS: Have you spoken to them at all?

DALLAGLIO: I haven't had the opportunity yet. They've only just arrived back in Auckland, but hopefully I will be speaking to them too.

THOMAS: Any picks?

DALLAGLIO: No, no, no. I'll be wishing them all the best, that's for sure.

But I suppose for me, you know, Australian being New Zealand is a fantastic game. It's number one being number two in the world at the moment with a right to play in the rugby world cup finals. So both games have got their own sort of special meanings, their special flavors. And who knows, we could be heading for a repeat of the 1987 rugby world cup final between New Zealand and France, or, you know, it could be one of the other teams.

THOMAS: And you've been commentating for UK television. You came out ahead of the quarterfinals. What's been the difference in mood and atmosphere now you're actually here in the country?

DALLAGLIO: Oh, it's been brilliant. Working in the UK at sort of 2:00, 3:00 in the morning trying to deliver rugby to the wider public it's been quite a challenge. But I think when you get out here, you really realize, you know, what a great atmosphere it's -- I mean, it's been an amazing world cup, very different to the one in France or the one in New Zealand. Quite intimate here in New Zealand. You know, obviously not as big, smaller crowds, but everyone has really, really enjoyed it. And you can't go anywhere in New Zealand without realizing that the rugby world cup is on, especially here in Auckland.

Maybe on a boat you can come here without realizing the rugby world cup is on.

THOMAS: Although you'd have to be sailing solo around the world to miss the celebrations should the host nation New Zealand go on to lift the Webb Ellis trophy for only the second time in the country's history.

Alex Thomas, CNN, Auckland, New Zealand.


STOUT: Now it was a dramatic Tuesday night in Euro 2012 qualifying. Four teams booked their places in the finals in the last round of matches. And Pedro Pinto in London, he's here to tell us more -- Pedro.

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie. Two-time European champions France did just enough to qualify, needed only a draw against Bosnia-Herzegovina in a clash between the top two teams in Group D, and they go it.

It didn't look good in the first half as the visitors, who would have overtaken France with a win in Paris at the Stade de France took the lead through a great goal from their star striker Edin Dzeko. Les Blues knew they needed to get back on level terms and they were given a golden opportunity to equalize when Emir Spadic brought down Samir Nasri just inside the box.

Nasri dusted himself off and converted the spot kick. He called it the most important goal of his life. The point was enough for France to qualify for Euro 2012.

Just like France, Portugal only needed a point in their final qualifying game, but unlike Les Blue they couldn't get it. The Euro 2004 runners-up lost to Denmark in Copenhagen and saw their opponents win Group H.

The Danes took the lead through Michael Krohn-Dehli in the 13th minute. They doubled their advantage after the break thanks to Nicklas Bendtner. Christiano Ronaldo scored a consolation goal for Portugal with a trademark free kick, but it was too little, too late for the visitors who will now have to go into the playoffs.

Two teams finished the qualifying phase with perfect records: Germany and Spain. The defending world and European champions beat Scotland in Alicante on Tuesday night. The visitors needed to get something out of this match to have a chance of making the playoffs, but it was always going to be tough considering Spain's pedigree.

David Silva scored twice. He also assisted on David Villa's 50th international goal as Spain equaled a record by winning their 14th straight qualifying match.

So let's take a look at the 12 nations that have qualified automatically: Poland and the Ukraine of course, they are the co-hosts. We already knew Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, and England are through. And on Tuesday, Greece, France, Denmark, Russia, and Sweden join them.

The Swedes went through as the best runners-up.

That is a quick look at the sports headlines, dominated by football. Kristie, back to you.

STOUT: Pedro, thank you and take care.

Now millions of Blackberry users across Europe and the Middle East and Africa are still without full texting and data services. And the services have been down since Monday. Blackberry maker Research in Motion released a statement saying this, that the problem is from a core switch failure in the company's infrastructure. And RIM says it's working on it, but didn't offer any idea on when full services will be up and running.

And many Blackberry users are outraged. And yes, they've been weighing in on Twitter. And here's some of the reaction.

Now here, one user in South Africa tweeted, quote, "Blackberry down again. Very poor communications from them about what the problem is. Fail."

As another in Canada weighs in, saying, "I feel that somehow my Blackberry would fail me even as a paper weight."

And we also have this one from a user in Beirut who said, "throwing your Blackberry at the person you want to contact may be the best way to message at the moment."

Now this has got to be the strangest hit and run we've ever seen. A guy riding in bicycle, he's knocked over by a rampaging antelope and the buck didn't stop there. He just kept going.

Jeanne Moos has the story.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Biker 0, antelope 1. Imagine the story this South Africa mountain bike racer will have to tell run over by an antelope.


MOOS: The only thing is, it's hard to tell a story...


MOOS: . when you don't remember what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the buck hit me, I was knocked unconscious. So I actually don't know much of the actual experience myself.

MOOS: But we won't forget the moaning of 17-year-old Evan Funderspei (ph).

What was that noise coming out of you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't even know I could make those noises.

MOOS: For a minute, I thought that that was the antelope.

Though Evan managed to stand up, he doesn't remember a thing until he was in an ambulance headed for an overnight stay in the hospital.

Evan suffered whiplash and a concussion. Meanwhile, the buck was later spotted grazing as if nothing had happened.

The good news for Evan, hey, could have been a rhino.

The video was shot by a camera attached to his teammate's bike.

How many times have you looked at the video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, hundreds, eh? I'm still trying to make sense of it myself. It's just every time I look at it, it's one big shock.

MOOS: Maybe it's just payback. After all, we hit them all the time. Just last year, I hit a deer. And I had the deer hair stuck in my car's front grill to prove it. That was traumatic enough.

But this Colorado man was biking down a hill and his a bear back in 2008.

TIM EGAN, HIT BEAR WITH BICYCLE: This gigantic bear head with huge teeth was surprised to see me and I was surprised to see him. I think it was almost every cartoon, we both screamed.

MOOS: Evan didn't have time to scream. He says his helmet, which was almost split apart by the impact, saved his life. And he expects the helmet maker to make a commercial.

We can see it now, a first add for a helmet proven to be...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Antelope proof.

MOOS: As the description on YouTube put it, the buck stops here.

It's the human's turn to be roadkill.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


STOUT: And that is News Stream. But the news continues at CNN. World Business Today is next.