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German Chancellor Pushes for Tighter Unity; Iran Anti-U.K. Rally; Hillary Clinton Meets Aung San Suu Kyi; Euro 2012 Draw; Interview with Michel Platini; Euro 2012 Draw; Preliminary Results of Egyptian Election; UN Human Rights Council Condemns "Gross Violations" in Syria; Syrian Government Justifies Crackdown; Big Interview With Opera Star Angela Gheorghiu; Going Green: Busch Wildlife Sanctuary; Parting Shots of Bo the White House Christmas Dog

Aired December 2, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: A determined German chancellor pushes a plan for a stronger, more disciplined Eurozone. But not everyone agrees her way is the right way to save the euro.

Live from London, I'm Becky Anderson.

Also tonight, the first results from Egypt's elections are in. How the biggest voter turnout in the country's history could produce some controversial new leaders.



ANDERSON: The voice that emerged from behind the Iron Curtain. Opera singer Angela Gheorghiu on her heavenly voice and her devilish reputation.

Well, first, European leaders are kicking off a week of critical talks, gearing up for what could be a make or break summit for saving the euro. Now, listen up to this. German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed her parliament today, laying out her vision for solving the European debt crisis, threatening to sink the global economy into a recession. She says a fiscal union is needed, with strict rules to punish government overspending. And she also warned it will take a long time to correct what she calls a crisis of trust.


ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): Europe is facing its hardest test. As German chancellor, I will do everything so that Europe will emerge stronger after the crisis than before it went in. There is too much at play, especially for Germany and the Germans. Despite all the recent turbulences, the euro has proven itself. It is strong and has a more stable value then the deutschemark. As an export nation, Germany profits, especially from the euro.

But the euro is much more than a currency, because of the economic and currency union, we have climbed a further step of Italian in Europe. The euro represents Europe's will to hadn't its internal development and to face up to the global challenges of today.


ANDERSON: Well, Chancellor Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are pushing for EU treaty changes to enforce budgetary discipline. Mr. Sarkozy met today with the British prime minister, David Cameron in Paris. Britain, of course, is not a member of the Eurozone, but is a key trading partner and has a vested interest in its economic survival.

Well, European markets encouraged that a solution may be on the horizon. The FTSE, the CAC and the DAX, as you can see, all up today. The Dow, well, it's just closed and is trading at the end of play today above 12000, but as you can see, just lower at the close of play this Friday.

Well, a lot of hopes riding on that summit in Brussels on Friday. And some analysts point out that EU policymakers have a reputation for ramping up expectations and then failing to deliver.

Jim Boulden looks at all the buildup to what is fast becoming a critical summit starting next week.


JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So how did we get down this path toward fiscal union this week?

It took words from a few non-politicians in Europe to set the tone.

Firstly, EU Commissioner Olli Rehn set the clock ticking on Wednesday morning.

OLLI REHN, EU ECONOMIC & MONETARY AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER: We are now entering the critical period of 10 days to complete and conclude the crisis response on the European Union.

BOULDEN: This deadline points to next Friday, when the leaders of the European Union 27 countries try to agree on a new way forward for Europe at the Brussels summit. What needs to be hammered out is a way to bring about fiscal union fast, firstly, without treaty changes. Perhaps a core of Eurozone countries pledge new rules or a treaty within a treaty.

If this doesn't happen, the head of the Bank of England made his point on Thursday -- prepare for the possibility politicians can't save the euro.

MERVYN KING, GOVERNOR, BANK OF ENGLAND: Governments, together with the FSA and the Bank of England, are making contingency plans.

BOULDEN: Also on Thursday, the head of the European Central Bank told politicians what he wanted to see -- details of this fiscal union, this new promise, before the ECB can step in to help more.

MARIO DRAGHI, INCOMING ECB PRESIDENT: A new fiscal compact will be the most important signal from Euro Area governments for embarking on the path of comprehensive deep -- comprehensive deepening of economic integration.

BOULDEN: The leaders of Germany and France have their work cut out. President Nicholas Sarkozy set out his fiscal road map to French voters.

NICOLAS SARKOZY, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): At the heart of the European economy, there must be a zone of stability and confidence, which is the engine of European competitiveness.

BOULDEN: What kind of zone of stability and how quickly it can be created will depend on Germany. Angela Merkel told the German parliament on Friday morning, changing Europe will take years and that change must come with real teeth.

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): Where we have references today, we need legal standards. There cannot be room for political maneuvering when one is trying to determine whether standards have been crossed or not.

BOULDEN: It was the markets that punished Eurozone politicians and it will be the markets that ultimately decide if this route, this road to fiscal union is enough.

(on camera): And the pressure has been raised on Europe. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will be meeting with leaders in Frankfurt, Berlin, Milan and Paris to tell them what the U.S. would like to see happen to the Eurozone ahead of that critical summit in Brussels on Friday.

Jim Boulden, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: All right, well, short-term, Europe could do with a breather, of course, from traders who have been speculating against it for months. Long-term, though, it needs a proper fix.

But not everyone believes that closer integration is that fix or, indeed, the way forward.

Earlier, I spoke to Peter Morici, who is a professor of international business at the University of Maryland in the U.S. and Peter Altmaier, Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief whip.

And I began by asking Mr. Altmaier why he thinks fiscal union is the solution.

This is what he said.


PETER ALTMAIER, CHANCELLOR MERKEL'S CHIEF WHIP: Fiscal integration is very key, indeed, because we are speaking about a sovereign debt crisis and a lack of discipline of almost all Eurozone member states. And therefore we need a clear signal we are all committed to fiscal discipline, we are determined to overcome the crisis and the euro will grow even stronger than it was before.

ANDERSON: Mr. Morici, you don't buy that, do you?


PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Well, disciplines on the size of budget deficits is simply not enough, unless money is shared, revenues are collected on a community-wide basis and then redistributed in some way to help share the cost of government and social programs in the poorer countries, as it done in the United States, those countries will essentially face endless recession without having their own currencies.

ANDERSON: Peter Altmaier, Olli Rehn gave Europe 10 days to save the euro. There is no way that countries can pull off a fiscal unity or any sort of integration on a fiscal basic by Friday next week.

Like it or not, we are looking at casualties here, aren't we?

ALTMAIER: The countdown has started and we are in a series of talks with all our partnering states in the Eurozone, with the EC Commission, the ECB and many others in order to achieve consensus. We know international markets, the international community, is watching very carefully what we are deciding next Friday.

And I hope this will be a clear, great and convincing signal to the international community.

ANDERSON: Peter Morici?

MORICI: More than fiscal disciplines will be needed in 10 days. They'll have to agree to revenue sharing on an ongoing basis, not merely loans, but revenue sharing on an ongoing basis.

If that took place, then the European Central Bank could step in and buy the necessary number of bonds to keep the system going, I'm sure with German assent. And while the details were hammered out, as long as they were hammered out quickly.

A meeting of the minds in 10 days is possible.

ANDERSON: Peter Morici, Europe's leaders, they've been slow, haven't they?

But surely you now give them credit for acknowledging what needs fixing and how they might do it. MORICI: I don't agree with that. What I hear from the Germans is that we're lending the money. That's not enough. They need to commit themselves to revenue sharing on an ongoing basis.

New York is taxed to help finance health care in Mississippi. It's that simple. That's what we have in the United States. That is fiscal union.

ALTMAIER: They have...

MORICI: That is very difficult across 17 countries with different languages and cultures and -- and lacking a real legislature at this point.

ALTMAIER: Well, we -- we certainly have diversions of opinion on this point. The American philosophy has led, over the last 50 years, to an enormous loss of value of the U.S. dollar with regard to the external world. This was the price that has to be paid for this American philosophy.

The European philosophy of the euro is different. The euro has gained an enormous amount of strength over the last 10 years and we wanted to keep it stable. We want to avoid inflation. But we want to keep the Eurozone intact and we are prepared to take the necessary steps.

ANDERSON: Can they keep the Eurozone intact, Peter Morici, at this point?

MORICI: Not with that philosophy and not characterizing it as Anglo- Saxon capitalism versus a Germanic view. That is not the problem. I view this as an economist. Lacking the ability to adjust an exchange rate downward to make their products more cost-competitive and to export to the north, to Germany, the Italians, no matter what how much money you lend them, will not be able to pay their debts.

The real issue here, is Germany willing to move away from an export- led trade surplus economy and move to balance trade so that the Greeks, Italians and Spaniards can make things that the Germans use?

Germany has to get it through their heads that...


MORICI: -- they simply can't have a trade surplus all the time and have its neighbors prosper.

ANDERSON: If tighter fiscal integration is the only answer, the solution at this point, why on Earth was the euro launched without it?

ALTMAIER: Well, the euro was launched without it because when it was launched, there was a -- a very small consensus achieved amongst all the different philosophies, political, economic, fiscal cultures in Europe. And everybody was convinced it would grow step by step. The European treaties are very clear in this respect. There is a philosophy culture enshrined in the treaties.

But there is a lack of judicial and political means to implement it. And this is what we have to repair. And it would be a strong signal to the markets.

ANDERSON: Peter Morici?

MORICI: Well, if the Europeans want to have a single currency, in addition to fiscal union, they're going to have to have a single labor market policy. The Germans have reformed their labor markets so much more effectively than the Italians. Now, and what it tells us -- and that's the problem. Then what it tells us is that they have to have a single lawmaker policy throughout Europe.

And they can't count on governments to do this one at a time. If they do, they'll have the kinds of crises they're having now.

These are the things that we have in the United States. It's not a matter of Anglo-Saxon capitalism versus the rest of the world. That's really a non sequitur. It's a matter of what economics requires of a common currency.

ANDERSON: Peter Morici and Peter Altmaier slogging it out tonight for you.

Our top story, European leaders say that the stakes couldn't be higher, as they prepare for a summit that will shape the future of Europe.

Friday's meeting is fast becoming the last chance to save the Eurozone's single currency and restore faith in its faltering economies.

You can rely on CNN for bringing you every twist and turn in the weeks to come, of course.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN, live from London.

Still to come, Myanmar's move toward democracy -- we'll hear from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who's just completed an historic visit to that nation.

Plus, with the group for next summer's Euro 2012 football championship decided, find out why not everyone is smiling.

And political freedom draws a record number of Egyptians to the polls. New figures just announced from this week's parliamentary elections.

All that coming up after this.


ANDERSON: And the world's news leader, this is CONNECT THE WORLD.

I'm Becky Anderson.

Welcome back.

Now, Hillary Clinton says that she sees signs of progress in Myanmar. She wrapped up her visit to what many perceive as a rogue nation today, the first by a U.S. secretary of State in 50 years.

She met with Aung San Suu Kyi over two days. The pro-democracy icon noted progress by Myanmar's military rulers, but said more must be done.

Our Jill Dougherty asked Clinton about meeting the Nobel Prize winner.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: It was just an extraordinary personal privilege for me finally to meet her. I felt like I had known her for years because of all of the information that I had about her and the interactions that friends of mine had with her who carried messages back and forth. And I -- I just really felt like it was meeting an old friend, even though it was our first time.

And I deeply admire and appreciate everything that she's done over the years to stand steadfastly for democracy and freedom and to be someone who people in our country look up to and know that she has their best interests at heart and they want to, you know, follow her because of that.

She is someone who we talk to and rely on about policy advice. And, certainly we were very gratified that she encouraged us to engage, encouraged my trip, as she said publicly today, thought that we were, you know, proceeding appropriately, cautiously, to determine whether or not these reforms were for real.


ANDERSON: Let's get you a look at some of the other stories that we are connecting our world with this hour.

And election officials in Egypt have just announced a record breaking turnout from this week's landmark vote. They say more than 62 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in round one of parliamentary elections.

We are still waiting to hear who won that vote, but we know Islamists are expected to make big gains.

Much more ahead, of course, in the live report this hour from Cairo here on CONNECT THE WORLD.

Elsewhere, the British government says the Iranian embassy in London is now closed and all Iranian diplomats have left the country. These diplomats were ordered to leave after protesters stormed the British embassy in Iran's capital on Tuesday. Since then, Britain has closed that embassy and several other European countries have called their ambassadors back home.

Well, a symbol of the nearly nine year U.S.-led war effort in Iraq is now under Iraqi government control. The U.S. handed the sprawling Camp Victory base in Baghdad back today, one day after an emotional ceremony there.

CNN's Martin Savidge has more.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was another major milestone in the U.S. withdrawal of forces from Iraq. Today, it was the hand over of Camp Victory, or otherwise known here as VBC, Victory Base Complex. This had been a sprawling U.S. military base. At one point, it had been the center of the entire war, from there the conflict in Iraq had been run. About 40,000 U.S. soldiers, at the peak of the conflict, had been living there, 20,000 contractors. There was its own power plant, its own water plant. It had its own ice facility. It even had a laundry facility that was said to have 3,000 washing machines.

All of that now has been handed back to the Iraqis. Much of it was moved out. But the remainder, and especially the palaces -- and this is one of the unique problems that the Iraqi government will face. Nine Saddam Hussein glorious, grand, but also memorable palaces are on the property there.

What do you do with those?

The problem is they're a reminder of a dark past, but they're also part of the Iraqi heritage. That decision will still have to be made. It could be that they are turned into military facilities or maybe museums or cultural centers.

One way or another, it's hoped that they will be put to much better use than they were before the war.

In Baghdad, I'm Martin Savidge, CNN.


ANDERSON: Well, they are called Santa Ana winds and they are wreaking havoc in the U.S. state of California. Gusts approaching 130 kilometers an hour downed trees and power lines, delayed flights and knocked out power to more than 200,000 homes. Gusts in some places have reached speeds equivalent to a category four hurricane. Santa Ana winds are common in the U.S. West, but rarely are this intense.

Well, divorce sometimes brings with it a hefty price tag. Case in point -- a Hong Kong man whose now got to fork out $154 million to his ex- wife. Their divorce settlement gives their homes in Hong Kong and London and money to buy two very expensive cars. Florence Tsang Chiu-wing told reporters she was delighted as she left the courthouse. No real surprise there.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London this evening, Friday.

Twenty-two minutes past nine in London.

Coming up, the group draw for the Euro 2012 football championship is now complete. Find out which unlucky team has landed in the so-called group of death.


ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London.

I'm Becky Anderson.

Welcome back.

Twenty-four minutes past nine.

Now, the countdown is officially underway to kick off the group draw for next summer's Euro 2012 European football championship is now complete.

Pedro Pinto is in Kiev and he joins us now.

What a day. We've been building up to this for some days. You did a terrific job out there -- sir, what did we get today?

What were the highlights?


PEDRO PINTO, CNN "WORLD SPORT" ANCHOR: Well, Becky, we did get a lot of mouth-watering clashes in the group stage, I can tell you that much. We always talk about the group of death and what's going to survive that group of death and move into the next phase.

Let me break down the -- the groups for you, starting with Group A. And, arguably, it's the weakest group. It's got Poland. It's the lowest ranked team in the competition. They're seeded top as co-hosts. They'll be playing against Greece in the opening game on the 8th of June in Warsaw.

Also in this group, Russia and the Czech Republic.

Here we go, Group B. This is the one everyone is talking about here. The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany -- all former winners and Euro 2004 runners-up, Portugal. That is a group that -- that we really have to say is the group of death. Then Group C, the defending champions, Spain, were paired with Italy. Two European giants will clash there in the first phase. Also joining them, Ireland and Croatia.

Last but not least, Ukraine, another co-host. They're taking on Sweden and then, two old rivals, France and England. So that's the lineup for Euro 2012. As I mentioned, kick-off is on the 8th of June. The final will take place here in Kiev on the 1st of July. Thirty-one matches, Becky, to decide who will be European football champion in 2012.

ANDERSON: The very obvious question, which is, can anybody beat Spain, given that they've won the World Cup?

But then I just realized that England did the other day, of course, so...



PINTO: You're right. You know -- you know, the interesting thing is, Spain obviously, they've won the last two major tournaments, the year 2008, the World Cup 2010. They've won all of their qualifying matches for this particular euro. But they've lost four high profile friendlies. So a lot of people are questioning their ability to keep that winning streak going in these major tournaments.

Curiously, I had a chance to speak with UEFA President Michel Platini, who won the euro for France in '84, about Spain and whether anyone could surprise them and beat them finally.

We had a lot of fun with this particular subject.

Checked out -- check out with what he had to say about it.


PINTO: No team has ever won three major tournaments in a row from the UEFA region.

Can anyone beat Spain?

MICHEL PLATINI, UEFA PRESIDENT: I think that Germany is growing (INAUDIBLE). Italy is coming back. France is coming back. Portugal, too. So we have -- we have many good teams. And every game will be a tough game.

PINTO: Is Spain one of the best teams you've ever seen play, the kind of style of football they have?

PLATINI: In the...

PINTO: Yes...


PINTO: -- in the history of football?

PLATINI: Well, they play (INAUDIBLE) France in '84.

PINTO: Really?

PLATINI: No, you don't think so?


PLATINI: OK. But you were an (INAUDIBLE).


PINTO: I watched '84.

PLATINI: No, it's a technical game and I say that in the -- in the past you have so many good teams that play similar football like -- like Spain.



PINTO: Well I -- I think Michel Platini was a little biased there when he compared his team with Spain, but there you have it.

I personally think Germany can challenge Spain.


PINTO: We'll -- we'll wait and see. A little over six months to go, Becky.

ANDERSON: I knew he had an ego, but my goodness. I remember that team from '84. They were good. But I'm not sure that they were that good.

All right, Pedro, thank you for that.


ANDERSON: Pedro Pinto, who's done a superb job out there all week in Ukraine. And the buildup to Euro 2012 is...

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: He -- he seems all happy, isn't he, about it?

ANDERSON: He is. He looks like Yogi Bera. He needs a shaving.


ANDERSON: That may be the November kind of charity for (INAUDIBLE).

THOMAS: I don't know about that (INAUDIBLE).


What do you think?

What do you think of the draw?

THOMAS: Well, interesting, we've just been trying to to gather a bit of reaction. And -- and Pedro is right, Group B is certainly the one -- taws has to be a nickname, the group of death, to one of them. But it definitely lived up to its billing when you see Holland, Germany and Portugal all in the same group. And Denmark no mugs (ph), 1992 European champions.

The reaction from that...

ANDERSON: By default, of course, but (INAUDIBLE).

THOMAS: Well, that's true, they just came off the beach and won it...


THOMAS: -- as replacements. In there Wesley Sneijder, the Dutch midfielder, who plays for Inter Milan. So it's a bit of an odd draw, but a great draw, short but sweet, summing it up there.

Interesting other matches, Spain against Italy. The Spanish coach, Vicente del Bosque, is looking beyond that already. He wants a repeat of the Euro 2008 finals, Spain against Germany again. He said that's something that would be great, I hope it does happen.

And, of course, the England-France clash should be terrific. Fabio Capello being the manager, saying, you know, we lost to France at Wembley recently. They're very good. But I have faith in my team and my players. They're all young. I think they can give a lot.

ANDERSON: I was going to say, also Sweden in that same group with England. We've got a kind of mixed history with Sweden. Do you remember that great "News of the World" headline when they beat us, "Swedes 2, Turnips 1." Was that --

THOMAS: Yes. Graham Taylor.

ANDERSON: -- way back when, Graham Taylor's era.

THOMAS: They turned into a root vegetable, which is the fate of many England managers. But it's very tough.


THOMAS: European championships many say is harder to win than the World Cup.

ANDERSON: Ireland are sitting in a dodgy group as well, aren't they?

THOMAS: Well, it's interesting, because of course they're coached by Giovanni Trapattoni, former Italy coach. He's been drawn against the country of his birth. And Trapattoni did say "Italy were the one team we wanted to avoid for many reasons. They're mentally strong and obviously I know them well."

ANDERSON: Oi yi yi. Alex Thomas on 2012. Stick with CNN for the buildup to that. We're looking forward to it. Good stuff. Thank you.

Still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, and of course it's "World Sport" up in an hour from now. He'll slap me if I don't tell you that. Coming up on this show, though, Egypt reports record turnout on its first round of parliamentary elections. We'll have a live report form Cairo.

And also this hour, Syria's foreign minister shows the world some very disturbing images, but the source of some of that video is proving to be an embarrassment for the regime.

And then later this hour, a leading lady with a big personality. Why this famous opera star never reads reviews good or bad. That's all here right this hour. Right this hour? Anyway, stay on CNN.


ANDERSON: You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. Just after half past nine in London, a very warm welcome back. Let's get you a check of the world headlines this hour.

And US stock markets got a quick boost from some positives US jobs data this Friday. The unemployment rate fell to 8.6 percent, down from 9 percent in October. That is a bigger than expected drop and the lowest level since March 2009.

German chancellor Angela Merkel is calling for a fiscal union in Europe to resolve the eurozone debt crisis. But she told parliament the crisis won't be over, quote, "within a drum beat." EU leaders are set to hold a summit on the crisis next week.

Iran's embassy in London is now closed and UK officials say all Iranian diplomatic staff have left. Foreign Secretary William Hague here demanded that Tehran withdraw its embassy staff after a group of Iranian students stormed the British embassy in Tehran on Tuesday.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wraps up her visit to Myanmar or Burma. Today she met pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi for a second day and says she saw encouraging signs that the nation is moving towards democracy.

And those are your headlines this hour.

Well, election officials in Egypt are reporting a record turnout from the first vote since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown. They haven't yet announced the results from the party lists, but preliminary counts, at least, show that the Muslim Brotherhood fared best as expected.

Second place, though, is perhaps somewhat of a surprise. Let's find out what's going on there. Jim Clancy live for us in Cairo. What's the story, Jim?

JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've got 62 percent turnout. That is huge here. People point to that and they say that's what made this really a success.

Now, you're right. The head of the election commission overseeing this vote and the subsequent votes that are going to take place over the next four months issued a statement about some of the individual races, but we didn't hear exactly how the parties fared one by one. These party lists, the blocks that have been put together.

But we have a pretty good idea, the Muslim Brotherhood coming in first with about 40 percent of the vote. That's not unexpected.

The surprise, as you noted, the Salafists, some of the hardline Muslim candidates who had been campaigning on morality police, and Sharia law, on the veil and a ban on alcohol.

This made a lot of people nervous as they looked onto this. They were surprised by the showing, and they warned that if they try to mix religion with state, it's going to be a disaster for Egypt. Listen to what one said.


AHMED HELMY, TOUR GUIDE: What I'm afraid here in Egypt that we're going to involve the religion with the rules, with the government. And this -- it will be a disaster for Egypt.


CLANCY: Now, that man worked in the tourism industry, and that's where a lot of the concern has come up.

At the same time, some of the liberal candidates, secular candidates, are believed to be polling about 20 percent of the vote as well, with other parties picking up the remainder of the percentage.

Now, some other news to report, Tahrir Square, there's a coalition of some 14 groups that have announced they are pulling out. Some of them will go onto another protest outside the cabinet building, but they carried coffins through the square today to symbolize some of the most recent killings over the square, 42 people lost their lives in violence with security forces.

It was a very noisy protest, attended by thousands of people, bolstered by families coming out. But the mood was calm. It was calm, too, as the election results came in, Egyptians digesting all of this and still wondering where their country is headed.

They've got a lot more voting to do, but they believe that this is the basic framework, this is the best indication of how this election, how this new assembly is going to shape up. Becky?

ANDERSON: Yes, fascinating. Jim, thank you for that. Jim Clancy in Cairo for you this evening.

All right. Well, Syrians encouraged, of course, by Egypt's uprising this spring, and soon began one of their own. But the differences (sic) end there, of course. The United Nations estimates that 4,000 Syrians have been killed by their government's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

Today, the UN Human Rights Council strongly condemned what it called "gross violations." High Commissioner Navi Pillay told CNN the violations are so severe that the International Criminal Court could be called in.


NAVI PILLAY, UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: People have to pass food through ropes from window to window because the minute they step outdoors, they are shot and killed.

There was one group that was taking food to a village that was under siege, and they were attacked, 40 killed. Water tanks have been damaged so that people are deprived of water. Ambulances are attacked.

And above all, what shocks me, really, is that 307 children have been killed. One is two years old. Children have been tortured.


ANDERSON: Well, the Syrian government continues to justify its crackdown by saying that it's fighting gangs of armed thugs. Just a few days ago, the country's foreign minister made a big show of what he called proof. But as CNN's Rima Maktabi shows us now, seeing isn't necessarily believing.


RIMA MAKTABI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem gave a news conference Monday, he brought with him several videos, some of them showing graphic violence.

"Sorry for the gruesome pictures," he said. "But I would like to delegate this video to the Arab League," which had just hit the Syrian regime with new sanctions.

Muallem claims the footage shows killings by terrorist gangs in Syria this year. Later, he noted that Arab news networks had dropped the news conference when the videos were shown. "They don't want to show the truth, the reality that we are dealing with," he said.

But it turns out that not all the video was as advertised. Some of it wasn't even from Syria, nor was it even shot this year. One grainy film showed bearded armed men. Subtitles described it as terrorist armed gangs attacking civilians in Latakia.

But it looked familiar to the Lebanese network Future TV, which tracked it back to 2008. It came from Tripoli in northern Lebanon. Future TV even tracked down some of the men in the video.

One of them, Abu Ahmed Denash (ph), says "This is utter foolishness by Walid Muallem. The Lebanese government knows who goes to Syrian and who leaves Syria. The borders are closed anyway." Another man says, "This video was filmed on May 7, 2008, and they know that very well."

Muallem claims another video was of a Syrian citizen killed by armed gangs. Most of it is too graphic to broadcast, but it appears to be the killing of an Egyptian murderer by villagers in Lebanon and was shot in May 2010.

The Arab networks have been quick to pick up on the story. So far, no explanation from the Syrian government about why these videos were included in Muallem's presentation, but analysts say the embarrassment won't help the regime's case that it is fighting armed criminal gangs intent on overthrowing Bashar al-Assad.

And just as Muallem was making his presentation, a UN Human Rights Council investigation reported Syrian government forces had killed 256 children in this year's violence. Some of them had been tortured to death.

Rima Maktabi, CNN, New York.


ANDERSON: Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN, one of the world's most glamorous opera singers. The passion and drive of a diva. That's next here on CNN.





ANDERSON: Well, opera is often considered a high art entertainment for the more privileged echelons of society. According to the diva in tonight's big interview, that is absolutely not true.

Angela Gheorghiu's disagreement on this point is possibly not surprising. After all, she is known for being difficult. But as my colleague Max Foster discovered, her fierce reputation is also somewhat unwarranted.


MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The voice that emerged from behind the Iron Curtain after the fall of Romanian Communist ruler Ceausescu in 1989.


FOSTER: Since then, Angela Gheorghiu has enjoyed a soaring career on the world's opera stage. A leading lady who leaves a tempestuous reputation in her wake. Walk outs, fallouts, and and cancellations have earned the glamorous diva some unflattering nicknames in the media. Among them, Draculette.


FOSTER (on camera): Well, I'm very disappointed. I was told you were going to be late. You're a diva and all these things. You're very nice, you're on time, professional.


FOSTER: So, what are all these things I read about.


GHEORGHIU: Of course. I like your start. It's beautiful. Because you are reading too much and not --

FOSTER: I know. It's not the truth.

GHEORGHIU: Yes, this -- if everything as I know to have -- to be careful about each detail around me. I want to be good and I -- I feel that. Yes, I am difficult in that sense, yes. Because I'm very keen about everything around me.

FOSTER: You're at the level now, you've reached this level of course where people expect perfection when they see you perform, don't they?

GHEORGHIU: Yes. What is perfection?

FOSTER: What is perfection? You tell me.

GHEORGHIU: I don't know. I have no idea. I -- I just want to be at the maximum of myself. This is my sort of perfection, of course. And I know what is good and what I can ask around me and I know exactly what is good for me.


FOSTER (voice-over): And Angela believes this role is her latest step in the right direction. Her acclaimed performance in "Tosca" is amongst the productions that London's Royal Opera House is bringing to cinemas in 22 countries around the world, an initiative that takes the stage to the screen.

FOSTER (on camera): I guess the idea there is to give opera a much wider audience. You're going to become a lot better known as a result of it, aren't you? Because whatever people say about the Royal Opera House, it does have this elitist cache. People --


GHEORGHIU: No, I just --

FOSTER: -- don't always feel comfortable there.

GHEORGHIU: No, no, it's not true. If you really want to go inside, you must know that we have tickets for all the --

FOSTER: But they don't know that, do they?

GHEORGHIU: Maybe they don't know, but not because you don't know you cannot do it. It's just a matter of knowledge. To do this all over the world in cinema, this is a new technique, a la mode. They are good things, because everybody can see us and I think it's -- it's a very lucky moment for theaters and the public.

FOSTER: And the viewers will have a real treat in "Tosca," won't they, in particular?


FOSTER: Because nothing has ever been so well reviewed, I don't think, in this country.


GHEORGHIU: I -- to tell you the truth --

FOSTER: Unbelievable critical acclaim.

GHEORGHIU: So, Angela, sorry, sorry, Angela. She never reads a review, just I see the pictures.

FOSTER: Well, you should have -- if you read any, you should have read those.

GHEORGHIU: I tell you why, because I don't want to be even bad or good, because I'm not doing this to have -- to be recognized or to have money or to become whatever. I'm just doing this because I want to do it. It's bigger than me. So, I really need to do it. I must do it.


FOSTER (voice-over): Angela has shared the stage with many greats, not least as Juliet opposite her real-life Romeo, husband Roberto Alagna.

And now, on her new album, thanks to the tricks of technology, she pairs up with one of opera's greatest icons.

GHEORGHIU: We try to have for the first time in operatic history a real duet. So, I made a duet, also, with Maria Callas on "Habanera" from "Carmen." So, we filmed that, we record that --

FOSTER (on camera): Is that in a studio, then?

GHEORGHIU: Yes, yes. So, we take it -- technically, it's a long way.

FOSTER: Does that feel completely -- is that difficult for you to get inspired if you haven't got the audience there for you.

GHEORGHIU: No. Oh, no, never. Because I have all the time I'm not recording by myself. I'm at least with an engineer, I have always a producer. And then with the orchestra. They're my first judge. They are my colleagues, and I want to convince them, so I'm not -- I'm never alone.

FOSTER: It's much more intimate, though, isn't it? What --

GHEORGHIU: Yes, but at the same --

FOSTER: -- what people are getting from the album, perhaps?

GHEORGHIU: Yes, but at the same time, I never give more or less depends on the number of the part. If I have a person and thousands or millions, I try all the time to give the best. I try to have journalists or somebody in my recording session to -- really to see me and to feel how -- real I am.

And I'm not kidding. I give everything. You may ask Tony Pappano, all my colleagues I ever did say I give absolutely everything.

FOSTER: I feel sorry for the journalist, because then you don't read the review afterwards.


FOSTER: Well, I'm very disappointed. All these difficult rumors aren't true at all. I was expecting big arguments.

GHEORGHIU: Oh, depends. Depends. Not everything. Some of them, they are real and imagination. So, people they want in Angela in a way that sometimes I'm really not. I'm more simple and more -- modest.

Because if you -- you lose your senses, your mind and your reality about everything you do, you cannot be after 20 years the same level in the same place.


ANDERSON: Marvelous stuff. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Becky Anderson. You'll be -- we'll be right back.


ANDERSON: All right. More than a half century ago, the US government drained vast parts of Florida's Everglades, one of the largest wetlands in the world, and diverted the water to other communities.

But the ecological damage hurt agriculture and commerce, so the government began an ambitious restoration plan in the 1980s. I'm telling you this because this is part of our Going Green series, and Philippe Cousteau went to see how the wetland wildlife is now faring.


PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Busch Wildlife Sanctuary is here to rehabilitate injured wild animals. But as David points out to me, many of these animals can no longer live in the wild.

COUSTEAU (on camera): Hello. What's his name?



HITZIG: -- two bobcats here, which is Tom and Jerry. Sorry, we couldn't resist.


COUSTEAU: Why not? And this is a Florida bobcat.

HITZIG: This is a Florida bobcat.

COUSTEAU: This looks like a cat. It's purring like a cat. But it's not a pet.

HITZIG: No, not at all. If you've ever had a household cat and you've tried to play with it and all of a sudden it gets rough? Now, multiply that by 100 times and you know what the tenacity is of an animal like this.

COUSTEAU: Yes. And it's claws look quite large, as well.

HITZIG: They are. Now, let's -- let's talk about why we call it a bobcat. And if you take a look, it's got a short, stubby tail. And that's where we got the name for the bobcat.

And you may wonder why such a short tail? And actually, because this cat spends a lot of time in very, very thick brush, even climbing up in trees, and having a long tail probably was something that got in the way. So, having a shorter tail makes this animal more agile, more able to sneak through the bushes and maneuver without having that big, bulky tail like some of the bigger cats.

So, over here, we've got our bald eagles. Florida has the second- largest population of eagles in the country, and people are surprised to find out that Florida and Alaska are the places that have the largest populations. A very cold place and a very warm place.

COUSTEAU: That is -- that is unusual. And I didn't realize that we had so many eagles here in Florida.

HITZIG: But look at the wetlands of Alaska, and look at the Wetlands of Florida, and now you see the similarities. If we get past the climate issues, just the wetland habitats is what attracts the bald eagles.

Trivia question for you. Do you know why the call them bald eagles?

COUSTEAU: I do not know why they call them bald eagles.

HITZIG: The Old English world "bald" means "white." So, it was the bald-headed eagle or white-headed eagle because of the color of their head, not because of a lack of feathers.

COUSTEAU: Really? That is a good tidbit of a historical knowledge.



COUSTEAU: There's a lot of noise in this part of the -- sanctuary.

HITZIG: There is. Well, you know, sometimes the animals just want to talk, so you've got to give them a chance.

COUSTEAU: Especially the birds.

HITZIG: This is one of our threatened species, it's called the Crested Caracara.

COUSTEAU: Caracara. I remember seeing Crested Caracara last time I was up at Riverwoods.

HITZIG: And it's one of the few places, really, in the entire state of Florida that you can find them. You may wonder "Caracara" comes from. It actually comes from the Spanish word "cara," which means "face."


HITZIG: So, face-face --

COUSTEAU: Yes, of course.

HITZIG: -- or two-faced bird, because the bird's face will actually change color depending upon its mood, from this orange-y red color to bright yellow like its feet. That's not a good sign when it gets bright yellow like that.

COUSTEAU: That's an upset Caracara.

HITZIG: Yes, absolutely. When you think about it, Florida is very unique. Just the birds alone. We have over 300 species of birds that come through Florida. We have probably more endangered species than almost any other state in the country.

COUSTEAU: These creatures are sentinels, in a way, of what we're doing to the environment as we destroy systems like the Everglades that provide critical resources like water to our development.

HITZIG: Right.

COUSTEAU: These animals are on the front lines of that destruction.


ANDERSON: Philippe Cousteau. And that is our Going Green series this week.

Just enough time for our Parting Shots this Friday, and Harry Truman once said if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. Well, US President Obama and his family did just that when they moved into the White House.

And now, Bo the Portuguese water dog is the star of the White House Christmas decorations. Representations of the presidential pooch feature in many of the rooms in the White House, apparently, from candy Bo made out of licorice, to trash bag Bo, to Bo made out of buttons. The White House is spreading Christmas cheer one Bo at a time.

I'm Becky Anderson, thank you for watching. It's Friday night, we apologize for that. The world news headlines are next, followed by "BackStory." Stay with us.