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CONNECT THE WORLD

Devastating Attacks in Iraq; John Terry Faces His Critics; Possible US Payroll Tax Deal; Turkey Upset With New French Law; Controversy Over 1915 Armenian Massacre; Analysis of Armenian-Turkish Dispute; North Korean State Media Reporting Supernatural Occurrences Marking Kim Jong-il's Death; Tensions High on North-South Korean Border; Best of Big Interviews: Hugh Jackman; Parting Shots of Special First Kiss for US Navy

Aired December 22, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET

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


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Chaos in Baghdad just days after American troops pull out, sectarian violence rips through the capital. Tonight, why a deepening political crisis could be to blame.

Live from London, I'm Becky Anderson.

Also tonight, the single word that touched a nerve -- how a new French law is tearing open old wounds in Turkey.

And staring down the enemy -- the tense atmosphere on one of the most dangerous borders in the world, as a new North Korean leadership takes shape.

First up, devastating attacks in Iraq all right raising concerns tonight that the country could be -- could be sliding toward another full scale sectarian warfare. Sixteen bombings across Baghdad killed at least 63 people earlier today. The attacks targeted students, shoppers, construction workers, civilians from all walks of life. Iraq's worst violence in months comes with a deepening political crisis just days after the last U.S. troops left the country.

Well, Iraq's prime minister says the timing and location of these attacks leaves no doubt about their political intentions.

Let's bring in Arwa Damon live for you in Baghdad -- Arwa, what do we know at this point?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: well, there's been no direct claim of responsibility, but these attacks do bear the hallmarks of al Qaeda, given their level of sophistication and coordination. And this is something that the U.S. military had been warning was likely to take place following the U.S. troop withdrawal, not that that brings about any sort of reassurance to the Iraqi population.

There were also three -- four more explosions just a few hours ago. But the violence in the capital, Baghdad, beginning very early in the morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAMON: (voice-over): It is a tragic but all too familiar routine in Baghdad, cleaning up carnage. Pools of blood, the burnt out shells of vehicles, streets strewn with broken glass. The explosions that rocked the Iraqi capital Thursday were painfully reminiscent of Iraq's dark days. Sixteen of them came during the morning rush hour. The targets, mostly civilians.

This is Iraqis' worst nightmare -- the unraveling of a fragile political compact hard on the heels of the U.S. troop withdrawal. The government seems to be collapsing like a deck of cards. The Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, is wanted on charges of terrorism and now being protected by the Kurdistan in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan.

The vice president Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc says the allegations against him are politically motivated. It sees a Shia-dominated government going after Sunni opponents.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shia who is close to Iran, is demanding the Kurdish authorities surrender al-Hashemi, but they haven't.

Thursday's attacks are widely thought to be the work of Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has always tried to stoke Sunni-Shia tensions. Terrorism in Iraq relishes a political vacuum.

RAFI AL-ISSAWI, IRAQI FINANCE MINISTER: The political process is not only fragile, but it is downhilling (ph), in fact, because of intimidation of the partners. It means they will justify their criminal activities that the solution is not in the political recourse, the solution is something else.

DAMON: I'm sure prior to the withdrawal, you yourself, other members of al-Iraqiya were -- were warning the Americans that this was going to happen.

AL-ISSAWI: So many times you warn that the Americans that the -- both the security and the political situation is so fragile, so things should be not only gradual, it should be responsible. Unfortunately, no one listened.

DAMON: (voice-over): Just how fragile?

This man at the scene of one bombing in a Shia neighborhood yells, "This is because of Al-Alawi and Hashemi," blaming the leader of the main opposition party and the vice president.

In the city of Fallujah, a former stronghold of Sunni insurgents, hundreds took to the streets chanting in support of al-Hashemi. "Al-Maliki is an American agent," they yelled.

Iraq on the edge -- a far cry from the democracy Washington wanted to leave behind.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

DAMON: And when it comes to dealing with terrorism and violence in Iraq, it's not just a task that is in the hands of the Iraqi security forces. It is also going to be up to the politicians, because Iraqis will not be able to eliminate violence as long as politics remain uncertain -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, good point.

Arwa Damon for you in Iraq tonight.

Arwa, thank you for that.

There are more than 20 million Shia Muslims living in Iraq. That's about two thirds of the population. If you take a look at this map, the Shia, shown here in blue, live mainly in the southern part of the country, to remind you. But Central Iraq is a mix of Shia and Sunni Muslims, the purple shaded area. More Sunni than Kurds to the north, shown here in yellow, orange and red.

Well, today's violence inevitably raises questions about Iraq's ability to stand on its own without U.S. assistance, a question our next guest is well placed to address.

Michael O'Hanlon is an Iraq expert and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and joining us tonight from Washington.

What do you make of this latest violence, Michael?

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, the point I would make right up front is that while I agree with your coverage that this is a very fraught moment politically in Iraq, the politics did not cause the violence. It's more the other way around. The violence is an attempt to recreate sectarian conflict on a large scale. That's what happened in Iraq six or seven years ago. Al Qaeda would carry out these kind of attacks. Finally, the Shia had just taken too much, so they retaliated with their militias and their death squads against Sunni neighborhoods and you got this cycle where the population became much more generally involved because of the actions of a small number of terrorists, who deliberately catalyzed that kind of violence.

I think al Qaeda is trying to do the same thing now. They sense an opportunity. They recognize this horrible political tension between Hashemi and Maliki. They recognize the American withdrawal has created some greater anxiety among many Iraqis. And they really try to stoke what could be a very fraught situation.

But the politics did not cause the terrorism.

ANDERSON: You...

O'HANLON: The terrorism is an attempt to recreate...

ANDERSON: All right.

O'HANLON: -- that cycle...

ANDERSON: You -- you...

O'HANLON: -- of political violence.

ANDERSON: -- you talk about Al Qaeda in Iraq, which surprises me, because my sense was that their influence was much diminished.

Are you telling me tonight that they have a significant influence still in the country?

O'HANLON: Well, you know, I think the estimates that I've seen are that they may have a thousand people still in Iraq, which is a lot, you know, because we have estimates that there may be 100 in Afghanistan and maybe a few hundred in Pakistan.

So 1,000 in Iraq is a substantial number. And -- and, also, I think they, obviously, coordinated their attacks today to have maximum psychological and physical effect. So they probably used up a good deal of their operational capacity of car bombs and of suicide bombs, but they were trying to go to create a big shock effect and make us wonder if they're even stronger than we previously thought.

But, yes, they're still there. And -- and they've been having attacks in the -- maybe not quite this bad, typically, but attacks like this all the time, even when American forces were still in Iraq.

ANDERSON: Yes.

O'HANLON: So we have to be a little careful about -- about blaming too much of this on the fact that Iraqi security forces aren't up to the job. Americans, we couldn't stop this, either, most of the time we were in Iraq.

ANDERSON: What are, though, the takeaways from the U.S. involvement in Iraq, do you think, now that they've gone?

O'HANLON: Well, the -- the number one thing is the -- is the Hashemi- Maliki feud right now. And I think somehow it has to be taken out of the politicians' hands. So I don't know if there's any evidence against Hashemi. I doubt it. But if Maliki thinks he -- he has some, he has to show it to the world. And, also, he has to stop being the lead prosecutor in this case. Iraq needs to clarify the role of its constitution and its political versus judicial branches so that this kind of a charge cannot be brought by a prime minister, but only by a judge or by some other kind of independent, apolitical actor.

And so that's why, I think, out of this, because that level of -- of confrontation between these two individuals is fundamentally destabilizing. That's the one thing that is most controllable in the short-term and it has to get fixed.

ANDERSON: Given the sectarian nature of the latest violence, I want our viewers to be clear on the way the religious ethnicity breaks down regionally. I just want to give our viewers a sense from this map and then get you to respond to it.

While Sunnis drastically outnumber Shia Muslims worldwide, Shiites can be found in nations across the Middle East and Asia. The Pew Research Center estimates there are between 154 and 200 million Shias worldwide. The majority live in four different countries -- Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq. About 40 percent of the world's total Shia population lives in Iran.

We know that there has been an Iranian influence in Iraq, so far as Shias are concerned. We are well aware of the Iranian influence, we believe, in -- in Syria today, as well.

Are we looking at a -- a Shia arc across the region?

And, if so, how will that play out, the influence of Shia influence, as it were, in Iraq?

O'HANLON: Well, it is a concern. But I also think that we should not view a lot of the violence as sectarian right now in Iraq. For the most part, even the Iraqiya Party of Hashemi is led by a Shia, right?

It's led by former Prime Minister Alawi. And the violence that we've seen today in Baghdad is not sectarian violence. It is terror violence. Terror violence with the intention of attempting to cause widespread sectarian killing, but that's not what happened today.

Al Qaeda is a Sunni Jihadist group, to be sure. But it is so out of the range of acceptable Sunni religious dogma that I don't think it's fair to Sunnis to somehow associate too much what al Qaeda has done with them.

So the intention here is to try to recreate that revenge cycle that happened...

ANDERSON: Sure.

O'HANLON: -- so much in Iraq a few years ago. But today it was terror. And we have to be clear on that, I think.

ANDERSON: Fascinating.

Michael, we thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

Always a pleasure.

That's the story out of Iraq today.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London.

Still to come, her beating was captured on a video that went viral around the world. Now, an Egyptian protester speaks to CNN from her hospital bed, describing that brutal attack.

And Chelsea captain, John Terry, faces a tough crowd just a day after learning he'll face a charge of racist abuse. We're going to head live to White Hart Lane in London, where his side are taking on their rivals at Tottenham.

Then, Turkey is furious with France. The former U.S. ambassador to Turkey talks to us live about a deepening rift.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN, the world's news leader.

Welcome back.

An update now on a story that we brought you about the beatings of female protesters in Egypt. I've got to warn you that some images that you are about to see are very disturbing.

Azza Hilal Suleiman spoke to CNN from her hospital bed in Cairo. She suffered deep facial lacerations and a fractured skull at the hands of security forces last Saturday.

Well, this video shows her beating. Suleiman is the person in red. She says she was kicked and clubbed after stepping in to help another woman who had been dragged, partially stripped and stomped on by soldiers.

Well, Suleiman, whose late father was an army general, says the military now has no conscience, she says, nor humanity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AZZA HILAL SULEIMAN, EGYPTIAN ACTIVIST (through translator): There's no justice. I don't know how long we'll go without justice. We didn't ask for anything more than to be free in our own country. We've been oppressed by the military, by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and by the police. I don't know how much longer they'll continue to kill us.

How much longer will they continue to kill us?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, Egypt's military says it's not aware of Azza's case, but they say they will look into it.

We'll continue to follow this story for you.

A look at some of the other stories that are connecting our world this hour.

An Arab League advance team has arrived in Syria to pave the way for what is a mission to oversee the regime's commitment to a peace deal. They didn't stop a new surge of violence, though, that activists say left 35 people dead on Thursday.

Syria endorsed an Arab plan last month that would halt its crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. Some activists say the regime's acceptance of the observer mission is just a ploy to prevent U.N. Security Council action.

Well, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has used his final state of the union address to call for sweeping political reforms. His speech follows huge protests earlier this month challenging the fairness of the country's parliamentary elections. And while the president said he had heard the calls for change, he had strong words for opposition figures who he accused of trying to manipulate the people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We will not allow instigators and extremists to involve society in their reckless schemes nor will we tolerate interference in our internal affairs from the outside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, two very different versions of a story have emerged about an American air strike in Pakistan back in November that killed 24 Pakistani troops. The U.S. investigation says that coalition forces in Afghanistan acted in self-defense after shots were fired at them from across the border in Pakistan.

Pakistan says it was the other way around. The U.S. report does acknowledge miscommunication between the two sides, but Pakistan insists the American attack was deliberate.

Well, the U.N. is appealing for help over a growing humanitarian crisis in the Philippines. Nearly a half a million people are in need of clean water and shelter almost a week after Tropical Storm Washi racked the southern islands. The storm killed more than a thousand people.

David Carden runs the UN's humanitarian office for the Philippines. And he says aid agencies need almost $30 million to cope with this desperate situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID CARDEN, HEAD, OCHA, PHILIPPINES: And I was absolutely shocked by the scale of the destruction that I saw. It was as if the village had been hit by an inland tsunami. The entire area had been completely flattened. Only a few buildings remained standing and these had sustained a lot of damage. And, also, debris from houses, buildings and other structures that had been destroyed by the storm was all swept out to the sea.

I also visited evacuation centers in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. In Cagayan de Oro, the ones that I visited were very overcrowded. There was poor water and sanitation and hygiene conditions. And many of the people currently staying there are dependent on food assistance and other non-food items.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, a serious warning now about the dangers of having a few too many festive drinks this Christmas. This video released by the British Transport Police shows an intoxicated woman stepping off a train, struggling to find her footing and falling down into the gap onto the track. The clip ends with the woman out of sight and trapped between the train and the platform. She did escape with minor injuries, but police say this was thanks to the alertness of other passengers who helped her.

Up next, as John Terry vows to clear his name over allegations of racism on the pitch, we're going to find out why England's Football Association has been left facing some difficult questions.

And border danger -- we're in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, where tensions are running higher than usual.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

I'm Becky Anderson.

Now, if you thought that John Terry has had a -- a bad week, and, well, perhaps it couldn't get any worse.

Well, tonight, the England and Chelsea captain is facing some of his fiercest critics, rival fans. As if to make matters worse, Chelsea facing their North London adversaries, Tottenham Hotspur away at White Hart Lane.

All this just a day after British prosecutors said that Terry should be charged over allegations he racially abused Queens Park Rangers player, Anton Ferdinand.

Well, "WORLD SPORT'S" Alex Thomas with me in the studio and Dan Rivers outside White Hart Lane in North London -- Dan, firstly from you, what sort of reaction did Terry great tonight?

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean these London darbies are always kind of pressure events and a fairly sort of testy atmosphere, even more so, I suppose, in light of the events this week.

John Terry being booed by the Spurs fans pretty much every time he touched the ball at the beginning of the match. It's still 1-0 at the moment.

But it hasn't been a good work for him or for English football, I suppose. He's vehemently denying, of course, that he's done anything wrong, saying he will fight tooth and nail to prove he is innocent.

The FA are in a difficult position because there is a friendly coming up on the 29th and they -- they've got to decide if he's still going to lead England out just a month after his first court appearance.

He's, at the moment, still got the backing of his manager, who said in a statement, Andre Villas-Boas, "I can't -- I don't doubt his integrity as a person. He's been representing this club for a lot of time, since early beginnings, with tremendous success. He has my full backing."

He couldn't be clearer.

But certainly Tottenham have issued a statement to their fans this evening, saying they expect them to -- to behave themselves, that any foul, abusive, homophobic or racist language will not be tolerated and reminding them that the stewards here tonight have cameras on their heads to record any bad behavior on either side of the terraces this evening.

ANDERSON: All right. Well, those fans are being told.

Dan, thank you for that -- Chelsea, Alex, quick to give John Terry their full support.

But from England's Football Association, of course, a simple no comment at this point about Terry being their captain.

It leaves him in a difficult position, doesn't it, this charge?

ALEX THOMAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it does. They're not commenting right now, obviously, because they're trying not to prejudice the legal proceedings. But they will certainly have a decision to make, especially if Terry appears in court and then is, you know, if he's ordered to reappear at a later date, bailed to appear at a later date.

And then suddenly you've got that international looming at the end of February. And they've got the prospect of John Terry leading England out, a multi-racial team representing a multi-racial nation with such, this sort of charge hanging over him. And it is different to previous cases in the past, like with Steven Gerrard, for example, who was facing assault charges. He was later cleared of those.

ANDERSON: That's right.

THOMAS: But he was allowed to play on while under that cloud.

ANDERSON: I wonder whether it wouldn't just be better for him not to have played, for example, tonight, and -- and perhaps not to be picked for England?

I mean Liverpool's Luis Suarez was also in action, of course, last night, despite his eight match ban and fine for racially abusing Man United's Patrice Evra.

THOMAS: Yes, a very difficult situation. And the reason Suarez is allowed to paly on at the moment is because the Football Association say they want to allow his appeal, if he decides to appeal his punishment, to be heard properly and they don't want to start the punishment now. Suarez's solicitor told us that, speaking from Montevideo, that he will definitely appeal against this, but we're yet to get that official confirmation, mainly because of the written reasons as to why Suarez was banned for eight matches and then fined so much haven't been released that. Until that written explanation has been received by Suarez's legal representatives and the Liverpool Football Club, they won't be able to decide how they're going to appeal or if they're going to appeal at all.

ANDERSON: Complicated stuff.

Let's hope that Tottenham win this game anyways. But that's just me being partisan.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: Alex, thank you.

Alex back at half past 10 London time, about an hour from now with "WORLD SPORT".

You're with CONNECT THE WORLD and me, Becky Anderson.

When we return, Turkey threatens to get tough after France touches a nerve that's been sore for nearly a century. The view of the former U.S. ambassador to Turkey up next.

And a place where it's said war could break out at any moment, and that is at the best of times. We're going to take you to the DMZ along the North and South Korean border.

And then we'll do the -- with the X factor. Hugh Jackson makes our favorite big interview list of 2011 -- why the Wolverine star left us hungry for more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: You're watching CONNEC THE WORLD here on CNN. Time for a check of the world headlines for you.

In Iraq, lawmakers have called an urgent meeting of political leaders for Friday after the worst violence in the country in months. A series of bombings across Baghdad killed at least 63 people on Thursday, wounding 185 others.

More violence reported in Syria as an Arab League advance team arrived there ahead of a fully-fledged observer mission. Activist groups report another 38 people killed today.

The Philippines UN relief workers say almost a half a million people need emergency aid. More than a thousand people died when Tropical Storm Washi swept across the southern island of Mindanao.

We're going to take you to Washington, now. For days, it's been a bitter standoff on Capitol Hill. Now, we're learning about a possible deal in the works between Democrats and Republicans on what is a key payroll tax cut that's set to expire. It's something that could affect 160 million people. Kate Bolduan joins us now from Washington with the latest. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Becky. Late this afternoon, I received confirmation, really, that after the stalemate that has been taking place for this -- weeks, now, over this payroll tax cut extension, and a bitter, contentious battle between Democrats and, specifically, House Republicans, we now can report that amongst the leaders -- I have multiple sources telling me that they have a deal brought out.

They have a deal that they have agreed to between all of the key players, really. Between Senate -- top Senate Democrats, the top Senate Republican, as well as House Speaker John Boehner, who has been a key player in this as he has stood firmly opposed to any kind of short-term extension that the Senate had agreed to.

So, this is a major breakthrough this evening, and we're told that the broad outlines of it include -- it's basically, the basic framework, Becky, is a two-month extension. This is -- two months is short-term, it's not what anyone really wanted that we've learned.

They all -- all of them, big players, the leaders, they wanted a one- year deal, but talks had broken down last week. And the Senate had been pushing and had approved a short-term extension of two months, but the House had rejected that earlier this week.

So, this is a major move, here, as they've now reached an agreement, been able to break the impasse. And we'll have to see how they proceed procedurally, if you will, and when they'll -- when this deal will come up for a vote, Becky.

ANDERSON: Breaking news here on CNN with Kate Bolduan. Kate out of Washington, thank you for that.

Those are your headlines.

Opening old wounds. Turkey accusing France of doing just that over legislation that would criminalize any public denial of what the bill calls the "Armenian Genocide." From Paris, Senior International Correspondent Jim Bittermann takes a closer look at what is a controversial measure.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In fact, this new law does little more than add criminal penalties to a law passed ten years ago in France, which declared the Armenian massacres of 1915 to be a genocide. This new law says that anyone who denies the existence of that genocide could go to jail for a year and be fined 45,000 euros.

The reaction from Turkey was very quick, indeed. The Turkish prime minister Erdogan said that there are going to be sanctions against France, and he said, "We will take our measures phase by phase, depending on France's behavior from now on."

And as part of phase one, he said that Turkey would recall its ambassador to France. It was going to be canceling bilateral visits and meetings and military activities and joint exercises. It's going to cancel blanket permissions for military overflights and port calls, and it's going to cancel a joint economic meeting that was scheduled for next January.

The French foreign minister said this evening that he hopes that Turkey does not overreact. But this, in fact, is just a further worsening of relations between Turkey and France that started souring when President Sarkozy was elected back in 2007.

Back then, he said he didn't believe that Turkey should be a member of the European Union. And for its turn, Turkey has criticized France mainly for its role in Libya.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Leaving the bilateral ties aside, here, after nearly a century, the controversy over that one word, "genocide," is still white- hot. CNN's Ivan Watson was in Istanbul in 2009 and saw for himself how emotions run high.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Members of Turkey's tiny community of Armenians gathered in prayer.

In 1914, there were more than 2,000 Armenian churches scattered across what's now Turkey. Today, there are fewer than 50. Discussing what happened to the Armenians in those final dark days of the Ottoman Empire has long been a taboo here. Turkish lawyer Fethiye Cetin is helping change that.

WATSON (on camera): This is your grandmother.

WATSON (voice-over): Cetin was in her 20s when she first learned her beloved grandmother's secret. The little old lady in the scarf was an Armenian. Cetin says at the age of nine, during a brutal death march into the desert, her grandmother was taken away from her mother by force, adopted by a Turkish family, and given a Muslim name.

"When I first heard this, I felt deceived," Cetin says. "I felt like going out into the street and screaming, 'They're lying to us!'"

Instead, Cetin wrote about her grandmother's ordeal. The book, which has been published in six languages, has encouraged some Turks to explore their own hidden Armenian roots.

But when it comes to the word "genocide," the Turkish state draws a red line.

ONUR OYMEN, TURKISH PARLIAMENT MEMBER: People of Turkey do not believe that their ancestors were criminals, were killers. We lived together with Armenians for more than 1,000 years in this land without any problem.

WATSON: The battle over history continues to claim victims. Cetin shows this spot on the sidewalk in Istanbul where her friend and client, an Armenian newspaper editor named Hrant Dink was gunned down in broad daylight by a teenage ultra-nationalist.

Before his murder, Dink received a six-month suspended jail sentence for insulting Turkishness after he wrote an essay urging Turks and Armenians to overcome their mutual distrust.

"Hrant Dink was for democratization, dialogue, and destroying taboos," Cetin says. Therefore, Hrant Dink was a threat to the system.

During his visit to Turkey, President Barack Obama avoided saying whether he would fulfill a campaign promise to recognize what happened to Armenians nearly a century ago as genocide. But he did say he had not changed his views.

Armenian journalist Aris Nacli says America should not get involved in this passionate historical debate, arguing it will only inflame the situation.

ARIS NALCI, JOURNALIST, "AGOS" NEWSPAPER: It's not the right thing, I think, to do, because it will not change anything in this country, to recognize it. Just -- it will change something between US and Turkey, Turkish government.

WATSON: There is one area, though, where Turkey's shrinking community of ethnic Armenians is praying for help. During a meeting with Mr. Obama, Archbishop Aram Ateshian says he asked the president to helped Turkey and its neighbor Armenia normalize diplomatic relations. Borders between the two countries have been shut since 1993.

"Turkey is our motherland, and Armenia is our fatherland," the archbishop says, "and we are like orphans stuck in between."

Ivan Watson, CNN, Istanbul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, the issue of sensitivity, then, looms large in this dispute. I want to go to former US ambassador to Turkey, Ross Wilson, at our Washington bureau tonight. Given what you've just heard from Ivan's report, can you explain why you believe the French have taken this position today?

ROSS WILSON, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO TURKEY: Well, I think probably two reasons. One relates to Turk -- to French domestic politics. An election is coming up next year, presidential election next year.

As your correspondent noted, President Sarkozy used this issue, used the issue of Turkey in his previous election campaign. He's doing so again.

Second, it's -- I think this is a step that complements Sarkozy's opposition to Turkish membership in the European Union. This will create a whole lot of noise and difficulty in Turkey's overall relationships with France, with other European Union states, that will complicate that effort. That suits President Sarkozy's goals.

ANDERSON: How do you think that sounds to the half a million Armenians living in France and the millions who are living elsewhere?

WILSON: I -- I'm not sure I can account for that. You ask what has brought this step about. I don't think there's some new or different kind of recognition of what the facts are.

As an American, I actually think it's outrageous to criminalize thought, to criminalize academic inquiry, to criminalize views that one might wish to express about a particular incident where that's taking place, especially something --

(CROSSTALK)

ANDERSON: Well, you don't see any hard evidence --

WILSON: -- that took place over a hundred years ago.

ANDERSON: -- for genocide. That's what you're saying, is it? That's the US position?

WILSON: I'm not sure that I would call that the United States' position.

The stance that American presidents have taken going back quite a number of years, in the annual proclamations that they've made on Armenian Remembrance Day has been to itemize the facts in very stark language, talking about mass deportations, forced marches, the deaths and murders of hundreds of thousands, millions of people.

(CROSSTALK)

ANDERSON: How does that differ --

WILSON: The language has been very clear and very specific.

ANDERSON: Sorry. How does that differ from genocide? Sorry, just to get that straight.

WILSON: The presidents have generally shied away from using that particular word out of recognition of the difficulties that that would cause in US-Turkish relations, and the reality that it will not advance dialogue between Turks and Armenians that's necessary for them to resolve this painful period in their history.

ANDERSON: What happens next?

WILSON: What happens next with this specific measure, obviously it goes to the French -- the French Senate may take it up at some point. I strongly suspect that if the French Senate passes it, the impact on Turkish-French relations may be quite dramatic.

ANDERSON: And the US position here? An interested but only observational part in all of this?

WILSON: Well, this is an issue that's complicated in American domestic politics, as well, including because of the very raw emotions of a powerful, influential, and important diaspora community here on something that's very painful for them. And I think we recognize that.

I doubt that the United States would try to get involved specifically on this matter between Turkey and France. I hope and expect that people will be urging caution on both sides.

ANDERSON: Ross Wilson, former US ambassador to Turkey, knows his stuff. Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us this evening.

Inside one of the most dangerous places on Earth, guards patrol the border between North and South Korea as the region deals with the prospect of a tense transition. A rare report from the demilitarized zone just ahead, here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, North Korean state television is reporting some supernatural events just before Kim Jong-il died.

According to the official account, the skies glowed red above Mount Paektu, and the sheet of ice at the heart of the volcano there cracked with a deafening roar. Korean Central News Agency is one of the chief propaganda machines in North Korea tasked with building up the mysticism around the Kims.

Welcome back. Regional tensions running high, of course, after the death of Kim Jong-il, especially along the border between North and South Korea. The DMZ has been called the scariest place on Earth, where war could break out at any moment. And that's at the best of times. Paula Hancocks reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're joining me at the DMZ. This is the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Now, this border is very tense at the best of times, but obviously, since the death of Kim Jong-il, monitoring has been increased.

Now, we understand that the South Korean military has increased its level of alert, that the US military is saying that it is business as usual.

JONATHAN WITTHINGTON, COLONEL, US FORCES KOREA SPOKESMAN: We're maintaining a level of readiness that's expected of us on any given day here in the Republic of Korea.

HANCOCKS: Now, here on the DMZ, you can see a North Korean soldier just across the border. They often come out of that area to see what is happening on this side, the South Korean border.

This is the joint security area. It's basically where all the negotiations have taken place between the North and the South since 1953. Now, the blue huts behind me are half in North Korea, half in South Korea, and the border itself is obviously very tense. You can see the South Korean soldiers facing off against the North Korean soldiers, and a very inauspicious border.

The concrete slab that you can see in the middle there, just a few inches above the ground, is effectively the border between North and South Korea.

This is the conference room where the negotiations actually take place when there are negotiations between the North and South. This table here is effectively along the border, so they wanted to make sure that it is completely equal. Half of the hut's exactly in the North, half in the South. And there have been many negotiations over the years that have happened here.

This is called Checkpoint Three along the DMZ, and you can see how close we are to the demarcation line here. These white stakes that you can see is effectively the border between North and South Korea.

So, just beyond that, beyond those trees, you can see a building there. This is one of the buildings that, obviously, the North Koreans could well be using to monitor South Korea, just as here, on the South Korean side, they're monitoring the North Korean side.

So, at this point, a very tense border, but both sides watching things very closely, hoping that as each day goes by, the situation will ease.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, on the DMZ between North and South Korea.

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ANDERSON: Fascinating stuff. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. When we come back, it's take two for this Hollywood superstar. Hugh Jackman makes our favorite Big Interview list of 2011. We'll remind you what he gave up this year in the name of hunger.

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ANDERSON: It's been a big year on this show for Big Interviews, from boxing legends and Hollywood heavyweights to divas, designers, authors, and explorers.

Over the coming weeks, we're going to bring you the very best of those interviews, and tonight we're kickstarting the recap with this much-adored Australian star. Hugh Jackman was in London back in May fighting global hunger as part of the Live Below the Line campaign. I caught up with him to find out if he was going to practice what he preached.

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ANDERSON: Will you and the family be taking the challenge of eating on --

JACKMAN: Right.

ANDERSON: -- what was it? A quid a day, here in the UK.

JACKMAN: Yes.

ANDERSON: $1.50, I think, in --

JACKMAN: $1.50 in America, a quid here a day. No. But actually, I'm not shy about saying that. The Live Below the Line challenge of living for a pound a day or two -- $1.50 a day for five days is terrific, and it will give people an understanding of what it's like.

But a lot of people can't do that. I can't do that for my work. I'm just going to do something symbolic, and I encourage everybody, if you can do it for one day, if you can do something else. Invite a hall of people around for a dinner party and have a five-pound dinner party, for example.

I'm going to -- I'm going to give up three things. The first thing is my computer, which secretly I kind of like giving up. So that's not hard. But I'm using that as an excuse, is that all right?

(LAUGHTER)

JACKMAN: The second thing is coffee, which is brutal for me, because I'm fully addicted. The third thing is sugar. Again, brutal, because I'm fully addicted. So, I -- in a way, I probably would prefer the pound a day.

ANDERSON: Do you want me to feel your pain, is that what -- am I supposed to feel your pain?

JACKMAN: Is that all right?

(LAUGHTER)

JACKMAN: Typical actor, I'm whinging.

ANDERSON: Listen, talking about the family. How does your wife cope -- or how did she cope with you being voted by "People" magazine in 2008 "Sexiest Man Alive"?

JACKMAN: Well, her fist comment was, like, "Of course, who else would I marry?" And her second comment was like, "Really? Not Brad Pitt?" So - - and then, I think her third comment was like, "All right, sexy boy, take the garbage out."

(LAUGHTER)

JACKMAN: I constantly leave a copy of it on her pillow most nights just to remind her, really, of who she's going to bed with, but it doesn't seem to be working.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: You were, to quite a lot of people around the world, relatively unknown when you --

JACKMAN: Yes.

ANDERSON: -- hit our screens with "Australia," and a number of other movies that you did as well, but with "Australia." But you've been around some time, and you've been an actor for a very long time, and you've been treading the boards for years in theater. What do you enjoy more?

JACKMAN: Honestly? I probably enjoy the theater more.

ANDERSON: Give me your top five, then, best moments in theater and in film.

JACKMAN: I think my -- the very -- I did a show called "The Boy From Oz" on Broadway, and the very last show, and it was kind of crazy, different things happened every night. And then, the last show, I dragged Matt Damon and Barbara Walters up on stage, and Matt Damon and I gave Barbara Walters a lap dance. That's a highlight.

Working with John Travolta, that's a highlight. There's been many, many highlights, but -- and what was the other question? Worse thing?

ANDERSON: Just give me one out of "Australia," then.

JACKMAN: From "Australia," the movie?

ANDERSON: Yes.

JACKMAN: Oh! I mean, that -- we took eight months to shoot that. Six weeks of it, we were in the most remote part of the country that I will never forget. And my son came out with me, he was seven at the time.

And the two of us lived in my trailer, like the caravan. And I went to work. We lit fires every night. There's crocodiles in the -- I kind of -- it was a time I will never forget, really being with him, and he'll never forget it. He's kind of spoiled for life. He's like, "School? Really? School?"

ANDERSON: Who haven't you worked with that you'd like to work with? And who are you working with next?

JACKMAN: Scorsese, Peter Weir. I've just worked with Spielberg as a producer, I'd love to work with him as a director. There's a number of actresses I won't mention for the sake of my marriage, but -- no.

Next, I'm actually working on "Wolverine." And our director just dropped out, actually, for personal reasons, so I'm looking for a director. So, yes. How about Martin? Scorsese. Come on, Martin. Step up.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: Let's get you some viewer questions. Jurgen Brul from --

JACKMAN: What a great name.

ANDERSON: -- Suriname. Great name. "How will the Global Poverty Project improve our world?" he says.

JACKMAN: Global Poverty Project is educating people around the world to affect policy change. So, countries like England and Australia try -- and America, really trying to galvanize politicians to see that this is an important subject and an important issue for people to try and increase foreign aid, to try and help battle corruption, to help break down barriers in trade.

These systemic changes are going to be massive when they happen. Charity work relatively is a drop in the ocean compared to systemic change, so that's what the Global Poverty Project is trying to do, and I think it's really going to create a movement, a momentum, that's going to light a fire around the world.

ANDERSON: A couple of others from viewers. Somebody's tweeted, IFYChris (ph), "What do you most fear?"

JACKMAN: You know, it might sound trite, but I hate the concept of not doing something because I'm afraid of it. So I'm afraid of fear itself.

I was terrified of heights growing up. And when you're a youngest kid in the family and you're trying to play with all your older brothers who are jumping off the Warriewood Blowhole, which is 60 feet into the ocean, or do roller coasters, et cetera et cetera.

I made myself go down to the local swimming pool diving board and every day, I jumped off the ten-meter diving board until I wasn't scared anymore. And that's kind of who I am as a person.

ANDERSON: @ChrisLVE (ph), tweet name, "What's the craziest thing a fan has made for you?"

JACKMAN: I did once get a wraparound photograph sent to me of someone's house where their entire house had been wallpapered with images of me.

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ANDERSON: Understandably so, because I've got to say, he's one of the most charming men I've ever met in my life. I know, it's annoying, isn't it, but he's good-looking and charming. There you go.

In tonight's Parting Shots, a breakthrough moment for two American sailors. You may be familiar with the US military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Well, it prohibited gays and lesbians for serving openly for more than 15 years.

But "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was repealed early this year, and so this homecoming in Virginia a first for the US Navy. Take a look.

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(CROWD CHEERING)

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ANDERSON: Sailor Marissa Gaeta, in uniform, there, arriving home from 80 days at sea, sharing a kiss with her partner, also with the US Navy. It's something that was unthinkable just a few months ago.

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MARISSA GAETA, PETTY OFFICER SECOND CLASS, US NAVY: I feel good about it. It's nice to be able to be myself. It's been a long time coming. I've been in for almost two and a half years, and this is very recent that the change has come into effect, and it's been nothing but positive, so it's been pretty awesome, to say the least.

CITLALIC SNELL, PETTY OFFICER THIRD CLASS, US NAVY: I think it's great, we can actually be open about our relationship, since we both are in the military.

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ANDERSON: Good for them. Navy tradition dictates that for every homecoming, sailors are chosen through a raffle for first kisses and first hugs with family members. A spokeswoman confirmed that yes, these two sailors were the first same-sex couple to share in that tradition. Happy Christmas to them.

I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD, thanks for watching. The world news headlines, of course, and "BackStory," as ever, up after this short break. Stay with us.

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