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CONNECT THE WORLD
The Latest on the Race for the Republican Nomination; Thierry Henry Scores Big; Interview with Pierre Prosper; Athletes Turned Politicians; Opposition Says Syrian President's Public Address Short on Substance; North Korea Releasing Prisoners to Mark Birthdays of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung; Building Up Kim Jong-un's Image; Interest in Tourism to North Korea Rises; UN Confirms Uranium Enrichment in Iran; Big Interview With Former American Spy Valerie Plame Wilson; Parting Shots of New Hampshire Town That Casts First Presidential Primary Ballots
Aired January 10, 2012 - 16:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm very excited. Wow, what a night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: A rock star reception for the Republican frontrunner, as the first primary gets underway in the United States, we'll look at whether anyone can stop Mitt Romney from sealing the deal.
Live from London, I'm Becky Anderson.
Also tonight, the Syrian president denies his government is responsible for any deaths in the uprising there. We'll get a reality check from CNN's Nic Robertson live on the ground.
And New York, Paris, North Korea -- a tour operator who's been there two dozen times shares the allure of the secretive state.
But first, Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, looks to score big in New Hampshire. But today's primary also has huge implications for the candidates hot on his heels. Polls will be open for a few more hours in the second U.S. state to have its say in the Republican nominating contest. New Hampshire basically home field for Mitt Romney, the former governor of the neighboring state.
The latest opinion poll gives him a commanding lead there, with 37 percent of likely voters. Second and third place appear a virtual toss-up between Congressman Ron Paul and former Utah governor, Jon Huntsman.
Rick Santorum, who came in second in Iowa, just eight votes behind Romney, is lagging far behind in New Hampshire.
Well, several other bottom tier candidates also still hanging on, all hoping to survive the state with enough momentum to carry them into the next contest.
Lest we forget, this very race could end up producing the next leader of what is still just the world's biggest economy.
Well, Gary Tuchman is at Rick Santorum's HQ in Manchester, New Hampshire.
What can we expect, sir, tonight?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: well, Becky, right now, it's an empty ballroom here, and that's because the polls don't close for four hours from now. And Rick Santorum and the five other Republican candidates will then enter the respective ballrooms to adoring spectators and kind of spin what happened, because we do expect that Mitt Romney the New Hampshire primary. Of course, we won't know that, again, until four hours from now, when the polls close.
But let's keep this in mind. The presidential election here in the United States isn't for 10 more months. It's a very long process in this country. And this is a critical day. This is the first in the nation primary, the state of New Hampshire. It's a tradition. Iowa has the first caucuses. Caucuses are different than a primary.
In caucuses, actually, citizens meet in a room. They meet for an hour and a half at a given time each night and then they cast their vote. In a primary, you just go into a voting booth, you cast your vote any time during the day.
Either way, that is how delegates are apportioned in the United States. Conventions are held in the summer. And that's how the Republican Party and the Democratic Party nominates their political candidates.
Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee. They do have a Democratic primary today, but because there's no opposition and there's no suspense, we're barely talking about it.
It's the Republican primary we're talking about.
And here, at Rick Santorum headquarters, he's a very newsworthy guy because last week during the Iowa caucuses, the first of the United States caucuses, he came in second place. And it was a mathematical improbability. One hundred and twenty thousand Republicans voted. Mitt Romney won, the former governor of Massachusetts, but he won by a grand total of eight votes.
If Rick Santorum, the former U.S. senator from the state of Pennsylvania, got nine more votes during the Iowa caucuses, he would have won the caucuses and who knows how much more momentum that would have given him.
And he needs momentum here in New Hampshire and here's why. Here's considered the most conservative candidate in the race, certainly the most socially conservative candidate. Iowa is known as a socially conservative state. So is South Carolina, which also has a primary in a week and a half.
New Hampshire, although it's conservative, is not known as a socially conservative state. So it's not expected that Rick Santorum will do as strongly as he did in Iowa. He would be very delighted if he had a second place finish. Unlikely, but it's possible. But either way, kind of everyone expects Mitt Romney to win, as you were saying, Becky. He's the former governor of Minnesota. He has a vacation house here in the state of New Hampshire.
But everyone is looking to see who comes in number two, whether it's Jon Huntsman, who is the former governor of Utah; whether it's Ron Paul, who's a Congressman from Texas; whether it's Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House.
Either way, it will be an exciting night. It will be an important night, to see who faces, ultimately, Barack Obama in November here in the United States -- Becky, back to you.
ANDERSON: OK, you were with Newt Gingrich yesterday. He slightly controversially said that the field is still wide open.
So -- so was he sort of over egging the outliers' position at this point, do you think?
TUCHMAN: Here's what's fascinating about this race. I've covered presidential races for many years. What's very unusual about this Republican race is you've had Newt Gingrich, who is a frontrunner. You've had Mitt Romney, who's currently the frontrunner. You had -- you headline Rick Santorum, who was a close number two last week. You have Jon Huntsman, who many people think will come in number two after being called, basically, politically dead just a few weeks ago.
So no one knows exactly what will happen. So Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House -- and when you're speaker of the House, you're second in line to the presidency. I mean he was very close to the White House. Whether he gets closer than that depends on him doing well here or him doing well in South Carolina, which is a week and a half away.
He knew he was at the bottom of the polls two most ago, to the top of the polls last month. Now he's in the middle of the polls. So he's thinking, I can go to the top of the polls again. And that's what he's hoping happens.
But tonight, everyone will have a better idea who might be alive and who might be politically dead when we go into South Carolina a week-and-a- half and then Florida, which is the very next primary, on the 31st of January.
ANDERSON: All right, Mr. Tuchman, thank you for that, there in New Hampshire for you.
Well, it is an age old strategy of candidates trailing in the polls -- go after the guy who is in first place. Mitt Romney's rivals were already on the offensive when he inadvertently may have helped their cause with some foot and mouth remarks.
CNN's Jim Acosta is on the campaign trail for you.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Touring a metal works factory for votes, Mitt Romney has seen the final days before the New Hampshire primary manufacture nothing but trouble.
At a breakfast event, Romney used an unfortunate choice of words in touting the health care plan he passed in Massachusetts.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also means that if you don't like what you do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.
ACOSTA: It didn't take long for his rivals to pounce, starting with Jon Huntsman.
JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs.
ACOSTA: Asked about his comments, Romney complained his words were being misconstrued.
ROMNEY: Oh, you saw I was talking about insurance companies. Yes, we'd like to be able to get rid of insurance companies that -- that don't give us the service that we need.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney and them guys, they don't care who I am.
ACOSTA: But the remarks come as a pro-Newt Gingrich Super PAC is unleashing a 30 minute documentary that focuses on Romney's days as the head of the private investment firm, Bain Capital, which created some companies, but also downsized others.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN AD)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that hurt so bad, to leave my home, because of one man that's got 15 homes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And over the weekend, Romney told a crowd he knew it was like to fear for his job, despite his privileged upbringing as the son of George Romney, a former car company president, governor and one- time presidential candidate.
ROMNEY: I know what it's like to -- to worry whether you're going to get fired. There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip.
ACOSTA: Looking ahead to the next primary down in South Carolina, Rick Perry couldn't resist.
"I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips," Perry said, "whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out."
Romney said he was only talking about how he'd worked his way up from the bottom in the business world.
ROMNEY: Like anybody that starts at the bottom of an enterprise, you wonder, when you don't do so well, whether you're going to be able to hang onto your job.
ACOSTA: Democrats are also piling on. Back at that breakfast event, a woman from the United Auto Workers Union challenged Romney on his opposition to the General Motors bailout.
Romney stood by his comments.
ROMNEY: I believe the market works better than a president stepping in to take care of his friends.
ACOSTA: When we tried to talk to that woman, the Romney campaign sound man cranked up the music, cutting her off. As we tried to catch up with that soundman, he threw a sheet over his head.
(on camera): The barrage of attacks has caught the attention of the pro-Romney super PAC, RestoreOurFuture. The same PAC that took down Newt Gingrich in Iowa has plans to spend $2 million down in South Carolina, pumping up Romney's accomplishments. Super PACS can do the dirty work of campaigns. They can also do the damage control.
Jim Acosta, CNN, Bedford, New Hampshire.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: All good stuff. Well, Romney's challengers may not be able to stop him from winning in New Hampshire, but can they slow his momentum and keep their own hopes alive?
Let's get some thoughts from a long-time political analyst. You know him.
Bill Schneider joining us from Washington -- Bill, has any one candidate played what we call a blind escort, a homerun in New Hampshire, to help their cause?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, yes, John McCain. He surprised everyone when he defeated George Bush in New Hampshire. He then got defeated -- that was in 2000. Newt -- and then he lost South Carolina, which stopped his momentum.
But New Hampshire is a critical state. The race in New Hampshire right now involves the candidate I call "expected." The question is, will Mitt Romney do better than expected or worse than expected or about as well as expected. And it's up to the press to define what's expected to happen.
That's going to be the key finding tonight.
ANDERSON: It's clear, Bill, these candidates are prepared to tear each other apart in this race for the -- the nomination. In the end, though, the party will have to rally around one candidate.
In your experience, does this race do any lasting damage to the image of the party, do you think?
SCHNEIDER: Remember 2008, when we had a long, protracted, drag out contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It didn't do any damage, really. Obama won the presidency.
A long contest often makes the winner look stronger and more powerful, particularly if he's facing, as Obama was, a very serious opponent.
ANDERSON: Sure. OK. Well, the Republicans have been out of office for four years now.
Is it obvious yet what their message mandate will be as they ready themselves to choose a candidate and fight the 2012 election?
SCHNEIDER: Well, the message is almost certainly to -- the issue of jobs. Mitt Romney is ahead, in part -- he ran before and he's a familiar quantity -- but in part because he claims to have had a lot of experience creating jobs.
What we just saw that his critics are saying, he also lost a lot of jobs. His company was a take over company, that bought up a lot of smaller companies and ended up squeezing money out of them and putting people on the street. That's going to be the message that his opponents carry and that Barack Obama will use against Mitt Romney.
ANDERSON: All right. The expected is expected to win tonight. We don't know how the expected is expected to win. But anyway, let -- let's leave it there.
Let's -- let's move on to after New Hampshire. South Carolina, what happens there?
SCHNEIDER: South Carolina has a lot of voters who are very conservative, affiliates of the religious right. Mitt Romney looks good because, let me tell you a little secret, happiness in politics is a divided opposition. And right now, you have Rick Santorum, who's leading the religious right, with some competition from Rick Perry. You have Mitt -- you have Newt Gingrich, who is the candidate, more or less, of the Tea Party. You have Ron Paul, who leads the libertarians. And we may have, depending on how he does in New Hampshire, Jon Huntsman, who's a leader of the moderate Republicans.
Happiness is to see all the votes divided among those four candidates, in which case Mitt Romney will continue to win week after week.
ANDERSON: Well, you're loving this.
You'll be back with us for some analysis after the game, as it were, tomorrow night.
For now, Bill Schneider, your expert, of course, on the subject.
Put the kettle on and grab yourself a comfy seat wherever you are in the world, because in just under three hours from now, CNN has special coverage, live results and analysis from this, the second test of the 2012 U.S. election. It all gets underway tonight, midnight London, 1:00 a.m. in Central Europe, right here on CNN.
You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London.
Still to come tonight, Syria's president makes a rare public address.
But did he offer his opponents an olive branch?
I'll so -- speak live to CNN's Nic Robertson in Damascus.
Plus, he's a footballer, philosopher, actor and now, if some reports are to be believed, a contender for the French presidency.
But is Eric Cantona making a bid for power or publicity?
And it's not your usual holiday destination, but is North Korea your new travel hot spot?
Let's explore what draws people to one of the most secretive nations on earth, coming up.
ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN, the world's news leader.
Now, Syria's president has blamed external conspiracies for the violence racking his country. In a rare, defiant public address, Bashar al-Assad lashed out at the Arab League, describing the organization as toothless. The president promised to hold a referendum on a new constitution within months, but said he had no intention of stepping down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SYRIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): There are many events. Sometimes they say the president has fled and so many of these -- so many of these things. We tell them, shame on you. I am not the person who is run -- who runs away from his responsibilities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, for months, CNN he has not been able to report from inside Syria. Now we can.
Nic Robertson is in Damascus and I'll be speaking to him in just about 20 minutes.
First, though, a look at some of the other stories that are connecting our world tonight.
The U.S. State Department is calling for the immediate release of an American facing the death penalty in Iran. It says spying charges against Amir Hekmati are a fabrication. The former U.S. Marine has 20 days to appeal the sentence. His family has hired a high profile lawyer who is a former U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes issues.
Earlier, that attorney spoke exclusively to my colleague, Zane Verjee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PIERRE PROSPER, HEKMATI FAMILY ATTORNEY: Well, the -- the first step, really, is to reach back out to the government. I've established some relationships based on my prior negotiations with the Tegabe (ph) case. I'll try to revive those connections and see if they're -- they are willing to have a conversation.
ZANE VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: What worries you most about this case?
PROSPER: What worries me the most is the fact that this case is entrapped in a political -- a tense political environment. But we want to remove it from the political environment and establish a humanitarian corridor of communication, if you will, and see if we can just talk about, you know, I'm here as a human being.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: A powerful bomb blast hit through a crowded market in Northwest Pakistan earlier, killing at least 35 people and wounding dozens more. Investigators say the bomb blast was in a vehicle belonging to a local militia that is fighting militants along the Afghan border. The device was remotely detonated and it's not clear who was responsible.
A stampede at the University of Johannesburg killed one person and injured nearly 20 others. The woman who died was a mother of a prospective student. Thousands of Africans had gathered outside the campus, hoping for a shot at admission. Many young South Africans see a university degree as the only way to escape poverty.
Thousands of Australians are paying tribute to the victims of the devastating floods that ravaged their country a year ago. In January, 2011, floodwaters surged through the state of Queensland, killing 35 people and damaging thousands of homes.
But if the floods wrought destruction, they also brought communities together, as News Ten's Leonie Meller reports.
LEONIE MELLER, NETWORK TEN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pre-dawn marks a new beginning for the people of Grantham (ph).
MELLER: More than 400 people gathering to remember the horror and heartbreak that hit their tiny community one year ago.
ANNA BLIGH, QUEENSLAND PREMIER: If there was ever a community that knows how to turn heartache into hope, then Grantham is it.
Children wept as they released 12 butterflies, recognizing 12 lives lost in this little hamlet alone. Their surviving families laid wreathes in their memories. A permanent memorial will now stand. Flowers and a flag -- a tribute to courage, resilience and community.
MELLER: At nearby Gatton, leaders gathered with locals, police and emergency service workers, who played a major role in the rescue. Nineteen people died in the tragedy, which tore through Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley. Two are still missing.
Thirty-five thousand people's lives in the region were changed forever.
JULIA GILLARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Remembrance of those who have gone and resolve to somehow build new lives out of the wreckage of the old.
MELLER: There was a message from Prince William.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: the way you dealt with the terrible events last year was an inspiration.
MELLER: Scouts lit 19 candles before a minute's silence. Grief and pain, but guts, grit and kindness, too.
GILLARD: We needed to believe that the human spirit was up to what was being thrown at us. And it was your example that shone like a beacon.
MELLER: Lionel Messi, TEN News.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: Well, this time of year, snow is fairly common in Alaska, but not this much. The state National Guard is sending help for the isolated town of Cordova, buried under five-and-a-half meters after weeks of record setting snowfalls. The most recent storm brought more than a meter. The town is reachable only by air and by sea and residents are have got a tough time digging themselves out.
Well, a return that would have made the best Hollywood screenwriter proud -- the second debut for Thierry Henri at Arsenal produces a night to remember.
Plus, it's a country we often report on, but rarely get to report from. In 10 minutes time, I'll be speaking to our correspondent on the ground inside Syria.
That all coming up here on CNN.
Do stay with us.
ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London.
It is 24 minutes past nine here.
I'm Becky Anderson.
Who says you can't go home again?
For Thierry Henri, Arsenal's all time goal scorer, it only took 10 minutes on the pitch to add to his record tally. In a second debut that would have been a scriptwriter's delight, Henri is drawing much attention from fans, including those on social media.
Patrick Snell is joining me now for a closer look.
The Gooners, as we call them here, have not won a trophy of any kind - - this is Arsenal -- since Henri left six years ago.
Can he possibly change that miserable run, do you think?
PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I know Tottenham fans in North London, Becky, like that particular stat, if Gooners fans don't.
But, you know, to answer your question, it's unlikely. He's only going to be on a loan deal at the Emirates Stadium through the end of February. So it's unlikely he's going to have too much of an impact in terms of where, for example, the title goes or even the European Cup.
But this was a dream for Arsenal fans. It was minutes after coming out and that is what Henri does so brilliantly. No real footballer in the world does it with that kind of accuracy on such a regular basis. The only other player I can think of, perhaps, Dennis Bergkamp, who also used to play for Arsenal, would have that kind of a trademark finish, as well.
But it just meant so much to him, didn't it, Becky?
Coming back, he hung around afterward. He was clearly moved by the adulation that he got from the fans post-match. And you can see how fired up he was, as well. This was the third round, only the third round, you might say, of the English FA Cup. He's won this tournament before. He was part of the team that actually won the last bit of silverware back in '05, when they beat Man United in that final at Wembley.
And this is Thierry Henri. And he knows that even if he's not there through the end of the season, this is a special moment in his career, Becky. And I think those Arsenal fans there in that corner of North London will have that as a memory to cherish for years to come -- Becky.
ANDERSON: did we hear from him at all last night?
SNELL: He's clearly been speaking about what it means to him, about the adulation. And he's just a very passionate Arsenal man through and through, isn't he?
You know, they recently erected that statue of him outside the new Emirates Stadium. Of course, he never played at the Emirates as a player. He was at the old Highbury.
But Arsenal fans have been reacting, there's no question about that.
Let's hear some sample sound bites from those Arsenal fans in North London.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: a fantastic player, a great ambassador for football, plays football the right way and very good for the club.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: he's a good leader, you know what I mean. And Arsenal full of younger players. So it's good to have these kind of players in the dressing room, as well.
So, yes, I think it's a good move from (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: he's going to provide so -- so much in terms of balance and personality into, you know, balancing that in the personality for all of the -- all of the players. I would imagine that's invaluable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNELL: I wonder if Arsenal Bangle (ph) will give him a starting spot in the Gunners next game -- Becky, back to you.
ANDERSON: Let's see.
A former Man United striker known for doing things his own way may have found another calling.
What is Eric Cantona up to at the moment?
SNELL: Well, right, another high profile Frenchman, Becky, widely regarded as the -- one of the best footballers of his generation, no question about that. I was privileged to see him play live on many, many occasions. He kind of hit the headlines, if you like, for the wrong reasons, back in 1995 for a -- an assault on a Crystal Palace fan.
But he quit the game very early. He went off to be an actor at the age of 30, too early, in my book.
But now it seems his goal is one of politics. After these reports emerged over the last 24 hours that he was considering a tilt at the French presidency, it now turns out that it may, according to some reports, be some kind of publicity stunt. But at least there is a cause if you like, a cause simply because he does work on behalf of one of the country's poorly housing charities, the Ave Pierre Foundation. And he's trying to raise awareness. He's trying to get the plight of a nation to be looked at very seriously, indeed.
So this is something that he needs to do.
Now, for this to progress, he needs something like 500 mayoral signatures, 500 signatures of French mayors to actually weigh up his support. But at the very least, the good will come from this in that the awareness of the -- so the issue of substandard housing in France is being raised...
SNELL: -- and Cantona has his name attached to it -- Becky.
All right, Patrick, thank you for that.
It's always good to be talking about the man himself.
Once again, the former Man United striker isn't the only athlete to get involved in politics, as it were, after a career in sport.
Remember this guy?
One of the most notable is Arnie Schwarzenegger, a champion body builder before he moved to Hollywood and became the Terminator and was eventually elected governor of California.
Tennis player Marat Safin won two Grand Slams and was ranked number one in the world ten years ago. Last month, he was elected to the Russian parliament as a member of Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party. There he is.
In cricket, Imran Khan was the captain of Pakistan's national team, leading them to victory in the World Cup in 1992. Riding that momentum, he founded his own party, the Movement for Justice, and served in the national assembly.
And finally, bet you didn't know this: the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, previously France's finance minister, and her sporting background? Well, in teenage years, she represented her country at synchronized swimming. She told an interviewer, that's where she learned how to "grit your teeth and smile."
Still to come on this show, Syria's president tells the world he has no intention of stepping down. CNN's Nic Robertson tells us how President al-Assad's speech went over on the streets of Damascus.
And charging forth on a big publicity drive, North Korea's publicity team gallops into gear to promote the new leader.
ANDERSON: CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. Let's get you a check of the world news headlines at this point.
At least 35 people were killed when a powerful bomb was set off in northwestern Pakistan. The bomb was placed inside a vehicle and remotely detonated. More than 68 people were wounded in the blast.
Myanmar's icon of democracy is confirming she will run for parliament. Reports say opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will contest a bi-election scheduled for April. The Nobel Prize winner was released from house arrest last November.
Protesters angry over the Nigerian government's cancellation of fuel subsidies took to the streets for a second day of nationwide strikes today. The Red Cross says at least 16 people have died in clashes across the country.
And voters in the US state of New Hampshire are heading to the polls in the first US presidential primary of 2012. And those polls show former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney with a big lead over the rest of the field.
It was a speech long on rhetoric but short on action and, for the most part, the script was very familiar. In a defiant address, Syria's president vowed to defeat what he describes as an external conspiracy, blaming terrorists for the violence tearing his country apart.
Well, it was Bashar al-Assad's first public speech for months, and this time it was the Arab League that came in for the harshest criticism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BAHSAR AL-ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA (through translator): Why didn't Arabs stand with Syria? The Arab League is the reflection of the Arab situation. Our -- the Arab League is our miserable situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, the only concession from al-Assad was a promise to hold a referendum within months on a new constitution. The opposition was scathing in its response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURHAN GHALIOUN, HEAD OF SYRIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL (through translator): He has not learned from this ten-month -- problem and from the bled that he shed. And he's still raising the stakes and he is more militant than he previously was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: The opposition also says 38 more people were killed around the country on Tuesday. CNN's Nic Robertson has been allowed to report from inside Syria, although authorities there have confiscated much of his equipment and assigned him a minder.
Joining us now on the phone line from Damascus, Nic, is there or was there anything in Assad's speech today of any substance for the opposition, do you think?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Becky, I didn't hear anything. If he'd intended it, it didn't seem to come across in a way that they would understand it, either. It was really a "my way or the highway speech." Indeed, he said that "you support Syria, you support me, there is no middle ground." And he did call the opposition "terrorists," denied that he had ordered them to be shot at by the army.
But what the opposition would have been looking for, if they were going to respond in any way other than they have to this speech, they would have been looking to hear him say that he was going to pull his troops, tanks, and heavy armor out of the civilian areas, which is what he's agreed to do with the Arab League representatives, and that's why the monitors are in the country.
And they said in their statement at the weekend -- that it would only have been something like that that would have appealed to the opposition, and we heard none of it today, Becky.
ANDERSON: All right, listen, Nic. Just very briefly, attacks on those monitors from the Arab League today. What's the impact of those attacks, do you think?
ROBERTSON: It's going to make the whole mission much more precarious. It -- you can imagine, if there was another incident, or another couple of incidents, it could put the whole mission in jeopardy.
They wear orange -- sort if illuminous orange vests. They don't have flack jackets, they don't have helmets. Most of them don't have armored cars. They're very vulnerable to any kind of attack, they're often in dangerous and stressful situations.
And we've learned today that 11 monitors have been injured in the past day. This is going to worry the monitors themselves and their governments who've sent them here, Becky.
ANDERSON: Interesting. All right, Nic Robertson, there, on the ground for you in Damascus. Nic, thank you for that.
A programming note from us. Tomorrow night here on CONNECT THE WORLD, a special presentation, "Homs: City Under Siege."
A journalist who must remain anonymous recently went undercover for six chilling days in the Syrian city and now shares stories of living and fighting and dying in an area under siege. It's a report you won't want to miss. That's tomorrow, here, this time, on CONNEC THE WORLD.
Tonight, still to come, riding high. North Korea's public relations team goes into overdrive as a third Kim takes the reins of power. Stay with us.
ANDERSON: North Korea says it will release an unspecified number of prisoners to mark the birthdays of the late leaders Kim Jong-il and his father, Kim Il-sung. State media report they'll be freed from February the 1st.
Now, North Korea tends to grant amnesty to prisoners at five year intervals following an important date. International organizations estimate the country holds about 200,000 political prisoners.
Well, a third generation Kim now leads the country and, as Paula Hancocks reports, the state has embarked on an extensive PR mission to promote the skills and even looks of Mr. Kim Jong-un.
(MILTARY SONG IN KOREAN)
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A rising song with a message for the masses. A chorus of "let's follow in his footsteps," Kim Jong-un's personal song says it all. It's part of the careful image building driven into overdrive after the death of Kim Jong- il.
The first New Year editorial message under Kim Jong-un was marked with a rally. One hundred thousand marched in support of their new leader. A new documentary marking his birthday on Sunday shows some of Kim Jong-un's many skills.
DANIEL PINKSTON, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: They've been trying to establish this myth regarding his expertise. He speaks eight languages, he's a military genius and technical genius.
HANCOCKS: The inevitable military shots dominate his documentary, navigating a tank as the commentator speaks of the "invincible general darting off at lightning speed with a strong grip on the controls."
Meeting the military generals who are delighted to hold hands with him and excited to applaud him.
HANCOCKS: And plenty of shots of the leader smiling and laughing, joking with his elders, even acting as a benevolent confidante.
PINKSTON: They might be trying to project a friendly image of him and a soft image to the audience. There's a lot of hardship in North Korea. A lot of people are dissatisfied with this constant mobilization and emergency-type war preparation. And I think there's a lot of reminiscing about older times under his grandfather.
HANCOCKS: Kim Jong-un wears a black-buttoned coat similar to the one often worn by Kim Il-sung. Experts believe his resemblance to his grandfather was one of the reasons he was picked as successor.
HANCOCKS (on camera): Kim Jong-un did not have the 20 years of grooming and image-building that his father did. Any footage of him dates back no more than just three years. So, the focus has been on highlighting his similar looks to his grandfather and his similar character to his father.
Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.
ANDERSON: Well, it seems the death of his father is sparking more interest in travel to the country. Walter Keats is president of a US tour operator that runs regular trips to North Korea. He's also visited the country himself many, many times and says he's experienced more interest in North Korea since the death of the so-called "Dear Leader."
He is joining me, now, live from Chicago. I've got to admit, I had no idea there was such interest and such access to the country. How many people a year travel to North Korea from the US, sir?
WALTER KEATS, PRESIDENT, ASIA PACIFIC TRAVEL: Well, the estimates are 400 to 500 people. So, this is not a major wave of tourism. There are probably two million Americans go to China every year. So, it's a very limited market, but it has been increasing slightly each year, now.
ANDERSON: Sure. OK. But yes, given that, is it the off-the-wall culture that draws travelers? Is it not like anyplace you've ever been to? What is the attraction?
KEATS: Well, there certainly are some people who, I think, are attracted that way. But I think most of our clients are people who are experienced travelers who've been everywhere else, who've been to China.
And this is just another piece in the puzzle in East Asia to see, just another version, as many people were in China in the earlier days, when it was more Communist. They were in Russia in the old days, Eastern Europe.
KEATS: And so, it's just interesting to finally be able to see North Korea and see how its system operates.
ANDERSON: I'm going to run some shots of yours that you've sent us as we talk. What do you make of this publicity drive by the state with this young man riding a horse, driving a tank? What do you think they're going to achieve? Is it going to -- increase or enhance interest in the country, do you think, at this point?
KEATS: Well, basically, I think the first thing to remember is that 2012 is the 100th anniversary of Kim Il-sung's birth on April 15th. And they've had a -- they have a slogan that they want to be a modern, prosperous, and powerful country by 2012.
So, that's been the focus of their activities the last few years, and unfortunately with the death of Kim Jong-il, I'm sure they've had to run around a little to sort of figure out how to work that all in here.
But this -- the stuff with Kim Jong-un really is -- probably has very little to do with any of us on the outside. It really is, I'd say, 99 percent for internal consumption. It really is a self-contained society, and I don't think they really care that much how we look at it. It's for their own people.
ANDERSON: All right. There's still a PR campaign out there, many people watching this would think that was frankly absurd that they would try to sell a country which is so stricken in poverty it is truly unbelievable. For those who've been, they'll understand what we're saying.
What is it about the country that you've enjoyed? As we take a look at some of the photos that you've sent us, just talk me through the sort of attractions and what sort of mysticism there is that might lure a traveler, as it were.
KEATS: Well -- I think one of the reasons to go -- people-to-people exchanges are part of how, hopefully, we can have better relations with countries. With North Korea, it's not a beach resort. It's not a vacation. I would describe it as an educational experience --
KEATS: And particularly, as I say, most of the people who go have been studying China or Japan or other places --
ANDERSON: All right.
KEATS: -- and so to see how they've structured their society. And then, if you've been to South Korea, you can sort of compare the two and see how they differed since 1945 when the country was divided.
ANDERSON: All right, so tell me, for this educational tour, how much is it going to set me back? How much does it cost for a trip to North Korea from the States?
KEATS: Yes, well, basically, we sell the tours from Beijing because everybody has different ways to get there. Some people are expatriates and are in Beijing or somewhere in Asia anyway.
So, from Beijing for about a ten-day tour is around $2700 to $2900 US. Airfare from the US is varying between, let's say, $1300, $1400 up to maybe $1800, depending on the season and the -- where you're coming from in the US. So, it's $3500, $4000. It's not an inexpensive trip.
The North Koreans have -- in their opinion, all of us Westerners are rich, and compared to them, we certainly are --
KEATS: So, they're not -- we're not getting bargain basement prices.
ANDERSON: And very little to buy once you get there, so I guess the cost of the trip is what it's all about.
Sir, we're going to leave it there. Walter Keats, we thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. Fascinating stuff.
You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN, of course. When we come back, the American mum turned CIA spy whose identity was exposed in 2003 reflects on her work and her hopes for the future.
And primary voting is underway in the US state of New Hampshire. One very small town has already counted its ballots with an unprecedented result. We're going to have the story from Dixville Notch coming up.
ANDERSON: The United Nations confirmed on Monday that uranium enrichment has began at a nuclear facility in northern Iran. Now, over the years, the country has been accused of planning to build nuclear weapons. The country has repeatedly claimed it is a peaceful program.
There are currently eight countries around the world which are confirmed to have successfully detonated nuclear weapons, and the chorus of global leaders and experts calling for their elimination is now growing.
Among them is a former American spy who was at the center of a political scandal that rocked the George W. Bush administration. Back in August, I spoke to Valerie Plame Wilson about what is her new mission.
ANDERSON (voice-over): She's the American housewife who was outed as a spy.
VALERIE PLAME WILSON, FORMER CIA AGENT: My name is Valerie Plame Wilson. And in the run-up to the war with Iraq, I served in the CIA's Counter Proliferation Division Iraq task force. We were looking for the alleged WMDs.
ANDERSON: Her exposure in 2003 engulfed the Bush administration in scandal. Her autobiography, "Fair Game," inspired the 2010 film of the same name starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "FAIR GAME": The vice president has received a report concerning the purchase of material to build nuclear weapons.
NAOMI WATTS AS VALERIE PLAME, "FAIR GAME": We need to get in close.
SEAN PENN AS JOE WILSON, "FAIR GAME": It is my opinion a sale that size could not have happened.
ANDERSON: The film and Plame Wilson claim that she was a victim of a government effort to discredit her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, who publicly challenged the Bush administration's justification for war in Iraq.
PLAME WILSON: We went to war, of course, in March of 2003. And just a few weeks prior to that, I and my former colleagues watched with particular interest then-Secretary of State Colin Powell make his case before the United Nations of why the United States should make this war of choice against -- to go to war in Iraq.
And we listened really carefully, and I speak only for myself, but I was profoundly disturbed because what General Powell was saying -- and his integrity and his service to his country is unquestioned -- and what I knew in terms of intelligence did not match up.
And I -- that was the first time for me, anyway, that I really -- I stepped back from the operational weeds, so to speak, and really tried to take a look at what the rhetoric was coming out of the administration.
ANDERSON: A special prosecutor investigated the leak, which lead to the conviction on obstruction of justice charges of Scooter Libby, then Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. President Bush later commuted Libby's prison term.
On the issue of Iraq, the administration maintained the war was justified.
Plame Wilson's career as undercover operative was destroyed in the scandal, but she continues to work on countering the nuclear threat through the Global Zero movement, and the new documentary, "Countdown to Zero," in which she appears.
PLAME WILSON, "COUNTDOWN TO ZERO": Various groups have been focused on acquiring weapons of mass destruction, in particular, nuclear weapons.
ANDERSON (on camera): You talk in this movie of a truly existential threat of nuclear weapons. What do you mean by that?
PLAME WILSON: What it means is that if we don't get this right, all the other problems that this world faces really pale by comparison.
ANDERSON: When you talk about the threat, where? Where is this threat?
PLAME WILSON: The threat is everywhere. We now have nine nuclear declared states, and we have from a high in the Cold War days of 60,000 to 70,000 nuclear weapons, we are down, now, to about 20,000.
But that's still -- how many nuclear weapons do we need to fundamentally alter what we consider to be civilization here?
ANDERSON: Just out of interest, what is this industry worth?
PLAME WILSON: Well, Global Zero, the organization which I'm one of the leaders, I'm very proud to be involved in that, they have just released a study that over the next decade, the cost of maintaining and developing these nuclear programs will be over $1 trillion. $1 trillion. It's hard to comprehend that number.
RONALD REGEAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, "COUNTDOWN TO ZERO": Would it not be better to do away with them entirely?
TONY BLAIR, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF GREAT BRITAIN, "COUNTDOWN TO ZERO": The ultimate number is none.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, "COUNTDOWN TO ZERO": None.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, "COUNTDOWN TO ZERO": None.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, "COUNTDOWN TO ZERO": None.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "COUNTDOWN TO ZERO": We'd be better off without them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "COUNTDOWN TO ZERO": I say zero.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "COUNTDOWN TO ZERO": No nuclear weapons. Zero.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "COUNTDOWN TO ZERO": Zero.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "COUNTDOWN TO ZERO": Zero nuclear weapons.
ANDERSON: So what do you say to people who say Global Zero, you've got to be joking?
PLAME WILSON: It's not some crazy idealistic idea. Global Zero has come up with a really very stringent, robust, step-by-step phased plan of really strong monitoring, regime verification. How do you get buy in from -- and the different phases.
And it's not going to happen next Wednesday. It will take time. But we really are lucky because this is a moment of opportunity.
We have on one hand, President Obama, and we've just passed the -- ratified the new New Start treaty just a few months ago.
On the other hand, we have in Russia President Medvedev, who are equally committed to a world without nuclear weapons. And so, you've got to start somewhere.
ANDERSON: An interview we did about six months ago, I wanted you to see it again, given the current context on nuclear weapons.
Well, in tonight's Parting Shots for you, the Republicans vying to be America's next president are making a final effort to woo voters in New Hampshire. That state going to the polls today soon. But one tiny village may have already given us a clue to the final results. CNN's Shannon Travis was there.
SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: In the first primary voting in the United States, the first votes have been cast here in New Hampshire, and the results are historic. Two votes for Mitt Romney, two votes for Jon Huntsman, one for Ron Paul, and one for Newt Gingrich.
But the reason why that's historic is because the man overseeing this contest, this voting in this small town in New Hampshire says there's never been a tie before, that this is the first time it's happened.
Also, another bit of history about this actual voting procedure. This has been going on in this town of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, near the Canadian border, since 1960. They have been getting up and voting at the stroke of midnight.
In tonight's voting, there were nine registered voters. Four of them were Independent, three of them were Republicans, and two of them were Democrats. That actually mirrors the exact same number of nine voters that voted in 1960 when they first instituted this process.
Also of note, every year since 1968, the winner of this contest has gone on to become the Republican nominee in the race for the White House. But again, tonight, there was no clear winner. We had a tie between Mitt Romney and John Huntsman, so you can absolutely believe that both of those candidates will be trying to spin that result in their favor.
ANDERSON: Well, the vote is on, the race is on. Who's going to come out top? We're going to have live results and analysis from the second test of this, the 2012 US election. It all gets underway tonight at midnight London, 1:00 AM central Europe, about two hours from now, right here on CNN.
For now, that's it from our show, though. I'm Becky Anderson, thank you for watching. World news headlines, as ever, and "BACKSTORY" up after this short break. Don't go away.