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CONNECT THE WORLD

Deadly Football Riots; Europe Deep Freeze; NATO Committed to 2014 Deadline for Afghan Transition; NATO Secretary-General on Afghanistan

Aired February 3, 2012 - 16:00   ET

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


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: Tonight on CONNECT THE WORLD, clashes on the streets of Cairo.

Protesters run for cover as tear gas clouds the air. Violence sparked by riots at a football match continues. (Inaudible) live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from London, this is CONNECT THE WORLD with Becky Anderson.

ANDERSON: And activists in Tahrir Square tonight this hour tell me this is bigger than a game of football, and blames the ruling military council for the continued unrest. Also tonight, NATO is united over Afghanistan. That's from the secretary-general Rasmussen as the U.N. struggles to clear up confusion over its Afghan exit plan.

And stripped of his captaincy again, England's football captain loses his armband over allegations of racial abuse.

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ANDERSON: Two days after a deadly football riot the fury only deepens. We begin this hour in Cairo, where angry protests turned some streets there today into a war zone.

At least two people were killed, 1,400 others were injured when demonstrators battled riot police, demanding an end to military rule. They blame authorities' failing to stop Wednesday's violence that left 79 people dead at a football stadium in Port Said.

Now similar clashes took place in Suez, a city near Port Said in the Sinai peninsula. Some protesters accuse security forces of deliberately allowing the football disaster to happen. Others blame incompetence. Well, many Egyptians were already angry with the military leadership and what they consider is mismanagement of the country.

The deadly football riots just adding fuel to that fire. Let's bring in our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, live for us tonight in Cairo. And the atmosphere there, Ben, this hour.

BEN WEDEMAN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, and here we are, at 11 o'clock at night, overlooking Tahrir Square. Tahrir itself seems relatively calm. There's several thousand people down there. But on the streets off of Tahrir Square, leading to the interior ministry, it's been a `round-the-clock battle since yesterday.

Hundreds of people there trying to reach the interior ministry, being kept away by troops using tear gas and rubber pellets being fired at the crowd. We saw hundreds of people trying to push forward, constantly being pushed back by this intense, very strong gas that really incapacitates you. I saw one man just flop down onto the ground right in front of us.

Fortunately we had very effective tear gas. Now right now, not only are the clashes ongoing, but the Egyptian tax authority is on fire. That is right next to the interior ministry. It's not clear whether that fire was started by protesters or by tear gas fired inside of the building -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Since Thursday, Ben, hundreds of people have been wounded in Cairo. That's the area around Tahrir Square, where you are, a normally busy commercial area, as you and I know now, wracked by almost around-the- clock clashes. Those that you speak to, I know, have said football may be one thing, but there is a bigger story here.

WEDEMAN: Yes, of course. I mean, what we have here in Egypt is growing dissatisfaction with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the de factor rulers of the country. Now depending with, you know, who you speak with, some of the people obviously in the square below me just believe that it's wrong to have the military run the country.

But, increasingly, I know many Egyptians who thought that the military should be given a chance, that people should be more patient, give them time. But the incident in Port Said made many of these people sort of say, well, maybe they -- the military is simply incompetent. They can't do the job of running this country.

It's difficult, 85 million people is a large country to deal with. But they say that they've failed time and time again to maintain law and order. Port Said is just one example.

But over the last week, there have been a series of high-profile robberies of banks and other business establishments in the middle of the day, indicating that the general law and order situation here is deteriorating, and people blame the military for that -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman there in -- or just above Tahrir Square for you this evening, reporting out of Cairo. Ben, thank you for that.

I spoke earlier to one of the protesters there in the square, a prominent blogger and activist, Wael Abbas. I put it to him, there are many conspiracy theories going around about why this football tragedy on Wednesday happened, and asked him whether he thought there was more to this than just simply football hooliganism. This is what he said.

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WAEL ABBAS, EGYPTIAN ACTIVIST: It was really obvious to everybody that they had a hand in what happened in the stadium. The security did not interfere. They opened the gates between the fans of the two -- the two teams, and they did not check for arms. There was not a metal detector gate -- at the gate of the stadium.

People were allowed to enter the stadium with live machetes and pistols, locally made pistols. The gates were -- today there was a video on YouTube that I saw myself of the gates of the stadium, from the part where the Ahly fans should have exited.

And the gates were welded. The locks of the -- of the gate were welded so nobody would -- to be able to get out of the stadium. And this has all raised a lot of questions.

ANDERSON: Is this a story of football fans? Is this a story protesters clashing with the military? Or is there a bigger issue here?

ABBAS: The protesters now are mixture of football fans, Ultras and politicians and activists, political activists. They're all angry at the massacre and the -- and they are unhappy with the military council staying in power until now, and no real changes, and a very weak parliament that cannot take decisions or make any important changes.

They want the military council to leave now more than ever, and more people are coming to the street, to the Tahrir Square, by -- all the time, and the numbers were involved in clashes, I think they are bigger than any number or that was there before, even during the clashes by the Cabinet and the clashes in Mohammed Mahmoud Street (ph).

ANDERSON: WAEL ABBAS there, talking to me just about an hour ago.

Security in Egypt has deteriorated ever since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown, and the unrest has scared off many tourists, dealing a huge blow to Egypt's economy. Today, another set back to American tourism there. Egyptian guide were briefly kidnapped in the Sinai as they returned from a monastery to the popular resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. They were released unharmed.

But this was the second such incident involving foreigners in the Sinai this week. The security situation and economic concerns just add to the massive challenges facing Egypt as it struggles to build a democracy. I want to bring Ben back in, who is reporting from just Tahrir Square for you this evening.

This isn't a new story for you and I to discuss. You've been talking for some weeks, if not months now, Ben, about the deterioration of the economy and the -- and the sort of product thereof of this sort of quest for democracy and the problems and challenges that Egypt faces.

WEDEMAN: Yes, certainly, and the irony of the situation today is that since the beginning of the year, things were actually beginning to improve after the peaceful parliamentary elections. There was a feeling that maybe the worst was over.

In fact, until day before yesterday, the Cairo stock exchange was doing amazingly well. It had gained more than 20 percent in a month.

But of course, when the problems began in Port Said, it fell by 2 percent in one day, and it -- obviously, it's closed today, but the worry is that the current unrest is just going to shake this what was growing confidence that the economy was starting to get back on its feet again -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman for you this evening in Cairo. Ben, as ever, many thanks.

Well, a year after the revolution in Egypt, well, it's still in crisis. But remember, if history is any guide, the road to democracy is rarely easy. Check out the website today for some insightful analysis by CNN's Fareed Zakaria, who argues that democracy takes time. That and the latest news from Egypt, all at CNN.com.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson, live from London. Still to come, U.S. stock markets bounce to a nearly four-year high. The unexpected good news that investors (inaudible) have been cheering today.

To ask why (inaudible) John Terry leading London's (inaudible) this summer's European championship. And plunging temperatures hit new lows across much of Europe. That and much more still ahead on CNN this hour. Stay with us.

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ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. I'm Becky Anderson. This is the world's news leader. Welcome back. Now the Red Cross is calling the brutal cold (inaudible) and central Europe a disaster.

Ukraine's state-run news agency reports 101 people have died of hypothermia since the cold snap began just a week ago. Temperatures are moderating in Rumania, but heavy snow still falling there. Journalist Liliana Ciobanu describes the scene.

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LILIANA CIOBANU, JOURNALIST (voice-over): Thousands of children (inaudible) school today because almost 400 schools were closed all around the country. Almost 400 people, most of them homeless, have been sent to temporary shelters set up by authorities to help them survive the cold weather. And around 70 people were hospitalized with hypothermia so far.

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ANDERSON: Look at that.

Now we're going to head to the World Weather Center, where Jen's going to update us on the latest on the freeze. And just how much longer she thinks it's going to last. That is a little later this hour.

A look at some of the other stories that are connecting our world tonight. Some positive news out of the U.S. today. The economy added 243,000 new jobs in January. Now the growth is far stronger than had been expected, and unemployment is at its lowest level in three years. CNN's Christine Romans has more.

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CHRISTINE ROMANS, HOST, "YOUR BOTTOM LINE": A very strong jobs report. Businesses were ramping up their hiring in January, and the unemployment rate drifted down. This is what it looks like for the year, for all of last year. Some revisions are in, and we now know 1.82 million jobs were created last year. And we look at the hiring starting this year was pretty broad-based.

You had professional and business services, about 70,000 jobs created there; leisure and hospitality, manufacturing and health care -- health care has been a steady performer for job creation for more than a year now.

The unemployment rate is now dipped to 8.3 percent. That is the lowest since the second month that President Barack Obama was in office. You have the jobless rate spiking after he was in office, even before he was in office, got all the way up to 10 percent, and is now drifting lower. Again, the lowest since February 2009.

One thing that's important to know here as well is a drop in the unemployment rate for African-Americans. A big drop, quite frankly, 13.6 percent is now the level there, down from 15.8 percent. For Hispanics, it was mostly steady at 10.5 percent, and for whites, 7.4 percent.

Now economists are saying today they want to see more months of this kind of job creation. It's been difficult to sustain 200,000-plus jobs created every month. They'd like to see that again and again to really show that the labor market is healing. And remember, 8.3 percent, that's still an unemployment rate that is unacceptably high, still a lot of work to do -- Christine Romans, CNN, New York.

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ANDERSON: Well, from tough talk out of Tehran, after hearing that U.S. military leaders believe Israel could attack Iran in the spring to try and to stop Tehran's nuclear program. Have a listen to this.

Apologies for that.

Thousands of worshippers so chanting, let me tell you, their support for Iran during Friday prayers at Tehran University. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told them Israel is, and I quote, "a cancerous tumor that will be removed." And he issues a stern warning to the West.

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AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI, IRAN SUPREME LEADER (through translator): The more threats they make, the more they are harmed themselves. They should know. Others should know, and they do know that in the return for threats of oil embargo and threats of war, we have our own threats. And when time comes, we will make those threats.

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ANDERSON: No bail for the man behind file-sharing web site megaupload. Kim Dotcom's appeal was turned down by a New Zealand court. He'll stay behind bars until at least February the 22nd. That is when a U.S. extradition request will be heard. Now the Megaupload founder told the court he is not a flight risk. U.S. authorities claim megaupload, the site, enabled millions of illegal downloads.

Well, a search continues for survivors of the Papua New Guinea ferry sinking. More than 100 people are still unaccounted for after the boat went down in rough seas off the country's east coast early on Thursday. Nearly 250 survivors were rescued in the immediate aftermath. Many are now undergoing medical tests in the city of Lae.

Gay rights campaigners in South Africa have welcomed a judge's tough new jail terms on Wednesday. Four men were each sentenced to 14 years for murdering a 19-year-old lesbian. The case highlights a growing feeling in the country that hate crimes will not be told. CNN's Nkepile Mabuse reports for you tonight from Cape Town.

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NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN REPORTER: Cape Town is Africa's number one tourist destination, and South Africa's liberal constitution has turned it into the continent's gay capital as well. But less than 50 kilometers away, just to the right of the iconic Table Mountain, lesbian women are being raped and killed because of their sexual orientation.

MABUSE (voice-over): In 2006, Zoliswa Nkonyana was brutally murdered in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township. These men, who were teenagers at the time, were arrested for the crime. On Wednesday, four of them were jailed for 14 years in what the court ruled was murder motivated by hate.

"It's very painful, very painful," she says. "I don't understand how strangers who didn't give birth to her were bothered when her own parents had accepted her."

It was at a local pub here in Khayelitsha township that Zoliswa Nkonyana's troubles began. According to evidence heard in court, she got into an argument with patrons who didn't want her to use the ladies' toilet, calling her a tomboy. The court heard that when she left the pub, she was followed by a gang of men who stabbed her, stoned her and left her for dead just a few meters away from her home.

MARY-JANE MATSOLO, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: In South Africa, we've got a beautiful, a brilliant legislature, but it doesn't always work. If it wasn't for the hard work of the community members, of the NGOs, constantly coming here, protesting, making sure that their voices are heard on a daily basis, we honestly don't believe that we would have gotten the type of judgment that we received.

MABUSE (voice-over): The national prosecution authority blames the dissent for the delays, and maintains the sentence demonstrated that hate crimes will not be tolerated in South Africa. But activists say a lot more work needs to be done to rid the country and continent of homophobic hatred.

MATSOLO: I will not blame it on culture. I will not blame it on our past. Nothing is -- I think the root problem of this is people's ignorance.

MABUSE (voice-over): Ignorance that has destroyed families and lives - - Nkepile Mabuse, CNN, Cape Town.

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ANDERSON: You're with CNN watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson, live from London. Still to come this hour, stripped of the captaincy again. Why John Terry won't be leading England in this summer's European soccer championship. But a bitter cold snap is holding Europe in an icy grip. Frostbite, hypothermia and I'm afraid dozens are dead. So full reports (inaudible).

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ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London here on CNN. Welcome back, I'm Becky Anderson for you. Today some sports news. In England, the football skipper John Terry will not lead his country out onto the pitch of this year's European football championship after being stripped of the captaincy.

Now Terry was informed by David Bernstein, who's the chairman of the Football Association that he's no longer skipper until he's resolved what is an ongoing court case. He was alleged to have racially abused another player in a Premier League match last October. He pled not guilty to the charge in court on Wednesday.

Well, the British newspaper, "The Daily Mirror," claims Terry is so disillusioned and disappointed that he wants to quit England, but has been advised to delay his announcement. For more world sports, Patrick Snell joining us from the CNN Center.

Can this really be the end of John Terry as an England player, do you think?

PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Becky, hi, I'd be very surprised at 31 years of age, OK, he's no longer in his 20s, but I don't think England are overly blessed in that position. You look at Rio Ferdinand, who's already ruled himself out as becoming captain again and replacing Terry.

You know, these are players, I mean, Ferdinand would, I'm sure, be first to admit that he is perhaps no longer the force he was in the game. But there are no real crop of young center backs who are thrusting themselves forward. So I would be very surprised indeed if Terry actually does quit internationally.

We shall see, of course. It's a really, really bad setback for him. This is the second time in as many years that he's been relieved of his duties, shall we say, as the English national football team captain. And at 31, I think he still has plenty to offer for both Chelsea and England.

ANDERSON: If needed -- sorry. I thought we were going to hear from John Terry or one of the FA officials. If needed, who do you think would replace him as captain, out of interest?

SNELL: Right. Well, OK, Twitter -- I'm sorry, taking care of that up to a degree, Becky. As I say, Rio Ferdinand tweeting that he is not interested in replacing John Terry as skipper. So, of course, all eyes fall on Stevie (ph) Gerard, the Liverpool midfielder who's had the role before. He is a possibility. I would think -- I think Gerard is probably the most likely.

Concerns, though, with Gerard, of course, center on fitness. The player gets more than his fair share of injuries. There's no question about that. Wayne Rooney, the Manchester United forward, is another player that's been touted as a possible long-term England football captain. That, again, will have to wait and see.

And Joe Hart, a goalkeeper, as England captain, I think that's quite a way down the list, personally. But we're going to see. Very interesting. Fabio Capello, the Italian head coach of England has a big decision to make, there's no question about that, Becky. We should learn more, of course, in the coming weeks as we get closer and closer to this year's European football championship, Becky.

ANDERSON: I hate to say we're par (ph) to them, but we will certainly do more on this story, because we -- we're interested in -- anyway, we're interested in a whole load of other things, including NFL, of course, this weekend. What a big weekend it is coming up.

SNELL: Super Bowl XLVI, and here in Atlanta, you know, I'm surrounded by all my American colleagues. They're very, very excited about what's going to be happening. This is the biggest sporting occasion in North America. It's one of the biggest sporting occasions in the world, in my book. There's little question over that.

And we're going to see one stellar match, if I believe. It's going to be close. The Patriots are taking on the Giants. This is a rematch of 2008, when we had a nail-biting finish to that one, when the New England franchise went into it with an absolutely perfect regular season record.

They got pipped (ph) at the post in the very last second of that encounter with the Giants, who ruined their parade on that occasion. But both of these teams have three Super Bowl titles to their names, so both are going for a fourth title.

And, of course, this is being billed as the battle of the star quarterbacks. You've got Tom Brady on the Patriots. You've got Eli Manning on the Giants as well. This is going to be won and lost, I think, with the -- with the performance of each respective quarterback. My money? I know you want to know -- I'm going for the Giants again. There you go, Becky. That's my tip. Top tip.

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ANDERSON: I'm with you on that one. Get your chips and your beers ready. It's going to be a long afternoon. Thank you for that. That, of course, is Sunday.

Still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, of course you can see that in an hour on "WORLD SPORT" on this show in the next half hour, Europe's unrelenting cold and its grim toll across the continent, how the Red Cross is trying to help out.

And the U.S. continues to play down Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's comments on Afghanistan. We're going to speak to NATO's secretary-general for his take on the security situation there. Twenty-nine minutes past 9:00. Your headlines up next.

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ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. Let's get you a check of the headlines this hour.

At least 2 people are dead and 1400 others are injured after protesters clashed with riot police in Cairo for a second straight day. They are furious that authorities failed to prevent Wednesday's deadly football riot in Port Said.

The US jobs recovery appears to be gaining momentum. American employers created 243,000 new positions last month. The growth was far stronger than had been expected, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent. That is the lowest level in nearly three years.

Israel's defense minister says later may be too late to stop Iran's nuclear program. His remarks followed reports the US now believes that Israel might attack Iran this spring. That brought a harsh response from Iran's supreme leader, who said Iran can issue threats of its own.

And amateur video out of Syria is said to show protesters running from live fire in the flashpoint city of Hama. Opposition groups say at least 31 people were killed across the country on Friday. Meantime, Russia is rejecting the latest version of what is a UN Security Council resolution on the Syrian government's crackdown.

Heavy snow and bitter cold is still blanketing Eastern and Central Europe. Officials in Ukraine say 38 people there have died of hypothermia in the past 24 hours alone. State-run news agency says a total of 101 have died since the cold snap began a week ago. Temperatures in Kiev, for example, dropping to 27 degrees below zero on Friday morning.

Of course, the freeze isn't limited to Ukraine. Jenny Harrison is in the World Weather Center. Jen, give us some sense of the sort of context of this freeze, if you will. Just how widespread is it?

JENNY HARRISON, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It covers 1,000 miles, Becky. As you say, many, many countries. In fact, you name across, really, across Central and Eastern Europe, the southeast, as well, and there has been some snow.

But I think the countries really worst hit and who have seen, certainly, the impact the longest across the southeast, so we're talking, really, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland as well, now, Belarus, Ukraine, of course, as you mention. But also down into the southeast.

Now, let's have a look at just some of the pictures coming to us. Look at this. The conditions are treacherous, so if you're out and about, particularly at nighttime, obviously, when the temperatures are dropping even lower.

This, as you can see, is actually in Sarajevo. Just treacherous. We've got ice, we've got snow. And then, in Romania, we've got more pictures to show you, here. Again, it's just a huge, big freeze. And just look at the amount of snow.

Remember, this started as a huge amount of snow that came into the southeast a little over ten days ago, and then since then, we have had the temperatures just continuing to fall. And we've got strong winds, you've got blowing snow, it's a real white-out situation. You can barely see the road.

People probably safest, to be honest, walking, although, again, care needed if you're actually sharing the roadway.

And then, in Romania, as well, rescuing of all the wildlife. Just think of the animals, that of course they can't find their food. So, they're rescuing some swans, here. Many people, obviously, involved in this.

And then, perhaps some other different type of images, up into Poland. Because of the deep freeze, literally, that we've been experiencing across this region, we've just seen the snow continue to build up and then freeze and freeze.

When you have some sunshine, even with these temperatures, any sun that shines directly on the snow, it will actually just melt the top surface, which is why we end up with the build up.

We showed you some pictures a couple of days ago of what is called is sea spray ice, and that is literally the spray from the sea that comes onto any objects, particularly, of course, ships, and it just continues to build up and build up and freeze and freeze. And in fact, that can be catastrophic for ships out at sea. When that happens, it can, of course, lead the ships to capsize.

Just to show you the temperatures you're talking about, Becky. Look at this. Minus 27, as you said, in Kiev. Minsk, as well. Warsaw, Berlin -- Germany going to get some very cold weather, actually, Becky, as we head into this weekend.

And you know what's coming your way?

ANDERSON: What?

HARRISION: Yes, that white stuff. Yes.

ANDERSON: Yes.

HARRISON: You're going to be having some of the snow. And we've seen those pictures in Romania, Bulgaria. They seem to be able to cope with huge amounts of snow, it has to be said. It's just tremendous how the authorities get out there so quickly.

But we know there are other countries in Western Europe don't cope with it quite as well.

ANDERSON: Yes.

HARRISON: We all know about that. And look at the temperatures, as well. This is the current temperatures across Europe. So, at minus 23 in Moscow, then you factor in the wind, that takes temperatures down another 10 degrees, minus 5 is how it feels in London. Minus 26 in Minsk right now.

And the next thing as we go into the weekend is a very heavy snow. This is going to be the problem. The temperatures are actually going to moderate across those southeastern portions a little bit, not as cold.

But as the temperature changes because the winds are changing direction, it allows a lot of moisture to come in from the west. And so, this means more snow.

So, Rome, you've had a sprinkling so far. Well, as we go into the weekend, expect about 4.5 centimeters. We've had snow across into Greece. There's more across this region as we go into the weekend.

Northern Spain, San Sebastian, look at this, one of these pictures with snow on the sand. It really does give you an idea of how widespread the snow is, but in particular, the cold as well.

Look at the temperatures, though, in Kiev, as we head into the weekend and Monday. They do become a little bit more bearable. Still well below the average, but not as far below. And you can see more snow in the forecast, there, in Minsk, as well, Becky.

And then, as I say, this just a reminder. There is a snow coming up into the southeast, the cold air to the north and, as I say, get ready for those accumulations, over a meter of snow will be in Sarajevo this weekend.

So I think, Becky, through the weekend and beginning of next week, we'll be having yet more pictures come into us of just piles and piles of snow.

ANDERSON: Oh, my goodness. I can tell you, Jen, I was in Paris just earlier on today, and it was bitterly -- I mean --

HARRISON: Yes.

ANDERSON: -- more cold than I think I've ever felt. I was colder than I've ever felt in Paris today. Even in what is, I guess, we would consider northern Europe, it really is bitter. But as you say, it's a story that is gaining ground across --

HARRISON: Yes, it will do.

ANDERSON: -- Central and Eastern Europe, there. And do be careful if that's where you're watching tonight. Jenny, thank you for that.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here, live from London. Still to come, clearing up the confusion after a surprise announcement out of the US. We're going to ask NATO's top man whether the Afghanistan mission is in disarray.

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ANDERSON: NATO says it stands united in its goal to transfer security in Afghanistan back to Afghan forces. Speaking on the final day of what is a two-day summit in Brussels, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen affirmed Afghan forces would take full responsibility by the end of 2014 and that all NATO members were fully committed to this deadline.

These comments come just days after US defense secretary Leon Panetta sparked confusion by saying the US combat mission in Afghanistan would end in 2013. Panetta clarified those comments on Thursday, saying US troops would not step back entirely, but would allow Afghan forces to take what he calls a lead role.

Our Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson has traveled extensively throughout Afghanistan, and he's talked to the key players in this transition. Earlier today, Nic spoke with Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and he asked the NATO chief if the mission can continue unaffected after Panetta's comments.

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ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, SECRETARY-GENERAL, NATO: I can inform you that NATO stays united. We have adopted a roadmap for a gradual transition to lead Afghan responsibility for the security. We have started that transition already. We will see it completed by the end of 2014.

And at today's meeting of defense ministers, we have reconfirmed that roadmap which was adopted at the NATO summit in Lisbon in November, 2010.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But Afghan officials are calling for the US to reconsider. They don't think they're - - they don't think their own security forces are ready for this.

The Afghan security forces by anyone's estimate are a long way from being ready to take over and match the Taliban, if you will. And it's no secret that the civilian death toll in Afghanistan goes up year on year. How is this end to combat missions by the United States, such a big decision, going to impact the Afghan people?

RASMUSSEN: The Afghan security forces are highly capable. We have seen them handle challenging security situations very well. They are now leading 40 percent of our security operations. They participate in all major security operations.

And I don't agree that the responsible leaders don't expect the Afghan security forces to be capable. Today, we had a meeting with the Afghan minister of defense, and he declares that the Afghans are ready to take over lead responsibility according to the plan we have outlined.

During this period of transition, where we gradually hand over lead responsibility to the Afghan security forces, we will continue our combat operations in support of the Afghan security forces. But I do believe it is realistic to expect that the Afghan security forces can take full responsibility for the security by the end of 2014.

ROBERTSON: It's beginning to look like an orderly dash for the exit from Afghanistan. First, the decision by the French, now the decision by the United States. A secret NATO investigation about the Taliban just being ready to take over as soon as NATO leaves leaked before Leon Panetta arrives, almost seeming to undermine what he's saying.

Isn't this just the sort of disarray that NATO's been trying to avoid?

RASMUSSEN: No, on the contrary. At the meeting today and yesterday, we have reconfirmed the roadmap for transition to lead Afghan responsibility. We have reaffirmed our strong commitment to the principle of in together, out together.

All 50 ISAF partners will stay the course, continue our mission throughout this transition period until the end of 2014. But of course, gradually our operation will change from a focus on combat to a focus on support, depending on the security situation on the ground.

And as regards this famous report on a Taliban detainee statement, I can assure you that the Taliban can't just wait us out. When we draw down in a gradual, measured process our presence in Afghanistan, we will leave behind a still stronger Afghan security force, and they will take full responsibility for all the security all over Afghanistan. We will not leave behind a security vacuum.

ROBERTSON: Leon Panetta, when he was in Brussels, said that he thought that Israel might strike Iran as early as this spring. What's NATO and your understanding of that likelihood?

RASMUSSEN: NATO, as an alliance, is not engaged in the Iran question. Individual allies are, but NATO as an organization is not. Obviously, we follow the development closely and we support the international political and diplomatic pressure on the Iranian leadership.

We urge the Iranian leaders to comply with their international obligations, including a stop for the enrichment program, and make sure that there is free navigation in the Strait of Hormuz.

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ANDERSON: Nic Robertson, there, with the NATO Secretary-General.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD on CNN. When we come back, why the best laboratory is out in the wild.

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RAY MEARS, SURVIVAL EXPERT: I've even met scientists who kind of, "I disagree with some of these things." But they haven't got the generations of acquired knowledge and wisdom backing them up.

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ANDERSON: We're going to get you some tips for surviving even the most extreme conditions. Adventurer Ray Mears shares his bush skills, up next.

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ANDERSON: This is CONNECT THE WORLD, it's 49 minutes past 9:00 in London this Friday evening. Now, earlier this hour, we heard about the frigid weather that's been sweeping across Europe. Most of us trying to avoid those extreme temperatures by staying inside.

But not the man in tonight's Big Interview. He voluntarily seeks out the coldest places on Earth to put his survival skills to the test. And as Max Foster, my colleague, finds out, many of those skills, they just come down to common sense.

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MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's tackled the world's most unforgiving places in his "World of Survival" program.

MEARS: This might look like a winter wonderland, but at temperatures as low as minus 30, I'd actually be warmer snuggling up to the peas in your home freezer.

FOSTER: And he's lived to tell the tale of his close encounters with the world's most dangerous predators in the survival series.

MEARS: There's a bear looking right at me.

FOSTER: British adventurer Ray Mears is an expert in bush skills.

MEARS: I see a few marks, here, train on the logs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that claws, do you think?

MEARS: Yes. You can see the passage of things, there.

FOSTER: Skills he's learned by watching animals and indigenous tribes around the world for more than two decades.

FOSTER (on camera): Have you learned the hard way? Was there a time when you weren't prepared enough?

MEARS: You do learn the hard way, and sometimes that's the best way, because you really understand why you do something.

There are lots of tips, like if your hands get extremely cold, they cease to function, and so, we have a little test. If you can put your finger -- your thumb and your little finger together, that's good. Means your hands still work.

But if your hands get so cold that you can't do that, you can't ignore it. You must do something to rewarm. Otherwise you lose the use of your hands. If you lose the use of your hands, you can open your rucksack to get a sleeping bag out.

FOSTER: A lot of your shows, you end up meeting, don't you, a lot of indigenous groups? Is there a common link between them, do you think?

MEARS: I think they're all unique and fascinating, as every different human society is. But of course, the link is that we're all human. We all share this wonderful planet together.

FOSTER: You throw yourself into their sort of rituals and customs.

MEARS: Yes, I'm really -- I'm really interested in their worldview, and their worldview is based on thousands of years of adapting to different scenarios.

And the more you do that, the more you start to see those environments through their eyes. The arctic ceases to be a threatening environment. It's a place to be understood, to be respected, to -- For me, it's not about pitting yourself against nature, it's working with her.

FOSTER: As you've traveled the world and met lots of local groups, people living in a very local area, what sort of tips have you picked up that sort of stuck with you?

MEARS: Gosh. There are all sorts of strange things. For example, in the north, thinking about the cold weather, is not to wash in the morning.

FOSTER: North of England, right?

MEARS: You're not to wash in the morning, and you think, why? Well, there are oils in your skin, and if you have a shave in the morning, as we expect, and you wash those oils away and you go out at minus 40 in the wind, you get frostnipped very, very easily.

And I remember being told that and thinking, it can't be true. And I've grown to realize that is really important. So you wash at the end of the day, so you keep those oils in your skin, and they do protect you from the cold.

And these are little things that native people know. And I've even met scientists who kind of, "I disagree with some of these things." But they haven't got the generations of acquired knowledge and wisdom backing them up.

FOSTER: We've got very used to modern comforts, haven't we?

MEARS: I think people are very, very -- I think we've become a bit soft, really.

FOSTER: Very scared of losing electricity, for example, but it's perfectly doable without, right?

MEARS: In some of the Scandinavian countries, it's still law that you have to have a wood-burning stove in your house so that if the power goes down, you've still got the means to keep yourself warm. And there's a lot of wisdom in that. Some of the old technologies, they're very fail-safe.

FOSTER (voice-over): And in extreme weather conditions, such as the wintry blasts sweeping Europe right now, Mears says there's only one fail- safe tip.

MEARS: It's a bit boring, really, the advice for cold weather. It is about preparation. It's about -- have a big coat that you can put on over your business suit or whatever you're wearing. We call that a mother ship. In the pocket, you need a hat and gloves, so you protect your extremities.

If you're making a journey on trains and there's the possibility that the train could get delayed by snow, which happened last year, and you need special medication, take it with you. Have some water with you so that if you're stuck on a train, you've got something to drink. Simple things, so that a drama doesn't become a crisis.

FOSTER (on camera): Are you concerned about the sort of commercialism of your industry, effectively?

MEARS: There's always going to be the extreme versions of everything. But what I am concerned about is that the sensible messages, which don't seem as exciting as some of the greater hype, it's very important that sensible messages go across. Common sense is the answer for survival, and I think that's a really important thing.

It's like I said, a hat and gloves isn't as exciting as, perhaps, the thought of the "Star Wars" approach, cutting an animal open and climbing into it to stay warm. That's -- there are stories of people having done that in the prairies of America with buffalo, but these are the extreme aspects. What really keeps people warm is warm socks, a hat, globes, the right foods. And human company.

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ANDERSON: Wrap up, it's cold out there.

All right, in tonight's Parting Shots, we've got that Friday feeling, so we thought we'd indulge you with a canine-friendly moment.

Dogs may love their owners, but they also love food, as you probably know. So, if they had to choose between the two, which would they go for? Well, Jeanne Moos shows us one pooch willing to resist temptation just to ham it up for her master. Have a look at this.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If the way to a dog's heart is through its stomach, than why is this dog wearing her food on her head? Try doing that with most dogs --

MOOS (on camera): Dot! Down, Dot!

MOOS (voice-over): But Tiger is not most dogs. She's the subject of a blog called "Food on My Dog." From a sunny-side up egg to a taco to a chocolate-glazed doughnut with sprinkles, Tiger stares ahead impassively, whether it be Spam in a can or pepperoni on her snout, Tiger doesn't get crabby, even when she's crowned with king crab legs.

Her owner demonstrates his technique with leaves of lettuce.

ANDREW J. SMALL, "FOOD ON MY DOG": Stay.

MOOS: OK, lettuce is probably less tempting than, say, a hot dog. Still, Tiger's restraint is impressive.

SMALL: Release.

MOOS: The most commonly asked question seems to be, "Does Tiger get to eat what's on her head after?" The answer is yes when it's something dog-friendly. A replacement treat if it's not.

Tiger wears ham like a veil, but we discovered ham, even on a dog name Sushi, is relatively easy --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ham on your head!

MOOS: -- to slip on an unsuspecting head.

MOOS (on camera): That's called distraction. Good boy! Good dog! Yes! What a good boy!

MOOS (voice-over): But Tiger even wears pizza as if it's a beret. When we tried pizza on Sushi, she tried to lick it and tolerated wearing it only reluctantly.

MOOS (on camera): Good girl!

MOOS (voice-over): The "Food on My Dog" blog reminds us of another internet phenomenon from last year, the dog that balanced treats on his head.

"ABOLLOM," YOUTUBE USER: Get them!

MOOS: We saw him balance as many as 36 treats, barely moving a muscle, until he got the order to release.

"ABOLLOM": Get them.

MOOS: And no, he wasn't allowed to eat them all.

"ABOLLOM": Stay. Head down.

MOOS: He even balanced while on his back.

"ABOLLOM": Stay, Bubba.

MOOS: Sort of makes the latest craze called "Breading Cats" seem like child's play. Multigrain and wheat seem to really bring out their eyes.

Now that "Food on My Dog" has gone viral, fans want to know if Tiger takes requests. Request bacon? She took it. Her favorite snack is Kraft singles. They've gone to her head. What makes this dog so irresistible is her ability to resist.

Jeanne Moos, CNN.

"ABOLLOM": Get them!

MOOS: New York.

(DOG BARKS)

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ANDERSON: I'm Becky Anderson. That was CONNECT THE WORLD for you, thank you for watching. The world news headlines, as ever, and "BackStory" up after this short break. Stay with us.

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