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Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan Proclaim Commitment To Regional Stability; Regime Opposition In Northern Syria Fear They Are Next; Syria Bloodshed Intensifies; 'Sun' Newspaper Crisis Talks; Japan's Emperor in Hospital

Aired February 17, 2012 - 08:00:00   ET

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


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet.

I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong.

And we begin in Syria, where days of attacks against Homs continue. We'll bring you special repots from our teams inside Syria.

And Rupert Murdoch arrives at "The Sun." We'll speak to reporters at another of his scandal-hit newspapers.

"Extreme violence like we've never seen before." Those are the words of an activist in Homs, who says the city is suffering the heaviest shelling in two weeks, with an average of four rockets a minute. It follows a vote at the U.N. General Assembly approving a resolution calling for an end to the violence.

Opposition activists say 70 people were killed across Syria on Thursday, including 38 in Idlib. This latest fierce attack is said to be in Homs. A human rights group says the bodies of nine people were found in the city today.

And here, a building collapses after it reportedly was shelled, although we can't verify these YouTube images. And in the suburbs of Damascus, this funeral apparently turned into a mass demonstration, where the protests against the bloodshed are taking place across Syria today.

Now, Syria restricts foreign journalists from reporting freely in the country, but CNN's Arwa Damon is inside Homs, where she's found people dying of their wounds for lack of treatment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the horizon, thick smoke bellows from a sabotaged gas pipeline. This is the war zone that Homs has become.

We are in Baba Amr, a neighborhood that's endured constant shelling, where civilians are killed and wounded every day. A 30-year-old man lies on the brink of death after shrapnel hit him in the head.

(on camera): He had brain matter that actually came out of the wound last night.

(voice-over): "I couldn't really do anything for him," Dr. Mohammed (ph) says. "I just stitched him up to keep the brain matter in and inserted a tube. It's actually a nasal tube to suction the blood. He will die if he doesn't get out."

Dr. Mohammed (ph) is one of only two doctors here. His specialty is internal medicine. The other doctor is actually a dentist.

Thirty-six-year-old Muhar's (ph) arm is attached by a few muscles only. "I just went out to take out the trash. I saw that the shelling had quieted down," he recalls. "I had hardly stepped out the door when I heard a massive sound."

The father of three tried to get his wife and children out of the area, but he says government forces turned them back. In a weak voice, he implores, "We are begging all countries in the world, please, get involved."

Mohammed Nor (ph) also tried to escape but wasn't allowed through the checkpoint. He says he was hit by a tank round after running to help those wounded in a rocket attack in front of his house.

(on camera): The doctor is just saying that this is a patient who has to get outside of Baba Amr within 24 hours or else his leg most definitely is going to need to be amputated. And the doctor was pointing out how at this point, you can smell the rot coming from the wound. This patient has been lying here like this for four days now.

(voice-over): The feeling of helplessness in the face of such suffering is overwhelming.

"We've lost all feeling," Mohammed (ph) says. "There is no value to life. The rockets just rain down."

Dr. Mohammed (ph) can't hold back the tears. "This is a case that survived," he says. "Most cases we get like, this they die within an hour or two because we can't do anything for them."

(on camera): This is how they have to move around just a short distance to get from one location to the other where they have the patients.

(voice-over): Six patients were killed in this building after a strike. The shelling is relentless.

(on camera): What they've had to do, because the clinics keep getting targeted, is try to distribute the patients around. So they have a number of houses in the vicinity where they also have these makeshift clinics as well.

(voice-over): In what was a living room, one man groans as he shows us his wound. Next to him, another patient struggling to speak as well. He initially traces the shape of a tank on the wall and then communicates through crude drawings. (on camera): This here is Abad (ph), and he has been drawing, trying to explain to us what happened, because he's in so much agony, he can't speak. He is one of the cameramen who goes out and risks his life all the time. It's some of his clips that we constantly see posted to YouTube and broadcast. And he's been drawing two tanks and explaining how he was moving down the street across from them when they fired at him.

He's also got a severe head injury. His skull has been cracked, and the nurse is just saying that he's suffering from internal bleeding as well. (voice-over): Lying in the room nearby, 19-year-old Abdoudi (ph) is barely hanging on, wounded when the clinic was hit a few days ago. Among those treating him is 27-year-old Muda (ph), who like Aboudi (ph) is a volunteer. There is a team of 20 volunteers now on the medical front lines after just 15 days of training.

"I swear to you, he's just a youngster!" Nora (ph) cries. Her voice filled with anguish. "He came here to help people and now he needs help!"

No one is equipped to deal with the scale of the casualties, an average of 60 wounded a day. Not to mention the rising death toll.

"These are humans," Nora (ph) says, her voice trembling. "They are not stone. And all they want to know is how many -- how many have to die before some sort of help arrives?"

Arwa Damon, CNN, Homs, Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: And since Arwa's filmed in that makeshift clinic, 19-year-old Aboudi (ph) and the 30-year-old with the brain injury featured in that report, they have both passed away.

For at least two of the patients Arwa interviewed, there is still hope for recovery. Now, Mohammed Nor (ph), the patient with the rotting leg, and Abad (ph), the amateur videographer with that severe head injury, they were both smuggled out of Syria to a hospital in Lebanon.

And given the ongoing bloodshed in Syria, there are very few nations that are supporting the country. The United Nations General Assembly has passed a non-binding resolution that calls for an end to the violence in Syria. It also supports the Arab League plan for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Now, diplomats voted overwhelmingly in favor of the document, with 137 in favor, 12 against, and 17 abstentions. One of the dissenting voices came from China, which also vetoed a resolution by the U.N. Security Council two weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMB. WANG MIN, DEPUTY PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF CHINA TO U.N. (through translator): We believe that the international community should fully respect Syria's sovereignty, independence, (INAUDIBLE) integrity. It's the independent choice of the Syrian people, as well as the result of political dialogue among various parties of Syria. We do not approve of armed intervention or forcing a (INAUDIBLE) regime change in Syria.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: Now, along with China, Russia and Syria, nine other countries chose to vote against the latest resolution. Let's name them. They include Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Cuba and Venezuela. Also Belarus, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.

Now, his dramatic videos of the conflict made the activist "Danny" known as the voice of Homs. In the process, he risked his own safety and he was forced to flee the country.

Nick Paton Walsh has been speaking to him exclusively following his escape. He joins us now live from Beirut.

And Nick, you talked to Danny, the citizen reporter. What did he tell you?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's clearly, I think, distressed by what he's been through, what he's seen his hometown go through. But still, on the surface, very courageous, jovial, actually, at times, talking about how, amongst his friends still there and other people working on the opposition side of this conflict, they try and keep the best humor they possibly can simply to keep going.

But we spoke -- I think it's fair to say as if diplomacy dragged on. And certainly, he had a very damning environment of exactly what the past few months had really done to the situation on the ground.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

"DANNY," SYRIAN ACTIVIST: For the last few months, it's crimes against humanity. Russia and China will be (INAUDIBLE). What they did, they've got Syrian blood on their hands. This is all their fault.

The last time the U.N. did nothing, they gave the green light and the OK to Bashar al-Assad to kill more. It was the first time that he used rocket launchers, after the U.N. He felt safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALSH: So we've had this U.N. non-binding resolution pass. Effectively, a piece of paper in which many people who have already condemned the violence condemn it together.

Interestingly, the names you mentioned who voted against it, almost a who's who, if you like, of states accused of their own human rights abuses. But certainly this resolution has had very little effect on the ground at all. The 17th day of shelling in Homs, five killed by it this morning, nine bodies found overnight.

And quite separately, over to the east of where I'm standing here, in Beirut, in a town called Zabadani, held by the opposition for a period of time, then it appears retaken by the military. There have been renewed clashes this morning, we understand. The opposition forces apparently in the hills around the town.

So violence not letting up at all in the wake of this final, eventual U.N. vote -- Kristie.

STOUT: You know, fighting in Homs, Zabadani and elsewhere. It seems that this week in particular, we have seen the violence escalate in Syria.

Why is that? And is it because Bashar al-Assad has been emboldened by the lack of international action so far?

WALSH: I think that's certainly what observers and many opposition activists feel has been the result of this inability by the international community to come up with something genuinely practical that can get in the way of the Syrian army crackdown at this point. There could be another motivation. We don't know what's happening inside the psyche of the Syrian regime at this time.

Are they running out of money? Do they feel they're running out of time? Do they have to push this through because they're concerned about defections?

Many questions people are asking themselves, but certainly this crackdown has continued while the diplomacy is dragging on. Maybe there is a feeling that it buys Bashar al-Assad a little bit more time, this diplomatic nanny, if you like, by Russia and China consistently supporting his position.

But certainly, we've not seen anything to suggest that this protracted discussion in the international community, this endless stream of words, it seems, have actually done anything to slow the violence on the ground -- Kristie.

STOUT: Nick Paton Walsh on the story.

Thank you.

Now, ahead here on NEWS STREAM, Rupert Murdoch. He arrives at News International for crisis talks with employees of "The Sun." We'll have a live report from London, next.

Japan unites to pray for the country's emperor. He will undergo heart surgery on Saturday. We'll tell you more about him shortly.

And he has only started six games for the Knicks, but Jeremy Lin has already captured the attention of basketball's best and brightest. Shaquille O'Neal gives us his thoughts on the NBA newcomer.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Welcome back.

And to Germany, where the country's president, Christian Wulff, has resigned. Mr. Wulff stepped down just a few hours ago, saying he could no longer devote himself to the challenges of the job.

Now, he's recently been accused in a series of political scandals, including allegations that he accepted financial favors during his time of state premier of Lower Saxony. Now, Wulff decided to resign publicly, and here is part of his televised statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIAN WULFF, GERMAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Our country, the Federal Republic of Germany, needs a president who can devote himself completely to national and international challenges. Germany needs a president who is supported by the trust not just of a majority, but of a wide majority of citizens.

The developments of the past days and weeks have shown that this trust and, therefore, confidence in my ability to serve has been aversely affected. For this reason, it is no longer possible for me to continue in my role as president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: Now, the German presidency, it's mainly a ceremonial role. But Mr. Wulff's resignation could be damaging for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is one of his key supporters. Now she says she accepted his decision with deepest personal regret.

British tabloid "The Sun" is said to be Rupert Murdoch's favorite newspaper, but there is no love lost between the pair at the moment. Now, this is Murdoch on his way to speak with "Sun" employees at News International's London headquarters. He flew in on Thursday night to address a growing scandal that's seen the arrests of several of the paper's staffers. They say that management played a role in their arrests.

Now, "The Sun" is under investigation in the U.K. for allegedly making illegal payments to government officials.

Seven months ago, before Murdoch shut down "News of the World" after its phone-hacking scandal in public, he says "The Sun" is not facing the same fate. In fact, we've just heard that Murdoch said he will launch a new newspaper called "The Sun" on Sunday.

Senior international correspondent Dan Rivers joins us now from outside News International headquarters in Wapping, south of London.

And Dan, tell us more. Why is Rupert Murdoch there? What does he plan to do?

DAN RIVERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's a sort of classic Murdoch move in a time of crisis, go on the offensive, as it were, announcing this new edition of "The Sun" newspaper that effectively replaces the "News of the World," the disgraced tabloid that was shut down last year amid the phone-hacking scandal. There was always speculation they were going to do something like this.

In fact, I think there had been suggestions they had already reserved the Internet domain name "TheSun" on Sunday. And now he's gone ahead just as his staff are in almost open revolt about the way this investigation is being handled by the parent company, News Corp.

Rupert Murdoch has appointed this management and standards committee to work with the police to look into alleged criminality. And since then, nine journalists on "The Sun" newspaper have been arrested in dawn raids, and this management committee has handed over sensitive contacts for sources, for journalistic sources, as well as details of alleged payments to the fury of some staff on "The Sun," the open fury, some writing devastating columns criticizing their own employers in the paper, saying that this is undermining the principle of protecting journalistic sources.

And it's prompted a huge debate here in the U.K. about the ethics of journalism.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIVERS (voice-over): First, it was phone hacking. Now the latest media scandal is about cash for stories and whether Rupert Murdoch's journalists legally bribed police officers and other officials for information.

The police have recently launched dawn raids on five journalists from "The Sun," the Murdoch-owned sister tabloid of the now defunct "News of the World," which was closed amid the phone-hacking scandal.

TREVOR KAVANAGH, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "THE SUN": This is utterly disproportionate. It is out of control when you have the biggest police operation in the country in its history, even bigger than the Lockerbie bombings, the Lockerbie Pan am bombing, and 171 police on this operation, and expanding almost daily.

RIVERS: But the lawyer who led the phone-hacking action against News International thinks the police may be right to heap resources on this new growing scandal.

MARK LEWIS, LAWYER FOR PHONE-HACKING VICTIMS: We don't know how much people have been paid and we don't know what they're being paid for. So it's too early to say that that is a disproportionate thing.

RIVERS: Some journalists think buying stories can be justified. Among them, Paul Connew, formerly of the "News of the World."

PAUL CONNEW, FMR. DEPUTY EDITOR, "NEWS OF THE WORLD": Paying for stories is part of journalism. Paying or recompensing -- there are various ways of paying -- public servants as a public interest, it happens, and I would defend that.

LEWIS: I think we can draw a line and say, well, payment of police officers for stories can never be justified.

RIVERS: But what's caused such consternation at "The Sun" is that journalists' contact books and expense records have been handed over to the police by News Corp's management, working with dozens of U.S. attorneys.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON QC, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER: The American lawyers are coming over here to drain the swamp. Well, there's certainly some dirty water in "News of the World." But the danger is, you throw the baby out with the bath water. You throw out the right of journalists to protect their source.

RIVERS: Most agree protecting journalistic sources is vital for stories in the public interest.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIVERS: The problem is, which stories are in the public interest and which are simply interesting to the public?

Now, though, there's going to be a new tabloid on the block as Rupert Murdoch, in the last few minutes, as you mentioned, Kristie, has announced that "Sun on Sunday" edition in that meeting that's going on behind me. You can see the (INAUDIBLE) heads of the existing newspaper.

There's a gap where the "News of the World" used to be. I suppose it will soon be filled with another plaque saying "The Sun on Sunday."

So some expected news, I think here, as Rupert Murdoch tries to deflect the ire and fury of his staff by announcing this new edition of "The Sun."

STOUT: A fast-moving story with that new development.

Dan Rivers reporting.

Thank you, Dan.

Now, "The Sun" may have a lot of sentimental value for Rupert Murdoch, but the bulk of his money comes from his business in the U.S.

Max Foster spoke to Andrew Neil, a former editor of Murdoch's "Sunday Times," and he says Murdoch's top priority is protecting his American operations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW NEIL, FMR. EDITOR, "THE SUNDAY TIMES": This is, for Rupert Murdoch, no longer about journalism. This is about defending News Corp., his American-based parent company, from judicial action and investigation in the United States.

And at the moment, it looks like he's prepared to sacrifice the journalists and journalism in London to do whatever it takes to be seen to be cleaning up his act there so that it will play better in the United States. And the consequence of that is quite amazing.

"The Sun," which is the most loyal newspaper has ever owned, believes it's now being hung out to dry, and "The Sun" journalists are turning against him. He will be in London this week to reassure journalists that he's going to look after them, that they won't be hung out to dry. I doubt if they will believe him, because the penalties for what his newspapers are being accused of in London are huge under the Corrupt Practices Act in the United States. And News Corp. matters a lot more to him than any of his newspapers in the United Kingdom.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I want to ask you how the business will change by the time he's flown out, or at least the plans to change. What would have changed in his British businesses?

NEIL: I think when he flies out, not much will have improved from before, except he will still have to ensure with America his main concern that his British arm is doing everything possible to mitigate any legal action and investigation that he could now face in the United States. His company is already under investigation by the Justice Department, the FBI and the SEC in New York. They're all waiting to see what London comes up with first, but they're there in the wings. They're a far bigger danger to Rupert Murdoch's business interests than phone hacking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: Analysis there from Andrew Neil.

Now, the phone-hacking scandal cost Rupert Murdoch $200 million, and his business, News Corp., is worth $32 billion. But its British arm, News International, makes up a fraction of that, $1.6 billion, or 5 percent.

You're watching NEWS STREAM live from Hong Kong. And coming up, an unconventional legacy. We'll look at the life and health of a Japanese emperor who has not been afraid to break the rules.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you're back watching NEWS STREAM.

Japan's emperor, Akihito, is scheduled to undergo heart bypass surgery on Saturday. Now, tests last week showed a narrowing of his arteries. And doctors greeted the emperor at the hospital earlier on Friday. He was accompanied by his wife, Empress Michiko.

The Japanese people have deep respect for the imperial family. Here, you can see a large crowd writing get well notes for the emperor.

The crown prince will take over royal duties during Emperor Akihito's operation and recovery. The 78-year-old's health has been a growing concern.

Anna Coren has more on his role and recent medical issues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Akihito, spoke directly to the Japanese people after the devastating tsunami and nuclear disaster struck the country last March. Urging his people to be strong, he made a prerecorded statement on television and the Internet in an historic media event. No emperor had done such a thing before.

But this wasn't his first first. Akihito broke more than 1,500 years of imperial tradition when he became the first Japanese crown prince to marry a commoner back in 1959.

Akihito became the 125th emperor of Japan in 1990 after the death of his father. The role is mostly ceremonial these days. Japan's defeat in World War II led to a new constitution that reduced the emperor's power.

Akihito's interests include tennis and playing the cello. He's deeply interested in marine biology, even publishing research papers on certain types of fish.

Akihito's health has declined in recent years. He underwent surgery for prostate cancer in 2003 and was hospitalized in November, suffering bronchitis and a fever.

Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Now, still to come on NEWS STREAM, activists in northern Syria are declaring independence from the country's government. In one town, there is no military presence whatsoever. We'll take you there.

And a meeting of minds takes place in Pakistan. The leaders of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan say they want to ensure peace in the region, but Iran is still flexing its nuclear muscles.

We've got the details ahead on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching NEWS STREAM and these are your world headlines.

Now, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch is in London to try to contain the damage from allegations of bribery at his top selling newspaper. The News Corp chairman is set to hold a meeting with staff at The Sun. Now journalists on the paper are under investigation in the UK amid evidence of illegal payments to police and public officials.

Libyans are celebrating a year since the start of the revolution that drove Moammar Gadhafi out of power. Beneath the cheering, there are concerns about perceived weakness in Libya's new government and the refusal of some militias to give up their weapons.

The Syrian city of Homs is being shelled for a 14th consecutive day. Bombardment by government forces has left the streets deserted. Most local people too frightened to go outside.

On Thursday, the UN general assembly passed a non-binding resolution condemning the crackdown.

Now let's remind you where these events are happening. As we mentioned, activists say Homs has been under an intense military siege for a full two weeks. They describe Friday's shelling as the worst yet.

Now Hama has also seen intense fighting. It has a long history of dissent.

Now president Bashar al Assad's father crushed a Sunni-led uprising there 30 years ago.

Now the current protests started 11 months ago in the southern city of Daraa. It's about 100 kilometers away from the capital Damascus. And the city remains a government stronghold, though the uprising has brought fighting to some suburbs there.

Now Syria's second city, Aleppo also remains loyal to the al Assad regime, but nearby Idlib could be a hub for the opposition. It is near the Free Syrian Army's base across the border in Turkey.

Ivan Watson is in northern Syria where he says entire towns and villages have broken free of government control. Many activists say they won't rest until Homs and the rest of Syria are also free.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the last line of defense for an opposition enclave in northern Syria, a checkpoint manned by young volunteers, searching cars by the lights of a burning tire.

The leader here, 35-year-old Abdullah. Before the revolution, he made a living selling cars.

What are you looking for? What are you protecting against here?

"We're on the lookout for Bashard al Assad's thugs and Assad's army," Abdullah says.

Entire villages and towns here in Norther Syria have broken free of the Syrian government. There is no Syrian military presence at all in this town. Instead, children walk to school past the flag of the opposition, which flies over Main Street.

The green, black, and white flag a symbol worn by young revolutionaries making final preparations a day before their weekly show of defiance against the government.

SHAHEM SUMAC, OPPOSITION ACTIVIST: We are ready for tomorrow. We have tomorrow a big demonstration.

WATSON: This Friday, the protest will include a message of support for the besieged city of Homs. If that opposition stronghold falls, Syrians here in the north know they may be the next to face the wrath of the Syrian security forces.

This 21-year-old university student doesn't expect help from the international community any time soon.

SUMAC: We have god helping, nothing more now.

WATSON: The Syrian government routinely denounces opposition activists, calling them armed terrorists. When they began demonstrating last spring, these young men chanted freedom. Now that thousands of Syrians have been killed that chat is -- in English that means war.

Ivan Watson, CNN, in northern Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: And back to the flashpoint city of Homs which has been enveloped in black smoke after a gas pipeline exploded on Wednesday. Now this image, taken from a satellite, it shows the immense scale of the plume. And opposition group says that government war planes blew up the pipeline, but state TV blamed terrorists for the attack. And activists reported cases of suffocation after the explosion.

Now the U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper says Syria's president will not leave power unless there is a coup. The spy chief also warned a congressional hearing that the influence of al Qaeda is spreading in Syria. Chris Lawrence has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dozens more Syrians were killed in another day of violence. The director of national intelligence issued this blunt admission: Syria's president will not stop.

JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF U.S. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Assad himself probably because of his psychological need to emulate his father sees no other option but to continue to try to crush the opposition.

LAWRENCE: But about those rebel forces. U.S. intelligence officials are publicly admitted they've been infiltrated by al Qaeda.

CLAPPER: The opposition groups in many cases may not be aware they are there.

LAWRENCE: So what's keeping Assad's regime together? There have been some desertions, but the military is still with him. Same with Syria's elite families. And the rebels are disorganized.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Unless something changes as far as assistance from the outside, do you see a continued stalemate in Syria.

CLAPPER: Short of a coup or something like that that Assad will hang in there and continue to do as he has done.

MCCAIN: And the massacre continues?

CLAPPER: Yes.

LAWRENCE: But these satellite images of rocket launchers and artillery only hint at the obstacles of stepping in. Syria's army is five times the size of Libya's. And its population density is 30 times greater, increasing the risk of civilian casualties.

NATO only had to secure a few chemical weapon sites in Libya. A defense official tells CNN, the cities of Hama, Homs, Al Safir, and Latakia are all believed to house production facilities with storage sites and research centers elsewhere. He says the U.S. is having specific discussions about the security of Syria's chemical weapons program and what happens to the stockpiles of sarin and mustard gas if Assad's government collapses.

CLAPPER: So there would be kind of a vacuum I think that would lend itself to extremists operating in Syria which is particularly troublesome in light of the large network of chemical warfare, CBW weapon storage facilities and other related facilities that there are in Syria.

LAWRENCE: So you've got the government's relentless violence, militant extremists among the opposition and chemical weapons potentially up for grabs, which could mean the only thing worse than Assad staying in power is Assad leaving.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: A journalist for the New York Times has died in Syria. Anthony Shadid was 43 and apparently died from an asthma attack while reporting in the east of the country. The fluent Arabic speaker covered the Middle East for more than 20 years and won two Pulitzer Prizes for his reports from Iraq.

Now Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in Pakistan attending a regional summit with Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai. The two leaders held talk with President Asif Zardari to show their commitment to peace in the region.

Earlier this week President Ahmadinejad boasted of progress in his country's controversial nuclear program. Rezah Sayah has been following this story. He joins us now live from Islamabad.

And Reza, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seemed to grab the headline there at the summit. What did he say?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, more rhetoric, nothing groundbreaking coming from Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Of course when you have a gathering like this, Presidents Ahmadinejad, Zardari, Karai, there's a lot of subjects you can cover. These are three very controversial leaders who are involved in some of the most complicated issue in the world. But of course wherever Mr. Ahmadinejad goes, sure to follow are talks about Iran's nuclear program. There wasn't any difference today.

Earlier this week, of course, Iran and its leaders announcing a number of achievements in what they call is their peaceful nuclear program. That had places like Israel and U.S. sounding the alarm. Leaders in those two countries saying these are examples of why the world should be concerned about Iran moving closer to the capability of building a bomb.

Of course, Iran maintains its program is peaceful. And today, as he often does, Mr. Ahmadinejad condemned nuclear bombs and any nation that has them. He also took a swipe at the U.S. saying this region's problems all stem from outside interference, a clear reference, Kristie, to U.S. and western involvement in places like Iraq, places like Afghanistan and places like here in Pakistan.

STOUT: Ahmadinejad slamming the west there.

Now Iran's nuclear negotiator, Said Jalil, he is now offering to resume talks over the country's nuclear program. Why is Iran asking for talks now?

SAYAH: Well, look, Iran's position has always been we're ready to negotiate with the west. What's clear is the confrontation over Iran's nuclear program is escalating. And there are strong signs that now it's getting violent. Of course over the past few year's you've had Iranian nuclear scientists being assassinated in Iran. In recent weeks you've had Israeli diplomats targeted in places like India and Georgia.

Obviously if there is going to be a peaceful solution to this matter, talks, negotiations must be a component of that solution. And now there are indications that Iran is really pushing for talks this week. The foreign ministry saying they are ready for talks. Reportedly this week the foreign minister himself sending a letter to the EU saying they have new initiatives that could be part of the solution.

The problem right now is there are no talks scheduled. Another problem is, even if there are talks, what's going to be the outcome. In the past, those talks haven't yielded any solution, Kristie.

STOUT: So Iran is pushing for talks, but at the same time as you've been reporting earlier this week we saw Ahmadinejad in that white lab coat at a Tehran reactor there for the loading of Iranian made fuel rods. I mean, what is the end game here? Is Iran out to make its own nuclear weapons?

SAYAH: Well, it's important to note that at this point there is no evidence that Iran is building a nuclear bomb. All those achievements that were announced earlier this week, all those undertakings were announced months ago to the UN's nuclear watch dog the IAEA. But certainly if there is going to be negotiations and the west is going to be insistent on Iran stopping uranium enrichment there is going to be a problem. Iran has maintained that it will not stop uranium enrichment.

In the past it has offered a deal to stop enriching 20 percent uranium. They agreed in the past to swap that out with nuclear fuel rods they need for cancer research. Could that be part of another negotiated deal? If talks happen, many observers say that's a possibility.

But again talks need to be scheduled first. And at this point there are no talks scheduled, Kristie.

STOUT: Yeah, so much unclear and so much at stake here. Reza Sayah reporting. Thank you Reza.

Up next here on News Stream, now this dangerous debris lurks in outer space. And we'll show you a new idea to clean up the heavens.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Welcome back.

Now right now thousands of objects are orbiting far above our heads and a lot of it is trash. Now the Swiss are on a mission to clean up space. And you are looking at an artists rendition of the so-called janitor satellite. And it's quite small, it's just 30 centimeters long. And this grappling hook, it would capture bits of space debris and both would then burn up in the Earth's atmosphere.

Now the satellite is called Clean Space One. It could launch in three to five years.

Now Mari Ramos, she's been keeping her eye in the skies and the build up of all that space junk. She joins us now from the world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie.

Yeah, that's pretty cool, because we definitely do need something to clean up space, you know. It used to be that there were only a few satellites now there's literally hundreds and hundreds of satellites that are floating out there.

Right here what we're looking at is one of the more common ones, one of the more popular ones, the international space station. You are looking at this in real-time through this Google animation here. It's pretty cool. And just yesterday they had their first space walk of the year. Two Russian cosmonauts, one of the things that they were trying to do was install deflectors. They weren't able to do it. They're going to try again in a couple of days. They're going to install deflectors on the ISS to try to avoid the space debris.

And this is why. Go ahead and zoom out. Justin Jones helping me out with this. Look at all this, this is in real-time where all of the space debris actually is. That's the Cosmos 2251, a piece of space junk from a long time ago.

So you can really see how impressive this is and why it is so important to try to get all of these pieces out. It would be nearly impossible.

You've got to remember they're all flying at different altitudes. And I imagine that something like that space janitor that you were telling us right now would probably try to clean up, or try to grab the more dangerous ones that are getting closer to some of these more important satellites of course. Probably not the space junk.

Let's go ahead and move on. You want to keep talking about space a little bit? Did you see the solar tornado? This is really cool stuff. Let's go ahead and take a look at that now if we could. What you're looking at is gyrating plasma on the surface of the sun. You see that swirl that's going around right there? Basically competing areas, competing electron magnetic fields is what NASA says this is.

They say these high resolution images are only visible, because you have the brightness of the sun behind it and then you have these amazing pictures right there. They were taken by the SDO, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, which was launched two years ago precisely to study what happens on the sun and then how it affects us here on Earth.

Well, let's talk a little bit more about Earth. Why don't we check out your city by city forecast.

I love that solar tornado.

You know what, let's talk about the weather here on Earth very quickly. A couple of areas I want to tell you about -- extreme cold across portions of south Asia for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern parts of India. A lot of heavy snowfall here, including blocked roads. And people that just can't get in or out of that region. We're also dealing with some extreme cold temperatures across northeastern parts of Asia as well.

For you guys in Japan this is going to mean yet another round of some heavy snow for these areas. There are red warnings posted across many parts of Honshu in particular because of the risk of avalanches and also the risk of more heavy snowfall coming your way.

And speaking of avalanches, let's go ahead and roll the pictures that we have from Austria. Yeah, high avalanche danger here as well. All of this happening because of the heavy snowfall of the last few days. They're asking people to stay away. There were at least two areas in Tirol and Spirea (ph) where ski and ski touring people were trapped by the avalanches. There was no reports of anyone being hurt, but you can see with conditions like this why this is so dangerous, Kristie.

Across Europe we're also expecting more snowfall. The heaviest snow this time will be, I think, across Eastern Europe again, mainly into parts of Turkey. Back to you.

STOUT: Yeah, so much danger out there. For those in affected regions, take care. Mari Ramos thank you. Have a good weekend. I'll see you a little bit later.

Now ahead here on News Stream, it seems a day doesn't pass without people talking about Jeremy Lin. Now NBA legends are joining the hype. We'll hear what some of them think of the NBA newcomer next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Welcome back.

Now Apple has shown off the latest update to its desktop operating system. OS X Mountin Lion, it follows on from the last update by borrowing more features from Apple's mobile operating system iOS.

But if you scroll all the way down the list of features, one thing stood out for us. There is a section dedicated to features for China. Many popular Chinese services are supported within the new version of OS X. Microblogging service Weibo is integrated the same way Twitter is. Baidu is a search engine option instead of Google, even posting videos gives you the option of sending them to Yoku instead of YouTube.

Now OS X Mountain Lion is due out this summer.

Time now for a sports update. And there were some high profile football clubs taking the pitch in the Europa League last night. Pedro Pinto joins us from London. He's got more -- Pedro.

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie. You're absolutely right. The likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Ajax, Porto, Valencia all in action. These are teams we're used to seeing in the knock-out stages of the Champion's League not the Europa League. Well, I can tell you that the Premier League leaders Man City beat Porto in Portugal in the first leg of their round of 32 tie.

Roberto Mancini's side came back from a goal down on Thursday. Parella (ph) gave Porto the lead before Alvero Pereira (ph) an own goal and then Sergio Arguero (ph) netted a winner six minutes from time. 2-1 it finished.

City's victory was marred by alleged racist abuse director at Mario Barlotelli. The Italian striker told team officials that he heard monkey noises when he was substituted in the second half. Midfielder Yaya Toure said after the game he heard something similar as well. The club have filed an official complaint to UEFA who could now decide to investigate the incident.

There was no controversy surrounding Manchester United's away win last night. Sir Alex Ferguson's side beat Ayax 2-nil in Amsterdam taking a huge step towards the round of 16. Ashley Young opened the scoring in the 59th minute and Javier Hernandez added another goal before full time. A comfortable victory for United at the Amsterdam arena.

In the NBA, Chicago improved their league best record to 25-7 even without Derrick Rose who missed his fourth straight game with a back injury. The Bulls were still way too good for Boston on Thursday night.

It was a close game between two teams led by two of the best coaches in the league -- Tom Thibodau and Doc Rivers. Chicago got a great game from Carlos Boozer, 23 points, 15 rebounds.

We fast forward to the fourth quarter where both teams took turns at grabbing the lead. Chris Wilcox slams home the alley-oop. Celtics up by one at that point.

But Chicago managed to prevail thanks in large part to Luol Deng. He got hot from 3-point range, a couple of big shots from downtown from the British star. That helped the Bulls take this game 89-80 as they come out on top at home against the veteran Boston Celtics.

Well, later on Friday Linsanity returns to the NBA. Jeremy Lin will try to lead the New York Knicks to their eighth straight win. What has made this story so special? Our TNT colleague Ernie Johnson got the thoughts of three NBA legends.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERNIE JOHNSON, TNT: Here on the set of Inside the NBA on TNT. Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kenny "the Jet" Smith, and Charles Barkley. And we're talking this Jeremy Lin phenomenon.

Shaq, what is the best part of this story for you.

SAQUILLE O'NEAL, INSIDE THE NBA: Well it reminds me of the Whoppi Goldberg movie Eddy. You know the Knick team, they weren't really doing that good and you had this underdog person comes in. You know, last week he was sleeping on the couch. He got cut twice. And, you know, the kid just came in and because of him and what he's done single-handedly, the Knicks are now in the playoffs.

And you know he's doing one great thing, he's keeping it simple stupid. He's playing simple basketball, you know. Can't really jump that high. You know, he's not really a great athlete, but he has Steve Nash material. You know he's making simple bounce passes, you know. He's coming off, driving to the lane, doing oopsie little doopsie little lay- ups. And you know, the kid is playing great.

KENNY SMITH, INSIDE THE NBA: Here is a guy -- you know, as a coach or a general manager all you have to do is one thing, not Xs and Os, not get along with your team, but be a talent evaluator. And there are so many people who didn't evaluate his talent incorrectly. So that's the story of everybody's life. Everyone feels like they've been evaluated wrong at some time in their life. And here's a guy when it happened he didn't just kick the door down, he blew it up. And he said, you know what, no, you really misjudged my talent. And here I am.

CHARLES BARKLEY, INSIDE THE NBA: Cool thing about, Ernie, when you watch them play, they love playing with him. He makes everybody around him better. But his energy is contagious. They love playing with this kid and for this kid.

SMITH: And when you see one thing, Chuck, you know what a guy makes a team better? Let's call it hugs and high fives? And when you see those on -- you didn't see hugs and high fives before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PINTO: More from Shaw, Kenny and Chuck coming up on the next addition of World Sports in a little over three hours time. That's all for now. Kristie, back to you.

STOUT: All right. Looking forward to that. Pedro Pinto, thank you.

Now you've probably heard enough jokes using Jeremy Lin's name. In fact, we have tried and failed to ban the use of the word Linsanity right here on News Stream, but we just couldn't resist this one. Let's go back to the Inside the NBA crew.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: His ability to Linrovise has been extremely good. And I'm (inaudible) of those to. Hey, have you enjoyed being on CNN here?

BARKLEY: I have been.

JOHNSON: What?

O'NEAL: You know -- you know Wolf Blitzer CNLin.

BARKLEY: I was getting ready to say C Lin Lin. You beat me to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: That's the worst one so far.

That is NEWS STREAM. But the news continues at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is next.

END