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Elections Iranian Style; Prince Harry Travels to Belize; Novak Djokovic Suffers A Loss; Journalists Home After Escape from Homs; Al Qusayr Might Be Next Syrian Town in Crosshairs; Russia's Relationship to Syria; Japanese Tsunami Captured on Video By Survivors; Exclusive Interview with British Pop Star Noel Gallagher; Parting Shots of Britain's Blast from the Past for Eurovision 2012

Aired March 2, 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: Tonight on CONNECT THE WORLD, elections Iranian style. The country's supreme leader tells his people it's their patriotic duty to vote, as rival conservative candidates go head-to-head.

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

ANDERSON: With the opposition banned, victory at the polls for Iran's hardliners is insured. So this hour, what that means for the country's deteriorating relations with the West.

Also ahead, an turmoil reunion -- injured French journalists finally back home after being trapped in Homs.

And...

(music)

ANDERSON: -- in an exclusive interview, the award-winning bad boy of rock, Oasis singer Noel Gallagher talks to CNN about going solo.

Why he's shunned and subject to crippling sanctions. Iran's leadership hopes new elections will send a defiant message to the world. Voters casting ballots today for parliament. They weren't given a huge choice, as it was basically a contest between two conservative factions. But the leaders were hoping for a huge turnout to give legitimacy to policies that are controversial abroad, none more so than the country's nuclear ambitions.

CNN's Ivan Watson reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATSON (voice-over): Election day in Iran. Lines of voters casting their ballots in the ornate mosques that serve as polling stations. More that 3,400 candidates are competing for some 290 seats in parliament.

BEHZAD, VOTER: No, I'm just going to vote out of chance. They're all good. It doesn't make -- it doesn't make any difference. They're all the same, all Hezbollah, religious, very nice, kind people.

WATSON (on camera): Which group do you think will win this election?

NASSER AHADI, VOTER: I think the group that know how to govern this country will win the election.

WATSON: Elections are a chance for the government to show that it enjoys the support the population in Iran. So, as people line up into the polling stations, into mosques like this, they file past banners that have slogans celebrating the accomplishments of Iran's 33-year Islamic revolution.

(voice-over): For days, top Iranian officials have urged voters to flock to the polls. Candidates from the ruling establishment are calling this election vital.

"During the 2009 elections, we faced a great plot perpetrated against us by Western countries," says this lawmaker, who's running for reelection. "They tried to sideline our system of government. So these elections are very important to show the people's support for this system."

After the last presidential election, street protests erupted when opposition candidates accused of government of rigging the results. Security forces crushed the demonstrations and the candidates themselves are still under house arrest.

The opposition Green Movement is boycotting this election, as are some ordinary Iranians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to take part in this election.

WATSON (on camera): Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I say everyone has his own viewpoint. For example, someone says, OK, I like, you know, the system or someone says, no, I don't like, I'm opposite of the system.

WATSON (voice-over): Political analysts say the election field is dominated by conservative candidates known as principalists, which is fine for voters Leyla Khandan. She is a supporter of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his political allies.

"I want to elect politicians who will create more jobs for young people and improve the economy," she says.

Rival governments may be beating the war drums in the Middle East, but this Iranian woman says she just wants more jobs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATSON: Now, Becky, the voting period was extended several times throughout the day, to 11:00 p.m. local time, an additional five hours of voting so that people could cast their ballots. Iranian state media reporting a massive turnout. The Press TV reporting that possibly 64.6 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. And already, you've got Iranian government officials coming out and declaring this a major victory. You -- there is soaring rhetoric here describing what a big accomplishment this is for the Iranian people, a slap in the face to Western rivals of Iran. The interior minister calling this a massive turnout that infuriated and disappointed Iran's enemies. He went on to say, their anti-Iranian propaganda failed.

So they're patting themselves on the back right now for this election -- Becky.

ANDERSON: All right, well, the -- we know that the opposition Green Movement called for a boycott of this vote.

What are members of that movement saying about this election -- Ivan?

WATSON: Well, of course, the leaders of that movement or the opposition candidates who ran for president in 2009, Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, they are both under house arrest right now. And so many of their family members have faced prosecution, and a number of associates to them have even fled the country. They're not really speaking right now, given this repression.

We did talk to two activists. One was an art student in Shiraz, who, of course, doesn't want his name published for his own safety. And he said, quote, "What you see on Iranian TV is all propaganda." He went on to say, "I am not voting today because my vote does not count and never has counted since the 1979 Islamic Revolution."

Another person we spoke with here in Tehran, an engineer, also doesn't want his name given. He also echoed this despair, saying, "I feel like a coward that I can't go on TV and tell the world what is happening in Iran. I am ashamed" -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Ivan Watson reporting out of Tehran for you this evening.

And let me tell you, one of the very, very few Western journalists there reporting live from Iran at present.

Ivan, we thank you very much, indeed, for that.

Well, Iran's state media says voters have dealt a blow to enemies in the West. Yet there wasn't any real chance that the election would go or change the status quo in terms of foreign policy.

Here's Reza Sayah to put much of this into context for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The outcome of Friday's vote is unlikely to change major policy matters. The Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guard still call the shots on key issues, including Iran's controversial nuclear program. Western powers and Israel fear Iran is closer than ever to nuclear weapons capability, but threats and a fourth round of economic sanctions have so far failed to force Iran to stop what it calls a peaceful nuclear program.

On Monday, all eyes will be on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit with U.S. President Barack Obama. It's widely believed Israel is pushing Washington to support a pre-emptive strike against Iran. But the White House doesn't appear to have the appetite for war.

That means Washington and Israel have yet to come up with a solution on Iran they both agree on. Analysts say it's unlikely you can scare or threaten Iran out of a nuclear program and any solution, they say, must include some form of diplomacy or talks where Iran can project itself as having gained something in exchange for reining in its nuclear program.

How to get to that point is the challenge for all sides involved.

Reza Sayah, CNN, Islamabad.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: All right, a reminder there, lest we forget, that this election in Iran comes against the backdrop of what are deteriorating relations with the West and just ahead of what could be a crucial meeting between the U.S. president and Iran's bitter foe, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That meeting in Washington on Monday. so how might a vote in support of the more conservative elements in Iran affect domestic policy and how would that inform Iran's positioning vis-a- vis the outside world? well, that is the question I put to our chief investigative correspondent, Christiane Amanpour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly, what's happened is this competition between conservative and more conservative. And what you're seeing is a coalescence of power around the more conservative, more hardline members of the Iranian establishment, including the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

And, of course, this, at a time when the world is looking at Iran's nuclear program and when the crisis level is very high.

ANDERSON: Christiane, ahead of his meeting Monday with Obama, the Israeli prime minister said -- and I quote -- "This" -- the Iranian nuclear program -- "is a grave threat to peace and stability in the world. And I think it's important that the international community not allow this threat" -- by which he means the perceived threat of a nuclear bomb -- to materialize."

Now, we know that Washington is alarmed by reports that Israel might take unilateral military action as early as April.

In this high stakes game of poker, is it yet clear who might show their hand with military action first?

AMANPOUR: This is the most important weekend for the president coming up, in a long, long time. He will be meeting with the president of Israel and on Monday with the prime minister of Israel.

In this atmosphere of war drums that are beating, the White House, the entire U.S. establishment, in terms of the military and the White House and other areas of the administration, will be trying to convince the Israeli prime minister that now is not the time to take any unilateral action against Iran.

The president will try to convince Benjamin Netanyahu that he is serious when he says he will not permit or allow a nuclear-armed Iran. But the United States will say that they have not detected Iran moving toward building a nuclear weapon and the president will say that trust us, allow our sanctions, the heavy diplomacy that we have been imposing on Iran, that's hurting Iran, allow us to let that work and we will have your back.

The president gave a very strategic interview to Jeffrey Goldberg of "The Atlantic," to send this message loud and clear. So the U.S. is trying to put the brakes on.

As for Israel, they obviously have different red lines and it's not entirely clear at all whether they would believe President Obama or whether they would think that they had an ironclad enough agreement from President Obama.

ANDERSON: Christiane, how would you characterize the relationship, today, March, 2012, between Israel and the U.S.?

AMANPOUR: Well, look, it obviously has been frosty. It's been talked about a lot during the president's -- during the presidency of Barack Obama.

However, on this very issue, obviously, the United States is committed to the security of Israel, as we've seen over many, many years. They do have a difference in terms of their red lines on the issue of Iran's nuclear program and Iran's intentions. And so this is where the difficulty is. You know that inside Israel there are also many, many areas -- the Mossad, the military, many politicians, including the Israeli people, who are not gung-ho about a military strike on Iran and most certainly not about a unilateral Israeli military strike on Iran without any U.S. help.

And so this is the -- the sort of atmosphere in which these talks are taking place right now, with the White House trying to convince Israel that now is not the time for military action.

ANDERSON: Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, there.

And just a reminder, Christiane's own show returning to CNN very soon.

Well, our top story tonight, Iranians go to the polls in an election that is likely to define the conservative balance of power, a resolute that could have a significant bearing on how Israel positions itself on the world stage going forward.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London.

I'm Becky Anderson.

Fourteen minutes past nine here.

Still to come, joy and relief in Paris -- two journalists who escaped from Syria's hardest hit city are back on home soil. flying solo in Central America -- Prince Harry is bound for Belize on his first official tour representing his granny.

And declared a godlike genius, Northeasterly Gallagher makes his mark as a solo artist. He's going to tell you why his success shouldn't come as a surprise and you shouldn't be surprised by that. Our executive with the former Oasis songwriter and singer.

Much more still ahead.

(singing)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: Well, each day brings more astonishing images from Syria. And this one has been no exception. Take a look at what happened at a rally in the town of Rafsan (ph) on Friday.

(VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: An activist says these people were shelled by the Syrian military. At least 16 people were killed there.

Meanwhile, in Homs, aid groups were told they would be allowed into the hard hit neighborhood of Baba Amr. But right now, they are still on stand-by. In the last half hour, ICRC's spokesman, Hicham Hassan, gave this reaction to not being allowed in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HICHAM HASSAN, SPOKESMAN, ICRC: It's extremely disappointing to see that after families have been waiting for weeks now, affected deeply by the violence, with a lot of needs and urgent needs, not just any needs, have still not gotten their necessary assistance. We are still there now in Homs with the Syrian Red Crescent. We will attempt to go inside Baba Amr while now assessing families who have fled the violence-stricken neighborhood.

This is why we renewed now, through our president, our appeal for a cessation of fighting as soon as possible, all over the affected areas, and for two hours a day. It's very important today and it's unacceptable that people still don't have help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: The ICRC spokesman, speaking to us just moments ago.

And we'll have much more on the situation in system later this hour.

A look now, though, at some of the other stories that are connecting our world tonight tonight.

And it's not yet legally binding, but most EU leaders have now committed to an agreement which sets up new rules requiring European governments to balance their budgets or else face what's being called an automatic correction mechanism. Twenty-five of the 27 leaders signed the accord in Brussels on Friday. They will now take it back to their own parliaments for approval.

Britain and the Czech Republic opting out of that accord.

An extra 6,000 police officers have been called in to Moscow to help keep the peace before and after Sunday's presidential election. Russians will be choosing from five candidates, including the current prime minister and strong favorite, Vladimir Putin.

Now, be sure to join me Sunday for live coverage of the Russian presidential election Sunday night, starting at 5:00 p.m. London, 6:00 in Berlin or -- you can probably work it out, the times locally to you, right here on CNN.

Well, Prince Harry, third in line for the British throne, is due to arrive in the Central American country of Belize shortly. He'll be there on behalf of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations later this year, the prince's first solo tour representing the British monarch, who is head of state in Belize.

Well, CNN's Max Foster is covering the trip for us.

He's at the airport awaiting the prince's arrival amongst, I believe, a bevy of international media.

What is it about the prince that warrants this interest, Max, do you think?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, there is a lot of interest in him, I think. And people like him. He seems like a fun-loving. We see him throwing himself into everything that he does.

And this is, as you say, his first overseas tour representing the queen. So it's a really big deal. And it's a pivotal year for the queen. It's her Diamond Jubilee year, 60 years on the throne, she's celebrating.

So everyone very interested to see how he does in this public role. It's kind of a coming of age, really, for him, I guess you could say.

You can see a red carpet literally just been rolled out. His private jet is going to come in here. Then he's going to head off to a street party. And he's going to try the local brew, we're told, and some brandy. And then he's going to get some dance moves.

So we're going to get a real sense of his character. It's going to be quite funny. He's going to try some local delicacies, Becky. I'm told one of them is cow's foot soup, which is exactly what it sounds like. Then tomorrow, he's going to climb an ancient Mayan pyramid and take in some of the culture there. It used to be a palace, but not quite Buckingham Palace. We'll see how he does there.

But he's going to throw himself into all of these events, Becky. So it's going to be fascinating to see. We'll bring you all the reporting.

ANDERSON: Just up in -- I expect so. And I expect you to tell me what cow's foot soup tastes like, because we expect you do to exactly what Prince Harry is doing on that trip.

Max, thank you for that.

A British photographer wounded in Syria says what is happening there is -- and I quote him -- systematic slaughter. Still ahead, Paul Conroy speaks from his hospital bed now here in the U.K. about the sheer scope of the crackdown.

Clinging on for dear life -- how social media shows the true horror of Japan's devastating tsunami this time last year. That coming up and your sports headlines after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, the world number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic, has suffered his first loss of the year at the hands of Andy Murray. I was at the Dubai Championship on this Friday. The Scot exacting some revenge for his loss to Djokovic at the Australian Open semi-final.

Alex Thomas is here to dissect what happened.

We sat here last time and I said I can't go through this again, he's never going to do it, and he did.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, because at the Aussie Open, the first grand slam tournament...

ANDERSON: Yes.

THOMAS: -- we watched Djokovic and Murray battle and battle...

ANDERSON: Sure.

THOMAS: -- over five sets for hours and hours. Djokovic hadn't even suffered (INAUDIBLE) down in the final.

But that semi-final, that final was two amazing matches. And Djokovic, remember, started last year with 41 wins in a row. He's had 10 in a row this year and we thought, oh, here we go, 2012, a repeat of 2011.

Then suddenly, out of nowhere, Andy Murray wins rather easily, it has to be said, taking the lead early on. Djokovic lost his serve twice in the opening set and Murray took it be six games to two.

In the second, it was slightly closer, but Murray was three games to love up. Eventually, Djokovic showed his mental south, which is really what has underlied all his success over the last 12 to 18 months. And he got it back to, it's looking like 6-5, 5-4. But at 6-5 down for Djokovic, certainly Murray then broke again and he'd won in straight sets through to the final.

ANDERSON: Do you know how (INAUDIBLE) the color of his kits, those orange shoes...

THOMAS: Yes.

ANDERSON: -- and that blue (INAUDIBLE).

THOMAS: And nothing to do with (INAUDIBLE) coach.

ANDERSON: No.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMAS: Let's not...

ANDERSON: (INAUDIBLE) on Murray, I've got to say...

THOMAS: -- I think Murray's...

ANDERSON: I'm not being partisan here.

THOMAS: No, no...

ANDERSON: The guy deserves a victory.

THOMAS: -- he's showing signs...

ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely.

THOMAS: -- of trying to -- trying to hold his own against the other big three.

ANDERSON: Oh, those shoes are terrible.

THOMAS: He'll face Federer in the final, though, so it's not all smiles.

ANDERSON: Oh, well.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: Listen, that's tennis.

Football -- FIFA investigation into what has been a football thrashing, I understand?

THOMAS: We know how much, on this program, we talked about match fixing...

ANDERSON: Yes.

THOMAS: It's not just a problem for football, but for cricket, all sorts of sports, a global issue. And Bahrain, on Wednesday night, beat Indonesia 10-0. Bahrain needed to win by at least nine goals to qualify. So no one thought they could do it. They won by 10. They didn't actually qualify, because Qatar drew a tour with Iran. But based on the results between those two countries over the years, FIFA said our security department will look into it.

Actually, we're going to quote Pilot Verne (ph) just to show you exactly what they said. And I stupidly didn't bring in my script to show it. But you can see what they're saying.

They're basically saying, look, "Given the unusual outcome of relations, of the results, expectation and head-to-head history," move on - - "and in the interests of maintaining unequivocal confidence in our game," (INAUDIBLE) say we're going to look into the game.

So essentially they're saying, you know, we want the fans out there to believe the results they're seeing as -- are true. And, you know, Indonesia had their goalkeeper sent off after two minutes.

ANDERSON: Yes.

THOMAS: Which can only be very bad luck or a sign of foul play. FIFA will get to the bottom of it. But it just shows how shaky the confidence is now.

ANDERSON: Remarkable stuff.

When the Faroe Islands get beaten by, say, Brazil, 10-0, you get it, don't you?

THOMAS: Yes.

ANDERSON: But...

THOMAS: Although now, are we now going to tell them about the history of it, since I actually...

ANDERSON: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMAS: What was going on there?

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: (INAUDIBLE).

THOMAS: Pandora's box.

ANDERSON: Yes, exactly.

Thank you.

He's back. Alex Thomas is back in an hour, of course, for "WORLD SPORT." It's a Friday night, so bear with us and bear with him. It's not what he's going to (INAUDIBLE).

THOMAS: Well, not (INAUDIBLE).

ANDERSON: Stick around in London, but he's going to be here for you, so what a man he is.

All right, "WORLD SPORT" at half past 10 London time, half past nine here, just before.

Half an hour to go on CONNECT THE WORLD.

Still to come on this show, the latest world news headlines for you.

Plus...

(singing)

ANDERSON: Many consider him the best songwriter of his generation. We catch up with Noel Gallagher for an exclusive interview as he wows the crowds as a solo artist.

(singing)

ANDERSON: And Noel Gallagher he isn't, although perhaps Noel would like to be Englebert Humperdinck at some point in his career.

Anyway, coming back to represent Britain, the man who would be king of Eurovision.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: This is CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. I'm Becky Anderson. Just after half past nine in London. Let's get you a check of the world news headlines at this point.

Emergency aid crews trying to reach wounded people in the Syrian city of Homs are still waiting to get into the hard-hit neighborhood of Baba Amr. The Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent were told early Friday they'd be allowed in, but the Syrian military's now blocking access.

Two trapped journalists who were trapped in the shelling of Homs have arrived home in France. Edith Bouvier and photographer William Daniels were flown from Lebanon after being evacuated from Syria. Separately, the Red Cross said Syria's handed over the bodies of two journalists killed a week or so ago in the shelling.

Iranian media reporting a huge turnout in Friday's parliamentary elections despite a boycott by reformist parties. All of the candidates were carefully vetted, making the election essentially a contest between conservative factions.

And EU countries except Britain and the Czech Republic have signed a treaty in Brussels setting up new rules requiring European governments to balance their budgets. They will now take those rules back to their own parliaments for approval.

Edith Bouvier and William Daniels are back in France after being stranded in Homs, where a building they were in was shelled. Photographer Paul Conroy was also part of that group of journalists. He's just given his first interview from the London hospital bed where he's being treated. Conroy's description of what's happening in Syria could not be more horrifying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL CONROY, PHOTOGRAPHER, "SUNDAY TIMES": Once Baba Amr's gone, the communications are gone with Hama, Daraa. The regime can no systematically work their way through and eradicate the opposition.

And the opposition are women, children, old men. Anybody who stands in the way will be eradicated. It's systematic slaughter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Out of all the Syrian cities touched by the violence, Homs, well, it's suffered the most. But the regime is certainly cracking down elsewhere and, as Nic Robertson reports, some fear the town of Qusayr might be the next one in the crosshairs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MAN SHOUTING IN ARABIC)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Go! Don't be afraid!" he shouts. The young fighter with the grenade launcher seems less sure. He fumbles, doesn't know how to use the weapon.

Well, it fails to fire. Then, he's spotted by a gunman.

(GUNFIRE)

ROBERTSON: They're all forced to pull back, angry one third of their weapons are faulty. Then, they get ready to try again.

This is Al Qusayr, a town between Lebanon and Homs. Tens of thousands of civilians here depend for their security on the poorly armed Free Syrian Army.

CNN obtained this video from a freelance journalist who just spent a week there.

In the orchards and farms on Al Qusayr's outskirts are what look like battle-hardened fighters. A thin line of defense, happy to show off how they've used their meager weapons to good advantage to drive back government forces.

But in the heart of the town, the tall town hall building houses government snipers. In many parts of this sprawling rural hub, Assad's army still moves freely.

In Bosnia, they called it the Sarajevo Shuffle. Twenty years later, it's back in Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a sniper! A sniper!

ROBERTSON: Residents scrambling to avoid the sniper's bullet. And circling overhead, government drones, monitoring every movement. It is a town, like so many others in Syria, living in fear.

At a makeshift hospital, the injured stream in. This man, hit by a sniper. Two nurses prepare to operate on him. Each procedure draws down their dwindling supplies.

Al Qusayr's main hospital has been taken over by the army and turned into a military base. Here, the only doctor is gastroenterologist, but he's treating shrapnel and gunshot victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day, about 50 patients -- every day -- yesterday, we had 16 patients with gun, with bomb.

ROBERTSON: And it's not just the people of Al Qusayr who depend on the clinic. This young girl, shot in the arm. And her mother traveled for three days to get here from the beleaguered city of Homs just to get treatment.

Mother, still distraught: "Look at my son," she says. "He's 18 years old. He was injured in the same attack. We had to leave him behind. He was so burnt, he couldn't travel."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is very difficult to find this medicine. We -- somebody's in -- some medicine for another city. It is every day, every day, how appropriate.

ROBERTSON: For now, supplies are still getting through by the bag full rather than the truckload. Everything has to be smuggled over the border from Lebanon on backs and bikes. Nothing bigger can make it over.

Al Qusayr is an important hub for the opposition, and Assad's forces know it. The local shura meet as news filters in that another 25 army tanks are joining the 12 already laying siege to the town.

There are heated exchanges. The council agrees that those who have extra food should share it with those less fortunate. But questions are asked about who's going to keep order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation is very difficult in terms of medicine, in terms of food. They have been under siege for one month. They have only one way out, that's through the Lebanese border, and the town is under constant shelling, so it's very difficult.

ROBERTSON: At the bakery, shortages are already beginning to bite. Bread is coming out of the ovens, but the lines waiting are long, and tempers fray. People unhappy with the limited quota they're allowed. Free Syrian Army fighters are on hand to keep order if needed.

(CROWD SINGING)

ROBERTSON: The nightly anti-Assad demonstrations are small, darkness adding an element of safety. The fighters hold back, watch from the fringes. Their job, to make sure the townspeople can protest in peace.

(CROWD SINGING)

ROBERTSON: Because in this town, not everyone wants change. Assad has his supporters.

(GUNFIRE)

ROBERTSON: And that's how the street battle with the inexperienced rebels began. This local leader explains they're chasing down a Christian family who shot up an anti-Assad demo.

He later adds, "We don't hate Christians. We've been living with them for hundreds of years. We've only been putting up with the Assads for 40."

These are the sparks that could ignite full-blown civil war. And the fuel for the conflict, grief and the demand for revenge.

Thirty-four-year-old Mohamed Omar, dead. Surrounded by his four children, wife, mother, and other relatives for the last time. All cursing the regime and the lack of international support while they are dying.

(MAN SINGING FUNERAL DIRGE)

(GUNFIRE)

ROBERTSON: As the procession makes its way through the streets, residents turn out to honor Omar. He died in a shell blast while driving supplies to and from the front line.

He is buried in the only safe place left, a patch of soft ground sheltered by buildings from sniper fire. Fifty of his fallen comrades are here already.

According to opposition activists, more than 150 have already died in this area.

(GUNFIRE)

ROBERTSON: Seven hundred have been wounded. And the unspoken fear, how many more will perish when Assad's forces begin their push into Al Qusayr?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Yes, Nic joining us now from Beirut. On the ground, real fear for this push on Al Qusayr. In terms of what's next on the international stage, an interesting comment from Putin in London's "Times," Nic. Let me just pull that up for the viewers.

He says, "We have no special relationship with Syria. Russia is hardly going to betray him, but Russia is emphasizing that his situation is very serious."

How significant do you think his words are today?

ROBERTSON: I think what's going to be more significant is to see if we hear more things like that and to see if his actions change after his -- after the elections, when he's really expected to become the next president of Russia.

And I think if he heaps on in that tone to Bashar al-Assad that, essentially, in a way, you could read that Assad is expendable, then that may worry Assad.

But at the end of the day for the Russians here, what's very important for them is to keep a leadership in Syria that is a leadership they can have a positive relationship with, and that just isn't going to happen right now because -- if the opposition wins, because everyone in the opposition sees Russia as being an Assad ally, and they would ditch Russia as their -- as Syria's ally as soon as they get the first chance.

ANDERSON: Yes, fascinating. Nic Robertson for you, there, out of Beirut this evening. Nic, thank you very much, indeed.

Up next, with a tragedy unfolding before him, we're going to hear from the Japanese teenager who shot this video and lived to tell the world a terrifying tale.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: From the moment the devastating tsunami struck Japan last year, videos of the disaster were beamed across the globe, you'll remember, many taken by ordinary people with little more than a camera phone, but each telling a powerful story.

Well, one year on, CNN's Kyung Lah has one man's tale.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(WATER RUSHING)

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The very instant the tsunami struck Ishinomaki --

(MAN SHOUTING)

LAH: -- a young man, trapped in the frigid, rushing waters, clinging to a telephone wire. You're watching this entire neighborhood as it's ripped apart from a victim trapped in the middle of it --

(MAN SHOUTING IN JAPANESE)

LAH: -- capturing it all on his camera. More than 2 million people viewed this clip since it hit YouTube right after the disaster.

The teenager shooting the video, 16-year-old Mao Takahashi. From his balcony, Takahashi kept recording.

LAH (on camera): It was right here. When you were taping that, did you know that you were recording history?

LAH (voice-over): "I never thought about it," he says. "I was simply panicking." Takahashi's video is just one --

(WOMAN SCREAMING)

LAH: -- of thousands on the web showing the tsunami as it happened, making it one of the most recorded disasters in history.

LAH (on camera): Japan is one of the most wired countries in the world. Mobile phone data shows that every single person has at least one mobile phone and, in some cases, two. So, when the tsunami came roaring ashore, thousands upon thousands captured it on personal devices.

Is that the real power of the personal recording device in a hand? To be able to transmit that video around the world instantaneously?

STEVE NAGATA, TECHNOLOGY CONSULTANT: To be able to do this in real time, and to do it to audiences across the globe is unprecedented in how much power it's given the individuals.

Because you had all of this very real footage, it made the -- the incident much more real in people's minds. They can't -- they no longer have to imagine what a tsunami is. They saw it, live.

LAH (voice-over): Making Japan's disaster a shared, worldwide experience. Nagata believes the amount of citizen video helped engage governments, aid groups, and individuals to help and showed humanity at its best in the face of disaster.

In Takahashi's case, what you can't see is the most important part of his story. His video ends suddenly. He stopped recording. The man clinging to the telephone wire? Takahashi waded out to him in the tsunami water and saved his life.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Ishinomaki, Japan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC - "WONDERWALL," BY OASIS)

ANDERSON: An anthem for a generation, "Wonderwall." It was just one of the many Oasis hits. It changed the tune of the 90s and spearheaded a revival of British pop.

Well, the band from Manchester enjoyed global stardom for 18 years before the infamous feuding between the Gallagher brothers reached a climax and Noel left the group to go it alone in 2009.

Just this week, the singer/songwriter's debut solo album went double- platinum, and he was named a "god-like genius" by Britain's rock Bible, "NME."

Well, in an exclusive interview during his UK tour, Gallagher told our Ben Wyatt why his latest success shouldn't come as a surprise.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC - "EVERYBODY'S ON THE RUN," BY NOEL GALLAGHER)

BEN WYATT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been just six months since the release of his first solo album, "Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds," but already the singer/songwriter is playing to capacity crowds.

WYATT (on camera): The music on this album, I think, like most of your music, is --

NOEL GALLAGHER, SINGER/SONGWRITER: Is brilliant.

WYATT: -- is brilliant, and --

GALLAGHER: And very well-crafted.

WYATT: Very well-crafted.

GALLAGHER: Deceptively fantastic lyrics. Brilliantly played with a minimum of fuss. And criminally underrated, particularly in America.

WYATT: The lyrics did -- I think the lyrics are more romantic than most of the --

GALLAGHER: Yes.

WYATT: -- songs written.

GALLAGHER: My wife would say that I'm not romantic at all, but I would say that I'm the ultimate romancer. Because I write about things that -- because life is brilliant. If only you could see it, you know what I mean?

But people -- in the alternative music scene or the indie music scene, where I came from, they like to sing about the news, don't they?

WYATT: Yes.

GALLAGHER: There's nothing good on the news.

WYATT (voice-over): Gallagher's solo success is probably not surprising. It was he, after all, who penned the lion's share of Oasis hits.

WYATT (on camera): Do you ever thing, going back to those times, it amazes you that all the ambitions and dreams from that time have been fulfilled?

GALLAGHER: Half of me is arrogant enough to think, well, why wouldn't it? We were great. But the other part of you is just a kid on the dole from Manchester who thinks, well, it doesn't happen to people like me. Do you know what I mean? So, every step we went up, it was fascinating, but I never have been overawed by any of it, really. I'm afraid I am that arrogant.

WYATT: As the battles between those two people within you, you say there's the kid on the dole and there's also the kind of arrogant side of you that thinks, "I always thought it was a good record." Has that balance changed at all?

GALLAGHER: Well, only in the sense that now I've -- now people know who I am. I mean, you still can't make people buy a record. And the sooner that changes, the better. And god damn it, if I was prime minister, I'd change that.

WYATT: Did you ever have kind of tougher times?

GALLAGHER: I never went -- I never had a break -- most people have breakdowns, don't they? And go and see a psychiatrist and all that. We just got stuck into more drugs.

WYATT: When you knocked drugs on the head or stopped doing drugs, it was a very --

GALLAGHER: It was a black day.

WYATT: It was a black day.

GALLAGHER: It was a black day. I don't know what I was thinking of.

(LAUGHTER)

WYATT: So, I'm seeing a very pragmatic decision.

GALLAGHER: Well, I -- to be quite honest -- vanity more than anything. Took over there. Well, it's like, you can't be doing drugs when you're approaching your mid 30s and getting it -- and I've got -- I couldn't do it now. I've got kids, anyway. You know what I mean?

But it isn't -- there comes a point when it's not cool anymore. And I just couldn't be bothered anymore. And I wanted a change of -- I wanted a change of friends and I wanted a change of scene, and that was it.

I didn't wean myself off it, a little bit less, a little bit less, a little bit less. It was like, "Noel, no more, that's it." It was going right up and then just stopped. I've got the will of an iron man.

WYATT: Do you think that helped you kind of sail through the success as you did? Blindly, rather than going down those roads all the time --

(CROSSTALK)

GALLAGHER: Well, no, I --

WYATT: -- having anxiety?

GALLAGHER: I like to enjoy myself, and I certainly did back then. I was never ashamed of the success, because all my success and the band's success, we created that. No producer created it. Nobody wrote those songs for me. No producer was in the studio telling me what to play or no superstar DJ kid doing a funky remix.

I wrote those songs on my own, living in bedsits. So, all the money that I got, I was never ashamed of it. If I spent a 50 grand for a coat, I'll spend it. And then I'll sling it afterwards, I don't care. It's nothing to do with anyone else, you know what I mean?

And I didn't get that money off the state, I didn't win it in the pools, I didn't do the lottery, it wasn't -- I'm not some lucky bastard. I grafted for odds, you know what I mean?

WYATT (voice-over): But as yet, Gallagher's success has not taken the shape of a Grammy award.

WYATT (on camera): Some critics would argue Oasis didn't export to America as well as some of the other great British bands that come from these shores.

GALLAGHER: Not that I've got to justify it, but we did sell out the Hollywood Bowl and Madison Square Gardens regularly. And I've got gold discs and -- I've got platinum discs. I've got -- I've got the albums to prove it, sunny Jim. And you don't get that from selling records in Dagenham, let me tell you.

We got off on the wrong foot with Americans. Americans are -- extremely professional corporate people. And we kind of treated that, actually, with a bit of contempt. Four tours in a row were never -- were either never started or never finished.

We didn't have a front man like Bono or Chris Martin. We had a different kind of front man. It was like Johnny Rottens, you know what I mean? And -- but there you go. But I don't think anybody in Oasis would look back on it with any regret.

I remember once doing a -- it was the first -- well, the only time I've ever been on the cover of "Rolling Stone." And they'd set aside eight hours for a photo shoot. Eight hours for a photo shoot! I think we stayed for an hour and 45 minutes, and then we left. We haven't got time for that. The mini bar was open.

(MUSIC - "IF I HAD A GUN," BY NOEL GALLAGHER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: No punches. Well, not these days, anyway. What a legend.

In tonight's Parting Shots, so determined is the UK to win a Eurovision song contest that it's looking to its pop past for a contender. The result? Engelbert Humperdinck.

(MUSIC - "PLEASE RELEASE ME," BY ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK)

ANDERSON: Take your hat off, Noel Gallagher. Forty-five years after this man's song went to number one on the British charts, tipping the Beatles at the time, the veteran crooner will represent the UK at the Eurovision song contest in Azerbaijan on May.

The 75-year-old, whose real name is Arnold Dorsey, said he is, quote, "Excited and ready to go." We're all behind you, Engelbert.

I'm Becky Anderson. That was CONNECT THE WORLD, thank you for watching. The world news headlines, "BackStory" up here on CNN after this.

END