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Bashar al Assad Emails Leaked To The Guardian; Iran Open To Full Transparency For Nuclear Program, Wants Western Cooperation; President Karzai Wants Afgan Control Of All Villages by 2013; President Sarkozy Battles From Behind In Opinion Polls

Aired March 15, 2012 - 08:00:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: Welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet. I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And we begin in China as the Communist Party official seen as a rising star is dismissed after a scandal.

In Syria, one year has passed since the day of rage. And the regime continues to crush anti-government protests.

An adviser to Iran's supreme leader calls for cooperation from the west. We have an interview with Mohammad Javad Larajani.

And this is what happens when you are blasted by the U.S. military's so-called pain ray. As the name implies, it hurts.

In a crucial year for Chinese politics, a prominent Communist Party chief has been sacked following a scandal involving his deputy. Now Bo Xilai was the party chief of one of China's biggest city's Chongqin. And was once seen as a rising star, but his aggressive approach battling criminal gangs had proved divisive.

And then controversy erupted last month after his police chief Wong Li Jun (ph) entered a U.S. consulate, sparking rumors he was about to defect and prompting an investigation.

Now Chinese state news agency Xinua announced Bo Xilai's dismissal with this single sentence highlighted in blue. And it reads this, quote, "recently the central committee of the Communist Party of China decided comrade (inaudible) will serve as secretary, standing committee member and member of the Chongqing municipal committee, and Comrade Bo Xilai will no longer serve in those positions."

Now turning now to Syria where exactly one year ago today a protest in the town of Daraa spurred other parts of the country to revolt. Now the uprising has spread through Syria's cities, sparking a violent crackdown and misery for thousands of people.

Homs has come under government shelling for a sixth straight day. Near the city of Idlib, the activists say the bodies of 23 people have been found today bearing clear marks of torture.

This footage appears to show an IED exploding under a Syrian army tank. Well, CNN cannot verify when or where it was shot. Activists say 82 people were killed in violence across the country on Wednesday.

And over the past month, video has emerged from the Syrian city of Homs showing atrocities allegedly committed by government forces. And CNN has obtained footage that is among the most disturbing yet about a dozen family members who are apparently killed in one house. We should warn you, Arwa Damon's report includes scenes you may find disturbing.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The men crouch as they move across rooftops, crawling through holes they smashed through the walls. It's taken them nearly a week to get this far, to reach a house on a sectarian fault-line that runs through Homs.

"We're rescuing the bodies of the martyrs the voice on the video narrates."

They've heard that a Sunni family has been killed. What they find, shocking beyond description. The first body, that of a woman. In the room next to it, bodies crowded into a back corner as if they were trying to hide. The dead child's face, a mask of fear. Blood splatters the walls.

"Let the world see," the voice explains. "Look at this massacre in just one house."

He curses the Shias, the (inaudible), and Bashar al Assad.

The video is said to have been shot in the neighborhood of Sabeed (ph) early in February.

"Oh look, people, look," Sheikh Abu Ibrahim (ph) says, overcome with emotion as he, too, curses the regime and the world.

The camera pans over to show more bodies slaughtered in the bathroom.

Suddenly, on another floor, a tiny whimper. The child cries out clearly terrified. He comes into view, having to crawl over a body lying in the doorway. He must have been hiding for days.

"Don't be afraid. You're safe now. Don't make a sound one of the men told the boy."

It's not known who killed his family or why, but the men who found the bodies are sure this was a sectarian massacre carried out by thug allies to the regime.


DAMON: And Kristie, this is not the first time that such a massacre has taken place in the volatile city of Homs, nor are opposition activists warning it will be the last.

LU STOUT: That family massacre just brutal to watch just then.

And this day, we mark one year since the start of the crisis there, but what's next for Syria. I mean, without meaningful intervention or assistance for the west, what will happen to Bashar al Assad? Will he be immune from the Arab Spring?

DAMON: Well, it's very difficult to determine which course Syria is going to take quite simply because it is so complex, but there are a number of scenarios. Unless there's some sort of significant gamechanger, one can assume that it is going to be more of the same, a perhaps prolonged, slow war of attrition. Most certainly the opposition is not going to be backing down. They firmly believe that they are in this until the end. Both sides, in fact, the opposition and the regime, fully aware that they have to keep battling this out because this is a fight for their very survival.

But at the same time, there are great warnings from both sides that the violence is only going to increase and that it could potentially also be violence that is split along sectarian lines, leading to some sort of all out even more intense civil war than what we're seeing now, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Now earlier today we saw pictures and video of this pro- regime rally. Just how much support is there inside Syria for Bashar al Assad?

DAMON: Again, that's very difficult to gauge. There is a lot of support, that is for sure. Those main pillars holding up the regime do still exist -- the army, the middle class, the business community at least seeming thus far to support the government. And as is evident from those pictures, the regime still has the ability to bring out the masses, at least in the capital Damascus.

But at the same time, we are continuing to see defections happening on a near daily basis. But the regime is able to enjoy a fair amount of power. And let's also remember that they have very critical international allies in Russia and China and of course in a regional powerhouse, and that is Iran.

LU STOUT: Arwa Damon live on the story for us. Thank you very much indeed.

Now we are getting a new look at Syria's president from a series of emails that were leaked to the Guardian. It's part of some 3,000 documents that were given to the newspaper by activists. And if accurate, they provide plenty of fresh insight into the situation in Syria.

Now among the key revelations, the daughter of Qatar's Emir suggested that the country may offer them exile. And the emails also appear to show that al Assad had people to advise him on media strategy.

And in one email, the Syria leader appears to dismiss the reforms he promised, referring to the, quote, "rubbish laws of parties, elections, and media."

So how does the Guardian know that these emails are authentic? Well, the newspaper admits it cannot be sure that all of the emails are legitimate, but it says that many of the details could only have come from Mr. and Mrs. Assad. And that they confirm from some of the people included in the emails that at least some of them are genuine.

Now one of the strangest insights in the email appears to be what al Assad is buying from iTunes. It says that he bought music from artists as varied as the American singer Chris Brown to the British band New Order. They also appear to show that he bought the last Harry Potter film as well as the Biography of Steve Jobs.

Live from CNN Hong Kong, you're watching News Stream. And coming up, anti-American sentiment stirs in Afghanistan. Now tensions run high as President Karzai and Leon Panetta hold talks.

Iran denies its developing nuclear weapons, but a U.S. think tank suggests otherwise. We'll be live with Christiane Amanpour later in the program.

And if you can't take the heat, stay out of the angry crowd. After 12 years in the making we'll show you the U.S. military's new weapon.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now the U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met with Afghan president Harmid Karzai in Kabul. They were expected to discuss Sunday's massacre of civilians allegedly by a U.S. soldier and the burning of the Koran by U.S. troops that led to deadly protests. U.S. officials confirm the soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians has been transferred to Kuwait. And protesters took to the streets demanding the soldier be tried in Afghan courts.

And a roadside bomb has killed 13 people in the south. And there's also development concerning the incident at the base where the U.S. defense secretary arrived on Wednesday.

Let's get the latest now from Sara Sidner live in Kabul. And Sara, do we have an update on the talks between Karzai and Panetta?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are now hearing reports that Mr. Karzai has called for NATO to leave all villages in Afghanistan so a big call for Mr. Karzai to Mr. Panetta. We are also hearing from the Taliban. I just got a message from them saying that they are going to suspend peace talks that were supposed to happen some time in Qatar. They are suspending peace talks.

So two big pieces of information here: Mr. Karzai calling on NATO troops to leave all villages in Afghanistan, and the Taliban saying that they will suspend peace talks.

This has been a very volatile time here in Afghanistan, because you have this incident involving allegedly a U.S. soldier who went on a shooting spree in the dead of night in the Kandahar province, killing 16 people including women and children. There have now been protests that have broken out in two places, one in Jalalabad yesterday.

And now we're seeing another one in Dabul (ph) province. That one has been a peaceful protest, but they are calling for justice to be done. And what has really upset people here in Afghanistan is the fact that they have now sent the soldier who is accused in this out of the country. They did that last night, sent him to Kuwait saying they didn't have the facilities or the legal means to hold him here. A lot of people questioning that and angry, worrying that he will not be tried on Afghan soil.

LU STOUT: And Sara, meanwhile an Afghan man crashed a truck on the runway just as Leon Panetta, the U.S. Defense Secretary was arriving by plane. Do you have any details on this incident?

SIDNER: Yeah, that happened yesterday. They were saying that Mr. Panetta nor anyone with him was in any danger, however we're hearing that it was an employee of Camp Bastion, a civilian employee who ended up actually injuring an ISAF -- a member of ISAF on the ground there and then he actually has died after being severely burned in that crash. And apparently he had stolen the vehicle. We still don't know what the motive was behind this, but certainly there's an investigation going on there in Camp Bastion.

LU STOUT: Now and after the attack in Kandahar, what happened over the weekend, as well as the burnings of the Korans, what's going to happen next for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan? Will there be a change in strategy at all?

SIDNER: The U.S. has been over and over again saying the last couple of days that they are not going to change their overall strategy, that it has been in place for awhile and that it is working, albeit slowly, and that the overall strategy to leave in 2014 will not change.

We will see if that changes. And we really don't want to speculate as to what we might think. And there are a lot of people asking why there is such a difference in response from the Afghan people from when the Korans were burned last month and when all of these people have been massacred in their villages. We're not seeing the kind of furor that was caused from the Koran burning where you saw protests erupting that ended in 40 people being killed. This time you're seeing more peaceful protests.

And the U.S. and some Afghans are saying this shows that the Afghan forces have things under control, but there's a lot of questions about why there's such a difference between the two, though there are a lot of people happy to see that there are not such violent protests concerning all of these people who were killed allegedly by a U.S. soldier.

LU STOUT: Good to see, but nevertheless tensions clearly on the rise. Sara Sidner joining us live from Kabul, thank you.

Now live from CNN Hong Kong, this is News Stream. And coming up, Israel says Iran's nuclear program is a threat, but Tehran says it has every right to produce nuclear fuel. Our Christiane Amanpour speaks to Tehran's top adviser.


LU STOUT: Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you're back watching News Stream.

Now French President Nicolas Sarkozy is in a fight for his political life. As he seeks reelection, polls show a Socialist candidate is giving him a run for the money.

Now Jim Bittermann profiles the man who says he will quit politics if the people vote him out of office.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's never been the most comfortable president. The French sometimes describe their leader as "Quel'qun qui Derange," someone who upsets things. And they say that, because Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency has been in constant motion and constantly challenging to the established order.

France's 35 hour work week? Sarkozy worked against it. Delay the retirement age beyond 60? Sarkozy achieved it despite strikes and demonstrations. A bloated public sector? Sarkozy eliminated 160,000 civil service jobs.

None of his reforms were universally liked, and some at least initially were almost universally condemned. But the incumbent president believed them necessary and persisted in the belief his countrymen would come around to his way of thinking.

Sarkozy has little choice but to run on his record, a record his party chief outlined in a single sentence.

JEAN-FRANCOIS COPE, MAJORITY PARTY LEADER: Let's be sure that we are always facing the problems, telling the truth to the people, and say every day this is the challenge, these are the reforms we have to do, these are the decisions we have to make, and we need you. And we need you.

BITTERMANN: That was clearly the message to the party faithful earlier this week at a huge rally that reflected Sarkozy's campaign slogan, a strong France.

Sarkozy is counting on a media blitz and mega-rallies like this one to pull him up from second place in the public opinion polls. There's no question he's fighting a come from behind battle, but in the past that's always something he's been very good at.

In fact, after multiple media appearances, Sarkozy was by some opinion polls actually running in first place ahead of his Socialist opponent for the first time since the campaign began. His party leader says it's understandable now that voters are looking at what really counts.

COPES: The real (inaudible) is who is the guy with the most able to lead the country in this difficult period that we have to face? It's the only argument.

BITTERMANN: And if the campaign theme music sounded vaguely like something from a Sylvester Stallone movie, it was no accident. Sarkozy has always been ready to do battle.

The son of a Hungarian immigrant who did not go to one of the country's elite schools, Sarkozy has fought his way to the top of French politics by sheer strength of will. The smartest kid in the class, as some describe him, but smartest does not always mean most popular. Still, his supporters believe Sarkozy's performance will convince his countrymen.

COPES: At the end of the day, I think the most important achievement is the capacity of Sarkozy to face the crisis. Remember, after the financial crisis of 2008. Remember, the question of Greece, the European governance, his capacity to work very close to Angela Merkel in order to find the best solution. We can be confident, because people are conscious about the importance of the challenge that they have to face.

BITTERMANN: Incumbents, the analysts say, should always run down their opponents, and run away from their track record. Sarkozy is following the first bit of that advice, and ignoring the second, a somewhat risky strategy which may or may not get him reelected.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.


LU STOUT: We now know all eight of the clubs that will contest the Champion's League quarterfinals. But there's one team in the line-up who hasn't worked very hard to get there. Let's join Alex Thomas for more on an astonishing victory by Chelsea -- Alex.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kristie. They lost a manager amid reports of sinister player power. They slipped out of the top four in the Barclay's Premier League, yet somehow Chelsea produced an astonishing comeback against Napoli to be the only English club through to the Champion's League quarterfinals.

Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, Chelsea's so-called old guard of Didier Drogba, captain John Terry, and Frank Lampard all scored to make it level on aggregate after 90 minutes. And although Napoli did have an away goal in the bag, the Blues went on to win this round of 16 match in extra time when defender Branislav Ivanovic was on target. That made it 4-1 on the night. Chelsea going through 5-4 on aggregate, reaching the last eight of the Champion's League for the seventh time in nine years.

Captain Terry said the comeback could well go down as the greatest in the club's history.

Well, that Chelsea win prompted former manager Jose Mourinho to say he'd love to play his old club, especially in the final. And it is a possibility after Mourinho's current side Real Madrid stormed into the last eight. The Spanish league leaders beating CSK Moscow 4-1 at the Bernabeu for a 5-2 aggregate victory.

Christiano Ronaldo scoring a brace of goals while Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema also got on the score sheet. So Mourinho's dream of becoming the first coach to lift the European Champion's League trophy with three different sides remains on track.

The draw is on Friday. Full coverage of that here on CNN, along with some expert analysis.

Now Mike Woodson has made a winning start to his temporary role as coach of the New York Knicks. The former assistant has put in charge until the end of the NBA season after Mike D'Antoni resigned following a meeting with Knicks chairman James Dolan. And Woodson's first task was to stop a run of six straight losses. They were hosting the Trailblazers on Wednesday night.

Here's Lin on the drive in the first quarter, kicks it out to Carmelo Anthony and he hits the three, an early four point lead for the Knicks and they never looked back.

In the second, Melo makes the nice bounce pass to Tyson Chandler on the pick and roll. And he goes in for the slam. A 26 points lead now for New York.

In the third, Baron Davis gets the ball to Steve Novak. And he hits the three. All happening for New York.

And in the fourth quarter, JR Smith gets in on the act, knocks down the three from the wing. One of seven baskets from long range after coming off the bench. 23 points for JR as the Knicks dispatch the Blazers by a massive gap, 121-79.

Derrick Rose was injured amidst the biggest game of the night there as the Bulls hosted the Heat. This is a clash of the two best teams in the East. Here's Taj Gibson with the dunk as Chicago takes a one point lead in the second.

Later in that quarter, the lead's up to 10. Ronnie Brewer spotting Joakim Noah who makes the dunk. Rose, watching, loves that.

There was a late Miami response. There had to be, didn't there? Dwayne Wade had a game high 36 points. And here's LeBron James with three of his 25 points. Big numbers for the Heat's stars, but they couldn't keep Chicago at bay even without Rose. In his absence, John Lucas top scorer for the Bulls with 25 points as they won what could well end up being the Eastern Conference final 106-102 the final score. Miami's fourth straight loss on the road.

And more NBA action in World Sport a bit later, Kristie. For now, back to you in Hong Kong.

LU STOUT: All right. Alex Thomas there, thank you. You're watching News Stream. We'll be back right after this.


LU STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching News Stream. And these are your world headlines.

Now U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta held talks with Afghan president Hamid Karzai. It comes as the fallout from the shooting of 16 Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier continues. Reports say Karzai wants Afghan forces to take control of the country's security by 2013. And the Afghan Taliban say they will suspend a political office in Qatar that was supposed to enable talks with the U.S.

Now two Swiss tourists are recovering from an eight month kidnapping ordeal in Pakistan. Olivier David Och and Daniela Widmer were abducted at gunpoint last July in southwestern Pakistan, but they say they escaped their Taliban captors and fled to a military check post. The pair were later flown to Peshawar for debriefing.

Bo Xilai was considered a rising star in China's government, but on Thursday he was sacked from his post as head of the Communist Party in one of China's biggest cities Chongqing. China's official news agency announced Bo's downfall in a scandal involving one of his deputies, the city's police chief.

Heavy shelling in Homs has marked the first anniversary of the Syrian uprising this Thursday. 12 months ago today hundreds of protesters stormed the streets of Daraa in a day of rage, sparking widespread demonstrations and a brutal crackdown by President Bashar al Assad's forces. The United Nations now says that more than 8,000 civilians have been killed since the unrest began.

A U.S. think tank is raising fresh doubts about Iran's nuclear ambitions. Now the group says it has pinpointed the exact location where testing related to a possible nuclear weapons program may be underway at a military sight near Tehran. Jonathan Mann reports.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Parchin is a military site not far from Iran's capital Tehran.

PAUL BRANNAN, SENIOR ANALYST, ISIS: It's a very large military site. It has high explosive. It has other munitions. It's -- it's essentially and extremely large military site with many facilities.

MANN: Now, a Washington think tank says it has identified the building at Parchin where international inspectors suspect Iran may have conducted explosives tests connected with a possible nuclear weapons program.

BRANNAN: What the IAEA suspects is inside that building is what's called an explosive test chamber. And the suspicion is that Iran may have used such a chamber to conduct high explosives test of an implosion design.

MANN: Using commercial satellite imagery, Brannan and his colleagues at the Institute for Science and International Security noted several features that lead them to that conclusion.

BRANNAN: The first is that it's a relatively small, pretty isolated compound in the middle of the Parchin military complex. It's -- it also has a berm in between one building and another. And that detail in and of itself is consistent with the International Atomic Energy Agency's description of the suspect building.

MANN: A senior U.S. official who would not speak for attribution because of the sensitivity of the information confirmed the assessment. Quote, "we know explosive compression was done at this chamber. This is where the explosives are."

The IAEA visited Parchin seven years ago, but not that particular building.

Last week, the head of the IAEA told our Matthew Chance that inspectors want to learn more about Parchin.

YUKIYA AMANO, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: Iran is not telling us everything, that is my impression. So we have to -- we are asking Iran to engage with us proactively. And Iran has a case to answer.

MANN: A senior U.S. official and two western diplomats have told CNN the U.S. has satellite images showing trucks and earth moving vehicles at Parchin, indicating some kind of clean-up. But the ISIS analysis did not find evidence of that.

BRANNAN: If there had been clean-up activities or rather a flurry of activity at the site, that could have occurred on a day or two. All we have are images as -- you know, one snapshot in time.

So what we really need to do is gather more satellite imagery of this particular building, of this compound over time and then compare them and look for any changes.

MANN: Iran denied Tuesday that it was covering up any evidence of nuclear activity at Parchin. And said inspectors would be allowed in. No date, though, has been set.

Jonathan Mann, CNN, reporting.


LU STOUT: Now Iran continues to deny it is developing nuclear weapons. Now CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour recently interviewed the secretary general of Iran's high council for human rights Mohammed Javad Larijani. She joins me now live from London.

Now Christiane, what did he tell you about Iran's nuclear strategy?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, again denying of course that Iran is trying for a nuclear military capability. And it should be said that neither the U.S nor western nor other agencies, intelligence agencies believe that Iran's made any decision to take its nuclear program into a military realm.

So I sat down with Mr. Larijani who was in Geneva. He is also a top adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader. And has long been involved in Iran's foreign policy.

He talked to me about upcoming negotiations which the west and Iran are meant to be starting. And he said what's absolutely essential is that while Iran must give full transparency, he fully agreed on their nuclear program that there needs to be a two-way street. Transparency from Iran, cooperation from the west.

He insisted, and this is a longstanding Iranian position, that they will not give up their right to enrich. They will not give up their civilian program, but that they do not want, and are not working towards, a military program.

This is what he said to me.


MOHAMMAD JAVAD LARIJANI, SECRETARY-GENERAL, IRAN HIGH COUNCIL FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: There is a dispute with a lot of dimensions. The sanctions on Iran are beyond being unfair. It is not effective at all.

AMANPOUR: But they're hurting.

LARIJANI: The United States should not enjoy hurting us, they should look for the end result. Does it stops Iran capability for developing nuclear facilities under peaceful means? Definitely not.

So it is a failure.

AMANPOUR: As you know, it's about whether Iran has or plans to have a military nuclear capability. What is Iran prepared to give when negotiations start?

LARIJANI: The equation is simple, the western community can ask us for more transparency. What we want in place of that, in front of that, is cooperation. I mean, we cannot be put to the corners. Everybody asks, we should be transparent, should be transparent. Nothing given to us. It is honest to god right of us as signatures to NPT to have access to the facilities in the word, to the cooperation.

I mean, the bad thing is that when we ask to buy 20 percent enriched uranium for the Tehran nuclear reactor, nobody was ready to sell it to us. It was our honest to god right to be able to buy it.

So then they -- we said, OK, let us swap it. Then the United States said you should give us all of your enriched uranium. But this is not swapping, this is clean up the stuff.

So we went ourselves. We made it. So we have it.

Yes, we are ready for cooperation.

So the equation is simple, from us they should ask transparency. We are ready to full transparency...

AMANPOUR: Full transparency.

LARIJANI: Full transparency.

AMANPOUR: More than you're giving now under your legal obligations.

LARIJANI: Even we can go as a formula like Japanese one.

AMANPOUR: Which is what, exactly?

LARIJANI: Well, there is -- persistent not only instrumental, but human monitoring. No problem.

AMANPOUR: Additional protocol?

LARIJANI: It is more than additional protocol, this permanent human monitoring. But it should not come at the first stage. I mean, this is two parallel lines. One is for transparency from us, one is the cooperation from the western, because if we -- we have (inaudible) total suspicion. We are American and western intentions?

AMANPOUR: So what do you want to hear them say?

LARIJANI: Well, Iran's right to use fully its -- all of its possibilities under NPT.

AMANPOUR: So the right to enrich and the right to continue a civil program.

LARIJANI: And then they should ask us for more transparency, that's (inaudible). We agree with that.

AMANPOUR: The prime minister of Israel believes that Iran has a nuclear weapons intent and one that will be aimed at Israel. And therefore this talk and this feeling of crisis and war is all around. Is Iran preparing for war?

LARIJANI: We are fully prepared to defend ourselves. And everybody knows (inaudible). But Iran is not an aggressor, but Iran is a fierce defender. And Netanyahu should be worried about their policies in the region. They are in real crisis. I think the real -- the real bomb is not the atomic bomb of Iran, the real bomb is the great failure of Israel to prove its legitimacy and to define a meaningful relationship in the region.

AMANPOUR: Meantime, everybody talks about what President Ahmadinejad said a few years ago, that Israel should be wiped from the face of the map. People believe that that means militarily. Is that what the president meant? Is that Iran's intent?

LARIJANI: Oh, definitely not. I think neither president meant that, nor is it a policy of Iran.

AMANPOUR: You said Iran knows how to defend itself.

LARIJANI: Yes. Pretty well.

AMANPOUR: What would you do?

LARIJANI: Well, we know how to do it. So we are fully prepared, because we learned this lesson from the hard way during the eight years of war.

AMANPOUR: There are ways that people are concerned that Iran would retaliate if struck, closing the Strait of Hormuz. Would you do that?

LARIJANI: Well, here I want to copy the wording of President Obama. Every possibility is on the table. So nothing should be excluded.


AMANPOUR: So with this atmosphere of crisis over Iran's nuclear program, you heard what Mr. Larijani said about Iran retaliating if it was attacked. He's now saying that these negotiations which are scheduled to begin between Iran and the United States and its western allies should be really serious and should lead out of what he calls a big dispute.

As I say, and as you heard him saying, what they're saying is that their opening gambit is that there should be a two-step parallel confidence building measures so that Iran gives what the west wants, which is full transparency, but Iran also is enabled to have its right to enrich and its civilian program.

He said one gesture of goodwill to start off would be if the west allowed Iran and sold Iran the 20 percent enriched uranium that it would need for the medical isotopes that are made at the Tehran research reactor -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Christiane, what was your gut feel from this interview? Is Mr. Larijani and Iran sincere about cooperation with the west and sincere about not making progress with the nuclear weapons program?

AMANPOUR: Well, here's the thing, Mr. Larijani is one of the officials in Iran who for about three decades has been very, very open about wanting engagement and dialogue with the United States and the west and basically said to me even with your most fierce enemy you have to find a way to talk and sit down. So on that issue he has always wanted to be able to do that.

Iran continues to insist that it is not aiming for a nuclear weapon. He raised the issue of Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader who has made a fatwah against nuclear weapons. Of course, in the Shiite religion, a fatwah amounts to jurisprudence if you like. It's the highest sort of legalistic tool that one can use. And he said that's for sure. And of course the supreme leader repeated that over the past couple of weeks.

And then added to that, neither the U.S. nor the western nor Israeli intelligence agencies believe that Iran has taken a decision to make nuclear weapons. And that they would be able to see if that was the case.

Of course, the dispute arises in Iran's intent and what the west and Israel believes is Iran's intent. And we tried to answer some of those questions in that interview.

LU STOUT: Now in addition to the outside pressure on Iran from Israel, from the U.S., there's also been internal political tension in Iran namely between the president and Iran's supreme leader. Di Mr. Larijani weigh in on that? And how much tension is really there?

AMANPOUR: Well, only to say that from his perspective he was delighted that really his side of the conservative bloc did come out the winner in those parliamentary elections. In other words, the election was really between conservatives, the reformists pretty much boycotted the election. The leaders of the Green Revolution are still -- or the Green Movement are still under house arrest. And they were not voting. And they had called for a boycott.

Having said that, a certain number of reformist seats were won in parliament, according to Mr. Larijani. But it looks like after these elections, the supreme leader has come out on top with his cadre of supporters at the expense of President Ahmadinejad.

LU STOUT: Christiane Amanpour joining us live from London. Thank you.

And don't forget to watch Christiane's show Amanpour Returns to CNN on April 16.

And up next here on News Stream, these armored vehicles can stop people without firing a shot. So why aren't they being used in war zones?


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now how do you stop an angry crowd without firing bullets or tear gas? U.S. military says use energy instead. Now this weapon, it blasts people with a millimeter wave. It hits them with an intense feeling of heat, making them stop whatever they're doing. And here is a smaller version.

Now the U.S. military says it has been testing the active denial system for more than a decade. It can reach people up to 1,000 meters away. The Defense Department recently had marines and members of the media test it out. And's Spencer Ackerman was one of the journalists who took a hit from the heat ray. Let's watch what happens.


SPENCER ACKERMAN, WIRED.COM: Now if I didn't know where the...


LU STOUT: It's hot!

Now people say they can only tolerate the beam for just a few seconds. And let's find out how that felt.

Spencer Ackerman joins us now live from CNN Washington. Spencer, good to see you. You were blasted by the pain ray not once, but twice. What did it feel like?

ACKERMAN: Do you remember that old (inaudible) when the slugs penetrate you feel a burning sensation? It's kind of like that. Imagine you've got your oven cranked up to high and you open a door and sort of walk right into that, that's what it feels like.

LU STOUT: So this intense heat. And did you get any warning when they shot the ray? Was there a smell or sound in the air?

ACKERMAN: Nope, nothing like that. No flash, no smell, no sound. And there's no round. This is just purely a wave of energy coming at you. You can't see it, can't smell it, nothing like that.

LU STOUT: And how long does the pain last?

ACKERMAN: After the shot, you feel it for another probably like maybe five minutes of the after effect. For the shot itself there's a safety feature on the Active Denial System that shuts off after three seconds. So even if they want to blast you for more, they can't.

LU STOUT: Now why did you agree to get shot by the pain ray? What convinced you that it was safe?

ACKERMAN: Well, how can you really say no when there's an offer like that on the table, right?

We have been covering this machine, it's been in development, as you said, for a very long time. And I just wanted to find out what it would be like to be on the receiving end of this.

LU STOUT: And we've seen the pain ray before. You've been covering it for awhile. Why did the Pentagon bring it out again to be reviewed by the press?

ACKERMAN: It's essentially a skin session, even though one that might be a little bit more satisfying for some in the military who might want to take some vengeance on people in the press. But this thing has been in development for a long time. And it's got a lot of flaws. Some of the include it takes 16 hours to boot this thing up so that would really limit its utility unless you're willing to keep it running in preparation for something, you know, maybe happening outside the base that you would want to repel. And that itself is going to make it a gas guzzler.

Other things are, you know, even more problematic. It's, you know, sort of tailor made for propaganda purposes. You know, General McChrystal in 2010 actually had it for a couple of weeks in Afghanistan before sending it back. He was worried the Taliban were going to say that like the United States was microwaving Afghans or sterilizing them or giving them cancer.

LU STOUT: A lot of negative points here on why it shouldn't be used out in the field, so what do you think about the pain ray? Do you think it could really work out there as a deterrent?

ACKERMAN: It's really going to take a lot more development than the military has already put into it. This problem with the boot up time is really, really serious. And the military in general is trying to reduce its fuel expenses, but keeping this thing on is just going to make it a gas guzzler. So they've still got a lot to go before they can get this thing actually out in the field.

LU STOUT: And give us some specs on the technology itself. Were you able to see the pain ray? How big it is? How mobile it is?

ACKERMAN: So it's massive, right. On one of these things, it's basically a tricked out eight wheeler truck platform that's got this thing mounted on top of it. It looks like it's got this, you know, big basketball backboard that's actually a flattened out parabolic dish that takes what's basically like the guts from inside your microwave, the magnetron, the thing that turns energy into heat through a magnetic field, it's a much, much bigger version of that called a gyrotron. That's what feeds the energy up, transfers it into heat into these really, really narrow banded millimeter waves. They're not like microwaves. They don't actually cook you, which is why I'm, you know, able to be before you today. They only penetrate about a 64th of an inch, which is of course much, much less. You couldn't -- you know that a microwave does -- you couldn't make a bag of popcorn out of this thing, which is kind of a shame, because out there I was hungry.

LU STOUT: Fascinating piece of technology, painful too. And Spencer, thank you for sharing your story with us. Spencer Ackerman of Wired. Thank you very much indeed.

Now it is a state of the art device and a modern marvel in Israel's missile defense technology, the Iron Dome anti-Missile System, it's designed to intercept incoming rockets. And despite claims of a 90 percent success rate, some are asking whether it's enough.

Fionnuala Sweeney has more.


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the Iron Dome in action, intercepting a Palestinian rocket coming into southern Israel from Gaza.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When you see the explosion in the air, you say well done to the army and god is looking after us.

SWEENEY: For the people who live in southern Israel, well within reach of militants rocket fire, Iron Dome has brought some relief. The missile defense system was fast deployed last March. And its capability was ramped up during the recent escalation with militants in Gaza. Israel claims Iron Dome had a 90 percent success rate, intercepting dozens of rockets destined for population areas.

BRIG. GEN DORON GAVISH, COMMANDER, ARIEL DEFENSE SYSTEMS: Today we see a better percentage of interceptions which are quite good interceptions. So it's a big difference from where we were last year to the point that we are now.

SWEENEY: The deployment of Iron Dome has given rise to the term diplomatic maneuverability, meaning the reduced number of Israeli casualties reduces public pressure, giving the Israeli government more leeway in terms of how it pursues operations related to Gaza.

DORE GOLD, FRM. ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO UN: Iron Dome is a real gamechanger, because the Palestinian organizations like Islamic Jihad wanted to use rockets to pose a threat to Israeli cities. Now, with Iron Dome, the threat of rockets has been severely circumscribed. And Israelis can live normal lives in the south.

SWEENEY: Iron Dome also means business in areas under attack can continue. It's not as usual, but there's less disruption than before its deployment.

DR. ADAM REUTER, FINANCIAL ANALYST: That means that the economy is doing better than it would be doing if all those missiles would have been just pouring on the heads in major cities in the south.

SWEENEY: The system isn't fail-safe. And it's still being rolled out. Three batteries were deployed this past week, a fourth will be in operation soon, according to Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak. The implications of Iron Dome are potentially far reaching for Israel and its neighbors, the Palestinians.

GOLD: Iron Dome in the long-term may help create a situation by which Israelis and Palestinians can re-engage diplomatically in the future after the terrorist option has been shown to be unworkable.

SWEENEY: For now, though, Gaza militants are vowing to continue rocket attacks against Israel regardless of Iron Dome.

Fionnuala Sweeney, CNN, Jerusalem.


LU STOUT: Now coming up, two tropical cyclones are forming off the coast of Australia. We'll tell you where they're headed and how strong they could get.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now we have two tropical cyclones off the coast of Australia. Let's get the very latest now with Mari Ramos. She joins us from the world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie, we have been monitoring these storms for a couple of days already and for the better part of this week it has been kind of a touch and go situation across portions of northern Australia. Like you mentioned two separate storms are swirling off the coast here, one of them, this one over here farther toward the western coast of Australia is expected to continue as a tropical -- probably hurricane strength over the next 24 to 48 hours and should be moving somewhat parallel to the coastline here, so not a direct impact.

There has been, however, another area of low pressure that was threatening to become a storm and hasn't really materialized, but a lot of that moisture has been moving inland causing some significant flooding. We're expecting even more heavy rain across that region.

As we take a closer look, there's Tropical Cyclone Lua. That's the one that has winds close to 120 kilometers per hour right now. But notice all of the other moisture here across the north. This is the kind of a tropical cyclone in the making that never really quite made it. But like I said, the moisture has been tremendous from this storm. And there's actually advisories posted across this area due to not just the heavy rain, but the strong gale force winds that are expected as that low continues to move inland. And you can see.

So with these two storms, we're going to see some significant weather across this area even as we head into the weekend.

Now those gale force winds that I was telling you are going to be a long the coast here. And actually these are associated with Tropical Cyclone Lua. And you can see right over here, that includes Port Hedland and Karratha. There's a lot of -- Port Heland, an important shipping area there, container shipping in particular. There's also petroleum shipping that happens out of here, and natural gas platforms that are offshore. So all of these things are being impacted along with some of the mining interests in this region. So we'll be monitoring this very, very carefully. And of course a problem for people who live in that area.

I want to take you to Asia now and what we're looking at over here is one weather system coming in across northeastern parts of China. This one promising to bring you maybe a little moisture there in Beijing. We can definitely use it, help clean out the air. And temperatures on the rise again for you here across eastern parts of China.

So that warming trend expected to continue over the next few days, so not a bad end to the week, but there is the snow and the rain that will be spreading east.

And I think for you guys in Japan it could be more in the way of rain this time around, except for the highest elevations, so this could be a concern with all of the snow that we've already had over this area. Watch out for the threat for flooding, melting snow, and maybe even threat for avalanches again could be a concern.

Temperatures on the rise also across western Europe. It had been a little bit on the chilly side, but look at that, we begin to see that yellow creeping up. And it's already at 19 degrees in Paris. It's a little bit cooler as we head into central Europe and colder even as we head over to toward the east. Look at Madrid at 21. And 17 in Lisbon. It continues to stay very dry here. And you can see that big area of clear air that continues over this region. And that will bring you some warmer temperatures, but generally quiet weather pattern continuing in that area. And actually spreading south. So nice beach day maybe in store as we head through the later part of the weekend, feeling more like May than March.

I like that. Back to you.

LU STOUT: I know, spring can't come fast enough. Mari Ramos, thank you.

Now before we go, I wanted to show you just one last thing. Now earlier we told you about Bashar al Assad's emails apparently leaking to the Guardian newspaper and how they appear to reveal, among other things, what songs the Syrian president bought from iTunes, everything from Chris Brown to a Lebanese singer, even to the dance group LMFAO. Now inevitably, someone has gone through and collected all the songs he bought and turned it into a Spotify playlist. So, if you want to see exactly what al Assad listens to, you can find the link on Gawker.

Now that is News Stream, but the news continues at CNN. World Business Today is next.