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CONNECT THE WORLD

France Cracks Down on Islamists; Sarkozy Sees Gain in French Polls; Cause of Sarkozy's Gains; Photographer Hopes Display of Libyan War Photos Will Aid Peace; Exhibition Marks 100th Anniversary of Titanic Sinking; Cruises Take Visitors to Site Where Titanic Sank; Parting Shots of the Shard

Aired March 30, 2012 - 16:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: A very warm welcome to our viewers across Europe and around the world. I'm Becky Anderson. This is CNN and these are the latest world news headlines.

Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli security forces during an annual Land Day demonstrations earlier. One Palestinian was killed, dozens more were wounded. The protests are meant to highlight opposition to Israeli land policies and to the occupation.

A day after fury on the streets, Spain's government announced a new austerity budget. It calls for $35 billion in cuts this year. Spain urgently wants to cut its deficit in the midst of prolonged economic crisis.

The attorneys for US Army staff sergeant Robert Bales says that the US government is blocking access to information and witnesses. Bales is accused of murdering 17 Afghans earlier this month. A US official tells CNN information won't be exchanged with the defense team until a hearing is ordered.

And French police arrested 19 people in pre-dawn raids as part of a suspected round up of Islamists. The crackdown follows the shooting that killed seven people. Terror suspect Mohamed Merah was shot to death after a lengthy standoff with police in Toulouse last week.

Jim Bittermann reports the overnight raids may be just the beginning of France's crackdown on Islamists.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Police rounded up 19 suspects, 17 of whom are still in jail and may be held for the next 24 to 48 hours as the investigation continues. They also discovered caches of weapons, including several assault rifles, three Kalashnikovs, and some automatic pistols, that sort of thing, as well as a bulletproof vest.

So, they feel, I think, that they've broken at least a little bit of a ring of suspected Islamic radicalists who were, perhaps, planning something violent. This in the wake of last week's events in Toulouse.

President Sarkozy was on the radio this morning and hinted that this kind of raid that took place this morning may not be the last.

NICOLAS SARKOZY, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): It's not just linked to Toulouse. It's all over the country. It is in connection with a form of radical Islam and it is legal.

What you have to understand is that the traumatic events in Montauban and Toulouse had a profound impact on our country. I don't want to compare horrors, but it is a bit like the form of trauma visible in the United States and New York after 9/11.

BITTERMANN: It should be remembered, of course, that we're in the middle of an election campaign here and, of course, it doesn't hurt for the law and order president to be rounding up some suspects suspected of perhaps planning some terrorist event.

Nonetheless, after last week's events in and around Toulouse, the three attacks and seven dead, in fact, there does seem to be some reason at least to be very suspicious of these radical Islamic elements right now.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, with just weeks to go, as Jim said, before the first round of voting in France's presidential election, Mr. Sarkozy is seeing some gains in support after trailing his man -- or his main challenger, at least, for months.

According to the latest CSA poll, 30 percent of voters would back Mr. Sarkozy in the first round of voting, compared to 26 percent for the Socialist candidate, Francois Hollande. However, the poll predicts Hollande winning a second round on May 6th with 53 percent to Mr. Sarkozy's 47 percent.

Well, the president has positioned himself as the security candidate, but is his battle against extremism entirely responsible for his bump in the polls? For more perspective on that, I spoke with Thierry Arnaud, he's the senior political correspondent for the French TV company BFM-TV. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THIERRY ARNAUD, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, BFM-TV: It's a combination of two things, really. The first thing is that he's running a very efficient campaign. He's very energetic, he is clearly enjoying himself.

He's out there speaking in rallies almost on a daily basis, meeting people in factories, in restaurants, what have you. And he does that very well. He's really good at this. He's a real pro at doing all of this.

And on the other side, Francois Hollande seems to be losing his message a little bit. He came out very strongly at the beginning of the year, had a very big, very successful rally where he presented the whole of his platform.

But where Sarkozy has chosen to announce almost a new measure a week, so to speak, in terms of what he wants to do if he's reelected, it seems that now two to three months ago, Francois Hollande has said everything and is left with nothing very much new to say.

And for that reason, amongst others, it's very difficult for him to attract a lot of additional attention, it seems.

ANDERSON: What is new, of course, in the past few days is the shooting dead of this Islamist gunman who had killed seven people in southwest France. Is that proving to be somewhat of a game changer for Sarkozy, do you think?

ARNAUD: Well, if you look at the polls over the past couple of weeks, it seems that it has surprisingly, maybe, to some extent, he does not change things a little bit, Sarkozy was on his way up slowly but surely before those tragic events and that trend hasn't changed.

But clearly, other polls as to whether he was good at managing the crisis, whether he did his job in terms of being the president and making sure the killer was caught, tell you that two thirds of the French population think he did a good job. And that obviously plays in his favor.

ANDERSON: The elephant in the room being ignored by all candidates, it seems, at present is the economy. Analysts pointing out that the candidates are saying very little about the French economy, given how bad these numbers are.

I just want to remind our viewers, French unemployment hovering just under 10 percent, according to "The Economist," at least, hasn't fallen below 7 percent in nearly 30 years. There's been no balanced budget since 1974. Public debt is 90 percent of the GDP and public spending 56 percent of GDP.

Is this, as "The Economist" suggests today, a country in denial?

ARNAUD: To some extent, it is, and it is very surprising to me, maybe the biggest surprise of his campaign is now little they have to say about what he can do to fix the economy.

And I think to be quite frank about this, the reason is that they don't know how to do it. They know that whatever they might try over the next few months, even a couple of years, would certainly not be enough to put the economy on the right track in terms of creating very strong growth and cutting unemployment which, as you just mentioned, is slowly but surely coming up to 10 percent now.

And as a result of that, it seems that they have more or less decided that they'd rather fight it out about something else.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: And the French presidential elections, first round, at least, 22nd of April. We'll be doing it here, of course, on CNN.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Still to come, images of war collated to promote peace. In tonight's Big Interview, I speak with one of the photographers involved in what is a very rare exhibition in Libya.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, the war between Libyan rebels and forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi may have ended in October with the death of the dictator, but tensions in that country remain high. Just this week, more footage of clashes emerging online. While CNN can't independently verify the authenticity of this video, for example, it purports to show, at least, fighting in the south.

Now, Libyan health authorities claim at least 50 people have been killed in the region in gun battles over the past five days alone. It's this kind of bloodshed that has prompted photographer Andre Liohn to stage what is a rare exhibition in Libya.

He's gathered images that he and his colleagues captured during the war last year in the hope -- in the hope, frankly, that they will now help bring peace to Libya. Have a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON (voice-over): A bullet casing flies. An image of Moammar Gadhafi is destroyed. The split second that a Libyan rebel felt free to lash out as Gadhafi's forces flee.

Also frozen in time, the anguish of a doctor in Misrata as he tries desperately to save one life. He fails. One victim among tens of thousands lost in the nine-month Libyan war.

These images, taken by a group of war photographers, reveal the stark reality of Libya's revolution. Among those behind the lens, Brazilian-born photojournalist Andre Liohn.

ANDRE LIOHN, PHOTOGRAPHER: We are photographing, we are filming, we are reporting the killing of people as they were being killed. Very, very closed. Every single picture that I have from Libya, basically, they express -- they show a life being lost.

ANDERSON: Liohn, whose images have appeared around the world, depends on his eye and his resourcefulness. To get close to the victims, he teamed up with an ambulance driver in Misrata.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look. This is from Gadhafi army, and this is from us. We save two.

ANDERSON: He was in the ambulance for this mission on April the 20th last year. A bold bid to rescue civilians being used as human shields by Gadhafi's forces.

LIOHN: It was an enormous risk that everyone was taking, because they knew that civilians were being held as human shields there. There was a big area of Misrata where Gadhafi forces had a lot of personnel there, and we knew that we had to go inside there as fast as we could and come out as fast as we could.

And at that point, Just what I wanted to do is like film what is happening and survive. It's not much more than that. Film what is happening and survive.

ANDERSON: The footage also features award-winning photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, also there to document the successful rescue of civilian hostages.

(PEOPLE SHOUTING)

ANDERSON: An hour after this scene, Hetherington and Hondros were killed by a mortar.

ANDERSON (on camera): What impact did his death have on what you were and are doing now?

LIOHN: It's based on chance that my life continued, right? And Tim, Chris, Anton, Marie Colvin, now Remi, Lucas. All of them.

At the end of the day, you survive that, and you think -- it's very frustrating when your work, the resonance of a work ends after the next number of the magazine or the next number of the newspaper, the next day, the picture that you did, the film that you took, has no more impact, right?

ANDERSON (voice-over): To ensure that impact is felt in the right places, Liohn and seven of his colleagues are raising money to exhibit their most telling photographs where they were shot, in Libya itself. A war exhibition where the war was fought.

ANDERSON (on camera): How do you think this project has gone down with the Libyan people?

LIOHN: We don't expect the masses to come and see our pictures. But today in Libya, a lot of people, they want to say something. There are people creating opinion. There are people trying to make their voices be - - have impact in society. So, what we want is to invite those persons to come and debate with us about reconciliation.

ANDERSON: If there were or was one picture that you think evokes the revolution best, what would it be?

LIOHN: There's a picture were there is blood on the ground. It's a very strong picture. That was in a hospital. In a hospital. And so many people were dying. Blood was just became like dirt, a thing that they had to clean as fast as they could. How much more blood they want to have -- live in blood they want to have splashed on the ground?

ANDERSON (voice-over): The exhibition is designed to unite and shows the conflict from both sides. From the anger of Gadhafi loyalists in the initial days of the uprising to the grief expressed in makeshift hospitals over innocent lives lost. The victim here was a five-year-old girl.

As a father of two, Andre understands why these moments need to be remembered.

ANDERSON (on camera): Why do you do it?

LIOHN: I think that everybody may have different answers for that, but I do it because of my kids.

ANDERSON: You were there a year ago. NATO's bombing began, you were there at the time. Twelve months on, what are you now hearing from Libya?

LIOHN: I can honestly feel that the people in Libya, they want to communicate, they want to express themselves, they want to live in peace. They suffered a lot. They suffered. Everybody suffered very much.

Gadhafi, the dictator, he had 40 years to prepare this moment. And he -- made sure that this moment should be as painful as possible for everyone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Our Big Interview this evening.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. When we come back here on CNN, a journey through time. A special exhibition opens to mark 100 years since the sinking of the Titanic, and I'm going to show you around. A minute or so away, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: It's almost 100 years since the Titanic set out on its first and fateful journey across the Atlantic. The ship left England's south coast on April the 10th, 1912, bound for New York, and sank just five days later.

The cruise liner was built in Belfast in Northern Ireland, and to mark the anniversary, this weekend, the city opens a new $150 million exhibition center that tells the story of the doomed ship. CNN's Nic Robertson has this special look inside.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Titanic Belfast, an exhibition center linking past and present, built in the very place the ill-fated liner began its short life.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Even today, the scale of the Titanic still seems staggering. That is the back of the boat, there, the stern. And this blue line here traces the outline of the Titanic where it was built in the slipways here. The front of the ship right up there, almost touching the exhibition center.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Inside, it's stepping through time.

ROBERTSON (on camera): And I think we're going to another floor.

CLARE BRADSHAW, HEAD OF SALES AND MARKETING, TITANIC BELFAST: We are, yes. As you go through the ship, you move down right up to the corridors where you would have had the cabin. It's all about using modern technology to tell a 100-year-old --

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTSON: Sort of like a --

BRADSHAW: -- story.

ROBERTSON: -- you feel like you're going up in the ship --

BRADSHAW: You do, you can feel the movement.

ROBERTSON: -- it's an odd feeling.

BRADSHAW: And obviously, now you're up at the first class level.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Clare Bradshaw's job is to market Belfast's hottest new property, and that includes a replica staircase made famous by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.

BRADSHAW: This is the largest dedicated banqueting space in Northern Ireland.

ROBERTSON (on camera): This one right here.

BRADSHAW: This is -- yes, absolutely. So, just over a thousand people here for dinner. And really, it's an extremely popular choice for weddings. This is set to become the driver for tourism into Belfast, the driver for tourism into the whole island of Ireland.

Because Titanic is a global brand. Titanic make sense to everyone across the world, so it's all about bringing business into the city for the taxi companies, for the restaurants.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): More than 400,000 tourists are expected in its first year. For local lady Kate Dornan, a chance to see her great uncle honored.

ROBERTSON (on camera): So, this is your first time coming in.

KATE DORNAN, RELATIVE OF TITANIC VICTIM: Yes.

ROBERTSON: Yes.

DORNAN: Absolutely.

ROBERTSON: What do you think?

DORNAN: Well. It's fantastic.

ROBERTSON: There he is.

DORNAN: Oh, bless.

ROBERTSON: Your great uncle.

DORNAN: Yes. It's -- it means the world. That's all I can say.

ROBERTSON: To see -- to see him here.

DORNAN: It absolutely means the world. All we wanted was to have him remembered locally, and my goodness, what a way to be remembered.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): John Simpson, the ship's deputy doctor from humble roots in Belfast, dined with the Asters on the ship's and his last night.

DORNAN: And this lady beside him, Mary Sloane, was the one who gave one of the last accounts of how he gave them a little drink of whiskey to try to calm them.

ROBERTSON: It's what her family has been waiting a century to see.

DORNAN: Mixed feelings because you're trying to get the balance between commemorating and remembering the human loss, which is strangely as real today. And it's passing down the generations.

ROBERTSON: Away from the grandeur of the exhibits, there are other mixed feelings, too. The Harland & Wolff shipyard that built the world's largest ocean-going liner was once synonymous with bigotry. Archive film footage inside the exhibit captures Belfast in those bygone days. Protestants had the plum jobs, like ship building, and Catholics often went hungry.

The Titanic exhibit is trying to build on today's peace and sink once and for all some of the city's sordid history.

BRADSHAW: Titanic quarter is becoming a new area of our city. It's where people come to study, it's where people now live, people work, and it's all about our city as a whole, and whole new beginning, and none of the divide from before.

ROBERTSON: How many visitors come to this modern incarnation of Belfast innovation will help make or break that future.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, the exhibition opening isn't the only event marking the sinking of the Titanic. Two cruise ships will take visitors to the exact spot where it sank. One is leaving from South Hampton and the other from New York. They'll link up at the site on April the 15th to commemorate exactly 100 years from the day that great liner went down.

And we here on the show will be marking the anniversary with special coverage over the next two weeks. Among the people that you're going to hear from, Bob Ballard. He's the man who discovered the famous wreck 27 years ago. This is how he recalls the moment his team found what is a lost part of history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB BALLARD, DISCOVERER OF TITANIC: And just as I walked in, our robot went over a boiler of the Titanic. And we had the picture of that boiler hanging on the wall. And we went -- "It's Titanic."

And we exploded. I mean, we were -- the tension. We were down to the last couple days. And then someone innocently looks at the clock and says, "She sinks in 20 minutes." It was 2:00 in the morning. She sank at 2:20.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Amazing stuff. And you can catch the full interview with Bob right here on CONNECT THE WORLD next Friday.

Well, if you don't like heights, you may want to look away right now. That is because in tonight's Parting Shots, we're going to take you way up into the London skyline.

Carrying a full 310 meters -- meters -- high is this building called the Shard. If you look close enough, you'll spot some fearless workers right at the very top. Today, their job was not for the faint-hearted as they put the finishing touches on the building's steel spire. Once completed, the Shard will become the tallest skyscraper in Western Europe.

Down here at street level, thankfully, I'm Becky Anderson. That was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thanks for watching. The world news headlines are up after this short break.

END