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Sebastian Vettel Wins Bahrain Grand Prix; UN Monitors Enter Syria, Sarkozy Faces Tough Fight; Myanmar's Reward; Border Tensions Between Afghanistan and Pakistan

Aired April 23, 2012 - 08:00:00   ET

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


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

I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong.

Francois Hollande leads the way in the first round of the French presidential election, while almost one in five French voters pick far- right candidate Marine Le Pen.

We have an exclusive report from the front line against the insurgency in Afghanistan on the country's border with Pakistan.

And getting to grips with mixed martial arts. Patrick Snell learns what it takes to be an ultimate fighting champion.

Now, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has his work cut out for him if he's to win a second term in the country's top job. Socialist rival Francois Hollande took the greatest share of Sunday's vote and will face Mr. Sarkozy in a presidential runoff May the 6th. But that has arguably been overshadowed by the third place finish of Marine Le Pen. The far-right national front leader secured nearly 18 percent of the vote.

That is a higher percentage than her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, won to take second place in 2002. And given the 81 percent turnout, it means that more than 6.5 million people voted for her. Marine Le Pen's party is considered far right, but it is less extremist than it once was.

Now, while her father went as far as to dismiss the Holocaust as a "detail," the new national front leader has sought to soften the movement's stance. But she believes immigration to France should be limited. She wants France to exit the eurozone and return to the franc, and she'd like old-fashioned discipline in schools. But while she won't have the power to introduce these measures this time around, she does wield influence as a potential king maker.

And where right-wing voters are concerned, President Sarkozy may be the next best thing on paper, but Marine Le Pen is no fan of the incumbent, and big changes could be in the works.

Jim Bittermann joins us now live from Paris.

And Jim, the challenge ahead for Sarkozy, will he be able to woo the far- right voters who backed Le Pen?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, far right, but he's also going to need some of the centrists as well. But in any case, that's what he's going to spend the next two weeks doing, and he's got his work cut out for him, as you say.

Marine Le Pen is being very cagey about whether or not she's going to cast her support behind Sarkozy. She's said in the past she can't stand Sarkozy and she wants to see the back of him. So it may be very difficult for her to come out and back Sarkozy at this point. In any case, she says that on the first of May she'll let everyone know. That's a big holiday for the National Front. She's going to let everybody know what her feelings know, and, of course, her followers don't have to follow her, but in this case they just might.

We were out on the streets this morning. CNN producers were out trying to gauge public opinion. I thought I'd give you a little idea of what people were talking about this morning, Kristie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not very good. It's not good at all, because Francois Hollande is going to ruin the French in every term -- in the economy --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In politics, social, everything that make the point of the election. He's going to ruin everything. It's not very good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Francois Hollande or Sarkozy, I think it's really the same. It's the extreme. So we are in the middle and we don't have anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BITTERMANN: And that idea that somehow neither one of the candidates are very appealing, it was summed up by one of the commentators here. He said choosing between Hollande and Sarkozy was like choosing between the pest and the plague.

The big choice for voters now is going to be -- going to take place in the next two weeks. And one of the influential things in that will be a debate that's supposed to be hold between the two candidates.

Now, Sarkozy laid down the gauntlet last night and said that he would like to see three debates. Hollande, who's in the lead, of course, is saying that one is sufficient. Also, it should be said that Sarkozy is widely viewed as the much better debater, so it could be that Hollande doesn't want to risk his chances in more than one debate -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: I want to ask you more about the rise of Francois Hollande. In particular, how it coincides with the fall of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Did that scandal boost Hollande's political fortunes?

BITTERMANN: Well, it certainly did. I mean, he is sort of a candidate by default. Not exactly the person that the Socialist Party would have chosen.

But Dominique Strauss-Kahn wasn't there. He eliminated himself from that hotel room scene in New York and the arrest by police, and now he's also caught up in a prostitution scandal up in Lille. So he's out of politics pretty much for good.

And Hollande, who is a party secretary and not -- had never held any kind of national office, suddenly found himself in thrust into the limelight. And what's very ironic is that he's the second member of a couple to be a presidential candidate. He was paired up with Segolene Royal as husband and wife, except they were never married. They had four children together.

She ran, of course, in 2007 and lost to President Sarkozy. And now this time around, it's Francois Hollande who's going to be facing Sarkozy -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Jim Bittermann, live from Paris.

Thank you.

Now to Myanmar now, where Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has delayed her historic parliamentary debut on a matter of principle. Now, the opposition leader refuses to take her seat because her National League for Democracy Party disagrees with the wording of the oath that lawmakers must take.

As it stands, they must promise to protect the constitution. The NLD wants that changed to "abide by," because it says the constitution is not democratic. It also needs amendments. Now, AFP reports that Myanmar's president has indicated the oath will not be changed.

The tensions over the oath come as real progress is being made to lift crippling sanctions against Myanmar as a reward for its political reforms.

Paula Hancocks joins me now live from Yangon with the latest.

And Paula, who has agreed to suspend sanctions against Myanmar now? And for how long?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, it is a crucial day in the fact that these sanctions could well be suspended. Not lifted, you have to note, just suspended for one year likely.

Now, many officials here from Aung San Suu Kyi's party say they're pleased that these sanctions will only be suspended and not lifted, because they want it to be seen as a reward for some of the change that this new civilian government has undertaken, but they also want it to be an incentive for these changes and these reforms to keep going. But when you look at these sanctions -- and these investment laws, the arms embargo will still stay in place -- you have to ask, how long will it take to actually impact the Burmese people on the street?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANCOCKS (voice-over): This is backbreaking work, but at least it's work. Paid by the bag, taking a break means losing money for these men, or, in some cases, teenagers.

These day laborers carry cargo ashore from ships that arrive at Yangon's main port from across Asia. Existing sanctions mean there are fewer ships from further afield.

Ko Tin Lwin is 32 and manages to send just over $1 a day back to his family in the countryside. He says it just about covers food, but that's it.

"I don't know if there'll be work tomorrow," he says. "I have to come here every morning whether there's a job or not."

This 36-year-old tells me this is the only job he can find.

Everyone here would welcome easing of sanctions, a simple belief that more trade would mean more ships, which would mean more chance to earn money. But seeing one woman picking up grain that has fallen from the sacks is a reminder of just how course some Burmese are.

(on camera): There is a strong and willing workforce here in Myanmar. What's lacking is a strong infrastructure. Half a century of military rule has reduced this country from one of the richest in Asia to one of the poorest.

(voice-over): With a new civilian government, albeit still heavily influenced by the military, changes are happening. The currency is moving towards flotation. Investment laws are being updated. And the International Monetary Fund is advising the central bank. But results may not be immediate.

TONY PICON, COLLIERS INTERNATIONAL: These things take time. Manufacturing investment is what will drive the country forward. Export-led manufacturing, which is what brought Thailand where it is today, Malaysia, and now Vietnam, and in the future, Myanmar, and that's not something that happens on day one.

HANCOCKS: Experts say it could be a few years before new investment translates into a better life for the average Burmese worker.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HANCOCKS: And at the same time as sanctions are being suspended, we're also seeing some debts that Myanmar has had over many years being forgiven. President Thein Sein is currently in Japan, and Japan has written off $3.7 billion of debt and also said that they would increase their investment into the country, also setting up a special economic (INAUDIBLE) just outside Yangon -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yes, so much opportunity for economic growth there in Myanmar.

I wanted to ask you more about another headline out today. Parliament in Myanmar has opened without Aung San Suu Kyi there due to this dispute over the oath. Does this dispute represent bigger tension between Aung San Suu Kyi, her party, and the country's military rulers?

HANCOCKS: Well, I think what this shows us, Kristie, is that this is a very young democracy. The civilian government was only voted in just over a year ago. Many parliamentarians within government at this point are finding their own way. They're trying to figure out how this parliament will actually work.

Now, what we have heard from the NLD, Aung San Suu Kyi's party, is that they believe President Thein Sein agreed before the election that he would change this clause, he would change the wording in this oath. They're convinced of that, but of course what we're hearing, reports from Japan, is that President Thein Sein is not going to be changing that oath. That from Kyoto News and also from AFP.

So at this point, it does seem as though this is the first battle that's being fought between Aung San Suu Kyi, who is new to this government, missing her historic debut in parliament. And on the other hand, this very military-heavy parliament. It just reminds us that this transition from half a century of military rule to democracy is not going to be a smooth one -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: That's right. Power will not be ceded quickly at all.

Joining us live from inside Myanmar, Paula Hancocks, reporting from Yangon.

Thank you, Paula.

Now, an exclusive look at the Pakistan-Afghan border. We are on the ground with coalition soldiers patrolling the area in the fight against insurgents, but that is not their only danger.

And scene of a crime? The hotel where a British man was found dead sparks more intrigue around fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai.

And what happened at Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix? We'll have the highlights still to come, here right on NEWS STREAM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Now, violent, remote and lawless. The Pakistan-Afghan border is the front line of the war being waged against the insurgency in Afghanistan, but it isn't only insurgents firing on coalition forces there.

Afghan soldiers have told CNN they have also come under attack from Pakistan's military. Now, the revelation is likely to further strain already tense relations.

Nick Paton Walsh now with this exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Forward Operating Base Tillman is at the heart of the most complex part of America's war, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. On the other side of the border, insurgents seek shelter. Across it, the Pakistani and American military eye each other, often with suspicion.

There's sensitivity about our visit. And, unusually, a press officer is sent to watch over us.

Twenty-four Pakistani soldiers were accidentally killed by U.S. forces in November on this border, so it's tense, even up in these silent heights. Nobody wants to talk about insurgents crossing over here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can neither confirm or deny that. You'll have to talk to my commander, the PAO Staff Sergeant Crow (ph).

WALSH (on camera): Here you can see just how close they are to Pakistan's border, on the other side of which is said to be a sanctuary for the feared Haqqani insurgent network. Incidents on this border tend to flare into massive diplomatic scandals, so you can see why everybody here is so acutely sensitive about what they'll say.

(voice-over): We visit the Afghan unit and interrupt a friendly wrestling match. The Americans tell us the Afghans are reliable partners in this fight. One of them exhausts this American into a tie.

The Afghans tell us the nearby Pakistani army not only let the Taliban cross the border to attack them, but make a strong accusation that Pakistanis also fire upon them, most recently on April the 14th.

COMMANDER MASOUD KARIMI, AFGHAN ARMY (through translator): The Pakistani checkpoints are only three kilometers from here, and when we go patrolling towards the border we come under fire both from the Pakistani military and the Taliban. Last week, when we went near the border, we were attacked with an anti-aircraft gun and mortars by the Pakistani army from their checkpoints. We are not only attacked from the Pakistani side (ph), but we are also attacked by the Pakistani army.

We just saw them with their own eyes. The Pakistani soldiers were firing at us, and on the same day we reported to the Americans. But the Americans told us that it was from the other side of the border and they didn't have the permission to conduct operations there.

WALSH: The Afghans pinpoint that checkpoint is on the border and show us video of that day's clashes. NATO confirms Afghan soldiers here were in a cross-border clash that day, but it's not just the Afghans. The Americans here are also targeted by shells fired from inside Pakistan, the U.S. commander admits to us.

(on camera): So how many times since you've been here have you returned fire against targets located on the Pakistani side of the border?

CAPT. CHARLES SEITZ, U.S. ARMY: I have no idea. I don't keep -- I don't remember those numbers.

WALSH: I really find that hard to believe, to be honest, because that must be a serious issue for you here when you have to return fire to a neighboring country.

SEITZ: It is, but like I said, because I'm not the approval authority for it, I don't keep that number.

WALSH: But you act from this base.

SEITZ: Yes.

WALSH: Right.

SEITZ: I don't remember -- I don't know the number, and that's what you're asking, that number.

WALSH: OK. But it has happened during the time in which you've been here?

SEITZ: Yes.

WALSH: OK. If I said to you that they were between -- you were over five times have fired into Pakistan in response to being fired upon from inside Pakistan, would that be accurate, or does that sound like a low number to you?

SEITZ: No, that sounds accurate.

WALSH (voice-over): NATO confirmed outpost Tillman has fired into Pakistan four times since June. A U.S. official said they tried to contact Pakistani officials first, although a Pakistani military spokesman said that doesn't always happen.

It's clearly a sensitive topic, and we're asked to leave our embed early. As we board an American helicopter, a Pakistani soldier gets off. Neither NATO nor the Pakistani military could explain what he was doing there.

The United States is slowly leaving this area, leaving its complexities to the Afghans and their clear belief the Pakistani army targets them, leaving enmity and mistrust, an insurgent sanctuary behind.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: With more now on the delicate balancing act facing troops on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, I'm joined now by Nick Paton Walsh, live from Kabul.

And Nick, an incredible admission there from that officer, but what more are American officials telling you about their own troops firing at Pakistan from inside Afghanistan?

WALSH: Well, ISAF say it happens in response to shells fired at them from the Pakistani side of the border, that there is a process, it goes up the chain command, and there are attempts, often successful, to reach the Pakistani military to ensure they're not firing on Pakistani military positions. But Pakistani military say to us that isn't always successful and sometimes their checkpoints are fired upon from the Afghan side of the border. So a deeply confusing situation here.

We have four separate groups, supposedly most of them allies, but often find themselves in conflict with each other -- the Americans, the Taliban, the Afghan military and the Pakistani military -- all operating on this border, frankly the line of which is indistinct to many. And I think the concern really here is exactly how this communication can be improved.

You saw there at the end of the piece a Pakistani soldier, mysteriously to us, getting off this helicopter and going into FOB Tillman. And nobody can explain what he was doing there, but I would suspect he's possibly there in some sort of liaison capacity. But that's not something anybody wants to talk publicly about -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: And the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan, I mean, that has become especially tense in the last year. How is it affecting Pakistan's willingness to cooperate with the U.S. for the security of Afghanistan?

WALSH: It's been a deeply complicated relationship. Last year's incident in November adding to the mistrust. That was after the Bin Laden raid, a real deterioration.

And I think drone strikes, having eased off significantly this year, there are signs from U.S. officials and Pakistanis there could be some rapprochement ahead. Even suggestions maybe that the vitally needed supply route in through Pakistan that brings so much of NATO's equipment into this country, and what we needed (ph) to withdraw so much of NATO's equipment in the months ahead. But they could be reopened in the months ahead I heard today.

So signs of a possible improvement, but really there's long-term mistrust. And at times, the sense that they're on different sides of the border, different sides of a mission, almost, opposing each other, really permeate the relationship at the moment -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Nick Paton Walsh, reporting.

Thank you, Nick.

Now, coming up right here on NEWS STREAM, the death that led to China's biggest political scandal in generations. We visit the Chongqing hotel where a British businessman died. But was he murdered?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Now, you'll remember Gu Kailai allegedly fell out with British businessman Neil Heywood. One theory, he reportedly threatened to expose her attempts to move a large sum of money abroad.

Now, Heywood was found dead last November in a Chongqing hotel. Stan Grant takes us there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STAN GRANT, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I'm walking in the footsteps of Neil Heywood, down this musty hotel corridor, the same hotel where the British businessman was found dead last November. It is a world far removed from the high life he once enjoyed as an influential political and corporate networker.

(on camera): Well, this is the room itself, one of the hotel rooms here in the hotel that Neil Heywood died in.

(voice-over): This is a hotel that has seen better days. There are dead bugs on the floor, stained walls. Skirting boards are busted, the furniture is chipped. There are exposed electrical wires and a rattling old air-conditioner unit.

The only decorations here are faded plastic flowers. And appropriately enough for this story, a jigsaw puzzle on the war.

To get to the Nanchang Lijing Holiday Hotel, we drive through the hills outside Chonghing. A winding road leads past a rundown district. In its prime, it was a high-end resort area. Now it is the scene of a murder mystery that has captivated China.

Police cars outside the hotel entrance are a giveaway. We've booked in here, surprised to be given rooms, after several other TV crews were turned away.

Over lunch, waitresses here keep their mouths shut. They are well versed in saying nothing. Yet, behind closed doors, this is all anyone is talking about.

With each passing day, more details are emerging of Heywood's business and personal links to one of China's most powerful families and how it all went terribly wrong. Bo Xilai was the Communist Party chief of Chongqing, a metropolis of more than 30 million people in southwest China. Now he's in disgrace, purged from the party leadership and hidden from view.

His wife, Gu Kailai, is being investigated for Heywood's murder. Dozens of other people have been arrested.

This local man certainly knows what's been happening. "Bo Xilai is under investigation in Beijing," he tells me. "Gu Kailai is his wife. She's involved in the death of that British man, Neil Heywood."

Heywood was found dead in a villa like this one attached to the hotel.

(on camera): This is the -- this is the living room. And you can see here the same stains on the walls, the same nondescript furnishings. This is hardly a salubrious hotel, villa.

(voice-over): Plainclothes police are all over this hotel.

(on camera): They call it an investigation room.

(voice-over): What happened on the night Heywood died? What will this mean for Bo Xilai and his family? Right now the answers to these questions are locked behind these hotel walls, and we can only peer through the windows.

Stan Grant, CNN, Chongqing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Now, the independence of South Sudan was supposed to put a stop to violence in the region, but now the infant nation stands on the brink of all-out war with Sudan, and calls for new peace talks could fall on deaf ears.

Meanwhile, the protests did not stop the Bahrain Grand Prix, and we'll tell you what happened on and off the track when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Now Socialist candidate Francois Hollande has won the opening round of the French presidential elections with a narrow lead over incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. Now the pair will now go head-to-head in a runoff vote on May 6.

Now former U.S. presidential hopeful John Edwards goes on trial Monday. He's charged with six counts, including taking a legal political contributions during his failed 2008 campaign. Edwards says his actions were wrong, but insists they were not illegal. If convicted he could receive up to 30 years in prison.

A witness tells CNN Sudanese war planes have bombarded towns in South Sudan. Now the air strikes come as there are reports of ground fighting at several border areas. It's just days since South Sudan pulled troops from the region of Heglig, though Sudan claims its troops won the oil rich region. AP reports that Sudan's president arrived in Heglig on Monday.

Now the escalation in fighting between Sudan and South Sudan is threatening to return the neighboring African countries to full-scale war. David McKenzie joins me now live from the CNN bureau in Nairobi with the latest. And David, what is the latest on the fighting?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is this disturbing account of what appears to be an aerial strike from a fighter jet according to reporters and witnesses on the ground near Bentyu (ph) and (inaudible) in South Sudan.

Let's look at some video of the aftermath of the (inaudible). Early this morning it appears in a bridge between Bentyu (ph) and neighboring town that was presumably targeted by the Sudanese armed forces. But what did happen it seems is that civilians were killed and injured, though the death toll is not entirely clear at this point. At least one young boy, horribly disfigured and burned -- well his body was burned -- in this incident.

And what it does show is that although the southern Sudanese say they have withdrawn their forces from Heglig, the disputed oil field -- and excuse me, that's actually thunder here in Nairobi -- though they've withdrawn from that area the Sudanese armed forces aren't stopping what have been a series of aerial bombardments in the south and also even to rebels in their own territory -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: We're seeing this pattern of aerial bombardments as well as new allegations from Human Rights Watch. What are they saying?

MCKENZIE: Well, Human Rights Watch has been in and out of the region several times. And they're alleging that in the southern part of Sudan -- now the Sudan that was normally the northern part of Sudan, now two different countries obviously -- but what Human Rights Watch is saying is that there have been progressive aerial bombardments since around September last year. They've been in recently into those areas, very difficult for journalists and also for human rights workers, managed to get some footage of that area saying that several towns and villages have been completely abandoned by those who historically were supporting the south in the long civil war that ended in around 2005.

They say the bombardments have been indiscriminate, that people have been killed and injured. And here's what a spokesperson of Human Rights Watch had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEHANNE HENRY, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Our research shows that there was a lot of indiscriminate bombing when conflict broke out in Blue Nile. And it lasted for a period of several months. And it does continue today, including at refugee crossing points.

So we went to a place where refugees had arrived recently and had been bombed. And several people were injured from that.

So the Sudanese government needs to end this. These were very serious cases that were described to us of people being killed point blank at close range within the detention center by a Sudanese military official. Human Rights Watch, it's calling for an international investigation into the events in Blue Nile.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCKENZIE: So two issues at stake there, really. The fighting, potentially, between the south and the north which could become full-scale conflict as well as aerial bombardments of that Blue Nile state that's been the point -- the interesting point is at least at this point as the Khartoum government -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: That's right, disturbing account there of a refugee camp being bombed. David McKenzie reporting. Thank you.

Now two more UN monitors are expected to arrive to Syria on Monday, bringing the total number to nine. An advance team of UN observers toured Syrian neighborhoods in part of their mission to bring about a ceasefire. And they're going to get a major boost after the UN security council voted to send as many as 300 monitors over the coming weeks.

But despite this announcement, opposition activists say fighting has resumed with fresh explosions rocking the city of Homs. They report at least 19 people were killed on Sunday. An increased UN presence in Syria could put an end to the fighting, but lets find out more on the situation. Let's go straight to our Arwa Damon. She joins us from the CNN bureau in Beirut.

And Arwa, as Syria awaits more UN monitors, the violence rages on. What's the latest inside Syria?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we did hear reports, according to local coordination committees, that there were massive explosions in the flashpoint city of Homs. And if you'll remember that is where over the weekend we saw some pretty emotional footage where members, residence of that city, swarmed around the small UN team that arrived imploring them to stay put, saying that they needed their presence there, because at the very least it was serving to significantly decrease the shelling and the assault by the Syrian security forces.

What we also saw today, though, was that it seems as if the effort to shell certain areas by the Syrian government intensified in the city of Hama with again the local coordination committees reporting that at least 18 people had been killed in that city on this day alone, a total of 21 across the entire country.

So while on the one hand there has been something of a muted sense of optimism that perhaps this UN mission could at least, at the very least, serve to decrease levels of violence, we do still continue to see attacks happening across the country at this stage, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Now, we've also learned this day that the EU has agreed to new sanctions against the Syrian regime. What impact will they have on ending the crisis?

DAMON: Well, if the status quo is anything to go by, this additional sanctions are not really going to do much to try to -- when it comes to really forcing the Syrian government to change its position. There have been numerous sanctions imposed by the EU, by the United States, all of which have not really served to force the government to alter its current course of actions.

In fact, when we were in Damascus earlier this year, we were speaking to residents there about the impact of the sanctions and they were saying that at that point in time it was really the poorest of the poor that were feeling the bite, not necessarily the government itself, so one would have to assume based on recent history that these current sanctions are not really going to put that additional needed pressure on the Assad regime at this stage.

LU STOUT: And the expansion of the UN monitoring mission, when those 300 UN peace monitors are on the ground in Syria, what impact will they have? And Kofi Annan is optimistic, but can they really help end 13 months of violence?

DAMON: Well, that's going to be the big question. The hope amongst those who are expressing optimism is that at the very least the presence of these monitors in areas where they are physically located could perhaps serve to decrease the violence to a certain degree. But bringing about resolution to this crisis in Syria is going to be a much more complex situation that is going to require at this stage what many are describing as being some sort of a miracle to take place, because of the fact that the situation. The people are quite simply so polarized. Hatred at this stage is running so deep. And there has been so much bloodshed.

And when it comes to the specifics of that monitoring mission, it is at this point in time only set to last for around 90 days, 300 monitors. Although when and how they will be deployed, that is up to Ban Ki-Moon to decide at which point in time it is deemed to be safe enough to actually be located in country.

Opposition activists on the one hand are welcoming the presence of these monitors, but they don't really go so far as to say that they believe it is actually going to bring about any sort of concrete resolution with many of them saying that they still continue to believe that this type of maneuvering is only buying the Assad regime even more time.

LU STOUT: Arwa Damon reporting. Thank you, Arwa.

And now to another Middle East flashpoint, Bahrain, where a dissident on hunger strike Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has had the chance to appeal his life sentence postponed until April 30. Now he was arrested last year during the violent crackdown on pro-Democracy protests in the Gulf state. Now back then, the Bahrain Grand Prix was canceled, because of the civil unrest. But this year days of escalating anti-government protests failed to halt the Formula 1 race. It took place even as nearby streets were blocked with burning tires and trash.

So what about the race itself? Amanda Davies joins us now live from London for more of the action on the track -- Amanda.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi. Thanks very much, Kristie.

Yes, despite the threats of violence surrounding the fourth race of the Formula 1 season, just two arrests were made at the track on race day and the drivers and teams were left to get on with their job in hand. It was the poll sitter Sebastian Vettel who lead from start to finish to claim his first victory of the season. The double world champion fought off the challenge of Lewis Hamilton heading into the first bend and never looked in danger of claiming a win for Red Bull.

So it's four different winners in the first four races of the season with a great result for Lotus. Kimi Raikonen taking second for his first podium finish since his comeback with his teammate Romain Grosjean taking third.

Normal service resumes in the drivers' standings. Sebastian Vettel back on top after his 22nd Formula 1 victory. The usual suspects in the top five: Lewis Hamilton second with Mark Webber third and Jensen Button fourth despite that poor showing from McClaren this weekend.

It's on to Europe now, (inaudible) takes place in Spain on May 11.

Sir Alex Fersuson says Manchester United face the biggest derby of his career next week after his side dropped valuable points in the English Premiere League title race this weekend. It means they head to Manchester City next Monday, just three points ahead of their closest rivals with three games to go.

United looks to have wrapped up victory against Everton on Sunday when Wayne Rooney put them 4-2 up with 21 minutes to go. But not for the first time this season, United's defense let them down at Old Trafford. Everton scoring two in two minutes to see if finish 4-all.

So onto Molineaux where Manchester City took advantage to close the gap, beating Wolves 2-nil. Goals from Sergio Aguero and Sami Nasri made the difference. And as a result that confirms that Wolves are relegated. And sets up what's being described as a manic Monday at the Etihad next week.

Let's have a look just why? City sit just three points behind the defending champions and have a superior goal difference. It was United who came out on top when the two sides met in the FA Cup back in January. But it was City who of course produced that emphatic 6-1 drubbing of United at Old Trafford back in October. So plenty to play for.

In the NBA, Kobe Byrant and the L.A. Lakers came from behind to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, but it wasn't exactly a peaceful affair. Have a look at this from the second period with the Lakers down three after this dunk. Meta World Peace hitting James Hardin with a vicious elbow to the head. Hardin goes down. His teammates, as you would expect, jump to his defense. And it really doesn't look any better in slow motion either.

The officials agreed and ejected him from the game. Hardin didn't return either. He suffered a concussion.

Here we are in third quarter, though. Thunder up seven. Check out Kevin Durant throwing down the big slam. And he finished with 35 points. Thunder were 18 up at one point, but back came L.A. late in the fourth. Lakers within a point. Kobe stepping up to knock down a three from the top of the key to take the lead and the game going to overtime not once, but twice.

But it was the Lakers who took it in the end. Bryant finishing with 26 points since they finished off their incredible comeback with a 114-106 victory.

The result though probably overshadowed by the fallout from that foul by Meta World Peace. It's just the latest strange chapter in the career of the man once known as Ron Artest. Aside from the irony of a foul this severe being committed by a man who changed his name to World Peace only last September, we're also talking about a player who was given the longest suspension in NBA history by the league, but who also was given a citizenship award by the same league years later.

The NBA are set to review that elbow incident and he more than likely faces a suspension, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, brutal foul. And I think he needs to consider a name change. Amanda, thank you. Nice to see you here on NEWS STREAM. Take care.

Now up next, a soccer ball lost in the Japanese tsunami is found in Alaska. And it may soon be returned to its owner over 3,000 miles away. We have that story just ahead right here on NEWS STREAM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Broadcasting live from Hong Kong, you're back watching NEWS STREAM.

Now debris from last year's tsunami in Japan is starting to appear on the other side of the ocean. Now one of the items was a football found by a beach comber in Alaska. Now David Baxter, seen here with his wife, noticed the Japanese characters written on it. And his wife was able to translate the name of a school in an area that was hit by the tsunami. And with that information, they were able to track down its owner, a grateful 16-year-old.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MISAKI MURAKAMI, LOST SOCCER BALL IN TSUNAMI (through translator): I didn't even imagine that my soccer ball would reach Alaska thousands of kilometers away from Japan. It is my treasure. I was to transfer to another school after third grade. And my home room teacher and classmates gave the ball to me. It's been hard to find my own belongings after the earthquake, but I'm very happy that my soccer ball has been found and is coming back to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LU STOUT: Baxter plans to return to the ball to its owner in Japan over 3,000 miles away. It's an incredible story of discovery, but also about tsunami debris, and that's something that Mari Ramos has been tracking for a long time now. She joins us live from the world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: It's amazing that they were able to find that piece of -- that piece from Japan all the way across the sea there in Alaska, but we're going to see probably more of situations like this. A couple of weeks ago we had that so-called ghost ship, remember, that they found off the coast of Canada that was eventually sunk by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Now the -- when you track the debris, it's very difficult, because of course everything is moving so swiftly. This is a model from NOAA that kind of shows us year by year how much debris is expected to actually move across the ocean. And during year one it was expected to be across the middle portion of the Pacific, that's the red. Year two was the orange. And year three is the yellow. And you can see already by year one here we continue to see that and then by year two approaching the coast of Canada and the U.S. And then by year two, three, and four we begin to see that starting to kind of swirl around along this giant ocean gyre (ph) here, this ocean current carrying it back again toward the central portion of the Pacific Ocean.

So this is going to be something to monitor very closely. And in just a little while I'm going to go ahead and tweet you the address again, but there's marine debris tracker. And they want your help. If you see any kind of marine debris from the tsunami or from anywhere else -- actually there's an app for that. And I'll go ahead and send you that information in just a moment @MariRamosCNN is my Twitter handle.

Let's go ahead and move on. I want to take you -- staying in Asia and the dust storms again huge problem. I want to show you these amazing pictures from the weekend of what was happening. Yeah, cover your eyes, your nose, your eyes. This is not going to be pretty. Wind, close to 200 kilometers per hour in some cases as this fierce storm was just moving through this area causing huge travel delays and of course making it very uncomfortable.

Where does all of this come from? Let me go ahead and show you right over here -- from the Taklamakan Desert in northwestern China. This is an area -- it's very dry, of course, it's a desert, call it a dune field. It's about 32 kilometers long. And it gets less than 85 millimeters of rainfall every single year so it's extremely dry. When you have these dust storms that move through this main source area of the desert, you get these very strong winds that come through. And then that will bring the dust all across this region here.

And it doesn't only affect northwestern China, these small particles can be suspended in the air for a very long time and sometimes they can even cross to the other side of the world all the way across northeastern China, through the Korean peninsula, through Japan and crossing those extreme distances all the way across to the -- even into the Pacific Northwest here of the U.S.

So we're all connected, Kristie. Back to you.

LU STOUT: Oh, we are indeed. Mari Ramos there. Thank you. Take care.

Still to come here on NEWS STREAM, it's a new sport, but there is a lot of tradition behind it. Our Patrick Snell gets a few tips from a mixed martial arts champion.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now as interest in heavy weight boxing wanes, mixed martial arts competitions like UFC are stealing the spotlight. Pitting many different fighting styles against each other, UFC is growing in prominence. So, we sent Patrick Snell to get a first-hand lesson on how to fight in the UFC.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: The gloves are on. And they're not coming off. Who better to learn from than Daniel Cormier, professionally unbeaten. Nine professional MMA victories. You're the man to learn from. Show me what you've got. What do I need to be worried about.

Say I come at you with a little jab, a little aggression. Can you stop me?

DANIEL CORMIER, PROFESSIONAL MMA FIGHTER: Yes, I can stop you. I can stop you with my Olympic wrestling -- that would be the first thing. But I could also stop you with very basic one-two combination, OK. I'll be in my fight stance. My hands are going to be up. I'm going to give you like my shoulder. It's called -- it's like a blade. Your other shoulder, because you're giving me too much real estate to work.

I'm going to throw a jab. And when I throw a jab, you're going to react to my jab. And I'm going to follow it up with a big right hand.

I throw my jab. Straight jab right here, to blind you.

SNELL: I blocked you.

CORMIER: But your left hand is so low.

SNELL: Ah. And my rip cage as well?

CORMIER: Yes. I'm going to throw a right hand right over the top and that's how I drop my punch -- boom, right underneath that.

How do I get my kick? Same thing. I set up my kicks with my hand. Jab, basic, boom. And that's where most of the leg kicks are.

Now we'll go to the body. So same thing. I throw a jab. I throw a jab. I step off. I throw it. And I throw my leg into your waist. See that? And I drive my shin into your body. So again punch, up, and I kick.

Now lastly, I can kick at your head. I jab and I kick at your head here. I kick.

SNELL: I felt that.

CORMIER: Right there. I'm trying not to really -- and it's up at your head.

It's called ground and pound.

SNELL: OK.

CORMIER: I'm getting you on the ground. And I'm going to try to pound you out.

This is called a mount. All right. I'm completely on top of him. I can punch, punch. What's going to be his natural reaction? To get his arms up and try and get me off of him. As he does that, all I do is punch -- I secure an arm right there, get off to a side. Now I'm going to an arm bar position right here. Hand locked, feet tight.

SNELL: I'm trapped.

CORMIER: Arch my hips into his elbow. I hit my hips into his elbow and look how his elbow starts to go up. I can completely break his arm if he doesn't tap out.

SNELL: It could get snapped at any point.

How vital is the crowd?

CORMIER: It's unbelievable. I mean, the rush -- the rush, it's unbelievable. And you're standing back there by yourself. You hear the announcer call your name. And you run down to the cage. It's such a rush.

SNELL: How much of this is psychological?

CORMIER: A lot of it is. A lot of it is. And I think that's what my background in wrestling has helped me. You know, it's helped me to understand that it's just competition.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: And that was our own Patrick Snell proving he is braver than most reporters, but reports suggest he might be out for the next few weeks with an injury.

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

END