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Latest Al Qaeda Bomb Plot Foiled; Elections in Greece, France Put EuroZone In Danger

Aired May 8, 2012 - 16:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Tonight on Connect the World, teetering on the brink: Greece's would-be leader declares his country's bailout deal dead sending shockwaves through the EuroZone and leaving its very existence in doubt.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World with Becky Anderson.

ANDERSON: This hour, a very modern-day Greek tragedy is unfolding as its politicians scramble to form a government. One thing is certain, Greece's party on the political extremes are now calling the shots.

Also tonight, burning bright, but for how long? Concerns that South Africa's constitution is under attack by the very party who fought to create it.

And two-and-a-half weeks after he began the London marathon, the finish line is finally in sight for one very courageous competitor.

Greece is threatening to rip up the budget cutting deal designed to save the entire EuroZone. The left-wing leader of the Syriza bloc says he pledges that Greece has made -- he says that the bailout deal if effectively are null and void. Have a listen to this.


ALEXIS TSIPRAS, SYRIZA LEADER: The national debt should be investigated by an international commission. There should be a moratorium on its payment. And that a fair and viable European solution is demanded. The crisis is not singular to Greece, it is a European crisis. And a solution should be demanded within a European framework.


ANDERSON: Well, Greece as Alexis Tsipras has three days to try and cobble together a government after Greece's main center-right party failed. If he can't make it work, Greeks face the prospect of going to the polls again in the months to come. Many fear the political and economic uncertainty pushing Greece closer to the EuroZone exit doors.

As you can imagine, all of this rattling investors know for a second day across Europe today. Greek markets also suffering more losses as you can see there, 3.62 percent down on the main Athens market today, leaving stocks there at a 20 year low.

Across Europe, as you can see it was a sea of red.

So what are the chances Greece can avoid a repeat election and the Syriza party can indeed make it work. I want to take a look at the map. This is the radical left party looking to form a coalition government at the moment. They've got 52 seats in Sunday's election. As you can see, that is way below the 151 number they need to govern. Well a likely coalition party will be the anti-austerity party of the independent Greeks. 33 seats they won at the weekend. That still only brings the total number here up to 85, well below that 151 mark.

Well, earlier today the Greed democratic left party announced that they would support a Syriza coalition, bringing 19 odd seats to the table. Again, you can see the numbers, you need another 47 to create a government.

The problem there is the math don't add up. The Communist party has said they may also come in, but they pretty -- seems pretty unlikely. The New Democracy, or Pasos (ph) parties, those are the old parties that have been governing over the last 40 years, they would have to abandon their plans of sticking by tough austerity measures if indeed they were to join that coalition.

So as you can see at the moment looking as though Greece is headed for a new election.

CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is in Athens for us tonight. I hope you can hear us. Yes, he can. Matthew, what a mess.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Absolutely. And there have been intensive negotiations underway now by this second biggest party, the coalition for the radical left to try and forge a coalition as well. It's important, because unlike the New Democracy which came sort of top of the league if you will with the -- in the election a few days ago, the radical left party are fundamentally opposed to the EU bailout. They want Greece to essentially do a u-turn and to not pay the debts that its accumulated over the past several years.

But in order to make that happen, however unsavory that may be for the investors watching what's happening in Greece now, they have to form a coalition. And so even though they say that's what they want. They still got to play the numbers game, they still got to do the intensive negotiations to try and attract as many of the parties in the parliament behind me with seats to their coalition. So far they haven't accumulated the numbers they need. They've still got another two days tomorrow and the day after to try and do that, but you know it's not altogether clear that they'll be able to pull it off.

Well, earlier Antonis Samaras, the leader of the New Democracy spoke about what he thought about the efforts of the radical left to form a coalition. Take a listen to what he had to say.


ANTONIS SAMARAS, NEW DEMOCRACY LEADER (through translator): colleagues (inaudible) to take part, but they either rejected to participate or they set as a term the participation of others. And they still don't agree as we had an obligation (inaudible) was possible.


CHANCE: That was Antonis Samaras explaining to the nation yesterday that even though he had attempted to form a coalition, a coalition that would have backed those austerity measures, he did those intensive talks, those rounds of meetings, and not one party said they would join with him, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes. Fascinating stuff. Thank you, Matthew. News gathering for you there in Athens.

As we see the rise and the potential adoption of seats in the parliament building behind Matthew of those on the very streams of Greek politics, don't underestimate what's at stake here. The heart of Europe is the integration of the continent's countries. The euro not just a currency, it's a symbol of the widely admired consensus. As Fred Pleitgen reports, this crisis, well it's threatening to undermine the very core of the European project.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Francois Hollande road to victory in France on an anti-austerity platform, preaching growth instead of staunch cuts, Germany is standing fast. Even with a new government in Paris, says German Chancellor Merkel, Europe's fiscal discipline pact is not up for negotiation.

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): It is a basic approach in Europe that we do not change everything we have decided upon already after election whether in big or small countries. If that was the case, then we could not work in Europe.

PLEITGEN: The spat, a possible sign, experts say, of turbulent times ahead for the EU.

ALMUT MOELLER, GERMAN COUNCIL OF FOREIGN RELATIONS: We certainly have an agreement between Berlin and other capitals in the European Union. And this clearly will be battled out to an extent between Paris and Berlin now whether there's a new president in place.

PLEITGEN: But some believe the whole idea of European integration is being called into question. The so-called European Consensus, a consensus that was born in the post-World War II ear as Europe began trying to bury the divisions and distrust that embroiled the continent for centuries. The only answer, leaders felt, was integration.

Over the decades, this model evolved into today's European Union with the euro a nearly universal currency serving as the standard of unity. But with the currency in trouble and countries like Greece having to implement massive cuts in government services and programs to stay in the monetary zone there is popular backlash against the EU.

MOELLER: But of course we also see a huge dissatisfaction in countries like in Greece and France and probably other countries as well -- Spain will be amongst them -- where people, citizens say, well, this is not the social Europe that we wanted.

PLEITGEN: Add to that what some experts call a perceived democracy deficit in the EU. In Greece, Lucas Papadamos was made prime minister last year without a popular vote. The same happened in Italy, where Mario Monti took over from Silvio Berlusconi.

Although some analysts warn of reading too much into these cases.

CHARLES GRANT, CENTER FOR EUROPEAN REFORM: There is not a democratic deficit in Europe as far as I can see, because all power is accountable.

PLEITGEN: With so many EU countries in transition, the shape of European integration is up for debate. How this will affect the shape of the EU will depend in large part on the answers leaders find to the current crisis.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


ANDERSON: Well, the fight to save the euro is radically changing the political and social landscape of Europe. The question now on many people's lips is, is it a price worth paying. Well, Klaus-Peter Willsch is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party in Germany. He is a staunch defender of austerity.

Sir, thank you for joining us.

It might suit Germany, but the people of Europe has spoken and Germany's insistence on the tough medicine of austerity is quite frankly fueling the rise of extremist parties -- Geert Wilders in The Netherlands, Golden Dawn in Greece, populist parties like Le Pen in France. Are you OK with that?

KLAUS-PETER WILLSCH, MEMBER OF GERMAN PARLIAMENT: Well, I think this is -- this is the follow up of the bailout policy which was never meant to be -- to be possible within the Euro. When we started the euro, we had a legal framework with said each country is responsible for its own debt, for its own budget, has to take care for a balanced budget, and there will be no bailout. We broke this two years ago. And of course those countries giving credits, even loans to the others who did not follow the rules...

ANDERSON: With respect, they broke the rules. And I think that that goes without saying at this point. Let's go forward, not backward at this point. My point is this, the insistence by the German chancellor and by Germany at the moment that these countries stick to austerity is having a huge impact on not just their economies, but on people's daily lives. And it is fueling the rise of populist pernicious populous parties across Europe.

My question is simply this are you OK with that?

WILLSCH: I think that we must not tell the Greek people have they have to live. And if they don't want to take the way the euro works...

ANDERSON: Then they should drop out?

WILLSCH: ...they should leave the EuroZone and make their own way there.

We have a lot of countries in Europe that don't pay the euro. UK doesn't pay with the euro.

ANDERSON: OK, what about France? What about Spain? What about Portugal? What about Italy? And what about Ireland? Should they also leave the euro?

WILLSCH: They should -- they should decide on their own if they want to play the rule -- to play the game along the rules, if they don't. If they don't, we should...

ANDERSON: How many countries would be left in the euro if those who say they cannot and will not now sign up for this austerity treaty unless it has a growth -- some sort of growth compact associated with it, how many countries do you think would be left? My guess is one or two -- Germany plus one maybe.

WILLSCH: Well, I see some more, but anyway. The currency, the currency union does only work if you have countries in it that have a similar stage of competitiveness. And we have a really a wide range there. And those who are not competitive enough are not able to perform with such a strong currency like the euro. So we should say let every country decide on its own.

ANDERSON: Interesting. OK.

WILLSCH: Do you want to play the rules, to play the game along the rules, or do you want a kit and make your policy you used to make it...

ANDERSON: You're saying it's my way or the highway effectively.

It's been interesting, hasn't it, because the euro has been very good for Germany, Germany being strongish economy during its -- during its nascent period. And it has been good -- though, I wonder whether this insistence on austerity is not a little self-defeating. No or low growth across Europe will eventually hurt Germany whose exports of course rely on European markets, don't they?

WILLSCH: They rely, of course, to a high degree on European markets, but not on the EuroZone, it's the free market within the 27 countries which makes our efforts, which makes our strength there. And we're also competing, of course, with our own markets.

So we were taking care for competitiveness. We had really, really rather vigorous in growth of incomes and all that. We did our job in gaining competitiveness in the last 15 -- 10, 15 years. Others raised the incomes 30 percent or something so they have to -- they have to correct it now.

ANDERSON: Klaus-Peter Willsch, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU Party in Germany, a staunch defender of austerity with some very interesting points for our viewers this evening.

Sir, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

It's our way or the highway apparently.

You're watching Connect the World live from London. Our top story tonight. In Greece, a radical left-wing leader tries to rally support for a new government bent on the outright rejection of Europe's plan to rescue its stricken economies. There's a new wave of European leaders (inaudible). And a question I never thought I'd be asking in 2012 where do popular democratic politics stop and pernicious populism beings? I leave that with you this evening.

Still to come on Connect the World, U.S. investigators say this man is a master al Qaeda bomb maker who designed a device to blow up an airplane. Who is he? That's coming up.

Also ahead, Kofi Annan's sharp warning to the world on the scale of violence in Syria.

And concerns that one of the world's most admired constitutions is now facing threats from within. This is Connect the World on CNN. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: Welcome back. This is Connect the world. I'm Becky Anderson on CNN.

A failed bomb plot to destroy a U.S.-bound plane shows a level of sophistication for al Qaeda, according to U.S. officials. They say the bomb was likely created by this man, a master al Qaeda bomb maker. And the device he created was more advanced than the bomb al Qaeda tried to use on a Detroit bound plane you'll remember back in 2009.

Nic Robertson has the latest for you.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So what we are learning about this plot now is that it came as a result of a tip-off from Saudi intelligence. The indications are that they thwarted this plot about two weeks ago. And there are other indications as well that seem to indicate at this stage that the person that was providing the information was inside this cell that was involved with the particular bomb plot. It's not clear where this person is now. We are told that he is no longer a threat, indicating either he is now a captive he has been killed. It is not clear where he -- either way he is at this particular stage.

But what we are learning as well is that this was a bomb being put together by Ibrahim al-Asiri, the master al Qaeda bomb maker based in Yemen, that there were new adaptations if you will to his previous bombs to the printer bomb to the underpants bomb. Adaptations, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials, he's made to try and get around new counterterrorism measures that U.S. officials have put in place at airports. So a degree of sophistication, a degree of determination by Ibrahim al-Asiri. We don't know what those changes are.

We also understand from U.S. Homeland Security that whatever measures need to be implemented at airports to stop this new device getting through and those are going to be implemented.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: A look at some of the other stories that are connecting our world tonight.

And heavy fighting erupted in Tripoli in Libya on Tuesday. A group of former rebel fighters surrounded the interim prime minister's office in armored trucks. At least one person was killed in a gunfight between the rebels and security guards. An official told CNN the fighters are demanding payments from the government.

Well, the UN and Arab League envoy to Syria says he is worried the country could descend into a full-scale civil war. Kofi Annan told the UN security council the Syrian army remains in towns around the country fighting, mass arrests continue. He said the UN observer mission is now the last chance to stabilize the country. The UN plans to send 300 monitors into Syria by the end of May.

Israel has a new coalition government just days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for elections. In an 11th hour deal, Mr. Netanyahu and his right-wing Lahud Party has reached to form a unity government with the opposition Kadima Party. The prime minister says the new alliance would be good for stability.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): When I thought the stability is rocking, I was willing to go to elections earlier, but when I found out that there it is possible to create a broad, a very broad government perhaps, or in fact, the broadest government in the history of the state of Israel -- 94 members of (inaudible) I understood that we could bring back the stability without changing the time of elections. And that is why I have decided to establish a national unity government.


ANDERSON: Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has agreed to end her hunger strike. She gave up eating 19 days ago after accusing prison guards of beating her. Tymoshenko is currently serving a seven year prison sentence after being convicted of abuse of authority last year. The sentence is being highly criticized by the west for its political overtunes.

I'm going to take a very short break as ever at this point. When we come back sports. And a rematch of sorts for two heavy weight boxers. This time the fight will be in the ring.


ANDERSON: Former heavy weight boxing champion David Haye and Dereck Chisora will again face off against each other, but this time in the ring. You may remember an ugly press conference brawl between the two in February after Chisora lost to Vitali Klitschko. Well, neither one of them has a license to box in Britain, so how is it they're going to be squaring off at West Ham's Upton Park in East London on July 14?

Let's bring in Don Riddell at CNN Center to help us with this one. I guess one should always say follow the money when it comes to boxing. How is this happening?

DON RIDDELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're absolutely right, these boxers don't have the right or the license to fight in London, but the promoters have been very clever here. And they've really gone sort of a bit beyond the British boxing board of control. The British Boxing Bureau of Control are absolutely livid about this, because the Luxembourg Boxing Federation, Becky, would you believe is going to be sanctioning this fight as you say in London.

Chisora had his license revoked after that brawl in Munich back in February. Haye was retired at the time. And Chisora wasn't going to have his appeal heard until July. And the promoters needed this fight on in July. So they've gone to Luxembourg of all places and this is why Haye wants to fight.


DAVID HAYE, FORMER HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION: People who weren't boxing fans, regular people on the streets said (inaudible) you've got to knock him out. You have to do it. So I was like, OK, then. Why not. And then obviously Frank Warren made contact and (inaudible).

DERECK CHISORA, BOXER: Big talk. Big talk. All the big talk. And you get in the ring you don't deliver. It's all big talk anyway. So, you know what David, you keep talking. The more you keep talking the more you get me upset. The more I get upset the more I'll jump over this thing right now.


RIDDELL: Becky, your eyes aren't deceiving you, that was a very big steel fence that was put between these boxers. The idea being to try to keep them apart.

There is no doubt that they really don't like each other. They really hate each other. I mean, that brawl you saw in Munich, you know involved a television tripod, bottles were broken, it really was quite unseemly. And I think there's a separate debate here about whether people should even be going to watch a fight like this, but as we all know it will be a big sell, it will be big draw because there's all the bad blood and the back story and it will probably be very successful for the promoters.

ANDERSON: It all makes for great entertainment, but the very sight of that steel wall between them is a little bit unnerving. I was going to say to you is that -- can't believe it.

RIDDELL: ...building site.


ANDERSON: An up and coming footballer, Don, sadly facing death threats over being recalled to play for the Republic of Ireland. What is going on here?

RIDDELL: Yeah, this is very sad. James McClean, he's had a great season for Sunderland used to be an under 21 footballer for Northern Ireland, but he's going to be representing Ireland, the Irish national team which is very different to the Northern Irish National Team at the European Championships coming up in Poland and Ukraine.

He got the call-up earlier this week. He tweeted about it, about how thrilled and honored and proud he was to be representing his country, but as you know there is a divide in Ireland, Becky, and some of the more bigoted fans from Northern Ireland have tweeted him and really subjected him to some sectarian abuse and even a few death threats.

McClean probably didn't help the situation with this tweet saying, "love the dogs' abuse am getting off shock Northern Ireland fans. Just worry about watching your own country at the Euros." He went on, "oh wait, my bad, awkward, ha, ha, " because of course Northern Ireland will not be at the European Championships this summer.

ANDERSON: Don, back in an hour with World Sport. Always a pleasure, sir. Mr. Riddell in the house for you.

Now, she was told she would never walk again. We find out how this paralyzed British woman crossed the finish line of the London Marathon.

And critics say South Africa's ruling party can no longer be trusted to defend the very constitution they helped to create.

That all coming up, and your headlines, after this.


ANDERSON: A very warm welcome to our viewers across Europe and around the world. I'm Becky Anderson, these are the latest world news headlines at just after half past nine in London.

The man who could be Greece's next prime minister says he wants to scrap the austerity program Greece accepted in exchange for European bailout, some billions of dollars at stake here. Alexis Tsipras, who is the head of the leftist lot, is trying to form a government after Sunday's election created political chaos.

US lawmakers say a bomb now in FBI custody was designed to bypass airport metal detectors and end up on an airplane bound for the United States. They describe it as a more advanced version of the device used in the failed underwear bomb plot.

UN and Arab League's envoy to Syria has told the UN Security Council that an unacceptable level of violence is still happening within the country. Kofi Annan says he's very worried the country could distend into a full-scale civil war.

Former Ukranian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko will be ending her 19- day hunger strike. Her spokesman says that the jailed politician has agreed to be treated by a doctor. She started her hunger strike after accusing her jailers of beating her.

Those are your headlines this hour.

South Africa inspired a continent and, indeed, the entire world when it cast off the shackles of apartheid and held its first-ever free elections back in 1994. But in recent years, there have been growing concerns that the liberation movement turned ruling party may be abusing its power.

All this week, we've got a special focus on South Africa. Yesterday, we told you about a mayor who wears a bulletproof vest, there. It's not to protect him from gangsters, but from African National Congress loyalists he says he fears will attack him after the party lost a local election.

Well, today, we're looking at potential threats to the document that enshrines South Africa's democracy, the constitution. CNN's Robyn Curnow has our report from Johannesburg for you this evening.


GEORGE BIZOS, NELSON MANDELA'S ATTORNEY: "It is an ideal for which, if needs be, I am prepared to die." That's what he wrote out.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "He" was Nelson Mandela, jailed for fighting apartheid, seen her hugging his lawyer and friend, George Bizos, after his release in 1990.

Bizos still practices law. But now, he says, the threat to democratic ideals comes from Nelson Mandela's own party, the African National Congress.

BIZOS: Attacks on the constitution and on the courts -- are difficult to understand.

CURNOW: President Jacob Zuma has not just questioned the work of the Constitutional Court, but also the merits of the constitution itself.

JACOB ZUMA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA: The constitution provides that it must be reviewed at least annually.

CURNOW: But particular criticism is aimed at the interpretation of the document by judges. Here at the Constitutional Court, a new modern building built for a young democracy, the Bill of Rights is carved into the architecture.

CURNOW (on camera): The ANC spent decades fighting the apartheid regime, and then many years helping to craft the constitution. Now, people here in South Africa worry that the ANC is attacking the very blueprint, the very foundation of democracy it helped to create.

One ANC leader has said the judiciary is counter-revolutionary. Another one has said that the constitution is just a series of compromises, and the president himself, Jacob Zuma, has called for a review of judgments made here at the Constitutional Court.

CURNOW (voice-over): ANC stalwart Cyril Ramaphosa was key in drafting the constitution in the early 1990s. He says the debate is healthy.

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS: There is no threat at all to our constitution. Our constitution is secure. It is owned by the people of this country. The right that it gives them will never be eroded.

CURNOW: A flame burns outside the Constitutional Court, commemorating the 15 years since the constitution was signed. A good time, say many, for citizens to reflect on whether South Africa has lived up to Mandela's ideals.

BIZOS: Nelson Mandela, he is disappointed. But he hasn't given up.

CURNOW: Bizos says too many people made too many sacrifices for this flame of democracy to be snuffed out.

Robyn Curnow, CNN, Johannesburg, South Africa.


ANDERSON: Let me tell you, during this series of reports that you will see this week, of course, we are hoping to speak to members of the South African government.

We have reached out to them, and as we get a response from them, as often as possible, I'm going to try and get them on your air so you can hear what they say in response to what our reports about the state of the South African society and economy.

Our next guest says the health and vibrancy of South Africa's very democracy is now at risk. Sipho Pityana is chairman of a watchdog called Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution. He joins us, now, live from Johannesburg. A fairly probing report, there, by Robyn Curnow. Your response to what you heard?

SIPHO PITYANA, COUNCIL FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN CONSTITUTION: Well, the reality of the matter is that the statements that are made by very powerful leaders in government are a betrayal of the ANC's policy positions, which clearly express a commitment to a constitutional democracy.

And testimony to that expressed commitment is what has been done since -- in the 16 years since the establishment and the passage of that constitution. They are very strong statements made by people who have sworn to uphold the constitution and the law of the country. That is very disturbing.

ANDERSON: And yet, we heard from the ANC stalwart, Cyril Ramaphosa, a man I know many, many people respect, not just in South Africa, but around the world, and he said, and I quote him back here from Robyn's report, "There is no threat at all. Our constitution is secure, owned by the people. Rights are given to them. They will never be eroded."

He doesn't seem to be as concerned as others are when they hear Jacob Zuma speaking in Parliament saying, and I quote, "It is good the constitution is reviewed annually."

PITYANA: Well, the thing is that the extent which -- whether or not the constitution is secure depends on the South African people's readiness to stand up and defend it.

The reality of the matter is that the statement made, which castigates one of the key anchors and pillars of a constitutional democracy, the courts, the judges, and particularly the Constitutional Court, that hits at the heart of a constitutional democracy, because the constitutional democracy has --


PITYANA: -- as a final arbitrator a constitutional court.

ANDERSON: You say, and I quote you, when you spoke to one of my producers earlier on, that "We in South Africa are on the verge of being deemed a dysfunctional state," and you explained why. Just -- just tell me in person why you believe that.

PITYANA: Well, I made that statement two years ago, and government was very upset about it. However, I feel vindicated, because the statements that have come from the auditor general, from the public service commission, and from many other reports that highlight the extent and pervasiveness of corruption in the criminal justice system suggest we have a system that is compromised, starting from the police, intelligence services, prosecution services, now.

And of course, the maddening interference in the appointment of judges in a way that undermines confidence that has been built in this very critical institutions and criminal justice system.

You also have intervention from central government trying to stop the malaise in provinces, like Limpopo, Eastern Cape, and others where corruption has had such a fantastic grip --

ANDERSON: All right.

PITYANA: -- on government's ability to carry out its public duty.

ANDERSON: Sipho, we're going to have to leave it there. We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us for a discussion about --

PITYANA: Thank you, very much, Becky.

ANDERSON: -- what are a series of reports here on CNN. And I want to be transparent here. We are reaching out to the South African government for a response to the content of these reports. We are hoping here this Tuesday that they will be prepared to come on and address some of the issues that we are raising here on CNN.

Still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD this evening, she's a household name in bridal wear, a designer for the stars, and she even has her own china collection. Join us after the break for the latest in our profile of extraordinary women. Leading Women continues after this.


ANDERSON: What's in a name? Well, the lady in this next report says she knew she had made it when people started pronouncing hers correctly. Her bridal gowns are highly coveted, but that's only one part of her empire. Felicia Taylor shows us a typical day in this Leading Woman's life.


FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you're looking to buy a wedding dress, then you probably know her name. Monique Lhuillier may not be easy to pronounce, but that hasn't held back the fashion designer, who has come a long way in the past 15 years.

MONIQUE LHUILLIER, FASHION DESIGNER: I could tell after the first year where people could barely say my name, they were like, "Monique -- "

TAYLOR: Lhuillier dresses A-list celebrities, has a ready-to-wear collection, three stores that bear her name, and a line of china, crystal wear, and home fragrances.

The mother of two runs her empire with her husband, Tom, the CEO. And now, they plan to expand with stores in London and in her homeland in the Philippines.

A global brand and a name everyone will know, Monique Lhuillier.

Her dresses have graced red carpets. Hollywood stars such as Reese Witherspoon, chose a Lhuillier design on her own wedding day. And even the iconic Barbie doll has worn her gown. Lhuillier remembers the moment when it all seemed to fall into place.

LHUILLIER: Everything was clicking, and people were saying my name right, and they were like, "Monique Lhuillier," and "I want more of this brand." And the phones didn't stop ringing, and Tom and I looked at each other and said, "Oh, my gosh, something's working," and it's -- and it's clicking, and it's an exciting time.

TAYLOR: That was in 2004, when Lhuillier had just dressed three starlets for the Emmy Awards, was working on the wedding dress for pop star Brittany Spears, and her wedding collection was beginning to take off.

Oftentimes, designers get their training by working at a major design house, but not Lhuillier. For her, it was a simple twist of fate.

LHUILLIER: Then, when I graduated from design school, I met Tom, and we got engaged shortly after that, and I started looking for a wedding dress. And when I looked at what was out there, I felt like there was a lack of fashionable options for young women out there. So, I said, this is what I want to do.

TAYLOR: With success at her back, the petite fashionista from the Philippines shows CNN what it takes to rise to the top in the world of fashion.

LHUILLIER: Hello. How are you?


TAYLOR: A typical day for Lhuillier can begin with a trip to her flagship boutique in the trendy Los Angeles neighborhood of Melrose Place. She stops here once a week to check on her window displays and to find out how customers are reacting to her collection.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's very beautiful.

LHUILLIER: I would love to also nip in the waist a little bit more --


LHUILLIER: If we could put some pins, and so we --

TAYLOR: Satisfied, Lhuillier heads to her office, discussing business with her public relations team along the way.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via telephone): Hey.

LHUILLIER: Hi, Libby, how are you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via telephone): All right. Well, here's the thing. We just have a couple of things to run over. I want to just start --

LHUILLIER: We're heading to the headquarters, the factory. This is where I come to work every day, but this is where all the magic happens.

TAYLOR: With her office just steps away from where her designs are made, Lhuillier is able to maintain strict quality control through the entire production process.

LHUILLIER: Good morning, everybody. Hello.

A lot of people don't have the luxury of having their own factory where they can build the product and check on the quality on every step of the way.

This is all done by hand, cut, and then they're in a mold, and that's how these flowers look so real.

A lot of people send it out and then it comes back done, and this way we really see the whole process from the sketch form to the draping form, to the fitting, to production until the product goes out.

So beautiful.

Hi, Catherine. Good to see you.

TAYLOR: Lhuillier is meeting today with Star Works, a company that handles the celebrity side of her PR. It's important to constantly reevaluate their strategy, where Lhuillier's dresses are placed in the media, who's wearing them, and discover who they may want to pursue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Kristen Stewart, too, in the blue and black. That had huge coverage.


LHUILLIER: Yes, she's hot. Everybody is on her trail.

What I love about designing for celebrities is the platform for the world to see what my work looks like, and they showcase it beautifully.

TAYLOR: Lhuillier continues to boost her global image and grow her brand as she works on the design of her new store in New York City, her latest ad campaign, and does fittings for her pre-fall collection. We'll see more of Lhuillier in the coming weeks, including what it's like to work with her husband as CEO, and what it takes to design a collection from start to finish.


ANDERSON: From fashion to tech communications to cuisine, we're highlighting women at the top of their fields, and why shouldn't we? You can find out all their stories at

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. When we come back, she's paralyzed from the waist down, but boy, that has not stopped this British woman from completing a marathon. Do stay with us for this, this is such an inspiring story.


ANDERSON: In tonight's Big Interview, we bring you an inspirational story that's hit the headlines both here in the UK and around the world.

Claire Lomas was told she would never walk again. But today, she crossed the finish line of the London Marathon, 16 days after the race began. She's back on her feet thanks to a pair of robotic legs, and I joined her today as she completed what was the final stretch of an incredible journey.


ANDERSON (voice-over): Claire Lomas is paralyzed from the waist down. Five years ago, a horse riding accident left her unable to walk. But today, with the help of a special bionic suit, she completed the toughest of physical challenges: a marathon.

CLAIRE LOMAS, PARALYZED MARATHON WALKER: I can't feel my legs. And even just standing and balancing is difficult. You have to trust your legs are there. When you can't feel them, it's like you're floating on nothing. It's a really strange feeling.

ANDERSON: Claire has walked two miles a day since the London marathon started.

ANDERSON (on camera): And you are less than a mile away.

LOMAS: Actually, I'm --

ANDERSON: How does it feel?

LOMAS: -- half a mile point was just back there, so we're getting very close. It feels pretty cool, actually.

ANDERSON: What have the biggest challenges been, Claire?

LOMAS: The pavement's been quite difficult. The slopes, the pots in the roads, all adds to it, whereas when you're in the clinic environment, you're on a wooden flat surface. So, all those take that bit more out of you. It's quite nice to be on a good bit to finish.


ANDERSON: As soon as you get towards Buckingham Palace the pavement smoothed out --

LOMAS: Yes, exactly.

ANDERSON: -- you'll notice.

LOMAS: Yes. No, exactly.

ANDERSON: What would you say to people who will be celebrating your triumph with you today? What will you say?

LOMAS: I'd say, "Get a drink."


ANDERSON: You've had a lot of support along the way, haven't you?

LOMAS: Amazing, yes. It's incredible.


ANDERSON: Claire Lomas, crossing the finishing line 16 days after she started the London Marathon. She won't be receiving an official medal. The organizers here say you have to start and finish the course on the same day.

But the Pearly King and Queens of London are here to greet her, as are hundreds of people here in Hyde Park. I guess she'll just want a good cup of tea.


ANDERSON: That's Claire, finished the -- crossed the finish line today. Thousands of people turned to Twitter to lend their support, and she was quickly a trending topic.

An Olympic gold medalist, Matthew Pinsent, sent this tweet after presenting her with a box of medals donated by other runners, and that was quite remarkable today: "I counted medals this morning and made it ten. She's got a few more now from fellow runners. She deserves each and every one."

And Richard Branson, who also helps award a special trophy to Claire tweeted, "Huge congrats to Claire Lomas for completing Claire's Walk."

And football player Michael Owens said, "Congratulations, Claire Lomas, what an incredible effort."

Now, let me tell you, Claire was originally hoping to raise 50 grand for spinal research. She's blown past that figure with more than 100,000 pounds in donations. Do help her keep that figure going, is where you can donate to her charity. What a story. What a girl she is.

I'm Becky Anderson. I'm @BeckyCNN for all your thoughts, of course, and ideas. And that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you for watching. World news headlines up after this. Stay with us.