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CONNECT THE WORLD

Four Top Syrian Regime Officials Assassinated In Bomb Attack; Jeremy Lin Signs with Houston Rockets; Bomb Attack On Tourist Bus In Bulgaria Kills 6, Injures 30

Aired July 18, 2012 - 16:00   ET

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


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Well tonight on Connect the World is a Syrian endgame in sight? Celebrations on the streets of Damascus after a brazen attack leaves four top officials dead and the regime there reeling?

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

ANDERSON: Tonight as the Syrian president has delivered his biggest blow yet, we're going to debate whether his country is now at a tipping point.

Also this hour, Israel points the finger at Iran after a bus blast in Bulgaria leaves six people dead.

And...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: I'm sorry, would you mind awfully if I had that with Alpo?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, madam.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Your guides making London work for you during the Olympic games.

Very busy news night tonight. Let's kick off a deadly attack strikes at the heart of President Assad's regime bringing the bloodshed into his inner circle and even his family.

Four top officials have been killed in an explosion at a national security building in Damascus: the country's defense minister, deputy defense minister who is also Assad's brother-in-law, a security adviser, and the interior minister all killed; the harshest blow yet and the Assad regime prompting celebrations in the Damascus suburbs.

Well, the Syrian government is firmly pointing the finger at outside nations. Here's what the information minister had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OMRAN ZOABI, SYRIAN INFORMATION MINISTER (through translator): And what happened today is the responsibility of any country that have sent one bullet to anybody who sent any bullets to Syria or (inaudible) to Syria is responsible for every drop of blood that have been shed on the Syrian soil and will be held accountable even if he is being hiding in his palace somewhere outside Syria. This is not subject to argument.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, that is the response of the Syrian regime. The country still with restrictions on foreign media as you probably are well aware.

Arwa Damon is covering developments from neighboring Lebanon. And Arwa, you've been in and out of Syria under the cover of darkness most times over the last 16 months or so. How significant a day is this?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, this most certainly is a blow to the very core of the Assad regime. Amongst those government officials, perhaps the most significant death, and again this is according to Syrian state television that those were killed, is that of the deputy minister of defense, not the senior most official, but Assef Shawkat was the president's brother-in-law and was perhaps more importantly a very close friend and confidante, a member of that inner circle.

This most certainly would be sending a message to the president and those around him that they are not immune, that they perhaps are not as in control as they would like to believe.

There have been various accounts as to what did in fact take place. Syrian state television saying this was carried out by a suicide bomber, perhaps one of the bodyguards of those who were inside. A commander of the Free Syrian Army, one of his deputy commanders, saying that they, this rebel fighting force, were responsible for this, that it was a result of collaboration across several brigades of the Free Syrian Army that they managed to smuggle explosives into this very secure location. That would have had to have taken place with some sort of inside help. Those explosives then were detonated by remote.

Activists, interestingly some of them throwing all of this into the light of skepticism, believing that his is perhaps part of a government misinformation campaign to allow it to then crackdown on Damascus.

Either way, Becky, ever since this news broke there has been not just celebrations in the capital, widespread chaos, intense fighting reported in many neighborhoods. The opposition determined to take this to the very end, but also on Syrian state television, supporters of the government coming out, expressing their outrage, but their defiance as well.

ANDERSON: All right. We thank you for that.

Let's get some reaction to what are three key questions, then, tonight. Where exactly this attack took place and its significance? Who was killed? And perhaps more importantly how this could have happened.

With me to sift through all of that our Middle East expert and friend of the show Fawaz Gerges.

Fawaz, I want you to just have a look at what we've got here. This is a Google Earth image of the Syrian capital. The national security building in Damascus is coming up right now. Close by was the old U.S. embassy, of course. And as we pull out you'll see where the presidential palace and the parliament building are.

What do we know as the image moves around of this area?

FAWAZ GERGES, DIR. MIDDLE EAST CENTER: Well, I mean, this is the heart of the security apparatus of the Assad regime. This is the core. I mean, the fact is the national security building is as important, is as close to the presidential palace, as any other building in the center of Damascus. The fact that the attack took place in the heart of Damascus, in the nerve center of the Damascus power base is a testament to how the opposition has been able to infiltrate if the official story is correct.

Because so far, we don't have access to the building. So far, no foreign and independent journalists have been able to go to the building unlike other bombings where the government basically took a foreign correspondent to the political building. And some of the correspondents who came close to the building did not notice any major, basically, damage to the area.

ANDERSON: You are making a very good point. That is where, then.

Let's take a look at who is involved, or was certainly involved today. These four top officials, let's just go through them as we know them.

Daoud Rajha was the defense minister of course. This is Assad's brother-in-law, of course, the deputy defense minister. All dead as a result of this attack today. Hasan Turkmani, Assad's security adviser and assistant vice president, again extremely significant. And Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar. He is -- or was certainly -- the interior minister.

Again, how -- just how big a deal is this?

GERGES: Becky, this is the inner circle. This is the top inner circle of the Assad regime. And Assef Shawkat is one of the -- was one of the most important confidantes and close associate of President Assad. Not only here he was his brother-in-law, but they steel half of the security apparatus.

The fact is that Assef Shawkat was killed today would present a strategic and psychological blow to President Assad personally and the Assad regime.

ANDERSON: Within hours of this attack a new defense minister was announced today. This is General -- and forgive my pronunciation if I'm wrong -- al-Feij -- I think I'm right in saying this is now the defense minister.

What do we know about him, Fawaz?

GERGES: Not much. He's basically a top general in the Syrian army. Remember, Becky, the Syrian army, I mean, we're talking about 350,000. I mean, this is a big army. And another point, even though today Assad lost four of his inner circle, this is a regime that can count on thousands and thousands of loyalists that they will take their place.

So the fact is even though this is a strategic and psychological blow to the Assad regime, this is not a turning point, this is not the beginning of the end. And that's what we need to really get across to our viewers.

ANDERSON: Still much confusion about how, how this happened. And you alluded to this at the beginning of this discussion. The Free Syrian Army is saying this was not a suicide attack. The deputy head Malek al-Kurdi says, and I quote, it was an explosive device planted inside the meeting room and triggered with a remote control. That is certainly the SN -- the Free Syrian Army's version of events.

How did whoever did this get access to these top four officials?

GERGES: Not only that, how did -- I mean, whoever planted the device, whether it was -- I mean, really we don't know much about -- we don't have access to the information. We need to tell our viewers we're speculating a great deal -- how did they infiltrate one of the most important building -- national security building in Damascus? How did they plant basically the device? How they were able to kill some of the most important assets of the Assad regime? This is a testament to the Assad security apparatus and the ability, the effectiveness, the increasing effectiveness of the opposition if the official narrative is correct about the opposition did the bombing in Damascus today.

ANDERSON: Stay with me.

A UN security council vote on a Syria resolution threatening tougher sanctions was disposed until Thursday. This is something we talked about last night expecting to hear the results today.

Joining us is our senior UN correspondent Richard Roth. Why the delay, Richard?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the delay was always shaky whether it would indeed be today, but the events in Beirut -- excuse me, the events in Damascus have certainly shaken things up a bit. And UN Arab League envoy Kofi Annan requested council members to delay this vote. It's now scheduled for Thursday morning New York time.

Becky, there's a loud, sharp thunderstorm rolling through New York. And specifically it seems like it's over the United Nations. And you can't avoid saying that this storm is likely to roll through tomorrow morning, because unless something dramatically changes, we could see a Russian and Chinese veto, the third series of vetoes on the Syrian crisis.

The western nations want to on the council impose sanctions on Syria should it fail to move heavy weapons out of the cities, get the tanks out, cease and desist actions that have been in violations of other security council statements and actions. The German ambassador who sits on the security council says if there are vetoes, Moscow is going to have to live with its responsibilities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER WITTIG, GERMAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: Well, Russia says it doesn't like sanction, but they have then to take the responsibility to see this country further slide into chaos and civil war. So the vote has not taken place. It's still time. The vote will be tomorrow. And we think it's wise that Russia and China assume their responsibility and be united with the rest of the council.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROTH: Russia opposes any hints of what it feels could be intervention or regime change. UN envoy Annan urging council members to be united and take strong action, but at this evening in New York Becky it appears unclear that there will be that unanimity to go against the Assad regime.

ANDERSON: Richard Roth out of New York for you this evening. Richard, thank you for that.

So, the question really tonight, have we reached a tipping point in Syria? That's what we'll be discussing in around the 20 minutes on Connect the World. Fawaz Gerges here with me for that.

Given what Richard has said, sure what we've seen on the ground, but this is what's going on at the UN. And Russia not expected to get on board. Have we reached the tipping point at this point?

GERGES: Becky, it's too early to say whether Syria really has reached a tipping point, even though this is a devastating blow to the Assad regime. If this ends on whether Assad will be able to weather the storm.

What's really amazing, 10 hours after the bombing today, where's President Assad? You would have expected President Assad to come out and reassure his supporters, to reassure the Syrian people that he is in charge, that things will be OK. Nowhere to be seen or heard of. And that's also a testament to the confusion and the rumors that basically are filling the air in Damascus and throughout the international system as well.

ANDERSON: Fawaz Gerges with you on Connect the World. We'll be back with you in about 20 minutes time. Fawaz will be joined by David Schenker from the Washington Institute for Near East Politics and why he argues this is indeed a tipping point. King Abdullah of Jordan also on this show.

Still to come tonight, find out why Israel is pointing the finger of blame at Iran over what was a deadly blast in Bulgaria.

You're watching Connect the World. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. Welcome back.

Now the Bulgarian interior ministry has confirmed an explosion on a bus carrying Israeli tourists outside of Burgas Airport. At least six people are dead, more than 30 are injured. Israel's defense minister has labeled the incident as a clear terrorist attack. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is placing the blame firmly on Iran, saying Iranian terrorists continue to target innocent Israelis.

Well, join me now on the phone is Bulgaria's foreign minister Nikolai Mladenov who has just been at the scene of this blast.

Sir, what can you tell us at this point? Was this a terror attack?

NIKOLAI MLADENOV, BULDARIA FOREIGN MINISTER: Yes, Becky, I'm at the site of the incident. We presume this was a terrorist attack. Indeed, this is a deplorable incident in which tourists were targeted. And as you've rightly said, six of them unfortunately have been killed and a number have been injured.

We're treating this with the utmost security -- the utmost security that we're going to deal with it immediately. And I hope that Bulgaria will be joined by the rest of the world in clearly condemning this incident. We're asking the security council of the United Nations to also condemn this incident I hope as soon as tomorrow.

ANDERSON: Israel certainly assigning blame to Iran at this point. You're sense of who is to blame?

MLADENOV: I think our immediate concern right now is to deal with those who have been injured and to investigate the explosion and I would not want to start assigning blame at this point. For us, it's very important to make sure that we send a clear message to the rest of the world that terrorism is absolutely unacceptable to anyone. It serves no purpose and no good in Bulgaria along with our partners in NATO, the European Union, and Israel obviously, and all countries in the Middle East and North Africa should stand very, very clearly against such acts whether they happen to Israeli tourists, Bulgarian tourists, to nationals of any country around the world. It needs to be condemned and investigated immediately.

ANDERSON: And those viewers who may just be joining us, I'm speaking to the Bulgarian foreign minister at the scene of a bomb attack on a bus just outside the airport Barges.

And you are confirming tonight six dead and how many injured?

MLADENOV: There are about 30 people in various levels of injury in hospital. A few of them are in critical condition. Medical teams are working around the clock to make sure that they get the medical services possible.

ANDERSON: We appreciate your time here on CNN tonight. Your man on the ground.

And Elise Labott is in Jerusalem for you this evening and joins us now.

The Israelis certainly condemning the Iranians saying that they are to blame for this.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Becky. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said all signs point to Iran. Defense minister Ehud Barak just a short time ago spoke to reporters. Here's what he had to say about Iran's involvement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EHUD BARAK, ISRALIE DEFENSE MINISTER: This is clearly a terrorist attack initiated by probably Hezbollah, Hamas, Jihad, or any other group under the terror auspices of either Iran or other radical Muslim groups. We are in a continued fight against them. We are determined to identify who sent them, who executed it, and to settle the account.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LABOTT: And Becky, Israeli officials are telling us this is a pattern of behavior by Iran, targeting Israeli targets. Earlier this year if you remember, Thai authorities arrested three Iranians. They said they were setting off explosives that were bound for Israeli targeting, Israeli diplomats. Israeli officials are also saying they thwarted attacks, possible attacks from Iran against Israeli targets in Georgia, in Cyprus, in Kenya.

And you can't forget that today is the 18th anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina. So certainly Israel always feels it's under attack from Iran. Iran claims that Israel is targeting its scientists. So you have this asymmetrical war that continues between these two countries, Becky.

ANDERSON: Elise, thank you for that out of Jerusalem for you this evening.

You're watching CNN with your news headlines around the world, of course, come first. Back with more news in about seven minutes time.

Sports also in the frame tonight. And after this short break, Linsanity swept through New York just as quickly the budding superstar, well he's heading out of town. We'll tell you where he is off to. Up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: A very warm welcome back. You're watching Connect the World with me, Becky Anderson live out of London for you now. Football's summer transfer season got a big boost on Wednesday as Ibrahimovic was introduced as Paris Saint-Germain's new striker. Have a look at this, former A.C. Milan star is going to make around $18 million a season. And just one of the many reasons he is happy to be in Paris tonight.

Don't you wish that you and I were earning that sort of money. However, CNN pays very well, so let's not complain.

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORREPSONDENT: Yeah, let's not go down that road.

ANDERSON: Um, Ibrahimovic, what a player.

PINTO: He's a great player, great goal scorer. He's got a fantastic record as far as winning titles. He's won titles in every country he's played in -- in Sweden, in the Netherlands, in Italy, and Spain. And now he'll try to do the same in France.

Money has a lot to do with it, Becky. You won't be surprised to hear that. You said the number that he was going to be on every year, about $18 million for three years. But he said today when he was unveiled to the press that's not the only reason why he moved to the city of lights. He said he wants to make history.

(BEGIN VIDEL CLIP)

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC, PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN STRIKER: I would like to be a part of this history and I'm pretty sure we'll make history with this club. And I came here to win. I didn't come here for something else. And I'm pretty sure we will win. And we will enjoy all of the trophies we bring home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PINTO: Zlatan, the latest high profile signing that Paris Saint- Germain have made since the new owners from Qatar waltzed in last summer. In this summer along they've already spent over $130 million. They mean business.

ANDERSON: They do mean business. Like I said last night, (inaudible) I'm not sure I ever really bought into big money clubs, European sort of thing, but now I'm quite enjoying it.

PINTO: Yeah, I'm a traditionalist. I like seeing players actually care -- well, yeah, players actually care about the shirts that they put on. But I guess those days are over.

ANDERSON: All right. A man that we've referred to or an environment or an era as Linsanity care about who he plays for these days? We are switching sports and get into basketball. He's on his way out of New York isn't he?

PINTO: He is. You know, he was front and center on Broadway, we could say. It's a great script for a Broadway show. He's gone off broadway now, way off. He's going to Houston to play for the Rockets.

ANDERSON: Houston.

PINTO: Houston, is that how you say it? They say Houston in the states. He's going to play over there, because the Knicks decided not to match the contract offer that was made to him which totaled $35 million over three years.

The problem here is, Becky, is that the Knicks were OK for the first two years that the Houston Rockets were offering him 5 and 5 million, it's the third year, which is $15 million which he stands to make that the New York Knicks just couldn't make it work with their salary cap and the other players that they have on their payroll. So they decided to let him go. And let's see if there is a new installment of Linsantiy and Linspiration and all these other play on words the you would like to make about his name. Let's see if the Houston Rocket Lin next season, as in win -- sorry. That was bad.

ANDERSON: Indeed. World Sport in an hour.

PINTO: Yeah. I'll be better for that.

ANDERSON: Pedro back in the house for you in World Sport.

Still to come on this show -- thank you -- we are going to take a look back at the lessons learned from other Olympic games. Given that we are nine days and counting until London 2012, tonight the games in Atlanta that taught the world, well, to increase security.

This is a (inaudible). Now they're not -- (inaudible).

Well, once you clear customs, get ready for some very British customs. How about a guide for you to get into grips with London?

First, though, more reaction for what was a brazen attack on the inner circle of Bashar al-Assad. We're going to debate whether this is a tipping point in Syria. All that, your headlines back in about 90 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: A very warm welcome to our viewers across Europe and around the world, 9:30 out of London, I'm Becky Anderson. These are the latest world news headlines on CNN.

Syrian rebels are battling security forces in pockets of the capital, Damascus. Pro-democracy activists say more than 100 people were killed today across the country. The Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for an attack that killed four members of the heart of President Bashar al Assad's regime.

An explosion killed at least six Israelis aboard a tourist bus in Bulgaria. Dozens more were wounded in that blast. Israel's defense minister calls it a terrorist attack and points the finger at Iran or, in his words, "another radical Muslim group." But Bulgarian authorities are investigating.

A Taliban attach has destroyed 24 NATO tankers in northern Afghanistan. The trucks were parked overnight when a bomb went off, triggering a massive fire. The tankers were carrying fuel and supplies for NATO troops.

And one of the world's most wanted war crimes suspect from the Nazi era is now in custody. This 97-year-old was detained in Budapest today. He's accused of sending thousands of Jews to their deaths during World War II.

To carry on for you this evening and return to our top story, the bombing that struck the heart of Syria's senior command earlier today. The United States says it's clear that the Assad regime now cannot stay in power. Have a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, US DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is a situation that is rapidly spinning out of control, and for that reason, it's extremely important that the international community, working with other countries that have concerns in that area, have to bring maximum pressure on Assad to do what's right, to step down, and to allow for that peaceful transition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: All right. We're getting reaction as well from a significant regional player, Jordan's King Abdullah. He talked earlier with my colleague, Wolf Blitzer. This is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING ABDULLAH, JORDAN: Obviously, it was a surprise. Obviously, this is a tremendous blow to the regime, but again, Damascus has shown its resilience, so I think maybe we need to keep this in perspective. Although this is a blow, I'm sure that the regime will continue to show fortitude, at least in the near future.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": So, you don't necessarily think this is a sign that that regime of President Bashar al Assad is crumbling?

KING ABDULLAH: I know -- definitely this shows some cracks in the system. But again, I don't think we should jump to any conclusions of writing the regime off in the near future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: All right, a blow but not a tipping point. The view of a significant regional player, there. Well, a Syrian opposition activists said a few days ago that we were witnessing what they called a tipping point when the battle for Damascus began. Were they right? Has today's attack raised any doubts?

Let's bring back Middle East expert Fawaz Gerges, a regular guest on this show, and also tonight joined by David Schenker, who's director of the program on Arab politics at the Washington Institute, also a former top Pentagon advisor who, as far as I can tell, thinks the time has come for this Assad regime. This is it, do you think?

DAVID SCHENKER, FORMER PENTAGON POLICY ADVISOR: I think it's certainly the beginning of the end. It's impossible to predict when he's going to either be Gadhafi-ed flee for his ancestral homeland or out of the country. But this is the beginning of the end. His inner circle, his top officials are being killed by an inside job, and they cannot be replaced.

ANDERSON: The US is certainly looking for a Syrian endgame. Fawaz, you don't agree that this is the tipping point, though, do you?

FAWAZ GERGES, DIRECTOR, MIDDLE EAST CENTRE, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, Becky, there is so much we don't now. We don't know what's happening within the regime itself.

I think one lesson we have learned in the last 16 months is that the security apparatus of the Assad regime is very resilient and very cohesive. Even though this is a devastating blow to President Assad and his supporters, I would argue, it depends very much on how the security apparatus, how the army basically will behave in the next few weeks and next few months.

And I think I would argue that tipping point to us, the collapse of the Assad regime -- how long? A few months? A year? In two? Syria descending into all-out war?

The reality is, Becky, there is one point we know: the opposition is becoming more organized, more effective. The opposition has taken the war to the very heart of the Assad regime. It has been able to infiltrate the highest circles of the security apparatus and inflict a devastating blow on President Assad today.

ANDERSON: US officials, David, must be hoping to avoid what could be a dangerous vacuum, just like the one that followed the toppling of Saddam Hussein back in 2003 and, indeed, triggered, as we know, a sectarian civil war.

David?

SCHENKER: Yes. Listen, that's a distinct possibility, civil war. But you're looking at a country that is 75 percent Sunni Muslim. It's ruled by an 11 percent minority that is hated by the vast majority of the population.

Right now, we do see the Free Syrian Army, the rebels, gaining strength, better organization, their capabilities are increasing. If this continues along this trajectory, we might end up with a situation that is not like Libya, for example, where you have 300 or more militias that are operating independently and do not -- are not accountable to the central government.

If you can get something that is more disciplined, has a command in control that is functioning, then there is hope that, perhaps --

ANDERSON: All right.

SCHENKER: -- you can avoid some sectarian massacres, et cetera.

ANDERSON: Getting Russia onboard, of course, Fawaz, would help the opposition, wouldn't it? But we've heard in the past 48 hours the Russian foreign minister saying "Don't blackmail us."

There is a delay on a vote at the Security Council, the Russians still giving the impression they'll veto any suggestion of action in Syria. So, at this point, without the Russians onboard, what's the next move, as it were?

GERGES: Well, you just really mentioned it, Becky. The reason why Syria is very different from Libya, because Syria reminds us of the Cold War situation, where international powers are deeply divided.

And also, just to complicate the situation, this is not just no longer an internal struggle between the Assad regime and the opposition. The Syrian crisis is organically-linked to regional rivalries between Gulf states and Iran and international rivalries between the United States and Russia.

Let me go further, Becky, and say even if tomorrow Russia changes its position, Assad is not going anywhere. He's going to fight to the bitter end, and that's why the conflict we -- it's a plea for humility. There is so much we don't know, and the conflict in Syria is very complicated. It will play itself out for the foreseeable future.

I don't know how long. Six months, seven months, a year, two? We might be talking about -- 100,000 casualties next year, even though I do hope I am wrong in my assessment.

ANDERSON: Those numbers are awful when you think about them. You are, David, a former top Pentagon advisor. If you were advising those at the top today and you listened to King Abdullah, who says this is a blow to the regime, but the much wider regional impact of a toppling of this regime at this point is almost catastrophic for the region, what would you be advising US officials did next?

SCHENKER: Well, first of all, I'm not sure that King Abdullah is right. I think the continued perseverance of Assad in power will be catastrophic for the region and for sparking even more -- to greater heights a Sunni-Shia conflict.

But if it was me in the Pentagon, I would be working with the Free Syria Army to try and push us over the edge as quickly as possible, encouraging the Turks to establish a buffer zone in the north. That would encourage even more defections.

I think what we really need to see is mass defection of the primarily Sunni armed forces that are still aligned with Assad. And I think there is a fear factor that continues to pervade. We have to help them get over the edge.

The other thing I would do is talk about that there can't be ethnic cleansing and get pledges from the Syrian opposition that this won't happen. And also about potentially offers of amnesty for Syrian officers who haven't perpetrated war crimes to date to leave the regime.

ANDERSON: Is this the tipping point? That's been the debate. My guests tonight, David Schenker and Fawaz Gerges. Always a pleasure. Thank you both for joining us.

Well, tonight on "Amanpour," Christiane speaks with a number of key voices from the region, including a Syrian colonel who recently defected. That is "Amanpour," 10:00 London time, 11:00 in Berlin here on CNN.

Well, sports stars from around the world are heading to London, of course, for the upcoming Olympic Games, and that's in ten days. But they don't travel light. The airports may have prepared the athletes, but are they prepared for their luggage? Find out after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: The greatest sporting event on Earth kicks off in just nine days' time and counting. The London 2012, Olympics, of course. And it's not just the athletes who are aiming for gold.

London's Heathrow Airport, well, it's spent years -- let me tell you - - years gearing up for the Games, hoping to ensure that visitors' first impression -- and their last impressions -- are of a city in good form. Well, I went to find out what exactly the Gateway to the London Olympics has in store.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON (voice-over): Train, trial, and hopefully triumph. As the 2012 Olympics loom, we head for the event's start and finish line. London's Heathrow Airport. It's preparing a sporting welcome.

ANDERSON (on camera): Over 80 percent of all Olympic visitors -- that's media, officials, and of course the sports starts themselves -- will use Heathrow. So, the airport spent years making sure that first and last impressions will count.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Nick Cole, in charge of Games Logistics, knows only too well that the airport's reputation is at stake.

NICK COLE, HEAD OF OLYMPICS AND PARALYMPICS PLANNING, HEATHROW: We're very clear that we'll have thousands of little opening and closing ceremonies here at Heathrow, and what we want to do is bring the enthusiasm and the excitement of the Games into Heathrow.

ANDERSON: The airport will welcome more than 100,000 Olympic-related visitors and double that number of bags, including unusual items, such as canoes, vaulting poles, javelins, and bikes.

COLE: We have to put a different screening methodology for those sorts of things. Now, normally here at Heathrow, about 1 percent of what we process in a day is out of gauge. That goes up to 15 to 20 percent on some of the Games days. So, that's going to give us a logistical challenge, but one that we're ready for.

ANDERSON: To ensure smooth operations, Heathrow spent 20 million pounds. It's expecting the day after the Closing Ceremony to be its busiest ever.

COLE: We'll have a Games terminal that we'll put 10,100 athletes through on the 13th of August. And what that does, that means that terminals 1, 3, 4, and 5 are business-as-usual terminals. They'll feel busy, but it will feel just like a busy summer day here at Heathrow rather than excessively busy.

ANDERSON (on camera): This temporary terminal at Heathrow will facilitate the mass Olympic exodus. After that, it'll go back to its old life as a staff car park.

ANDERSON (voice-over): For the Paralympics, Heathrow has appointed swimmer James O'Shea to test facilities. More than 6,000 wheelchairs will pass through here.

JAMES O'SHEA, SWIMMER: I know the airport. I've organized a lot of aisle chairs that are folding. That should allow the process of getting people who require assistance on and off the aircraft much quicker. So, hopefully the planes won't be stuck on the lift floor for long times getting people on and off the plane.

ANDERSON: Hundreds of volunteers will be on hand, too, to make sure the airport can cope with the increase in traffic.

MIKE KASASIAN, OLYIMPIC VOLUNTEER: It is the Gateway to the Olympic Games. It's one that most of the athletes will see when they get here. And I think it's very important that we create a good impression.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALES: Cheese!

KASASIAN: And we give people a good impression not just of Heathrow, but of our country in general.

ANDERSON: There may be no medals on the table for Heathrow, but that hasn't stopped the airport from setting gold standards when it comes to welcoming the Olympic athletes and their entourage.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: And all this week, as we look forward to the London Olympic Games, we're taking a look back at legacies of Olympics past, and we're going to -- we began, sorry, this week in Montreal, a city almost plunged into bankruptcy after hosting the Games back in 1976.

Well then, we took a look at Barcelona, where the success of the 1992 Games ensured the city never had to look back.

Tonight, we're in Atlanta, the most commercial Olympics to date, and as John Vause explains, the Games most remembered for a tragic bombing.

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JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Centennial Olympic Park in the very heart of Atlanta is, perhaps, the best-known legacy of the Games, and it was almost an afterthought.

SHIRLEY FRANKLIN, FORMER MAYOR OF ATLANTA: Oh, it was definitely a late edition.

VAUSE: Shirley Franklin, a former mayor who was also on the organizing committee, says even now, this plaza, which revitalized a rough neighborhood 16 years ago, is still drawing new development, like hotels, tourist attractions.

VAUSE (on camera): If you didn't have the Olympics, none of this would be here?

FRANKLIN: I think if we had not had the Olympics, the development we've seen around it would have taken decades.

VAUSE (voice-over): And this is where the Atlanta Games were dealt a deadly blow, a nighttime bomb blast killing two people. A domestic terror attack which would be a lesson for all future host cities.

ED HULA, FOUNDER AND EDITOR, "AROUND THE RINGS": There's much more attention paid to security for people who come to these live sites, to these celebration sites. And it takes a tragedy like that to make changes.

VAUSE: There was also criticism the Games were too commercial, but that's an economic model which is perhaps more relevant now than ever before.

VAUSE (on camera): The bottom line for the Atlanta Olympics, the entire cost, $1.7 billion, was paid for by private enterprise. So, these Games were significant for what they did not leave behind. There was no public debt, no cost to taxpayers.

VAUSE (voice-over): From the Games, the city got a new ballpark home for the Atlanta Braves. Turner Field was the Olympic Stadium where Mohammed Ali, shaking with Parkinson's, lit the Olympic flame.

Run-down inner city public housing was replaced with a mixed-income development. Thousands of students from Georgia Tech now live in what was the athletes' village. And along with children from community groups, they swim in what was the Olympic pool. Michael Edwards runs the aquatic center. He says it was all part of the planning long before the Games even began.

MICHAEL EDWARDS, DIRECTOR, GEORGIA TECH CAMPUS RECREATION: How it's going to be utilized, how it's going to operate, how it's going to benefit the community in the future over the next 20 to 30 years after the Games, that's really what people have taken away from Atlanta.

VAUSE: But mostly for Atlanta came a sense of pride and confidence.

FRANKLIN: It also gave the world confidence that Atlanta was a great emerging city.

VAUSE: Despite the tragedies and controversy, this city in the American South pulled off the biggest sporting event in the world.

John Vause, CNN, Atlanta.

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ANDERSON: And tomorrow, looking back at Olympics past, we will be in Beijing. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. When we come back --

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ANDERSON: Would you mind awfully if I had that without milk?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, madam.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Tea time is no laughing matter to us Brits, so make sure you mind your manners. Our essential tips for anyone landing in London, just ahead.

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ANDERSON: All this week, CNN has its Eye on Kazakhstan, a nation rich in natural resources. And while the government does push to diversify its economy, it is commodities, including oil, that have boosted Kazakhstan's recent growth. Have a look at this report.

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FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESONDENT (voice-over): The symbol of Kazakhstan's economy, strong and vibrant, but almost entirely driven by raw commodities, especially oil and gas.

This is the most advanced hydrocarbon purification plant in the country. Completed in 2011, it helps Kazakhstan's oil and gas producers make the most efficient use of what they pump out of the ground.

"This is where the oil, water, and gas are separated from each other," this worker says. "We sell the oil and gas, and the water is then pumped back into the ground." The plant was completed last year near Kyzylorda, a desert area in the south of this vast country.

PLEITGEN (on camera): Kazakhstan is one of the world's top producers of many important minerals, including gold, iron, and uranium. But it also has some of the largest proven oil reserves, and the country is investing a lot to upgrade its hydrocarbon infrastructure.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Minerals make up about 70 percent of Kazakhstan's economy, the government says, from the oil platforms in the Caspian Sea to uranium mines. In 2011, Kazakhstan was the world's top producer of the fundamental element for generating nuclear power, accounting for 34 percent of global production, according to the government.

The head of Kazakhstan's national atomic energy company says he believes that role will remain unchanged in the future.

"We are hoping to keep our leadership position in the uranium field," he says. "We have dozens of facilities and hundreds of mines, and we think we will remain a world leader in the uranium sector.

The minerals sector also remains one of Kazakhstan's main sources of foreign investments, but the government knows the rare Earths, oil, gas, and metals won't last forever and is trying to boost engineering and the IT sector.

"Of course revenues from raw materials are still by far the largest share of the country's budget," this expert says, "but in recent years, the president has announced and put into place a plan for industrial and technological development to diversify the economy."

And it's building an experienced workforce in the raw commodities sector. At the oil and gas purification plant, the workforce consists almost entirely of Kazakhs. Like Nurzhan Abdirakhmanov, who studied in the US, but decided to return home to work here.

NURZHAN ABDIRAKHMANOV, CHIEF OF OPERATIONS, KAZGERMUNAI: I'm proud to work in such companies, to be a benefit for our nation. After my education, I'm coming back to the country and basically serving. Serving for this country.

PLEITGEN: Kazakhstan's mineral wealth will be a major source of income for decades to come, but it won't last forever. The country is trying to use it wisely while transitioning to a more broad economic base.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kyzylorda, Kazakhstan.

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ANDERSON: In tonight's Parting Shots, the Olympics will bring visitors from all ends of the Earth to London, but what are the dos and don'ts of being a visitor in this city? I thought I'd put a survival guide together for you for what is British etiquette. Have a look at this.

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ANDERSON: There is no better way in the UK to start you day with a good cuppa or good brew, or a nice cup of tea. Now, it is important whether you are in the stadium or out and about in London that you follow the rules.

British etiquette dictates that you are polite everywhere you go. Now, I don't take milk in my tea. Have a listen to this.

I'm sorry. Would you mind awfully if I had that without milk?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, madam.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're welcome.

ANDERSON: The roads are likely to be an absolutely nightmare, so buses and cabs, a no-no.

Now, you may have heard about something called the London oyster. We do actually farm oysters here on the Thames Estuary. Those, though, I believe are from the north of England.

But when people talk about the oyster here in London, generally they're talking about this. This is a card you're going to need. Now, if you don't have one of these, you could be stuck in one of these.

Queuing is an Olympic sport in the UK. Britons love to stand in line, if only because it gives us an opportunity to sort of -- excuse me -- mutter under our breath -- the -- that's the back of the queue -- mutter under our breath and grumble.

Well, if you can't do the queuing, you don't want use the Tube, and it isn't raining, you could use one of these to get around. This is a borrowers' bike. Now, they're not -- these -- oh!

It's not easy to get out -- excuse me -- but when you get it out -- whoo! Very high. You can sort he saddle out. Anyway, see you.

Got to get up. After what has been a long day of eating, drinking, cycling, and queuing, British etiquette dictates that if you want that quintessential pint of beer, you're going to have to go to the bar. But let me tell you, when you get it, it is pure gold. Cheers.

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ANDERSON: Cheers. I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you for watching. The world news headlines up after this, don't go away.

END