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CONNECT THE WORLD

Syrian Prime Minister Defects; Recap Of Olympic Action

Aired August 6, 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: I'm Becky Anderson live from the Olympic Park. I'm done, and I mean it -- well not me -- but the most decorated Olympian in history. Michael Phelps tells me why he is giving up his goggles for good.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And Max Foster at CNN London. Also tonight is the fight for Aleppo continues, Syria's prime minister becomes the highest profile defector from the Assad regime, but is it a tipping point?

And.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Touchdown confirmed...

(CHEERS)

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FOSTER: NASA celebrates a breakthrough as space exploration that uses Twitter to give you the inside story.

ANDERSON: As we enter week two of the Olympics, let's just take stock of the highs and lows of these London games so far, shall we?

The medal tally tells much of the story. China and the United States continue to battle it out for top spot. Though the Chinese have nudged slightly ahead after wins in sailing, amazingly, badminton, and diving. Team GB is enjoying its most successful Olympics in decades, delighting the home crowd with 39 medals today. Just nine shy of the overall target.

And the big surprises are there at the bottom of that table. Have a look at this. Kazakhstan, well they only seem to like the color gold apparently. They've got a bag of six so far. And after passing Russia and Australia, traditionally big gold medal collectors, there was a bit of redemption, though, for those two countries today. Russia picking up its fifth gold medal of the games. Gymnast Aliya Mustafina beating U.S. favorite Gabrielle Douglas to the top of the podium there.

And some glory at last for the Aussies. Sailor Tim -- I'm sorry, Tom Slingsby bagging Australia's second gold medal, winning the men's laser class.

Joining me to talk more about today's highlights is a former Olympian who two decades ago now well and truly did her bit to add to America's medal tally at the Barcelona games. Summer Sanders was the most decorated swimmer at the 1992 Olympics and is now a sports analyst for Yahoo.

SUMMER SANDERS, 1992 OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: On your side.

ANDERSON: On my side...

SANDERS: I like it on this side. And your set is gorgeous. We can hear the crowd back here.

ANDERSON: 20 years ago that you were out there doing it for your country, as it were.

SANDERS: I know.

ANDERSON: Is it very different on this side of the fence?

SANDERS: I love it on this side of things. And it is really different. And I try to remind all the athletes how hard everybody works behind the scenes.

ANDERSON: They don't believe you.

SANDERS: Make sure that the world sees you -- because as much as they get the same questions over and over again from us, I just remind them that we celebrate the Olympic games too. And I really do appreciate it on this side. But it was special when I was 19, that's for sure.

ANDERSON: It has been -- it has been an amazing games today. We're going to talk about Michael Phelps in a moment who I know you could wax lyrical about for weeks and weeks. I interviewed him earlier on today and he was an absolute joy. Charming, charming man. He's got to have been the standout athlete of these games, not only because of what he did -- four golds and another shining medal, but because of what he's got going -- you know, as the greatest Olympian of all time.

But let's talk about some of the events today that are perhaps not as centerpiece, let's say. Ongoing at present is pole vault.

SANDERS: Pole vaulting. And I said to you, Becky. I said I've actually tried pole vaulting. This is a really difficult sport. And it's not as though it's been around forever for women. And I have to admit I don't know a lot of the people that are competing in it, but I do know that I would get nowhere near what they are doing, because my record in five tries was six feet, six inches. So basically I think I could have just stood there and jumped over what I pole vaulted.

ANDERSON: Now I think I'm right in saying that the record, the world record, is something like four times that high.

SANDERS: I think you're probably right.

ANDERSON: Well, let me tell you, the Russian pole vault star, Yelena Isinvayeva is looking to defend her title in that. And that is ongoing as we speak.

Shot put also today. Is that something you tried?

SANDERS: Shot put, you know what I remember about shot put is their grunting. And honestly I think a lot of broadcasters do this at the end of the games and they hand out actual medals or like TV medals for the people with the best grunts. And shot putters, weightlifters, hammer tossers or throwers are usually in there. And that's -- but it's so exciting, I love it, because these sports have been around for awhile. I mean, they are the bread and butter of the Olympic games.

ANDERSON: And they are the sports, quite frankly, that many of us don't concentrate on for more than four days every four years, but are absolutely filling the stadium behind me. The New Zealand shot put thrower Valerie Adams the defending Olympic champions, three times world champion who almost missed out in competing, of course, in today's final because of an administrative error we are told got a silver today. So fantastic for - - fantastic for the Kiwis. I think they're probably doing better than the Aussies are present.

Anyway, we're not going to have a pop at the Aussies tonight. They've had a terrible time.

In the swimming we know we're going to come back to. Let's talk about the 400 meters hurdles tonight, because that has -- that has closed out. We've got a result in that this evening. Let's take a...

SANDERS: Dominican Republica...

ANDERSON: Fantastic.

SANDERS: Yeah, Lopez. I think his name is Lopez. I was watching it.

ANDERSON: Sanchez.

SANDERS: Sanchez.

ANDERSON: There you go.

SANDERS: Sanchez from the Dominican Republic. And it -- whenever I watch the 400 meter hurdles -- and my dad ran track -- and I'm a runner now. I know how grueling that race is. It's pretty much one of the toughest races on the track that we'll see. And every time I watch it I think of Edwin Moses and the first games that I watched as a spectator and it was 1984 and he was beautiful. I mean, I hope he takes that as a complement. He was gorgeous to watch run on the track. And it's so difficult.

I know those hurdles just look like speed bumps, that's the way they make it look, but they're really tough to get over.

ANDERSON: Isn't it amazing when you come to the Olympics you always remember the first that you watched. I certainly remember watching you. And I can take myself way back when.

Let's talk about the swimming before we move on just -- because I want to get your sense before we move on to Michael Phelps. How would you sum him up at these Olympics?

SANDERS: I think he was as you would say, he was brilliant. It couldn't have been more perfect. It was honestly a storybook ending with a somewhat storybook middle as well. 2008 when I was watching from home, I had a seven month old so I was in Beijing, and I kept thinking to myself, oh my gosh, this is fate when Jason Lezak brings it back from being behind over a body length in the relay and they win gold. His hopes are still alive. The 100 butterfly and he wins by one-hundredth of a second, his hopes are still alive.

And then coming into these games I didn't know what to expect. I was there at trials and he exceeded my expectations there. And I thought oh my gosh, Michael Phelps is going to be back. And he was going to swim eight races. It was the same storyline again until he dropped the 200 freestyle which I think was great, because then people stopped asking even me can he repeat the eight gold medals? And I have to remind people that was amazing. Let's just give him that from 2008.

But then he comes in here and he gets fourth in the 400 IM. And I think to myself oh, no. That training that he didn't do in between the four years is going to have an effect. And then as the meet went on it's as if Michael Phelps showed up just as we had to say good-bye.

ANDERSON: Four more golds was what he got in the end, the Olympian with the greatest haul of medals, not just at the London games, but in history. That is Michael Phelps.

I caught up with the most decorated Olympian of all time earlier today to find out if there is any chance he'll be back to top his tally of 22 Olympic medals. And let me tell you he was absolutely adamant that he is done.

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MICHAEL PHELPS, ALL-TIME OLYMPIC MEDAL WINNER: I'm done. That's my last race and this is my last Olympics and, yeah, I'm ready for the next chapter in my life.

ANDERSON: So when your great friend Dara Torres tweets I'm betting Michael Phelps isn't done with swimming, anyone care to wager. To which you fired back, yes, I would love to.

PHELPS: Whatever she wants. Whatever she wants to bet.

ANDERSON: How would you assess your performance here at London 2012?

PHELPS: I finished my career how I wanted to. You know, looking back, I can say I've done everything I've ever wanted to. So I don't think that's too bad to be able to look back at your career and say that.

ANDERSON: Let me suggest something to you. The South African chap Le Clos beat you here in the 200 meter butterfly. Would you rate that as a worst moment?

PHELPS: Oh, sure. I mean, I would have liked to win that race, but the hardest worker always wins. The hardest worker, the person who wants it the most wins. And he wanted it more than I did.

ANDERSON: Let's talk about the other swimmers around you. Yannick Agnel, France. I mean, he goes on and on, doesn't it. Ryan Lochte. Who do you rate and why?

PHELPS: You know, we saw some amazing times in the pool this year. And I said to Yannick his 200 free is probably top five greatest swims of all time.

It's going to be cool watching these swimmers grow over the next four years and seeing the times that they swim. You know, that's something that I'll definitely still stay in tune and check out what's going on.

ANDERSON: What do you make of the doping allegations around the 16 year old Chinese swimmer?

PHELPS: It's kind of sad that, you know, people have a great swim and that's the first thing they say. You know, people who work hard, it shows. And you know there are people who just jump to that conclusion sometimes. And it's not right.

Being able to watch here was pretty amazing. I'm happy I actually out split her on the last 100, so.

ANDERSON: As opposed to Ryan Lochte, of course. He's going slower than her...

PHELPS: I out swam her.

I think pretty much every -- almost every guy in the final of the 400 IM got out swam by her in the last 100, so -- yeah, she finished very well.

ANDERSON: Unbelievable.

Ryan Lochte says that he will miss you on the blocks. Do you believe him?

PHELPS: We like racing each other. You know, Ryan and I bring the best out of one another and it's fun racing him. You know, he's tough. And he swims a lot of events just like I do, so we have a chance of getting up and going head to head quite a few times.

ANDERSON: If it really is all over, and I've got to believe you because you keep telling me it is, what are you going to do next?

PHELPS: One of the biggest things is being able to work with my foundation more and my swim schools and be able to see kids sort of, you know, build confidence and have goals and have dreams and eat healthy and make all these decisions that are going to affect their lives forever. It's something that's really special to me. And I love being around kids. It's a real true smile whenever you're around me and it's just fun.

ANDERSON: You going to start a family any time soon?

PHELPS: I don't know. I've got to find a girlfriend first.

ANDERSON: Maybe you'll have time now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Michael Phelps, shaking the hand of greatness earlier on today for me. Fantastic.

Still to come tonight, double trouble ahead in the men's 400 meters. Twins from Belgium face off against each other in the final.

Now back to Max in the studio for the days other big stories.

FOSTER: Becky, coming up a vicious day of violence in Syria while President al-Assad's authority takes a blow as his prime minister defects to the revolution.

The shooting suspect identified in the U.S. rampage, who he is coming up.

All that, much more, when Connect the World continues.

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FOSTER: Well, violence in Syria took another turn today as rebels threatened to kill Iranian hostages if government shelling doesn't stop. They said the three hostages have already died in shelling in Damascus province.

And a blow to President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Opposition leaders say newly appointed prime minister Riyad Hijab has left the country. He is the highest ranking non-military official to defect since the uprising began last year.

In a moment, we'll get analysis from Jordan and here in London, but first Ben Wedeman who is in Aleppo, there the head of the UN monitoring mission in Syria fears for the city's civilians amid renewed fighting.

Ben, what are you seeing?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Well, I'd say those fears are very well founded. What we're seeing in the big city, or the parts that are under the control of the Free Syrian Army are under fairly regular bombardment every four or five minutes we hear large explosions, many of those explosions in two areas of the city under the control of the Free Syrian Army, one in Sala Hadin (ph) and the other is called Saif Abdullah (ph).

We were in Sala Hadin (ph) earlier today. And it is the scene of complete destruction. The roads are full of rubble, cars have to weave around them, most of the civilians have left the area. We did see a few, maybe a dozen in groups of two or three civilians leaving the area with whatever possessions that they could carry out of the area.

One man I spoke to said that they just could not take it any long in that part of town with the constant shelling, the gunfire. We've seen Syrian air force jets over the city dropping bombs on heavily populated areas. Just a little while ago we saw a jet strafing the area around the old citadel.

In other parts of town, also under control of the Free Syrian Army, surprisingly normal life. Shops are open. We stepped into a barber shop with a bakery that was functioning, and vegetables are being sold on the street. But all the while we hear not far away the impact, as I just heard right now, of the incoming rounds -- Max.

FOSTER: OK. Ben Wedeman, that's the story in Aleppo for you. Thank you very much for joining us.

Let's talk about the prime minister defection. What does this mean for the Syrian regime.

I'm joined by correspondent Barbara Starr who is in Amman. Fawaz Gerges, he's professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics.

First of all, though Barbara, what detail do we know about the prime minister and how he got out of the country.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, very little, Max. All that is being said right now is that he has defected from the regime. No one is saying officially, or unofficially if you will, where exactly Riyad Hijab is. You know, earlier today opposition official said the thought he would come out of Syria and was in Jordan. The Jordanian government said he's not here, at least not yet. So a lot of mystery right now about where he is.

But perhaps the fundamental question is what does this defection mean for the Assad regime?

Hijab may not have been at the center of Assad's power circle, but he was a very -- is a very senior Sunni official. He was a former agriculture minister. He'd been prime minister for about two months. This at the minimum is a massive embarrassment for the Assad regime that someone on this level would have turned their back and would have gotten out of Syria, or had made the effort to get out of Syria I should say.

This defection is perhaps the latest. And I think there's every indication more are likely to come. And it will make it very difficult for the Assad regime to continue to claim any shred of legitimacy -- Max.

FOSTER: Fawaz Gerges, how would you say this is significant? He was in the job only for a couple months, wasn't he? He's not from the same ethnic group. And is it just a PR disaster or is it more than that?

FAWAZ GERGES, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, it's more than that. I mean, Riyah Hijab was an integral part of the Assad regime, the Ba'ath Party. He was a trusted official. He served in many capacities, including agricultural minister and the prime minister. I mean, this is the second formally -- Max, the second most important position after the president. The presidency, the prime minister and the parliament.

But I think the significance of his basically exit from Syria lies in the fact, Max, that the thin institutions and networks constructed by the Assad regime are fraying, weakening, and I mean rupturing.

But we are witnessing, really, and I could be wrong is slow and gradual disintegration of the Syrian state, because Max if you strip away the thin institutional facade of the Syrian state, you end up with, what, you end up with identity politics, you end up with communal politics, you end up with civil war. And that's why the danger what's happening in Syria today.

FOSTER: We do seem to be hearing about more defections. These people, how harmful are they to the Assad regime outside the regime?

GERGES: Well, I don't think -- I mean, (inaudible). The reality is far from being the beginning of the end of the Assad government, I would argue that the Assad government has a great deal of resilience and staying power. The danger lies in the fact now is that President Assad will fall back on his core supporters of minorities as opposed to really maintaining a broad coalition of Sunnis, in particular a thin layer of Sunnis like Mr. Hijab.

And that danger lies in the fact that now in fact the country is becoming deeply polarized along Sunnis and minorities, in particular Alawite lines. And that's why I mean the damage that's being done, this is not the first defection. And it will not be the last. The danger lies in the fact that this will likely be a drawn out, prolonged conflict.

And also because this long, drawn out conflict has become deeply now caught in what I call a war by proxy. Syria, as you know whether it was the head of the United Nations or Kofi Annan has become a war by proxy. (inaudible) Iraq on the one hand, and Turkey and Saudi Arabia and international powers, Russia and the United State are waging battles by proxy in Syria. And that's why regardless of whether the (inaudible) will alter the communal at least balance in Syria, it will complicate the situation and also it will exacerbate the communal tensions that already exist in Syria.

FOSTER: Fawaz Gerges in London and Barbara Starr in Amman, thank you both very much indeed for joining us.

Plenty more to come on Connect the World. We're going to turn over to Becky now at the Olympic Park.

ANDERSON: That's right, thank you for that. (inaudible) toughest sprint is still to come, the men's 400 meters eight minutes away. This one is all about endurance. We're going to take a look at the ones to watch coming up after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: In the stadium behind us here at the Olympic Park the Dominican Republic athlete Felix Sanchez just receiving his gold medal. And let me tell you, he was in absolute tears. And I guess that is what the Olympic games are all about. It's so, so important to people that they win. And in just under 10 minutes from now the men's 400 meters gets underway. Felix Sanchez, of course, winning the 400 meters hurdles in a blistering race.

Let's take a quick look at the line-up list for you. The first thing that stands out that there is no American candidate. This is the first time in decade, literally in decades, that an American hasn't qualified for this race. The world record, though, does still belong to American Michael Johnson. He ran it in 43.18 seconds in 1999. Will that record be broken tonight? Good question. And (inaudible) from Belgium who could do that, twin brothers Jonathan and Kevin Borlee will be racing against each other for Olympic gold.

Former Olympian Summer Sanders with me here in the studio -- at in the outside studio.

Summer, I don't know who your money is on. Let's talk about these two Belgian twins. Lane two and -- no, lane one and lane eight.

SANDERS: Yes. Doesn't it make you wonder their parents in the stands. Like how do you cheer for the two people.

But, you know, we saw it in the pool. The outside land, you can do great things from the outside lanes.

But I think it's extraordinary that twins have made it. And I wonder how often we've seen that.

ANDERSON: This is an Olympic final. This is big race. Lane two and lane nine let me tell you.

Kirani James is the -- is the hot favorite on this. He's from Grenada. And Lalonde Gordon of course getting the best time in the qualifying heats from Trinidad.

Again, Granada, Trinidad and Tobago. I mean, this is not a U.S. line- up with China, with Russia, this is everybody else.

SANDERS: But I do think that even in track and field, similar to swimming, we appreciate the mix of people. It doesn't have to always be the same countries. I'm sure that Michael Johnson, as I know he's here talking about track and field for that other station, but I know that he's itching to get another American back in there, but every country sort of goes through their ups and downs in their different events. So it's nice to see a mix.

ANDERSON: Good to see you in the pool with such success this year as the Americans. Perhaps track and field maybe. We'll see. From a man who has bolted into the history books of course yet again is the phenomenal Usain Bolt. He took the 100 meters in 9.63 seconds last night defending his title as the fastest man in the world. And the crowds were delighted. Have a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely brilliant. Unbelievable grace. We were hoping that Bolt would win, but you never know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a legend. Absolutely a legend. Totally awesome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, ecstatic, ecstatic. What a man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you like him so much.

UNIDNETIFIED MALE: He's quicker than me. He's quicker than anyone. Look at all these people. He's quicker than them all. Fantastic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine second of build-up. Yohan Blake, is he going to beat Bolt. No he's not. Bolt comes through as mastery. Two-time gold medalist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: One word from me, electrifying. From you.

SANDERS: Electrifying on just -- I know, I'm so sorry. It's amazing. If you can get 70,000 people quiet for a start, I think it's extraordinary. Yeah.

ANDERSON: An amazing performance and great to be...

SANDERS: My favorite race. It's my favorite race.

ANDERSON: Yeah, great to be in London for that.

Still to come on Connect the World tonight, a special edition of course from here in the Olympic Park, get ready for some blistering speed in that men's 400 meters. We're going to get you up to date on that.

Plus, from Harvard to Haiti, the triple jumping lawyer with a very famous roommate. That coming up after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: A very warm welcome to our viewers across Europe and around the world. I'm Becky Anderson with a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD from here, the Olympic Park in London.

MAX FOSTER, HOST: I'm Max Foster at CNN London. A round-up, now, of the top stories we're following this hour.

Yet more violence in Syria has seen rebels threatening to kill Iranian hostages if government shelling doesn't stop in Damascus province. The threats came on the same day an explosion tore through the offices of the pro-Assad state television in Damascus city.

And the president's newly-appointed prime minister, Riyad al-Hijab, has left the country. He's the highest-ranking non military official to defect since the uprising began last year.

Police investigating the killing of six people at a Sikh temple in the US are piecing together details about the gunman. They say he was an army veteran who acted alone when he opened fire on worshipers in the state of Wisconsin. Detectives are working on a possible link with white supremacists. Brian Todd is following developments for us from there. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Max, we've got a lot new detail on this case, a little bit more new detail, as you mentioned, on the shooter himself. As you said, he is identified as Wade Michael Page. He was 40 years old, a former army specialist who was discharged from the service 14 years ago after a pattern of misconduct.

Officials have told us he does have some kind of criminal record, some kind of contact with police in the past, although officials here said he had not had contact with law enforcement officials in this area.

But he does have -- appears to have had some kind of brush with the law in the past somewhere else. They will not go into detail about that just yet. We're going to try to piece that together shortly.

We also have some new information about the wounded officer, the person who the shooter -- one of the first people who the shooter encountered. The officer is identified as Brian Murphy, Lieutenant Brian Murphy, 51 years old, he's been on the force 21 years.

Police have told us that this shooter came upon that officer and basically ambushed him, fired on him point-blank, eight or nine shots. The officer survived. He is expected to recover after several surgeries, but he is in the hospital right now.

And a riveting account of what that officer did in a moment. After his colleagues came upon the scene after they gave the shooter commands and the shooter ignored those commands, at that point, a policeman's rifle basically took down the shooter. The shooter was killed by a policeman using a rifle.

At that point, according to police, the wounded officer's colleagues came to try to come to his aid, and he waved them inside and said, "Don't come to me, go into the temple and tend to the other victims." He was then carried off and taken to the hospital.

But that's the kind of detail we're getting now, Max. Just some riveting accounts of the path --

(AUDIO GAP)

TODD: -- took, what happened when he encountered police, and a little bit more on the names of some of the people involved.

FOSTER: Good stuff. Brian, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. Here's a look at some other stories connecting our world tonight.

Egypt and Israel are both condemning an attack in the Sinai. On Sunday, masked raiders killed 15 Egyptian soldiers and drove off in two stolen armored personnel carriers. Israeli officials say one vehicle exploded and the second was destroyed as it crossed into Israel. From Jerusalem, Diana Magnay reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The remnants of two vehicles burn after Israeli defense forces respond to a brazen incursion onto Israeli soil.

Just across the border in Egypt's El-Arish, Egyptians mourn at least 15 soldiers shot dead by masked gunmen as they were breaking their fast.

It's not yet clear who it was that attacked this army checkpoint, then commandeered a truck and armored personnel carrier, which Israel says the gunmen then filled with explosives and drove across the Israeli border. But Egypt's new president promised swift retribution.

MOHAMED MORSI, PRESIDENT OF EGYPT (through translator): This incident will not pass lightly. The armed forces will assume complete control over these areas of Sinai to secure them. And those who carried out the attack will pay a high price.

MAGNAY: The Israeli Defense Forces say they'd had intelligence of a possible attack. That's why Israeli air power was on hand to strike and kill the five gunmen who made it through onto Israeli territory.

AVITAL LEIBOVICH, LIEUTENANT COLONEL, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: We can assume that the goal of this terroristic event was to either abduct Israelis or, worse than that, infiltrate into one of the communities and maybe kill Israelis that fight.

MAGNAY: Since the popular uprising last year which ousted Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, there have been numerous acts of sabotage on the pipeline which exports gas from Egypt to Israel, plus several attacks on Israeli troops and civilians along the border.

Israeli officials are increasingly concerned that al Qaeda and other extremist cells are moving in to Egypt's restive Sinai peninsula, and that the new Egyptian government isn't doing enough to stop them.

EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): In my opinion, the risk of a heavier attack was prevented, and this is also a very important successful operation in the battle that occurred there along the entire border. And perhaps it'll also be a proper wakeup call to the Egyptians to take matters in hand on their side of the border in a firmer way.

MAGNAY (on camera): Despite the significant loss of life on the Egyptian side, Israel says this was a terror attack which could have been far worse, and that along this sensitive border, it will have to take matters into its own hands to stop attacks apparently emanating from Egyptian sovereign soil.

Diana Magnay, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: US president Barack Obama is praising NASA scientists after a multibillion-dollar robot successfully landed on Mars. It was a heart- stopping moment at the California control room that erupted in cheers as the Curiosity rover touched down on the red planet. And we've got more on the Mars mission and its significance with a NASA scientist coming up in around five minutes on CONNECT THE WORLD.

A solemn ceremony in Hiroshima marking the 67th anniversary of the atomic bomb attack with a call for global nuclear disarmament. Among those who attended was the grandson of the late US president Harry Truman, who ordered the bombing in the closing days of World War II. 140,000 people were killed. Japan surrendered just weeks later.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Let's go back to Becky at the Olympic Park for the results of the men's 400 meters.

ANDERSON: And it is another one of those masthead events at any Olympic Games, Max, and we've got the results for you. Kirani James of Grenada coming in under 44 seconds with a time of 43.94 in that 400 meters -- grueling events here, at the Olympic Games. That is outside an Olympic record, but is 0.5 of a second faster than he has ever run. He's never run under 44 seconds, 43.94.

Coming in second, Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago, Lalonde Gordon, the fastest qualifier, coming in for a bronze medal. A remarkable feat tonight for those three chaps.

No American on the podium, nor even on the blocks for this evening. It's Grenada's first ever Olympic medal. Just 19 years old, he did it in 43.94 seconds, Kirani James for you this evening.

We're going to take a very short break. Back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Now, after a 78-million-kilometer, nine-month journey, the latest US Mars rover, Curiosity, has landed on the red planet and is already sending back pictures. John Zarrella has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The largest, most sophisticated rover ever sent to another world, Curiosity, the size of a small car, 2,000 pounds, landed in the overnight hours on the surface of Mars.

It was supposed to be seven minutes of terror, with Curiosity coming through the atmosphere 13,000 miles an hour, a parachute slowing its speed. Then, a series of pyrotechnic events, slowing it further. And then, finally, the sky crane, lowering Curiosity on tethers to the surface before those tethers were severed.

If any one of those events had gone wrong, the entire mission would have been a loss. But everything worked exactly right, and the seven minutes of terror turned out to be something far more benign, and NASA celebrated, cheering here at the space center, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, when they got word that Curiosity was, in fact, on the ground.

Immediately thereafter, the first images coming back, an image showing a rear wheel on Curiosity, and another showing Curiosity's shadow on the Martian surface. We expect more pictures later today as the science team continues to evaluate the landing site, where they are in the Gale Crater.

And then eventually, Curiosity will begin the work it's sent to Mars for, and that is to look for the signature, the building blocks of life: water, carbon, methane gas. They can't detect life itself with Curiosity, but they can get awfully close, and that's what they intend to do.

John Zarrella, CNN, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: John Callas is a Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He's currently spearheading the development of Curiosity's sister ship, Opportunity. He joins us now, live, from the JPL headquarters in Pasadena in California.

Today, it was all about this mission, though, wasn't it? That atmosphere within the control center, extraordinary scenes. Just explain why there was that reaction, because so much could've gone wrong, couldn't it?

JOHN CALLAS, MARS EXPLORATION ROVER PROJECT MANAGER: Oh, yes. As you mentioned that this was going to be the seven minutes of terror. It's such a complex operation, getting this very sophisticated rover down to the surface of Mars, and so many things had to work perfectly. There was no margin for error.

And everything did work perfectly, so naturally, everyone was completely --

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FOSTER: Yes, and in terms of what happens now, how long will the rover be there? What will they be looking for, specifically? Because it's an extraordinary piece of kit that's now roaming around up in space.

CALLAS: Yes. What people have to understand with this rover is it's designed for a long mission, which Spirit and Opportunity were originally designed for only three months, we thought, gosh, we only have s short amount of time to get things done.

Here, we have a lot more time, and so we're going to take a more methodical approach to exploration. It -- this rover's designed to last at least a Martian year, which is a little bit -- about two Earth years. And so, there's a lot to be done, but we have -- we'll take our time to do it right.

FOSTER: We know that the rover's looking for signs of life, but it's also looking at potential to sustain life, as well. So indulge us sort of fantastical ideas, here, and are you -- is there a possibility that possibly there could be life on Mars in the future, following this mission?

CALLAS: Well, we have to be careful. This rover is designed to do analytical chemistry on Mars, to look for the building blocks for life. Life detection would be very, very difficult. We're not blind to the possibility that there might be life, but we're really not looking for evidence of current life or past life.

But we're looking to see what the environment was like a long, long time ago, and was it a habitable environment, and were there the building blocks for life. And so, those are the kinds of questions we'll be addressing with this very sophisticated suite of instruments on this rover.

Because Mars, of all the places in our solar system, is the place it's most likely to have supported life or could currently support life outside the Earth. So, it's the best place to look.

FOSTER: And it's called Curiosity. You're here working on a different, aren't you? Opportunity. So, even though this is a long-term project, you're already working on the next one. So, tell us what that one's about.

CALLAS: Well, I've been working on Opportunity for over eight and a half years. So, again, that was only a three-month mission, but we've been able to do a tremendous amount of exploration.

But Spirit and Opportunity were kind of like robotic geologists. Curiosity is like the robotic chemical scientist on Mars. But what's next is to actually do a sample return mission. We're trying to plan that now and develop that. It would be very costly, very expensive.

But the advantage of sample return is to carefully select a piece of Mars, understand the context of where you collect that piece, and bring it back to Earth for a complete analysis, where you can use every laboratory on the face of the Earth, every bit of instrumentation we have here on the Earth, to analyze that sample, and to see what it might tell us about the planet.

FOSTER: Fascinating stuff. John Callas at NASA. Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

Well, one of the most popular new Twitter accounts is from the Curiosity rover. It somehow managed to send a tweet-by-tweet account of its descent to the red planet, and here's a look at how Curiosity took Twitter by storm today.

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TEXT: I'm inside the orbit of Deimos and completely on my own. Wish me luck!

Cruise stage separation complete. So long & thanks for all the navigation. 17 minutes to Mars!

Entering Mars' atmosphere. 7. Minutes. Of. Terror. Starts. NOW.

Parachute deployed! Velocity 900 mph. Altitude 7 miles. 4 minutes to Mars!

Backshell separation. It's just you & me now, descent stage. Engage all retrorockets!

I'm safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!

It once was one small step... now it's six big wheels. Here's a look at one of them on the soil of Mars.

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FOSTER: So, that's how a graphic artist pictured the landing, but take a look at this remarkable image. Curiosity Rover posted this photo on its Twitter account just a few hours ago. It was taken by a NASA orbiter circling the red planet, and this is the rover momentarily suspended in the Martian atmosphere after its parachute deployed. Amazing stuff.

And back to Earth, now, with Becky, who's over there at the Olympic Park. Hi.

ANDERSON: Oh, that was so fantastic. I'm just about to tweet when I pick my phone up. How fab was that? Brilliant! Thank you very much, indeed, for that.

Fabulous things going on in the stadium behind me, of course, tonight. Not quite as earth-shattering as the landing on Mars, but nearly. When we come back, I talk to the Haitian inspiration, the Harvard graduate who's hoping to triple jump to glory. That, after this.

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ANDERSON: Let's just remind you of what has been a standout performance at the stadium behind me this evening for one reason and one reason only: the 400 meters men's final is a grueling event, one of the toughest, any athlete will tell you, in the world.

And Kirani James of Grenada tonight has won gold, and that is the first gold ever for the Caribbean island. So, absolute salute to you, Mr. James, this evening. Kirani James with a time of 43.94, first time he's run under 44 seconds. He shaved 0.5 of a second off his personal best. Not an Olympic record, but nearly.

Kirani James, this evening, winning the 400 meters gold medal and with it, Grenada's first gold medal ever of the Olympics.

We still have a week of Olympics action to go. Tomorrow, we're going to get another chance to see the world fastest man in action. Usain Bolt will begin his bid to defend his 200 meter Olympic title. But yet again, he can expect a challenge from compatriot and 100 meter silver medalist Yohan Blake.

We're going to also see the girls in action in the 100 meters hurdles semifinals and finals. America's Lolo Jones is among the ones to watch there. She was favored to win the event at the Beijing Games but famously tripped on the penultimate hurdle, finishing in seventh place. She'll be looking to redeem herself, then, in London.

One man who can be sure that his entire nation will be watching him tomorrow is the Haitian triple jumper Samyr Laine. Several Olympians were killed in the 2010 earthquake, I'm afraid, and Samyr, the former roommate of Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard is determined to make his country proud. I caught up with him ahead of what is a big event for him.

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SAMYR LAINE, HAITIAN OLYMPIAN: I think it would mean hope and possibility, especially in the midst of the earthquake, or we're two years later, or two and a half years later, now. I know that the positivity that it would bring.

I know that people in the country are just looking for anything to help them along in the rebuilding process, and a medal, I think, would be a huge -- would play a huge role in that.

ANDERSON: You studied at Harvard. You studied law. After the Olympics, I'm told, you have a job to go to as a corporate lawyer in New York. Let's -- take me back, though, to those Harvard days. You had a roommate who's a fairly famous chap these days, Mark Zuckerberg, right?

LAINE: Yes. Yes, I did. Mark and I were roommates our freshman year, so it's two 17, 18 year olds finishing high school, and Harvard happened to throw an eclectic group of freshmen together, and Mark and I happened to be in the same room.

We had a great time. We really enjoyed getting to know each other, getting used to the college experience. And since then, we've remained friends.

ANDERSON: Sure. Sure. Do you remember those early days of Facebook, then?

LAINE: I do. And it was my sophomore year, and Mark sent me a link for something, a project that he was working on, and just asked me to try it out, asked for my opinion on it. And I let him know that it was something that I thought could be big, but saying that to him the, of course, I didn't envision it being 900 million users later.

ANDERSON: Are you Facebook buddies now?

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LAINE: Yes, we are. We are. That's mostly how we communicate.

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ANDERSON: And the triple jump starting tomorrow.

In tonight's Parting Shots from here at the Olympic Park, us Brits have certainly had our fair share of heartbreak on Wimbledon's center court, and when a British victory finally came, the emotions, well, they were running pretty high.

Off went Andy Murray into the crowd, embracing his nearest and dearest. One 11-year-old boy couldn't contain himself and decided that he, too, needed a hug from the Olympic champion. Well, earlier, Henry Caplan described that moment to my colleague, Zain Verjee.

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HENRY CAPLAN, HUGGED ANDY MURRAY: He said, "Anything for my fans."

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's wonderful. Have you always been an Andy Murray fan.

CAPLAN: No.

(LAUGHTER)

VERJEE: Why are you an Andy Murray fan this time?

CAPLAN: Because he hugged me.

(LAUGHTER)

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ANDERSON: Aw, good lad. I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD, thanks for watching. Max will be back with the world news headlines after this short break. From the team here in London, it's a very good evening.

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