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Meeting Raises More Libya Concerns; New Violence Over Power Grab; Experts Exhume Yasser Arafat's Body; Greece to Receive Bailout

Aired November 27, 2012 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We're taking you around the world in 60 minutes. Here's what's going on right now.

The fallout over the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, yet taking another turn. The woman at the center of the firestorm still facing more questions. Today, U.N. ambassador to the U.S., Susan Rice, met with Republican senators who harshly criticized her initial explanation about the attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Here's what Senator Lindsey Graham said after the meeting.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: The bottom line, I'm more disturbed now than I was before that the 16th September explanation about how four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya, by Ambassador Rice, I think, does not do justice to the reality at the time and, in hindsight, clearly was completely wrong.


MALVEAUX: Dana Bash, she's following the developments on Capitol Hill.

So, Dana, before Susan Rice went before these Republicans, these senators, they seemed to be backing away from criticizing her. Now it looks like, in speaking with them, this has backfired. Can you tell us what happened?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well, I was just told by a source familiar with this meeting that the reason why the senators backed off their public comments, softened them, and they really did, is because Susan Rice requested a meeting and they felt that that was the most appropriate thing to do, to not keep pounding her before they could talk face-to-face.

But you're absolutely right, by all accounts it did not go well inside that meeting, which was held in a classified setting, I should tell you, with the acting director of the CIA, Michael Morell. Let's listen to what John McCain said. He, of course, has been one of her chief critics. Listen to what he said after the meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn't get concerning evidence that was overwhelming leading up to the attack on our consulate, the tragic deaths of four brave Americans, and whether Ambassador Rice was prepared or informed sufficiently in order to give the American people a correct depiction of the events that took place.


BASH: So the question is, why are they more troubled? What did she tell them that makes them so much more upset? I spoke to Senator Ayotte right afterwards and she -- I asked her that question and she said that when you are in a position of, in her words, "significant responsibility," as Susan Rice was, that she has a responsibility to ask more questions before she goes out and gives the public what we now know are -- were misleading -- misleading information about what really happened in Benghazi. So that's the crux of the reason why these Republican senators are more upset.

The other thing I can tell you, I've been doing some reporting since this meeting this morning, and a source I spoke with familiar with this meeting said a couple of things. One is, she did have -- she admitted that she did have the classified information. Never was she -- never mind what she said in an unclassified way --


BASH: Of course, in public, which is that extremists elements were involved. But she did have the classified information that the intelligence community was giving, which is that al Qaeda very much could have been responsible for this. And yet she did go out publicly and say that the Obama administration has decimated al Qaeda.

That is something that really rubs these Republican senators the wrong way. And I will tell you that's what she told them, I'm told, inside this classified briefing this morning, is that what she meant was, it was the core of al Qaeda. That's what the Obama administration has decimated. But these Republican senators think that she's still left the impression that it was al Qaeda in general and that's why they're really upset.

The last thing I will tell you that I was told is that she did say to these Republican senators behind closed doors that she regrets saying what she said because she knows now that it was simply not right.

MALVEAUX: And where does this go from here, Dana? I mean, obviously, they're going to be investigating intelligence officials as well, I imagine?

BASH: Yes. As I said, the acting director of the CIA was also in this room and senators, Republicans and Democrats, are not thrilled with the information that they got publicly or privately. But the -- what goes on from here is more meetings, Suzanne. She's going to be back here, we believe, this afternoon. Tomorrow she has a meeting with at least one senator, Bob Corker of Tennessee, and probably others. So she's going to make the rounds and she's going to keep trying to persuade senators that, you know, what she did was the best she could do at the time. Again, she has not been nominated, but the fact that she is being so aggressive in trying to ease the ruffled feathers, that certainly is an interesting and significant development.

MALVEAUX: All right, Dana Bash. Thank you very much, Dana. Appreciate it.

New violence today in Egypt. You're taking a look at this. Protesters throwing rocks. Police firing tear gas. The fight for democracy intensifying there. Cairo's Tahrir Square again ground zero for protester.

You hear the chanting there. Demonstrators say they're not leaving the square until President Mohamed Morsi withdraws the sweeping powers that he granted himself last week. Reza Sayah, he's joining us live from Cairo.

And today, we understand, it was billed as the opposition's biggest show of force yet. You've got these demonstrators who are converging on Tahrir Square at various points throughout the city. What do they hope to accomplish? What is the message?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the message is, they want to either oust President Mohamed Morsi or have him reverse his controversial decrees announced last Thursday. This is an incredible site here behind us the Tahrir Squire. This was billed as the one million man demonstrations. I'm not sure if there are one million people here, but certainly at lot of people.

I'm going to step aside and have us zoom into Tahrir Square. This crowd is loud, energized, excited. Tens of thousands of people here representing different factions in Egypt. Representing women's rights groups, western-style liberals, secularists, moderates. All of them have banded together in a show of force, in a show of opposition, against Mr. Morsi.

Of course, all of these protests started last Thursday when he announced these particular decrees. And they hope, with this kind of pressure, he's going to pull back. So far, Suzanne, he hasn't.

MALVEAUX: Reza, tell us a little bit about this group here. Is it largely peaceful? We understand that there was a report that a protester actually died in Tahrir Square today. What do we know?

SAYAH: Suzanne, we did have a fatality today. We should tell you, most of these demonstrators are peaceful. They're out here chanting slogans, very much like they did in the 2011 uprising. But on the side streets leading into Tahrir Square, there is violence. And sometimes those clashes get really ugly. These are clashes that are mostly triggered by teenagers, 20-somethings, who throw rocks at police. Police respond by firing tear gas. And today we did have a fatality. A man in his 60s, according to the health ministry, was killed when he suffocated from excessive tear gas.


MALVEAUX: And, Reza, very quickly here, is there any response from the Egyptian government to all of this taking place in the square?

SAYAH: No. No indications right now that the Muslim Brotherhood and the president are scaling back these decrees. What they are doing is reshaping and refocusing their message. The message from the president is right now, my powers are not dictatorial, they're not sweeping. Most of my decisions will be open to review by courts. It's only the decisions that have to do with the drafting of the constitution of the parliament. Those are off limits. But that doesn't seem to be winning over these opposition factions behind us.


MALVEAUX: All right. Reza Sayah, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Want to hear from an Egyptian who has been in the thick of it, of course. Take a look at this. So this is from CNN iReporter Ahmed Raafat. He sent us this video. This is violence between police, rioters in Tahrir Square.

This is another piece of video he sent us. This was actually -- what you're looking at here is a funeral procession. This happened yesterday. This was for a 16-year-old boy who was allegedly killed during one of the protests in Cairo. Thousands of people showed up to march at that funeral. And earlier Raafat told CNN why he and others are protesting against the president. Here's his explanation.


AHMED RAAFAT, CNN IREPORTER: People should know that there are certain goals of the revolution. And Morsi now is (INAUDIBLE) from the goals of the revolution. That's why people are taking back to the streets. People never take back to the streets unless they feel there's a real danger on democracy, on the future of Egypt. So when you find thousands filling the squares, thousands marching in the streets of Cairo and other cities all over Egypt, this is -- you should feel that there's something going wrong and the revolution has negated from its principles and its goals.

Under Mubarak there was oppression. And now we -- our rights are in danger, even under the military council and under Morsi, our friends are still killed by the police. We are being tear gassed, shot by bird shots. So our life is in continuous danger. So I don't think that life has changed much. We have between protests, between hospitals looking at the injured, between funerals. So the last three years were very hard for us. And even it's continuing. So I don't think that there's any change.


MALVEAUX: We're going to be keeping up with Raafat and many others who were there in Tahrir Square to get a real sense of what is taking place on the ground.

There are some folks convinced that he was poisoned. Well, now, Palestinian officials hope to test -- that these tests on the body of Yasser Arafat will reveal the cause of his sudden death. But the latest economic outlook is bleak. Richard Quest giving us the hard truth.

We're also going to take a look at the softer side of business as well.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is a new version of the Honda Fit. A model named not hers but She's.


MALVEAUX: One Japanese automaker hoping the color pink will bring in the green.


MALVEAUX: Forensics experts today exhumed the body of Yasser Arafat. They are trying to determine whether or not the former leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization was actually poisoned. Scientists were able to get samples without disturbing the body. This latest investigation started when Swiss researchers said they found high levels of radioactive material on Arafat's personal belongings.

Want to bring in our CNN International anchor, Jim Clancy, to talk a little bit about this.

First of all, why now? Why the interest still eight years after his death?

JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, you know from the very get-go, there was always talk, and there were actual efforts to kill Yasser Arafat. Everybody in the world knew that. After his death, many people scratched their heads, questions were asked, rumors circulated like wildfire. Mostly pointing a finger at the Israelis.

But obviously you'd have to have somebody complicit among the Palestinians that surrounded him. He was isolated there on the West Bank city of Ramallah, inside one building. And, you know, so Suha Arafat, his once Christian converted to Muslim wife, has joined al Jazeera television as they continue to probe this. And they're pushing it. If you will, this has got a little bit of a TV series or a little TV serial aspect to it. Yasser Arafat, you know, I'm not sure that anybody's going to be able to prove anything. This man, I knew him. What a hard life. He -- look, he had to travel --

MALVEAUX: Yes, tell me about him, because you knew this guy, you covered this guy and this was somebody that a lot of people wanted to kill.

CLANCY: He had to sleep in a different place practically every night. I remember, you know, when he got wounded, when he was in Tripoli, Lebanon, his hand was cut because the Syrians were able to put a rocket right into this tiny alley where he was staying. You know, his jet went down and he survived. This man had more brushes with death, he had more people out to get him, the Syrians, the Libyans, the Israelis at one time there in north Lebanon, all trying to kill him at once, simultaneously, all of them firing shots towards his headquarter, trying to eliminate this man.

MALVEAUX: So, there's a viable reason here, some theory that perhaps he was in fact poisoned.

Here's the commission, the commission that's involved in this investigation. Here's what they think they're going to get out of this. I want you to listen.


TAWFIQ TIRAWI, PALESTINIAN INVESTIGATION COMMITTEE (via translator): The indications we have or our convictions we have that Israel have done this assassination, but yet we still need an evidence. All the investigations are made to acquire the evidence so we can go with this evidence to find out who is behind the assassination and through which we will go to the International Criminal Court.


MALVEAUX: OK. Two questions for you then, Jim.

First of all, do they have any evidence that that was true, that the Israelis perhaps were behind killing Arafat? And, secondly, would they take it to the Hague? Do they have this?

CLANCY: Well, if they had the evidence, I suppose they could. But, you know, the Israelis have said we didn't have anything to do with this. They realize how explosive this was. Did they want him dead? Absolutely. Absolutely.

As Tom Friedman wrote in his book, "From Beirut to Jerusalem," they saw Yasser Arafat like Hitler in his bunker. I mean, there was that much hatred for the man. He put the Palestinians on the map and Golda Meier said they didn't exist. He resurrected them. And this week, he's resurrected at a time when, well, the Palestinians are finally -- you know, I don't know how he died but I can say what he died for, having known him. He lived and breathed a Palestinian state. That's why he survived.

MALVEAUX: So, let me tell you -- let's talk about that because now you've got the head of the Palestinian authority, Mahmud Abbas, going before ...

CLANCY: That was Arafat's partner in all of this.

MALVEAUX: Exactly. So, he's going before the U.N. He wants enhanced status for the Palestinian people.

CLANCY: Recognition as a state.

MALVEAUX: What does that mean? What will that do?

CLANCY: Well, that, it elevates their status. It means the whole international community recognizes this country called Palestine and it is a tremendous boost. Now, on one hand, the Israelis say, this means nothing. On the other hand, the Israelis say, we are going to undermine this. Some are calling for -- even for Abbas to be overthrown if they go ahead with this. The United States warning them, back off.

MALVEAUX: But he's moving forward. He's going forward this week.

CLANCY: Secretary of State Clinton was just there last week, sat down with Abbas in his office and said, back off, and Abbas looked at her and said, no. They're going ahead. They don't see the peace process going anywhere. They see the settlements encroaching. They see Hamas gaining the upper hand with the strategy of confronting Israel, militarily, refusing to recognize the state of Israel. They recognize the state of Israel and they say we've got nothing for this in all of these years of negotiation. We're going a different route. We're going straight to the U.N.

MALVEAUX: So, Abbas goes to the U.N. They get this enhanced -- is it likely that they would get enhanced status?

CLANCY: It is.


CLANCY: It is. You already see some of the Arab -- some of the European allies of the United States really debating this. France has indicated it's likely to support this move. Britain is debating it.

You have, you know, the liberal Democrats saying, yes, we have to support this. The conservatives saying, no, we've got to stand with the United States. You can find a lot of countries in that dilemma. But I think at the end of the day you're going to see a majority of countries, a two-thirds, supporting a state of Palestine and, OK, they pay the price.

You know, they tried to topple Abbas. Abbas has already said, fine, I'll invite Netanyahu right here to Ramallah, sit him down in my office and hand him the keys. And what does he mean by that? He means that you will then be in charge of the West Bank. You will have to provide the policing. You will have to pay the salaries.

MALVEAUX: So, Jim, we're going to have to figure out how this all plays out.

CLANCY: We're going to see this week.

MALVEAUX: This is happening later in the week because that is a very important development. Jim, thank you.

CLANCY: It's a huge, huge week for the Palestinians.

MALVEAUX: All right, thanks again, Jim. Appreciate it.

If you think fiscal cliff just a big deal in Washington, we're going to show you why the whole world now depending on American politicians to find a solution and quickly.


MALVEAUX: In Greece, help finally on the way. The country has a new deal to receive a massive bailout. It takes break off the Greeks by lowering interest rate on their debt, giving them more time to pay it off.

Not everybody's happy about this, however. They say thousands of protesters hitting streets in Athens. They say that the government's cutting too deep in exchange for this bailout money.

It's really a cold shower for anybody getting excited about the economy heating up. A new economic report sends a dire warning about the world's economic health. Now, it predicts that Europe's economy's going to shrink and that the U.S. economy is about to take a sharp turn downward.

I want to bring in Richard Quest from London. Tell us about this group. Is it a bunch of economists sitting around in an office here? Are they dealing with real numbers that they're crunching here? Why the dire predictions?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, these are very august, serious, severe people, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD. Basically, you might want to call it the rich country's club, 34 developed countries, that is if your GDP per capita is over $15,000. Long way of saying, extremely respectable, extremely respected.

And what they are warning today and I've got the numbers in front of me, let's take the United States. It said they project the U.S. will grow this year to 2.2 percent, slow down next year to 2 percent, before picking up in 2014 to 2.8 percent.

But so much so far, so good. The risk is all in the future and I'm going to read it now. According to the OECD, the world economy risk, Suzanne, is because of the fiscal cliff in the United States, the cliched phrase, and the European sovereign debt crisis.

MALVEAUX: So, what if it doesn't happen? What if they reach some sort of deal between the president and congress, they don't go over this fiscal cliff? Could those numbers change? Could it be a better economic picture all around?

QUEST: Yes, absolutely. Because a lot of what's factored into these forecasts, maybe not so much with the cliff, but also with these other forecasts, is how they -- you know, the consumer confidence effect. Now, we've had consumer confidence numbers in the U.S. today. We've seen the numbers for the Thanksgiving Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So we're starting to see how things are projecting simply on the prospect of what might happen.

And, yes, things could get better if they solve the problems. But I don't want to be the complete Jonah here, you must remember no one's talking about solving the problems at the moment. People are just talking about preventing the worst from happening. There is a huge gap between one and the other.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, and tell us a little bit about, obviously, the fiscal cliff being the tax hikes and those spending cuts, how does Greece factor into this, as well? We see protests. How does that relate to what's happening in the United States?

QUEST: Greece, slowly, surely, painfully, undeniably, inevitably, moving to the position that most economists said we would already be in or should be in and that is that the debt level of Greece was unsustainable.

Now, they've had several bites at this cherry, but the unpalatable fact tonight and this week is they've done what they needed to do a year ago, cut the debt, cut the interest rate, taken their foot off the throat of Greece, allowed the country to grow. It's going to be painful still for the people of Greece, but now perhaps for the first time, we're seeing some real honest deals being made in the cold light of day.

And one thing that you and I need to think about, as the weeks go on, I think that you and I need to have what we call in Britain a "swear box" when we talk to each other. And each time one or other of us says that phrase, "fiscal cliff," that's a dollar to a charity of our choice.

MALVEAUX: OK. We can do that. We'll give it a try. Hopefully, we don't have to say it. You know, fiscal cliff, OK, dollar for you, there you go.

QUEST: I don't know.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Richard.

In days, he's officially going to become the new president of Mexico, but first a sit-down with President Obama. We're going to take a look at the challenges that are facing these two neighbors from immigration to the drug trade.


MALVEAUX: Days before Mexico's newly elected president takes the oath of office, he meets with President Obama at the White House. That is actually happening this afternoon.