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William and Kate Are Having a Baby; Israeli Plan Infuriates Palestinians; Clinton Issues Warning to Syria; Turkey Prime Minister to Meet with Putin; Bolts Blamed in Tokyo Tunnel Collapse

Aired December 3, 2012 - 12:00   ET


RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The British prime minister tweeted delight. The leader of the opposition says the same. And no doubt prime ministers of realms from your end of the world to mine will be saying similar in the hours ahead, Michael.

MICHAEL HOMES, CNN ANCHOR: And, of course, apart from that, everybody loving a prince and princess appropriating, I suppose. The other more political side of it from the royal family's point of view, this is all about succession, is it?

QUEST: Completely, utterly and totally. This is about who will be on the throne after William. We go from the queen, who's there at the moment, to Charles, the prince of Wales, to William the duke of Cambridge, and after William it will be the child.

Now, here's the interesting thing. Whoever or whatever sex is born, if laws that are now being promulgated, come to fruition, as they will, whether it's a girl or a boy, they will become monarch. The current rule is primogenito, which, of course, is the males first. Even if a female is born, if a male is born, knocks the female out of the line of succession. That is going to change.

Now, all this is a long way in the future, but it does mean that this is not only the first -- there are so many statistics. I can bore on for Britain about this. The last time we had three people in line of succession was 120 years ago with Queen Victoria. Well, of course, we had King George and then Edward XVIII (ph). So now we will have the queen, Charles, William, and, please God, whoever is born to the duchess of Cambridge.

HOLMES: And what one images, Richard, you know, in your neck of the woods, the media is not known for holding back, especially when it comes to anything royal, let alone a royal baby. One images every minute of this pregnancy will be front page news.

QUEST: And here's going to be the interesting part because the media itself, the British media, will be playing by the rules, very well aware that the Leveson commission, or the Leveson report, came out last week. It has put forward statutory underpinning of regulation. The government says that's not necessary. By jingo (ph), Michael, if the press gets out of line on this pregnancy, there will be statutory underpinning before you can say pass the whatever. However, what they will be watching closely is how everybody else reacts. The commonwealth countries, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the paparazzi from the European countries. That is going to be the litmus test here.

HOLMES: Richard, as always, good to see you, my friend. Richard Quest there in London. It's going to be a busy nine months for you too probably. I'll look forward to the coffee mugs and the commemorative plates.

Thanks, Questy.

All right, now more serious news. It could be the end perhaps of the two-state solution in the Middle East. What we're talking about is a highly controversial Israeli plan for a housing development in eastern Jerusalem. It's a settlement that's going to make the creation of a viable contiguous Palestinian state pretty much impossible. And let's show you why.

The proposed construction would separate the West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Ramallah from Jerusalem, essentially cut the West Bank in two. Now, the area Israel wants to develop is known as E-1. That stands for very simply East One, east of Jerusalem, and it would connect the large Israeli settlement town of Ma'ale Adumim with Jerusalem. The Israeli newspaper "Haaretz" is reporting, and others, that Britain, France and Sweden have all summoned Israel's ambassadors to their country to condemn this plan. Others also speaking out, including Germany. A senior Israeli government official says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signed off only on planning and zoning for future construction on E-1, but the bulldozers have been there tearing up the ground yesterday.

Now, the Palestinians, of course, see this as the ultimate threat to peace, and certainly a two-state solution. Chief negotiator Saeb Erakat says building an E-1 would, quote, "destroy the two-state solution, establishing East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and practically ends the peace process and any opportunity to talk about negotiations in the future."

Let's bring in Fred Pleitgen now who joins us from -- I don't know if you're back in Jerusalem now. You were in the West Bank earlier. Fred, you know, to the U.S. and Europe, this has been a red line for years. You talked about presidents from Obama to George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, all objecting to settlement on that spot and getting its assurances from Israel that it wouldn't be built on. So, why now? Tough talking? Election coming up? What happened in the U.N.? What's the feeling there?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly the Israelis have made no secret of the fact that this is a direct punitive measure for what happened at the U.N. last Thursday where, of course, the Palestinians managed get an upgraded status there in the U.N. General Assembly going to a non-member observer state. And, of course, the word "state" there is the operative one for the Palestinians.

The Palestinians now saying that they do, in fact, have a state which -- its territory is, of course, defined as the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. And so, therefore, the Palestinians are saying that this obviously would make the implementation of this state all but impossible because they say it would be impossible for them to even reach their capital that they want to have, which is, of course, East Jerusalem. So this is certainly a measure that's causing a lot of international controversy.

You were saying at the -- Great Britain and France have already put out staunch statements aimed at the Israelis. The Israelis, for their part, are only acknowledging that, yes, all of these countries have voiced their concern. They're not saying that on (ph) any of them have ever talked about recalling their ambassadors or anything of the like, but it's certainly the case that this area, this E-1 area, has for a very, very long time been controversial. Yes, the Israelis for a while gave some assurance that there would be no construction there, but that ran out quite a while ago. And there are also Israeli officials who are saying that in light of the vote at the United Nations, where the Palestinians managed to get that upgraded status, that all of those assurances are null and void.


HOLMES: Yes, with all of this pressure that's being put on, I mean Israel's, in the past, been very good at ignoring outside pressure on anything. I'm curious about the Palestinian side. That U.N. status upgrade does, of course, give the Palestinians potential access to a whole raft of U.N. bodies, including the International Criminal Court. What are the Palestinians saying about their options going forward?

PLEITGEN: Well, the Palestinians are saying that all options are on the table. Of course the Palestinian Authority condemned the fact that these housing places were now back on the table. And, of course, they are saying that one of the avenues that they might pursue is the International Criminal Court, as you said, as a non-member observer state in the U.N. General Assembly. They have access to the International Criminal Court. And one of the big issues has always been the Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, which, of course, is seen as illegal by the United Nations and by many others in international law as well, though the Israelis, of course, see it quite differently. There are some other things that the Palestinians are saying they might pursue in the International Criminal Court.

But, of course, the fact that they now have this upgraded status generally gives them a lot more international leverage and the chances for a lot more international pressure on Israel. Though, as you said, in the past, the Israelis have been quite staunch at ignoring pressure like that or going against pressure like that. And certainly the reaction in the international community is not one that is totally unified. The United States, of course, still very much in Israel's corner, although Washington itself has also, in the past, condemned the settlement buildings as being detrimental to the peace process as well, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, Britain's foreign office calling it deplorable.

You know, one of the other issues here too, it's just that one spot we were talking about there. East Jerusalem, Palestinians have said that there has been an incremental takeover in many ways of East Jerusalem. There is reports today that settlers have moved into a building in a Palestinian neighborhood today. What are you hearing about that?

PLEITGEN: Well, that's what we're hearing as well is that there was a house in East Jerusalem that Palestinian settlers just moved into it. And, of course, that has been a huge problem in the past. Not just the fact that settlers were taking over these houses. Some of them, of course, with deeds that they claim to have from the past. It's a very big issue of Palestinian houses being taken over by Israeli settlers there in the east of Jerusalem. But also, of course, house demolitions in East Jerusalem, settlement construction in East Jerusalem.

Of course, one of the things that is also on the table is not just the fact that the Israelis want to build additional settlements in the West Bank to link it to East Jerusalem, but also that they are doing it in settlements in East Jerusalem. One of them, of course, is Pisgat Ze'ev, which is a very prominent, one of the oldest, one of the largest settlements in East Jerusalem, and certainly a big point of contention as well.

So certainly on the whole it looks like the whole situation right now, I wouldn't call it volatile, but it is a very, very edgy one shortly after this U.N. vote where the Israelis making no secret of their displeasure at the Palestinians being able to upgrade their status.


HOLMES: Interesting days ahead. Fred, good to see you. Fred Pleitgen there in Jerusalem. We'll get a lot more on that story.

Meanwhile, witnesses say Syrian war planes have been bombing a town that is literally within sight of the Turkish border. The Turks are not happy. It is the latest in a new series of air strikes across Syria. We've got a live report coming your way. Ivan Watson in Istanbul.

Also, a tunnel collapse west of Tokyo, raising safety questions right across Japan. We're going take a look at the cave-in that left cars mangled and drivers dead.


HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone. Let's take you to Syria now. You see and hear the scene there as more bodies are pulled from bombed homes and buildings as government war planes have been launching fresh strikes on rebel strongholds. The population, civilians, as usual, among the targeted killed as well.

Now, opposition groups say at least 59 people have been killed today alone in Syria. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued a stern warning about the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have made our views very clear. This is a red line for the United States. I'm not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people, but suffice it to say, we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur.


HOLMES: And Jill Dougherty joins us now by phone from Brussels. She is traveling with the secretary.

Now, Jill, that warning begs the question, the U.S. has actually spoken of the movement of chemical weaponry before, but this, officials are saying, is different. Tell us why.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, it's different because the intelligence information that is coming out, the data, shows moving apparently these weapons, or supplies. And they have done that before. But the way they are doing them, it's different. And it's kind of a new activity, I guess you could call it, which might indicate some type of move toward deploying the weapons. It's a little murky, of course, right there. You heard Secretary Clinton not wanting to get into intelligence issues, as you can imagine. But there is a heightened concern. And that is one of the reasons that when she was asked about it during this brief -- during this presser in Prague, she was very, very serious in her response.

HOLMES: Yes, no, I think I heard earlier that they tend to keep the chemical -- the chemicals separate from the delivery systems, the rockets, the mortars, the artillery or whatever and this is looking like they are bringing the two together, which, of course, is very worrying. But the Syrian government playing it all down.

DOUGHERTY: They are. In fact, they responded actually on state television saying that they are not going to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people.

Now, we've actually heard that before when there was another sprit of interest, when there was some activity that looked suspicious. So it, again, this is unclear. It could be trying to send a signal, let's say, to the world, to the United States or the allies. It could be anything. But that is, as you know, a high priority, a red line, as the secretary said, for the United States.

HOLMES: Right.

DOUGHERTY: And, interestingly, Michael, when she was in the Czech Republic, the Czechs are really very expert at this type of issue, chemical weapons, bio-weapons, et cetera, and that is something that they have been discussing for, as the foreign minister said, something that nobody wants to see happen.

HOLMES: Yeah and, of course, the secretary is in Brussels for meetings with NATO foreign ministers, which brings me to this. They're going to be discussing whether or not to send Patriot missiles to Turkey who have been worried about the war spilling over its border.

Where does the U.S. stand on that? It's a very controversial issue among some parts of some countries.

DOUGHERTY: It is, but I think you would have to say that certainly the United States would support it, especially if it's used as they are talking about, which is it's really defensive. They are not talking about a no-fly zone or anything like that. In fact, that question was asked of a senior State Department official who said that this is not under discussion in Brussels. What they're talking about is a request to -- the Turks are requesting NATO to bolster their air defenses. That would include these Patriot missiles.

But there are several steps. Number one, right now, there's a site survey going on. Where would these batteries go in? How many would they -- there be? How long could they stay? And then, also, the countries that supply them and that could be Germany, the Netherlands -- they come, of course, from U.S. manufacturers -- but the nations involved would have to decide and sign off on that, and this official was saying it could be at least a matter of weeks.

But this is certainly something that the United States does look positively on.

HOLMES: All right, Jill. Thanks so much. Jill Dougherty there in Brussels with the secretary.

Now, we are seeing new evidence today, meanwhile, of how Turkey is being drawn into the civil war in neighboring Syria or the potential of it. Have a look at this.

That's the view a little earlier from the Turkish side of the border, as Syrian warplanes bombed, not for the first time, the town of Ras al-Ain, which is literally just across the border that separates the two countries.

Ivan Watson joining us now live from Istanbul, Turkey. I know, Ivan, you've been there and that attack obviously panicking civilians, many of whom have been crossing back and forth across the border. Tell us what you've heard.

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Our witnesses, Michael, describing to us how the air strikes, at least two bombs dropped by Syrian jets on this border town in Ras al-Ain, sent women, children, screaming in panic to the train tracks and the barbed wire fence that divides this border town in Syria from the Turkish town that's just about 100 yards away. It's really close and, of course, frightening people inside Turkey, as well.

Opposition activists who we talked to say at least 20 people, including rebels and civilians, were killed by this series of air strikes and this happens just as, as Jill mentioned, there are NATO teams on the ground doing an assessment patrol, trying to figure out where to deploy these possible Patriot missile batteries to help protect Turkey from Syria.

And also, as the Turkish prime minister was about to sit down for talks with one of the strongest supporters of the Syrian regime -- that's the Russian president Vladimir Putin. And it's important to note that the Turkish prime minister is one of the biggest enemies of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, both of these men on opposite sides of this conflict sitting down for talks in the same room for the first time in quite a while.


HOLMES: Yes. Strange relations, indeed, through all of this, but much in common, as well, and, as often is the case, that boils down to money.

Tell us about the meetings, what we can expect from them in terms of the conflict, but also it's a big deal economically for these two countries.

WATSON: Well, the two leaders, the strong men of Russia and Turkey, they sat down and they signed at least 11 trade agreements and really applauded what they say is expected, $35 billion in bilateral trade by the end of this year.

They were really trying to accentuate the positive, but the questions that people raise to these leaders were all about Syria with Turkish journalists clearly concerned about the possibility of Syrian weapons hitting Turkey. The Russian president trying to downplay Russia's traditional support for the embattled Syrian regime claiming, hey, we're not exactly defense attorneys for Syria.

But in the same breath the Russian president went on to say that he opposed the possible deployment of Patriot missile batteries along the Turkish-Syrian border. He drew a comparison. He said it's like the beginning of a play in a theater, when there's a gun hanging somewhere on the stage in the first act, you expect that gun to be fired before the curtain falls at the end of the play.

He is arguing that this is going to do nothing to diminish the already very tense situation on the border where both sides have exchanged in artillery duels, where you have had bombing coming, even within the past 24 hours, within a couple hundred yards of the Turkish border.

The Turks, I'm sure, behind closed doors very much expressing their concern that the Russians stop protecting the Syrian regime, especially in the United Nations security council where they've vetoed -- exercised vetoes at least three times to prevent resolutions against the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

HOLMES: Ivan Watson, as always, thanks for your reporting. Good to see you. Thanks so much.

Well, we all know what it is like to be stuck in a traffic jam, but can you imagine being stuck for two days? Russian tempers starting to rise after being left out in the cold.


HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone. In the Philippines, a powerful typhoon is bearing down with winds that could reach 130 miles an hour. Rescue teams there preparing for flash floods and landslides in the mountains. Forecasters predicting huge waves and storm surge along the coast.

The typhoon expected to make landfall in about seven hours or so from now on the same island where a tropical storm last year left 1,200 people dead.

Emergency inspections are under way today at about 50 roadway tunnels in Japan. That's after one tunnel about 50 miles west of Tokyo caved in yesterday. Nine people died. An official with the private company that operates the Sasago Tunnel said outdated bolts, or concrete slabs, could be to blame.

CNN's Alex Zolbert is following the story.


ALEX ZOLBERT, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: A driver's worst nightmare, heading through a highway tunnel when the ceiling collapses. Officials are trying to figure out how it happened over the weekend here in Japan.

This man says, the cars in front of us were crushed. It was terrifying. I'll never be able to drive through that tunnel again.

Another witness says, I saw smoke filling the tunnel from above.

The tunnel is nearly five kilometers, or about three miles long, on a busy stretch of road between Tokyo and Mount Fuji. Cameras from inside show the extensive damage. Heavy machinery has been working around the clock, but it is slow going as crews are concerned about a further collapse.

The company that operates the tunnel tells us that an inspection was actually carried out on it in just the past two to three months.

Now, the big question on the minds of many people here in Japan and elsewhere is how could this happen and could it happen again?

Alex Zolbert, CNN, Tokyo.


HOLMES: Well, if you ever complained about being stuck in traffic, have a look at this. Heavy snow causing a -- wait for it -- 120-mile backup this weekend along a highway between Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Thousands of cars and trucks gridlocked. Temperatures, by the way, below freezing. Russian officials admit they were not prepared to clear the early winter snow and ice. Traffic now rolling along at about 50 miles an hour, a bit of an improvement. Well, North Korea is planning to test-fire a long range rocket later this month, and that is, of course, in defiance of international pressure. Earlier this year, you may remember, a similar mission failed. The rocket flew for just two minutes before it blew up over the sea.

Even so, that test prompted the U.S. to scrap plans to provide food aid to North Korea. A new rocket test would directly violate two U.N. security council resolutions. North Korea, though, says the rocket is merely intended to put a satellite into orbit.

He already has more than one billion followers, but that's in the church. Now, the Pope hopes to start attracting followers in the Twitterverse.

Do stay with us. We'll be right back.