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CONNECT THE WORLD
Syrian Rebels Struggle To Survive In Wintry Conditions; Interview with UNHCR Head Antonio Guterres; Obama, Karzai Agree On Accelerated Drawdown
Aired January 11, 2013 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Young, cold, and hungry: the desperate conditions facing Syria's refugees. Tonight, the UN's high commissioner tells me he is seriously concerned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONIO GUTERRES, UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES: But we are far from being able to address the dramatic, dramatic conditions of these populations in general, but in particular of the children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World with Becky Anderson.
ANDERSON: Also this hour, searching for new opportunities in North Korea. Well, the man who traveled with Google's boss talks about what he was trying to find.
And a masterpiece or a mockery. The Duchess of Cambridge's as you've never seen her before.
Well, there can be no military solution to the conflict in Syria, that at least according to the UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. He said a peaceful solution is absolutely necessary after meeting in Geneva to discuss cease-fire options. Back in Syria, rebels say they've captured a key military base in the north. Fighters said Taftanaz Airbase was being used to bomb opposition forces, but it is now under rebel control.
Well, the Syrian opposition says hundreds more people were killed in clashes with government forces on Friday. And this is just the kind of violence that is driving hundreds of thousands of Syrians from their homes.
All this week on CNN we've been highlighting the plight of Syria's refugees. Today, Nick Paton Walsh is in Lebanon where refugees are struggling to cope with the onset of winter.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, in summer you're about an hour away from the Syrian border, but in the last three days 20 centimeters of snow and freezing temperatures have swept in, doctors saying 20 children have been taken ill, one of them seriously as this town, which is already struggling to absorb thousands of Syrian refugees is now having to deal with the harsh winter.
WALSH: It's nearly Syria, but hardly life. Enveloped in snow, the border town of Arsal brims with refugees, all cold, many young. And this man paralyzed, shot near Homs now surrounded by the children he can't provide for.
"No one helps us here," he says dazed. "No one helps us but god."
In this tiny space for nine, the children are literally climbing the walls. His brother, probably a rebel, doesn't want his face shown. He needs medication for kidney stones, powerless where they now call home.
Squirreled away in houses like this across the town of Arsal are 15,000 Syrian refugees. And that's causing the population here alone to rise by about 40 percent. This is rebel friendly territory so they're OK here even in the harshest of winter, but the fear amongst many in Lebanon is the longer the stay of nearly 200,000 Syrian refugees goes on across the country, the greater the risk that they'll upset the delicate sectarian balance Lebanon has struggled with for decades.
Others survive in ruins, sheeting for doors. Their dark spaces haunted by a father dead, a son arrested last summer. Left to fend for themselves, knowing worse is behind them.
"I left with the tanks and the rockets, the planes overhead," she says. "We up the mountain on foot with the kids, escaping in the night, walking until sunrise."
Her son shows us where the water leaks in and explains last night they were almost robbed for the third time. Even their nothing something to someone here.
This fragile tiny country left wondering how a new generation of anger will express itself.
WALSH: Becky, one side effect of this heavy snow is it's made it impossible for refugees to keep coming across the mountains here into Arsal, but eventually the snows here will melt and again they'll have to deal with the consequences of this harsh winter, plus again a steady influx of hundreds of refugees every day -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Nick Paton Walsh for you there.
While Lebanon has taken the most of the displaced from Syria, housing almost 200,000, the UN estimates more than half a million people have fled. And they are spread out across the region as you can see here. I'm going to bring up a map for you. Turkey has taken in more than 150,000, another 176,000 are in Jordan. Just listen to these figures. More than 69,000 refugees have fled to Iraq. And over 13,000 are in Egypt. These figures include refugees that are both registered and not registered.
Well, each of these has their own heart-wrenching story. Well, this week CNN's photojournalist Joe Duran has been bringing us those stories straight from the mouths of those who are displaced.
NOUR: My name is Nour. I am eight years old. We were in Azaz when the fighter jet bombed the bus station two times. We then fled to the countryside. The jet then bombed the rebels. We go scared.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And while I was running away, the ceiling joist fell on my foot and cut it. I fainted. I didn't feel anything. It's god's will that it happened. I felt then -- I can't talk. I just want to walk again, I just want to walk. I don't want to play again, I just want to walk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no electricity, no water, a shortage of everything. My mom and dad are dead. The fighter jet bombed him in Aleppo. My dad died there. Then I brought my mother to Azaz where another jet killed her. Now we are alone here. My, my brothers and sisters are here, our neighbor came and asked me to work with him, so we can survive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two months ago, the phone rang and it was that my biggest brother dead. And my other brother is still fighting now in Aleppo.
I have in my family just my family 15 were in the Free Syrian Army and they killed -- they got them when they were fighting. And all of them my cousins. And one of them my brother. Every day I have these scared moment when the phone ring.
ANDERSON: Well, earlier I spoke to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. And I asked him how he would characterize this crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUTERRES: Well, last year we had about 875,000 new refugees in the world, more than half of them came out of Syria. So it's really a dramatic outflow of people. And it's not only the fact that they are fleeing the country, it's the fact that they don't see a solution for their plight. They don't see a political solution for the problem. And so there is an enormous frustration, enormous anger. They tend to accuse the international community of not being able to solve the problem. And that is why it is sometimes so difficult to support them, because they feel extremely angry, they feel extremely frustrated.
ANDERSON: Antonio, I spoke to the Turkish foreign ministry yesterday. And they, quite frankly, were pretty concerned about the lack of help that they believe that they've had from the international community. Just have a listen to this.
SELCUK UNAL, TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: We have asked for international assistance quite some time ago. And so far we have spent on our own resources more than $650 million. On the contrary, on the other side, what they have received from the international community is barely coming to 5 million US dollars.
ANDERSON: Your response to those complaints.
GUTERRES: I do understand why the Turkish government is frustrated. We are working together with them. They have been granting us access to all the camps, allowing us to do our protection work, but the bulk of the assistance provided to the refugees in Turkey has been done by the Turkish government through the Turkish Red Crescent.
ANDERSON: We've spent the week personalizing this story, because it is important that you and I and our viewers understand we're talking about men, women, and kids whose lives have been scarred by this civil war and continue to be so. What are your biggest concerns and challenges as we hit this inclement weather and move forward into 2013?
GUTERRES: My biggest concern goes beyond what visibly we can do to support them. It is the fact that they have a huge -- many of them -- have a huge trauma. They have seen members of their family being killed. They have seen their villages or their neighborhoods being bombarded. They have witnessed the horrors of war being very young and not being prepared for that.
And there is a psychosocial support that is slowly increasing and improving, but we are far from being able to address the dramatic traumatic conditions of these populations in general, but in particular of the children.
ANDERSON: Antonio, what sort of impact do you think that this Syrian refugee crisis might have on the region going forward?
GUTERRES: Well, it's very worrying when one sees what's going on in the region, that Lebanon has a very complex political situation as we all know. Even in Jordan, Jordan faces enormous economic difficulties.
So indeed there is a regional stability dimension, original security dimension of this crisis that at the present moment contains a huge number of threats and there is a risk that this conflict that has been a Syrian conflict becomes a much -- much more serious regional confrontation.
ANDERSON: And Guterres has written an opinion piece along with the head for the world food program and UNICEF about the suffering of Syrian refugees. You can read that at CNN.com.
You may feel far removed from this Syrian crisis, but believe me there is so much you can do wherever you are watching tonight. Just use the website, for example, CNN.com and look for impact your world. Now that's a site where you'll find a list of organizations helping Syrian refugees and ways that you may feel that you can contribute. Do not feel that you can't be part of a solution here. There are ways we can all help.
You're watching Connect the World live from London. I'm Becky Anderson. Just before quarter past 9:00 here. Still to come, Scotland Yard giving Jimmy Saville's abuse victims a voice. A report details how this man used his fame to hide in plain sight.
France says a terrorist breakthrough in Mali threatens all of Africa and Europe itself. So it's now joining the fight against Islamist rebels.
And in a coma for 20 years, that is how two film makers see Italy. And they tell us why next month's election won't help wake it up. All that and much more when Connect the World continues.
ANDERSON: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World. I'm Becky Anderson. Welcome back.
Now U.S. President Barack Obama says NATO troops are speeding up a transfer of security in Afghanistan. He says starting this spring their mission will change from lead fighting duties to an advisory and support role. Mr. Obama met today with the Afghan president Hamid Karzai at the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: I'm very happy to hear from the president as we also discussed it earlier that in spring this year the Afghan forces will be fully responsible for providing security and protection to the Afghan people. And that the international forces, the American forces will be no longer present in Afghan village, that the task will be that of the Afghan forces to provide for the Afghan people in security and protection.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, President Obama said the shifting roles will be an historic moment for Afghanistan.
Let's get more from the White House Correspondent Brianna Keilar. Yeah, an historic moment, really, in what has been, what, a 12 year war.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a historic moment. If course the big question still, Becky, remains will there be U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014. And how many will there be? But the biggest headline today was that the security -- the security responsibilities will be handed over to Afghan forces by the spring and that is an acceleration from what was expected.
Also, President Karzai said that he -- or he signaled that he has some flexibility on the immunity of U.S. troops who remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. This was a key demand from President Obama that any troops that remain are not subject to Afghan courts and Afghan laws.
Also Karzai said that the U.S. will hand over control of Afghan prisoners to Afghan officials. And that was one of his key demands for U.S. troops remaining there in Afghanistan.
But of course the big headline was the speeding up of the security role being handed to Afghan troops. And this is something that President Obama was asked about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are able to meet those goals and accelerate them somewhat. So let me repeat. What's going to happen this spring is that Afghans will be in the lead throughout the country. That doesn't mean that coalition forces, including U.S. forces, are no longer fighting. They will still be fighting alongside Afghan troops. It does mean, though, that Afghans will have taken the lead and our presence, the nature of our work will be different. We will be in a training, assisting, advising role.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: All right. Let me see if I can work out what I was saying there. He seems, at least, to be saying that this is a sign that the U.S. may pursue a more aggressive drawdown of troops. Is that the way to read this, Brianna?
KEILAR: That is the way to read it. And there's also a number of other signs that we've gotten. There was a statement that came out today from President Obama and Karzai talking about how Afghan troops have made progress, that their progress has exceeded initial expectations. And also this week President Obama announced his pick to replace Leon Panetta at the Defense Department Chuck Hagel. And it's widely speculated that he's someone who will want to see a more aggressive drawdown.
But the thing, Becky, is we want to know are U.S. troops going to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014? It really seemed today that the answer was yes, but we don't know how many.
There has been talk that White House officials are considering between zero troops up to 9,000. But we didn't hear anything from President Obama or Karzai today about the possibility of their being no U.S. troops. And in fact these announcements about dealing with the immunity of U.S. soldiers and exactly who will be in control of Afghan detainees, and Karzai is saying that will be turned over to Afghan officials, seem to indicate that they've narrowed some of their differences and that that really does - - the takeaway that you would have there is that there will be U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond next year.
Yeah, it's not absolutely crystal clear at this point. I guess it will become clearer as we move through 2013. Brianna, always a pleasure. Thank you very much indeed out of the White House for you this evening.
Monday on Amanpour, see Christiane's exclusive interview with the Afghan president Hamid Karzai. What will the future hold for Afghanistan? Will Karzai abide constitutional limits and step aside? That's Monday at eight in London, nine in Berlin right here on CNN.
Well, Jimmy Saville spent every waking minute thinking about abuse, that is the damning conclusion from the new Scotland Yard report. It says the late British entertainer who was one of Britain's biggest TV stars used his fame as a cover to sexually abuse hundreds of people, some as young as eight years old. Investigators say that the report gives a voice to Saville's victims.
Our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance reports.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For decades, he was the face of children's television in Britain, a tireless charity fundraiser and friend to the country's elite. But after a 14 week investigation, the British police say it was all a veil behind which Jimmy Saville carried out decades of abuse.
PETER SPINDLER, COMMANDER, METROPOLITAN POLICE: He exploited his celebrity status. He traded no the currency of celebrity to get himself almost unprecedented access to our institutions, to our hospitals, to our schools and there he took advantage of the most vulnerable in society, adults and children, although sadly primarily children, and for his own sexual gratification abused them.
CHANCE: And figures revealed by the new police report show how prolific an offender Saville really was. Over a period spanning more than half a century, police say they've received 450 complaints about Saville, 214 cases of which have been formally recorded as abuse, including 34 rapes.
The report says 73 percent of the victims were children at the time of the abuse, but that those abused ranged in age from just eight years old to 47.
It was with popular kid shows like Jim'll Fix it that Saville established himself as the leading British children's entertainer of his generation. The number of children who appeared on the show have since complained of abuse.
At the time it may have seemed like some innocent fun on the set of Top of the Pops, a leading BBC music show also hosted by Saville, now appears deeply disturbing.
This whole sordid affair according to police here at Scotland Yard underlines the tragic consequences of when power and vulnerability collide. Police say victims were silenced for decades because of fear, shame and the sheer celebrity of the offender, Jimmy Saville.
But there may have been a positive impact. So many victims have now spoken out about their ordeal at the hands of Saville, support groups say it might have fundamentally changed the way Britain deals with abuse.
PETER SAUNDERS, NAPAC: It does send out a clear signal that the victims don't need to remain silent any longer. And I think that that will make people who are contemplating abusing children or others think twice because no longer are we going to keep quiet about this. We're going to speak out. We're going to go to the authorities. And the authorities are telling us that they are going to take firm action.
Because in the past, yes you're quite right most of us have taken this issue seriously, but actually society generally hasn't and hasn't done enough to prosecute offenders and bring people to book.
CHANCE: If only attitudes been different in past decades, say police, a sex offender like Saville hidden in plain sight could have been brought to justice.
Matthew Chance, CNN, London.
ANDERSON: You're watching Connect the World with me Becky Anderson out of London for you. Up next, a controversial trip to a secretive state. I'll talk to former governor Bill Richardson. He paid a call on North Korea with Google's top man. That after this.
ANDERSON: Well, they didn't meet the man in charge, and they didn't free a man they intended to help, so what were former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Google boss Eric Schmidt doing on a controversial tour of North Korea. Well, Richardson has visited Pyongyang before on humanitarian missions. And has even been accompanied by CNN's Wolf Blitzer. But this latest trip with Google's top man raised some eyebrows, particularly in Washington where the Obama administration described the trip as, quote, "unhelpful."
Well, earlier, Bill Richardson sat down to answer my questions. And I started by asking why he was in North Korea this time.
BILL RICHARDSON, FRM. NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: Well, we were doing three things. One, a strong message for them to stop launching missiles and nuclear tests. Secondly, pushing to make sure the American detained there, Kenneth Bay, is treated properly. And then the most important message, which Eric Schmidt delivered, and that is open up the internet, more mobile technology, more cell phones. And that reception of the internet by the leadership and by the people of North Korea -- students, professors, software engineers, was very well received.
So I think our trip was successful in delivering those three messages.
ANDERSON: The White House has called your trip to North Korea unhelpful. What do you think they mean by that?
RICHARDSON: Well, they get nervous about these trips, because we're private citizens, humanitarian trip. But they're cautious. And I can understand that. But there is room, especially when you deal with North Korea that is isolated, that is unpredictable, for private citizens, the private sector, NGOs, philanthropic groups, outside mediators, the United Nations. It's not just the province of government to push for good foreign policy and good democratic steps.
So I respect their view, but we went ahead anyway. And I believe we delivered some very good messages to a country that is isolated.
ANDERSON: Was this a sales trip, effectively, for Eric Schmidt?
RICHARDSON: Well, he didn't represent Google, but his message was a powerful one. He was treated like a rock star there. And that is increase the internet to all citizens. This will be good for the economy, will lift all people there, increase mobile technology, cell technology, don't just make it part of the government. And the government as well as scientists as well as software engineers, students -- we toured some universities -- computer school, was very well received.
And this is the kind of message that American private sector leaders, American business leaders like Eric Schmidt and Google, which has a great following in North Korea, their reputation is great, is -- we're able to deliver that message.
ANDERSON: Bill Richardson on his recent trip to North Korea for you.
The latest world news headlines are just ahead, plus the government of Mali declared the state of emergency as it launches an offensive against al Qaeda and these rebels. That after this.
ANDERSON: Welcome back. Just after half past nine in London. I'm Becky Anderson, these are your headlines this hour.
The UN envoy to Syria has said there can be no military solution to the ongoing conflict and that a peaceful solution is absolutely necessary. His comments came on the same day that rebel forces announced that they've taken control of a key military base in the north of the country.
The US and Afghan presidents say there will be more talks on America's role in Afghanistan after 2014, but for now, Barack Obama says he's speeding up the current plans to have Afghans take over security in the next few months. International troops will move to a support role and continue their drawdown.
US regulators are launching a detailed safety review of Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner. The announcement came just hours after a string of glitches, including two more mishaps on Friday. The head of America's Federal Aviation Administration says officials are confident the plane is safe but are concerned about the recent incidents.
British police have released a report saying that the late TV star Jimmy Savile sexually abused hundreds of people. The report says nearly three quarters of his victims were children, the youngest eight years old.
Mali's interim president has declared a state of emergency across the entire country. The former colonial power of France says Islamists are trying to deal a fatal blow to Mali's very existence that the world cannot ignore.
Today, French president Francois Hollande announced his troops have joined a Malian government defensive against al Qaeda-linked rebels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): In the name of France, I have therefore answered the request for help by Mali's president, supported by the Western African countries.
Consequently, French armed forces have brought this afternoon their support to Malian units to fight against this terrorist elements.
(END VIDEO CILP)
ANDERSON: Well, the UN's Security Council has endorsed the use of force in Mali saying Islamist rebels there pose a direct threat to international security. For months, now, the world has watched with alarm as rebels tighten their grip on a vast region in northern Mali, an area the size of France.
Now, they've headed south, just yesterday capturing the strategic town of Konna. They're threatening to seize the gateway town, Mopti, on their way towards the capital, Bamako. \ You also see Timbuktu on this map. That fabled city was overrun by Islamists nine months ago. They've destroyed priceless tombs and shrines, branding them idolatrous, and have imposed strict Sharia Law on the entire region.
Well, France says the Islamists want to turn all of Mali into a terrorist state. It says the situation is now so critical, it's joining the government's fight. Let's get the very latest on the offensive underway. Vladimir Duthiers following developments for you this evening from Lagos in Nigeria. What do we know at this point?
VALDIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Becky. This is a fast-moving, very, very fluid story. We just learned in the last hour or so that Mali's interim president has declared a statewide state of emergency across the country. And in a quote, he said, "A general -- it is a general mobilization to defend by all means the country against the advance of radical Islamists."
He therefore, afterwards, acknowledged that France had, indeed, come to Mali's aid. This after, as you mentioned in your open, that the strategic city of Konna fell on Thursday. Thursday afternoon, Mali asked France for assistance, and I don't think that France would have come to Mali's aid if it were not a real threat to the existence of the country.
Late today, Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, had this to say about French airstrikes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURENT FABIUS, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The terrorist breakthrough must be stopped. If it's not, the entire country of Mali will fall into their hands, with a threat to the whole of Africa and Europe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DUTHIERS: Now, Becky, what had originally been planned was for an African-led contingent of West African, African soldiers, led by the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States to deploy to Mali sometime in September.
But after the plea from the interim president to France, it became clear that this was a situation that was not only threatening Mali, but threatening to the -- to destabilize the entire region, Becky.
ANDERSON: All right. Question to you: is it clear how many fighters these troops will be dealing with? In other regions, we hear about al Qaeda units, and quite often it's -- it's a picture of sort of 100, maybe 150, 200 people. Is it clear in Mali?
DUTHIERS: It is not clear. In fact, many of the Islamist groups that are in control of the northern part of the country, an area approximately the size of France, are in some cases affiliated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. We've heard various numbers, ranging from 1500 to 2500 soldiers in the area.
What is probably expected is that if France is actually putting boots on the ground in the country, we probably can expect to see some sort of a push back.
But clearly, the Malian government, although just as recently as a couple of days ago, said that they were making inroads against these Islamists, after they captured the key city of Konna and were basically pushing towards the state -- the city of Mopti, which is, in fact, where the Islamist-controlled North meets up with the southern-controlled South, and that was a clear line straight to Bamako.
I think the Mali decided that France had to step in. And France, knowing that this is one of its former colonies, there are French citizens within the country, there are French interests, they felt that this was the necessary step to take, Becky.
ANDERSON: Yes. All right, Vlad, thank you for that. And reports this evening, which we haven't confirmed as of yet, that France has been using airstrikes on these militants in the past hour or so, but as I say, unconfirmed as of yet.
Just before France announced it's taking part in the Mali offensive, I spoke about the crisis with the former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner. I asked him first about the situation on the ground in Mali.
BERNARD KOUCHNER, FORMER FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER: A very bad situation. First because there is no power -- real power. Even if there is a president, a Malian president, and he's going to visit us in a few days.
But the power in Bamako is a very weak power. Who is leading? The military people or the civilians? I don't know.
And second, of course and the most important, this is the offensive out of the Islamist people, they are coming down to the south and this is very dangerous. And we have -- we have -- the democratic people, to react.
ANDERSON: You say that the Europeans and the US under a UN resolution need to support those French troops, right?
KOUCHNER: Support the French troops in -- yes. Politically, diplomatically, and eventually we can start alone this mission. But better to be together, because this is a world problem to face extremism and killers.
And remember what they did in the northern part in destroying all the arts from centuries and millennia there. So, they are barbarian people, and we cannot stay inert.
ANDERSON: This could rapidly look like a colonial force, couldn't it, if it's just European boots on the ground?
KOUCHNER: Yes, you're right. But this is just to defend our friends. This is no longer at all a colonial insurrection of a colonialist effort. And that was the trap when we were voting in the Security Council. We don't want any colonialist counter-attack at all. We don't want to reconquer the Mali, not at all.
So, our friends are calling us. Not only the French, the former colonialists, but the international democratic world.
ANDERSON: The former French foreign minister speaking to me a little earlier. And just before we got into that for you, I said there were unconfirmed reports of French airstrikes on the Islamists in Mali. Well, we can now confirm those. So, airstrikes on these Islamist fighters from the French in Mali this hour.
Love from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD on CNN. Coming up, as elections in Italy are fast approaching, a new film looks at a growing apathy towards politics in Italy. My film -- my interview with the filmmakers of "Girlfriend in a Coma" up next.
ANDERSON: A new election but old faces. That pretty much sums up the ballot in Italy as the country prepares to go to the polls on February the 24th. The candidates were officially named today, but as our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman explains, they've failed to raise much enthusiasm among the voters.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Few loved the limelight like former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, here about to participate in a live interview with some of his most vociferous critics.
Elections are a month and a half away and Berlusconi is hoping to get his old job back. Journalist Marco Travaglio has chronicled Berlusconi's checkered political and personal past. "He cares about communications because he's only communications, only publicity," Travaglio tells me before the show. "The fact that he's still in the news after 20 years excites him."
Berlusconi's alter-ego and another contender for the leadership of Italy is current caretaker prime minister Mario Monti. Soft spoken, serious, and sober.
In a live radio interview, he talked policy and economics, but had to be coaxed to reveal that, unlike Berlusconi, he can't sing and isn't very good at telling jokes.
Monti was appointed in late 2011 to prevent a Greek-style meltdown of the Italian economy. His combination of spending cuts and tax hikes has been painful, but he has received high marks for his management of the economy.
Polls show that Pier Luigi Bersani of the left-leaning Democratic Party, has the best chance of winning the most votes, but there are many slips twixt the start of a campaign and a formation of a new government.
Etta, a pensioner, has kind words for Monti. "He's done well," she says. "He's responsible and he's brought this country a better, more decent vision that before was lacking.
Anna, the store clerk, prefers Berlusconi who, she feels, will get the economy moving again, create jobs for young people, and cut taxes. Because for young Italians, she says, there's no hope, there's no future.
But in a country where politics often amount to a lot of sound and fury but yield nothing, cynicism is rife. "They're all disgusting," says Augusto, a pensioner, of the politicians. "We should get rid of them and replace them with more serious people. But since there aren't any such people, it's better just not to vote."
And for that, says Professor Leonardo Morlino, the politicians only have themselves to blame.
LEONARDO MORLINO, LUISS UNIVERSITY: It's a strong competition between parties, among different parties, between the two sides that, in a sense, delegitimize one another. And that, of course, is also reflected in what the citizens think.
WEDEMAN: So many expect lots of smoke but not much fire in these elections.
WEDEMAN (on camera): There's a joke making the rounds these days, and it goes something like these: the three main contenders for the premiership are in a raft in the rapids that hits a rock and starts to sink. So, who's saved? Monti? No. Bersani? No. Berlusconi? No. So who is saved? The Italian people.
Ben Wedeman, CNN, Rome.
ANDERSON: Well, all jokes aside, many pundits are saying that Italians have little to choose from come the next election next month, and a new documentary investigates why. A little earlier, I spoke to the filmmakers, former editor of "The Economist" Bill Emmott, and London correspondent for "L'Espresso," Annalisa Piras. We began by talking about the title of their film, "Girlfriend in a Coma."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GIRLFRIEND IN A COMA")
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody's giving you even the opportunity to try. It makes me feel, of course, very, very angry and very sad, because I would love to come back, but I can't see anything. I can't stand the decadence, the lowliness, the sleep -- constant sleep of people just waiting for something to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BILL EMMOTT, NARRATOR, "GIRLFRIEND IN A COMA": It's sloth in the unwillingness of people to do anything about it. The lack of moral courage to stand up and say, "Come on, we've got to change something."
Partly complacency, partly just a sense of saying, "eh, it's not my fault. It's somebody else's responsibility to do something." And also, "I don't want to lose my privileges."
ANDERSON: Do you buy this? You're Italian. This is an Englishman telling you what's wrong with your country.
ANNALISA PIRAS, DIRECTOR, "GIRLFRIEND IN A COMA": Yes, but he's talking about his girlfriend. The one thing about the title is that we wanted to stress the kind of affection with which Bill, as an Englishman who loves Italy but has also been very worried about its state, is the kind of affection towards a girlfriend in a coma, in fact.
So, as with someone who is in a coma, Bill is trying to talk to her, to wake her up and to tell her look, look, you can still wake up.
ANDERSON: You talk about the migration figures, which are quite remarkable when you look at them. Some 1 million Italians have left their home country, most of those are graduates, most recently. Annalisa, you're -- you are from Italy, and yet, you did leave, as well. Why?
PIRAS: Well, I left 20 years ago when there was the last chance to renew the Italian politics with Gladio's great scandal. And I left at the time thinking, OK, I'm going to have an experience abroad and then I'm going to come back. I'm going to just wait for all this mess to settle.
And 20 years later, I'm seeing people that were exactly like me that cannot come back to Italy. There is no return ticket.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GIRLFRIEND IN A COMA")
EMMOTT: Here they are, the elite who over the past 20 years have presided over Italy's decline. They bear the responsibility for leaving my girlfriend in a coma.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EMMOTT: The political system has to renovate itself. Sadly, when you look at the elections that are coming up on February the 24th, who are the main protagonists? On the left, Bersani, who is four times minister, he's been there for 20 years.
On the right, Berlusconi. In the middle, Monti. He's a newcomer, but he's 69 years old. He's an outsider from Brussels. And because he's an economist and not a politician. Where are the young people?
ANDERSON: You've talked about the youngsters needing to get out and start taking some action. Will change from within or without, Italy, as it were? Do you see the change from outside?
PIRAS: As before in history, there might be a chance for the Italians of the exile, the Italians of the diaspora to actually play a role. And this is something that we deal with in the film and we look very favorably at, because a lot of very bright Italians have left, and they are looking at what is happening in Italy with a great pain in their heart, because they would like to do something.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GIRLFRIEND IN A COMA")
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe my children will be part of the renaissance of Italy. Maybe they will be the ones that will go back and start a new phase for Italy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Will Italy pull through its so-called coma?
EMMOTT: In the end, the rational thought is the forces of change will prevail, but I think it's going to take quite a lot longer, because I just don't -- I think that the forces against change, the interest groups blocking change, the people protecting their power, those who just want to believe everything's fine, are still big blockages in the way.
ANDERSON: That is a terrific film, well worth a watch, if you're looking to get a better understanding about Italian politics.
Coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, the draw for the Australian Open is out, and Novak Djokovic certainly has to be smiling as he seeks a third straight title. That after this.
ANDERSON: All right. This year's first tennis Grand Slam begins Monday down under in Melbourne. Pedro's with us with a sneak preview. Last year, Djokovic. Year before, Djokovic.
PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
ANDERSON: Is he going to do it again?
PINTO: He is the favorite, and he is the man to beat, there's no doubt about it. And he has to be quite happy, Becky, with the draw that took place, because he avoids Andy Murray and Roger Federer until the final, if they meet there.
So, I think Federer is the one who's kind of looking at his side of the draw and thinking it's going to be tough. He's not that young anymore. He might have to play a lot of hours, because he could face Andy Murray in the semifinals, and he doesn't do particularly well against the Briton.
ANDERSON: It was that fantastic game, we all remember, Nadal-Djokovic --
ANDERSON: -- in Australia --
PINTO: Six hours last year. Unbelievable.
ANDERSON: And it's pretty much put Nadal out, it seems, for the rest season. And he's not in Australia this week, right?
PINTO: No, it's a --
ANDERSON: It's a shame.
PINTO: -- little bit of a mixture between knee issues and the stomach bug, so that combination meant that he couldn't really prepare for the Australian Open like he would've liked, so he's out again, he hasn't played in a while now. Of course, he missed the US Open last year as well and Wimbledon as well. So, we're looking forward to seeing him back.
ANDERSON: Who do you fancy so far as the women are -- I don't mean it that way. I'm --
ANDERSON: Who --
ANDERSON: You know what I mean. Who'd going to win the women's side of all of this.
PINTO: Look. There's a reason why Serena Williams is actually on the background of our shot.
ANDERSON: Can I tweet that? So you --
ANDERSON: -- fancy Serena Williams, right?
PINTO: I do.
ANDERSON: So you --
PINTO: Serena Williams -- I don't think anyone can compete with the power she has.
PINTO: She's on an incredible roll, having won the Olympics, the US Open, the WTA Tour Championships last year --
PINTO: -- to finish the season. So, if she's healthy, she's the one to beat. Victoria Azarenka is the defending champion, the world number one, but unfortunately for her, she will have to face Serena, if both of them make it that far, in the semifinals, so we won't get to see those two battle it out for the title.
PINTO: But should be exciting. Serena and Novak, I think --
ANDERSON: All right.
PINTO: -- are the favorites on each side of the draw.
ANDERSON: Those are your picks. In 50 -- no, in 36 minutes, if you're watching in Europe, Middle East, Africa --
ANDERSON: -- or Latin America --
ANDERSON: -- you'll get Pedro with "World Sport." So stick around --
ANDERSON: -- you'll have a lot more.
PINTO: I like it how you have the new iPad. I've got the old school --
ANDERSON: Yes, and you've got --
PINTO: -- old school iPad.
ANDERSON: That's the difference between you and me.
ANDERSON: Let's move on. A new tower for London, a new view for the world, the Shard is the tallest building in town, in fact, in all of Western Europe, and it opens to the public next month. Erin McLaughlin got a sneak peak.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After 12 years of planning and construction, the Shard is opening up to the public, and we've been given a sneak peak of the viewing platform at the very top.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all up? OK, come on in.
ANDY NYBERG, CEO, THE VIEW FROM THE SHARD: When our soft opening, you're on the 69th floor of The View from the Shard, and there's a spectacular view laid out before us. You've got the Thames that's snaking away, you've got railroad tracks spidering out from either side of the building, and some great structures that are visible from here.
In fact, we're in a 21st century tower, and right across the river is an 11th century tower, the Tower of London. So how many places can you get that juxtaposition of history? So, it's 24.95 in advance --
MCLAUGHLIN: That's in pounds.
NYBERG: That's in pounds.
MCLAUGHLIN: Around $40 --
MCLAUGHLIN: A trip to the Eiffel Tower costs around $18. What makes this worth it?
NYBERG: Well, one, the Eiffel Tower is government-funded. We're not government-funded.
NYBERG: And what makes this worth it is London. This is the only place in London you can see all of London all at once. And if you compare this with London attractions, with a fast track, which ours is, with no queues, we're in the middle of the market.
MCLAUGHLIN: This is the open-air viewing platform, it's the 72nd floor of the Shard. It's pretty much as high as you can go. The rest are just service floors. It's an opportunity to experience the views amidst the London elements, and even on a hazy day, it's pretty spectacular up here.
ANDERSON: And in tonight's Parting Shots for you, one of the world's most famous faces, but not as you've seen her before. You're looking at the first official portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge. It's generating plenty of reaction from art critics and the public, not all favorable, it's got to be said, though Catherine and her husband, Prince William, are said to be pleased with it. So, that's good, isn't it?
I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD, thank you for watching. It's been a great week. We will see you here on Monday.