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AROUND THE WORLD

North Korea Issues New Threat to U.S.; President Obama on Israel; The Palestinian Divide; Guantanomo Bay Prisoners on Hunger Strike; Australian PM Issues National Apology; Clock Ticking for Cyprus; Wake Up & Smell the Marijuana

Aired March 21, 2013 - 12:00   ET

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


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Michael Holmes.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield in for Suzanne Malveaux. We've got lots coming up including this.

HOLMES: Yes.

WHITFIELD: We're going to begin in Iran actually. In the middle of President Obama's visit to Israel a new threat from Iran.

HOLMES: Yes, Iran's supreme leader today vowed to destroy Tel Aviv if Iran is attacked by Israel. And made those comments in an address marking the Iranian New Year.

WHITFIELD: And he said the basis of hostility with Iran is the U.S. government. We'll have the latest on President Obama's trip to the region live from Jerusalem.

HOLMES: The United Nations is going to launch an investigation into whether chemical weapons were indeed used in Syria. Both the Syrian regime and the opposition asked the U.N. to look into the claim.

WHITFIELD: The demand came after both sides accused each other of firing chemical weapons on Tuesday. Opposition groups insist rebels don't have access to such material.

HOLMES: And U.S. officials saying they welcome the move.

First up, North Korea's new and threatening message to the U.S. Pyongyang warning today it has the capability to strike U.S. bases in Guam and Japan.

WHITFIELD: Matthew Chance joining us now from Seoul, South Korea.

So, Matthew, is this just North Korea's typical bluster or is there something more ominous here?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's really difficult to say, Fredricka, because it's such an unpredictable regime. But what we do know is that these threats are being made all the time now. There's a lot of tension that's been growing on the -- on the Korean Peninsula. Tension that is being fueled by the statements that are increasingly coming out of Pyongyang.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE (voice-over): Barely a day can pass it seems without another North Korean threat. Its state television is full of them. The latest in response to U.S. bomber flights over South Korea. It's an annual military exercise but Pyongyang is seething.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Through Translator): The U.S. should not forget that the Anderson Air Force Base on Guam where B-52s take off, a naval base is in Japan's proper and Okinawa where nuclear power submarines are launched are within the striking range of the DPRK's precision strike means.

CHANCE: Specific threats even of a preemptive nuclear attack has become a Pyongyang theme. This video of the White House in electronic crosshairs appeared on a North Korean Web site just a few days ago, the dome on the capitol building is destroyed in a simulated explosion while the narrator talks of a North Korean atomic bomb targeting what he calls the "Capitol of War."

(On camera): There are so many threats streaming out of North Korea these days, it's hard to know which ones if any to take seriously. Certainly Pyongyang is not believed to have the capability to effectively strike the United States.

And observers are left puzzling on what on earth this secretive increasingly belligerent country is playing at.

(Voice-over): Part of it may be sheer confidence. North Korea's December rocket launch and its nuclear test in February appear to have been technological successes that have emboldened Pyongyang. The country is also furious at tightened U.N. sanctions. But unless, say, threats are also a way for the young North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to bolster his hardlined credentials and seniority at home.

JASPER KIM, ASIA-PACIFIC GLOBAL RESEARCH: First and foremost it's for his domestic audience. Simply without the support of the military, he won't be around for very much longer. And so he has to bolster his support from the brass. And that won't be so easy to do in a culture in North Korea where age matters, where he's 28, 29 years old.

CHANCE: And the young Kim isn't averse to voicing a few threats himself. On this recent tour of border islands he told ecstatic troops they'd throw enemies into the cauldron, break their waists and crack their windpipes. Seems to have been exactly what they wanted to hear.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE: Well, Fredricka, it's not just the threat, it's the actions as well. Remember, this is a regime, as I mentioned, that has tested a long-range missile, it's carried out a third nuclear test. The big concern is that it could one day soon gain the technology to carry out some of those threats. HOLMES: Yes. And, Matthew, diving in here, South Korean officials today saying that cyber attacks that we reported on yesterday, I think 32,000 computers damaged and servers, came from inside China. They've traced the IP back to there. But what does that mean?

CHANCE: Well, it doesn't mean that China was involved in this directly at least. In fact, it's heightened the suspicions that North Korea was behind that cyber attack as well. Not least because it's used Chinese servers in the past to carry out very similar cyber attacks against South Korea.

In fact, the Chinese government's reacted to this, they've not accepted any responsibility, saying that hackers often use IP addresses from other countries to launch cyber attacks. They've also said they'll try and communicate -- sorry, you know, work with the international community to get to the bottom of this as well.

And so, again, South Korean investigators working hard to find out who's responsible for this. The fact that it's a Chinese IP address shedding suspicion yet more on North Korea.

HOLMES: All right. Matthew, appreciate that. Matthew Chance there in Seoul.

WHITFIELD: All right. Let's also stay overseas now in the Middle East region. President Obama taking his message of support to Israel directly to the people. Within the past hour the president spoke at the Jerusalem Convention Center to a group made of mostly of students and young people.

HOLMES: A warm welcome, too. He spoke in Hebrew at one point telling the crowd, "You are not alone." The president reiterating that the U.S. will stand up for Israel's right to defend itself, stressing the importance of keeping Iran from developing a nuclear bomb but saying there's still time for diplomacy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Syrian people have the right to be freed from the grip of a dictator who would rather kill his own people than relinquish power.

(APPLAUSE)

Assad must go so that Syria's future can begin. Because true stability in Syria depends upon establishing a government that is responsible to its people, one that protects all communities within its borders while making peace with countries beyond them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Two states for two people, President Obama said that's the key to peace between Israel and Palestinians.

HOLMES: Yes, but even as the president pushes for peace and tows that line, he admits that things are complications, of course, in the region.

Now John King joining us from Jerusalem.

John, again, the president stressing the right of people to be free in a land of their own and a message for those who oppose the Jewish state. Let's just play this before we come to you, John.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Make no mistake, those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel's right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above because Israel's not going anywhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: That line got a standing ovation. Did the president succeed in his efforts to reassure the Israeli people of his commitment?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think there's no question, Michael, he has reassured the Israeli government and the Israeli people. The question is, can he bring the Palestinians to the table as well as part of a peace process or is this fence mending new image building in Israel?

You heard the president's line right there. You could say that line was directed at Iran. Its leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be wiped from the map. You could say it was directed, though, at Hamas. Hamas runs Gaza, part of the Palestinian territory. So that's one of the complications in trying to get a peace process started again.

When he was in Ramallah earlier this morning, the president spoke about this Palestinian divide, much more prosperity in Ramallah which is run by Mahmoud Abbas and the Fattah Movement. Devastation and blight and terrorism coming out of Gaza.

We are in Gaza the other day, in Ramallah, just before that. And on that point, the economic divide, the president could not be more right.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice-over): To visit Gaza is to step back in time. And to wonder if hate will ever give way to peace.

Celebrations of the Hamas military wing that lobbed rockets into Israel contributes to men Hamas calls martyrs but who by most any other definition would be called murderers and terrorists.

Poverty, rundown housing, mules and horses alongside beat-up cars. Here, though, proof Gaza doesn't have to be so bleak. Hammam al Yazegi says those with jobs are less likely to choose hate and violence. Six hundred workers here at the plant's heyday , just 300 now, most of them part-time.

HAMMAM AL YAZEGI, MANAGER, GAZA SODA FACTORY: We've got actually five lines and we used to have six shifts a day. Now we've only one shift for like three days a week.

KING: It is the price Gaza pays for Israel's anger at Hamas. The plant once shipped drinks to and through Israel, but now it's limited to selling locally. This truck once drove to the Israeli border for CO2, now the factory pays five times as much for tanks smuggled from Egypt.

Al Yazegi blames Israel.

AL YAZEGI: They just want to control Gaza, they want to control people, they want to control the economy, they want to control everything.

KING: Welcome to the great Palestinian divide. Ramallah is hardly boomtown but it is a galaxy apart from Gaza. The market is busy. Coffee shops are packed. And nine different Arab banks compete for customers at this Ramallah mall.

Sam Bahour helped built the mall. He says better than Gaza isn't good enough. And, again, he blames Israel.

SAM BAHOUR, PALESTINIAN-AMERICAN BUSINESSMAN: Israel has now has the leisure to be able to pick and choose how much restrictions it puts on the various Palestinian areas, but that doesn't mean that Ramallah is not under military occupation. We very much are in a cage and around this cage is either Israeli settlements or military checkpoints.

KING: Bahour lives here but was raised in Youngstown, Ohio. An American citizen who voted twice for President Obama but believes visiting Israel and Ramallah now is a big mistake.

BAHOUR: Coming and going without bringing any kind of political movement is emboldening Israel and emboldening Israel with this new right-wing government means more settlements, means more potential collapse for the Palestinian society.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) doesn't like to talk politics. Instead he wishes the economics of peace would take hold. His furniture factory is a few steps from the Gaza-Israel border. And his products not too long ago were sent to Israel by the truckloads. Now Israel won't allow it. The price of hate, he says. But (INAUDIBLE) says Hamas shares the blame. One hundred and fifty workers here before Hamas came to power in Gaza. Just 20 now. A border once busy with trade now a no-man's land. Under the watchful gaze of Israeli surveillance balloons.

Of the 100 factories and warehouses near the border, all but five locked and shuttered. It's the price of hate, mistrust and violence.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And that is one of the huge questions you hear the president trying to lift both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The political leaders and the citizens, to look at the North Star if you will, to look at the possibility and the promise that would come from a two- state solution, but Fred and Michael, there are so many questions. Can he get the Israelis to stop building settlements? Can he get the Palestinians to figure out their own internal political dysfunction between Fattah and Hamas? And can he get Hamas to give the Palestinian president some room and peace negotiations?

To have that room Hamas would have to acknowledge Israel's right to exist.

HOLMES: Hope for more optimism in the future. There isn't much at the moment.

John, good piece. Thanks so much.

WHITFIELD: All right. Here's what else we're working on AROUND THE WORLD this hour.

HOLMES: Soul singer Joss Stone said she was having a really nice day, that is until police came to her door to tell her someone was trying to kill her.

WHITFIELD: A murder plot involving hammers, a metal spike and even a Samurai sword.

Plus, it's being called the air-pocalypse. Pollution so thick people in China can barely breathe.

HOLMES: Also coming up, and unique way to fund pot farms in London. Yes, scratch and sniff. You know what pot smells like, (INAUDIBLE) passing these cards out.

WHITFIELD: (INAUDIBLE) no.

HOLMES: I don't have a clue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone. Here are the stories making news "Around the World" right now.

WHITFIELD: In Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, more prisoners have joined a hunger strike at the U.S. detention facility there. A Pentagon spokesperson says 24 suspects terrorists are now involved, and eight of them require feeding tubes.

HOLMES: An attorney for some of the detainees says he was alarmed to see several had lost more than 20 or 30 pounds. He says they're protesting searches of their personal items, letters, photographs, that sort of thing, and also he says the rough handling of Qurans during searches.

Now, the Pentagon calls the Quran claims nonsense.

WHITFIELD: And he was just inaugurated on Tuesday, but the pope isn't wasting any time making changes. The Vatican announced Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Thursday mass at a juvenile prison in Rome.

HOLMES: Yeah, and he's going to be washing the feet of some of the young detainees there. That's one of the rituals practiced on the holy day. Normally, the mass would be held at St. Peter's Basilica.

WHITFIELD: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has survived a leadership showdown with herself.

HOLMES: Yeah, this is extraordinary. She called a leadership vote to quiet criticism within her governing Labor Party, but the man everyone thought would challenge her did not.

WHITFIELD: There was an expectation that former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd -- or is it Rudd?

HOLMES: Rudd.

WHITFIELD: Sorry. Of course, I know you would know. That's why I turned to you -- would try it, but he said he would stick to a promise he made last year never to challenge for the office again.

HOLMES: Yeah. The funny thing is the pundits down there are saying he didn't have the numbers to win anyway, and so there's a lot of suspicion about his motives for not standing, so nobody stood and she won.

Meanwhile, the prime minister also issued a historic and somber national apology.

WHITFIELD: She publicly recognized the victims of Australia's adoption policy prior to 1975. An official inquiry last year found thousands of unwed mothers were forced to give up their babies, usually to married couples.

HOLMES: A hugely controversial practice. And Miss Gillard acknowledged the devastating toll that forced adoption had on the mothers and children involved.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIA GILLARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: To each of you who were adopted or removed, who were led to believe your mother had rejected you and who were denied the opportunity to grow up with your family and community of origin and to connect with your culture, we say sorry.

We offer this apology in the hope that it will assist your healing and in order to shine a light on a dark period of our nation's history.

To those who have fought for the truth to be heard, we hear you now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Prime Minister Gillard also pledged $5 million to improve access to specialist support and also tracing of records so people could go back and check on their ancestors.

WHITFIELD: Wow, what an extraordinary emotional journey for so many, hundreds of thousands involved in all that.

HOLMES: Yeah, as recently as 1975.

WHITFIELD: That's incredible. All right.

To Cyprus now, which faces a looming deadline.

HOLMES: Yeah, it does. That tiny nation has until Monday now -- the clock is ticking -- to draw up a revised bailout deal or face bankruptcy.

WHITFIELD: Lawmakers right now are working on an alternate plan. Tuesday, they rejected a bailout deal from the European Union. There was such a huge backlash over a proposed tax on bank deposits.

HOLMES: Yeah.

WHITFIELD: So many were very outspoken about that.

HOLMES: Absolutely, including people around Europe, too, were worried, too. And you see there some worried people lining up outside ATMs because the banks are still closed.

Our Nick Paton Walsh is in the capital. Nick is here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The reason these people are queuing in such large numbers is because this ATM is working.

Some of them getting 500 euros, some less, not really clear what the rules are to many of them, but this is really a symptom of a panic that's slowly setting in

We have a banking system here that's really beginning to collapse. People in shops saying they'd rather take cash because the people supplying them goods to sale insist on receiving cash, concerns that the government's pay system won't function in the 48 hours ahead.

But above all, people just trying to make sure they have enough money to get through the days ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So much uncertainty. So much distrust.

Richard Quest is joining us now from London on this. So, what happens Monday if they don't come up with a so-called Plan B?

RICHARD QUEST, HOST, CNN INTERNATIONAL'S "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": Right. If there is no credible, workable plan, or a bailout plan, then the European Central Bank, the central bank of the eurozone, the Fed for Europe, has said it will withdraw what's known as emergency liquidity assistance, ELA.

This is the cash lifeline that is keeping Cyprus' banks and keeping the Cypriote economy alive. By withdrawing, it's as if the Fed would turn off the taps to American banks or to some banks.

So, the ECB has said, if it does -- if there's no bailout plan in place by Monday, they will turn off the taps, the ELA, to Cyprus' banks.

What would that do? They are all insolvent. They're also illiquid, but they're certainly insolvent. They would go bankrupt, the economy would go bankrupt and you would be looking at, most people believe, a eurozone exit.

So, there is a Plan B on the table, guys. It's a complicated one involving solidarity funds. It doesn't involve a bank levee. It's not easy to see how it would operate. But we seem to be heading to crunch moment.

HOLMES: I'm curious. You know, we saw a little bit from Nick there about outside an ATM there. I'm wondering how tough life is going to be for Cypriotes, those who are having to live through this who just got over the shock of maybe losing, what, six-to-10 percent of their savings. What is life going to be like for them?

QUEST: All right. Right, well, they're not going to lose six percent of their savings anymore because, obviously, that plan's being abandoned. And if the bank that we were just seeing there, Laiki, it's rumored that that bank is about to close its doors.

Now, ironically if the bank closes its doors and goes belly up, those savers under 100,000 euros will be safe because they'll be part of the deposit insurance. But let me put this in blunt, basic terms to either of you, did either of you take any money out of an ATM in the last 48 hours?

HOLMES: About half an hour ago, yeah.

QUEST: Right. OK. Well, forget that. Put that money aside. Now, look at your -- in your wallet. Have either of you got a debit card that you might use to pay for a meal or to pay for gas on your way home? Or perhaps you've got standing orders direct-to charges, ETFs, against your bank account, all that would come to a screeching halt for the people of Cyprus if those banks close down or go belly up.

As for the bigger picture, I mean, that's pretty awful. The bigger picture for ordinary -- for the economy itself, well, you really would be looking at Calamity Jane. This would be turn the lights off because things would be very serious indeed.

WHITFIELD: Wow, pretty significant changes on the horizons there.

HOLMES: One imagines they'll have to do a Plan B of some sort.

Richard, good to see you. Richard Quest there in London, following things.

WHITFIELD: OK. Now, this is pretty remarkable. You wouldn't believe what's being used to help fight in the war on drugs in London.

HOLMES: This is amazing.

WHITFIELD: I know. We're not talking about lottery scratch cards.

HOLMES: No. No, no, no. You've got to know what you're sniffing, though. That's the thing.

WHITFIELD: Well, you're going to find out what your sniffing. Yes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: All right, well, one of the easiest ways to sniff out growing marijuana is by what I'm told is it's rather unique odor. You've got to know what it smells like.

WHITFIELD: That's right. And if you don't know, Zain Verjee is here to explain. It's a rather novel approach taking place in London, teaching people how to recognize that scent and then what to do next.

HOLMES: Yeah.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wake up and smell the marijuana.

London is a big city, and it's not really that well known for its farming, but people are doing exactly that because they are growing weed in the heart of London.

Police have come up with a way to stop it, and a charity called CrimeStoppers has a cool method.

It looks like a lottery ticket. You can actually scratch and sniff. I'm going to do that right now. Oh, it smells kind of familiar, but not quite.

ROGER CRITCHELL, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, CRIMESTOPPERS: No, because possibly that's when the growing stage and not the smoking stage and the burning stage.

And, of course, there are other signs to look for, just not the smell, such as a lone person living in a house, never goes out, windows blackened out, high heat, condensation on the windows, et cetera.

VERJEE: And what about the people growing it? Is it mainly organized crime or what?

CRITCHELL: That's what we're interested. Organized criminal groups into serious and organized crime.

We're not interested in somebody growing a pot plant on their window. This is about taking over houses completely for the purpose of farming cannabis, as you said.

We don't want to know who you are. All we want is what you know and we can guarantee we will not compromise your identity. VERJEE: This scheme is being rolled up -- I mean, rolled out here in London. It's been successful elsewhere, but we have yet to see if this will even scratch the surface.

Zain Verjee, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: I could have sworn when that guy said we're not looking for people growing it in a pot plant on their window sill that Zain looked really relieved. I believe she did.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, very innovative approach there.

All right. Straight ahead, an exclusive look at the world of Gaza militants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Islamic Jihad has invited us actually to come and see them train, but it is not an easy road. This is how they all got up with all the weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)