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U.S. To Ratchet Up Support For Syrian Rebels; Interview with Angela Merkel; Taksim Square Protesters Weigh Options; Dreamliner Rival Airbus A350's Maiden Voyage

Aired June 14, 2013 - 16:00   ET


ZAIN VERJEE, HOST: Tonight from Band-Aids to bullets: a closer look at the type of weapons the U.S. could send into Syria.



ERIN BURNETT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This polling station has already extended their hours by a few hours because so many people wanted to vote...


VERJEE: The view inside Iran as election day wraps up.

And, sky wars, the leaner, greener aircraft set to take on the Dreamliner.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World.

VERJEE: The international community is grappling with what to do about Syria. The United States is pushing ahead with plans to increase its support for Syrian rebels, that's after the U.S. claimed it heard proof the Assad regime used chemical weapons on its own people.

Now the White House says that crossed what it considers a red line, but there's still no word on exactly what kind of help it will give.


BEN RHODES, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I'm not going to be able to say here's the specific list of every type of item that we'll be delivering into Syria. We do want to be responsive to the requests that have been made by the SNC and General Idrisss consistent with our own national interests.


VERJEE: Britain and France both agree with the U.S. assessment. But Russia, which is an ally of the Assad regime, has really cast doubt over those allegations and now says U.S. military support to the rebels could stoke violence right across the region. U.S. President Barack Obama, as well as the Russian President Vladimir Putin, will hold talks on Syria at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland on Monday.

Meanwhile, Damascus has slammed the U.S. accusations as full of lies. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in the Syrian capital and he sends us this report.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With the U.S. saying it's now sure the Syrian government used chemical weapons and the prospect of Washington increasing its aid to the opposition as a result, the possible shift this may cause in the conflict is a big topic on the streets of Damascus. Government supporters remain defiant.

"America is inventing stories about chemical weapons," this man says. "The Syrian government never used chemical weapons. The rebels have used them, not the government. So they are inventing stories because our army is winning."

The regime around embattled President Bashar al-Assad feels the momentum on the battlefield is shifting its way with government troops backed by Hezbollah fighters taking back territory from out-gunned rebels in central and Northern Syria causing the U.S. to contemplate anything from light weapons deliveries to a no-fly zone to help the opposition hold its ground.

Assad supporters say they don't believe U.S. aid will make much of a difference.

"We've had this war for two-and-a-half years now and have managed very well," this man says. "What are they going to do, air strikes on special military areas? They can do that, but we Syrians have proven we can manage and we are patient and we will win."

The Syrian government has denounced Washington's assessment of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime, calling the evidence, quote, "full of lies."

(on camera): The Syrian government is clearly worried about the prospect of U.S. intervention in the ongoing civil war. While Assad's forces have been making gains, they also understand that any U.S. assistance to the opposition, depending on scope and scale, could be a gamechanger on the battlefield.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Damascus.


VERJEE: Syria and the international community have traded accusations over chemical weapons for months. In July of last year, the regime acknowledged it has chemical weapons and threatened to use them against any western military intervention, but never against its own people.

Then in August, U.S. President Barack Obama said the use of chemical weapons by Damascus would cross what he called a red line.

In March, the Syrian government and rebel forces accused each other of using chemical weapons for the first time.

In April, the White House then said that Syria has likely used chemical weapons against rebel forces on a small scale.

Then earlier his month, a UN investigator said that they have reasonable grounds to believe both sides have used chemical weapons on at least four occasions.

A senior figure in the Free Syrian Army has told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that he welcomes any additional support from the U.S. But General Salim Idriss says that the FSA desperately needs military equipment.


GEN. SALIM IDRISS, FREE SYRIAN ARMY: What we need, really, is weapons and ammunition and especially anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. And we hope that our friends in the United States will not leave us alone facing the fighters of Hezbollah, the Iranian fighters and the Iraqi fighters and the air jets of the regime who are now trying to recapture Aleppo.


VERJEE: CNN's military analyst retired Major General James "Spider" Marks joins me now from Washington.

Hi, general. Great to see you.

Are we likely to see this wishlist from the Free Syrian Army actually supplied to the rebels?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET): Probably not in its totality. Clearly what they need includes weapons systems that they probably won't get, unfortunately, and those are anti-tank weapons systems, shoulder fired surface-to-air missile systems that would allow the opposition forces to achieve a degree of security and of freedom of movement that they currently don't have.

What I think they are going to get is small arms, what you'd see would be normal pistols, rifles, and ammunition sufficient to at least get those weapons systems into the fight. But clearly there is a lot that they need that they will not get from the United States and certainly sponsored by other nations.

VERJEE: Let's look at some of the kind of ammunition they may get from the United States. Let's take a look. They'll get regular ammunition, things like automatic rifles, maybe rockets and mortars, or shoulder fired weapons. These are some of the things, general, that are being discussed. Do you think that those kind of items could be bound for the rebels who really want some if not all of them?

MARKS: Well, they do. And I think all of that is certainly achievable. There are some weapons systems like anti-tank weapons systems, those shoulder fired systems, may or may not be included in that list. But the problem that you have is that the weapon system by itself without some degree of associated training often achieves zero military effect on the ground.

Politically, what you're going to see is with the United States now openly opening and cracking open that door of providing direct assistance, even if it's through a proxy, the United States is now focused on trying to make a difference on the ground. Assad has to pay attention to that. And I think that's the real desired outcome.

VERJEE: You know better than most people, when you look at the military strategy, the landscape here on the ground politically, it's so fragile and it's so divided, general, I just want to show our viewers around the world this map here, because you can see some of these countries in yellow that support the opposition, notably countries like Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia. There you've got Jordan.

And then if you just take a look at those countries in orange, you're looking at Iran and Iraq particularly that support the Assad regime. Lebanon there has tried to be relatively neutral, but members of Hezbollah have said that they openly support Assad.

General, the question for you is, when you have Senator John McCain, for example, suggesting a no-fly zone. And you look at the situation there geographically on the ground, what do you think? Is it a good idea or no?

MARKS: I think a no-fly zone is a very well informed recommendation and would make sense immediately. And no-fly zones really are limited in their nature. It's not like throwing a blanket over the entire state of Israel and refusing movement on anyone's part.

What you need to do primarily is take the initiative and establish a no-fly zone over where the opposition primarily exists so that you can again provide them a level of security that they currently don't have.

But a no-fly zone that doesn't have the ability to enforce the charter of the no-fly zone, in other words, if you get an aircraft up in the air and you are trying to enforce a no-fly zone you have to have the authority to shoot, to take on targets if they go to challenge the no-fly zone institution.

So if you have aircraft in the air, but they don't have the ability to shoot, what you have is a paper tiger that provides no support at all. It clearly is a chimera (ph) that's not going to do anyone any good.

VERJEE: And general, if you're going to arm the rebels with any kind of ammunition, is it going to make a real difference, you think with the situation on the ground or is giving the rebels and the opposition that aren't particularly organized weapons, make things worse?

MARKS: Zain, I don't know that it will make it worse, but to your first point I can tell you that it won't necessarily have a military significant outcome on the ground. At this point, it's too far along. And also the use of weapons and providing weapons to the opposition forces, again without some form of training either by the United States or by a proxy, and most likely by a proxy that would be someone in Jordan or someone in Turkey that has freedom of movement into Syria and can at least link up with the opposition forces. If you don't have that training, then you really don't have a capability that you can see in full blossom to take on the Syrian regime.

VERJEE: Major General Spider Marks in Washington thanks so much. Great to see you as always.

Still to come tonight, after two weeks of unrest could Turkey now finally be reaching a turning point? Find out what the Turkish prime minister said after meeting with protest leaders.

The German chancellor plans to press President Obama for more information on America's PRISM surveillance scandal. CNN's interview with Angela Merkel is still to come.

And as protests turn violent on the streets of Sao Paulo, we ask what does this mean for the host of the World Cup. All of that and much more when Connect the World continues.


VERJEE: You're watching CNN. And this is Connect the World with me, Zain Verjee. Welcome back.

After two weeks of unrest, Turkey may have reached a turning point. The Prime Minister Erdogan says he has put the breaks on plans for redeveloping Gezi Park in Istanbul after late night talks with protest leaders. The government is going to keep construction plans on hold until a court considers the objections of protesters.

Arwa Damon is in Istanbul, she joins me live.

Arwa, Erdogan, forced to back down? What do protesters think of this?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, here's the thing, Zain, is that protesters don't really view this as being Erdogan actually backing down. If the court decides that, yes, this project can go forward, the government is saying it's going to put this entire thing to a referendum, but a lot of the protesters here really wanted to see a lot more. They're saying that they are disappointed in the concessions that they've managed to gain.

Plus, the prime minister's tone, they still view as being fairly condescending and not really understanding and appreciating what all of their grievances actually are.

The park right now is absolutely buzzing. Some people just coming to walk through. But others are really involved in this very intense debate about what to do next. Should they stay or should they leave? And it's not as simple as that, because there are so many underlying issues that actually led to the explosion that we saw in Gezi Park.

Some of them, for example. If they decide to stay, will they be able to continue capitalizing on this momentum? Will they not lose the current support that they feel they have from the general population? If they to leave, again, how do they continue capitalizing on this momentum, because this demonstration when it began was really propelled forward by the country's youth. And then all of these other different diverse groups came together, there is no one leader to it.

And for a lot of the individuals here, up until now they were fairly apolitical. So it's very new to them as well. They're learning to find their political voice. They are only now beginning to appreciate their political power.

So there is this very intense debate happening in very different parts of the camp about what to do next and how they should proceed.

But at this point in time, no one, Zain, is going anywhere.

VERJEE: Just looking ahead to the weekend, Arwa, Erdogan supporters are supposed to be out on the street in a rally. Is there a danger of clashes between them and people that don't like him?

DAMON: No, at this stage there really shouldn't be. The rallies are not happening anywhere close to Gezi Park itself. And this is very much coming after the prime minister. In a number of his speeches has effectively been telling the demonstrators that if he were to call his own people to the street. He would really bring out the masses.

Some people here were viewing that as being a bit of a threat, but at the end of the day it's expected that those rallies will be able to go ahead over the weekend. They're happening Saturday in the capital Ankara, Sunday expected to take place here as well.

But this issue has really pushed a lot of the core problems that Turkey is facing to the forefront. Not just the grievances that people here have, because as I was saying it goes beyond the park itself. There are issues of women's rights. There are issues where people just feel as if the government is meddling in their daily lives and things that it really has no business getting into.

So Turkey most certainly is undergoing a very significant era in its recent history.

VERJEE: Some good perspective there on the ground from Gezi Park from our senior international correspondent Arwa Damon. Thanks a lot, Arwa.

Two people have been killed and hundreds of homes destroyed in fires in the U.S. state of Colorado. Authorities are saying that this is the worst wildfire disaster in the state's history, around 38,000 people had to be evacuated and more than 6,400 hectares have been charred. So far, only 5 percent of the blaze has actually been contained.

Politicians from the four largest EuroZone economies are discussing EU unemployment. Finances and labor ministers from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, all came together in Rome. Youth unemployment was high on the agenda. The latest data shows unemployment in the EuroZone in the first quarter of 2013 has fallen by one-half percent.

The Airbus A350 completed its maiden journey today. This jet is really being seen as Europe's answer to Boeing's Dreamliner. It's taken eight years to build. And it's cost about $15 billion. Jim Boulden has more.


JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the aircraft said to be vital to the future of Airbus, the A350 XWB on its maiden test flight. It's the European plane maker's latest offering to the world's airlines, and a rival to Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

TOM ENDERS, EADS CEO: In the life of an aeronautic company, the first flight of a major program, major aircraft is always something very, very special and I can tell you this is followed by colleagues of EADS group all around Europe, all around the world.

BOULDEN: The largest version of the A350 will carry up to 350 passengers and is also meant to be greener than other airplanes. Airbus says it's not only 25 percent more fuel efficient and quieter than other aircraft of its size, but it also produces fewer CO2 emissions.

JOHN LEACY, AIRBUS COO FOR CUSTOMERS: We're going to set new standards, not just for comfort, not just for performance, but for environmental friendliness. People living around airports won't even know we're taking off.

BOULDEN: The plane maker says it's already received more than 600 orders for the new jets and will likely receive more when the Paris air show gets underway, orders that will be met after rigorous test flights over the next year or so. And Airbus expects it will enter service by the end of 2014.

Jim Boulden, CNN, London.


VERJEE: The Greek prime minister has hinted that he may reinstate limited state TV broadcasts. Antonis Samaras talked about creating temporary committee to recruit staff so ERT can start broadcasting again.

Thousands have been protesting against the government's decision to take the broadcaster off air as part of its austerity program. TV and radio services were pulled mid-broadcast on Tuesday evening.

Live from London, this is Connect the World. Coming up, Iranians head to the polls to choose this man's successor. We'll bring you the latest from the capital Tehran.

And up next, Angela Merkel pointing out the issues for Europe in an interview with our Richard Quest. Stay with us.


VERJEE: You're watching Connect the World live from London. Hi, I'm Zain Verjee.

America's secret surveillance program is set to be on the agenda of the G8 talks next week. According to Barack Obama's national security adviser the president will defend the PRISM system during the summit.

Now, details of the program were leaked this week by U.S. defense contractor Edward Snowden who has since fled to Hong Kong.

In other developments today, Singapore Airlines revealed the British home office had urged the carrier not to allow Snowden to board any flights to the UK.

Meanwhile, without using Snowden's name, the U.S. attorney general vowed on Friday that the person responsible for the leaks will face charges. At a U.S.-European Union meeting in Ireland Eric Holder was asked why the U.S. hasn't requested Snowden's arrest yet.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This case is still under investigation. And I can assure you that we will hold accountable the person who is responsible for those extremely damaging leaks. The national security of the United States has been damaged as a result of those leaks. The safety of the American people and the safety of people who reside in allied nations have been put at risk as a result of these leaks. We are presently in the process of that investigation. And I'm confident that the person who is responsible will be held accountable.


VERJEE: Angela Merkel has told CNN that she intends to directly discuss this whole issue with President Obama. In an interview a short while ago with our Richard Quest, the German Chancellor began by talking about PRISM before moving on to some other issues she says matter more in Europe.


ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): Well, our ministers who are in contact with the American colleagues, the minister of justice, the minister of internal affairs have already talked to their American counterparts. We would obviously wish for the greatest possible transparency on all of these issues. I think it's very important to bring this about. And I'm going to discuss this in this sense with the President of the United States Barack Obama.

There's also a conversation today of a minister of economics with internet companies. We would ask them to tell us what they know about this.

So we're going to be in very close contact on this.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You talk about youth unemployment. That is, of course, the biggest scourge, the biggest issue, the biggest problem facing the continent at the moment. They call it a lost generation. How can you tell that lost generation that they, a, are not lost. And b, not to become disillusioned with this -- with what they are facing? It is not easy.

MERKEL (through translator): Quite true. Some people are paying a price for the sins of omission of the past. And they are really not the guilty part. So it is our task to highlight perspective to these young people. And this can be done through different ways.

On the one hand, countries that have jobs, for example, could also invite young people. We could give language courses to young people. We have a big single market in the European Union, but not a big, single labor market. When we had German unity, a lot of young people from the so-called old lender went to the new lender. This is not a solution for each and everyone. But Germany is an open place for young people.

Secondly, we need to do some benchmarking as to what programs have worked. Well, this is why we've invited on the third of July to a labor market conference in order to exchange experience. And we need to know what is going to be the market of the future for us, where can we be competitive, what other goods we can produce that are competitive, and also how is the situation on global markets. We cannot only be inwardly.

QUEST: It's not easy.

MERKEL (through translator): I always say if everything were easy, we don't need politicians. Politicians are always needed for the hard task of solving problems. And this is why we need to face those problems. This is why we're also fighting over the possible solution and the right way to go. But G8 is going to be a very good forum to also highlight the European perspective.


VERJEE: Angela Merkel.

The latest world news headlines just ahead.

Plus, Iranians heading to the polls, choosing their next president. We're going to bring you the latest from inside the country.

Also, a protest over bus fares turns violent in Sao Paulo as police use tear gas to disperse the crowds. We're going to be live in the city with the latest.

And one of the most anticipated films of the year enjoys a super premier. All of the latest entertainment news still to come at CNN.


VERJEE: This is Connect the World The top stories this hour.

Syria is expected to top the agenda at the G8 summit next week after the U.S. accused the Syrian government of crossing a red line in using chemical weapons against rebels. However, American officials have not specified exactly what kind of weapons might be provided to the rebels.

The Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he has suspended plans for redeveloping Gezi Park in Istanbul. He also says he'll investigate claims of excessive use of force by police. The concession of sorts comes after late night talks with the leaders of the protest. Erdogan meanwhile has ordered protesters to leave Gezi Park.

The polls are now closed in Iran's presidential election. Officials kept voting locations open five hours past their original closing time because of the high voter turnout. Six candidates are running in the election to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Preliminary results are expected to be released on Saturday.

The US defense contractor who leaked documents about a secret surveillance program may be facing a travel ban. Singapore Airlines says the British home office is urging that Edward Snowden not be allowed to travel to the UK. Snowden is believed to be in Hong Kong.

Voting has now ended in the Iranian presidential elections. More than 50 million Iranians were eligible to vote in today's polls. They're electing the man who will replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iranian state TV has reported a large turnout at polling stations across the country.

Now, just take a look at these six men, because these are the guys that are the candidates standing in today's presidential elections. This man, Hassan Rouhani, went to election day with the support of the main reformist leaders.

His main challenger is this man, Mohammad Ghalibaf. He is the mayor of Tehran and he's also known for really strong management credentials.

There's also been a lot of focus on Saeed Jalili. He's Iran's nuclear negotiator, and he has a lot of strong support among the religious conservative base.

And if none of those three manage to get more than 50 percent in today's election, then the top two candidates of the six here will run -- head into a runoff next Friday. CNN's Erin Burnett is one of the only international journalists reporting on the elections from inside Iran. Listen to her report.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We spent the day visiting polling stations here in Tehran in some more liberal neighborhoods, more conservative neighborhoods.

I'm in one of the more conservative neighborhoods right now, and some of the most conservative voters we're speaking to actually aren't voting for the most hard-line conservative candidate, Saeed Jalili. We did find some, but the overwhelming majority of the people here are voting for Mohammad Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran.

And we definitely got that feeling across this city today, but you have to emphasize the fact that this is Tehran. He's their mayor and he's very popular. People also told us, look, we understand there's more people in the villages than there are here, and that doesn't mean that he's going to win the election by an stretch of the imagination.

There was a last-minute surge for the more reformist candidate, Hassan Rouhani, that we've been talking about over the past couple of days. The world's been watching his candidacy to see if he could come out of nowhere and surprise the world with a reform win here in Iran.

Today, though, what we heard, we did see some young people voting for him, but even they said they didn't feel that he had the momentum to take it over the top. So, we'll see. No one seems to know. We still think this will probably go to a runoff, which happens if the vote doesn't go -- if you don't get more than 50 percent. So there probably will be a runoff. We shall see.

And I want to emphasize here, turnout so far seems to be very high. This polling station's already extended their hours by a few hours because so many people wanted to vote. Be did talk to some people who aren't voting at all, who feel disillusioned and say it's pretty clear that our vote doesn't count. Back to you.


VERJEE: Erin Burnett reporting. Candidates in Iran have been debating how to deal with the challenges the country faces. For voters inside Iran, the country's foreign policy, domestic issues, and the economy all have the focus of attention.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think the foreign policy and the internal affairs should be forged ahead side by side. We should avoid extremism and restore relations with other countries. We should avoid tension in the Middle East region.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): In this election, we should choose a candidate that can solve both international and domestic problems we are facing and problems in the economy and culture, of course. All these are interrelated to each other.


VERJEE: Iranians who have left the country are also finding ways to have their say, and one initiative is really resonating with people around the world, and it's this: an online comic strip.

The main character is Zahra, a mother whose son disappeared during the 2009 presidential election protests know as the Green Revolution. Zahra has been running a fictitious presidential campaign built around a platform of human rights and greater democracy.

She's also been getting a little bit of support with people posting pictures of themselves with her image on the "Vote for Zahra" website.

For more on how virtual campaigns like Zahra's can raise awareness about the issues in Iran, like human rights, as well as push for more democracy, I'm joined by Amir Soltani from Berkeley, California. He's an Iranian-American journalist and also the creator of "Zahra's Paradise."

Great to have you on the show. What inspired you to write and draw this character?

AMIR SOLTANI, CREATOR, "ZAHRA'S PARADISE": Well, the inspiration for "Zahra's Paradise" came from Iran. If you remember in the 2009 protests, literally millions of people went into the streets of Tehran, and they were all out there with their cell phones -- you had the birth of the citizen journalist -- because they wanted their image and their protest and their vision of Iran seen and felt.

So, "Zahra's Paradise," our graphic novel, was really a compilation of the images that were coming out of the 2009 protests. Suddenly, the world saw another Iran, and it was a beautiful Iran. It was gentle and united and full of hope. And so, we wanted to capture that. And in a sense, we always say that the Iranian people were the co-authors of "Zahra's Paradise."

The graphic novel is a great medium for communication. It's fast, it's cheap, and it's easy. And then on the internet, all the barriers of space and time and distance and language broke down.

So, before we knew it, a lot of people were just coming on our website and rooting for Zahra, really rooting for -- since Zahra really was the story of a real mother who was about to bury her son, who'd essentially -- all she -- all he had done was ask, "Where is my vote?"

It -- she resonated with people. There was this sense that Iranians shouldn't have to be constantly burying their children in Zahra's Paradise, which is the main cemetery in Iran, simply for wanting a better future.

VERJEE: Do you think it resonated mostly with ex-pats and Iranian- Americans like yourself, or it also resonated inside Iran? I think 300 people or so voted for Zahra inside Iran, right?

SOLTANI: Well, it's -- that's a great point. Zahra is really the only woman candidate in the race at the moment. All the female candidates were banned. The problem we have inside Iran is that essentially the Council of Guardians, which are 12 clerics, unelected -- clerics and jurists -- they decide who can run and who can't run for president.

So, you have the system rigged at its very beginning, and it's rigged against women, which is 50 percent of the population. And if you consider the fact that the 12 men on the Council of Guardians are all average age 70, when in fact, Iran is a country of 70 million, and about -- if I'm not mistaken on this -- I think around 70 percent of the country are under 35.

So, there's no candidate who's representing women, there's no candidate who's representing the youth. And so, we wanted Zahra to stand in for that.

And the other thing that Zahra is doing is that she's standing against the death penalty. As you know, Iran is the leading executioner per capita in the world, the Islamic Republic is. The crane has really become this monstrous symbol of hangings.

And we're just tired of that. After 30 years of this, the Iranian people are tired of it. Friends of mine have been saying that in some ways, being in Iran is kind of like being hostage. It's as if -- the American hostage crisis is solved, but the Iranian hostage crisis continues.

Because we have a supreme leader who rules the country with 60 votes that were cast in 1989. That's almost 25 years ago. So, by what right does a single man rule an entire country with only 60 votes? Zahra has a lot more votes than he does.

VERJEE: Zahra may end up in Evin Prison at some point, you realize this --


VERJEE: -- given everything that she's done.

SOLTANI: Well --

VERJEE: All right. Listen --


SOLTANI: Well, you know, Zahra --

VERJEE: -- what worries you most about Iran today?

SOLTANI: I think there are a couple of things that are of great concern. The Islamic Republic has made the enrichment of uranium the absolute sovereign right of the Iranian people, and it portrays the outside world as wanting to take the Iranian people's rights away.

Whereas in reality, what you have is that the Iranian people -- they say you have the sovereign right to nuclear -- enriched uranium, but you don't have the sovereign right to free and fair elections. You don't have the sovereign right to choose your own leaders. If you're a woman, you don't even have the sovereign right to let the air go through your hair.

It's really -- it's really ridiculous. It's kind of creating a dungeon inside Iran, and that's the dungeon that the Iranian people want to break out of. And really, these elections, the problem with them is that you don't -- all the candidates are essentially people who are part of the system.

And those of us who are outside can't ask some basic questions, like do -- we don't want war with the outside world. We don't want this level of economic hardship. We don't want this level of cultural domination.

We want a -- the Islamic Republic's motto is "Neither East Nor West," and our motto is, Iran is both East and West.

VERJEE: Thank you so much. Amir Soltani --

SOLTANI: Thank you.

VERJEE: -- from Berkeley in California, the creator of "Zahra's Paradise." We'll see what happens to Zahra next, OK? Thank you.

Well, not all Iranians living outside Iran boycotted today's elections. We caught up with some voters right here in London and we asked them why they even bothered to take part if that was the reality in Iran.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I understand there are lots of people who are not voting, but by not voting, you are not proving anything. And you have to be active for your future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came in from Sheffield just to put my vote for the reformist, for Rouhani.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is the beauty of every national to vote. And I'm Iranian and I want to vote. I wanted to vote and I voted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did vote. Last time, we weren't happy about the result, but still, what can we do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the only choice we have in the Islamic Republic, and to be honest, I'm not worried about the result. It's just -- I want to use the only option that they've given us.


VERJEE: We really want to know what your views are about Iran's presidential election. Who do you want to win and why? Let us know what you think by visiting our Facebook page at Or you can tweet us @CNNconnect.

We always love to hear from you, and this is a significant election, so it would be great if you could just log on or get on your SmartPhone and tell us what you think, OK?

Live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. The protests over bus fares in Brazil's largest city have turned violent. They're still going on, and we're going to take you live to Sao Paulo with the latest.

And bursting into cinemas around the world, a new take on one of the world's most famous superheroes. Love him. Clark Kent. We're going to hear from some of the cast in CNN Preview.


VERJEE: Protests in Sao Paulo turned really violent last night as thousands took the streets to demonstrate against transport fares. Police in riot gear clashed with protesters using teargas to disperse the crowd. Demonstrators damaged a metro station and set fire to several bus stops in Brazil's largest city.

In Rio, there were also reports of violence in similar protests. Both cities were responding to a hike in bus and metro fares.

The protests come at a really bad time for Brazil's political leaders. With less than a year to go before they host the World Cup as well as the Confederations Cup going on this weekend, they're really keen to promote the country as safe and stable, and the images that we're showing you and that are being beamed around the world isn't doing anything to help that.

Joining me now is Paula Newton in Rio and Shasta Darlington in Sao Paulo. Shasta, let me start with you first. Why are they still protesting? Is it just really the ten cent hike on transport and on bus fare, or something more?

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zain, that does sound sort of petty on the surface, but you have to remember, this is still a country with a fairly deep divide between the rich and the poor.

So, for the lower classes that are earning a minimum wage of, say, $300 or $400 a month, if they have to spend up to a third of that on transportation, this is very significant.

But it does go deeper than that. Last night, we went to this protest, and it started out fairly peacefully. We went to the center downtown in front of the municipal theater. Thousands of people were gathering together. They were chanting, singing songs.

And what they told us is that it's not just the hike in the bus fare, it's the quality of the service itself. The -- public transportation in Sao Paulo and across Brazil really is insufficient, particularly because it tends to cater to the lower classes.

For decades, it was neglected. The metro here is miniscule. The buses are stuck in traffic for hours. So, when we're talking about those lower classes, they are thinking about having to spend two or three hours to get to work, and then two or three hours to get home from work and pay more for that privilege. So, you can imagine, there is a lot of anger our there.

Nonetheless, this was a peaceful protest when it began. It was when they headed out into the street that it really go ugly, and that's because there was a huge police presence. In fact, it was the first time since these series of protests began a week ago that Sao Paulo sent out riot police. They used teargas, they used rubber bullets.

And according to protesters, they didn't get any warning ahead of time, so they had no idea that it was coming. They weren't told to stop. And I could say that from our vantage point, we didn't hear any warning either.

Things got ugly and, as you mentioned, over the past few days, protesters have also been violent. On Tuesday night, we -- there was a -- they burned a bus, they smashed windows of banks. But this is a problem for the city, this is a problem of image for the entire country. These are certainly not the images they want broadcast around the world at this moment, Zain.

VERJEE: Shasta Darlington, thanks so much. About a thousand people also took to the streets of Rio, where the World Cup's going to be taking place in 2014. Paula's there, and she joins us. Paula, what can you tell us about what's going on there now?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the point about Rio -- and yes, the protest was smaller, they did block a street, cause another traffic headache, and it certainly was not the violence that we saw in Sao Paulo.

Having said that, Zain, this country is on the threshold of being in the spotlight like no other country has been in decades. You have to think, we have the Confederations Cup kicking off tomorrow. That's a prelude to the World Cup, which will happen next year. Next month, Pope Francis will be here for World Catholic Day. Not to mention the Olympics in 2016.

If you are a local official, a federal official, here in this country right now, you are worried, and that was indicated by the fact that very few government officials would speak about what happened in Sao Paulo, really speak to the issues at hand that Shasta was just talking about.

Because there really aren't any easy answers to any of this, Zain. It will take decades of investment for that to really pick itself up.

Having said that, they are trying hard here to try and show some type of unity in public policy so that they do not have this continual cycle of protests going forward. I'm sure, as I say, many officials trying now to make sure that there is security in place for the Confederations Cup on the weekend.

One of the things I do have to highlight, though, is Amnesty International did speak to us today and said look, the police have to deal with their harsh tactics. These people were out there at first protesting peacefully. There was a small group that became violent.

They are concerned that this will be an ongoing issue in this country as they continue to really battle for the very few resources that they will have at their disposal as their economy weakens. Zain?

VERJEE: How are they going to fix this image problem that they have with the violence and what it's projecting to the rest of the world? And it's really bad timing.

NEWTON: A good first step, Zain? Confederations Cup kicks off tomorrow. They need to have two weeks of absolute peace. And then after that, you have July, World Catholic Day, the pope is here. It is usually known as a very festive, very happy event. All the Catholic young from around the world come here.

If they can pull off those two events, principally held here in Rio, but other events going on through this country, there will be more confidence from officials from the World Cup, from FIFA, and from the Olympics that this will go off.

Having said that, this is a large country, one of the largest economies in the world. There is a lot at stake here than -- more than just these sporting events. Many people are eyeing Brazil, many investors are eyeing Brazil and rooting for it to really come through what are some fairly predictable struggles going forward when you have a growing economy like this.

VERJEE: Lots going on in Rio. Paula Newton, you're going to be there a while. Shasta Darlington, thanks so much in Sao Paulo.

Coming up after a short break here on CONNECT THE WORLD, comic book movies are making a sizzling comeback this summer. We're going to tell you which one's aiming to make a billion dollars -- B, yes -- at the other B, the box office.

For many people across the world, Prince William represents Britain, but new DNA tests show the future king is also (coughs) -- Indian. More on this story next.


VERJEE: It's of course Friday, and that means it's time to get the latest on all that's making the news in the world of entertainment. Becky Anderson has this week's super Preview.


HENRY CAVILL AS CLARK KENT/KAL-EL, "MAN OF STEEL": Why did you send me here?

RUSSELL CROWE AS JOR-EL, "MAN OF STEEL": You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The "Man of Steel" provides a burst of heavy metal to kick off this week's edition of CNN Preview.

After premiers in New York and London, this week the film will open just about everywhere by the end of June, but super fans in Brazil and Japan having to steel themselves for a little longer until July and August respectively.

CAVILL: Superman is one of those universal superheroes, I think. It's genuinely not just an American thing. I understand it's the third- most recognizable symbol in the world, the S shield.

Yes, I grew up knowing about Superman, but I wasn't a comic book reader myself. Plenty of comic book readers in the UK and worldwide, but I was not myself.

I definitely ran around the garden with a tea towel wrapped around my neck saying I'm Superman and trying to beat up my older brothers, but it was -- I wasn't a comic book reader until I got the job. And then I did my research for my source material.

ZACK SNYDER, DIRECTOR, "MAN OF STEEL": I'm a comic book fan, so really, the biggest pressure I put on myself was, could I honor this character, this 75-year-old -- top of the heap superhero that really is the why of superheroes in the modern world. And that's the real challenge, can you honor that guy?

CROWE: People will say what they want, but the bottom line is, this is the best Superman that's ever been.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're right! I'm not going to stop you!

CROWE: It's like by so many miles it's crazy. Just the one sequence that you've got where Kal-El is learning how to fly. Of course it's going to be difficult. You don't just push and fly, and it's not gentle, you know? You fly, that's tough.

ANDERSON: Superman is aiming to soar into that elite group of comic book characters who've taken more than a billion dollars at the box office. It's a field led by Marvel's "The Avengers" with a heroic $1.5 billion.

But editing the third-biggest movie of all time didn't manage to keep director Joss Whedon busy enough. Incredibly, he somehow managed to squeeze in a quick version of Shakespeare's comedy "Much Ado About Nothing."

REED DIAMOND AS DON PEDRO, "MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING": That your niece, Beatrice, was in love with Signior Benedict?

FRAN KRANZ AS CLAUDIO, "MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING": I did never think that lady would have loved any man.

ANDERSON: Despite a difference in budget of more than $200 million, Whedon says he encountered similar challenges on both movies.

JOSS WHEDON, DIRECTOR, "MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING": You're always running out of daylight, and you're -- every schedule is just too short by a day or two. And your actors all have other jobs, so you can only get them for this time or that time.

But yes, in the end, you're always -- you're going for the same thing. You want people to laugh or cry or be excited or be afraid, and you want as much of that as you can possibly get. So the idea is always to have people come out of any of the movies feeling like they're in that world, like they didn't just watch something. They got to be a part of it.

AMY ACKER AS BEATRICE, "MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING": Against my will I am sent to bid you come into dinner.

ALEXIS DENISOF AS BENEDICK, "MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING": Fair Beatrice, I thank you for your pains.

ANDERSON: With credits including director, producer, and even composer, this is as much a labor of love as a box office blockbuster.

WHEDON: Well, clearly we're going to out-gross "The Avengers."

ANDERSON: And finally, 100 artists have chosen 100 protest songs to make their voices heard. Ed Sheeran, Kid Rock, Mumford and Sons, and Elvis Costello are amongst those taking part in "Agitate." Organized by ONE co- founded by Bono, the campaign aims to end extreme poverty by 2030. It's been timed to coincide with the G8 economic summit in the UK.


VERJEE: And in tonight's Parting Shots, British royals often call the Commonwealth a family of nations, and that may be truer than we first thought. Prince William could become the first king of England with proven Indian heritage.

Researchers at a company called Britain's DNA say genetic material passed down through the maternal line is evidence of an Indian ancestor. Go back seven generations and this line leads to Eliza Kewark, a housekeeper for Theodore Forbes, that's a Scottish merchant who lived near Bombay at the end of the 18th century.

People previously thought Eliza was Armenian, but then there were all these genetic tests done that show that she was part Indian, and that gene was passed on through Princess Diana's bloodline to the Duke of Cambridge.

As for the royal baby, Prince William won't be passing the gene on to his descendants and that's because scientists say it only travels down the female line, although they said it's likely William has a few other bits of Indian DNA he could pass onto his child. We are all Indian, let's face it.

I'm Zain Verjee, that was CONNECT THE WORLD, thanks for watching.