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NEWS STREAM

Edward Snowden Hosts Internet Chat; Brazilian Protesters Flood Streets; Protests In Turkey Beginning To Divide Population; Tahiti Scores Goal, Loses To Nigeria 6-1; NATO Formally Turns Over Security To Afghan Forces; Bomb Attack In Pakistan Targets Female University Students

Aired June 18, 2013 - 08:00:00   ET

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


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong and welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet.

Now President Hamid Karzai announces that Afghan troops are now officially in charge of their country's own security.

Protests erupt on the streets of Brazil amid claims that the government cares more about hosting sporting events than looking after its own people.

And a big moment for tiny Tahiti. The island makes its mark in its first major football tournament.

First to a milestone in the war in Afghanistan. After 12 years of conflict, Afghan forces are formally taking on responsibility for their country's security. The handover was announced by Afghan President Hamid Karzai at an event held in a secret location. He was joined by NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen who announced that the international mission in Afghanistan would be over by the end of 2014.

But also today, a stark reminder of the challenges the country still faces. Kabul's deputy police chief says a suicide bomber targeted a convoy traveling with an Afghan member of parliament. The interior ministry says the MP escaped without injury, but three civilians were killed and 21 other people were injured, including four of the MPs body guards.

Now we have learned in the past hour that Afghanistan's high peace council will take part in talks with the Taliban.

And with more, Reza Sayah is live for us in Kabul. And Reza, the government there taking the lead on security and talks with the Taliban. What can you tell us?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, these are two major headline making events that make it seem as if progress is being made in the process to end the conflict here in Afghanistan, but the problem is there's so many unknowns, so much uncertainty surrounding these two events that we just don't know what the outcome is going to be at this point.

But let's tell you more about what happened today. First off, early this morning in an event in Kabul, in a ceremony in Kabul, NATO forces transferring over the lead role for security to Afghan security forces. What this means is now for the next 18 months NATO forces, U.S. forces will still be here, but only acting in a backup role, in a support role. It will be Afghan forces in the driver's seat, in charge.

This is a process that started two years ago. Back in 2011, NATO forces started gradually handing over districts in pretty much safe areas in Afghanistan. The dangerous areas, the dangerous districts deep in the heart of the Taliban were left. Those districts finally transferred over today.

The Afghan army has a lot of critics. Many say they're not ready to defend this country. Ready or not, they are now in charge. And I got a reminder of the challenges ahead with the suicide attack this morning in Kabul.

The second big event today, President Karzai's office announcing that he is allowing the Taliban to open up an office in Qatar. That's where the two sides plan on holding peace talks. President Karzai announcing that at some point, he's going to send a delegation over there and that process is going to move forward. But still, a lot of unknowns with both these events and how they're going to unfold -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, a lot of unknowns. And you just mentioned the long lingering question about troop readiness. And as the Afghan government officially takes over its own security, I mean, just tell us what the troops are up against, the level of violence, the level of insecurity across the country?

SAYAH: Just take today, there was a suicide attack in the heart of Kabul today. One week ago today in front of the Supreme Court, again in the heart of Kabul, a suicide attack killed 17 people. A day before that event, an attack in the main airport.

So the insurgency is active, still aggressive. The Afghan National Army has its work cut out for it. Many coalition officials and Afghan officials say they've improved, they've made leaps and bounds over the years, but critics say this is an army that didn't exist six and seven years ago. It's impossible to effectively train them in a short amount of time. They say they're not ready.

But again, there's no option. They're leading the charge right now. And there's so much riding when it comes to what's at stake for NATO and Washington and the people of Afghanistan, Kristie.

LU STOUT: All right, Reza Sayah joining us live from Kabul, thank you Reza.

Now NATO says there are 187,000 members of the Afghan National Army, or ANA, serving across the country. That is almost double the number of foreign troops currently in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force. And those ISAF forces come from 50 different countries.

Now the U.S. has by far the largest contingent with some 68,000 military personnel. Other big contributors include the UK with more than 8,000 troops. Germany has 4,400 forces there and leads the regional command in northern Afghanistan. Italy, with more than 3,000 troops, holds regional command. And Australia, Georgia, Poland, Romania, Turkey, each have more than 1,000 personnel serving ISAF across Afghanistan.

Now turning now to the situation in Brazil which is seeing the biggest nationwide demonstrations there in some 20 years.

Now the protests began 10 days ago, initially over a plan to hike bus fares. But they quickly expanded beyond that. Protesters say the government's spending to host the lavish, high profile events is coming at the expense of the poor.

And this was the scene in Rio de Janeiro on Monday night. Police used tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators they accused of vandalism.

Now protesters marched on government buildings in Sao Paulo and the capital Brasilia as well.

Now Rio is the host city for three major international sporting events, including two football tournaments. The FIFA Confederation's Cup is underway right now and it goes on until June 30.

It is considered a dry run for the FIFA World Cup, which is set to begin at this time next year. And then, in 2016, Rio will host the Summer Olympic and Paralympic games. And more than 10,000 athletes and hundreds of thousands of fans from around the world are expected to be in the city for those events.

Now more demonstrations are expected to take place across Brazil today. Let's go live to our correspondent Shasta Darlington. She joins us live from Sao Paulo. And Shasta, a huge demonstration over a small fare hike. Some more context here, why was that the trigger?

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, it's just completely snowballed. It did start as a protest against this hike in bus fares, but what we saw is that people that started venting their anger, their frustrations against the high cost of living, against the lack of government accountability, and also against all of this money being spent on an event like the World Cup, and especially what we saw in last night's protest, there's a bunch of people joining in because of the harsh police crackdown in previous protests.

So we just had a real laundry list of complaints, protests across the country. We're talking the biggest protests in 20 years.

Now, like I said, they were across the country, but some of the biggest ones were in Rio de Janeiro and right here in Sao Paulo. And the vibe was just amazing. It was very positive, very festive, people were singing and chanting and even the passers by were cheering them on.

There were more than 60 people on the streets here in Sao Paulo. They paralyzed the city. And even commuters stuck in traffic were honking their horns in support. And it just goes to show that people really are beginning to identify with this movement as long as the violence doesn't get out of control.

And in fact we saw very little police presence here in Sao Paulo, mostly directing traffic, until the very end when one group tried to storm the governor's palace. And there they did impede them. But it was a largely peaceful evening in Sao Paulo.

I cannot say the same for the rest of the country. As you mentioned, there were protests in the capital Brasilia where they took the roof of the congress. They were standing on the roof of the congress. Protesters in Rio de Janeiro were vandalizing buildings and cars. They set a car on fire. And there were altercations with the police.

Same goes for (inaudible) where we've seen some games as part of the Confederation's Cup. And the crowds there were dispersed with tear gas.

So just a real mixed bag. But you get the feeling that this is snowballing, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, and there are some parallels in Brazil with the situation in Turkey, as you mentioned, because of the harsh police response more protesters coming to the scene joining this demonstration. But I want to ask you about how the politicians in Brazil, how the leadership is responding. Is the president sympathetic towards the protesters?

DARLINGTON: Well, I wouldn't go that far, Kristie. You've got -- more than anything, we've heard silence partly because these protests are aimed at politicians in general. It's different parties in different states and different cities. And they're just sick of the lack of government accountability and what they call widespread corruption.

We did get a response from the president Dilma Rousseff yesterday, but it was a written statement saying it's the right in a democracy people have the right to protest. But you see signs in all of these protests lashing out at the president, at the state government. What they want, they want to hear their voices. They want to see that they are getting -- that they're achieving something, either lowering the bus tariffs, or the president coming out and in person addressing all of these issues. They feel like they're not getting answers. And we suspect that these protests will continue until they do, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah. And if these protests do continue, will they seriously disrupt plans for the upcoming World Cup?

DARLINGTON: Well, Kristie, I know that's what the world is fixated on, but that's not what Brazil is worried about right now. I think what they want to see is a change, again, in the relationship with the government. They feel they pay very high taxes and get very little in return. They feel like they pay high fares for bus and metro for a system that doesn't really work. They spend two to three hours getting to and from their offices.

If they held protests during the World Cup, yes, it would interrupt them. But I think this is really about how the country as a whole functions. And that's what Brazil is focused on, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Well, thank you for the context. And thank you for giving us the insight and the view from inside Brazil. Shasta Darlington joining us live, many thanks indeed.

Now you're watching News Stream. And still to come, this young Pakistani woman is the first female in her family to attend university. And she says she will not let an attack by militants keep her from finishing.

Also, a person said to be an NSA leaker, Edward Snowden takes part in an online chat. We'll tell you what he's saying about government surveillance programs now.

Plus, Turks turn against each other in the streets. Supporters of the prime minister are losing patience after days of anti-government protests.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Welcome back.

You're watching News Stream. And you're looking at a visual version of all the stories we've got in the show today. We've already told you about the handover of security in Afghanistan, a very significant milestone for security forces there.

And later, we'll go live to the G8 summit where Syria is set to dominate again another day of talks.

But now, let's turn to Pakistan.

Now a woman's university in Quetta remains closed after this weekend's deadly bus bombing targeting female students. The Pakistan Dawn newspaper says security forces are on high alert for more attacks.

Now militants also carried out a brazen attack on the hospital where the victims were taken on Saturday. They're now recovering in another facility.

And Saima Mohsin spoke to some of them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is all that remains of the bus packed with university students heading home when it was bombed. The fire that followed was so fierce, it melted everything. Even two days after the attack, the sickening smell of burnt flesh still lingers in the air.

Yasmin Balorch (ph) was on another bus right behind the one that was bombed. She was the first girl in her family to make it to university.

"I was sitting by the window when the bomb went off," she tells me. "I had no idea what happened. Everything went dark. Then I realized I've injured my legs. I cried for help hoping someone would save me."

Her leg is broken. She has burns all over her body. The shrapnel has cut her face. And she's worried about whether her hair will grow back.

She goes on to tell me the people who did this are very cruel. We're just students. What did we do to them to deserve this?

In the intensive care unit of the hospital, Frazana (ph) worries about her critically injured 20-year-old daughter. Part of her daughter's skull is missing.

"We're really poor people," she says. "My husband has worked hard to send our daughter to school and university so she could have a better future than us. She was supposed to have an exam today."

(on camera): Investigators are now going through the wreckage piece by piece to identify the exact nature of the blast. Twelve young women are now confirmed to have been killed in this deadly bombing, all of them students at the university.

(voice-over): A senior intelligence official told CNN it was a female suicide bomber that targeted the young women students. But the bus bombing may have been a decoy for something even bigger.

As ambulances rushed the injured to the government's hospital, the hospital itself came under attack -- gunmen and two more suicide bombers. Among the 14 dead were four nurses and four paramilitary soldiers.

(on camera): Hundreds of people were held hostage. But today, it remains sealed off and shut down, guarded by paramilitary forces.

(voice-over): Pakistan is still struggling to absorb the horror of these attacks aimed at young women merely trying to get an education. 3,000 young women come from across the country's largest province to study at this university.

Yasmin (ph) wants to be a teacher. And she won't give up now.

She says, "we won't stop learning because of the people who attacked us. Education is everything. As soon as I get better, I'll go back to university with even more drive and hope."

Saima Mohsin, CNN, Quetta, Pakistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: An enraging story there.

Now Malala Yousafzai has condemned that attack on female students. You'll remember, she was shot by the Taliban back in October for her defense of girl's education rights. And Malala is set to present a petition to the United Nations next month. She wants world leaders to provide every child with a safe education. It will be Malala's first major public speech since she was attacked.

Now, turning now to the Edward Snowden case. He is in hiding, but apparently not staying silent. And a person purported to be former U.S. government contractor Edward Snowden, he took part in a live online chat on Monday and revealed what he says are new details about U.S. spying programs.

And he also defended himself against critics who called him a Chinese agent and a traitor.

Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is following this story very closely. He joins us now live here in Hong Kong.

And how exactly is who we believe to be Edward Snowden in this web chat, how is he defending himself?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's look at it broadly if we will, first, there was about 2,000 questions or comments before. And he answered about 20 of them. So he was able to sort of pick, and that gave him the opportunity to defend himself. He's put his statements out. He's seen what the critics have to say -- he's been criticized of perhaps being a traitor, of being a Chinese agent, of lying about how much he is paid. Then he put a lot of those to rest.

But when he spoke about being a traitor he said -- somebody said on the question, you know, Dick Cheney has called you a traitor. And he actually said this was one of the highest accolades and American could be given. He said Dick Cheney was responsible for this program, responsible for sending American troops into Iraq where he said 4,400 were killed, 32,000 maimed, and 100,000 Iraqis killed.

And this is what he said here, "being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American."

So he was on defensive. And he was punching hard.

LU STOUT: And he also revealed a cheeky sense of humor as well into how he answered the criticism, or the question out there, are you a Chinese agent? What did he say?

ROBERTSON: Yeah, he said, look, if I was a Chinese agent I'd be in Beijing already. He said I'd be sitting in a palace petting a phoenix. I mean, take from that what you will.

But, yeah, look, this was his opportunity to come back at the critics. Yes, he wants to keep the debate going, yes this is an opportunity to keep the debate going. And he was even frustrated about it, because he said, you know, people are not talking about the issue now, they're talking about what my girlfriend looks like. So you got that sense of frustration.

But he was really able to control the dialogue by picking the questions.

LU STOUT: And also the criticism about why he chose Hong Kong. What did he say about that?

ROBERTSON: This is clearly a level of thinking that he's put into this. He said it was dangerous to leave the United States. He said one of the reasons that it was dangers was as an NSA employee you have to give them 30 days notice before you travel. So he said I had to travel with no notice, book my ticket at last minute.

But he was afraid that he would wind up somewhere, where the United States would have such an influence he'd be shut down quickly.

The implication of the question he was given by one of the journalists who has been talking to him, was that he perhaps would have preferred to go to Iceland, but he can get to Hong Kong, he said, without less likelihood of being interdicted. And when he got here, he said that's -- he knew he could get his message out.

The Hong Kong authorities couldn't be shut down that quickly.

So all of these things are factored in.

And let's face it, when he came out of Hawaii he turned left, not right, if you look at the map, without flying over the United States. He was concerned that he would have been picked up had he gone back in that direction.

LU STOUT: Yeah, one thing that really gets me about this story is the global interest about Edward Snowden himself. You know, his motivation, what he's thinking, his choices. But still, the focus is that American surveillance program, and details about what it is and how it works.

So what more was revealed about that?

ROBERTSON: That was interesting, because people did want to know more specifics. How to keep yourself safe. And he said encryption can keep you safe, or more safe, your information more safe up to a point.

But he said, look, don't be fooled. If they've got your email address and they can see your email, then they get the whole email. They get your IP address. They get every attachment.

But his point was, United States officials are defending themselves saying, yes, this information is being caught, but no we're not going into it. And what did he say? He said, yes, they can go into it. The authority that they use to go into it is essentially a rubber stamp, that it isn't being properly audited. And the notion that this information is only held for a set period, he said, forget that. The techniques and the reasons given to keep that data longer, he said, they're granted very easily.

So, really, lack of administration over this whole issue that he -- this whole system that he derides anywhere.

LU STOUT: Details on the surveillance program, details on the NSA leaker himself, Nic Robertson, thank you.

Now, Snowden said that PRISM used data from several prominent internet companies. And most of those companies have denied giving the NSA direct access to their servers, but they have begun to disclose just how many requests for user data they've received from the U.S. government. Now, Yahoo! said that they have received up to 13,000 requests from law enforcement agencies over the last six months? And over a similar period, Facebook said that they've had up to 10,000 requests. While Microsoft and Apple have also said that they have received several thousand requests for user data each.

Now Microsoft and Yahoo! operate major email services, but what data can you glean from Facebook or Apple?

Now one former federal prosecutor told us every little bit counts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK RASCH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Even without email, Apple collects a tremendous amount of information about people. So if you used, for example, the iCloud service here, the iCloud service will take information that you put on your iPhone anywhere you are, like your calendar functions here will be copied here. Your contact list will be copied here. Email, notes, things like that all get copied onto the cloud and are available for law enforcement or intelligence purposes almost immediately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LU STOUT: Insight there from former federal prosecutor Mark Rasch.

You're watching News Stream, and still to come weeks of violence have turned Turks against Turks. And much more on the widening divide is straight ahead. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you're back watching News Stream.

Terrorists and anarchists, that is how the Turkish prime minister is labeling anti-government protesters as he makes plans to stage his own rallies. And speaking to parliament earlier, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said demonstrators were the first to resort to violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): There came some weapons into the scene and police were wounded by bullets. Two police were actually wounded by bullets from these protesters. And - and thankfully their health is good. They're in their good health. They have been treated. And I hope they will be back to their duties as soon as possible in a healthy and recovered manner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LU STOUT: Now, Mr. Erdogan did not specify when that attack took place. His speech came as a UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, expressed concerns about the levels of force Turkish police have been using against peaceful protesters.

Now after more than two weeks of often violent protests, Turkey appears to be a nation increasingly divided. Anti-government demonstrations are aggravating those loyal to prime minister Erdogan and that lead to skirmishes between the two sides.

Karl Penhaul has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL PENHAUL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Water cannons barreled toward anti-government protesters. A defiant few briefly resist. They're the stragglers at the end of a half-hearted strike by labor unions. Riot police prepare to chase them. Before they do, store owners and civilians bystanders loyal to Prime Minister Erdogan take matters into their own hands. They turn the protesters own rocks against them.

They celebrate their victory, chanting the prime minister's name.

"This is Turkey, and we will not hand over this country to hired thugs. We're shopkeepers and we've had enough," he says.

Confrontations between rival civilian factions have so far been rare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's becoming more two groups in the same country.

PENHAUL: Those clashes came after this demonstration. Leftist labor leaders talk tough, calling for the prime minister to quit. Then, they simply backed away.

"If they want to walk, then we can walk together, but we don't want any solitary heroes," he says.

(on camera): This is what's left now of the union protest. Most of the demonstrators have headed home, leaving this much smaller group behind. They seemed to have lost momentum and run out of ideas about what to do next.

The lack of leadership seemed to anger younger protesters who had hoped to march through police ranks into downtown Istanbul.

"This was a people's movement, and ordinary people started it. The people will decide, not the union nor the parties," she says.

But time for those decisions may be running short. Protesters seem to be losing steam while many ordinary Turks seem to be losing patience.

Karl Penhaul, CNN, Istanbul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Now, Syria tops the agenda at the G8 talks. And up next on News Stream, we'll get a live report from Northern Ireland and see whether there's any consensus on how to stop the bloodshed.

And then we'll take you inside Syria. Our Fred Pleitgen has an exclusive interview with the country's national reconciliation minister. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching News Stream. And these are your world headlines.

Now Afghan forces have formally taken over security responsibilities from NATO led troops after 12 years. The hand over was announced by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and NATO's secretary general earlier. Most of the 100,000 international forces currently in Afghanistan will withdraw by the end of the year.

Now huge crowds in Brazil have been protesting against the large sums of money the government is spending on hosting high profile sporting events at the World Cup and the Olympic Games. And police used tear gas to disperse the crowds in several cities. Now Brazil is currently hosting the Confederation's Cup. And organizers say they want to highlight Brazil's inadequate public services while the world's attention is on the tournament.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused protesters of inciting violence. In a speech to parliament on Tuesday, he called the protesters terrorists and anarchists, and accused them of using guns against the police and wounding two officers.

The man who leaked top secret details about U.S. surveillance programs says he did it because of President Obama. In a web chat with Britain's Guardian newspaper, the man identified as Edward Snowden says he leaked the information because he believes Mr. Obama failed on a campaign promise to end abusive practices. He said the U.S. president has made the situation worse, not better.

It is the second and final day of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland. And leaders at the conference are coming together on the issue of tax evasion, but they are still very much split on Syria.

Now Brianna Keilar joins us now from the town of Sligo in Ireland. And Brianna, any hope for a consensus on Syria there at the G8?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No real consensus, it appears, Kristie. And we have obviously learned here in the last day that Presidents Obama and Putin, since the U.S. is the most powerful ally of the Syrian rebels, and Russia the most powerful ally of the Syrian government, that while both of them agreed to push these two sides to the negotiating table, there's huge outstanding questions that are not resolved, who would take part in these discussions, in these peace talks, exactly when they would be, and also what the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be. Does he stay? Does he go?

The U.S. and Russia at polar opposites on that issue.

And to that point, Reuters just moments ago reporting, Kristie, that Russia has said they actually blocked any reference in the G8 communique, which is what comes out at the end of a summit like this, sort of just a document laying out what was discussed, what was decided on, that Russia blocked any mention of what Assad's fate will be, Kristie.

LU STOUT: OK. So Russia is not going to be on side here.

Let's focus in on President Obama in Syria. What is the U.S. president saying about reaching some sort of political situation, a political solution to the conflict. And what is the offering to help the people of Syria?

KEILAR: Well, that is the hope for President Obama is for there to be obviously this political track. To that point, he's very much stressing, I think, the importance of there being some sort of discussion where there can be a transition.

But he had an interview that he did in the U.S. before leaving for Northern Ireland. I think what was sort of discouraging from this is that President Obama, even though a lot of people had been hanging their hopes on the fact that the U.S. and Russia had agreed to a new round of peace talks in Geneva, President Obama really tamped down expectations for what they will bring, Kristie, because of all of these outstanding questions.

At this point, we do know from the G8 summit that the U.S. is going to be putting more money toward humanitarian aid to Syria, but also to the nations around Syria that are providing help to refugees. $300 million more in humanitarian aid, bringing the total to $800 million, Kristie.

LU STOUT: And economic issues set to dominate day two of the summit, including a trade deal in the works between the EU and the U.S.? What can you tell us?

KEILAR: Yeah, that's right. What we have learned is that next month in Washington there will be a first round of discussions between the U.S. and the EU on a trade agreement. This is something that British prime minister David Cameron is really emphasizing. He says this could create as many as two million jobs globally.

And there's mutual interest here. Obviously, Europe, seeing a lot of stagnation, even negative growth, wants to see more exports, wants to deal with unemployment that we're seeing in so many elevated unemployment in so many European nations. So that is certainly the hope there.

And the U.S., which has had a better time of an economic recovery is very much connected, though, to the European economy. You talk to Americans, they say the economic recovery, a lot of them still aren't feeling it. It's not enough for them. And so certainly President Obama has made it clear that he really wants to concentrate on economic issues in his second term. So this is something that he's very interested in as well. And we've seen, obviously, in the last years an economic agreement, a trade pact, between the U.S. and Europe, efforts towards that floundering. So this is an attempt to revive that, Kristie.

LU STOUT: All right. Brianna Keilar following all the headlines coming out of the G8 summit. Thank you.

Now, inside Syria the fighting has not let up. The city of Aleppo is believed to be the target of a renewed push by government forces. This video is said to show the aftermath of an explosion near a strategic military airport in the area. And rebels have asked for better weapons to hold them on against Syria's better equipped military.

But Syria's minister for national reconciliation says he believes a political solution is still possible. And he spoke exclusively to our Fred Pleitgen in Damascus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALI HAIDAR, SYRIAN RECONCILIATION MINISTER (through translator): We believe that it is very important for the international community, instead of talking about chemical weapons, to see how we can reduce the level of violence and stop violence, before going into a political process.

As you are aware, in the past there were talks about arming to take over the country and to remove the regime. Today, the talks are to arm the opposition to reach balance. But we can go to a political process even before achieving this kind of balance.

The talk about chemical weapons is only for political reasons. So far, no one has proven anything about who used them and where they were used, and who was behind using the chemical weapons.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You say that negotiations should start without preconditions and that the whole political structure needs to be up for negotiations. Is the current government willing to do that as long as its winning on the battlefield? Why should they?

HAIDAR (through translator): The military problems on the ground only deal with the problem of violence. It does not resolve the political crisis, the political issues. So we do believe as a member of the opposition and as a minister in this government, that the only solution is a political one, not a military one.

The best compromise that we can achieve today is that the regime and we as a part of the homeland peaceful opposition agree to the negotiating table without any preconditions, without excluding anybody from the opposition, which means everything is subject to discussion.

PLEITGEN: Everything.

HAIDAR: Everything.

PLEITGEN: Even the office of the president?

HAIDAR (through translator): The office of the president is a matter related to the whole political structure of the country. We are the first ones that have talked about a deep structural change. And we believe the shape and structure should be discussed among Syrians and should be decided by the Syrians in a referendum, because only the Syrian people can decide what happens. And it cannot be a precondition for anybody.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Fred Pleitgen speaking to Syria's minister for national reconciliation there.

Now let's turn to the global forecast now. And India is being lashed by monsoon rains. Let's get the very latest with Mari Ramos. She's standing by at the world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey Kristie, when the rains first started across northern India, people were ecstatic, so happy, celebrating because it brought the temperature down from almost close to 50 degrees to down to the 40s and even in the 30s. So people were pretty happy.

But then things began to change because the rain came in not just two weeks ahead of time, but also it came in very, very heavy.

Look at this picture, this is from the northern part of India, up in the mountains. And how scary -- look at those people trapped on that little ledge that's left of the roadway. The roadway almost completely gone there because of the power of the river and landslides that have affected that area. There are literally thousands of people that are stranded across the region.

This is a picture, sad image here of a woman being rescued after her home collapsed because of the heavy rain and also the mudslides that have occurred in this hilly area there of the northern part.

And this is a scary picture, can you see the people right there? They are still trapped inside this temple. This is also in the north. And you can see the torrent of water and the thousands of trees that are being carried away.

And, you know, this is a picture from the Indian army taken from a helicopter. They were kind of assessing the situation and trying to rescue people wherever they could.

So we're really dealing with a pretty intense area here of rainfall that has been affecting the northern part of India for the most part.

New Delhi has had in the last day about 120 millimeters of rain. It's raining there again. Their normal average for this time of year is about 60. So they've had twice their monthly rainfall in just the last day. And that's on top of whatever started falling since Sunday.

I want to show you some other pictures also from the north, and this is also in those hilly areas. And look at the video here. So scary. I just hope everyone was able to get out OK. But of course everything those people had is completely gone.

This is a densely populated area to the north. All of that water making its way to the plains farther to the south. And building after building just comes crashing down as the river just takes away the river bank and leaves nothing to hold those buildings up. You can see how strong the current is, also, in that region.

So we'll be monitoring the situation closely. There is more rain expected, unfortunately, across parts of Northern India.

This, right here, is a picture from Manila. Yeah, you guys have had more than your fair share of rain right now. All of this happening with the southwest monsoon. June through November is the wettest time of the year. You get all this moisture coming in off the South China Sea. And then every once in awhile, when you have a tropical cyclone that just kind of sits here just to the north of you, it kind of intensifies all of this moisture here across Luzon, in particular.

And guess what, Kristie, we have right now here across northern parts of Luzon, this tropical cyclone expected to bring some very heavy rain again for you guys in this region. We're seeing a little bit of red on our map right there. That could indicate up to, what, 15, 20, 25 centimeters of rainfall additional across these areas. So there is quite a big going on.

The storm itself expected to pass safely off the coast of Taiwan and maybe affect Japan in the next couple of days.

Back to you.

LU STOUT: Wow, we have intense rain happening in so many different parts of the world. And Mari, last week we saw flooding across Europe. Has the situation there eased off at all?

RAMOS: You know, across Europe we are seeing a little bit of an improvement as far as the rainfall. And I want to show you that right now. Let me go ahead and -- here we go -- show you the situation across Europe.

We are still dealing with those rivers that have been very, very high.

We're just starting to see pictures now farther to the south in Hungary, for example, where the river starting there to go back toward its bank. And that's a big deal, because it had been so high for about two to three weeks. That's the Danube to the south. The Elbe to the north is still outside of its banks and causing serious problems across that region.

Weather itself has been actually fairly dry, but very hot across central and eastern Europe. So those people doing all of that cleanup, Kristie, they're having to deal with some pretty intense weather here as far as the heat.

Look at these temperatures that we're expecting. Berlin by tomorrow and Thursday could be up into the mid-30s almost. The average is about 22 this time of year.

Look at Bucharest, also into the 30s as we head through the next couple of days. Yesterday was pretty hot as well.

Similar situation as we head into Budapest. All of these areas that were affected by the flooding in the last few weeks.

Back to you.

LU STOUT: Heat wave, during the rebuilding after that very devastating series of floods. Thank you for the update there. Much appreciated. Mari Ramos, thank you.

You're watching News Stream, and still to come, everyone loves an underdog. And these guys have many in the stadium rooting for them. We'll tell you how team Tahiti did in their Confederation's Cup game against Nigeria. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you're back watching News Stream.

And this week, Leading Women has a special look at 50 years of women in space. You can find this interactive timeline at CNN.com/leadingwomen. Now the Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova made history on June 16, 1963. Her flight came in the early days of the space race. And she spent nearly three days in orbit circling the Earth some 48 times.

Now it would take two decades for an American woman to make that journey. Sally Ride launched into space exactly 30 years ago today. And since then, many women have followed. Right now, China's second woman in space is at work on Tiangong-1, and that is the nation's space lab module.

Wang Yaping is scheduled to give a physics lecture from orbit.

And meanwhile, NASA has just revealed it new class of astronaut candidates. As you can see here, four of the eight are women. And the U.S. says that this is the highest percentage of female candidates ever.

Now, let's introduce you to Chanda Kochhar. She is the chief executive of India's ICICI Bank, and one of the most powerful figures in the industry. Poppy Harlow has her inspiring story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mumbai, the financial capital of India, home to the country's major stock exchanges, brokerage firms, and banks, including ICICI Bank, headed by a woman named among India's most powerful business leaders.

Chanda Kochhar became ICICI's first female CEO in May 2009, right in the thick of the global financial crisis, not an easy time to be the boss of a bank.

(on camera): Let's go back to when you took over the helm at the bank. And some call it a baptism by fire for you. Was it?

CHANDA KOCHHAR, ICICI BANK CEO: Well, in a way it was. But I think what is really important at that time was communicate, communicate and communicate. And, you know, tell the people what our plans were.

HARLOW (voice-over): It was Kochhar's calm presence under pressure that many say helped reassure rattled customers and prevent a run on the bank.

If she's satisfied by that success, though, she's not showing it.

KOCHHAR: No, I think it's not correct to be, you know, ever satisfied and sit back and say that everything is done. I think it's important to celebrate your successes. It's important to feel happy about them. But it's equally important to look forward to the next big move.

HARLOW: You've been called extremely focused and poised under extreme stress. Is that true?

KOCHHAR: Yeah, that's true. That's true. And I think that is in a way the job of a leader, that is when there is stress the leader has to maintain all the poise, and the leader in a way has to be like a sponge that has to absorb the stress, because you know if you just allow the stress to filter through and pass to your team, then you're not doing a leader's job.

HARLOW: Kochhar is responsible for a bank with assets of $93 billion and more than 3,000 branches in 19 countries. All this for a woman who never dreamed of a career in banking. She gives credit to her mother for teaching her tenacity.

KOCHHAR: What we were told, and what I was told by my parents was that, you know, take this inhibition out whether you're a girl or a boy, basically pursue your dream, and as long as you are capable and a hardworking human being, you would be able to, you know, follow and fulfill your dreams.

HARLOW: Even with the challenges and uncertainty in these still economically troubled times, Kochhar says nothing scares her.

KOCHHAR: You know, two eyes are given for a reason. One eye to always look at the opportunities, the second eye to always keep looking at the challenges, because if you don't balance both, it's very easy to get carried away one way or the other. And it's when you balance the two that you find the most sustainable model.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: All right. You're watching News Stream. And up next, pro basketball's elite players aren't just competitive on the court, they are trying to out do each other when it comes to their wardrobes as well. Check out some of the NBA's boldest fashion statements after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now Hollywood is using the power of the pulpit to sell the latest Superman film. Warner Brothers studios partnered with a Christian public relations firm to get pastors to advanced screenings of Man of Steel and even prepared an entire sermon titled "Jesus: the original superhero" which is available on this website.

It comes complete with images and clips from the movie, all aimed at pointing out how Superman could be interpreted as an allegory for Jesus.

Now the Christian church is not the only religious group to claim Superman as a symbol of its faith. The comic book hero's creators were Jewish. And some fans claim Superman is too.

Now we should add that Warner Brother's studios is owned by Time Warner, parent company of CNN.

Now we know that they are fierce competitors on the court, but some NBA superstars are also rivals when it comes to what they wear outside the game. Rachel Nichols has the fashion faceoff.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are the most elite basketball players in the world, but during these playoffs, NBA players have caught nearly as much attention for what they are wearing as how they are playing.

WILL WELCH, CQ SENIOR EDITOR: What we're seeing is essentially another form of competition between a lot of the big names in the NBA.

DWAYNE WADE, MIAM HEAT GUARD: When you're showcased like, you want to, you know, you want to step up a little bit. So now it's at the point where, you know, guys are really getting out of the box a little bit.

NICHOLS: Out of the box and beyond, crazy patterns, candy colors, a wooden bow tie. And, yes, even a monacle.

JULIUS ERVING, BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME MEMBER: It's another added feature that fans can talk about and actually fans can follow, because you know the kids they want to look like the players. And I'm glad to see that the pants are up, that's the big one.

LEBRON JAMES, MIAMI HEAT FORWARD: You know, I think it's pretty cool. Guys have their own personality. Some of it goes too far, but, hey, I've got a teammate that does his own thing sometimes, but hey it's whatever.

NICHOLS: That teammate would be Dwayne Wade, who made the statement of the postseason so far by wearing a suit with capri pants.

WADE: You say, OK, I know that I'm a start -- you know, either start a trend or it's going to be a bomb.

NICHOLS: Capri pants, yes or no?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't do that. I have bony legs. I don't want to show those off.

CHRIS BOSH, MIAMI HEAT FORWARD: You probably won't see me in capris. If you do, you know, shoot me.

NICHOLS: The capri pant suit is a far cry from the baggy jeans and jerseys favored by late 90s stars like Allen Iverson, a look the NBA found so unprofessional that in 2005 it instituted a dress code. A few players decried the change, but many more used it as an excuse to turn the hardwood into a red carpet, even hiring stylists.

RACHEL JOHNSON, STYLIST: Initially, there may have been some apprehension in having to actually invest in looking good and looking the part of a professional. Once they started working with people like me, they wanted to become immersed in the fashion community, attend fashion shows, go meet designers, go to show rooms and now you're seeing it in the NFL. And, you know, it had been in soccer. And hopefully Major League Baseball will catch on soon.

NICHOLS: Of course, not every player has embraced the high fashion trends.

SHANE BATTIER, MIAMI HEAT FORWARD: My biggest compliment to date was this woman came up to me and said, you know, what, you're suburban dad hot.

NICHOLS: Is that a compliment?

BATTIER: I think so. I think so. I took it as a compliment. So that's what I go for, suburban dad hot.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Nice look.

Rachel Nichols there.

Now, Tahiti were soundly beaten by Nigeria at the Confederation's Cup on Monday, but it was still a triumph for the island team. IT was their first ever appearance at a top level football tournament. And they managed to score a goal.

Now Jonathan Tehau, a delivery driver, leapt above the Nigerian defenders to score and seal the most famous moment in Tahiti's footballing history.

Now Tahiti would go on to lose 6-1 to Nigeria.

Now it may be cheesy, but just taking part is an achievement in itself for Tahiti. Less than 200,000 people live in Tahiti. And they boast just one, one professional footballer. And compare that to Monday's opponents Nigeria, a country of over 160 million people with a football team full of professionals playing for top clubs in England, Italy, and Germany. And that is why Tahiti was overjoyed just to have scored a goal.

And the coach says Tahiti's government broke off a meeting just to watch the match.

But it will only get harder from here. Tahiti's next match is against the reigning European and world champions Spain. Good luck.

And that is News Stream. World Business Today is next.

END