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Syria Diplomacy; Four Men Convicted Of New Delhi Gang Rape; International Community Weighs Syria Options; Thomas Bach Named IOC President

Aired September 10, 2013 - 16:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Tonight, as the global tussle over Syria shifts from the floor of the U.S. Congress to the halls of UN headquarters, we'll debate what this all means for Obama's presidency as he prepares to address the American public.



GORDON BROWN, FRM. BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There's a myth that you're a refugee for a few weeks and a few months then things go back to normal.


ANDERSON: Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown tells me his plan to bring Syria's refugees back into the classroom.

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

ANDERSON: Well, first up tonight, Syria is making a huge concession in an effort to ward off threatened military strikes. According to Russia's Interfax news agency, Syrian foreign minister Wali Moellem says his government is ready to disclose the location of its chemical weapons, halt production and join an international chemical weapons ban treaty.

Well, the United Nations security council was scheduled to meet this hour. But Russia withdrew its requests for emergency talks, citing changing circumstances. Now there is broad agreement on the plan for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons, but serious differences over how to enforce that.

Now Britain, the United States and France are asking a resolution that demands consequences.


DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: In that resolution, I think it's quite important that we have some clarity about thresholds. We need to know that there's a proper time table for doing this. We need to know that there would be a proper process for doing it. And crucially there would have to be consequences if it wasn't done.


LU STOUT: Well, the U.S. government says it's willing to give diplomacy a chance, but only for so long. President Barack Obama visiting Capitol Hill today ahead of what is a major speech this evening. His administration says the threat of force must be kept on the table in case Syria fails to follow through.

Well, that threat of force angers the Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is calling on the United States to back off while diplomatic efforts, he says, are underway.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Of course, all this will only mean anything if the United States and other nations supporting it tell us that they're giving up their plan to use force against Syria. You can't really ask Syria or any other country to disarm unilaterally, while military action against it is being contemplated.


ANDERSON: Latest now from Jill Dougherty who is in Moscow for you this evening.

What's see political calculation for the Kremlin here -- Jill?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, there are a number of them, Becky, really. I think you'd have to say realistically, Russia, along with the United States, has been concerned about chemical weapons in Syria for a long time. In fact, President Putin was mentioning today that fact that it's well known that they had a very large arsenal, as he put it, of chemical weapons and that they held them in order to offset Israel's nuclear weapons, an interesting comment by the president.

So Russia did want to make sure at the beginning of this, going back a couple of years, that those weapons were safely held. And they also wanted to -- I think -- to play a more active role as things went on more recently. They wanted to play a more active role.

They also wanted and continue to want to stop military action by the United States.

Now, there's also another side of this, which is the more cynical side, which is if you talk to U.S. officials, they do feel that perhaps the Russians have a bit of political gamesmanship going on. And that may, indeed, be the case. But that's also a feeling, some sort of skeptical feeling that perhaps you could -- the Russians would bring this up in order to put the breaks on, but not really ultimately resolve anything.

So I think it's a complicated number of sincere things and then perhaps some political maneuvering as well.

ANDERSON: All right, that's the story out of Moscow. Jill, thank you for that.

U.S. President Barack Obama asking the Senate now to delay a vote on authorizing force against Syria given these developments today. Mr. Obama meeting with Senate Democrats and Republicans ahead of what is this televised addressed to the American people later tonight.

Now top administration officials are also on Capitol Hill making the case that Syria must act quickly to turn over its chemical weapons. Have a listen to this.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: That this cannot be a process of delay, this cannot be a process of avoidance. There has to be real, has to be measurable, tangible -- and it is exceedingly difficult, I want everybody here to know, to fulfill those conditions.

But we're waiting for that proposal. But we're not waiting for long.


ANDERSON: Well, Elise Labott joins me now from the U.S. State Department with more.

I mean, a week is a long time in politics, they say -- 24 hours these days, it seems, is an eternity. John Kerry who you just heard speaking there I've now heard in the last couple of minutes will travel to Geneva on Thursday to meet with the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. This will be to discuss Syria.

You breaking that story for us here on CNN.

What do we know of the details of what will be said at that meeting and how close or not these two are at this point?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, they have this interesting relationship where at the end of the day with these big issues it really comes down to U.S. and Russia. If the U.S. wants something, especially in the UN security council it knows it has to go through Moscow. And that's going through Sergei Lavrov.

I think what the two men will be discussing is this Russian proposal and how it could satisfy both the Russians and the U.S. I mean, obviously what's happening here is the U.S. is saying that the U.S. credible threat of force ahs brought the Russians and the Syrians to this point where they're talking about some kind of deal, but the kind of things that the U.S. and the French, for instance, are looking for in this resolution authorizing the use of force, for instance, if the Syrians don't comply, condemning the regime for that August 21st attack. These are the kind of things that the Russians don't' want.

So there's going to be a lot of talk about, you know, what everyone's bottom line is, how they can move this forward. But I have to say it's a little bit of a mixed message from the administration right now, because if you say that the credible use of force has brought them to this point then you delay a vote in congress, that doesn't really kind of light a fire under the Russians and Syrians.

So it's going to be interesting to see how this all shakes out in the next week or two.

ANDERSON: Elise, what is left for President Obama to say in his speech to the nation tonight, then?

LABOTT: Well, I think he's going to have to do a totally an about face over what he's been saying the last couple of days. In his last Rose Garden address, he was talking about the urgent need to strike immediately. Now he's going to be talking about how it's important to give this diplomacy a chance.

So I think the president never really wanted to go to war in the first place. The vote in congress was not looking good. And a lot of people thought that President Obama was sure to have a defeat.

So this gives a little bit more time for everybody to see how the administration can get its way out of this. But, you know, you have the United Nations general assembly coming up later in the month, in about a week-and-a-half. Syria is sure to dominate that -- those talks. And instead of kind of firmly acting against the Assad regime for these attacks, what the administration says is convincing evidence that he was responsible, now it's kind of this long drawn-out -- if you remember these long, drawn-out UN talks on a resolution it could be weeks if not a month or so.

ANDERSON: Elise Labott in Washington for you this evening.

All right, well, let's get to UN headquarters, then, because even though today's UN security council meeting was called off, diplomats say France is still working to build support for its draft resolution. Now that calls for the UN to condemn the massacre on August 21st, which it blames on the Syrian regime.

It also calls on Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control and to allow international inspections. It calls for severe consequences if Syria violates its obligations submitting the perpetrators of the August 21st massacre to international justice.

Let's get some analysis, shall we? I've got to work out whether this is two steps forward, one step back or one step forward, two steps back. Nick Paton Walsh joining us live from the United Nations with more.

What's your assessment of what you've heard said and from not just Washington, but Russia, from Damascus, from London, over the past 24 hours.

What -- sort this out for us, Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, we look yesterday like we'd suddenly found the U.S. had got themselves into a whole political ball park it never wanted to have a part of. And now they seem to be suggesting that in fact an idea of Syria putting its chemical weapons under international control was somehow percolating in the background for a long period of time.

But today, that got even more complicated in many ways. And at this point it seems like the Russians are in more control of diplomatic process.

Let me put a bit of perspective what we saw today. The French reacting to what we heard yesterday, the suggestion of putting Russian chemical weapons under international control, came forth today with their own resolution. You outlined it there. But it contained a whole lot of stuff that the Russians to have a veto power at the security council were never going to buy into, particularly the explicit blaming of the Syrian regime for the attacks of 21st of August and the threat of serious consequences, i.e. some sort of military force, if they didn't go along with a timeline for handing over chemical weapons fast enough.

So the Russians put forward, it seemed, their own text today. They had it ready. They called a meeting, an emergency consultation with the security council. Everyone ready for that. And then they called it off. Two UN diplomats saying this is basically down to what they cited as changing circumstances.

So where are we now? Where does it go forward?

ANDERSON: Yeah, what is changing circumstances mean? Because, you know, we're working sort of minute by minute. And the machinations for our viewers at this point are quite confusing. So what do the Russians mean by changing circumstances? You're talking to your sources there at the UN. What do they say?

WALSH: Well, the Russians even here are tight-lipped. I mean, you have a situation, I can imagine, where the Russians think, well, what's the end game of this. Let's get the Syrians to go along with the convention against chemical weapons and let the organization for prohibition of chemical weapons inspectors in to dismantle their stockpile, or at least on the surface have that agreed to.

We don't like what the UN security council on the western side is trying to hamper in with that whole suggestion with all the different sanctions you just talked about earlier on if they don't go along fast enough. So let's just go unilaterally, perhaps, at this point. Let's get Syria to sign on to the convention, let's get them to agree to inspectors on the ground, perhaps, and then we get what we want out of it. And we don't have the threat of force hanging in the background.

That could be where they're going now.

ANDERSON: So if you were a betting man and our viewers are looking to UN headquarters tonight and saying what happens next there? What would you say?

WALSH: I wouldn't want to put money on any probability here at all. They seem remarkably able to come up with a whole new obfuscation, a bunch of long grass diplomatically every day they come into work here. But the real issue, I think, is do we see a security council resolution. It doesn't look like the Russians really want to talk about that at the moment. They didn't even want to put their own text forward to the security council.

All eyes on Geneva. Can D.C. and Moscow hammer something out together that's mutually satisfactory? And where, at the end of the day, does this leave the White House? This has been taken out of their hands now it seems by Russia at this point. Russian officials pretty much calling the tune here, unless I've grossly misinterpreted what they've been doing for the past 24 hours -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Nick Paton Walsh is at UN headquarters. And stay with CNN -- thank you Nick -- for live coverage of President Obama's address on Syria to the U.S. public. It begins in less than five hours.

It's going to be fascinating stuff, isn't it? Is he going to change his tune? Is he going to say what he was going to say 24 hours ago? This is fast moving story. Tuesday night, 9:00 Eastern in the United States. Fascinating stuff. 2:00 am in London right here on CNN.

All right.

Still to come tonight, how did we get here? We're going to take you through the past day of political maneuvering on Syria. And the verdict is in for the rape case that shocked India and let tougher punishments for sexual abuse. We're going to bring you the details on that next.

Plus, Apple launches its new low cost iPhone. But will it live up to its hype? All that and much more when Connect the world continues. You're 90 seconds away. We're taking a very short break.


ANDERSON: Welcome back. 15 minutes past 9:00 in London. You're with CNN. This is Connect the World. I'm Becky Anderson.

Now, an Indian court has found four men guilty of the rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi last year. The defendants await sentencing. The victim's father is calling for them to be hanged.

CNN's Sumnima Udas has the story.


SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Outside a New Delhi court, protesters are clear what they want for the four men accused of the rape and murder of the woman the media named Nebaya (ph), or fearless.

On Tuesday, all four accused pronounced guilty.

(on camera): This is the moment many people here in India have been waiting for. The verdict has just been announced.

(voice-over): The young woman's parents teary-eyed as the judgment came down. The parents of the main suspect too breaking down barely able to speak as they left the courtroom.

Defense lawyers say they will appeal the verdict in a higher court, blaming public pressure for the results.

(on camera): It's ironic that this is where the trial has been taking place for the past eight months in a fast track court. And directly opposite the court over there is the upscale mall where the victim and her friend watched a movie, Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" that night on December 16.

(voice-over): As the suspects, now convicts, left court one hurled abuses, laming the media for its predicament and even threatening revenge.

The focus now on the sentencing which could come as early as Wednesday. Many hear hoping for the harshest possible punishment.

KIRAN BEDI, FRM. DELHI DEPUTY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Nothing short of death penalty is needed. If you have to restore confidence and rule of law, death penalty is the answer, because the kind of brutality with which they committed this crime they need to be taught a lesson.

UDAS: Capital punishment, though, is only issued in the rarest of rare cases in India. Even though this is a landmark trial and there's a huge amount of public pressure on the court to hang these men, we'll have to wait and see what sentence the judge pronounces on Wednesday.

Sumnima Udas, CNN, New Delhi.


ANDERSON: Well, hundreds of thousands of girls are trafficked every year, from rural India to parts of the country with fewer women. When they arrive in Urban centers, many are sexually assaulted and forced to work for less than minimum wage.

German filmmaker Carl Gierstorfer highlights a generation of forgotten women.


CARL GIERSTORFER, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Thanks to cheap and freely available ultrasound and abortion, often a mere 800 girls are born for every 1,000 boys. It is said that in some years a million girls in India have not been born, because they have been aborted, because of cultural preference for sons.

So what's happening, it's like a huge conveyor belt that is going on across the northern part of India. In the northwest, you have a severe lack of women. In the northeast, this sexual issue is more skewed. But these areas traditionally have been very, very poor.

So you have traffickers who go to the northeastern part of India. They go into the villages. They say, hey, I have a job for you in Delhi, or opportunities for marriage there and so on. Or they outright kidnap these women. And we are speaking about 100,000, an estimated 100,000 women every year that are being trafficked from the east to the west.

There are derogative terms for these women, they're called (inaudible) strangers. And we went to several villages and it wasn't a big fuss. You know, we almost stumbled across women and young girls as young as 14 who have been raped and the police wouldn't register their complaints.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There is no hope for me. Everybody knows that I've been raped. But the police refused to even register my case. Nobody will marry me anymore.

Where is the sense in my life?

GIERSTORFER: Look at it from the perspective of the trafficker. For him rape becomes a tool, because the family is totally destroyed. In rural India, there's nobody going on the street, there's nobody protesting, there is no police who is helping them, there is no judiciary that is helping them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): All of us brides from outside, us para (ph) women, we want to stand up as one and show our combined strength. These people think we are weak, but if we para's (ph) stand as one, they will lose.

GIERSTORFER: I think Gandhi said you find India in its villages, not in its cities. I guess in this particular case, it's true as well, because of course you have to think what is happening in these -- in this vast area of rural India where still the majority of people live. And what's the situation there? And can the change come there as well? I think that will be the real big challenge. And if India overcomes that, then it will have overcome this problem.


ANDERSON: Good message there.

Well, live from London, this is Connect the World. Coming up, Kenya's deputy president appears in front of the International Criminal Court accused of a role in the violence that hit the country back in 2008.

And the iPhone with a new ring to it. We're going to tell you more about Apple's big announcement after this.


ANDERSON: 23 minutes past 9:00 in London. Welcome back. I'm Becky Anderson. This is Connect the World.

Kenya's deputy president has pleaded not guilty to alleged crimes against humanity at the start of what is his trial at the International Criminal Court. Now William Ruto is charged with orchestrating post- election violence that left more than 1,000 people dead after the December 2007 election.

Kenya's president has been indicted on similar charges and is set to appear before the court in November.

Iran's new president warns there is a limited time frame for resolving his country's nuclear dispute with the west. In a live interview on state television, Hassan Rouhani urged the world community to seize the opportunity of his election.

Mr. Rouhani took office in August, you'll remember, succeed Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

And Apple has unveiled its new flagship iPhone 5s as well as the iPhone 5c, a colorful plastic low cost option. The 5c, we are told, comes in white, green, blue, red, and yellow. And is aimed at helping Apple expand its reach in new markets. They tell us especially in China.

Well, a former Olympic fencing champion has landed one of the most important jobs in world sport. This is a German. And he has been elected as the new president of the International Olympic Committee.

For more I'm joined by Amanda Davies.

Who is he? And was he first choice?

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I think he was many people's favorite for the job. He was up against five others, most -- to most people in the world pretty much men in gray suits, have to be said. There was a Singaporean, a Puerto Rican. The most well known, perhaps, the pole vaulter -- or former pole vaulter Sergey Bupka.

But Thomas Bach was the favorite going into the vote and won his (inaudible).

He's a former executive of Adidas, a former competitor himself who won gold as we said. And he's a longstanding vice president.

But this is his moment. He has now got the vote to take the baton on.

But it's a very, very tough act to follow. It's a big job, one of the biggest, if not the biggest in world sport.

It's a political role. It's a humanitarian role. It's all a financier, a promoter, and the man he's following Jacques Rogge has left a fantastic legacy. He's been in his role for 12 years. And he's widely regarded as the man who has reinvigorated the IOC, given it credibility amongst other sports organizations.

And it's not the easiest time for Thomas Bach to go in, because the first big challenge for him is the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year in February, a games which has already been plagued by problems as the anti- gay laws in Russia that are making headlines.

And then there's the weather, of course. I'm heading to Sochi just tomorrow. I'm packing my bikini and my sun cream when I expected severe packing my snow stuff.

ANDERSON: Apparently they're importing snow from Norway just in case they don't get any.

DAVIES: Yeah. They've been storing snow for the last 18 months.

ANDERSON: At least with Thomas Bach we know how to pronounce his name. So I could never work out whether it was Rogge or Rogge, but anyway you could be right on that.

In tennis, what a match last night. And Rafa once again top of the tennis chart as it were.

DAVIES: Yeah, I have to say I'm struggling to get to grips with a grand slam final on a Monday night as it was. It's a very odd decision. And I think the number of spectators in the Arthur Ashe court showed...

ANDERSON: Is it the first time?

DAVIES: No, it was moved last night because of rain, but the TV rights and in terms of giving the players an extra days rest after the semifinal, the idea being that they'll put on a better performance on Monday night, that's why it happened.

But it was very odd.

But Rafael Nadal certainly didn't seem to mind. It was only the start of this year. We were worried that we wouldn't see him back on court, let alone back to his best. But he's really proved all his doubters wrong. And a fantastic performance to beat the world number one, no mug, Novak Djokovic in four sets.

And because of everything that has happened to Nadal in the last 18 months with that long knee injury that kept him out for seven months. He said it may be his 13th grand slam title, but it's the most special for him. Have a listen.


RAFAEL NADAL, 2013 U.S. OPEN CHAMPION: It's true that when you are coming back after the low moments (inaudible) more special, more emotional. But I always know that that's not forever. So just trying to enjoy every moment as much as I can, trying to play my best in every moment, because in a few years I will not have the chance to play again in stadiums like I did yesterday.


DAVIES: And you wouldn't think it'll be long before he goes on to regain the world number one ranking as well.

ANDERSON: That's a man with bad knees.

DAVIES: It'll be very interesting to see what happens in terms of how he manages his career and his calendar now. But if he can still put in performances like that.

ANDERSON: Good for him. We love him.

Thank you.

The latest world news headlines are just ahead.

Plus, an offhand comment from John Kerry leads to talk of a possible solution on Syria. What a 24 hours. We're going to recap key diplomatic moves over the past day. That is just ahead.

Plus, an interview with former British prime minister Gordon Brown on his thoughts on how to help child refugees fleeing the Syrian crisis. That and your headlines coming up.


ANDERSON: At half past the hour, you would expect the headlines here on CNN, and that is exactly what you are getting. The top stories for you.

US president Barack Obama is asking the Senate to delay a vote on the use of force against Syria. That is after the country said it is ready to disclose the location of its chemical weapons and halt production. President Obama is due to address the American people later this evening.

Four men have been found guilty of the gang rape and murder of a 23- year-old woman in India last year. The young woman's death prompted mass protests across India and tougher punishments for sexual abuse. The men are scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday, but lawyers for the four say they will appeal the verdict.

Kenya's deputy president has pleaded not guilty to alleged crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. William Ruto is charged with murder and persecution in connection with post-election violence that left more than 1,000 people dead after the December 2007 election.

At least 44 people have been killed and 39 injured after two buses collided near the Iranian city of Qom. A police spokesman said a punctured tire caused one of the buses to crash into the other head-on.

Well, it's been a very fast-moving 24 hours -- hasn't it? -- as the world decides about what to do with chemical weapons in Syria. As a possible deal gains momentum, how would it work? Well, Jim Clancy, now, looks at the logistics of what is a very complicated mission.


JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While officials in Damascus, Tehran, and Moscow gushed about a deal that could avert a US military strike on Syria, a virtual avalanche of questions left it smothered in doubt. One Israeli expert said it amounted to a mission impossible.

ELY KARMON, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR COUNTER-TERRORISM: For the moment, it seems to be a mission impossible in the conditions in which the Syrian conflict finds itself just now. First of all, a cease-fire between the two forces. Then the two forces have to retreat in order to permit inspectors to enter and to verify where the weapons and the facilities are.

CLANCY: Even if Syria accepted a cease-fire, there are serious doubts the rebels would go along.

YONI FIGHEL, COLONEL, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR COUNTER-TERRORISM: The solution may be a good idea, but -- and this is a very big "but" -- the technicalities. As much as this offer is tempting on the surface of it, still we need -- the Russians are not being regarded as honest brokers.

CLANCY: Israeli researchers have compiled a detailed list of Syria's chemical storage sites, five major facilities. But experts say there are dozens more sites, and Syria's suspected 1,000 tons of chemical agents have been dispersed. Someone, most likely the UN, would have to oversee any operation. But there's an even harsher reality: the timeline.

KARMON: It's a very long-term solution, at least, in my opinion, taking in account the huge arsenal in Syria and the very complex situation on the field, at least three, four years.

CLANCY: Remember Iraq. UN inspectors spent years searching out Saddam Hussein's chemical stockpiles, eventually gathering rockets, artillery, and raw chemicals at a sprawling desert site called Muthanna. Iraq may have had more chemical arms, but the inspectors weren't working in the crossfire of conflict.

CLANCY (on camera): As one of our experts noted, in a world weary of wars, any deal that avoids another conflict may be welcomed, but there are still important questions to be asked. Does it help the people on the ground inside Syria? Or simply salve the conscience of the world outside.

Jim Clancy, CNN, Jerusalem.


ANDERSON: Let's bring in a panel of experts now for you to discuss the frenzy of diplomatic activity. CNN political analyst John Avlon joining us from New York for what this may mean in the United States and, indeed, for the president. Fawaz Gerges, the director of the Middle East Center here at the London School of Economics is live for us on the impact on the region.

To both of you, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. They say a long time is a week in politics. This week, it seems, is already absolutely exhausting. Is this, John, a week and a war on pause as diplomacy, it seems, acts out in real time? It does seem remarkable, doesn't it?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's remarkable. This afternoon has been a long time in American politics. The facts are changing, the strategy is changing, and folks up on Capitol Hill are really in a wait- and-see mode. The president, as you said, requesting a delay in that vote, but still scheduled to address the nation tonight at 9:00 from the White House.

So, new facts on the ground do require new changes in strategy, but this is all a high-wire act as the whole world looks to see if this deal between Russia and Syria, highly complex and questionable, could be a way out to avoid military action.

But everyone's in wait-and-see mode. The president had been pushing military action hard until, really, just a few hours ago.

ANDERSON: And it is that threat that still lingers, and that is what is causing a rift this hour, at least, between all parties at the UN and elsewhere. Fawaz, have a listen to what the Iranian president has said in the past hour or so about that very issue.


HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translator): God forbid, if a war breaks out, in this war, we will such a war in this region very dangerous, it will have very destructive repercussions, and the repercussions would be first of all for those who would initiate that war.


ANDERSON: It does seem like everybody wants a piece of the narrative at this point. I can't remember the last time we had so many countries who wanted a sort of stake in what was going on. Talk to me about what you've heard from the Iranian president there and, Fawaz, about how you see this playing out regionally at present.

FAWAZ GERGES, DIRECTOR, MIDDLE EAST CNETRE, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: As you -- as expected, Becky, the region is divided over the Russian initiative. Iran, Syria's most pivotal ally, has fully and wholeheartedly welcomed the Russian initiative. Iran wants to avert an American strike.

Remember, Syria is a pivotal member of the so-called axis of resistance. Syria -- Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah basically have organic links over the last 20, 30 years. So, they're welcoming this particular initiative.

Even some of the big states in the region, Becky, that are anxious about the implications of an American strike -- Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon -- have all welcomed the Russian initiative.

On the other hand, you have the opposition, the Syrian opposition, basically has already rejected the Russian initiative and says it's a ploy Assad is playing for time. And of course, the opposition's allies -- the Saudi kingdom, Turkey, and Qatar -- they wanted America to punish the Syrian president.


GERGES: To topple Assad.

ANDERSON: All right.

GERGES: So, the region is divided and everyone is waiting to see whether the initiative will fly or whether the initiative will basically --

ANDERSON: All right --

GERGES: Please.

ANDERSON: All right. Well, Andrew Kuchins is also joining us tonight. He's the director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for International Studies. I think many of our viewers will be very interested to know whether you believe this was a suggestion that had been talked about at G-20.

Is this Russian initiative something that is just -- appeared as if by magic over the past 24 hours? Is this something that we're led to believe appeared as if by magic? Or is it something that had been discussed in the past?

And what are the Russians playing at this point saying they'll go to the UN with a resolution and now pulling out, what, within the last hour or so? This is Russian Roulette, isn't it, at this point?


ANDREW KUCHINS, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, it's been a very bizarre turn of events for sure. On the -- the question as to whether Obama and Putin talked about this at the G-20, I'm deeply skeptical about that because they didn't have a formal one-on-one meeting.

They talked for 20 to 30 minutes, and that's 20 to 30 minutes with interpretation, so figure the conversation really is more like about 10 to 15 minutes max. So, you can't really talk about some kind of initiative like this in any kind of serious detail or in any serious way at the G-20.

Now -- so, I think that there is some efforts to save face that this initiative kind of appeared rather inadvertently through the seemingly rhetorical remarks from Secretary Kerry yesterday, but with many, the Russians first and foremost, thinking that well, maybe this is actually something that we can work with.

And frankly, going six, seven months back, it's a thought I've had myself. If there's any issue that Russians and Americans could possibly come together with on Syria, it might be the use and/or the disposition of chemical weapons.

ANDERSON: All right. John, let me turn to you here at this point. We're going to hear from the US president in four or so hours. Many people talking about this being the make or break week for his presidency. Many saying, in fact, it's probably going to be the break week.

Is he humiliated at this point? Have we stepped back from the brink, so far as Obama is concerned? Where does he stand, do you think? How is he being assessed both on the Hill and elsewhere in the States?

AVLON: Well, obviously, the debate has been fraught, the president pushing an unpopular military action to uphold international law. But a case can be made by the president that the credible threat of force by the United States leading the international community largely alone brought about this potential reset, this pause, if you will.

But of course, the big question mark is, is Russia -- Syria is a client state of Russia, and trust but verify is a very big question and a potentially long period of time, during which justice delayed might be denied.

So, while the president has to withstand criticism that he's maybe vacillating on this issue, hasn't set out clear strategies, he can point to a couple of short-term wins, not least of which is that Syria for the first time has admitted it had chemical weapons, something they did not do today, before that credible threat of force.

ANDERSON: Fawaz, how is the US president and, indeed, the States, perceived elsewhere now, do you think, regionally?

GERGES: Well, I think the US president is not taken very seriously. It's not just about his credibility online. They realize there is tremendous domestic opposition in the United States. He has not been able to convince the American public or even the Congress. He has been reluctant to intervene inside Syria.

And if he does not take military action against Syria, his decision would be seen, well, look, it's all about Barack Obama. He does not really have the nerve, the fire in the belly. So, it does not really help Barack Obama's leadership portfolio and position in the Middle East.

He has already been seen as a weak president who's not interested in foreign policy, and this would confirm, basically, the widespread perception of Barack Obama in the Middle East.

ANDERSON: I'm seeing you smiling there, John. Shaking your head? You don't buy that?

AVLON: Yes, I'm not smiling, actually. Let's be real about what the stakes are here. The United States, the population, the domestic population of the United States and many people around the world suffer from a serious case of Iraq hangover for very good reason.

And when there's talk about WMD and a military incursion that seems open-ended, there is a great deal of skepticism and caution. And for an American president to make the case that military action might be needed to enforce an international norm on weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, takes courage. It takes leadership, in the absence of leadership around the world.


GERGES: By the way --

AVLON: And what your other guest is suggesting, that US leadership requires boots on the ground and starting another war in Syria, I don't think it takes a magician --

GERGES: No, no, no, no --

ANDERSON: All right.

GERGES: Becky -- Becky --

AVLON: -- to figure out why that's not so popular around the world right now.

ANDERSON: Let's give you a chance, Fawaz, and I'm going to give Andrew the last word.

AVLON: You need an end game.

ANDERSON: Go on -- stop, John. Fawaz, very briefly.

GERGES: May I say, I didn't mean I perceive Barack Obama as weak. On the contrary, I respect his deliberative strategy. I respect the fact that he has gone to the Congress. I respect the fact that they listen to the American public. Becky asked me about how he is seen in the region, in some parts of the region.


GERGES: And how he's seen in the region is he's seen as a -- basically not a very decisive president.


GERGES: That's what I meant.

ANDERSON: Andrew, how's Barack Obama perceived by Messieurs Putin and Lavrov these days, do you think? And how are they maneuvering themselves on the international stage through all of this?

KUCHINS: Well, I think the Russians are feeling pretty happy about the role that they've been able to play in the last 24 hours or so in positioning themselves as the peacemakers. But let's face the fact that this opportunity would never have come about unless there was the very serious, imminent threat of military action by the United States.

And so, not only have we had Syria actually admit to having an arsenal of chemical weapons, but we've also really, really, really significantly raised the bar, I think, for Mr. Assad to use those weapons again in any near future.

ANDERSON: With that, we're going to leave it there. Gentlemen, it's been an absolute pleasure. Thank you, all three of you.

Live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, hear what a former British prime minister says is paramount now for Syria's child refugees. Lest we forget, there are people involved in all of this. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: All right, you're back with CNN, CONNECT THE WORLD. She is co-chair of a multibillion-dollar foundation and counts Warren Buffet as a personal mentor. This week on Leading Women, Melinda Gates talks to us about balancing a demanding career with a family life.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since establishing their foundation in 2000, Bill and Melinda Gates have focused on issues ranging from vaccination and education and committed the vast majority of their wealth to their causes.

WARREN BUFFETT, BILLIONAIRE: I am enormously proud of them --

STOUT: Their work has garnered support from billionaire Warren Buffet, a Gates Foundation trustee, who pledged $31 billion in 2006. Melinda Gates considers Buffett a mentor.

MELINDA GATES, CO-FOUNDER, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: I have people that I look up to, for sure, and I think the one that I would say is Warren Buffett. Warren really believes in women in business.

He makes sure that you have opportunities to know that you're doing well, even when you're doing something difficult, like he's seen me do, which is juggling a young family and trying to have a professional role. He's just always there to give that -- and lend that support.

STOUT: Gates is co-founder and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. On this day, she mentors a group of foundation interns.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And at Johns Hopkins for a proper car.

GATES: Great. And one more year?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, one more year.

STOUT: Gates spends a third of her time on the road, and with a big job and three children, has a hectic schedule.

STOUT (on camera): How do you deal with your duties of being a mom -- you have three children -- and being committed to the foundation, especially when you travel so much?

GATES: It's a juggle. It's a constant juggle. Luckily, the kids can come with us quite often, so some of my trips, I plan actually around their school breaks. Bill and I go over our calendars a lot to make sure as much as we can that one of us is home when we can be and to make sure that the kids know that they really are the center of our lives, even though we're also running the foundation.

Both of us drive the children to school, and both of us are involved in making sure that we're involved in their education and getting them to bed at night and part of their team sports and being there on the sidelines, both of us.

STOUT (voice-over): Melinda Gates was born in Texas, one of four children, her father an engineer, her mother a homemaker.

GATES: My mom's incredible. I'm still in touch with her all the time, we're very, very close. My mom really helped me understand that you should trust who you are inside and that you should take quiet time every day to really reflect.

STOUT: Gates attended Duke University in North Carolina, earning a degree in computer science and economics, and then an MBA. In 1987, she joined Microsoft, where she became a rising star.

STOUT (on camera): Now, you've accomplished so much as a high-tech executive, as a philanthropist, as a mom. What's next, and do you have any unrealized goals?

GATES: You know, the -- what I do at the foundation is my life's work. I will be doing this for the next 30 years, and I love it. And also being a mom is the other part of my work. I hope someday that I'll have grandkids.

But my real goals are just to keep pushing forward for women and girls. I think there is so much to do in the world to still raise their voices. We have so far still to go around the world. And so, I'm looking forward to doing that day in and day out.


ANDERSON: To read more about Melinda Gates, go to Well, coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, I speak to the former British prime minister, Gordon Brown, about his plan to keep Syrian refugee kids in the classroom. That after this.


ANDERSON: Well, Syria is front and center of the global headlines, isn't it? The United Nations estimates that Syria's civil war has created more than 2 million refugees. In Lebanon, where most of Syria's refugees have fled, there are a half a million Syrian kids in need of education. I want to kick this part of the show off with CNN's Nic Robertson, who filed this report.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a makeshift classroom far from home, 13-year-old cousins Om Kaltoom and Zahraa, catch up on lost lessons. Refugees from Syria, they can't afford school in Lebanon.

"Sad," she says, "because our parents don't have the money to send us to school. We feel different to Lebanese children."

They tell me, in Syria, when their school was shelled, they hid under their desks. They left with their families more than a year ago. They want to be doctors. It's a dream that may have gotten a little closer.

MALALA YOUSUFZAI, GIRLS' EDUCATION ACTIVIST: It's a great opportunity for me to speak to you today.

ROBERTSON: The pair were picked by the UN to help Pakistani girls' education champion, Malala Yousufzai, who was almost killed by the Taliban two years ago, launch a half billion-dollar campaign for Syrian refugee education.

ROBERTSON (on camera): So, what difference would it make if you -- if there was this, suddenly, a half a billion dollars to help with education?

SOHA BOUSTANI, UNICEF: Wow, that would be great, because that would allow us to reach all the children. For the time being, we're reaching 29,000 through the funds we have.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): In Lebanon alone, UNICEF estimates half a million refugee children need education. Across the region, more than one million children have fled Syria.

BOUSTANI: We are losing a generation. This generation will have to go back one day, and if they don't learn, then they will be lost.

ROBERTSON (on camera): By far, the biggest challenge is going to be getting the funds to pay for the project. This classroom is finances by UNICEF, and last year, they received barely one third of the cash that donors promised. And for education, that figure plummets to barely $1 out of every $7 requested.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): For the two cousins, the calculus is simple. "We say thank you, and one day, when you need help, we will help you, too." It's a promise they'd love to keep.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Baalbek, Lebanon.


ANDERSON: Well, UN special envoy for education, Gordon Brown, is spearheading the campaign to raise those funds, and in two weeks' time, he'll head to New York, where he's hoping to seal the deal. I caught up with him earlier today and began by asking why he sees education as a priority in what is this Syrian crisis.


GORDON BROWN, UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL ENVOY FOR EDUCATION: There's a myth that you're a refugee for a few weeks and a few months, then things go back to normal. What we're actually talking about -- and I think this is going to be true of Syria as well -- is not just days or weeks, but months and then years. And the average stay for a refugee in a camp or in a separate settlement is ten years or more.

We've got to plan on the basis that it's not enough just to meet the food and the shelter, the needs of a child, but you've got to meet their health needs and you've got to meet their education needs. So, these children are in danger of becoming unemployed and then unemployable, fall prey to terrorist influences.

They're in either camps or shelter where people are discontented and where people are angry, and if you don't do something about their education, then you are creating a situation where their lives have been reined, let's be honest about it.

ANDERSON: You're relying on the international community stumping up a half a billion dollars over three years. Is that realistic at this point?

BROWN: Right. This is a plan that can be implemented immediately, because we are talking about using existing schools in Lebanon, we've got 300,000 children who need schooling, only 30,000 can get it. And you can do double shifts, triple shifts in schools, you can bring in Syrian teachers who themselves are exiled. You want to provide school meals along with the education, so it's a very practical plan.

We should, like Medecins Sans Frontieres and the Red Cross can do for health care, we should be able to in conflict areas and in difficult territories to continue the supply of education. So, I want us to prove in Lebanon that this can be done. It's a practical, realistic proposal, but it would establish a principle that has not been established, that education is possible beyond frontiers.

ANDERSON: Clearly, Malala's support is a boost for this campaign. We've seen the pictures of her Skyping the two young girls. How committed is she to a project like this?

BROWN: Well, I've been talking to her and her father, and she's coming to New York in the next two weeks. We're holding a meeting of all possible funders. I could tell anybody who wants to fund this that there's a girl out there or a boy out there who's a Syrian refugee that I could guarantee that they will have schooling within a few weeks if they can give the help to fund them.

And that's why I think Malala wants to be part of this, but it's also why I think thousands of other people, many of your viewers, will say, well, what can I do in this terrible situation? Will the money I give be wasted or will it be properly deployed?

And I can say, here's a project that could be up and running so quickly, and it doesn't need some vast feat of engineering or some huge architectural construction. It just needs the will to get this done, which I think we'll find by the time we get through the United Nations in two weeks' time.


ANDERSON: Gordon Brown speaking there. And if you feel like you want to help the Syrian refugees, we can help you out. Go over to the website at, and there you can find details of more than a dozen organizations working to help refugees across the region. If Gordon Brown's isn't there, it will be in the next couple of days, believe me. It's a great project.

A recap of tonight's top story for you, then. Russian news agency Interfax says Syria has agreed to a plan to show Moscow and the United Nations its chemical weapons sites, and the report says it's willing to join the global treaty banning such weapons.

Well, today, Russia called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, but then canceled, citing changing circumstances. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, will travel to Geneva on Thursday to meet with his Russian counterpart. The two top diplomats will discuss Syria. A fast-moving story, stay with CNN over the coming hours and days for the very latest.

I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. From the team here in London, it's a very good evening. Thank you for watching. CNN, though, of course, continues.