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Syria Initiates U.N. Process; North Korea Restarts Nuclear Reactor; Assad Says U.S. Threat Didn't Cause Offer; U.S. Weapons Now Reaching Syrian Rebels; CWC Not Designed for Syria Situation; U.S. Providing Weapons to Rebels; Vatican Open To Discussions; Prince William Laves RAF

Aired September 12, 2013 - 12:30   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Some significant developments coming to us about the situation in Syria and their willingness, the Syrian willingness, to sign on to the convention on chemical weapons, and also this other angle of some "buts" creeping in on, you know, as long as the U.S. doesn't continue arming the rebels, as long as they stop removing the threat of violence.

Nick Paton Walsh?


Nick, if you can, walk us through the legal process here. There is an application process, but we understand, at least Syria initiating the process saying they will agree under certain conditions to give up their chemical weapons.


What we've been hearing the past few days is the Syrians, through Russian media or with caveats as you just heard from Bashar al-Assad in his interview, saying how they would join.

But what's happened just in the last 45 minutes here is the U.N.'s confirmed to us that they have received a letter from the Syrian mission here to the United Nations in which Syria says, and there's a presidential decree attached so it comes from the top, saying they want to join the convention on chemical weapons from 1993.

That's a big deal because it is the first legal step of them joining that. It would require them to hand over to international control their chemical weapons stockpile.

Now, of course, the caveats we've heard from Damascus could still apply, could interfere with this, but it's an enormous step here that they've actually made, and also now the first confirmation you have from the United Nations.

This is legit. This is real. This is moving forward, a game changer perhaps in many ways, Suzanne. MALVEAUX: And, Nick, what is the next step here this afternoon, now that this process begins?

WALSH: Technical experts will explain in more detail exactly how this works going forward, but it's pretty much immediate once you're agreed to join, you enter a process. There's apparently 180 days in which a timeline begins.

But I should also point out as well, this is happening alongside a changing text of a resolution put forward by America, Britain and France that would put Syria into a position where, within 15 days, it would have to declare all of its chemical weapons stockpile.

A lot going on here, Suzanne.

HOLMES: Good to see you, Nick. Nick Paton Walsh there, covering some of those developments for us, fast moving indeed.

It's the caveats, I think, everyone's going to be talking. They're moving towards doing it. That is significant. Throw in a couple of "buts" and it could all come to a screeching halt.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, one of them saying that U.S. has to give up its military threats first before they agree to this.

HOLMES: Yes. Exactly. And not arm the rebels which we've just started to do.

All right, we'll be back. Next, we're going to talk more about the process of getting rid of chemical weapons were that to happen in Syria.


HOLMES: Welcome back. While the world focuses on Syria, guess what? Recent satellite images are raising some concerns that North Korea may have restarted a nuclear reactor it shut down years ago.

MALVEAUX: The North Korean government announced earlier this year it planned to restart the facility which was disabled in 20007 as part of a six-party disarmament agreement.

One official who is monitoring the situation on the ground said, "Without this capability, North Korea really has few bargaining chips."

HOLMES: Joining us on the phone is former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson, who is a bit of a student on North Korea as well.

We see these steam columns rising from a building, what does that tell you? And what did does it mean if they're firing up the reactor? Doesn't mean they're making plutonium tomorrow?

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR (via telephone): It means two things, good and bad. The bad is that they're restarting their nuclear program that I think under President Bush we all reached an agreement where they would stop this production at this Yongbyon facility that I've been to, and I remember being there when it was stalled.

Now that's the bad news, that they're saying, well, we're moving ahead with our nuclear program.

The good news is that North Koreans are very cagey. They know that we detect this, so they may be sending a sign, OK, Western world, U.S., South Korea, six-party countries, as Suzanne mentioned, we're ready to deal, but it's going to cost you more.

That's -- they send these signals, fortunately I'm going to use a pun, smoke signals, that are basically putting out two messages. They're very skillful at this.

They scare, they up the ante, and then they say, OK, you want to deal with us it's going to cost you more because you don't want us to restart our nuclear program, do you?

MALVEAUX: Ambassador, on that point, talk about the timing of this.

Do you think that because the world's attention is now on Syria that this is something where they think, well, they'll look the other way and we can move forward on this?

I mean, are these two incidents related in any way?

RICHARDSON (via telephone): Well, they are related, as you just mentioned.

The North Koreans get very resentful if somebody takes them off the world stage, and for a while they were at the top of the world stage, but now the situation in Egypt and Syria, especially Syria, has literally taken them off the front pages, even at a time when they've been making moves, like small moves on conciliation with South Korea.

They restarted their telephone talks, their red line. They restarted the facility on the border, South-North Kaesong facility which employs 50,000 North and South Koreans.

So they kind of -- if they're not at the top of the world stage, they do things to get this attention, and this is what they're doing.

But still we don't know what they're up to. This new, young leader, nobody can figure him out. No one's talked to him at a policy level, not -- certainly not from the United States, but even from the six- party countries.

He's met with the Chinese envoy, but we really don't know who's pulling this guy's strings. He's all over the place in terms of does he want dialogue, does he want to continue confrontation?

I'm a little concerned that he's not heading in the right direction, especially with this. Restarting the Yongbyon facility is a sign that they're going to go ahead possibly with their nuclear development.

HOLMES: All right. OK. We'll leave it there.

Former U.N. Ambassador, Bill Richardson on the line from New Mexico. North Koreans sending steam signals, as he said, or who knows?

MALVEAUX: Still doesn't know what they're up to just quite yet.

HOLMES: (Inaudible).

MALVEAUX: (Inaudible).

U.S.-supplied weapons now in the hands of Syrian rebels, but can the U.S. be sure those weapons will not fall into the wrong hands?

More on the "Crisis in Syria," straight ahead.


MALVEAUX: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says the threat of a strike from the U.S. had nothing to do with Syria's decision to turn over its chemical weapons.

He said it was the proposal from Russia that led to his decision.

HOLMES: Meanwhile, CNN has learned that weapons provided by the U.S. have begun reaching the Syrian rebels, something they've been asking for for months.

Now included on the list, ammunition and what's being called light weapons, weapons that can be tracked, presumably with serial numbers and the like, this all organized and funded by the CIA.

MALVEAUX: Joining us, David Kay, CNN analyst, member of the State Department's internal security advisory board -- international, rather, security advisory board.

And, David, tell us a little bit about how this complicates the matter on the ground.

If you've got now weapons that are being supplied to the rebels, how do you come up with a ceasefire and inspections of chemical weapons sites?

DAVID KAY, CNN ANALYST: Well, the ceasefire arrangement has struck me as always a long reach.

Inevitably, when you have a ceasefire that works, both sides are in a position that they think won't change, won't deteriorate with a ceasefire.

I don't think that's the case right now. It's certainly not the case if one, and actually both sides, are increasing armament.

It does make the inspection process far more difficult, but quite frankly, if you read interview that Assad gave today, there is a kicker in there that is far more serious than the other "buts."

It is that he seems to presume that the inspection process, the international process, will be the process of the CWC. The CWC, the Chemical Weapons Convention, was never designed to be applied to someone who had recently used chemical weapons.

And, in fact, the very process allows 180 days to take effect for the country, then to produce an inventory, which is additional time, and all the monitors do is they go to the country and the country says, here are our weapons, count them.

And the monitors go away, and then they periodically come back to verify that those weapons, the ones that they were shown by the country, were in fact there.

And the process of destruction is left to the country to develop. That doesn't strike me as what is necessary in a case like this.

HOLMES: Yeah, I think destruction is very much on the list of what the world is demanding.

If it gets to the point where there is destruction, not just identification but verification and then destruction. Presumably that would be done on site. How difficult is that? I mean moving it could be problematic. And again, something you touched on yesterday, the time that this would take.

KAY: Well, I don't think moving it is actually a go situation. These weapons started to be produced a little over 25 years ago. Some of them are very old. We don't know the condition they're in. My suspicion, having seen chemical weapons stockpiles in other places, is you've got leakers. It's very hazardous. You don't want to move them over rough roads. I don't want to move them over any roads.

Are there quick and dirty ways of starting to destroy them? There are. They're not easy. They're certainly not something we'd use in our own country. We actually used it in Iraq and it works. So, I mean, that needs discussion. But more importantly, you need to bring these weapons under control immediately, international control, and you need to be sure that you've got all of the weapons. That really is what concerns me about Assad's statement. It looks like he's trying to wiggle out of that part as well.

HOLMES: Yes. Months and months and months before they even get to that point.

MALVEAUX: Yes, really.

HOLMES: David Kay, appreciate it. Thanks so much.

KAY: Happy to be with you.

HOLMES: And as David was saying yesterday, it could take years.

MALVEAUX: Yes. It's just the beginning.

HOLMES: Uh-huh.

MALVEAUX: Is the catholic church changing its mind about celibacy? That's another story we are following. How the Vatican says it is now up for discussion.

HOLMES: For priests, not parishioners, we should say.


HOLMES: Yes. They're having a conversation. Are they starting a conversation? We'll talk about that.



There are two live events that we are actually waiting on. In just a few moments, questions about Syria certain to come up at the White House briefing. There you see the White House there. And we're going to bring that to you live as soon as that starts.

HOLMES: And we are also waiting for Secretary of State John Kerry, the all-important meeting he has been having in Geneva with his Russian counterpart about Syria's chemical weapons. And a lot of developments coming up just in the last hour on that issue. We will keep you updated on all of it.

MALVEAUX: And now to this. The Catholic Church, is it ready to change its position on requiring priests to remain celibate? Many seem to be a little bit shocked about the Vatican now open to discussing this.

HOLMES: Yes, it's really interesting and it would be a huge thing, of course, if that did come up for serious discussion. Celibacy, of course, one of the oldest traditions in the roman catholic church when it comes to priests. So what happened was the pope second in command maybe signaled a shift in the church's position on celibacy. And, of course, that had everyone sitting up and taking notice.

MALVEAUX: Including our Eric Marrapodi. he's joining us from Washington to analyze all of this.

So, Eric, what do we think about this? Is this real? Is it not?

ERIC MARRAPODI, CNN BELIEF BLOG CO-EDITOR: Oh, yes, it really happened. Archbishop Pietro Parolin, he's the incoming secretary of state at the Vatican. He's a -- their ambassador to Venezuela. He's the nuncio (ph), is what they call it there.

And in an interview in a paper there, El Universal, he talked about celibacy for priests. The reporter asked him if it was something that could be changed. And, of course, he reiterated this church teaching that, yes, celibacy is something that could be changed. In the first thousand years of the church's history, priests were married. It changed later on and since that's been the tradition.

And there's a big difference here, the distinction he's drawing between dogma and church teaching. Dogma is things like, when Jesus says do this in remembrance of me for communion, that's not on the table to be changed. That's not going to change for the catholic church. But the issue of celibacy for priests, that's more of a tradition, that's more of a practice and, it, in fact, is changing. Here in the United States, in 2012, you had about 40 Anglican converts who became catholic priests and they were already married. And so now of the some 40,000 catholic priests here in the United States, you've got about 40 who are married and certainly have wives. So if there's a test balloon here for this celibacy case, you look to that as opposed to this article from the incoming secretary of state.

HOLMES: And that's what - that's what I was going to ask you about too. This is sort of a trial balloon. Put this out there and see what the flock thinks of it and what perhaps more hard line people within the church think about it. I mean his predecessor, this was off- limits. This was not going to happen. Here we are six months into the job and we're talking about this.

MARRAPODI: Well, I will give Benedict credit for this, he was the one who in 2012 created the ordinariats (ph) to bring these Anglicans who were married into the fold as catholic priests. So he, in some sense, opened the door to this. But again, this is a church teaching, so it's something that could be raised.

I was talking to one church official who said this to me interesting about it. He said this is about sacraments, not about sex. And the issue is, they don't have enough priests to deliver the sacraments to help people practice their faith. Like in the Yukon in Canada, there's six priests for the entire Yukon. It's a little tricky to dish out communion on Christmas and Easter when you've only got six priests to cover an area that large. So there's always this ongoing discussion with the bishops, with the cardinals, with the pope, OK, how do we fulfill our obligations, how do we get more people to come?

MALVEAUX: All right.

HOLMES: Widen the pool, yes. Eric, thanks so much. Do drop in and visit the belief blog. You'll find that on A lot more discussion going on there. Thanks, Eric.

MALVEAUX: You notice he said it took 1,000 years to change it, so it might not be tomorrow that we're going to see anything.

HOLMES: This pope, my word, six months in, he's changed everything. And, of course, he's driving around the Vatican now in his own little 300,000 kilometer on the clock car. I mean he's amazing.

MALVEAUX: He's a new kind of pope. New kind of pope.

HOLMES: He is.

MALVEAUX: All right, Prince William making a big announcement. He's actually leaving the military after seven and a half years. Why he's shifting his focus to another passion, up next.


Prince William is switching careers. The future heir to the British throne leaving the armed forces after seven years. Did a good job, too.

MALVEAUX: Yes, he did. Quite an eventful year, of course, because he became a dad just more than a month ago. Well, now he's going to end his stent in Britain's Royal Air Force as a search and rescue pilot. The prince is going to focus his royal duties on charities as well.

HOLMES: Royal correspondent Max Foster joining us from London.

I mean, is it a surprise or not?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there was an element of surprise. I mean we've been waiting for the announcement for some time. We knew he was leaving, or his tour of duty was ending in the RAF. He could have stayed there. But I know that his journey from London right up to West Wales was sort of wearing on him a bit, that he was very committed to being in the military because he liked being in the military. He's treated as a normal guy in the military. He's also ultimately going to be head of the armed forces when he becomes king. So he is very committed to the military.

What was a surprise was that he was leaving the military altogether. There's some sort of confusion about what exactly he is doing next because he -- he isn't going to become a full-time royal, we're told. He's just going to have a year, a transition year, and he may take up a new sort of job, not in the military, but in the public service somewhere next year.

But for the next year, he's going to be working with his charities, conservation in particular, and with the royal family. And I think probably he's going to spend some time with Prince George as well, his newborn son. Their new apartment is soon ready at Kensington Palace, so I think they're settling down as a family, outside the military. Some people really questioning what that means, but I think it's quite straightforward, really. He's not quite decide what he wants to do in the longer term.

MALVEAUX: And, Max, his heart is really close to Africa and the charity work that he does. Where do you suppose he's going to be involved?

FOSTER: Well, he is definitely going big on conservation. He's set up a new initiative today with David Beckham, bringing together all sorts of conservation charities. I get the impression as well he's going to be going to Africa next year. I recently interviewed him about his work in Africa. That all comes out on Sunday. But it's one thing that he's really passionate about and he's going to be really pushing that.

So I think over the next year we're going to see a lot more of them because they're going to be doing more work outside the military, and also a lot more travel, I think, and probably to Africa. So we'll wait to see, but I really think conservation, charity work, supporting the royal family, we're going to see a lot more of that. We're going to be seeing a lot more of William and Kate and possibly George over the next year.

HOLMES: I think you'll be seeing them this evening, their first public outing as a couple since the birth of George, a red carpet event.


HOLMES: And Max is going to head over there and rub shoulders with the (INAUDIBLE). Good to see you, Max. Thanks so much.

MALVEAUX: And, of course, you can also watch his interview with Prince William. It is this Sunday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. You're not going to want to miss that one.

HOLMES: Thanks for watching AROUND THE WORLD.

MALVEAUX: CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

HOLMES: See you tomorrow.