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NEWS STREAM

Mexico's Pacific, Gulf Coasts Battered by Hurricanes; Clashes on the Outskirts of Cairo; Negotiations Over Syrian Chemical Weapons Continue; Japanese Prime Minister Wants to Decommission Remaining Fukushima Reactors

Aired September 19, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: And we thank you for joining us. Our top story, Mexico is in the eye of the storm on all sides, with both the Pacific and Golf Coast getting hammered from three powerful weather systems. Manuel gained strength, and is now a hurricane battering western Mexico, while the remnants of Hurricane Ingrid have left major damage in eastern parts of the country. And to the south, another storm - can you believe this - is moving in. The damage overall has been described as catastrophic for the country. And at this hour, 58 people are unaccounted for after a mudslide buried homes. And nationwide, at least 80 people have been killed now. Shasta Darlington in the resort city of Acapulco where thousands of tourists have been stranded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chaos in the beach resort of Acapulco. Three days after Manuel made landfall, the city's international airport submerged in waist-deep flood waters. Some 40,000 tourists struggling to get out after the worst storm damage to hit Mexico in years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We ran out of money, so we spent the night here. We don't have food or water.

DARLINGTON: And she's not alone.

Here, outside the air force base, there are hundreds and hundreds of people in line, really as far as you can see, many of them have been waiting all day, and some even spent the night here.

Most of the tourists are Mexican, but we also find a medical student from Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We tried to leave on Monday, after we all got together in the car to go and the road was washed. We didn't get further than a mile.

DARLINGTON: She spent 12 hours in this line today, but seems to accept she may not get on a flight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, we are a lot better off than a lot of people.

DARLINGTON: More than 10,000 tourists have been airlifted out. Many of them abandoning cars and belongings in their desperation to get home. The air force is also carrying supplies to towns and neighborhoods that have been completely cut off by washed out bridges and roads. Electricity and phone lines were down for two days, and running water won't be restored to many homes for another 20 days. At least 80 people have been killed and a million people affected across the country by the onslaught of three different tropical storms. Here in Acapulco, rescue workers are still just reaching the hardest-hit areas. And while some weary tourists are finally headed home, many more are bracing for another night.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: And Shasta Darlington joins us now live from Acapulco, and yet another day. They probably don't know if they're going to get out again today. Is that right, Shasta?

DARLINGTON: Absolutely, Natalie. We've come to the main shelter here in Acapulco. They've turned that convention center into a shelter where people are sleeping, and it's also where they're doing the check-ins for the commercial flights, so you can see there are people behind me, waiting in line to check in. They are standing on the sidewalk. From here, they get on buses, and they are taking straight to the plane, and they climb on the plane, because the terminals are still under water. They are getting people out, they've gotten about 10,000 people out. But there are still thousands more, and there is no end in sight, because the road out of here, the highway out of here isn't expected to be open up until Friday, Natalie.

ALLEN: Shasta Darlington, a lot of people were going to have to have some patience there. And thank you. OK. And here's the other bad part of it. Mari Ramos is here with us. Unfortunately, right, Mari, that there is more bad news for Mexico?

MARI RAMOS, METEOROLOGIST: It's not entirely over yet, as far as the rainfall is concerned. This is, of course, this serious situation. You have aftermath of this powerful weather systems, so many people affected. I want to start kind of from the beginning here. These are the areas that have this natural disaster declarations. In four different states, 77 municipalities, and I want you to notice how the hardest hit areas are here to the south, either on this side from Ingrid, or on the southern side, because of Manuel. So, these are the areas. And keep in mind this geography, because this is important as we head through the next set of information here. This is where the rainfall is expected as well. Additional rainfall, 70 to 150 millimeters of rain, additional from now to maybe Thursday through Friday as we head into the weekend, we'll have to see what happens with some very heavy rain through some of these areas, and then the bull's eye right over here, this area in red where 150 millimeters of rain or more is expected. That is where we have Hurricane Manuel, year, the same one that is here to the south, has reemerged here farther north, and is affecting those, the very same areas. This is what Manuel looks like now.

This - my biggest concern with this, Natalie, is that the storm is stationary. That means it's going to seat here over the same area for prolonged period of time. The rain will accumulate. The risk for flooding and mudslides is great along this area, normally a relatively dry area, then as we head into the more tropical areas to the south, still, of course, quite windy, anywhere from Mabutlan (ph) to Qulyakan (ph), that' where the heaviest rain and strongest winds are expected to be. So, none entirely over yet. So, there is Manuel here to the north, back over here in the Atlantic or in the Gulf of Mexico, we are watching an area of low pressure that has the potential to become our next tropical cyclone. That one will, of course, be impacting these same areas that have been affected, and then we have the tropical rain shower as farther to the south, of course, near Acapulco. The road's blocked, look at the landslide right there, right? That looks pretty bad? Nothing. Look at what it really looks like in so many cases.

So, they are really dealing with this in so many roadways, they haven't even been able to account for all of them. Before I go, I have one more really important thing to tell you, guys, about. And that is this typhoon. This is on the other side of the world, on the other side of the Pacific, off the coast of Asia. Here's the Philippines, there is Taiwan, there is China. There is Hong Kong right there. Typhoon Usagi. Look at these winds, Natalie. 220 kilometer for hour winds. Right now, it has remained offshore, but it is bringing some very heavy rain and high waves across the Philippines here. This is very important, because this storm is expected to intensify further. We could be looking at a super typhoon by this time tomorrow, 260 kilometer per hour winds, notice this track, that it takes it just in between Taiwan and the Philippines. It's going to affect the northern Philippines and southern Taiwan in particular over the next 24 to 48 hours, and then that track seems to take it here into China. We'll have to see precisely where it goes, but a very strong storm, indeed, there, with winds (inaudible) to 180 kilometers per hour when it moves into that area. Last, but not least - the rainfall. Check this out: that right there, 25 to 50 centimeters of rain. A similar situation here across the Philippines. So, definitely, another big story (inaudible) and worldwide.

ALLEN: All right. We'll keep watching it. Thank you so much, Mari.

Well, turning now to Egypt where there are clashes on the outskirts of Cairo, at least one police official has been killed, it happened in the districts of Kirdasah.

You hear the gunfire there, the security forces raided buildings in the area after a gun battle. The interior ministry says at least 48 men are now under arrest. And separately, a bomb scare briefly closed Cairo subway system. Suspicious objects were found on the track, but according to official state media, they did not contain explosive charges. And let's get the latest now from the Egyptian capital as the unrest continues. Ian Lee joins us now live from Cairo. Ian, hello.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, starting with the early morning raid in Kirdasah where we saw security forces, the army and police move in with armor personnel carriers to reassert control over the area, we saw 48 people, according to the Ministry of Interior, at least 48 people have been arrested, as well as officers and soldiers injured in the clashes, and as you said, one general was killed during the operation. They say that they have found bombs, guns and RPGs and -- when they were clearing out the area. And this really all stems from August 14th, the police have been absent since that day. And that coincides with the breakup of the pro-Morsy sit-in. 11 police officers were killed on August 14th by gunmen, and they haven't been back since this is just the government reasserting control over that area. I'm talking about the subway. What we are hearing from officials that this was a homemade device, that it did not, as you say, have the explosive charges, but a million - over a million Egyptians travel on the metro each day. This is definitely something that they will be concerned about, because there is the potential for a very deadly incident if something like that were to happen.

ALLEN: And what has the government been saying since August 14th - what has the government been doing to try to diffuse this tension? Are they doing anything to try to accommodate in anyway the Morsy supporters?

LEE: Atmosphere has been really tense here in Egypt, and the government is cracking down hard on the Muslim Brotherhood. Well over 1,000 supporters of the Brotherhood have been arrested, including key political figures. The government is trying to wage what they are calling a war on terror, that they say they're fighting Islamist extremists. They're also pointing to a town here south of Cairo, about 300 kilometers, (inaudible), where security forces had a similar operation, where they went in there, this is a town of about 120,000 people that was taken over by armed men, Islamists that were supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood of the house that President Mohammed Morsy. So, they say that they are combatting this war on terror. If you talk to the Muslim Brotherhood, they say that this is all for their peaceful protest to reinstate the ousted president. It is very tense here right now in Egypt as the two sides still are trying - going at each other.

ALLEN: All right, Ian Lee for us live in Cairo. Well, thank you.

Ahead here on NEWS STREAM, this hour, Syria's president says it will take a year to make good on his promise to get rid of his country's chemical weapons, more about that.

Also, we'll show you video footage that appears to show Iranians playing a key role on the frontline of Syria's civil war.

And more bad news for Japan's Fukushima Nuclear power plant. As the prime minister orders the last two reactors to be shut down. That's him in the red helmet. More about it right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Welcome back to NEWS STREAM. Syria's president says it will probably take a year to destroy his country's chemical arsenal, but Bashar al-Assad told Fox News that he is committed to the Russian plan to rid his nation of chemical weapons. He insisted, however, that his government wasn't behind last month chemical weapons attack in Damascus and repeated claims that terrorists are attacking his nation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SYRIAN PRESIDENT: So, what you're talking about, is when the terrorists infiltrating residential area, in villages and sometimes in the suburbs or the cities, and within large cities, and the army has to go there to get rid of those terrorists. It can - the army should defend the civilians, not the opposite. You cannot leave them free killing the people and assassinating the people and beheading the people, and eating their hearts. When you go to defend them, you say that you're killing your own people. You don't. But in every war you have casualties. This is war. You don't have a clean war. You don't have soft war. You don't have a good war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Mr. al-Assad also said the rebels could make their own Sarin, but a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army said only the Assad regime could have carried out the attack August 21st. The group's political and media coordinator spoke with our Becky Anderson on Wednesday. He acknowledged the Free Syrian Army is battling extremist rebel groups as well as the Assad government.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOUAY ALMOKDAD, FREE SYRIAN ARMY: We're fighting both. We're fighting the regime and his gangs, Hezbollah, militia and the Iranian, as al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, (inaudible), Ash-Sham, but to be honest, the only the regime will have the servility to do that, this kind of attack. And with the report, but that's what - you don't have a report fake, and even their Minister (inaudible), he was so clear he said that, and Assad there, he's guilty, he did a lot of - many crimes against the humanity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Meantime, the United Nations is defending its investigation of the August 21st chemical weapons attack inside Syria. The U.N. reports found Sarin gas was used, but didn't say he cleared out the attack. Russia has called the report distorted, U.N. Disarmament Chief Angela Kane responded in her interview on Wednesday with our Christiane Amanpour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGELA KANE, U.N. HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR DISARMAMENT AFFAIRS: The member states gave a mandate to the Secretary General to investigate the use, but not to make a determination who used it. I think when you look at the report, people draw their own conclusions, but the Secretary General nor the inspectors will draw any conclusions from the report.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Well, the U.S. and France say the report backs up clear evidence the Syrian regime used chemical weapons, but Russia says evidence from the Syrian government suggest the attack was carried out by the rebels. Phil Black joins me now live from Moscow. Certainly, a lot of back and forth at this point, Phil, since Sergey Lavrov and Senator Kerry stood together in Geneva this past weekend, and agreed on the chemical weapons ban, but now, it seems like some of that good will has eroded over this issue.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, it really shows there are two distinct issues here. One is, the chemical weapons disarmament process that Russia has signed up for and encouraged Syria to be a part of. The other, is this issue of to what extent Syria was responsible for using chemical weapons. Russia is still not prepared to put up with any suggestion that the Syrian government was responsible for using chemical weapons and we've heard that through that criticism of the U.N. report, which you've been talking about then. Russia doesn't criticize the report because the report draws any conclusions. It doesn't. It only states facts and information. But Russia's criticism is that it only states facts and information about one particular alleged chemical weapons incident. That was that large scale chemical weapons usage in Damascus on August the 21st. Those investigators were originally sent to Syria to look at a range, at least of other alleged chemical weapons incidents. They haven't got to do that yet because they've become so focused on that one large attack as much of the world was demanding answers on that. So, Russia wants something go back in. Look at those other incidents and only then it says can those investigators really put together an accurate report about the chemical weapons situation inside the country and how those weapons have been used.

Those investigators are now (ph) going back in, perhaps, as early as within the coming week or so. But Russia is demanding all of this because it believes that out there is information that really backs up its ongoing claim. That it is the Syrian opposition that is responsible for using weapons, that it is trying to frame the government and trigger some sort of international response.

Now, what all this means, the importance of this, I guess, and the symbolism is what Russia is saying to the world, yes, we're prepared to work with the United States ensuring that Syria gives up its chemical weapons. But Russia is not giving up on the Syrian government just yet, and nor is it prepared to tolerate any argument from any member of the international community that it (inaudible) tries to lay one side at blame on Syria for the events taking place in that country. That has been Russia's position throughout the Syrian civil conflict and it remains so today. Natalie.

ALLEN: Well, it will be interesting to see if the inspectors going back in will bring a definitive answer to this question, and meantime, you've got Senator John McCain writing editorials in the Russian newspaper, and we're going to here again from Vladimir Putin.

BLACK: Yes, well, you may remember Vladimir Putin wrote an op-ed piece for "The New York Times" recently, and that rankled a long list of American politicians who were pretty unhappy with what he had to say there. Senator John McCain, a known Putin critic, was one of them. He joked at the time that he would respond by writing a piece in "Pravda." "Pravda", which means truth, is famous for being the newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party during the Soviet Union. The Pravda of today is a little bit different. It's a little red tabloid news website. Certainly, not as influential as the "New York Times", but it is, perhaps, the symbolism of the name that McCain has gone for, and they have published his reply. And in it he uses, as he often does when discussing the Russian government, very fiery language. It is called "Russians Deserve Better than Putin." And he accuses Russia of being corrupt when it comes to government, when it comes to the judiciary, when it comes to business. He accuses the government of oppressing political dissent, and he specifically says that Putin is allying Russia with the world's very worst regimes and tyrannies. Specifically there, he is talking about Syria. He also makes the point, or he tries to say that he's not anti-Russian, which is the way McCain is often portrayed by Russian politicians, within the Russian media. What he says he wants, is a government that believes in the Russian people and answers to them directly. We haven't heard any specific response from the Russian President Vladimir Putin just yet, but he's giving his speech shortly. So, it will be interesting to see if he bites (ph) back.

ALLEN: Absolutely. We'll be waiting to hear. And we know you'll report it to us. Phil Black for us live from Moscow. Thanks, Phil.

Well, after the break, on NEWS STREAM, Japan's Prime Minister asks that two more reactors be scrapped at the crippled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. We'll speak with people there in the area about their lives since the country's 2011 nuclear disaster.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Welcome back. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for the remaining two reactors at the country's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant to be decommissioned. The other four reactors have been in cold shut down since the 2011 disaster. Mr. Abe visited the plant on Thursday to inspect efforts to contain leaks of toxic water. That is him, right there, in the radiation suit with the red helmet. Dangerously, high levels of radiation have been detected at the site. The plant was, of course, devastated by the massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011, and for those living around the plant, live is forever changed. Paula Hancocks paid a recent visit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the seasoned surfer, there is little more satisfying than catching that early morning wave. Riding a wave takes skill. Riding these waves takes something more. This beach is just 50 kilometers south from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Radioactive water has been seeping into the Pacific Ocean for months, if not years.

"The radiation levels here are low, says Dikashi Suzuki (ph). The data says so. All I can do is believe that. But I will not let my children or grandchildren go in the water."

Suzuki is 59 years old and has been surfing most of his life. A local fisherman, his business has been destroyed by the nuclear disaster. He doubts it will recover in his lifetime. Nearby, some of those evacuated from towns near the reactors immediately after the disaster are still living in temporary housing. Ioshi Kazumazumoto (ph) has been here two years with his wife. All of their money had been used to build their retirement home, a home they doubt they will ever live in again. Even if they can move home eventually, he knows that children and grandchildren are not going to join them.

"We need to draw a line at some point", he says, "rather than decontaminating, I think residents of towns close to the nuclear plant should migrate to a new place and start a new life."

The decontamination effort on the outer parts of the original exclusion zone will have cost $1.5 billion by the end of this fiscal year. There are those who question whether certain areas should simply be shut off now, and new towns built. As more mishaps are reported from the nuclear power plant, those voices are growing louder.

Even with the drip feed of worrying news from the nuclear power plant, life does go on for residents living nearby. And certainly, on this beach, the sentiment is, if the health risks appear low, why change things? Paula Hancocks, CNN, Fukushima, Japan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: The man who turned Nintendo into a videogame giant has died. Hiroshi Yamauchi seen on the last on this image, ran the company for 53 years and was once Japan's richest man. He oversaw the release of many of Nintendo's iconic games and consoles including the Gameboy and Nintendo's 64. Hiroshi Yamauchi was 85.

You're watching NEWS STREAM. Coming up, here the United States considers sharing its military strategies with opposition forces in Syria. We'll have more details coming up on that proposal to train the rebels.

And in a surprise move, the U.S. Federal Reserve says it will keep pumping money into the economy. We'll have reaction from investors. Boy, did they react to that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen at CNN Center. You're watching NEWS STREAM, and these are your world headlines: thousands of people are missing after a mudslide buries homes in Mexico. The country is being battered by three powerful storms, at least 80 people have died in flooding and heavy rain. More than a million people have been affected by all of the extreme weather.

Well, officials say a senior officer was shot dead in clashes with militants just outside Cairo on Thursday. Egyptians broadcasters also say object initially described as explosive devices were found on Cairo's subway Thursday morning. State media later said they didn't contain an explosive charge.

The Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says he would welcome U.N. chemical weapons inspectors back to Syria. Speaking with the U.S. FOX Television Network, al-Assad said getting rid of Syria's chemical weapons would cost $1 billion. He suggested the U.S. pick up the tab. He denied his government was involved in last month's deadly nerve gas attack.

Well, the U.S. Defense Department has, for the first time, put forward a proposal for its troops to train and equip some moderate Syrian opposition forces. Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson joins us live now from Lebanon for more about it.

And we were just talking yesterday, Nic, and you were saying how the rebels wanted more from the international community beyond removing chemical weapons. And it looks like this is a step toward that.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is. And really for a lot of people in the region and even for some rebels, this would sort of be an announcement about something they already know that exists -- is existing and going on.

Certainly the belief in the region here, that these -- some of these training programs by U.S. Special Forces of rebels are, in fact, already underway. The training has been focused on urban warfare and really just sort of focus the rebels' efforts in and around Damascus, because that scene is a key pressure point on the regime there, the roads are important. It ties down a lot of the military resources and doesn't allow Assad to extend his control to try and retake control of places like Aleppo.

So I think for many rebels this will be welcome news. They will be looking to see it actually happening. And for some of them, perhaps, a slight few we're talking about here, they already sort of aware that this sort of thing is already going on. But of course it will be difficult for the United States and anyone else helping out on the training to make sure that they give the training to what are seen as moderate rebels, increasingly we're seeing this trend now, where Al Qaeda linked rebels are growing in number and growing in influence. There was a battle yesterday in the north of Syria close to the Turkish border, where an Al Qaeda backed group were trying to take control from a more moderate group over a key highway, a key border crossing. So all this is going to be going on in the backs of the minds of these sort of -- the officers running these training programs as well, Natalie.

ALLEN: Absolutely. Certainly complex to get the right weapons perhaps in the right factions that are reporting in that country. And you've also reported that even Iran is in the mix in the country.

ROBERTSON: Indeed. It's -- this has been widely rumored, widely speculated, and the Iranian government denies that it sends any military, any fighters to Syria. It's certainly been something that's widely reported in the region and many Syrians I've talked to have said they believe that this is happening inside Syria.

But until very recently, there hasn't been any documented evidence of this. A videotape or some video recordings came to light recently when a brigade, a Free Syrian Army brigade in Aleppo found a camera on the battlefield that they say they believe came from an Iranian journalist.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The man with the gun says he's an Iranian militia commander inside Syria with government forces.

His story highlights regime difficulties, and Iran's role fixing them.

ISMAIL ALI HAYDARI, IRANIAN MILITIA COMMANDER (through translator): A problem that exists is that after we take over an area, when we want to open the next battle front, there's no force for stabilization.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): During this half-hour interview in which he identifies himself as Ismail Ali Haydari, he describes himself as Basij, a volunteer Iranian militia that reports to the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Tehran, although Iran vigorously denies it sends fighters to Syria.

HAYDARI (through translator): I come six times over eight months. I've been here almost everywhere, within Damascus and the areas around it, in Aleppo. I've been fighting for about five months.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): CNN cannot independently verify this video that rebels claim they recovered from an Iranian journalist killed in a recent attack. But it is professionally shot and came to light shortly after respected Iranian filmmaker, Hadi Bagbani (ph), was killed while on assignment in Syria. His death reported in Iranian media.

There's no way to know who shot the video, but it appears to document the work of Haydari, who claims to be training pro-Assad militiamen.

HAYDARI (through translator): Many of the friends here we've known since they came to Iran for training. They know us and they work with us here.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The relationship between the filmmaker and commander seems relaxed, whether praying, cooking or training, the camera is there, seeming to provide a rare, candid look behind Assad's front lines, where these Iranians appear to play a leading role.

Here apparently checking Assad's forces in the field, Haydari tells the soldiers where to position themselves in case of an attack.

And here, facing what Haydari describes as one of the biggest problems: the flagging morale of Syrian fighters, mistreated, he says, by their own army. These two ask for time off. The answer, a polite no, but says he'll try to fix it. His motivation: sectarian, win hearts and minds, expand Iran's Shia (ph) Muslim influence he says.

HAYDARI (through translator): We must establish an Islamic army, an army of several hundred million. Its foundations are now being laid here. Its core is shaping right here, by Iranian kids, the Hezbollah kids and the Lebanon Hezbollah.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): As he sees it, Syria's civil war is a battle of right versus wrong, of Shia Muslim on the side of Assad versus Sunni Muslim rebels backed by America and Israel.

HAYDARI (through translator): (Inaudible) is Israel. It is Saudi Arabia. It is Turkey, and that front is Qatar. The UAE money coming in and the U.S., France and the European countries that converge with this group, meaning this shows our front is the front of righteousness.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): His own goal, he adds, not to die fighting rebels but Israelis. But it wasn't to be; at the same time as the filmmaker's funeral, Haydari was also buried in Iran, honored in the Iranian media in the style of a war veteran. Iranian officials refused to comment to CNN about his role, although some Iranian media reports claim Haydari was just another filmmaker. Precisely how they both died is unclear. In this clip, the filmmaker is pinned down by gunfire. He apparently never got to tell the story he wanted. But in the words and actions he recorded, the world a little wiser about Syria's war and Iran's role in it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: Now we spent a lot of time going through that material and there isn't anything in there that specifically links this military commander, Haydari, to any orders by the Iranian government. So it is entirely possible he could have been -- he could have been voluntarily gone by himself, not directed by his government. But it is very indicative of what many people say is happening on a wide scale inside Syria, Natalie.

ALLEN: Compelling story and video as well, thank you, Nic Robertson, certainly highlights the ongoing complexity of this war. When will it ever end? Thank you, Nic, in Beirut.

Iran's president says his country, meantime, on another front, has no intention of developing nuclear weapons ever. Hassan Rouhani was interview on NBC News and responded to allegations from Western nations that Tehran may be trying to build a nuclear bomb. Mr. Rouhani says Tehran is open to a diplomatic solution to resolve the standoff.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb, and we are not going to do so. We are solely seeking peaceful nuclear technology.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you say that Iran will not build a nuclear weapon under any circumstances whatsoever?

ROUHANI (through translator): The answer to this question is quite obvious: we have time and again said that under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: President Rouhani also said he has exchanged letters with U.S. President Barack Obama and he described the tone as "positive and constructive."

Turning now to a move that surprised many investors, the U.S. Federal Reserve says it is going to keep pumping $85 billion into the U.S. economy each month. Most analysts had expected the central bank to wind down its bond buying program. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke explained why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN BERNANKE, CHAIRMAN, U.S. FEDERAL RESERVE: Notably, at 7.3 percent, the unemployment rate remains well above acceptable levels. Long- term unemployment and underemployment remain high and we have seen ongoing declines in labor force participation, which accurately reflects discouragement on the part of many potential workers as well as longer term influences such as the aging of the population.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Investors on Wall Street took that as a signal to buy on Wednesday, and buy they did. The Dow and the S&P 500 both rose to record highs. Markets in Asia also climbed on Thursday. (Inaudible) in India soared more than 3 percent. And this is how the major indices in Europe are looking right now, another sea of green era.

How about that? And as you'd expect, we'll have lots more on the Federal Reserve decision and its impact on the markets next hour on CNN. The "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" team will discuss that with a trader and an asset management specialist. Stay with us for that.

Still ahead here on NEWS STREAM, as an Orbital Science's spacecraft blasts its way toward the International Space Station, we asked how would the average person benefit from the commercial space race, that is, taking off?

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

ALLEN: Well, picture perfect Orbital Science's launch went off without a hitch on Wednesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Making a second point on this mission; we're sending Cygnus on its first journey (inaudible) International Space Station.

ALLEN (voice-over): Always loved that shot right there. Who doesn't? The unmanned Cygnus spacecraft is carrying about 680 kilograms of cargo and over the next three days it will demonstrate maneuvers for NASA. If all continues to go as planned, Cygnus will berth with the International Space Station on Sunday. It will remain docked to the station for one month.

Then astronauts will fill it with trash and cut it loose. Cygnus is designed to burn up in Earth's atmosphere, all pretty cool.

Keep in mind, this is a feat only a few governments have accomplished. And only one company has completed the trip to ISS so far. SpaceX, you may recall, reached the station for the first time in 2012. It has since completed two of 12 contracted deliveries for NASA.

Orbital Science, this new company, has a contract for eight deliveries. The first is due in December. And remember, NASA retired its shuttle fleet in 2011. They were criticized for being too expensive. So NASA is now focusing on deep space exploration and has partnered with private companies to develop new ways of getting to low Earth orbit, as we just saw.

And it's not just about cargo. NASA also wants commercials space flights to carry crew members to the station. Let's get some perspective on that idea from a former NASA astron. Leroy Chiao joins us now live from Chun (ph), China.

Thank you for joining us.

LEROY CHIAO, ASTRONAUT: Oh, pleasure to be here, thanks for having me.

ALLEN: Sure. And this is ahead of a space meeting for you in Beijing. So let's talk about, Leroy, this new -- this new frontier that we're seeing in space.

As someone who has been on the space station, what must it feel like to have an untested spacecraft coming at you as they're about to experience right now?

CHIAO: Well, it's always exciting to receive a visiting vehicle on board the ISS. I served as the commander of expedition 10 and during that time we had two prior resupply ships arrive.

When the resupply ships arrive, of course, you always get a fresh load of fresh fruits and vegetables and important things like drinking water and oxygen. But for a new vehicle to come up, that's especially exciting. And you know, it's not a cause for concern so much because the good folks in the back trenches there, working out all the safety and all the quality and assurances parts of it, have assured that it's going to be a success. And they have contingencies in case there are things that don't go as well. And the spacecraft can always be backed away from the station.

So the crew on board is not so much concerned about any risks; of course they'll be watching it very carefully. But there are a lot of safeguards built into this mission.

ALLEN: Well, the liftoff certainly went well and looked pretty, as always.

Interesting how quickly the private industry has moved in and stepped in to help NASA out. Well, will competition between SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, you think, have any impact on our daily lives? How does the average person benefit from the commercial space race?

CHIAO: Well, I think anytime you have technology field like space and you have competition and you have requirements and different mission requirements driving the competition, that's good for the American people and for people in general because the technical spinoffs that come out of these programs, even in the -- especially in the days of Apollo, you know, even the most conservative estimates of the payback from the investment in Apollo, was 2:1, for every dollar spent we had a spinoff return to the public of $2. So this is an exciting new era of commercial space flight. You mentioned SpaceX before, SpaceX and Orbital, the first two now to launch cargo to the ISS. And I'm confident that this mission will be successful. I'm certainly wishing my friends there at Orbital the best of luck. This is going to be a good thing. The shuttle, as you mentioned, was retired two years ago. I was part of the White House appointed committee called the Review of Human Spaceflight Plans Committee, that drew up the options for the new administration back then, that included a part of it to develop these commercial capabilities.

So I'm excited to see this going off and happening.

ALLEN: And it's not just cargo; it's -- NASA also has a commercial crew program. How important is the private sector to NASA's future in that regard?

CHIAO: Oh, it's critical. The commercial providers have been put in the critical path of the shuttle after having been retired two years ago, puts in a situation where the United States right now has no capability to launch our own astronauts into space. And so our U.S. astronauts have to basically fly with Russians, about the Russian Soyuz. The problem with that is it's what we call a single string. There's no backup. If there's a problem with the Soyuz or its launcher and the fleet gets grounded, then we have no way to go to and from the station.

So developing the next capability to go into lower orbit, the United States made a conscious decision to rely on these commercial providers and that's why you see NASA providing technical as well as some funding assistance to some of these companies to get them to that capability.

So we have consciously decided to go down this commercial route. I think it was the right choice. I think it was time to give the commercial folks a chance to succeed. Having said that, I wish we had been -- we had kept the shuttle around until we got those things operational. But unfortunately, that didn't work out.

ALLEN: Well, it's exciting to see this next frontier and where they go next.

Thanks so much for your time and your expertise, astronaut Leroy Chiao, speaking with us from Chong, China. Thank you.

CHIAO: Thank you.

ALLEN: Well, we want to update you now on the controversy surrounding the new Miss America. As we've reported earlier this week, Nina Davuluri became the first Indian America ever to win the crown. But that prompted some to post racist comments online.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your new Miss America is Miss New York.

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ALLEN (voice-over): And she is not shocked, although she looks shocked there, right there. But she' s not shocked about the racist comments. And she's speaking out about it.

NINA DAVULURI, MISS AMERICA: I did expect it. It was something that I had experienced when I won Miss New York. And I knew that going in, should I win Miss America, I was going to experience it on a much larger level and scale.

It was an unfortunate situation. But for the negative tweets that I received, for one negative tweet, I received dozens of positive tweets and support from not only Indians, but the American people across the country and from the world, for that matter and it's been such an honor.

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ALLEN: Miss America says she's proud to tackle stereotypes and be a role model for younger girls. She'll spend the next year promoting her message of cultural diversity.

Well, you're watching NEWS STREAM. Just ahead here, reintroducing captive orangutans to the wild. It is our latest edition of "Expedition Sumatra," and it brings chills to think about the guy in that box being that brave. More about it right after this.

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ALLEN: Well, after an unprecedented salvage operation, the Costa Concordia cruise ship is sitting upright in the waters off Italy. And now the recovery operation is moving into a new phase, more than 4,000 people were on board that ship there when it ran aground last year. Matthew Chance reports on the renewed search for two victims whose bodies have never been found.

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MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Close up, the Costa Concordia looks battered and stained. Much of its massive hull is bent and twisted after 20 long months on its side.

Winching this vessel upright was in itself a technical marvel. But amid praise for the salvage teams, the tragedy of the 32 lives lost in this wreck has not been forgotten.

Carrying flowers to lay at the wreck, 18-year-old Stefania Vincenzi is back in Giglio for the first time since she lost her mother on that ill- fated cruise.

Maria Grazia (ph) was celebrating her 50th birthday with her daughter when the ship went down.

STEFANIA VINCENZI, COSTA CONCORDIA SURVIVOR: When she went to the cabin -- I don't know the word -- to take my jacket and then I left her because there was a lot of people (inaudible) at that moment.

CHANCE: So you were together when the ship hit the rocks and then in the chaos afterwards, you lost each other?

VINCENZI: Yes.

CHANCE (voice-over): Only now, more than a year on, can her body possibly be found?

CHANCE: It is incredible to see the damage inflicted on the starboard hull of the Costa Concordia by the jagged rocks of Giglio. But of course, this is much more than just a shipwreck because somewhere in that twisted wreckage, salvage teams hope they'll be able to find the bodies of the two victims who were never accounted for, bringing some relief at least to the families of those people before the ship is refloated and towed away.

CHANCE (voice-over): In Giglio Port, I met Kevin Rebello (ph) from India, whose brother, Russell (ph), was a waiter on the Costa Concordia, and has also never been found.

KEVIN REBELLO, BROTHER OF COSTA CONCORDIA VICTIM: The last person who met him is the first person I met. He is in St. Luke (ph). I do not know if it's Anthony (ph), but I was the last person who was with your brother and we were helping him to get about the ship. And then we just lost vision because the ship tilted a bit more and I got into the lifeboat and your brother, I think, so, jumped into the water because there was no more room, no more place to hold onto.

CHANCE: Do you believe that your brother is still on board?

REBELLO: I pray. I hope. I'm quite confident about it and I hope -- I hope they find him.

CHANCE (voice-over): It's a hope shared by the many loved ones living with the aftermath of this tragedy -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Giglio, Italy.

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ALLEN: Hope those families get some closure with the next step there.

It is a critical moment in time for the dwindling rain forest of Indonesia. And CNN's special series, "Expedition Sumatra" is shining a light on this huge problem. Here's a look at our latest episode. Correspondent Philippe Cousteau and his team venture deep into the remote rain forest to release a captive orangutan back into his natural habitat.

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PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To make Bobo more comfortable, I offered him one of his favorite snacks.

COUSTEAU: Bobo, Bobo, ease in there, buddy. It's a mango.

I don't know. Well, at least I'm right-handed if this goes --

Never turn your face off an orangutan because that's where all the accidents happen. Never be off guard.

COUSTEAU: Good to know.

Bobo, here you go, buddy.

You want the mango or you want mud?

COUSTEAU (voice-over): Bobo's arms are about twice as long as his legs, so he can easily reach out of the cage to grab the mango. But he just won't take it from me. This might take a while.

COUSTEAU: He's probably going to throw something at me.

Bobo?

There you go.

I guess that's what he thinks of me.

Oh, he's going to take the mango, put it in a little mud. Now he's cleaning it off. And now he's eating it.

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ALLEN: You know, you won't believe how big that orangutan is. If you missed the earlier part of our series and just how heartwrenching it is when they open up and let this orangutan back into the wild, the peek there at Episode 2 of our eight-week series. That's "Expedition Sumatra." Watch it in full on Friday at 11:30 pm in Hong Kong. We're all pulling for Bobo.

And that is NEWS STREAM. Thanks so much for watching. But the news continues at CNN. As you know, big news in the financial world, "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" has that coming up next. Have a good one.

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