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Reports: MLB To Announce All-Star Game Moving To Denver; U.S., Iran Holding Indirect Talks In Vienna In Bed To Revive Deal; Myanmar Frees Eight Of 11 Citizens Who Spoke With CNN. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 6, 2021 - 13:30:00   ET




HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone live from London. I'm Hala Gorani. We'll take you back to our live coverage of the trial of Derek Chauvin shortly. First, though, I want to update you on some other stories developing around the world. And we start off with this. The challenges are huge, no doubt. No one really expects any breakthroughs anytime soon, certainly not in a single day.

But today still marks a critical turning point in efforts to get the Iran Nuclear Deal back on track. All world powers involved in the treaty are gathered in Vienna today, where they first signed the deal. You remember back in 2015. The U.S. and Iran are speaking through intermediaries trying to resurrect an agreement that Donald Trump abandoned several years ago. Iran's chief nuclear negotiator called the talks "constructive" and said the parties will meet again on Friday, which is a good sign they're meeting again.

Iran wants sanctions relief in return for reducing its uranium enrichment. But the United States insists there will be no concessions before compliance. Nic Robertson tells us how things got to this point. And what could happen next.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: 2015, the Iran Nuclear Deal, the JCPOA is signed. Lengthening Iran's breakout timeline to making a nuclear bomb to a year.


ROBERTSON: 2018 President Trump unilaterally pulls out, ratchets up rhetoric and sanctions. Iran responds incrementally breaking the terms of the deal. February 19, 2021. President Joe Biden's administration reverses Trump's JPOA decision.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're prepared to reengage in negotiations with the P5+1. ROBERTSON: Iran's time to a possible bomb according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, now only three to four months. The difficulty for Biden how to rejoin the JCPOA.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: All the sanctions have to be removed, the United States must gain reentry to the JCPOA. It's not automatic, it's not a revolving door.

ROBERTSON: Since Trump pulled out Iran began flouting the deal shortening the potential time to make a bomb. Producing more than 13 times the agreed 300-kilogram limit of low enriched uranium. Using illegal centrifuges to enrich uranium to a level higher than allowed by the 2015 deal. And lots more even refusing the world's nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA's inspectors access to some sites. Its director flies to Tehran.

RAFAEL MARIANO GROSSI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: We got a reasonable result after what was a very, very intensive consultation negotiation.

ROBERTSON: Iran dodges censure. But U.S. entry to the JCPOA is still blocked.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We said we would attend, Iran so far said no. I think the ball is in their court to see if they're serious about re engaging or not.

ROBERTSON: Almost a month later, a small breakthrough. A virtual JCPOA meet minus the U.S. The step brings face to face talks in Vienna, April 6th, with U.S. representatives in this city but not at the talks table. Iran's position still unchanged, adding no Iran-U.S. meeting unnecessary. Even so, U.S. Special Envoy for Iran, Robert Malley will be in Vienna.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What is happening in the coming days is really focused on indirect talks that are happening through the Europeans.

ROBERTSON: No breakthrough expected. Iran now closer to having a bomb and holding out for U.S. concessions. Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


GORANI: Well, let's take you now to Vienna. Our Fred Pleitgen has been covering this day of talks. So I guess there is some positive momentum, right? Within agreement to meet again. What's the most we can expect in the next few days?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that you're absolutely right, Hala. There is some positive momentum and with the chief negotiator for the Iranian, Abbas Araqchi calling all of this constructive and saying that there is going to be a follow up meeting on Friday. That certainly is something that at least gives hope that there is right now, some sort of way forward.

And if you look at today, things really did take a very long time. Those pretalks that happened before the working groups even came into session, those took about six hours. And it was only in the late afternoon that these working groups came into effect. And the way essentially all this is going to work, Hala, is that the Europeans are pretty much leading the charge here, leading the negotiations here. They've compartmentalized all of this.

They're speaking with the Iranians together with the other remaining members of the JCPOA. And of course speaking with the Americans as well. As Nic noted there in his report, there are no face to face talk. And then one by one, they're going to try and deal with each issue. And of course, there are a lot of issues at hand.

We heard there from Javad Zarif, the Iranian Foreign Minister in that report that he says America needs to come or the United States needs to come into full compliance once again with the JCPOA and needs to lift all the sanctions.

That is a very difficult task considering the sanctions that the Trump administration plays on Iran, not just those in the nuclear sector but also in a lot of other sectors as well that the Iranian say need to be lifted immediately.


PLEITGEN: So, it's certainly a long way to go and you can see how the European here, especially leading these negotiations, are trying to compartmentalize things to move forward at a slow pace but move forward. Nonetheless, people from the delegations that we've been speaking to say, this could take several days, and then it could actually take several weeks, but they are still quite hopeful that some sort of agreement can be achieved and the nuclear agreement can then be salvaged, Hala?

GORANI: Well, let me just ask you a straightforward question. Why not go back to the agreement they had before that the Obama administration negotiated, but seem to be putting limits that Iran was observing on its nuclear program? What are the new challenges this time around to revive something that essentially died when the U.S. pulled out of the agreement?

PLEITGEN: Well, I think -- I think that there's a lot of challenges. And I think one of the main challenges is that a lot of trust between these two nations, which of course, lacked trust to begin with it. A lot of trust was lost between them when President Trump pulled out of the nuclear agreement and then went towards that policy of maximum pressure against the Iranians.

And the Iranians, for their part, of course, started enriching more uranium, they started enriching it to a higher grade. And even today, the chief negotiator for the Iranian said that they will not stop doing that even if they get a billion dollars worth of oil revenue unfrozen by the United States. So there is a lot of trust that was lost. And quite frankly, we are a lot further down the road.

Iran now has, as Nic noted in his report has a lot of new capabilities. They've been doing a lot of research, they've been enriching a lot of uranium. They have new centrifuges now and the U.S. especially in the -- in the final days of the Trump administration, really in the final years of the Trump administration, they put in place so many sanctions, some of them on the face of it, at least unrelated to the Iran nuclear agreement but it was always clear.

And they were people in the Trump administration to acknowledge that. That a lot of those sanctions were meant to make it more difficult for a following administration, like the Biden administration now to get back to the nuclear agreement. So there's a lot of hurdles there in the form of new sanctions. There's a lot of hurdles there in the form of new capabilities. But first and foremost, there's a lot of hurdles there because so much trust has been lost.

And at the same time, you obviously have a race against time right now because as you know, Hala, in June, there's going to be new presidential elections in Iran, and then you could see a whole new Iran or you will see a whole new Iranian administration which then would mean a whole new negotiating team which makes -- would make trying to get back to the JCPOA all the more difficult. Hala?

GORANI: All right. We'll see what happens by the end of the week. We know the U.S. envoy Robert Malley will be there. And we'll see what emerges from those discussions. Thanks very much. Fred Pleitgen is live in Vienna covering those talks.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is getting the chance to form a new government despite his legal and political challenges. President Reuven Rivlin said he was concerned about giving Netanyahu that mandate after another inconclusive election, the Prime Minister is currently the defendant in a corruption trial. CNN Hadas Gold has our story.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hala, the Israeli president Reuven Rivlin today gave Prime Minister Netanyahu the mandate to try and form the next government. But in a televised speech and in a series of tweets, Rivlin was not shy about his reluctance in doing so. He laid out why he had to do so saying that Netanyahu simply had the highest number of endorsements from the Israeli parliament at 52.

That's not enough for a 61-seat majority needed but he said he simply had the numbers there and that he needed to give Netanyahu the mandate. But he did say in a tweet, the results of the consultations that we're open to all lead me to believe that no candidate has a realistic chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the Knesset. In fact, if the law would allow me to do so I would give the decision back to the Knesset.

We're going to also noted that it's somewhat problematic to have a candidate who is currently facing a corruption trial. In fact, just yesterday, Netanyahu had to sit in court listening to the deputy state prosecutors opening remarks in the evidentiary phase of his trial, and the witnesses continue to be heard this week. But Rivlin said that the Supreme Court has already decided that a prime minister can continue serving despite being indicted.

But you could really feel the reluctance in Rivlin's decision. He tweeted also, this is not an easy decision on a moral and ethical basis in my mind, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, the State of Israel is not to be taken for granted and I fear for my country. Netanyahu now has 28 days plus a possible 14-day extension to try and form the government tried to bring together a large enough coalition of different parties to show that he can stay in power.

If he fails to do so the President can then ask a different candidate to try and form a government can also be sent back to the Parliament. The Parliament can try to recommend a candidate and if all of those fail, then Israelis may be headed to an unprecedented fifth election in just a few months. Hala?


GORANI: All right. Hadas, thanks very much. A lot more to come to come after a quick break. The opposition leader in Russia Alexei Navalny says his health is getting way worse in a Russian prison. We'll have an update -- a live update on whether he'll keep his hunger strike going. Despite the fact that he says he suffers tremendously from pain in his back and his legs. We'll be right back.


GORANI: CNN is getting extremely rare access inside Myanmar reporting on the fallout from the country's bloody coup back in February. We're the first independent international news organization allowed inside the country since the coup. Our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward, and her team are there under military escort. The same military that's been intensifying its crackdown, killing hundreds of prodemocracy protesters.

Two months after ousting Myanmar's democratically elected government. Clarissa Ward spoke with CNN's Jake Tapper about what she has seen on this trip and take a listen to her exclusive report.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I want to underscore that no independent international journalists have been allowed into this country in the last two months since that bloody coup took place. As you said rights group saying more than 550 people killed. This is a massive protest movement that really came about after the military ousted Myanmar's democratically-elected government.

The people coming out to this into the streets in the millions and the more they protested, and the more animated those protests became the more the military tried to suppress them. The military here really does not have the popular support of the people of Myanmar. So we felt it was essential, even though it is a difficult situation when you are in a country with the permission of the -- in this case, the military the main oppressors in this situation.

We felt it was very important to be on the ground to see for ourselves wherever we could, and to tell the story of the people of Myanmar, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And what's it been like to report there? Have you had the freedom to report whatever you want to report?


WARD: So, we've had the freedom to report what we want to report as you can tell right now, we're going live to you from here in Myanmar. We are though very controlled in terms of how we can move around, who we can talk to. I'm here in a military compound, we wanted to stay in a hotel. And we were told simply that that was not possible. Every single place we go to, we go with a huge amount of security.

We have minders following our every move, they're constantly filming on their iPhones, every conversation we have. And those conversations, by the way, are really limited because we haven't had a huge amount of access to ordinary people from Myanmar. And I just want to give you a little bit of a sense if I can get this clip up of what it's like trying to report here. Take a look.


WARD: What's this poster here? We see we support CRPH with the three- finger salute? That's from people who are against the military? Is that saying that the people in this area are against the military?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Maybe. Not sure because some demonstrators go around Yangon and shout at demonstration.

WARD: Can we maybe talk to some of the people? Can we ask them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not sure because of your security. I am not sure because I am just for interpretation.

WARD: I'm wondering, there's some people over there, maybe we could go and talk to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The security forces told me we should not stay for a long time here for our security.

WARD: For our security, it gives you a sense of the intense level of security with us. One, two, three. Another three over there. Six trucks full of soldiers accompanying our every move.


WARD: And I talked there about that three-finger salute. The so-called hunger game salute. This gesture has become the symbol really of resistance against the military coup. And even when we were out on the streets with all that military people around us. With all those minders around us, people would come up, and any available opportunity and flash that salute at our camera. They want the world to know what they are going through. And they want more people out there telling their story. Jake.

TAPPER: Clarissa, why would the military let you in?

WARD: Well, the military has its side of the story too. And up until now, they've been largely tight lipped about what that is. Essentially, what they want the world to know is that the protesters have become much more violent. The protesters are using Molotov cocktails. They're using slingshots, which again, is no match for the assault rifles that the Myanmar military is using.

But really, they're trying to cast the protest movement as a violent mob of anarchists that needs to be suppressed. They took us to a number of factories that had been burned down. They said that the protesters were responsible, the protesters say they were not responsible. But that's very much the narrative that they're hoping will take shape. The idea that somehow it's the protesters who are to blame for all the violence here.

But when you're looking at the actual makeup of what's happening during these standoffs and these protests that are quickly turning into massacres, you can see that one side clearly has a huge advantage in terms of its -- of its -- of its arms, of its level of, you know, weaponry and funding. And there's simply no match, Jake.

TAPPER: And Clarissa, you sat down with a senior member of the military leadership there in Myanmar, no other journalist has been able to do that. What did you ask him?

WARD: Well, we had a lot of things to ask him and it was a pretty uncomfortable interview, to be honest. So we want to particularly to drill down on the number of innocent civilians who have been killed. More than 550 protesters, prodemocracy protesters, most of them unarmed, among them 44 children, Jake. That's according to the United Nations. So, we really wanted to get some sense of how on earth the military could justify this.

We went to him specifically at one point with a very specific piece of video that shows a young activist being killed in cold blood to give him a sense to explain how on earth such a brutal killing could possibly be justified. Take a look.


WARD: This is CCTV footage of 17-year-old (INAUDIBLE) going past a police convoy. You can see the police shoot him on the spot. His autopsy later said that he suffered brain injury as a result of a cycling accident, which I think we can all see, that's not a cycling accident. How do you explain this?


MAJ. GEN. ZAW MIN TUN, MYANMAR ARMY (through translator): If kind of that kind of thing occurred, we will have an investigation into it. We will investigate if the video is real or not. There may be some videos which looks suspicious. But our forces do not have any intention to shoot innocent people. We will investigate if it's real or not.


WARD: We also pushed him hard on what the game plan is here. How can this violence possibly end this awful cycle of violence? And when will the people get to have their voices heard? He said that the military his plan has always been to allow for another round of elections sometime in the either the next year or possibly up to two years. But it's really important to underscore here, Jake, that nobody here on the ground really believes that because the whole reason that this coup took place in the first place is that there were free and fair elections back in November.

There were independent election monitors there who did not see any problems in terms of fraud or any significant problems. And that election was won in a landslide by the NLD party, the military's party suffered a humiliating defeat. And that's what precipitated this coup in the first place. So, I think people are very unwilling to believe the idea that there will be another round of free and fair elections.

And that their candidate, their choice, who is right now under arrest in prison, Aung San Suu Kyi will be allowed to become president if she did indeed win again, or frankly, no one believes that she will be allowed to run again because she is facing these trumped up charges, Jake.

TAPPER: And Clarissa, tell us about the people who talk to you and then were subsequently arrested.

WARD: You know, Jake, this is always your worst nightmare as a journalist, right? We finally were able to negotiate access to a public space, not a controversial space. It was a space that the military actually picked. But the minute we got to this market and we're just shooting video of people going about their daily business, once they saw their cameras, and they knew that CNN was in town and they had been writing a lot about it on social media.

A lot of people came up to us. They flash that three-finger hunger game salute I told you about. They talked about wanting justice. They talked about wanting democracy, they talked about wanting freedom. More than that so many of them talked about how frightened they are, Jake. Soldiers coming into their neighborhoods every single night, dragging dead bodies away. And what we found out was that shortly after this trip to the market, at least eight people by CNN's count were arrested for the simple crime of just having spoken to us and said that they were afraid.

We push the general really hard on that. He admitted that 11 people in total were arrested. He said that they shouldn't have been arrested to give him credit, and that they would be released. And we can now confirm that they have indeed been released which is a huge relief for us. And also we are grateful to the military for releasing them.

TAPPER: And we should note. I mean, when people talk to you or they flash you the hunger game salute, the three-finger hunger games to loot that I'm holding up right now in solidarity with them, I should say. They are -- they -- that's an act of civil disobedience at great risk. What other acts or forms of civil disobedience have you -- have you witnessed?

WARD: Well, this is it, just it. The military is trying to control the country through brute force. But what they can't do is make people work, for example. So there's a huge civil disobedience movement. Most of the country's workers are striking, they're not going to work, whether it's ministries, whether it's banks, you go by the banks, here, there's long, long lines outside of every single bank.

That means that the economy is grinding to a halt, there's garbage in the streets, it's very difficult for the military to kind of keep up with this charade, that this is a functioning society now. As long as people refuse to work, as long as you don't have the support of your own populace. And let's be very clear here. We have seen absolutely no evidence that the military has any real popular support here in Myanmar.

And as long as that continues, even if you are shooting it at non- protesters, even if you are killing children, it becomes very difficult and challenging to actually run a country, Jake.

TAPPER: Yes. Clarissa ward in Myanmar for us. Thank you so much. Really appreciate your courage.

WARD: Thank you.


GORANI: All right. Clarissa Ward there in Yangon, Myanmar. Still to come tonight, behind bars and in worsening health. We'll go to Russia for the latest on imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.