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CNN Reports From Myanmar Amid Military Crackdown; Police Chief Testifies Chauvin Violated Use Of Force Policy; U.K. May Permit International Travel May 17; Ethical Concerns Over Vaccine Passports; Jordan Says Prince Hamzah Has Pledged Allegiance To The King; U.S. Says Talks With Iran In Vienna Are 'A Step Forward'; U.S. Teaming Up with UAE To Raise Clean Energy Funding; HBO Filmmaker Uncovers Potential Identity Of Individual Behind QAnon; Variants, Spike In Cases, Threaten Vaccination Progress. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired April 6, 2021 - 00:00   ET




JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Avlon.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, we take an exclusive look inside Myanmar, where people are being arrested just for talking to journalists after a bloody coup that's claimed hundreds of lives. Our Clarissa Ward is there.

Plus is it is a safe way to get international travel flowing again?

Or a license to discriminate?

We'll look at the pros and cons of vaccine passports.

And a royal family feud in the kingdom of Jordan. How a defiant former crown prince was brought to heel.

But we begin with the CNN exclusive. Our chief international --


AVLON: We begin with the CNN exclusive. Our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward inside Myanmar as the country's military intensifies its crackdown on protesters. CNN is the first independent news organization allowed inside the country.

An advocacy group says 550 people have been killed since the coup that removed the democratically elected government. Clarissa Ward spoke with CNN's Jake Tapper and she and her crew are reporting with the permission of Myanmar's military, which is escorting them wherever they go.


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 the -- 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 whatever we could, and to tell the story of the people of Myanmar, Jake. And what has it been like to report their?

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

WARD: So, we have 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."


WARD: With the three-finger salute.


WARD: That's from people who are against the military. Is that saying that the people in this area are against the military?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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'm not sure, because I am just for interpretation. OK.

WARD: I'm wondering.

There's some people over there. Maybe we could go and talk to them.


So, the security forces told me we shouldn't stay for a long time here for our security.


WARD: For our security?


WARD: 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 Games" 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 -- military people around us, with all those minders around us, people would come up at 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 have 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 arms, of its level of 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 up comfortable interview. We wanted to particularly drill down on the number of innocent civilians who have been killed. More than 550 protesters, pro-democracy 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 on how on earth the military could justify this. We want 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 a 17-year-old 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?

MAJOR GENERAL ZAW MIN TUN (through translator): If 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 look suspicion 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 voiced heard?

He said that the military's plan has always been to allow for another round of elections sometime in either the next year or possibly up to two years.

But it's really important to underscore here, Jake, that the whole reason that this coup took place in the first place is because 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.


WARD: 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 talked to you and then were subsequently arrested.

WARD: You know, Jake, this is always your worst nightmare as a journalist, right?

We were finally able to negotiate access to a public space, not a controversial space. It was a space that the military actually picked.

But minute we got to this market and we were 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 flashed that three-finger "Hunger Games" salute that I told about.

They talked about wanting justice. They talked about wanting democracy. They talked about wanting freedom. More than that, so many 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 pushed 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're grateful to the military for releasing them.

TAPPER: And we should note, I mean, when people talk to you or they flash you the -- the "Hunger Games" salute, three-fingered "Hunger Games" salute that I'm holding up right now in solidarity with them, I should say. They are -- that's an act of civil disobedience at great risk.

What other acts or forms of civil disobedience 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 are not going to work, whether it's ministries, banks. You go by the banks here. There's long, long lines outside of every single paining. 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, 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 conditions, even if you are shooting at non-protests, 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.


AVLON: The Derek Chauvin murder trial resumed Monday with more incriminating testimony against the former Minneapolis police officer. The police chief testified that Chauvin violated policy last year when he kneeled on George Floyd's neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. CNN's Omar Jimenez has more and a warning, some of this video is disturbing.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The start of week two of testimony and the current Minneapolis police chief takes the stand in the trial of Derek Chauvin, his former officer.

STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTOR: Do you have a belief as to when the restraint on the ground should have stopped?

CHIEF MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting. And certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that, to continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back, that that in no way, shape or form, is anything that is by policy.

It's not part of our training and it's certainly not part of our ethics or our values.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): In late May, Chief Medaria Arradondo fired Chauvin and the three officers involved a day after the incident. He wrote a letter weeks later, reading in part, "Chauvin knew what he was doing and what happened to Mr. Floyd was murder."

SCHLEICHER: Is it your belief than that this particular form of restraint, if that's what we will call it, in fact, violates departmental policy?

ARRADONDO: I absolutely agree that it violates our policy.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Then the defense asked questions as part of cross-examination.

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The issue that you will take with it is the length of time.


ARRADONDO: Counselor, the -- there's a couple of issues.

Is the person a threat to the officers or others?

What is the severity of the crime?

Are you reevaluating and assessing the person's medical condition?

JIMENEZ (voice-over): But while the police background was a focus Monday, so, too, was the medical background, as the doctor who officially declared George Floyd dead took the stand.

DR. BRADFORD WANKHEDE LANGENFELD, HENNEPIN COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER: Any amount of time that a patient spends in cardiac arrest without immediate CPR markedly decreases the chance of a good outcome, approximately 10 percent to 15 percent decrease in survival for every minute that CPR is not administered.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): By that testimony, Floyd's survivability would've decreased by roughly 50 percent. Prosecutors say Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd's neck for nearly 4 minutes after he appeared to lose consciousness.

The doctor told prosecutors his leading theory on Floyd's cause of death was cardiac arrest by oxygen deficiency or asphyxia. The defense has pointed to drugs found in Floyd's system as a primary cause of death.

NELSON: There are many things that cause hypoxia that would still be considered asphyxiation, agreed?


NELSON: Specifically fentanyl?

LANGENFELD: That's correct.

NELSON: How about methamphetamine?


JIMENEZ (voice-over): Monday's testimony marking a shift from the week one theme of what happened on May 25th 2020, to making the case for what Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to, second degree unintentional murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter.

JIMENEZ: And the last witness to testify over the course of Monday was the commander of the training division for the Minneapolis Police Department. And when she was shown a picture of Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, she said I don't know what type of improvised restraint that is because we don't teach that.

Now every day there is a spot given each to a member of the Floyd family and a member of the Chauvin camp to actually physically be in court. Over the course of Monday, one of George Floyd's brothers, Terrence, was in the court.

And actually said he was surprised at how clear cut Minneapolis police policy seemed to be on this.

Meanwhile, on the Chauvin side of things, deputies actually removed the seat that would be reserved for someone from his camp, saying that, well, if someone shows up, we will bring this seat back.

Court testimony will continue Tuesday once court gets back into session. As we've now seen over 20 witnesses testify so far and that total will continue to go up -- Omar Jimenez, CNN, Minneapolis.


AVLON: Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is vowing to keep up his prison hunger strike, even though he said he is sick with a high fever and bad cough. He said there is a tuberculosis outbreak among his cellmates. Navalny is serving time on fraud charges. He was arrested when came back to Russia after being treated in Germany for poisoning with a nerve agent.

A prominent opposition linked doctor's union is planning a protest at the prison Tuesday to demand proper medical treatment for Navalny. A pro Kremlin paper says he's been transferred to a medical unit for observation.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed a law that could keep him in power until 2036. It lets him run for two more 6 year presidential terms once this current stint ends in 2024.

But it limits any future president to two terms in office. Lawyers approved the changes last summer and both houses of parliament passed it last month. Opponents described t as "a constitutional coup."

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Just ahead, the debate over vaccine passports.

A good way to get people traveling again?

Or an ethical conundrum?





AVLON: Now to a major travel related announcement in New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says quarantine free travel with Australia will begin in less than two weeks. Most Australian states already allow New Zealanders to visit. On April 18th, New Zealand will follow suit.

The so-called travel bubble will be a big boost for the struggling travel industry. The two countries have managed the COVID crisis carefully and kept case counts low after they closed their borders early on in the pandemic.

Meanwhile, in Britain, people have will to wait a little longer for a summer holiday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he's hopeful international travel will begin by May 17th. But he said the country is not there yet. However, several COVID restrictions will be eased starting Monday. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz has more.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: England is now ready for phase II of the roadmap. That's what prime minister Boris Johnson said in the Downing Street press conference. The latest COVID numbers are good, restrictions can be further eased. Starting on April 12th, nonessential shops can reopen.

Restaurants and pubs can also serve but only outside. The prime minister says he will be out on Monday, taking advantage of the new freedoms.


BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: Of course beer gardens and outdoor hospitality of all kinds and on Monday the 12th, I will be going to the pub myself and, cautiously but irreversibly raising a pint of beer to my lips.


ABDELAZIZ: Now there are 2 other parts of this announcement that had been highly expected, anticipated. But it turned out much more muted. Prime minister Boris Johnson now saying there are hopes that international travel can resume on May 17th but that the government cannot promise there will be holidays this summer.

That is because there's concerns that the virus could be re-imported from abroad, particularly with a surge in cases in some European countries.

The other part of this, was the COVID status certification documents, what's colloquially known as a vaccine passport. The prime minister saying they are in the early stages around getting the documents for these. There will be piloting it in some events across the country. But it's still early, saying that these will not be required to go to essential shops, like grocery stores, it could just be for international travel for now.

Still to early to tell, a lot of ethical implications there. The most important thing was probably was not said. A lot had been expected, unanticipated around the COVID certifications and around international travel. This could mean the prime minister is facing some opposition in his party to roll out these measures -- Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


AVLON: Other countries are also considering vaccine passports as a safe way to bring back international travel. But some critics say it's unethical. Joining me now from Seattle is Nancy Jecker, professor of bioethics and humanities at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Professor Jecker, thanks for joining us. On the, surface, vaccine passports seem like a great effort. You can come and go when you please. But it is not that simple if you think about it for more than a beat.

What of the downsides that you anticipate?

NANCY JECKER, PROFESSOR OF BIOETHICS AND HUMANITIES, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: When we think about the ethics of vaccine passports, the very first question we need to ask is, do we have fair equitable access to vaccines?

If we do, passports can only entrench these inequities. Globally, we don't have fair access; 94 percent of countries that have started vaccinating the populations are in the high and middle-income categories.

Current forecasts show, at this rate, there will not be enough vaccines to cover the world's population until 2023 or 2024. So my concern from an ethical standpoint is that the vaccine passports will deepen the inequalities, disproportionately affecting people in lower and middle income countries.


JECKER: It's for these reasons that the World Health Organization recommended back in January against vaccine mandates for international travel. In the United States the situation is not much better.

The CDC reported during the first 2.5 months of the U.S. vaccine program, high social vulnerability counties had lower vaccination coverage than most social vulnerability counties.

In another poll, 90 days into the vaccination drive in the U.S., eight people reported that Black Americans remained along the group most likely to express vaccine cautions. So if passports were implemented here in the U.S., socially vulnerable groups and racial minorities might be disproportionally excluded.

AVLON: And there are privacy issues, some people raise constitutional issues, but that will vary by country. The question, is what's the practical alternative to assure people that folks have been vaccinated and therefore have at least a near term reduction in the risk of spreading the virus?

JECKER: I think for now, our best bet is masking and testing, more readily available than vaccines and share (ph). I would also point out, scientifically and practically, there's a lot

of uncertainty related to the duration and protection from the vaccines and from new emerging virus variants. As a result, vaccine passports in fact pose a risk to public health if they create a false sense of protection. Even when they, work they're not 100 percent effective in blocking transmission.

AVLON: Sure. Perfect is never on the menu. Some folks are talking about what an ethical vaccine passport could look like. You might think that's a contradiction in terms.

JECKER: I think the timing manners. Before we talk about vaccine passports, we have to talk about a equitable care and universal access to vaccines. Until we achieve that I think there are serious issues related to equity.

Again I would emphasize testing and masking.

AVLON: So testing and maxing (sic) but unless there's universal access, which is probably a very high bar, you think that would be unwise.

I think it also raises the question about, given how little we know about the lifespan of the vaccines, is it possible that if we move forward with these passports, as the E.U. is discussing, that it could give a false sense of security about containing the virus?

JECKER: Definitely can get a false sense of security. We just have very early evidence indicating that the vaccines, some vaccines, such as the mRNA vaccines block transmission. But we don't know how long that will last. We don't know if it'll continue to work against new vaccine variants.

AVLON: Professor Jecker, thank you very much for your time. We will be discussing this issue a lot in the coming weeks ahead.

JECKER: Thank you.

AVLON: All right. Coming, up North Korean state media is reporting that its athletes won't take part in the Tokyo Olympics because of concerns over COVID. South Korea says it regrets that the North will not be at the games. They are set to start how July 23rd, after being postponed last summer.

Olympic organizers said last month international spectators won't be allowed into Japan because of the coronavirus.

Also, a rift in Jordan's royal family appears to have been settled just days after a major dispute rattled the kingdom's stability.

Plus the fate of the Iran nuclear deal could hinge on a meeting in Vienna. What the U.S. is hoping to get out of it and what they're refusing to concede.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) AVLON: Jordan says Prince Hamzah bin Hussein has pledged his allegiance to the kingdom after he was accused of a plot to destabilize the country. The government says he signed a letter on Monday agreeing to support both the king and current crown prince.


But as CNN's Jomana Karadsheh reports, the agreement follows mediation efforts by the royal family.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A short time after the Jordanian royal court released a statement saying that the king had delegated his uncle, the former crown prince, who served as crown prince for more than 30 years up until 1999 when he was removed from that position, to oversee this crisis, to try and deal with this issue with Prince Hamzah, that was followed a short time after that by another statement.

A letter, this time signed by the former crown prince, Prince Hamzah, in which he says that he vows support for the king and his crown prince. He says that, quote, "I put myself at the disposal of the king," says that he is committed to the country's constitution, and that "national interest must remain above all else."

This document released says it was signed at the house of Prince Hassan in the presence of other members of the royal family, other princes. It really is a clear shift in tone from what we had heard before from Prince Hamzah, those video statements over the weekend, and also an audio recording that appeared to be from the crown prince, where he vowed to remain defiant, saying he's not going to order the orders of the military to cease any sort of communication and that he was going to escalate matters. So a real change in tone.

So it does seem like the royal family may have been able to find a resolution for this public display of a family dispute, something unprecedented in this country that has sent shockwaves across the kingdom. House arrest, a crackdown, talk of a plot to destabilize the security. This is not something Jordanians have seen before.

The impact this incident, the damage it has done to the country's image, to the image of the royal family domestically and internationally, cannot be overstated.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Oman.


AVLON: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused prosecutors in his corruption trial of conducting a witch hunt to remove him from office. His statements came after evidentiary phase of his trial got underway on Monday. The prosecution accused him of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. But the prime minister has denied the charged and said dismissed the trial as an attempted coup.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The prosecution opening the investigations against the prime minister was against the law. Not just any law, the basic law that requires permission from the government attorney general to open an investigation, a permit that has never been given. Why did they do that? It's a witch hunt. They didn't investigate a crime. They didn't look for a crime. They hunted for a man. They hunted me.


AVLON: The prime minister's political fate could also be in the hands of the nation's president. This week, he'll decide if Mr. Netanyahu is the right person to try to form the next coalition government.

Now, the U.S. and members of the Iran nuclear deal will also meet in Vienna in the day ahead to see if there's a way of salvaging the 2015 agreement. The U.S. says the goal is to set the stage for mutual return to the deal, but for now will not make any concessions to entice Iran.


NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We don't underestimate the scale of the challenges ahead. These are early days. We don't anticipate an early or immediate breakthrough, as these discussions, we fully expect, will be difficult. But we do believe that these discussions with our partners and, in turn, our partners with Iran, is a healthy step -- step forward.


AVLON: CNN's Robertson explains how all of this began and how it could still play out.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): 2015, the Iran nuclear deer, 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: They says we're prepared to re-engage 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 of 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 intense consultation, negotiation.

ROBERTSON: Iran dodges censure but U.S. entry into 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 reengaging 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 6, with U.S. representatives in the 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.


AVLON: Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, the U.S. is back in the fight against global warming. How the Biden administration and the United Arab Emirates are teaming up to deal with climate change. That's just ahead.



AVLON: The U.S. and the United Arab Emirates are joining forces to reduce carbon emissions. It reflects the new U.S. policy towards climate change after four years of denial in Washington.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry says the challenge also presents a huge economic opportunity. CNN's Becky Anderson reports from Abu Dhabi.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. CLIMATE ENVOY: And it's quite remarkable, frankly, to find a country that is an oil- and gas-producing country that has been leading many, many other nations in the search for new technology, in the effort to be a leader in transitioning to the new economy.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): Former U.S. Secretary John Kerry addressing reporters in Abu Dhabi over the weekend. The Biden administration's special envoy for climate in the United Arab Emirates capital to drum up regional support for global climate action, ahead of the crucial COP26 meeting later this year.

Ahead of the summit, Kerry getting a firsthand look at some of the investments in clean energy and mitigation technologies. That, he says, puts the emirates at the forefront of the climate war, a war this traditionally oil- and gas-dependent country knows it must help win.

In a region where heat is extreme and water is precious, the UAE is no stranger to the threats posed by climate change. Rising sea levels make the coastal cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai some of the most vulnerable in the world.

If nothing is done to mitigate global warming, and the trends are not going anywhere at the moment, one 2015 study predicts the heat could make these cities uninhabitable by the end of the century.

Covering an estimated 150 square kilometers of the UAE's coastline, mated (ph) mangroves like these in Jubail Mangrove Park act as natural barriers against storm surges and rising sea levels; and as natural carbon sinks, they also act as a green lung for a city like Abu Dhabi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now we already established our flip (ph) program.

ANDERSON: John Kerry taking a chance to see the work being done locally to protect these natural ecosystems. The country says it plans to plant 30 million mangrove seedlings by 2030, to conserve these postal blue carbon systems.

(on camera): The UAE's commitments to a climate-safe future doesn't just make environmental sense, authorities here say. The economic case, too, is a compelling one.

SULTAN AHMED AL-JABER, UAE SPECIAL ENVOY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE; As you know, the UAE started more than 15 years ago, and in a very productive manner, in addressing global challenges like climate change by advancing renewable energy, applying scale, applying capital, investing in technology throughout the different growth stages locally, as well as regionally and internationally.

ANDERSON: Sources tell us that initial analysis still in its early stages, puts the economic dividend from progressive climate action in the UAE as highs $100 billion annually by 2050, if not sooner.

Becky Anderson, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


AVLON: Thanks for watching CNN. I'm John Avlon. I'll be back with more NEWSROOM in about 15 minutes, but WORLD SPORT is next.