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CNN NEWSROOM

House of Commons to Meet to Remember Duke of Edinburgh; Recent Tensions Ease in Northern Ireland; Iranian Foreign Minister Blames Israel for Natanz Incident; Protesters in Myanmar March Peacefully After Weekend of Violence; Hideki Matsuyama is First Japanese Golfer to Win Masters. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 12, 2021 - 04:30   ET

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


[04:30:00]

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: In the coming hours, the House of Commons will meet for a special session to hear tributes for Prince Philip. Now the U.K. is in the mist of eight days of mourning for the Duke Edinburgh. Crowds of people have been leaving flowers at Windsor Castle since he died Friday. Mourners said his passing marks the end of an era and it was important for them to pay their respects.

At Canterbury Cathedral the archbishop said he prayed for all those who now face a very great gap in their lives. Prince Edward said family members are taking comfort in the outpouring of support.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EARL OF WESSEX: It's ban bit of a shock, however much one tries to prepare oneself, this on one obviously, it's still a dreadful shock, and we're trying to come to terms with that, and it's very, very sad. But I have to say that the extraordinary tributes and the memories that everybody has had and been willing to share has been so fantastic. It just goes to show you, he might've been our father, grandfather, father-in-law, but he meant so much to so many other people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: For more now we're joined by Cyril Vanier who is in Windsor, England. It's interesting, Cyril, just to see a very personal side to the mourning from the royal family members, as if they understand they have to help the entire nation through the grief, as well.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it has been interesting. Because the royal family is not known for its outpouring of emotion. You know, the emotional side of their lives is usually very contained, at least in public. And over the last few days, you have seen members of the royal family speak in personal terms about the loss of their husband, father, father-in-law, and grandfather.

Most notedly, the queen, all though she hasn't spoken herself publicly about this, we do know how she feels from one of her sons, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. She said she had described all this as leaving a huge void in her life. Which stands to reason after now being -- after now losing her husband of 73 years. He also said she was stoic, which is in keeping with her character. Again, she's not known for being effusive and contemplating.

But they also have things to be thankful for and the royal family has let it be known the queen apparently describing the manner of the passing of her husband as a miracle. And by that she means the fact that he passed peacefully in his sleep, Paula. That is something that was referenced by multiple members of the royal family.

The Countess of Wessex, one of the daughters-in-law of the queen, saying yesterday when she attended a church service at Winsor, that it was as if somebody had taken him by the hand and just taken him away gently. And there is gratitude when you listen to the royals speak. They understand that a lot of people in this pandemic era lost relatives prematurely and in circumstances that were very difficult. And they know the duke is somebody who lived to be 99, just two months shy of his 100th birthday, and that they were fortunate to have him for as long as they did -- Paula.

NEWTON: And Cyril, I'm so glad you pointed that out. Because in the midst of this pandemic, as much as we talk about a scaled down ceremony, it is important to say there are so many people suffering and so many people who died alone. Cyril thanks so much, appreciate it.

[04:35:00]

Salma Abdelaziz joins me know from Belfast, Northern Ireland where recent violent protests have paused following the prince's death. The calm, the show of respect to prince, any indication that it will hold?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Paula, that's the question everybody is asking here. I'm along one of the peace walls here in Belfast that divides Catholic and Protestant communities. And it's along walls like this, along the openings of walls like this that small pockets are trading Molotov cocktails, fireworks, rocks last week.

But when Prince Philip died, you can imagine that the reaction as well was very divided. A few are unionists. A protestant you tie yourself to the United Kingdom and the death of Prince Philip meant a great deal. Because he was a symbol of that connection. But both sides called for peace. Called for a period of mourning. And this is what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Sunday service for an anxious Protestant community.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will lead us in prayer for Prince Philip and his family.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Here there is mourning for Prince Philip and devotion for the queen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I invite you to stand? We pay tribute to Prince Philip.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): And prayers for peace too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can most certainly stand together to say violence is not the way.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Belfast was shaken by violence worse than any seen here in years. Mounting frustrations over issues ranging from Brexit laws to COVID restrictions poured out onto the streets. That quickly descended into sectarian clashes between Northern Ireland's bitterly divided Protestant and Catholic communities.

But in the aftermath of Prince Philip's death, calls to end the fighting by pro-British loyalists leaders like Billy Hutchinson were heard.

BILLY HUTCHINSON, LEADER, PROGRESSIVE UNIONIST PARTY: And I felt that people should respect principle. I don't want to see people get back out in the streets. These young people will be criminalized. There'll be vilified.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): At nightfall, we witness calm along the troubled fault line in North Belfast.

ABDELAZIZ: This area is often a flashpoint on that side is a Protestant community over there as a Catholic neighborhood. At times, youth have clashed here, police are trying to keep them apart. But all political parties have called on everyone to stay home, stop protesting and it seems to be working.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Away from the hotspots and you meet three Protestant youth workers who tell us they do not want to return to the hatred of the past.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't want to be involved in it.

ABDELAZIZ: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because you've moved on. You want peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just think it's reckless and dangerous and it's wrecking their own community.

ABDELAZIZ: Does any part of you feel afraid? Does any part of you feel like oh, this, this could get worse?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, terrified. The fallout is powerful. Half of them grow somewhere scared of your own community.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Mourning for the royal family has quiet at these restless neighborhoods, where loyalty to the monarchy runs deep. But the fear is the respite might not last beyond the princes' funeral.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ABDELAZIZ (on camera): Now the calm so far, Paula, seems to be holding but the factors that are in place that have aggravated these decades old tensions, they are still there. And what are they? Well t's a Brexit agreement that essentially created a border between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain what people call the Irish sea border with many people here who are connected to the U.K. feel that unfettered access is what they expect from Westminster.

There's also anger over COVID restrictions calling for the local police chief to resign after an ex-RA chief's funeral attracted nearly 2,000 people nearly, despite COVID rules. A lot of anger that those rules don't seem to apply to all. There's socioeconomic conditions as well that aggravate these tensions. And what we saw here, Paula, is that when the factions did say it was time to stop, it was like a tap that turned off. And experts can tell you that potentially that tap can be turned back on after Prince Philip's funeral. And it's not just Northern Ireland's future and peace at stake here, it's the U.K. as a whole and its unity -- Paula.

NEWTON: Absolutely. It was interesting it hear the insights from those young people there too. Salma thanks so much for bringing us that report, appreciate it.

Coming up, an incident at an Iranian nuclear facility. Iran is calling it a, quote, terrorist action. And Israel's army chief has appeared to hint a possible Israeli involvement. We're live in Jerusalem after the break.

[04:40:19]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NEWTON: Iran's foreign minister is blaming Israel for what's been called a blackout at the Natanz nuclear site. Beyond that, we do not know a lot about what happened. Though Tehran says no one was injured and there were no leaks. State media reported that Mohammad Javad Zarif is vowing revenge and says the site will rise up, in his words, stronger than before.

Iran's nuclear chief, meantime on Sunday, called what happened a terrorist action. And Israel's top general has appeared to hint at possible Israeli involvement. This all comes ahead of a meeting between the Israeli Prime Minister and U.S. Secretary of Defense, which will happen later today. Hadas Gold joins me now. And what have we heard, anything as of yet, as to whether or not the Secretary of Defense might actually say something about what happened at Natanz?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, we actually did just hear from the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. He spoke to American reporters after visiting an Israeli air force base. And he was asked directly about this alleged incident. And he said in terms of their efforts to engage with Iran diplomatically on reaching some sort of Iran nuclear deal -- also known as the JCPOA -- that those efforts will continue. He was asked directly if the incident would somehow be an impediment to those talks, and he said that they plan to continue to focus on what the president is trying to achieve. Now what President Biden is trying to achieve is a new Iranian nuclear

deal after the 2015 deal was pulled out of by President Trump. There is currently -- in the next few days, we're expecting talks to continue in Vienna between U.S.-led group of countries and the Iranians. All aimed at trying to curb the Iranian nuclear capabilities.

But Israel is vehemently against and opposed any sort of return to the 2015 -- to a version to the 2015 deal saying it will simply give Iran a green light to obtain nuclear weapons. Now while the Iranians may be pointing the finger directly at Israel for this incident, the Israelis have not given any sort of official comment on whether they were involved.

However, Israeli media is citing unnamed sources saying it was the Israeli Mossad that was somehow involved. And as you noted, the Israeli army chief did seem to hint at it saying yesterday that Israel's operations throughout the Middle East are not hidden from the eyes of the enemies.

[04:45:00]

And Prime Minister Netanyahu also recently made comments about this, saying the struggle against Iran and the proxies and the Iranian armament efforts is a huge mission. He also said the situation that exists today will not necessarily be the situation that will exist tomorrow.

In just a few hours, Paula, we'll be hearing from Netanyahu, once again, where he'll be appearing alongside Defense Secretary Austin. They're expected to give some joint statements. We will be watching those -- that joint statement very closely. Not only for what they say, Paula, I think it will also be very important to look to see the tone and how these two men will interact with each other. Especially in light of the last 24 hours.

NEWTON: Yes, absolutely. Hadas Gold we've got you there to cover it. Thanks so much, appreciate it.

Now the Myanmar's pro-democracy protesters are refusing to give into fear and intimidation. Crowds of people marched peacefully in several cities on Sunday. This group, as you see there in the middle of the night, the demonstrations followed a weekend of military violence. Now it happened in the town of Bago, north of Yangon. One monitoring group says security forces killed at least 82 people there on Friday.

Now this is incredible. The military is reportedly charging families to collect the bodies of their loved ones. Meantime, a state-run media reports the leader of the junta made new remarks attempting to actually justify the coup.

Paula Hancocks is following all of this from neighboring Thailand. And Paula, you know, it's interesting that they seem they want to step forward and give justifications saying this will strengthen democracy. But where does this turn seem to be pivoting now in terms of whether things could deescalate? PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well certainly, what we're seeing

on the ground, Paula is a continuation. And on Friday a worsening of the bloodshed in certain areas. You mentioned there the city of Bago, this was 82 people at least who were killed, according to the advocacy group AAPP and that's one day and just one city.

Now according to one eyewitness that CNN spoke to who has fled the city and was in a neighboring village, many people have done the same. They appear to think as of Sunday there was still military elements within the town going to different neighborhoods trying to hunt out protesters.

Now we understand from that eyewitness that they've heard that the bodies were piled up in the mortuary and also other reports that the military junta had actually taken some of those bodies away.

Now that would seem to be substantiated by the fact that we're now hearing another horrifying development. That the military is actually charging the bereaved relatives to have the bodies of their loved ones return to them and the equivalent of some $85. This according to the Bago's student union which has posted on their Facebook page in a number of other reports.

So certainly this is -- I mean, it's a horrifying development that you would lose a loved one in this bloody crackdown and then you would have to pay to even be allowed to retrieve the body and give them the funeral rights that you want to give them.

Now from the military's point of view, they still claim only one person died on Friday. They have said that they believe the protesters, as they call them, the rioters, were to blame saying they had homemade guns, homemade shields, homemade hand grenades. But quite frankly, homemade shields, even if that was the case, would not protect you against what AAPP says the military was using, which is assault rifles, heavy weaponry like RPGs, and grenades of their own.

So certainly, we're seeing a different narrative coming from the military. As you mentioned there at the beginning, Paula, also the junta spokesperson saying that they believe things are getting back to normal. That soon banks and shops will be open and fully operational, which couldn't really be more divorced from reality.

NEWTON: That is certainly the Achilles heel there. Because the economy is just cratering. Paula Hancocks, appreciate the update.

Next on CNN NEWSROOM, this year's Masters winner has made history and his first major win is more than just a personal victory. That's ahead

[04:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NEWTON: Golfer Hideki Matsuyama has made history at the Masters. Not only is he first Japanese man to win at Augusta, he's the first to win any of the four major's championships in men's golf. Matsuyama finished at 10 under par for a one-shot victory and he instantly celebrated in his home country. And we take the measure of that with our own Blake Essig who's live for us in Tokyo. I watched him. You know, I watched him, he won fairly composed but he did seem like the man who had the weight of the entire country on his shoulders.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no question he went into today's round with a four-shot lead, and he won by one stroke. It doesn't matter what you win be as long as you win, and he did that. Right, Paula. It's truly a water shed moment, and there's no better way to describe it other than that.

I mean, Japan is crazy for golf and now they have their very own Masters champion. The Japanese golfers have been playing in the Masters since it began in 1936, and as you've said, this is the first time that they've not only had a Japanese-born player win the Masters but any major PGA tour tournament at all.

You know, as a golfer myself, I was really actually surprised to learn that. Because, you know, playing golf with Japanese golfers, they're into it and they're very good. And so the fact that this is the first player to have won a tournament like this is truly incredible.

It truly is a bright spot for Japan when you have under the shadow of the Olympics that are less than four months away. This really offers an opportunity to gain some momentum, some excitement, as Matsuyama will be competing in the Olympics this summer, if they do happen. And he had a chance to talk about his impact not only here in Japan but around the world. Today after he finally put on that green jacket.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:55:00]

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA, 2021 MASTERS CHAMPION (through translator): Up until now, we haven't had a major champion in Japan. Maybe a lot of golfers or younger golfers too -- or maybe it's a possibility but with me doing it, hopefully it will set an example for them that it is possible. And that if they set their mind to it, they can do it, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ESSIG (on camera): Now the Tokyo broadcast systems announcer who was broadcasting once Hideki Matsuyama won, it brought him to tears. Prime Minister Suga immediately congratulated Matsuyama.

And he even received a congratulations tweet from Tiger Woods saying "making Japan proud, Hideki. Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment for you and your country. This historical Masters win will impact the entire golf world."

Now Tiger Woods first won the Masters in 1997. And Paula, I know about you, but for me, as a young kid at the time that, that win really motivated me to get into golf. And this win here in Japan by Hideki Matsuyama has that potential for the younger generations here.

NEWTON: Yes, it certainly has been a goal for the PGA to continue to expand, obviously around the world. But you know, as you know, golf is already so popular in Japan. I just can't believe that you're saying he actually cried, the announcer.

ESSIG: The announcer, I mean, brought him to tears. And we've heard that not only from him but other people here today in Japan. Again, for obviously a lot of people that are really into golf this is a big, big moment. Again, just doing some research, the course rise in Japan there's about more than half the courses are in Asia here in Japan. So it's a big deal and everyone very excited.

NEWTON: Got you. Blake, thank you so much. Really appreciate the perspective from Japan.

And I want to thank everyone here for their company. I'm Paula Newton, "EARLY START" is straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)