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India Overwhelmed amid COVID-19 Surge; Latin America Facing Shortage of Vaccines; Myanmar Military Accused of Beatings, Torture; Mass Abductions on the Rise in Northern Nigeria; Turkey Announces Strictest Lockdown Yet; Iranian Foreign Minister Criticizing Elite Forces in Leaked Audio. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired April 27, 2021 - 02:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the, world I'm Robyn Curnow.

Coming up on the show, India spirals deeper into crisis as it faces the world's worst outbreak since the start of the COVID pandemic.

Then, CNN gets firsthand accounts of the brutal tactics being used by Myanmar's military on its own people.

And kidnap for ransom is on the rise of Nigeria. Coming up, how one girl was snatched from her school and what's been done about it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: Thank you for joining me this hour.

The World Health Organization warns that the coronavirus pandemic is still intensifying, with global cases climbing for a ninth straight week. The continued surge in some parts of the world coming amid a push to ramp up vaccinations.

Now COVID deaths are also on the rise, including in Brazil and Iran, as you can see from the map. But nowhere is the situation worse than in India. India reported a slight dip in new cases on Tuesday for the first time in a week.

But there is still more than 323,000 cases. Overwhelmed hospitals are running out of oxygen and other critical medical supplies. But now, other countries are trying to pick up the help, as Ivan Watson explains. Ivan.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A lifeline has just arrived at this hospital in India.

A tanker, filled with oxygen pulls through the gate to replenish the taps. The scale of the need across the country for lifesaving supplies like this is breathless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need oxygen immediately. The persons, wandering in, they're here for oxygen but there is no help.

WATSON (voice-over): Health facilities say they're in beg and borrow mode to keep the oxygen flowing, along with other critical supplies. Two hospitals in New Delhi, tweeting over the weekend, they were less than two hours from running out of oxygen.

The military now stepping in, saying it will release oxygen to hospitals from armed forces reserves. Retired medical military personnel will provide relief to the country's overburdened doctors and nurses.

One of India's top health officials says, fear is driving some people to hoard essential drugs and rush to the hospital even if they have mild symptoms.


RANDEEP GULERIA, DIRECTOR, ALL INDIA INSTITUTE OF MEDICAL SCIENCES (through translator): There is an unnecessary panic among the public and it is causing more harm than good. Anyone who is COVID positive, even if their saturation is normal and they have no symptoms, they panic.


WATSON (voice-over): But for many people, watching their loved ones gasping for breath and being turned away from treatment facilities that are out of space, out of supplies, these are desperate times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This hospital is not admitting him, either. Oxygen in the ambulance is running out. They are standing here without oxygen and a patient in the middle of the road without any hope.

WATSON (voice-over): Dire circumstances that have caught the world's attention, countries like the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Saudi Arabia, are all sending aid, along with the U.S., which announced that it would partially lift a ban on exporting raw materials for vaccines which, should help India ramp up production of its Covishield vaccine.

And more options could be on the way. The U.S. said it plans to share its stockpile of the AstraZeneca vaccine with other countries -- Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.


CURNOW: Max Rodenbeck is "The Economist's" South Asia bureau chief, joining us from New Delhi. Max, hi, good to have you on the show. It is particularly bad in Delhi

where you are, despite that its hospitals are probably better equipped than some rural areas.

MAX RODENBECK, "THE ECONOMIST": And Delhi has the best hospitals in India, so, if you can see the scale of the lack of resources here, it's really quite frightening to think what is happening deep in the Indian countryside, where there are very few hospitals, doctors, options for people who are getting sick.


CURNOW: A number of doctors I've spoken to over the past few days are suggesting that these numbers, the infection rates and the death rates, are far, far below what is really happening on the ground.

Do you see that, anecdotally, as you are reporting?

RODENBECK: Absolutely. No question. People have counted the number of bodies being cremated or buried, the number of people dying in hospitals and comparing that with the official number of people dying. Their discrepancies are huge.

There are also studies suggesting India has been undercounting by a long way. This isn't, necessarily, by someone designing this. It is deaths have always been badly counted in India and continue to be so.

For example, in Delhi, at least 3,000 people went to funerals in the last week because of the registered funerals; whereas, the actual register of the daily government is only 2,000, so that's 1,000 percent difference in a city where these things are counted well. In the rest of India, the discrepancy is much bigger.

CURNOW: Talk about funerals and the death rate, images of funeral pyres, constantly burning, the aerial shots of this stream of bodies at crematoriums, it must be -- this is some of them now we are showing on the screen.

It is, for me, really striking home that the sheer number and horror of this, what is it like, seeing these pyres burning day, in and day out?

RODENBECK: It is pretty horrific. There are cemeteries that, in normal times, handle perhaps 40 funerals a day that are now jumping up to 100. There is one crematorium in Delhi, which has had to take land in an adjacent public park and build 100 new funeral pyres.

From my own house, which is in a very green part of Delhi, the center of the city, we can actually sometimes smell the funeral pyres. This, is again, in India's biggest city with the most attention. What happens beyond Delhi is pretty awful.

CURNOW: Is this an example of a devastating and willful political failure here?

RODENBECK: I don't think willful is the word we can use at all but certainly, there is a failure to anticipate the scale of this second wave. There was also too much eagerness to claim credit when India's numbers dropped after its big first wave.

There have been failings on many levels with the government and also, with local governments in India. But there was a sense in the wintertime that things had, really gotten so much better that maybe India was through this. There was something special about India.

When the numbers started to climb, there was little attention paid at all, the government went ahead with election campaigns really aggressively. Huge crowds, the prime minister himself promoting a huge religious festival. The government also promoting giant cricket matches in a stadium named after the prime minister, this kind of thing.

It's almost as if nothing was happening, even as the numbers are mounted and, really, it was only when the lines started to build up outside of hospital, banging on the doors for oxygen, that the government started to pay attention.

CURNOW: It's also why I used the word willful, because there was active political campaigning. There was no suggestion that the religious festivals should be done remotely or privately. There does seem to have been a failure on some level, according to many critics.

Also the critics are being silenced on Twitter.

Why is Narendra Modi going after mean tweets in the middle of this?

RODENBECK: That's a good question. This government is a very strong government, it has a tremendous control over the levers and tools of government, including parliament. And they are used to getting their voice out. They have a lot of control over the media, too.

And so this negative current, which is growing and growing, with a lot of criticism, is taking them by surprise. They aren't used to it and not sure how to respond. There's a bit of paranoia at the top of the government, here and I think their response is to want to shoot the messenger. That's the first response. It's unfortunate but that is where we are.

CURNOW: Max Rodenbeck from "The Economist," thank you so much for joining us.

RODENBECK: Thank you, Robyn.

CURNOW: In parts of Latin America, COVID cases are rising, hospitals are facing a shortage of crucial medical supplies there as well, especially vaccines. CNN's Matt Rivers reports there are now widespread calls for wealthier nations to help.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As we watch what's happening in the United States right now, where it looks like the supply of different vaccines is maybe beginning to outpace the demand for those vaccines, it is the opposite that is happening right now in Latin America.


RIVERS: Where there remains critical vaccine shortages in just about every country across this region.

Considering what's happening in both in Mexico and Brazil, which 2 countries that combined make up for well over half of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole, in Mexico, less than 17 million doses in total have been administered so far.

And in Brazil, less than 5 percent of the population there has been fully vaccinated, according to the health ministry, who said on Monday that, due to a shortage of supply, the active ingredient used to make the CoronaVac vaccine, there could be delays in people receiving their second dose of the CoronaVac in that country.

That's why, as we move forward, we're going to see continued calls from different countries in this region, for countries like the United States to share their supply of the vaccine.

We have seen China and Russia try and step in, giving out different contracts for their vaccines across this region but there have been delays in the delivery of a lot on those supplies.

So as a result, calls for the United States and other countries to share their supplies of vaccines are only going to increase in the near future -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


CURNOW: Matt, thank you for that.

The E.U. is suing vaccine maker AstraZeneca for breach of contract. Their agreement states that the company would make its best reasonable effort to deliver 180 million doses in the second quarter and a total of 300 million by the end of June.

But last month, AstraZeneca fell far short of their target. It said it would deliver about a third of what was expected. On Monday, an E.U. spokesperson said why it is important for the company to honor the agreement. Take a listen.


STEFAN DE KEERSMAECKER, EUROPEAN COMMISSION SPOKESPERSON: What matters to us, in this case, is we want to ensure there is a speedy delivery of a sufficient number of doses that E.U. citizens are entitled to, which have been promised on the basis of the contract.


CURNOW: AstraZeneca has responded saying, the lawsuit is without merit.

Coming up on CNN, they face beating, torture and even death for democracy. We hear from victims of brutal violence in Myanmar's military crackdown.

And the increasingly common crime of kidnapping for ransom in Nigeria. One family described their terrifying ordeal after being abducted and the price of their freedom.




CURNOW: After meeting with the leaders of Myanmar's junta, lawmakers from ASEAN say the army needs to set a timeline for ending the violence the. generals say they will carefully consider this but so far there's been little sign they will back down from the wanton killing of their own people.

A Myanmar human rights organization says that more than 700 people have died since the coup, around 3,400 are detained. There are allegations of beating and torture so severe that at least one detainee wished for dead.


CURNOW: Clarissa Ward visited Myanmar earlier this month and has this report; a warning, it does contain graphic images.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They gather outside the prison every day, mostly parents desperately hoping for a glimpse of their children, proof that they are still alive.

They know that behind these walls, Myanmar's military junta is engaging in unspeakable cruelty against those who dare to defend democracy.

Now in hiding, this 19-year-old is brave enough to share his story with us. He says he was detained after being stopped by soldiers who found photos of him at protests on his phone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When we got there, the commander tied my hands behind my back and use small scissors to cut my ears, to put my nose, my neck and my throat. Then he had his fellow soldiers beat me up that night.

WARD (voice-over): He shares photos of the abuse. His back lacerated from whippings with a cable wire, his face swollen from endless strikes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I even told them to kill me instead of torturing me. It was that painful.

WARD (voice-over): Myanmar's junta shows no shame about its cruelty. On state television, it proudly displays images of those arrested for so called terrorist activity. The face of this 31-year-old dance teacher is barely recognizable. Family members say this is what she looked like before the beatings.

From the safety of neighboring India, this 23-year-old army cadet says the soldiers were only allowed to watch state T.V. We have agreed not to reveal his identity for his protection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They tried to brainwash us. There are soldiers who only believe what the commander's told them. They don't think.

WARD (voice-over): Two years into his military career, he decided to defect haunted by the military's brutality after the coup. Every night he says they would set out on raids, armed with assault rifles and the names of protest leaders given by their informants.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): At one point, we went to arrest two leaders one got arrested and one was trying to escape and we shot him on the spot. We were ordered to shoot when they escaped.

WARD (voice-over): That night, he claims he intentionally broke his rifle so it wouldn't fire but says it was the cruelty to the families of the protesters that finally broken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They were crying when we raided their houses and beat them. The neighbors knew too but no one dared to come out at night. If someone was looking at us through their windows, we told them to come out and beat them too. The youngest one I saw was around 10 or 11 years old, a boy.

WARD (voice-over): Despite the ferocity of the military's crackdown, Myanmar is prodemocracy movement is still very much alive. The young protesters ordeal lasted three long days. During the endless beatings he says he had one focus, staying alive so that he could protest once again -- Clarissa Ward, CNN.


CURNOW: Myanmar activists say the demands from ASEAN to end the violence are not enough. Monique Skidmore is a professor and an expert on Myanmar and she joins us now from Melbourne, Australia.

Good to have you. I do want to talk about the junta leader appearing to leave the summit of neighboring Asian countries with barely a slap on the wrist this weekend. Pro-democracy supporters must be asking now, what next?

MONIQUE SKIDMORE, MYANMAR EXPERT: That's right and there's been protests in Myanmar since then against ASEAN. And they said that we don't like your attitude toward us and we'd rather you didn't have anything to do with the country.

So like China as well, we've seen some anti -- we've seen protests against regional countries, who protesters believe are just simply not on their side, not doing anything and, in fact, in some ways legitimizing this military regime. CURNOW: We spoke about a month ago, I think it was, when large portions of all levels of society were taking to the streets.

Has that momentum gone and can it be reclaimed?

SKIDMORE: I think it's very sad to say that much of it has gone. We don't see some of it that is occurring, because of the regular blackouts. But it is true that in some ways the violence has moved to a different phase now. People are afraid to stay on the streets very long. So the protests are more hit and run.

And we're still seeing people dying every day, even since the ASEAN meeting, when the military will shoot just into protests.


SKIDMORE: So what the military is doing now is it's hunting people, it's hunting journalists, editors anyone who's been seen importing materials, placards, anything who can be organizing and the families of people who are wanted.

So it's more of a nightly mission to go out now and hunt down the people who are capable of organizing further protests.

CURNOW: Again, just to go back to this issue, the junta leader goes to the summit of Asian leaders, who, give the moratorium and give the 5 point plan, but there is no timeline in which violence should be ended. That seems to have not been pressured, certainly no other pressure that could recreate a return to the democratically elected government.

With no end in sight to violence, what's next?

SKIDMORE: If you're being charitable, you would say that ASEAN is seeking to get our representative into the country and to have talks between the military and the group of people who were duly elected, the national unity government. That's possibly the most charitable reading of it.

But in reality, as you said, there is no timeframe. There was not even a call to immediately release political for prisoners and there's over 3,000 of them.


CURNOW: Including Aung San Suu Kyi.

SKIDMORE: Absolutely. And my friend, associate professor Sean Tennell (ph), an Australian economist, is in prison. We continue to see high-profile people, as well as just people dragged off the streets, for protesting with no chance of release.

We know that the number of people who are being killed regularly in these torture and beatings is quite significant. So what we're seeing now are sanctions not occurring amongst regional countries; we have regional countries, such as Thailand, a member of ASEAN, who actually attended a month ago, Armed Forces Day in Myanmar.

And we have a regional body that's not wanting to become politically involved and believes in political noninterference. If you add out, the biggest partner, China, as well, refusing to become involved.

We have a situation in which there is not a lot internationally being done, there's not much international will, especially regionally, to help the people of Myanmar trying to resist this very brutal regime.

CURNOW: Have Aung San Suu Kyi and pro-democracy protesters, ordinary people in Myanmar, been abandoned by the international community?

SKIDMORE: Largely, yes. The geopolitics are so terrible in this area, in the sense that Myanmar sits right next to China, one of the world's growing superpowers. And that growing superpower relies on Myanmar for a whole bunch of natural resources for power and for a seaport.

So it wants the situation to be stable. But it does not want to interfere with the regime. It's not going to come to the aid of the people of Myanmar. And nobody is going to pick a fight with China.

And if the regional countries, such as Thailand, are not willing to hold them to a timetable, then, even though the U.S., the U.K., many other countries, Japan, have been very vocal in calling out the regime and putting on sanctions, those kinds of sanctions are not effective, because, regionally, they are not being upheld.

CURNOW: Monique Skidmore, always good to speak to you. Thank you so much for your analysis. We appreciate it.

In Nigeria, the bodies of 2 more kidnap students have been discovered, making it a total of 5 Greenfield University students killed by their abductors; 20 students, 3 staff members were kidnapped from the school last Tuesday. It's the latest in a rash of kidnappings by armed groups, looking for ransom money.

Nigeria's president is calling them barbaric terror attacks. Stephanie Busari reports now.


STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN.COM SUPERVISING EDITOR, AFRICA (voice-over): Fear is a currency in Nigeria's booming kidnapping industry trades on.

This video, filmed by kidnappers and posted online to pressure families into paying ransom. In rural Northern Nigeria, incidents like these are becoming all too common.

But this family, know more than most, what it feels like, in February, 15 year old Habiba (ph) was asleep in her bed when the kidnappers came.

HABIBA ILIYASU, KIDNAP VICTIM (through translator): They fired guns. Some of them came into the school. They came and took us away.

BUSARI (voice-over): Taken from her dormitory, she and 278 of her schoolmates were made to walk all night, through the forest, to their kidnappers' camp.


BUSARI (voice-over): What she found there was unimaginable. Four of her own family members, who'd also been snatched from their homes, including, she says, her sister and father.

ILIYASU (through translator): I cried but my sister told me to stop crying, because, when you cried here, you got beaten.

BUSARI (voice-over): But there was to be no joyful reunion.

ILIYASU MAGAJI, KIDNAP VICTIM (through translator): I wouldn't look at her because I was afraid they would know she was my daughter. And as a result, harm her or harm me.

BUSARI (voice-over): Iliyasu says he was regularly beaten by his kidnappers. One attacked him with a machete.

MAGAJI (through translator): He wanted to cut off my hand.

BUSARI (voice-over): He tells us they demanded $25,000 be paid in ransom for his family's freedom. There's been a recent surge in kidnappers targeting schools. Nearly 800 children have been taken in the past four months alone.

International outcry over the Chibok kidnappings by Islamist militant group Boko Haram in 2014 helped make schools a lucrative target.

BUSARI: Many of these criminal gangs, known locally as bandits, are not agitating for political or religious ideology; their motive is simply to make money and lots of it.

These gangs target everyday Nigerians and many of the country's road networks have become no-go zones for commuters.

SHEHU SANI, FORMER NIGERIAN SENATOR AND HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Just in the last 5 years even at a rough estimate, over $100 million have been paid by either individuals or organizations, to terror groups or to bandits for ransom. And thousands of people have also been killed.

BUSARI (voice-over): Nigerian authorities have long denied paying ransom to kidnappers. But recently the president spoke out, blaming local governors, for, quote, "rewarding bandits with money and vehicles."

Many say the federal government also has a part to play in improving security in rural areas.

For this family, a moment of relief, when first Habiba and her schoolmates were released. And then shortly after, following more than three months, held in a forest, her father was allowed home.

Like many others across parts of Nigeria, they now live in fear for when they will next be forced to pay for their freedom -- Stephanie Busari, CNN, in Northern Nigeria. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Up next, a surge in new COVID infections worldwide is being fueled by the out of control pandemic in India. We will have a live report from there.

And Turkey announces its toughest COVID lockdown yet. We are live in Istanbul with that.





CURNOW: I'm Robyn Curnow, live from Atlanta, CNN's world news headquarters, it is 30 minutes past the hour, thank you for joining me.

After days of record highs, India has reported its first dip in new COVID cases this week but it's hardly good news. It's still added more than 323,000 cases, just on Tuesday alone, showing just how severe the country's COVID crisis continues to be.

Now India is second only to the U.S. in total infections and its rise to that spot came quickly. You can see here, daily cases have spiked in the U.S. and Brazil but India has skyrocketed across both.

Countries, around the world, are stepping up their aid efforts. The first shipment from the U.K., arriving in India. Let's go straight to Anna Coren, telling us about that.

Anna, hi.

ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: The first planeload of medical supplies has flown into India and where that goes, I'm sure, will be snapped up straightaway.

People are desperate. The U.K. has eight more planeloads to fly in this week; we know Saudi Arabia, the UAE, has promised oxygen generators. We have Germany, the E.U., Singapore sending in supplies.

The WHO says it's sending 2,600 staff, along with medical supplies in with the WHO chief says is a heartbreaking, beyond heartbreaking, situation.

The United States, also pledging raw materials for vaccines and after a phone call between President Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the President of the United States said that 16 million doses of AstraZeneca will be provided to other nations -- and have to presume that will go to India when FDA approved.

The White House say they hope to get 10 million doses out in the next few weeks. All of this international aid is amazing and required to fight this pandemic. But it is needed now. People are dying on the streets, in parking lots of hospitals. And they are dying in their cars, waiting to be seen.

We know that hospitals are suffering an acute shortage of oxygen, they are turning patients away because they just don't have enough for the patients. They say, unless you bring your own oxygen and cylinder and families can provide the oxygen supply, then you cannot be admitted.

You mentioned those numbers, Robyn, that slight dip today from the health ministry on daily infections, certainly, we shouldn't be too excited about that. That could be the result of the restrictions and the curfews that are being imposed in certain cities and states around the country.

Narendra Modi, making it perfectly clear last week, he did not want to impose another nationwide lockdown after what happened last year, with the two-month lockdown there was so much economic pain.

So perhaps, maybe the dip in numbers are a reflection that people are not getting tested. We already know, Robyn, too, testing is limited in the cities, let alone nonexistent in rural areas.

CURNOW: Thank you for keeping us updated, Anna Coren in Hong Kong, thank you.

Daily cases have been falling in Turkey but not enough. On Thursday, the country enters its strictest lockdown since the pandemic began, after nightly curfews and full weekend lockdowns failing to stop a slew of new infections, Turkey is still 6th in the world for total infections and more than 4.5 million. Jomana Karadsheh, following from Istanbul.

People preparing for another tough, tough lockdown.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The toughest one we have seen so far, Robyn. The government here, very reluctant, since the start of the pandemic, to impose any sort of a full shutdown of the country, worrying about the economic implications of the shutdown.

But it seems, they had no choice. To give you an idea of what is going on here, in March they lifted into the restrictions that were in place. And then numbers started to rise to unprecedented levels, over 60,000 registered cases a day, more than 300 deaths per day being reported. These are the highest number since the start of the pandemic. Officials were blaming this on the variant first discovered in the U.K. but also, a lot of complacency.


KARADSHEH: People, officials, not everyone was really following the restrictions that remained in place. So a partial lockdown was imposed a few weeks ago, we did start to see the numbers begin to drop over the next few days.

But it doesn't seem, Robyn, like this was going as fast as the government wants it to go. This is when we heard from President Erdogan yesterday, saying, at a time when Europe is entering a phase of reopening, as he called it, we need to rapidly cut our case numbers to below 5,000 to not be left behind.

He said, there are going to be serious heavy costs and implications, if Turkey cannot catch up with Europe here. He was warning about the impact this will have on important sectors like tourism and trade.

Of course, tourism very important for this country. They really need to try and get this pandemic under control, if they're going to try and save this tourist season, after the impact we saw last year.

So really, after trying to avoid the shutdown, the country on Thursday, going to go into nearly three weeks of a full country lockdown, where you will see the majority of the population staying indoors.

People will only be allowed to go out at certain hours of the day, only allowed to go out on foot to essential shops. Everything else is going to be shut down. Most will be working from home. The few classes that are still taking place at schools, also going into online classes.

And most importantly, they are going to be shutting down all intercity travel in the country, without any sort of official permit. We have to see, Robyn, if this brings down the case levels. This is what they are hoping, along with the vaccination campaign that is continuing.

CURNOW: Thank you for that, Jomana Karadsheh, in Istanbul.

Now European Commission president Ursula van der Leyen says that she was subject to sexism on a recent to trip to Turkey to meet with the prime minister. Speaking with the European Parliament, she said she was left standing while her male colleague was given a seat next to the president.

She says she simply expected to be given the respect her position deserves. Take a listen.


URSULA VAN DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: I am the first woman to be president of the European Commission. I am the president of the European Commission. And this is how I expected to be treated when visiting Turkey 2 weeks ago, like a commission president.

But I was not. I cannot find any justification for what I was treated in the European treaties. So I have to conclude, it happened because I am a woman.

Would this have happened if I had worn a suit and a tie?

In the pictures of previous meetings, I did not see any shortage of free chairs. But then again, I did not see any women in these pictures, either. Honorable members, many of you will have made quite similar experiences in the past, especially the female members of this house. I'm sure you know exactly how I felt. I felt hurt and I felt alone as a woman and as a European.


CURNOW: As you can see here, she was eventually given a seat on a nearby sofa, next to a Turkish foreign minister.

Still to come, shocking revelations apparently from the Iranian foreign minister on a leaked audio recording. Details of what he said.





CURNOW: Some startling comments from the Iranian foreign minister on a leaked audio recording. Mohammad Javad Zarif is heard criticizing Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard and assassinated top general, Qasem Soleimani.

The authenticity of the tape has not been officially confirmed but an Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson said the quotes were taken out of context and do not reflect the official stance. Kylie Atwood, following the story at the U.S. State Department, has the details.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY ANALYST: What Zarif said, specifically, of Qasem Soleimani, that, a former top commander in Iran, that he had actively worked to sabotage the Iran nuclear deal by working with Russia to do so.

He also said he had done things in Syria that were not in Iran's interest. He makes it very clear. This is commander Qasem Soleimani, was killed by the United States during the Trump administration.

But what the foreign minister makes clear here, about Iran, is the fact that even though that commander is gone, the Iranian military is the supreme force when it comes to Iran.

He said, quote, "The Islamic Republic is the military field. That is what rules," demonstrating that no matter what he does diplomatically, he must give up a lot on his diplomatic efforts just so that the military can do what they want to do.

We asked about this to State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, because it's significant, given the U.S. and the other countries that are trying to re-enter, to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, are talking right now.

Price wouldn't comment on it but did comment on the fact that, despite the fact that the military commander was opposed to the Iran nuclear deal, they were able to create that deal in 2015. Now they are trying to salvage it. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Kylie Atwood there. Thank you.

If you ever had dreams of boarding a spaceship or going to Mars, Elon Musk has some news for you. You could die, no surprises there. The Tesla and SpaceX mogul minced no words in an interview, discussing innovation and his belief that humans are designed to live on multiple planets.

He says, many people, probably, will die in the process of getting to Mars but while the risk of space travel could end badly for some, Musk says the adventure is necessary for the future of humanity.

On that note, thank you for watching CNN, I am Robyn Curnow, "WORLD SPORT" starts after the break. Enjoy.