Entries in Egypt (31)


Despite Visit to Yacht, John Kerry Focused on Situation in Egypt

JACQUELYN MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- There have been headlines about Secretary of State John Kerry being on his yacht in Nantucket while the first democratically-elected president of Egypt was being overthrown.

But on Friday, the State Department sought to clarify that while Kerry was “briefly” on his yacht and was currently in Nantucket, he has been working non-stop on Egypt from the Massachusetts hide-away.

On Wednesday, reporters spotted Kerry boarding his boat the same day Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was being toppled by the Egyptian military following days of protests.

When asked about Kerry’s whereabouts, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki issued a statement referring to Kerry’s return from his whirlwind 12-day trip to the Middle East and Asia, and his new focus on Egypt.

“Since his plane touched down in Washington at 4 a.m., Secretary Kerry was working all day and on the phone dealing with the crisis in Egypt,” Psaki said.

On Friday, however,  Psaki further clarified Kerry’s whereabouts and activities, issuing a statement acknowledging that Kerry did, in fact, spend time on his yacht, but insisting that he has been fully engaged in dealing with the events in Egypt.

“While he was briefly on his boat on Wednesday, Secretary Kerry worked around the clock all day,” said Psaki, who highlighted the telephone calls Kerry made while in Nantucket, including five made to the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson. She also confirmed that Kerry participated in the president’s National Security Council meeting on Wednesday and again on Thursday by telephone.

A senior State Department official told ABC News that none of the calls Kerry made on Wednesday were from his yacht.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Mideast Unrest Tops Hillary Clinton's Agenda at Start of UN Meeting

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stacked her first full day of diplomacy at this year’s annual U.N. General Assembly meeting, also known as UNGA, by meeting with the leaders of some of the United States’ most challenging allies in a region marred by recent civil unrest.

Clinton had sit-down meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and Libyan President Mohamed Yousef el-Magariaf, before ending the evening Monday holding talks with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

The secretary and her delegation met with Morsi and his delegation for nearly an hour, according to senior State Department officials.  One official described the meeting as “very relaxed and warm,” and said that Morsi began the meeting by affirming Egypt’s commitment to protecting U.S. diplomatic missions, and told Clinton that the Egyptian government understands it has a duty to protect embassies and it’s a duty he takes seriously.

The official pointed out that since the initial violent protests on Sept. 11, Egypt has faced many more, but there have been no further incidents of damage to U.S. embassies and consulates -- a sign security forces are doing their jobs.

At a late Monday night briefing, the official also said that Clinton and Morsi discussed Egypt’s relationship with Israel under the new Muslim Brotherhood-led government.  The official said Morsi repeated previous statements affirming that Egypt has every intention of honoring the Camp David treaty with Israel and continues to work on keeping good communication lines open between the countries.

Both state department officials acknowledged that Egypt has a tough road ahead in shaping its new democracy but that Clinton assured Morsi that despite the call by some lawmakers for Egypt’s aid to be cut, she will continue to advocate for U.S. financial support.

“We understand that there may be members who have questions, but that there is strong bipartisan support for Egypt being a democratic success, because it’s in our national security interest that that occur,” one official said.

Egypt’s plan to include Iran in any negotiations regarding the end of bloodshed in Syria was met with heavy skepticism by Clinton and her delegation.  Calling it a small part in the conversation, an official would not dismiss Egypt’s initiative entirely, but said that the United States always has “concerns when Iran is engaged.”

Although the anti-Muslim film Innocence of Muslims, which sparked global protests across the Muslim world, was brought up briefly in the meeting, the official said, Morsi understood the film was not a reflection of the U.S. government and acknowledged that it should not be used an excuse for violence.

Secretary Clinton’s meeting with Pakistan President Zardari, however, began by discussing the video, despite the continued issues between the two countries, including the use of drones, the jailing of the doctor who helped with the operation to kill Osama bin Laden, and the declaration of the Haqqani network as a terror group.

“The meeting today with President Zardari started again on the recent violence caused by the video,” said another senior State Department official with authority to comment.  “We have had extremely good support from Pakistani security sources in protecting our posts and our personnel, and we spent quite a bit of time talking about the violence throughout the region.”

After they finished talking about the video, they turned to issues of counterterrorism, where Clinton and Zardari agreed to support a joint counterterrorism working group that will meet throughout the year.

Clinton’s most verbally and publicly pleasant greeting was reserved for Libyan President Magariaf, whom she thanked again for the outpouring of support the Libyan people have shown America after the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other diplomats earlier this month.

“The United States was proud to stand with you and the Libyan people as you fought for your country last year,” Clinton said.  “And we will continue to stand with you as you now write Libya’s new future as a democracy that will give all of your people a chance to have a better future.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ambassador Susan Rice: Libya Attack Not Premeditated

ABC News (NEW YORK) -- U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi was not premeditated, directly contradicting top Libyan officials who say the attack was planned in advance.

“Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous – not a premeditated – response to what had transpired in Cairo,” Rice said Sunday morning on This Week.

“In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated,” Rice said, referring to protests in Egypt Tuesday over a film that depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud. Protesters in Cairo breached the walls of the U.S. American Embassy, tearing apart an American flag.

“We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to – or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo,” Rice said. “And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons… And it then evolved from there.”

Ambassador Christopher Stevens, along with three other Americans, were killed in Libya following the assault on the American consulate in Benghazi, on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.  Rice said the FBI is examining the attack, saying their investigation “will tell us with certainty what transpired.”

Rice’s account directly contradicts that of Libyan President Mohamed Yousef El-Magariaf, who said this weekend that he had “no doubt” the attack was pre-planned by individuals from outside Libya.

“It was planned, definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival,” he told CBS News.

Rice said there were no Marines present to protect the consulate in Libya, saying the U.S. presence there is “relatively new” since the revolution that overthrew former dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

“There are not Marines in every facility. That depends on the circumstances. That depends on the requirements,” Rice said. “Our presence in Tripoli, as in Benghazi, is relatively new, as you will recall. We’ve been back post-revolution only for a matter of months.”

But Rice said there was a “substantial security presence” at the consulate in Benghazi, noting that two of the four Americans killed there were providing security.

“We certainly are aware that Libya is a place where there have been increasingly some violent incidents,” Rice said. “The security personnel that the State Department thought were required were in place… It obviously didn’t prove sufficient to the nature of the attack and sufficient in that moment.”

“But the president has been very clear. The protection of American personnel and facilities is and will remain our top priority,” Rice added. “That’s why we’ve reinforced our presence in Tripoli and elsewhere.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Says Egyptian Government Neither Ally nor Enemy

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Perhaps angered by Egypt’s slow response to condemning the U.S. Embassy attack in Cairo, President Obama told Telemundo on Wednesday, “I don’t think that we would consider [the current Egyptian government] an ally but we don’t consider them an enemy.”

It wasn’t until 24 hours after Tuesday's siege that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi wrote what many considered a tepid denunciation of the protesters.  They shouted anti-American slogans and tore down the U.S. flag in response to an anti-Islamic film produced by an American and promoted by a Florida pastor who previously enraged the Muslim world by threatening to burn the Quran.

Morsi’s party, the Muslim Brotherhood, hasn’t been particularly friendly to the U.S. in the past since previous administrations had supported former ruler Hosni Mubarak, who was forced to step down more than 18 months ago in a people’s revolution known as the “Arab spring.”

Obama told Telemundo that he felt the new Egyptian government was “a work in progress,” but there could be “a real big problem” if it refused to address U.S. security concerns in light of the latest crisis.

Meanwhile, Obama spoke to Morsi Wednesday night as demonstrators began gathering again in Cairo and had to be dispersed by Egyptian security forces.

In a statement, the White House said during the call "President Obama underscored the importance of Egypt following through on its commitment to cooperate with the United States in securing U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel.  The President said that he rejects efforts to denigrate Islam, but underscored that there is never any justification for violence against innocents and acts that endanger American personnel and facilities."

"President Morsi expressed his condolences for the tragic loss of American life in Libya and emphasized that Egypt would honor its obligation to ensure the safety of American personnel," the statement concluded.

On Thursday, Morsi further promised protection, saying at a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, "We assured President Obama that we will be keen and we will not permit any such event, any such occurrence in our country against the embassies."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sen. Jon Kyl: US Embassy Response Like Blaming Rape Victim

Allison Shelley/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., suggested on Wednesday that President Obama’s response to the embassy attacks in Egypt and Libya was akin to a court asking a rape victim for an apology.

Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, the 70-year old, retiring senator said:

“It’s like the judge telling the woman who got raped, ‘You asked for it because of the way you dressed.’  OK?  That’s the same thing.  ‘Well, America, you should be the ones to apologize, you should have known this would happen, you should have done -- what I don’t know -- but it’s your fault that it happened.’  You know, for a member of our State Department to put out a statement like that, it had to be cleared by somebody.  They don’t just do that in the spur of the moment.”

Kyl likely referred to criticism by U.S. diplomats in Egypt of a U.S.-produced film that reportedly features a negative depiction of Islam’s prophet, Muhammed.  The film was cited later during the attack on the U.S. embassy in Egypt.

“It came from people on the ground, who are potentially in danger,” Obama told 60 Minutes.  “You know, my tendency is to cut folks a little bit of slack when they’re in that circumstance, rather than try to question their judgment from the comfort of a campaign office.”

Mitt Romney was the first to attack the president, releasing a statement Tuesday night that claimed the White House’s initial reaction was “disgraceful” and said the administration was inclined to “sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

Romney kept up his attack Wednesday morning at a news conference in Jacksonville, Fla.

“I think it’s a terrible course for America to stand an apology for our values,” he said.  “An apology for America’s values is never the right course.”

Kyl, however, would apologize for -- or seek to clarify -- his remarks Wednesday evening, with a spokesman contending “the comments were meant to demonstrate that innocent victims of violence need never apologize to those committing the heinous acts of violence.”

Sen. John McCain, the other Republican senator from Arizona, had a notably different take than Romney, telling ABC News’ Jonathan Karl he thought Obama’s response to the Libya attack was “fine.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Says Romney 'Shoots First and Aims Later' in Embassy Attack Comments

Saul Loeb/AFP/J.D. Pooley/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama said Wednesday that criticism of his handling of the assaults on American embassies in Libya and Egypt was off the mark, suggesting that Mitt Romney has "a tendency to shoot first and aim later" with his political attacks.

Romney had charged that the Obama administration's response to the attacks in which four Americans died was "disgraceful" and amounted to apologizing to the militants.

But the Republican presidential candidate came under fire from both Obama and Republicans for the timing and the tenor of his remarks.

"It's important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts," the president told 60 Minutes. "And that you've thought through the ramifications before you make them."

Obama defended the messages sent out by U.S. diplomats in Cairo, who early Tuesday released a statement criticizing an American-made film that depicts the Prophet Muhammed, Islam's founder, in a derogatory way. The film touched off the protest at the Cairo embassy and may have played a role in the lethal Benghazi attack. It also prompted Romney's criticism.

"It came from people on the ground, who are potentially in danger," Obama said. "You know, my tendency is to cut folks a little bit of slack when they're in that circumstance, rather than try to question their judgment from the comfort of a campaign office."

The president added, "I think that if you look at how most Republicans have reacted, most elected officials, they've reacted responsibly, waiting to find out the facts before they talked ... making sure that our number one priority is the safety and security of American personnel."

Some prominent Republicans joined in questioning Romney's timing.

Richard Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state under Republican President George W. Bush, said Romney "will find out that first reports from the battlefield are always incorrect …This should be his mantra, so he can speak in a deliberate manner, and not have to repent at his leisure later."

In a message posted online and to Twitter on Tuesday, the consulate criticized the movie about the prophet for what it called "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims, as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions."

In the hours after that note was issued, Egyptian protesters scaled the wall of the U.S. embassy and tore down the American flag, ripping it to pieces.

At that point, the embassy's original message was deleted and replaced with a new Tweet, which read: "This morning's condemnation still stands. As does our condemnation of unjustified breach of the embassy."

Hours later, militants carried out a lethal attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

About 10 p.m. Tuesday night, Romney issued a statement criticizing the Egyptian embassy's initial statement, saying it was an Obama administration "apology" to extremists.

The Obama campaign pounced on the timing of Romney's statement, which broke an arbitrarily held 9/11 detente between the candidates.

"We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack," Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement.

Romney was undeterred. He held a news conference in Jacksonville, Fla., Wednesday to escalate his criticism.

He said it was "disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."

When told the embassy statement was issued before the Cairo or Benghazi attacks took place, Romney said that the embassy reiterated the point after the walls of the Egyptian embassy had been breached.

He rejected the suggestion during the news conference that his campaign had "jumped the gun," saying, "I don't think we ever hesitate when we see something in violation of our principles."

Romney insisted that the Obama administration had to take responsibility.

"Their administration spoke," he told reporters. "The president takes responsibility not just for the words that come from his mouth but also the words that come from his ambassadors, from his administration, from his embassies, from his state department. They clearly sent mixed messages to the world and the statement... is akin to an apology."

Obama, appearing with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Rose Garden after Romney finished his press conference in Florida, made no mention of his rival but said, "There is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence, none," and vowed to "bring justice to the killers."

Vice President Joe Biden was similarly circumspect with his comments.

"There is no place in the civilized world for senseless murder like what occurred last night," he said at a rally in Ohio. "Our ambassador was in Benghazi while the war was going on, our ambassador risked his life repeatedly while war in Libya to get rid of that dictator was going on."

Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, who spoke in De Pere, Wisc., was also less overtly political than Romney.

"In the face of such a tragedy, we are reminded that the world needs American leadership," Ryan said, managing a quick dig at the president. "And the best guarantee of peace is American strength."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Henry Kissinger ‘Can Understand’ Mitt Romney’s ‘Severe’ Reaction to Mideast Violence

Qamar Sibtain/India Today Group/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former U.S Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told ABC News on Wednesday that he “can understand” why Mitt Romney’s initial reaction to the violence in the Middle East was “quite severe.”

“I think that an attack on an American embassy is always a grave matter,” Kissinger said in a telephone interview. “When the attacks take place as a result of an event that’s totally out of the control of the United States government, then it is an outrage against our basic values and we cannot -- as a government -- apologize for what these people construe as a provocation if our government was in no way involved.”

Kissinger, who has endorsed Romney and headlined a fundraiser for him this summer in Connecticut, added: “I can understand that the first reaction of Governor Romney was quite severe.”

At a news conference in Florida on Wednesday, Romney said it was "disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

Romney was referring to a press release from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo criticizing an anti-Muslim movie that was released before the attacks on America’s diplomatic missions in Cairo or Benghazi had taken place.

“I don’t think we ever hesitate when we see something in violation of our principles,” Romney said.

Kissinger, who served under Presidents Nixon and Ford, said that the Obama administration must now “convey to the governments involved that this is a matter that we take extremely seriously.”

The former top diplomat’s advice: “Speaking entirely for myself, it would be appropriate to recall our ambassadors for consultation so that they see we are looking at it carefully.”

At a fundraiser earlier Wednesday in Jacksonville, Fla. Romney invoked Kissinger: “I saw Dr. Kissinger some months ago,” Romney said. “I said, ‘Dr Kissinger, how is America perceived today in the world? He said one word, ‘Weak.’ Weak. The world needs American strength.”

Asked whether Romney would be wise to highlight his differences with President Obama on foreign policy between now and Election Day, Kissinger told ABC News: “I don’t think that Governor Romney should look for opportunities to draw distinction, but where he disagrees and where it’s questions and not just tactics,” it would be appropriate, he said.

Earlier this month, Kissinger co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Times with former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice, James A. Baker and George P. Shultz in which they endorsed the former Massachusetts governor: “He has the experience, strategy and temperament to lead a robust economic recovery and rein in the mounting federal debt that threatens our future. And he fully understands that our prosperity at home is inextricably linked to our influence abroad.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


President Obama to Make Mideast Speech, Likely Next Week

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will deliver a speech on the political changes sweeping throughout the Middle East and North Africa "in the relatively near future," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday.

Such a speech has been in the works for weeks. A senior administration official tells ABC News that the president will likely deliver the speech next week.

The president will next week meet at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordanian King Abdullah. On Sunday, May 22, he is scheduled to leave for Europe.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rep. Baldwin: ‘Similarities’ Between Egypt and Wisconsin

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The juxtaposition of worldwide events has brought Egyptian imagery to Wisconsin this week. Some protesters have gone so far as to attack the Badger State’s governor as “Hosni Walker” -- a reference that links Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., to the ousted longtime Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.

“I think the similarities are that people are wanting to be heard, and they are taking direct action,” said Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who represents Wisconsin’s capital. “They are coming to Madison -- they're holding events all throughout the states.”

It is in Madison where the protests against proposed budget cuts have been playing out.

Democrats in the state Senate, Baldwin said, “took prudent steps to slow down this debate” by leaving the state and denying Republicans the quorum they’d need to act on the governor’s budget-cutting proposal.

The proposal would include a significant benefits reduction for public employees. Baldwin said national Republicans are planning a similar “attack” on public workers.

“I do see some similarities in terms of -- we've got to balance budgets, but we've got to be smart about it.  And in Wisconsin being smart about it means involving all the voices including that of organized labor, public servants, to help come together to address our challenges.”

But don’t look for similar scenes of protests in Washington, Baldwin said.

“One of the problems though is that national government is less accessible to the people than state government,” he said. “It’s easier for people to get to their state capitals to voice their opinion. I'm certainly hearing from my constituents about the deep cuts that we're looking at this week, though.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Clinton to Promote 'Freedom to Connect' in Internet Freedom Speech

Photo Courtesy - Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be at George Washington University on Tuesday to deliver what’s billed as a major address on Internet freedom, promoting what she calls the “freedom to connect.”

Clinton's address will follow a similar speech last year, and comes just days after Egypt, Iran and other countries in that region have tried to manipulate Internet access to quell uprisings.

A top aide to Clinton says she will “reaffirm U.S. support for a free and open Internet and underscore the importance of safeguarding both liberty and security, transparency and confidentiality, and freedom of expression and tolerance.”

According to excerpts made available from her remarks, Clinton will defend an open Internet.

"We are convinced that an open Internet fosters long-term peace, progress and prosperity.  The reverse is also true.  An Internet that is closed and fractured, where different governments can block activity or change the rules on a whim -- where speech is censored or punished, and privacy does not exist -- that is an Internet that can cut off opportunities for peace and progress and discourage innovation and entrepreneurship,” she will say.

“History has shown us that repression often sows the seeds for revolution down the road.  Those who clamp down on Internet freedom may be able to hold back the full impact of their people’s yearnings for a while, but not forever… Leaders worldwide have a choice to make.  They can let the Internet in their countries flourish, and take the risk that the freedoms it enables will lead to a greater demand for political rights.  Or they can constrict the Internet, choke the freedoms it naturally sustains -- and risk losing all the economic and social benefits that come from a networked society,” Secretary Clinton will declare.

Clinton will also reference the important role the Internet has played in recent Mideast uprisings.

“There is a debate underway in some circles about whether the Internet is a force for liberation or repression.  But as the events in Iran, Egypt and elsewhere have shown, that debate is largely beside the point.  The Internet isn’t good or bad.  It is both.  It is neither.  What matters is what people who go online do there, and what principles should guide us as we come together in cyberspace.  That question becomes more urgent every day,” she plans to say.

Secretary Clinton will also proclaim the “freedom to connect,” saying “the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online comprise what I have called the freedom to connect.  The United States supports this freedom for people everywhere, and we have called on other nations to do the same.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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