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Friday
Mar182011

For President Obama, Libyan Tipping Point Came Tuesday

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- On Tuesday, President Obama became clear that diplomatic efforts to stop the brutality of Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi weren’t working.

Presented with intelligence about the push of the Gadhafi regime to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, the president told his national security team "what we're doing isn't stopping him.”

Some in his administration, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been pushing for stronger action, but it wasn’t until Tuesday, administration sources tell ABC News, that the president became convinced sanctions and the threat of a no-fly zone wouldn’t be enough.

Already skeptical that a no-fly zone would not have enough of an impact given all the ground attacks, the president met with his national security team from 4:10 p.m. ET to 5:10 p.m. ET and asked for more military and diplomatic options, sources tell ABC News.

On Tuesday night the president met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and other military officials over dinner.

Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET, the president went to the Situation Room where he met with principals such as National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Dr. Susan Rice patched in through secure video teleconference. There they hashed out plans for the behind-closed-doors meeting of the UN Security Council the next day.

Rice was instructed to broaden the UN Security Council resolution offered by Lebanon to permit more military might, allowing for the international coalition to stop not just Libyan planes but other Libyan assets such as tanks.

All the while the administration worked furiously to put an international face on the opposition to Gadhafi, emphasizing the Arab League’s vote over the weekend in support of a no-fly zone. President Obama is mindful that the American public is war-weary and that there is significant international sensitivity to the notion of the U.S. taking military action against yet another Muslim country.

What role the U.S. will play versus that of European and Arab countries is still being worked out, but there’s little doubt that whatever happens will be with significant U.S. support made as inconspicuous as possible.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar182011

F-22s Stealth Fighter May Be First Enforcer of Libyan No-Fly Zone

Erik Simonsen/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With the United Nations authorization for an internationally monitored no-fly zone over Libya, it seems clear that the United States will play a role enforcing it.

It is not yet clear exactly that U.S. military's role would be. The White House has made clear it wants help in particular from other countries in the Middle East. All planning could be altered by reports of a truce between Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi and rebel forces in Benghazi.

But Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norman Schwartz provided a House panel with some insights on what the United States could do, beginning with the deployment of F-22 stealth fighters, which can avoid Libyan air defenses. While some have said that the implementation of a no-fly zone could begin within hours, Schwartz said it would take "upwards of a week" to implement a no-fly zone.

As for what the U.S. could offer to help: "It would entail numerous assets. Certainly fighter aircraft, F-16, F-15, both air to ground and anti- radiation capabilities." He said the F-22 stealth fighter "would be useful, and I would have the expectation that at least in the early days it certainly would be used." F-22's are based only in the U.S.

Fighter jets need support, however. In addition, surveillance aircraft and tankers to fuel all the other planes would be needed. Schwartz called the mobilization of a "total force sort of application."

"You've going to have RC-135s, you're going to have surveillance kinds of capabilities that would be used to surveil both the integrated air defense system and others areas as tasked. You'll have tankers to support the short-legged platforms. You would have Compass Call and other capabilities that, again, can jam communications and affect the effectiveness of the integrated air defense and so on. And you would have undoubtedly some bomber aircraft that would give you long dwell over specific target areas.

Compass Call is the name given to a specialized C-130 that provides electronic jamming of radars, communications, etc. RC-135's are specialized intelligence gathering aircraft that specializes in communications intercepts.

"So the bottom line, if we do this, this is a complete kind of a total force sort of application of our air and space capabilities," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar182011

Japan Raises Nuclear Crisis Level to Five

DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency elevated the level of severity of the nuclear crisis in the country from a four to a five Friday as workers continued to battle the crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The latest rating is based on a seven-level scale and is equivalent to the level of the Three Mile Island accident that happened in the United States 32 years ago.

Meanwhile, at the nuclear power plant, efforts were under way Friday to reconnect electricity to cooling systems and to spray more water from the ground.  Seven water-spraying trucks targeted the plant's unit 3 reactor, entering one at a time to fire their water cannons.

Additional volunteers also joined Japanese military and emergency crews working to prevent a nuclear meltdown.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar182011

Prince William Addresses New Zealand Earthquake Survivors

Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images(CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand) -- Tens of thousands of people gathered together Friday in Hagley Park in Christchurch where Prince William paid tribute to the victims of one of New Zealand's most destructive earthquakes. In his speech at the memorial service, the prince told the crowd they were "an inspiration to all people."

"I say it to you now, kia kaha, be strong," he said.

Prince William has seen firsthand the damage the earthquake caused in Christchurch, spending his tour visiting sites around the city and surrounding suburbs and thanking rescue workers.

"My grandmother once said that grief is the price we pay for love," Prince William said at the memorial service. "Here today we love and we grieve."

Before the prince spoke, the crowd watched large screens in silence as a video showed previously unseen footage of the devastated downtown area. Nearly a month after the quake, no one is allowed to enter downtown, which they now call the red zone.

The prince also sent his prayers to Japan, following last week's massive earthquake and tsunami, telling those gathered that "this community more than any other in the world can appreciate the full horror of what is unfolding in Japan."

Prince William is now going to Australia to meet with families and survivors of the major floods in Queensland and Victoria.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar182011

Libya Declares Immediate Ceasefire Following UN Vote

ABC News(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Libya’s foreign minister declared a ceasefire on Friday, just hours after the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution that authorized the international community to take "all necessary measures" short of sending in ground troops, to protect civilians in Libya.

The UN’s vote on Thursday came just as Col. Moammar Gadhafi said his forces were planning a major offensive on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

The council voted 10-0 with five abstentions, including Russia and China.

With attacks likely imminent, Gadhafi warned rebels Thursday, "We will find you."

"We are coming tonight," he said. "There won't be any mercy."

The resolution also authorized the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya as a way to protect the opposition fighters and civilians from Gadhafi's jets.

Following the vote, Col. Gadhafi’s son, Saif Gadhafi, spoke to ABC News, calling the resolution "unfair because, as you know, from the beginning we told to everybody there were no air strikes against civilians, no bombing of civilian districts or demonstrations.  And thousands of those reports showed they were false."

“You are not helping to the people if you are going to bomb Libya, to kill Libyans," Gadhafi told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour.

“We have to be very careful.  This is a trick,” said Ali Sulaiman Aujali, the former Libyan ambassador to the U.S. who has sided with anti-Gadhafi forces, at a press conference Friday.  “[Col. Gadhafi] will commend the resolution, but in the same time, he’s invading Misratah, he’s killing the people, he’s moving his arms from to strategic points.  You have to be very careful.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar182011

Libya to Release Four Captured 'New York Times' Journalists

US State Department(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- The four New York Times journalists who were captured by Libyan government forces earlier this week will all be released Friday, according to the newspaper.

The Times reports that Libyan government officials informed the U.S. State Department Thursday that Anthony Shadid, Stephen Farrell, Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario would all be freed.

The paper reported Wednesday that the four journalists had gone missing Tuesday and were believed to have been swept up by government forces in Ajdabiyah after entering the region through the Egyptian border without visas.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar182011

Japan Nuclear Crisis: New Volunteers Join Battle Against Reactor

ABC News(OSAKA, Japan) -- More smoke billowed from three crippled nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant Friday as Japanese military and emergency crews desperately tried to prevent a nuclear meltdown, and new volunteers pledged to join the battle.

Out of six reactor units on Fukushima Daiichi plant, four have caught fire, exploded or suffered partial meltdowns in the past week.  Water levels in the pools where used fuel rods are stored are believed to be dangerously low.

"We see it as an extremely serious accident," said Yukiya Amano, the head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency.

A week after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami killed 6,539 and left 10,354 still missing, Japan continues to battle against a possible nuclear catastrophe.

The problems at Fukushima Daiichi have left observers concerned containment vessels may be damaged and leaking, perhaps allowing water used to cool nuclear fuel to leak out and exposing nuclear fuel rods.  Such exposure to air can cause the fuel to melt and spew massive amounts of radiation.

Efforts are under way to reconnect electricity to cooling systems and to spray more water from the ground.  Seven water-spraying trucks targeted the plant's unit 3 reactor on Friday, entering one at a time to fire their water cannons.

U.S. officials doubt the pumps would be functional even if energy was restored, so the United States has contributed high pressure pumps in hopes they could provide an alternate option.  After brief training on how to use the American pumps, Japanese personnel at the site seemed ready to make an attempt.

Nearly 140 additional Japanese specialist firefighters volunteered in Tokyo to help the mission on Friday.  Each team member got a personal farewell from Tokyo Fire Department Chief Yuji Arai.

"We expect a lot of difficulties with the mission we have been given," he said.  "I think it is really a dangerous assignment. ...The reputation of Japan and the lives of many people rest on your actions."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar182011

Gadhafi's Son: U.N. Resolution on Libya 'Unfair'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The United States and its allies appear poised to take military action on the heels of a U.N. resolution Thursday imposing a no-fly zone over Libya and authorizing "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.

Following the resolution, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, reacted to the developments in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Christiane Amanpour.

When asked if he was worried about the actions that may stem from the United Nations' decision, Saif said, "I think we are in our country and with our people.  As I said before, we live here so we are in our country with our people.  And we are not afraid."

Saif found the resolution to be "unfair because, as you know, from the beginning we told to everybody there were no air strikes against civilians, no bombing of civilian districts or demonstrations.  And thousands of those reports showed they were false."

Throughout the interview, he reiterated that the Libyan army has been going after armored militia and terrorists, not civilians, and that the people of Libya are not happy and are pleading to be liberated.

"We want to live in peace, so we want even Americans to help us get rid of the remnants of those people [armored militia and terrorists] and to have a peaceful country, more democratic," Saif said.  "If you want to help us, help us to, you know, to be democracy, more freedom, peaceful, not to threaten us with air strikes.  We will not be afraid.  Come on!  We will not be afraid."

"I mean, you are not helping to the people if you are going to bomb Libya, to kill Libyans," he added.  "You destroy our country. Nobody is happy with that.  If you want to help us help us against terrorists, help us to build the new Libya with more democracy, more freedom, new constitution, local governments, et cetera.  But if you want to help Libyans, you send airplanes to bomb my country?  Of course not."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar172011

Japan Nuclear Crisis: Workers Fail to Stabilize Plant

Sankei via Getty Images(TOKYO) --The Japanese are looking to the U.S. for help after frantic efforts to cool the overheating Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors and fuel ponds have failed to bring the plant under control.

There is hope that water pumps the U.S. is sending could help to avert disaster.

The entire crisis began when the plant lost power after last week's 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. Plant operators have now connected a new power line that could restore electricity. However, if the Japanese flip the switch and the critical water pumps that cool the reactors do not work, the American pumps may come to the rescue.

The Pentagon has shipped in the pumps, but no U.S. personnel. Japanese workers will risk their lives to operate them. The pumps were not shipped in earlier because the Japanese had not requested them.

The power line, if it works, might help in the effort to cool the reactors, but not the fuel ponds.

"From what I see they are working to get electricity back to the site so that they can restart the backup cooling pumps. If this happens then that would be good news for the reactors themselves," Kirby Kemper, a nuclear physicist and professor at Florida State University, said. "As far as the holding ponds are concerned, you probably also need to get some boron-loaded fluid in there [if] you think that any of the rods have melted through and released material, so that there is no danger of having fissions from the clump of material falling to the bottom of the tank."

On Thursday, in new video, close-ups of reactors three and four were visible for the first time. Reactor three was charred and billowing steam and the walls of reactor four were blown out.

One U.S. official told ABC News the most serious problem was the spent fuel rods at reactor four, which are extremely hot and "probably close to a crisis situation."

The water in the pool is desperately low, and without water, the rods could ignite and fill the sky with radioactive smoke.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said at a press conference Thursday that the situation at the plant remains "serious" but has not worsened since yesterday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar172011

UN Authorizes Strikes in Libya; Gadhafi Vows Offensive

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The United Nations Security Council has approved a resolution authorizing the international community to take "all necessary measures," short of sending in ground troops, to protect civilians in Libya.

The vote comes just as leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces are planning a major offensive on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Libya, where opposition forces were seen cheering the vote.

The council voted 10-0 with five abstentions, including Russia and China.

U.S. officials say the authorization will be used by a coalition of nations, including Arab countries, France and Great Britain, to bomb military targets inside Libya.

With attacks likely imminent, Gadhafi addressed the rebels on state television, warning them, "We will find you."

"We are coming tonight," he said to the rebel forces. "There won't be any mercy."

The resolution, a copy of which was provided to ABC News by a U.N. diplomat, also authorized the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya as a way to protect the opposition fighters and civilians from Gadhafi's jets.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio