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Tuesday
Apr052011

Gadhafi: Lover of Gold Watches, Italian Food, Being Called 'Papa'

Salah Malkawi/ Getty Images(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- The world got some rare insight Tuesday into the secret world of embattled Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi from one of his former Ukrainian nurses, Oksana Balinskaya.

Balinskaya, one of five nurses assigned to Gadhafi's personal medical team, fled Tripoli in February as Libya erupted into near civil war. She returned to her native Ukraine and has been in hiding ever since. In a rare interview with a leading Russian newspaper Tuesday, she lifted the lid on the bizarre world of those living close to Colonel Gadhafi.

According to Balinskaya, Gadhafi's loyal servants call him "Papa," and in return for their loyalty they receive special gold watches embossed with his face, one every year on the anniversary of his coming to power.

"On September 1 every year, the date when Gadhafi [assumed power], we were given Italian gold watches with his picture on them. People who have been working for him for six or eight years, why they've got an entire collection already. You can only tell somebody who works for Papa by their watch," she told Russia's Komosomolskaya Pravda.

On one trip to New York, Balinskaya claimed Gadhafi gave large sums of cash to his entourage so they could go shopping in Manhattan.

"Papa gave a personal order to give us some money so we could run around the local boutiques," she said. According to her, Gadhafi, despite his sometimes eccentric public behavior, is in great physical shape, enjoys eating Italian food, couscous and camel meat.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr052011

Treasury Dept. Unfreezes Moussa Koussa's Assets

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Treasury Department removed sanctions Monday placed on former Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, just weeks after they were imposed on him and other members of the regime. This comes just days after Koussa defected to London.

“As we’ve said from the beginning, these sanctions are preventative and are not intended to be permanent,” David Cohen, Acting Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, wrote in a blog post on the Treasury’s website.

“Koussa’s defection and the subsequent lifting of sanctions against him should encourage others within the Libyan government to make similar decisions to abandon the Qadhafi regime,” he added.

There are still 13 senior Libyan government officials under Treasury sanctions and Cohen said more names would be added “in the coming days.”

“Those who continue to serve in the Libyan government should be put on notice that Treasury will continue to aggressively identify and target senior officials for sanctions,” he wrote.

On Tuesday morning, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters, “We are in the process of identifying other senior members of Gadhafi’s circle and targeting them with sanctions.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr052011

Is Alice Temperley Creating Dress for Royal Wedding?

David Cheskin - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- A new fashion frenzy has broken out after Kate Middleton's sister, Pippa, and mother, Carole, were spotted at Alice Temperley's London boutique. The designer greeted them warmly and the two women spent several hours at the showroom, according to the Daily Mail. Now the British designer is the focus of fevered speculation that she's the one designing Pippa's maid-of-honor dress, and perhaps Kate's wedding dress.

"It's usually tradition that the bride will choose the same designer for the bridesmaid dresses," Lindka Cierach, Sarah Ferguson's wedding dress and bridesmaid dress designer, told ABC News.

Kate has worn Temperley before -- most notably in December 2010, just after she and Prince William announced their engagement. Kate turned up at a charity event wearing a black and white silk chiffon frock from the designer's 2009 collection, teamed with a black blazer.

Temperley has dressed a number of high-profile brides, including Milla Jovovich and Emilia Fox. The designer told Vogue UK she strives to "make the bride look beautiful, not to chase or create trends."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr052011

Did Karzai's Condemnation of Koran Burning Spur Afghan Violence?

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Did Afghan President Hamid Karzai have an indirect hand in causing the deadly riots over the burning of a Koran by a Florida pastor?

There's speculation by Western officials that there would have been no protests leading to violence had Karzai not publicly condemned the March 20 Koran burning, four days after it happened.

The event by Pastor Terry Jones, who runs a Gainesville church with about a dozen congregants, received little notice by the U.S. media.  However, that didn't stop Karzai from publicizing it in Afghanistan, which inflamed a population already upset by the long foreign occupation of their country.

At least 20 people were killed and dozens injured in three days of violence that also cost the lives of seven United Nations workers in northern Afghanistan on Friday.

A spokesman for Karzai said, "This is a very religious Islamic country, and the president is the leader of this Muslim country.  The president saw it as his moral and religious duty on behalf of the Afghan people to condemn this."

The White House, which has strained relations with Karzai, hasn't criticized the Afghan leader for his actions, focusing its condemnation instead to Jones and those who desecrate the Muslim holy book.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr052011

US Liaison to Libyan Opposition Arrives in Benghazi

US State Department(WASHINGTON) -- Chris Stevens, the Obama administration's liaison to the Libyan opposition, arrived in Benghazi Tuesday, two senior U.S. officials told ABC News.

Stevens is also joined by several members of USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team who will start developing plans to bring humanitarian assistance into eastern Libya.

While in Libya, Stevens will meet with members of the Transitional National Council in an effort to help the U.S. better understand the composition and goals of the Libyan opposition.  He’ll also discuss potential financial assistance and humanitarian aid.

“These meetings follow on the outreach efforts by the Secretary of State, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz and other senior officials, and represent our commitment to supporting the Libyan people in their efforts to transition to the future that they deserve,” one official said.

“He’s going to talk to the TNC leadership about the kind of civil society and political structure they are trying to build in Libya.  It is encouraging so far that they have outlined their commitment to democracy and to a very robust engagement with Libyans from across the political spectrum and this is in line with what they have consistently said were their goals… We recognize the TNC will need funds to keep it going and we are looking at ways in which we can assist,” the official added.

The U.S. has yet to formally recognize the Libyan opposition, something France, Italy, Qatar, and soon Kuwait, have done.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr052011

Gadhafi Offers Major Changes, Provided He Stays in Power

MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- A representative for Col. Moammar Gadhafi said Monday that the Libyan government would be willing to hold elections and enact democratic reforms, with one catch: Gadhafi would have to remain in power indefinitely.

With forces loyal to the Libyan leader battling rebel fighters for control of the country, spokesman Moussa Ibrahim claimed Gadhafi has “symbolic significance” and that his fate should be in the hands of the Libyan people.

However, opposition forces have adamantly stated that Gadhafi must step down immediately before negotiations can begin.  That’s also the stance of Western powers, who continue to pound Gadhafi’s positions on the ground, helping rebels to keep their hold on the oil-rich city of Brega.

Gadhafi has sent an envoy to various European capitals to try and convince leaders to accept Libya’s offer for an “international dialogue” to resolve the crisis.  So far, there’s been no rush to accept the ceasefire offer.

Still, British Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged that “at some stage, there will have to be a genuine ceasefire, then the political process can begin.”

In other developments, The New York Times reported a plan by two of Gadhafi's sons that would involve their father stepping down while son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi oversees a democratic transition.  That offer was termed unacceptable by opposition leaders.

With the U.S. handing most military missions to NATO, coalition officials are still trying to decide whether to arm the rebels.  Concerning that option, former President Bill Clinton told on ABC News Monday, “I might need to know a little more; I would be inclined to do it.”

He quickly added he was speaking for himself and not the Obama administration, for which his wife, Hillary Clinton, is secretary of state.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr052011

US Seeks Painless Exit for Yemeni Leader

GAMAL NOMAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration is helping to grease the skids for the impending departure of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

While he remains a strong U.S. ally in the war against al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists, Saleh has worn out his welcome with his own people and the State Department can't afford to prop up a leader opposed to democratic reform.

Yemeni officials say the U.S. is attempting to mediate a smooth exit for Saleh so as not to further destabilize the country, which is in danger of falling into the hands of those supporting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the anti-American organization that's headquartered in Yemen.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that while Saleh's depature "should be accomplished through dialogue and negotiation," counterterrorism efforts cannot be focused on a single leader.

Saleh has been in power since 1978 and while he has never been a popular leader, it's only recently that massive demonstrations against his rule have basically left him no choice but to leave, especially after his security forces have been responsible for the deaths of dozens of protesters.

His opposition has rejected Saleh's offer to leave office at the end of the year so that democratic reforms can be instituted, demanding instead that he resign immediately.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr042011

WH Condemns New Israeli Settlements Announced on Eve of Israeli President’s Visit

AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- "The United States is deeply concerned by continuing Israeli actions with respect to settlement construction," said White House National Security Staff spokesman Tommy Vietor.

Not exactly a "Welcome Shimon Peres" card.

But then again -- for not the first time of the Obama presidency -- a U.S.-Israel meeting featured the overture of an announcement of new Israeli settlement permits, despite continued U.S. opposition to new Israeli settlement activity on disputed territories.

Israeli President Shimon Peres is due to have a working lunch at the White House Tuesday, but as Mr. Vietor notes, the Obama administration is "concerned" about the recent announcement by the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee of approval of 942 housing units on the Southern Slopes of Gilo, in addition to the Israeli government's approval over the weekend of hundreds of apartments in West Bank settlements Gush Etzion, Ma'ale Adumim, Ariel, and Kiryat Sefer, as reported by Ha'aretz.

"Not only are continued Israeli settlements illegitimate, Israel’s actions run counter to efforts to resume direct negotiations," Vietor said.

Elie Isaacson, an adviser to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, told The New York Times that the timing was coincidence.

“There are no secrets whatsoever,” Isaacson said. “The plan is merely going from one bureaucratic stage to the next bureaucratic stage. The building policy in Jerusalem has been the same for 40 years.”

In February, the U.S. vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning as "illegal" the construction of Israeli settlements in occupied territory, but the matter was debated within the administration.

In March 2010, Vice President Biden was greeted in Israel with the news of the Israeli Interior Ministry approving 1,600 new housing units for Jews in Ramat Shlomo, in East Jerusalem. White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod called it an “affront” and an “insult."

“What it did was it made more difficult a very difficult process,” Axelrod said, adding that the move “seemed calculated to undermine” the so-called proximity talks going on between the Palestinians and the Israelis.  In an interview with ABC News that same month, Vice President Biden denied that he had told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that settlement activity put the lives of troops at risk.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Monday
Apr042011

Former Petraeus Adviser: US Should Be ‘Air Referee,’ Avoid Arming Libyan Rebels

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With debate raging in Washington over whether the U.S. government should arm Libyan rebels who are seeking to oust Col. Moammar Gadhafi, ABC News got some perspective Monday from David Kilcullen, an expert on counter-insurgency techniques.

Kilcullen, an author and former adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, said the U.S. should think about its role as “kind of like the air referee.”

“Oversee what's going on on the ground from the air and ensure that nobody, regardless of what their political orientation is, takes it out on civilians,” Kilcullen said. “I think there's a lot of validity to that, and I think it's very much of an achievable ambition.”

He warned against the wisdom of trying to arm rebel forces.

“This isn't a gun culture where people are all very skilled up in operating with weapons. These people that are fighting Gadhafi's army are truck drivers and shopkeepers and people from the town,” Kilcullen said. “And then there's another faction which is in essence the Eastern component of Gadhafi's old army. So I think it's a pretty complicated issue. I would be somewhat reluctant to engage in that.”

Kilcullen is the author of The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr042011

New Dinosaur Species Discovered in China

Antonio M. Rosario/Iconica/Getty Images (file)(SHANGDONG PROVINCE, China) -- A giant new dinosaur has been identified by paleontologists in China, and chances are you wouldn't have wanted to make it angry. Similar in size to the Tyrannosaurus rex, the newly discovered carnivorous teropod most likely stood 13 feet tall and 36 feet long, weighing in at 12,000 pounds.

"It was about T. Rex's size, but probably a little bit smaller," said David Hone from University College of Dublin, Ireland, who led the team that discovered it and published his findings in the journal Cretaceous Research.

The dinosaur ran on its two hind legs and had puny arms and has been named Zhuchengtyrannaus magnus, which translates to "Tyrant from Zhucheng." Its bones were found in a quarry in the city of Zhucheng, in eastern China's Shangdong Province, at the site of the largest concentration of dinosaur bones in the world. The area is believed to have once been a floodplain where thousands of dinosaur bodies washed together.

The Zhuchengstyrannus magnus has been classified as a tyrannosaurine, giant carnivorous beasts that roamed North America and eastern Asia during the Late Cretaceous Period, 99 to 65 million years ago.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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