Russia Frustrated With START Debate, Could Damage 'Reset'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- There’s no debate over the contents of New START on this side of the pond.  No need, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it in March, for Rahm Emanuel to come to Moscow to whip up votes in the Duma.  If the Kremlin wants the treaty ratified, it gets ratified.  Moscow and Washington agreed they would ratify the treaty at the same time so the Russians are sitting and waiting for the Senate to get it done.

However, they’re realizing that the chances of the Senate ratifying it in the lame-duck session are quickly fading, if not dead already.  They also believe that a prolonged debate in the Senate could seriously harm the “reset” in U.S.-Russia relations and have broader policy implications.

“One should agree with Joe Biden who fears that, due to procrastinations with the ratification, the United States may lose Moscow's vital support in tackling the problem of Iran and in the war in Afghanistan," Mikhail Margelov, the head of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee -- Sen. John Kerry’s counterpart -- told the Interfax news agency Wednesday.

Margelov’s counterpart on the Duma’s international affairs committee -- the lower house -- said that Republican gains in the midterm elections could compromise the reset.

“We are concerned that now given the fact that there is a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, which is in opposition to President Obama, this will interfere with his initiative to restart Russian-American relations,” Konstantin Kosachev said Tuesday.

“The problem is not that [New START] is a bad document, but the fact that the [Senate] Republicans refuse to ratify the document. We are certain that these questions should not have anything to do with party politics.”

For its part, the Foreign Ministry is publicly optimistic, saying they think there’s enough time in the lame duck session to get the treaty ratified.  However, if the vote doesn’t happen this year, it “would not be the best outcome of the work we have done,” said deputy Foreign Ministry Sergei Ryabkov.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Verdict in GITMO Trial: Damaging to Obama Administration Goal 

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, seen in this undated FBI wanted photo, was cleared of all but one of a 286-count indictment. Photo Courtesy -- FBI via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A Manhattan federal jury has cleared the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to stand trial in a civilian court of all but one major count in a 286-count indictment.

The verdict found Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, who was alleged to have participated in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Africa, guilty of conspiracy to damage or destroy U.S. property with explosives, a charge that can carry 20 years to life.

A 2001 superseding indictment had charged Ghailani of conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda to kill Americans anywhere in the world. It also brought charges of murder for the deaths of each of the 224 people killed in the U.S. Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya and various other offenses related to the bombings.

The verdict could be a severe setback for the Obama administration’s goal of trying the GITMO detainees in civilian courts rather than before military tribunals.

U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan did not allow a key government witness to testify in part because of allegations of torture and how they might have impacted the witness testimony. He ruled that the witness was arrested after information was obtained through enhanced interrogation techniques. 
Ghailani, who had been held since September 2006 at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was transferred to New York in June 2009 to face trial in a civilian court.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Germany Calls for Increased Security Amid Heightened Risk of Attack

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(BERLIN) – German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has called for heightened security given “concrete indications of a series of attacks planned for the end of November.”

In a statement Wednesday, de Maizière said Germany has “cause for concern, but no reason for hysteria” as comprehensive security plans are being set in motion to deter possible terrorist attacks.

De Maizière said he is acting on a tip received from a foreign partner that indicated attacks are planned for late this month. He has ordered that security be heightened at airports and train stations.
“The public will be able to see these police measures, but there will also be many measures you will not be able to see,” de Maizière said.

Germany is working in cooperation with foreign partners to investigate several potential threat scenarios.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Clinton Issues International Religious Freedom Report

Photo Courtesy - U.S. State Dept.(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday unveiled the 2010 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.

“We are troubled by what we see happening in many, many places. Religious freedom is under threat from authoritarian regimes that abuse their own citizens. It is under threat from violent extremist groups that exploit and inflame sectarian tensions. It is under threat from the quiet but persistent harm caused by intolerance and mistrust, which can leave minority religious groups vulnerable and marginalized,” she explained.

Clinton stressed that DOJ is reviewing the United States’ own record on religious freedom.

“With this report, we do not intend to act as a judge of other countries or hold ourselves up as a perfect example,” she said.

Clinton also made special effort to express American opposition to so-called defamation bans, laws that prohibit the criticism of religions. She said the U.S. would oppose an effort at the U.N. to condemn defamation of religion, saying freedom of speech is just as important.

“Some people propose that to protect religious freedom we must ban speech that is critical or offensive about religion. We do not agree,” she said.

“The United States joins in all nations coming together to condemn hateful speech, but we do not support the banning of that speech…attempts to stifle them or drive them underground, even when it is in the name and with the intention of protecting society, have the opposite effect,” she added.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Alleged Arms Dealer Viktor Bout to Stand Trial in New York

Photo Courtesy - Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Viktor Bout sold death, the government alleges, and now he faces life.

Dubbed the "Merchant of Death" for his reputed international arms deals, including the alleged attempted sale of weapons to terrorists, Bout was extradited from Thailand to New York following a two-year negotiation process.

The suspected arms dealer arrived at New York's Stewart Airport in manacles Tuesday night following a flight from Bangkok aboard a Drug Enforcement Administration charter plane.  As he deplaned, a helmet was slapped on his head and he was packed into a government SUV with a team of federal agents for the 60 miles to Manhattan, where he will be held at the Metropolitan Correction Center during his trial.  He now faces 25 years to life in a federal prison if convicted on all counts of a four-count federal arms-trafficking indictment.

According to the Deparment of Justice, between November 2007 and March 2008, Bout, a Russian, allegedly agreed to sell to the Colombian narco-terrorist organization, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) millions of dollars worth of weapons -- "including surface-to-air missile systems; armor-piercing rocket launchers; AK-47 firearms; millions of rounds of ammunition; Russian spare parts for rifles; anti-personnel land mines; C-4 plastic explosives; night-vision equipment; 'ultralight' aircraft that could be outfitted with grenade launchers and missiles; and unmanned aerial vehicles."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Nuclear Arms Treaty Unlikely to Pass This Year, Key Republican Says

Photo Courtesy - The White House(WASHINGTON) -- On Tuesday, the Senate’s number-two Republican, Jon Kyl of Arizona, said that he still doubts a new nuclear arms reduction pact with Russia could be ratified during the lame-duck period, despite pleas from President Obama and key Democrats on Capitol Hill.

“When Majority Leader Harry Reid asked me if I thought the treaty could be considered in the lame-duck session, I replied I did not think so given the combination of other work Congress must do and the complex and unresolved issues related to START and modernization,” he said in a statement released by his office.

Kyl’s reluctance is a blow to President Obama, who has made Senate ratification of the New START Treaty his top foreign policy goal during the lame-duck session. The president said on Sunday that he would like the Senate to approve the pact before the new Congress is sworn in next year.

Kyl’s statement comes despite some significant sweeteners that the Obama administration has offered in recent months to entice reluctant Republicans to vote to ratify the treaty. The administration has proposed spending over $100 billion over the next decade to sustain and modernize America’s missile-based nuclear deterrent, and another $80 billion to modernize nuclear weapons facilities. On Tuesday, Vice President Biden said in a statement that the administration would request an additional $4.1 billion for modernization over the next five years.

On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote a joint op-ed in the Washington Post urging the Senate to ratify the treaty and seeking to ease Republican concerns.

The treaty binds the United States and Russia to jointly reduce their nuclear arsenals and allows for inspection mechanisms to verify those cuts.

“Until a new treaty comes into force, our inspectors will not have access to Russian missile silos and the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals will lack the stability that comes with a rigorous inspection regime,” Clinton and Gates wrote.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Natalee Holloway Bone Found? Dutch Forensic Team Running Tests

Photo Courtesy - ABC News/Handout Photo(LONDON) -- A Dutch forensics teams is awaiting the okay from an Aruban prosecutor to test a bone fragment that some people believe could belong to missing U.S. teenager Natalee Holloway.

Officials at the Netherlands Forensic Institute confirmed that they have received the bone and are prepared to conduct DNA testing.

The Dutch-language newspaper de Telegraaf reported that the bone -- thought to be the lower half of a human jaw -- was found by tourists Friday on a beach in Aruba. According to the paper, pictures of the mandible show an intact molar.

The Forensic Institute said the announcement of the findings would be left to Aruban authorities, but it was unclear how long it would take to produce results. The chief Aruban prosecutor on the Holloway case is in the Netherlands.

Holloway, 18, disappeared in Aruba in May 2005 while on a school trip. Dutch playboy Joran van der Sloot is widely believed to be involved in her disappearance and, in all likelihood, her family believes, Holloway's murder.

Van der Sloot is jailed in a Peruvian prison after confessing to the murder of Stephany Flores, 21, earlier this year.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


After Years of Speculation, Prince William's Engagement Announced

Photo Courtesy - Indigo/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Britain's Prince William is officially engaged to 28-year-old Kate Middleton, royal officials said Tuesday.

"The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince William to Miss Catherine Middleton," the statement from Clarence House read.

Prince William, 28, asked Middleton, also 28, to marry him while the two were on vacation in Kenya last month, the statement said.  The two met nearly a decade ago while students at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.  The relationship garnered some controversy because Middleton does not come from royalty and royals are generally expected to wed other aristocrats.

The queen said she is "absolutely delighted" for the couple, Buckingham Palace said Tuesday.

The wedding will take place in the spring or summer of next year in London, the statement said.  Prince William reportedly asked permission to marry Middleton from her father before proposing.

The couple plans to live in north Wales, where Prince William will continue his service in the Royal Air Force, the statement said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Alleged Russian Arms Dealer Extradited to the US

Photo Courtesy - Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images(BANGKOK) -- Thai police say the man many refer to as the "Merchant of Death" -- alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout -- has been extradited from Thailand to the U.S.

Police say Bout left Bangkok Tuesday in the custody of American agents and will face terrorism charges in the U.S., where he could serve life in prison.

The former Soviet Air Force officer is accused of trafficking weapons to Africa, the Middle East, and South America.  He is also reported to have smuggled arms to Afghanistan during Taliban rule.

Bout was arrested in Bangkok in 2008 after allegedly agreeing to sell weapons to U.S. agents who were posing as middlemen for Colombia's FARC rebels, but his extradition was held up by a series of court cases.

Russia has demanded his release, saying the extradition by the U.S. is politically motivated.  "From a legal perspective, what has taken place cannot have a rational explanation or justification," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.  "It is without doubt that the illegal extradition of Viktor Bout is a consequence of unprecedented political pressure exerted by the U.S. on the government and the judicial authorities of Thailand."

Bout says he is merely a businessman, and that he runs a legitimate air transport business.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


US Hints One-Year Deadline for Mideast Peace Could Slip

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Monday suggested for the first time that its ambitious goal of securing Mideast peace in only 12 months might not be achievable, given the recent deadlock.
“It does remain our view that an agreement can be reached within a reasonable period of time,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters. “When the process started, we said this could be accomplished within 12 months. Hard to say at this point, given the delay over the issue of settlements, where we stand on that clock.”
“If we get to August 2011 and we need a little more time to get this done, we'll take that time,” he added.
Earlier Monday, Secretary Clinton was asked about her seven-hour meeting with Netanyahu last Thursday. Reports over the weekend say that the U.S. proposed a 90-day settlement freeze -- excluding East Jerusalem -- in exchange for a large arms deal that could include fighter jets and other assistance.
Secretary Clinton wouldn’t reveal details, but said,  “We’re going to keep working every single day to bring about the swift resumption of negotiations on all the final status issues and we believe that it is only through negotiations that the final status issues can be resolved, that the conflict can be ended, that all claims can be addressed and ended, and the status quo is unacceptable.  So we’re going to continue to do everything we possibly can to get the parties to begin the kind of serious end-game negotiations that are necessary.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

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