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Tuesday
Mar152011

As the West Dithers over Libya, Rebels Lose Ground

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images(AJDABIYA, Libya) -- Rebels in Libya have vowed to repel fighters loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi who've made significant gains over the past week in attempts to retain full control of the country.

The latest target of pro-government forces is the city of Ajdabiya, which guards the road to Benghazi, the rebel capital where an interim government is directing opposition efforts.

If Ajdabiya falls back into Gadhafi's hands, his enemies might find it difficult to achieve their goal of overthrowing the Libyan strongman, who has the weaponry and warplanes to vanquish his foes.

While the fighting in Libya continues, the debate continues among Western allies over what to do about the situation.

Rebel leaders are pleading with the international community to launch strikes against Gadhafi's military installations but so far, there's been little interest in taking a more aggressive stance against the Libyan leader despite his savage attacks on his own people.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Paris to discuss the possibility of a no-fly zone over Libya with Washington's Group of Eight counterparts: Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.

The United Nations Security Council also began discussions Monday about the same matter but Russia doesn't seem to have the stomach for imposing a no-fly zone.  The U.S., Germany and Italy are also reluctant to intervene directly.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar142011

US Names Chris Stevens Liaison to Libyan Opposition

PAUL RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(PARIS) -- The Obama administration’s new liaison with the Libyan opposition will be diplomat Chris Stevens, who had been the number-two official at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli until it was suspended when fighting began last month, according to two U.S. officials.

Stevens attended Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's meeting in Paris Monday night with representatives of the Libyan opposition, as did U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz, who has also had contacts with the opposition.

President Obama told reporters Friday that his administration would appoint an official to maintain contact with the budding Libyan opposition, but officials had not revealed who it would be.

The United States has yet to follow France’s lead in officially recognizing the Libyan opposition.

Clinton told a Senate hearing last week that the United States was still trying to understand the makeup and intentions of the Libyan opposition based in the eastern city of Benghazi and led by the former justice minister.

“We are working to understand who is legitimate, who is not. But it is premature in our opinion to recognize one group or another,” Clinton said on March 2. “I think it’s important to recognize that there is a great deal of uncertainty about the motives, the opportunism if you will, of people who are claiming to be leaders right now,” she added.

U.S. officials traveling with Clinton say following her meeting Monday she had a better idea of the opposition.

A U.S. official, who would not speak for attribution, said Clinton discussed what the United States can do to help the opposition and that Clinton said the United States would do more than just provide humanitarian aid, but she did not get into specifics.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar142011

Obama Meets with Denmark's Prime Minister Rasmussen

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama met with Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark Monday afternoon in the Oval Office, where Mr. Obama said that Denmark is a “model” for allies in Afghanistan.

“We have discussed how 2011 is going to be a year of transition, and under Prime Minister Rasmussen’s leadership, he has been able to build a consensus within Denmark about how that transition would proceed that I think is a model for all our allies and participants in Afghanistan.”

The president said that Denmark “punches above its weight”  and thanked them for the sacrifices made by Danish troops in Afghanistan.

Rasmussen said he was pleased to inform the president about the recent decision taken in Denmark, “which proves that we are in this with a long-term perspective,” Rasmussen said. “We want the mission done.” The prime minister announced that he will increase assistance to alternative crops in Afghanistan.

The two leaders also discussed the situation in Libya during their meeting.

“We both share the view that Mr. Kadhafi has lost legitimacy and he needs to leave,” President Obama said, “and that we as an international community have to speak firmly against any violence that’s directed at civilians; that we have to make sure to provide humanitarian assistance, both inside of Libya as well as along the border regions where so many people have left; and that it’s going to be very important for us to look at a wide range of options that continue to tighten the noose around Mr. Kadhafi and apply additional pressure.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar142011

Japan Earthquake: Third Reactor at Fukushima Nuclear Plant Explodes

Comstock/Thinkstock (TOKYO) -- There was a new explosion Tuesday morning at a reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the Japanese nuclear safety agency reported.

The blast, which occurred at Unit 2, is the third at the plant since a powerful earthquake struck Japan on Friday.

The state of the plant and fears of a possible meltdown and radiation release have been growing as workers struggled to keep the reactors cool to minimize the dangers.

The explosion, which occurred at 6:10 a.m. (local time), came shortly after the International Atomic Energy Agency had announced that the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant had been shut down.

During a news conference, the agency's deputy chief Denis Flory said that information from Japan "does not show a high increase of radioactivity outside the containment, which means the containment seems to play its role -- to contain."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Monday
Mar142011

Japan Seeks U.S. Help With Nuclear Reactor Emergency

Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- The Japanese government formally asked the United States' Nuclear Regulatory Commission for help in stabilizing its troubled nuclear reactors in the wake of the country's massive earthquake and tsunami.

The NRC sent two boiling water reactor experts to Japan as part of a team of aid workers to help in the recovery efforts. A series of nuclear reactors continue to deteriorate at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, raising worries of a nuclear meltdown.

After two hydrogen explosions in three days at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, a third reactor has lost its ability to cool. Officials are increasingly concerned about unit 2 at the plant.

"They continue to work hard to raise the water level to cover the fuel. Let's pray again," Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice chairman of Japan's Atomic Energy Commission, posted on Facebook Monday.

The fuel rods on unit 2 have been fully exposed for the second time Monday, a dangerous development in the effort to stop the reactor from melting down. The exposure of the fuel rods means that the temperature in the reactor is likely to rise, which will allow it to make steam. The steam could lead to the creation of hydrogen and cause another explosion, experts said.

Knowing how long the fuel rods have been exposed is key to understanding if there is a real chance of a meltdown, said Dr. Peter Hosemann, a nuclear energy expert and professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

Japanese officials acknowledged that the fuel rods appear to be melting inside all three of the reactors at the Fukashima plant.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar142011

Clinton To Meet With Libyan Opposition, Will Be Pressed On No-Fly Zone

Alex Wong/Getty Images(PARIS) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to meet with representatives of the Libyan opposition Monday night in Paris, where she is attending a G8 ministerial meeting. An opposition spokeswoman tells ABC News that the representatives will press Clinton to increase support for the rebels, including imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.

The United Nations Security Council met Monday and discussed whether to authorize a no-fly zone. Lebanon is drafting a resolution that could be introduced quickly to do just that. Such action, however, might force the hand of the Obama administration, which has been reluctant to impose a no-fly zone. Senior officials met at the White House Monday afternoon to discuss this and other options.

Monday’s meeting will be Clinton’s second with opposition figures. She met last Thursday with former ambassador to Washington Ali Aujali, who has thrown his support behind the budding opposition based in the eastern city of Benghazi and led by the former justice minister. Clinton brought the U.S. ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz, who has been the primary contact with the opposition since the uprising began, to Paris just for this meeting.

It remains unclear if Clinton will use the opportunity to announce the Obama administration’s liaison with the opposition, as the president announced last week.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Monday
Mar142011

Japan Quake: Survivors Walk Among the Dead to Find the Missing

YOMIURI SHIMBUN/AFP/Getty ImagesREPORTER’S NOTEBOOK
By RUSSELL GOLDMAN, ABC News


(ISHINOMAKI, Japan) -- For many Japanese searching for loved ones killed in Friday's quake and tsunami, the search ends with a walk among the bodies of the dead, laid out in orderly rows in makeshift morgues popping up along the country's northeast coast.

In Ishinomaki, a coastal city some 30 miles north of Sendai in hard-hit Miyagi Prefecture, the hospital's morgue is too small to handle the ever-growing number of dead. The city's municipal gymnasium houses the dead. There are now more than 1,000 arranged in rows on the hardwood floors, just enough room between each body for relatives to walk among them, searching the faces for those they lost.

The bodies are not refrigerated or cooled on ice and can remain there only briefly, said Masaaki Abe, a spokesman for the Red Cross at Ishinomaki Hospital. At first, funeral homes volunteered to provide traditional Shinto rites to the dead, donating white shrouds and cremating the bodies.

"But there are too many of them for burning now," said Abe. "They must be buried quickly. This is much faster."

Officially the death toll is almost 1,900, but the Miyagi police chief has said 10,000 people are estimated to have died in his area. There are so many dead that officials are asking other parts of Japan to send them body bags and coffins since the supply in this area is quickly being exhausted.

As the dead are laid out the floors of public buildings, so too are the living. The hospital in Ishinomaki is overrun with the homeless and infirm. Red Cross workers triage the steady stream of patients and displaced persons. The building's large atrium is filled with the sick and elderly, sitting and sleeping on cardboard slabs. The exhausted staff say they are overwhelmed.

Many of the tens of thousands rendered homeless by the tsunami have sought shelter in hospitals and government buildings. In Sendai, the seat of Miyagi Prefecture, the corridors of the Prefecture Office, a building akin to a state capitol, have become shelter for the homeless. They sleep on opened cardboard boxes, warmed by blankets distributed by the Red Cross. A large room inside the office has been converted into a war room. Teams assigned to handle restoring water, electricity, sanitation, and public order gather around tables with maps splayed out in front of them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar142011

Libya: The American Who Died for the Revolution

Moammar Gadhafi. Ernesto Ruscio/Getty ImagesREPORTER’S NOTEBOOK
By NICHOLAS SCHIFRIN, ABC News


(TOBRUK, Libya) -- Muhannad Bensadik didn't have to be here. He could have been at home, in Virginia. He could have been going to school, leading his scout team and living with his mother and his four siblings, all younger and all but one born in the United States.

But Bensadik, 21, decided to stay in Libya -- where he had recently moved -- as the revolution exploded throughout this country and millions of people who've lived under fear and tyranny for 42 years suddenly tasted freedom.

He protested the regime on Feb. 16 and braved walls of bullets during the initial crackdown. He lived to celebrate the expulsion of Col. Moammar Gadhafi's government in eastern Libya. And, then, as Gadhafi's troops advanced, he grabbed a gun and joined the fight.

"Dad, we're not cowards," he told his father, Libya-born Osama Bensadik. "I can go to the States and can have everything. But how about the kids here? They don't have the opportunity to do that.

"Libya is as much my country as the United States is. And we'd like to make sure that this revolution goes through. If everyone leaves, who's going to lead the revolution?"

Muhannad Bensadik died Saturday for that revolution, apparently shot to death by Gadhafi's troops in the tiny town of Bishir.

His body still lies on the frontline of this war, about 7,000 miles from his birthplace of Eden, N.C., and his father is trying to retrieve it. He doesn't know if it will be safe enough to reach Bishir, and he doesn't know how far he'll get. But he says he has to try.

"The sad part about this story is that my son had the opportunity not to come to Benghazi," Bensadik said today in Benghazi, the opposition stronghold, where he flew after the revolution began because he knew his son would want to fight.

He didn't want his son to fight alone.

"The American revolutionary Patrick Henry, he said, 'Give me my freedom or give me my death,'" Bensadik said, crying over the phone. "And that's how my son lived."

Life under Gadhafi, Bensadik said, was "inhuman," and the whole family opposed him. Muhannad Bensadik's younger brother, Yusuf, is still in Benghazi, working with the struggling opposition government.

It's a fight that Osama will continue, even as he tries to send his son's body back to his wife in Virginia.

"I'm going to go back to the battlefield as soon as I can. I will not allow my son's blood to go in vain," he says. "Two people going together; one dies, then the other one picks up. That's how the revolution keeps going. There's no U-turn now."

Like almost everyone here, Bensadik has a direct request for the United States: institute a no-fly zone and give the opposition a fighting chance.

"If there's no no-fly zone," he warns, "then Gadhafi won't distinguish between people, won't spare hospitals or anyone. He said he will go house by house, and we all know he will. It will be a massacre."

And so the father will continue to fight as his son did, bravely, and knowing the risks.

"Gadhafi will never return. His rule will never happen again. I promise you myself. Even," he says, pausing, "if I have to die like my son."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar142011

Japan's Nuclear Emergency: Third Fukushima Reactor Failing

Photo by DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- A series of nuclear reactors continue to deteriorate in the wake of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, raising worries of a nuclear meltdown.

After two hydrogen explosions in three days at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, a third reactor has lost its ability to cool. Officials are increasingly concerned about unit 2 at the plant.

The fuel rods on unit 2 were fully exposed for a period of time, a dangerous development in the effort to stop the reactor from melting down.  Workers are frantically pouring sea water over the rods, officials from the Tokyo Electric Power Company said.

"They continue to work hard to raise the water level to cover the fuel.  Let's pray again," Tatsujiro Suzuki, Vice Chairman of Japan's Atomic Energy Commission, posted on Facebook Monday.

The exposure of the fuel rods means that the temperature in the reactor is likely to rise, which will allow it to make steam.  The steam could lead to the creation of hydrogen and cause another explosion, experts said.

While unit 1, the first reactor to explode at the plant, appears to be stable, unit 3, which exploded early Monday morning in Japan, reportedly has a leak in its bottom.

Japanese officials insist that things are under control at the nuclear plant and that radiation levels are safe.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar142011

Iraq: Army, Government Post Hit by Suicide Bombing

AZHAR SHALLAL/AFP/Getty Images (file)(BAQUBAH, Iraq) -- At least 11 people were killed and more than 30 were injured when a suicide bomber blew up his vehicle near an Iraqi Army and government post Monday in Baquba, approximately 30 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Many of the casualties were Iraqi soldiers and government employees.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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