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Entries in Washington D.C. (4)

Monday
Oct172011

Iran 'Ready to Study' Alleged Assassination Plot, Official Says

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran is "ready to study" allegations by the U.S. that elements of the Iranian government "directed" a plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to America in or outside a crowded Washington, D.C. restaurant, Iran's foreign minister said Monday.

Washington has been trying to "mislead the world public opinion" against Iran, but the Middle Eastern nation is now "ready to study the case patiently, urging Washington to present any existing documents on the issue," Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency reported, paraphrasing Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. Salehi made the comments while warning Saudi officials to be "cautious towards such U.S. scenarios," IRNA said.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced last week the DEA and FBI had disrupted a plot "conceived, sponsored and...directed from Iran" to murder the Saudi Arabian ambassador in the U.S. capital which potentially would have been followed up by bombings of the Saudi Arabian and Israeli embassies. The U.S. said an Iranian-American, 56-year-old Manssor Arbabsiar of Corpus Christi, Texas, was working for elements of the Iranian government -- specifically Iran's elite military unit the Quds force -- when he attempted to hire hitmen from the feared Zetas Mexican drug cartel to carry out the hit, but Arbabsiar was unwittingly speaking to a DEA informant from the start.

Iranian officials had previously said the alleged plot was nothing more than a "fabrication" and a "politically-motivated move" in a new wave of anti-Iranian propaganda.

However, top U.S. officials, including President Obama, said the U.S. is confident that the allegations made against Iran could be clearly backed up by evidence.

"We would not be bringing forward a case unless we knew exactly how to support all the allegations," Obama said Friday.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said last week the U.S. had been in direct contact with Iran and had also briefed representatives for a number of other nations on the details of the alleged plot.

Nuland said Thursday that while the scheme seems "like something out of a movie... As you begin to give more detail on what we knew and when we knew it and how we knew it, it has credibility."

Obama said during his Friday address Iran "would pay a price" for their alleged actions -- even if it was not clear Iran's top leaders had participated in or were even aware of the alleged plot.

"Even if at the highest levels there was not detailed operational knowledge, there has to be accountability with respect to anybody in the Iranian government engaging in this kind of activity," the president said. "The important thing is for Iran to answer the international community why anybody in their government is engaging in these kinds of activities."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug172011

Libyan Embassy Re-Opens in D.C. 

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Amid joyful chants by men and children waving the rebel flag, the Libyan embassy re-opened Wednesday. The embassy had been shuttered earlier this year after the Obama administration kicked out its pro-Gadhafi diplomats. On Wednesday the Libyans who gathered for the event sang songs praising the heroes of the uprising and taunting Col. Moammar Gadhafi, who has ruled Libya with an iron fist for 42 years. Inside, pictures of Gadhafi have been replaced by the black, red and green rebel flag.

The re-opening of the embassy follows the United States’ recognition of the rebel’s Transitional National Council earlier this summer as the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people.

At the helm is a familiar figure, Ali Aujali, who served as Gadhafi’s ambassador in Washington for the past few years. He resigned in April to protest violence against civilians. He became the TNC’s rep in D.C. and this week reassumed the top post in the embassy.

The formal re-opening of the embassy gives Aujali access to over $10 million that was frozen when the U.S. went after Gadhafi’s assets.

In remarks at the official flag raising at the embassy, which is located in the famed Watergate building, Aujali said he hoped the rest of Gadhafi’s funds will be released soon.

The U.S. was able to freeze over $30 billion of the longtime leader’s assets, but only $3.5 billion are liquid. The U.S. wants to transfer them to the rebels, but they have to work around UN sanctions put in place earlier this year. The U.S. is spearheading an effort at the UN to have the sanctions committee revise the restrictions so the money can flow to the rebels. U.S. officials hope it will be completed this week, though some hurdles remain. The U.S. also wants the TNC to promise the funds will only be used for humanitarian purposes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul062011

Thousands Flock to Dalai Lama's Ancient Buddhist Ritual in DC

PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Dalai Lama will celebrate his 76th birthday Wednesday in downtown Washington, D.C., as thousands gather to take part in an ancient Buddhist ritual and a call for world peace.

Meanwhile, international political observers are waiting to see if the exiled Tibetan leader will be granted a meeting with President Obama, just a few blocks away.

It will be the Nobel Peace Prize winner's first official event since stepping down as Tibet's exiled political leader in March and his first since his February 2010 visit to Washington that caused tension in U.S.-Chinese relations.

The grandson and son of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. -- two international icons of nonviolence -- and tens of thousands of followers from around the world are expected to attend the ceremonies at Washington's major sports arena and pay their respects to the Dalai Lama's enduring message of peace.

But even while the majority of his time will be spent conducting religious ceremonies, the Dalai Lama will also have several political meetings in Washington, advocating for the religious and civil rights of his Tibetan Buddhist followers who fled their homeland after a failed 1959 uprising against the Chinese government.

Thousands of exiled Tibetans now live in Nepal, where on Wednesday Nepalese authorities prevented Tibetans from celebrating the Dalai Lama's birthday over concerns the gatherings would turn anti-Chinese.  Hundreds of riot police reportedly blocked Tibetans, including many monks and nuns, from entering a school in Kathmandu where celebrations were planned.

The Dalai Lama's last visit to Washington in February 2010 caused a diplomatic spat between the U.S. and China when he met with President Obama at the White House.  The Chinese argue that the Dalai Lama is a dangerous "separatist" who wishes to sever Tibet from China.

The Obama administration has not said whether the president or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with the Dalai Lama on this visit -- although he is expected to meet with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill later this week.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May252011

US Invites Libyan Opposition to Set Up Formal Diplomatic Office in D.C.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- It’s not the formal recognition the Libyan opposition has been begging for, but during a visit to Benghazi this week, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman offered the Transitional National Council (TNC) the opportunity to establish a formal representative office in D.C. The opposition group accepted.

“This is another chance to clarify and to take our relationship and to formalize it a bit more that we have an office here in Washington,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Wednesday.

To date, the opposition has been represented by Col. Gadhafi’s former ambassador to D.C., Ali Aujali, who resigned once the uprising began. The State Department said Wednesday that its relationship with Aujali prior to this week was “informal.”

Aujali did not immediately return calls for comment.

The U.S. has been represented in Benghazi by diplomat Chris Stevens, who arrived in Eastern Libya in early April to gauge the intentions of the budding opposition.

Toner said Wednesday there are no plans yet to establish a formal American diplomatic office in the rebel stronghold.

The TNC has been pleading for the Obama administration to formally recognize them as the official representative of the Libyan people, in part because they say that would make it easier for them to claim access to Gadhafi’s frozen funds.

During a visit to Washington two weeks ago, the interim head of the TNC, Dr. Mahmoud Jibril, warned that the Libyan rebels would run out of money in about 4 to 5 weeks unless they got access to Gadhafi’s money.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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