Officials: Rebels Defeating Gadhafi Less Likely Than Other Paths to His Exit

MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Though the TV images of rebels are understandably what the media has been focused on, U.S. government officials tell ABC News that a military victory by the rebels is the least likely of three paths to Gadhafi stepping down.

The first and probably the most likely path would be is Gadhafi stepping down on his own, officials say, brought into exile with promises of immunity from prosecution, access to funds, a potentially cushy life. It would be politically difficult for the Obama administration to be part of such a deal, but Obama administration officials haven’t ruled out the possibility of a “soft landing” for Gadhafi.

A key part of this path would be Gadhafi feeling pressured by his inner circle, which is certainly happening, as evidenced by the defection of Intelligence Chief and Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa this week.

Officials say there are more indications this week that Gahdafi’s inner circle is “rattled and skittish,” as one official put it.

“They’re increasingly concerned about the direction Gadhafi is taking them,” the official said, citing intelligence reports.

This leads us to the second most likely path of Gadhafi’s exit -- his being removed -- by those around him, jailed, shoved into a plane, carried out on his feet or in a bag.

The least likely is the rag-tag band of misfits driving Toyotas around Libya defeating Gadhafi’s standing army.

When ABC News asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney Friday to give the administration’s estimate of the rebels’ capabilities, he described them as “untrained, inexperienced people…That it is not a professional military, I think, is a notion that we can agree on.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


USAID Administrator: GOP Bill Could Kill 70,000 Kids

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- At least 70,000 children around the world could die if funding for global health programs is cut under the Republican budget proposal, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah warned Congress Thursday.

"What I worry about is that with the H.R. 1 budget [the proposed spending bill], if that becomes a baseline reality for fiscal year '12, that would be very problematic for some of our most important programs," Administrator Shah testified before the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee.

"We estimate, and I believe these are very conservative estimates, that H.R. 1 would lead to 70,000 kids dying," he said.

Shah said that 30,000 of those deaths would come if malaria control programs have to be scaled back, 24,000 would die from lack of support for immunizations, and another 16,000 would die at birth.

Shah's comments come as the Obama administration is fighting Congressional Republicans over how to fund the government this year. The impasse has led to the threat of a government shutdown.

Republicans have proposed significant cuts to the international affairs budget, 19 percent below 2010 enacted base levels, as part of an effort to reduce deficit spending.

"I believe there are ways to find the efficiencies we're all seeking, through being more businesslike in how we do our work, reining in contract partners and doing better program oversight. There's a way to do this that does not have to cost lives," Shah testified.

In her testimony before Congress last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the cuts, which would also hamper expanded efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, "would be devastating for our national security."

According to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, which lobbies to increase funding for international affairs, the Republican budget proposal would cut funding for global health programs by 11 percent, including a reduction in money for the Global fund for HIV/AIDS by 43 percent. The group says that would mean five million children would not receive malaria treatments and about 43,000 would not receive tuberculosis treatments.

The proposed budget would also decrease food aid programs by 30 percent and slash U.S. funding for disaster relief by 41 percent.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Libya: Doubts About NATO as US Takes Backseat

MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Military experts fear that America's reduced role in enforcing the Libyan no-fly zone will cripple efforts to keep Moammar Gadhafi's forces from battering the rag tag army trying to topple him.

They fear that without U.S. willingness to go after Gadhafi's troops and equipment from the air, and without U.S. ground controllers pinpointing targets, that the effort to shield the rebels will fail.

"The idea that the AC-130s and the A-10s and American air power is grounded unless the place goes to hell is just so unnerving that I can't express it adequately," said Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C. "The only thing I would ask is, please reconsider that."

Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates wondered out loud whether the NATO airstrikes can succeed without the U.S. in the lead.

"They certainly have made that commitment and we will see," Gates said.

Gates said the U.S. would pull all combat planes from operations over Libya on Saturday. It formally ceded command and control of the operation to NATO on Thursday.

The British and the French, who are expected to take the lead with airstrikes, are "highly competent and they've proved it," said Anthony Cordesman, an international defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"The question isn't whether they're competent. It's will they get the command and control guidance and electronic intelligence from the U.S. needed to be successful," he said.

Experts say that NATO's mission will be increasingly difficult as Gadhafi's forces, often indistinguishable from opposition rebels, become enmeshed in urban areas.

For the past two weeks, U.S. ships have launched more than 191 cruise missiles at Libyan air defenses and communications outposts and warplanes have dropped at least 455 precision bombs in the campaign to establish a no-fly zone and stop attacks on rebels by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

One officials tells ABC News there were further indications this week that Gadhafi’s inner circle is “rattled and skittish.”

“They’re increasingly concerned about the direction Gadhafi is taking them,” the official said, citing intelligence reports.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Afghanistan: UN Workers Killed In Response to Fla. Quran Burning

Mario Tama/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Several United Nations staffers were killed Friday after protests broke out over a recent Quran burning by two Florida pastors.

Protesters in northern Afghanistan stormed a U.N. office following Friday prayers, killing a number of workers. This comes after preachers made mention of the Quran burning during their sermons.

Demonstrators began shooting at U.N. guards before making their way inside the compound, which they later burned down.

Four Nepalese guards and three international U.N. staff members -- one Norwegian, a Romanian and a Swede -- were killed in the attack. Afghan police said some were beheaded.

Less than 30 people were on hand last month when the two pastors -- including Terry Jones, who garnered worldwide attention last year when he threatened to burn Qurans on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks -- burned a Quran at Jones' Gainesville Church.

President Obama condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms" Friday, and offered his condolences to the injured, as well as to the family members of those who were killed.

"The brave men and women of the United Nations, including the Afghan staff, undertake their work in support of the Afghan people," the president said in a statement. "Their work is essential to building a stronger Afghanistan for the benefit of all its citizens. We stress the importance of calm and urge all parties to reject violence and resolve differences through dialogue."

Last week, Pakistan's president denounced the actions of the Florida pastors in front of parliament.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Human Rights, Anti-Genocide Groups Protest President's Nominated Ambassador to Kenya

Roger L. Wollenberg-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a rare move, some human rights and anti-genocide groups are writing to senators urging them to reject President Obama’s nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Air Force General Scott Gration (Ret.), accusing him of having done a poor job as President Obama’s special envoy to Sudan.

“As special envoy to Sudan, General Gration has made ongoing errors of judgment, has spoken inaccurately about a range of issues and has alienated many parties in Sudan,” says the letter from human rights and anti-genocide groups. “General Gration’s lack of experience and failures in diplomacy make him unqualified to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Kenya.”

Gration aroused the ire of some human rights groups by pursuing a strategy of engaging with the government of Sudan; the White House has always expressed support for Gration.

“The fact that the President has nominated Gration as his Ambassador to Kenya shows his confidence in General Gration’s work," said White House National Security Staff spokesman Tommy Vietor. "As Special Envoy, General Gration was tireless in his work on Sudan -- including on the successful referendum on southern secession brought about in no small part because of his efforts.”

The groups cite as evidence of Gration’s errors from a statement he made in 2010 saying that the Sudan national elections would be “as free and fair as possible,” despite evidence of fraud, their view that he downplayed “dangerous humanitarian conditions and grossly inadequate levels of aid in Darfur,” accusations that he took positions “favorable to the regime in Khartoum that were sometimes at odds with the established policy of the Obama Administration on Sudan,” and other matters.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Six US Soldiers Killed in Ongoing Afghan Operation

ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Six American soldiers were killed during an ongoing operation in eastern Afghanistan earlier this week, according to government officials.

The operation, a helicopter-borne assault that is now in its fourth day, occurred in a remote area of Kunar Province.  Its purpose is to show force and make a statement that there will be no safe haven for the enemy in a part of Afghanistan where the U.S. has pulled back from small bases.

ABC News' Mike Boettcher, who was the lone reporter on scene, called the assault "the toughest firefight I’ve ever seen."

Along with the fallen soldiers, the military said at least 10 people have been injured in the assault, although Boettcher, who is said to be fine, reported seeing more wounded.  One Afghan soldier was also killed.

Boettcher was later informed that roughly 50 Taliban fighters from Pakistan and Afghanistan were killed in the operation.  A Taliban radio headquarters was also destroyed.

The Pentagon has identified the six soldiers killed in the engagement as Sgt. 1st Class Ofren Arrechaga, of Hialeah, Florida; Staff Sgt. Frank E. Adamski III, of Moosup, Connecticut; Spc. Jameson L. Lindskog, of Pleasanton, California; Staff Sgt. Bryan A. Burgess, of Cleburne, Texas; Spc. Dustin J. Feldhaus, of Glendale, Arizona; and Pvt. Jeremy P. Faulkner, of Griffin, Georgia.

The men were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Prince William 'Nervous' About Royal Wedding

Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Even princes get the wedding day jitters.

With his event-of-the-generation nuptials looming, Britain's Prince William has confessed to feeling a creeping nervousness.

When an interviewer with the BBC asked the 28-year-old prince if there was any aspect of the wedding that gave him sleepless nights, William laughed and replied, "The whole thing."

"I was telling everyone when I did the rehearsals the other day and my knees started going, tapping quite nervously," he said, "so it's quite a daunting prospect but very exciting, and I'm thoroughly looking forward to it. But there's still a lot of planning to be done in the last four weeks."

He laughingly deflected several questions for details of the event.

"You know I can't do that," he told the BBC's interviewer. "You're not going to get anything out of me on that."

William is set to marry Kate Middleton April 29 in London's Westminster Abbey.

After the big day, William told the BBC that he is looking forward to settling down in Anglesey, the island in northern Wales where he and Kate will make their home and where he will continue his service in the Royal Air Force.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japan Nuclear Crisis: Worker Speaks Out About Radiation Dangers

STR/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Some Japanese plant workers, including former employees who are now miles away from the damaged nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, say they are concerned about the health of their colleagues and the availability of equipment to keep them safe from the leaked radiation.

International nuclear experts believe that melted fuel in reactor number one has caused a "localized criticality," which is a small, uncontrolled chain reaction that occasionally emits a burst of heat, radiation and a blue flash of light.  It is not a threat to the area at large, officials say, but could be deadly for workers.

One worker from inside the plant spoke anonymously about safety concerns such as not having enough radiation-detection devices available for workers.

"Since the number of monitors is limited, only one or two devices are handed to each group," the worker said.  "But sometimes you have to move away from that person and in that case you'll never know the level of your exposure."

He said workers are worried about their health.

"Some workers called it quits and just left for home," he said.  "My gut feeling is that I want to get it over with and get out of here."

Officials at the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant, said workers have had to work under harsh conditions.  They have since acknowledged the problem and promised more detection devices for their workers.

"They sleep on the floor, inside a conference room, or even in the hallway or in front of a bathroom," Kazuma Yokota, head of the Fukushima local office Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said in a news conference.  "That's where they sleep, with only one blanket each to wrap themselves around."

Former plant workers living in a shelter just outside Tokyo, more than 100 miles away, told ABC News Friday that some people have been offered jobs to go back and help contain the leak.

"They're exchanging money with their lives," one worker said.  "There may be people who will take the offer but it's not worth the risk."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Moammar Gadhafi Could Face Surge of Government Defections

ABC News(LONDON) -- Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa's decision to break from Col. Moammar Gadhafi's ranks and defect to Britain may mean others within the Libyan strongman's circle are ready to jump ship as the fighting with anti-government rebels intensifies.

In fact, Ibrahim Dabbashi, who was Libya's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, predicted as much Thursday, saying that a number of high-ranking officials want to go now but are being blocked by tight security.

Dabbashi said that Kouusa's "defection exposes the lies that the regime are putting out.  Koussa knows that Colonel Gahdafi is finished."

Koussa managed to make his escape by claiming he was in poor health and needed treatment in Tunisia.  From there, he traveled to Britain, although the government there says they'll offer Koussa, who has been tied to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, no immunity.

Meanwhile, Dabbashi's prediction was coming true as another former Libyan foreign minister said he had left the Gadhafi inner circle.  Ali Abdessalam Treki wrote on several websites, "It is our nation's right to live in freedom and democracy and enjoy a good life."

There was also a report in Britain’s The Independent newspaper Friday that British government officials are talking “with up to 10 senior figures in Col. Gadhafi's creaking regime about possible defection”.

The paper said the defectors include a senior aide to one of Gadhafi’s sons, the head of Libya’s external intelligence service, Libya’s oil minister, and the secretary of the General People's Congress.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Man-Made Clouds to Shield World Cup Soccer Fans in Qatar's Heat?

Pixland/Thinkstock(DOHA, Qatar) -- With temperatures in the summer sometimes reaching 122 degrees Fahrenheit, government scientists in Qatar are working on ways to keep fans cool ahead of the 2022 World Cup, to be hosted in the country.

Some parts of the open-air stadiums will be cooled with solar-powered air-conditioning units, but the bottom line is that it’s still going to get very hot in the arenas as spectators sweat out the tournament, in more ways than one.  So Qatari scientists have come up with an idea for artificial clouds that will shield the fans from direct sunlight.

The plan is to develop zeppelin-like inflated platforms that move easily and are wind-resistant.  Since they’ll be filled with helium and made from ultra-light fabrics, these "clouds" -- at an estimated cost of $500,000 apiece -- will be about as light as the real ones, and can be moved as necessary to block the sun, providing shade to cover the whole stadium if necessary.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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