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Wednesday
Mar092011

Is a Libyan Delegation Headed to NATO Meeting Tomorrow?

U.S. State Department(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Three private planes owned by the Libyan government left a military airport outside of Tripoli Wednesday for parts unknown.

One of the planes landed in Cairo with a Libyan Army general aboard, presumably arriving in Egypt for meetings with Egyptian officials.

The other two aircraft were tracked to Paris and Portugal, but it was unclear who was aboard the planes and why they had traveled to those locations.

The buzz is that both planes carried Libyan delegations intending to meet with NATO and EU officials about the situation in Libya.  There are media reports that the delegation in Portugal will meet with the Portuguese Foreign Minister. There are also reports that the plane that arrived in France is carrying a delegation to Brussels to attend the NATO Ministerial Meeting in Brussels Thursday that will discuss the situation in Libya.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates is among the senior leaders who will be attending the meeting.

Long planned, the meeting has become very timely given the discussion of whether NATO should undertake a "no-fly zone" mission over Libya.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Mar092011

Charles Taylor Defense: Why Is Gadhafi Not on Trial?

JERRY LAMPEN/AFP/Getty Images(SIERRA LEONE) -- On Wednesday, the defense for Liberian warlord Charles Taylor called the former leader's war crimes trial politically motivated "neocolonialism," and asked why Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi isn't facing a similar court.

"This was a court, ostensibly and publicly, set up, we are told, to try those who bear the greatest responsibility," Taylor's lead counsel Courtenay Griffiths told the court in his closing arguments. "So why is Colonel Moammar Gadhafi not in the dock?"

Taylor, 63-year-old former President of Liberia, stands accused of acting with or directing African militant groups primarily in Sierra Leone who used child soldiers and committed acts of murder, rape, and sexual slavery, among other charges. The defense did not deny the atrocities took place, but Griffiths argued that there was no proof directly linking Taylor to the crimes.

Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian told the court Wednesday that Gadhafi was not indicted because there is "less than a tenth of the evidence" connecting Gadhafi to the rebel groups compared to Taylor. Gadhafi is currently under investigation for crimes against humanity for the recent brutal repression of peaceful protesters in Libya.

"Well perhaps there is one thing we can agree on with the defense. We would agree that Charles Taylor is as likely to use terror against civilians as Moammar Gadhafi," Koumjian said. "Of course, a prosecutor has an obligation to only indict those that they can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt."

In his argument, Griffiths said there was nothing but circumstantial evidence linking his client to the 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity with which he is charged. Griffiths argued instead that the trial was politically motivated, evidenced by the fact that Gadhafi was not brought to trial, despite allegations he too supported some of the same rebel groups, because of British economic interests in Libya.

"It is to the shame of this prosecution that it has besmirched the lofty ideals of international criminal law by turning this case into a 21st century case of neocolonialism," Griffiths said.

Taylor was directly connected to Gadhafi in this case by a key witness in 2008, former Liberian President Moses Blah. Blah testified that he was among nearly 200 rebels who were recruited by Taylor and sent to Libya for training at a military base near Tripoli before Taylor gained control of Liberia.

There, the men received "full military training" from Libyans, Blah said, including instructions on how to assemble, disassemble, and fire an AK-47. Some were trained in the use of surface-to-air missiles. Taylor would often visit the group in Libya to inspect the men and give inspirational speeches, Blah said.

Gadhafi's support for Taylor was well-known at the time, according to a U.S. State Department cable posted on the website Wikileaks. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

Israel P.M. Working on New Peace Initiative

Jim Hollander - pool/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- After months of no movement on Mideast peace talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he's working on a new peace initiative to break the deadlock. Among other incentives, Netanyahu is expected to recognize a Palestinian state within temporary borders. And now a new detail has emerged about his ideas for security along those borders. 

On a visit to the Jordan valley, Prime Minister Netanyahu said the Israeli army must maintain its presence along the border with Jordan under any future peace deal -- that would mean Israeli soldiers along the eastern front of a future Palestinian state. Calling the border a key line of defense, Netanyahu said soldiers must prevent the smuggling of arms and militants. Palestinian leaders swiftly rejected the idea.  "We are not going to allow the Israeli army to stay in the Jordan valley or in a centimeter of Palestinian territory," says spokesman Nabil Shaath.

The current borders were drawn in 1967. Palestinian leaders do not want the Israeli army -- which they see as an occupying power -- playing any role in their future state. Palestinian leaders have publicly hinted that a United Nations peacekeeping force may be acceptable on the Jordanian border, but Israeli officials don't believe such a force would be effective.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

North Korea Disrupting Military Maneuvers by Jamming GPS

South Korean soldiers stand guard at a west sea checkpoint on Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea. Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- North Korea appears to be protesting the joint U.S. and South Korean military maneuvers by jamming Global Positioning Devices in the south, which is a nuisance for cell phone and computers users -- but is a hint of the looming menace for the military.

Since March 4, Pyongyang has been trying to disrupt GPS receivers critical to South Korean military communications apparently in protest of the ongoing joint military training exercises between South Korean and U.S. forces.  Strong jamming signals were sent intermittently every five to 10 minutes.

The scope of the damage has been minimal, putting some mobile phones and certain military equipment that use GPS signals on the fritz.

Large metropolitan areas including parts of Seoul, Incheon, and Paju have been affected by the jamming, but "the situation is getting wrapped up, no severe damage has been reported for the last two days," Kyoungwoo Lee, deputy director of Korea Communications Commission, said.

The jamming, however, has raised questions about whether the Korean peninsula is bracing for new electronic warfare.

The North is believed to be nearing completion of an electromagnetic pulse bomb that, if exploded 25 miles above ground would cause irreversible damage to electrical and electronic devices such as mobile phones, computers, radio, and radar, experts say.

"We assume they are at a considerably substantial level of development," Park Chang-kyu of the Agency for Defense Development said at a briefing to the parliament Monday.

Park confirmed that South Korea has also developed an advanced electronic device that can be deployed in times of war.

The current attempts to interfere with GPS transmissions are coming from atop a modified truck-mounted Russian device.  Pyongyang reportedly imported the GPS jamming system from Russia in early 2000 and has since developed two modified versions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

US Wants International Approval of No-Fly Zone over Libya

MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi stepping up their assault Tuesday on rebel strongholds in Libya, President Obama continues to weigh his options about how the U.S. should best deal with the increasingly violent battles there, which some are calling a civil war.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Britain's Sky News Tuesday that "it's important that the United Nations make this decision -- not the United States," regarding the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gadhafi's war planes from inflicting more damage on his enemies.

Meanwhile, the president spoke by phone with British Prime Minister David Cameron about how to pressure Gadhafi to leave Libya without shedding more blood.  Cameron later said that the international community must act now to keep Gadhafi from ordering more attacks on his people.

Obama and Cameron are considering a no-fly zone as well as more surveillance, humanitarian assistance, and further enforcement of a recent United Nations arms embargo.

The White House has also scheduled a series of meetings Wednesday with top security advisers, including Tom Donilon and CIA head Leon Panetta, who will deliver their recommendations to the president following the meetings.

At this point in the three-week conflict, Gadhafi has reached a stalemate with the rebels by stopping their advance to Tripoli and coming close to regaining the nearby city of Zawiya.

While trying to hold the oil refinery town of Ras Lanuf, the rebels have so far been unsuccessful in seizing the western town of Bin Jawad from Gadhafi's forces, suffering heavy losses in the process.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

Dozens Dead, Injured After Suicide Bombing at Pakistani Funeral

USGS [dot] gov(PESHAWAR, Pakistan) -- At least 35 people are dead and several more injured after a suicide bombing at a funeral in Pakistan Wednesday, according to police.

The explosion took place in Adezai, on the outskirts of Peshawar, while a funeral for the wife of a peace commitee leader was taking place.

Pakistani peace committees serve a policing role and conduct anti-militant operations in their respective areas.  They are often targeted by militants.

Rescue operations by local officials are underway.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

Japanese Furious Over U.S. Diplomat's 'Extortion' Remark

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(OKINAWA, Japan) -- Comments by a U.S. diplomat reportedly disparaging the people of Okinawa as "lazy" and "masters of extortion," have sparked outrage in Japan, and complicated already tense discussions surrounding the future of a Marine base on the country's southern island.

The comments were allegedly made by Kevin Maher, director of the State Department's Office of Japan Affairs, in an off-the-record lecture given to students at Washington's American University in December. Student notes obtained by Japanese media allege Maher made the disparaging remarks. The news first surfaced Monday, and prompted a swift response from Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.

"If these (comments) were to be true, they not only hurt the feelings of the people of Okinawa, but all of Japan," Edano said. "It is intolerable. I am deeply saddened that this has to be reported on the news."

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa blasted the reported comments as "extremely deplorable," while the Okinawa prefectural assembly and Naha city unanimously adopted a resolution condemning Maher's statements and demanding a retraction and apology.

According to Kyodo News, which obtained notes taken by students who attended the lecture, Maher's comments were made during a speech on "Military Bases and Their Impacts on Okinawa."

The written account claims Maher said, "Consensus building is important in Japanese culture. While the Japanese would call this 'consensus,' they mean 'extortion' and use this culture as a means of extortion."

The comments were an apparent reference to financial subsidies Tokyo pays to Okinawans in exchange for hosting U.S. military bases on the island. Students also noted that Maher called Okinawa residents "too lazy to grow goya," referring to a bitter melon, famously used in local cuisine.

News of the alleged comments have dominated Japanese media, and prompted U.S. officials to play damage control.

Edano said Ambassador John Roos personally reached out to him Tuesday, and expressed "deep regret" for the reported remarks. Edano added, that he believed the appropriate steps would be taken by Roos and the State Department. In a statement released Monday, the U.S. embassy said the comments "attributed to a U.S. government official in no way reflect U.S. government views."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

Gates Won't Commit to Large US Pullout from Afghanistan in July

ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The White House remains determined to begin drawing down U.S. forces from Afghanistan beginning this July.

But while Defense Secretary Robert Gates believes this will happen, Americans shouldn't expect large numbers of troops to be withdrawn, with the war still raging and the Taliban far from vanquished.

Gates, who paid a surprise visit to Kabul, says whatever the drawdown is called, it's definitely not a U.S. exit from Afghanistan.

With 100,000 U.S. soldiers currently deployed in Afghanistan, Gates predicted that the military will keep a substantial force in the country over the next three years.  At best, the reductions promised by President Obama this July will be relatively minor, Gates suggested.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants his national army and police to assume security responsibilities by January 2015 but even so, Gates said an American presence would remain in Afghanistan to keep the Taliban from retaking the country.

Wednesday
Mar092011

Pakistani Taliban Claims Responsibility for Deadly Car Bombing

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images(FAISALABAD, Pakistan) -- The Pakistani Taliban have taken responsibility for the car bomb that left at least two dozen people dead and over 130 others wounded in Faisalabad Tuesday.

Shortly after the explosion, the militant group released a statement that it meant for the bomb to destroy the offices of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, which has played both sides of the fence over the years in Pakistan's war against radical Islamists.

But the police chief in Faisalabad said the car bomb actually went off at a gas station, casting doubt over the Taliban's assertion that the ISI was the intended target.

It's possible that the bomb might have been the work of banned Islamist groups who have committed violence against minorities, particularly Christians.

Tuesday's blast was the first major attack in Faisalabad in several years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar082011

Foreign National Arrested in Scotland in Connection to Stockholm Suicide Bombing

File: Police examine the remains of a suspected suicide bomber in Stockholm in December 2010. FREDRIK PERSSON/AFP/Getty Images(GLASGOW, Scotland) -- A man has been arrested in connection with the Stockholm suicide bombing, police said Tuesday.
 
The 30-year-old was detained in Glasgow Tuesday morning in connection with the bombing in Sweden in December of last year.
 
The foreign national was arrested under the Terrorism Act shortly after 6 a.m. in the Whiteinch area of the city.
 
It is alleged the man was involved in aiding terrorists in Sweden.
 
The suicide bomber, Iraqi Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, 28, who studied at the University of Bedfordshire, blew himself up and injured two people in a botched attack in Stockholm.
 
Detectives in Britain and Sweden have been investigating whether Abdulwahab was supported by others or acted as a lone attacker.
 
Officials said at the time the bombing appeared "well-planned" and worked on the assumption that he was helped by others.
 
Police said there was no evidence to suggest that there was a direct threat to Scotland.

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