Biden Calls Egyptian President Mubarak an “Ally,” Not a Dictator

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In an interview with the NewsHour’s Jim Lehrer Thursday, Vice President Biden said he would not refer to Egyptian President Mubarak as a dictator and instead called him an “ally” on a number of key foreign policy issues.

When asked if it was time for Mubarak to stand aside, Biden said no.

“I think the time has come for President Mubarak to begin to move in the direction that -- to be more responsive to some of the -- some -- some of the needs of the people out there,” Biden said.

Biden said the people protesting are “middle-class folks” who are looking for more opportunity.

“Violence isn’t appropriate and people have a right to protest,” he said, adding that he hopes Mubarak will “respond to some of the legitimate concerns that are being raised.”

“Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things.  And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with Israel,” the vice president said.  “And I think that it would be -- I would not refer to him as a dictator."

Biden stressed repeatedly that when it comes to Egypt and Tunisia, the United States urges all parties to resolve concerns and differences through peaceful and amicable discussions, not violence.

The vice president said that the Obama administration is urging the protestors in both Egypt and Tunisia that “as they assemble, do it peacefully” and encouraging the governments there to “act responsibly and to try to engage in a discussions as to what the legitimate claims are being made.”

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Obama on Egypt: Reform 'Absolutely Critical' in the Long Term

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama Thursday reiterated that Egypt is an ally of the United States and that the he’s “always said” to President Hosni Mubarak that reform, both politically and economically, is essential for Egypt.

“Egypt's been an ally of ours on a lot of critical issues,” Obama said from the White House Thursday afternoon. “President Mubarak has been very helpful on a range of tough issues in the Middle East. But I've always said to him that making sure that they are moving forward on reform -- political reform, economic reform -- is absolutely critical to the long-term well being of Egypt.”

The president’s comments Thursday came during a YouTube town hall, where he was asked via a video submission what he thought of the Egyptian government blocking social networks during the protests this week. After being shown some YouTube videos from this week in Cairo, President Obama said that you can see the “pent-up frustrations” being displayed on the streets.

“My main hope right now is, is that violence is not the answer in solving these problems in Egypt.  So the government has to be careful about not resorting to violence, and the people on the streets have to be careful about not resorting to violence. “

The president said that it is also important that people have mechanisms in order to express “legitimate grievances.”

Anti-Mubarak protests have spread throughout Egypt this week and the country is bracing itself for an even bigger outpouring of anger as the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition group, has called for a “day of rage” on Friday. On Thursday Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency who aspires to run for president against Mubarak, returned to Cairo to try to galvanize the largely leader-less demonstrations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FBI Executes Searches in WikiLeaks Cyber Attack Probe

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) – Both the FBI and Scotland Yard executed search warrants Thursday in relation to cyber attacks that targeted major  corporations on behalf of WikiLeaks.

In a statement, the FBI said that more than 40 search warrants were served in the U.S. In the United Kingdom, police arrested five people for their alleged role in the attacks. 

WikiLeaks has claimed that they have no official connection to the group that calls itself “Anonymous” and carried out cyber attacks that crippled websites such as those for Visa, MasterCard and PayPal.

The FBI has reiterated that such cyber attacks, known as distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS), are illegal and carry with them a prison sentence of up to 10 years and potential civil action.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Clooney’s Satellite Project Confirms Troop Presence in Sudan

Photo Courtesy - White House Press(WASHINGTON) – A satellite project co-founded by actor George Clooney has confirmed reports of company-sized deployments of Sudanese Armed Forces troops in the Abyei region of Sudan.

The Satellite Sentinel Project has spotted the troops on both sides of the volatile North-South border in numbers consistent with other sources that estimate as many as 55,000 SAF troops along the South Kordofan border.

“These first images and analysis have deepened our understanding of the evolving situation following Southern Sudan’s historic vote on independence,” Clooney said in a statement. “Although the SAF in South Kordofan apparently remains a force largely in hiding, we showed they are field-deployed, and they are controlling major roads by running checkpoints.”

The imagery, however, depicts stationary forces that “are not showing signs of advancing,” according to Clooney and the SSP. The news could mean more time to address unresolved issues between the North and South to avoid further conflict.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Sudan's foreign minister Wednesday and “reaffirmed U.S. willingness to take steps toward normalization of relations,” according to a readout. Those steps would come as Sudan makes continued efforts toward fulfilling commitments set forth by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which, among other obligations, would require a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Darfur.

The SSP was launched by Clooney late last year as a way to publically monitor security threats along the border.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Chile to Investigate 1973 Death of Salvador Allende

This August 23, 1973 file photo shows Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet (L) and President Salvador Allende. Pinochet would lead a bloody coup September 11, 1973 that would depose Allende and cost him his life. Photo Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images(SANTIAGO, Chile) – Nearly 40 years after his death, Chile has launched the first-ever investigation into how socialist President Salvador Allende died during a coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power.

It has been debated whether Allende took his own life or was killed during a military attack on his palace in 1973.

The inquiry is part of a series of human rights violations being investigated by a judge in Santiago. More than 3,000 Chileans were killed or disappeared during Pinochet’s rule from 1973 to 1990. Pinochet had been under investigation for corruption, murder and torture before he died of a heart attack in 2006.
An autopsy had already determined that Allende committed suicide when planes and soldiers attacked the La Moneda presidential palace in September of 1973. Supporters, however, have questioned whether Allende was actually killed by soldiers during the coup.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Nelson Mandela, 92, Hospitalized in South Africa

Photo Courtesy - TREVOR SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images(JOHANNESBURG) -- Nelson Mandela, the former South African president, is undergoing tests at a Johannesburg hospital for a second straight day. The 92-year-old Mandela, who led the charge against aparthied is resting comfortably according to his doctors.

Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president in 1994, was jailed for 27 years for his fight against apartheid.

The last time he has been seen by a majority of the public was in July of 2010, at the closing ceremony of the World Cup in Johannesburg.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Police Arrest Five in Connection to 'Anonymous' Web Attacks

Photo Courtesy - Joe Raedle/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Police in England made five arrests Thursday morning in connection to web attacks carried out last month supporting the leak of top secret documents by WikiLeaks.

According to police, three males, ages 15, 16 and 19, and two men, ages 20 and 26, were arrested around 7 a.m. local time.  Metropolitan police, in conjunction with European and international law enforcement agencies, made the arrests in London, Surrey, West Midlands, Northamptonshire and Hertfordshire.

The five males are believed to be part of the online group called Anonymous that hacked into and crippled the websites of Mastercard, PayPal and other companies that pulled their financial support of WikiLeaks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


American in Pakistan Kills Three Residents

Photo Courtesy - USGS[dot]gov(LAHORE, Pakistan) -- Police in Lahore, Pakistan have been questioning an employee with the U.S. consulate about an encounter that left three people dead and some residents there are staging anti-American protests against the incident.

The American was driving through Lahore, one of Pakistan's safest cities, when he was stopped by two robbers, according to a local police official.  He opened fire and killed the robbers and tried to flee, but when he did, he ran over a third person on a motorcycle, killing him

It's not clear what weapons, if any, the robbers were carrying. And it's not clear if the American  was allowed to be carrying the weapon he used. In Pakistan, only the security detail of foreign diplomats are, but in Lahore, US officials drive around without security.

The incident threatens to spark more anti-Americanism, which, in Pakistan, is always simmering beneath the surface.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


British Soldier Proposes to Wrong Woman over Phone

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(GATESHEAD, England) -- It appears a lovesick British soldier got his signals crossed when he dialed the wrong number and proposed to the wrong woman back home in England.

According to the Daily Mail, when Diane Potts, 44, of Gateshead got home, she checked her answering machine and heard this: "Don’t ever forget I love you, I love you so much, I love you with all my heart and I was going to ask you, don’t answer, obviously you can’t answer, but will you marry me?"

On the misdialed, 90-second message, the young man -- thought to be a British soldier in Afghanistan -- called the love of his life "Samantha."

Potts, a mother of three, hopes the mystery can be solved.

"I just thought, 'bless him,'" Potts said.  "He sounded so young.  I felt as though I should not be listening, because the message was obviously meant for someone else.  His girlfriend must be having a baby and I really hope she gets in touch."

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Volcano Erupts in Southern Japan

Photo Courtesy - CLARA PRIMA/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- A Japanese volcano in the southern Kyushu region erupted Wednesday, leaving fields in nearby towns coated with ash and prompting limited voluntary evacuations overnight.

Heavy clouds of smoke spewing from the Shinmoedake volcano on Mount Kirishima prompted the Japan Meteorological Agency to raise the volcanic alert level to a 3, warning people to clear the area within a mile of the volcano.

Agency volcanologist Sei Iijima said the eruption did not pose a threat to nearby cities, and a major eruption was not imminent, as of now.

"You can never say never with a volcano," Iijima said. "But the lack of magma movement beneath the surface leads us to believe that this activity won't lead to a large-scale eruption."

The volcano, one of 20 inside Mount Kirishima, began erupting around 7:30 Wednesday morning.

By 3 p.m., heavy smoke could be seen billowing nearly 5,000 feet above the crater.

That prompted the meteorological agency to raise the alert level.

Air space above the mountain remained open but the haze prompted airlines to cancel at least four domestic flights from the Miyazaki Prefecture Thursday, while the buildup of ash on train tracks forced Japan Rail to cancel several train lines in the region.

Roads were shut down because of poor visibility. Start times for three junior and elementary schools in the city of Miyakonojo, about 16 miles west of the crater, were delayed by a few hours.

School-bound children were advised to wear masks as a precaution. Farmers woke up to find their fields coated with debris.

In the town of Takahara, located about seven miles east of Kirishima, General Affairs Manager Yuji Nakashima said a small evacuation center had been set up overnight for more than a dozen residents concerned about the debris.

"People told us their windows were rattling and they heard roaring sounds coming from the mountain," Nakashima said.

While frequent activity has been reported at Kirishima, this is the largest eruption recorded there since 1959.

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