Category: USA

Wikileaks: Suspect Bradley Manning faces 22 new charges

Ref: The new charges against Private First Class Bradley Manning include aiding the enemy, a capital offence, but prosecutors have said they will not seek the death penalty.

The intelligence analyst is being held at a military jail in Virginia.

He is suspected of leaking 620,000 diplomatic and military documents.
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Obama presses Mubarak for transition to democracy

President Barack Obama on Sunday urged an “orderly transition” to democracy in Egypt, stopping short of calling on President Hosni Mubarak to step down but signaling that his days may be numbered.

Seeking to ratchet up pressure on Mubarak, Obama consulted with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and Britain on the need for an Egyptian government responsive to its people.

The Obama administration’s blunt words marked the furthest Washington has distanced itself from Mubarak, a key U.S. ally of 30 years who has been severely weakened by six days of mass protest aimed at ending his long autocratic rule.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also kept up Washington’s delicate balancing act, trying to avoid abandoning Mubarak altogether while supporting protesters who seek broader political rights and demand his ouster.

Making the rounds the Sunday U.S. news shows, Clinton said Mubarak must ensure coming elections are free and fair and live up to his promises of reform, and that the process should be carried out to prevent a power vacuum that could be filled by extremists.

While Clinton repeatedly dodged questions about whether Mubarak should resign due to the political upheaval, she appeared to suggest the U.S. administration’s patience with him was wearing thin and added to pressure on him to loosen — if not eventually relinquish — his grip on power.
“We want to see an orderly transition so that no one fills a void, that there not be a void, that there be a well thought out plan that will bring about a democratic participatory government,” Clinton told “Fox News Sunday” on the sixth day of mass protests against Mubarak’s rule.

Echoing Clinton’s language, the White House said Obama spoke over the weekend to Saudi King Abdullah, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and British Prime Minister David Cameron’

“The president reiterated his focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint; supporting universal rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, association and speech; and supporting an orderly transition to a government that is responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people,” the White House said.

A senior administration official said the feeling among Obama’s national security aides was that Mubarak’s time had passed, but that it was up to the Egyptian people to decide their future. Obama believed the United States could not insert itself into the situation because any such move could backfire, the official added.


Clinton also alluded to concerns about who might follow Mubarak. U.S. officials have privately voiced fears that radical Muslims could take power. “We also don’t want to see some takeover that would lead not to democracy, but to oppression,” she said.

Even as Washington has taken a more assertive stance, Clinton signaled the administration was not ready to use its most tangible leverage with Cairo — the $1.5 billion in annual U.S. aid, the vast majority of which is for the military.

“There is no discussion as of this time about cutting off aid,” she told ABC’s “This Week,” though she quickly added “we always are looking (at) and reviewing our aid.”

The U.S. administration was caught off guard by the political upheaval that has rocked the Middle East in recent days, from Egypt to Tunisia to Lebanon to Yemen, and is now scrambling to craft a sound strategy.

Sudan border clashes kill 36

At least 36 people have died in clashes between Arab nomads and southerners near Sudan’s north- south border, leaders in the contested Abyei region said on Monday, on the second day of a vote on southern independence.

Analysts say the central region of Abyei is the most likely place for north-south tensions to erupt into violence during and after the vote, the climax of a troubled peace deal that ended decades of civil war.

Southerners are expected to vote to split from the mostly Muslim north, depriving Khartoum of most of its oil reserves.

Senior southern official Luka Biong condemned the fighting and told Reuters both sides were still trying to settle their bitter dispute over the ownership of Abyei as part of a package of negotiations, including how the regions will share oil revenues after a split.

In a separate, more positive, development, former President Jimmy Carter told CNN on Monday that Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir had offered to take on all of the country’s crippling debt if the south seceded.

Bashir’s spokesman confirmed the south would not take on any of the debt but said the north, south and the international community had a “joint responsibility” to work toward debt relief.

“A division of the debt between the north and south if the south secedes would not be useful … and if the south secedes it will not be able to service this debt,” a statement from the spokesman said.

The comments are a conciliatory gesture from Bashir and will lift a huge fiscal burden from the south in the early days of its expected independence.

The violence in Abyei followed a warning to both northern and southern leaders from US President Barack Obama not to use proxy forces over the voting period, highlighting international concerns that both sides might be resorting to tactics used in past campaigns.

More Clashes Feared

Leading members of Abyei’s Dinka Ngok tribe, linked to the south, accused Khartoum of arming the area’s Arab Misseriya militias in clashes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and said they were expecting more attacks in days to come.

The speaker of the Abyei administration, Charles Abyei, said the Misseriya attacked because they had heard false rumors the Dinka were about to declare themselves part of the south.

“A large number of Misseriya attacked Maker village yesterday (Sunday), backed by government militia … The first day one person died, the second day nine, yesterday 13 … It will continue,” he said.

The south’s Biong warned the Misseriya could provoke the wrath of an independent southern Sudan if the attacks continued.

Misseriya leader Mokhtar Babo Nimr told Reuters 13 of his men had died in Sunday’s clash and accused southerners of starting the fighting.

Residents of the central Abyei region were promised their own referendum on whether to join the north or the south but leaders could not agree on how to run the poll and the vote did not take place as planned on January 9.

A UN source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there had been another clash in the village of Todach on Monday morning.

The source said Misseriya were attacking police posts in the area, suspecting them of being occupied by southern soldiers, and said the death count could be higher. “Both sides are concealing their casualties,” the source said, adding southern police and Dinka youth had been caught up in the fighting.

In another sign of tension, southern army spokesman Philip Aguer said two men — a Ugandan and a northern army soldier — were arrested with four boxes holding 700 rounds of AK-47 ammunition in the southern capital Juba on Sunday night.

The northern army’s spokesman, al-Sawarmi Khaled, on Monday denied any link to the ammunition or the clashes.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the otherwise peaceful roll-out of the vote in the south. “This could be a great example of a peaceful ending to a longstanding conflict,” she said in Abu Dhabi.

Peaceful Voting

Observers said thousands of voters queued up for a second day of voting that continued peacefully across other areas of the south. The final results are expected by February 15, with preliminary results a week earlier.

“Yesterday I tried my best but it was too much for me. Queues were too long. People were too emotional. Everyone wants to be first to decide his destiny,” said Salah Mohamed, waiting outside a booth on the outskirts of the southern capital Juba.

“Today I could vote but still as you can see the crowds are still there … I think the commission might need to extend the voting days.”

The referendum’s organising commission said 20 percent of registered southerners had already cast their vote. The turnout needs to be 60 percent for the result to be valid.

Federal judge dead, congresswoman among 12 wounded in shooting

Ref: A federal judge was killed and a congresswoman gravely wounded Saturday in a shooting outside of a Tucson, Arizona, grocery store, according to police and government officials.

In all, six people died and 12 were wounded in the shooting, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, according to Rick Kastigar, bureau chief for the Pima County Sheriff`s Department. Read more →

Obama appoints new chief of staff

Ref:Barack Obama, the US president, has chosen former commerce secretary William Daley as his new chief of staff.

Obama, who is under pressure to speed up economic recovery and tackle massive unemployment ahead of his 2012 reelection campaign, said on Thursday that Daley had tremendous experience, and a “deep understanding of how jobs are created”. Read more →

Latest Wikileaks: Hasina gave condition for Boeing deal

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina demanded landing rights for the country’s national carrier at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport as a condition for a Boeing deal, newly released diplomatic cables show.

The cables, obtained by the New York Times from the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, document several incidents in which diplomats were involved in haggling over the billion-dollar deals seen as key to US economic growth.

“If there is no New York route, what is the point of buying Boeing,” she was quoted as saying in a November 2009 cable.

The deal went through, but so far Biman Bangladesh Airlines has not been given the landing rights.

US drone strike kills five militants in Pakistan: officials

Ref: US drones killed at least five militants in Pakistan`s lawless tribal area of North Waziristan on Saturday, security officials said.

“Two US drones fired four missiles. At least five militants have been killed. The drones are still flying over the area,” one security official in Miranshah told AFP.
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US airports reopen after blizzard

Airports have reopened in the north-eastern US after blizzards caused some 7,000 flights to be cancelled over the busy post-Christmas travel period.
Services have now resumed into and out of New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

Many flights are still experiencing severe delays, US officials say

Many flights are still experiencing severe delays, US officials say

But officials warn it could take days to clear the flight backlog for tens of thousands of stranded passengers.
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Obama hails Senate vote to back Russia nuclear treaty

Ref: The US president has welcomed the US Senate’s ratification of a much-delayed nuclear arms treaty with Russia.
Barack Obama said the agreement, which will pave the way for new cuts in American and Russian nuclear arsenals, was the most important such deal in almost 20 years.

Obama hails nuclear treaty vote

Obama hails nuclear treaty vote

After months of wrangling in the Senate, the New Start treaty was passed by a vote of 71 to 26.Under the deal, Russia and the US will cut deployed nuclear warheads by 30%.

“This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia,” Mr Obama said.

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US, India were against disbanding RAB

Ref: A leaked cable suggests the US opposed the purported move by some Awami League leaders to disband Rapid Action Battalion.

The cable sent by US ambassador in Dhaka James F Moriarty, which was leaked by WikiLeaks, also says India backed the idea that RAB, which was launched by BNP, should be allowed to operate. Read more →