Syria protests travel by U.S. ambassador without government permission
US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford Photo By: AFP/Getty Images
August 24th, 2011
07:01 PM ET

Syria protests travel by U.S. ambassador without government permission

By CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty

The State Department says the Syrian government has delivered a diplomatic note of protest to the United States, expressing concern over U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford's visit Tuesday to the city of Jassem, 70 kilometers south of Damascus, without permission from the Syrian government.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the ambassador "wanted to see for himself what was up there. This has been another town that has been engaged in peaceful protest. He was there for about four hours. He had a chance there to talk to a number of Syrians, including those in the opposition, and then he drove back to Damascus."

The Syrian note, Nuland said, accused the ambassador of not following procedures that the government has requested U.S. diplomats follow.

Ford decided to go to Jassem, Nuland said, because the Syrian government repeatedly had denied him permission to travel. "So it was on that basis, the fact that he had been denied again and again and again permission to travel under their own system that they set up, that he made the decision ... to go."

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Pentagon warns of potential problems with militarily strong China
Chinese military parade Photo By: AFP/Getty Images
August 24th, 2011
05:38 PM ET

Pentagon warns of potential problems with militarily strong China

By CNN Senior National Security Correspondent Charley Keyes

The Pentagon issued fresh warnings Wednesday that China's military expansion could stir up new tensions and provoke dangerous misunderstandings

"The pace and scope of China's sustained military investment have allowed China to pursue capabilities we believe are potentially destabilizing to regional military balances, increase the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation and may contribute to regional tensions and anxieties," Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Michael Schiffer said. "Such capabilities could increase Beijing's options to use military force to gain diplomatic advantage, advance its interests or resolve military disputes in its favor."

Schiffer was speaking at the Pentagon about the annual survey of defense and security issues involving China.

A classified report was presented to Congress and an 83-page version was made public.

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Filed under: China • Military
US moves to free up assets for Libyan opposition
UN Security Council meeting Photo By: AFP/Getty Images
August 24th, 2011
03:26 PM ET

US moves to free up assets for Libyan opposition

By CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty

The United States will support an effort by several members of the United Nations Security Council to override the U.N.'s sanctions committee and allow countries to free up frozen Libyan assets to speedily provide funds for the Libyan opposition's National Transitional Council.

The Obama administration has tried for days to get approval from the U.N. sanctions committee to unfreeze $1 billion to $1.5 billion worth of Libyan assets, but a diplomat told CNN privately that South Africa has been blocking that move. Gadhafi funded South Africa's African National Congress - now the ruling party - when it was a liberation movement fighting the white apartheid regime.

Wednesday, a senior Obama administration official, speaking on background because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue, said: "If we do not have sanctions committee action today, which is the best way for this to work... we will support the effort by some other countries to get this done in the Security Council."

"This has been going on for weeks and weeks," the official said.

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NATO discusses protecting Libya WMD
Libya Chemical Plant: Rabta Photo By: GeoEye satellite image
August 24th, 2011
01:20 PM ET

NATO discusses protecting Libya WMD

By CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr

NATO has begun high level internal discussions on how to protect Libya’s mustard gas supplies if the stockpile suddenly was deemed to no longer be secure, an Obama administration official tells CNN. At this point the effort is considered “prudent planning” only, the official said, but this is the first indication the international community could be prepared to secure the stockpile currently at the Rabta site south of Tripoli.

The mustard gas is not weaponized and would be difficult to use in any immediate attack. But much of the concern is that material could be diverted or sold to third parties such as terrorist groups.

The U.S. is involved in the safeguard discussions, but there is no current consideration of sending U.S. troops the official said.

The State Department said known weapon storage sites in Libya remain secure. "We believe that these known missile and chemical agent storage facilities remain secure, and we've not seen any activity, based on our national technical means, to give us concern that they have been compromised," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday. "But that monitoring will continue."

The focus of the planning effort is what to do “if a force of some type is needed to secure the site,” he said. “The discussion is: who is best suited to do it?” Any force could include both military personnel as well as intelligence or contractor personnel with the technical expertise in monitoring chemical stockpiles. A NATO official said if there is a need to send personnel to Rabta it might be done by individual nations rather than the alliance which would have to reach a consensus on sending NATO forces on a new mission.

At the moment no one has publicly said whether Gadhafi’s forces or rebel forces are in control of Rabta, although U.S. officials have said for days they believe the stockpile is secure. The discussions have accelerated in recent days as the regime began to collapse

“We are watching the chemical weapons and SCUD missiles to make sure they are not used in the endgame,” a senior NATO official told CNN.

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Filed under: Arab Spring • Gadhafi • Libya • Military • NATO • Terrorism
Gadhafi hides and threatens as rebels begin a difficult transition
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the rebel National Transitional Council (Photo by AFP/Getty Images)
August 24th, 2011
11:33 AM ET

Gadhafi hides and threatens as rebels begin a difficult transition

By CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi issues threats by radio and the fighting in Libya continues. But the transition in the North African country already has begun.

The rebels' political arm, the National Transitional Council, based in the eastern city of Benghazi, is poised to move its operations to the capital, Tripoli.

This disparate group of former Gadhafi regime loyalists, reformers, expatriates, members of different tribes and some jihadis, united by the common cause of getting rid of the dictator, now must coalesce into an interim government facing the enormous challenge of running this country of nearly 6.5 million people.

Food and medical supplies, in some areas, are running low. Hospitals are damaged. Electricity is out or sporadic. Although Libya, an oil exporter, potentially has significant income from that sector, right now the transitional council must scramble to help Libyan civilians caught in the conflict. At the same time, they must begin building the structure of a new and, they vow, democratic government.

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Foreign forces in Libya helping rebels advance
Rebels run over Gadhafi's heavily damaged compound in Tripoli. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
August 24th, 2011
10:26 AM ET

Foreign forces in Libya helping rebels advance

By CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr

Special forces troops from Britain, France, Jordan and Qatar on the ground in Libya have stepped up operations in Tripoli and other cities in recent days to help rebel forces as they conducted their final advance on the Gadhafi regime, a NATO official confirmed to CNN Wednesday.

British forces, in particular, have assisted rebel units by "helping them get better organized to conduct operations," the official said. Some of these forces from all the countries have traveled with rebel units from towns across Libya as they advanced on Tripoli.

The official declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the intelligence information.
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