U.S. lifts Myanmar import ban ahead of Obama visit
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi meets with President Obama in the Oval Officer during her visit to the United States in September.
November 16th, 2012
06:27 PM ET

U.S. lifts Myanmar import ban ahead of Obama visit

By Jamie Crawford

The United States on Friday announced the easing of restrictions on imports of most goods from Myanmar, just a day before President Obama leaves on a trip that includes a stop in the former pariah state.

The lifting of the ban, which had been in place for nearly a decade, was made in response to ongoing reforms taken by the government of the country also known as Burma.

"Today's joint actions by the Departments of State and Treasury are intended to support the Burmese government's ongoing reform efforts and to encourage further change, as well as to offer new opportunities for Burmese and American businesses," the departments said in a statement.

The United States already has eased restrictions on U.S. investment in Myanmar, and resumed normal diplomatic relations with the Southeast Asia nation.
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Filed under: Myanmar • Sanctions
American jailed in Cuba sues contractor and U.S. government
Alan and Judy Gross during a vacation trip to Israel.
November 16th, 2012
05:10 PM ET

American jailed in Cuba sues contractor and U.S. government

By Jill Dougherty

An American imprisoned in Cuba, along with his wife in the United States, is suing the U.S. government and the group for which he worked, citing what they call an "abject failure to advise, train and protect him."

Alan Gross, 63, has been held in a Cuban prison since December 2009. He was arrested for bringing in banned communications equipment as part of a State Department program to spread democracy and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The Grosses claim that both the U.S. government and the contractor, Development Alternatives Inc., based in Bethesda, Maryland, "failed to disclose adequately to Mr. Gross, both before and after he began traveling to Cuba, the material risks that he faced due to his participation in the project."

The suit also charges that the State Department and DAI failed to provide him with education and training that were necessary to minimize the risk of harm to him, and should have delayed the project "until the risks subsided."
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November 16th, 2012
04:51 PM ET

Life sentence in NYC subway bomb plot

By Laura Batchelor

A Bosnian immigrant who authorities said came within days of carrying out a plot to bomb New York City's subway system was sentenced to life in prison on Friday.

Adis Medunjanin, 34, had been charged with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda. After authorities foiled the plot, he then attempted to crash his car and kill himself and others.

From the Security Clearance archives: Inside the plot to devastate New York

"Adis Medunjanin was today held accountable for his role in one of the most serious terrorist plots against the homeland since 9/11," said Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

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Filed under: Terrorism
U.S. fears Israel-Hamas conflict escalates to ground invasion
November 16th, 2012
03:24 PM ET

U.S. fears Israel-Hamas conflict escalates to ground invasion

By Barbara Starr and Jill Dougherty

The major concern of the United States in the current Israeli-Hamas conflict is a potential Israeli ground incursion into Gaza, U.S. officials said Friday.

That would be a disastrous escalation that could trigger a larger conflict, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

"Escalation is what we are concerned about. We don't want it to escalate to the point where Israel feels it has to take additional action, specifically ground force action," the official said.

Israel has some ground forces on the border and ready to act if they are called to do so, said Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, in a conference call with reporters Friday.

Israel's Cabinet on Friday authorized the call-ups of up to 75,000 reservists, prime minister's spokesman Mark Regev said. Israel's military said earlier in the day that 30,000 troops are being mobilized for a possible move into Gaza.
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Filed under: Israel • Middle East • Military • Palestine
Iraq releases prisoner accused of killing U.S. soldiers
November 16th, 2012
03:07 PM ET

Iraq releases prisoner accused of killing U.S. soldiers

By Jennifer Rizzo

Ali Mussa Daqduq, a Lebanese militant accused of involvement in the murder of several U.S. soldiers in Iraq, was released by Iraqi authorities Friday morning, Daqduq's lawyer, Abdulalmehdi al-Mutairi, told CNN.

Daqduq has arrived in Lebanon, his lawyer said.

"Thank God, he arrived in Lebanon a few hours ago after he left Iraq this afternoon" al-Mutairi told CNN. "There is no legal reason for his detention. He should have been released months ago".

An Iraqi court cleared Daqduq in May, saying there wasn't enough evidence against him, an official with Iraq's judicial council told CNN.

The automatic appeal following that ruling affirmed the acquittal in June, according to al-Mutairi.

U.S. officials say Daqduq organized a kidnapping in the Iraqi city of Karbala in January 2007 that left five U.S. soldiers dead.
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Filed under: Hezbollah • Iraq • Lebanon
Iran still not cooperating with nuclear inspectors
November 16th, 2012
01:10 PM ET

Iran still not cooperating with nuclear inspectors

Iran is not cooperating sufficiently with the United Nations' nuclear watchdog for it to conclude that the country is conducting "peaceful activities," the agency said Friday.

In a 13-page report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that despite its effort to step up talks with Iran, the nation has offered no "concrete results."

The agency's director general is, in turn, "unable to report any progress on clarifying issues relating to possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme," the report said.

Iran has completed installation of centrifuges at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, an underground facility, giving it greater capability of enriching uranimum to 20-percent.  That would be a key capability if Iran chooses to enrich further to make it weapons grade.   Iran has not informed the IAEA how much of the site will be devoted to enriching to 20 percent and how much will be devoted to lower enrichment.

The report said Iran is still not granting inspectors access to the Parchin site, calling it a "matter of concern" that "extensive and significant activities" have taken place there this year. The report lists some of the observed activity at the explosive containment vessel on the site, which the IAEA is concerned could be used to for "possible nuclear weapon development." Iran has said the allegation is "baseless." The new report lists some of the activity observed since February of this year: FULL POST

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Filed under: Iran • Nuclear
Benghazi talking points omitted link to al Qaeda
November 16th, 2012
12:36 PM ET

Benghazi talking points omitted link to al Qaeda

By Jennifer Rizzo, with reporting from Pam Benson

Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified on Capitol Hill on Friday that the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was an act of terrorism committed by al Qaeda-linked militants.

That's according to Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who spoke to reporters after the closed hearing, which lasted an hour and 20 minutes.

The account Petraeus gave was different from the description the Obama administration gave on September 14, King said.

Then, the attack was described as "spontaneous," the result of a protest against an anti-Muslim film that got out of control outside the compound.

Petraeus told lawmakers Friday that he had discussed the possibility of it being a terrorist attack in his initial briefing in September, according to King.

"He had told us that this was a terrorist attack and there were terrorists involved from the start," King said. "I told him, my questions, I had a very different recollection of that (earlier account)," he said. "The clear impression we (lawmakers) were given was that the overwhelming amount of evidence was that it arose out of a spontaneous demonstration and it was not a terrorist attack."

The "spontaneous" adjective was "minimized" during Petraeus' testimony Friday, King said.
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November 16th, 2012
06:47 AM ET

What is Ansar al Sharia, and was it behind the consulate attack in Benghazi?

By Tim Lister and Paul Cruickshank

Former CIA Director David Petraeus is expected to tell House and Senate committees Friday that soon after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, it suspected Ansar al Sharia was responsible. But just what is Ansar al Sharia, and why wasn't it identified as a prime suspect two months ago?

There is no easy answer.

Ansar al Sharia is more a label than an organization, one that's been adopted by conservative Salafist groups across the Arab world. The name means, simply, "Partisans of Islamic Law."

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