By Evan Perez and Paul Cruickshank
A Tunisian man who U.S. authorities allege is an al Qaeda member was extradited Thursday from Belgium to the United States to face charges stemming from a plot to bomb a NATO base there.
Nizar Trabelsi, who was convicted in 2003 for that plot, spent 12 years in Belgian custody and was nearing the end of his sentence. The extradition could help resolve a major concern for U.S. and European terrorism officials who feared that because of shorter sentences in Belgium, Trabelsi could be freed. The same charges in the United States could carry a life sentence, if he is convicted.
Trabelsi was arrested on September 13, 2001, in Belgium - two days after the 9/11 attacks - and charged with plotting to carry out a suicide bomb attack.
Trabelsi was indicted in 2006 by a grand jury in Washington. The indictment was unsealed Thursday.
By Jamie Crawford
The United States would be prepared to consider relaxing certain sanctions on Iran if it engaged in confidence-building steps to prove its sincerity to negotiate over its disputed nuclear program, a top State Department official said Thursday.
"There may be some elements that we can do initially if they take verifiable, concrete actions that will put time on the clock that are reversible or in fact don't go to any of the key sanctions that have brought them to the table," Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Sherman made clear the entire sanctions regime targeting Iran would not be lifted "any time soon" unless the entire litany of concerns about Iran's nuclear program were fully addressed.
Iran's recent opening and seeming willingness to negotiate seriously over its nuclear program is believed to be a result of crippling sanctions on its economy.
By Jill Dougherty
The federal government shutdown, and Washington itself, are under the media microscope around the world.
The political meltdown is being watched with confusion, concern, disgust and even some gloating.
At Thursday’s State Department briefing, spokeswoman Marie Harf gave one example.
Citing local press commentary from Sri Lanka, she said: “The United States, and particularly many in Congress, have urged the government in Sri Lanka to more aggressively pursue reconciliation and a credible government, something we care a lot about.”
By Jamie Crawford
As the Obama administration tests the sincerity of Iran's recent diplomatic outreach, many of the people charged with keeping up pressure on the regime are off the job, having been furloughed in the current government shutdown.
A spokesperson from the Treasury Department told CNN the department had to furlough "nearly all its staff" at the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees enforcement of U.S. sanctions.
As a result of the furloughs, the department is currently unable to sustain its core functions of issuing new sanctions against individuals and entities deemed to be assisting the governments of Iran or Syria, as well as terrorist organizations, narcotics cartels, or proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.
The current sanctions regime directed at Iran over its disputed nuclear program has significantly weakened the Iranian economy, and is believed to be the main impetus behind the outreach by new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States is clear eyed about the recent rhetoric from Iran’s leaders and dismissed the perception from the Israeli government that the U.S. is being duped.
“I didn't interpret Prime Minister Netanyahu's comments as that we are being played somehow, I understood it to be a warning that don’t be played,” Kerry told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday.
At an address to the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani “is a wolf in sheep's clothing, a wolf who thinks he can pull the eyes - the wool over the eyes of the international community,” and was not sincere about negotiating over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
“I can assure the Prime Minister there is nothing here that is going to be taken at face value,” Kerry said. “The president has said and I have said it is not words that will make a difference and the actions are going to have to be sufficient that not only will they not be able to get a weapon, there's no ability to suddenly break out and achieve that.”