Freed Tunisian still a Benghazi suspect
January 8th, 2013
03:09 PM ET

Freed Tunisian still a Benghazi suspect

By Susan Candiotti

The  Tunisian man  held in connection with the Benghazi diplomatic mission attack remains a suspect despite being freed from detention in Tunis, according to a U.S. law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the Libya investigation.

The fact that he's been freed from detention 'doesn't mean he's any less a suspect," the official said.

The source added that Ali Harzi does not appear on the security video recovered from the  Benghazi compound.

Investigators have identified at least 15 individuals that  "we're taking a serious look at," the official told CNN, explaining that some of those being scrutinized were identified on the compound video but others were not present at the scene.

The source said that ultimately, "people will be indicted [in connection with the consulate attack]; we will get indictments but it's not possible to put a timetable on it."

Read more on the story here

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Filed under: Benghazi • Libya • Tunisia
July 30th, 2012
05:15 PM ET

Panetta says when, not if, al-Assad falls, Syrian military should remain intact

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says that when Bashar al-Assad loses his grip on power, he wants the Syrian military to remain in place.

"I think it's important when Assad leaves - and he will leave - to try to preserve stability in that country. And the best way to preserve that kind of stability is to maintain as much of the military, the police, as you can, along with the security forces, and hope that they will transition to a democratic form of government. That's a key," Panetta told CNN's Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr in an exclusive interview in Tunis, Tunisia, Monday.

He said the United States shouldn't allow a repeat of the Bush administration's moves in Iraq, where it disbanded the Iraqi military.

"It's very important that we don't make the same mistakes we made in Iraq," he said. "And that, particularly, when it comes things like the chemical sites. They (the Syrian military) do a pretty good job of securing those sites. If they suddenly walked away from that, it would be a disaster to have those chemical weapons fall into the wrong hands - hands of Hezbollah or other extremists in that area."

Panetta had some advice for the Syrian dictator whose nation is in the midst of a deadly civil war. "I'm sure that deep down Assad knows he's in trouble and it's just matter of time before he has to go," Panetta said. "I would say if you want to be able to protect yourself and your family, you better get the hell out now."

Panetta is in Tunisia for the start of a week-long trip to the Middle East and North Africa.

Earlier, on the flight to Africa, Panetta told reporters traveling with him that Syria will be on his agenda on every stop.

"The United States and the international community has made very clear that this is intolerable, and have brought their diplomatic and economic pressure on Syria to stop this kind of violence, to have Assad step down and to transition to a democratic form of government," he said. "The key right now is to continue to bring that pressure on Syria, to provide assistance to the opposition, and to provide whatever kind of humanitarian aid we can to assist the refugees."

Watch Barbara Starr and her exclusive interview with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta tonight on CNN’s Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.

July 29th, 2012
11:00 PM ET

Panetta kicks off sensitive trip to North Africa and Mideast

By Barbara Starr

When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visits the Middle East this week, he will start in Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began. But he’ll move quickly into the security hot spots about which everyone is worried.

The sensitive part of the trip begins in Cairo, when Panetta will have his first meeting with newly elected President Mohamed Morsy and Egyptian military leaders, reminding everyone that the United States wants to see a full transition to civilian rule.

Then comes Israel and Jordan, where the dual crises of Syria and Iran have captured everyone’s attention.


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Filed under: Africa • Egypt • Israel • Jordan • Middle East • Panetta • Pentagon • Tunisia
Clinton predicts Obama re-election; urges Tunisians to ignore campaign rhetoric
February 25th, 2012
01:59 PM ET

Clinton predicts Obama re-election; urges Tunisians to ignore campaign rhetoric

By Kevin Liptak

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sounded a confident note on her boss' reelection prospects in Tunisia Saturday, telling a group of Arab students President Barack Obama would be president for another four years.

"He will be re-elected president,"Clinton said in Tunis. "I think that will be a very clear signal to the entire world as to what our values area and what our president believes."

Clinton was responding to a question from a Tunisian student named Ivan, who asked about the staunch pro-Israel stance nearly every American politician, both Republican and Democrat, espouse when they're running for office.

Click here for the full story.

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Filed under: Diplomacy • Hillary Clinton • Middle East • Tunisia
Islam, democracy at heart of crucial Tunisian vote
Posters of candidates cover a wall in Tunis ahead of the October 23 election.
October 18th, 2011
07:48 AM ET

Islam, democracy at heart of crucial Tunisian vote

By Tim Lister, CNN

The people of Tunisia, who lit the fuse for protests that have ignited the Arab world, cast their votes for a constituent assembly this weekend. Ahead of this critical vote, one online video has come to represent a stark choice about the future of the country.

The video is part of a guerrilla war between secular and Islamist groups waged through social media. It says much about a climate of growing suspicion and mistrust in the first Arab country to expel the old order - a climate that has already led to bouts of violence.

Against a background of melancholic music, the 45-second video entitled "The Day After" shows a woman sitting on a sofa with her two daughters. She speaks as if Islamist groups have taken power and says her husband "told me they could be trusted. I believed and I followed."

Then she adds: "After a few months, they changed the law. He married two other women. ... I forfeited my family's happiness. ...I betrayed my daughters' futures."

Tunisian Islamists have responded by posting their own version of the video - with a very different twist to the woman's words.

"I was told, 'Be careful, pick any party except them. They're backward,'" says the dubbed version. The woman speaks of Tunisia as a police state. "They even came to my office to tell me, 'You either take off this rag off your head or quit your job'" - a reference to whether women would be allowed to wear the veil in public in a secular Tunisia. Under the old regime, women wearing headscarves often found it difficult to find employment. FULL POST

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Filed under: Tunisia