Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the U.S. remains "deeply concerned" about the hostages still in danger at a gas field in Algeria. And she's already expressed her condolences to the families of those who have died.
But how many are dead and how many survived still isn't known, CNN’s Jill Dougherty reports.
By Jill Dougherty
In order for its offensive against Islamists in Mali to succeed, France needs the assistance of the United States and other countries, a French official told CNN.
"We really need the help of everybody and when countries such as Morocco and Algeria are opening their skies to our planes," the official said. "That's crucial because that's a mark of full solidarity for our mission - which is needed, it's really needed."
Mali was one of the most successful democracies in Africa until last year, when a coup toppled the president and Islamists capitalized on the chaos by establishing themselves in the north. There, they imposed a strict interpretation of Sharia law by banning music, smoking, drinking and watching sports on television. They also damaged Timbuktu's historic tombs and shrines.
The International Criminal Court has launched a war crimes investigation amid reports that residents have been mutilated and killed for disobeying the Islamists. The United Nations has noted accounts of amputations, floggings and public executions such as the July stoning of a couple who had reportedly had an affair.
By Jill Dougherty
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asked her staff to review security for American diplomats, businesses and citizens in the entire Maghreb and North Africa region, in response to the hostage-taking in Algeria, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday.
"That goes not only for official American security but also the message is being given to American citizens and American businesses," Nuland told reporters at the State Department.
After last year's deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, President Barack Obama ordered a review of security at all U.S. diplomatic facilities. In addition, an independent review board recommended to Clinton security improvements that she has ordered to be implemented. This new review goes beyond diplomatic facilities.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Nuland said, is known for kidnapping and hostage-taking and. "The concern is that groups operating in the region may be trying to do larger scale operations and we want to make sure that any of our citizens and companies operating in the region are reviewing their security practices in light of this."
By Jill Dougherty
On Syria, Russia and the United States agree on one thing: The only way the civil war can be solved is politically with a transitional government.
But there's the rub: the U.S. insists president Bashar al-Assad can't be part of that government; Russia says it's up to the Syrians to decide, but the opposition won't deal with any government that includes al-Assad.
No matter how many meetings Moscow and Washington have, they get hung up on this crucial point. But now U.S. diplomats say they're not waiting. They're trying to foster creation of a transitional government on the ground, even before al-Assad might go. As State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland puts it: "Creating de facto, particularly in liberated areas, the Syria of the future that the Syrian people want."
Nuland describes it as "both a top-down process and a bottom-up process happening at the same time in Syria."
Bottom-up, local coordinating councils are taking over and providing services to residents in towns and villages liberated from government control.
By Jill Dougherty
They don't get much more anti-American than Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
For many Americans, the Latin American president is embodied by his 2006 lashing out at then-U.S. President George W. Bush.
"Yesterday the devil came here and it still smells of sulfur today."
For the United States, the socialist Chavez has been a diplomatic troublemaker ever since he took office for the first time in 1999.
But that doesn't mean the United States has given up on Venezuela. Especially with Chavez - who is undergoing cancer treatment in a Cuban hospital and battling complications - being too sick to attend his own inauguration for a new six-year term.
By Jill Dougherty and Jamie Crawford
Speculation is swirling that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is sicker than the government is letting on and there is some thought the United States may be trying to influence the socialist leader’s transition from power.
Chavez, 58, has not been seen in public since arriving in Cuba for his fourth cancer operation more than three weeks ago.
A top Venezuelan official said on Thursday that Chavez was suffering from a severe lung infection that has caused respiratory failure. The type of cancer he is fighting has not been disclosed and there was no word on his prognosis.
The National Institutes of Health says the outlook for respiratory failure “depends on the severity of its underlying cause, how quickly treatment begins” and overall health of the patient.
By Jill Dougherty
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was discharged from a New York hospital on Wednesday, three days after she was admitted for treatment of a blood clot in a vein between her skull and brain, the State Department announced.
"Her medical team advised her that she is making good progress on all fronts, and they are confident she will make a full recovery," Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines said in a statement announcing her release.
Clinton walked out of New York Presbyterian Hospital accompanied by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and daughter, Chelsea, for a brief period Wednesday afternoon. She had been admitted Sunday, after doctors found the clot during a medical test related to a concussion she suffered in December.
The secretary is being treated with blood thinners to dissolve the clot, which has not resulted in a stroke or any neurological damage. Doctors expect her to make a full recovery.
By Jill Dougherty
Terrorists in Benghazi, Libya, "essentially walked right into the Benghazi compound unimpeded and set it ablaze," a special Senate report on the September 11 attack that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans says.
The bipartisan report, "Flashing Red: A Special Report on the Terrorist Attack at Benghazi," released Monday by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, cites "extremely poor security in a threat environment that was 'flashing red.' "
The State Department comes in for the major portion of blame for failing to respond to, even ignoring, repeated requests from U.S. staff in Benghazi for more security resources, especially more personnel.
The department, the report says, left it to Libyan security personnel to protect U.S. diplomats, even though those guards were unreliable and had "conflicting loyalties," a problem that it says was "deeply troubling, especially since this problem was recognized long before the attack."
From CNN’s Elise Labott and Jill Dougherty
Sen. John Kerry, who sources say has been tapped by President Barack Obama to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, will come to the post with a full plate of foreign policy crises, from the civil war in Syria, to the nuclear antics of North Korea, to a looming showdown with Iran over its nuclear program.
Anybody who follows Clinton would have some pretty big shoes to fill. Clinton was not just the most popular member of the president’s Cabinet for the past four years, she had celebrity status and respect almost everywhere she went around the world.
But as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for almost 30 years, the past four as chairman, Kerry himself is a highly respected figure on the world stage. While Obama is not close to a lot of world leaders, Kerry has deep relationships with many heads of state that he can draw on as the nation’s top diplomat. Sources close to Kerry note that the increasing partisanship on Capitol Hill has disillusioned Kerry and he is ready to leave the Senate.
He is no stranger to diplomacy and has often traveled overseas on behalf of the Obama administration as a diplomatic troubleshooter and to mend frayed relationships. Kerry persuaded Afghan President Hamid Karzai to agree to an election runoff in 2009 and has traveled Pakistan after a series of incidents, including the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
“There are very few people with greater experience over a longer period of time,” notes Nicholas Burns, a former career ambassador who has served every secretary of state since Warren Christopher, and was most recently undersecretary for political affairs under Condoleezza Rice.“He would be a very, very impressive choice."
“You really need someone who is a renaissance person with a tremendous range of skill, both political and substantive, with a deep reservoir of knowledge” Burns said in an interview. “You need someone who can drill several layers deep on foreign policy issues.” FULL POST
By Barbara Starr, Jill Dougherty and Mike Mount
American military satellites picked up and confirmed the infrared signature of four short-range Scud missiles launched from the Damascus area to northern Syria in the past several days, a U.S. official said.
The missiles did not land on the Turkish side of the border but "came close," he said.
The Defense Support Program satellites are programmed to pick up the infrared signature of a man made or natural event.
The official could not be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information.
While not confirming specifics, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the Syrian regime is using more lethal weapons.