Controversy stirs anew over Saudi textbooks with Obama set to visit
March 25th, 2014
08:55 PM ET

Controversy stirs anew over Saudi textbooks with Obama set to visit

President Barack Obama's trip to Saudi Arabia this week comes amid accusations the State Department has hidden the results of a study that concludes textbooks in the Kingdom remain rife with Islamic extremism.

Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, successive U.S. administrations have attempted to curb Saudi indoctrination of students through hateful extremist material in its textbooks.

In addition to teaching the material to its own students, Saudi Arabia runs academies in about 20 countries, which use some of the same texts.

The Kingdom has repeatedly claimed that it has revised its textbooks.

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U.S. readies further sanctions against Russia
March 17th, 2014
07:20 PM ET

U.S. readies further sanctions against Russia

By Elise Labott

The Obama administration has given itself extraordinary tools to sanction any Russian official or any of the leadership’s “cronies” over the crisis in Ukraine.

The question is, will the United States use them?

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Kerry makes 11th-hour push on Ukraine
March 13th, 2014
09:21 PM ET

Kerry makes 11th-hour push on Ukraine

By Elise Labott

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have practically been joined at the hip in the past week or so.

The two met four times last week in Europe and have been in daily phone contact since. But they have failed to reach common ground on how to solve the crisis in Ukraine over Crimea.

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Ukraine impasse stirs U.S.-Russia tensions
March 11th, 2014
01:26 AM ET

Ukraine impasse stirs U.S.-Russia tensions

By Elise Labott

Tensions between the United States and Russia over the crisis in Crimea have exploded into an open row as Russia rejects U.S. diplomatic efforts to solve the impasse.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry postponed a face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss American proposals, which Moscow has effectively rejected, on solving the crisis.

The meeting, which Russia said was supposed to happen Monday, would have marked the highest-level contact between the two countries since Russian troops took up positions in Crimea, and would have come ahead of Sunday's potentially explosive vote on whether Crimea should split from Ukraine and join Russia.

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U.S. to offer $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, officials say
March 4th, 2014
09:49 AM ET

U.S. to offer $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, officials say

The United States will provide Ukraine $1 billion in loan guarantees to help insulate the Ukrainian economy from the effects of reduced energy subsidies from Russia, senior Obama administration officials said.

The loan guarantees will help Ukraine move forward with an assistance package from the International Monetary Fund, which is calling for the country to raise energy prices.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who landed Tuesday in Kiev to show American support for the fledgling Ukrainian government, will announce this diplomatic move and others in Ukraine. FULL POST

February 23rd, 2014
05:37 PM ET

Analysis: U.S. and Russia playing chess or blood sport?

By CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott

President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin went to great lengths to portray their phone call Friday as evidence the two leaders were working together to stabilize the situation in Ukraine.

Absent were the accusations they traded the past two months over the future of the former Soviet republic.

The Obama administration continues to dismiss the notion of a new Cold War with Russia. But the louder their protests, the more apparent the chill has become.

It was on display Saturday in widely differing characterizations of a telephone conversation between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, after news broke that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych left the capital because of what he described as a "coup."

February 19th, 2014
05:46 PM ET

Obama condemns Ukraine violence, warns of consequences

By Elise Labott and Tom Cohen

President Barack Obama condemned the violence in the Ukraine, saying Wednesday the United States expected the government to show restraint against protesters and warning there would be consequences for excessive action.

Later, the United States said it would won't issue visas for 20 senior members of the Ukrainian government and others responsible for the violent crackdown this week in the capital of Kiev, a senior State Department official told reporters on a conference call.

That development came as the Ukrainian government and the opposition announced a truce to allow for negotiations to restart with the aim at stabilizing the situation, the official said.

In Mexico for a summit with the leaders of Canada and the host country, Obama said that "we're going to be watching closely and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protestors."

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U.S. weighs possible sanctions, braces for further violence in Ukraine
February 19th, 2014
05:40 PM ET

U.S. weighs possible sanctions, braces for further violence in Ukraine

By Elise Labott

As the United States puts the finishing touches on possible sanctions against Ukraine, senior Obama administration officials tell CNN they are bracing for the government to intensify its crackdown against anti-government protestors under pressure from Russia.

The officials describe an escalating situation on the ground with both Ukraine and Russia branding the protestors as terrorists. That would suggest the Ukrainian government is planning to impose a state of emergency, giving the military extraordinary powers to further the crackdown.

"Things have gotten very bad," one official said. "The government is speaking in very nasty, aggressive and confrontational terms. It signals they are prepared to do something."

The officials said there was progress over the past week for a political solution, but things soured in recent days since President Viktor Yanukovych met with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi.
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Cuba halts consular services in the U.S.
February 14th, 2014
05:21 PM ET

Cuba halts consular services in the U.S.

By Elise Labott

 
Cuba halted consular services in the United States on Friday because the American bank it was working with is severing their relationship, the Cuban Interests Section said.

 
M&T Bank informed the Interests Section last year it was getting out of the business of providing banking services for diplomatic missions, but agreed to accept Cuban deposits through February 17.

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U.S. seeks answers over arrest of embassy employee in Egypt
February 13th, 2014
04:50 PM ET

U.S. seeks answers over arrest of embassy employee in Egypt

By Elise Labott

Authorities have detained an Egyptian employee of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, State Department officials and Egyptian media reports said, a move likely to further strain already tense relations.

 
Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, confirmed reports the employee in the embassy's political section was detained on January 25 and has been held without charges since.

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