The Obama administration ratcheted up pressure on Syria Tuesday, as the regime intensified its bloody crackdown on protesters.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with a group of U.S.-based Syrian activists and opposition figures at the State Department in an effort to further the diplomatic isolation of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad over his fierce security crackdown on peaceful protests across Syria.
The Secretary wanted to personally "express her sympathy to the victims of the Assad regime," Deputy State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner said.
Clinton's first meeting with the Syrian opposition comes as the US prepares a fresh round of sanctions against the Syrian regime. Senior State Department officials said the Obama administration was on the verge of imposing new measures against the Syrian oil and gas sectors, which the regime uses to help finance its security forces.
As international aid organizations struggle to save lives amidst what U.S. officials term "staggering" hunger on the Horn of Africa, the United States is hoping to ease some political concerns.
New U.S. guidance is aimed at assuring those organizations that they will not be prosecuted for providing aid that might fall into the hands of Al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda-affiliated militant group.
"We are seeking to reassure our humanitarian assistance partners they need not fear prosecution under (U.S. Treasury) regulations as long as they are engaged in good-faith efforts to provide food to people in need," a senior administration official said Tuesday.
Al-Shabaab, which controls two of the hardest-hit areas of Somalia, has been taxing, imposing tolls on and diverting aid that non-governmental organizations are struggling to get to those in need, creating a dilemma for those groups. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Al-Shabaab in 2008, and non-governmental organizations that pay those taxes, up to now, have been open to prosecution for violating those sanctions.
The Obama administration is proposing rules to govern the sale and transfer of ammonium nitrate, a potentially explosive substance that was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and reportedly was a component in the July bomb attack on a government building in Oslo, Norway.
The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday announced proposed rules for an Ammonium Nitrate Security Program which would affect anyone who buys at least 25 pounds of the material. Those who want to buy or sell ammonium nitrate would be required to register with the federal government and their names would be run against the FBI's Terrorist Screening Database of known or suspected terrorists.
Compiled by CNN's Tim Lister
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War-torn Mogadishu is under threat from the famine and drought which is sweeping through parts of Somalia. CNN's Nima Elbagir is embedded with the African Union peace-keeping forces (Amisom) in the capital and traveled to the frontline where the conflict is most heated to file this exclusive report. Nima learned that the Amisom Force Commander says the Shabaab insurgents are receiving shipments of weapons from extremists in Yemen.