March 1st, 2011
07:30 PM ET

U.S. reviewing diplomatic ties with Libya

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2011/POLITICS/03/01/libya.diplomatic.ties/story.US.ties.Libya.gi.jpg caption="Libyan demonstrators in Washington on Tuesday display the pre-Gadhafi Libyan flag." width=300 height=169]

Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott

Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration is considering whether it should cut diplomatic ties with Libya, a senior U.S. official told CNN on Tuesday.

"Whether to maintain relations or sever them is under review," the official said.

Cutting ties would send a strong message that the United States no longer considers the government of Moammar Gadhafi to be legitimate.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both said in recent days that Gadhafi has lost his legitimacy to rule the Libyan people and should leave power.

According to the senior U.S. official, the last high-level communication with Gadhafi's government was last week, when Clinton spoke with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa.

However, the official also said there was "still some utility" in reserving channels of communication with the Gadhafi government, noting that some American citizens remain in Libya and there could be a need to talk to Libyan officials about humanitarian activity.

"There may be instructions one has to give to Libya depending on what happens going forward," the official said.

The official added that the United States still considered Ali Aujali to be the legitimate Libyan ambassador to the United States, even after the Gadhafi regime notified Washington that Aujali no longer represented its interests.

Last week, Aujali said he no longer represented the regime because of Gadhafi's brutal repression against the Libyan people. But he said he still represented the Libyan people and told the State Department he would remain a liaison to the Libyan opposition.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Elise Labott • Jill Dougherty • Raw Politics
January 6th, 2010
10:39 AM ET

U.S. lowers threshold for watch lists

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/TRAVEL/01/05/terrorism.watch.list/story.passenger.checking.afp.gi.jpg caption="CNN has learned the U.S. government has loosened the criteria that it takes to be put on a no-fly list." width=300 height=169]

Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

The U.S. government has lowered the threshold for information deemed important enough to put suspicious individuals on a watch list or no-fly list, or have their visa revoked, senior State Department officials tell CNN.

The government overhauled criteria it uses for putting possible terrorists on such lists as a result of the failed Christmas Day attack, officials said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the material

Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian who allegedly launched the failed attack, was not put on a no-fly list. That's because the information his father provided a U.S. embassy about his son becoming radicalized and possibly going to Yemen did not meet then-applicable standards to put him on such a list or to cancel his visa.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: Airline Safety • Elise Labott
December 22nd, 2009
12:36 PM ET

World powers discuss next steps against Iran

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/12/14/iran.nuclear/t1larg.nuclear.facility.cam.afp.gi.jpg caption="A camera, right, installed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, monitors a nuclear facility in Isfahan, Iran, in February 2007." width=300 height=169]

Elise Labott

World powers are discussing next steps against Iran if it fails to meet a year-end deadline for addressing international concern over its nuclear program, the White House and State Department said Tuesday.

Top officials from the so-called P5 plus one – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the US held a conference call Tuesday to discuss possible sanctions against Iran, Assistant Secretary PJ Crowley told reporters.

Crowley said the powers were "united its resolve that Iran must either answer the questions that we have about its nuclear aspirations or face additional pressure" and that Washington would "consulting broadly across the international community in the coming days and weeks" about its options.

In October the powers offered Iran a deal to send most of its low-enriched uranium abroad for conversion into fuel for a medical reactor in Tehran.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that time is running out for Iran to accept the deal, nothing the major international powers who offered the deal urged Iran to accept it.

"The decision for them to live up to their responsibilities is their decision," said Gibbs. "We have offered them a different path. If they decide not to take it, then the (major powers) will move accordingly."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad dismissed the deal, telling Iranians at a speech in the Southern city of Shiraz that the international community can give Iran "as many deadlines as they want, we don't care." Ahmadinejad also accused the US of fabricating a document said to detail Iranian plans for critical components of a nuclear device.

Gibbs countered his defiance, saying the international community was prepared to take additional steps if the year-end deadline comes and goes without any Iranian action.

"Mr.. Ahmadinejad may not recognize, for whatever reason, the deadline that looms, but that is a very real deadline to the international community," Gibbs said.

Filed under: Elise Labott • Iran • Nuclear Weapons
November 13th, 2009
01:15 PM ET

Gitmo Stats: Detainees to be transferred out of the U.S.

Editor's Note: Five Guantanamo Bay detainees with alleged ties to the 9/11 conspiracy, including accused mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will be transferred to New York to go on trial in civilian court, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday.

Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott

A senior administration official spoke with CNN’s Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott about the resettlement of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

Here are some stats about Gitmo detainees and their transfers.

1. When President Obama took office there were 242 detainees at Guantanamo. Now there are 215. Of those, 115 have been approved for transfer.


October 26th, 2009
10:23 PM ET

Kerry treads middle ground on Afghanistan

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/10/20/afghanistan.us.role/art.kerrykarzai.gi.jpg caption="Sen. John Kerry, left, coordinated his discussions with President Hamid Karzai with Washington, sources say."]

Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

Fresh from a trip to Afghanistan, Senator John Kerry warned against a narrowing of the US mission there, but suggested a plan by the commanding US general in the country is overly ambitious.

In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned a major US troop pullout could trigger a civil war could between the Taliban and the Afghan goverment and destabilize neighboring Pakistan.

He rejected the idea of a small-scale counter-terror campaign advocated by Vice President Joseph Biden, saying it was no substitute for the wider ongoing military campaign

But he also would not endorse a major troop increase as proposed by General Stanley McChrystal, saying the general's request for 40,000 troops "reaches too far too fast."

Kerry just returned from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he played a key role in persuading Afghan President Hamid Karzai to accept a runoff election after his election victory was found to be the result of widespread voter fraud.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Afghanistan • Elise Labott
October 20th, 2009
11:45 PM ET

Behind-the-scenes: Clinton and Karzai

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/10/19/afghanistan.election.fraud/art.commission.afp.gi.jpg caption="Workers of the Afghan Election Commission check ballots in Kabul earlier this month. "]

Elise Labott
CNN State Department producer

-While Senator John Kerry is getting most of the praise from the White House for convincing Afghan President Hamid Karzai to accept an election runoff, senior State Department officials say Secretary Clinton also spent hours on the phone with Karzai, Kerry, US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and others both in Washington and in the region to bring about the result.

-Officials say when they realized Kerry was going to the region, Clinton and Special Representative Richard Holbrooke discussed how he could be a useful actor. Holbrooke briefed Kerry for two hours.

-Before Senator Kerry arrived in Afghanistan Secretary Clinton called Karzai and his chief rival, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. Secretary Clinton and President Karzai had what is described as a "very honest, wide ranging 40 minute conversation" where she laid out why it was important for him to accept the runoff. She made it clear the road ahead with the international community, particularly the U.S. would be more difficult if he didn't accept it.

-In this discussion, Karzai laid out hs concerns. Clinton also drew on her own political experience in the conversations, something she regularly does in her discussions with leaders.


Filed under: Afghanistan • Elise Labott • Hillary Clinton
October 20th, 2009
08:30 PM ET

Behind-the-scenes: Kerry’s Shuttle Diplomacy

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/10/20/afghanistan.us.role/art.kerrykarzai.gi.jpg caption="Sen. John Kerry, left, coordinated his discussions with President Hamid Karzai with Washington, sources say."]

Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

- When Senator John Kerry arrived in Kabul Friday on a long scheduled visit he was told by U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry that there was a crisis brewing with President Karzai over the election. The concern was that Karzai was going to denounce the preliminary results based on the Election Complaint Commission’s audit showing that Karzai received less than 50 percent of the vote after fraudulent ballots were discounted. The Ambassador was worried that Karzai's declaration would throw the country into an extended period of uncertainty and severely complicate US efforts in Afghanistan.

- After having dinner with U.S. troops, at the request of Ambassador Eikenberry, Senator Kerry made an unplanned visit to the palace to meet with President Karzai, which lasted for several hours. The two men agreed that Kerry would return to the palace to see Karzai on early Saturday afternoon, at which point Senator Kerry cut short a trip to Jalalabad.

- Saturday morning, Senator Kerry met with Karzai’s chief rival, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Afghanistan • Elise Labott
October 9th, 2009
05:30 PM ET

State Department on Nobel Prize: better to be thrown accolades than shoes

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/WORLD/meast/12/16/shoe.reporter.profile/art.shoes.bush.afp.gi.jpg caption="President Bush, left, ducks a shoe as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki tries to protect him."]

Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

"Certainly from our standpoint this gives us a sense of momentum when the United States has accolades tossed its way rather than shoes."

That's the take of Hillary Clinton's State Department on President Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, according to her spokesman, Assistant Secretary PJ Crowley.

Crowley was referring to an incident last December, when an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during his final visit to Iraq during his administration.


October 9th, 2009
05:20 PM ET

U.S.-Pakistan relationship like uneasy marriage

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/10/08/clinton.europe.russia/art.clinton.gi.jpg]

Elise Labott

CNN State Department Producer

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made the rounds in Washington just as President Obama's national security team shifted its attention to Pakistan.

This week Secretary of Defense Williams Gates called the Afghan border with Pakistan the "epicenter of jihad." And the renewed focus on Pakistan suggests that Obama has a new role for Pakistan in the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

After all, in developing a strategy for "Afpak," Obama acknowledged the United States cannot win in Afghanistan without cooperation from Pakistan, the suspected hideout of Obama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders.

Which is why the buzzword of both Qureshi and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week was "partnership," as in the United States and Pakistan are united in a "strategic partnership" against a common enemy.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: Elise Labott • Hillary Clinton • Pakistan • Robert Gates
September 25th, 2009
01:48 PM ET

Food security and a kiss for Bill and Hillary Clinton

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/25/art.clinton.kiss.jpg]

Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

America’s preeminent political power couple made a rare joint appearance Friday, when Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton took the stage at the former President’s Clinton Global Initiative.

“I want to begin by expressing my extreme indebtedness to the Clinton global initiative, to all of you who participated, for giving me the first chance I have had in a week to see Hillary,” the former president told the audience of social activists and business leaders at the closing session of CGI, a week long conference designed to find solutions to global problems through public and private partnerships.

Secretary of State Hilly Clinton was at the session to unveil a new State Department initiative on food security.

As he introduced her President Clinton was effusive in his praise for his wife, saying that Hillary’s approach to food security, helping farmers around the world grow their own food to earn income and alleviate poverty, was much smarter than the decades-long policy of simply giving humanitarian aid and food to countries.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Bill Clinton • Elise Labott • Hillary Clinton
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