Hillary Rodham Clinton

Egypt raids foreign organizations’ offices in crackdown

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Three U.S. groups are among those raided. Activists say the army is using the ruse of foreign intervention to stoke nationalism and deflect criticism of abuses.

Egyptian security forces raid  nongovernmental organizations in Cairo.

Egyptian security forces raid a nongovernmental organization in Cairo on Dec. 29, 2011. Troops and police officers swept into offices, interrogated workers and seized computers in what was seen as a bid to intimidate international organizations. (Mohammed Asad, Associated Press / December 29, 2011)

By Jeffrey Fleishman and Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times December 29, 2011 2:56 p.m.

Egyptian security forces on Thursday raided the offices of 17 nongovernmental organizations, including three U.S.-based agencies, as part of a crackdown on foreign assistance that has drawn criticism from the West and threatened human rights groups and pro-democracy movements.

The move appeared to be part of a strategy to intimidate international organizations. The ruling military council has repeatedly blamed “foreign hands” for exploiting Egypt’s political and economic turmoil. But activists said the army was using the ruse of foreign intervention to stoke nationalism and deflect criticism of abuses.

The military’s actions angered Washington at a time the White House is pressuring Egypt to respect civil liberties. But the Egyptian military has been increasingly agitated by democracy advocates and protests that have gripped the nation. Clashes last week between demonstrators and soldiers ended in the deaths of at least 15 people. Read the rest of this entry »

U.S. virtual embassy blocked by Iran net censor

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Iran ElectionsTEHRAN | Wed Dec 7, 2011 5:51pm EST

TEHRAN

(Reuters) –

Iranian authorities blocked a website Wednesday hours after it was launched by the U.S. State Department to be a “virtual embassy” reaching out to people in the Islamic Republic.

“In accordance with the cybercrime law, access to this website is not possible,” read a notice to anyone inside Iran trying to visit iran.usembassy.gov.

The semi-official Fars news agency commented on the blocking of the U.S. website, saying, “A decisive reaction by Iranian authorities has neutralized another sly plot by the Americans.”

The “Virtual Embassy Tehran” website — which makes clear it does not offer consular services — is an attempt by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to give Iranians a sympathetic view of the United States, which is referred to as “the Great Satan” by Tehran’s ruling elite.

The White House condemned the effort by Tehran to control “what the Iranian people see and hear,” and said it remained committed to engaging in dialogue with the Iranian people.

“Through this action, the Iranian government has once again demonstrated its commitment to build an electronic curtain of surveillance and censorship around its people,” it said.

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U.S. Launches ‘Virtual’ Embassy For Iran

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Opposition supporters in Tehran rally, despite an official ban, on the anniversary in 2009 of the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, when U.S.-Iranian ties were severed.

The United States has launched what it’s billing as a “virtual Iranian embassy” in an effort to engage with that country more than three decades after the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was closed and diplomatic relations were cut with Iran.

The project’s stated aim is to “enhance outreach and dialogue between the American and Iranian people.” A message by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in English and in Persian, welcomes users to the site. Clinton says she hopes it will provide an opportunity for citizens of the two countries “to communicate openly and without fear.”

“Because the United States and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, we have missed some important opportunities for dialogue with you, the citizens of Iran,” Clinton says. “But today, we can use new technologies to bridge that gap and promote greater understanding between our two countries, and the peoples of each country, which is why we established this virtual embassy.”

In accompanying text, the State Department explains: “This website is not a formal diplomatic mission, nor does it represent or describe a real U.S. embassy accredited to the Iranian government. But in the absence of direct contact, it can work as a bridge between the American and Iranian people.”

Direct contact between Americans and Iranians has been lacking since 1979, the year of Iran’s Islamic revolution and the taking of 52 American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Since then, the embassy — dubbed a “nest of spies” by Iranian revolutionaries — has been closed and Washington has relied on the Swiss government to represent its diplomatic interests in the country.

For much of that time, Washington has been challenging, and sanctioning, Tehran over its secretive nuclear program, which the United States and many international critics claim is hiding a weapons program. Iran insists its nuclear activities are peaceful. Read the rest of this entry »

Syrian Resistance Increases Along With Efforts To Unite It

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Antigovernment activists gesticulate as they gather on the streets of Deraa, Syria.

By Dorian Jones
ISTANBUL — Efforts to unite the Syrian opposition in their struggle against President Bashar al-Assad‘s regime are intensifying. But for that to happen a number of political and ideological differences must be overcome.U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will get a firsthand view of the status of the Syrian opposition on December 6 in Geneva, where she will meet with a group of seven Syrian exiles to discuss the situation in their homeland.

Among those assembled will be representatives of the Syrian National Council (SNC), an umbrella organization of Syrian opposition groups — most of them based outside Syria — that calls for direct international intervention and the creation of safe havens for the opposition.

Noticeably absent will be representatives of the Damascus-based National Coordinating Committee (NCC), made up of opposition groups inside Syria itself and staunchly opposed to outside intervention or the use of violence against the Assad regime.

Abdul Aziz al-Khair, a spokesman for the National Coordinating Committee, told RFE/RL that the group was approached by a British Foreign Office intermediary and invited to attend the meeting with Clinton, but declined the offer. Khair, who claimed he was “disappointed,” said only a formal invitation from the secretary of state would be acceptable.

A Developing Relationship

The meeting comes a week after the SNC held formal talks in Turkey with the Syrian Free Army, an armed rebel group that is taking on Assad’s forces on Syrian soil. Read the rest of this entry »

Firebombs thrown in 2nd night of protests in Moscow

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AP Photo
AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev

MOSCOW (AP) — Firebombs have been thrown at a protest rally in downtown Moscow pitting demonstrators denouncing alleged vote fraud in parliamentary elections against hundreds of pro-Kremlin youths.

An Associated Press reporter saw at least two firebombs thrown into a crowd of pro-Kremlin demonstrators gathered outside the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall on Tuesday night. It was not immediately clear who had thrown the incendiary devices or if they caused any injuries.

Police moved in quickly on the gathering.

The concert hall is adjacent to a square where anti-government protesters had earlier tried to gather, but were broken up by police. Moscow police spokesman Maxim Kolosvetov said about 250 people had been detained.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

MOSCOW (AP) – Police clashed Tuesday on a central Moscow square with demonstrators trying to hold a second day of protests against alleged vote fraud in Russia’s parliamentary elections.

Hundreds of police had blocked off Triumphal Square on Tuesday evening, then began chasing about 100 demonstrators, seizing some and throwing them harshly into police vehicles.

Pro-government United Russia supporters also rallied late Tuesday at Revolution Square near the Kremlin. State television footage showed a crowd appearing to number in the thousands.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party saw a significant drop in support in Sunday’s election but it will still have a majority in parliament. Opponents say even that watered-down victory was due to massive vote fraud.

In neighboring Lithuania, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton again criticized the Russian election and urged that widespread reports of voting fraud be investigated.

Some Moscow demonstrators Tuesday shouted “Putin is a crook and a thief!” referring both to the alleged election fraud and to widespread complaints that United Russia is one of the prime reasons for Russia’s endemic corruption.

Among the detained was Boris Nemtsov, a leader of the liberal opposition, along with prominent radical Eduard Limonov and Oleg Orlov, head of the renowned human rights group Memorial, the Interfax news agency reported.

Hundreds of young men with emblems of United Russia’s youth wing, the Young Guards, also gathered on the outskirts of the square and tauntingly chanted “Putin victory!”

Large crowds also gathered on a square in St. Petersburg, visibly outnumbering police, a Danish election observer reported.

United Russia won slightly less than 50 percent of Sunday’s vote, according to nearly complete preliminary results. Although that gives the party an absolute majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, it is a significant drop from the 2007 election when the party got a two-thirds majority, enough to change the constitution unchallenged.

Yet Sunday’s election results reflected public fatigue with Putin’s authoritarian streak and with official corruption in Russia, signaling that his return to the presidency in next March’s election may not be as trouble-free as he expected.

Putin, meanwhile, called his party’s reduced number of seats in Sunday’s parliamentary election an “inevitable” result of voters always being dissatisfied with the party in power. Putin also dismissed allegations of corruption among his United Russia party members, calling it a “cliche” that the party had to fight.

United Russia party won slightly less than 50 percent of Sunday’s vote, according to nearly complete preliminary results. Although that gives the party an absolute majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, it is a significant drop from the 2007 election when the party got a two-thirds majority, enough to change the constitution unchallenged. Read the rest of this entry »

With Launches In Balkans and Beyond, Al-Jazeera Building New Spheres Of Influence

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Al-Jazeera is promoting itself as the Balkans only regional broadcaster

Mirna Sadikovic November 26, 2011

Until recently, the Al-Jazeera satellite television network had been best known to global audiences as a worldwide provider of news programming in Arabic and English.
But this month, the Qatar-based company went regional, launching a station broadcasting in local languages in the Balkans, with headquarters based in Bosnia-Herzegovina‘s capital Sarajevo. And its growth is set to continue, with similar channels planned for Turkey and East Africa.
Al-Jazeera Balkans (AJB), which debuted November 11, offers six hours of daily programming to all of the countries of the former Yugoslavia, promoting itself as the Balkans’ only “regional” broadcaster. (RFE/RL’s Balkans Service offers national and regional radio programming in Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia, in addition to national coverage in Kosovo and Macedonia.)
In style and content, AJB offers the same sleek production values and in-depth investigative programs as its parent company, and taps frequently into the vast network of far-flung field reporters that have become Al-Jazeera’s calling card.
‘The People Will Come As Well’
The Balkans, a virtual minefield of linguistic nuance and historical tensions, might have seemed a surprising choice for a glossy, far-sighted network like Al-Jazeera, which is owned by the oil-rich state of Qatar and has an operating budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
But Goran Milic, a respected Balkan broadcaster who serves as AJB’s chief editor, argues the region’s gradual integration into Europe makes it a sound business investment for its minders in Doha. Read the rest of this entry »

Terrorism Concerns on U.S.-India Agenda

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July 20, 2011

Author: Jayshree Bajoria, Senior Staff Writer

Clinton shakes hands with India’s Foreign Minister Krishna before their meeting in New Delhi. (B. Mathur/Courtesy Reuters)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in India for the second round of the U.S.-India Strategic dialogue, discussed a laundry list of issues, from defense, trade, and civil nuclear cooperation, to women’s empowerment, education, and innovation.

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