As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits down with his Russian counterpart Friday for a second day of talks about a possible diplomatic solution on Syria, he faces a proverbial standoff with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
Imagine two men facing one another holding guns. One says: You drop yours first, then I'll drop mine. The second answers: No, you drop yours first.
Al-Assad demanded on Thursday that the United States call off any potential strike on Syrian government forces before he gives up his large chemical weapons arsenal.
But Kerry made it clear that the threat of a U.S. military strike remains on the table, if Syria does not hand over its stockpiles.
A terror threat prompted the State Department on Thursday to direct its embassies in key Middle East nations, including Egypt and Israel, to close on Sunday with the possibility they could remain idle longer.
A U.S. official not authorized to speak publicly on the matter called the threat "credible and serious."
It was "directed at American targets overseas," but may not be confined to main diplomatic facilities, the official said.FULL STORY
The politics of oil and ecology have put President Obama between a rock and hard place, as he faces a decision on whether or not to permit construction of a new pipeline. The squeeze just got tighter with a new, negative environmental assessment.
The Keystone XL pipeline will give America energy independence, thousands of jobs, important industrial infrastructure and won't cost taxpayers a dime, say proponents. Many of them are Republican lawmakers.
It is dangerous, inherently filthy and must be stopped, say opponents, some of whom are Democrats who helped get the president elected.FULL STORY
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday took on Republican congressional critics of her department's handling of the deadly September terrorist attack in Libya.
Conservative GOP members challenged Clinton on the lack of security at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi as well as the erroneous account that the attack grew spontaneously from a protest over an anti-Islam film produced in the United States.
At two hearings, which together totaled more than five hours, Clinton acknowledged a "systemic breakdown" cited by an independent review of issues leading up to the armed assault and said her department was taking additional steps to increase security at U.S. diplomatic facilities.
Here are five things we learned from the hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees.
Here are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's prepared remarks for a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday morning:
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member, members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity.
The terrorist attacks in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 that claimed the lives of four brave Americans - Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty - are part of a broader strategic challenge to the United States and our partners in North Africa. Today, I want to offer some context for this challenge and share what we’ve learned, how we are protecting our people, and where we can work together to honor our fallen colleagues and continue to champion America’s interests and values.
Four people were injured Saturday after a flash fire broke out in the ductwork of the State Department building in Washington, fire officials said.
One person was in a "life-threatening condition" and two others were in serious but non-life threatening condition at Washington Hospital Center, authorities said. The fourth person fell from a ladder and hurt his knee.
The fire broke out after 11 a.m., as construction crews were working on the premises, and was extinguished on short order, said Lon Walls, a spokesman for Washington's fire department.FULL STORY
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday applauded India's efforts to reduce its imports of Iranian oil but urged it to cut them further to keep pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.
"We think India as a country understands the importance of trying to use diplomacy to resolve these difficult threats and is certainly working toward lowering their purchases of Iranian oil," Clinton said in Kolkata, the first stop on her visit to India. "We commend the steps they've taken thus far and hope they will do even more."
The United States and other Western countries are using economic pressure on Iran, particularly on its oil industry, to try to push Tehran into halting its nuclear program.
They have encouraged Asian countries like India, Japan and South Korea - key consumers of Iranian oil - to cut back their purchases.
U.S. officials say India has lowered the amount of oil it buys from Iran in recent months. But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government is also wrestling with stubbornly high inflation and is wary of provoking upward pressure on prices.FULL STORY
Sam LaHood, a senior representative of the U.S. International Republican Institute and the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, has been prevented from leaving Egypt, State Department officials said Thursday.
LaHood, who directs the International Republican Institute's office in Egypt, went to the Cairo airport on Saturday to fly somewhere "in the region," said an institute official with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
An airport official told him he was banned from traveling outside Egypt, the official said, though LaHood was not told why.
The incident comes amid heightened tensions between Egyptian authorities and several international non-governmental organizations that work in Egypt.FULL STORY
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin blamed the United States Thursday for encouraging opposition protests that have broken out since parliamentary elections Sunday.
His accusation followed comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week on Russia's election in which she called for a "full investigation" of apparent irregularities.
The United States had "serious concerns about the conduct of the election," she said, at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe Tuesday.
Speaking on state TV, Putin said Clinton had criticized the elections as "neither fair not free - even before receiving reports from international observers."
This had sent a signal to opposition figures, Putin said, who "with the support of the U.S. State Department" then began "active work."FULL STORY
President Obama will address the nation on U.S. policy in the Middle East and North Africa, and CNN.com Live will carry his remarks when they happen.
Today's programming highlights...
8:30 am ET - Casey Anthony trial - Jury selection in Anthony's trial ended abruptly Wednesday, and speculation is growing as to why. Court is scheduled to resume this morning.
An American man has been detained by North Korean authorities, two State Department officials told CNN.
The State Department is working with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongang, the North Korean capital, the officials said. The Swedes have been granted consular access to the man and have visited him, the officials said. The Swedes are asking for regular visits, the officials said.
Sweden represents America's interests in North Korea because the United States and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations.
The sources declined to provide additional information because of privacy concerns.FULL STORY
One budget battle appears to be over, but two more economic fights are coming to a head. Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of the economic conflict in Washington.
Today's programming highlights...
9:30 am ET - Wartime contracting hearing - The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan meets to discuss whether the federal government can learn from non-governmental organization in creating more effective and less costly federal contracting.
Turmoil in Libya – It's Day 10 of anti-government protests in Libya. There were bloody clashes Thursday between security forces and demonstrators in Zawiya, a town west of the capital, Tripoli. Seven people have died there, witnesses said. "Blood is all over the streets," a mother told CNN, saying her son had been shot. A witness said the violence began when people who support leader Moammar Gadhafi came into the city square and encountered those who are protesting his ouster.
Speaking by phone Thursday on state TV, Gadhafi blamed the country's violence on young people, who he said were taking drugs and being influenced by al Qaeda. Addressing the situation in Zawiya, he said, "We shouldn't leave (the town) without any control."
As the protests in Egypt reach Day 7, CNN takes a look back at how they have unfolded.
On the heels of anti-government demonstrations in Tunisia, thousands of protesters spilled into the streets of Egypt in a rare display of anti-government outcry. CNN reporters on the scene witnessed throngs of people in Cairo march from Tahrir Square to the parliament building. Demonstrators threw rocks at police, who threw them back and shot tear gas at the protesters, who also reciprocated.
While Egypt estimated that there were 5,000 to 10,000 protesters, CNN estimated that the demonstration peaked at 15,000 to 20,000 protesters.
The protest's organizers said they wanted to mirror the uprising in Tunisia, which 10 days prior had precipitated the end of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year rule. Before the protests in Cairo, several Egyptians set themselves or tried to set themselves on fire earlier in the month, which also was reminiscent of Tunisia, where a man's self-immolation spurred the uprising.
The Egyptian protesters - who included young and old, Christians and Muslims, students, workers and businesspeople - said they were angry over the cost of living, failed economic policies and corruption. They demanded that President Hosni Mubarak, in power for three decades, follow the lead of Tunisia's president.
"We breathe corruption in the air," said one demonstrator.
At day's end, three protesters in the port city of Suez and a police officer in Cairo were killed. Forty-nine people were injured, according to news reports.
Egypt, Day 7 – Demonstrators continue to demand that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak step down, and CNN.com's "This Just In" is live, blogging developments as they happen. While Americans were waking up Monday, thousands in Cairo defied a midafternoon government curfew despite a greater military presence on the street. Many in the city's Tahrir Square said they spent the night there. In Alexandria, 2,000 to 3,000 people gathered, and an armored personnel carrier fired warning shots in an apparent effort to intimidate protesters near a hotel.
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department said 42 Americans have been evacuated from Egypt and more will be transported. Read about their journey. The recent Tunisian uprising helped inspire the Egyptian unrest following the buildup of years of social, political and economic grievances. The lack of opportunities, corruption and poverty have coalesced into a push to oust Mubarak from power.
The negative effect protests have had on U.S. stocks may be waning, but world markets are not doing as well. So what's next? Are you in Egypt? Send your story to CNN's iReport. To read all of CNN's Egypt coverage in Arabic, click here.
Snow and more snow – A major winter storm likely will begin near Oklahoma City late Monday and then move east. Chicago and St. Louis may get record snow. "Combined snow totals from Monday afternoon through Wednesday may exceed a foot and a half across much of northern Illinois and far northwest Indiana," the National Weather Service said. "Snowfall rates up to 3 inches per hour will be probable at the height of the storm Tuesday night."
The storm is expected to hit the East Coast on Thursday.
Dietary guidelines to target salt – The U.S. government is trying to get people to eat healthier. New guidelines will be released Monday. The main message: Eat less salt. Other recommendations include telling people to consume less sugar and solid fats and eat more seafood, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
SAG Awards – The Screen Actors Guild Awards are considered to be an indicator of who will take home Oscar. If that's true, it's good news for "The King's Speech," which took home honors for star Colin Firth and best movie ensemble. Everyone is talking about Betty White, who looked stunned to win the best female actor in a TV comedy series for "Hot in Cleveland." Here is a full list of Sunday night's winners.
Militants fanned out across Beirut and reportedly staged coup drills as political unrest continued to percolate in the country, Lebanese and Israeli media outlets reported.
Operatives from Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite groups, gathered in groups of up to 30 at a dozen strategic points in the Lebanese capital Tuesday, The Jerusalem Post said. Included were sea ports, the airport and entries to the city, the newspaper reported.
Though Ghaleb Abu Zeinab, a member of Hezbollah’s political bureau, told The Post he wasn’t aware of any such drills, parents pulled their children from school after seeing people dressed in black and carrying hand-held radios.
A mother of three picking up her children in the Hamra area of the capital said the school contacted her “because the security situation is not good,” The Daily Star in Beirut reported.
One gathering was about 400 yards from the Grand Serall, downtown Beirut’s government seat, forcing security officials to close the roads to the building, The Post said. The men were unarmed and no trouble was reported, according to various media.
Sources told The Daily Star that the men appeared well-organized and were seen in west Beirut, downtown and in the southern suburb of Hadath.
The drill came as Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan sat down for talks with Lebanese politicians, including Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, aimed at heading off sectarian strife in the country, The Daily Star reported.
The first lady of Zimbabwe has filed a defamation suit demanding $15 million from a newspaper that quoted a 2008 diplomatic cable alleging she profited from the illegal diamond trade.
The Standard, a Harare-based Sunday newspaper, this week quoted WikiLeaks-released U.S. cables saying rumors that Mugabe and Gideon Gono, the Reserve Bank governor, were profiting off of the diamonds are true.
In short, the paper alleged the cables show that Gono made thousands of dollars each month off diamond dealing and funneled money to Mugabe, her sister-in-law and members of Zimbabwe’s ruling party.
“The diamonds that are sold to regime members and elites are sold for freshly printed Zimbabwean notes issued by the (Reserve Bank),” The Standard quoted British mining executive Andrew Cranswick as saying in a 2008 document.
According to Britain’s The Guardian, the Marange district of Zimbabwe has been the “scene of a frenzied diamond rush in recent years.”
In court papers, Mugabe called the allegations printed in The Standard false and malicious and said they damaged her credibility, Al-Jazeera reported.
“Whatever it prints is regarded as gospel truth by those people in Zimbabwe and abroad,” the network quoted court documents as saying.
Mugabe, in the past, has been the subject of media reports questioning her lavish tastes as first lady of a country where inflation has soared and a majority of citizens live below the poverty line.
Reaction to diplomat's death – Richard Holbrooke, 69, who spearheaded the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the Bosnian war, died three days after surgery to repair a torn aorta.
Assange in court – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will reapply for bail at a court hearing Tuesday in London as protesters gathered outside the court demanding his release.
The U.S. Senate should open debate Monday on a tax compromise reached by President Obama and Republicans, but some Democrats in the House want to change the deal, one of the party's leaders said. Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the package will get a House vote despite a threat by Democrats to prevent it from reaching the floor. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released the first version of legislation on the negotiated deal. The package combines extended Bush-era tax cuts with extended unemployment benefits, tax breaks and a payroll tax holiday intended to bolster a sluggish recovery from an economic recession.
U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke remains critically ill at George Washington University Hospital after undergoing surgery to repair a tear in his aorta, senior White House adviser David Axelrod said Sunday.
Appearing on the CNN program "State of the Union," Axelrod called Holbrooke, the Obama administration's special representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan, "a very tough person" who was "fighting" the heart problem.
"Many people would have succumbed," Axelrod said of the rupture.