Friday, March 18, 2011

Obama Warns Libya on Allied Action
Doug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Obama ordered Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi on Friday to implement a cease-fire immediately and stop all attacks on Libyan civilians or face military action from the United States and its allies in Europe and the Arab world.
In one of the most forceful statements he has issued from the White House Mr. Obama said that his demands were not negotiable: Colonel Qaddafi had to pull his forces back from major cities in Libya or the United States and its allies would stop him. The president said that he was forced to act because Colonel Qaddafi had turned on his own people and had shown, Mr. Obama said, “no mercy on his own citizens.”
The president said that with the passage on Thursday night of a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing military action against Colonel Qadaffi to protect Libyan civilians, the United States would not act alone, and in fact that France, Britain and Arab nations would take the lead. That is the clear desire of the Pentagon, which has been strongly resistant to another American war in the Middle East. Mr. Obama said flatly that American ground forces would not enter Libya.
“Muammar Qaddafi has a choice,” he said. “The United States, the United Kingdom, France and Arab states agree that a cease-fire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop.”
“Let me be clear, these terms are not negotiable — these terms are not negotiable,” Mr. Obama said in the East Room of the White House. “If Colonel Qaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences. The resolution will be enforced through miitary action.”
He set no deadline and gave no hint when the military action would commence, but said that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would travel to Paris on Saturday to consult with allies on further action. An allied military strike against Libya did not appear to be imminent.
Specifically, Mr. Obama said, Colonel Qaddafi must stop his troops from advancing against the town of Benghazi and pull them back from other cities, and water, electricity and gas supplies must be allowed in, as well as other humanitarian aid.
He spoke as the United States, Britain and France pushed forward against Libya on Friday as they declared that a cease-fire abruptly announced by Colonel Qaddafi’s government was not enough, and as reports came in from the region of continuing attacks in some places.
Mrs. Clinton, echoing remarks hours earlier by Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, said in Washington on Friday morning that the United States would be “not responsive or impressed by words.”‘ She said that the allies would “have to see actions on the ground, and that is not yet at all clear.”
Those actions included, she said, a clear move by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces away from the east, where they were threatening a final assault on the rebels’ stronghold in Benghazi.
Only hours after the United Nations Security Council voted late Thursday to authorize military action and a no-fly zone, Libya executed a remarkable about-face on Friday, saying it would call an “immediate cease-fire and the stoppage of all military operations” against rebels seeking to oust Colonel Qaddafi.
But people fleeing the eastern city of Ajdabiya said government forces were still bombing and conducting other assaults at 4 p.m. local time.
A spokesman for the rebels, Mustafa Gheriani, said that attacks continued against both that city and Misurata, in the west, according to news agency reports. “He’s bombing Misurata and Ajdabiya from 7 a.m. this morning until now,” Mr. Gehriani said, according to The Associated Press.
The announcement of cease-fire came from Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa after Western powers said they were preparing imminent airstrikes to prevent Libyan forces from launching a threatened final assault on Benghazi.
In London, Mr. Cameron told the BBC of Colonel Qaddafi: “We will judge him by his actions, not his words.”
Mr. Cameron told the House of Commons that the British Air Force would deploy Tornado jets and Eurofighter Typhoon warplanes, “as well as air-to-air refueling and surveillance aircraft.”
“Preparations to deploy these have already started, and in the coming hours they will move to airbases from where they can take the necessary action,” Mr. Cameron said.
The Typhoon is a fighter jet armed with air-to-air missiles for shooting down airplanes, as well as laser-guided bombs for targets on the ground. The Tornado is especially well suited for attacking runways — that was its first combat mission, in the Persian Gulf war, when the planes swooped in to bomb runways in Iraq, facing thick anti-aircraft defenses that shot down several of the planes.
In Paris the French foreign ministry spokesman, Bernard Valero, said that Colonel Qaddafi “begins to be afraid, but on the ground, the threat hasn’t changed.” He added, “We have to be very cautious.”
Earlier François Baroin, a French government spokesman, told RTL radio that action would come “rapidly,” perhaps within hours, after the United Nations resolution authorized “all necessary measures” to protect civilians.
But he insisted the military action was “not an occupation of Libyan territory.” Rather, he said, it was intended to protect the Libyan people and “allow them to go all the way in their drive, which means bringing down the Qaddafi regime.”
Other French officials said that Mr. Baroin was speaking to heighten the warning to Colonel Qaddafi, and that in fact any military action was not that imminent, but was still being coordinated with allies including Britain and the United States.
Obama administration officials said that allied action against Libya had to include the participation of Arab countries and were insistent, as one senior official put it, that the red, green and black of Arab nations’ flags be prominent in military operations. As of Thursday night, the United States said it had firm commitments from both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to contribute fighter jets to the effort, and that Jordan had also agreed to take part, although to what extent was not yet clear by Friday.
The administration also spoke to Egyptian officials about taking part but Egypt — the leading military power of the Arab world — was concerned that air strikes could endanger some million Egyptians who live in Libya. In addition, protesters only last month toppled the 30-year regime of President Hosni Mubarak and Egypt’s transitional military government remains fragile.
Administration officials said it remained unclear on Friday morning which country would take the lead as the air traffic controller of an operation that might involve waves of fighter jets from multiple countries in the skies above Libya, taking turns or at the same time. But the United States was expected to play a major role, as were Britain and France.
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Mr. Cameron will attend the meeting in Paris on Saturday with European, European Union, African Union and Arab League officials to discuss Libya, Mr. Sarkozy’s office announced. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations will also take part, his office said.
Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, which had supported the no-fly proposal, told Reuters on Friday: “‘The goal is to protect civilians first of all, and not to invade or occupy.”
Apparently pulling back from the increasingly bellicose statements that came as recently as Thursday from Colonel Qaddafi and his son Seif al-Islam, Mr. Koussa — his hands shaking as he read a statement at a news conference in Tripoli on Friday afternoon — said the Qaddafi government would comply with the United Nations resolution by halting combat operations.
“Libya has decided an immediate cease-fire and the stoppage of all military operations,” Mr. Koussa said. He did not take questions.
It was not immediately possible to confirm that military action. Mr. Koussa did not say whether the Libyan government intended to restore water, electricity and telecommunications to Misurata.
He expressed “our sadness” that the imposition of a no-fly zone would also stop commercial and civilian aircraft, saying such measures “will have a negative impact on the general life of the Libyan people.”
And he called it “strange and unreasonable” that the resolution authorized the use of force against the Qaddafi government, “and there are signs that this may indeed take place.” Mr. Koussa called the resolution a violation of Libyan sovereignty as well as of the United Nations charter, and repeated a call for a “fact-finding mission” to evaluate the situation on the ground.
Government minders told journalists in Tripoli on Friday that they could not leave their hotel for their own safety, saying that in the aftermath of the United Nations vote, residents might attack or even shoot foreigners. The extent of the danger was unclear.
Shortly before Mr. Koussa spoke Mr. Cameron told Parliament in London: “This is about protecting the Libyan people and saving lives. The world has watched Qaddafi brutally crushing his own people. We expect brutal attacks. Qaddafi is preparing for a violent assault on Benghazi.”
“Any decision to put the men and women of our armed forces into harm’s way should only be taken when absolutely necessary,” he said. “But I believe that we cannot stand back and let a dictator whose people have rejected him kill his people indiscriminately. To do so would send a chilling signal to others.”
“The clock is now ticking,” Mr. Cameron said. “We need a sense of urgency because we don’t want to see a bloodbath in Benghazi.” Responding to criticism from members of Parliament about getting Britain involved militarily, Mr. Cameron retorted: “To pass a resolution like this and then just stand back and hope someone in the region would enforce it is wrong.”
Before the cease-fire was announced, the Libyan leader signaled his intentions in Benghazi.
“We will come house by house, room by room,” Colonel Qaddafi said Thursday on a radio call-in show before the United Nations vote. It’s over. The issue has been decided.” To those who continued to resist, he vowed: “We will find you in your closets. We will have no mercy and no pity.”
In a television broadcast later, he added: “The world is crazy, and we will be crazy, too.”
Before Mr. Koussa’s announcement of a cease-fire, forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi unleashed a barrage of fire against Misurata, news reports said, while his son was quoted as saying government forces would encircle Benghazi. Eurocontrol, Europe’s air traffic control agency, said in Brussels on Friday that Libya had closed its airspace. It was not immediately clear whether loyalist troops had begun honoring the cease-fire.
The Security Council vote seemed to have divided Europeans, with Germany saying it would not take part while Norway was reported as saying it would. In the region, Turkey was reported to have registered opposition, but Qatar said it would support the operation.
On Thursday night in New York, after days of often acrimonious debate played out against a desperate clock, and with Colonel Qaddafi’s troops within 100 miles of Benghazi, the Security Council authorized member nations to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians, diplomatic code words calling for military action.
Diplomats said the resolution — which passed with 10 votes, including that of the United States, and abstentions from Russia, China, Germany, Brazil and India — was written in sweeping terms to allow for a wide range of actions, including strikes on air-defense systems and missile attacks from ships.
Benghazi erupted in celebration at news of the resolution’s passage. “We are embracing each other,” said Imam Bugaighis, spokeswoman for the rebel council in Benghazi. “The people are euphoric. Although a bit late, the international society did not let us down.”
A Pentagon official said Thursday that decisions were still being made about what kind of military action, if any, the United States might take with the allies against Libya. The official said that contingency planning continued across a full range of operations, including a no-fly zone, but that it was unclear how much the United States would become involved beyond providing support.
That support is likely to consist of much of what the United States already has in the region — Awacs radar planes to help with air traffic control should there be airstrikes, other surveillance aircraft and about 400 Marines aboard two amphibious assault ships in the region, the Kearsarge and the Ponce.
The Americans could also provide signal-jamming aircraft in international airspace to muddle Libyan government communications with its military units.

Elisabeth Bumiller reported from Washington, David D. Kirkpatrick from Tripoli, and Alan Cowell from Paris. Reporting was contributed by Kareem Fahim from eastern Libya; Dan Bilefsky from the United Nations; Mark Landler from Washington; Steven Erlanger from Paris; Julia Werdigier from London; Helene Cooper from Washington; and Steven Lee Myers from Tunis.

Japan Raises Severity of Nuclear Accident ARE we being told how bad it really is?

Updated: Mar 18, 2011 4:18 AM PDT

TOKYO -- Japan's nuclear safety agency raised the severity rating of the country's nuclear crisis Friday from Level 4 to Level 5 on a seven-level international scale, putting it on par with the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979.

Ryohei Shiomi, a spokesman for the nuclear safety agency, said Friday that the agency raised the rating of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear crisis on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The scale defines a Level 4 incident as having local consequences and a Level 5 incident as having wider consequences. The hallmarks of a Level 5 emergency are severe damage to a reactor core, release of large quantities of radiation with a high probability of "significant" public exposure or several deaths from radiation.

A partial meltdown at Three Mile Island also was ranked a Level 5. The Chernobyl accident of 1986, which killed at least 31 people with radiation sickness, raised long-term cancer rates, and spewed radiation for hundreds of miles (kilometers), was ranked a Level 7. France's Nuclear Safety Authority has been saying since Tuesday that the crisis in northeastern Japan should be ranked Level 6 on the scale.

U.N. authorizes ‘all necessary measures’ to protect civilians in Libya

The United Nations on Thursday authorized the use of “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya, opening the door to air and naval attacks against the forces of leader Moammar Gaddafi as he vowed to level the city of Benghazi, the last major rebel stronghold.

In a 10 to 0 vote, with five abstentions, the Security Council called for an immediate cease-fire in Libya and approved the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory and the interdiction of ships carrying supplies to Gaddafi’s government. In broad language, the council approved the use of any means short of “foreign occupation” to end strikes against “civilian populated areas under threat of attack . . . including Benghazi.”

The vote marked a dramatic turn in the world’s response to the Libyan crisis after weeks of debate and reluctance by many to intervene, and it comes as rebel forces were said to be on the brink of defeat.
Celebrations erupted across Benghazi as word of the vote reached the rebels. Clerics chanted “God is great” over mosque loudspeakers, and the streets were filled with celebratory gunfire and people waving the pre-Gaddafi Libyan flag adopted by the rebels.

France said it was prepared to launch attacks within hours, and Britain also indicated that it was prepared to act quickly. Initial strikes are likely to target air defense systems and runways; it was unclear whether plans were also in motion to strike at tank columns and other government ground forces headed east.
U.S. officials said that it would probably take several days for a full operation to be undertaken and that President Obama had not yet approved the use of U.S. military assets. Obama has preferred to let other nations publicly lead the response to the Libyan crisis, and White House officials said he would not appear on camera Thursday night to speak about the U.N. vote.

In a measured response to the vote that contrasted with threats earlier in the day by Gaddafi to “show no mercy” to the rebels, Libya’s deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, told reporters in Tripoli that Libya welcomed clauses in the resolution calling for protection of civilians.
But he cautioned the international community against arming the opposition, saying it would be tantamount to “inviting Libyans to kill each other.” The intention of the Libyan armed forces, he said, was “to protect civilians and guarantee food and medical supplies.”
Adoption of the resolution was seen as the last major hurdle to implementing plans drawn up by NATO in recent weeks that include unspecified participation by U.S. warships stationed off the Libyan coast or U.S. aircraft.

Shortly after the vote, Obama called British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the White House said in a statement. The leaders “agreed that Libya must immediately comply with terms of the resolution” and said they would “coordinate closely on next steps,” including working with “Arab and other international partners” to ensure enforcement of the resolution.

“There is no justification for [Gaddafi’s] continued leadership now,” Ambassador Susan E. Rice said after casting the U.S. vote in favor of the resolution. Russia, China, Germany, Brazil and India — all of whom expressed reservations about the move — abstained.

Earlier Thursday, Gaddafi had warned Benghazi that “we are coming tonight and there will be no mercy.” In an audio address delivered on state television, he promised to hunt down opposition “traitors . . . in the alleyways, house to house, room to room. . . . The whole world will watch Benghazi and see what will happen in it.”

Libya’s Defense Ministry threatened swift retaliation against any outside attack. “Any foreign military act against Libya will expose all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean to danger, and civilian and military facilities will become targets,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement distributed by the state news agency.
Thursday’s vote came only after the Arab League agreed Saturday to support a no-fly zone over Libya. The resolution “requests” Arab League members to cooperate with other U.N. members in implementing its terms, and U.S. officials said they expected that several Arab governments would help fund the operation or contribute military assets.

Lebanon’s U.N. ambassador, Nawaf Salam, provided no details on what role Arab countries would play in the military operation, saying that participants would make their own announcements. But he insisted that “there would be no forces on the ground in any form or in any part of Libya.”

In addition to a specific “ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” and use of “all necessary measures” to protect civilians, the resolution authorizes interdiction and inspection “on the high seas” of all vessels and aircraft bound to or from Libya provided there are “reasonable grounds to believe that the cargo contains items” prohibited under a previously adopted arms embargo and other sanctions.
It also calls on all U.N. members to stop the flow of “armed mercenary personnel” to Libya.
Among the five governments that abstained in the vote, Brazil’s U.N. ambassador, Maria Luiza Riberio Viotti, voiced concern that military action in Libya would “exacerbate tensions on the ground and cause more harm than good to the same civilians we are committed to protect.”

She also warned that military action would undermine the “spontaneous homegrown nature’’ of popular uprisings spreading through the Arab world and threatened to “change that narrative in ways that would have serious repercussions” for Libya and the rest of the region.

Libya’s renegade U.N.-based diplomat, Ibrahim Dabbashi, praised the council’s action and urged outside powers to move “immediately” to halt Gaddafi’s military offensive. The vote, Dabbashi said, sent a clear message to the Libyan people that they “are not alone. We are glad that Benghazi will now be safe.’’
In a statement earlier Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that establishment of a no-fly zone would require “bombing targets like the Libyan defense systems.”

U.S. military officials said Libya has more than 30 surface-to-air missile installations, largely positioned along its Mediterranean coast, where most of the population resides. Its arsenal also includes an unknown number of long-range missiles that can reach as far as 180 miles off the coast. Libya also operates more than 15 early-warning radar sites along the coast, a Defense Department spokesman said.
At a Senate hearing Thursday, Undersecretary of State William J. Burns confronted
sharply differing views about the Libyan crisis that crossed party lines. Some, led by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), said the administration has been too cautious in its response. “Time is running out for the Libyan people,” Kerry said.

But Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), along with several Democrats, warned of the “risk that our involvement would escalate” and said the administration should “seek congressional debate on a declaration of war” against Libya before U.S. forces participate in any action.

 Karen DeYoung and Colum Lynch   Washington Post

Immigrant Detentions Draw International Fire

Immigration enforcement in the United States is plagued by unjust treatment of detainees, including inadequate access to lawyers and insufficient medical care, and by the excessive use of prison-style detention, the human rights arm of the Organization of American States said Thursday.

The group, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, issued those findings in a report that also took aim at a federal program that allows county and state law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration laws. The report said the government had failed to ensure that local police were not singling out people by race or detaining illegal immigrants on the pretext of investigating crimes.

The commission recommended that the federal government cancel the program, known as 287(g).

While many of the findings reiterated criticisms that have been made before by immigrant advocates and others, the report appeared to be the first comprehensive review of American immigration enforcement in recent years by an international body of the organization’s stature.

The commission, based in Washington, has no enforcement powers, but it has considerable moral authority and a record of cooperation by member countries, including the United States.

The 155-page report was based on hearings and research that began in 2008, including visits in July 2009 by a team of investigators to six American detention centers in Arizona and Texas.
Since much of the research was completed, however, the Obama administration has begun a major overhaul of the detention system. A month after the commission’s visits, immigration officials announced a sweeping plan to establish more centralized authority over the system and to renovate centers designed for penal detention to make them more appropriate for detainees facing deportation, particularly those accused of administrative violations.

The administration said it would also close centers that were rarely used or failed to meet its standards, and would consolidate the nation’s patchwork of detention centers to meet increasing demand in specific areas, especially near big cities. It also said it would explore alternatives to detention.

Felipe González, president of the commission, acknowledged those plans but said the commission would withhold judgment on the efficacy of the reforms. “According to the information that we have so far, it’s not clear that it’s been implemented or will satisfy the international standards” of human rights, he said in an interview. 
The commission will continue monitoring immigration enforcement to ensure that its grievances were addressed, Mr. González added.

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees enforcement, said Thursday that the department would review the report, and made no further comment.
Earlier, however, the Obama administration was given a draft. In their response, according to the report, administration officials pointed out that they had conducted their own comprehensive review of immigration enforcement and made “important changes.”
Still, the commission said it was “deeply troubled by the continual and widespread use of detention in immigration cases,” the report said.

“The Inter-American Commission is convinced that in many if not the majority of cases, detention is a disproportionate measure and the alternatives to detention programs would be a more balanced means of serving the State’s legitimate interest in ensuring compliance with immigration laws,” the report said.
Mr. González also expressed skepticism that the administration would provide less penal settings for immigrants held on administrative, rather than criminal, charges. “It’s not clear to us whether the new system will really mean that the facility will provide migrants in detention with a system that is fully respectful of human rights,” he said.

Mr. González said his commission was inspired to investigate the system after receiving numerous requests from human rights advocates and civil society organizations. The group, he added, is now planning to investigate other immigration detention systems in the hemisphere.