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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Data From Raid Links Bin Laden to Newer Terror Plots - NYTimes.com

A digital representation of an aged Osama bin ...Image via WikipediaData From Raid Links Bin Laden to Newer Terror Plots - NYTimes.com

By MARK MAZZETTI and SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON — After reviewing computer files and documents seized at the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed, American intelligence analysts have concluded that the chief of Al Qaeda played a direct role for years in plotting terror attacks from his hide-out in Abbottabad, Pakistan, United States officials said Thursday.

With Bin Laden’s whereabouts and activities a mystery in recent years, many intelligence analysts and terror experts had concluded that he had been relegated to an inspirational figure with little role in current and future Qaeda operations.

A rushed examination of the trove of materials from the compound in Pakistan prompted Obama administration officials on Thursday to issue a warning that Al Qaeda last year had considered attacks on American railroads.

The documents include a handwritten notebook from February 2010 that discusses tampering with tracks to derail a train on a bridge, possibly on Christmas, New Year’s Day, the day of the State of the Union address or the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, officials said. But they said there was no evidence of a specific plot. An Obama administration official said that documents about attacking railroads were among the first to be translated from Arabic and analyzed. The materials, along with others reviewed in the intelligence cache, have given intelligence officials a much richer picture of the Qaeda founder’s leadership of the network as he tried to elude a global dragnet.

“He wasn’t just a figurehead,” said one American official, speaking only on condition of anonymity, who had been briefed on the documents. “He continued to plot and plan, to come up with ideas about targets, and to communicate those ideas to other senior Qaeda leaders.”

The crash program across the intelligence community to translate and analyze the documents has as its top priority discovering any clues about terror attacks that might be in the works. Intelligence analysts also were scrubbing the files for any information that might lead to identifying the location of Al Qaeda’s surviving leadership.

Since Sunday night, when President Obama announced the killing of Bin Laden in a daring raid, counterterrorism officials have been alert to the possibility of new attacks from Al Qaeda to avenge its leader’s death and prove its continuing relevance.

Department of Homeland Security officials have reviewed potential terrorist targets and deployed extra security at airports. And in response to the new evidence seized at the Bin Laden compound, the Transportation Security Administration issued a bulletin to rail companies.

But officials emphasized that the information was both dated and vague. “It looks very, very aspirational, and we have no evidence that it developed beyond the initial discussion,” said Matt Chandler, a spokesman for Homeland Security.

“We want to stress that this alleged Al Qaeda plotting is based on initial reporting, which is often misleading or inaccurate and subject to change,” he added.

As the Bin Laden trail grew cold and the terror chief stopped broadcasting videos to the world in the last several years, Bin Laden’s status as the world’s most influential terrorist seemed to diminish. Still, in the decade since he fled Afghanistan in late 2001, he managed to release four to six audio messages each year, often making reference to current events, showing that his hideout was not entirely cut off from the outside world.

The only exception was 2005 — the year he is believed to have moved to the compound in Abbottabad — when his silence led to months of speculation that he might be dead.

“If he could get six audio messages out in a year, he could certainly get instructions to his followers,” said Ben N. Venzke, who runs IntelCenter, a Virginia company that tracks terrorist groups’ Internet communications.

“I think the notion that he was completely irrelevant was exaggerated,” Mr. Venzke said. “His role was always as senior leader, giving strategic direction.”

The fact that Bin Laden was found not in Pakistan’s rugged tribal areas but on the outskirts of an affluent town less than an hour’s drive from the capital, Islamabad, has prompted a rethinking of the widespread notion that he had little control over the rest of Al Qaeda.

“Until now, the prevailing wisdom was that he was hiding in a remote, isolated mountain range and cut off from his followers,” said Bruce Hoffman, an expert on Al Qaeda at Georgetown University. “Now we know that was all wrong and reconsider what his role really was.”

Even with his death, American officials and terror experts have warned since Sunday night that that is not the end of Al Qaeda. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Rome for talks about the war in Libya, told international donors on Thursday that the United States would continue aggressive operations against militants.

In fact, missiles fired from a Pentagon drone killed several militant suspects driving in a car in Yemen on Thursday. It was unclear who was killed in the strike, although American officials said that the suspects may have been operatives with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

And, as the Central Intelligence Agency continues its drone bombing campaign in Pakistan, the trove of documents collected at the compound in Abbottabad is likely to produce intelligence for future strikes there.

Thom Shanker, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Bin Laden Is Dead, Obama Says - NYTimes.com

A digital representation of an aged Osama bin ...Image via WikipediaBin Laden Is Dead, Obama Says - NYTimes.com

By PETER BAKER, HELENE COOPER and MARK MAZZETTI
WASHINGTONOsama bin Laden, the mastermind of the most devastating attack on American soil in modern times and the most hunted man in the world, was killed in a firefight with United States forces in Pakistan on Sunday, President Obama announced.

In a dramatic late-night appearance in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Obama declared that “justice has been done” as he disclosed that American military and C.I.A. operatives had finally cornered Bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader who had eluded them for nearly a decade. American officials said Bin Laden resisted and was shot in the head. He was later buried at sea.

The news touched off an extraordinary outpouring of emotion as crowds gathered outside the White House, in Times Square and at the Ground Zero site, waving American flags, cheering, shouting, laughing and chanting, “U.S.A., U.S.A.!” In New York City, crowds sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Throughout downtown Washington, drivers honked horns deep into the night.

“For over two decades, Bin Laden has been Al Qaeda’s leader and symbol,” the president said in a statement televised around the world. “The death of Bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda. But his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that Al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.”

Bin Laden’s demise is a defining moment in the American-led fight against terrorism, a symbolic stroke affirming the relentlessness of the pursuit of those who attacked New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. What remains to be seen, however, is whether it galvanizes Bin Laden’s followers by turning him into a martyr or serves as a turning of the page in the war in Afghanistan and gives further impetus to Mr. Obama to bring American troops home.

How much his death will affect Al Qaeda itself remains unclear. For years, as they failed to find him, American leaders have said that he was more symbolically important than operationally significant because he was on the run and hindered in any meaningful leadership role. And yet, he remained the most potent face of terrorism around the world and some of those who played down his role in recent years nonetheless celebrated his death.

Given Bin Laden’s status among radicals, the American government braced for possible retaliation. A senior Pentagon official said late Sunday that military bases in the United States and around the world were ordered to a higher state of readiness. The State Department issued a worldwide travel warning, urging Americans in volatile areas “to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations.”

The strike could exacerbate deep tensions with Pakistan, which has periodically bristled at American counterterrorism efforts even as Bin Laden evidently found safe refuge on its territory for nearly a decade. Since taking office, Mr. Obama has ordered significantly more drone strikes on suspected terrorist targets in Pakistan, stirring public anger there and prompting the Pakistani government to protest.

When the end came for Bin Laden, he was found not in the remote tribal areas along the Pakistani-Afghan border where he has long been presumed to be sheltered, but in a massive compound about an hour’s drive north from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. He was hiding in the medium-sized city of Abbottabad, home to a large Pakistani military base and a military academy of the Pakistani Army.

The house at the end of a narrow dirt road was roughly eight times larger than other homes in the area, but had no telephone or Internet connections. When American operatives converged on the house on Sunday, Bin Laden “resisted the assault force” and was killed in the middle of an intense gun battle, a senior administration official said, but details were still sketchy early Monday morning.

The official said that military and intelligence officials first learned last summer that a “high-value target” was being protected in the compound and began working on a plan for going in to get him. Beginning in March, Mr. Obama presided over five national security meetings at the White House to go over plans for the operation and on Friday morning, just before leaving Washington to tour tornado damage in Alabama, gave the final order for special forces and C.I.A. operatives to strike.

Mr. Obama called it a “targeted operation,” although officials said one helicopter was lost because of a mechanical failure and had to be destroyed to keep it from falling into hostile hands.

In addition to Bin Laden, three men were killed during the 40-minute raid, one believed to be his son and the other two his couriers, according to an American official who briefed reporters under White House ground rules forbidding further identification. A woman was killed when she was used as a shield by a male combatant, the official said, and two others wounded.

“No Americans were harmed,” Mr. Obama said. “They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.” Muslim tradition requires burial within 24 hours, but by doing it at sea, American authorities presumably were trying to avoid creating a shrine for his followers.

The fate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Al Qaeda second-in-command, was unclear Sunday night.

Bin Laden’s death came nearly 10 years after Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four American passenger jets, crashing three of them into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside Washington. The fourth hijacked jet, United Flight 93, crashed into the Pennsylvania countryside after passengers fought the militants.

“This is important news for us, and for the world,” said Gordon Felt, president of the group Families of Flight 93. “It cannot ease our pain, or bring back our loved ones. It does bring a measure of comfort that the mastermind of the September 11th tragedy and the face of global terror can no longer spread his evil.”

The mostly young people who celebrated in the streets of New York and Washington saw it as a historic moment, one that for many of them culminated a worldwide manhunt that started when they were children.

Some climbed trees and lampposts directly in front of the White House to cheer and wave flags. Cigars and noisemakers were common. One group started singing, “Osama, Osama, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.”

Maureen Hasson, 22, a recent college graduate working for the Justice Department, came down to Lafayette Square in a fuchsia party dress and flip-flops. “This is full circle for our generation,” she said. “Just look around at the average age here. We were all in middle school when the terrorists struck. We all vividly remember 9/11 and this is the close of that chapter.”

Sam Sherman, 18, a freshman at George Washington University originally from New York, also rushed down to the White House. “The feeling you can’t even imagine, the feeling in the air. It’s crazy,” he said. “I have friends with parents dead because of Osama bin Laden’s plan, O.K.? So when I heard this news, I was coming down to celebrate.”

Mr. Obama said Pakistan had helped develop the intelligence that led to Bin Laden, but an American official said the Pakistani government was not informed about the strike in advance. “We shared our intelligence on this compound with no other country, including Pakistan,” the official said.

Mr. Obama recalled his statements in the 2008 presidential campaign when he vowed to order American forces to strike inside Pakistan if necessary even without Islamabad’s permission. “That is what we’ve done,” he said. “But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to Bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding.”

Relations with Pakistan had fallen in recent weeks to their lowest point in years. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly criticized the Pakistani military two weeks ago for failing to act against extremists allied to Al Qaeda who shelter in the tribal areas of North Waziristan. Last week, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, head of the Pakistani Army, said Pakistan had broken the back of terrorism on its territory, prompting skepticism in Washington.

Mr. Obama called President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan to tell him about the strike after it was set in motion, and his advisers called their Pakistani counterparts. “They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations,” Mr. Obama said.

The city of Abbottabad where Bin Laden was found has had other known Al Qaeda presence in the past. A senior Indonesian militant, Umar Patek, was arrested there earlier this year. Mr. Patek was protected by a Qaeda operative, a clerk who worked undercover at the main post office, a signal that Al Qaeda may have had other operations in the area.

As the operation’s start approached, many American officials at the United States consulate in Peshawar, the capital of the northwest area of Pakistan, were told suddenly to depart last Friday, leaving behind only a core group of essential staff. The American officials said they had been told to leave because of fears of kidnapping but were not tipped off to the operation.

Analysts said Bin Laden’s death amounted to a double blow for Al Qaeda, after its sermons of anti-Western violence seemed to be rendered irrelevant by the wave of political upheaval rolling through the Arab world.

“It comes at a time when Al Qaeda’s narrative is already very much in doubt in the Arab world,” said Martin S. Indyk, vice president and director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. “Its narrative was that violence was the way to redeem Arab honor and dignity. But Osama bin Laden and his violence didn’t succeed in unseating anybody.”

Al Qaeda sympathizers reacted with disbelief, anger and in some cases talk of retribution. On a Web site considered an outlet for Al Qaeda messages, forum administrators deleted posts by users announcing Bin Laden’s death and demanded that members wait until the news was confirmed by Al Qaeda sources, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, an organization that monitors radicals.

Even so, SITE said, sympathizers on the forum posted messages calling Bin Laden a martyr and suggesting retaliation. “America will reap the same if the news is true and false,” said one message. “The lions will remain lions and will continue moving in the footsteps of Usama,” said another, using an alternate spelling of Bin Laden’s name.

In the United States, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy organization, said it welcomed Bin Laden’s death. “As we have stated repeatedly since the 9/11 terror attacks, Bin Laden never represented Muslims or Islam,” the group said in a statement. “In fact, in addition to the killing of thousands of Americans, he and Al Qaeda caused the deaths of countless Muslims worldwide.”

Mr. Obama called to inform his predecessor, George W. Bush, who first launched the war against Al Qaeda after Sept. 11, yet was frustrated in his efforts to capture Bin Laden “dead or alive,” as he once put it. “This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001,” Mr. Bush said in a statement. “The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”

President Obama used similar language and warned that the war against terrorists had not ended. “We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to Al Qaeda’s terror, justice has been done.”

The president was careful to add that, as Mr. Bush did during his presidency, the United States is not at war with Islam. “Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims,” Mr. Obama said. “Indeed, Al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.”

Reporting was contributed by Elisabeth Goodridge, Scott Shane, Ben Werschkul, Mark Landler and Michael Shear from Washington; Jane Perlez from Sydney, Australia; and Pir Zubair Shah from New York.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Arizona Governor Vetoes Presidential 'Birther' Bill : NPR


Jan BrewerImage via WikipediaArizona Governor Vetoes Presidential 'Birther' Bill : NPR

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Monday vetoed a bill that would have required President Obama and other presidential candidates to prove their U.S. citizenship before their names could appear on the state's ballot.

The bill would have made Arizona the first state to pass such a requirement. Opponents had warned the bill would give another black eye to Arizona after last year's controversy over the state's illegal immigration enforcement law.

Brewer said in her veto letter that she was troubled that the bill empowered Arizona's secretary of state to judge the qualifications of all candidates when they file to run for office.



"I do not support designating one person as the gatekeeper to the ballot for a candidate, which could lead to arbitrary or politically motivated decisions," said Brewer, who was secretary of state until she became governor in 2009.

"In addition, I never imagined being presented with a bill that could require candidates for president of the greatest and most powerful nation on Earth to submit their 'early baptismal circumcision certificates' among other records to the Arizona secretary of state," she said. "This is a bridge too far."

The certificates were among the documents a candidate could have submitted under the bill in place of a birth certificate.

So-called "birthers" claim there's no proof Obama was born in the United States, and he is therefore ineligible to be president. But Hawaii officials have certified Obama was born in that state.

The U.S. Constitution requires that presidential candidates be "natural-born" U.S. citizens, be at least 35 years old, and be a resident of the United States for at least 14 years. Opponents questioned whether Arizona's bill would have added additional requirements.

The measure would have required that political parties and presidential candidates hand in affidavits stating a candidate's citizenship and age. It also would have required the candidate's birth certificate and a sworn statement saying where the candidate has lived for 14 years.

If candidates didn't have a copy of their birth certificates, they could meet the requirement by providing baptismal or circumcision certificates, hospital birth records and other documents.

If it couldn't be determined whether candidates who provided documents in place of their birth certificates were eligible to appear on the ballot, the secretary of state would have been able to set up a committee to help determine whether the requirements were met. The names of candidates could be kept off the ballot if the secretary of state didn't believe the candidates met the citizenship requirement.

The bill didn't explicitly provide an appeals process for a candidate whose name was kept off the ballot.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Carl Seel of Phoenix, declined immediate comment on Monday's veto. But he previously said that the president's birth record wouldn't satisfy the requirements of his proposal and that Obama would have to provide other records, such as baptismal certificates and hospital records.

The measure, however, wasn't intended as a swipe against the president — it was meant to maintain the integrity of elections, Seel said.

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Friday, April 08, 2011

Federal Budget Deal Reached, Government Shutdown Averted At Least Temporarily

Federal Budget Deal Reached, Government Shutdown Averted At Least Temporarily

Perilously close to a midnight deadline, the White House and congressional leaders have reached agreement to cut billions of dollars in spending to avoid the first government shutdown in 15 years.

House Speaker John Boehner informed the GOP rank and file of the accord, reached in grueling negotiations over several weeks, an official said.

"We have an agreement," concurred a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Jon Summers.

Because drafting and then passing the broader legislation could take days, congressional leaders raced to approve a stopgap measure to prevent the onset of the first shutdown in 15 years, due to begin at midnight. Officials said it would keep the government in funds through the middle of next week.

Boehner told reporters just before 11 p.m. EDT that the House would continue working.

Republicans said the deal called for $39 billion in spending cuts, a measure that one official said Boehner told his rank and file marked the "largest real-dollar spending cut in American history."

Over a decade, the agreement would cut more than $500 billion from the federal budget, Boehner added, according to a participant in the meeting.

The agreement marked an extraordinary reach across party lines and the first test of a new era of divided government that includes Obama in the White House, control of the Senate by fellow Democrats and a tea party-flavored Republican majority in the House.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

U.S. Sees Array of New Threats at Japan’s Nuclear Plant - NYTimes.com

U.S. Sees Array of New Threats at Japan’s Nuclear Plant - NYTimes.com

By JAMES GLANZ and WILLIAM J. BROAD
United States government engineers sent to help with the crisis in Japan are warning that the troubled nuclear plant there is facing a wide array of fresh threats that could persist indefinitely, and that in some cases are expected to increase as a result of the very measures being taken to keep the plant stable, according to a confidential assessment prepared by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Among the new threats that were cited in the assessment, dated March 26, are the mounting stresses placed on the containment structures as they fill with radioactive cooling water, making them more vulnerable to rupture in one of the aftershocks rattling the site after the earthquake and tsunami of March 11. The document also cites the possibility of explosions inside the containment structures due to the release of hydrogen and oxygen from seawater pumped into the reactors, and offers new details on how semimolten fuel rods and salt buildup are impeding the flow of fresh water meant to cool the nuclear cores.

In recent days, workers have grappled with several side effects of the emergency measures taken to keep nuclear fuel at the plant from overheating, including leaks of radioactive water at the site and radiation burns to workers who step into the water. The assessment, as well as interviews with officials familiar with it, points to a new panoply of complex challenges that water creates for the safety of workers and the recovery and long-term stability of the reactors.

While the assessment does not speculate on the likelihood of new explosions or damage from an aftershock, either could lead to a breach of the containment structures in one or more of the crippled reactors, the last barriers that prevent a much more serious release of radiation from the nuclear core. If the fuel continues to heat and melt because of ineffective cooling, some nuclear experts say, that could also leave a radioactive mass that could stay molten for an extended period.

The document, which was obtained by The New York Times, provides a more detailed technical assessment than Japanese officials have provided of the conundrum facing the Japanese as they struggle to prevent more fuel melting at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. But it appears to rely largely on data shared with American experts by the Japanese.

Among other problems, the document raises new questions about whether pouring water on nuclear fuel in the absence of functioning cooling systems can be sustained indefinitely. Experts have said the Japanese need to continue to keep the fuel cool for many months until the plant can be stabilized, but there is growing awareness that the risks of pumping water on the fuel present a whole new category of challenges that the nuclear industry is only beginning to comprehend.

The document also suggests that fragments or particles of nuclear fuel from spent fuel pools above the reactors were blown “up to one mile from the units,” and that pieces of highly radioactive material fell between two units and had to be “bulldozed over,” presumably to protect workers at the site. The ejection of nuclear material, which may have occurred during one of the earlier hydrogen explosions, may indicate more extensive damage to the extremely radioactive pools than previously disclosed.

David A. Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer who worked on the kinds of General Electric reactors used in Japan and now directs the nuclear safety project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that the welter of problems revealed in the document at three separate reactors made a successful outcome even more uncertain.

“I thought they were, not out of the woods, but at least at the edge of the woods,” said Mr. Lochbaum, who was not involved in preparing the document. “This paints a very different picture, and suggests that things are a lot worse. They could still have more damage in a big way if some of these things don’t work out for them.”

The steps recommended by the nuclear commission include injecting nitrogen, an inert gas, into the containment structures in an attempt to purge them of hydrogen and oxygen, which could combine to produce explosions. The document also recommends that engineers continue adding boron to cooling water to help prevent the cores from restarting the nuclear reaction, a process known as criticality.

Even so, the engineers who prepared the document do not believe that a resumption of criticality is an immediate likelihood, Neil Wilmshurst, vice president of the nuclear sector at the Electric Power Research Institute, said when contacted about the document. “I have seen no data to suggest that there is criticality ongoing,” said Mr. Wilmshurst, who was involved in the assessment.

The document was prepared for the commission’s Reactor Safety Team, which is assisting the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which owns the plant. It says it is based on the “most recent available data” from numerous Japanese and American organizations, including the electric power company, the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, the United States Department of Energy, General Electric and the Electric Power Research Institute, an independent, nonprofit group.

The document contains detailed assessments of each of the plant’s six reactors along with recommendations for action. Nuclear experts familiar with the assessment said that it was regularly updated but that over all, the March 26 version closely reflected current thinking.

The assessment provides graphic new detail on the conditions of the damaged cores in reactors 1, 2 and 3. Because slumping fuel and salt from seawater that had been used as a coolant is probably blocking circulation pathways, the water flow in No. 1 “is severely restricted and likely blocked.” Inside the core itself, “there is likely no water level,” the assessment says, adding that as a result, “it is difficult to determine how much cooling is getting to the fuel.” Similar problems exist in No. 2 and No. 3, although the blockage is probably less severe, the assessment says.

Some of the salt may have been washed away in the past week with the switch from seawater to fresh water cooling, nuclear experts said.

A rise in the water level of the containment structures has often been depicted as a possible way to immerse and cool the fuel. The assessment, however, warns that “when flooding containment, consider the implications of water weight on seismic capability of containment.”

Experts in nuclear plant design say that this warning refers to the enormous stress put on the containment structures by the rising water. The more water in the structures, the more easily a large aftershock could rupture one of them.

Margaret Harding, a former reactor designer for General Electric, warned of aftershocks and said, “If I were in the Japanese’s shoes, I’d be very reluctant to have tons and tons of water sitting in a containment whose structural integrity hasn’t been checked since the earthquake.”

The N.R.C. document also expressed concern about the potential for a “hazardous atmosphere” in the concrete-and-steel containment structures because of the release of hydrogen and oxygen from the seawater in a highly radioactive environment.

Hydrogen explosions in the first few days of the disaster heavily damaged several reactor buildings and in one case may have damaged a containment structure. That hydrogen was produced by a mechanism involving the metal cladding of the nuclear fuel. The document urged that Japanese operators restore the ability to purge the structures of these gases and fill them with stable nitrogen gas, a capability lost after the quake and tsunami.

Nuclear experts say that radiation from the core of a reactor can split water molecules in two, releasing hydrogen. Mr. Wilmshurst said that since the March 26 document, engineers had calculated that the amount of hydrogen produced would be small. But Jay A. LaVerne, a physicist at Notre Dame, said that at least near the fuel rods, some hydrogen would in fact be produced, and could react with oxygen. “If so,” Mr. LaVerne said in an interview, “you have an explosive mixture being formed near the fuel rods.”

Nuclear engineers have warned in recent days that the pools outside the containment buildings that hold spent fuel rods could pose an even greater danger than the melted reactor cores. The pools, which sit atop the reactor buildings and are meant to keep spent fuel submerged in water, have lost their cooling systems.

The N.R.C. report suggests that the fuel pool of the No. 4 reactor suffered a hydrogen explosion early in the Japanese crisis and could have shed much radioactive material into the environment, what it calls “a major source term release.”

Experts worry about the fuel pools because explosions have torn away their roofs and exposed their radioactive contents. By contrast, reactors have strong containment vessels that stand a better chance of bottling up radiation from a meltdown of the fuel in the reactor core.

“Even the best juggler in the world can get too many balls up in the air,” Mr. Lochbaum said of the multiplicity of problems at the plant. “They’ve got a lot of nasty things to negotiate in the future, and one missed step could make the situation much, much worse.”

Henry Fountain contributed reporting from New York, and Matthew L. Wald from Washington.

Alleged Libyan Rape Victim Eman al-Obeidy On CNN: ‘I Refused To Be Silent’

Friday, April 01, 2011

Afghans Angry Over Florida Koran Burning Kill U.N. Staff - NYTimes.com

Afghans Angry Over Florida Koran Burning Kill U.N. Staff - NYTimes.com

By ENAYAT NAJAFIZADA and ROD NORDLAND
MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan — Stirred up by a trio of angry mullahs who urged them to avenge the burning of a Koran at a Florida church, thousands of protesters overran the compound of the United Nations in this northern Afghan city, killing at least 12 people, Afghan and United Nations officials said.

The dead included at least seven United Nations workers — five Nepalese guards and two Europeans, one of them a woman. None were Americans. Early reports, later denied by Afghan officials, said that at least two of the dead had been beheaded. Five Afghans were also killed.

The attack was the deadliest for the United Nations in Afghanistan since 11 people were killed in 2009, when Taliban suicide bombers invaded a guesthouse in Kabul. It also underscored the latent hostility toward the nine-year foreign presence here, even in a city long considered to be among the safest in Afghanistan — so safe that American troops no longer patrol here in any numbers.

Unable to find Americans on whom to vent their anger, the mob turned instead on the next-best symbol of Western intrusion — the nearby United Nations headquarters. “Some of our colleagues were just hunted down,” said a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Kieran Dwyer, confirming that the attack.

In Washington, President Obama issued a statement strongly condemning the violence against United Nations workers. “Their work is essential to building a stronger Afghanistan for the benefit of all its citizens,” he said. “We stress the importance of calm and urge all parties to reject violence.” The statement made no reference to the Florida church or the burning of the Koran.

Afghanistan, deeply religious and reflexively volatile, has long been one of the most reactive flashpoints to perceived insults against Islam. When a Danish cartoonist lampooned the Prophet Muhammad, four people were killed in riots in Afghanistan within days in 2006. The year before, a one-paragraph item in Newsweek alleging that guards at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had flushed a Koran down the toilet set off three days of riots that left 14 dead in Afghanistan.

Friday’s episode began when three mullahs, addressing worshipers at Friday Prayer inside the Blue Mosque here, one of Afghanistan’s holiest places, urged people to take to the streets to agitate for the arrest of Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who oversaw the burning of a Koran on March 20.

Otherwise, said the most prominent of them, Mullah Mohammed Shah Adeli, Afghanistan should cut off relations with the United States. “Burning the Koran is an insult to Islam, and those who committed it should be punished,” he said.

The crowd — some of its members carrying signs reading “Down with America” and “Death to Obama” — poured into the streets and swelled. Gov. Atta Muhammad Noor of Balkh Province, of which Mazar-i-Sharif is the capital, later put the number at 20,000. According to Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, spokesman for Gen. Daoud Daoud, the Afghan National Police commander for the country’s north, the crowd soon overwhelmed the United Nations guards, disarming some and beating and shooting others.

Gen. Abdul Rauf Taj, the deputy police commander for Balkh Province, put the death toll at eight foreign United Nations staff members, but he said there had not been any beheadings. “Police tried to stop them, but protesters began stoning the building and finally the situation got out of control,” General Taj said.

Mr. Ahmadzai, however, put the death toll at ten foreigners in the United Nations compound, eight killed by gunshots and two beheaded.

Mr. Dwyer confirmed that some United Nations staff members had been killed, but he declined to provide a number or the nationalities of the victims until next of kin had been notified.

Mirwais Rabi, director of the public health hospital in Mazar-i-Sharif, said 20 wounded and 5 dead Afghan civilians were brought to the hospital in all.

The mob also burned down part of the United Nations compound, toppled guard towers and heaved blocks of cement down from the walls. The victims were killed by weapons that the demonstrators had wrestled away from the United Nations guards, Mr. Noor said. He said those killed included five Nepalese guards and two European staff workers for the United Nations, one of them a woman.

Mr. Noor also blamed what he said were Taliban infiltrators among the crowd for urging violence and even distributing weapons; he said 27 suspects were arrested on charges of inciting violence, some from Kandahar and other provinces where Taliban are more common.

Mr. Jones, the Florida pastor, caused an international uproar by threatening to burn the Koran last year on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Among others, the overall commander of forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, had warned at that time that such an action could provoke violence in Afghanistan and could endanger American troops. Mr. Jones subsequently promised not to burn a Koran, but he nonetheless presided over a mock trial and then the burning of the Koran at his small church in Gainesville, Fla., on March 20, with only 30 worshipers attending.

The act drew little response worldwide, but provoked angry condemnation in this region, where it was reported in the local media and where anti-American sentiment already runs high. Last week, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan condemned the burning in an address before Parliament, and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan on Thursday called on the United States to bring those responsible for the Koran burning to justice.

A prominent Afghan cleric, Mullah Qyamudin Kashaf, the acting head of the Ulema Council of Afghanistan and a Karzai appointee, also called for American authorities to arrest and try Mr. Jones in the Koran burning.

The Ulema Council recently met to discuss the Koran burning, Mullah Kashaf said in a telephone interview. “We expressed our deep concerns about this act, and we were expecting the violence that we are witnessing now,” he said. “Unless they try him and give him the highest possible punishment, we will witness violence and protests not only in Afghanistan but in the entire world.”

Mr. Jones was unrepentant. “We must hold these countries and people accountable for what they have done as well as for any excuses they may use to promote their terrorist activities,” he said in a statement. “Islam is not a religion of peace. It is time that we call these people to accountability.”

Last year, even though Mr. Jones called off his burning of the Koran, a subsequent wave of protests at NATO facilities in Afghanistan led to at least five deaths. In several of those episodes, Taliban agitators played a role; they were said to have spread rumors that the Koran burning had taken place. However, the Taliban have had little or no presence in Mazar-i-Sharif.

In other developments in Afghanistan, six American soldiers were killed in a single operation in the country’s east on Wednesday and Thursday, a spokesman for the international coalition said Friday.

“I can confirm that six coalition soldiers have been identified as U.S. soldiers, and were all killed as part of the same operation, but in three separate incidents,” said Maj. Tim James.

The operation, a helicopter assault into a remote part of Kunar Province close to the Pakistani border, was continuing. The area is frequently used to infiltrate fighters from Pakistan. The purpose of the operation, Major James said, was to “disrupt insurgent operations.”

The governor of Kunar Province, Said Fazlullah Wahidi, said the operation began Wednesday as a joint Afghan and American air and ground operation in the districts of Sarkani and Marawara, close to the border of Pakistan. He said that 14 insurgents were killed and 10 were wounded, but he had no information about casualties among Afghan forces.

Enayat Najafizada reported from Mazar-i-Sharif and Rod Nordland from Kabul, Afghanistan. Sharifullah Sahak contributed reporting from Kabul, and Timothy Williams from New York.

Unemployment Rate Dips To 8.8 Percent In March : NPR

Unemployment Rate Dips To 8.8 Percent In March : NPR

The unemployment rate fell to a two-year low of 8.8 percent in March and companies added workers at the fastest two-month pace since before the recession began.

The Labor Department reported Friday that the economy added 216,000 new jobs last month, offsetting layoffs by local governments. Factories, retailers, education, health care and an array of professional and financial services expanded payrolls.

The second straight month of brisk hiring is the latest sign that the economy is strengthening nearly two years after the recession ended.

Private employers, the backbone of the economy, drove nearly all of the gains. They added 230,000 jobs last month, on top of 240,000 in February. It was the first time private-sector hiring topped 200,000 in back-to-back months since 2006 more than a year before the recession started.

The unemployment rate dipped from 8.9 percent in February to 8.8 percent in March. The rate has fallen a full percentage point over the last four months, the sharpest drop since 1983.

Economists predict employers will add jobs at roughly the same pace for the rest of this year. That would generate about 2.5 million new positions. But that will make up only a small portion of the 7.5 million jobs that were wiped out during the recession.

And the economy faces other pitfalls. Local governments, wrestling with budget shortfalls, cut 15,000 workers last month and are expected to keep shedding jobs. Home prices are falling amid weak sales and a record number of foreclosures. Higher food and gas prices are leaving consumers with less disposable income to spend on other goods and services.

The number of unemployed people dipped to 13.5 million in March, still almost double since before the recession began in December 2007.

Including part-time workers who would rather be working full time, plus people who have given up looking altogether, the percentage of "underemployed" people dropped to 15.7 percent in March.

Unemployment Rate Dips To 8.8 Percent In March : NPR

Unemployment Rate Dips To 8.8 Percent In March : NPR

The unemployment rate fell to a two-year low of 8.8 percent in March and companies added workers at the fastest two-month pace since before the recession began.

The Labor Department reported Friday that the economy added 216,000 new jobs last month, offsetting layoffs by local governments. Factories, retailers, education, health care and an array of professional and financial services expanded payrolls.

The second straight month of brisk hiring is the latest sign that the economy is strengthening nearly two years after the recession ended.

Private employers, the backbone of the economy, drove nearly all of the gains. They added 230,000 jobs last month, on top of 240,000 in February. It was the first time private-sector hiring topped 200,000 in back-to-back months since 2006 more than a year before the recession started.

The unemployment rate dipped from 8.9 percent in February to 8.8 percent in March. The rate has fallen a full percentage point over the last four months, the sharpest drop since 1983.

Economists predict employers will add jobs at roughly the same pace for the rest of this year. That would generate about 2.5 million new positions. But that will make up only a small portion of the 7.5 million jobs that were wiped out during the recession.

And the economy faces other pitfalls. Local governments, wrestling with budget shortfalls, cut 15,000 workers last month and are expected to keep shedding jobs. Home prices are falling amid weak sales and a record number of foreclosures. Higher food and gas prices are leaving consumers with less disposable income to spend on other goods and services.

The number of unemployed people dipped to 13.5 million in March, still almost double since before the recession began in December 2007.

Including part-time workers who would rather be working full time, plus people who have given up looking altogether, the percentage of "underemployed" people dropped to 15.7 percent in March.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bob Herbert Leaving New York Times


Bob Herbert

Bob Herbert Leaving New York Times

Bob Herbert is leaving the New York Times after 18 years as an op-ed columnist for the paper, the Times announced Friday.

Herbert's final column will run on Saturday. He has been a writer for the Times since 1993, becoming one of the country's most prominent progressive columnists.

In a message to staffers, Herbert said that "for some time now I have grown eager to move beyond the constriction of the column format, with its rigid 800-word limit, in favor of broader and more versatile efforts.” He said that he wanted to write "more expansively and more aggressively about the injustices visited on working people, the poor and the many others in our society who find themselves on the wrong side of power.”

He said he will also work on a new book, as well as a "soon-to-be-announced effort to help bolster progressive journalism.”

Herbert's departure is the second high-profile exit from the Times' op-ed page this month. Frank Rich also bolted the paper for New York magazine, citing the same feeling of constriction and the desire to try new things. It also comes as the Times is dramatically overhauling its opinion pages, both in print and online.

Japan Reactor Nuclear Core May Have Been Breached : NPR

"Twin Tower" ; Air stack of the 7th ...Image via WikipediaJapan Reactor Nuclear Core May Have Been Breached : NPR

The operators of the damaged Fukishima Dai-chi power plant say there's evidence that radioactive water leaking from the third reactor came from its core. This reactor has been the source of major concern since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northern Japan, and led to the current crisis at the power facility.

Officials say they have not found evidence of an actual breach in the reactor. There are many pipes and connections leading to the core that could be the source of leaking water.

But the utility also found extremely high levels of radiation in the water, and detected radioactive isotopes that are not ordinarily present in cooling water.

Since the accident began, there's been considerable speculation as to whether radiation leaks are coming from the reactors themselves, or from spent fuel stored in pools that may have been damaged.

The news comes a day after three workers were exposed to high levels of radioactivity while laying electrical cable in the basement of a building near Unit 3. Two of the men were taken to a local hospital for treatment of possible radiation burns. They were then brought to Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences in the Tokyo area.

In a statement on Friday, Tokyo Electrical Power Co., or TEPCO, which runs the plant, indicated that the workers had ignored high readings on their dosimeters, which measure the presence of radiation. The men were employed by a contractor for TEPCO. Their condition since they were brought in for treatment on Thursday is unknown.

The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan also expanded its call for a voluntary evacuation around the plant, to a radius of 30 kilometers, about 18 miles. Since March 15, residents living within 20 kilometers — about 12 miles — have been urged to leave the area, and those living within the 30-kilometer range had been told to remain indoors.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says local governments are being told to call for voluntary evacuations 30 kilometers out. The government said that the main concern was not radiation exposure, but that services in this area had been severely disrupted by the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear crisis.

The U.S. government has also told its citizens to stay 50 miles away from the plant.

Food And Water Concerns

Radiation leaks have contaminated some food and water around the plant. Tokyo residents were warned on Wednesday that tap water had tested high for radioactivity, and that they should not allow infants to drink the water.

That order was rescinded the next day when readings dropped. But water systems in a number of cities continue to test above the levels considered safe for small children.

Japan has restricted the sale and consumption of produce, fruit and milk produced around the plant. And the United States and other countries have banned the import of some food products from the affected area.

Damage To Reactor Buildings

Japan's Self-Defense Forces released a video of the damaged reactor buildings, shot from a military helicopter. The film shows extensive damage to many of the buildings.

The roofs of several reactor buildings have been reduced to the steel framework, and steam is clearly leaking from a number of places. Since the earthquake, there have been a number of explosions traced to leaking hydrogen within the reactor buildings.

Official say that work continues to revive the cooling equipment that lost power after the natural disaster struck. External power has been restored to all six reactors.

Technicians are also beginning to pump fresh water, instead of seawater, into Unit 1. TEPCO has been injecting seawater into some of the reactors to keep nuclear fuel from overheating, but there's concern that salt deposits from the seawater could make it more difficult to move heat away from the fuel. The company plans to replace seawater with fresh water at Units 2 and 3, which have also suffered fuel damage.

Relief officials now say the confirmed death toll from the earthquake and tsunami has reached 10,000, with more than 17,000 people still missing. Nearly 300,000 people are believed homeless, and the number of evacuees will now increase, with the government's decision to expand the safety zone around the plant.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

U.S.-Led Assault Nears Goal in Libya - NYTimes.com

U.S.-Led Assault Nears Goal in Libya - NYTimes.com

By ELISABETH BUMILLER and KAREEM FAHIM
WASHINGTON — An American-led military campaign to destroy Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s air defenses and establish a no-fly zone over Libya has nearly accomplished its initial objectives, and the United States is moving swiftly to hand command to allies in Europe, American officials said Monday.

But the firepower of more than 130 Tomahawk cruise missiles and attacks by allied warplanes have not yet succeeded in accomplishing the more ambitious demands by the United States — repeated by President Obama in a letter to Congress on Monday — that Colonel Qaddafi withdraw his forces from embattled cities and cease all attacks against civilians.

Libyan government forces continued to engage in scattered fighting on Monday, defying the United Nations resolutions authorizing the allied strikes. The resolution demands an immediate cease-fire by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces and an end to attacks on civilians.

Pentagon officials are eager to extract the United States from a third armed conflict in a Muslim country as quickly as possible. But confusion broke out on Monday among the allies in Europe over who exactly would carry the military operation forward once the United States stepped back, and from where.

In Washington, lawmakers from both parties argued that Mr. Obama had exceeded his constitutional authority by authorizing the military’s participation without Congressional approval. The president said in a letter to Congress that he had the power to authorize the strikes, which would be limited in duration and scope, and that preventing a humanitarian disaster in Libya was in the national interest.

At the United Nations, the Security Council rejected a request from Libya for a meeting to discuss the situation.

Qaddafi forces were holding out against the allied military campaign to break their grip. Rebel fighters trying to retake the eastern town of Ajdabiya said their advance was halted on Monday by tank and rocket fire from government loyalists still controlling entrances to the city. Dozens of fighters fell back to a checkpoint about 25 miles north of Ajdabiya, in Zueitina.

By the early afternoon, the fighters said at least eight of their confederates had been killed in the day’s fighting, including four who were killed when a tank shell struck their pickup truck.

In the western city of Misurata, forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi were still at large and were using civilians as human shields, Reuters reported, but that could not be immediately confirmed.

At the Pentagon, officials said that the intensive American-led assault unleashed over the weekend was a classic air campaign, chosen by Mr. Obama among a range of military options, which was intended to have coalition aircraft in the skies above Libya within days and without fear of being shot down. “You don’t do that piecemeal,” a United States military official said. “You do it all at once, and you do it as fast as you can.”

The targets included radar installations, fixed and mobile antiaircraft sites, Libyan aircraft and hangars, and other targets intended to make it safe for allied aircraft to impose the no-fly zone. They also included tanks and other ground forces engaged with the rebels around the country, reflecting the broader aim of pushing Colonel Qadaffi’s forces to withdraw from disputed cities. Communications centers and at least one Scud missile site were also struck.

Explosions and antiaircraft fire could be heard in and around Tripoli on Monday in a third straight night of attacks there against Colonel Qadaffi’s forces.

United States military officials said that there were fewer American and coalition airstrikes in Libya on Sunday night and Monday, and that the number would probably decline further in coming days. But Gen. Carter F. Ham, the head of the United States Africa Command, who is in charge of the coalition effort, said that there would be strikes on Colonel Qaddafi’s mobile air defenses and that some 80 sorties — only half by the United States — were flown on Monday.

General Ham also said he had “full authority” to attack the regime’s forces if they refused to comply with President Obama’s demands that they pull back from Ajdabiya, Misurata and Zawiya.

By Monday night, explosions and antiaircraft fire could be heard in and around Tripoli in the third straight day of attacks.

In Santiago, Chile, Mr. Obama restated that the United States would soon turn over full responsibility to the allies to maintain the no-fly zone. He also sought to distinguish the stated goals of the United Nations-authorized military operation — protecting Libyan civilians, establishing a no-flight zone and forcing Colonel Qaddafi’s withdrawal from the cities — with his own administration’s demand, not included in the United Nations resolution, that Colonel Qaddafi had to leave office.

“It is U.S. policy that Qaddafi needs to go,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference with the Chilean president, Sebastián Piñera. “And we’ve got a wide range of tools in addition to our military effort to support that policy.” Mr. Obama cited economic sanctions, the freezing of assets and other measures to isolate the regime in Tripoli.

United States military commanders repeated throughout the day that they were not communicating with Libyan rebels, even as a spokesman for the rebel military, Khaled El-Sayeh, asserted that rebel officers had been providing the allies with coordinates for their airstrikes. “We give them the coordinates, and we give them the location that needs to be bombed,” Mr. Sayeh told reporters.

On Monday night, a United States military official responded that “we know of no instances where this has occurred.”

Earlier in the day, General Ham repeatedly said in answer to questions from reporters that the United States was not working with the rebels. “Our mission is not to support any opposition forces,” General Ham said by video feed to the Pentagon from the headquarters of Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany.

Mr. Sayeh said that there were no Western military trainers advising the rebel fighters, but that he would welcome such help. He added, with evident frustration, that the rebel fighters on the front in Ajdabiya “didn’t take orders from anybody.”

Like other rebel military officials, Mr. Sayeh said the rebels had been working to better organize their ranks to include members of specialized units from the Libyan Army that would attack Colonel Qaddafi’s forces when the time was right. But evidence of such a force has yet to materialize.

The rebels appeared to have fallen into some disarray as they returned from Ajdabiya, with one commander at the checkpoint trying to marshal them with a barely functioning megaphone. He tried organizing the assembled fighters into columns for an attack, but nearly fell off the truck as he ordered the fighters to move.

“I know most of you are civilians,” he said. “But we have to charge.” Only a few trucks inched forward as other fighters stood and argued among themselves.

At NATO headquarters in Brussels on Monday, members of the military alliance came to no agreement on who would take the lead on a no-fly zone or how to proceed on enforcing a United Nations arms embargo against Libya.

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said responsibility for the no-fly zone would be transferred to NATO. But France objected to that, with its foreign minister, Alain Juppé, saying: “The Arab League does not wish the operation to be entirely placed under NATO responsibility. It isn’t NATO which has taken the initiative up to now.”

Turkey, a NATO member that has opposed the use of force in Libya and was still seething over being omitted from a planning meeting in Paris on Saturday, refused on Sunday to back a NATO military plan for the no-fly zone. But its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, denied that his country was against NATO participation in the operation, saying only that he wanted assurances that it would be brief and not end in an occupation.

Elisabeth Bumiller reported from Washington, and Kareem Fahim from Benghazi, Libya. Contributing reporting were David D. Kirkpatrick from Tripoli, Libya; Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker from Washington; Steven Erlanger and Alan Cowell from Paris; Clifford J. Levy from Moscow; and Julia Werdigier from London.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 21, 2011


An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect title for Alain Juppé. He is the foreign minister of France, not its prime minister.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Arab League condemns broad bombing campaign in Libya - The Washington Post

Muammar al-Gaddafi at the 12th AU summit, Febr...Image via WikipediaArab League condemns broad bombing campaign in Libya - The Washington Post

By Edward Cody, Sunday, March 20, 1:01 PM

CAIRO — The Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, deplored the broad scope of the U.S.-European bombing campaign in Libya and said Sunday that he would call a league meeting to reconsider Arab approval of the Western military intervention.

Moussa said the Arab League’s approval of a no-fly zone on March 12 was based on a desire to prevent Moammar Gaddafi’s air force from attacking civilians and was not designed to endorse the intense bombing and missile attacks — including on Tripoli, the capital, and on Libyan ground forces — whose images have filled Arab television screens for two days.

“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone,” he said in a statement carried by the Middle East News Agency. “And what we want is the protection of civilians and not the shelling of more civilians.”

Moussa’s declaration suggested that some of the 22 Arab League members were taken aback by what they have seen and wanted to modify their approval lest they be perceived as accepting outright Western military intervention in Libya. Although the eccentric Gaddafi is widely looked down upon in the Arab world, the leaders and people of the Middle East traditionally have risen up in emotional protest at the first sign of Western intervention.

A shift away from the Arab League endorsement, even partial, would constitute a major setback to the U.S.-European campaign. Western leaders brandished the Arab League decision as a justification for their decision to move militarily and as a weapon in the debate to obtain a U.N. Security Council resolution two days before the bombing began.

As U.S. and European military operations entered their second day, however, most Arab governments maintained public silence, and the strongest expressions of opposition came from the greatest distance. Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Evo Morales of Bolivia and former Cuban president Fidel Castro condemned the intervention and suggested that Western powers were seeking to get their hands on Libya’s oil reserves rather than limit the bloodshed in the country.

Russia and China, which abstained from the voting on the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing military intervention, also expressed regret that Western powers had chosen to get involved despite their advice.

In the Middle East, the abiding power of popular distrust of Western intervention was evident despite the March 12 Arab League decision. It was not clear how many Arab governments shared the hesitations voiced by Moussa, who has said that he plans to run for president in Egypt this year. But despite Western efforts to enlist Arab military forces, only the Western-oriented Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar has announced that it would participate in the campaign.

The Qatari prime minister, Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani, told reporters that the kingdom made its decision in order to “stop the bloodbath” that he said Gaddafi was inflicting on rebel forces and civilians in opposition-controlled cities. He did not describe the extent of Qatar’s military involvement or what the mission of Qatari aircraft or personnel would be alongside U.S., French and British planes and ships that have carried out the initial strikes.

Islam Lutfi, a lawyer and Muslim Brotherhood leader in Egypt, said he opposed the military intervention because the real intention of the United States and its European allies was to get into position to benefit from Libya’s oil supplies. “The countries aligned against Libya are there not for humanitarian reasons but to further their own interests,” he added.

But the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies in the youth coalition that spearheaded Egypt’s recent upheaval took no official position. They were busy with a referendum Saturday on constitutional amendments designed to usher democracy into the country. Similarly, the provisional military-run government took no stand, and most Cairo newspapers gave only secondary space to the Libya conflict.

When the Arab League approved imposition of a no-fly zone, only Syria and Algeria opposed the decision, according to Egyptian officials. Syria’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday reiterated its government’s opposition, as diplomatic momentum gathered for the U.S.-European operation, saying the country rejected “all forms of foreign interference in Libyan affairs.”

Al-Qaeda, which could be expected to oppose foreign intervention in an Arab country and embrace Gaddafi’s description of the Western campaign as a new crusade, made no immediate comment. This was probably due in part to the difficulty for the al-Qaeda leadership to communicate without revealing its position. But it also has brought to mind Gaddafi’s frequent assertions that al-Qaeda was behind the Libyan revolt and that he and the West should work hand in hand to defeat the rebels.

Iran and its Shiite Muslim allies in the Lebanese organization Hezbollah, reflexively opposed to Western influence in the Middle East, also were forced into a somewhat equivocal position, condemning Gaddafi for his bloody tactics but opposing the Western military intervention.

“The fact that most Arab and Muslim leaders did not take responsibility opened the way for Western intervention in Libya,” declared Hasan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, in a video speech Sunday to his followers. “This opens the way for foreign interventions in every Arab country. It brings us back to the days of occupation, colonization and partition.”

At the same time, Nasrallah accused Gaddafi of using the same brutal tactics against his opponents as Israel has against Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry, which previously criticized Gaddafi’s crackdown, expressed “doubts” Sunday about U.S. and European intentions. Like the Latin American critics, it suggested that the claims of wanting to protect civilians were just a cover for a desire to install a more malleable leadership in Tripoli and make it easier to exploit Libya’s oil.