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Feb. 5, 2013 at 8:07 AM   |   Comments

Obama meetings focus on immigration reform

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama's meetings with two groups Tuesday were to focus on getting a bipartisan immigration reform bill passed this year, the White House said.

Obama was to meet with 16 progressive and labor leaders in a West Wing meeting room at 11 a.m. and with 12 business leaders in the same Roosevelt Room, near the Oval Office, at 3:20 p.m., the White House said.

Expected attendees at the morning meeting were to include AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, United Farm Workers of America President Arturo Rodriguez, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia, and leaders of other progressive and immigration groups including the Center for American Progress, the National Immigration Law Center, Immigration Equality and United We Dream.

Expected attendees at the afternoon meeting were to include chief executive officers including Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s Lloyd Blankfein, Yahoo! Inc.'s Marissa Mayer, Coca-Cola Co.'s Muhtar Kent, Alcoa Inc.'s Klaus Kleinfeld, Marriott International Inc.'s Arne Sorenson and Motorola Solutions Inc.'s Greg Brown.

The meetings will let Obama "continue his dialogue with outside leaders on a number of issues -- including immigration reform and how it fits into his broader economic agenda, and his efforts to achieve balanced deficit reduction," the White House said in a statement Monday.


Memo: Drone strikes on U.S. citizens legal

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The United States can target its own citizens with drone strikes if they have recently been involved in violent attacks, a Justice Department memo says.

NBC News reported Monday it had obtained a copy of the confidential 16-page memo. The case made for targeting U.S. citizens in countries such as Yemen is similar to, but goes beyond, the one laid out by Attorney General Eric Holder and other officials.

"The condition that an operational leader present an 'imminent' threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future," the memo said.

The undated memo, titled "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qaida or An Associated Force," was given to members of the Senate and House intelligence committees. It said citizens can be considered imminent threats if they have recently been involved in violence and their views remain unchanged.


Coalition tacitly backs talks with Assad

DAMASCUS, Syria, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The opposition coalition said it gave qualified support to its leader's offer for a dialog with President Bashar Assad to end the nearly two-year-old civil war.

Opposition leader Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib's offer, made last week, initially was met with criticism within the Syrian opposition movement but leaders of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces changed their minds during the weekend, The New York Times reported Monday.

The opposition coalition is pressing for a definitive response from Bashar, whom they consider a brutal dictator, and has indicated he could avoid trial if he resigned and left the country. The opposition has always said Assad's departure must be included in any political settlement to end the conflict but indicated it no longer is a condition for talks to begin, the Times said.

Khatib said he would enter discussions with Assad's government only if it released 160,000 political prisoners and renewed expired passports of Syria's displaced, which includes large numbers of dissidents.


Blast at Iraqi checkpoint kills 4 soldiers

BAGHDAD, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- A car bombing in northern Baghdad Tuesday killed at least four soldiers and wounded at least 16 others, security officials said.

Officials said a suicide bomber detonated his car at an Iraqi army checkpoint near al-Hut Prison in the Taji area of northern Baghdad, IraqiNews reported.

IraqiNews.com also reported police in Kirkuk Monday discovered four corpses of members of one family inside a building and the body of a teenager on the street, officials said.

Police said the four bodies showed evidence of gunshot wounds. The girl, estimated to be about 13 years old, had been strangled, police said.

The two cases were being investigated, officials said.


Trial of gang rape suspects opens

NEW DELHI, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Five men charged in the gang rape and death of a woman went on trial Tuesday in a fast-track Indian court where they could be sentenced to death.

A sixth suspect in the reported New Delhi gang rape case will be tried separately as he has been declared a juvenile. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of three years at a reform institution.

The trial of the five a New Delhi court is being conducted behind closed doors and its proceedings cannot be made public, NDTV television reported. The defendants pleaded innocent last week. They could be sentenced to death if convicted.

The alleged Dec. 16 rape of the 23-year-old physiotherapy student in a moving private transport bus and the internal injuries she suffered during the attack that ultimately led to her death, deeply shocked and outraged the country.

Besides murder and gang rape, the suspects have been charged with numerous other charges, including kidnapping and destruction of evidence stemming from alleged attempts to wash the vehicle after the rape.

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