Security Council OKs N. Korea sanctions
UNITED NATIONS, March 7 (UPI) -- The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved more sanctions Thursday against North Korea, imposing penalties on the country's banking, travel and trade.
The vote on the resolution drafted by the United States and China came hours after the reclusive country warned for the first time it would launch pre-emptive nuclear attacks on the United States and South Korea, The New York Times reported.
"The strength, breadth and severity of these sanctions will raise the cost to North Korea of its illicit nuclear program," said Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "Taken together, these sanctions will bite and bite hard."
Li Baodong, the U.N. ambassador from China, said the resolution had a long-term goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. China is the last ally of North Korea, which expressed anger at the country's move.
"This resolution is a very important step," he said after the vote.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said a draft it received of the U.N. sanctions resolution included three North Korean weapons dealers and two entities, and called for mandatory inspections of North Korean ships and aircraft suspected of carrying banned items, including luxury goods.
Obama, Ryan, Van Hollen to meet for lunch
WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) -- President Obama's outreach to congressional Republicans includes a lunch with House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate.
A White House official said Obama invited Ryan and U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee to lunch Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The lunch is the latest sign that Obama is trying to restart discussions with Republicans to produce a "grand bargain'' on deficit-cutting, as well as reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code.
Ryan is the architect of the House Republican plan to corral federal spending and reform the Medicare program. He's scheduled to next week release the House GOP's version of a budget for the next fiscal year.
Ryan said Wednesday that his proposal would be similar to his last blueprint and would contain no "big surprises," The Hill reported.
His proposal last year would have cut $5 trillion in spending and balanced the budget by 2040. This year, Ryan pledged to conservative House members that his proposal that would balance the budget by 2023.
Obama began calling GOP senators last weekend, focusing on lawmakers outside the Senate leadership.
On Wednesday, Obama ate dinner with a dozen Senate Republicans at a Washington hotel, where the conversation topics included taxes and spending, participants said.
White House officials and other familiar with the discussions told the Journal Obama's aim is to reach out beyond congressional Republican leaders to build a coalition that will pass a budget package that would reduce the deficit, raise tax revenue, rework the tax code and buttress Social Security and Medicare.
The White House said Obama and the 12 GOP senators had a "good exchange of ideas."
Administration mulls 2001 terrorism law
WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) -- The Obama administration is debating whether it can extend its counter-terrorism program to target newer al-Qaida offshoots, U.S. officials said.
The Authorization for Use of Military Force, a joint resolution passed by Congress three days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror strikes against the United States, has been the legal bases for U.S. counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaida, including drone campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen that have killed thousands of people.
However, U.S. officials said administration lawyers have become more concerned that the law is being stretched to its legal limit as new threats are emerging in countries such as Syria, Libya and Mali, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
"The farther we get away from 9/11 and what this legislation was initially focused upon," a senior administration official said, "we can see [not only] from both a theoretical but also a practical standpoint that groups that have arisen or morphed become more difficult to fit in."
The law's relevance is "requiring a whole policy and legal look," the official told the Post.
Federal courts have expanded the law to apply to "associated forces" of al-Qaida. Officials said legal advisers at the White House, the State and Defense departments and intelligence agencies now are debating whether the law can be expanded again to include "associates of associates," the Post said.
The debate was sparked by emergence of groups in North Africa and the Middle East that may have parts of al-Qaida's agenda but don't have meaningful ties to its leadership, the Post said. Among them are the al-Nusra Front in Syria and Ansar al-Sharia, which was tied to the Sept. 11 attack on a the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. diplomatic employees died.
U.N. expert urges release of CIA probes
UNITED NATIONS, March 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. and British governments should release findings on CIA interrogation practices during George W. Bush's presidency, a U.N. human rights expert said.
In a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council Wednesday, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson said U.S. authorities must "publish without delay, and to the fullest extent possible, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report into the CIA's secret detention and interrogation program."
The request for publication of the findings is based on having accountability for human rights violations while engaged in counter-terrorism activities, Emmerson said in a release.
"Those individuals found to have participated in secretly detaining persons and in any unlawful acts perpetrated during such detention, including their superiors if they have ordered, encouraged or consented to secret detentions, should be prosecuted without delay and, where found guilty, given sentences commensurate with the gravity of the acts perpetrated," he said.
Emmerson also called on the British government to publish an interim report of an inquiry looking into allegations that the British intelligence services were complicit in the torture of detainees and rendition flights.
Emmerson also called on Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Romania and Thailand to open or re-open "effective independent judicial or quasi-judicial inquiries into credible allegations that secret CIA 'black sites' were established on their territories."
He also urged the governments to identify public officials who may have authorized or collaborated in the setting up or operating the facilities and "hold the relevant officials publicly accountable for their actions."
Pistorius' home may remain crime scene
PRETORIA, South Africa, March 7 (UPI) -- The home of South African paralympian Oscar Pistorius may be used as evidence in his trial for the shooting death of his girlfriend, crime scene cleaners said.
Eileen De Jager, owner of the private Crime Scene Clean-Ups, said she was told by South African Police Service officials that no one would be allowed to enter the Pretoria house because it will remain a crime scene until the trial begins, ABC News reported Wednesday.
De Jager said police told her the trial judge and other court officials may want to visit the house to clear any misunderstandings that could arise when the case is heard.
The sprinter is accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, on Feb. 14 when he fired through a closed bathroom door. While he admitted shooting her, Pistorius said he thought he was shooting at a burglar.
Prosecutors charge Pistorius deliberately shot and killed Steenkamp in a fit of rage.
Police refused to confirm or deny whether the house was being preserved as a crime scene, telling ABC News revealing such information now might jeopardize their case later.
Police denied claims by Pistorius' private forensic team that it has been denied access to examine the bathroom door. Investigators hired by the paralympic sprinter told a South African TV station they've yet to be allowed access to the door, which police removed four days after Steenkamp's death.
After a bail hearing last month, Pistorius will appear in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court again in June.
Currently, Pistorius is charged with premeditated murder, but prosecutor indicated at least one more charge, relating to the possession of unlicensed ammunition, would be added.
Pistorius, free on bail that is equivalent to $113,000, is prohibited by bail conditions to return to his home before trial.
Tensions rise in Kenya over election
NAIROBI, Kenya, March 7 (UPI) -- Political party officials in Kenya alleged preliminary presidential election results have been "doctored" and have called for vote counting to be halted.
Kenyans headed to the polls Monday to vote in the first presidential election in the country since 2007, when accusations of vote-rigging led to violent ethnic clashes in which more than 1,100 people died, The New York Times reported.
Results were supposed to be in shortly within days of the election, but a crash in the election counting system has forced vote to be counted by hand.
Preliminary results from the election show Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court for allegedly inciting violence in Kenya's last election, leading Prime Minister Raila Odinga, of the Orange Democratic Movement party, 53 to 41 percent.
"We have evidence that the results we are receiving have been doctored," said Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, Odinga's running mate. "The national tallying process lacks integrity and has to be stopped."
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has yet to respond to the ODM's allegations, The Financial Times reported.
Kenyatta's Jubilee party has also made allegations of vote-rigging, but said the count should continue.