Obama releases long-form birth certificate
WASHINGTON, April 27 (UPI) -- President Obama released his long-form birth certificate Wednesday, saying it was time for the country to focus on huge issues and not "silliness."
"We do not have time for this kind of silliness," Obama said. "We've got better stuff to do. I've got better stuff to do. We got big problems to solve, and I'm confident we can solve them, but we're gonna have to focus on them, not on this."
In a blog posted on WhiteHouse.gov, White House Communications director Dan Pfeiffer wrote: "The president believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn't good for the country. It may have been good politics and good TV, but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country."
A vocal group of Americans questioned whether Obama was a U.S. citizen and called the certificate of live birth inadequate proof he was born in the United States. The certificate of live birth, which the Obama presidential campaign made public in 2008, is recognized in Hawaii and other states as valid documentation for proof of birth.
"I know that there's going to be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest," Obama said.
Because the issue of Obama's place of birth had become such an issue, Pfeiffer said the president asked the Hawaii State Health Department to release a copy of his long-form birth certificate, instead of the certificate of live birth that it usually issues.
U.S. business mogul Donald Trump, who's mulling a presidential bid as a Republican candidate, has questioned Obama's place of birth and wondered whether the president was hiding something by not releasing the long-form birth certificate. Lawmakers in several states have introduced several so-called "birther" bills that would require a presidential candidate to offer proof of being born in the United States. Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed such a bill.
Trump took credit for forcing Obama's hand, CNN said.
"Today I'm very proud of myself because I've accomplished something" others failed to do," Trump said in a visit to New Hampshire. "Our president has finally released a birth certificate."
Obama said he wouldn't normally comment on such an issue but "there's a lot of stuff swirling in the press at any given day and, you know, I've got other things to do."
"But two weeks ago, when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week, the dominant news story wasn't about these huge, monumental choices that we're gonna have to make as a nation, it was about my birth certificate."
He said he was confident political leaders would come together in a bipartisan way to address the issues facing the United States, but "we're not going be able to do it if we are distracted. We're not going be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other."
"We're not going be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts," Obama said. "We're not going be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers."
Drones used in attack on Tripoli
WASHINGTON, April 27 (UPI) -- An F-16 aircraft participating in the NATO-led operation to protect Libyan citizens was involved what NATO called an incident when landing in Italy Wednesday.
The pilot ejected safely and his condition was being assessed, NATO said on its Web site. The nationality of the aircraft was not released.
The cause of the incident at Naval Air Station Sigonella was being investigated by Italian police.
NATO also said an unmanned aircraft was used in Tripoli Tuesday to destroy a surface-to-air missile system. Operators of the Predator drone delayed the firing until civilians left a nearby football field.
"This Predator strike is a perfect example of the complex and fluid situation that NATO air forces are facing every day as part of Operation Unified Protector. NATO will continue to do everything in its power to prevent harm to the civilian population," said Rear Adm. Russ Harding, deputy commander of Operation Unified Protector. "Predator drones enhance NATO's ability to strike with care and precision."
Because the drone strikes will continue, NATO said it has asked civilians "to distance themselves from Gadhafi regime forces, installations and equipment whenever possible so we can strike with greater success and with the minimum risk to civilians," Harding said.
Rebels hunkered down in Misurata said much of the city resembled a wasteland Wednesday after relentless pounding by pro-government forces.
Witnesses said three people were killed and several other were wounded after shells exploded near a refugee camp by the city's port Tuesday, CNN reported. Thousands of migrants have been living in the camp while waiting for ships to carry them to safety.
Opposition forces said they thought NATO air attacks Tuesday night prevented the shelling from continuing through the night.
Despite the bombardment, Britain Defense Secretary Liam Fox said it appeared rebel forces in may be gaining ground in Misurata against Gadhafi's forces, Sky News reported.
"We've seen some momentum gained in the last few days," Fox said. "We've seen some progress made in Misurata. And it's very clear that the regime is on the back foot."
However, witnesses told the British broadcaster shelling by Gadhafi's troops could be heard in Misurata and departing government forces left behind bombs.
"The defeated Gadhafi forces left behind booby-trapped bombs and unexploded ordinance," one person said. "Hidden amongst the wreckage they are finding anti-personnel mines."
NATO is leading an international military operation in Libya that includes airstrikes targeting Gadhafi's military resources as provided by a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing any means necessary -- short of occupation -- to protect civilians. Following an attack this week on Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli, the Libyan government has claimed the coalition is trying to assassinate the ruler of almost 42 years.
British Defense Secretary Liam Fox told CNN Tuesday the alliance has targeted "not individuals, but the capabilities of the regime."
"We don't discuss specific targets, but in the general point, we've made it very clear that our responsibility is the protection of the civilian population," Fox said.
The African Union called for an end to military operations targeting Libyan officials.
"[The African Union] urges all involved to refrain from actions, including military operations targeting Libyan senior officials and socio-economic infrastructure, that would further compound the situation and make it more difficult to achieve international consensus on the best way forward," the union said in a Web site post Wednesday.
Nine troops die in Kabul airport violence
KABUL, Afghanistan, April 27 (UPI) -- Violence at the Kabul, Afghanistan, airport Wednesday left eight coalition troops and a contractor dead, the International Security Assistance Force said.
NATO spokesman Lt. Col. David Simons of the U.S. Air Force confirmed the shooting involving some of the ISAF forces at a compound used to train the Afghan air force, Stars and Stripes reported.
Simons said he could not discuss any other information concerning the casualties. An ISAF Joint Command release on the deaths also withheld the nationalities of the trainers.
Stars and Stripes said many, if not most, of the personnel training the Afghan air force are Americans.
An ISAF official said initial reports indicate that all those killed -- originally thought to be six -- were American.
Col. Baha Dur, a spokesman for the Afghan National Army at Kabul's military airport, told CNN the gunman "opened fire at armed U.S. military soldiers inside the airport after an argument between them turned serious. According to my understanding, there are six Americans killed during this gunfight."
Simons did not discuss what precipitated the shooting, only saying, "There was an incident that led to violence."
Others said an Afghan pilot at the military compound opened fire following an argument.
Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, said the pilot, who was not immediately identified, had been a military pilot for 20 years, the Los Angeles Times said.
The ISAF said incident involved small arms fire at a location less than a mile from NATO's command center.
The Times quoted a Taliban spokesman as claiming responsibility and saying his group had sent an Afghan officer to shoot Afghan and foreign troops at the compound.
CNN quoted the Taliban spokesman as claiming a suicide attacker had killed nine foreigners and five Afghans before being killed by the Afghan army but NATO denied that claim.
"We do not know why it started but there is no indication that a suicide bomber was involved and there are no reports that someone managed to get into the base to do this," the ISAF said.
CNN reported 36 NATO personnel have died in the past two years, blamed on attacks by people perceived to be Afghan soldiers or police, raising concerns such incidents could hurt the trust between the coalition forces and the Afghan forces they are training to take over the security of the country.
Coalition government near in Iraq
BAGHDAD, April 27 (UPI) -- The two major parties in Iraq are moving closer to reaching a political majority government, an official close to Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said.
The official said establishing political relations between Maliki's State of Law party and Iraqiya means the country's ability to reach a majority government was about 99 percent, al-Sumaria reported Wednesday.
"The natural structure of an Iraqi sound and typical political situation resides in the rapprochement between [Iraqiya] and State of Law coalition," said Izzat al-Shahbandar, a State of Law member of Parliament. "When the two parties come together, it would be possible for them to constitute a political majority and form a majority government."
In national elections last year, neither party claimed the required number for a majority. Iraqiya, led by Iyad Allawi, said the State of Law coalition failed to implement bilateral agreements on the national strategic policy council. The State of Law members accused Iraqiya of avoiding responsibility as a partner in the government.
Maliki threatened Tuesday to seek the dissolution of the government if it fails to accomplish the country's projects beyond a 100-day deadline, al-Sumaria reported.
As prime minister, Maliki said, he can call for early elections.
"The government might ask to dismiss the minister if we deem that his ministry is incapable of accomplishing its projects. We might ask as well to dissolve the government after the 100-day deadline. This deadline involves the Parliament as well," Maliki said during a news conference Tuesday.
Conflicting 'terrorist' claims in Syria
DAMASCUS, Syria, April 27 (UPI) -- Witnesses reported fresh gunfire in Syria Wednesday as human rights activists rejected government claims troops were battling terrorists.
The trouble was centered in the beleaguered city of Daraa and came a day after Syria's ambassador to the United Nations rejected a call for an independent investigation into reports of hundreds of civilian deaths in the turmoil.
"Syria has a government, has a state," Ambassador Bashar Jaafari told reporters in New York. "We can undertake any investigation by our own selves, with full transparency. We have nothing to hide."
CNN said its source, whom they refused to identify for security reasons, said snipers prowled the rooftops and no funerals were being held Wednesday because government troops occupied the city's cemeteries.
Syrian officials this week said the fighting in Daraa was between militant guerrillas and government troops. A representative of Human Rights Watch in Damascus called the claim "rubbish" and told CNN the casualties included women and children.