Gates: 'Someone' knew bin Laden's location
WASHINGTON, May 18 (UPI) -- Someone, although not a top leader, within the Pakistani government knew Osama bin Laden was hiding in-country, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.
"I have seen no evidence at all that the [Pakistani] senior leadership knew" of the al-Qaida leader's location before U.S. forces raided a compound in Abbottabad and killed bin Laden, Gates said Wednesday during a news conference. "In fact, I've seen some evidence to the contrary … and we have no evidence yet with respect to anybody else. My supposition is, somebody knew."
Adm. Michael Mullen, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said during the joint news conference, "I have seen no evidence that the top leadership knows."
Both military leaders said the United States still must work with Pakistan as well as provide aid, despite anger expressed in Pakistan and on Capitol Hill.
"Clearly, we've had challenges with respect to the long- term strategic partnership. I've gone into this with my eyes wide open," Mullen said. "I think the region continues to be critical and our relationship continues to be critical."
Gates also repeated his concerns about too many people discussing the operation out of turn. In recent comments at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Gates said an agreement was reached after a White House briefing that operational details wouldn't be discussed.
Noting he didn't "single anybody out" in his comments, Gates said Wednesday, "My concern is that there were too many people in too many places talking too much about this operation."
He said he was concerned "because we want to retain the capability to carry out these kinds of operations in the future. And when so much detail is available, it makes that both more difficult and riskier."
Based on his supposition that someone in the Pakistani government knew bin Laden's whereabouts, a reporter asked whether Pakistan should pay some price.
"If I were in Pakistani shoes, I would say I've already paid a price. I've been humiliated. I've been shown that the Americans can come in here and do this with impunity," Gates said. "And I think we have to recognize that they see a cost in that and a price that has been paid."
Obama imposes sanctions on Assad
WASHINGTON, May 18 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama imposed sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad and other officials to try to prod the regime to end its crackdown on protesters.
The sanctions were effective Wednesday.
The administration took the additional steps to hold the Syrian government accountable for its violent actions against Syrian civilians, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a release.
The months-long uprisings seek greater freedoms and Assad's ouster. Estimates of the number of people killed since the crackdown began range from 700 to more than 1,000.
Obama signed the executive order a day ahead of what has been billed a major speech on Middle Eastern policy.
Also Wednesday, the Treasury Department announced it designated 10 people and entities, including two Iranian officials, pursuant to an executive order signed by Obama April 29 that targets Syrian officials and others "responsible for human rights abuses, including repression against the Syrian people, as well as a set of companies tied to Syrian corruption."
"The actions the administration has taken today send an unequivocal message to President Assad, the Syrian leadership, and regime insiders that they will be held accountable for the ongoing violence and repression in Syria," said Acting Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. "President Assad and his regime must immediately end the use of violence, answer the calls of the Syrian people for a more representative government, and embark upon the path of meaningful democratic reform."
Besides Assad, the new executive order affects Vice President Farouk al-Shara, Prime Minister Adel Safar, Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaa, Defense Minister Ali Habib Mahmoud, Military Intelligence leader Abdul Fatah Qudsiya and Political Security Director head Mohammed Dib Zaitoun, the U.S. department said.
The executive order signed Wednesday stated any property in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons in which the listed Syrian officials have an interest is blocked, and U.S. persons generally are barred from dealing with them.
The Treasury Department's designation included Iranians Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, and Mohsen Chizari, a senior Revolutionary Guard officer serving as its commander of operations and training.
Other designees are individuals and entities associated with Syria's intelligence service, including Hafiz Makhluf, a cousin of the president and senior official of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, the overall civilian intelligence service in Syria. The Treasury Department said Makhluf had a lead role in responding to protests and was heavily involved in the Syrian regime's actions in Daraa, where protesters were killed by Syrian security forces.
Obama informed congressional leaders of his actions by letter.
Sarkozy reportedly warned IMF chief
NEW YORK, May 18 (UPI) -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly warned Dominique Strauss-Kahn about his womanizing before he left for the United States in 2007.
Strauss-Kahn, a former economics professor and minister of the economy and finance from 1997 to 1999, had a reputation in France for being sexually aggressive, CBS News reported. Sarkozy, who supported his appointment as head of the International Monetary Fund, warned him mores are different in Washington, The Times of London said.
"Over there they don't joke about this sort of thing," Sarkozy said, according to the Times. "Your life will be passed under a magnifying glass. Avoid taking the lift alone with interns. France cannot permit a scandal."
Strauss-Kahn is being held at Rikers Island in New York after being charged with sexually assaulting a maid at a Manhattan hotel.
The French newspaper Liberation reported after his arrest that in an April 28 interview Strauss-Kahn suggested a woman might make up a story about being attacked in a parking lot to win large damages, CNN said. He also suggested his reputation is overblown.
A poll by the Conseil Sondage Analyses, or Council of Polling Analysis, found more than half, 57 percent, of those surveyed in France think Strauss-Kahn is a victim, not a perpetrator.
Obama to cadets: Carry tradition forward
NEW LONDON, Conn., May 18 (UPI) -- Graduates should celebrate their success at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and be ready to meet the nation's "great expectations," President Obama said Wednesday.
The heritage of the Coast Guard "is the tradition that you will carry forward," Obama told the cadets. "And I know that you will do so with the same sense of purpose, the same sense of patriotism that have defined your days at this Academy."
He spoke of his regard for Coast Guard, citing examples of its high standards guardsmen exhibited whether performing duties at the White House, helping citizens face a natural disaster or stationed in Afghanistan.
"Your nation has great expectations as well. We've made an enormous investment to build you into the leaders that you are," Obama said. "Yes, the Coast Guard may be the smallest of our services, and you will be tasked with vast responsibilities -- protecting thousands of miles of coast, securing hundreds of ports, patrolling millions of miles of ocean. But I'm absolutely confident that you will meet these obligations."
Obama addressed an audience of about 1,500 people, including 228 newly commissioned Ensigns.
While the future can't be predicted, "we know that the complex missions asked of our Coast Guard have never been more important," Obama said.
The Coast Guard is being asked to work with other nations to protect ports and shipping lanes, combat piracy and train foreign partners, as well as protect U.S. coastlines from" terrorists from slipping deadly weapons into our ports," Obama said.
He pledged as the nation's commander in chief that the United States "will do everything in our power to help you succeed."
"So, cadets, if we remember this -- if you stay true to the lessons you've learned here … if we hold fast to what keeps us strong and unique among nations, then I am confident that future historians will look back on this moment and say that when we faced the test of our time, we stood our watch," Obama said. "We did our duty."
One graduate, Zachary Ballard, 22, of Altuna, Iowa, called Obama's address to the academy an "incredible honor."
"I feel blessed. Blessed to graduate," said Ballard, who heads to Kodiak, Alaska, to be a civil engineering officer aboard a Coast Guard cutter.
Spanish protesters demand political change
MADRID, May 18 (UPI) -- Thousands of Spanish protesters filled Madrid's center Wednesday, demanding political and social change after a failed weekend start, officials said.
Social media networks fueled the call for more than 10,000 demonstrators to take to the streets in Madrid's Puerta del Sol Square right before elections, La Vanguardia reported.
Some are protesting against Spain's 21 percent unemployment rate and a record 4.9 million jobless. Others say the political and financial establishment is to blame.
The protesters, who started gathering Tuesday night, chanted and held banners with slogans such as "make the guilty pay for the recession" and "the struggle is on the streets, not in Parliament."
Police said the rally was peaceful.
The protest originally started Sunday but resulted in several injuries and 19 people arrested for public disorder offenses.
Similar protests are being held in 13 different Spanish cities, as well as at Spanish embassies around the world, including London.
Some protesters have prepared to camp out until Election Day on Sunday.