Washington (CNN) - The White House chief of staff Tuesday reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Israel and said the dispute over settlements should not keep the Israelis and Palestinians from holding peace talks.
"No one should allow the issue of settlements to distract from the goal of a lasting peace between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world," Rahm Emanuel told participants at a conference of the Jewish Federations of North America.
He urged Israelis and Palestinians to hold peace negotiations soon to address key "final status" issues of security, borders, refugees and Jerusalem. But he added that that "unilateral actions should be avoided and cannot dictate the outcome," a pointed reference to continued settlement activity by Israel.
Emanuel filled in for President Barack Obama, who canceled his scheduled appearance before the group to attend the Fort Hood memorial service. He reiterated statements made by Obama stressing the "unbreakable" bond between the United States and Israel.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned Monday against a narrowing of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, but also suggested a plan by the commanding U.S. general in the country is overly ambitious.
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations that a major U.S. troop pullout could trigger a civil war could between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
It could also destabilize neighboring Pakistan, he added.
Kerry's warning came in the midst of a comprehensive Obama administration review of U.S. strategy in the two countries.
Kerry rejected the idea of a small-scale counter-terror campaign advocated by Vice President Joe Biden, saying it was no substitute for the wider ongoing military campaign.
But he also would not endorse a major troop increase as proposed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Kerry said McChrystal's request for 40,000 additional troops "reaches too far, too fast."
Kerry just returned from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he played a key role in persuading Afghan President Hamid Karzai to accept a runoff election after Karzai's recent election victory was found to be the result of widespread voter fraud.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A runoff election between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, appears likely, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States said Thursday.
Ambassador Said Jawad told an audience at the U.S. Institute for Peace that a runoff is "a likely scenario." Jawad is the first member of Karzai's government to say publicly that a runoff is probable.
Election officials in Afghanistan are expected to announce in coming days whether allegations of fraud in the disputed August 20 presidential election will force a second round of voting.
Preliminary results of the August election showed Karzai winning with 54 percent, but a U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission could discard enough ballots to drop Karzai's total below 50 percent, forcing a runoff.
The runoff, Jawad stressed, would have to be held quickly. He said a two-week deadline, as spelled out in the Afghan constitution, would be "impossible," but added that the voting should be held in either late October or early November. The final vote tally would be expected two weeks later.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - "Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum - when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes."
That's the take of Hillary Clinton's State Department on President Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, according to her spokesman, Assistant Secretary PJ Crowley.
Crowley was referring to the incident last December when an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during his final visit to Iraq of his presidency.
Muntader Zaidi, who worked for the Iraqi television station Al Baghdadiya, hurled both his shoes at Bush and called him a "dog" during a press conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He narrowly missed the president, who quickly ducked.
NEW YORK (CNN) - One of America's pre-eminent political power couples made a rare joint appearance Friday, when Bill and Hillary Clinton took the stage at the former president's Clinton Global Initiative conference.
"I want to begin by expressing my extreme indebtedness to the Clinton Global Initiative, to all of you who participated, for giving me the first chance I have had in a week to see Hillary," Bill Clinton told the audience of social activists and business leaders at the closing session of CGI, a week-long conference designed to find solutions to global problems through public and private partnerships.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was at the session to unveil a new State Department initiative on food security.
As he introduced her, the former president was effusive in his praise for his wife, saying that her approach to food security - helping farmers around the world grow their own food to earn income and alleviate poverty - was much smarter than the decades-long policy of simply giving humanitarian aid and food to countries.
"It was a wrong-headed policy. It persisted through Democratic and Republican policies alike, including mine. We were all wrong and she is determined to reverse it," Bill Clinton said, adding that while he was busy engaging in politics, Hillary had "become her own NGO."
"Most of what I know about what I do today, I learned from her and she has become the best public servant our family has produced," he added. "I am very proud of her and honored that she came here."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Don't you just love a parade? Apparently the Obama administration does too, as evidenced by the steady stream of top U.S. officials visiting Israel this week. A bevy of heavy hitters are there, the likes of which haven't been seen since the Persian Gulf War.
Just as Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrapped up his meetings there, Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell arrived for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mitchell will be followed later this week by national security adviser James Jones and Dennis Ross, the White House's point man on Iran.
Aaron Miller, a former Mideast peace negotiator under President Clinton and author of "The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace," calls it "the big hug," a show of reassurance to Israel that the U.S.-Israeli relationship remains strong despite the current squabble over settlements.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - One might think the hiring of an envoy to handle outreach to the Muslim world would be something the State Department would want to tout.
Such a move was recently made, but it didn't qualify as significant news for diplomats, who failed to make the appointment public.
This week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose Farah Pandith for the job.
State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly confirmed the appointment on Thursday after being asked about Indian news reports that Pandith, a Kashmiri-American, had been selected for the job.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Obama administration has decided to rescind invitations to Iranian diplomats for July Fourth celebrations overseas due to violent crackdowns against protesters in Iran, the White House said Wednesday.
"July Fourth allows us to celebrate the freedom and the liberty we enjoy: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble peacefully, freedom of the press," White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters. "Given the events of the past many days, those invitations will no longer be extended."
The administration had decided to invite Iranians to the celebrations at overseas posts as part of the president's policy of engaging the Iranian regime.
Late last month the State Department sent a cable to its embassies and consulates worldwide telling them they could invite Iranian representative to their July Fourth celebrations.
But in a fresh cable sent to all embassies and consulates Wednesday evening, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered posts "to rescind all invitations that have been extended to Iranian diplomats for July 4 events.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama has decided to send a U.S. ambassador back to Syria, a dramatic sign of reconciliation between the two countries, the State Department announced Wednesday.
State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters the Syrian government was notified of the decision Tuesday evening.
"We're prepared to move forward with Syria to advance our interests through direct and continuing dialogue, " Kelly said. "We continue to have concerns about Syria's role in this region, and we think one way to address those concerns is to have an ambassador in Damascus."
Kelly said the decision "reflects the administration's recognition of the important role Syria plays in the region."
"We hope that they will continue to play such a constructive role to promote peace and stability in the region," Kelly said.
Publicly officials say the decision, which was reported by CNN Tuesday, was not in any way related to the election crisis in Iran, although the Obama administration has maintained engaging the Syrian regime could weaken Syria's strategic alliance with Iran.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Obama administration is seriously considering not extending invitations to Iranian diplomats for July 4 celebrations overseas, senior administration officials tell CNN.
The officials said intense discussions on the issue were taking place, but the final decision had not been made.
Late last month the State Department sent a cable to its embassies and consulates worldwide informing them they "may invite representatives from the government of Iran" to their July 4th celebrations.
The U.S. receptions marking Independence Day usually feature symbols of Americana, such as hot dogs, red-white-and-blue decorations and remarks by U.S. officials about America's founding fathers.
The Obama administration had decided to invite Iranians to the celebrations at overseas posts as part of President Obama's policy of engaging the Iranian regime.