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News Wrap: U.S. embassy in Yemen closed to public amid turmoil

January 26, 2015 at 6:45 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news of the day: The U.S. Embassy in Yemen closed to the public as unrest roiled the Arab nation. Street protests stretched into a second week in the capital city, Sanaa. Demonstrators are angry over a power grab by Shiite rebels that prompted the pro-American president to resign. The State Department said, in light of the turmoil, the embassy curtailed its activities.

JEN PSAKI, State Department Spokeswoman: We’re still providing emergency consular service to U.S. citizens in Yemen, and due to ongoing security concerns, which we indicated last week we would continue to evaluate and make staffing and other decisions accordingly, we’re unable to provide consular services, but, as I mentioned, we remain open and operational.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, a U.S. drone strike killed three al-Qaida fighters in Eastern Yemen. It was the first this year.

In Syria, Kurdish fighters have retaken a key town on the Turkish border from Islamic State forces. The Kurds, backed by U.S. airstrikes, say they gained full control of Kobani today, after four months of fighting.

Also in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad said the American-led airstrikes need to be cleared with his regime. “Foreign Affairs” magazine quoted him as saying, “If you want to make any kind of action in another country, you ask their permission.”

A new left-wing leader, Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in as prime minister of Greece today. His anti-bailout party came from the political fringe to win big on Sunday, setting up a confrontation with Germany and the European Union.

We have a report from James Mates of Independent Television News.

JAMES MATES: An audience with the country’s president and one of the youngest, certainly the most unlikely, prime minister in Greek history is asked to form a government. Just short of an overall parliamentary majority, Tsipras party of the far left has formed an extraordinary anti-austerity coalition with the party of the right, with a man who even sits with the British Conservatives in the European Parliament.

How can you make a coalition work between right and left?

PANOS KAMMENOS, Leader, Independent Greeks: We are in Europe. And now we represent the nation. And the Greek nation, it’s in one government together. All the Greeks will be together in Europe.

JAMES MATES: But this strange partnership of left and right makes defeated opponents wonder how they can possibly hold together in the negotiation with Germany that lies ahead.

ADONIS GEORGIADIS, New Democracy Party: If the Germans want to fight the anti-austerity movement, they will have to destroy the first one.

JAMES MATES: That will be the Greeks.

ADONIS GEORGIADIS: That will be the Greeks.

JAMES MATES: Do you think the Germans would do that?

ADONIS GEORGIADIS: I think they have no other choice. If they will not do that, the European Union will be destroyed.

JAMES MATES: On the streets of Athens, now pockmarked with shuttered shops and businesses after a five-year-long depression, that pessimism that anything can really change is pretty widely shared.

MAN: I wish him good luck. He will need it.

JAMES MATES: Will he succeed?

MAN: To say no to Merkel? Yes. To create a competitive economy? No, no way.

JAMES MATES: The ancient Athenians would look to the omens for a guide to the future. And no sooner had Alexis Tsipras had been sworn in than an almighty storm broke over the country’s parliament. For Greece within the European Union, the future looks stormy indeed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: European financial markets remained largely steady, despite concerns over Greece’s future in the European Union.

Ukraine declared an emergency today across two eastern provinces, amid the worst violence since September. Fighting has surged in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, and the trouble spread Saturday to Mariupol, where rocket fire killed 30 people. In response, Western nations threatened new sanctions against Russia.

But, today, President Vladimir Putin blamed Ukraine’s government backed by NATO.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): We often say Ukrainian army, Ukrainian army. But who is indeed fighting there? This is not even an army. It’s a foreign legion. In this case, it’s a foreign NATO legion. They are there with no aim in the national interests of Ukraine. They have different aims connected with the geopolitical aim of containing Russia.

JUDY WOODRUFF: NATO rejected Putin’s accusations, and it charged that Moscow is again sending large numbers of heavy weapons to the rebels in Ukraine.

President Obama ended a three-day visit to India today, pledging $4 billion in loans and investments. Earlier, he became the first American president to attend the annual Republic Day Parade in New Delhi. Crowds cheered as the Obamas arrived to watch the display of India’s military forces.

Back in Washington, a small drone crashed onto the White House grounds early today. The Secret Service released a photo of it and said a man was flying it for recreation, but lost control. The pre-dawn incident triggered an emergency lockdown of the White House complex. Officials later said the two-foot-long quadcopter didn’t pose a threat.

A former CIA officer has been convicted in a high-profile leak case. A federal jury in Virginia found Jeffrey Sterling guilty of espionage. He was accused of giving details about a mission to undermine Iran’s nuclear program to New York Times reporter James Risen. Sterling denied leaking anything, saying Risen found out from Senate staffers who’d been briefed on the operation.

Stocks on Wall Street inched ahead a bit today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained six points to close above 17678; the Nasdaq rose more than 13 points to close above 4771; and the S&P 500 added five to close at 2057.

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