Syria Vows to End ‘Insurrection’; NATO Struggling to Stop Gadhafi in Misrata

BY News Desk  April 19, 2011 at 7:19 AM EST

(Update: The Syrian government has lifted a 50-year-old state of emergency, according to state television.)

The Syrian government warned its citizens against gathering for public demonstrations in a state television broadcast, saying it will crack down on protests. The interior ministry called the protests an “armed insurrection” and a threat to the country’s security.

Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images

The address came after security forces opened fire on demonstrators in Homs in an hours-long crackdown. The number of casualties has not yet been confirmed. There were also protests in Banias, to the north, on Sunday.

The Syrian government has categorized anti-government demonstrators as part of armed groups and vowed to put a stop to “terrorist activities.”

The address marks a departure from President Bashar al-Assad’s early attempts at conciliatory gestures and promises to lift the country’s longstanding emergency law and release political prisoners.

NATO: Gadhafi’s Forces Are ‘Difficult to Stop’ in Misrata

In Rome, NATO’s military alliance chairman, Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola, told reporters that despite the successes of the air campaign against Moammar Gadhafi’s assets, the situation in the western rebel stronghold of Misrata is “difficult” and “very hard to localize” because government troops have moved into the populated city.

Misrata has become a focal point of urban fighting, as opposed to some of the more thinly populated oil ports along the Mediterranean coast, where the air strikes have been easier to implement.

Gadhafi’s forces, which have repeatedly shelled the city, are fighting to recapture the western territory.

Fighting in Misrata has created an escalating humanitarian crisis in which where civilians have been cut of from a steady flow of food, water and medical supplies.

Pentagon Inquiry Clears Top General of Wrongdoing

A Pentagon investigation has cleared Gen. Stanley McChrystal of any wrongdoing after a profile in Rolling Stone magazine led to his dismissal. The investigation found that Gen. McChrystal had not violated ethical or legal rules. The inquiry also questioned the accuracy of the Rolling Stone account. The magazine defended the information contained in the piece.

President Obama dismissed Gen. McChrystal after publication of the article, in which members of his team had openly questioned and criticized the president, vice president and national security staff. President Obama said that his conduct had not met “the standard that should be set by a commanding general.” Gen. McChrystal, who had led military forces in Afghanistan, was replaced by Gen. David Petraeus.

On Monday, first lady Michelle Obama appointed Gen. McChrystal to chair her commission on military families, telling ABC’s “The View” that she was proud of his “decades of service” and that he has “served his country well.”

Japan Begins Pumping Radioactive Water From Fukushima Plant

Workers began pumping tons of water from the basement of unit 2 at the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant Tuesday, a step toward allowing workers to gain closer access to fix the cooling systems. The cooling systems were damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in eastern Japan, causing dangerous overheating inside the reactors. The early attempts to cool them with massive amounts of seawater created a disposal problem, with some 70,000 tons of water to be removed.

Tokyo Electric Power Company released a plan last weekend to cool the plant by the end of the year, outlining a lengthy process before it will be stabilized. The process has drawn criticism from the public and prompted TEPCO to offer $12,000 in temporary compensation to those evacuated from the zone surrounding the plant.

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