The Envoy
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    Yemen's embattled three-decade ruler, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key ally in the U.S. war against Al Qaeda militants in that country, is clinging to power amid a wave of high-level official defections to protesters demanding his immediate ouster.

    Five top army commanders joined Yemeni diplomats who have defected to the side of protesters, even as Yemen's defense minister said Monday the army stands with Saleh, and will support him against what he called an attempted coup.

    The wave of defections came after Saleh fired his cabinet Sunday night, following the killing of 45 protesters in recent days, the New York Times' Laurie Kasinof reports from Sana:

    The shift in support by the tribal leader and senior military commanders came amid a stream of resignations by Yemeni officials on Monday, including the mayor of the restive southern city of Aden, a provincial governor and at least one of the country's ambassadors, according to a diplomat at the Yemeni Embassy in Washington who asked not to be identified.

    Yemen's ambassadors to Syria and Saudi Arabia also resigned on Monday, according to Al Jazeera, and the ambassador to Japan was reported to have quit as well.

    Read More »from Yemen’s Saleh on the brink as generals join protesters
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    Four detained New York Times journalists were handed over to a Turkish diplomat in Libya at 5:30 AM EST, a Turkish embassy official told The Envoy Monday. The Turkish diplomat, Levent Sahinkaya, (right, with freed journalists at the Turkish embassy in Tripoli) delivered the journalists to U.S. officials on the Tunisian border with Libya at about 11AM EST, Turkey's U.S. envoy Namik Tan said.

    "Huge relief," New York Times editor Bill Keller said on twitter. "NYT Four arrive Tunisia. They will have some story to tell."

    "Amazing my wife @LynseyAddario, Tyler Hicks, Stephen Farrell, Anthony Shadid left Libya," Addario's husband Paul de Bendern wrote on Twitter. "Yes, my wife is coming home. It's been dark days."

    "Best day of my life," de Bendern then wrote.

    My colleague Michael Calderone reports at the Cutline on the Times' journalists' release:

    "We are grateful that our journalists have been released, and we are working to reunite them with their families," a Times spokeswoman said in a statement to The Cutline. "We have been told they are in good health and are in the process of confirming that. We thank the Turkish, British, and U.S. governments for their assistance in the release. We also appreciate the efforts of those in the Libyan government who helped secure the release this morning."

    The Times last spoke to the four journalists—Anthony Shadid (reporter), Stephen Farrell (reporter), Tyler Hicks (photographer) and Lynsey Addario (photographer)—on March 15.

    Read More »from Four New York Times journalists arrive safely in Tunisia
  • ObamaLibyacallfromBrazilAs President Barack Obama visited Brazil on his first Latin American tour since taking office, it became increasingly apparent Sunday that the Pentagon is taking the lead military role in the initial stages of the international campaign being waged in Libya.

    The Pentagon's initiative stands in contrast to Obama's previous remarks, which stressed that he'd authorized the U.S. military to play a limited support role in the international coalition establishing a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians from Muammar Gadhafi's attacks.

    But a Pentagon official, briefing the press Sunday, indicated that the U.S. military, together with a coalition that currently includes France, the United Kingdom and Italy, has been taking the lead in operations to suppress Libya's air defenses. Those efforts have involved electronically jamming Libyan radars and firing 124 cruise missiles from warships, stealth bombers and fighter jets against Libyan missile sites.

    Vice Admiral William Gortney, director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States plans to turn over command of the no-fly zone mission to coalition partners in the coming days. But as yet, he said, the coalition has not determined who its commander will be.

    Read More »from As Pentagon leads Libya air campaign, Obama briefed from Brazil


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