WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pulled out of a weeklong trip to the Arab world because of a stomach virus, officials said Monday, as the Obama administration declared a Syrian rebel group with alleged ties to al-Qaida as a terrorist organization.
The announcement was one of several Clinton planned to bring with her to North Africa and the Middle East as part of a U.S. effort to enhance cooperation with moderates in the Syrian coalition fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime, and to isolate extremists in their ranks.
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns will take Clinton’s place in Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
Earlier Monday, the administration took action against the rebel militia Jabhat al-Nusra, which has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings on Syrian government targets and raised fears of growing Islamic extremism among the opposition.
By branding the group a terrorist organization, the U.S. government is freezing any assets Jabhat al-Nusra holds in the United States and barring Americans from doing business with the group.
The action hasn’t been announced officially but was included in the Federal Register on Monday. In the notice, the State Department described the group as part of al-Qaida in Iraq.
RNC to examine party post-election
WASHINGTON – The Republican National Committee on Monday announced an inquiry into what went wrong in 2012’s presidential election and how the GOP can respond to the nation’s shifting demographics and adopt smarter political strategies.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus asked a group of five respected party leaders to examine how the GOP can better talk with voters, raise money from donors and learn from Democrats’ tactics. Priebus also asked the group, known as the Growth and Opportunity Project, to look at how campaigns are best organized and deployed, how they can work with independent groups such as super PACs, and how the party should approach the 2016 presidential primaries as part of a top-to-bottom review.
Colorado’s pot law becomes official
DENVER – Marijuana for recreational use became legal in Colorado on Monday, when the governor took a purposely low-key procedural step of declaring the voter-approved change part of the state constitution.
Colorado became the second state after Washington to allow pot use without a doctor’s prescription. Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, opposed the measure but had no veto power over the voter-approved amendment to the state constitution.
Hickenlooper tweeted his declaration Monday and sent an executive order to reporters by email after the fact. He told reporters he didn’t want to make a big deal about the proclamation, a decision that prevented a countdown to legalization as seen in Washington, where the law’s supporters gathered to smoke in public to celebrate.
Fewer than two dozen people publicly marked Colorado’s legalization day.
Navy identifies SEAL killed in rescue
WASHINGTON – A Navy SEAL killed during a weekend rescue mission in Afghanistan was identified by the Pentagon on Monday as Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque, of Monroeville, Pa.
The 28-year-old died of combat-related injuries, the Defense Department said in a statement that gave no further details of the mission.
Checque was a member of SEAL Team Six, which freed an American doctor abducted by the Taliban. The same team killed Osama bin Laden last year, but it’s unclear whether Checque was involved in the bin Laden mission.
Dr. Dilip Joseph, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was rescued in eastern Afghanistan, according to officials in Afghanistan.