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UPI NewsTrack TopNews

March 1, 2011 at 12:00 PM   |   Comments

Gadhafi forces attack opposition town

TRIPOLI, Libya, March 1 (UPI) -- Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi attacked a town near Tripoli controlled by the opposition but were repelled, an opposition leader said.

Tanks and anti-aircraft guns of pro-Gadhafi troops attacked Zawiya Monday night but did not capture the town, CNN reported Tuesday.

Zawiya remains in opposition hands although Gadhafi's forces are still outside it, opposition sources said.

Meanwhile in London, the Libyan Embassy there announced it was siding with the opposition, condemning what it called "all acts of murder and terror " taking place in Libya.

U.S. warships approached Libya Tuesday, a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to surrender power immediately.

The U.S. military deployment from the Red Sea includes an aircraft carrier strike group, with planes and helicopters, and an amphibious landing vessel, with Marines and helicopters, the Pentagon said.

Clinton told Gadhafi to surrender power "now, without further violence or delay." She said Washington was keeping "all options on the table" to protect Libya's civilian population and encourage a transition to a representative government.

The Obama administration announced it had seized $30 billion in Libyan assets -- a U.S. record -- and the European Union adopted an arms embargo and other sanctions.

British Prime Minister David Cameron ordered contingency plans for Britain to help enforce a no-fly zone over Libya in coordination with NATO allies. Cameron also suggested Britain would consider arming Libyan opposition forces if Tripoli used more violence to crush demonstrations, The Guardian reported Tuesday.

France dispatched two aircraft filled with medical and humanitarian supplies to the rebel-held town of Benghazi, the start of what it said would be "a massive operation of humanitarian support for the populations of liberated territories."

The aid, including medicine and doctors, would be the first direct Western help for the uprising, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon told Europe's RTL radio.

Paris was studying "all solutions," including military options, Fillon said.

All 27 EU leaders are expected to hold an emergency summit in Brussels next week if the violence persists.

Officials in Washington and elsewhere said direct military action remained unlikely. The moves serve as a warning to Gadhafi and a show of support to the protesters seeking to overthrow his government, the officials told The New York Times.

Still, additional U.N. Security Council meetings would likely be held this week, officials said, and the pressure for direct military action would intensify if the Libyan bloodshed and suffering further escalated, The Guardian said.


FM: Israel won't cede Golan Heights

JERUSALEM, March 1 (UPI) -- Israel is willing to enter into peace negotiations with Syria but giving up the Golan Heights will not be on the table, an Israeli official said.

"There is no justification or reason for Israel to cede the Golan Heights," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told envoys from Japan and Romania along with Quartet envoy Tony Blair, Ynetnews.com reported Tuesday.

Israel acquired the Golan Heights, located at the southern end of the border with Syria, during the 1967 War.

Lieberman accused the Syrians of desperately wanting to talk about peace but not really wanting to seek peace.

"They want a peace process in order to get Western legitimacy," he said. "President Assad's only goal is to maintain the rule of the Assad dynasty."

Lieberman's statements followed a month of more than 20 meetings with European and senior U.S. officials.

During a Monday session with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Lieberman said he's not sure the current uprisings in Middle Eastern nations will result in the establishment of democracies.


German defense minister steps down

BERLIN, March 1 (UPI) -- German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg announced Tuesday that he was resigning his post in Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet.

The move follows weeks of mounting pressure for Guttenberg to step down following accusations that he plagiarized portions of his doctoral dissertation, Der Spiegel reported.

In announcing his resignation, Guttenberg stressed that he was not stepping down "only because of my faulty dissertation."

"The reason is particularly to be found in the question as to whether I can fulfill my responsibilities," he said.

Guttenberg, 39, had repeated assurances of full support from Chancellor Merkel during the past few weeks.

However, in recent days an increasing number of politicians from Merkel's governing coalition began withdrawing their backing.

Last week it became clear that dozens of passages in Guttenberg's dissertation were copied word-for-word from previously published works without adequate citation.

"I was always ready to fight but I have reached the limits of my strength," he said.


Poll: Don't use unions to lower deficit

NEW YORK, March 1 (UPI) -- A majority of Americans said they support public-sector unions and preserving their right to bargain collectively, a New York Times/CBS News poll indicated.

American adults said they oppose efforts to weaken public employees' collective bargaining rights and cutting pay or benefits to lower state budget deficits, results indicated, even as about a quarter of respondents said they have an unfavorable view of labor unions.

Respondents, along party lines, oppose weakening bargaining rights of public employee unions 60 percent to 33 percent, results released Monday indicated. They also oppose cutting pay or benefits of public employees as a means to eliminate deficits, 56 percent to 37 percent, again along party lines, the Times said.

The poll indicated a majority of respondents who don't have union members in their households opposed both cuts in pay or benefits and eliminating collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Respondents also disagreed with governors who argued public workers are either overpaid or have overly generous health and pension benefits, results indicated. Sixty-one percent of those polled, including just over half of Republicans, said they thought salaries and benefits of most public employees were "about right" or "too low" for the work they do.

Results are based on a nationwide telephone poll of 984 adults conducted Feb. 24-27. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.


Rough weather brings flooding

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., March 1 (UPI) -- Rain and melting snow were expected to bloat already swollen rivers and flood lowlands in much of the Midwestern United States, forecasters said Tuesday.

But a severe weather system in the Southeast Monday killed at least one person, damaged houses and flooded streets as the storm moved north along the East Coast, CNN reported.

Officials said a man was killed in Tennessee after being pinned by a trailer lifted by strong winds. Strong winds also downed trees and caused damage in an area northwest of Chattanooga.

About 37,000 homes and businesses in the Chattanooga area lost power Monday. Officials however, could not determine whether it was strong winds or tornado activity.

Flooding of small streams and smaller rivers occurred Monday across Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Michigan, propelled by up to 3 inches of rainfall during the weekend and a rapid snow melt of another 1-2 inches, AccuWeather.com reported.

Forecasters said no major precipitation-makers were expected through Friday, allowing creeks and smaller rivers to recede. However, AccuWeather.com said it was watching the development of a storm that could bring rain and snow to the Ohio Valley Friday night into Saturday.

In the Cleveland area, rising water flooded streets and businesses and a flash-flood warning was issued Monday morning after a dam operator on the Chagrin River reported the structure burst, CNN said.

Officials said turbulent weather Monday touched off tornadoes that damaged several homes in Kentucky, CNN reported. While high winds didn't produce any tornadoes, winds were strong enough to down power lines and damage road signs in St. Louis.

The winds that whistled through the state were accompanied by heavy rains that left motorists stuck in their cars on flooded streets in Kansas City, Mo.

Sunny skies were in store for Atlanta Tuesday after severe storms buffeted the area Monday during the afternoon rush hour, forecasters said.

The powerful storms that rolled through the Atlanta metro area Monday afternoon knocked down power lines and trees in the northern suburbs, and didn't cause any serious injuries or deaths, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

About 15,000 Georgia Power customers were without electricity at the height of the storm, the utility said.

The weather also affected travel at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which reported departure delays of up to two hours and a temporary stoppage of incoming flights, the Journal-Constitution reported. Flight schedules returned to normal Tuesday morning.

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