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March 21, 2013 at 8:00 AM   |   Comments

Abbas greets Obama in Ramallah

JERUSALEM, March 21 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama met with Palestinian Authority President Abbas Thursday to discuss Palestinian statehood, officials said.

Abbas greeted Obama when he arrived in Ramallah after flying 6 miles from Jerusalem by helicopter, Haaretz reported. Obama was to have a restricted bilateral meeting with Abbas and other officials before returning to Jerusalem for a speech that White House officials billed as the centerpiece of his visit.

Palestinian merchants crowded around television sets to watch Obama's arrival, though some told Haaretz they believed he has nothing to offer them.

"The United States does not care about us. What's new under the sun?" asked T-shirt shop owner Aladdin Hussein.

More than 100 activists set up a protest camp in the sensitive E1 area, where Netanyahu's government said last year it planned to build settlements in defiance of international condemnation that they would hurt chances of establishing a Palestinian state.

Obama said last week he intended to tell Abbas that Palestinian attempts to achieve Palestinian statehood recognition at the United Nations would fail.

Abbas was expected to raise concerns about Palestinians in Syria.

Obama was also expected to address rockets fired from Gaza that landed in Sderot Thursday morning.

One of the rockets landed in the city, damaging a private residence, Israeli forces told The Jerusalem Post. The second rocket wasn't located. No injuries were reported and no claims of responsibility were issued.


Alleged Saudi terrorist charged in U.S.

NEW YORK, March 21 (UPI) -- U.S. prosecutors accused a 43-year-old Saudi Arabian man extradited to the United States of being an al-Qaida operative after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun, who is from Saudi Arabia but is a citizen of Niger, is to make his first appearance Friday in U.S. District Court in New York, The New York Times reported.

Harun is accused of training in al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan shortly before the Sept. 11 attacks and fighting U.S. and coalition forces in the early years of the war in Afghanistan. He allegedly traveled to Nigeria and plotted attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities there, the Times reported.

Harun was arrested in 2005 in Libya and was held there until 2011 when the country sent him to Italy. He was kept there after admitting his affiliation with al-Qaida before being extradited to the United States.

A U.S. grand jury indicted Harun in February, charging him with conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens, conspiracy to bomb U.S. government facilities and providing material support to al-Qaida, the Times reported.

"Whether they try to attack our servicemen on the battlefield or scheme to kill our diplomats and citizens in embassies abroad, terrorists will find no refuge," Loretta E. Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.


Bill to avoid govt. shutdown awaits House

WASHINGTON, March 21 (UPI) -- A short-term funding measure that would ensure the U.S. government keeps running beyond next week awaited House passage Thursday after clearing the Senate.

The Senate voted 73 to 26 to approve a spending measure to keep the government running after its current stop-gap funding mechanism elapses March 27.

The vote Wednesday, a week before the deadline, included 10 amendments that sought to blunt the effects on specific programs or agencies of $85 billion in across-the-board sequester spending cuts triggered March 1.

One amendment that passed transferred $55 million in agriculture money so federal food inspectors would not be furloughed by the sequester. Another required sequester-suspended tuition-assistance programs for military service members to be continued.

Both amendments were championed by Democratic lawmakers facing re-election next year -- Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

An amendment that failed, proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., would have shifted $6 million in park funding to let the White House, Yellowstone National Park and the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., reopen their public tours.

If the House passes the Senate measure before members leave Friday for a two-week spring recess, Congress would eliminate the current threat of a government shutdown with at least five days to spare.


Bomb kills 12 in Pakistani refugee camp

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, March 21 (UPI) -- Twelve people died and 32 others were injured when a car bomb exploded Thursday at a refugee camp in Pakistan, police said.

The Jalozai refugee camp is located approximately 22 miles outside Peshawar. It houses people fleeing violence in the country's tribal region, CNN reported.

Police said the car had approximately 66 to 77 pounds of explosive material. The blast destroyed three other nearby vehicles.


One dead in German helicopter crash

BERLIN, March 21 (UPI) -- One police officer was killed and four others injured Thursday when two helicopters crashed during training at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, officials said.

German federal police were flying three helicopters in a training exercise at the stadium when two clipped blades at approximately 10:30 a.m., Tagesspiegel reported.

A fire department spokesman said one officer was killed and four were seriously injured. There were other minor injuries, he added.

A police spokesman said experts determined it was safe to fly the helicopters for the exercise despite poor visibility due to snow.

The helicopters were either of the Puma make or Eurocopter, Tagesspiegel reported.

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich was among officials who went to the scene of the crash.

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