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  |   March 21, 2013 at 12:00 PM
Obama calls for peace talks

JERUSALEM, March 21 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama called Thursday for Palestinian leaders to resume peace talks with Israel, despite ongoing Israeli settlement building.

Obama, in Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said the United States "is deeply committed to the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine."

"We will continue to look for steps that both Israelis and Palestinians can take to build the trust and the confidence upon lasting peace will depend," he said at a news conference with Abbas. "We cannot give up on the search for peace. Too much is at stake."

Obama called for direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. "There is no shortcut to a sustainable solution," he said.

"The Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it," Obama said. "Palestinians deserve a state of their own."

Abbas greeted Obama when he arrived in Ramallah after flying six miles from Jerusalem by helicopter, Haaretz reported.

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 the construction would hurt chances of establishing a Palestinian state.

Obama's arrival in Ramallah came hours after rockets fired from Gaza landed in the Israeli border city of Sderot.

Following the news conference, the U.S. president visited a youth center with P.A. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Events included a dance performance and a roundtable discussion with Palestinian youth.


Kurdish leader calls for cease-fire

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, March 21 (UPI) -- Armed forces of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) should cease fire and withdraw from Turkey, the leader of the party told a gathering of thousands Thursday.

"A door is now opening on a democratic process after a period of armed struggle," Abdullah Ocalan said in a statement read by party leaders, Today's Zaman reported.

"Guns should fall silent and politics should come to the foreground," said Ocalan, who has been imprisoned on an island in the Marmara Sea since 1999. "The stage has been reached where our armed forces should withdraw beyond the borders. It is not the end, it is the start of a new era,"

A ceasefire would offer financial relief to Turkey, a European Union candidate. Fighting with the PKK since 1984 has drained financial resources, stunted development of the mostly Kurdish southeast portion of the country and scarred the country's human rights record, all stumbling blocks to the EU accession process,

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Nevruz Park to celebrate the new year and hear Ocalan's message.

Approximately 5,000 private security officers joined 3,000 police forces to maintain peace at the gathering, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.

The main celebration area was filled about 9 a.m.

The thousands of people in attendance, some of whom had come from neighboring provinces, left accommodations so scarce that officials of the Peace and Democracy Party asked local residents to open their homes to the travelers.


Violence erupts in Myanmar, 10 killed

MEIKHTILA, Myanmar, March 21 (UPI) -- Authorities in Myanmar have imposed a curfew following violent uprisings that left at least 10 people dead and two Muslim religious buildings destroyed.

The violence began Wednesday after a customer and the Muslim owner of a shop had an argument, Voice of America reported.

The dispute turned violent when hundreds of Buddhists and Muslims arrived at the shop.

At least 10 were killed, including a Buddhist monk, and over 20 others were injured, Voice of America said.

A mosque and an Islamic school were also burned.

The violence was controlled after police imposed the nighttime curfew, but authorities said violence broke out again on Thursday.

The unrest is a result of tensions between Myanmar's Buddhists and the minority in the country, Muslims.


North Korea threatens U.S. military bases

PYONGYANG, North Korea, March 21 (UPI) -- North Korea threatened on Thursday to attack U.S. bases in Japan and Guam in retaliation for U.S. training missions over the Korean Peninsula, officials said.

The Pentagon earlier this month announced plans to increase its missile-defense system in South Korea, Japan and Alaska because of threats from North Korea, Stars and Stripes reported.

Earlier this week, the United States deployed B-52 bombers and a nuclear attack submarine to the Korean Peninsula to participate in U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

In response, North Korea issued a warning Thursday.

"The U.S. should not forget that the Anderson Air Force Base on Guam, where B-52s take off, and naval bases in Japan proper and Okinawa, where nuclear-powered submarines are launched, are within the striking range of the DPRK's precision strike means," a spokesman of the Supreme Command of the North Korean People's Army said.

Thursday's events come due to heightened tensions following North Korea's nuclear test Feb. 12, and the United Nations' subsequent sanctions on the country.


Mississippi passes 'Anti-Bloomberg' bill

JACKSON, Miss., March 21 (UPI) -- Mississippi has enacted an "Anti-Bloomberg" law that prevents counties, districts and towns from limiting portion sizes for food or beverages.

The law signed by Gov. Phil Bryant Monday was dubbed the "Anti-Bloomberg" bill in response to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempts to ban large servings of sugary drinks, CNN said.

The new law in Mississippi says the state Legislature has the authority to regulate the sales and marketing of food.

"It simply is not the role of the government to micro-regulate citizens' dietary decisions," Bryant wrote about his decision. "The responsibility for one's personal health depends on individual choices about a proper diet and appropriate exercise."

Mississippi has the highest rate of obesity in the nation, CNN reported, but Bryant said recent studies indicate obesity among elementary students has dropped.

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