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March 23, 2013 at 5:00 PM   |   0 comments

Tour of ancient city ends Obama trip

AMMAN, Jordan, March 23 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama left Jordan on Saturday afternoon after a quick tour of the ancient city of Petra.

The president was due back in Washington late Saturday.

King Abdullah II accompanied U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his own foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, to the airport in Amman. The king and president chatted briefly on the tarmac as Obama transferred from the helicopter that took him to Petra to Air Force One.

Obama arrived in Jordan late Friday after three days in Israel, his first visit to the country as president. He was scheduled to fly directly back to Washington from Amman.

While most of his trip involved talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Obama spent several hours Saturday at Jordan's most popular tourist destination. Petra, a 2,000-year-old city carved from rock, was cleared of other visitors.

Dr. Suleiman A.D. Al Farajat, a tourism professor at the University of Jordan, led Obama on the tour.

His casual tour contrasted with his hectic schedule of the previous days. While most of the time was spent in Israel, where the president talked to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, he also traveled to the West Bank to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.

At a joint news conference Friday, Abdullah welcomed the president to Jordan late Friday, telling Obama he was looking forward to an "Arab Summer." The king said Jordan would continue to provide shelter for Syrian refugees and to do whatever it can to facilitate talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Obama pledged the U.S. would provide another $200 million in aid to help those who have fled the nearly two-year-old conflict.

Abdullah spoke of the strain recent events are putting on Jordan, describing the Zaatari refugee camp as the country's fifth-largest city. But he said there is a "window of opportunity" to reshape the Middle East that could close quickly.


Blizzard triggers fiery crash near Denver

DENVER, March 23 (UPI) -- Colorado State Troopers said blinding snow triggered a fiery crash involving as many as 50 vehicles on Interstate 25 north of Denver.

At least four tractor trailers went off the road and a gasoline tanker was engulfed in flames following the crash, which was reported about 11 a.m. Saturday. I-25 northbound has been closed and will remain so for much of the evening Saturday, The Denver Post said.

No fatalities were reported in the massive crash but several motorists were taken to area hospitals with various injuries, a Colorado State Patrol release said.

Forecasters warned motorists not to travel as heavy snow and high winds hindered visibility and made roads treacherous. Interstate 70 was also closed early Saturday, though it had reopened as of midday.

"Travel is going to be tough, with icy and snow-packed roads," said Kyle Fredin, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Boulder, Colo.

Meteorologists said snow was falling at a rate of an inch an hour and winds reached 40 mph. Roads were not expected to clear until Sunday, once the winds die down.

More than 100 flights were canceled at Denver International Airport as of midday Saturday and many others were delayed by three hours.


British travel, power upset by heavy snow

LONDON, March 23 (UPI) -- Roads and airports have been closed, and sports events canceled, after wintry weather disrupted travel and power across the United Kingdom, officials said.

Britain's national weather service has urged people to stay aware of conditions as snow falling across northern and central parts of the country was expected to move to the south and southeast, the BBC reported Saturday.

Hundreds of schools were closed across Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England Friday. More than 200,000 homes and businesses were left without electrical power in Belfast. By late Friday, 14,000 customers in Scotland were without power.

About 70 motorists were rescued from snowdrifts in Cambria, while police and mountain rescue teams helped people stuck on the A595, a major highway in the region.

Gary Parsons, a member of Bay Search and Rescue, said that while only about a foot of snow had fallen on flat fields, winds had whipped up drifts 14 and 15 feet high along hedges and walls.

Trains are not running between Leeds and Carlisle. All flights have been cancelled at Leeds Bradford airport, Humberside Airport and East Midlands Airport.

The National Grid attempted to allay fears the prolonged cold snap could cause the country to run out of natural gas, asserting "plenty of gas" was available.


Former Russian oligarch dies

LONDON, March 23 (UPI) -- Boris A. Berezovsky, 67. once the richest oligarch in Russia, died Saturday outside London, possibly of suicide, his lawyer said.

Berezovsky was among the rich men who dominated post-Soviet Russia, was a close ally of Boris Yeltsin, helped install Vladimir Putin as president but later became a Putin enemy, The New York Times reported.

He called for Putin's ouster.

Last year he lost a massive British $5.1 billion lawsuit against another Russian oligarch, Roman Abamovich, and ended up with $250 million in legal and other costs, the Times said.

The dispute involved the sale of shares in a Russian oil company.

The Times said Berezovsky's death was first reported in Facebook by his son-in-law, and confirmed by a lawyer, Alexander Dobrovinsky.

Dobrovinsky also said Berezovsky may have committed suicide.

The Times said Berezovsky recently had begun to sell off his personal assets, including an Andy Warhol painting and a yacht.

Berezovsky was a leading Soviet mathematician who went into business and figured out how to skim profits from Russian's largest state-owned carmaker, the Times said.

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