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  |   March 23, 2013 at 8:44 AM
Tour of ancient city ends Obama trip

AMMAN, Jordan, March 23 (UPI) -- President Obama toured the ancient city of Petra Saturday as he ended a trip to the Middle East in Jordan, where he pledged more U.S. aid to Syrian refugees.

Jordan's most popular tourist spot was cleared of other visitors as the president strolled the 2,000-year-old city carved from a rocky cliff, the final stop on his four days of travels.

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.

King Abdullah II welcomed the president to Jordan late Friday, telling Obama he was looking forward to an "Arab Summer."

At a joint news conference, 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.

"This is the Jordanian moment. What we're seeing is the third way in the Middle East -- we are seeing that the Arab Spring is behind us; we in Jordan are looking now at the Arab Summer for us all, which means that we all have to roll our sleeves," he said. "It's going to be a bumpy and difficult road, but I am very encouraged with the process and I am very excited about the future."

Obama described Jordan as an "invaluable ally" and a "great friend."


Obama: Protect kids from gun violence

WASHINGTON, March 23 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Saturday urged Congress to pass "commonsense measures" already cleared in the Senate to protect children from gun violence.

"It has now been three months since the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut. Three months since we lost 20 innocent children and six dedicated adults who had so much left to give. Three months since we, as Americans, began asking ourselves if we're really doing enough to protect our communities and keep our children safe," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

"For the families who lost a loved one on that terrible day, three months doesn't even begin to ease the pain they're feeling right now. It doesn't come close to mending the wounds that may never fully heal.

"But as a nation, the last three months have changed us. They've forced us to answer some difficult questions about what we can do -- what we must do -- to prevent the kinds of massacres we've seen in Newtown and Aurora and Oak Creek, as well as the everyday tragedies that happen far too often in big cities and small towns all across America."

Obama said while there is still "genuine disagreement among well-meaning people" about how to reduce gun violence, the American people have made it clear that it's time to do something.

"Two weeks ago, the Senate advanced a bill that would make it harder for criminals and people with a severe mental illness from getting their hands on a gun -- an idea supported by nine out of ten Americans, including a majority of gun owners.

"The Senate also made progress on a bill that would crack down on anyone who buys a gun as part of a scheme to funnel it to criminals -- reducing violent crime and protecting our law enforcement officers.

"Finally, the Senate took steps to reinstate and strengthen a ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons, set a 10-round limit for magazines, and make our schools safer places for kids to learn and grow," the president said.


GOP: House budget reflects 'moral choices'

WASHINGTON, March 23 (UPI) -- The House-passed budget resolution reflects the nation's "moral choices," a key Republican senator said Saturday in the party's weekly media address.

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah says President Obama now must step up and reveal his fiscal priorities, The Hill reported.

The House's budget, passed earlier this week, is a measure of "the moral choices we make as a nation and shape the kind of society we will build for the future," Lee said.

The Senate also passed a budget plan early Saturday, but Lee chastised the president as "a day late and a dollar short" in submitting his own.

"The President has again failed to follow the law requiring him to submit his budget by the first Monday in February," he said.

He also criticized the Senate plan for increasing taxes by $1.5 trillion. "They also have no plan to save our entitlement programs," Lee added.

The impasse between Obama, the House and Senate has caused automatic, across-the-board cuts called sequestration to go into effect. The cuts had caused the president to cut spending on "important services," Lee said, rather than working with Congress "to identify and remove wasteful areas in the budget."

He urged Democrats and Republicans to work together, saying, "this budget debate isn't about dollars, it's about common sense."


Woman killed as landslide hits house

LONDON, March 23 (UPI) -- The body of a 66-year-old Cornish woman was pulled from her mud-filled apartment Friday after a landslide brought on by storms that have lashed Britain.

Neighbors said Susan Norman, who lived in a house converted to apartments in Looe, had been concerned about drainage in the area, The Sun reported. They said another landslide occurred in December about 150 feet away from the building.

"The lady told them this was going to happen," Sally Marsh, who lives a few doors down, told the newspaper. "The residents knew this would happen but no one listened to us."

The storm brought heavy weather to much of the country. In Northern Ireland, 200,000 homes in Belfast lost power, while the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde in Scotland was expected to be without electricity through the weekend, the BBC reported.

In Cumbria, in northwestern England, 70 drivers had to be rescued after getting stuck in the snow.

Forecasters predicted more bad weather Saturday.

In Looe, local officials said the fatal landslide would be investigated. Other residents of the building managed to get out with Pete Temlett, another area resident, saying he saw one man get out just before the house came down.

"The building was creaking and if he hadn't got out he would have been dead," Temlett told the Sun.

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