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Boustany says GOP wants to work with Obama

WASHINGTON, May 16 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., R-La., said Saturday the Republican Party is open to working with U.S. President Barack Obama on healthcare issues.

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Speaking during the weekly Republican address, Boustany detailed his party's position concerning bipartisan efforts to reform the healthcare system in the United States.

"Let me be clear, Republicans want to work with President Obama and other Democrats to ensure that every American has access to affordable, high-quality health coverage," the representative said. "Despite our differences, we are convinced there are areas of common-sense agreement on healthcare reform among Republicans and Democrats. This issue is just too important to let partisanship or blind ideology get in the way."

Boustany added his party supports the use of disease management programs and is seeking healthcare reforms focused on prevention and wellness.

But he added Republicans think such healthcare changes can be brought about via "common sense reforms," not higher taxes.

"We believe it is possible -- and necessary -- to achieve these objectives through common sense reforms without raising taxes, rationing care, eliminating employer-sponsored health benefits for working families, empowering government bureaucrats at the expense of patients and doctors, or adding even more to our ever-growing national debt," he said.

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Sri Lanka claims victory over Tigers

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, May 16 (UPI) -- The president of Sri Lanka proclaimed a final victory Saturday in the long civil war with the separatist Tamil Tigers.

Mahinda Rajapaksa was out of the country attending the G-11 economic summit in Jordan when the Ministry of Defense announced the last few hundred members off the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were completely surrounded by the army early Saturday.

"Many in the world believed that the LTTE is invincible, but, I am proud to announce at this august gathering that my government with the total commitment of our armed forces, has, in an unprecedented humanitarian operation, finally defeated the LTTE militarily," he told the G-11. "I will be going back to a country that has been totally freed from the barbaric acts of the LTTE. This freedom comes after 30 long years."

The Defense Ministry announced a few hours earlier that two army units had linked up on a strip of beach on the north coast, the last holdout of the Tigers.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were founded in 1976 with the aim of creating an independent Tamil state. At its peak, the group controlled about one-third of the country.

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As the army cornered the Tigers, civilians were trapped. The United Nations called for a cease-fire Friday to allow civilians to get out of the area.

In its statement, the ministry claimed to have rescued thousands of civilians.


Gay pride marchers detained in Moscow

MOSCOW, May 16 (UPI) -- Police in Moscow Saturday detained about 40 people, who allegedly had taken part in an unsanctioned gay pride parade, officials said.

RIA Novosti reported the head of the Gay Russia project, Nikolai Alekseyev, U.S. gay rights activist Andy Thayer and Briton Peter Tatchell were among those taken into custody.

"They were detained not for breaking the law, but as a warning that holding events unsanctioned by the authorities is unacceptable. After a cautionary talk and establishing all their identities, the detainees will be released," a police spokesman said.

Moscow police warned Friday that they would not allow an unsanctioned parade to take place. Parade organizers said they would go ahead with plans to hold a "Slavic gay parade" any way.

They urged foreigners attending the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow to join in.

The press secretary for Moscow mayor had said this month "there has never been and never will be a gay parade in Moscow."

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Activists picked the Eurovision event for a demonstration because it traditionally has a large gay following and its presence in Moscow provided them a good opportunity to highlight cultural repression in the country, the BBC said.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkhov has called gay rights parades "Satanic." Russia has seen many physical attacks on gays, who are also threatened with being fired from their jobs and shunned by their families, the British broadcaster said.


Thousands wait at reopened Gaza crossing

RAFAH, Egypt, May 16 (UPI) -- Thousands of Palestinians were waiting Saturday to take advantage of a rare opening of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, officials said.

Egypt moved to open the Rafah gate for two days as a humanitarian gesture. Leaders of the Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah passed through on their way to a negotiating session in Cairo, the Palestinian News Network reported.

Large crowds gathered on the Gaza side waiting to be let into Egypt to get medical care, witnesses said.

"There are at least 4,000 people registered and waiting, but from these we can facilitate a limited number," Dr. Ghazi Hamad, head of the crossings in the Gaza Strip, told PNN.

Hamad said only names who "are in the Interior Ministry computers will travel; they are the citizens whose names are officially disclosed."

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