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March 20, 2011 at 10:08 PM
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Gates says Arab League still on board

WASHINGTON, March 20 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday the Arab League had reaffirmed the coalition military action being taken against Libya.

Speaking to reporters aboard a military aircraft bound for Russia, Gates said the league's action was "very important, because the initiative first came from those in the region," the Defense Department said in a release.

Several Arab nations have given the United States strong indications they would participate in the military action aimed at preventing Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi from using his air force against his own people. So far, Qatar is the only Arab state to provide aircraft for the coalition effort.

"This is a new endeavor for them, and the notion that it takes them a while to get it organized shouldn't be a surprise," Gates said.

Gates comments came after the Arab League's leader, Amr Moussa, said in Cairo that the attack on Libya had gone too far.

"What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone," he said in a statement carried by Egypt's Middle East News Agency. "And what we want is the protection of civilians and not the shelling of more civilians."

The defense secretary said the coalition is not being run by NATO to assuage Arab concerns about being seen as operating under a NATO umbrella.

Obama calls out to young Iranians

RIO DE JANEIRO, March 20 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama used the occasion of the Persian New Year Sunday to say the future of Iran lies with its young people and he stands with them.

In a statement issued by the White House, Obama, who is in Brazil as part of his Latin America tour, said he wanted to use Nowruz, a holiday of hope and renewal," to speak directly to the Iranian people.

Obama, noting the groundswell of changes occurring across the Middle East and North Africa, criticized the Iranian government for responding to protesters' demands "by demonstrating that it cares far more about preserving its own power than respecting the rights of the Iranian people."

Obama reached out to young Iranians, saying they carry "both the ancient greatness of Persian civilization, and the power to forge a country that is responsive to your aspirations."

"Your talent, your hopes, and your choices will shape the future of Iran, and help light the world," the U.S. president said. "And though times may seem dark, I want you to know that I am with you."

Yemen president orders Cabinet reshuffle

SANAA, Yemen, March 20 (UPI) -- Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh dissolved the government of Prime Minister Ali Mujawar Sunday.

Saleh's decree mandates the current government to conduct most ordinary general affairs until a new government is formed, the Yemeni news agency SABA reported.

Yemen also named Jamal Abdullah Yahya al-Salal as the country's new permanent representative to the United Nations, SABA said.

The restructuring of the government was followed by attacks by unidentified insurgents on several key electrical transmission towers in Marib province that left most of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa, without power, a source at the Ministry of Electricity and Energy told the news agency.

3 dead in California plane crash

BARSTOW, Calif., March 20 (UPI) -- A single-engine plane crashed and burned in California Sunday, killing all three people on board, authorities said.

The victims had not been identified.

The Cessna 210 was en route from John Wayne Airport in Orange County to Henderson Executive Airport in Las Vegas when it went down about 12:40 p.m. about 2 1/2 miles from Barstow-Daggett Airport, KTLA-TV in Los Angeles reported.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said the cause of the accident was under investigation but it appeared the pilot had intended to land at Barstow-Daggett Airport.

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