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Syrian troops open fire on demonstrators

DAMASCUS, Syria, April 22 (UPI) -- Syrian troops fired on protesters in at least three cities Friday, witnesses said.


At least three people were wounded in Douma, near Damascus, and gunfire was reported in Homs and Hama, the BBC said.

The opposition called for a "Great Friday" of protests after weekly Muslim prayers.

Christian churches across the country canceled outdoor Good Friday services.

"All of the Syrian churches have decided this together because of the bad situation and because of the martyrs who have died in recent days, out of respect for them," Bishop Philoxenos Mattias, assistant to the Syriac Orthodox Church patriarchate in Damascus told The Daily Telegraph of London.

Services for the Christian minorities, estimated at about 2 million people, will still take place inside the churches, but all street processions and public music performances were canceled, he told the newspaper.


"We decided to postpone them till next year," he said.

Normally, streets in the Christian quarters of Damascus and other cities would have parades by uniformed marching bands and choirboys, and even re-enactments of the crucifixion of Jesus.

North Korea threatens attack over leaflets

SEOUL, April 22 (UPI) -- North Korea threatened Friday to attack sites in the South where opposition leaflets are launched over the border.

The North's Korean Central News Agency issued the threat of "unpredictable and merciless" fire, the South's Yonhap reported.

South Korean activists and defectors from the North floated 200,000 leaflets by balloon over the demilitarized zone April 15, bringing news of the Arab uprisings and calling on North Koreans to overthrow the Kim Jong Il regime. April 15 is the birthday of North Korea's founder, Kim Il Sung and is a national holiday.

Friday's statement called the leafleting "a form of psychological warfare and a clear-cut war provocation. … Direct fire at the area where leaflets are let fly will be a legitimate punishment."

South Korean activists floated 300,000 more leaflets Friday, and Lee Min-bok, organizer of the campaign, said Pyongyang's anger shows it is effective.

The North also protested the firing of machine guns near the border April 15 as an "unpardonable military provocation." The South Korean Defense Ministry said it was an accident.


McCain arrives in Libya

BENGHAZI, Libya, April 22 (UPI) -- Demonstrators waving American flags were on hand Friday morning when U.S. Sen. John McCain arrived in the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

McCain's visit came one day after the Pentagon announced that Barack President Obama had authorized the use of armed U.S. Predator drones in Libya, CNN reported.

"The American people support you very strongly and we know it's necessary to help as much as we can," McCain told a crowd of about 100 Libyans.

McCain, the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, is a strong advocate of increasing military strikes to remove Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The first major crack in Gadhafi's control of Libya's western region since fighting broke out two months ago occurred on Thursday, The New York Times reported.

Rebels in the western mountains seized control of a Tunisian border crossing at the town of Wazen after a battle that sent a small number of Gadhafi's soldiers in retreat.

The rebels detained 13 Libyan soldiers, including a colonel and two commanders.

In the Benghazi, the rebels said 100 of Gadhafi's soldiers sought asylum.

Rebels in Misurata told the BBC they found remnants of cluster bombs but the Libyan government denied they were being used. Clusters are bombs that explode and eject smaller bombs over a wide area.


Obama: Reaching goals harder than expected

LOS ANGELES, April 22 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama told California supporters achieving his goals turned out to be more difficult than anticipated.

The president acknowledged to a crowd of 2,500 people at a fundraiser in Culver City, Calif., that delivering on the promises he made in 2008 hasn't been easy, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

"I said our climb would be steep," the president told the crowd at Sony Pictures Studios. "Let's face it, the climb was a little steeper than we anticipated."

Obama reminded the audience that when he took office the U.S. economy had already shed 4 million jobs and another 4 million were lost during his first months as president.

He painted his opponents in Washington as pessimistic about the nation's future and vowed he would "not reduce the deficit by sacrificing the things that have made America great."

Scores of protesters were gathered outside the studios as Obama spoke.

They carried signs with messages including "$ for jobs & schools, not war."

Thursday night, the president addressed a gathering, which included actors and other celebrities in a private room at the Tavern Restaurant in Los Angeles. Supporters paid as much as $35,800 to be at the event, the White House said.


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