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March 20, 2013 at 5:00 PM
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Netanyahu, Obama show unity on Iran

TEL AVIV, Israel, March 20 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday he and U.S. President Obama believe Israel has the right to act on its own on Iranian nuclear weapons.

"Iran right now is enriching the uranium ... [but] the question of manufacturing a [nuclear] weapon is a different thing ... . Whatever time is left, there is not a lot of time." Netanyahu said.

At a news conference in Jerusalem, Obama appeared to agree, with the proviso that Israel work with the United States to prevent an Iranian nuclear capability.

"I'm absolute convinced the president is committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said.

Asked by a reporter whether Syria has crossed a U.S. "red line" by using chemical weapons against insurgents in that country's civil war, Obama said, "We have been clear that the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people would be a serious and tragic mistake," adding that those who use them will be "held accountable for the use of chemical weapons or their transfer to terrorists."

Syrian rebels claimed the Bashar Assad regime fired Scud missiles with chemical warheads at insurgents earlier in the week. The regime responded that it was the rebels who used such weapons.

Obama indicated the United States did not know yet what had occurred.

"With respect to chemical weapons we intend to investigate thoroughly exactly what happened ... to find out precisely whether this 'red line' was crossed," the president said. "Once we establish the facts, I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game-changer."

Obama said any response must be international, not unilateral on the part of the United States.

The president said he and the prime minister discussed the use of a two-state solution in the peace process. "A central element of a lasting peace must be a strong and secure Jewish state ... alongside a strong and independent Palestinian state," Obama said.

He also pledged to see that U.S. military aid to Israel continued beyond the end of current commitments in 2017, and said Egypt must remain a player in regional security.

Earlier, Obama and Netanyahu, despite a sometimes testy relationship, joked like old friends as they met.

Chemical weapons attack doubted

PARIS, March 20 (UPI) -- Photographs from the alleged scene contradict Syrian government claims that rebels used chemical weapons in an attack in Aleppo, an analyst says.

State-run Syrian media posted images of the attack the government said killed 25 people and injured more than 110, CNN reported Wednesday.

However, the photos don't show a scene that is consistent with a chemical weapons attack, contends Jean Pascal Zanders, a senior research fellow at the European Union Institute of Security Studies.

Zanders said the images don't show the site of the attack, only "affected people" who do not show outward symptoms of a chemical weapons attack.

"There are far too many people, including non-medical staff, around the affected persons," Zanders said. "Apart from a surgical mask, nobody wears any protective garment or gas masks."

Two senior U.S. officials suggested the Syrian government may have manufactured the account as a way of justifying the use of chemical weapons in the future.

The Russian Foreign Ministry stood by the Syrian regime's claims, calling the incident "an extremely alarming and dangerous development."

Russian officials said they were worried about chemical weapons falling into the hands of "militants."

Syria, where President Assad Bashar's government has fought a two-year civil war, could have one of the world's largest stockpiles of chemical weapons, military analysts say.

Bashir says he is leaving Sudan presidency

KHARTOUM, Sudan, March 20 (UPI) -- Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, in an interview published Wednesday, said he will not be a candidate in the next election in 2015.

Bashir, who has been president since he led a 1989 military coup, told the Qatari newspaper Al Shraq that Sudan needs "fresh blood," the Sudan Times reported. He said the National Congress Party will name a new leader at its conference next year to be the candidate in 2015.

"Elections will be held in two years and this gives them sufficient time to choose their candidate, God willing," he said. "It is not about who will be the candidate, it is rather about how the NCP selects its coming leader."

Bashir did not talk about the two operations he has had recently or about war crimes charges brought against him by the International Criminal Courts. But he made it clear he does not intend to be a candidate for president, saying he has "had enough."

"We spent more than 20 years and this is more than enough," he said. "Sudanese people are looking for fresh blood and a new impetus in order to continue on what we have begun."

Turkey's PM stands by Zionism remarks

ISTANBUL, Turkey, March 20 (UPI) -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he stands by his statement last month that Zionism was a crime against humanity.

Saying, "I stand behind my remarks," Erdogan said the comments "targeted certain critical issues, particularly Israeli policies in Gaza," Today's Zaman reported Wednesday.

It was his first response to criticism of his remarks by the United States, Israel and the European Union.

Complaining of prejudice against Muslims during a United Nations conference in Vienna in late February, Erdogan said Islamophobia should be considered a crime against humanity, "just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Erdogan's statement "objectionable," while EU Foreign Secretary Catherine Ashton said the prime minister's remarks were unacceptable.

Colo. corrections chief shot, killed

DENVER, March 20 (UPI) -- Police in Colorado searched Wednesday for an unidentified gunman who killed Colorado Corrections Department Executive Director Tom Clements.

Clements, 58, was killed Tuesday night when he opened the front door at his home in Monument. In audio of a 911 emergency, Clements' wife Lisa can be heard telling a dispatcher the gunman shot her husband in the chest, The Denver Post reported.

Investigators had not identified a suspect as of Wednesday morning and were searching a wooded area near Clements' home. The area surrounding his home was blockaded and investigators were using dogs in their hunt for clues.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office released a statement saying no suspect had been identified but "a vehicle of interest" -- described as a black or dark-colored late model, two-door, "boxy" style, possibly a 1990s model Lincoln -- was being sought.

A witness saw the vehicle with one person inside it about the time of the shooting, the statement said.

"We are sensitive to the high profile position in which Mr. Clements served and the fact there could be people who would target him based on his position," the sheriff's department said. "However, we remain open minded to all investigative possibilities and continue to work all available clues and sources of information."

The Corrections Department, Colorado Bureau of Investigations, 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office, Attorney General's Office, the FBI, Monument Police Department and Palmer Lake Police Department were taking part in the investigation.

Lt. Jeff Kramer of the sheriff's office said robbery did not appear to be a motive.

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