World News: China, Israel, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Venezuela Updates

Newly-named Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, left, is greeted by his predecessor Wen Jiabao after delegates voted Li as the new premier during a plenary session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Friday, March 15, 2013. China named the Communist Party's No. 2 leader, Li, premier on Friday as a long-orchestrated leadership transition nears its end, leaving the new leaders to confront uneven economic growth, unbridled corruption and a severely befouled environment that are stirring public discontent. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
By  | 

BEIJING (AP) -- China's new premier says his government is committed to strong relations with the U.S. and sees a strong outlook for trade and investment between the sides.
Li Keqiang told reporters at a Sunday news conference that despite their differences, conflict between the world's first and second largest economies is not inevitable. China's new leaders "attach great importance" to relations with the U.S. and will work with Barack Obama's administration to move ties into a new stage, Li said.
Two-way trade hit almost $500 billion last, although disputes linger over Chinese trade practices, opposition to Chinese investment in the U.S. and complaints over alleged Chinese computer hacking.
Li was speaking in his first news conference since being appointed premier last week with primary responsibility for running the Chinese economy.

China premier pledges cuts to government spending
BEIJING (AP) -- Newly appointed Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is pledging to slash China's central government payroll and freeze spending on new vehicles and other perks, amid falling revenue growth.
Li told reporters at an annual news conference Sunday that funds flowing into central government coffers increased by just 1.6 percent over January and February.
Li says that although such low growth is expected to continue, spending on social programs will only increase, forcing the government to cut back in other areas.
He says that, in response, no new central government offices, halls or guest houses will be built, staff numbers will tumble, and spending on government hospitality, overseas trips and new vehicles will be curtailed.
Extravagant government spending, resulting in waste and enabling corruption, has long stirred public resentment.

BEIJING (AP) -- The number of dead pigs retrieved from waters in and near China's financial hub of Shanghai has grown to more than 12,500.
The swollen and rotting pigs are largely believed to be from the upstream city of Jiaxing, where there are a lot of small hog farms. But a deputy mayor says it's not clear that all the pigs are from her city.
The head veterinarian for China's Agriculture Ministry tells state media that there has been no major swine epidemic, though some samples have tested positive for a couple of viruses. He also says cold weather and fluctuating temperatures have caused a spike in deaths among baby pigs.
Villagers have told state media that pig dumping is on the rise following police campaigns against the illicit trade of pork products harvested from diseased pigs.

Israeli president handed lineup for government
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's prime minister has notified the country's president that he has succeeded in forming a government.
Benjamin Netanyahu presented the lineup to President Shimon Peres on Saturday, a day after a coalition deal was signed ending weeks of deadlock.
Netanyahu says this is a decisive year for the economy, security and promoting peace.
The coalition will be sworn in Monday, two days before President Barack Obama visits.
Along with Netanyahu's faction, the government comprises Yesh Atid, which has vowed to help Israel's middle class and end draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews; the Jewish Home party linked to the settlement movement; and Hatnua, which is committed to reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
It is the first government in a decade without ultra-Orthodox parties.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- The spokesman for Iran's armed forces says military commanders have been given the authority to respond immediately to enemy attacks.
Gen. Masoud Jazayeri also says Iran keeps "all options are on the table", language similar to that used by U.S. President Barack Obama to leave open the possibility of military action against Iran's nuclear program.
Obama told Israel's Channel 2 TV Thursday that Washington still prefers diplomacy over force, but that a nuclear Iran is a "red line."
Jazayeri didn't elaborate. His comments were posted Saturday on, the website of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the country's most powerful military force.
Obama said Iran is about a year away from developing a nuclear weapon. Tehran denies it is pursuing weapons technology.

BEIRUT (AP) -- One of the highest-ranking military officers yet to abandon Syrian President Bashar Assad has defected to neighboring Jordan and said in an interview aired Saturday that morale among those still inside the regime had collapsed.
In another setback for the Assad regime, a leading human rights group is accusing Syria's government of stepping up its use of widely banned cluster munitions, which often kill and wound civilians.
The twin blows illustrate the slowly spreading cracks appearing in Assad's regime as well as its deepening international isolation. While few analysts expect the civil war between Assad's forces and rebels seeking his ouster to end soon, most say it appears impossible for the 4-decade-old regime to continue to rule Syria.
Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ezz al-Din Khalouf announced his defection from Assad's regime in a video aired Saturday on the Al-Arabiya satellite channel. It showed him sitting next to his son, Capt. Ezz al-Din Khalouf, who defected with him.
The elder Khalouf said that many of those with Assad's regime have lost faith in it, yet continue to do their jobs, allowing Assad to demonstrate broad support.

Supporters and opponents of Egypt's president clash in south, forcing him to cut visit short
CAIRO (AP) -- Police have fired tear gas to disperse thousands of supports and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi during clashes over his visit to a southern Egyptian city.
Morsi was in Sohag on Saturday to launch a housing project and new education complex when thousands of protesters tried to storm the hall where he was meeting with officials.
Supporters of Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, chanted inside a hall where he delivered a speech, saying they would sacrifice their lives in support of the president.
Proponents and opponents clashed outside the hall, prompting police to fire tear gas to break up the two sides.
The state-run Ahram news website said student protests and a boycott by professors forced Morsi to cancel his visit to the university in Sohag.

Egypt says 7 Palestinians deported to Gaza
CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt's official news agency says officials deported seven Palestinians to Gaza after they were detained for days in Cairo airport.
The incident shows tensions between Cairo and neighboring Gaza, ruled by the militant Islamic group Hamas.
Hamas sees the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi hails, as their ideological parent.
The report came as state media accused Hamas of undertaking an August attack that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers.
The MENA agency said Saturday that the men arrived in Egypt from Syria but didn't have exit stamps. They were released Friday after investigations turned up no illegal activity. Syria stamps special Palestinian travel documents rather than passports, possibly explaining the confusion.
Hamas officials deny involvement by the group in the August attack and says the Palestinians were wrongfully held.

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has launched a nationwide tour as part of his campaign to replace the late President Hugo Chavez.
Capriles spoke to a massive crowd Saturday in the town of Calvario in western Venezuela. He said the government had closed the airport there hours before his planned rally and he had to fly to a different town and finish the journey with ground transport.
The 40-year-old governor slammed the government for the country's high crime rates and the shortage of basic items in markets.
Also Saturday, government candidate Nicolas Maduro led an homage to Chavez in Caracas that took on the tone of a political rally.
The acting leader told an auditorium full of supporters that Capriles would send home Cuban doctors now working in government clinics.