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World News: NKorea Arrests American; Taliban Gear Up Against Afghan Forces

By: AP
By: AP
FILE - In this Monday, April 15, 2013 file photo, a South Korean army soldier aims his machine gun during an anti-terrorism drill against possible terrorists' attacks at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea. In his 16 months on the job, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un�s government has raised fears with unusually aggressive threats against Seoul and Washington, and it�s not clear whether he will be able to pull back, a feat perfected by his late father, considered a master at brinkmanship. The mystery surrounding Kim's intentions has some outsiders predicting nightmare scenarios. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

FILE - In this Monday, April 15, 2013 file photo, a South Korean army soldier aims his machine gun during an anti-terrorism drill against possible terrorists' attacks at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea. In his 16 months on the job, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un�s government has raised fears with unusually aggressive threats against Seoul and Washington, and it�s not clear whether he will be able to pull back, a feat perfected by his late father, considered a master at brinkmanship. The mystery surrounding Kim's intentions has some outsiders predicting nightmare scenarios. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- North Korea has announced that it's putting an American man on trial on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, a crime that could draw the death penalty if he is convicted.
Official state media says Kenneth Bae was detained in November in a special economic zone in North Korea's far northeastern region bordering China and Russia. The exact nature of his alleged crimes has not been revealed, but North Korea describes Bae as a tour operator.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency says Bae admitted to committing crimes aimed at toppling the government.
The trial mirrors a 2009 case, when the U.S. and North Korea were locked in a standoff over Pyongyang's decision to launch a long-range rocket and conduct an underground nuclear test. At the time, North Korea had custody of two American journalists, whose eventual release after being sentenced to 12 years of hard labor paved the way for diplomacy following months of tensions.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The Taliban have announced the start of their spring offensive, signaling plans for an uptick in violence as the weather warms across Afghanistan, making both travel and fighting easier.
Saturday's statement comes toward the end of a month that already has been the deadliest of the year.
The Taliban leadership promised "every possible tactic will be utilized in order to detain or inflict heavy casualties on the foreign transgressors."
U.S.-backed efforts to try to reconcile the Islamic militant movement with the Afghan government have so far failed.
Insurgents already have stepped up attacks this spring as they try to position themselves for power ahead of national elections and the planned withdrawal of most U.S. and other foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE CONNOLLY, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghan forces are taking over more territory and leading more operations with less U.S. help, but they are paying the price in blood.
Casualties doubled last year and are rising again to roughly 300 troops and police killed each month, according to an Afghan security official who spoke anonymously because the figure has not been publicly undisclosed.
The Americans are trying to teach them after every tactical error, while there are still enough foreign forces to serve as a safety net ahead of the December 2014 NATO troop drawdown.
U.S. and Afghan officials say their most realistic goal is for Afghan forces to maintain a bloody equilibrium with the Taliban, holding urban areas and trade routes, buying time for the economy to improve while persuading the Taliban to stop fighting.

BEIRUT (AP) -- Activists are reporting intense clashes in northwestern Syria as rebels attack a sprawling military air base.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says there are casualties on both sides.
Rebels have laid siege to the Abu Zuhour air base in the northwestern Idlib province for months.
The Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees said the Syrian air force conducted several air raids during Saturday's battles to ease pressure on troops.
Rebels control much of Idlib province, which borders Turkey, although government troops still hold some areas, including the provincial capital that carries the same name.
Syria's conflict started with largely peaceful anti-government protests in March 2011 but eventually turned into a civil war.
More than 70,000 people have been killed, according to the United Nations.

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraqi authorities say attackers have killed eight members of the security forces, including five anti-al-Qaida militiamen, amid rising sectarian violence in the country.
Police said that the first attack occurred early Saturday when gunmen opened fire on a checkpoint manned by pro-government Sunni fighters near the city of Tikrit.
In western Iraq, three army intelligence soldiers riding a vehicle were stopped by gunmen near a protest site in Ramadi. In the gun battle that ensued, the soldiers were killed and two gunmen were wounded.
Hospital officials confirmed the casualties. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
The current wave of violence in Iraq has left more than 170 people dead over the past five days.

CAIRO (AP) -- Several Egyptian opposition groups have filed a court case to force the government to disclose the proposed national budget.
Representatives of some opposition parties and workers unions say Saturday they filed the request to an administrative court in an effort to eliminate secrecy and encourage debate, with hopes of forging nationwide consensus over the spending plans.
The draft budget was presented to the Islamist-led Shura council last week. The body holds temporary power to legislate after a court disbanded the lower house, the traditional lawmaking chamber, last year.
Egypt's economy has been steadily deteriorating since the fall of Hosni Mubarak two years ago. The current budget deficit stands at around $29 billion.

SAVAR, Bangladesh (AP) -- Rescuers have been working around the clock at the site of a collapsed garment factory in Bangladesh.
Nearly 350 people are known to have died in the disaster, but emergency teams pulled 29 survivors from the rubble today. The fire chief says rescue teams "are still getting response from survivors" in the wreckage but says those responses are becoming weaker.
Meanwhile, police haven take six people into custody in connection with the collapse. Those arrested include two owners of the factory and two government engineers.

LONDON (AP) -- Anti-war protesters are demonstrating outside a Royal Air Force base used to control drone flights over Afghanistan.
Until this week, British drones were operated only from a U.S. Air Force base in Nevada.
The Ministry of Defense announced Thursday that a new drone-operating squadron had begun operating from RAF Waddington in eastern England.
The ministry says the Reaper drones are used for "intelligence and surveillance missions," but also are equipped with missiles and bombs.
Opponents who are marching Saturday say drones make it too easy to launch deadly attacks from a distance and out of public sight.
The defense ministry says drone operators "adhere strictly to the same laws of armed conflict and are bound by the same clearly defined rules of engagement" as other RAF pilots.

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) -- Icelanders are voting in an election that could return to power the center-right parties that led the country before its economy collapsed five years ago -- and stall plans to join the European Union.
Polls give the Progressive and Independence parties a lead over the governing Social Democrats and Left-Greens.
The North Atlantic island nation had one of the world's highest standards of living until its debt-burdened banks collapsed within a week of each other in October 2008.
The Independence Party-led government blamed for the crisis was replaced with an alliance led by Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir.
Her government opened EU membership talks, but both Independence and the Progressives oppose joining.
Their poll boost is attributed to voters weary of austerity measures.

ROME (AP) -- Italy finally has formed a new government, a coalition of Silvio Berlusconi's forces and center-left rivals who forged an unusual alliance to break a two-month stalemate following inconclusive elections.
Enrico Letta, a center-left leader, will be premier in the government, which marks the latest political comeback by Berlusconi. The media mogul's conservative forces' participation is crucial to the new government's viability.
President Giorgio Napolitano said Saturday the government will enjoy the support of both chambers of the heavily polarized Parliament. Letta and his ministers, including Berlusconi's top political aide, will be sworn in Sunday.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Chile's president says the U.N.'s top court should reject Bolivia's demand for talks on giving it access to the sea.
In an interview with The Associated Press, President Sebastian Pinera says a court ruling in Bolivia's favor would open an international "Pandora's box" that might lead to a review of Mexico's border with the United States, or that of France with Germany.
Land-locked Bolivia this past week asked the International Court of Justice in The Hague to force Chile to negotiate over Bolivia's claim to at least part of the 240-mile (400-kilometer) strip of Pacific Coast that it lost in a 19th century war. Chile argues the issue was long ago settled by treaty.
Pinera spoke Saturday as he returned from a summit in Haiti.


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