AP Top News at 3:48 p.m. EDT

Associated Press
US navy personnel seen next to a US  MV-22 Osprey vertical take off and lift aircraft, right, and a C-5 Galaxy aircraft in the Sigonella airbase, Sicily, Thursday, March 24, 2011.  (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
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Anxious to reduce its front-line air combat role in Libya, the Obama administration pressed Thursday for allies who first pushed for the campaign to come up with a workable alternative. U.S. officials said the leadership handoff would come within a few days — with President Barack Obama facing growing congressional misgivings — and fellow NATO countries held crisis talks about the military operation.

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Fighter jets hit aircraft and a crossroads military base deep inside Libya on Thursday and NATO sailors prepared to board suspect ships, blocking new weapons and foreign fighters from resupplying Moammar Gadhafi's depleted forces by land, sea and air. France set a timeframe on the international action at days or weeks — not months. The possibility of a looming deadline raised pressure on rebel forces. So did the arms embargo, which keeps both Gadhafi and his outgunned opposition from getting more weapons. The rebels were so strapped Thursday that they handed out sneakers — and not guns — at one of their checkpoints.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinian militants in Gaza fired a new wave of rockets that landed deep inside Israel Thursday, defying Israeli retaliatory attacks and threats. As the violence threatened to escalate the day after a deadly Jerusalem bombing, Israel got a boost from the visiting U.S. defense chief, who said no country could tolerate the "repugnant" attacks on its soil.

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's official: The new center of the U.S. population is in Missouri, about 2.7 miles northeast of the village of Plato. The Census Bureau said Thursday that steady migration to the Sun Belt had pushed the site roughly 30 miles southwest of the previous location near Edgar Springs, Mo. It is the fourth Missouri town to hold the distinction.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Tea party favorite and Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann is feeling pressure from the political calendar to rush a decision on a White House bid and may announce her intentions as early as May, one of her top advisers said Thursday. Bachmann, a third-term congresswoman from Minnesota, could form a presidential exploratory committee before two televised Republican debates scheduled the first week of May, said Ed Brookover, a Bachmann adviser.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Authorities have suspended a control tower supervisor working alone overnight who couldn't be roused to guide two airliners landing at Washington's Reagan airport, the nation's top aviation official said Thursday. "As a former airline pilot, I am personally outraged that this controller did not meet his responsibility to help land these two airplanes," Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Randy Babbitt said.

DARAA, Syria (AP) — The Syrian government pledged Thursday to consider lifting draconian restrictions on political freedom and civil liberties in an attempt to quell a week-long uprising that protesters say has left dozens fatally shot by security forces. The pledges appeared unlikely to satisfy demonstrators in the southern city of Daraa, where thousands have been calling for liberty, defying the crackdown as they take to the streets for funeral marches.

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — An 18-wheeler truck pulling an empty water tank ended up hanging precariously off an interstate ramp in Fort Worth after a pre-dawn crash, and three people were rescued from the wreck. Fire Department spokesman Tim Hardeman says emergency crews rescued the truck driver from his cab as it dangled off the elevated stretch of the I-20 on Thursday morning. He was treated at the scene for minor injuries.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Surprised scientists have discovered the remains of a saber-toothed vegetarian. Researchers report that the leaf-crunching animal lived 260 million years ago in what is now Brazil. It was about the size of a large dog and had nearly 5-inch long canine teeth. The research team notes that large saber-shaped canine teeth are unexpected in a plant-eating animal. They say the enormous teeth may have been for self-defense or for battling for territory or females.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — One of the world's foremost experts in detecting performance-enhancing drug use among athletes recounted on Thursday for the Barry Bonds jury how authorities unmasked the designer steroid dubbed the "clear." Bonds has admitted using the steroid, but said his personal trainer misled him into believing it was flaxseed oil.

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