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Associated Press
In this image taken during an organized trip by the Libyan authorities,Libyan tribal elders loyal to Moammar Gadhafi  display their new weapons  in Ban-Waled, home of the Warfallah tribe, 160kms (100 miles) south east of Tripoli, Libya, Wednesday March 23, 2011. International airstrikes forced Moammar Gadhafi's tanks to roll back from the western city of Misrata on Wednesday, giving respite to civilians who have endured more than a week of attacks and a punishing blockade.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

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NATO ships began patrolling off Libya's coast Wednesday as airstrikes, missiles and energized rebels forced Moammar Gadhafi's tanks to roll back from two key western cities, including one that was the hometown of army officers who tried to overthrow him in 1993. Libya's opposition took haphazard steps to form a government in the east, as they and the U.S.-led force protecting them girded for prolonged and costly fighting. Despite disorganization among the rebels — and confusion over who would ultimately run the international operation — coalition airstrikes and missiles seemed to thwart Gadhafi's efforts to rout his opponents, at least for now.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States turned up the pressure on quarreling NATO allies to take command of the air war in Libya on Wednesday, suggesting the U.S. could step away from its leadership role as soon as this weekend, even with the conflict's outcome in doubt. In Congress, meanwhile, the Republican speaker of the House demanded that President Barack Obama quickly spell out the nation's precise goals in Libya. White House officials said Obama would keep updating the American people and a formal address was possible. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said order could be resolved quickly — if Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi would just quit.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli warplanes hit Hamas targets in Gaza early Thursday, retaliating for rocket attacks on Israeli cities, as tension peaked over the first deadly bombing targeting Israelis in Jerusalem in several years. A blast Israel quickly blamed on Palestinian militants ripped through a bus stop in Jerusalem on Wednesday, killing a woman, wounding two dozen other people and intensifying fears that a period of relative calm could be ending as hopes for a negotiated peace fade.

TOKYO (AP) — Workers loaded trucks with boxes of bottled water to distribute across the city Thursday after residents cleared store shelves following warnings that Tokyo's tap water had elevated radiation coming from Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear complex. Anxiety over food and water supplies soared a day after city officials reported that radioactive iodine in the tap water was measured at levels considered unsafe for babies over the long term.

NEW YORK (AP) — Dozens of bills are advancing through statehouses nationwide that would put an array of new obstacles — legal, financial and psychological — in the paths of women seeking abortions. The tactics vary: mandatory sonograms and anti-abortion counseling, sweeping limits on insurance coverage, bans on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. To abortion-rights activists, they add up to the biggest political threat since the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 that legalized abortion nationwide.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two airliners landed at Reagan National Airport near Washington without control tower clearance because the air traffic supervisor was asleep, safety and aviation officials said Wednesday. The supervisor — the only controller scheduled for duty in the tower around midnight Tuesday when incident occurred — had fallen asleep, said an aviation official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the incident.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (AP) — A U.S. soldier who pleaded guilty Wednesday to the murders of three Afghan civilians was sentenced to 24 years in prison after saying "the plan was to kill people" in a conspiracy with four fellow soldiers. Military judge Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks said he initially intended to sentence Spc. Jeremy Morlock to life in prison with possibility of parole but was bound by the plea deal.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — In death, she is being heralded for her great beauty, iconic and legendary persona, tireless humanitarian work, and the compassion and optimism she exuded despite decades of physical ailments. But Elizabeth Taylor was, above all else, a performer — a three-time Oscar winner, a radiant child star whose best work as an adult was her most splashy and scenery-chewing. While she may not have been the greatest actress of her generation in terms of pure talent and technique, she had an irresistible screen presence that kept audiences ravished by her films.

PHOENIX (AP) — The suspect in the January shooting rampage in Tucson was flown Wednesday to a specialized facility in Missouri to undergo a court-ordered mental evaluation, and his lawyers immediately asked an appeals court for him to be returned. Lawyers for Jared Lee Loughner said in a court filing that he was taken from Tucson to a federal Bureau of Prisons medical facility in Springfield, Mo. Loughner was ordered transferred to have tests to determine if he understands the nature and consequences of the charges he faces and can assist in his defense.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lindsay Lohan rejected a judge's offer to end a felony grand theft case early and her attorney said Wednesday it is because the actress has a strong defense and is confident she can win an acquittal. "Ms. Lohan has maintained her innocence from the moment this case was filed and she has never wavered," attorney Shawn Holley wrote in a statement released hours after the actress informed a judge she would not accept his plea offer.

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