As it dismantled its nuclear weapons program, Libya sparked a tense diplomatic standoff with the United States last year when it refused to hand over its last batch of highly enriched uranium to protest the slowness of improving ties with Washington, leaked U.S. diplomatic memos reveal. The monthlong standoff, which has not previously been made public, was resolved only after a call from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Libya's foreign minister, apparently to underline Washington's commitment to warming relations. After the call, Libya allowed Russia to take away the uranium in December 2009.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea's new defense minister took office Saturday and vowed a strong military response that would force rival North Korea to surrender if the communist nation attacks the South again. Kim Kwan-jin's predecessor resigned amid criticism that the government responded weakly to a North Korean artillery barrage Nov. 23 on a South Korean island near their disputed western sea border that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. and South Korea have reached an agreement on America's largest trade pact in more than a decade, a highly coveted deal the Obama administration hopes will boost U.S. exports and create tens of thousands of jobs at home. After a week of marathon negotiations, representatives from both countries broke through a stalemate Friday morning on outstanding issues related to the automobile industry, which have been a sticking point in the talks. The agreement would be the largest U.S. trade deal since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, with Canada and Mexico and would bolster U.S. ties with the fast-growing South Korea economy.
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (AP) — In a rousing holiday-season visit, President Barack Obama on Friday told cheering U.S. troops in Afghanistan they're succeeding in their vital mission fighting terrorism. But after he flew in secrecy for 13 hours to get here, foul weather kept him from nearby Kabul and a meeting to address frayed relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai Obama's surprise visit to the war zone, his second as president, came 10 days before he is to address the nation about a new review of U.S. strategy to defeat the Taliban and strengthen the Afghan government so American troops can begin leaving next year.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A disabled cargo container ship carrying thousands of gallons of fuel oil and canola seeds near Alaska's remote Aleutian Islands began moving again on limited engine power late Friday, responders said. The 738-foot Golden Seas had been drifting toward shore in rough seas. It was in the Bering Sea about 28 miles north of Atka Island when improving weather allowed it to begin moving away from shore at about 4 mph, according to the Coast Guard and other responders.
CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — Police investigating an arson fire at the Islamic center where the Somali-born suspect in a Portland mass killing plot sometimes worshipped have searched a neighboring home and taken body cell samples from the man who lives there, court records show. Authorities have been looking into whether the blaze at Corvallis' Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center was in retaliation for the alleged plot at Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square.
MADRID (AP) — Spain's deputy prime minister says the Cabinet is to meet to seek resolve the crisis in the nation's airports after air traffic controllers staged a massive sickout that stranded hundreds of thousands of travelers on the eve of a long holiday weekend. Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said the meeting would be presided by the prime minister and would take decisions based on whether controllers return to work Saturday or continue their walkout.
WASHINGTON (AP) — With unemployment rising, incoming House Speaker John Boehner vowed Friday that Republicans will show the way toward extending tax cuts in 2011 if the outgoing Democrats fail to do it sooner. Boehner, R-Ohio, made his comment as partisan wrangling in the Senate slowed attempts to pass legislation ensuring that tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 don't expire.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Whether he was a Hollywood hitman or an ex-con with a big mouth still isn't known. One thing is certain about the man who shot himself to death when police converged on him to talk about the killing of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen: He was an armed career criminal possibly looking at another stretch in prison, whether he had any connection to Chasen's death or not.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant scored 22 points, Pau Gasol added 16 despite a strained left hamstring, and the Los Angeles Lakers easily snapped a four-game losing streak with a 113-80 victory over the struggling Sacramento Kings on Friday night. Lamar Odom had 16 points and seven rebounds as the two-time defending champions capitalized on nearly optimal conditions for ending their longest skid since April 2007.