AP Top News at 5:57 p.m. EDT

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, right, accompanied by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 6, 2011, after meeting to work on a budget deal and avoid a government shutdown. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, right, accompanied by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 6, 2011, after meeting to work on a budget deal and avoid a government shutdown.

Time growing short, Congress' leaders reported progress Wednesday in talks to cut spending and avert a partial government shutdown that the White House warned would hit U.S. combat troops abroad and taxpayer refunds from the IRS at home. President Barack Obama checked in separately by phone with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., then asked the two men to join him at the White House for an evening meeting. He acted after deciding "not enough progress had been made," said spokesman Jay Carney.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi appealed directly to President Barack Obama on Wednesday to end what Gadhafi called "an unjust war." He also wished Obama good luck in his bid for re-election next year. "You are a man who has enough courage to annul a wrong and mistaken action," Gadhafi wrote in a rambling, three-page letter to Obama obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday. "I am sure that you are able to shoulder the responsibility for that."

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Heavy arms fire rang out Wednesday near the home of the country's strongman who remained holed up in a subterranean bunker, as forces backing his rival assaulted the residence to try to force him out, diplomats and witnesses said. Forces protecting Laurent Gbagbo appeared to rally Wednesday night, pushing back the armed group fighting to install democratically elected president Alassane Ouattara.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration warned Wednesday that a federal shutdown would undermine the economic recovery, delay pay to U.S. troops fighting in three wars, slow the processing of tax returns and limit small business loans and government-backed mortgages during peak home buying season. The dire message, delivered two days before the federal government's spending authority expires, appeared aimed at jolting congressional Republicans into a budget compromise. Billions of dollars apart, congressional negotiators were working to strike a deal by Friday to avert a shutdown by setting spending limits through the end of September. The last such shutdown took place 15 years ago and lasted 21 days.

INDIANOLA, Iowa (AP) — Until he tried a marijuana look-alike product called "K2," David Rozga's most dubious decision was getting a Green Bay Packers tattoo on his shoulder. Then the 18-year-old athlete and band standout got high on the fake pot last June and complained to a friend "that he felt like he was in hell," his father said.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Defense Secretary Robert Gates tried to smooth the worst rift in years with Arab ally and oil producer Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, reassuring the Saudi king that the U.S. remains a steady friend despite support for pro-democracy revolutions in the Middle East. The Saudi king, looking thin after months of medical treatment in the United States and elsewhere, welcomed Gates for what the Pentagon chief later said was a cordial and warm visit.

NEW YORK (AP) — The Rev. Al Sharpton is marking the 20th anniversary of his Harlem-based organization by teaming up with President Barack Obama and top White House officials to grapple with issues affecting black Americans. The president is scheduled to appear Wednesday evening at the annual conference of Sharpton's National Action Network. Cabinet members spoke earlier at the Manhattan event.

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska is the latest state to weigh in on a long-running argument: If you're old enough to fight and die for your country, you should be old enough to drink a beer. An Alaska lawmaker who served in Vietnam is pushing a bill that would allow active-duty service members under 21 to drink alcohol as long as they could produce an armed forces identification card. Those under 19 — Alaska's smoking age — would be allowed to buy tobacco products.

NEW YORK (AP) — Glenn Beck later this year will end his Fox News Channel talk show, which has sunk in the ratings and has suffered from an advertiser boycott. Fox and Beck's company, Mercury Radio Arts, said Wednesday they will stay in business creating other projects for Fox television and digital, starting with some documentaries Beck is preparing.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Barry Bonds' confident defense team rested its case Wednesday without calling a single witness, just minutes after a federal judge accepted the government's request to dismiss one of the five counts against the home run king. Prosecutors called 25 witnesses to the stand over 2½ weeks, but the defense needed just one minute to present its side. The jury of eight women and four men barely had time to get settled in the courtroom before being told to return Thursday morning for closing arguments.