AP Top News at 7:00 a.m. EDT

Iran nuke talks expand as deadline for deal looms
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) - Negotiations over Iran's nuclear program picked up pace on Saturday with the foreign ministers of France and Germany joining U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in talks with Iran's top diplomat ahead of a looming end-of-March deadline for a preliminary deal. With just four days to go until that target, negotiators in the Swiss town of Lausanne settled in for another round of lengthy sessions that they hope will produce a two-to-three-page outline of an agreement that can then become the basis for a comprehensive deal to be reached by the end of June.


German pilot visited glider field near crash site as a child
SISTERON, France (AP) - The German co-pilot accused of crashing a passenger plane in the French Alps frequented a gliding club near the crash site as a child with his parents, according to a member of the club. Francis Kefer, a member of the club in the town of Sisteron, said on i-Tele television that Andreas Lubitz' family and other members of the gliding club in his home town of Montabaur, Germany, came to the region regularly between 1996 and 2003.


Italian court throws out Knox conviction once and for all
ROME (AP) - Amanda Knox, who maintained that she and her former Italian boyfriend were innocent in her British roommate's murder through multiple trials and nearly four years in jail, was vindicated Friday when Italy's highest court threw out their convictions once and for all. "Finished!" Knox's lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova exulted after the decision was read out late Friday. "It couldn't be better than this."


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Indiana officials look to stem religious objections fallout
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The heat over Indiana's new religious objections law spread Friday across social media and to the White House as many local officials and business groups around the state tried to jump in and stem the fallout. Use of the hashtag (hash)boycottindiana spread across Twitter, spurred on by activists such as "Star Trek" actor George Takei, who argued that the measure opens the door to legalized discrimination against gay people. Apple CEO Tim Cook also tweeted his objections, saying he was "deeply disappointed" in the Indiana law.


Astronauts board space station for 1-year mission
BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AP) - Two Russians and an American floated into the International Space Station on Saturday, beginning what is to be a year away from Earth for two of them. Mikhail Kornienko and Scott Kelly are to spend 342 days aboard the orbiting laboratory, about twice as long as a standard mission on the station. Russia's Gennady Padalka is beginning a six-month stay.


Car bomb blasts Nigerian poll station, no casualties
ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) - Police say a car bomb exploded at a polling station in Nigeria's south-central Enugu state but did not hurt people gathering to vote in a presidential election that analysts say is too close to call. State Police Commissioner Dan Bature says an anti-bomb squad detonated two other cars filled with improvised explosive devises at the scene at a primary school.


Popular Nevada governor looms over fight for Reid seat
LAS VEGAS (AP) - Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's decision to retire next year leaves no clear successor in his home state of Nevada, where a popular Republican governor appears reluctant to change jobs and the pending loss of Reid's clout in Washington is causing anxiety over who might replace him. As of Friday, the list of potential candidates came down to Gov. Brian Sandoval and everyone else. The political centrist who was easily re-elected last year is likely to face intense pressure from national Republicans and business interests to pick up where Reid leaves off on Capitol Hill.


Official: Al-Shabab siege at Somali hotel ends, 17 dead
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - Somali troops on Saturday took full control of a hotel that extremist gunmen stormed and occupied for more than 12 hours following a suicide bombing. At least 17 people died and dozens were wounded. The gunfire has stopped and security agents control the whole building, said senior police officer Capt. Mohamed Hussein. He had earlier said the gunmen were believed to have occupied the third and fourth floors of the Maka Al-Mukarramah hotel in the capital Mogadishu.


In Thailand, a mercurial junta leader known for sharp tongue
BANGKOK (AP) - Ear tugs. A flying banana peel. Sarcastic remarks about getting smacked, or punched - or even executed. Such is life for the press corps covering Thailand's notoriously testy military ruler. Since leading a putsch that ousted Thailand's elected government last May, general-turned-prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has been thrust from the relative privacy of army life into the public arena of the politician. He has pounded on the podium during news conferences, lambasted his questioners, and simply stomped away. In one case, he summoned two journalists for asking "inappropriate" questions about when and whether elections would be held. His government, meanwhile, has engaged in censorship and leaned on media outlets to censor themselves.


Big-time programs battling for Final Four berths
Saturday night's games will decide half the Final Four, and the big boys have pushed the Cinderellas off the dance floor. Arizona and Wisconsin are back in Southern California fighting for a Final Four berth again. In Cleveland, Notre Dame takes on the biggest heavyweight college basketball has seen in decades, and Kentucky is favored to keep its undefeated season going and deny the Fighting Irish their first Final Four trip since 1978.