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AP Top News at 5:31 a.m. EDT

UN: Iran cuts stock closest to nuke-arms grade
VIENNA (AP) - The U.N. nuclear agency says Iran has neutralized half of its stockpile of higher-enriched uranium that could be turned quickly into the core of a nuclear weapon. The development leaves Tehran with substantially less of the 20-percent enriched uranium that it would need to for such a purpose. Uranium at that level is only a technical step away from weapons-grade material.


Ukraine: 3 killed after Black Sea base attack
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Three pro-Russian militants died and 13 were wounded when Ukrainian troops repelled an attack on a National Guard base in the Black Sea port of Mariupol, Ukraine's interior ministry said Thursday. A crowd of around 300 men armed with stun grenades and Molotov cocktails attacked the base, in the south-east part of the country late Wednesday, the interior ministry said in a statement. Servicemen inside fired warning shots but the attackers did not stop the assault and the army had to respond, it said.


Putin hopes no need to send troops to Ukraine
MOSCOW (AP) - President Vladimir Putin says he hopes he won't have to send Russian troops into Ukraine. Putin said in a televised call-in session Thursday that he hopes that the Ukrainian crisis could be solved by political and diplomatic means.


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Ukraine, US to alternately cajole, threaten Russia
GENEVA (AP) - Ukraine is hoping to placate Russia and calm hostilities with its neighbor even as the U.S. prepares a new round of sanctions to punish Moscow for what it regards as fomenting unrest. The carrot-stick strategy emerged as diplomats from Ukraine, the U.S., the European Union and Russia prepared to meet Thursday for the first time over the burgeoning crisis that threatens to roil the new government in Kiev.


Evacuation order came too late for many on ferry
MOKPO, South Korea (AP) - An immediate evacuation order was not issued for the ferry that sank off South Korea's southern coast, likely with about 290 people trapped inside, because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilize the vessel after it started to list, a crew member said Thursday. The first instructions from the captain were for the passengers to put on life jackets and stay put, and it was not until about 30 minutes later that he ordered an evacuation, Oh Yong-seok, a 58-year-old crew member told The Associated Press.


Classmates celebrating 60th birthday among missing
MOKPO, South Korea (AP) - Kim Jeong-keun woke up on his cabin bed to find out his friends had smeared lipstick on his face while he had been asleep, a prank harking back to their school days. The 60-year-old Kim took it in good spirits and washed his face. After all, they were traveling together on a reunion voyage aboard The Sewol, celebrating their birthdays and remembering good old days from their elementary school in Incheon city, where the ferry departed Tuesday evening.


Defend 'Obamacare' unabashedly, some Democrats say
WASHINGTON (AP) - With enrollments higher than expected, and costs lower, some Democrats say it's time to stop hiding from the president's health care overhaul, even in this year's toughest Senate elections. Republicans practically dare Democrats to embrace "Obamacare," the GOP's favorite target in most congressional campaigns. Yet pro-Democratic activists in Alaska are doing just that, and a number of strategists elsewhere hope it will spread.


Little government response to bombing a year later
BOSTON (AP) - A year after homemade bombs ripped through the Boston Marathon, state and federal officials have enacted virtually no policy changes in response to the attack, a dramatic departure from previous acts of terrorism that prompted waves of government action. "There was a great deal of concern right after this happened," said Rep. William Keating, a Massachusetts Democrat. "Now, people are focused on so many different issues."


Curious about Palestine, Israeli visitors return
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) - This bustling center of Palestinian life is just a 20-minute drive from Jerusalem, but for Israelis it might as well be on the other side of the world. Since a major round of Israeli-Palestinian fighting more than a decade ago, Israelis have been kept out of Palestinian cities by the Israeli military and their own fears. But after several years of relative calm, a few have begun trickling back in tours led by Palestinian guides and guarded by plainclothes Palestinian security agents.


Robot sub finishes 1st full seabed search for jet
PERTH, Australia (AP) - A robotic submarine completed its first successful scan of the seabed Thursday in the hunt for the missing Malaysian plane, and investigators were analyzing the sub's data while also trying to identify the origins of a nearby oil slick. The Bluefin 21's first two missions were cut short by technical problems and deep water, but the unmanned sub finally managed to complete a full 16-hour scan of the silt-covered seabed far off Australia's west coast, the search coordination center said on Thursday. While data collected by the sub from its latest mission, which ended overnight, was still being analyzed, nothing of note had yet been discovered, the center said. The sub has now covered 90 square kilometers (35 square miles) of seafloor.