March 30, 2013

From Washington, this is VOA news. Another threat of attacks from North Korea and Christians worldwide mark the Good Friday holiday. I'm David Byrd reporting from Washington.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans held a huge rally Friday in support of their leader's threat of a possible military strike against the United States. Soldiers, workers and students marched through Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang.

The rally came after Kim Jong Un ordered preparations for rocket strikes on the US mainland and American military bases in South Korea, Guam and Hawaii.

As VOA Steve Herman reports, this is the latest threat from Pyongyang as tension continues to tighten the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea's Ministry of National Defense says it cannot confirm a report of increased activity among North Korea's mid- and long-range missile units. But it acknowledges intelligence officials of both South Korean and US forces have increased monitoring of them.

The semi-official Yonhap news agency in Seoul quotes a military source saying "sharply increased movements of vehicles and soldiers have been detected recently at North Korea's mid- and long-range missile sites."

This follows an announcement from Pyongyang quoting leader Kim Jong Un that "the time has come to settle scores with the US imperialists" and the country's missile units are now on standby.

Steve Herman, VOA news, Seoul.

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Iran, Syria and North Korea have blocked the adoption of a UN treaty to regulate the $70-billion global Arms Trade. The treaty would set international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons. It would also strengthen measures to ensure arms are not used in human rights abuses or terrorism.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela is said to be making "steady progress" two days after he was hospitalized with a lung infection. As Peter Cox reports, the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader is also in good spirits and enjoyed a full breakfast on Friday morning.

94-year-old Nelson Mandela is undergoing treatment for what South African leaders say is a lung infection. President Zuma's office says he is responding positively to treatment and remains under observation.

Mr Mandela has had more frequent health issues over last few years.

His lung problems date back to his 27-year-imprisonment on Robben Island, where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis near the end of his prison term for opposing white minority rule.

Peter Cox for VOA news, Johannesburg.

Several car bombs exploded near Shiite mosques across Iraq on Friday, killing at least 18 people and wounding more than 100 in the latest spate of sectarian violence ahead of Iraq's regional elections.

The blasts, which occurred within an hour of each other, hit several Baghdad neighborhoods and in the northern city of Kirkuk.

People around the world observed the Christian holiday, Good Friday, which marks the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. As Robert Berger reports, pilgrims crowded the narrow streets of Jerusalem's Old City to mark the holiday.

Thousands of pilgrims packed the narrow alleys of Jerusalem's Old City for the traditional Good Friday procession. Some people hoisted big wooden crosses on their shoulders as they marched down the cobblestoned path known as Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows.

The faithful retraced the footsteps of Jesus with the traditional devotion known as the Stations of the Cross--reading scriptures, saying prayers and touching the sacred stones.

Robert Berger in Jerusalem's Old City.

US President Barack Obama is pushing lawmakers to fund efforts to rebuild America's infrastructure. Speaking at the Port of Miami on Friday, Mr Obama said building better ports and bridges should not be a partisan issue.

He encouraged the government to work with businesses across the country in a proposal he called a Partnership to Rebuild America.

The proposal initially mentioned in Mr Obama's State of the Union address is likely to run into opposition from Republicans in Congress. Lawmakers are trying to agree on how to cut the government's enormous budget deficit.

And a three-man crew of astronauts took a shortcut and made it to the International Space Station ahead of time. Chris Cassidy and Alexander Misurkin and Pavel Vinogradov got a quick start to their five-month mission on Friday.

For more, log on to voanews.com. I'm David Byrd in Washington.