OXON HILL, Md.

Conservative Republicans hold tryout evaluations

Republicans vying for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 auditioned Thursday before some of the nation’s most ardent conservative leaders, calling for the party to unite behind a clear agenda and draw contrasts with Democrats.

The contestants ranged from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a tea party champion, to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a favorite of the GOP establishment.

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference offered an early tryout of sorts for a half-dozen Republican officials eager to win over the GOP’s most passionate voters. At stake this year is the Senate majority, currently held by senators in President Obama’s party.

GENEVA

Human rights experts press Venezuela over crackdown

United Nations human rights experts demanded answers Thursday from Venezuela’s government about the use of violence and imprisonment in a crackdown on widespread demonstrations.

Six experts with the U.N.’s top human rights body wrote to the administration of President Nicolas Maduro about allegations of protesters being beaten and in some cases severely tortured by security forces, and taken to military facilities, cut off from communication and denied legal help, U.N. officials said.

UNITED NATIONS

Central African Republic asks for peacekeeping mission

Central African Republic’s foreign minister told the Security Council Thursday that a U.N. peacekeeping mission is urgently needed in his country to bolster French and African troops struggling to contain sectarian killing between Muslims and Christians. One top U.N. official said there essentially has been a “cleaning” of the Muslim population in western Central Africa Republic.

The Security Council met to consider a recommendation.

– From news service reports