BALI, Indonesia

President Obama returns to more Washington gridlock

After a nine-day trip through Asia in which he showed command on the world stage, President Obama is headed back to debt-deadlocked Washington, where he’ll confront fresh reminders of the limits of his power at home.

Obama departed from Bali’s international airport Saturday for a flight that was to return him to the White House before dawn today. He’ll arrive days ahead of a deadline for a congressional supercommittee to produce recommendations to attack the country’s deficit.

But even though the president spoke to supercommittee leaders from Air Force One as he headed out of town and urged them to get a deal, the panel is no further along than when the president left: frozen along partisan lines.


Member of Greek coalition won’t sign austerity oath

One of three leaders in a new Greek coalition refused to sign an oath that he will approve austerity measures, creating a new obstacle for Greece’s bailout deal, according to reports Saturday.

Antonis Samaras, leader of Greece’s top conservative party, New Democracy, said there is no need for him to offer a written declaration because he can be trusted, the reports said.

Samaras’ refusal to sign the pledge potentially puts at risk the next tranche of aid set for Greece, valued at 8 billion euros, or $11 billion, that the country needs to meet debt repayment requirements.


Syrian troops storm towns to search for opponents

Activists say Syrian troops are storming a central town and a northwestern region in search of opponents of the government.

The attacks on the town of Shezar and the Jabal al-Zawiya region near the Turkish border come a day after Syria agreed in principle to allow Arab observers into the country to oversee a peace plan proposed by the 22-member Arab League.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees said the latest attacks occurred early Saturday.

Syria’s acceptance came Friday after surprisingly heavy pressure from the Arab League, which brokered the plan and last week suspended Syria from the 22-member organization for failing to abide by it.


Pope goes back to Africa, avoiding issue of condoms

Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday called on Africa’s leaders to stop depriving their people of hope and to govern responsibly, just hours before he planned to unveil a pastoral guide for the continent.

The pope returned for the second time to Africa, the most rapidly growing region for the Roman Catholic Church. His first trip two years ago was derailed before he even set foot in Africa, after he told reporters on the papal plane that the use of condoms exacerbates the problem of AIDS. On this visit, he is steering clear of the sensitive issue.

— From news service reports