TRIPOLI, Libya

Religious leaders urge forming a national army

Dozens of Libyan religious leaders on Monday urged authorities to disarm former rebels and form a national army, backing the transitional government’s struggle to exert control over the militias that overthrew dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The clerics’ statement reflected concern over the militias’ refusal to submit to the central authority. Dozens of militias have held on to arsenals of heavy weapons and sometimes clash among themselves.

“We advise speeding up the process of establishing a national army and the collection of arms,” said a statement from the 250 imams and other clerics gathered for a conference in Tripoli, the first of its kind after the fall of the Gadhafi regime.

Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council says it is working on forging a national army, integrating some of the militias and disarming the rest.

VIENNA, Va.

Ringling Bros. to pay fine for animal-law violations

The owner of the Ringling Bros. circus has agreed to pay a $270,000 fine to settle allegations that it violated federal animal-welfare laws in its handling of exotic animals.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the civil penalty announced Monday is the largest ever assessed against an animal exhibitor under the Animal Welfare Act.

Vienna-based Feld Entertainment said it does not admit to violating the law and agreed to the settlement as a cost of doing business .

In inspection reports from 2007 through this year, inspectors said circus handlers made elephants perform when they were ill and used the same wheelbarrows to feed meat to tigers and haul away their waste, among other allegations.