Obama: Mexico set to advance

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - President Obama on Friday cast Mexico as a nation ready to take "its rightful place in the world" and move past the drug battles and violence that have defined its relationship with the United States. He then headed to Costa Rica to prod Central American leaders to tackle those same issues more aggressively.

Obama's visit to Mexico and Costa Rica is his first to Latin America since winning reelection. In Mexico in particular, he tried to set a new course for ties between the United States and its neighbor, promoting Mexico's improving economy and its democracy.

Obama will speak to business leaders Saturday before returning to Washington. - AP

Nuke conferees lodge complaint

GENEVA - More than 100 nations concluding a round of global nuclear talks Friday expressed alarm that many nuclear weapons are kept at a high-alert level and are still being modernized, despite a promise to get rid of them.

The statement was, in effect, a complaint about - and by - some of the most powerful members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, since the United States and Russia were included in it.

The 1970 treaty meant to stop the spread of nuclear weapons was extended indefinitely in 1995, but that doesn't mean some countries could possess nuclear arms indefinitely, the statement said.

The Geneva session, chaired by Romania's Ambassador Cornel Feruta, drew 106 of the 190 nations that have joined the treaty, along with five international organizations and 53 nongovernmental organizations. - AP

Syria killings at high in April

ANTAKYA, Turkey - The pace of killing in Syria's civil war reached a new high in April, with one human-rights group counting an average of 196 deaths daily for the month.

Overall, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 5,889 deaths in April, slightly lower than the 5,896 it tracked in March. But because April has one fewer day than March does, the rate of killing was higher: 196 per day in April versus 190 in March.

More importantly, there was a sharp increase in civilian deaths. Of the deaths recorded in April, half of them - 2,994 - were of civilians. In March, the observatory had reported 1,780 civilians dead, just over 30 percent of the total. Death tolls are considered imprecise for Syria because no independent source tracks casualties. - McClatchy

Elsewhere:

South Korea says its last remaining nationals are about to leave a jointly run factory park in North Korea. Seoul said seven South Koreans who had been negotiating North Korean wages at the Kaesong complex were leaving late Friday, pushing the rivals' only remaining symbol of rapprochement closer to closure.