HARI SREENIVASAN: Republican Mitt Romney took a major step today toward his second presidential run. The widely perceived front-runner on the GOP side announced he is formally exploring the race.
He spoke to supporters in a YouTube video.
MITT ROMNEY, R, former Massachusetts governor: It’s time that we put America back on a course of greatness, with a growing economy, good jobs and fiscal discipline in Washington.
I believe in America. I believe in the freedom and opportunity and the principles of our Constitution that have led us to become the greatest nation in history of the Earth.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Romney is a former governor of Massachusetts and businessman. He said President Obama’s policies have failed the 20 million Americans without jobs.
The man who has been clinging to power in Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, was finally forced to surrender today. He was captured in his bunker in Abidjan, and televised images showed him led into a room in his undershirt. But he refused to sign a statement formally ceding power.
Gbagbo lost last November’s election to Alassane Ouattara. Ouattara’s fighters, backed by French tanks, arrested Gbagbo.
In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said what happened in Ivory Coast is a warning.
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: This transition sends a strong signal to dictators and tyrants throughout the region and around the world. They may not disregard the voice of their own people in free and fair elections, and there will be consequences for those who cling to power.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Gbagbo’s arrest came after a 12-day assault that left him cornered in his compound.
Security forces in Syria cracked down on hundreds of college students demonstrating in Damascus today. And farther north, the Syrian army moved into the port city of Banias a day after police shot and killed four protesters there. In all, more than 170 people have been killed in three weeks of anti-government protests.
In Libya, rebel forces rejected a cease-fire plan offered by the African Union. At the same time, Moammar Gadhafi’s fighters bombarded Misrata in the west, after being turned back from Ajdabiya in the east.
We have a report from Emma Murphy of Independent Television News.
EMMA MURPHY: On the road to Ajdabiya, the evidence of the Gadhafi advance and the NATO response: direct shells of 11 vehicles that had tried to take the strategic town. They were stopped only by airstrikes — the regime’s might still too great for the makeshift bands of rebels to stop alone.
These are some of the Gadhafi vehicles that were used in the ferocious assault on Ajdabiya yesterday. And when you see just how close they got to the western gate and the town itself, it makes you realize why these rebels need the airstrikes so badly.
Though the pro-Gadhafi troops didn’t enter the town, fear of their arrival has left this place deserted. And well it might. At the hospital targeted in yesterday’s advance, a doctor told me of the dreadful human costs: snipers picking off those approaching.
DR. SULEIMAN REFADI, surgeon: One is a female coming from (INAUDIBLE) she was pregnant and she was killed. And the way we have tried to save her life, but, unfortunately, a bad shot in her chest damaging her heart, so we couldn’t save her. She was pregnant, and we have lost her.
EMMA MURPHY: As the rebels regrouped on the front line, the African Union had proposed a deal to end the violence. Gadhafi will be allowed to stay, but the fighting was to end. It was a prospect rejected by the rebel leadership and those on the front line. Too much has now been sacrificed to accept a deal that leaves the colonel in power.
MAN: Africa and Gadhafi together friends. No good.
EMMA MURPHY: The African Union delegations faced a day of protests in Benghazi. They will leave to the echoing chants and another peace deal in tatters.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. called again today for Gadhafi’s departure from power and from Libya. But one of his sons told a French news channel that it’s ridiculous to imagine his father leaving.
Opposition groups in Yemen have rejected a proposal from Gulf Arab nations for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. Instead, thousands protested across Yemen again today. Saleh has accepted the peace initiative. It would have him hand over power to his vice president at an unspecified date, and it might offer him immunity from prosecution.
A subway explosion in the capital of Belarus killed 11 people today and wounded more than 120 others. The blast in Minsk hit during evening rush hour at an underground train station crowded with passengers. Officials didn’t say directly what caused the explosion, but President Alexander Lukashenko called it a terrorist act. Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with an iron hand since 1994.
Prosecutors in the Netherlands are looking for answers after a weekend shooting rampage — 24-year-old Tristan Van der Vlis walked into a shopping mall Saturday and fired more than 100 rounds. He killed six people and wounded 17 more before turning a gun on himself. Van der Vlis left two suicide notes but neither gave a motive. And it remained unclear how he acquired his weapons in a country that has some of the toughest gun laws in Europe.
France today became the first country in the world to forbid face-covering veils anywhere in public. Violators face a fine of more than $200 or lessons in French citizenship. Opponents have criticized the law as an infringement on religious freedoms. The government says it is about preventing inequality and extremism.
Concerns about rising gas prices undercut the momentum on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained just one point to close at 12,381. The Nasdaq fell nearly nine points to close at 2,771.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.