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Mixed emotions for Christians back in Syria town for Easter

Residents of Maalula returned to the historic Christian town on Sunday to mark Easter, glad that the Syrian army freed it from rebel control but pained at the widespread destruction. As they strolled into the picturesque town, flanked by reporters on a government-organised tour, President Bashar al-Assad also paid a rare visit less than a week after his troops recaptured Maalula. Ruba, a Christian woman in her 20s, cast her eyes over the destruction of her one-time home and said: "Maalula is ours again even though it is destroyed."

Kuwait shuts papers for breaking 'coup tape' media blackout

A Kuwaiti judge Sunday ordered two newspapers to close for two weeks for breaking a news blackout on a videotape allegedly showing former senior officials plotting a coup, a legal source told AFP. The order against the independent Al-Watan and Alam Al-Youm newspapers was issued after the information ministry filed a complaint, the source said. The videotape has shaken the Gulf state, prompting an investigation and parliament to hold a secret debate on the issue.

Syria's Assad visits recaptured Christian town: state TV

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Easter Sunday visited the ancient Christian town of Maalula, which his troops recently recaptured from rebels, state television said. "On the day of the resurrection of Christ, and from the heart of Maalula, President Assad hopes all Syrians have a happy Easter, and for the reestablishment of peace and security throughout Syria," the channel announced in a caption at the bottom of the screen, without showing images of the visit.

Syria's Assad visits recaptured Christian town: state TV

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Easter Sunday visited the ancient Christian town of Maalula, which his troops recently recaptured from rebels, state television said. "On the day of the resurrection of Christ, and from the heart of Maalula, President Assad hopes all Syrians have a happy Easter, and for the reestablishment of peace and security throughout Syria," the channel announced in a caption at the bottom of the screen, without showing images of the visit.

Saudi woman defies driving ban, husband fined

A Saudi woman defied the kingdom's ban on female driving, getting behind the wheel of her husband's car before police detained the couple and fined the man, a newspaper said Sunday. The 23-year-old woman was caught driving on Thursday in the Qatif district in Eastern Province, the Saudi Gazette said, adding police forced the couple to sign a pledge not to repeat the offence. They were released on bail and the traffic department fined her 28-year-old husband 900 riyals ($240) and impounded his car for seven days, it said.

Syria's Assad visits recaptured Christian town: state TV

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Easter Sunday visited the ancient Christian town of Maalula, which his troops recently recaptured from rebels, state television said. "On the day of the resurrection of Christ, and from the heart of Maalula, President Assad hopes all Syrians have a happy Easter, and for the reestablishment of peace and security throughout Syria," the channel announced in a caption at the bottom of the screen, without showing images of the visit. It added that Assad had inspected a monastery damaged in recent fighting. bur-ram/tl/jk

France has 'information' Assad regime using chemical weapons

France has "information" but no firm proof that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime is still using chemical weapons, President Francois Hollande said Sunday. "We have a few elements of information but I do not have the proof," Hollande told journalists after he was asked about reports that Assad was currently using chemical weapons. cls-kat/cc/lto

Two expats die of MERS in Saudi commercial hub

Two foreigners died of MERS in the Saudi city of Jeddah, the health ministry said Saturday, as fears rise over the spreading respiratory virus in the kingdom's commercial hub. The ministry said five more people were infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in the western city, including two foreign medics aged 54. The latest deaths of a 64-year-old and 44-year-old, whose nationalities were undisclosed, bring to 76 the overall number of people to have died of MERS in Saudi Arabia, from a total of 231 infections.

Two expats die of MERS in Saudi commercial hub

Two foreigners died of MERS in the Saudi city of Jeddah, the health ministry said Saturday, as fears rise over the spreading respiratory virus in the kingdom's commercial hub. The ministry said five more people were infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in the western city, including two foreign medics aged 54. The latest deaths of a 64-year-old and 44-year-old, whose nationalities were undisclosed, bring to 76 the overall number of people to have died of MERS in Saudi Arabia, from a total of 231 infections.

Egypt satirist goes off air to avoid influencing voters

Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef stay off the air until after next month's presidential election to avoid influencing voters, his television network said on Saturday. The May 26-27 vote is widely expected to be won by former army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who is riding a wave of popularity after ousting Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
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