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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.

Drunk Russian teen drives into Easter procession, kills two

A drunk Russian teenager drove a stolen car into an Easter procession of Orthodox worshippers in Siberia on Sunday, killing two police officers on duty, police said. After drinking and brawling with a group of youths, the 19-year-old youth stole a car and crashed it into several other vehicles in the city of Novosibirsk. He then drove onto the pavement and hit two police officers who were on duty as Orthodox believers held a traditional procession to celebrate Easter Sunday.

Suicide bomber attacks university in Baghdad

A suicide bomber attacked a university in north Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least one person and wounding at least nine, security officials said. The attack, which comes as Iraq suffers a prolonged surge in bloodshed, occurred less than two weeks before a parliamentary election that will be a major test for security forces. Officials gave varying accounts of the attack on Imam Kadhim University. A police colonel said a suicide bomber entered the university before detonating explosives, while another bomber and a gunman were killed by security forces.

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 said in a radio interview after he was asked about reports that Assad was currently using chemical weapons. "What I do know is what we have seen from this regime is the horrific methods it is capable of using and the rejection of any political transition," he told the Europe 1 radio station.

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

Minorities on display in Chinese tourist boom

Marching in dragon dances, cheering on buffalo fights, singing folk songs with villagers, an enamoured traveller ticked off the sights during a three-week tour of Chinese ethnic minority festivals. The man -- who flew across the country to southwestern Guizhou province to see the colourful traditions -- represents both the benefits and downsides of ethnic minority tourism.

Female candidates fight for rights in Iraq campaign

With fears that women's rights are being eroded in Iraq, prospective female lawmakers are determined to push women's issues to the fore of campaigning for this month's elections. Despite a constitutional requirement that a quarter of all MPs be women, Iraq lags on key indicators such as female employment and literacy, and there is a bill before parliament that opponents say dramatically curtails women's rights. Also at issue ahead of April 30 elections are high levels of violence against women, discrimination at the workplace, and poor school attendance.

Indian transgender stands for office after landmark ruling

With a tight budget and a humble autorickshaw, a pioneering Indian transgender is campaigning in her southern hometown for a seat in parliament, just days after the country's highest court recognised "third gender" people. Describing the Supreme Court judge's ruling as a "milestone", 53-year-old Bharathi Kannamma hopes to build on the momentum and overturn prejudices against India's several million transgenders.
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