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Easter pain, revival not just symbolic to crisis-hit Greeks

Trials, suffering, resurrection: the essence of Easter has a special ring to Greeks as the country hopes to pull through a painful six-year recession. In churches around the country, religious symbolism takes on a very practical relevance for those still struggling from four years of austerity, ever since the country nearly went bankrupt in 2010. "We must undergo tests like Jesus Christ did in his time," says Kostas, a pensioner who has just attended a two-hour sermon in the working-class Athens district of Agios Nikolaos.

Territory dispute key topic during Obama's trip to Asia: aide

Territorial dispute is among key topics U.S. President Barack Obama will discuss with Asian leaders during an upcoming trip to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, his top foreign policy aide said Friday. Obama is set to go on the trip amid looming concerns among many Asian countries that Russia's annexation of Crimea in March could spur China's maritime activities to claim a number of disputed islands in the East and South China seas.

Territory dispute key topic during Obama's trip to Asia: aide

Territorial dispute is among key topics U.S. President Barack Obama will discuss with Asian leaders during an upcoming trip to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, his top foreign policy aide said Friday. Obama is set to go on the trip amid looming concerns among many Asian countries that Russia's annexation of Crimea in March could spur China's maritime activities to claim a number of disputed islands in the East and South China seas.

Moroccan king attends prayers in disputed Western Sahara

Morocco's King Mohamed VI attended weekly Friday prayers during a rare visit to Western Sahara, official media reported, ahead of a UN vote on the disputed territory. MAP news agency said the king attended the prayers alongside the visiting interior minister of the Ivory Coast, Hamed Bakayoko. Mohamed's visit to the city of Dakhla comes ahead of an April 23 UN Security Council vote to renew the mandate of peacekeepers in Western Sahara, which was annexed by Morocco in the 1970s.

Russia not solely responsible in implementing Ukraine deal

Russia will not be the only party held responsible for implementing an agreement on easing tensions in Ukraine, a Kremlin spokesman said Friday, adding that threats of further sanctions by Washington were "absolutely unacceptable". "Our Western colleagues are trying to push responsibility (for the implementing the deal) towards our side. But it must be underlined: it is a collective responsibility," said Dmitry Peskov, quoted on Rossiya 1 television. lpt/hmn/er

Greek Christians mark rare Good Friday in Turkish north Cyprus

By Michele Kambas FAMAGUSTA, Cyprus (Reuters) - Hundreds of Greek Orthodox pilgrims, some coming home after 40 years of forced exile, commemorated the crucifixion of Jesus in a rare Good Friday service in northern Cyprus on Friday. Held in this medieval walled city in the Turkish part of the divided island, the ceremony at the 14th-century St. George Extorinos church was the idea of local authorities who invited the faithful from the Greek part of the island to visit.

Bank of Cyprus sells business in Ukraine, Romania reducing risk to balance sheet

FAMAGUSTA, Cyprus - Cyprus' largest bank says it has sold off its business in Ukraine and a stake in a Romanian bank to help reduce risk and improve cash flow for the troubled lender. Bank of Cyprus says it has completed the sale of its loss-making operations in Ukraine to Alfa Group for 202.5 million euros ($280.5 million) — 10 per cent less than the original price. It has also sold a 10-per cent stake in Banca Transilvania for 82 million euros ($113.6 million).

Armed mob under guise of peaceful protest attacks U.N. in South Sudan

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A mob of armed civilians pretending to be peaceful protesters delivering a petition to the United Nations in South Sudan forced their way into a U.N. base sheltering some 5,000 civilians on Thursday and opened fire, the world body said. A U.N. source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 20 people had been killed and 60 wounded in the attack on the base in Bor in northern Jonglei state, where there are Indian and South Korean U.N. peacekeepers. The source warned that the death toll was likely to rise.

Shot DR Congo park director evacuated to Nairobi

The Belgian director of a famed national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo who was shot this week by unknown attackers was evacuated to Nairobi on Friday, a local official said. Emmanuel de Merode, head of the Virunga National Park in the DR Congo's war-scarred North Kivu province, was shot in the abdomen and chest on Tuesday as he travelled alone by jeep from the regional capital Goma to a nearby conservation centre. His condition was thought to be stable as he was flown out of Goma on Friday for the Kenyan capital.

91% of respondents in S.E. Asia say Japan is "reliable friend": poll

More than 90 percent of online poll respondents in seven members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations believe Japan is a "reliable friend" to their countries, according to results released Friday by the Foreign Ministry. In the March online poll commissioned to research company Ipsos Hong Kong by the ministry, 91 percent of respondents said Japan is a reliable friend for the region and 94 percent said their countries have friendly relations with Japan.
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