Tens of thousands of Basques held hands in a 123-kilometre (76-mile) human chain across their region on Sunday to press the Spanish government to let them vote on breaking away and forming their own country. Demonstrators, many draped in red, white and green Basque flags, raised their linked hands in the air along country roads and through towns in the Basque region as a helicopter flew over.
Anti-racism campaigners reacted with outrage on Sunday to an apparent anti-Semitic pun by France's former far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen that even his own party and daughter were quick to criticise. SOS Racisme denounced as "the most anti-Semitic filth" a pledge by the founder of the National Front (FN) party to put his critics in their place using a pun suggesting Nazi gas chambers. The remark was contained in a video clip posted on the FN website and since removed. In the video, Le Pen railed against a number of critics including pop star Madonna and Yannick Noah, the French singer and former tennis champion.
Bulgaria is suspending work on the disputed Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline following criticism from the EU and United States, Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski announced on Sunday. The European Union on Tuesday asked Bulgaria to suspend work on the multinational pipeline project, designed to bring Russian gas to Europe while bypassing crisis-hit Ukraine. The European Commission said the project may break EU rules.
Pope Francis on Sunday hosts an unprecedented joint peace prayer in the Vatican with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in a symbolic gesture aimed at fostering dialogue. Abbas said he hoped the event in the Vatican Gardens at 1700 GMT, which will include Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayers and the planting of an olive tree by all three leaders, would "help Israel decide".
If the five Taliban inmates released from Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for a captive American soldier rejoined the fight against the United States, they would do so at great risk, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday. "These guys pick a fight with us, in the future or now or at any time, at enormous risk." Concern that the five former inmates might return to fight has been a factor in controversy in the United States over the deal, under which Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was handed over to U.S. troops in Afghanistan on May 31 after nearly five years in captivity and the five Taliban members were flown from Guantanamo to Qatar. Kerry said the United States has proven its ability to target al Qaeda fighters in western Pakistan and Afghanistan in the war on terrorism and that nobody should doubt the capacity of the United States to protect Americans. The five had been held at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba since 2002.
Sudanese police on Sunday arrested an opposition leader accused of having criticised a counter-insurgency unit, an aide said, in the second such case in just over three weeks. Sudanese Congress Party chief Ibrahim al-Sheikh was taken away from his home in Nuhud town of West Kordofan by police acting on an arrest warrant, the party's secretary general, Abdelqayum Awad, told AFP. Sheikh could face the death penalty if found guilty of these charges, he said. According to Awad, Sheikh, a former university professor, had at a rally on Saturday criticised the actions of the counter-insurgency unit known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and protested over politically-motivated arrests.
The amendment, which needs to be approved by parliament before passing into law, would give the courts power to prevent Israel's president from granting clemency or shortening the jail term of anyone imprisoned for murder. Ayelet Shaked of the far-right Jewish Home party who initiated the change said it was aimed at preventing the release of Palestinian militants who killed Israelis as well as other murderers. The latest round of US-led peace talks collapsed in April after Israel refused to release a fourth and last round of 26 long-term prisoners imprisoned for killing Israelis, breaching a commitment made in 2013. Throughout the talks, Israel released 78 of the promised 104 prisoners, in a move which angered hardliners.
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma is expected to be discharged from hospital on Sunday, a day after he was admitted for tests following a bout of exhaustion, an ANC official said. "Our information was he was going to be out of that (hospital) yesterday late or today," Gwede Mantashe, general secretary of the ruling ANC told reporters. He said party officials had ordered Zuma on Friday to take a break because "the punishing election programme was taking its toll, not on him only, (but) on many of us". Zuma's office said the 72-year-old leader checked into hospital on Saturday for "tests" adding doctors were "satisfied" with his condition.
The Damascus neighbourhood is known as "Berry Place," but its bucolic name hides its difficult reality -- it is the front line between rebels and soldiers loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The area is an island in the eastern district of Jobar, where rebels hold the east and the army controls the west. The government considers Berry Place a strategic area because it provides access to the capital's central Abbasid Square. If the rebels took the square, they could take the heart of Damascus.
A couple and their four children, the youngest just six months old, were killed Sunday in Syrian army air raids in the northern province of Aleppo, a monitoring group said. "An entire family was killed in air raids in Tal Rifaat in the north of Aleppo province," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "The parents and their children, aged 10, six, two and six months, were all killed," in the strikes targeting the rebel-held town. "(President) Bashar al-Assad says he wants to kill terrorists.
Negotiators trying to end Latin America's oldest civil war agreed Saturday to set up a truth commission that addresses the deaths of thousands of people in five decades of conflict. The move is seen as a stride toward a possible peace deal in Colombia. "What we are announcing today is a historic step forward on the effort to put victims at the center of the (peace) process," said ex-vice president Humberto de la Calle. "These principles are unprecedented -- never heard of before in Colombia, or in any other peace process," the leader of President Juan Manuel Santos's negotiating team stressed at the Cuban-hosted talks.