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UN Security Council votes to send 300 unarmed observers to Syria

The UN Security Council has voted to send 300 unarmed military observers to Syria, in a unanimous resolution stripped of any sanctions threat in order to win Russian backing.

The rare show of unity represented a desperate effort to shore up an increasingly threadbare ceasefire that has been frequently violated by both President Bashar al-Assad's government and the armed opposition fighting for his overthrow.

Bahrain protesters hurl petrol bombs

Crowds of masked protesters hurled petrol bombs at police who fired tear gas back in Bahrain yesterday, turning the streets into a battle zone on the eve of a Formula One Grand Prix that demonstrators say glorifies a repressive government.

Protesters were driven by outrage over the death of one of their number, whose body was found sprawled on a village rooftop after overnight clashes with police. Around 7,000 marchers held banners calling for democratic reforms. Some banners depicted Formula One race car drivers as riot police beating up protesters.

See Sport page 7.

More than 120 hurt in Dutch rail crash

Almost 125 people were injured, many seriously, when two Dutch commuter trains crashed head-on in Amsterdam yesterday, police said.

There were no immediate reports of fatalities, but of those injured, 13 suffered major injuries while 44 were badly injured, a spokesman said. About 70 suffered minor injuries. A trauma helicopter was used to bring the injured to hospital. Some people were lifted from the wreckage by cranes while others were led away from the crash site in protective wraps to waiting ambulances.

Bee Gees star Gibb wakes from coma

Bee Gees star Robin Gibb has shown signs of recovery after waking from a coma by responding to his family, his spokesman said.

The 62-year-old singer fell into a coma last week after contracting pneumonia in his battle against colon and liver cancer. His spokesman, Doug Wright, yesterday confirmed that Gibb had been able to nod and communicate with his family members, who have surrounded his bedside in a central London hospital.

US agents in scandal to step down

Most of the US Secret Service agents accused of misconduct with prostitutes ahead of President Barack Obama's recent visit to Colombia are likely to leave the agency, a top US Republican lawmaker said yesterday.

Six of 11 employees linked to a night of partying in the coastal city of Cartagena on April 11-12 have left the agency over the scandal, which embarrassed the US and overshadowed Mr Obama's participation in the Summit of Americas meeting. "I would think you'll see most of the 11 either resign, retire or will be forced to leave," representative Peter King, chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, said in an interview on Fox News.

US firm to salvage Costa Concordia

SALVAGE work to remove the capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship from its rocky perch off Tuscany, where 32 people died, will begin next month and is expected to take a year, the ship's Italian owner announced yesterday.

The US-owned company Titan Salvage won the bid to remove the ship, which struck a reef off the tourist-dependent island of Giglio on January 13, after the captain had veered off course and steered the liner carrying 4,200 people close to shore in an apparent stunt. Thirty-two passengers and crew members died in the frantic and delayed evacuation. Two of those remain missing. The salvage plan, which still needs approval by Italian authorities, foresees removing the ship in one piece and towing it to an Italian port, Costa said.

Bar shootings leave 17 dead in Mexico

The Attorney General's Office in Chihuahua state says armed groups have opened fire in two bars in the northern Mexico state's capital, killing at least 17 people including the news director of a local radio station.

Chihuahua state attorney general's office spokesman Carlos Gonzalez said at least 15 people were killed in one bar and two more in another in the Friday night shootings in the state capital. He said the dead included Javier Moya Munoz, news director of local radio station 920. Authorities are trying to determine the motive behind the shootings.

Death of disabled-rights campaigner

BRITISH disabled-rights campaigner Lord Ashley of Stoke, who was the UK's first deaf MP, has died aged 89, it was announced yesterday. The Labour peer passed away after a short illness, his family said.

BBC presenter Andrew Marr, who is married to the peer's columnist daughter, Jackie Ashley, said: "Lord Ashley of Stoke, the former Labour MP Jack Ashley, died last night, April 20, after a short illness at the age of 89." Mr Ashley won the seat of Stoke-on-Trent South in 1966, but lost his hearing less than two years later after an unsuccessful ear operation.

Sunday Independent