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International news in brief

Published:Monday | March 28, 2016 | 3:00 AM
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After a bleak week, Pope Francis offers Easter message

VATICAN CITY (AP):

Pope Francis concluded a bleak week in Europe with a message of hope during an Easter Vigil service on Saturday, saying that darkness and fear must not prevail and "imprison" the world with pessimism.

Francis' call to hope on the eve of the most joyful celebration in the Christian calendar contrasted sharply with his sharp condemnation in recent days of the attacks in Belgium and elsewhere by Islamic extremists.

Francis entered the silent and darkened basilica with just a single candle guiding him at the start of the vigil. As he reached the altar, the basilica's floodlights flipped on in a symbolic show of light after the darkness of Good Friday, which recalls Jesus' death.

In his homily, Francis said that the hope that Easter brings is a lesson for the Christian faithful to cast aside the pessimism that can "imprison" people inside of themselves.

"We see and will continue to see problems both inside and out. They will always be there," he said. But he insisted: "Let us not allow darkness and fear to distract us and control our hearts."

Sanders wins 2 states;

Clinton retains big delegate lead

WASHINGTON (AP):

Bernie Sanders scored a duo of wins in Western caucus contests on Saturday, giving a powerful psychological boost to his supporters, but doing little to move him closer to securing the Democratic nomination.

While results in Washington and Alaska barely dented Hillary Clinton's significant delegate lead, Sanders' wins underscored her persistent vulnerabilities within her own party, particularly with young voters and liberal activists who have been inspired by her rival's unapologetically liberal message. The two Democrats were also competing in Hawaii.

Deal reached to take California minimum wage to $15 an hour

SACRAMENTO, California (AP):

California legislators and labour unions on Saturday reached a tentative agreement that will take the state's minimum wage from $10 to $15 an hour, a state senator said, a move that would make for the largest statewide minimum in the nation by far.

Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who stressed that the deal was not yet finalised, told The Associated Press that the proposal would go before the legislature as part of his minimum-wage bill that stalled last year.

Leno said that the deal would avoid taking the issue to the ballot. One union-backed initiative has already qualified for the ballot, and a second competing measure is also trying to qualify.

Heavy Russian air strikes as Syrian army fights IS in Palmyra

BEIRUT (AP):

Syrian government forces backed by heavy Russian air strikes have seized three neighbourhoods inside Palmyra, a town with famed Roman-era ruins that fell to the Islamic State group last May, state media reported Saturday.

Russian jets carried out 40 air sorties near Palmyra in the past day, hitting 158 targets and killing over 100 militants, Russia's defence ministry said.

Syrian troops and allied militiamen have taken up positions in the three neighbourhoods that are part of the modern town, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.