- - Sunday, February 13, 2011

BRITAIN

Homosexual couples might wed in churches

LONDON | The British government said Sunday it is planning to change the marriage law and allow gay couples to have civil partnership ceremonies in places of worship.

“The government is currently considering what the next stage should be for civil partnerships, including how some religious organizations can allow same-sex couples to register their relationship in a religious setting if they wish to do so,” a Home Office spokesman said.

“Ministers have met a range of people and organizations to hear their views on this issue. An announcement will be made in due course.”

The Sunday Telegraph newspaper said such ceremonies could be permitted to include religious elements for the first time.

The proposed marriage law reforms could also end the legal definition of marriage as pertaining only to a man and a woman.

The Church of England has already said it will not allow any of its buildings to be used for civil partnership ceremonies.

IRELAND

Opposition party moves ahead in poll

DUBLIN | Support for Ireland’s main opposition party Fine Gael is surging, and it may be able to form a single-party government after the Feb. 25 election, according to an opinion poll on Sunday.

The Sunday Business Post/Red C poll shows a jump in support for the center-right Fine Gael party compared to a week ago, while the other main parties have dropped back.

Fine Gael gained three points to 38 percent. The center-left Labor is at 20 percent, down two points.

Fianna Fail, the main party in the current ruling coalition, also shed two points to 15 percent.

Prime Minister Brian Cowen called elections on Feb. 1, with his coalition expected to be the first government to be ousted as a result of the eurozone debt crisis.

GERMANY

Army looks for foreign volunteers

BERLIN | Germany could recruit foreigners into its army as part of a plan to ensure it has enough manpower now that the draft has effectively been scrapped, a defense ministry official said over the weekend.

“We have to broaden the regulations to allow residents in Germany to be recruited into the armed services, if they are suitable, even if they are not German nationals,” said a draft Defense Ministry plan.

A ministry official confirmed that this is one of the measures under consideration to “increase the attractiveness of army service.”

Germany’s army, the Bundeswehr, needs to open up to “new potential” for demographic reasons, the spokesman added. Germany has a rapidly aging population.

In 2009, more than 7 million foreign-born residents lived in Germany, with a population of more than 82 million, according to official statistics.

BELGIUM

EU demands release of Algerian protesters

BRUSSELS | The head of the European Parliament demanded Sunday that demonstrators arrested during an Algerian attempt to echo Tunisian and Egyptian protests be released “immediately.”

Urging Algiers to “refrain from violence and respect their citizens’ right to peaceful demonstration,” after protests in the capital on Saturday, Jerzy Buzek underlined that “any and all demonstrators arrested should be released immediately.”

Algeria’s interior ministry said 14 people were detained and then released, but the head of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights, Mustapha Bouchachi, said more than 300 protesters were arrested.

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