- - Sunday, June 3, 2012


STOCKHOLM — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Russia on Sunday to get behind a political transition in Syria, saying President Bashar Assad’s departure is not a precondition but should be an “outcome.”

Mrs. Clinton spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov by telephone Friday to say that Washington and Moscow need to work together on a plan that would halt the violence and bring about political change in the country.

“In my conversation with him, I made it very clear there would be no point to any meeting unless it included all elements of Kofi Annan’s [peace] plan, and that certainly means we have to focus on a path forward for a political transition,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters during a visit to Stockholm.

“Assad’s departure does not have to be a precondition, but it should be an outcome, so the people of Syria have a chance to express themselves.”

No meeting between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Lavrov has been scheduled, but a senior State Department official said Friday that Mrs. Clinton had said the two sides should begin working on ideas.


Olympic torch starts five-day tour

BELFAST — The Olympic torch began its five-day tour of Northern Ireland with plenty of excitement and no signs of trouble Sunday as the territory’s Protestants and Catholics vowed to show the world how united the community has become after four decades of conflict.

Police warned of extra security to deter any of the region’s small Irish Republican Army factions - still trying to undermine a broadly successful peace process with guns and bombs - from trying to disrupt the event.

But the Olympic torch proceeded from Belfast’s Titanic Quarter to the prosperous belt of towns along the County Down coast with no unusual security evident.

Just as during its first two weeks on British soil in England and Wales, the crowds were free to stand beside the passing torchbearer, who was flanked by four to six tracksuit-clad security staff jogging alongside.

Between stops, a Northern Ireland police motorcycle unit used to protecting VIPs sped ahead to block roads and ensure the torch convoy of more than a dozen vehicles carrying support staff and media stuck to its ambitious schedule to reach every corner of this province of 1.7 million by Thursday.

Sinn Fein, the Irish nationalist party that long supported IRA attacks but today helps govern Northern Ireland alongside its British Protestant majority, said all of Ireland was excited to see the symbol of the 2012 London Games arrive.


King takes first trip after elephant hunt mishap

MADRID — Spain’s king flew to South America on Sunday for his first major trip since falling and breaking a hip on an elephant hunt seven weeks ago.

King Juan Carlos arrived in Brazil and will go to Chile on Monday. Spain often relies on the king as a high-profile representative overseas, and the 74-year-old monarch will no doubt be eager to recover some of the respect he lost when it became known he had been on an elephant hunting safari as his country struggled with a deep financial crisis and crushing unemployment.

Many Spaniards were dumbfounded when news broke that the king had made a secret journey to hunt elephants in Botswana even though he is honorary president of the Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund.


Foreign minister to visit Syria’s neighbors

BERLIN — Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will visit Syria’s neighbors this week in a bid to help stop the bloody strife threatening regional stability, a spokeswoman said Sunday.

Mr. Westerwelle will leave Monday on a tour that will take in Turkey and Lebanon, as well as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse, without giving a detailed itinerary.

The talks are to focus on an “end to the violence in Syria,” she said.

Mr. Westerwelle is to hold his first official meeting with his new French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, in Berlin before his departure Monday.

Germany has ruled out deploying troops to halt the bloodshed in Syria, an idea that has been floated by French President Francois Hollande.


Pope celebrates Mass for 1 million

MILAN — Pope Benedict XVI celebrated an open-air Mass on Sunday for a million followers, capping three days of activities in Milan aimed at showing support for the family.

Fitting his theme of strengthening the institution, the pope recalled his own childhood in Germany in a house filled with music, big Sunday lunches and shared liturgical readings to strengthen the family faith.

“To tell the truth,” the pope said, responding to a question about his youth from a young Vietnamese girl during a meeting with families Saturday night, “if I try to imagine a little how it will be in heaven, it seems to be the time of my youth, of my childhood.”

Benedict recalled lots of singing in his childhood home in Bavaria, not far from Salzburg, and of long walks in the woods.

“In a word, we were one heart and one soul, with many shared experiences, even if the times were difficult,” the pontiff said.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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