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European nations do not have to allow same-sex marriage, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Friday. Seven judges at the European court ruled unanimously that two Austrian men denied permission to wed were not covered by the guarantee of the right to marry enshrined in Europe's human rights convention. The judges acknowledged "an emerging European consensus" that same-sex couples should have legal recognition but said individual states may still decide what form it should take because marriage had "deep-rooted social and cultural connotations which may differ largely from one society to another."


Court legalizes assisted suicide

Germany's top criminal court, the Federal Court of Justice, issued a landmark ruling Friday legalizing assisted suicide in cases where it is carried out based on a patient's prior request. The ruling came as the court overturned the conviction of a lawyer who had counseled his client in 2007 to stop tube feeding her mother, who had been in a nonresponsive coma for five years. A lower court had convicted attorney Wolfgang Putz of attempted manslaughter and given him a nine-month suspended sentence. German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger welcomed the ruling as a major step toward respecting an individual's wishes.


U.S. scoffs at war damages claim

The Obama administration ridiculed North Korea on Friday for claiming $65 trillion from the United States in Korean War damages, saying the communist nation is an economic "basket case" due its own failed policies. Marking the 60th anniversary of the start of the conflict, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said North Korea had no one but itself to blame for its isolation and the misery of its people.

South Korea: A South Korean official said Friday that North Korea has banned boats off its west coast, a possible indication the country may hold an artillery drill or missile tests.


Jerusalem: Human Rights Watch on Friday accused Hamas militants of violating rules of war and "cruel and inhuman" treatment for not letting captive Israeli Sgt. Gilad Schalit contact his family and the Red Cross.

Iran: Hossein Sheikholeslam, head of the Iranian agency that supports Palestinians, said the Sunday departure of an Iranian ship carrying aid to the Gaza Strip has been canceled as a result of Israel's vow to prevent vessels from Iran and Lebanon from reaching the Palestinian enclave.

Paris: Frenchman Francois Cousteix, whose online name was Hacker Croll, was convicted of infiltrating Twitter and peeping at the account of President Barack Obama. He received a five-month suspended prison sentence.

Egypt: Thousand of Egyptians, joined by opposition leader and Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, protested what they said was authorities' systematic use of torture in the alleged beating death of a young man by police this month.

Singapore: Swiss Oliver Fricker, 32, was sentenced to three strokes of a cane and five months in prison Friday for breaking into a train depot and spray-painting graffiti on a subway car. Vandalism in Singapore carries a mandatory three to eight strokes of a cane.

Times wires