Syria said Monday it will hold a presidential election expected to return President Bashar al-Assad to office on June 3, despite a civil war that has killed tens of thousands. Underlining the ongoing violence in the country, mortar fire hit near the parliament building shortly before the election date was announced, killing two people. Syria's first presidential election -- after constitutional amendments did away with the old referendum system -- will be held amid violence that has killed 150,000 people since March 2011, according to one monitoring group. He urged Syrians "to give voice to their will through the ballot box and participate in the democratic process by electing whoever they think is most able to lead Syria to victory."
By Belinda Goldsmith LONDON (Reuters) - Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown is stepping up his efforts to stop Scotland leaving the United Kingdom as opinion polls show growing support for independence. Brown, a Scot, will on Tuesday make his first speech in support of the cross-party Better Together campaign, warning Scots of a possible deficit in pension funds if they opt out of the 307-year old union in a September 18 referendum. Polls show growing support for independence with the gap between the two sides narrowing to just a few percentage points after a split seemed unattainable a year ago. Brown, a former Labour leader who has kept a low profile since losing the 2010 general election, said he will set out the case for why Scotland should stay in the United Kingdom in a speech at Glasgow University.