Portugal sees Obama as an "opportunity for change"

Lisbon, PortugalLisbon - Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates on Wednesday described US

Irish Lisbon Treaty opponent to form Europe-wide party

IrelandDublin - The man who spearheaded Irish opposition to the European Union's Lisbon Treaty said Monday that he hoped to turn his organization into a European political party.

Declan Ganley told Irish broadcaster RTE his aim was to run candidates in many EU states in the June 2009 European elections.

He said the move would provide an opportunity across the EU to provide a proxy referendum on the treaty designed to streamline the running of the 27-nation bloc.

Portuguese parliament rejects gay marriage

Gay MarriageLisbon - The Portuguese parliament Friday rejected a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage with an overwhelming majority, with the governing Socialists arguing that the time was not ripe.

The draft legislation had been tabled by the Greens and the Left Bloc.

Prime Minister Jose Socrates' Socialists and the opposition conservative parties voted against.

The Socialists were against discrimination, but the question of gay marriage should not be allowed to split Portuguese society, Socialist legislator Jorge Strech said.

Portuguese far-right leader handed four-year sentence

PortugalLisbon- Portugal's main skinhead leader was Friday sentenced to 4 years and 10 months in prison, judicial sources said.

Mario Machado, leader of the Portuguese section of the Hammerskin far-right group, was found guilty of racial discrimination, illegal possession of weapons, threats and violence.

Six others were also handed prison terms, the length of which was not immediately given.

Seventeen were given suspended prison sentences, seven were handed fines, and five were acquitted.

Portugal preparing to recognize Kosovo: reports

Lisbon - Portugal is preparing to recognize the independence of Kosovo, media reported Friday.

Foreign Minister Luis Amado may disclose the date of recognition on Tuesday, when he will inform a parliamentary foreign affairs commission about Portugal's stance, the daily Publico said.

Amado is currently holding meetings with the parliamentary parties to discuss the issue.

Portugal wanted align itself with most other European Union countries, which have backed the February 17 independence declaration of the former Serbian province, the daily said.

Work stoppage paralyzes part of Portuguese public sector

Lisbon - A day of strikes against precarious labour conditions affected hospitals, schools, railways and garbage disposal in Portugal on Wednesday, trade unions said.

Unions said 75 per cent of their members followed the strike call, but government officials estimated the figure at 11 per cent.

Hundreds of schools remained closed, trade union representative Ana Avoila said. Garbage also piled up on the streets, and buses and trains stopped running in many places.

The 24-hour stoppage, which unions called a "protest," was called to press demands for better salaries and work conditions.