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By Emmanuel Braun BANGUI (Reuters) - Religious leaders sought reconciliation between Muslims and Christians in Central African Republic on Wednesday during a lull in violence that has killed hundreds of people and drawn in French troops seeking to stop the bloodshed. Fighters, both Muslim and Christian, have gone door to door murdering civilians over the past week. In the capital Bangui, religious leaders met to distribute food to the more than 10,000 displaced people huddled at a gathering at a community centre for protection. "We are here because we are brothers first and foremost," Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, president of the Islamic Central African community, told the crowd of Christians.
(Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co CEO Jamie Dimon said on Wednesday he was thankful congressional leaders had reached a budget deal and was "less worried" about the impact of an eventual scaling back of the Federal Reserve's market-friendly stimulus measures. The agreement on the federal budget was good for business confidence, Dimon said at an investor conference in New York, adding he would send thank-you notes to congressional leaders. "This budget deal is a big deal...because we don't have to go through that crisis again," Dimon said, referring to a stalemate earlier this year that threatened a government debt default. Touching on a wide range of topics, Dimon described public attention to investigations of the bank by regulators and law enforcers as "really, really painful." JPMorgan, the biggest U.S. bank by assets, recently reached a $13 billion settlement of a range of government claims over bad mortgage securities and struck another deal with regulators to pay about $1 billion for its "London Whale" derivatives trading debacle.
Portugal is considering asylum requests from a group of 74 Syrians detained after flying in from Guinea-Bissau using fake Turkish passports, Portuguese officials said on Wednesday. State-run news agency Lusa quoted Teresa Tito Morais, head of the Portuguese Council for Refugees, as saying the 21 children, 15 women and 38 men were being sheltered in social security centres and Catholic charity facilities. Airline TAP has cancelled all flights to Guinea-Bissau until there is a complete revaluation of the security conditions offered by local authorities, the ministry said. It also repeated a recommendation that Portuguese citizens not travel to Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony.
Muammar Gaddafi's former spy chief should be brought to The Hague to face trial, his daughter said on Wednesday, warning that he faced a show trial and death in Libya unless extradited. Anoud al-Senussi, daughter of the man who for decades was a feared right-hand man to the former ruler, said her father was being denied access to lawyers in his prison in Libya, where has been held since he was extradited from Mauritania 16 months ago. One of Gaddafi's closest allies, Abdullah al-Senussi faces charges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague of crimes against humanity for the role he allegedly played in attempting to crush the uprising that led to Gaddafi's toppling and death after four decades in power. Anoud al-Senussi told Reuters she did not expect her father to be freed, but that she was hoping to secure for him a fair trial before "a fair court".
By Anthony Esposito SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Growth in the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to gather pace next year, as a more favourable global outlook boosts demand for the region's exports, the United Nations economic body for Latin America said. The region is expected to grow by 3.2 percent in 2014, a step up from the forecast for this year of 2.6 percent growth, the Santiago-based Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean said in a report on Wednesday. Consumer spending will also continue to spur Latin American economies, though at a softer rate than in the past. ECLAC said the global economic situation heralded some opportunities for the region in 2014.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said on Wednesday he invited all parties, including the opposition, for talks to find a political compromise to a growing political crisis. In a statement on his website, Yanukovich said the opposition should not refuse and should "not go down the road of confrontation and ultimatums".
By Luke Baker BRUSSELS, Dec 11 (Reuters) - European officials are in discussion with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other major financial institutions on ways to help Ukraine if it decides to sign a free-trade agreement with the European Union. Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov was quoted as saying on Wednesday he had asked the EU for 20 billion euros ($27 billion) in aid to offset the cost of signing the EU deal, which Kiev backed away from last month in favour of closer ties with Russia, sparking huge street protests and a financial crisis. There is no question of the EU providing 20 billion euros to Ukraine - the most Brussels has so far offered is 610 million euros - as it would be almost impossible to get pan-EU agreement at a time when it is struggling to help several indebted euro zone member states. But the combined impact of aid and financing programmes from multiple institutions, including the EU, might go some way to providing Kiev with the investment it needs to remain solvent in the event it rejects Russia's advances and signs up with the EU.
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Ukraine's First Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov will meet a top European Union official in Brussels on Thursday to discuss a trade pact that Ukraine's president last month backed away from signing, provoking a political crisis. EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele will meet Arbuzov "to discuss issues related to the signature and implementation of the EU-Ukraine association agreement," a spokesman for Fuele said. (Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Luke Baker)
By Peter Griffiths LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's renegotiation of its EU ties risks starting a chain of events that could lead to the 28-nation bloc's paralysis or disintegration, politicians and analysts said on Wednesday. Renegotiating Britain's place in Europe before an in/out referendum will be one of Prime Minister David Cameron's central policies in his campaign for re-election in 2015. Former Irish prime minister John Bruton said a proposal by members of Cameron's Conservative Party for a new "red card" to allow members to block EU laws would paralyse decision-making. "Does it (Britain) want the European Union to continue - whether it is in it or not - as a workable entity that has the capacity to make decisions reasonably efficiently," said Bruton, who served as EU ambassador to the United States.
The planned rules for winding down failing banks in the euro zone seem overly complex and could slow down the process, European Central Bank Executive Board member Joerg Asmussen was quoted as saying on Wednesday. The draft proposal, circulated among EU ministers at a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday proposes a number of different and often unwieldy options when taking the decision to close a troubled bank. "I have some concerns over the planned decision-making process between the resolution board, EU Commission and Council of Ministers on winding down a bank," Asmussen told German daily Handelsblatt. "It has to be ensured that a bank can be closed in an orderly manner over a weekend." (Reporting by Sakari Suoninen;
By Noah Browning BIR MSHASH, Israel (Reuters) - Israel is promoting a plan to transfer some 40,000 Arab Bedouin citizens from traditional villages into towns despite opposition by activists and senior government officials that threatens to derail it. Government supporters say the resettlement would encourage development, but that was repeatedly challenged by residents of the villages in Israel's southern Negev desert. It's racist, and means to evict people from their homes with no alternative," said Huda Abu Ubayd, a local university student who startled government organisers of a tour for journalists by chanting slogans and passing out leaflets.
By Kirstin Ridley LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's leading fraud prosecutor is launching a full review of the circumstances that led to the collapse of a high-profile corruption trial that has embarrassed an agency attempting to restore confidence in its crime-busting abilities. A day after the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) called off the prosecution of British Canadian businessman Victor Dahdaleh, the agency underlined the high-risk nature of the complex, cross-border cases it pursues. "As with all our casework, the SFO will undertake a full review of the circumstances of this case with a view to learning any lessons that can be applied to future cases," it said in an emailed response to questions. The SFO on Tuesday called off the prosecution of Dahdaleh, who was accused of paying some $67 million in bribes to former managers of Aluminium Bahrain (Alba), including a member of Bahrain's royal family, in return for a cut of contracts worth over $3 billion.
Once the preserve of religious and ethically minded funds and the development finance arms of major economies, these ESG themes have moved into the mainstream. Almost all emerging fund managers in a survey by UK development finance arm CDC to be published this week consider ESG to be integral to their investment strategy, and in many deals they regard it as a "fact of life". It is a sharp contrast to a few years ago, when emerging market investors saw sustainable strategies as an irritant imposed by worthy multilateral lenders, or "the dead hand of eco-fascism", according to CDC's ESG director Mark Eckstein. "There is a step up in investors' sophistication - they are taking ESG seriously because it is an issue for them." CDC's own investments include Halonix, an Indian firm that makes halogen bulbs for cars, and a steel plant in Kenya with a strong health and safety policy.
By Diane Bartz WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Google Inc executive Michelle Lee has been named deputy director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and will run the agency until a new director is named, the agency said on Wednesday. Lee is a former deputy general counsel and head of patents and patent strategy at Google, the search engine giant. The USPTO has been without a director since David Kappos, a former International Business Machines Corp executive, departed on February 1 to return to private practice. It was not known when a permanent director would be named for the USPTO, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce and awards patents and registers trademarks.
Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is the front-runner to win this week's 2013 presidential election, promising tax and education reform in the top copper exporter. She is going head-to-head on Sunday against Evelyn Matthei, the representative for the incumbent right-wing Alianza coalition, after failing to gather enough votes to win outright in November's first-round vote. As Chile's first female president from 2006 to 2010, Bachelet's term was marked by market-friendly economic policies, welfare programs and an affable personal style. Since then, her political outlook has shifted somewhat to the left, coinciding with massive protests for free and improved education that have swept Chile in the past two years.
By John O'Donnell BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Bondholders and large depositors in a failing bank could face losses as early as 2016 if Germany succeeds in accelerating tough new European rules to spare taxpayers from further bailouts. A day after European Union finance ministers met to try to build a single banking framework for the euro zone, EU negotiators and members of the European Parliament were attempting on Wednesday to set out rules that will also provide the foundations for the so-called banking union. The rules, which will apply across all 28 countries in the European Union, will make hitting bondholders and large savers a permanent feature of the bloc's response to banking crises. Germany is seeking backing of other European countries to fast-track the law, originally pencilled in for 2018.
By David Milliken and Freya Berry LONDON (Reuters) - The Bank of England's forward guidance policy will give only a small boost to economic output, and one which depends on how well the public understand it, BoE policymaker Martin Weale said on Wednesday. Britain's central bank said in August that it would not raise interest rates from their record low 0.5 percent before unemployment falls to 7 percent, as long as inflation did not show signs of getting out of hand. Weale said that if this succeeded in pushing back public expectations of an interest rate rise by one year, it could boost gross domestic product by as much as 0.75 percent and increase inflation by just over a quarter of a percentage point. "The conclusion I would come to is that the policy has been a modest stimulus, not probably a large stimulus to the economy," Weale said at the NIESR economic think tank, which he headed before joining the BoE's Monetary Policy Committee.
After a year of turbulence, the BBC unveiled plans for a management shake-up on Wednesday to help restore confidence in Britain's publicly funded broadcaster, starting with the appointment of ex-Sony CEO and CBS president Howard Stringer. As well as the public row over severance payments, the BBC faced controversies over prolific sex crimes by late TV presenter Jimmy Savile and the failure of a 100 million pound ($160 million) digital media project. Following a review of governance, the corporation's two leaders, Director General Tony Hall and BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten, announced changes to clearly divide the responsibilities of the executive board that runs day-to-day operations and the Trust that assesses the executive.
By Alexandra Ulmer SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Red-hot favourite Michelle Bachelet is almost certain to cruise to victory in Chile's presidential runoff election on Sunday, propelled by her warm style and vows to redress steep income inequality. Bachelet's right-wing opponent Evelyn Matthei is likely to take a beating, hurt by her ties with the unpopular government of outgoing president Sebastian Pinera and with the 1973-1990 dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. In a twist that has captivated Chile, Bachelet and Matthei were neighbours and playmates as children on an air force base, though the brutal 1973 coup later divided the two military families. Bachelet, a centre-leftist who was president from 2006 to 2010, has promised to hike corporate taxes to reform Chile's higher education system, shred the dictatorship-era constitution and legalize abortion under certain circumstances.
Time magazine named Pope Francis its Person of the Year on Wednesday, crediting him with shifting the message of the Catholic Church while capturing the imagination of millions of people who had become disillusioned with the Vatican. Time gave that honour to Pope John Paul II in 1994 and to Pope John XXIII in 1963. The Argentine pontiff - who, as archbishop of Buenos Aires was known as the slum cardinal for his visits to the poor and penchant for subway travel - beat former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and gay rights activist Edith Windsor for the award. "In a matter of months, Francis has elevated the healing mission of the church — the church as servant and comforter of hurting people in an often harsh world — above the doctrinal police work so important to his recent predecessors." Time said the final selection was made by its editors, who had considered suggestions from the magazine's more than 2 million Twitter followers.