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Showing posts from May 17, 2013

Shoppers Drug Mart sells C$500 mln notes in 2 parts - term sheet

Shoppers Drug Mart Corp on Wednesday sold C$500 million ($490 million) of senior unsecured medium-term notes in two parts, according to a term sheet seen by Reuters. _0"> The sale included C$225 million ($221 million) of notes due May 24, 2016. The 2.01 percent notes were priced at 99.980 to yield 2.017 percent, or 79.7 basis points over the Canadian government benchmark, according to the term sheet. It also included C$275 million ($270 million) of notes due May 24, 2018. The 2.36 percent notes were priced at 99.962 to yield 2.368 percent, or 94.8 basis points over the Canadian government benchmark. The joint book-running managers on the sale were the investment dealer arms of Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Toronto-Dominion Bank.

UPDATE 1-LATAM Airlines says aims for $1 bln cap hike in late Q3

LATAM Airlines Group SA aims to launch a capital increase at the end of the third quarter and its controllers intend to subscribe their respective proportional stakes in the operation, the company said during a conference call on Wednesday. Latin America's largest carrier will ask shareholders on June 11 to approve the $1 billion increase aimed at helping to finance its spending plans over the coming years and regain its investment grade. "Regarding the timing for the capital increase, we would target at this point definitely towards the end of the third quarter... it would be probably September-October this year," said Gisela Escobar, LATAM's head of investor relations. The company is the fruit of Chilean airline LAN's takeover of Brazil's TAM in June. Following the takeover, Fitch Ratings lowered LATAM's ratings on global debt to "BB plus" from "BBB," citing the carrier's high debt levels and constrained cash holdings follow

Ally, ResCap creditors reach settlement

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Bankrupt Residential Capital LLC said on Tuesday that parent Ally Financial Inc reached a private settlement with ResCap creditors, who say Ally owes them $25 billion. _0"> The deal will keep sealed a potentially damaging report on Ally's role in ResCap's collapse. A deadline to release the report by examiner Arthur Gonzalez had initially been set for 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) if the sides could not reach a deal. Creditors had lambasted an initial offer by Ally to contribute $750 million for ResCap creditors.   Lewis Kruger, ResCap's chief restructuring officer, said after a hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan on Tuesday that a term sheet between Ally and the creditors had been signed. The sides still had to work out details on how to implement its terms, Kruger said. Details of the deal remained private. The examiner's report will remained sealed until May 23, Kruger said.

Bulgaria resumes sale of ailing arms plant

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Bulgaria on Tuesday resumed the sale of state-owned arms maker VMZ Sopot, aiming to attract a strategic investor to overhaul the debt-laden plant and funds for the cash-strapped government. _0"> The privatisation agency set an end-November deadline for binding bids for the largest state producer of missiles, grenades and ammunition. The agency cancelled a previous sale attempt in January after Bulgarian company EMCO, the sole interested party, withdrew because of a condition that none of the over 3,000 staff could be laid off without trade union consent.   The Bulgarian parliament has since changed the sell-off strategy and the size of the future workforce will be negotiated with bidders. The sell-off agency had no word on likely bidders or how much the sale might raise. The annual results of VMZ Sopot are kept secret by the government. VMZ Sopot has debts of over 150 million levs ($100 million)and the management has already started to lay off some 600 people to avoid b

UPDATE 1-Ally reaches deal with ResCap creditors

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Ally Financial Inc on Tuesday agreed to an important deal with creditors of its bankrupt Residential Capital LLC subsidiary that will allow the lender finally to separate itself from its former mortgage business.   The details of the agreement will remain private until a request to approve the deal is filed next week with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, which is overseeing ResCap's Chapter 11. "This agreement is a seminal moment for Ally," said Ally Chief Executive Officer Michael A. Carpenter in a statement. The settlement will allow Ally to put behind it problems tied to mortgage lending so it can focus on its U.S. auto lending business and its online bank. Ally has raised billions of dollars by selling its international business and wants to use that money to repay the U.S. government, which still owns three-quarters of the company following a bailout. Ally and the ResCap parties were still working out the details of how to implement the agreement, ResCa

California cities to remain 'fiscally challenged'-Moody's

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Many California cities are showing signs of improvement, but limits on raising revenues, swelling pension costs and other pressures will leave them "fiscally challenged over the next few years," Moody's Investors Service said on Tuesday. _0"> The agency said it downgraded the ratings on 27 cities' obligations and upgraded the general obligation ratings of two cities after reviewing all of the 95 California cities it assesses.   The review was inspired by the bankruptcy filings of Stockton and San Bernardino, California, to understand the risk of future bankruptcy filings and the cities' current budget conditions, Moody's said.

Bankrupt Alabama county says has deal on $105 mln of bonds

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Alabama's bankrupt Jefferson County has reached a deal with creditors JPMorgan Chase and Bayerische Landesbank covering $105 million of general obligation warrants, county officials said on Monday. _0"> The agreement, one of a series the county has reached since filing a landmark $4.2 billion bankruptcy in late 2011, covers the county's 2001b GO series and was expected to be approved on Thursday by the Jefferson County Commission.   The deal saves the county $2 million in fees and interest payments and shifts its variable rate to a fixed interest rate, officials said.

Detroit Mayor Bing will not run for reelection in crisis-hit city

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Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who has lost most of his authority to an emergency manager appointed by the state, said on Tuesday that he will not seek reelection, and accused Michigan, the media and political pundits of unfairly denigrating the city. A former professional basketball player and steel company executive, Bing swept into office in 2009 with pledges to fix the city's ballooning deficit and restore neighborhoods decimated by crime, fires and residential flight.   Detroit's long slide continued under his watch and the state of Michigan in March stepped in to appoint a bankruptcy lawyer, Kevyn Orr, to take over management of its finances. Orr on Monday said Detroit is clearly insolvent and could face a possible bankruptcy if talks with labor unions and creditors do not make substantial progress on easing the city's cash crunch by the end of June. A bankruptcy filing by Detroit would be the largest municipal filing in U.S. history. Bing, a Democrat, did not expla

UPDATE 1-Bankrupt Alabama county has deal on $105 mln of bonds

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As Alabama's Jefferson County readies a workout proposal for its landmark $4.2 billion bankruptcy, officials on Tuesday announced an agreement with creditors JPMorgan Chase and Bayerische Landesbank covering $105 million of defaulted debt.   The deal, one of a series the county has reached since filing the biggest U.S. municipal bankruptcy in late 2011, covers the county's 2001b general obligation warrants and was expected to be approved on Thursday by the Jefferson County Commission. The Jefferson County case is seen as a testing ground for how bondholders fare when a local issuer breaks under excessive financial pressure. The bankruptcy is the result of debts taken on in a costly overhaul of the county's sewer system. The agreement announced on Tuesday saves the county $2 million in fees and interest payments and shifts its variable rate payments on the bonds issued for infrastructure projects to a 4.9 percent fixed interest rate, officials said. The deal will end

UPDATE 2-California cities to remain 'fiscally challenged' -Moody's

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Many California cities will remain fiscally challenged over the next few years due to limits on raising revenues and demands for pensions and other spending, Moody's Investors Service said on Tuesday. The agency said it downgraded the ratings on 27 cities' obligations and upgraded the general obligation ratings of two cities - San Francisco and Los Angeles - after reviewing all of the 95 California cities it assesses. The review was inspired by the bankruptcy filings of Stockton and San Bernardino, California, to understand the risk of future bankruptcy filings and the cities' current budget conditions, Moody's said.   California stunned the $3.7 trillion municipal bond market last year with three bankruptcy filings. Mammoth Lakes also filed for creditor protections under Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy law. In general, lease-backed and unsecured bonds are at greatest risk, Moody's said, noting that all three bankrupt cities defaulted on some of the obligations

Suntech lenders agree to defer $541 mln bond repayment again

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China -based solar panel maker Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd, whose main unit is in insolvency proceedings, said it reached an agreement with some lenders to further defer its obligations on a $541 million loan. _0"> Suntech defaulted on the principal payment on the 3 percent convertible notes on March 15. The company earlier that month reached a deal with 60 percent of the note holders to defer payments until May 15.   Under the agreement disclosed on Wednesday, the signing bondholders have agreed not to exercise their rights until June 28.

Myanmar authorities work to evacuate camps as cyclone nears

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Authorities in Myanmar struggled on Wednesday to evacuate tens of thousands of people, most of them Rohingya Muslims, before a cyclone reaches camps in low-lying regions that have been their home since ethnic and religious unrest last year. Cyclone Mahasen has already killed at least seven people and displaced 3,881 in Sri Lanka, its Disaster Management Center said on Tuesday.   The storm is moving north over the Bay of Bengal and is expected to reach land on Thursday, hitting north of Chittagong in Bangladesh. The Myanmar government had planned to move 38,000 internally displaced people, most of them Rohingya Muslims, by Tuesday but many have refused to relocate from camps in Rakhine State in the west of the country, afraid of the authorities' intentions. At least 192 people were killed in June and October last year in violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya, who are denied citizenship by the government in Myanmar and considered by many Buddhists to be immigr

Kuwait court ruling may threaten economic recovery

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A ruling by Kuwait's top court next month could end a period of relative political stability, jeopardizing government plans to push ahead with long-delayed economic projects. One of the world's richest countries per capita, Kuwait has struggled for years to get big infrastructure projects off the ground because of bureaucratic red tape and political turmoil. A parliamentary election in December was the fifth in six years.   The election seemed to be a turning point, however, since an opposition boycott of the poll meant members of parliament seen as more willing to cooperate with the government were elected. This stirred investor hopes that the state would ramp up spending under a 30 billion dinar ($105 billion) development plan, which aims to draw private and foreign investment and diversify the oil-reliant economy. That optimism, which has helped to fuel a more than 30 percent rise in the stock market since the start of this year, could come to an end on June 16. The

Iran MPs urge ban on presidential runs by Rafsanjani, Mashaie

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Some 100 legislators are demanding a ban on two top independent candidates including ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from Iran's June presidential election in what may be a further move to thwart any brewing challenge to the clerical supreme leader. The petition by parliamentarians to Iran's Guardian Council emerged three days after the electoral watchdog said outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may face charges for accompanying former aide Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, the other high-profile independent, to register on Saturday for the vote.   That warning raised speculation that the council would bar Mashaie. The parliamentarians - conservative hardliners loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - appeared to follow up by urging the watchdog to disqualify both independents. After mass protests that followed the 2009 election, Khamenei may have counted on the June 14 vote to install a loyal conservative as president but the surprise candidacies of Rafsanjani an

U.N. watchdog, EU's Ashton to press Iran in nuclear dispute

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The United Nations' nuclear agency failed to persuade Iran on Wednesday to let it resume an investigation into suspected atomic bomb research, leaving the high-stakes diplomacy in deadlock. With Iran focused on a presidential election next month, expectations had been low for the meeting between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has been trying for more than a year to reopen an inquiry into "possible military dimensions" of Tehran's nuclear work.   "We had intensive discussions today but did not finalize the structured approach document that has been under negotiation for a year and a half now," IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts said after the eight-hour meeting, referring to a long-sought framework deal for the investigation. "Our commitment to continue dialogue is unwavering. However, we must recognize that our best efforts have not been successful so far. So we will continue to try and complete this proc

Egypt judges suspend talks with Mursi over disputed reforms

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Senior Egyptian judges halted talks with President Mohamed Mursi on judicial reforms on Wednesday after parliament decided to discuss the proposed laws despite presidential promises to seek consensus first. Islamist lawmakers allied to Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood are pushing a bill that would force out more than 3,000 judges by lowering the retirement age. The Brotherhood accuses many judges of being remnants of the era of deposed President Hosni Mubarak, saying they have sought to obstruct elections, legislation and attempts to bring corrupt former officials to justice.   The judicial reform bill has also angered liberal, leftist and ultra-conservative Islamist opposition groups which accuse the Brotherhood of trying to control state institutions rather than pressing genuine reforms. The Brotherhood denies this. Under pressure over the bill last month, Mursi invited senior jurists to hold a "justice conference" to discuss the reforms. He said he would personally ad

Freeport suspends Indonesia mine after tunnel collapse

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc halted operations at the world's second largest copper mine in Indonesia on Wednesday as rescue workers scrambled to find 25 workers caught underground in a tunnel collapse a day earlier. The head of Freeport Indonesia said he would travel to the remote West Papua site later on Wednesday to assess rescue operations and decide on when to resume production at the Grasberg mine, which also holds the world's largest gold reserves. Thirty-nine workers were attending an underground training class near the mine when a tunnel collapsed on them early on Tuesday morning, the company said. Rescue crews evacuated 14 people, four of whom died, the company said. The Grasberg mine, which employees more than 24,000 workers, was not significantly affected, but production was suspended to pay homage to those involved in the accident. "There is no direct impact on our operation but as a sign of sympathy we have suspended the operation," Roz

UK warns Sri Lanka on abuses before Commonwealth summit

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Britain said on Wednesday there would be "consequences" for Sri Lanka if its leaders did not address international concerns over human rights abuses, ahead of a Commonwealth summit scheduled to be held in Colombo in November. _0"> Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told parliament "despicable human rights violations" had taken place in Sri Lanka, but that Britain still planned to attend the Commonwealth meeting there, a stance that has drawn heavy criticism from rights groups.   Sri Lanka has repeatedly rejected calls for an independent, international investigation into accusations of war crimes committed during the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam that ended in May 2009. Tens of thousands of civilians, mostly Tamils, were killed in the final months of the war, a U.N. panel has said. "All of us accept the controversy around this, accept the unease around this, but what we'll be doing by attending the Commonwealth Heads of Governmen

Man killed in attack on police station in Libya's Benghazi

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A man was killed in an overnight attack on police in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi and their station was later set on fire in a possible act of revenge for the killing, police sources said on Wednesday. _0"> The army deployed additional forces to Benghazi after a car loaded with explosives blew up near a hospital on Monday, killing three people.   Police sources said the man lived in the neighborhood and was involved in the assault, but local residents said he was an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire. The raid was meant to free someone arrested two days ago, police said. "A crowd of angry people came to burn the police station, and police members (left) to avoid clashes with them," one police source said. Soldiers near the station were firing guns into the air to warn people away, a Reuters witness said. (Reporting by Feras Bosalum; Additional reporting by Ghaith Shennib; Writing by Jessica Donati; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

France says 3.25 billion euros pledged for Mali

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International donors pledged more than 3.25 billion euros ($4.22 billion) on Wednesday to help Mali recover after a conflict with al Qaeda-linked Islamists, French President Francois Hollande said. _0"> The sum exceeds the goals of Mali which had asked donors for nearly two billion euros for this year and next. "It has been confirmed to me that more than 3.25 billion euros have been mobilized at this conference," Hollande said in a speech to the donors' conference in Brussels.   France and the EU led the drive for funding to rebuild Mali and halt a resurgence of al Qaeda-linked Islamists who were driven out of the major northern towns by a French-led offensive. Large pledges of money by the EU, France, the United States, Britain and others brought the West African country over its goal to fill a funding gap in its 4.34 billion euro plan to keep the peace and build infrastructure. "A huge part of the plan is financed so it is very good news. We are re

Former Dutch minister Koenders to be named U.N. Mali envoy: diplomats

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Former Dutch development minister Gerard Koenders will be named U.N. special envoy for Mali and head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the West African country, where Islamist militants hijacked a revolt by Tuareg rebels, diplomats said on Wednesday. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has written to the U.N. Security Council to notify the 15 members of his intention to appoint Koenders, who is currently head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast, council diplomats said.   The diplomats, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said there were unlikely to be any objections to Koenders, who is due to travel to New York shortly for briefings. Last month, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a mandate for a 12,600-strong peacekeeping force for Mali from July 1. The force will be supported by French troops if needed to combat Islamist extremist threats. But the creation of the force is subject to a council review of security in Mali in late June. France , aided

Bosnian experts present U.S.-backed plan for reform

Bosnian legal experts presented on Wednesday a U.S.-backed plan to reform one of the Balkan state's two autonomous regions, a month after it was warned that its bid to join the European Union would be frozen without constitutional changes. Bosnia's Serbs, Muslims and Croats differ over how to change a governing structure enshrined in their 1995 peace treaty dividing it into a Serb Republic and a Muslim-Croat Federation with a weak central government in Sarajevo. The last internationally-sponsored effort to advance constitutional reform foundered three years ago because rival communal leaders could not agree on any notable measure. This is why Washington, main sponsor of the Dayton peace deal, commissioned independent Bosnian experts to draft constitutional amendments but this time applied only to the Federation, according to U.S. Ambassador Patrick Moon. "The structure of the federation is the most complicated and expensive of any government structures in Bosnia,&qu

Turkish court sees conspiracy behind Armenian editor's murder

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A Turkish appeals court on Wednesday ruled that the killers of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink did not act alone but were part of a criminal conspiracy, paving the way for a retrial of the case that has gripped the nation for years. _0"> Judges in Ankara overturned a lower criminal court's 2012 judgment that only two people, now serving prison sentences, were behind the 2007 murder, Fethiye Cetin, a lawyer for the Dink family, told Reuters.   "We have strong evidence that state officials were involved in the conspiracy, and that evidence is even in the prosecutor's report... Prosecutors must re-open the case," said Cetin. Dink was gunned down in broad daylight outside the office of his newspaper Agos in central Istanbul, unleashing huge street rallies and public outpourings of grief. The killing led to suspicions of a deep-rooted conspiracy in a country that has seen dozens of political murders. It also prompted criticism from the European Union, which

Peru foreign minister quits over health after Venezuela spat: report

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Peru's foreign minister has resigned for health reasons, local media reported on Wednesday, days after he was criticized for contributing to a diplomatic spat with Venezuela . _0"> Rafael Roncagliolo submitted his resignation to President Ollanta Humala citing "strictly health reasons" but did not specify his illness, the newspaper La Republica reported, quoting government sources.   The government and foreign ministry declined comment. In early May, Roncagliolo called for "tolerance" in Venezuela and urged the South American bloc Unasur to push for mediation to calm political tensions in Caracas after a disputed election won by President Nicolas Maduro. Maduro complained that Roncagliolo was meddling in Venezuela's internal affairs by appearing to give voice to opposition leaders. Lima then softened its tone. Humala was a friend and admirer of Maduro's political mentor, late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Peru's ambassador to Ven

Moldova names PM nominee as leaders try to end crisis

Moldova's president nominated Iurie Leanca on Wednesday to become prime minister to lead the country out of a political crisis that has paralyzed legislation and drawn criticism from Brussels. _0"> Leanca, who has been acting prime minister, was deputy to Vlad Filat, who resigned in March after losing a confidence vote amid feuding among leaders of their pro-European coalition. The three-party coalition of Filat's Liberal Democrats, the Liberals and the Democrats will now try to reach a compromise and rebuild behind him to avert an early election that could hand power to Moldova's opposition communists. "A draft agreement on creating a new coalition is almost ready," Adrian Candu, a parliamentary deputy from the Democratic Party, told Reuters. "We would like to see more transparency and feedback to our proposals on how to more efficiently combat corruption in a new government." Political warfare between Filat and his coalition allies has

Venezuela's Maduro buries hatchet with billionaire businessman

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Socialist leader Nicolas Maduro and the billionaire boss of Venezuela's biggest private company have buried the hatchet after a war of words over food shortages and other economic problems in the South American nation. Perpetuating the hard-line rhetoric of his predecessor Hugo Chavez, newly-elected Maduro turned on Empresas Polar president Lorenzo Mendoza in recent days, accusing him of hoarding products as part of an "economic war" on the state by private business.   Mendoza, whose company is Venezuela's biggest beer- and flour-maker, denied that and pointedly challenged the government to sell production plants nationalized under Chavez back to the private sector to boost efficiency. On Tuesday night, the pair met to discuss their differences in a spat seen by Venezuelans as a bellwether for state-business relations going forward under Maduro's government. Both sides came out of the meeting sounding reconciliatory and pledging to work together to overcome

Swiss limit permits for workers from all EU countries

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Switzerland will impose immigration quotas on a further 17 European Union countries from June, the Federal Office for Migration said on Wednesday, a move that could pose a headache for many multinational companies that rely on EU workers. _0"> Prosperous, non-EU Switzerland has seen the net influx of workers rise to up to 80,000 a year, contributing to a house price bubble and prompting criticism from right-wing parties.   Under the terms of the 1999 Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, Switzerland may invoke a "safeguard clause", which allows temporary caps on work permits if the annual influx exceeds a certain number. Last month, the Swiss government imposed quotas restricting arrivals from eight central and eastern European countries and on Wednesday the Migration Office confirmed the quotas will also apply to a further 17 states in western and southern Europe from June 1. Immigration of workers from Bulgaria and Romania - the two EU members of the 27

Bombs, shooting kill at least 15 across Iraq: police

Bomb attacks in Shi'ite areas of Baghdad and in northern Iraq killed more than 35 people on Wednesday, following weeks of violence by Sunni Islamist insurgents determined to unleash sectarian confrontation. _0"> Tensions between minority Sunni Muslims and the Shi'ites who now lead Iraq are at their highest since U.S. troops pulled out in 2011, with relations coming under more pressure by the day from the largely sectarian conflict in neighboring Syria . A string of car bombings hit Shi'ite neighborhoods across the capital Baghdad on Wednesday evening, including one outside a cafe and another at a market, killing at least 22 people and wounding dozens more, police said. "I saw a bright flash followed by a strong explosion that shook the building. Glass was shattered everywhere, people immediately ran to the scene and started evacuating the wounded and the dead," said Jabar al-Rubaie, a policeman at the scene in Sadr City district in Baghdad. One chan

Bulgarian president tries to break election stalemate

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Bulgaria's political stalemate deepened on Wednesday after final results confirmed a prospective Socialist alliance with ethnic Turkish MRF allies lacking a majority, and its president warned of destabilization without a new government soon. President Rosen Plevneliev appealed to political parties to hammer out a coalition deal after the inconclusive weekend election in the European Union's poorest member state.   "It is important to have a stable government. Everything else, new elections, would mean destabilization," he told reporters. "Bulgaria does not need new elections now. This will scare away investors." Plagued by poverty, corruption and organized crime, Bulgaria has been in political disarray since nationwide protests forced the previous leadership from power, and it risks drifting further until a new government is formed. A turnout of just 51 percent, the lowest since the fall of communism in 1989, drove home the deep frustration of many Bu

Myanmar President Thein Sein to visit Obama at White House on May 20

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Myanmar President Thein Sein will meet with President Barack Obama at the White House on May 20 as Obama continues to push the country to make reforms while it moves away from military rule, the White House said on Wednesday. _0"> "The president looks forward to discussing with President Thein Sein the many remaining challenges to efforts to develop democracy, address communal and ethnic tensions, and bring economic opportunity to the people of his country, and to exploring how the United States can help," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.   (Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Vicki Allen)

No breakthrough in nuclear talks with Iran: U.N

Talks between the U.N. nuclear watchdog and Iran about Tehran's nuclear program failed to clinch an accord and no date has been set for more meetings, a senior U.N. official said on Wednesday. _0"> "We had intensive discussions today but did not finalize the structured approach document that has been under negotiation for a year and a half now," Herman Nackaerts, deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told reporters after meeting Iranian officials in Vienna. "Our commitment to continue dialogue is unwavering. However, we must recognize that our best efforts have not been successful so far. So we will continue to try and complete this process." (Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Writing by Michael Shields; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

France suggests EU link easing Syria arms embargo to peace talks

France is floating a proposal that the European Union ease an arms embargo for Syrian rebels but delay acting on the decision to intensify pressure on Damascus to negotiate an end to Syria's civil war, a French diplomat said on Wednesday. Sweden, Austria and some other EU member states are resisting efforts by France and Britain to modify the ban to strengthen rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The embargo is part of a package of EU sanctions on Syria that expires on June 1. EU foreign ministers will discuss the issue on May 27 and it could come up at an EU summit on May 22. The French diplomat's suggestion that the arms embargo could be linked to the outcome of a new initiative from the United States and Russia for a diplomatic solution in Syria appears designed to win support for the French-British proposal. It would effectively introduce a brake on the lifting of the arms embargo, allowing for it to take effect only if the proposed peace conference i