World Bulletin / News Desk
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras kicks off a European charm offensive on Wednesday with talks to persuade euro zone chief Jean-Claude Juncker that the debt-laden nation has the will to ram through unpopular reforms and deserves more time to do it.
With cash coffers running empty and renewed talk of a Greek euro zone exit without more aid, Samaras is under pressure to convince European leaders that Greece has finally mustered the political courage to fulfill pledges under its latest bailout.
Juncker, the most influential European policymaker to visit Athens since Samaras's conservative-led government took power in June, is expected to bluntly tell Samaras that Greece must carry out promised cuts and that little room for leeway exists.
That message is likely to be hammered home again to the Greek leader when he travels to Berlin on Friday to meet German Chancelor Angela Merkel and to Paris a day later for talks with French President Francois Hollande.
Days after being elected, Samaras's government promised he would embark on a European tour to seek two more years to hit targets under Greece's 130-billion euro bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.
But faced with the reality of a messy bankruptcy without further aid, the government has since toned down its rhetoric on the issue and now expects to only broach the idea during talks this week rather than formally requesting it.
"We must first re-establish our relationship with European partners that has been seriously damaged," said a government official, who spoke on condition he not be identified. "This is most crucial. Talking about certain parameters then comes at a second stage."
European paymaster Germany, where patience over Greece has worn thin, has already said it will not soften its demands from the twice-bailed out country.
WRANGLING OVER CUTS
Key to restoring credibility will be Greece's attempt to push through 11.5 billion euros of cuts over the next two years as demanded under the bailout - which Samaras's administration has yet to fully piece together after weeks of wrangling.
Samaras and his moderate leftist and Socialist allies have broadly agreed on the measures, but the government is still struggling to nail down the final cuts amid howls of protest over plans to slash pensions and put civil servants in a so-called labour reserve before laying them off.
"We are trying to find the best possible mix and a fair distribution of pensions. We also have to protect those getting very low pensions," a finance ministry official said. "A second issue we continue to work on is the labour reserve."
Because salary and pension cuts will lead to lower tax revenues, the government will have to find 13.5 billion euros in nominal savings to achieve its 11.5 billion target, the official said. Parties have identified 10.8 billion in cuts so far.
The measures will be presented for approval to the troika of European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund lenders due back in Athens early next month for a final verdict on whether to keep money flowing to Greece.
After his election victory in June averted fears of an imminent Greek euro zone exit, Samaras won a positive initial reception from European governments. A Reuters poll last week showed a growing number of economists now believe Greece will remain in the euro zone.
But the debt-stricken country is hugely off track from targets under its bailout and EU officials expect a further debt restructuring will be likely - with the cost falling on the European Central Bank and euro zone governments.
Greece blames the slippage on a deeper than expected recession that is now in its fifth year and which Athens has likened to America's "Great Depression". Nearly one out of four Greeks are jobless, and thousands of businesses have shuttered since the sovereign debt crisis exploded in 2009.
Eurozone finance ministers give green light to release 150 million euros for the Greek Cypriot administration.
"Sugar consumption that dated back to the BC epoch found its way into Ethiopian households only lately; people had to be convinced," Zemedkun Tekle, communications director at the state-run Ethiopian Sugar Corporation, said.
The agreement is the first Canada has concluded with a nation from Asia, a fast-growing part of the world that Ottawa is deliberately targeting.
While Europe lacks immediate alternatives to replace Russian supplies, long-term efforts are in place to reduce Moscow's dominance in the sector.
Pakistan will give India Most Favored Nation status by the end of March.
"Germany's dependence on Russian gas may effectively decrease Europe's sovereignty. I have no doubts about that," Polish PM Tusk said
EU member Bulgaria has started preliminary works on the pipeline on its territory, but has repeatedly said its operation should be in line with EU rules
Japan posted a current account deficit of 1.58 trillion yen (US$15 billion) for January.
The Asia-Pacific would be left with more than half a billion chronically hungry people even if the region meets its millennium development goal
The Visegrad 4 group including Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia is looking to diversify supplies
Nick Letchford, managing director of the group that owns the Old Shoreditch Station cafe, decided to install the machine after noticing the popularity of bitcoins among his customers working nearby in the digital industries.
Varying degrees of drought are hitting almost two thirds of the limited arable land across Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Iraq.
Turkey deems Iranian gas too expensive compared with other suppliers like Russia and Azerbaijan, an assertion rejected by Tehran.
Satoshi Nakamoto, a name known to legions of bitcoin traders, practitioners and boosters around the world, appeared to lose his anonymity on Thursday after Newsweek published a story that said he lived in Temple City, California, just east of Los Angeles.
BP's exploration and production sharing agreement with Libya covers onshore acreage in Ghadames, near the border between Libya, Algeria and Tunisia, and offshore acreage in the central Sirte basin