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Belgium's Cigarette Sales Soar as Cheap Fags Lure Foreigners

Belgium tobacco sales have soared to record heights this year as cheap cigarettes and tobacco lure discount-seeking smokers from Britain and France, the daily Le Soir said Saturday.

As health experts complained that Belgium's cheap tobacco goods fanned cancer, Le Soir, citing exclusive data from the country's finance ministry, said cigarette sales leapt 19 percent in the first nine months of the year though the national tobacco federation said domestic sales were sliding.

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IMF Chief: Japan Not Immune to Eurozone Crisis

The chief of the International Monetary Fund said Saturday that Italy's financial reform is key to reducing the impact of the eurozone crisis, and that no country is immune to the consequences if the efforts fall short.

After meeting in Tokyo with top Japanese financial officials, including Finance Minister Jun Azumi, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said Italy must restore political stability and implement financial reforms to provide "clarity and credibility" and restore confidence.

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Iraq Demands Exxon Choose on Kurdistan Oil Contract

Iraq demanded Saturday that oil giant ExxonMobil choose between a new contract it has signed with the Kurdistan regional government and its existing contract for the huge West Qurna-1 field in the south.

"We categorically deny the reports carried by some media that the deputy prime minister for energy affairs (Hussein al-Shahristani) has agreed that a U.S. firm working in the south of Iraq can sign exploration contracts with Kurdistan," said a statement released by Shahristani's office.

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Universal, Sony/ATV to Buy EMI for $4.1 Billion

EMI Group Ltd., home of The Beatles, Coldplay and Katy Perry, is being sold in two parts for $4.1 billion.

Universal Music Group said Friday that it has agreed to buy the recording division of EMI for 1.2 billion pounds ($1.9 billion).

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Global Market Tensions Ease as Italy Backs Reforms

Global market tensions eased on Friday as Italian lawmakers gave initial approval to a package of key economic reforms that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has set as the precondition for his resignation.

The wide-ranging measures including privatizations and boosting competition in the labor market were adopted by the Senate and will now go before the Chamber of Deputies, or lower house, for a vote expected on Saturday.

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Japan Says to Join Pacific Free Trade Talks

Japan said Friday it would enter talks towards an Asia-Pacific free trade deal, a move that threatens to deepen rifts in the ruling party amid opposition from a farm industry fearing cheap imports.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he made the decision to take part in talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as Japan looks to boost its fragile economy and continue growing as a trading nation.

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Jaguar Land Rover to create over 1,000 jobs

Luxury carmaker Jaguar Land Rover, owned by India's Tata Motors, has announced plans to create more than 1,000 jobs at a plant near Birmingham, in a boost for Britain's struggling economy.

"The company has announced plans to recruit more than 1,000 members of staff at its advanced manufacturing plant in Solihull," JLR said in a statement Thursday.

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Oil Price Surge on Jitters over Iran

World oil prices shot higher on Thursday as traders weighed rising tensions in the Middle East and a slight easing of worries over Europe.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for December, gained $2.04 to $97.78, while Brent North Sea crude for delivery in December added $1.40 cents to $113.71 a barrel in London.

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FTSE Slides on Italy Debt Fears

London equities plunged Thursday in early morning deals on deepening fears that debt-plagued Italy could fall victim to the eurozone debt crisis and threaten the entire euro project.

The FTSE 100 index sank 1.27 percent to 5,391.01 points in opening trade.

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Toyota, Mitsubishi to Resume Thailand Production

Japanese auto giants Toyota and Mitsubishi Motor have said they will resume production in Thailand after the country's flood disaster closed factories for more than a month.

Toyota said it would resume production from November 21 at its three Thai plants, which were forced to halt operations on October 10.

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