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U.S. Auditor: Corruption Threatens Afghan Progress

More than a decade of work financed with American tax dollars is at stake if bribery and theft are left unabated in Afghanistan, according to a quarterly report released Wednesday by the top auditor of U.S. reconstruction spending in the impoverished nation.

Widespread corruption hampers the government's ability to collect revenue and hinders economic development and the effort to promote accountability, the 260-page report by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction said.

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BOJ Keeps Loose Monetary Policy Unchanged

Japan's central bank kept its ultra-loose monetary policy unchanged in a policy meeting Wednesday, despite data suggesting the economic recovery is weaker than expected.

The Bank of Japan is still monitoring the impact of an April 1 tax hike that is expected to sap growth as consumers adjust to higher costs.

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Libya to Resume Zueitina Oil Exports as Force Majeure Ends

Libya's National Oil Corporation is to resume exports from Zueitina port after declaring an end Tuesday to a force majeure imposed on the terminal blocked by rebels for nine months.

"NOC has announced the lifting of the state of force majeure at the port of Zueitina" which has an export capacity of 100,000 barrels per day (bpd), the company said on its website.

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British Economy Officially Grows 0.8% in First Quarter

Mortar shells slammed into central Damascus on Tuesday, hitting an educational institute in a barrage that killed at least 12 people and wounded 50, state media reported.

"Twelve citizens were killed and 50 others wounded by terrorists who targeted the Shaghur neighborhood in Damascus with four mortar shells," the SANA news agency said, adding that two shells hit the Badr al-Din al-Hussein institute.

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Spanish Jobless Rate Rises to 25.93%

Spain's unemployment rate climbed to nearly 26 percent in the first quarter of 2014, official data showed Tuesday, as millions searched in vain for a job in a halting recovery from recession.

Despite emerging gingerly from a two-year downturn in mid-2013, the latest figures showed Spain still failing to significantly dent one of the highest unemployment rates in the industrialized world.

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Samsung Q1 Net Profit Hits $7.3 bn, Smartphone Income Dips

Samsung Electronics reported Tuesday its net profit had risen 5.9 percent year-on-year in the first quarter to 7.57 trillion won ($7.3 billion) but operating profit declined for a second straight quarter on slowing smartphone revenue.

Alarm bells have been sounding for a while over Samsung's reliance on smartphone sales in mature markets such as Europe and the United States, and increasingly competitive emerging markets such as China.

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Crude Prices Edge Higher in Asia

Oil prices rose in Asian trade Tuesday after the West slapped fresh sanctions on Russia over its role in Ukraine, although gains were capped as the measures were seen as less aggressive than expected.

New York's West Texas Intermediate for June delivery climbed 15 cents to $100.99 in afternoon trade while Brent North Sea crude rose 23 cents to $108.35 for its June contract.

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Etisalat Raises 3 bn Euros to Buy Maroc Telecom Stake

UAE telecommunications firm Etisalat announced Monday it has raised 3.15 billion euros to fund the acquisition of French media giant Vivendi's 53 percent stake in Morocco's main provider, Maroc Telecom.

The funds were raised with a group of 17 international, regional and local banks in the United Arab Emirates.

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Pfizer Says Interested by Possible AstraZeneca Merger

U.S. drugs giant Pfizer on Monday confirmed its interest over forming a multi-billion-dollar merger with British rival AstraZeneca, adding that an informal approach made in January had been rebuffed.

"Pfizer Inc. confirms that it previously submitted a preliminary, non-binding indication of interest to the board of directors of AstraZeneca in January 2014 regarding a possible merger transaction," said a statement issued to the London Stock Exchange one week after media reports regarding a potential tie-up.

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IMF Says Adjustments of Hong Kong Property Prices 'Necessary'

The International Monetary Fund said Monday Hong Kong property prices are set to see adjustments following years of boom. 

The city's housing market has become one of the most expensive in the world -- prices have more than doubled since 2008 -- due to an influx of capital from the mainland and record low interest rates thanks to U.S. quantitative easing.

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