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Asian Markets Rise on Optimism over Europe Summit

Markets rose in Asia Wednesday on hopes that a meeting of European leaders will finally lead to a plan that will bring an end to the crippling Eurozone debt crisis.

Investors are holding their breath ahead of the two-day summit that starts on Thursday, with investors optimistic after France and Germany on Monday agreed a deal for further integration, which many see as the best solution.

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IMF Chief Calls for 'Inclusive' Growth in MENA Region

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde on Tuesday said economic growth in the Middle East and North Africa must include all members of society to fulfill the promise of the Arab Spring.

Lagarde, in a speech in Washington, said the Arab Spring that began a year ago in Tunisia was at a "delicate transition point" as the MENA region seeks to define its future.

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Thailand Floods to Cost Insurers $8-11B

Swiss Reinsurance Co. estimates the cost of Thailand's floods to the insurance industry will reach $8 billion to $11 billion.

The Swiss insurer puts its own costs from Thailand's worst floods in half a century at $600 million. The company sells backup coverage to other insurers, spreading risk in the event of huge losses.

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Good Rice Harvest Means Philippines to Import Less

The Philippines expects a good rice harvest in the next dry season and will import less as a result.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said at least 551,155 tons (500,000 metric tons) will be imported next year. The government will allow private traders to import half of the total volume and farmers' groups the remainder from Cambodia, Myanmar or Vietnam.

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UK Auditors Warn Olympic Budget is On the Edge

UK Olympic organizers run a risk of exceeding their 9.3 billion-pound ($14.6 billion) budget for hosting the 2012 London games and have little room left for unforeseen costs, Britain's spending watchdog warned Tuesday.

The National Audit Office report concluded that while the venues are on time and largely complete, "not everything is rosy." The report came as British Olympic officials announced that they had doubled the funding for security operations at venues, raising overall security costs for the 2012 Games to more than 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion).

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Taiwan to Import more LNG from Qatar

Taiwan's state-owned CPC Corporation on Tuesday signed a 20-year contract with Qatar's RasGas to buy 1.5 million tons of liquefied natural gas a year.

The sales and purchase agreement was signed by Taiwan's sole importer of LNG and RasGas subsidiary Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Co Limited (3), or RL3, on the sidelines of the 20th World Petroleum Congress held in Doha.

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Total Suspends Syria Operations in Line with EU Sanctions

French oil company Total said Monday it was suspending its operations in Syria in line with EU sanctions, which indirectly target its local partner.

"We have informed the Syrian authorities of our decision to halt our operations with GPC (General Petroleum Corporation) in order to comply with sanctions," the company said in a statement.

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Qatar: 'Arab Spring' Won't Affect Energy Supplies

The emir of energy-rich Qatar moved on Monday to reassure consuming countries that energy supplies from the Middle East will not be disrupted by political upheavals sweeping the region.

"Events in the Arab region raised concern over energy supply... I would like to stress on the commitment made ... to maintain oil supply," Emir Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani said at the opening of an energy forum in Doha.

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Moody's Downgrades Lebanon Banking Outlook

International ratings agency Moody's on Monday downgraded to negative from stable the outlook on Lebanon's banking system, due in part to upheavals in the Arab world, especially in neighboring Syria.

Moody's said slower economic growth and the banks' asset and loan exposures to other regional countries experiencing political unrest or economic slowdown, such as Egypt and Jordan, contributed to the new rating.

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German Finance Minister: EU Needs Fiscal Union

The European Union needs a "fiscal union" in order to overcome the eurozone debt crisis, Germany's finance minister said on Monday ahead of vital talks in Paris between the German and French leaders.

"A fiscal union has to be created alongside a political union," Wolfgang Schaeuble said during a visit to Hungary.

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