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Lebanon Returns Ben Alis' $28 Million to Tunisia

Lebanon has returned to Tunisia 28.8 million dollars stashed away there by the family of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was overthrown in January 2011, President Moncef Marzouki's office said Thursday.

The funds were returned by Qatari chief prosecutor Ali bin Fetais al-Marri, who has been charged by the United Nations with coordinating inquiries into funds diverted by leaders overthrown in the Arab Spring, a statement said.

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Merkel and Singh Meet to Bolster German-India Economic Ties

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a joint cabinet session Thursday as the European export power and the Asian population giant seek to boost economic ties.

While Germany, amid the eurozone crisis, wants to broaden trade and investment links with large emerging markets, India is seeking German technology and expertise in areas such as renewable energies and education.

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Saudi Labor Restrictions Spark Anger, Fear Among Expats

Abdel Qayum had to borrow money back home in India to buy a Saudi labor visa, but with new curbs on foreigners in the kingdom the construction worker could be deported even before paying off his debt.

"I paid an equivalent of $4,000 in India to get a work visa in Saudi Arabia," said the shabbily-dressed bearded man who earns less than $600 a month in Riyadh where he has been working for two and a half years.

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Euro Ministers Bid to Finalise Cyprus Bailout

Eurozone and EU finance ministers meet from Friday in Dublin to put finishing touches on the Cyprus bailout, and also to consider extending debt repayment dates for Portugal and host Ireland, as well as tackling how to stamp out tax fraud.

The ministers from the currency area gather first on Friday morning, and later they are to be joined by non-euro, European Union peers. Europe's central bankers will enter the fray thereafter for talks wrapping up on Saturday.

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China Bank Lending Nearly Doubles in March

Chinese banks in March lent nearly twice as much money as in February, official data showed Thursday, as Beijing beefed up efforts to bolster a faltering economic recovery.

Banks granted a total of 1.06 trillion yuan ($171 billion) in new loans last month, up from 620 billion yuan in February, the central People's Bank of China said in a statement.

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Madrid Stocks Jump over 3% on Strong U.S. Market Opening

The Madrid stock exchange jumped more than 3 percent on Wednesday, with the Ibex 35 flying past the symbolic 8,000 point milestone, following a strong Wall Street opening.

The Ibex 35 index increased 3.32 percent to 8,133.5 points at 1625 GMT, after closing up 1.1 percent to 7,872.5 points on Tuesday.

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Iraq Ups Proven Oil Reserves to 150 Billion Barrels

Iraq's proven oil reserves have increased to 150 billion barrels, up from a previous figure of 143.1 billion barrels, oil ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said on Wednesday.

"Thanks to the work of the ministry of oil and exploration contracts awarded to energy companies these past two years," Iraq now has reserves of 150 billion barrels of oil, Jihad told Agence France Presse.

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Kuwait Grants Bahrain $1.3 Billion to Finance Projects

Kuwait said on Wednesday it will finance projects worth $1.3 billion (992 million euros) in its Gulf partner Bahrain as part of pledges made two years ago, an official statement said.

The funds will be used to finance part of four development projects over the next few years, including power transmission networks, housing projects and a key road, the state-owned Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development said.

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Qatari PM: Qatar to Buy Egypt Bonds Worth $3 Billion

Energy-rich Qatar has agreed to buy bonds from cash-strapped Egypt worth $3 billion over and above a previously announced aid package, Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani said on Wednesday.

The announcement comes as Cairo holds difficult talks with the International Monetary Fund over a loan of $4.8 billion as part of a financing program to lift Egypt's economy out of crisis.

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France Must Save 40 bn Euros by 2014

French central bank governor Christian Noyer said Wednesday that France should freeze pensions, civil servant salaries and social benefits to save 40 billion euros ($52 billion) by 2014 as it tries to cut a swollen public deficit and jumpstart growth that is forecast to be almost flat this year.

Noyer told Europe 1 radio that France had to come up with 40 billion euros in savings this year and next to reach the EU deficit limit of 3.0 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), saying Paris had to have "the same level of spending" in 2014 as in 2012.

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