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Billion-Dollar Phone Bill Sent to French Distillery

The manager of a French distillery in the renowned Burgundy wine-making district was sent a sobering phone bill for 716,414,273 Euros (1.02 billion dollars).

"It's so enormous when you see it written down, you can't believe it, so several of us had a look," said Gerard Chaussee, who runs the Maison Vedrenne making various luxury spirits in Nuits-Saint-Georges in eastern France.

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Paris: Juppe in Lebanon in May, Aoun an Obstacle to Cabinet Formation

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe is scheduled to pay a visit to Lebanon on May 13-14, a French source told pan-Arab al-Hayat daily on Tuesday.

“Lebanon should be a free and sovereign country and become an example in the region due to its dynamic democratic institutions and peaceful coexistence among sects,” Juppe said in his statement during the “Arab Spring” symposium held at the Arab World Institute on Saturday.

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France Returns Rare Korean Books After 145 Years

France Thursday sent back a shipment of ancient Korean royal books, 145 years after its troops looted them during a retaliatory raid on an island west of Seoul.

Two containers carrying 75 volumes of "Uigue", illustrated manuals on royal protocol written during the Chosun Dynasty (1392-1910), arrived at Incheon airport after being released by the National Library of France.

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Paris, Berlin Condemn Syria Violence as Security Forces Disperse Students at Damascus University

Syrian students rallied in front of Damascus University on Monday in solidarity with protesters killed in the flashpoint towns of Daraa and Banias.

“Youngman Fadi al-Assmi was martyred at the hands of Syrian security forces during protests at Damascus University’s Faculty of Science,” Prominent Syrian human rights activist Suheir al-Atasi wrote on her facebook page.

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Two Veiled Women Arrested after France Burqa Ban

Police in France, home to Europe's biggest Muslim population, arrested two protesters wearing niqab veils Monday after a ban on full-face coverings went into effect.

The women, part of a demonstration that erupted in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, were detained for taking part in an unauthorized protest rather than for wearing their veils.

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Report: France Informed Suleiman that he Should Play Balancing Role in Lebanon

France informed President Michel Suleiman that he has a pivotal role in guaranteeing a balance of power between the different political factions in the country, pan-Arab daily al-Hayat reported Sunday.

Informed French sources told the newspaper that President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a letter to his Lebanese counterpart with his envoy Patrice Paoli, stressing that Paris considers Suleiman a “guarantor of institutions.”

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French Army Saves Lebanese Expats in Abidjan

"We saw a helicopter in the sky, we called for help and the soldiers picked us up" in Ivory Coast's embattled economic capital Abidjan, a rescued Lebanese woman said after being flown to Senegal.

The woman, who declined to give her name, said that she and seven rescued members of her family had been trapped by heavy fighting and also at the mercy of looters.

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Under-Fire NATO Vows to Protect Libya Civilians

NATO, accused of mission failure by Libyan rebels, admitted Wednesday it has to be "particularly careful" with its air strikes as government troops are using civilians as human shields, but vowed to do everything to protect civilians in Misrata.

France pledged to open a sea corridor to the besieged Mediterranean port and rebels played down losing considerable ground to government forces as just the usual stakes in desert warfare.

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U.N.: Surrender Talks Still Ongoing with Ivory Coast's Gbagbo

Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo is still in contact with international representatives about a possible surrender even though his residence is under attack, a U.N. spokesman said Wednesday.

"Discussions continue with the U.N. using its good offices to the fullest extent possible," U.N. peacekeeping department spokesman Nick Birnback told Agence France Presse.

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Paris: Ivory Coast's Gbagbo Negotiating His Surrender, Crisis May End within Hours

Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo hunkered down in a bunker at his home Tuesday after being cornered by his arch rival's followers, as his own forces silenced their weapons and asked for a ceasefire.

Having resisted calls to cede power to internationally recognized president Alassane Ouattara for four months, Gbagbo was now trying to strike a deal to quit, according to the former colonial power France.

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