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Russia Grabs Belarus Gas System in Rescue Deal

Russia on Friday took control of the Belarus gas pipeline network in an economic rescue deal that will help Minsk survive isolation by the West and increase the Kremlin's influence over its neighbor.

Russian gas giant Gazprom said it would pay $2.5 billion to take the 50 percent stake it does not own in Beltransgaz in a deal easing pressure on the depleted treasury of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.

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India Says Retail Reform will Create 10 Million Jobs

India said on Friday plans to open its vast retail sector to global supermarket chains would create up to 10 million jobs over three years after the cabinet approved the long-awaited reforms.

The pledge by Commerce Minister Anand Sharma came after heated opposition protests stopped the government announcing details in parliament about its move to relax foreign ownership rules for retailers such as Wal-Mart.

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Asian Markets Down on European Discord

Asian markets mostly fell on Friday as a meeting between the eurozone's three biggest economies highlighted their differences on finding a solution to the region's debt crisis.

Traders remained nervous at the end of a week that saw fears over Europe deepen as the yields on Italian and Spanish bonds sat dangerously high and even Germany -- the bloc's pillar -- failed to sell all its bonds at auction.

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Minister Says Economic Crisis 'Worst' in Syria Recent History

Facing its worst economic crisis, Syria is banking on boosting self-sufficiency to overcome sanctions, Economy Minister Mohammed Nidal al-Shaar told Agence France Presse in an exclusive interview Thursday.

"This is not an easy crisis. It's the worst in our recent history because it is immediately affecting the Syrian citizen -- it's affecting the street, it's affecting factories, it's affecting the business community," Shaar said.

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EU Offers New Funds to Shut Down Soviet-Era Reactors

The European Commission offered on Thursday an additional 500 million Euros in EU aid for Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia to put Soviet-era nuclear reactors out of service for good.

The three EU states closed down the reactors as part of their deals to join the European Union, but Brussels wants to ensure that the power plants are forever sealed off.

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PM Monti Vows to Balance Italian Budget by 2013

Italy's new Prime Minister Mario Monti insisted at Eurozone debt crisis talks Thursday that his country would balance its budget in 2013, despite rising doubts over its ability to do so.

Monti said after the talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he had laid out his economic program to the leaders, "confirming the objective of a balanced budget in 2013."

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World Stocks Muted After Poor German Debt Auction

World stock markets edged higher Thursday as speculation that China might ease its monetary policy soothed fears that the German economy — Europe's strongest — may be succumbing to the continent's debt crisis.

Benchmark oil hovered above $96 per barrel while the dollar fell against the euro and the yen.

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IMF Urges Lebanon to Adopt ‘Prudent’ Budget amid Turmoil in Syria

The International Monetary Fund called on Wednesday for Lebanon to adopt a cautious budget for next year as the country faces challenges from unrest in neighboring Syria.

"High downside risks call for a prudent 2012 budget," the IMF said in a statement following a Fund mission in Beirut.

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Nokia Siemens Networks to Cut 17,000 Jobs Worldwide

Finnish-German telecom equipment maker Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) on Wednesday announced a restructuring plan entailing 17,000 job cuts by the end of 2013.

NSN, which on November 1 counted 74,000 employees, "plans to reduce its global workforce by approximately 17,000 by the end of 2013," it said in a statement, adding that its restructuring plan was aimed at cutting annual costs by one billion euros ($1.3 billion) compared to 2011 outlays.

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Fitch Downgrades Turkey Rating Outlook

Fitch ratings agency said Wednesday that it was cutting the outlook on Turkey from 'positive' to 'stable' given a recent increase in risks and affirmed the country's rating at BB+.

"The revision of the Outlook to Stable reflects an increase in near-term risks to macroeconomic stability," said Ed Parker, managing director in the EMEA Sovereign group at Fitch.

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