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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Eurozone Finance Ministers Agree on Greece Bailout

Eurozone finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reached an agreement to overhaul Greece’s bailout programme, paving the way for the release of the country’s next tranche of loans totalling €44 billion. The loan will be counterbalanced by €40 billion worth of debt cuts. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras hailed it as a “new day” for the country. European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi said it would strengthen confidence in Greece, while eurozone group leader Jean-Claude Juncker said that the deal was not “about the money”. “It is the promise of a better future for the Greek people and for the Euro area as a whole”, he added. The agreement came late on Monday after 10 hours of talks in Brussels and will allow the government to pay wages and pensions in December. The country had been waiting for this tranche since June, with many fearing that the government would simply run out of money. Opposition politicians criticised the deal, saying that the figures would condemn Greece to years of austerity and recession.

France to Back UN Palestinian Status Bid

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said France will support the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) bid for non-member status when it comes up for a vote later in the week. The changed status would allow the PA to participate in General Assembly debates and potentially join other UN agencies and the International Criminal Court (ICC), although those memberships are not guaranteed. “This Thursday or Friday, when the question is asked, France will vote yes”, said Fabius to France’s lower house of parliament. He added that France would support the Palestinian ambition “out of a concern for coherency”. France is the first major European country and first member of the UN Security Council to back the move. Israel has warned that non-member status for the Palestinians would be in breach of the 1993 Oslo peace accords, under which the PA was established. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Ben Dor said that the country would “take unilateral steps to protect its interests”, but did not elaborate what they would be.

Former Israeli Foreign Ministers Forms Party to Counter Netanyahu

Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister, announced on Tuesday that she was “an answer to the contention that there is no one to vote for”, adding that her new party would represent an ideological alternative to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I’ve come to fight for Israel”, said the 54-year-old Livni during a speech in Tel Aviv. Her party is so far called “The Movement Led by Tzipi Livni” and has gained the support of eight members of the Knesset, who defected from the centrist Kadima Party that she helped found in 2005 with former prime minister Ehud Olmert. Some political commentators say her bloc might be an alternative to the radicalisation of the Likud Party under Netanyahu, who will compete in the upcoming January elections with a number of ultranationalist candidates. Some traditional Likud voters might look for a more centrist alternatives and therefore favour Livni’s new party.

Arafat’s Body Exhumed for Poison Tests

The body of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was exhumed briefly on Tuesday so that samples could be taken from his remains. Traces of radioactive polonium-210 had been found on his items, including clothing, that had been kept by his wife and some speculated that he might have been poisoned to death. His cause of death, in November 2004, was reported as a stroke with unclear underlying reasons. The exhumation began early under the cover of blue tarpaulin sheets over Arafat’s mausoleum in his former compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The grave was closed hours later, according to Tawfik Tirawi, a former Palestinian intelligence chief who is heading the investigation into the former leader’s death. The taking of samples was attended by experts from Switzerland, France and Russia who will take samples back to their countries for further examinations. There are doubts as to whether trances of polonium will still be present. Eight years is considered the limit to detect any traces of the substance.

Rejected Beatles Tape to Be Auctioned This Week

An audition tape by the The Beatles that was rejected by Decca in 1962 will be put up for auction in London this week. The tape is marked as featuring “The Silver Beatles” and features the band’s original lineup with drummer Pete Best. The recording, with 10 songs, was famously turned down by Decca executive Dick Rowe. He told the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, that “guitar groups are on their way out”. Ted Owen, owner of an auction house specialising in pop memorabilia, told Reuters that the most important thing about the tapes being auctioned is their quality. “There are bootlegs out there, horrible bootlegs. Some are the wrong speed, others are crackly and taken from a cassette off an acetate. This quality we have never heard”, added Owen. The tape is expected to fetch approximately £20,000.

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