Slovenia's government on Thursday filled temporarily the two posts left vacant by the resignation last month of the economy and health ministers as the country tries to avoid an international bailout. Finance Minister Uros Cufer will also take on the economy portfolio and Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec will also take over the Health Ministry until new ministers are selected, a government spokeswoman said. Health Minister Tomaz Gantar said he was stepping down as he could not "make changes that would ensure a quality, successful, available and financially sustainable health system". Stanko Stepisnik, a member of the centre-left party of Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek, quit after media reported his tool-making firm had received state financial aid.
By Sakari Suoninen and Paul Carrel FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Euro zone inflation will stay well below target for the next two years and the European Central Bank is ready to act if necessary to lift a listless economy, it said on Thursday. The ECB left its key interest rate at 0.25 percent at its last policy meeting of the year, choosing not to follow through on November's surprise cut. Markets expect further action in 2014, something ECB President Mario Draghi did nothing to deflect. "We may experience a prolonged period of low inflation to be followed by a gradual upward movement … later on," Draghi told a news conference.
By Richard Balmforth KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian police on Thursday gave demonstrators five days to leave public buildings they have occupied in protest against a government policy lurch back towards Russia, as ministers at a European security conference urged a peaceful end to the confrontation. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov defended his government's handling of the crisis since Kiev walked away from a trade deal with the European Union, and clashed with Germany's foreign minister over charges that police had used excessive force against the protesters. "Nazis, extremists and criminals cannot be, in any way, our partners in 'eurointegration'," the government website quoted Azarov as telling Germany's Guido Westerwelle, referring to protesters who have blockaded the main government offices and occupied other public buildings. Westerwelle, who is in Kiev for a foreign ministers' meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), expressed concern about police behaviour at the protests last weekend.
Audi's chief designer will quit at the end of the year, the latest in a string of high-level departures from a company wrestling with BMW for dominance of the luxury car market, Germany's Auto Bild magazine reported. Wolfgang Egger, who has led vehicle design at Volkswagen's Audi and Lamborghini brands since 2007, will move to a leading position at VW-owned Italodesign Giugiaro, the weekly magazine said in an excerpt ahead of publication on Friday. He will be replaced by Marc Lichte, a senior designer at VW's core passenger-car brand who has helped shape the latest version of the Golf hatchback, VW's best-selling model, Auto Bild said. Prior to joining Audi, Egger held positions at Fiat's Alfa Romeo and Lancia brands.
By Naomi O’Leary VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis is to set up a special committee to help protect children against sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, said on Thursday. “The Holy Father has decided to establish a specific commission for the protection of children,” O’Malley told reporters. “The commission will be able to advise the Holy Father about the protection of children and pastoral care of victims of abuse.” Cases of abuse by clergy have forced the church to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation worldwide, bankrupting a string of dioceses in the United States. The precise mission and make-up of the committee is not yet decided but its role is likely to involve forming guidelines for child protection, improving screening of priests, examining ways to help victims and coordinating cooperation with civil authorities over abuse cases, O’Malley said.
DUBLIN (Reuters) – The European Commission is studying information about possible manipulation of foreign exchange markets, but no decision has been made about whether to open a formal investigation, the European Competition Commisioner said on Thursday. “We have internal information regarding possible manipulation of forex benchmarks, but we are still looking at the information, I cannot anticipate anything will happen. We are in the preliminary steps,” Joaquin Almunia told journalists in Dublin. (Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
Russian federal investigators have launched a criminal probe into suspected child trafficking in the United States following a Reuters investigation which found that adopted children, some born in Russia, were being traded on the Internet. The Investigative Committee opened the case after the reports found "adopted Russian children being transferred to different families in breach of their rights", spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a statement on Thursday. Parents connect through online forums on Yahoo and Facebook, privately arranging custody transfers that can bypass government oversight and sometimes violate the law. Markin said that 26 Russian children had been among those traded through such forums.
By Erik Kirschbaum and Belinda Goldsmith BERLIN/LONDON (Reuters) – Hurricane-force winds disrupted transport and power supplies in Scotland and threatened coastal flooding in England as they closed in on north Europe in what meteorologists said could be one of the most powerful storms to hit the continent in years. British authorities said the Thames Barrier, designed to protect London from flooding during exceptional tides, would shut on Thursday night and warned of "the most serious coastal tidal surge for over 60 years in England". Prime Minister David Cameron called a meeting to discuss strategy. All train services in Scotland were suspended shortly after 8 a.m. local time until further notice due to debris on the tracks caused by storm Xaver.
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis AMMAN (Reuters) – Armed with machine guns, black-clad al Qaeda fighters drove their pick-ups calmly into the northern Syrian town and took over its imposing agriculture ministry building. The scene in Termanin, recounted by an activist who witnessed it last week, is being repeated in towns along the border with Turkey and at road junctions further inside Syria that have fallen out of President Bashar al-Assad's control. Whether through weakness or a desire to focus on Assad, rebel units are making way for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al Qaeda affiliate led by foreigners hardened by guerrilla warfare in Iraq, Chechnya and Libya. The landgrab has given radical jihadists a large territorial base in the heart of a Middle East convulsed by the civil war raging in Syria since 2011.
Bosnia’s war crimes court on Thursday declined a prosecutor’s request to detain nine convicted Bosnian Serb war criminals who were released last month pending new trials, angering survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The 10 prisoners, convicted for the Srebrenica massacre and other offences during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, complained on the same grounds to Bosnia’s Constitutional Court. It then quashed their verdicts, returned their cases to the war crimes tribunal and ordered it to deliver new verdicts within three months. The war crimes court said in a statement the request for detention was legally unfounded.
By David Sheppard and Ron Bousso LONDON (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank said on Thursday it is exiting the majority of its global commodity business due to rising regulatory pressures, becoming the latest bank to sell or scale back its operations in the once lucrative sector. Deutsche Bank will exit energy, agriculture, base metals and dry bulk trading, it said on its website, retaining only precious metals and a limited number of financial derivatives traders. The move comes as the financial sector's role in commodity trading has been squeezed by lower margins, higher capital requirements, and growing political and regulatory scrutiny of the role of banks in the natural resources supply chain. "The decision to refocus our commodities business is based on our identification of more attractive ways to deploy our capital and balance sheet resources," said Colin Fan, co-head of Corporate Banking & Securities at Deutsche Bank, in a statement.