Greek authorities promised on Friday to restore electricity to households cut off for failing to pay their bills, after at least three people died in accidents caused by braziers or candles. Local government and state-controlled electricity provider PPC will form teams to identify those in need and re-establish their power supply, Energy Minister Yannis Maniatis said. “We are putting people above PPC’s costs,” Maniatis said, adding that electricity prices for soup kitchens and other social services would be cut by up to 70 percent. PPC has no official estimates of the number of households that have had their power cut off since the country’s recession started six years ago.
By Stefano Bernabei and Paola Arosio MILAN/ROME (Reuters) – The top investor in troubled Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena said it would only support the lender's planned January share issue if it is postponed to the second quarter of next year, throwing the operation into doubt. The Monte dei Paschi foundation, which holds 33.5 percent of the bank, has been seeking to sell all or part of its stake to pay back around 350 million euros (293.03 million pounds) of debt, but has so far failed to find a buyer and is keen to win more time. Monte dei Paschi, by contrast, wants to launch the share issue as soon as possible. The cash call is required as part of a restructuring demanded by the European Commission for approving state aid, which Monte dei Paschi received earlier this year.
BANGUI (Reuters) – The Red Cross in Central African Republic has collected the bodies of 281 people killed during two days of violence in the capital Bangui, the organisation's president said on Friday. Pastor Antoine Mbao Bogo said staff had to stop work as night fell on Friday but the toll was likely to rise significantly when they resumed work at the weekend. "Tomorrow is going to be a monster of a day. We're going to work tomorrow and I think we're going to need a fourth day too," he said. (Reporting by Joe Bavier; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) – Last-ditch talks on a historic agreement at a meeting of the World Trade Organization in Bali were adjourned early on Saturday after Cuba raised objections, supported by Nicaragua and Bolivia, diplomats leaving the meeting said. Diplomats said the Cuban delegation would consult with WTO chief Roberto Azevedo. It was unclear when the meeting would resume. Under WTO rules there must be consensus, or unanimous support of all the membership, for a deal to be agreed. (Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
President Barack Obama will travel to South Africa next week to participate in memorial events for Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who died on Thursday. Obama’s exact schedule was as yet unclear, the White House said. It was not yet known whether Obama would give public remarks while in South Africa. “President Obama and the first lady will go to South Africa next week to pay their respects to the memory of Nelson Mandela and to participate in memorial events.
Police and protesters clashed in Athens on Friday on the fifth anniversary of the killing of a teenager by police, an incident that sparked Greece's worst riots for decades. Thousands of protesters, many dressed in black, marched through the streets chanting "Cops, Pigs, Murderers" and holding banners reading "Alexis lives", in tribute to 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos. Hundreds of riot police were deployed on the streets of Athens and around parliament, as lawmakers debated the 2014 budget plan, which inflicts a new wave of austerity cuts as the country struggles to exit the crisis. Fuelled by anger at unemployment and economic hardship in the prelude to Greece's worst financial crisis in decades, the riots lasted for weeks, turning central Athens into a no-go area and helping topple the then-conservative government.
By Victoria Cavaliere NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York City high school will be named in honour of late South African President Nelson Mandela, who had received a hero’s welcome when he visited the campus on a tour calling for an end to apartheid, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Friday. Mandela, who became the first president of post-apartheid South Africa, died on Thursday at the age of 95 at his home in Johannesburg after a prolonged lung infection. The high school in the borough of Brooklyn, slated to open in September, will be named the Nelson Mandela School for Social Justice, according to Bloomberg and the city’s Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.
By Daniel Flynn and John Irish PARIS (Reuters) – France agreed on Friday to help African nations create a joint military force to tackle coups, wars and rebellions on the continent, after the former colonial power was forced into its second military operation in Africa this year. Paris deployed troops to Central African Republic on Friday after it secured U.N. backing for a mission to quell sectarian violence in the nation of 4.6 million people. President Francois Hollande told about 40 African leaders at a two-day summit in Paris that the crisis in Central African Republic showed the urgent need to press ahead with the African Standby Force (ASF), and pledged French help.
By David Alexander MANAMA (Reuters) – Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel toured a U.S. warship in the Gulf on Friday and declared Washington's commitment to Middle East security, despite policy differences over Iran and Syria that have angered Gulf allies. His visit to Bahrain, in which he will speak at the Manama Dialogue security conference, comes at a time of regional unease over President Barack Obama's policies – ranging from the cautious U.S. response to Syria's civil war to the six world powers' interim deal with Iran on its nuclear program. The ship he toured, the USS Ponce, part of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, is to be equipped in 2014 with a new laser weapon designed to deter aircraft and missiles as well as attacks by swarms of small boats like those used by Iran, on the opposite side of the Gulf.
By Mohammed Ghobari SANAA (Reuters) – Yemen said on Friday it had regained full control of its Defence Ministry compound in Sanaa a day after a militant attack, claimed by an al Qaeda-affiliated group, killed 56 people, including foreign medical staff. The Yemeni military's chief of the general staff said in a preliminary report submitted to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi on Friday that an estimated 12 attackers, mostly Saudi nationals, had taken part in the assault and were all killed. The report, seen by Reuters, said gunmen wearing army uniforms opened fire at soldiers guarding one of the hospitals inside the military compound.
By Randy Fabi NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) – Ministers appeared close to sealing the world's biggest trade reform for two decades early on Saturday after India, the most vocal holdout, endorsed a draft text presented by the head of the World Trade Organization. But a last-gasp objection from Cuba, backed by Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, forced a one-hour adjournment and urgent consultations with WTO chief Roberto Azevedo, leaving diplomats on tenterhooks and facing another 5 a.m. cliffhanger. The deal, thrashed out at talks on the Indonesian island of Bali, would lower trade barriers and speed up the passage of goods through customs. Failure would have represented a body blow to the 159-nation WTO, formed in 1995 and still without a major trade deal to its credit after many years of negotiating fiascos.