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By Charlie Dunmore BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union banned most imports of South African citrus fruit on Thursday for the rest of this year over fears that a fungal disease found in dozens of shipments could spread to the 28-nation bloc. The ban follows the interception of 36 citrus consignments this year from the EU's chief summer supplier that were contaminated with the fungal black spot disease, which is not currently found in Europe. Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the executive European Commission was set to propose the ban following pressure from citrus growers in southern Europe. EU citrus growers said on Thursday the measure was too late, noting the main export season is now over, but the Commission said the ban could be extended into next year if need be.
At least three footballers and an agent are among the six arrested, said The Daily Telegraph newspaper, which said an undercover investigation by its reporters had triggered the police swoop. The new National Crime Agency (NCA), Britain's answer to the FBI, said they were probing a suspected international gambling ring. "Six men have been arrested across the country as part of an NCA investigation into alleged football match fixing," said a spokesman. "This is an active investigation and we are unable to provide further details at this time."
The Russian resort of Sochi hosting the Winter Olympic Games in February is still far from perfect, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday, advising organisers to forget about taking holidays. Putin personally spearheaded Sochi's bid for the Games and has publicly berated officials for falling behind deadline in the $50-billion effort to turn the Soviet-era seaside resort into a winter sport paradise. "A lot has been done, but it's still a long way from perfection, (there is) still work to be done," the Russian leader said while meeting with officials in the Black Sea city to discuss Olympic preparations. "We have the New Year and Christmas holidays ahead of us.
By William James and Martinne Geller LONDON (Reuters) - Britain signalled it would force tobacco companies to scrap branded cigarette packaging on Thursday in an attempt to reduce the number of children who may be drawn to smoking by striking and brightly coloured packs. In a surprise decision that was welcomed by cancer research charities but scorned by some tobacco companies, the government said it was appointing a paediatrician to examine whether plain packaging would reduce the human and financial cost of smoking. It was unexpected as Prime Minister David Cameron had in July appeared to shelve plans to force companies such as Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco Inc, British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International to sell cigarettes in plain packaging.
One in five South African clinics are running short of life-saving HIV/AIDS drugs, affecting nearly half a million people and undermining the success of the world's largest treatment programme, medical charities said on Thursday. With about 6 million people infected with the virus - more than 10 percent of the population - South Africa carries the world's heaviest HIV/AIDS caseload and has around 2.5 million people taking antiretroviral (ARV) drugs daily. Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières surveyed more than 2,300 of South Africa's 3,800 public health facilities and found that one in five had either run short or run out of drugs in the previous three months. Of the affected clinics, catering for 420,000 patients, 20 percent said they had had to turn away patients, putting the effectiveness of the ARV treatment plan at risk, MSF said.
American energy giant Exxon Mobil on Thursday sold part of its controversial stake in a massive Iraqi oilfield to PetroChina and Indonesia's Pertamina amid a long-running row with Baghdad. The sale of the stake in the West Qurna-1 field in south Iraq, one of the country's largest, marks a key step towards resolving the dispute with the central government over Exxon's contracts with the autonomous Kurdish region. "The agreement was signed for Exxon Mobil to sell part of its 60 percent stake," oil ministry spokesman Assem Jihad told AFP. "Representatives of all the companies signed the deal today with the Iraqi government in the ministry."
By Barbara Goldberg NEW YORK (Reuters) - Americans gathered on Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving, stuffing turkeys for feasts, braving high winds along parade routes and planning for the holiday shopping season, which starts one day earlier this year. Nose-diving morning temperatures after a rainy, snowy evening along the East Coast made for slick conditions during one of the nation's busiest travel times. But Mother Nature gave New York City a break with winds just below the level that would have grounded Snoopy, Sonic the Hedgehog and other giant helium balloons in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.