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By Charlie Dunmore BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission proposed on Tuesday an EU-wide ban on fisheries imports from Cambodia, Belize and Guinea, saying they had not done enough to stamp out illegal fishing. The European Union's executive branch also warned South Korea and Ghana that they faced similar bans unless they took concrete steps to address the problem. The European Union is the world's top importer of fresh and frozen fish and seafood. "These decisions show our steadfast commitment to tackling illegal fishing," EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki said in a statement.
PARIS (AP) — France's government is pushing one of Europe's toughest laws against prostitution and sex trafficking, and other countries are watching closely. Advocates hope that a draft French law going to parliament Wednesday will help change long-held attitudes toward the world's oldest profession — by punishing the customer and protecting the prostitute.
By Daren Butler SANLIURFA, Turkey (Reuters) - Abu Huseyin says he has sent dozens of people from this ancient city in southeastern Turkey to join jihadist groups in northern Syria and vows to continue helping them fulfill what he says is their duty to God. Several hundred Turks are estimated to be among thousands of foreigners swelling the ranks of Islamist rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's forces, generating what some politicians say is a risk that, radicalized and battle-hardened, they could one day return to stage attacks on Turkish soil. "We send those who are in the path of God for jihad," said Abu Huseyin, a tradesman identified by several locals as a man who helps recruit fighters for Syria from this mixed Turkish, Arab and Kurdish city 50 km (30 miles) from the Syrian frontier. Turkey has been an outspoken supporter of rebels fighting against Syria's Bashar al-Assad and has assisted them by keeping its border open.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Tuesday that Tehran was prepared to take part in the Syria peace talks in Geneva, slated for January 22, if invited. "Participation of Iran in Geneva 2 is in our view an important contribution to the resolution of the problem. We have said all along that if Iran is invited, we will participate without any preconditions," Zarif told Iran's Press TV. Iran is the main backer, along with Russia, of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a conflict that has lasted more than two years, killed more than 100,000 people and uprooted millions more.
By Andrei Khalip LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal is set to approve a 2014 budget on Tuesday, the last under its three-year EU/IMF bailout, but passing the measure is likely to trigger court challenges that could disrupt the country's exit from the bailout program. Portugal's main union, the 750,000-strong CGTP, has called for nationwide rallies on a "day of indignation, protest and struggle". And the Constitutional Court, which had shot down several austerity measures, late on Monday upheld one contested measure that increases the work week for the public sector. Portugal's benchmark 10-year bond yield eased to 5.933 percent from Monday's 5.975.
By Jessica Donati and Mark Felsenthal KABUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign a security deal with the United States, the White House said, opening up the prospect of a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from the strife-torn nation next year. Karzai told U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice in Kabul on Monday that the United States must put an immediate end to military raids on Afghan homes and demonstrate its commitment to peace talks before he would sign a bilateral security pact, Karzai's spokesman said. The White House said Karzai had outlined new conditions in the meeting with Rice and "indicated he is not prepared to sign the promptly". "Without a prompt signature, the U.S. would have no choice but to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no U.S. or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan," a White House statement quoted Rice as saying.
By Joshua Schneyer and Nicolas Medina Mora Perez NEW YORK (Reuters) - China's aggressive quest for foreign oil has reached a new milestone, according to records reviewed by Reuters: near monopoly control of crude exports from an OPEC nation, Ecuador. Last November, Marco Calvopiña, the general manager of Ecuador's state oil company PetroEcuador, was dispatched to China to help secure $2 billion in financing for his government. Negotiations, which included committing to sell millions of barrels of Ecuador's oil to Chinese state-run firms through 2020, dragged on for days. "If the Phase III transaction documents are not signed in the coming days, then I cannot remain in Beijing," he wrote in a confidential letter to China Development Bank (CDB), reviewed by Reuters.
China and 16 Central and Eastern European countries pledged Tuesday to boost two-way investment and trade, insisting that EU regulations will be met. "China eyes cooperation in infrastructure, communications, high-speed railway projects, which will lead to massive investment and a rise in commercial exchanges," with countries in the region, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang told 16 CEE counterparts and hundreds of businessmen attending a meeting in Bucharest. "We are prepared to discuss ways to finance these projects, within the lines traced by European Union regulations," Li stressed. Brussels has warned countries in the region against crossing any regulatory red lines when concluding economic deals with China.
Austria's Supreme Court overturned the conviction of former Interior Minister and European lawmaker Ernst Strasser in a cash-for-laws case and sent the issue back on Tuesday to a lower court for retrial. A Vienna court had sentenced Strasser, who acknowledged making errors but denied committing any crime, to four years in jail for bribery in January. Strasser had been filmed offering to propose amendments to European legislation in exchange for 100,000 euros ($135,100) a year.
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has told the Indonesian leader that his country will not take any action in future that will hurt relations between the neighbors, following an outcry in Jakarta of allegations Canberra tapped the phones of its top officials. Indonesian President Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono told reporters that Abbott had made the pledge in a letter to him at the weekend. Yudhoyono said the two countries would work on a new code of ethics for intelligence sharing and described relations as very good in essence, saying they needed to be safeguarded. ...