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By Joe Bavier ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Central African Republic needs up to four times more peacekeepers than are currently deployed to quell the worsening sectarian conflict and provide security for aid workers, the European Union's top humanitarian official said. The country has descended into chaos since the Seleka coalition of rebels, many of them from neighbouring Chad and Sudan, ousted President Francois Bozize in March. France is preparing to boost its force in its anarchic former colony to at least 1,000 soldiers once a U.N. resolution is passed next week to improve security until a 3,600-strong African Union force is operational. Tripling or quadrupling what is there," EU aid chief Kristalina Georgieva said, warning they face a twin risk of a Somalia-like state collapse and potential genocide.
Ross Brawn will step down from his position as Mercedes team principal at the end of the year, the German Formula One outfit confirmed on Thursday, ending months of speculation. The 59-year-old is one of the longest-serving figures in modern Formula One but it remains unclear whether he will retire from the sport or join another stable such as Ferrari in 2014 or McLaren-Honda in 2015. The English engineer largely contributed to the seven world titles won by Germany's Michael Schumacher at Benetton and then Ferrari. He then joined Honda F1 as team principal in 2007, buying out the team and renaming it Brawn GP, going on to win the world constructors' championship and drivers' title double in 2009 with Jenson Button.
The 17-nation eurozone economy continues to make progress but there are signs of a slowdown over the past two months, a key survey showed Thursday. The European Commission's Economic Sentiment Indicator, a measure of overall economic confidence, rose 0.8 points to 98.5 in November, building on gains since May, it said. The eurozone economy eked out meagre growth of just 0.1 percent in the third quarter, short of forecasts for 0.2 percent and down from 0.3 percent in the second when the bloc finally escaped a record 18-month recession. Struggling France, the second largest economy in the bloc after Germany, continued to lag, dropping 0.9 points.
Activity has been observed at a North Korean nuclear site that is consistent with an effort to restart a reactor, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said on Thursday. North Korea announced in April that it would revive its aged research reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex - which experts say is capable of producing plutonium for bombs - but said it was seeking a deterrent capacity. Amano said the Vienna-based IAEA continued to monitor developments at Yongbyon, mainly through satellite imagery. "Activities have been observed at the site that are consistent with an effort to restart the 5MW(e) reactor," Amano told the IAEA's 35-nation board, referring to the research reactor.
By David Milliken and Huw Jones LONDON (Reuters) - The Bank of England moved to head off the risk of a bubble in house prices on Thursday, making a surprise announcement that it would heavily scale back a scheme launched last year to boost mortgage lending. Britain's economy and its housing market have staged an unexpectedly strong turnaround since the Bank launched the Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) with the finance ministry in July 2012 to help increase lending to home-buyers and businesses. The FLS scheme will now focus solely on enabling greater lending to small firms that still find it hard to borrow and the Bank Governor Mark Carney said the Bank was ready take larger measures to control the housing market if needed. "We did not see an immediate threat coming from the housing market but we are concerned about the prospective evolution of the housing market," he told reporters.
A US city welcomed Wednesday a court ruling which could force the closure of a US factory that makes famed Sriracha chili sauces, after neighbors complained of spicy smells. The California city of Irwindale, outside Los Angeles, asked last month for Huy Fong Food's facility to be closed and that the company be forced to improve odor-filtering measures. On Tuesday LA Superior Court judge Robert H. O'Brien ruled in favor of the city, ordering the sauce maker to stop any operations that could cause smells and immediately take steps to lessen the odors.
The US government announced Wednesday small businesses will have to wait until next year to buy health coverage through an online marketplace, yet another setback for Barack Obama's signature health care reform. In an online posting, Health and Human Services said the online "marketplaces" created as part of the reform -- to help small businesses compare plans, take advantage of tax breaks, and find the best rates -- will not be available until November 2014, "for coverage taking effect on or after January 1, 2015." The health care reform package, dubbed "Obamacare," a major campaign promise from Obama that was made law in March 2010, requires companies with more than 50 employees to offer health insurance for their employees. But it is yet another setback for the Obama administration, which has made a number of concessions in recent weeks after a rocky rollout of several of the law's most sweeping changes.