EUROPE ““ (BBC) Eurozone countries need to put more money in their rescue fund before G20 nations can step in to help them, the G20 finance ministers have said. They said such a move was “essential” to their decision to provide more resources to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help the region. Earlier this month, eurozone leaders set up a permanent bailout fund of 500bn euro ($673bn). There are concerns the fund may not be able to rescue a deeply indebted state. “We have to see the color of the eurozone’s money first – and quite frankly, that hasn’t happened,” the British chancellor George Osborne said. “Until it does, there’s no question of extra IMF money from Britain or probably anyone else.” The G20 finance ministers warned that risks to global economic growth continue to remain high. “The international economic environment has continued to be characterized by an uneven performance, with weak growth in advanced economies and a stronger, albeit slowing, expansion in emerging markets,” the ministers said in a joint statement issued after the meeting in Mexico.
FRANCE ““ (BBC) Nicolas Sarkozy has brought an ethnic North African ex-minister back into his re-election campaign, amid claims by critics that he is patronizing voters. On Thursday, Rachida Dati appeared with the French president at a big rally in the ethnically diverse city of Lille. She resigned as justice minister in 2009 amid criticism of her management style and gossip about her clothing and love life. Opponents of Mr. Sarkozy have mocked his assertion that he is non-elitist. The conservative president insists he wants to be the leader of all French people. Opinion polls suggest he has narrowed the gap with Socialist challenger Francois Hollande but still lags far behind. Both are tipped to reach the run-off on May 6th.
ITALY ““ (BBC) Judges have thrown out a bribery case against former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi because it expired under the statute of limitations. Mr. Berlusconi was accused of paying his former British tax lawyer, David Mills, to lie in court to protect his interests. The case dates back to the 1990s. Berlusconi, who denies wrongdoing, says this and other court cases against him are all part of a politically-motivated smear campaign. He is on trial separately on charges of tax fraud and sex with an underage prostitute. Of the other three cases Berlusconi still faces, potentially the most damaging for the former Italian leader involves Moroccan nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug. Prosecutors allege Ms. Mahroug attended several parties at Berlusconi’s residence last year and was paid for sex while she was still 17, an offense according to Italian law. Both she and the prime minister deny having sex. She says she did receive 7,000 euros, but it was a gift after a party.
THE NETHERLANDS ““ (BBC) Dutch Prince Johan Friso, injured in an avalanche last week, is in a coma and may never regain consciousness, doctors treating him in Austria say. Prince Friso, who had been on a skiing holiday in the Austrian resort of Lech, lay buried under snow for about 15 minutes before being rescued. He was taken to the hospital in Innsbruck after the accident, in which nobody else was hurt. Speaking to reporters in Innsbruck, Dr. Wolfgang Koller said it had taken nearly 50 minutes to revive the prince. MRI scans have shown his brain suffered “massive damage” in the avalanche. The prince will be moved at a later date to a private clinic for further treatment but it may take years before he awakens, if ever, the doctor said. “We cannot say today with certainty whether Prince Friso will one day regain consciousness,” added Dr. Koller, who is the head of the trauma unit at the hospital. “In any case, a neurological rehabilitation will be required that will take months, if not years.” The prince, 43, is the second son of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. However, he is not in line for the throne since marrying in 2004 without the government’s permission.
RUSSIA ““ (BBC) Ukrainian security services have thwarted a plot to kill Russian PM Vladimir Putin, Russian officials say. Two suspects were detained in the Ukrainian port of Odessa, Russia’s state-owned Channel One TV reports. The arrested men were both shown on TV admitting their involvement in the plot, after an explosion at a flat in January in which one suspect died. A Ukrainian official confirmed to Reuters news agency the arrests were linked to a plot to kill Mr. Putin. When contacted earlier by the BBC, the spokeswoman had initially refused to corroborate the Russian TV report that linked the detention of two men to a conspiracy. The Russian prime minister’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told the BBC “this was absolutely a plot to kill the prime minister.” Mr. Putin is expected to win the election and get a third term as president.
SERBIA ““ (BBC) Serbia has reached a deal over its breakaway province of Kosovo, days before the EU is due to deliver its verdict on Belgrade’s bid to join. The Serbs agreed to allow Kosovo to take part in west Balkan regional meetings despite refusing to recognize its self-declared independence. An EU proposal to have Kosovo’s nameplate at meetings followed by an asterisk was accepted. The two sides also agreed to manage jointly their border, scene of recurrent violence between NATO peacekeepers and ethnic Serbs who make up the majority in northern Kosovo. Some 80 countries have recognized Kosovo since it declared independence in 2008, but a still larger number have withheld recognition. “We’re very satisfied with the result but it was a really difficult negotiation,” said Serbian chief negotiator Borko Stefanovic, quoted by AFP news agency in Brussels. Details of the border agreement were not immediately clear.
SPAIN ““ (BBC) The son-in-law of Spain’s king has been questioned by a judge in Mallorca over corruption allegations. Inaki Urdangarin, the Duke of Palma, is being investigated over claims he misused public funds given to a foundation he ran. The duke has denied any wrongdoing in the case, which has been a rare embarrassment for the popular Spanish royal family. “I come to clarify the truth and defend my honor,” Urdangarin said. “I have carried out my responsibilities and taken decisions correctly with total transparency.” The duke has not been formally charged but is reportedly accused of misdirecting part of approximately 6 million euros ($8 million) sent to his not-for-profit Noos Institute by regional governments to organize sporting events. It is alleged that some of the money ended up in companies that he ran. The events in question happened between 2004 and 2006, when the duke stepped down as head of the institute. A court official said the investigating judge Jose Castro had questioned the duke over the workings of the companies involved in the case. The official, who asked not to be named, told AFP the judge would decide whether to order a trial and bring charges, a process which could take several months. In response to the scandal, the royal family announced in December that it will make its accounts publicly available. In an apparent reference to the investigation into the duke, King Juan Carlos used his Christmas speech to say that “all are equal before the law.” He was also quoted as saying: “When untoward conduct arises which is not in keeping with the law and ethics, society naturally reacts. Fortunately we live by the rule of law and any unworthy act must be judged and penalized.”
SWEDEN ““ (BBC) The first pictures of Sweden’s newest royal, Princess Estelle, have been released. The princess, second in line to the throne after her mother Crown Princess Victoria, was born on Thursday. Her full name is Estelle Silvia Ewa Mary. Sweden changed its constitution in 1980, three years after Victoria was born, to allow the eldest heir to inherit the throne, regardless of gender. Princess Estelle’s official title is Duchess of Oestergoetland, a region south of Stockholm. Estelle’s birth was greeted by two 21-gun salutes on Skeppsholmen Island, opposite the royal palace in the capital of Stockholm. King Carl XVI Gustaf, her grandfather, has reigned since 1973.
UNITED KINGDOM ““ (BBC) Police have moved in to remove protestors from the Occupy London site at St. Paul’s cathedral. Occupy London was last week refused permission to appeal against a High Court decision to allow their eviction to proceed. The Court of Appeal’s decision meant the City of London Corporation was free to clear the site. Occupy London, which campaigns against corporate greed, set up the camp on October 15th. BBC correspondent Jeremy Cooke said there were still some protesters outside St. Paul’s but tents were being taken down. There was a report of one scuffle but the scene appeared to be overwhelmingly peaceful. The High Court decided that the City of London Corporation’s move to evict the camp was “lawful and justified.”The corporation said in a statement: “The City of London Corporation has begun to enforce the High Court orders for the removal of the tents and equipment outside St. Paul’s”¦the City of London Corporation is ensuring vulnerable people are being helped and supported to find appropriate accommodation in partnership with Broadway, a charity for the homeless.”