Pressure grows on Syria to stop violence
Twenty-four hours after Ankara’s diplomatic missions were attacked in Syria, Turkey’s foreign minister has responded by meeting with opposition representatives of the Syrian National Council. Despite previously cultivating ties with the Assad regime Ankara strongly condemns Syria’s repression of peaceful protests. Syria’s relations with other allies also worsened over the weekend with the Arab League’s decision to suspend it. But the Arab League is not backing down. Its Secretary-General said the League stuck by its demands calling on Syria to end the violence, to end the fighting, to release prisoners and instigate real political reforms. In response the Syrian authorities organised mass demonstrations to show support for the Assad government. The regime has called for an emergency Arab summit in an effort to prevent its suspension, however the Arab League says it is now considering sanctions.

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The challenge of economic reform in Italy
Reviving a flagging economy should be the top priority for the new Italian government, according to one Rome business owner. Loredana Pompei has run the Caffe Brasile in the Italian capital for twelve years. She says if Mario Monti forms a government, he must ease the tax burden on small companies so they can grow. Pompei told euronews that she would like employee contributions to be reduced so she can hire more staff. “I don’t believe in miracles but I’m afraid they’ll impose new taxes,” she said, adding that Monti’s foray into the political world should only be a temporary one. Fabrizio Forquet, a senior editor at financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, says the path to economic reform must be brisk. “We talk about 25 billion euros of savings as if it’s an easy thing. Monti must introduce rigourous reforms and quickly. These reforms will see Italians make great sacrifices, but Italian society will accept them if they see politicians making a similar or greater sacrifice,” he told euronews. The next government must slash Italy’s public debt, stuck at nearly 120 percent of gross domestic product. Another challenge is to reform the labour market and business regulation to kick-start an economy that has endured years of sluggish growth. It is hoped such measures would mean Italy can avoid the fate of Greece, Portugal and Ireland, who were all forced to seek an international bailout.

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Lebanese politicians trade punches in Syria spat
Rival Lebanese politicians have exchanged blows on live TV after a heated discussion on the crisis in neighbouring Syria. Fayez Shukr of the Baath Party, which is close to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s party of the same name, clashed with former opposition MP Mustafa Alloush. The two hurled insults – and even chairs – as they accused each other of lying. Shukor and Alloush’s antics made the front page of Lebanon’s newspapers on Tuesday and provoked scorn from ordinary Lebanese. “What we saw yesterday was shameful for all Lebanese citizens and politicians because they are not rising to a level of cultural maturity where one can express an opinion in a way so that a discussion accomodates the views of everyone”, said one man. “This is our political upbringing in Lebanon. They had no composure and both of them were tense. One word would irritate the other. If they had weapons, they would have shot each other. And I wish they had,” said a Beirut resident. Both pro- and anti-Syrian regime demonstrations are common in Lebanon, whose politics have long been influenced by Damascus.

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Europe Weekly: the G1000 gives a voice to the people
European news this week has been dominated by the fall of the Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and the announcement that Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi is stepping down. Are politicians alone able to deal with the crisis sweeping Europe? This is one of the questions raised at the G1000 Citizens’ Summit at Brussels. The aim of the summit is to revive democracy in Belgium, a country which has been without a government for more than 500 days now. The 1,000 citizens who gathered debated the themes they felt were most important: social security, immigration and prosperity in a time of financial crisis. A group of 32 of the delegates was designated to draw up the most detailed propositions to be published in April next year. Whether Belgian authorities will act on any of them or whether the summit will be copied elsewhere remains to be seen.

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Early voting begins in Russian election
Even before the campaign reaches its climax,?�?� voting?�has already?�begun in Russia’s parliamentary election. The vote takes place on December 4 but officials?�have been travelling to remote far eastern areas to collect votes and ensure everyone has their say.?�?�Against the backdrop of an early winter chill in Moscow, debate is heating up about the conduct of the election.?�Polls say the United Russia party of President Dmitry Medvedev and?�Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will easily?�retain?�its dominant position in the State Duma.?�That outcome is expected to be replicated in presidential elections in March after which?�Russia’s most powerful double act are likely to swap roles.?�Putin has said he will run for the presidency, although Medvedev’s position has yet to be confirmed. ?�But ahead of?�next month’s poll, the main opposition Communists are?�warning of foul play. Party leader Gennady Zyughanov said: “This time we have prepared almost 500,000?�monitors.?�We have signed contracts and agreements with all who are ready for dialogue and a fair election. And in December, we will?�hold protests everywhere with a single slogan: ‘Don’t let them steal our votes!’”?�That is a view shared by some. One man in a Moscow street said:?�“They (authorities) have determined everything beforehand,?�even who will be premier and who will be president.?�How can these elections be fair?”?�A Muscovite woman said:?�“I will vote for sure. I won’t vote for United Russia, I will chose some other party. But I think my vote will hardly change anything.” ?�International monitors said the last Duma election in 2007 was not rigged but that media coverage heavily favoured United Russia. ?�

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Belgian government negotiator asks to quit
The man charged with bringing six parties together to form a coalition government in Belgium has handed in his resignation. Elio Di Rupo, leader of the French-speaking Socialists, decided to quit after talks on next year’s budget failed to produce an agreement. Despite wanting to go, Di Rupo will need King Albert II to approve his request to resign. It is the second time Di Rupo has tried to step down. He was stopped from leaving in July when the King refused to let him go. For nearly 18 months, Belgium has been struggling to agree on the make-up of a new government.

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Occupy Wall Street will fight on
Members of the Occupy Wall Street movement have regrouped, and are vowing to continue their struggle. It comes after protesters were successfully dislodged from Zuccotti park in New York’s financial district. The demonstrators had mixed feelings about how big a blow it had been for them to lose the area, with one girl saying: “It’s disorientating, it’s demoralising, I think it’s definitely a blow, but you know, the fact that this movement shows you there’s such a hunger and a need and a desire and a timeliness that this is wanted.” While another thought it had more significance: “That is ground zero to the whole movement and if we could just get kicked out of it, I feel like it shows our weakness.” Police in riot gear had stormed Zuccotti park at dawn, and forced the eviction of the protesters who had occupied the area since September. New York city Mayor, Michael Bloomberg defended the move, saying their ‘tent city’ was harming local businesses, and residents. Michael Bloomberg: “Protesters have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags. Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of argument.” The Mayor said the protesters can return once the area is clear, but with their shelters gone, it’s questionable whether they will brave New York’s harsh winter.

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EU finance chiefs meet to strengthen bail out fund
The euro zone’s money men are meeting in Brussels in an effort to strengthen and speed up the implementation of the bloc’s bail out fund. Providing enough muscle for the European Financial Stability Facility to shield the euro bloc’s weakest member states is seen as a top priority, particularly with fears growing over Italy. Jean-Claude Juncker, President the Eurogroup, said: “We will speak about Greece and also about Italy and we will come closer to defining the details on leveraging the EFSF. That is a highly complicated judicial process. I don’t think we’ll have any real decisions today.” Despite the on-going political uncertainty back home in Athens, Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos offered an upbeat assessment. “After a difficult week we have now a new political situation, a new political frame in Greece. We have a new government of national unity and national responsibility. This is the proof of our commitment and our national capacity to implement the programme and to reconstruct our country,” said Venizelos. From the EU Council in Brussels euronews’ Fariba Mavaddat said: “Euro zone finance ministers are gathering in Brussels again amid the backdrop of the changing political and economic situation in Greece and Italy. Despite the turmoil affecting Athens and Rome, it’s thought unlikely that any concrete decisions will be made this evening on implementing the deal agreed between EU leaders at last month’s summit.’‘

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Tensions remain on streets of Cairo
With voting in elections due to begin on Monday, an uneasy calm has been restored to Cairo. But?�a tense stand-off?�remains. The?�ruling military council is refusing?�demands to?�step down immediately and the protesters are making it clear that?�they are not going?�away.?�?�?�The demonstrators’ mistrust of?�military?�motives has?�been compounded by the deaths and injuries of the past few days. ?�The army says it is sorry, and has put up cement barriers which,?�says General Taher Abdullah, are to protect the protesters:?�“Of course, no one can deny that what happened?�is regrettable. The army regrets it, but we’ve found the best way to separate both sides to secure the demonstrators.”?�But protesters have clear ideas about what they want to see happening: “The?�revolutionaries want the?�constitution of a national unity council to create a modern Egypt…and they want the army to go?�back to barracks.”?�The military council insists people must focus on the elections?�rather than street protests, but there is no?�evidence that the?�demonstrators in Tahrir Square will do that.

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Berlusconi finally quits as Italian PM
Silvio Berlusconi has resigned as prime minister ending one of the most scandal-plagued eras in Italy’s post-war history. Hundreds of people gathered outside the presidential palace to cheer as he departed. There were also scenes of jubilation in other parts of Rome as news spread. Berlusconi’s departure paves the way for an emergency government and the adoption of a package of economic reforms intended to reverse a collapse of market confidence. His resignation also sparks a series of events over the weekend that will most likely conclude on Sunday night or Monday morning with the formation of new government headed by former European Commissioner Mario Monti.

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