- - Sunday, January 30, 2011

FRANCE

Sarkozy tells Bono he will seek transparency laws

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia | French President Nicolas Sarkozy told singer-activist Bono on Sunday that he will spearhead efforts to force companies extracting raw materials in Africa to say how much they pay local regimes.

In a letter released by Mr. Sarkozy’s office, the French leader said he “totally” agreed with the Irish singer on the need to make the exploitation of raw materials in Africa more transparent.

The letter was in response to a letter by Bono published in French daily Le Monde calling on France to lead the way in supporting a European bill based on the “Publish What You Pay” concept, which aims to tackle state-level corruption and redistribute natural-resource revenues to the populations of African countries.

“I have decided to ask the European Union to adopt as quickly as possible legislation forcing companies in the extractive sector to publish what they pay to host countries,” Mr. Sarkozy wrote in the letter to Bono.

Mr. Sarkozy, who currently presides over the Group of Eight and Group of 20 forums, said France also will organize a March meeting in Paris “gathering world experts” to discuss the subject.

IRELAND

Lawmakers near completion of international bailout

DUBLIN | Ireland’s political parties geared up Sunday for embattled Prime Minister Brian Cowen to call an election once a key finance bill needed to meet the terms of an international bailout is approved.

The upper house of parliament voted late Saturday to pass the government’s harsh austerity budget, which involves $8.2 billion in tax and cost-cutting measures this year — part of a four-year recovery plan that aims to save $20 billion.

“The finance bill now goes to the president for signing into law on Monday,” a government spokesman said, in the final formal hurdle for the bill after the Dail, the lower house of parliament, passed the legislation on Thursday.

Mr. Cowen has said he will seek the dissolution of parliament from President Mary McAleese on Tuesday, triggering a general election expected on Feb. 25 in which his centrist Fianna Fail party is likely to take a drubbing.

The beleaguered premier leads a minority government after a tumultuous week in which his ruling coalition fell apart after the Green Party pulled out in protest at a botched Cabinet reshuffle attempt.

The crisis forced Mr. Cowen to quit as leader of Fianna Fail and abandon plans for a March 11 election.

SWITZERLAND

Leaders are optimistic about economic recovery

DAVOS | Cautiously optimistic about the rebounding global economy, top business and government leaders wrapped up their annual meeting Sunday with calls for economic growth to help the world’s poor and jobless who have taken to the streets in protest.

The five-day World Economic Forum met as Tunisia and Egypt were roiled by protests fueled by a lack of jobs and political inclusion, putting the issue of poverty and the implications of increasing insecurity high on the agenda.

“It is just imperative for all of us as companies and as countries to focus on saying that ‘I’m making our growth more inclusive,’ ” said Chanda Kochhar, chief executive of ICICI Bank Ltd., the largest private bank in India.

The rising cost of food also could eventually force up the cost of other commodities and lead to politically risky inflation around the world, analysts said. Higher prices are seen alongside unemployment as one of the reasons for anti-government protests in Asia last year and more recently in the Arab world.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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