- - Thursday, July 28, 2011

PORTUGAL

Labor reforms sought to secure bailout funds

LISBON | Portugal’s five-week-old government took its first major proposal for labor reform to parliament on Thursday, seeking approval for a reduction in compensation entitlements for laid-off workers.

The proposal is part of a long list of measures Portugal pledged to adopt in return for a $112 billion bailout that spared it from bankruptcy and was part of European efforts to contain the continent’s debt crisis.

Portugal’s European partners and the International Monetary Fund granted the bailout on the condition that the nation cuts public debt and takes steps to make its ailing economy more competitive.

Lisbon is committed to a strict calendar of measures subject to quarterly reviews by outside monitors. Bailout funds could be withheld if targets are not met.

Employers say the cut in compensation will help reduce unemployment, currently at a record 12.4 percent, by allowing companies to recruit workers without committing to potentially large future payouts.

UNITED NATIONS

U.S., North Korea hold nuclear arms discussions

The United States opened discussions Thursday with North Korea, in a move testing Pyongyang’s willingness to negotiate giving up its nuclear arsenal.

The U.S. special envoy on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, greeted North Korea’s first vice foreign minister, Kim Kye Gwan, at the entrance to the U.S. mission to the United Nations in New York before the talks got under way.

Neither side had any comment before the meetings, which were expected to continue Friday.

The United States has stressed, however, that these are “exploratory talks” to determine whether the Pyongyang regime is serious about living up to past commitments on its nuclear program.

The United States considers progress on disarmament to be key to any hope of improving six decades of hostile U.S.-North Korean ties.

It marks the first talks since Mr. Bosworth visited Pyongyang in December 2009. The invitation to New York was made after a meeting between nuclear-talks envoys from North and South Korea at an Asian security forum in Indonesia last week.

Story Continues →