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The government won with 253 votes, while 218 lawmakers who say the move will crush small shop owners and farmers voted against the plan. Forty-three socialist lawmakers abstained.

A loss would have been a major embarrassment but would not have stopped the measure from being implemented after the Cabinet in September decided to allow foreign companies to own stakes of 51 percent in supermarkets and other big retailers for the first time. Individual states, however, would have the right to decide whether to let the retailers operate in their territory.

Parliament’s upper house will debate the issue later this week

The measure to allow foreign retail chains to do business in India was an attempt by the government of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to institute reforms to boost a slowing economy with fresh foreign investment, which could also help farmers and small businesses.

United Kingdom

Gun runner sentenced to seven years in prison

LONDON — A British arms dealer who helped ship thousands of assault rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition from China to Nigeria was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in jail.

Gary Hyde was convicted on two counts of breaching British trade controls and concealing criminal property for moving the weapons without a license and hiding more than $1 million in commission payments.

While the 2006 deal between the Chinese and Nigerian governments was lawful, Hyde failed to get a license for his part in it — an action that Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith chalked up to greed.

Sentencing Hyde at London’s Southwark Crown Court, Judge Smith said it would have been easy for him to apply for a license. He called Hyde’s offenses a “sustained and deceitful flouting of the law.”

France

Villagers shocked after contractors destroy chateau

PARIS | Residents of a sleepy French village in Bordeaux are dumbfounded after discovering their local 18th-century chateau was completely bulldozed “by mistake.”

The mayor’s office in Yvrac said Wednesday that workers who were hired to renovate the grand 140,000-square-foot manor and raze a small building on the same estate in southwest France mixed them up.

“The Chateau de Bellevue was Yvrac’s pride and joy,” said former owner Juliette Marmie. “The whole village is in shock. How can this construction firm make such a mistake?”

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