- - Wednesday, January 9, 2013

LONDON — Top business executives warned Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday that he could damage Britain’s economy by inadvertently taking the country out of the European Union.

In a letter published in The Financial Times, Virgin Group Ltd.’s Richard Branson, London Stock Exchange head Chris Gibson-Smith, WPP PLC chief executive Martin Sorrell and seven other business leaders challenged Mr. Cameron’s plan to renegotiate Britain’s membership terms with the 27-country EU and put the matter to a referendum.

The executives warn that such a plan could fail, pushing the U.K. out of the EU and hurting businesses.

EU membership offers access to the common European market, facilitating trade, and a role in negotiating the future of the continent’s financial policies. Britain also has benefited from EU funds to build infrastructure such as broadband networks.

Though the business leaders urged EU reform, they argued “We must be very careful not to call for a wholesale renegotiation of our EU membership, which would almost certainly be rejected.”


Managers, reporters defuse censorship spat

GUANGZHOU — Communist Party-backed management and rebellious staff at an influential weekly newspaper stepped back Wednesday from a contentious standoff over censorship that spilled over to the wider public and turned into an unexpected test of the new Chinese leadership’s tolerance for political reform.

Hopes among supporters of the Southern Weekly that the dispute would strike a blow against censorship appeared to fizzle with a tentative resolution.

Under an agreement reached Tuesday, editors and reporters at the newspaper will not be punished for protesting and stopping work in anger over a propaganda official’s heavy-handed rewriting of a New Year’s editorial last week, according to two members of the editorial staff.

One editor said propaganda officials will no longer directly censor content prior to publication, though other long-standing controls remain in place.

“If that’s the case, we’ve got a small victory for the media,” said David Bandurksi, a specialist on Chinese media at Hong Kong University. The compromise, he said, might see censors back off the “really ham-fisted approach” they had taken in recent months.


Truckers who supply NATO troops go on strike

PESHAWAR — Truckers who carry supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan went on strike in northwest Pakistan to protest low pay, inadequate security and corrupt officials who demand bribes from the truckers, officials said.

The supply route is an important lifeline for international forces in landlocked Afghanistan.

The coalition ships a significant portion of its nonlethal supplies through Pakistan into southern Afghanistan. The other land route through northern Afghanistan, Central Asia and Russia is longer and more expensive.

The strike began Wednesday in response to the government’s decision to require truckers to go through authorized companies to carry NATO supplies instead of making individual deals with the government-run National Logistics Cell, said Jehanzeb Khan, head of a transport workers union in northwest Pakistan.

The companies pay the truckers less, Mr. Khan said. He also claimed the government was not providing adequate protection to the drivers from Taliban attacks, and each truck had to pay corrupt security officials about $165 in bribes to pass through the Khyber tribal area on the way to the border.


Border with Jordan shut, security cited as reason

BAGHDAD — Iraqi authorities citing security concerns closed the country’s only border crossing with Jordan on Wednesday, cutting a key route through a part of the country where anti-government protests have been raging.

Residents of Anbar province, center of the demonstrations, responded angrily. A provincial official said the region plans to file a lawsuit against the central government over the closure, which many residents believe is meant as pressure to end their protests.

Many Iraqi Sunnis complain of discrimination by the Shiite-dominated government.

The mass protests in Anbar — and increasingly elsewhere in the country — are the largest and most sustained demonstration of Sunni discontent since the U.S.-led invasion.

Sectarian tensions have boiled over into bloody attacks, nowadays mostly by Sunni extremists against Shiite residents and pilgrims, threatening the country’s stability.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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