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  • BEIRUT/ CAIRO, Dec 27- Syria said on Saturday it was willing to participate in "preliminary consultations" in Moscow aimed at restarting talks next year to end its civil war but the Western-backed opposition dismissed the initiative. Syrian state television quoted a source at the foreign ministry saying: " Syria is ready to participate in preliminary...

  • BEIRUT/ CAIRO, Dec 27- Syria said on Saturday it is willing to participate in "preliminary consultations" in Moscow aimed at restarting peace talks next year to end its civil war. Syrian state television quoted a source at the foreign ministry saying " Syria is ready to participate in preliminary consultations in Moscow in order to meet the aspirations of Syrians...

  • BEIRUT, Dec 27- Syria said on Saturday it is willing to participate in "preliminary consultations" in Moscow aimed at restarting peace talks next year to end its civil war. "Syria is ready to participate in preliminary consultations in Moscow in order to meet the aspirations of Syrians to find a way out of crisis," state television said, quoting a source at the Syrian...

  • *Asia's Jan-Nov imports from Iran at 1.11 mln bpd, up 19.5 pct. But overseas purchases by Asia, which is home to the top four buyers of Iranian oil, could be hit by the uncertainty over when Tehran and world powers would be able to settle a 12- year dispute over Iran's nuclear ambitions, industry sources said. Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and...

  • China challenges India's polished diamond throne Thursday, 25 Dec 2014 | 7:18 PM ET

    *India seeks help from Russia to defend market share. NEW DELHI, Dec 26- India's long-held position as the world's top diamond polisher is being challenged by soaring output from China, compelling the south Asian country to seek help from ally and top rough diamond supplier Russia to defend its market share. India has traditionally relied on the middlemen in...

  • *Alinma Bank surges on 2014 dividend news. *Egypt's Palm Hills rises after board member buys. DUBAI, Dec 25- Gulf stock markets rose on Thursday as Saudi Arabia released a 2015 state budget that will keep spending high, reassuring the region that economic growth is unlikely to be hurt much by the plunge of oil prices.

  • Saudi to dig into reserves for 2015 budget Thursday, 25 Dec 2014 | 8:48 AM ET

    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia— Saudi Arabia's Cabinet on Thursday endorsed a 2015 budget that projects a slight increase in spending and a significant drop in revenues due to sliding oil prices, resulting in a nearly $39 billion deficit. In a sign of mounting financial pressure, the Finance Ministry said the government would try to cut back on salaries, wages and...

  • DUBAI, Dec 25- Saudi Arabia will lift state spending to a record in its 2015 budget while covering a deficit with its huge fiscal reserves, the government said, providing the first detailed look at how the world's top oil exporter aims to handle an era of cheap oil. But the budget, released by the Finance Ministry on Thursday, suggests authorities are confident of...

  • DUBAI, Dec 25- Saudi Arabia plans to raise government spending 0.6 percent to a record high in its 2015 budget while covering a large deficit due to plunging oil prices with its huge fiscal reserves, the Ministry of Finance said on Thursday. Some analysts believe Riyadh is content to see oil prices fall as a way to squeeze out competing producers in non- OPEC nations.

  • CAIRO, Dec 24- Kellogg Co, the world's largest maker of breakfast cereals, raised its bid for Egyptian snack maker Bisco Misr on Wednesday, topping a rival offer from UAE's Abraaj in an intensifying $144 million takeover battle. Kellogg's latest bid, for 89.86 Egyptian pounds per share, came on the heels of an offer earlier in the day by Abraaj Asset Management for...

  • Faithful flock to Bethlehem for Christmas Wednesday, 24 Dec 2014 | 9:19 AM ET

    BETHLEHEM, West Bank— Several thousand Christian pilgrims on Wednesday flocked to the biblical town of Bethlehem for Christmas Eve celebrations at the traditional birthplace of Jesus, lifting spirits after a year of conflict and failed peace efforts. A Palestinian host welcomed members of Gaza's tiny Christian community, who were permitted to cross...

  • CAIRO, Dec 24- Kellogg Co. has raised its bid for Egypt's Bisco Misr to 89.86 Egyptian pounds per share, topping a rival offer by the UAE's Abraaj, the head of Egypt's financial regulator said on Wednesday. Sherif Samy told Reuters by phone the bidding period would be extended by five days with each new offer, until sixty days after the first offer, when sealed bids...

  • UPDATE 2-Russia's grain exports stop - farm lobby Wednesday, 24 Dec 2014 | 7:59 AM ET

    *About 3 mln T of grain are now stuck in Russia- Union. *Wheat futures rise on Russia export curbs. Russia's main wheat buyers are Turkey, Iran and, very vulnerable to supply disruption, Egypt.

  • CAIRO, Dec 24- UAE's Abraaj Investment Management is seeking regulatory approval to raise its bid for Egypt's Bisco Misr to 88.09 Egyptian pounds a share, aiming to top a rival bid by Kellogg Co. as the deadline for the takeover of the snackmaker loomed. Abraaj said in a statement on Wednesday it had submitted a request valuing Bisco Misr at 1.013 billion pounds to...

  • Egypt tattoo artists meet in Cairo, aim to break taboos Wednesday, 24 Dec 2014 | 2:27 AM ET

    CAIRO— In Egypt, where tattoos are widely considered taboo, organizers have held a convention to challenge stereotypes and show-off the ink designs as an art form. Organizers say they hope to showcase the artistic side of the practice, which is loosely regulated in Egypt and mostly performed by artists using licenses for beauty parlors. Timur Reda, 38, who has...

  • ELAMGULAM, India, Dec 24- Several Indian rubber farmers have put away their tapping knives and switched to planting other crops, as ample global supplies and sinking benchmark prices of the tyre-making raw material squeeze their profit margins. But this means local rubber farmers are likely to miss out on an expected boom in tyre demand from rising car use in...

  • UNITED NATIONS, Dec 23- A global arms trade treaty that aims to regulate the $85 billion industry and keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers and criminals will enter into force on Wednesday, though the U.S. Senate has not yet ratified it. They say the treaty, which the United States signed in 2013, would require arms exporters around the world to meet...

  • Financial shocker of the year: Oil at $60 Tuesday, 23 Dec 2014 | 2:40 PM ET

    NEW YORK— For the first half of 2014 the oil market looked just as it had the year before— and the 2 years before that. Oil was over $100 and drivers in the U.S. were paying around $3.50 for gasoline. Oil reached a high for the year of $107 in late June after Islamic State fighters in Iraq seemed poised to threaten Iraq's southern oil fields and disrupt supplies from...

  • *Delek and Noble hold 85 pct of Leviathan. JERUSALEM, Dec 23- Israel's competition regulator recommended on Tuesday breaking up what it says is a monopoly control of the country's offshore gas reserves by Noble Energy and Delek Group, who together hold 85 percent of the giant Leviathan field. Following heavy political pressure, Commissioner David Gilo has...

  • BAGHDAD, Dec 23- Iraq's cabinet on Tuesday approved a draft 2015 budget worth 123 trillion dinars which was made possible by better ties between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region, but was constrained by plunging oil prices. By contrast, the 2015 budget is a symbol of growing goodwill between Baghdad and the Kurdish region as they both fight Islamic State...