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Reuters World News Highlights 1800 GMT Oct 31

Wednesday, 31 Oct 2012 | 6:00 PM ET

TOP STORIES

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NEW YORK - The U.S. Northeast began crawling back to normal on Wednesday after monster storm Sandy crippled transportation, knocked out power for millions and killed at least 50 people in nine states with a massive storm surge and rain that caused epic flooding.

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JERUSALEM - Most Israelis would be reassured if Mitt Romney won next week's U.S. presidential election, feeling they had an unquestioning friend rather than a dispassionate critic in the White House.

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AMMAN - A bomb killed at least six people on Wednesday near a Shi'ite shrine in a suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus, state media and opposition activists said.

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ROME - Five months before an election that will be crucial not just for this country but the whole euro zone, Italy is mired in some of its greatest political uncertainty since World War Two.

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BRUSSELS/ATHENS - Euro zone finance ministers made progress on Wednesday on ways to keep Greece afloat, Germany said, as talks between Athens and its foreign lenders near conclusion over reforms it must implement to receive fresh emergency loans.

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MADRID - The longer Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy puts off asking for aid from the euro zone, the greater the risk of further financial turmoil and an even worse recession in Spain, analysts say.

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LONDON - Alleged fraudster Kweku Adoboli accused his former UBS colleagues on Wednesday of lying at his trial because they were frightened of a powerful banking ``machine''.

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VATICAN CITY - Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes turned 500 on Wednesday with the Vatican warning it may eventually limit visitors to protect one of the wonders of Western civilisation.

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DUBAI - A century after Lawrence of Arabia cut the Damascus-Medina railway, governments are embarking on plans to restore long-distance rail transport in the region and extend it across the Arabian Peninsula.

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LONDON - British Prime Minister David Cameron faces revolt in parliament on Wednesday by Conservatives demanding that he push for a cut in the European Union budget, feeding divisions on an issue that has tormented his party for decades.

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DETROIT - General Motors Co is targeting $500 million in fixed-cost savings between 2013 and 2015, and it plans to make further job cuts in Europe as it seeks to break even in the region by mid-decade, the automaker said on Wednesday.

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LONDON - Smokers miss an average of two or three more days of work each year than non-smokers, with this absenteeism costing the UK alone 1.4 billion pounds - or $2.25 billion - last year, according to a UK study.