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EU Backs Long-Term Debt Management, Richardson in Meetings in North Korea

In light of recent financial crises in the European Union, including in Greece, Spain and Ireland, EU leaders agreed to an amendment — yet to be ratified by the 27 member states — that would install a bailout system for debt-heavy nations. The mechanism would allow the EU to respond sooner to threats to the euro. The European Central Bank has purchased 72 billion euros since May to protect the markets from heavily indebted member economies.

Meanwhile, Moody’s Investors Service, an economic research and credit rating firm, downgraded Ireland’s debt rating, warning of further damage if the country didn’t reach its financial goals.

U.S. Stocks Rise After Fed Move

The Standard & Poors 500 Index has gone up 17 percent since Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke signaled another round of quantitative easing. Bernanke has faced sharp criticism for the Fed’s aggressive move.

New Mexico Governor Meets North Korean Officials in Pyongyang

Gov. Bill Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador and unofficial troubleshooter in North Korea, began a series of meetings in Pyongyang Friday. In a televised arrival at Sunan airport, Richardson received an uncharacteristically warm welcome from a North Korean official, who said, “so nice to see you,” before the entourage posed for pictures on the tarmac.

Richardson’s privately-funded mission is designed to “reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” no small task in light of the fierce rhetoric and military drills taking place in the weeks since North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island Nov. 23, killing fourth South Koreans.

South Korea held a massive civilian disaster drill this week, and North Korea’s state-controlled television warned that it would launch a massive attack if South Korea proceeds with planned military exercises this weekend. Of South Korea’s preparations, the Korean Central News Agency said, “[T]he puppet warmongers are contemplating staging madcap naval firing exercises” and mocked the new defense minister.

France Issues Ultimatum to Ivory Coast Incumbent

French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo that he has “until the end of the week” to vacate his office after refusing to accept the results of an election that put him eight percentage points behind his opponent, Alassane Ouattara. The U.S. State Department has also called on Gbagbo to accept the election results.

Gunfire in Abidjan killed at least 20 people Thursday, as Ouattara’s supporters took to the streets. Ouattara has been under protection at the Golf Hotel since the runoff vote at the end of November.

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