News & Reports 2012-01-28

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Lee Hsien Loong(R), prime minister of Singapore, attends the session "The Outlook for East Asia" at the Annual Meeting 2012 of the World Economic Forum at the congress centre in Davos, Switzerland, January 26, 2012. The Meeting this year, which take place from Jan. 25 to Jan. 29, convene under the theme, The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models. [Photo: Xinhua / World Economic Forum / Moritz Hager]

Broadcasting Time: 07:00-08:00, GMT+08:00, 2012-01-28

Hello and Welcome to News and Reports on China Radio International.

In This Edition

European Union's top economic official has called for more public money to make up a shortfall in a second bailout for Greece.

Hundreds of thousands gather in squares across Syria expressing their rejectionof renewed Arab League plans that call for Bashar al-Assad to step down.

The United States has announced cuts in its defense spending and Army personnel.

And Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle has given a few sneak peaks at his plans for the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, saying it will feature the "Isles of Wonder."

Hot Issue Reports

Top EU Economic Official Calls for More Public Money to Save Greece
European Union's top economic official has called for more public money to make up a shortfall in a second bailout for Greece, if private bondholders agree to take a share of losses.

EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn made the comment on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"We are preparing a package which will pave the way for a sustainable solution for Greece, and in that package, yes, on the basis of the revised debt sustainability analysis, there is likely to be some increased need of official sector funding, but not anything dramatic in this case."

It's the first time a top EU official has spelled out that more public money than the planned 130 billion Euros would be required for a second Greek bailout package.

Germany and France have so far described the 130 billion figure agreed in October as a red line that must not be crossed.

Greece Debt Talks 'Close to Deal'
Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos says that debt swap deal between Greece and its creditors is near completion.

"We are one step away from completing the PSI (debt swap) deal and we have a slew of difficult measures to deal with for the new bailout program. These negotiations are taking place in the name of the country, and we are all negotiating for everybody's future."

All eyes have been on Athens' tortuous debt exchange talks with its private creditors in recent weeks. Both sides said progress was made in talks on restructuring Greece's debt.

The interest rate on the new bonds Greece will swap for existing debt has been the main stumbling block in the negotiations, with the IMF, Germany and other eurozone countries insisting it must be low enough to ensure that Greece's debt will fall to 120 percent of GDP by 2020, from around 160 percent now.

If a deal is not reached by March 20 when the bond is due, Greece could sink into an uncontrolled default that would trigger a banking crisis spreading contagion through the eurozone.

Senior EU, IMF and ECB officials, referred to as "the troika," are holding talks with the Greek government in parallel with the debt swap talks, to flesh out a new 130-billion euro bailout for Greece. They have warned they need the debt swap to cut Greece's debt substantially in order to go ahead with the new loans.

Irish PM Blames "Incompetence" of Some Governments for Euro Crisis
The Irish Prime Minister is suggesting the eurozone crisis has escalated due to the "incompetence" of some governments.

Enda Kenny made the comments during a panel session with leaders from Poland, Denmark and Finland at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"The reason this crisis has grown to the extent that it has in the last couple of years is by incompetence of some governments, by a lack of concentration and focus on what Europe should be about and by interminable inter-wrangling between institutions and politicians about national issues," he said
Kenny also says he believes the eurozone can still be "the greatest trading block in the globe" if its leaders respond to the crisis in the right way.

In 2010, Ireland was forced to join Greece and Portugal in seeking a financial bailout.

The country negotiated a potential 92-billion-US-dollar bail-out from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, after reaching the brink of bankruptcy over its bank-rescue programme.

Since then the EU and IMF monitors have lauded Ireland's commitment to fight its deficits as part of the deal.

Syrians Denounce New Arab League Stand
Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered in the main squares across Syria to express their rejection of the recent Arab League plan that calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Syrians across the country carried large posters of Assad and Syrian flags as they sang national songs over loudspeakers.

"We are here to emphasize just one point. Bashar is the only president, and no one can drive him away."

"President Bashar will stay and the reform plan will continue. No matter what decision the UN Security Council makes, Bashar will stay on, because most people support him."

Earlier, the Arab League urged Syrian President Bashar al- Assad to delegate power to his first vice president and form a national unity government as part of a new plan to end the political crisis in the country.

Under the initiative a national unity government would need to be formed within two months.

The Syrian government and all opposition parties have been asked to start political dialogue, sponsored by the Arab League, within two weeks.

Pentagon Chief Announces Spending, Personnel Cuts in New Defense Budget
The United States Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced cuts in the country's defense spending and Army personnel.

The Pentagon's base budget request is set at 525 billion dollars for the 2013 fiscal year starting October. This is down from 531 billion dollars in this current fiscal year.

Meanwhile, almost 100,000 troops will also be cut as part of plans for a "smaller, leaner" US military.

Panetta says the budget aims to re-shape the US military to be more agile, quick and flexible that incorporates the lessons learned in 10 years of war.

"What we've done is to try to develop the kind of agility and capability so that we can respond to the threats that we're going to face in the 21st century.And I think this is the force for the future. You know, are there risks associated with it? You bet. Can we deal with those risks and make them acceptable? You bet."

Panetta also says the US will continue buying F-35 jets, but would slow its purchase of the stealth fighter planes.

He adds that due to the rehsaping, the focus will shift from large-scale conflicts, for example, Iraq and Afghanistan, to areas of key national interest, including a strengthened commitment in Asia.

The defence spending plan is scheduled to be submitted to the US Congress as part of the the US governments full 2013 budget on 13 February.

The defence budget is being reshaped in the midst of a presidential contest, in which Obama is hoping to portray himself as a forward-looking commander in chief.

French Troops To Pull Out From Afghanistan By The End of 2013
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is now saying that French troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2013.

"For France, the pursuit of the transition and the gradual transfer of combat responsibilities will allow us to plan the return of the totality of our forces, by the end of the year 2013."

The announcement came after talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Sarkozy confirmed that pullout plans would not be accelerated after the killing of French soldiers last week.

Paris has 3,600 troops in Afghanistan as part of the 130,000-strong NATO-led force there. French troops mainly patrol Kapisa, a mountainous province near Kabul. One thousand French troops are due to leave by end-2012 and the rest by 2014.

France spends about 500 million euros a year on its Afghan operations at a time when Paris is trying to balance its finances.