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Friday, April 8, 2011

Int'l rating body upgrades Indonesia's rank

Friday, April08, 2011 15:21:59

JAKARTA, April 8 (Xinhua) - International rating agency Standard & Poor's Ratings (S&P) upgraded Indonesia's long term foreign debt and sovereign credit rank from BB to BB+ with positive outlook, detikcom online news reported on Friday.

S&P also maintained Indonesia's short term debt rank at "B".

The upgrade is based on improving the government's financial balance and external liquidity as well as strong economic performance and prudent fiscal management.

It said that the upgrade could sustain if inflation pressure could be curbed, debt position reduced and debt balance improved, or if fiscal and external vulnerability are reduced though reforms.

"Indonesia's positive outlook reflects some kind of upgrade if inflation could be tamed in line with further improved financial balance that are combined with successful implementation of the government's policy on fiscal, administration and structural reforms agenda," said S&P credit analyst Agost Bernard. By

Portugal asks for EU financial aid

Fri, April08, 2011 2011-04-08 08:25:30

LISBON, April 7 (Xinhua) -- Portugal will ask Thursday for the EU financial aid, said the minister for the presidency of the council of ministers, Pedro Silva Pereira, at the end of the weekly government meeting.

However, Pereira did not specify the amount Portugal will ask for.

"This will depend on the negotiations the government will have with the European authorities. The request the Portuguese government will send to the European Commission and the dialogue we will have with them will establish the instrument and the amount that will be used," he said.

According to the minister, the European Union (EU) authorities and the European Central Bank already expressed their availability to send a joint team to Portugal to start the negotiations.

Due to the fact that Portugal will have general elections in June 5 and the government can not commit the country after that date, the solution should be a short term loan until the new government would be inaugurated. ByXinhua

Oil holds above $124 as Libya conflict hits fields

By Nia Williams | Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil hit a 32-month high above $124 on Friday after attacks on Libyan oil fields raised the prospect of long-term supply cuts, with commodities in general rising on optimism global economic recovery will fuel demand.

Ongoing unrest in the Middle East and concerns postponed elections in Nigeria could spark a new wave of militant violence and disrupt supply also contributed to the bullish mood in the market.

By 1023 GMT Brent was up $1.49 to $124.16, after earlier touching $124.45, a level last seen in August 2008. U.S. crude climbed $1.34 to $111.64, just below an intra-day peak of $111.68 last reached in September 2008.

"It looks like some of the fields in Libya are starting to be the target for military strikes which is worrisome because it means we have a risk of losing more crude for longer," said Christophe Barret, commodities analyst at Credit Agricole.

Rebels and forces loyal to embattled leader Muammar Gaddafi exchanged bitter accusations over who had attacked oilfields and infrastructure vital to both sides.

The seven-week old civil war has cut Libya's 1.6 million barrels per day output by 80 percent to between 250,000 and 300,000, a senior government official said.

It took Kuwait two years to restore oil production to pre-war levels of about 1.6 million bpd, similar to Libya's pre-conflict production, after the 1991 Gulf War, according to International Energy Agency data.

Fellow OPEC member and 1.9 million bpd producer Nigeria, whose light, sweet crude is highly prized as an alternative to lost Libyan output, postponed parliamentary elections again in some areas although polls will go ahead in most of the country on Saturday as planned.

"Besides the ongoing fighting in Libya, the elections in Nigeria this weekend are also adding to the nervousness," said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch in a note.

"Possible supply losses in Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producing country, could further tighten the supply situation for high-quality oil especially."

Futher supply worries came from Norway where a trade source said the North Sea Oseberg crude oil stream will load 118,000 barrels per day in May, significantly down from the provisional programme of 160,000 bpd in April.


Crude prices rallied in step with gains across the commodities market where gold hit a record high, driven by a weaker dollar and positive global outlook despite Portugal's request for a bailout earlier this week.

But surging oil prices have stoked inflationary concerns for governments worldwide due to the potential adverse impact on economic growth of the rising cost of foodstuffs and raw materials, and the risk of demand destruction.

"Awash with still extremely cheap money - the leading policy approach to cope with the passed recession - the investment community is pouring record volumes into long commodity positions," said analysts at JBC Energy in a note.

"This drives not only fuel and food prices to record highs, but also raises the costs for other raw materials massively, clearly putting the economic outlook under threat."

(Additional reporting by Randy Fabi and Alejandro Barbajosa; editing by Keiron Henderson,Thomson Reuters)

U.S. general sees no military outcome in Libya

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 12:30 PM IST
By Michael Georgy

AJDABIYAH, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan rebels said five of their fighters were killed when NATO planes mistakenly bombed a rebel tank column and a top U.S. general said they were unlikely to be able to oust Muammar Gaddafi by force.

With daily skirmishes near the contested port of Brega in eastern Libya making little impact on the front line and rebels unable to end a brutal government assault on the western city of Misrata, NATO admits its mission to protect civilians is tough.

In rebel-held eastern Libya, wounded rebels being brought to a hospital Ajdabiyah said their trucks and tanks were hit on Thursday by a NATO air strike outside Brega, where fighting has dragged on for a week.

It was the second time in less than a week that rebels had blamed NATO for bombing their comrades by mistake after 13 were killed in an air strike not far from the same spot on Saturday.

At the same time, the rebels have accused NATO of being too slow to order air strikes they have come to depend on in their uprising to end more than four decades of Gaddafi rule.

NATO said it was investigating an attack by its aircraft on a tank column in the area along the Mediterranean coast on Thursday, saying the situation was "unclear and fluid".

Asked if a stalemate was emerging in the seven-week-old conflict, the head of U.S. Africa Command General Carter Ham said: "I would agree with that at present, on the ground."

He told a Senate hearing in Washington the United States should not arm the rebels without a better idea of who they were and when asked how the war would end, said: "I think it does not end militarily."

There was little likelihood that rebels would be able to fight their way to Tripoli and oust Gaddafi by force, Ham said.

Medical workers carried blood-soaked uniforms from hospital rooms in Ajdabiyah, gateway to the insurgent stronghold of Benghazi in the east, after wounded fighters were ferried back from Brega.

"It was a NATO air strike on us. We were near our vehicles near Brega," wounded fighter Younes Jumaa said from a stretcher at the hospital.

Nurse Mohamed Ali said at least five rebels were dead.

"NATO are liars. They are siding with Gaddafi," Salem Mislat, one of the rebels, said.

A rebel commander said it appeared to be a case of "friendly fire" and said it did not cause tension with NATO although the rebels wanted an explanation.

Rebels had brought about 20 tanks out of storage and were advancing with them along the coastal desert strip that divides Ajdabiyah and Brega when they were hit, he said.

"We would assume it was NATO by mistake, friendly fire," Abdel Fattah Younes told a news conference in Benghazi, speaking through an English translator.


Rebel spokesmen told Reuters Gaddafi forces killed five people and wounded 25 in an artillery bombardment of the isolated and besieged western city of Misrata on Wednesday.

The barrage forced the temporary closure of Misrata's port, a vital lifeline for supplies to besieged civilians, the spokesmen said, reporting fighting on a key road to the port as government forces tried to advance.

Libya's third city rose up with other towns against Gaddafi in mid-February and has been under siege for weeks after a violent crackdown put an end to most protests elsewhere in the west of the country.

A rebel spokesman told Reuters people in Misrata were crammed five families to a house in the few safe districts, to escape weeks of sniper and artillery fire.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about deteriorating conditions for civilians in Misrata and Zintan in the west, and Brega in the east.

He said the situation in Misrata was particularly grave with the city under heavy bombardment and shortages of food, water and medical supplies.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was working on a "road map" to end the war in Libya which would include a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Gaddafi's forces from some cities. Turkey has held talks with envoys from Gaddafi's government and representatives of the opposition.

A rebel spokesman said later the rebels rejected talks with Gaddafi and demanded he leave power.

The civil war has cut Libyan oil output by 80 percent, a senior government official said on Thursday, as rebels and Gaddafi's forces traded exchanged accusations over who had attacked oil fields vital to both sides.

Supply worries stemming from the attacks helped drive U.S. and Brent crude futures to their highest in 2 1/2 years on Friday.

Rebels say government attacks on three different installations in the east have halted production of the oil they desperately need to finance the uprising against Gaddafi.

The government accused Britain of damaging an oil pipeline in a strike against the Sarir oilfield which killed three guards. NATO denied the alliance carried out any air strikes in the area and said forces loyal to Gaddafi were responsible.

Shokri Ghanem, chairman of the government National Oil Corporation, told Reuters Libya's production had fallen to 250,000 to 300,000 barrels per day compared with 1.6 million before the uprising.

Oil traders said a cargo of crude, worth around $112 million was headed for China after setting sail from the rebel-held port of Marsa el-Hariga near Tobruk on Wednesday.

The trial deal was likely to clear the way for Europe to resume badly-needed purchases of Libyan oil but traders said it could be a long time before exports reach substantial levels.

(Additional reporting by Alex Dziadosz in Benghazi, Mariam Karouny in Beirut, Hamid Ould Ahmed and Christian Lowe in Algiers and Marie-Louise Gumuchian in Tunis, Phil Stewart and David Lawder in Washington, Justina Pawlak in Brussels, Amena Bakr in Dubai and Jonathan Saul in London; Writing by Barry Moody; Editing by Jon Hemming)

Japan says economy in "severe" condition after disaster

Fri Apr 8, 2011 8:56am GMT

* Japan economy in severe condition, no quick recovery
* China says concerned over nuclear crisis
* Beijing to closely monitor Japan's actions
* No damage from aftershock reported at Fukushima plant
* Power cut in north Japan shuts factories, including at Sony

By Chizu Nomiyama and Yoko Nishikawa

TOKYO, April 8 (Reuters) - Japan's economy is in a "severe condition" with no quick recovery in sight following a triple disaster triggered by the March 11 earthquake that has sent service-sector sentiment plummeting the most on record, the government said on Friday.

While Japan confronts the economic impact of the disaster, it also faces increasing alarm from its neighbours with China expressing concern at the pumping of radioactive water into the sea from a crippled nuclear plant.

China's Foreign Ministry said it would "closely" monitor Japan's actions to end the crisis at the plant, where engineers are battling to contain radiation leaks. It demanded accurate information from Tokyo.

"As Japan's neighbour, we naturally express our concern about this," ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement.

China is the first nation to publicly express its concern over a crisis that has lasted close to a month. Other countries have banned or restricted food imports from Japan over radiation fears.

"We ask that Japan reports the relevant information to the Chinese side in a swift, comprehensive and accurate way."

Power blackouts and restrictions, factory shutdowns, and a sharp drop in the number of tourists have left the world's third largest economy reeling. Many economists expect it to slip into recession this year as factory output and exports suffer.

The crippled Fukushima Daiicho nuclear power plant north of Tokyo means power shortages and supply disruptions that will leave the economy weak for some time, Japan's central bank said on Friday.

The Cabinet Office's assessment was equally bleak.

"Japan's economy is suddenly in a severe condition due to the effects of the earthquake," it said after releasing a monthly survey of hotel workers, restaurant staff and taxi drivers that showed a record fall in confidence to levels last seen during the depths of the global financial crisis.

In an obvious sign of the downturn; taxis park in long lines in central Tokyo each night, their drivers staying warm by idling the motor as they wait forlornly for a fare.

Japan is facing its worst crisis since World War Two after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and a huge tsunami battered its northeast coast, leaving nearly 28,000 dead or missing and damaging six nuclear reactors north of Tokyo.

The Tokyo area and regions further north make up half of Japan's economy, Nomura research shows.

A strong 7.1 magnitude aftershock on Thursday night -- one of the biggest of more than 400 aftershocks above magnitude 5.0 -- shook the already ravaged northeast.

It forced two companies, including electronics giant Sony Corp , to stop production due to power cuts. At least two people were killed after the tremor.

There was a brief scare when water leaks were found on Friday at a second nuclear plant, Onagawa, in the northeast, but Japan's nuclear safety agency said it had not detected any change in radiation levels.


A relieved Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) , which operates Fukushima, said Thursday's quake had not caused any more damage. It briefly evacuated workers because of a tsunami alert, although that was later withdrawn.

The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog sounded an encouraging note when one of its officials said there were signs of progress in stabilising the Fukushima plant, though the situation remained very serious.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had not detected any change in radiation levels following Thursday night's quake.

"The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very serious ... (but) there are early signs of recovery in some functions such as electrical power and instrumentation," the IAEA's head of nuclear safety, Denis Flory, said.

The agency said radiation in the region around the plant, as measured by gamma dose rates, had peaked in the early days of the crisis, and aside from a rise on March 22, had since fallen to "a level very close to background".


Japan's neighbours have grown increasingly anxious at the risk of contamination from radiation, with some schools in South Korea closing because of fears of toxic rain. Officials there said the radiation levels in the atmosphere were harmless.

China's health ministry said this week traces of radioactivity had been found in spinach in three provinces and the state news agency Xinhua reported trace levels of radioactivity detected in 22 provinces.

To cope with power shortages, Japan's government has asked major companies to cut electricity use in the peak summer months by up to a quarter and the Tokyo Stock Exchange said the power cuts meant it would have to delay plans to extend trading hours.

The impact of the quake meant both output and exports, major pillars of the economy, would remain weak, the central bank said.

"Output will hover at a low level for the time being but then start to increase as supply constraints are mitigated," the Bank of Japan said in its monthly report for April.

Companies and households will need to cut back significantly on power usage this summer when demand is at its peak, Trade Minister Banri Kaieda said after a cabinet meeting. He urged major companies to cut electricity consumption by 25 percent.

But some ministers at Friday's cabinet meeting called for an end to a campaign of "self restraint" by ordinary people that was adopted immediately after March 11 to cut fuel or electricity use and discourage stockpiling of necessities.

"Some cabinet ministers said excessive self-restraint could worsen the economy, weakening economic power for reconstruction," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters.


Utility TEPCO said it was continuing to inject nitrogen into one of its Fukushima reactors to prevent a repeat of last month's hydrogen explosions.

The plant is far from under control and engineers have been forced to pump in tonnes of water to cool down reactors, in the process making it radioactive. The water then has to be stored, though some has been released into the sea.

Officials say it could take months to bring the reactors under control and years to clear up the toxic mess left behind.

The government has set up a 20-km (12-mile) exclusion zone around the plant, banned fishing along much of the northeast coast and set up evacuation centres for the tens of thousands forced to leave their homes following the crisis. ($1=85.475 Japanese yen)

(Additional reporting by Mayumi Negishi, Chisa Fujioka, Yoko Nishikawa and Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo, Ben Blanchard and Sui-lee Wee in Beijing, Jack Kim in Seoul; Writing by Jonathan Thatcher and Michael Perry; Editing by Neil Fullick, sourced Thomson Reuters)

HK, China shares hit fresh 2011 highs, more gains seen

Fri Apr 8, 2011 9:30am GMT

* Rotational buying in telecoms, China Unicom outperforms
* Hang Seng seen testing Nov '10 peaks by early May
* Shanghai hits second consecutive 2011 high
By Yixin Chen and Clement Tan

SHANGHAI/HONG KONG, April 8 (Reuters) - Hong Kong and mainland stocks rose again on Friday, reaching fresh 2011 highs, and institutional investors are expected to keep increasing their exposure next week based on attractive valuations and demand for materials.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index recorded a third weekly gain as institutional investors have turned bullish following a favorable earnings season and signs of China inflation easing.

The Shanghai Composite Index closed up 0.7 percent on the day and 2.1 percent on the week to 3,030.0, a fresh 2011 high, keeping the index above the key 3,000-point level and extending the gain on the year to 7.8 percent.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index closed up 0.5 percent on the day and 2.8 percent on the week. During Friday's trading, it reached a new high for the year of 24,468.6 before dipping to close at 24,396.1.

The next target for the Hang Seng is 25,000 -- which was tested in November 2010.

"The Hang Seng will probably top last November's peak sometime end April or early May," said Li Kwok-Suen, a fund manager with Phillip Securities Ltd in Hong Kong. "Institutional investors will mainly drive this rally, with hedge funds giving it a lift."

In Hong Kong, China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd led gains on the benchmark, closing up 6.5 percent on volumes that were five times its Thursday level and 2.3 times its 30-day average. The stock ended the day technically overbought, with a relative strength index (RSI) value of 77.5.

Analysts said there was some rotational buying within the telecommunications sector on Friday, with investors buying Unicom and selling its more established peer, China Mobile Ltd , down 0.3 percent on the day.

Still, several analysts expect China Mobile and HSBC Holdings , which have strong weight in the benchmark, to lead a broad rally on the Hang Seng next week, but suggest that other big banks and resource stocks might support.

HSBC, up 1.0 percent on the day, is trading in Hong Kong at a 12-month forward price-to-earnings ratio of 10.7 times, below the 10-year average valuation of 13.1 times, Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data showed. China Mobile is trading at 10.1 times, lower than its average valuation over the past decade of 12.6 times.

A slew of IPOs in the next few weeks will likely support a rally, thanks to foreign inflows, which have increased in the last three weeks, analysts said.

SBI Holdings is expected to debut on April 14 with Hui Xian, Cheung Kong's yuan-denominated real estate investment trust, expected to debut April 15.[ID:nTOE72600K]

In its quarterly report released on Thursday, HSBC Global Research shifted to overweight on Chinese equity markets for the first time in a year, while remaining neutral on Hong Kong.

Analysts at the bank cited the effectiveness of Chinese monetary policy on keeping inflation contained. M2 growth slowed to 15.7 percent year-on-year in February, lower than the 16 percent target the Chinese central bank has set for this year. The base effect also suggests inflation will slow in the second half of 2011, HSBC said.


China's main stock index ended up 0.7 percent on Friday as investors bought selected stocks, such as steel companies, keeping the index hovering above the key 3,000-point level.

"Generally, the index did not fall sharply after interest rate hike," said Ju Zihua, an chief analyst AVIC Securities in Jiangxi province. "But, a cautious mood is still hovering around the market, and we still need to focus on some previous hot shares and blue chips."

He said non-ferrous metal, coal, brokerage and other blue chips were in focus.

Turnover in Shanghai fell to 147 million yuan ($22.4 million) from 152 billion yuan on Thursday, reflecting investors' worries about inflation and further tightening of monetary policy.

Almost all steel makers listed on the Shanghai and Shenzhen market rose as investors were upbeat that steel demand would be large in April following the earthquake in Japan.

Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Union , the most active share, jumped its 10 percent daily limit, while Xining Special Steel Co rose 6.1 percent.
(Editing by Kevin Plumberg and Richard Borsuk, sourced Thomson Reuters)

India's Tata Steel says no change in position on Riversdale

Fri Apr 8, 2011 9:26am GMT

NEW DELHI, April 8 (Reuters) - Tata Steel has not changed its position regarding its stake in Riversdale Mining , a senior official of the Indian steelmaker said on Friday, as global miner Rio Tinto won control over Riversdale with a $4 billion offer.

"No change," Tata Steel Vice-Chairman B. Muthuraman told reporters when asked if the company would change its stance after Rio Tinto gained control of Riversdale, in which Tata Steel is the biggest shareholder with a 27 percent stake.
(Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy; Editing by Aradhana Aravindan, sourced Thomson Reuters)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Wed, April06, 2011

Tamil Nadu Newsprint and Papers Limited (TNPL), is seeking to procure another 160,000 MT +/- 5 percent of Non-Coking imported Coal with Gross Calorific Value (ADB) 6000 Kcal/Kg, on delivered at TNPL factory siding at Pugalur basis, according to the tender MM/SP/TENDER 201195059 released today.

Total tendered quantity to be delivered in four shipments starting from July 2011. The price should be quoted on C&F Tuticorin basis inclusive of all port charges.

Bidders are request to offer price based on C&F Tuticorin basis inclusive of all port charges and arrange delivery of such Coal to TNPL site by wagons (all activities of stevedoring, handling, arranging railway rakes, loading, transportation etc are in supplier’s scope), the tender terms said.

According to the tender issued on 2nd April 2011, the quality of coal should be Gross Calorific Value (adb) 6000 Kcal/Kg basis and will be rejected if GCV is below 5600 kcal/kg. The Inherent Moisture (adb) of around 10 pct, Total Moisture (arb) 15 pct basis and above 23 pct will be rejected. The Ash content (adb) 8 pct max , Sulphur (ADB) 0.8pct max and Volatile Matter (adb) 25 to 45 pct and above 45 pct will be rejected.

TNPL is a traditional consumer of Indonesian coal, for its paper factory in Karur district, India. TNPL has closed its latest tender at US$ 97.10 PMT.

Probably TNPL got their comfortable numbers in its latest tender and encouraged by the response they rushed back to procure one more batch.

The reference price (HPB) set by Indonesia for coal grade of 5,667 GAR kcal/kg heating value was at a US$ 103.50 a ton based on March 2011 HBA. However, TNPL's last coal purchased price was much lesser than Indonesian declared price for 5667 GAR coal.

Suppliers are requested to submit offers by April 16, 2011.(cs)

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Unemployment still top worry in Spain

Wed, April06, 2011 23:15:29 |

MADRID, April 6 (Xinhua) -- Unemployment remains the main worry in Spain, an official report published on Wednesday indicates.

A survey by the Center for Sociological Investigation (CIS) shows a total of 81.8 percent of respondents said unemployment was the country's main problem, a slight fall from the end of 2010 when 83.9 percent nominated it but still high.

Speaking on Punto Radio, Employment Minister Valariano Gomez said Wednesday he was confident that March would be the end of rises in unemployment and that things would begin to improve during April. However, the majority of his countrymen clearly do not share the optimism.

The CIS said more than 3.3 million Spaniards were out of work in March, following earlier government figures that said 34,406 people lost their jobs in the month. And more than 50 percent of the jobless believed it would be "difficult" or "impossible" to find a new job, the CIS study said.

Besides unemployment, the overall economic situation in Spain was also a public worry, with 79.5 percent of citizens responding that the current state of the economy was either "bad" or "very bad." Only 18.8 percent believed the economy would improve over the next 12 months.

Spaniards also showed a deep distrust in the country's political leaders, with 67.2 percent considering the political situation "bad" or "very bad;" and 74.1 percent fearing a poorer situation in 2012 when the country holds its general election.

Interestingly, only 5.7 percent of Spaniards were concerned about the threat of terrorism, thanks to the ceasefire called by Basque separatist group ETA and its current incapacity to carry out major attacks in the face of concerted police pressure. Terrorism used to be the principal worry of most Spaniards.

Meanwhile, the government's decision to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67 by 2027 is deeply unpopular, with 79.4 percent against the move, despite Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero's assurance that, economically, there was no other alternative. Editor: yan xinhua

Russia suspends seafood imports from Japan amid radiation fears

Wednesday, April06, 2011 22:42:53 |

MOSCOW, April 6 (Xinhua) -- Russia had suspended seafood imports from 242 Japanese companies due to fears of radiation contamination, Russia's food safety and sanitary watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, said in a Wednesday statement.

"The restrictions were introduced after an analysis of threats and risks which arose after the accident at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant," the statement said.

However, Rosselkhoznadzor didn't say how long the ban would last.

According to local reports, Russia imported 57,000 tons of seafood from Japan last year.

Earlier this month, Japan called for calm over radiation concerns, but is itself considering imposing radioactivity restrictions on seafood for the first time after contaminated fish were found.

Also on Wednesday, the Fukushima plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., said it had stopped highly radioactive water from flowing into the Pacific Ocean from the crippled plant by injecting a chemical compound. Editor: yan sourced: xinhua

Libya says ready for reforms, Gaddafi won't step down

Wednesday, April06, 2011 22:55:24 |

TRIPOLI, April 5 (Xinhua) -- The Libyan government said Tuesday it was ready to negotiate reforms, but refused any talk of Muammar Gaddafi stepping down, according to Al-Arabiya TV.

"What kind of political system is implemented in the country? This is negotiable, we can talk about it," said Information Minister Moussa Ibrahim.

"We can have anything, elections, referendums," he said, adding that "Gaddafi's future was non-negotiable," he stressed.

"We think he (Gaddafi) is very important to lead any transition to a democratic and transparent model," Ibrahim said.

Ibrahim also brushed aside allegations that Gaddafi's forces were committing atrocities on civilians.

"We are fighting armed militia and you are not civilian if you take up arms against the state," he said.

Fierce fighting continued in Libya and opposition fighters launched a new attempt to recapture the oil refinery town of Brega.

A coalition strike destroyed at least two military vehicles of Gaddafi in Brega, helping rebels surge toward the town.

The town has a great significant as it along with the eastern town of Ras Lanuf make up the lion's share of Libya's 1.5 million barrels of daily exports, which have been radically affected by the uprising that began on Feb. 15.

Cargill trades first steel scrap swap

Wed Apr 6, 2011 4:24pm GMT

* Interest in steel swaps increases - FIS
* CME launches new steel swaps
* LME also considers new steel contract
By Silvia Antonioli

LONDON, April 6 (Reuters) - Cargill traded the first over-the-counter steel scrap swap on Wednesday, as interest in steel derivatives soars, said Freight Investor Services (FIS), which brokered the deal.

Privately held food producer Cargill CARGIL.UL CARG.UL traded a steel scrap swap tied to May delivery of 1,000 tonnes of material to Turkish ports at $422 a tonne.

Its counterparty was a European metals trading company which refused to be named.

"We are starting to see a lot of people getting involved," said Sam Mehew, steel derivatives broker at FIS.

To cash in on increasing interest from industry participants and financial investors in steel derivatives, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group launched three steel swap contracts on Tuesday.

The London Metals Exchange said it was also considering launching some new steel contracts.
(sourced:Thomson Reuters)

Japan stops radioactive water leak

Wed, April06, 2011 20:31:23 |

A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) personnel officer, wearing a protective suit, stands on a U.S. military barge before it is refilled with pure water while it approaches JMSDF support vessel Tokiwa near the Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, in this photo taken April 5 and released by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force April 6, 2011. Japan stopped highly radioactive water leaking into the sea on Wednesday from the crippled nuclear plant and acknowledged it could have given more information to neighbouring countries about contamination in the ocean. Nuclear experts said the damaged reactors were far from being under control almost a month after they were hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Outflow of highly radioactive water into Pacific stopped: nuke operator

Wednesday, April06, 2011 09:03:51 |

The combo photo from Tokyo Electric Powershows adioactive contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant No. 2 reactor leaks through a crack in a concrete pit and drains into the ocean in Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan April 2, 2011 (Top) and the water leak halts on April 6, 2011 (Bottom). Operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex said on Wednesday it had stopped leaks of contaminated water with high levels of radiation into the ocean. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)

TOKYO, April 6 (Xinhua) -- The outflow of highly radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has stopped after the injection of a chemical agent, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said Wednesday.

TEPCO, the nuclear plant operator, injected sodium silicate, also known as "water glass," and another agent near a seaside pit where the highly radioactive water had been seeping through to stem the leakage.

The nuclear plant has been severely damaged by the March 11 mega earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

China to raise gasoline, diesel prices from Thursday

Wed April06, 2011 21:08:17 |

BEIJING, April 6 (Xinhua) -- China will raise the retail prices for gasoline by 500 yuan (76.34 U.S. dollars) per tonne and diesel by 400 yuan per tonne starting Thursday, the country's top economic planner said on Wednesday.

After the implementation of the increase, which is the second price rise this year, the benchmark retail price of gasoline will be raised by 0.37 yuan per liter and diesel by 0.34 yuan per liter, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said.

Due to rising international crude oil prices and mounting domestic inflation pressures, the NDRC has "properly postponed" the timing of the rise in prices and has limited the increase, the statement said.

The agency said the government would provide subsidies to farmers, fishermen and public transportation systems in cities and offer temporary subsidies to taxi drivers to offset higher prices.

The Chinese government adopted an oil pricing mechanism at the start of 2009 which allows the NDRC to adjust retail fuel prices when international crude oil prices change by more than 4 percent over 22 straight working days.

As of Tuesday, the moving average crude oil prices of Brent, Dubai and Cinta have climbed 14.31 percent since China's last fuel price rise on Feb20, according to data from, an online oil and gas market monitoring service.Editor: Wang Guanqun, Xinhua

China's Wuhan to explore for iron in Madagascar

Wed Apr 6, 2011 9:13am GMT

* Exploration to take 6-8 months
* WISCO paid $100 million for exploration permit

ANTANANARIVO, April 6 (Reuters) - Wuhan Iron & Steel Co (WISCO), China's third-largest steelmaker, plans to start exploratory drilling for iron ore in Madagascar's Soalala region at the end of May, officials said.

WISCO Madagascar -- one of many foreign firms keen to develop the Indian Ocean island's mineral resources -- paid $100 million for exploration permits in 2010.

"Our investments are made in stages, depending on the results of the survey. The investment decision is expected in six to eight months, then will come the construction phase, which will last four years," said WISCO Madagascar's chief executive, Jun Yuan Lou.

"The actual operation should start in five years," he told a news conference late on Tuesday, when signing an environmental impact study and exploratory drilling agreement with the National Environment Office (ONE).

Exploration in Madagascar, which has oil, cobalt, nickel, gold and uranium deposits, has been hampered by a political crisis since incumbent President Andry Rajoelina seized power in March 2009.

As this project proceeds, "Environmental assessment studies, including the various public consultations will begin this week," said ONE's chief executive, Jean Chrysostome Rakotoary.

An environmental permit will be issued at the conclusion of the studies, which will take at least 45 days, and after the company pays ONE $350,000, he said.

The island's political crisis forced Madagascar Oil last month to declare force majeure on four of its oil blocks to safeguard its exploration rights after failing to reverse a state directive to acquire them. (Reporting by Alain Iloniaina; Editing by Helen Nyambura and Jane Baird)

Rio Tinto secures 49.49 pct stake in $4 bln bid for Riversdale

Wed Apr 6, 2011 8:54am GMT

MELBOURNE, April 7 (Reuters) - Global miner Rio Tinto beat its target to secure a 47 percent stake in Riversdale Mining with its A$3.9 billion ($4 billion) takeover offer, and will pay its sweetened offer.

The offer of A$16.50 a share depended on it getting to at least a 47 percent holding in Riversdale by late on April 6. Otherwise it was set to pay A$16 a share.

Riversdale's two other key shareholders, India's Tata Steel and Brazil's CSN , have held on to their combined 47 percent stake. ($1 = 0.965 Australian Dollars) (Reporting by Sonali Paul and Ed Davies, sourced Thomson Reuters)

Rio Tinto holds over 49 percent of Riversdale

Wed Apr 6, 2011 9:14am GMT

LONDON, April 6 (Reuters) - Global miner Rio Tinto (RIO.AX: Quote) (RIO.L: Quote) holds over 49 percent of Riversdale Mining (RIV.AX: Quote), beating its target 47 percent holding ahead of a deadline on its A$3.9 billion ($4 billion) takeover offer.

The offer of A$16.50 a share depended on Rio getting to at least a 47 percent stake in Riversdale by late on April 6, otherwise it would have paid A$16 a share.

Rio said in a statement on Wednesday that it now holds 49.49 percent of Riversdale. Earlier in the day, it announced a 46.78 percent holding.

The offer price increase has also triggered an extension of the offer period until April 20. Rio Tinto said last week it would go ahead with its takeover offer for Riversdale even if it ended up with a minority stake in the Mozambique-focused coal miner.

The offer, announced in December, was originally conditional on at least 50 percent acceptances.

(Reporting by Clara Ferreira-Marques; Editing by Julie Crust, reuters)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fukushima situation remains very serious: IAEA chief

Tue April05, 2011 14:16:52 |

BEIJING, April 5 (Xinhuanet) -- The UN's nuclear watchdog says the situation at Japan's stricken nuclear plant remains serious. The IAEA says it's issued invitations to government ministers from 151 member nations, to attend a conference in June on nuclear safety procedures.

Yukiya Amano, IAEA Chief, said, "The situation at Fukushima Daiichi remains very serious, the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has enormous implications for nuclear power, millions of people are worried whether nuclear energy is safe or not and I said these worries must be taken seriously. We cannot take a "business as usual" approach." (source

Japan's radioactive water worries S Korea

Tue, April05, 2011

By North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy, wires

South Korea has expressed concern to Japan about the pumping of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.

Japan says it is dumping more than 11,000 tonnes of low-level radioactive water into the ocean to make space for even more contaminated run-off from water used to douse overheating fuel rods.

The government says the release is needed to stabilise the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

South Korea's embassy in Tokyo has expressed concern that the release may be in breach of international laws.

"It's the proximity between the two countries that makes Japan's release of radioactive water a pressing issue for us," an unnamed official told South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of the stricken plant, said the release of the water - the equivalent of more than four Olympic-sized swimming pools - would not harm marine life or seafood safety.

Traces of airborne radioactive material had already been detected in South Korea, but were said to be too minuscule to pose health risks.

Meanwhile, Singapore has suspended fruit and vegetable imports from another Japanese prefecture after raised radiation levels were detected in cabbages from the region.

The sample was from Hyogo, based around Kobe, 1,000 kilometres west of the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Elevated levels of radioactive iodine have also been found in young lance fish found off Ibaraki, about 140 kilometres south of the Fukushima plant.

Responding to public concern, the Japanese government says it will increase inspections of marine products.

Authorities have advised the public not to eat the species.

Singapore had earlier banned imports from 10 Japanese prefectures including Fukushima and Tokyo. sourced: ABC/AFP

Merkel intervenes to stop Iran bank trade -report

Tue Apr 5, 2011 3:10am EDT

BERLIN, April 5 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel has intervened to stop billions of euros of Indian oil payments from reaching Iranian accounts via Germany, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Citing government sources, Handelsblatt business daily said Germany will no longer authorise its central bank, the Bundesbank, to clear the payments headed to Hamburg-based EIH -- a bank under U.S. but not EU sanctions.

Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Merkel this week, wants Germany to shut down the German bank, saying it supports the spread of weapons of mass destruction by handling payments to participants in Iran's contentious nuclear program.

EIH came under renewed scrutiny last week when it emerged Berlin had allowed India to pay for billions of euros of oil purchases from Iran via the bank, after India restricted its own direct payments to Iran to placate Washington.

The United States had pressed Germany over the matter, although Berlin officials had said their hands were tied because the bank had not broken any EU rules, which allow payments for Iranian oil and natural gas.

The apparent reversal has not come without a cost for German companies, which according to Handelsblatt now face hundreds of millions of dollars in bills outstanding for products ordered from Iran, some of which the oil money would have likely covered.

The move will increase pressure on Tehran, already under a series of U.N. sanctions for refusing to freeze its uranium enrichment program, which Western powers suspect is aimed at producing a nuclear weapon.

Iran denies the allegations, trumpeted loudest by the United States and Israel, that it is enriching uranium to produce atomic arms, and maintains that its programme is for peaceful energy needs. (Writing by Brian Rohan; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton, sourced Reuters)

Moody's reviews JFE's ratings for possible downgrade

Apr 4, 2011 8:26am GMT

(Reuters) - JFE Holdings, Inc (5411.T: Quote)

* Moody's reviews JFE's ratings for possible downgrade

Moody's reviews Nippon Steel Corp. ratings for possible downgrade

Apr 4, 2011 8:24am GMT

April 4 (Reuters) - Nippon Steel Corporation (5401.T: Quote)

* Moody's reviews Nippon Steel Corp. ratings for possible downgrade

(sourced Reuters)

Japan seeks Russian help to end nuclear crisis

Mon Apr 4, 2011 10:30pm GMT

* Japan seeks Russian radiation treatment ship
* Operators forced to release radioactive water into sea
* Bath salts, sea curtain sought to stop radiation leaks
* Nuclear crisis may weaken yen, economy to be hit
By Chizu Nomiyama and Shinichi Saoshiro

TOKYO, April 5 (Reuters) - Japan has asked nuclear superpower Russia to send a special radiation treatment ship used to decommission nuclear submarines as it fights to contain the world's worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl, Japanese media said late on Monday.

Japanese engineers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have been forced to release radioactive waste water into the sea. At the same time they are resorting to desperate measures to contain the damage, such as using bath salts to try to locate the source of leaks at the crippled complex 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo.

Three weeks after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and massive tsunami hit northeast Japan, sending some of Daiichi's reactors into partial meltdown, engineers are no closer to regaining control of the power plant or stopping radioactive leaks.

The quake and tsunami left nearly 28,000 people dead or missing and Japan's northeast coast a wreck.

The world's costliest natural disaster has caused power blackouts and cuts to supply chains and business hours. It is threatening economic growth and the yen, while a recent opinion poll suggested voters want embattled Prime Minister Naoto Kan to form a coalition in order to steer Japan through its worst crisis since World War Two.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) was forced on Monday to release low-level radioactive seawater that had been used to cool overheated fuel rods after it ran out of storage capacity for more highly contaminated water.

A TEPCO official was in tears as he told a news conference: "We are very sorry for this region and those involved."

The water, which is being released to free storage capacity for more highly contaminated water, is about 100 times more radioactive than legal limits. Koichi Nakamura, a deputy director-general of Japan's Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), told a news conference in Vienna about 11,500 tonnes of water would have to be discharged.

He also said Japan had not ruled out expanding the 20-km evacuation zone around the site.

Engineers planned to build two giant "silt curtains" made of polyester fabric in the sea to hinder the spread of more contamination from the plant.

Japan has also asked Russia for the "Suzuran", a ship which treats radioactive liquids, Kyodo and Jiji news agencies said.

The ship, a joint venture between Japan and Russia, was designed to help decommission nuclear submarines in Russia's Pacific fleet in Vladivostock, ensuring radioactive waste was not dumped into the Sea of Japan, Kyodo said.

It could take months to stem the leaks and longer to regain control of the power station, damaged by the March quake and tsunami, though a U.S. official in Vienna said there was no evidence the spent fuel in the reactors was restarting a nuclear reaction after being shut down.

Japan, the world's third largest economy but also one of its most indebted nations, has estimated the damages bill may top $300 billion.

"The damage from the nuclear crisis and the subsequent power shortage will last for several years," said Eiji Hirano, former assistant governor of the Bank of Japan (BOJ).

"There's a strong chance Japan's economy will contract in the current fiscal year," he told Reuters in an interview.

A former senior finance ministry official, Eisuke Sakakibara, said the yen would weaken in the coming months, possibly beyond 90 to the dollar, underlining expectations a near four-year rally in the currency may be over.

The yen traded at 84.05 per dollar early on Tuesday.

The disaster initially saw the yen soar on speculation Japanese would repatriate funds for reconstruction, prompting the G7 intervention to knock it back.

"This atomic power issue is an incident which would result in depreciation of the exchange rate," Sakakibara told reporters in Tokyo.

Unpopular and under pressure to quit or call a snap poll before the disaster, Prime Minister Kan has been criticised for his management of the disaster.

One newspaper poll said nearly two-thirds of voters wanted the government to form a coalition with the major opposition party and work together to recover from the disaster.


In their desperation to stop radioactive leaks, TEPCO engineers have used anything at hand. They have mixed sawdust and newspapers with polymers and cement in an unsuccessful attempt to seal a crack in a concrete pit at reactor No.2.

On Monday, they resorted to powdered bath salts to produce a milky colour in water to help trace the source of the leak.

TEPCO said it was also planning to drape a curtain into the sea off the nuclear plant to try to prevent radioactive silt drifting out into the ocean.

The exact source of the radiation leaks remains unknown. NISA is investigating a damaged embankment near a sluice gate at the No.2 reactor and the possibility it may be seeping through a layer of small stones below a concrete pipe.

TEPCO said it would build tanks to hold contaminated seawater, was towing a floating tank which will arrive next week, and was negotiating the purchase of three more.

"If the current situation continues for a long time, accumulating more radioactive substances, it will have a huge impact on the ocean," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.

Small levels of radiation from the plant have been detected as far away as Europe and the United States and several countries have banned milk and produce from the vicinity.

Singapore extended a ban on Japanese food imports on Monday after detecting radiation in more fruit and vegetable imports. Kan asked the European Union on Monday for a calm response to Japanese imports. The EU has urged radiation testing of Japanese food and feed imports. (Additional reporting by Yoko Nishikawa, Yoko Kubota, Linda Sieg, Leika Kihara, Tetsushi Kajimoto in Tokyo and Sylvia Westall in Vienna; Writing by Michael Perry; Editing by Daniel Magnowski, sourced Reuters)

GVK set to buy Hancock Coal

April 5, 2011, 0:58 IST
ByArijit Barman & Katya Naidu

Mumbai: Signs exclusivity pact; deal size likely at $8 billion.

The great Indian coal rush Down Under continues. After months of intense negotiations and competitive bidding, Hyderabad-based GVK group has been shortlisted to acquire Hancock Coal.

GVK and Hancock had entered into an “exclusive arrangement” for negotiations that would continue till the middle of next month, said three independent sources aware of the developments.

GVK will have to make an initial payment of $1.3 billion (Rs 5,798 crore) or show its capability to do so within the exclusivity period. It would have to follow it up with similar payments of $1.3 billion each over the next three to four years towards equity, said these sources.

Over and above the $4 billion equity, GVK will have to pay another $4 billion as debt and mining development costs over the next six years, taking the total deal size to around $8 billion.

To organise the initial funds, GVK has approached some foreign and Indian banks such as Standard Chartered and ICICI. Three banks are likely to take an exposure of around $420 million each.

E&Y is said to have done the due diligence for GVK.

GVK Chief Financial Officer Issac George refused to comment on the development.

However, sources, on condition of anonymity, said procedural issues apart, it was almost a done deal. Hancock’s brass even visited Hyderabad last month to attend a private function of the Reddy family, the promoter of GVK.

It is not yet clear which vehicle GVK will use for the acquisition. GVK Power and Infrastructure is the group’s listed entity for energy and infrastructure. Its market capitalisation is Rs 4,461 crore. Typically, companies float special purpose vehicles abroad for acquisitions to get financial flexibility. Interestingly, GVK will pay more than the market cap of its key corporate entity for Hancock.

Hancock is owned and managed by Gina Reinhart, the richest woman in Australia. It has two mines — Alpha Coal Project and Kevin’s Corner — in the coal-rich Galilee Basin in Queensland, Australia.

These assets were put on the block early this year. Their combined reserves are estimated to be eight billion tonnes. The life of these mines is estimated to be as much as 30 years.

Alpha Coal, the bigger of the two, is an open-cut mine. It has 3.6 billion tonnes of measured, indicated and inferred compliant coal.

Kevin’s Corner, which is right now under development, can produce 30 million tonnes per year. Analysts say it is a tough block to mine. The construction is expected to start this year and production is expected from the later part of 2013.

The two require huge investments in infrastructure, the cost of which will have to be borne by GVK once the deal goes through. They require a dedicated multi-user rail system, along with the existing rail infrastructure. They also need a port facility.

The GVK group, which is into power generation, airports and roads, has launched a division called GVK Natural Resources in its quest for natural resources. Hancock’s acquisition will get it coal for its power plants. It will also mark its entry into commodities.

GVK Energy, the power subsidiary, has only one coal-based power project, in Goindwal Sahib in Punjab, that is under development. It depends on domestic coal. The project’s capacity was increased to 1,860 megawatt (Mw) recently.

The company is expanding its 464-Mw Gautami and 216-Mw Jegurupadu gas-fired projects by 800 Mw each. It has three hydel power projects under development in Rishikesh, Gauriganja and Ratle with a combined capacity of 1,390 Mw. As a group, it aims to reach 10,000 Mw in the next three-five years.

Last year, Lanco Infratech, paid A$750 million (Rs 3,375 crore) to acquire Griffin Coal in Australia, outbidding GVK. This time, too, GVK had competitors such as JSW Energy and Essar, which showed initial interest in Hancock’s assets.

GVK was also a serious bidder for Griffin Coal, which is in Collie in Western Australia and has reserves of 1.1 billion tonnes.

In comparison, Hancock’s assets are much more expensive, but it has seven times the reserves. However, these assets are not producing immediately. At present, GVK is not developing any power project based on imported coal.

The year 2010 saw another high-profile coal asset purchase when Adani Enterprises paid $2.7 billion (Rs 12,300 crore) in cash and royalty to acquire Linc Energy, which has reserves of 7.8 billion tonnes. (sourced Business Standard)

Brazil miner Vale taps Murilo Ferreira as new CEO

Tue Apr 5, 2011 2:34am GM

* Ferreira replaces Roger Agnelli as of May 22
* Follows heavy government pressure to replace Agnelli

RIO DE JANEIRO, April 4 (Reuters) - Brazilian mining giant Vale chose a former executive of the company, Murilo Ferreira, as its new chief executive, replacing Roger Agnelli following months of heavy government pressure.

The nomination will take effect on May 22, Vale , the world's largest iron ore miner, said in a statement.

Ferreira, 58, joined the company in 1998 in its aluminum division and later became president of Vale's nickel operations in Canada. Ferreira left the company in 2008.

The government's heavy hand in replacing Agnelli may spark fears of state meddling in Brazilian private enterprise, but is not expected to dent investor confidence in the firm. (Reporting by Denise Luna, Bruno Marfinitti, Jose de Castro, Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Additional reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Raymond Colitt)

JP Morgan bullish on China commodities demand, warns on social tension

Tue Apr 5, 2011 4:34am GMT

SINGAPORE, April 5 (Reuters) - Social tension in China remains an investment risk as strong demand for coal, grains and copper pushes up commodity raw material prices, Jin Ulrich, J.P. Morgan China managing director, told a conference on Tuesday.

"Investors are always looking for the potential risks that have not been discounted," Ulrich said.

"One area that we need to pay attention to is social tension. That's why the government is targetting low-income housing and inflation control to try to ease the social tension that exists."

China plans to spend $200 billion over the next five years to build 36 million units of low-income housing units, Ulrich said, citing the country's latest five-year plan. (Editing by Ed Lane)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Weak life signs detected, 60 hours after seven trapped in flooded coal mine in N. China

Mon April04, 2011 17:44:29|

TANGSHAN, Hebei, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Rescuers on Monday detected weak life signs, as they approached a flooded shaft under a coal mine in Tangshan, north China's Hebei Province, where seven workers remained trapped underground for more than 60 hours.

Rescuers said they were only a few meters away from the location where the workers might be trapped by Monday afternoon. However, they had to remain cautious to move further because the digging may cause secondary disasters.

Local authorities said the seven trapped workers were undertaking maintenance work when the flooding occurred at 10 p.m. Friday. Production in the colliery had been halted before the incident to prepare for the mine's reconstruction.

The rescue work is currently led by vice governor of Hebei Zhang Jiehui. Editor: Zhang Xiang

Libyan gov't seeks solution to crisis: Greek FM

Mon April04, 2011 16:16:23 |

ATHENS, April 4 (Xinhua) - The Libyan government is seeking a solution to the current crisis, said Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Sunday evening, shortly after Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou held talks with Libyan acting Foreign Minister Abdulati Obeidi in Athens.

"Based on the Libyan envoy's stance it seems that the regime seeks a solution," said Droutsas, stressing that Greece supported from the start of the crisis the diplomatic solution and is always ready to contribute to efforts to restore peace and stability in the area.

Papandreou and Obeidi made no comments to the press, but Droutsas also announced that Libyan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi' s envoy will continue his trip delivering the message from Tripoli to Turkey on Monday and Malta.

Greece will inform its international partners regarding the content of the talks, added Droutsas, stressing that Greece supports the full respect of the UN Security Council' s resolution on the Libyan crisis which seeks the protection of civilians in the country.

Sunday' s meeting with Papandreou was held at a Greek bank' s conference hall in a northern Athens suburb after the request of Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghadi Ali-Al Mahmudi during a telephone conversation with his Greek counterpart on Saturday.

Greece facilitates support operations of the military intervention in Libya and traditionally maintains good ties with Libya and other Arab countries. Earlier in March another Libyan envoy visited Athens for talks at the Foreign Ministry.

Vedanta Aluminium Likely to Issue Coal Tender

April4, 2011, 6:38 A.M. ET

By Saurabh Chaturvedi

NEW DELHI – Vedanta Aluminium Ltd., a unit of London-listed Vedanta Resources PLC, is likely to issue a tender Tuesday to source 10 million metric tons of coal to feed its growing operations, a person familiar with the development said Monday.

The aluminum producer will seek bids only from contractors who procure coal from state-run Coal India Ltd. or its units, the person, who declined to be named, said.

Coal India, the world's largest coal miner by volume, meets more than 80% of the country's requirement of the dry fuel.

The person said that the selected contractor would have to procure the fuel and also coordinate with the railways for availability of rakes, among other works. He didn't give any time line for coal supply.

Vedanta Aluminium is setting up a smelter along with a captive power plant at Jharsuguda in eastern India's Odisha state. The company operates a 1.4-million-ton-a-year alumina refinery and a captive power plant in Lanjigarh in the same state, and plans to raise the refinery's capacity to five million tons. (sourced TheWall StreetJournal)

Tsunami alert issued after Indonesia's 6.7-magnitude quake

Mon, Apr 4, 2011 2:51 AM IST
By Indo Asian News Service | IANS

Jakarta, April 4 (IANS) A tsunami alert was issued early Monday after a 6.7-magnitude quake jolted the Java region of Indonesia, Xinhua reported.

The quake struck at 3.06 a.m. The epicentre was at a depth of 24 km, the US Geological Survey said. The quake-hit region is about 400 km southeast of Jakarta.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Japan says it may take months to end radiation leaks

Sun Apr 3, 2011 12:52pm GMT

* Cracked pit one possible source of radiation leaks
* More bodies recovered from tsunami-hit coast
* Surivor tells harrowing story of rising water

By Chizu Nomiyama and Yoko Nishikawa

TOKYO, April 3 (Reuters) - Japan's government warned on Sunday it may take months to stop radiation leaking from a nuclear plant crippled by a huge earthquake and tsunami three weeks ago, as more bodies were recovered in devastated areas of northeast Japan.

An aide to embattled Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the government's priority was to stop radiation leaks which were scaring the public and hindering work on cooling overheated nuclear fuel rods.

"We have not escaped from a crisis situation, but it is somewhat stabilised," said Goshi Hosono, a ruling party lawmaker and aide to Kan.

"How long will it take to achieve (the goal of stopping the radiation leakage)? I think several months would be one target," Hosono said on a nationwide Fuji TV programme on Sunday.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) found a crack in a concrete pit at its No.2 reactor in the Fukushima Daiichi complex at the weekend, generating readings of 1,000 millisieverts of radiation per hour in the air inside.

The leaks did not stop after concrete was poured into the pit, and TEPCO turned to water-absorbent polymers to prevent any more contaminated water from going out.

The latest effort to staunch the flow of radioactive water into the Pacific started on Sunday afternoon. Workers then topped the polymers with more concrete.

"We were hoping the polymers would function like diapers but are yet to see a visible effect," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Officials believe the crack could be one source of the radiation leaks that have hobbled efforts to control the six-reactor complex and sent radiation levels in the sea soaring to 4,000 times the legal limit.

The battle to cool overheated reactors and avoid dangerous meltdowns of the highly radioactive fuel rods has seen workers hose saltwater into reactors, but this has left the facility awash with contaminated saltwater, preventing workers getting closer to the reactors.

Nishiyama said fresh water was now being pumped into No. 1, 2 and 3 reactors using external power, which was more stable than the emergency diesel generators previously being used.

He said the three reactors were now generally stable.


The 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami on March 11 has left nearly 28,000 people dead or missing and Japan's northeast coast a splintered wreck. The disaster has hit economic production and left a damages bill which may top $300 billion.

After a three day intensive air and sea search by thousands of U.S. and Japanese forces another 77 bodies were recovered, Kyodo news agency said on Sunday.

Prime Minister Kan is under intense pressure to steer Japan through its worst crisis since World War Two, but after three weeks many Japanese are angry that the humanitarian disaster seems to have taken a back seat to the nuclear crisis.

Unpopular and under pressure to quit or call a snap poll before the disaster, Kan has been criticised for his crisis management.

When Kan visited the devastated fishing port of Rikuzentakata on Saturday, survivors struggling to rebuild their lives complained that he had not visited them earlier.

More than 163,710 people are living in shelters, with more than 70,000 people evacuated from a 20 km (12 mile) no-go zone area the nuclear plant, and another 136,000 people living a further 10 km out have been told to leave or stay indoors.

Harrowing stories are still emerging of just what happened on the fateful afternoon of March 11.

Civil servant Takako Suzuki, 40, narrowly escaped when water rose to within a few inches from the ceiling of an evacuation centre she had rushed to. "I was thinking 'if the water rises a little bit, I'm finished' - but fortunately the water suddenly stopped rising and began receding," she said.

Suzuki spent a night huddled with 11 other survivors in the deep water, bodies floating around them.


The world's third largest economy has seen manufacturing slump to a two-year low as a result of power outages and quake damage hitting supply chains and production.

General Electric Co , which helped build the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will help TEPCO supply electricity in the coming summer months when power demand soars.

Demand for power jumps in Japan in summer due to heavy usage of air-conditioners.

The government has said it will restrict maximum power usage by companies during the hotter months in an effort to avoid further blackouts.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the Japanese economy would take a short-term hit and it could not rule out further intervention for the yen.

Farmers in the countryside surrounding the reactor are fretting that consumers in Japan will reject their crops.

"Grown in Fukushima" has become a warning label for those nervous of radiation which has already been found in some vegetables close to the nuclear plant.

"There is no way we will be able to sell anything," said 73-year-old farmer Akio Abiko. "People in Tokyo are just too sensitive about this kind of thing."

A group of farmers came to Tokyo from Fukushima at the weekend, using Geiger counters to show their produce was safe. (Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro and Yoko Kubota in in Tokyo, David Dolan in Fukushima and Damir Sagolj in Rikuzentakata; Writing by Michael Perry and Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Andrew Marshall, sourced Thomson Reuters)

Pressure rising on Europe's nuclear plant owners

Sun Apr 3, 2011 1:45pm GMT

* Some reactors likely to fail stress test - EU's Oettinger
* EU plans crackdown on low insurance costs - magazine
* Germany can do without nuclear power before 2020 -Greens

By Christiaan Hetzner

BERLIN, April 3 (Reuters) - Some of Europe's 143 nuclear reactors are likely to fail a test simulating terrorist attacks, an EU Commissioner said, and others will likely see insurance bills soar as politicians try to tighten regulations.

Following the nuclear crisis in Japan, caused by an earthquake and tsunami last month, the European Union is planning to carry out tests by the year end to assess whether its reactors could survive severe conditions.

The tests would simulate terrorist attacks either via cyberspace or an airplane crash and would focus on the reliability of reactor cooling systems, European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told German magazine Der Spiegel.

"If it was inconceivable that certain nuclear power plants would be taken off line, then we wouldn't need to even bother with the stress test," he was quoted as saying, disputing speculation the move was merely designed to play well to voters.

Nuclear power is extremely lucrative for utilities, which can earn as much as 1 million euros a day per reactor.

Any shutdowns would likely affect France, where state-owned utility EDF (EDF.PA: Quote) operates 58 reactors. These include two at Fessenheim, its oldest nuclear power plant right on the border to Germany and very close to Switzerland.

Following the catastrophe in Japan, the German government hastily postponed its decision to extend the life spans of the country's 17 reactors and took the seven oldest off-line pending a three-month safety check, prompting a lawsuit by utility RWE (RWEG.DE: Quote) on Friday.

Berlin previously agreed in September to keep the nuclear plants -- operated by RWE, E.ON (EONGn.DE: Quote), EnBW (EBKG.DE: Quote) and Vattenfall [VATN.UL] -- running 12 years longer on average than their original shutdown date.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, a physicist by training, told Bild am Sonntag the abrupt policy flip-flop in nuclear energy stemmed from a re-evaluation of the dangers and had nothing to do with important state elections held last Sunday.

"The catastrophe from Fukushima -- the extent of which we still do not know -- has also changed my personal views on atomic energy and its risks. I too have learned from it," she said in comments published on Saturday.

Merkel will now wait for the reports from Germany's Reactor Safety Commission in mid-May and its Ethics Commission at the end of May before taking a decision whether to keep the seven oldest reactors permanently offline.


Separately, WirtschaftsWoche reported Oettinger plans to talk to nuclear power plant operators and insurers in Brussels on Tuesday about harmonising liabilities across the EU, seen as an implicit subsidy for operators in certain countries.

Whereas nuclear power plants are liable under German regulations for damages of up to 2.5 billion euros, for example, those in France can be found only liable for just 91.5 million.

"It is unfair that a nuclear power plant only needs to insure itself against a fraction of its risks." Green European MP Claude Turmes told the business magazine. The party's parliamentary leader in the Bundestag, Juergen Trittin, argued it was possible to shut down all reactors in Germany thanks to an EU commitment to raise the amount of renewables in its power mix to 38.6 percent by 2020.

"Not only can we then replace nuclear power with renewables, but we can also take a big chunk out of our fossil fuel needs as well," Trittin told Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

Opponents of a quick exit, though, believe Germany would end up resorting to either burning coal to plug the gap, or import nuclear power from neighbouring countries like France.

Germany's VDMA, which lobbies on behalf of some 3,000 industrial engineers including Siemens (SIEGn.DE: Quote), said that simply boosting the amount of green energy in the country would not suffice for manufacturers.

"A one-sided expansion of renewables would be fatal," VDMA President Thomas Lindner told WirtschaftsWoche.

"We need a secure power supply for our high-precision operations. A power outage for just one millisecond costs my company 20,000 euros."

(Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner; Editing by Erica Billingham, sourced Thomson Reuters)