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Berlusconi revives tax amnesty proposal ROME: Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has revived proposals for a sweeping amnesty on unpaid taxes and building permit violations as he tries to gain ground on the centre-left ahead of elections on Feb. 24-25.   The pledge follows Berlusconi's eye-catching promise to scrap a hated housing tax imposed by the technocrat government of outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti and reimburse last year's payments.   The last opinion polls published before a preelection blackout showed Berlusconi's centre right alliance trailing almost 6 points behind the centreleft in the overall vote.   "If voters give a majority to me and my People of Freedom party alone, I will immediately pass a full tax and building amnesty," he told a talk show on RAI state television late on Friday.   Tax amnesties have been passed regularly by successive Italian governments but have been widely criticised as an encouragement to tax evasion, a chronic problem that has contributed to creating ...

Small plane crashes, closes Belgium BRUSSELS: A small passenger plane crashed at Belgium's Charleroi airport on Saturday, killing five people and closing the airport that is a hub for Ryanair and other low-cost carriers.   The aircraft, a Cessna, had problems on takeoff and tried to return to Charleroi airport but crashed on the side of the runway, Belgian news agency Belga and Flemish state broadcaster VRT said.   Two adults and three children were killed, a Belgian official told RTBF radio.   An airport official ...
Visco says markets watching Italy closely ROME: Financial markets remain keenly focused on Italy's ability to control its public finances and pursue reforms to lift its stagnant economy, European Central Bank governing council member Ignazio Visco said on Saturday.   "Italy must not lower its guard," Visco, the governor of the Bank of Italy, said according to the text of a speech at a conference in Bergamo.   "The attention of international investors continues to focus, rightly, on our capacity to preserve balance in public ...
Wild weather strands Shackleton adventurers   SYDNEY: Two adventurers attempting to recreate an epic 1916 Antarctic expedition by Ernest Shackleton were Saturday stranded on a plateau above a glacier after wild weather hit the final leg of their journey.   British-Australian expedition leader Tim Jarvis and mountaineer Barry Gray were stuck at Shackleton's Gap, but had assured their team that they were doing well, although cold and wet, and would continue when the weather clears.   Four other members of the expedition and film crew ...
US mulls putting Algeria militant on WASHINGTON: Senior members of US President Barack Obama's administration want to put the mastermind of last month's attack on an Algerian natural-gas facility on a secret "kill" list, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.   Adding Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar to a US list for targeted killing would entail a significant US military expansion into northwestern Africa, the newspaper said, citing unnamed US officials.   It would mean extending drone strikes and other lethal counterterrorism operations to the region, ...
Czech audit ordered into sale of CEZ subsidiary   PRAGUE: The Czech finance minister has ordered majority state-owned utility CEZ to carry out an external audit of the 2008 sale of a subsidiary to Hungarian oil and gas group MOL, the ministry said on Friday.     The request by the ministry, which manages the state's 70 percent share in CEZ, central Europe's largest listed company, follows media reports which raised questions over the deal to sell I&C Energo.       Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek had asked chief executive and ...
Protesters force Georgian president to change annual address venue TBILISI: Hundreds of protesters who accuse Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili of flouting human rights and stifling dissent forced him to change the venue of his annual address to the nation on Friday.   Scuffles broke out as protesters barred officials from Saakashvili's party entering Georgia's National Library, the venue for the speech which was due to be broadcast on television later in the day.   The president's spokeswoman said he would now make the address from his office.   The incident ...


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