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World Bank Revises 2009 Forecast for China


WORLD BANK - CHINA - ECON: The World Bank has lowered its forecast for China's economic growth for 2009, but says the world's third-largest economy has the ability to weather the global economic slowdown. In its quarterly economic update released Wednesday, the bank says China's economy will grow 6.5 percent this year, down from the 7.5 percent it forecast in November. The bank says it revised its forecast because of falling demand for Chinese exports. Last week, Chinese Premier We Jiabao called on China to do whatever is necessary to meet the government's eight percent growth target.

CHINA - COCA COLA: China has rejected a $2.5 billion bid from Coca-Cola Company to purchase the country's top juice maker Huiyuan Juice Group. In a statement Wednesday, China's Commerce Ministry said the acquisition would have a negative influence on competition. The ministry said the deal would have forced consumers to pay higher prices and have a smaller choice of products. It also said the bid failed to meet the qualifications of a new anti-monopoly law that was approved last August in China. There have been concerns that Chinese authorities would use the law to bar foreign enterprises from key sectors of the economy.

MADAGASCAR: Madagascar's constitutional court has confirmed Andry Rajoelina as the acting president of the Indian Ocean island. The decision Wednesday comes a day after Rajoelina declared himself president with the military's backing. Under the country's constitution, the 34-year-old is six years too young to lead the country. Rajoelina set to work on forming a transitional government to prepare for elections two years from now. He took power after the president, Marc Ravalomanana, resigned and tried to put the military in charge following months of street protests.

AZERBAIJAN - REFERENDUM: Azerbaijan is ignoring international pleas and internal criticism, and is pushing ahead with a controversial referendum to change the country's constitution. Voters headed to the polls Wednesday to decide on 29 constitutional amendments, one of which would abolish Azerbaijan's presidential term limits. Political analysts say the change would essentially give President Ilham Aliyev a chance to extend his grip on power in the oil-rich nation which borders Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Iran. President Aliyev won a second five-year term in October.

AUSTRIA - INCEST: An Austrian man charged with imprisoning his own daughter and raping her repeatedly for 24 years has pleaded guilty to all charges in the case. Seventy-three-year-old Josef Fritzl had entered a partial guilty plea earlier this week, denying charges of ensvlaving his daughter and murdering their newborn son. But Fritzl told the court in the city of Sankt Poelten Wednesday that watching 11 hours of his daughter's videotaped testimony caused a change in heart and he decided to acknowedge his guilt on all charges. Prosecutors say Fritzl locked his daughter, Elisabeth, in the cellar of his home starting in 1984 and raped her constantly, fathering her seven children.

KOREAS - TENSIONS: South Korea warned on Wednesday that it would respond with decisive action if Pyongyang once again blocked access to a joint factory park in North Korea. The government did not say exactly what measures it would take, but it did say that it was not yet considering shutting down the Seoul-funded Kaesong industrial park. On Tuesday, North Korea lifted a blockade of border traffic that left hundreds stranded in the industrial park and nearly dried up supplies and materials for factories there. The Kaesong complex lies just across the border from South Korea and is run by South Korean companies using cheap North Korean labor.

US - NOKOR: The United States says North Korea is rejecting any additional American food aid. A spokesman for the U.S. State Department, Robert Wood, said Tuesday the North Korean government gave no reason for rejecting new food shipments. He said the United States is concerned about the effect of Pyongyang's decision on the country's people. The impoverished communist nation suffers chronic food shortages and depends on foreign food aid. Wood told reporters during a regular briefing that the U.S. has delivered nearly 170,000 tons of food to North Korea since deliveries resumed last year.

SINGAPORE - BURMA: Singapore says Burma's military rulers should "seize the moment" to reestablish ties with the West as it grapples with serious political and economic changes. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong issued the challenge Wednesday at a dinner honoring Thein Sein, his visiting Burmese counterpart. Mr. Lee said the United States and Europe are searching for new ways to deal with other regions of the world in the midst of the global economic recession. He urged Burma to "take bolder steps" towards national reconciliation and engagement with the world.

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